Thursday, October 31, 2013

An Optimist At Heart

I realised yesterday that my optimism isn't limited just to running speed sessions. It pervades other areas of my life and I was a little bemused to realise it because I sometimes consider myself a pessimist. Like when my husband gets a sore back and I immediately jump to him being declared disabled, not being able to work any more, me having to work full time plus nurse him and having to give up running because I don't have the time or the energy to do it.

By the way, Iven's back is still slowly improving. But back to the story at hand.

It was yesterday while I was waiting at the roundabout for a huge line of traffic to go through that I made this realisation. Waiting at the roundabout for a huge line of traffic to go through and wishing that there'd be enough of a break for me to go because I was BUSTING and needed to get home ASAP.

There is a link between me being busting and being optimistic. The optimistic part was the moment I decided, after drinking most of my water bottle and a large coffee and sitting around chatting with my Mum for an hour or so, that the urge I felt on getting up wasn't that urgent and I could hold it till I got home. After all I only had to go to a couple of shops in search of a new handbag, get down to the car, go through parcel pick up and drive a couple of kilometres.

As any woman will tell you, shopping for a new handbag is a serious job. A handbag is not just a fashion accessory, it has to 'work' for the bag-holder. In my case it must be the right colour (black because my boots and sandals are black - and my boots and sandals are black because they had to match my handbag), have an external pocket big enough to put a water bottle in (because I'm a runner and carry water with me everywhere and carrying a water bottle that might leak just a little with your phone that doesn't like moisture isn't a good idea) AND have enough compartments to stick all my stuff (and believe me, I like to carry a lot of stuff). A decision on a new handbag can not be made too lightly or quickly.

I did try to speed the process a little by asking the shop assistant if she could point me to any bags that fit my exacting requirements.

That was a mistake.

She proceeded to show me every black bag in the shop and even some bags that weren't black. None were right and when I pointed that out (nicely - not in my 'hurry-the-hell-up-cause-I-need-the-loo tone) she suggested that I just buy the same one again.

Doh! Why hadn't I thought of that?

Of course I'd thought of that! I'd scoured the shop I'd bought it from (two years ago) and even looked on line. They had the same bag style but in orange.

I do not have orange shoes. So that patently wouldn't work.

I explained all this. She suggested I try the different colour. Great idea because orange goes with absolutely nothing in my wardrobe.

That was the point that I decided that handbag shopping could wait for another day.

Next stop - not the toilet, which would have been sensible - the car. My local shopping centre has been undergoing renovations and you never know exactly which escalators will be working. This meant that getting down to the car involved walking the length of the centre on two different levels trying to find a way down. (Probably should have taken the elevator but I thought I'd have to wait and, because I was semi-busting, I didn't want to wait).

Finally made it to my car and believe me I felt way more comfortable sitting than standing. Drove to the parcel pick-up area and was pleased to see that there was only two cars ahead of me. Luck was on my side - I wasn't going to have to wait long here. But I couldn't say the same when it came to actually leaving the car park. Those renovations mean that there are lollipop men controlling the flow of traffic and my lollipop man didn't understand that my squirming wasn't some uncoordinated car-dance to a boppy tune on the radio.

I was starting to sweat.

A few minutes (felt like ten but was probably only two or three) later I was on the road heading home. But there was one last obstacle to overcome - the dreaded roundabout! At that time of day you can sometimes be lucky and get no traffic. But Murphy's Law states that if you are busting to go to the toilet you will be forced to wait interminably at any potential traffic stop.

And so I waited. And squirmed some more. And turned up the air-conditioning to help with the cold sweat.

A little side-note for new readers. I have three children. My pelvic floor has been through the wars three times. And although I know that holding on is good muscle training, I don't usually test those muscles to quite that extent.

But this story has a happy ending. My optimism was not unfounded. I made it home and even managed to walk with some dignity into the house.

My toilet has never looked so good. (Partly because of my relief but also because it was cleaning day and the toilet had been scrubbed - thanks Evelyn).

