Sunday, July 31, 2011

Park To Park 2011

I had a race today. But what do you call a race when you're not really racing it? Let's just call it a run with a few thousand like-minded people. Or an opportunity to get a free green cap. Or a reason to bake for your 'other family'. Or just a reason to get up early-ish on a Sunday and hang out in the sun.

It was the Park to Park out at Ipswich (only 30 mins drive away) and the Galeforce Running Squad is a major organizer of the event so quite a few of us wanted to support it. And with so many of the squad going, there was good reason to bake up a storm. I'd decided to do the 5k because the course is a nightmare of hills. Don't get me wrong, it's an awesome event that's so much fun to be a part of but the course is just one hill after the other - and we all know how I feel about hills.

At this point I must say that yesterday I ran a 20k LSD which ended up not being as S as I was planning. I got in with the 'wrong crowd' and succumbed to peer group pressure and we negative-splitted that baby. And it was a hilly run. When one of the roads you run along is called Hillside Terrace you know that there is going to be some uphill pain involved. So this was why I wasn't planning on racing. I did what I could to recover - ate well, rehydrated, compressed and had a 2 hour afternoon nap but I could feel some fatigue in my legs when I creaked out of bed this morning. (and I don't mean creep. Creak was the sound of my body getting from horizontal to vertical)

What I like about this event is that it's smaller and friendly. I got there an hour before the start and had no trouble finding a park on the road about 100m from the start line. I picked up my race kit, found friends, went to the loo and dumped my gear in the baggage area. Then we were off.

It's 100m flat and then the first hill. And it's a beauty! About a 700m incline - not terribly steep but it does get your heart going. Finally it flattened a little and we hit the 1k marker and then it was up again before I'd quite caught my breath. At about the 1500m mark we finally got a decent downhill where I could catch up a bit of the time lost on the up. My first k was 5:08 at the marker and my second k was just under 5:00. But there was no rest for the wicked. The third k had a few short, sharp ups and downs and my watch clicked over at 5:06. And then we hit the Mother-of-all-that-is-unholy hills. Again, it wasn't monstrously steep but it went on and on and on. I was getting slower and slower but then we hit the top and I could hear the announcer at the finish line and I knew I only had 1k to run. My last k was my fastest and I crossed the line feeling a bit worse for wear in 25:22

My immediate reaction was disappointment. It was 1 min 20 slower than last time I ran it 2 years ago BUT that was before overtraining and I hadn't run 20k the day before so I convinced myself that it was very respectable. I finished in the top 5% of ladies and 5th in my age group (which was one of the most competitive)

And then I got to bask in the glow of cupcake-friendship, eat stuff that's probably not the best recovery food and sip a cappuccino in the warm Winter sun.

So glad I made the effort.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cadel You've Got a Lot to Answer For.

Cadel Evans won the Tour de France. While I'm thrilled for him, I'm also a little bummed. There are major ramifications when an Aussie achieves greatness. Every middle aged man who has a bicycle and can squeeze into a pair of undersized tights becomes delusional. They firmly believe that if they train hard enough - like for a year or a couple of months or maybe a day or two before the momentum leaves them - they too can wear that yellow jersey. I think it's a form of contagious sporting dementia. It doesn't matter if you're 55, have never won anything in your life and have a VO2 max of 18 because of your long-term smoking habit, if you put on the tights and go for a ride for a moment you can bask in reflected glory.

Yesterday was our hills session and I've never seen such a graphic demonstration of this phenomenon before. Every Tom, Dick and Harry was there in their overstretched Lycra training for next year's ascent of the French Alps. It doesn't matter that Mt Coot tha sits only 287 m above sea level at it's highest and the Alps are almost 20 times that high. Delusion is not based in reality and the fact that they are riding up a hill is enough for most. It also doesn't matter that a few of us runners (not me) can actually pass the slower of the riders - they are happily entrenched in their daydreams.

The only problem is that the road is quite narrow and is public and idiots in utes and four wheel drives like to belt up the mountain at ridiculous speeds so the road became a little hairy at times. We stuck firmly to the left but when the cyclists decide to ride in tandem and the ute driver can't wait to overtake them but a bus is coming down the other direction just when they're all at the same time and space continuum as you are - well lets just say it does unusual things to your heart rate.

