Thursday, May 30, 2013

I Didn't Run Yesterday

I didn't run yesterday.

I got a reminder that although I've made leaps and strides in my recovery, I aint there yet.

It happens every four to six weeks. I get some of the symptoms that plagued me last year - the fatigue, insomnia, nausea and tingling in some of my muscles -
and I just have to back off. Ride out the storm.

It freaked me out the first time it happened. I'd had a couple of weeks where I was just starting to feel good. All my symptoms had disappeared. Then, overnight, they were back. And they stayed for about ten days.

The next time that it happened I was still a bit freaked but less so than the first time. This time I just know that if I bide my time I'll be feeling normal before long. And I've noticed that these symptomatic periods are getting shorter and shorter.

It makes me angry that a drug that was deemed to be safe by so many official organisations has had such a lasting impact on my life - two years of feeling unwell, of thinking I was a hypochondriac, of accepting my life would probably be limited by fatigue and I wouldn't be able to do the things that I really wanted.

It makes me angry that I spent so much money on doctors and specialists and complementary medicine and supplements for a condition that was caused by a drug that I was prescribed. That all the doctors knew I was taking and not one of them considered could be the cause for all my issues.

It makes me incredibly angry that this drug is still on the market despite so many people having adverse reactions to it - strokes, DVT, gall bladder removal to say nothing of the minor ones that I had which didn't seem minor at the time.

Yaz and all the other oral contraceptives containing drospirenone should have been taken off the chemist shelves years ago. The corporate conscience of Bayer should have made them voluntarily recall their product. But apparently money will trump conscience every time and they're happy to reap it in even if they do have to pay out some of those profits on law suits.

Silly me, I thought that they were making drugs that would improve our lives. You'd think that meant they cared about people.

But on the other hand, these times when I'm feeling symptomatic again are in a strange way, a gift. They remind me just how precious good health is and that I can never take it for granted. They remind me just how wonderful it is to be able to enjoy running again. They make me appreciate all the simple things in life with a renewed gratitude.

So this week will be my easy week. And I'm fine with that. I'm also incredibly grateful that I chose the 5k option for the race this weekend. Even with some minor symptoms I can tough out 5k - might have been a little more challenging if I'd chosen the half marathon.

And next week I'll pick myself up by the bootstraps again and dive back in to my marathon program.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Viral Chocolate Cake

I learnt something last night. Chocolate cakes trump adorable puppies.

I don't think I've ever had such a big reaction on Facebook even when Toby was the cutest thing in the whole wide world.

The big response was because of this -

Just a little chocolate cake I whipped up for the family. As you do, when you've got a few moments spare on the weekend.

I like to make pretty things. And I like to make surprising cakes so when my sister, Julie sent me this picture ...

... I decided to give it a go. But in chocolate because everything's better in chocolate. And I have a great chocolate cake recipe - also given to me by Julie. She got it from a workmate at her hospital who apparently got it off the Cadbury's cocoa packet. We didn't actually know that at the time so instead of being known as the Cadbury Family Chocolate Cake, it's known in our family as Abdul's Chocolate Cake after Abdul her workmate. And I'm going to share it here because a good chocolate cake recipe will go a long way in promoting family harmony, building friendships and ending war. 

Abdul's Chocolate Cake

125 gm butter
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tbsp cocoa
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1 1/2 cups self raising flour
2 eggs.

Put the butter, water, sugar, cocoa and bicarb soda into a saucepan over moderately hot heat and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally to make sure the ingredients are well blended. Once the mixture starts to boil take it off the heat and allow to cool a little while. Then gradually whisk in the flour a bit at a time and finally beat in the eggs.

Bake at 160C (fan-forced) until cake springs back under finger pressure. Approx 50mins for this amount of cake mix.

For this cake I tripled the recipe because I wanted four layers and this was enough to make the layers and about 10 extra cupcakes. And because I wanted fairly thin layers so the cake wasn't sky-scraper height and needing an engineer and a building permit to assemble, I used cake tins that were only 2 inches/5cm high and made sure to spray them with oil spray then dust them with flour to prevent sticking. The cakes only needed about 40 mins in the oven.