But next time I have that decision to make, I think I might choose the go-before-you-go option.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Speed Session Optimism

With one successful post-marathon run under my belt, I was quite looking forward to speed session this week.

I'd told myself and Coach Chris that I wasn't going to push myself too hard. If there's a time that you're allowed to slacken off a little it's in the couple of weeks after a marathon. My training buddy Elio reckons that there's a statute of limitations on using that as an excuse. So it's my mission to find out just how long that time frame is - how long can I push it until Coach Chris puts a bomb under me.

Even though I'd told myself that I was going to take it easy, it's not that simple to do. Somehow I get carried away with the adrenalin of the group and push a little harder than I intend.

The set was 1k rep, (100m walk recovery) then 500m (100m), 500m (100m) and repeat until time's up.

Coach Chris said go and we all headed out. My legs were feeling pretty good so I just let myself be swept along. We reached the turn around and Barry (Chris's assistant coach) gave us an interim time - 2:14. Hmm, maybe a little fast but I was still feeling okay so I went with it. I stopped my watch at 4:28. My fastest 1k split all year. Yay!

Or maybe not.

The aim of speed session is yes, to run fast. But it's also to run at a pace that you can sustain for the entire session. Running your fastest 1k split of the year is a momentarily heady rush but it's also a dangerous thing. You tell yourself that you can do it. That it's just an issue of mind over matter. But unfortunately for me there's a disconnect between my mind's ability to dream big and the physical ability of my heart, lungs and muscles.

In short, the session that started out brilliantly quickly deteriorated. The first two 500m reps were fine. The next 1k rep was 12s slower than the first and had me contemplating faking an injury. On one of the subsequent 500m reps I was struggling to keep down my banana. The third 1k rep saw me losing all will to live but I still went on to finish that set. Then I pulled the plug.

Maybe I could have done another 1k rep. But it would have been ugly and probably pointless.

I learnt a couple of things from the session. Obviously two weeks isn't quite long enough for marathon recovery despite my legs feeling good. And pacing is absolutely fundamental if I'm going to have a successful speed session.

After seven years of doing these sessions you'd think I'd know better by now. But it just goes to show that I'm an optimist at heart.

And just a little post script - Iven's gone back to work today. Just for a half day but a half day's better than nothing. I can't tell you how my heart sang when I saw the empty couch this morning. How delicious the coffee was and how I enjoyed doing the crossword. Alone! It's just like my spirit's getting the long-overdue recharge that it needed to be a nicer, kinder and more civil human.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he survives his few hours of work without any repercussions so the process can be repeated tomorrow.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

One Run is Never Enough

I didn't need the beautiful sunrise as enticement to get out of bed pre-dawn on Saturday morning. All I needed was the promise of a real run. Not the faux runs that I'd been doing during the week where I ran a little, walked a little then ran a little bit more. 

I really wasn't too sure how I'd manage the run. On my faux runs my legs had felt a bit weird - like they wanted to go but lacked their normal strength. But as it turns out, they were back to almost normal and felt surprisingly bouncy (although I'm sure that I looked anything but bouncy) despite having to run one of the hilliest routes that we do.

And as easily as that, equilibrium was restored to my life. An hour and a bit of sweating and chatting. Then another hour or so of more chatting, refuelling and eating cake and I was all sweetness and light ... for a good few hours. Seems that I need a couple of regular runs to get my endorphins to a good base level to improve my default mood.

Or maybe I'm just a little over-due on having some alone time. And by alone time I mean having the house completely devoid of mammals with opposable thumbs that ask questions of me and expect meals on the table (or more accurately, in the fridge awaiting microwaving at the eater's leisure). 

I'm probably not going to get any alone time in the foreseeable future either. Number 1 hubby is still warming MY couch for most of the day. Plus he has returned to the marital bed. So it's pretty much lose-lose for me. 

Then today he had the gall to say that he was feeling well enough to accompany me on my daily coffee run - my last chance of alone time evaporated in a puff of smoke. 

My dream of doing the crossword while sipping soy cappuccino wasn't a grandiose one. My dreams rarely involve first-class overseas trips on private jets or diamonds or champagne baths. I try to dream the attainable. 

