Saturday, January 30, 2010

More Guilty Pleasures

It's finally come to that time of year. The time of year where light can finally be seen between the trees, the oasis in the desert is finally visible and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is just within grasp. That's right! You guessed it! It's the end of the non-ratings period on TV.

I don't know about other countries, but here in Australia the eight weeks straddling New Year are a tv-viewing wasteland. We, the tv-viewing public, are treated with complete and utter contempt. We are exposed to hours of re-runs - CSI (you choose the city), NCIS, Cold Case, The Mentalist - whatever they've shown in the last twelve months is fair go and I would like to say that my dementia is not quite advanced enough that they seem like new episodes.

So today starts the ratings period and this week there's a virtual smorgasboard that we can choose from. In fact there are so many choices some nights that our PVR cannot cope with all the recording.

I'm especially excited about tonight. Sunday nights are traditionally takeaway nights in our household. We buy fish and chips or hamburgers and sit and eat them in front of the tv. Tonight we get to eat our junk food and watch Biggest Loser. It seems so wrong to do this and that's probably why I like it. It's a bit like poking my tongue out and saying haha look what I can eat. (Yes I know they can't see me even though I can see them) Today the Biggest Losers will be at their biggest and they will cry at how they've let themselves go. And I will feel virtuous because I'm not like them and I can eat junk - just very occasionally and in the context of a pretty healthy diet.

Sometimes I realise that there's a little bit of evil in me.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Fine Line Between Pain and Pleasure

Today's Saturday which means LSD (not the drug but the session type)I'd been looking forward to this session all week because for the first time this week the temperature was going to be sub-30 (Celsius). Driving to the start I realised that even though the max temp was going to be a little better the current temperature was no better and the humidity was in the 'gross and disgusting' range.

Coach Chris had decided to take us a different direction this week - out to Queensland Uni and across the Green Bridge (It's nicknamed the Green Bridge because it's eco-friendly but it's actually called the Eleanor Schonnell Bridge) then along the Brisbane Corso and back. Nice route but the hills!!! I haven't done any hills for such a long time and they felt HARD. I was feeling the pain.

When I got home I checked the run's stats from my Garmin and was so demoralised to see my average heart rate. It was a little over 170bpm. (yes, I know it's high but my max HR is also high) But then I checked some of my previous runs and four weeks ago I ran a flat 12k in similar weather conditions and today's run was a couple of minutes faster, my average heart rate was a little lower and that run had been FLAT! This is where the pleasure comes in - I'm cautiously optimistic that things are on the improve. My fatigue levels are sooo much better, which is just as well because I'm not on holidays any longer which means I don't get a daily nap.

And on the home front - only two more Iven-free nights. Poor Ive, he has no idea that his absence can be such a source of pleasure. Tonight I plan on going to bed really early with my book, reading late then sleeping in star-fish pose. You gotta make the most of your opportunities.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Guilty Pleasures

My husband Iven has been away for the week visiting his family in central New South Wales. His Mum has just turned 90 and is having a party to celebrate. Our family, apart from Iven, couldn't go due to school and work commitments so for this week I've been a single parent.

Having to do it all by yourself is a lot easier now that the boys are all grown up but it does make you appreciate all the work that your partner does around the house. I've had to feed the dogs every day. I've had to put out the compost. And every day when I've found an over-flowing rubbish bin I've realised that I am missing him a little.

But there's been one area where I've totally enjoyed having the week to myself and that's in the bedroom. The morning he left I stripped the bed and remade it with fresh clean sheets and every night I've relished being able to sprawl and not being woken up by snoring. It's been bliss.

He's back in just three more sleeps so I'm going to make the most of them while I can.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

First Day at School

Today was the first day of the school year in Queensland. On my way back from breakfast with my running friends I had to drive past a primary school and I just had to smile and get quite nostalgic. There were all these bright shiny faces. Hair combed neatly, up in pigtails or braids. Backpacks that were so big that they almost hung down to the knees of the wearer. There was a sense of excitement and anticipation and wonder at being in a hallowed place of learning. It made me wonder how long it would take for that excitement/anticipation/wonder to disappear - never to return again.