Once they were fully cool (This took a read of the paper, successfully completing the hard sudoku and a crossword puzzle, having a 2 hour, drool-on-the-pillow sleep and a cup of tea) I got them out of their pans, levelled the top of three of the cakes and then used a big circular cutter to cut holes in the centre of two of the layers. And then I had to make the icing - Chocolate Buttercream

Chocolate Buttercream

340g butter
3 tbsp double cream
1/2 cup cocoa 
4 cups icing mixture

Beat the softened butter for 8-10 minutes with an electric mixer until the butter goes pale. Add in the cream and the sifted dry ingredients and beat on slow speed until the ingredients are mixed in then beat on high to make light and fluffy.

Once the icing was made I assembled it - levelled layer, icing, holey layer, icing, holey layer, icing, fill with lollies/chocolates, then final layer. Then I covered the sides and top with a layer of icing and smoothed the sides. And finally I decorated with rose swirls, sugar flowers, chocolate coated peanuts and tiny silver sprinkles. 

And there was enough icing to decorate the extra cupcakes.

Cake assembly and decoration took about an hour. And then the cake just sat there for a couple of days until I couldn't stand it any longer and cut it open just to take a picture.

Yep, it had worked just like the original photo inspiration.

I put the picture up on Facebook and within an hour there was a tapping at our door. Iven looked at me quizzically because we rarely get evening visitors that aren't expected. But I knew who it was - Coach Chris hadn't been able to resist the lure of all that chocolatey goodness (oh who am I fooling - it's all bad but in a delicious way) and I'd offered him a piece earlier that day. Heaven knows, though, I should have refused him entry after the torturous speed session he'd inflicted earlier that day but my devious mind has me thinking that I can use the cake as bribery to get slightly longer recoveries when we do 400m reps. 50m recovery is not quite long enough.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Why Race?

I've got another race in a week's time. That makes three races in four weeks. What was I thinking?

It's only a 5k race and it was supposed to be my second of the year - until I had a rush of blood to the head and decided that a half marathon interstate was an awesome idea. And it was, despite all the anxiety in the week leading up to it.

I have no doubt that I might get a little wobbly next Sunday morning too. So why do I enter races if they make me nervous?

There's something incredibly character building about racing. For me it's in the realm of "do one thing every day that scares you" - thanks Eleanor Roosevelt for taking me out of my comfort zone.

Racing makes you work hard towards a goal. Focus on one point in time. And makes you muster all your energies and mental strength at that particular point in time to achieve a goal. The goal may be simply to finish, or to run the entire way or it may be to reach a certain time. It really doesn't matter - just having a goal is the scary bit because it makes you aware that failure is a definite possibility.

Most of us don't like to fail. But putting ourselves in a position where we can fail makes the achieving of the goal so much more special. Nothing beats the high that running a PB give you.

Racing helps you train with purpose. Each workout has a reason - to build speed or leg strength or endurance. Or maybe it's to increase your lactate threshold so you can hold a faster speed for a longer period of time. It's harder to blow off a training session because it's raining or cold or you just can't be bothered when you know you've got a race coming up.

But the biggest benefit of racing, for me comes within the race. And it's not about your physical strength. It's about what happens in your head. It's whether you can beat those negative voices that are telling you that you're going too hard. That you won't be able to keep it up. That it's hurting and you have to slow down. That you don't care anyway - when you really do. 

Testing yourself like that, plumbing your inner depths and finding out just how strong you really are, has benefits that can follow you into every aspect of your life. It gives you the confidence to know that you can weather storms, you can endure right to the end, that you have a strong and indomitable spirit.

Racing, for me at this point in my life is all about learning to have faith in myself again. Over the last couple of years with all my confusing medical issues I lost a lot of faith in my body and my mind and even after having just two races under my belt I'm starting to rebuild trust in myself again. 

In fact 'faith and trust' were the words running through my head during last Tuesday's speed session. We were doing 1k and 2k alternating reps. Only 48hrs after running the half in Sydney, I wasn't really sure how my legs would be feeling. And in the first rep I could feel that they were a little bit tired. But those two little words kept coming to me and I tried to just focus on each rep and finishing off that rep strong. Instead of doing what I've done so many times in the past - dying in the last couple of reps - I managed to do my last couple of reps as my fastest.

So I will continue to get out there and race even if it makes me nervous. And maybe in time it'll be something I just take in my stride.

Do you have any other reasons why you race?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Believe It Or Not.

A few weeks ago I was sitting in a hospital emergency ward with Iven and a boy (young man, really) was put into the bed next to us. He'd been getting stuff out of his garage for a garage sale and had stood on some glass. Ouch! We heard the doctor tell him how he would be treated but all he cared about was that he'd be able to run the half marathon that he'd entered five weeks away.