I couldn't get the arrow in exactly the right spot but there's a definite hiccup with that downhill tracing.

We managed to finish the session with as many runners as we started with so all's good and with any luck time will cure these middle-aged maniacs of their aspirations. I'm thinking a really good bout of DOMS from yesterday's hill session will bring some down to reality and it will be less crowded on Coot tha next week.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Kids And the S-Word

There comes to a point in every parent's life when the inevitable happens. You realise that your baby is getting up close and personal with the opposite sex. In my day, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, you waited (or pretended to wait) until you were married or at the very least engaged. But waiting seems to be a thing of the distant past and a lot of parents are incredibly grateful if their kids have left high school before it happens.

Back in my day we also were very private about things like that. My parents still have no idea when I lost my virginity. It just wasn't spoken of. I don't know if it's boys or if it's just my boys, but I have had a pretty good idea that they have become sexually active fairly soon after the event. So when it happens, as a good parent, I was compelled to have THAT conversation - not about the birds and the bees, but about sexual health, effective contraception and respect. Oh man! I was never equipped for conversations like that but Iven is even worse so the buck stopped with me.

I finally had to have THAT conversation with my youngest baby not long ago. He's out of high school and been with his girlfriend for over a year so I suppose it was inevitable. But once the facts are out, you get thrown other curve balls like "can my girlfriend sleep over?"

The only reason I'm writing about this is because I was totally unprepared for this when it happened and I figured if I throw it out into cyber-space there may be someone else like me who hasn't given it a thought and my post triggers a little forethought on the topic.

Iven and I decided that if they were already sleeping together they were probably not going to stop so we have allowed it with certain guidelines. They have to be in a relationship for some time and the girl is not allowed to sleep over more than twice a week and this has worked fairly well. But I'm thinking of changing the rules for Luke's girlfriend. She stayed over last night and as far as I'm concerned she can stay over every night. I walked past his room after they had left and it is sooo clean! The bed is beautifully made and the floor is clutter-free. I don't know about Luke, but I'm in love!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Toblerone Cheesecake

This is just for Staci

1 1/2 cups crushed chocolate biscuits
80 gm melted butter
500gm cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup thickened cream
200g block of Toblerone

Combine crushed biscuits and melted butter and press into the base of a small (app 25cm) springform tin. Refrigerate while you're making the filling.
Beat together the cream cheese and the sugar with an electric mixer then add the cream. Melt the Toblerone in a separate bowl (either over a saucepan of simmering water or in the microwave for about 1 min). Pour the mixture on top of the biscuit base and refrigerate for at least 3 hrs or overnight. Top with cream and berries. Most importantly only have small slices cause this is REALLY rich.

It was my oldest baby Sam's birthday on Friday and he wanted cheesecake. One huge slice later and I think he's been cured of this love.

Apart from celebrating birthdays (Sam's, Dad's and my Aunt) we've had the most glorious winter weather that just invites you out to run. It was cool and dry and the skies were blue and cloudless.

I'd had a 21k run with the group on Saturday but in the back of my mind I thought it'd be fun to run to Sam's soccer match on Sunday. And it was - except for the hills!

The photo doesn't do it justice but this was the last 200m of a kilometer long hill - ughhh!

The run ended up being just over 8k and 4 hills long and I arrived just after kick-off.

Sam is the one on the right.

Great game (we won 4-3). Great weekend (29k run). Great cheesecake (damn, I'm glad I ran 29k)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Catching Up - The End of Procrastination (for now)

Do you ever feel like life's just getting away from you? That there's so many things that you should be doing but you don't have the time or energy to do them?

I've been feeling a bit like this for weeks. Sure, the things that have to get done DO get done but other things just get put on the back-burner for me to forget about until I can no longer ignore them or they just go away. Well, a month ago I got a reminder which I could no longer ignore. My lovely dentist (and I say that totally without sarcasm because I really like her) sent me a damning note. I hadn't stepped into her surgery for over 2 years!! I was stricken with dental guilt. Because dental hygiene is next to godliness. (Well, it is a form of cleanliness)

So I made an appointment and yesterday I got a clean bill of health and a really clean set of gnashers.