I remember so well Sam's first week at school. He went off so happily, excited to be so grown up. When I picked him up that afternoon I, in the time-honoured tradition of Mothers, asked him what he'd learnt. He proudly put his middle finger in the air and told me he'd learnt what the rude finger was. The following day he came home and asked if he was a poofer. I was horrified but told him firmly if he couldn't pronounce it he probably wasn't one. I'd sent off my poor innocent baby to learn to read and write not this sort of stuff. So the next day I marched up to his teacher and demanded she protect my little darling from the mean big boys. Mrs Grandy almost rolled her eyes at me and said there was very little she could do. It was me who learnt a big lesson that day - I can't protect my children from life. They just have to learn to live it the best way that they can.

Josh's first week at school was a breeze. He marched off to school proudly for five days then decided that he'd rather be back at pre-school with Mrs Morgan. He cried every morning for the next six months and almost broke me. We both survived and now he's in his last year of university.

Luke was my easiest. No tears or tantrums and, thanks to his older brothers, he was a lot worldlier than they had both been. It's easy to look back fondly but I'm glad I don't have to do those years again.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Happy Australia Day

It's Australia Day here in the land down-under and Australia Day means pretty much the same thing to millions of people around the country - that's right, a sleep in!!! Unfortunately for those members of the Gale Force Running Squad it meant something quite different. For the dedicated few of us who are totally addicted it meant getting out of bed before 5am to be at the Queensland Uni for a special, extended version of our usual speed session.

Talk about value for money. Usually it's $5 for a one hour session but today we got 50% extra for no extra cost - except for the physical cost of muscle pain and copious amounts of sweat. And sweat we did! It was 23 degrees when we started and 24.5 when we finished and the humidity hovered around 80%. It was the closest thing you could get to running in a sauna.

Coach Chris split us into two groups - the fit and the less so. I'm in the less so at the moment and we got to do the ladder session. 200m, 400m, 600m, 800m, 1k then back down again with a 200m recovery in between. One of the guys who'd been out for a while thought that I'd be a good bet to run next to for consistency. Boy was he wrong! I explained about overtraining syndrome (it was a very gasped explanation) but he didn't quite get it. He thought I was just going through a flat period so I elaborated a little further about doctors and sciency things like blood tests and cortisol/testosterone imbalance and he realised that it was a little more than just a flat period.

We were rewarded for our hard efforts with an outing to a local cafe for breakfast. Good food. Good Company. And a good start to a good day.

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off to Work I Go.

Today was the first day of my working year. Yes, I know that it's already the 25th of the month and that it's a public holiday tomorrow but I had to start at some stage. I love my work. I love the quiet times when we can listen to the tv. I love catching up with my sister who works with me three days out of five. And I love seeing customers - some that hae been coming for over a decade and some that we've seen grow from children to young women.

The best part about work today was not my sister or what we watched on tv or any of the four clients we saw. It was the fact that the workroom is air-conditioned. It has been disgustingly hot and humid for a week and it's going to continue until the weekend so the air-conditioning was such a pleasant reprieve.

My dogs were also grateful that work had started. They are smart animals. They know that if the door is shut it will be cooler in the room than out. So they press their cute little doggy noses against the glass door and look pathetic and hot and it works every time. At least they behave themselves fairly well when we have clients in and refrain from passing gas and sniffing butts.

It looks like it'll be a good work year. We started with orders on the books and the rhythmic gymnastic costumes are already starting to pile up. I'm very grateful to be able to work at something that I enjoy so much.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Modelling Good Behaviour

As a parent you like to try and set your kids a good example - they should see you being a loving, caring parent and spouse, a diligent and responsible worker, someone who cares for the environment and someone who takes responsibility for their health. Yesterday evening made me feel that I'd done something right.