When the doctor left I popped my head around the corner, blatantly told him that I'd been eavesdropping and asked if it was the Sydney Morning Herald half marathon. Yes, he was doing his first one down in Sydney with his Mum and had run 15k just that morning in preparation.

The doctors stitched him up and sent him on his way with a promise that he would be fine by race day.

Last Sunday morning while we were walking to the race start we got stopped at a set of lights with some other runners. Sam commented that it looked like a mum with her two sons. That reminded me about my hospital buddy and when I looked over one of the boys seemed a little familiar. He looked at me too but I didn't see any recognition in his eyes and I really wasn't too sure.

I made my way to the never-ending portaloo queues and who happens to stand beside me in the next queue but the same boy. Of course I couldn't help but satisfy my curiosity. (There's nothing weird about talking to strange young men in toilet queues). And of course, in the tens of thousands of people there that morning I happened to find the boy from the hospital.


A few of you who have commented have expressed a desire to one day visit Sydney. I can heartily recommend it but I would like to add a proviso that will make your trip more pleasant. 

Make sure you be wary of beggars and thieves.

This little fellow looked like he was from a nice home but he obviously didn't get fed enough. Those sad brown eyes watched every mouthful of my post-run breakfast enter my mouth and he even had the gall to tap me on the leg when my plate was getting close to empty. 

No, I didn't share. I am a heartless human being.

And this sneaky individual is one of a team of thieves that operate around Circular Quay and other touristy locations in the harbour city. He skulked around our table while we ate lunch, waiting for his moment to swoop in and seize whatever he could make off with. 

Earlier that day we'd seen the gang in operation down at Darling Harbour and they scored big-time! An untouched rasher of bacon. Dividing up the spoils was an ugly affair and I'm pretty sure that the ring-leader diddled his gang out of their share. 

And then there's the red-crested spoon bill, who's adapted to her preferred diet and habitat by always having a tasting spoon on hand. She swoops in on the unwary ice cream eater and before you know it, a spoonful of that delicious creamy treat has disappeared. This bird is not at all aggressive though and can be tamed to make a lovely pet. (Love you Hannah!)

Avoid any of these and you'll have a great trip ... unless you find a red back spider on your toilet seat.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


A week full of nerves and anxiety and self-doubt came to a head yesterday morning when I lined up with my big boy Sam in front of St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney.

Actually I'll backtrack a little bit. Friday's flight went without a glitch. Smooth sailing right from the moment we left home till when we landed in Sydney. Sam's girlfriend, Hannah met us at the airport and seeing the two of them together was probably the highlight of the whole weekend. Their greeting was like one you see in a big Hollywood romance where the girl is swept into her soul-mate's arms and the violins swell. Made me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Hannah got us to the hotel safely and quickly and proceeded to be the best guide and Sherpa ever.

Saturday was filled with nothing special - eating breakfast at Darling Harbour, wandering around the city, buying undies that wouldn't ride up during the running (Sam didn't quite follow the rule of never wearing anything untested in a race but I'm pretty sure he came out unscathed).

Breakfast at Darling Harbour

In the afternoon we checked out some of the race course to take some photos and see the start precinct.

Pristine, unsullied portaloos

The finish line

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Opera House

I'd had little nerve flutters all day but managed to keep them from getting out of control. Walking around definitely helped. Seeing the race precinct definitely didn't. Luckily I tripped up a set of stairs and almost fell and that kept them contained for a while. I DID manage to eat a bit. When I get really nervous I just can't eat and I'd not been eating particularly well all week because of it. It makes for very pathetic carb-loading. But I couldn't face going out for dinner so I stayed in the room and tried to eat what I could - a banana, a handful of nuts and a scone. 

Sleep was erratic Saturday night but that's the norm before a race. We got up with the alarm at 5:30 and got ready. The nerves were still in check and I started to believe that I'd make it to the line unmedicated. We left the room around 6:00 for the short walk to Hyde Park.

It was teeming with people. There were over 10000 finishers so that gives you an idea of how long the toilet queues were. I'm pretty sure I was in line for at least fifteen minutes and I couldn't believe how long some people take. I thought pre-race jitters made everything happen quicker. 

We got to the start line with only about ten minutes to spare but because we hadn't entered early enough, we were in the last starting group so were hundreds of metres away from where the gun went off. In fact, I didn't even hear the gun go off. I'd managed to find the only other GaleForce runner, Jan, that was in our starting group and we spent the time till we could start moving just chatting away.