But I wasn't finished there. Luke had managed to NOT hand in his band vest when he left high school and I've been living with HIS referred guilt. Plus he was awarded the perpetual percussion prize (say that ten times quickly) which needed to be returned so I bundled him into the car and we got that chore done too.

Then we went to the shops and did a little clothes shopping for him - not an easy task when you're 6'3" and skinny - paid my tax and had a catch up over coffee. When I started work at midday I felt so righteous and pretty caught up. It's almost as cathartic as cleaning out my wardrobe.

So still riding high on yesterday's efforts I finally made an appointment to see the optometrist. And then I'll have caught up on everything. It feels so good.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Happy Snaps

I've taken photos this week of things that have made me smile and just wanted to share them with you.

Bubbles and I have reached a compromise about who gets the best spot in the sun. This way we both do and I get the added bonus of a lovely white dog's head outline on my stomach.

One of my leotards turned out just the way I wanted it and it made a little girl very happy.

And talking of happy customers - I got these from different people on the same day last week. A lot of times you don't hear anything unless it's a complaint so it was really nice to get such positive feedback.

And this is a photo I clipped from the newspaper and is now posted on the back of our toilet door. This chimp stole the camera from a photographer and became fascinated with his reflection in the lens. I think he's a teenager and wanted a good pic for his Myspace and Facebook pages. So he took a self-potrait. I love his smile!!

Admit it - he made you smile too, didn't he?!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mutiny On The Mountain

There was a mutiny on the mountain on Thursday.

I'll set the scene here. Coach Chris has a favourite loop that he has us do often on Mt Coot tha. It's a 1.6k loop through the centre of the mountain and coming down/going up the front, depending on whether we run it clockwise or anti-clockwise. When you run it anti-clockwise it's a little bit easier because the uphill section has a flat bit in the middle so you can catch your breath. No such luck on the clockwise loop - it's uphill all the way to the turning point.

On Thursday I was a little antsy about doing hills. I haven't run them for a couple of weeks due to Gold Coast (taper and recovery) and hills is always a pretty intense session. When we'd all gathered at the car park C. Chris told us what the session was going to be so we headed off the 1k to the starting point. He pretended to be thoughtful over which way to send us and asked me which was the easy direction. Of course I fell hook, line and sinker into his trap and as soon as I pointed to the direction he told us we'd be running the other way.

So off we trotted. (Some of us faster than others) I took it very cautiously for the first lap and got passed - a lot! Then it was down the inside of the mountain and back to the starting point where C Chris was waiting. Some people had to continue in the same direction and some got to turn around. I didn't even slow down when I got close - he was in one of those moods and I knew I was going clockwise again. So I shuffled up that long climb again and enjoyed the reprieve on the downhill and when I got to C Chris again guess which direction I got to run in? No surprises here. Of course I had to do clockwise.

The sun was just starting to rise on this third loop and when I peeked over my shoulder up the hill I could see a few pink streaks starting to colour the sky and that's when I decided. Even if he sent me clockwise again, I was NOT going to do it. Sure enough, when I finished the lap he pointed clockwise and that's when I turned around leaving him open-mouthed and flabbergasted. No one ever disobeys commands! And that loop was the sweetest of them all - I ran it with a little more bounce in my step (although I think most of that was a figment of my imagination because there's not much bounce left after running 3 other loops) and the view? Spectacular! And the threat of special treatment in the next week was absolutely worth it.

Friday he rang just to "have a chat" (chastise and rebuke me for sedition). I happened to mention my sore muscles and he kindly told me that if I'd run the last loop the way he'd wanted me to, I wouldn't have been sore. Yep, sure I believe that Chris!

He's off this weekend running in a team at the Kokoda Challenge. It's a 96k trek through the Gold Coast hinterland - a very challenging, mountainous trail race. I'm hoping it leaves him so tired he'll forget my little indiscretion. Or maybe I should just bake some cookies as a peace offering ...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Taking My Medicine.