Saturday evenings are always my evening to walk with my friend Natalie. She lives and works as a teacher at the Gold Coast during the week but on Saturday she drives the hour to Brisbane to work as a receptionist at a car yard. And on Saturday afternoon she comes to my house and we go for a two hour walk and a one hour chat over coffee. (Actually we chat for the whole three hours - we have the problems of the world to solve and that takes time) This Saturday was no different except on our arrival home. The house was very, very quiet and relatively empty. There was only Iven and the dogs to greet us. The boys were nowhere to be seen.

It turns out that Sam was at the gym, Josh had taken himself off for a run and Luke had met a friend to play tennis. All three of my boys were out exercising. Add on to that the fact that Iven had gone for a thirty minute jog that morning while I was out doing my 12k group run. I was a happy mummy last night. All that behaviour-modelling seems to be paying off.

BTW - my morning run went pretty well. It was disgustingly humid again and I'll be REALLY pleased when Summer is over but I survived the run well - 5:38 min/k pace - and recovered well too.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The spectre of the Empty Nest

Last night was unusual. Instead of the head count being five, it had dropped down to two. Just Iven and I. Sam was out working. Josh was indoor rock climbing and Luke was playing tennis with friends. It was quiet and weird and a little scary - like the whole empty-nest thing that is looming. I know it won't be for quite a few years yet. Luke has yet to finish high school and then there'll be about four years of uni. But I think that in under ten years it'll be just Iven and I sitting looking at each other, wondering what we can talk about.

Last night went a bit like this.

"What's on tv?" (Iven)
"Not a lot - but the tennis is on" (Me trying to persuade him that tennis is an excellent viewing option in the non-ratings period)
"Is that all?" (Iven is not much of a tennis fan or sports fan if the truth be told)
"Have a look in the tv guide and see if there's something you'd rather watch" (I try to look unselfish always knowing that I'll get my own way in the end)
"I think I'll just have an early night"

And with that I was left sitting alone holding the remote control. In this instance I enjoyed it, after all Roger Federer was playing (and winning) and one of the three Aussie's left also had a win. But I can see the day that I'll find it really lonely. Life with kids is busy and noisy and exhausting but I'm really not looking forward to the time when we get off the merry-go-round. I might have to take up night classes. Yoga, french, re-upholstery or trouble-shooting car problems. I've heard that learning new stuff will delay dementia so I guess it's not all bad.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Feeling Good!!

Just a quick line to say that I'm feeling so good. I don't know if it's the magnesium, my new nutrition strategy or that I had a very lazy week last week ... and I don't really care which has brought about the change. I'm just so grateful to be feeling like me again.

Yesterday I signed up for a cake decorating course and I can't wait to get started. It all came about because my sister Julie is a nurse. She was nursing a man on Thursday last week and found out he owns a company that sells cake decorating supplies so yesterday we went out there to check it out. Her patient was there and got talking about the classes that they run. Amazingly they fit in perfectly with my business hours and before I could talk myself out of it I'd given them my name and phone number. It's just a starter course and it's only four weeks but I'm excited.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Happy Anniversary Iven!

Today marks 24 years of marriage for Iven and I. One of my friends recently told me that life, for criminals is 25 years, so I've only got one more year until I can be let out on day release. Actually I'll probably hang around for a few more years cause after 24 years I'm sort-of used to having him around.

The weather today is remarkably like it was 24 years ago. It's hot and humid and there's a storm predicted for later this afternoon. Back in 1986 the storm wreaked a little havoc on our wedding reception. It was an outdoors affair in my parents garden. We'd hired a dance floor and had a live band (of two). The floor got soaked when it rained and dried slippery. Our wedding video is hilarious - one couple after the next trying to keep from slipping over. Our cake didn't fair too well in the humidity either. It had been three layers separated by tiny champagne flutes. Somehow it became unbalanced and came tumbling down. Luckily the pastry-chef was a guest and he managed to resurrect two layers of it.