Eventually we were off - and by eventually I mean fifteen minutes after the start. There were hordes of people in front and to the side and behind so it was pretty hard to get into a rhythm. I lost Sam and Jan after about a kilometre but that was an inevitability and I hadn't wanted to run anyone's race but my own.

My plan had been to take it out slow and warm into it. I'd been thinking high 5's for the first few k's but my legs had other ideas -5:17, 4:59, 5:02 for the first three k. It was about then that I decided to just go with it and hope that it didn't come back to bite me later on. It was a bit hard, though, to let go of that little inkling of worry that I still couldn't trust my body but I think after being so unwell for so long that's only to be expected.

The route was pretty convoluted and undulating. I haven't really done any hill work but I found that I was passing lots of people up the hills then instead of just plodding down the other side, I used the down-hills to push along. I was actually enjoying the hills. 

And while I was running I was distracting myself from those little niggly doubts with thoughts of the support that I've had from squad mates, friends, family and my lovely bloggy friends. It felt like everyone was there in spirit cheering me on. 

Around the 15k mark I did tire a little. Some of it was knowing that there was still 1/3 of the race to go. Some of it was that the negative thoughts were getting a little more insistent. And some was the realisation that I hadn't needed to tighten my left shoe after all. My hips have been a little dodgy for a while because I'd lost so much muscle strength when I was testosterone-deficient and running a hilly course faster than I usually would was starting to take a toll. My left knee started to get a familiar grabbing twinge. My ITB was tightening up and that was making it hard to run the up-hills with any power. But luckily it didn't get to the really painful stage where it's hard to run so I tottered up the rest of the hills as best I could and prayed that there wouldn't be too many more.

By about 17k we were back near Hyde Park and could see the finish line and this gave me a real boost. I knew we were heading into the botanical gardens for a loop but it was really nearing the end. I've done that loop before as part of a different race and really enjoyed the scenery and it was no different yesterday. Yes, I was tired and my knee was niggly, but I was feeling really positive.

Out of the gardens there was only about a kilometre to run so I did my best to put on a little speed. But it was hopeless - the road was so congested with other runners it was hard to push through. No finishing sprint this time. The clock said 2:06 when I crossed the line but my watch said 1:51:39. My fastest time since 2010.


Sam was waiting for me as I got through the crowds. He had no idea what his finish time was but when we looked through the results later that night We saw that he was now the holder of the fastest half time in our family - 1:42:28. I'm so proud of him!                                             

And me? I'm happy. I finished 33rd  out of 225 in my age group. And I know that there's more improvement to come if I can run without the congestion and continually having to slow till I can find a clear path. My confidence in my recovery has improved and I will have more faith in myself next time. 

Yes, there's already a next time in my diary. I've entered the Jetty 2 Jetty half in July. Maybe sub-1:50??

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Keep Calm And ...

I'm not sure if it's because I've run out of adrenalin and cortisol or if it's because of all the positive calming vibes people are sending from all over the world BUT today I woke up calm. And that's bizarre because today's the day I get on the flying tin can that's going to take me over 1000 k away from my comfort zone.

And yes, I'm still feeling calm.

And no, I haven't taken any drugs today.

See I told you I was crazy.

I'd totally expected to wake up around 2am in a lather of sweat and bubbling over with nervous tension. I'd taken precautions too and stocked up just in case of an apoocalypse. At least we'll be fully prepared in case of family outbreak of diarrhoea.

I still can't tell you exactly why I was feeling so out-of-control with anxiety but I can tell you that it is awesome to be feeling back to my normal, only slightly psycho self. 

I'm pretty sure that part of the reason why I've calmed down is that I've told everyone (and I do mean worldwide admission of my own personal crazy). Not having to hide it actually took a lot of pressure off. I told Sam that his Mum might need extra support and his response was absolutely 100% supportive (plus he told me that whenever he feels a little bit nervous he just reminds himself of how awesome that he is and the nerves vanish - my boy doesn't have too many problems with self-esteem). I told Hannah, his girlfriend and she too was supportive - even offered to be my own personal drug-pusher. I told Coach Chris and he was great too - he'll understand if I can't make dinner Saturday night. I've had lovely texts and phone calls from my breakfast buddies, Bec and Jenny. And from family and other members of the squad. It's like everyone's lending a hand to carry me to the starting line and give me a shove over it.