Poor Iven looked so pleased that he was bestowing the honour of his presence on me. Or maybe that was his excitement at being able to get out of the house. Either way I didn't have the heart to tell him that his presence didn't make my heart beat faster like it would have 29 years ago.

Does it make me an awful wife to say that what actually gets my heart racing is that Iven's Physio has said he might be able to go to work before the end of this week? That's actually a rhetorical question because I know the answer - yes, I'm an awful wife. But then none of us are perfect. 

And I have some redeeming features. Like remarkable self-restraint when homicidal thoughts enter my brain. And the ability to make a pretty awesome birthday cake.

Even once Iven's back at work, I still won't be getting my house to myself for any time in the near future. It's the end of semester for my uni sons and that means swat vac followed by exams followed by about three months of vacation. Oh yay! (she says sarcastically).

That base level of endorphins better kick in soon.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Seventy-Two Hours To a Better Me.

This little hiatus from running (and I do mean little because it's coming to an end - thank goodness) has taught me one big thing.

I am a better person when I'm running.

And by better I mean nicer, kinder, more balanced, more patient.

I know that the last week or so has been made a little bit more difficult by a few things (a gimpy husband, having to go for medical visits to try to stop him from permanently taking over my couch and my cold which is, thankfully, almost gone) but if I was running I probably would have handled them with a bit more dignity and a little less snarkiness.

Want an example? I gave Iven's Physio one of my cupcakes because I was enjoying watching him stick needles into my beloved.

I have, at times, been tempted to poke Iven with things that are sharp and pointy but my fear of prison and being beaten up by tough chicks with bad tattoos and not the full complement of teeth have prevented me from doing so thus far. (But it hasn't stopped me from making a murder pact with my favourite check-out lady whose husband also has a bad back). And while I haven't succumbed to temptation, it doesn't mean that I can't enjoy watching someone else do what I'm legally and morally not allowed to.

Another example? I made Iven watch The Bachelor with me last Wednesday and will insist on him watching it again tonight. It's possibly one of the worst shows I've ever watched but it's strangely compelling watching attractive, intelligent women being reduced to high school behaviour. So one could say I'm watching it out of scientific curiosity - anthropologically and anatomically.

My bad behaviour doesn't end there. I farted today. If I was running and had a bit more dignity that would have read 'I passed wind today' or 'I politely and discreetly expelled some flatulance'. Because I'm not running there was nothing polite or discreet about passing it in the milk aisle in Coles. And even worse, I sniggered about it because the irony appealed to my lactose-intolerant self. 

I've also been enjoying having the bed to myself way too much. Iven's been sleeping either on the couch or the floor for over two weeks now - mainly because he's been up and down, trying to find a comfortable position and if he can't sleep then at least he can watch a bit of TV or read. Now that he's finally starting to improve I suggested he might find the be more comfortable. Yes, that might sound like I'm a caring wife but I was secretly hoping that he stay put and it took me all of my self-control not to fist-pump when he decided that the lounge was a better option.

His reasoning? My cold that had finally moved from my throat to my nose might make me snore and keep him awake. It's more delicious irony!

Just three days to go till I'm officially allowed to run again. Seventy-two more hours to a better me.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Importance of Recovery and Cupcakes

Has it only been a week since I ran that marathon?

Seems like forever ago. And it seems like forever since I've run (Although I did sneak in a very little bit of running the other day when I was out with the dogs - but seeing as Bubbles has such short little legs and can't go very fast it hardly counts)

Apart from having the cold I've been feeling pretty normal. Yes, there was a day or so of muscle tightness after the race but since then my legs have felt incrementally stronger every day. I honestly feel normal.

But I know that this recovery time after a marathon is crucial for setting up the next training block so I'm trying to be patient and actually follow my program. I've read a lot of articles and I know that even though my legs might feel normal, there's been a bit of damage and time is needed for full repair to occur.