Small disasters - but they didn't detract from the day at all. I had a ball and we haven't looked back. Sure we've had our moments. All couples do. But all-in-all we're happy. Hopefully we'll still be going strong in another 24 years.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Beach Run Sunday

It was beach run day today. Have I mentioned that I love beach runs? I woke up at 4:45 am ( It says 4:55 on my alarm clock but I've set it forward so it doesn't seem quite so early) and it was still just a little dark. The sun started to rise as I ate my pre-run banana and the house glowed a pretty pink. I took off at 5:20 and arrived beachside at 6:20.

It was already 23 degrees and we were in the shade to start with. Heaven knows what the temperature it was by the end of the run. All I know was that it was hot! And everything I was wearing was saturated! And I was tired. (no surprise there) But having said that, it was a great way to start the day. All the dogs were back from holiday and were having a ball on the sand and in the water. I'm smiling just thinking of how much fun they were having.

I experimented with my nutrition a little today. As well as my banana, I had a piece of white bread with honey before I ran and straight afterwards I had some Powerade. I'm just hoping that more attention to nutrition gives a better recovery. A little later I had poached eggs on rye and I'm currently feeling pretty good. I'm hoping the problem I had earlier this week was just a temporary set-back and that I'm back on track now.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Downward Dog

Yesterday didn't turn out as badly as I was expecting it to. I had a nice coffee with my older sister Julie. Then I came home and made the best sponge cake yet (I've finally found a decent recipe thanks to above-mentioned sister Julie who is an amazing cook) I'd bought myself a new cookbook which I showed to Luke (#3 son) and he got all inspired to experiment so we made a spinach and feta gozleme. Yum! And to round off the day I had a nice walk with Sam (#1 son) and the dogs. I managed to get through the day without a nap and then slept a lot better at night.

I talked a lot with Sam about my overtraining syndrome yesterday. He doesn't like the new name, Unexplained underperformance syndrome, because he believes it's the training that's the causal factor. I do think that intense training has a lot to do with it but in my case it was a major emotional stressor that tipped me from compensating into decompensating. The stressor was in the form of a 15 year old half-brother in another country. There's been an enormous toll on my mother and my four sisters and I was using running to help deal with it but now I've had that crutch partially removed and I'm needing to find other ways to deal with the stress. Walking is good but it doesn't quite give you the buzz that running does. I'm contemplating either yoga or pilates. Any opinions would be gratefully received.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I'd just like to start by saying This Week has Sucked!! Actually, the whole week hasn't sucked just the last three days. I've hit the wall, energy-wise and have spent most of the days being athletic vicariously by watching the tennis. (Or in other words - being a couch potato) I had to miss yesterday's run and I don't like missing runs.

I haven't quite diagnosed my problem but number one on the list is over-training syndrome rearing its ugly head again. Last week, because I'd been feeling so good, I went for an extra-long Thursday run. I was still tired when I ran on Saturday and Tuesday's speed session was pretty full-on. Diagnosis number two would be a low-grade virus. I've had a lot of nausea with the fatigue but the nausea could be a symptom of diagnosis no 3 - a side-effect of the new supplement I've started this week (and have now stopped to work out if it was the cause). The final option would be something like cancer - but I think this is the least probable so will disregard it at the moment.

So it's the second-last week of my break before I go back to work and what have I achieved? That's right, a big, fat ZERO!! Actually, that's not totally correct. I have made Luke come out so we could get school shoes and runners seeing as his feet have refused to stop growing. And I have made my first attempts at sponge cakes (Not totally successful - the first didn't rise and the second didn't taste that great) At least I get my beach run on Sunday, all things going well. Finger's crossed that I'm feeling back to normal soon.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Crazy Men and Ducklings

I've found out that there is one thing that you shouldn't do while recovering from overtraining syndrome (apart from obssessive, excessive exercise of course). The most important thing you can avoid while you're recovering is reading inspirational biographies. I've just finished Dean Karnazes 50 Marathons in 50 Days. Big mistake! All it's made me do is want to run. I want to run hard and long and often and all I'm allowed to do is moderate and short and not-as-often-as-I'd-like.