And the comments on my post have been wonderful. They've confirmed again what an amazing supportive community that runners are worldwide. You guys will all be with me in Sydney on Sunday morning.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Me? Crazy?? Absolutely!

As I get older I become more and more convinced that each of us have a little bit of crazy in us. I'm quite happy to admit that I have more than a little bit. I haven't decided yet if I want to call my crazy an eccentricity or if crazy sounds a little bit more fun. Either way this week's crazy has been making my life a little more challenging.

This week's crazy has to do with the little matter of a half marathon that I'm running in Sydney this weekend.

It's supposed to be a fun excuse for a weekend away with my first born and his girlfriend (who just happens to be studying medicine down in Sydney so it really wasn't hard to convince Sam to be my companion). Sam and I are flying down Friday. Hannah's meeting up with us and we'll spend a leisurely day on Saturday enjoying ourselves. Then Sunday we'll be walking a couple of blocks to the start of the race, running 21.1k, having a nice breakfast then back home to Brisbane.

That's the plan anyway. And on paper it looks great. But somewhere along the way my twisted mind has made it something to worry about. And I've been screwing myself up in knots every day so far this week trying to convince myself not to pull out.

I can't even pin-point exactly what I'm worried about. I've had issues flying before but not for at least five years. I've had some really ugly races in the past few years because of my testosterone deficiency but all that is under control now. So far this year I've run 20k at least 10 times and I've done even more 16k runs so I know I can do the distance.

There is absolutely no reason why I should be feeling this anxious - but somewhere along the way my body didn't get that memo and it continues to pump out copious amounts of cortisol and adrenaline and that's not what you want leading into a half marathon. Especially when they make you feel sick in the stomach. So much for carb-loading. But on the up side there'll be a few extra kilos that I won't have to lug around the course with me.

The thing that concerns me most is that if I don't get down there and do this thing, there's no way that I'll be able to fly to Melbourne for the marathon later this year so by hook or by crook I have to make it happen.

So my goals for this weekend are not time-related. My goals are to firstly make it onto the plane in one piece (not with my lunch left in a toilet somewhere). Then to get through Saturday without thinking too much about Sunday. Then finally to get to the starting line on Sunday morning. I know that once I'm there and we're running I'll be fine. And I know that once I've crossed the finish line I'll want to do it all over again.

See I said I was crazy!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day Classic

First race of the year yesterday.

I thought for my first race I'd take things a little easy and just sign up for the shortest distance - 4.5k. It's a strange distance but it pretty much guarantees me a PB because I've never run it before. And there was some definite advantages to running the short one. It started first so I had less time in the morning to over-think things. And my Luke, my youngest, and Becky, his girlfriend were going to be running it as their first ever fun run so I'd have people to line up with.

As it turned out I had plenty of time to over-think things. I'd been woken up around 3am and never managed to get back to sleep. My stupid nervous stomach kicked in even before I was fully awake and I had lots of time to work on breathing techniques to manage anxiety and arguing with my worried self in my head. By 5:30 I gave up and started to get ready and had been successful enough with my self-talk and breathing to be able to eat a banana without bringing it straight back up. Life is filled with little wins like this.

The upside about pre-race nerves is the total cleansing effect it has. After my second toilet visit I knew I'd be running without fear of any unexpected bush diving. But the downside of pre-race nerves is the ability of your body to produce three litres of urine from 200ml of water. And this meant that there were two more toilet visits before we could finally stand on the start line.

We managed to get a really good position fairly close to the start and we waited with thousands of others huddling together as the heavens opened on us just enough to make us want to huddle closer. The rainbow behind us was almost compensation for getting a little bedraggled and shivering and having the starting arch collapse gave us all a laugh and helped get rid of a few jitters. And then it was just wait till the hooter sounded.

The start of the course was congested and winding. It was hard to move around the runners who had started way too close to the line for their ability. I tried to take it easy and not dodge and weave so much that I got tired but some dodging and weaving was necessary. I got to a point where I was breathing heavier than I thought I should and then my Garmin beeped for the first kilometre - 4:20. No wonder I was breathing heavily. Time to back off the pace a bit or burn out.

The course was pretty flat and on wide roads so after the first k it was easy to just settle into a pace - moderately hard was the goal and my other goal was to NOT look at my Garmin except when it beeped. I wanted to run by feel.

The second beep happened just before we hit the park, which was the turning point. 4:50. That was more like it. I wanted to run at under 5 minute pace - so far, so good. I was also enjoying watching all the kids racing. There were tons of primary school aged kids and tons of them were ahead of me. Fun runs keep you humble.