I'm loving getting my daily dose of Vitamin D. At about 11 am I go look for Bubbles. She always knows the best, sunniest spot. She looks at me with her sad eyes cause she knows she's going to get pushed into a not-so-warm spot. I strip down to my camisole and just bask (while reading a running magazine and dreaming of future glory). And the best part is that I feel justified in being a bit lazy because I'm just getting my vitamins.

The only down-side is that the sunniest part of our house is on the front patio and yesterday I was caught out there half-dressed. Admittedly it was only by my Mother but I must have looked a guilty sight - jumping up from the tiles and quickly re-dressing. She was probably wondering where I'd hidden the pool boy.

I've had to do a little negotiation with Coach Chris about this month's training schedule. I have the Brisbane Half Marathon in 5 weeks and haven't really been doing many long runs in the 20k range. He had me down for only 2 X 20k runs in the next four weeks so we've negotiated that up to 4 X 20k runs. At least I won't feel totally under-prepared in a month's time. The Brisbane Half will NOT be a race. It's just going to be a focused training run where I get a medal and a running singlet at the end. The end goal is to do the full marathon in Melbourne so all my runs and events will be geared to that goal.

Time now to find where the best sun is this morning. Shove over Bubbles! I'm on my way.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Let The Sun Shine!

I'm a little bit hopeful today. I really think I've stumbled on to the reason I'm not making any progress with my running.

I was reading the Runner's World and found an article on SAD (seasonal Affective disorder). It went on to mention that Vitamin D deficiency is almost at epidemic proportions - even here in Australia where the sun shines a lot. The problem is that we've been told for years to slip, slop and slap (slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat) and all this diligence has created a problem.

And what does Vitamin D Deficiency cause? It causes muscle weakness and wasting, especially in the fast twitch muscles. It causes slow recovery from training - which can lead to over training syndrome. It causes reduced immune function (and both of my blood tests have shown this). It causes bone structure issues such as osteopaenia and osteoporosis. It causes generalised fatigue. I have lost speed and I'm slow at recovering from sessions. I've had a few infections that have been hard to shake off and as far as fatigue's concerned - we're on fairly intimate terms.

Then I found this article in Running Times magazine

"At first Sands, a runner and triathlete from Winter Park, Fla., attributed it to overtraining, the stress of raising two 12-year-old twin girls, or simply the inevitable wear and tear of competing for nearly half of her 49 years. But as she tried to gear up for the Half Ironman world championships in nearby Clearwater, she realized there was something more seriously wrong.

"I could barely run 8-minute miles on my hard efforts, and that used to be my easy pace," she says. "I was tired all the time, and couldn't recover from my workouts. It felt like I was going in slow motion." "

That's me!! She went on Vitamin D supplements and noticed a huge improvement in a few months.

I've been thinking about it a lot in the last couple of days. A few years ago I used to spend time each weekend in the sun at soccer matches and on Sunday mornings I'd have a long walk with Natalie. Now I rarely go to matches with only one son playing and some of those are evening matches. Natalie and I walk in the late evening/night because of her work commitment. Most of my running is done before the light comes up. I ran 12k today and didn't have the sun's rays touch me once. And I work indoors.

I'm a bit annoyed that neither doctor that I've been to this year - the GP and the sports med one - screened me for Vitamin D deficiency when I was getting blood tests so if I want to see if my hypothesis is correct I'll have to go back again. Or I can start taking supplements and see what happens. And I've chosen option B. And if I'm correct I should start to feel a difference in a couple of months.

I'm off now to find a warm spot in the sun to soak up a few rays.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Relationships - How To Feel Rich Without It Being About Money.

This week has really shown me the importance of all the relationships in my life.

It started with the wonderful weekend with all of my wonderful training squad. And my amazing husband who was dragged along for the ride and just did whatever I wanted him to. But the real benefit of relationships isn't in the good times. In the good times having friends and families there just enhances the experience. The benefit of strong relationships really shows itself when times are tough. And times got a little tough in the middle of the week.