I'm not saying that I want to emulate what DK has done. Personally I think there's a high degree of crazy in his make-up. And I think he has an amazing physiology for his body to cope with the torture that he chooses to inflict on it. But all runners have some degree of crazy in them. We subject our body to enormous degrees of discomfort (and discomfort is an understatement) and manage to get satisfaction and, sometimes, pleasure from the pain. Nuts, huh?!

Sam, my newly accredited exercise physiologist son, has told me that it'll take AT LEAST SIX MONTHS and to be patient. Easy for him to say. It's been three and a half months without seeing the improvement I'd have liked to see.

I spent a little time on-line researching again yesterday and found out that overtraining syndrome has another name - Unexpected underperformance syndrome. I stumbled on another sufferer's blog and he recommended magnesium citrate. So today I went out and bought myself a tub of special powder which I hope will be a magic bullet. Finger's crossed.

Speed session today was tough. A 1k time trial (not liking these in my less-than-speedy state), 200 and 100m reps with the same distance recovery and another 1k thrown in for good measure. The aim was to get your 1k's as close in time as possible. It was a miserable fail for that - my first was 4:16 and the second was 4:39 - but I did give it all I had. On the plus side I actually got faster in the 200s and 100s as the session went on. And on the plus-plus side we saw a cute duck family (mummy and 12 ducklings) on our cool-down run.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

How much Chocolate is too much?

I've finally found out the answer to this perplexing question that millions of women before me have puzzled over. The amount of chocolate that I was given for Christmas was too much. The list starts here -
1 x 380g packet of Peanut M&M's
2 x 200 g packets of Peanut M&M's
1 x 180g packet of Clinkers
1 packet of chocolate-coated liquorice
60 Ferrero Rochers
1 enormous box of Lindt chocolate
1 175g box Lindt Lindor
1 225g box Guylian chocolate
1 packet of Cadbury's Scorched Almonds

All of these were given to me on Christmas day but on Friday Sam returned from his trip overseas and presented me with a block of Australian organic chocolate, a packet of beautiful Dutch chocolate and a 1 kilo packet of Peanut M&M's!!!! I'm now opening my pantry with fear and trepidation. Fear in that some of those packets and boxes will fall out and bury me alive on the kitchen floor. Trepidation that the millions of calories contained within can somehow be absorbed without consumption. Needless to say, I'm NOT looking forward to Easter.

And on the running front I had a lovely run yesterday. I was tired before I started so decided to be really cautious (I'm terrified of slipping back into overtraining syndrome) It was quite a pleasant morning - humid, but that's pretty normal at this time of year - and I was travelling well up to about 8k when the dreaded toilet urge hit. No problems, I thought. I was close to Southbank and the toilets were bound to be open. Wrong! The first toilet I hit was locked so I continued on to the far end. There was a security guard near the ferris wheel so I asked him if nearby loos were unlocked. He told me it was his first day on the job but he thought they should be.

I trotted off to the closest ones only to find them locked, as were my last options at the Piazza. At this point I was starting to sweat knowing that there were no more toilets until I got back to my starting point 4 k's away. So off I headed back past the security guard who asked if I'd had any luck. When I answered no he decided to share the fact that he was in possession of a key to the disabled toilet that I'd just tried and he'd let me have it if I'd solemnly promise to bring it back. I must have looked trustworthy enough because he graciously bestowed me with the shiny silver key and I earnt that trust by returning it in pristine condition.

It was only afterwards that I started to wonder what he thought a sweaty 40+ woman would do with his precious key. I suppose I could have spent the next few hours spotting equally desperate exercisers and offering them relief ... at a price. Or I could have taken the key, had it copied and used it for illicit after-hours comfort stops. Or made multiple copies and sold them on the black market to the disabled and able-bodied alike. Or altruistically I could have given them to the homeless so they could have a small port in a storm.