This week's program has just a couple of 20 minute walks on it and my first proper run on Saturday. I may have to do just a little bit more - seeing as a few of the escalators at my local shopping centre are out and I'm having to walk almost that much getting from where I have my coffee to where I get my groceries. And I may have to walk the dogs a couple of times seeing as their regularly-scheduled walker is still out of action. And I've also negotiated with Coach Chris to run/walk tomorrow during his speed session.

So much for following my program exactly as written. But I am following it in the spirit in which it's written - very low-level exercise which will barely get my heart rate up and will feel like I'm not exerting myself at all. Just enough for me to keep some semblance of sanity. And heaven knows I need just a semblance of sanity while I have a husband that has hardly been off the couch in over two weeks.

And by 'the couch' I mean MY couch.

In my twisted brain I've managed to see Iven's back injury as a diabolical plot to wrest control of MY couch from me. And let's not even mention the remote control. I've come to the firm belief that there's only a certain number of hours of watching the ABC News channel before you permanently lose your sense of humour. I think it's the over-exposure to politicians.

Can you tell that my grip on sanity is a tad tenuous?

I had to resort to my other non-running method of sanity-saving yesterday. It involved butter, sugar, flour, cocoa and eggs. And I may have gone a little over-board.

But can you really ever have too many chocolate cupcakes??

Just five days to go before until I get that first proper run. I've got a strange feeling that there'll be a few more cupcakes baked before this week is through.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Today's post was going to be all about how well I was recovering from Sunday's marathon. About how good I was feeling. About how my legs were improving incrementally from one day to the next.

But things have changed in the last 24 hours and I'm posting this from my bed.

Yes, I've become a perfect example of how marathon running can reduce the efficacy of the immune system.

Apparently running for longer than 90 minutes can cause the immune system to become weaker. And there's no way in hell that I'm ever going to run a half marathon in that time, let alone a full one. Add in a bit of shivering after the race due to being soaked to the skin with rain, hanging around in big crowds at the race, sitting in a plane with recycled air (ie recycled viruses) for over two hours) and then  spending quality time in doctors' waiting rooms and pharmacies with my crippled husband and I guess that a cold was probably inevitable. I'm just grateful that it didn't happen before the race.

So while I'm lying here I've had plenty of time to analyse my race and share two tips on 'what not to do' if you want to run a PB.

Firstly, DO NOT WORK YOURSELF UP INTO SUCH A STATE THAT YOU CAN'T EAT BEFORE THE RACE. The few days before a marathon are probably the only time in your life that you get to eat carbs without guilt and pretty much without limit. This is an important part of race preparation. No fuel = no energy to run with.

That goes for fluids as well. I certainly didn't drink much the day before because I was worried about throwing everything up so when I got into the race I found I was a lot thirstier than I usually would be - particularly as the weather wasn't that warm and I wasn't sweating much. As little as 2% dehydration can lead to a 6% reduction in running performance - not so vital in a 5k race but very important in a marathon.

These two things were the only things that were actually in my control that impacted my run. The timing of my period, getting a migraine aura and all the stress I had before the race wasn't something I could have managed any differently but I know that if I'd managed to fuel decently I would have lasted a lot longer before feeling tired. And because I need to know the answer to how much better I could have run, I've already picked my next marathon.

No, I won't be running another in a few weeks. I've had too many run-ins with overtraining syndrome to even contemplate that. I'm planning on recovering properly by just taking it easy for the rest of this month and then building back up.

My next marathon will be in April next year in Canberra. All things going well and fingers crossed.

And this time I'm not so scared about what's ahead of me - those stupid long runs and setting the alarm for 3:15am. I'm actually looking forward to it.

And just a quick update on the two patients that I had to leave behind over the weekend. Iven's only made a slight improvement. I have to admit to being a negligent wife who was a little preoccupied with other stuff and I didn't insist on getting him to the physio. But he hadn't wanted to do the physio thing until he was feeling a bit better. It all came to a head on Wednesday when he was in awful pain again and wanted to go back to the hospital. Luckily a local physio managed to fit him in at very short notice and already (after just two visits) Iven's feeling more comfortable. He's still walking like a crooked man and can't sit or stand for any length of time but we're hopeful that he's on the road back.