Josh was struggling at work this week. He's been on a project for a while and progress has been slow. Josh's self-esteem is so low that slow progress = reason to be sacked. No one has complained about the slow progress and no one has told him he needs to improve. These thoughts are his own and they play out over and over again until he's feeling really low and Wednesday was the day that it all reached a head.

The day started out normally but at lunch time I got a text saying that he was struggling. I tried to do my best cheer-leader imitation but I knew it wouldn't have much of an influence. When he got home he could barely talk and went straight to bed. He just wanted to sleep to escape. But I didn't think that hiding in his sleep-cave was the best thing for him. I thought it would be better to be amongst people. And as luck would have it, Wednesday is family dinner night where my extended family have dinner at Mum's house. We pushed and prodded until Josh had no option but to come.

He hardly said a word to anyone when he arrived and plonked himself in front of the television. My niece arrived with baby Anneke and halfway through dinner I manipulated things so that Josh was left holding the baby. BEST THING EVER! How can you not smile just a little when you have a baby in your arms? And if they grizzle you just have to get up and jiggle them till they're happy again. Suddenly you're not thinking about yourself - you're thinking of someone else's needs. And suddenly Josh started to pick up. He began to interact with the family and he smiled just a little. Family is the best medicine when you're hurting.

Whenever he gets like this I'm affected pretty dramatically. I felt sick when I woke up on Thursday wondering how he'd cope with the day ahead. I couldn't face pushing myself up hills but I needed to run for my mental health so I just went along one of my favourite routes. I set my Garmin on heart rate and the aim was to keep it low. My head really wasn't in a good place and I kept thinking about Josh and every time I did my heart rate jumped 20 beats. It was incredible seeing such a dramatic demonstration of stress. The run didn't do what I hoped it would and I felt sick to my stomach with worry. But luckily my family came to the rescue again. I met up with my Mum and a sister doing grocery shopping and my beautiful sister gave me empathy-chocolate. (mmm almond M&Ms) It was just a thoughtful little gesture that showed that they cared.

Josh came home in a better state yesterday. Work went well and he's on an even keel again. I'm no longer feeling nauseated and my heart rate is back down to normal. And I'm counting the blessings of the wonderful family and friends in my life. (Even Coach Chris has checked in with me today to see how I'm getting on.) I'm so thankful to have all these caring people in my life.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Thoughts on Gold Coast

There were a few things about the Gold Coast weekend that I didn't mention. The first was food, because what is a running weekend without food?! I had dinner with Natalie and Daniel (and Iven of course) at the Thai restaurant that we were supposed to have dinner at last year but had to cancel because of the small matter of leaving my bag/keys/wallet back in Brisbane. Amazing food! Light, tasty and hot - just the way I like it. It was light enough that I still had a bit of room left over for something sweet and yummy. My favourite dessert? Ice cream!! We walked up to Cavill Mall and I had a double scoop of butter pecan and chocolate almond in a choc/nut encrusted waffle cone. It would have been at least a day's calories but it was worth every bite.

The 10k course has recently changed. This was the second year of the new course and I must say that I preferred the old one. I think that if we're that close to the ocean we should get to see it at least once during the run. We used to but the new course takes us along the Broadwater which is basically a canal. No waves :( It's just uninspiring.

My other negative from the run is that the 10k has been shifted to the Saturday. We don't get to be part of the hype like we used to 2 years ago but the 5k event has stayed on the Sunday. I know it's a logistical thing but it's hard not to feel like you're second-class citizens when everyone else gets to run on the big day. And the 10k always seems to get the ugly colour t-shirt. For 5 of my 7 years I've had hideously ugly shirts that I have to give away. This year it was a charcoal grey with an olive undertone. The half marathoners got a lovely royal blue and the 5kers got a lime green. I definitely have t-shirt envy.

But the upside of having a Saturday start is that the toilet situation was excellent. The queues were minimal and they weren't too feral. And there was ample toilet paper and that's always a plus.