I'll never know what he imagined. All I can say is that I was truly grateful and the rest of my run was much more comfortable.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Happy Days

The last 24 hours have been happy ones. There's been no special one event to make them happy - just a series of nice things. The first was yesterday's run. It was supposed to be a 10k but I've been feeling really good so I decided to stretch it out a little. I was careful to take it slow - aiming for 6 min k's - and to keep my heart rate lowish. I managed a nice 16k run. The longest run I've done since I had to slow down. I didn't feel sick afterwards and didn't feel excessively tired. Yay!!!

The next nice thing that happened was getting chauffered around to two different shopping centres. My baby Luke is learning to drive so I was less of a passenger and more of an instructor. We managed to get safely there and back and rack up another hour on his log book.

I've been working on a jigsaw with Luke for the last couple of days and we'd gotten to the hard bit. Everything was shades of brown/grey and just putting in one piece warranted a high-five so my next nice thing was having Steph, one of Luke's friends who loves jigsaws, come over to get us over the hump. Then Teresa, Josh's girlfriend, came for dinner and together we finished it. Huge sense of achievement!

And for the final happy thing - Sam arrived home from his European adventure. I'm a happy Mum!

Sunday, January 3, 2010


My husband Iven is technologically challenged. He won't use the computer without a tutor (myself or one of the kids) at his side. He never sets up any of the new electronics - TV, VCR, DVD player, PVR. He did have a mobile phone but couldn't use it. The boys and I throw our hands up in exasperation over his ineptitude but we manage quite well despite him. However, my recent trip to Sydney with my sister highlighted the need for him to have a mobile phone and to be relatively proficient at using it. So for Christmas we bought him a brand new Samsung touchscreen phone.

One of his objections to using his last phone was that his fingers were too fat to manage the buttons - ergo the touchscreen. He'd had a little play with coach Chris's iPhone and managed it ok so touchscreen meant that fat fingers were no longer a valid excuse. So on Christmas day he was presented with his gift and he seemed pretty pleased. I sent him a text and waited with excited anticipation for the reply. It took forever to get a response and when I opened it ... nothing!! He'd only managed to send a blank text.

The next day the same thing happened and that's when it occurred to me that a blank text means that I can fill in the empty spaces. Obviously in his first text he'd meant to say "You're lovelier than words can say" and the second text while I was at the boxing day sales was "You can spend whatever you want - you deserve it for being such a wonderful wife!"

I was really starting to enjoy getting these blank texts so you can imagine my disappointment today when I got a text with words that made sense. Ah well - them's the breaks!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Physiology 101

My coach put me onto an interesting site yesterday -
It has a bit of information for (how do I put this nicely?) more mature athletes. The information I found most interesting relates to a phenomenon that I've been experiencing in the last week or so and has to do with the effect of heat and humidity. Apparently for every degree over 21 C the heart rate elevates 1.4 %. This morning it was already 24 C when I started out and the humidity was 84% (yes, it did feel like I was running in a warm bath) so the apparent temperature was more like 28C. So for 7 degrees over that should increase my HR almost 10%. And it did! Right from the beginning it felt hard considering the pace. My average HR was 175 (yes I know it's high but my recorded max has been 200 and I've lived to tell the tale - 220 minus age does not work for everyone) So working backwards from there - had it been a cool day with low humidity I probably would have run it at about 160 bpm. Isn't physiology interesting?!

And talking of physiology I've been thinking a lot about the aging process lately. I'll be 47 in just a couple of months and lately I've found that I'm having to hold my book just a bit further away. I'm not worried about wearing glasses. I've been wearing them since I was 10 but that was for myopia. Now I can't even see close distances that well. I think that the long-sightedness should cancel the short-sightedness out. Seems only fair.

The other thing that I think is highly unfair is that at certain times of the month (which will remain nameless) I break out! Surely, as I see the big M looming on the distant horizon, I should not be getting pimples like my 16 year old son. Ah well, my mother always said you're still young if you can raise a pimple!