The third beep had me at 4:43 and I was pretty happy with that. I knew there wasn't too far to go and I should be able to maintain that pace. In the back of my mind, though, I was a little worried that the first k had been too fast and it might come back and bite me or that the tunnel that we'd gone through at the beginning had made that reading inaccurate and I had longer to run than I thought. There were no kilometre markings that I'd seen apart from a 6k one for the longer run.

Kilometre four had me at 4:48 and I was feeling great knowing that there was less than a kilometre to go. I still wasn't convinced that it was only 500m so I kept a little in reserve just in case. We had to run back through the first tunnel to the starting area and it was here that I saw the finish chute - way sooner than I was expecting. And I had enough in the tank to put down the pedal and finish in style. I passed one man (and we all know how much I love beating men) and pulled right to the shoulder of a boy who looked to be about ten. I knew that I could pass him but the mother in me just couldn't bear to so close to the finish line. I backed off a bit and let him finish just ahead.

I stopped my watch at 21:36 - 4:38 pace. Better than I'd hoped for - especially after a week of heavy training. And today I've checked the results on-line and I've ended up with third in my age group. So far I'm loving that I've turned fifty.

I waited a bit to see Luke and Becky come out of the finishers area. They'd had a great first event. They'd stuck together, run the whole way and finished just under 25:30. All three of us were high on adrenalin and endorphins. Becky went off to have Mother's Day breakfast with her family and Luke came back with me to watch my squad-mates cross the line.

We found Coach Chris right on the finish line and I took this pic of them.

 And this was the bottom half -

Yes, my baby is TALL!

Then it was home to get hugs from my other boys and off to breakfast. Then a couple of hours of baking and afternoon tea with my Mum.

Yes, I had a lovely Mother's Day

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mother of The Year

It's Mother's Day this Sunday and I'm pretty sure I won't be winning Mother of the Year this year.

I'm not saying I'm a BAD mother. My kids have managed to survive to the ages of 25, 24 and 19 and I like to think that that's because of my careful nurturing. After all, most of the time they only need feeding, watering and dose of fertiliser every so often and they pretty much thrive. Or is that plants?

Actually, at times, I've even thought I was a pretty good Mum.

I let them explore the world.

And then cleaned them up. 

And I encouraged their creative sides.

I made them pretty awesome costumes for Book Weeks and school plays (Handy hint to other mothers out there: a brown unitard is the best base for any animal based-costume. Ours played various roles as a bird, cow, dog and a platypus)

And I always kept the cake tins full.

I've kept their clothes washed, helped with homework, got them to their training sessions and soccer matches on time, coached them, bandaged their wounds, watched them do their special bomb dives into the pool for the hundredth time, encouraged them to dream big, pushed them to do things that would stretch them, sat in the passenger seat when they were learning to drive, held them when they were hurting, wiped away tears, blood and vomit. I've done all those motherly things willingly and happily (apart from the laundry part - still not my favourite) because I love my boys and want the best for them.

But yesterday I blotted my copy book.

Sam was making his lunch for uni and was ratting around in the freezer for something.

"Have all those scones gone already?" he wanted to know.

I made some scones a couple of weeks ago and they were delicious - coffee with choc chips and dates. They were so delicious that they disappeared really quickly. And I was cheesed off when I went to have one a couple of days later and they had gone. So I made a triple batch a week later and froze some. And when I went to have one on Tuesday after the speed session (which made me starving) I noticed that there were a LOT fewer than last time I'd looked.

So I hid them.

I had to admit to Sam (because I'm a terrible liar) that I'd hidden them.

I don't think he was impressed

And that's why I don't think I'll be Mother of the Year 2013.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Speed Session

For years now Tuesday mornings have been speed session morning. Rain, hail or shine you'll find a group of runners at the base of the Green Bridge at the University of Queensland at 5:30 am ready to whip themselves into a running frenzy. To run till it hurts. Till we're gasping for breath. Till we can't respond to Coach Chris in anything other than monosyllables. And sometimes only with a thumbs up (because to respond in the negative would show weakness and we're anything but weak).

It's one of my favourite sessions of the week. We get to stay together as a group - which doesn't always happen on long runs because of the wide diversity of running abilities and goals - so there's the chance of catching up with more people (but only on the recovery sections). Doesn't matter if you get lapped, which I do frequently, because whether fast or slow we all respect that everyone's putting in and everyone's hurting.