I'm starting to come down from my post-Gold Coast high. It's such a pity that life has to get in the way of having a permanent holiday. It's been back to washing, cooking and sewing this week ... ah my humdrum existence. I have had one run - speed yesterday which was a modified session for everyone who'd run on the weekend. My times were respectable for the 1 mile reps but my heart rate is not. I'm walking a fin line again so I'm going to have to be very moderate for the next week or so to make sure I don't go over the edge. Frustrating!! I've come home from last weekend all pumped and ready to train hard but my body is putting on the brakes again and I know what will happen if I don't listen.

And finally I thought you might like to see a sneak preview of what I've been working on this week. You might get to see this one at next year's Olympics.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Tip Of The Week

Join a running group!

I can't say it louder or clearer - joining a running group will make your running life so much fun.

I'm writing this in the post-race euphoria of the Gold Coast weekend. It was one of the most fun weekends that I've ever had. No, I didn't PR. And I didn't go sub 50. I ran pretty close to the time that I ran last year. But the time doesn't matter. I got to spend the weekend with a group of fantastic people. Positive people. People who smile easily and often. People who laugh - really belly laughs. People who talk about snot and toilet emergencies. People I'm lucky enough to call friends.

We got the perfect weather for Saturday - cool. There was a bit of a breeze but during the run that didn't seem to bother me that much. The small group of us doing the 10k met at 6am. I had no nerves and I had a plan. My plan was to run the first half at around 5:00-5:10 pace and then see what I had. We headed up to the start line with about 30 mins to go. Found no queue at the porta-loos then a really good position on the start line just a little way back. I was next to Kerrie and we just spent the next 25mins chatting.

The gun went off and so did we. Our position was so good that congestion wasn't too much of an issue so I just tried to settle into a comfortable rhythm. My watch beeped at 1k and I was under 5 mins but thought nothing of it because I was feeling good. At the 2k mark my watch showed me that I was running even faster - but I was still feeling strong so thought nothing of it. 3k and 4k were both under 5 mins but halfway through my 5th k I started to feel just a bit tired. I was running a similar pace to the 5k that I'd done a few weeks back but this time I wasn't allowed to stop after 5k. By 6k I'd realized the folly of my ways and the common sense behind my original plan but it was too late. I just had to suck it up and get to the finish line as best I could at this point. The 7th k was my worst at 5:26. I wanted to stop at 8ks but kept plugging onwards and the last k was hard but at least I was almost home. I stepped over the line at just over 52 mins for a 51:54 net time. I finished 28th in my age group (288 women). But despite my disappointment I think I must have had the most cheers from people out along the course. I heard my name so many times - it was lovely!!

Iven played photographer. I really must do something about those scrawny runner's arms! He took a lovely one of Kerrie.

I'm not sure if she's smiling because she's seen the group, knows she's almost at the end, realises she's going to PR or because she's relieved that she didn't step in the vomit next to her.

Picked up my medal and t-shirt and then it was back to post-mortem the race. So many of the squad did incredibley well. It's so exciting to be around happy runners. I remember feeling that elated. But it was a little disheartening not to be able to say yep, I did well too. I work hard, rarely skip sessions on my program but I have a body that doesn't cooperate as well as it used to.

Then Iven and I waited for Natalie and Daniel (Saturday walking friend and her son) to cross the line. Natalie had suffered a back strain a few weeks back and was lucky to be able to compete. Daniel walked with his Mum the whole way and we got a really nice shot of them.

Sunday was the big day for the running festival. The half marathon started at 6 and the marathon at 7:10. We were a little late getting there (I was awake from 4:30 but SOMEONE needed more beauty sleep). But we arrived, cappuccinos and baking in hand, just as the half marathon winner was crossing the line and just before the marathoners set out.

The next 5 hours were spent cheering, talking, laughing, picking out colours that will work for our next year's squad t-shirt, being amazed by the outfits that some people choose to wear while running and rating the shirtless men. The rating system went from 1 to 10 - 1 being "please put it back on" and 10 being " I forgot my grater, can you help?"

And my baking? Well, just let me say that there's no more an appreciative audience than a group of runners who've just run 21.1 or 42.2 k.

So year 7 is done and dusted. Just 3 more years and I complete my set of 10!

And then it'll be time to start on my half-marathon set ... I already have 2 of those.