We get to run faster. And there's something exhilarating about running faster. It brings out the inner child who just liked to run fast because it felt good. Sure I'm not as light on my feet and not as fast as I once was but I can still imagine that I am. And I'm pretty sure you get a bigger dose of endorphins when you really push yourself to the max.

We get to run to a goal. The goal is to run as even a pace through the session as possible. For me this can be tricky. When you start the session if you run to a certain point of exertion it will be a lot faster than after running 40 mins at that level of perceived exertion. The trick is to start off a little easier because it's bound to feel a lot harder at that pace by the end. The sessions that I've run the most even splits are the ones that I've felt most satisfied after.

But now that we're heading towards winter I've been finding that pacing a lot harder to achieve. I'm pretty much having to run without the aid of my Garmin because it's just too dark to see the splits until at least halfway through the session so I'm on a bit of a learning curve with pacing according to feel rather than electronics.

I know I've been doing this for a lot of years now but for the past couple of years my speed sessions have been limped home with my only aim being to actually survive till the end. I've gotten to a point in my recovery now that I can actually plan on pushing myself for the entire session.

Yesterday's session was the first that I'd really noticed how dark it was where we run. And it seemed to stay dark for a long time. The program was surprise intervals of either 200, 400, 600, 800 or 1000m and we were to be told just before we started the next interval.

It started off easily with a couple of 400s then a 200 but then Coach Chris threw me to the wolves with 2 X 1000m in a row. And it was starting to hurt. I don't mind hurting when I can see that I'm achieving some sort of speed but I hate when it feels hard and I'm just not going that fast. I couldn't see how I was going compared to the other runners because we were all on different intervals so I had to do a bit of stern talking to myself. There was a lot of 'you can do this - just three hundred more' and 'you're stronger than you think' and 'embrace the pain', 'suck it up princess', 'go hard or go home' ... Sometimes those voices in my head can be quite cliché.

It wasn't until the third 1000m that I finally got to see my split time. That one had been a real surprise because we'd all been running 200s for a few reps and I'd been caught in a tussle with another runner for each of those (and she'd pipped me at the post both times). My legs were tired. My lungs were burning and in my head I was convinced that I was heading out to do another 200m so hearing the 1000m call almost brought on a mutiny.

It felt slow. My legs just didn't want to cooperate but I willed them to follow the beat that had been playing in my head for the whole session. I was sure it was going to be close to 5 mins - but hopefully not over. Just for my pride's sake. I hit the button as I crossed the line - 4:39! Not too bad for the end of the session.

When I got home I looked back over the last few month's worth of speed sessions. (Yes, I am that numbers freak who likes to have data, analyse it and compare). It's so gratifying to look back to when I started treatment in December and see the marked improvement in just a few months. At the start of January I was running 400s around the 1:56 and yesterday they were all between 1:42 and 1:45. Definite progress.

So the point of this post? My recovery is coming along really well. And if you've never tried a speed session, you should give them a go. They're challenging. They'll take you to the point of wanting to quit. But you'll learn how to push past where you thought was your limit. And you'll get satisfying improvements in your running.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

You Never Know Exactly What You Might See

Everyone in the world should know by now that I've survived my busy period at work. Well, maybe not everyone. But definitely everyone with an internet connection and exceptional taste in blog-reading. I've certainly griped long and loud enough about it.

And we all know now that my busy period has passed.

But one does not survive the leotard silly season and blithely go back to their former comfortable,semi-slothful life. The adrenalin that it takes to work yourself up into a leotard-making frenzy takes some time to dissipate. And it was just that adrenalin (plus a healthy supply of PMS hormones) that was making me a little antsy on Sunday.

So I took the dogs for a walk. A nice LONG walk. Toby was ecstatic. With Iven a little out of commission (Did you know that as well as having surgery on his hand, he'd also had a tooth removed? Hey, while you're in pain you may as well add insult to injury and get it all over in one miserable hit.) And me working stupid hours then having to do pretty much everything else, the daily walks had slid down a little on the priority list. And then Toby had developed the skin infection which had made wearing a collar uncomfortable. 

So we set off at a very brisk pace. Toby prancing in front of me. Me tugging at his lead and telling him to heel. Bubbles trotting meekly alongside me because she actually knows what the word 'heel' means. Toby making that awful gagging/choking/coughing noise when I have to pull him into line once again. Me checking around for do-gooders that might report me to the RSPCA for animal cruelty. Yes, it was one of those picture-perfect dog-family moments.

Luckily the mayhem only lasts about a kilometre and we'd settled into a comfortable walking truce. I was starting to mellow and let some of the adrenalin out into the universe when we came upon an interesting Sunday morning diversion.

Used to be, when I was growing up that Sunday mornings were all about sleeping in and family and church followed by a roast lunch and a nap. Times have changed and lots of people are using Sunday mornings to get their workout in. I just happened to be passing a tennis court. Just out front was a man  whose nether regions were swathed discreetly with a towel, awkwardly trying to change.

Two questions ran through my brain.

"Why would you need to change your shorts after a game of tennis?" The only answers  I could come up with were heavy-sweater or poor bladder control and I can certainly understand the strain of going for an overhead smash on a full bladder.

And "Is he commando under that towel?" It's the same question that always comes up with kilts. Just exactly what's the undergarment protocol?

Towel Man caught sight of me approaching and kindly turned his back to save me any awkward eye contact. It was one slick movement - turn, bend and get the feet tangled in the shorts leg holes. Such a pity that he hadn't checked that his towel was fully unfurled at the back. Because it was all rucked up around his waist I got a front row, uninterrupted view of the answer to my second question - an emphatic yes.

That which has been seen can never be unseen.

Towel Man should take a lesson from this guy -

Has anyone seen any interesting sights on their runs or walks recently?

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Week in Review - The Highlights Reel

After my last post it was so great to hear how many of you also suffer from pre-race jitters. Strangely it helps knowing that it's really quite normal (as far as people who choose to wake up pre-dawn and run 20k on a regular basis can be - it's all relative) and if it's not normal at least there are plenty of others who are just as crazy as I am.

The other thing that's helped with my nervous jitters this week is having the pressure taken off at work. Now that I'm on top of that area of my life I'm feeling much better about everything.

Other things that are improving are Toby's neck

and Iven's hand. 

Isn't that needlework quite spectacular? It's got to be one of the neatest scars I've seen. Recovery of full movement is slow, as the occupational therapist had warned us. Iven still can't point so he's having to use his words when asking me to get stuff for him.

It's healed enough, though, for him to go back to work next week (HOORAY!!!! Cue the brass band and the fireworks). The problem lies in how he's going to get there. He can't ride his bike yet and wasn't allowed to drive the car to start with and I can tell you right now that I won't be happy having to drive him there and back every day (although having the house to myself might be worth paying that price) so his job (his one and only job) last time he saw the occupational therapist was to ask her if he was allowed to drive yet. 

He forgot.

So on the drive home, I drove just using my left hand and the palm of my right just to make sure it could be done. It can be. And as Iven's in-house vet (a vet's pretty much a doctor isn't it?) I have deemed it safe for him to drive to and from work and on any errands that I find necessary - like buying me my favourite takeaway Vietnamese salad and picking up those few groceries that I need for the cupcakes that I decided to bake on a whim.

Did you catch that? I baked on a whim - not because I had to. And I even made up a new recipe. It was inspired by these - 

Manky bananas can be quite inspirational. As can an empty cupcake container. Banana cupcakes don't really cut it with my sons who prefer chocolate with everything (I have taught them well) so the idea was to create a banana chocolate cupcake with brownie-like moistness. It's not too decadent to add a whole block of melted chocolate is it? 

The icing is particularly yummy being that it's made entirely of butter (beaten for ten minutes), cream, cocoa and icing sugar. And I may or may not have sucked the leftovers directly from the piping bag.(thank goodness I had a 20k scheduled this morning so I could run off the guilt - if I did feel guilty because it may not have happened at all)  Unlike SOME people I don't have to break into cupcake shops to get my fix of sugar and fat.

Mentioning today's 20k allows me to segue neatly into some gratuitous back-patting. Today's 20k ended up being 21.1k (Okay, you broke me. I DID suck the icing straight out of the piping bag and that extra 1.1k probably worked all those delicious calories off. I hope.) and I ran it in 1:57. Sure, it's not a world class time but considering I ran the half in Melbourne in October last year and my time was 2:00:12, I'm secretly (probably not so secretly if I'm writing it on my blog) thrilled. I felt really good for the run and managed three sub-five min. k's when I hit the Park Run people again. I can't tell you how satisfying it was to pass dozens of them, while thinking to myself that I'd already run 16k.

And finally I'd like to finish by sharing my new favourite picture taken by Josh's girlfriend, Serena.

That's the welcome you'll get if you ever come visit.