And Toby is also doing a lot better. I don't think I mentioned this last week but poor old Toby had had an allergic reaction to something that had touched his belly last week. He'd come out in itchy welts and had licked them until his scrotum was red and oozing. Of course I didn't realise this until Friday night and then I was trying to work out the best way to get him up to the vet the next morning after I'd flown out. Thank goodness Luke could fit it in (despite having a huge load of assignments to finish off). So when I arrived home I was greeted by a much happier and less itchy puppy.

Monday, October 14, 2013

When Failure Feels Like Victory

If you're reading this today hoping to hear about my triumphant run on the weekend where I ran fast and ran strong and PB'd then you're going to be disappointed. There was no fast running or strong running or PB's. But there was triumph. Because triumph isn't always measured objectively.

Before I start, though, I will warn you that I'll be over-sharing in this post. So if you're at all squeamish you might as well walk away while you still can. But if you're a runner then you'll probably enjoy all the gruesome details because we thrive on all that stuff.

I'll start where I left off on Friday - feeling stressed about a whole heap of issues that had cropped up during the week. I'd vowed to leave them all behind in Brisbane and try to enjoy my weekend but, like the major stress-head that I am, I carried them all down to Melbourne with me. I'm just lucky that Jetstar didn't charge me for excess baggage. I was so stressed that I couldn't eat Saturday morning - not good when I'd hardly eaten Friday either.

We got in to Melbourne and were greeted by the Mum of one of Josh's friends, who'd been on the same flight as us. She'd run with the squad some years ago and had very kindly offered to drop us into our hotel. That was awesome and saved me worrying about the bus trip and finding where we were staying.

Our hotel was amazing! I'd been told it was fancy but had no idea until I saw the lobby. The views from our 40th floor room were spectacular.

We dumped our luggage and went to find some food but again my stomach wasn't cooperating and all I could eat was a bit of rice and some chicken. Not fair - this was the one day where I could indulge my carboholic tendencies without guilt and I was being betrayed by my body.

As the afternoon wore on my anxiety levels started to rise. I couldn't face going out to dinner with Serena and Josh. I just stayed in the room and ordered a sandwich and tried to stuff it down my throat. My head was in a very negative state - I knew I hadn't eaten enough and it was going to literally mean running on empty. And that's if I could even make the start line. I'd prepared my gear and set my alarm but everything in me was just wanting to turn it off. 

But I didn't want to let myself down. I'd trained for this for months. This was my way of celebrating the return of good health and proving that the dark days were finally over. And I didn't want to let down everyone who was rooting for me - and there were lots of people! Texts and Facebook messages - wonderful, supportive messages kept streaming in while I was sitting on my bed feeling just so awfully pathetic.

But it was one person in particular who stopped me from turning off my alarm. One very bossy, loving, kind friend who knew just what a nut-case I can be and who vowed that she'd do what it took to get me to the start line. She had her alarm set for the same time as me and told me that she'd be checking in first thing in the morning to assess my needs. So I really had no choice - the alarm stayed on.

But of course I woke up before the alarm. Played a few rounds of Words With Friends to keep my mind off things. Forced down a banana and a piece of bread and jam. Got dressed then texted my bossy friend to let her know I was dressed and as ready as I would ever be. 

Josh and Serena walked me to the start and made sure I was settled with the squad before heading back to bed. There's nothing better than being surrounded by your running family to help keep the nerves at bay. My anxiety just melted away as we chatted and walked to the start line.

And then it was time to run. The gun went off at 7am and it wasn't long till we were shuffling over the line. I actually wasn't feeling too bad. I didn't feel a thing from my niggly Achilles. And for the first time in days I felt a little bit optimistic. Maybe it wasn't going to be so bad after all.

And it wasn't ... for the first 15 kilometres. But slowly my lack of fuel started to catch up with me. I was feeling way more tired than I should have at this point so I slowed down. And for the TMI part that I promised at the beginning - I was starting to get cramps. Not leg cramps but period ones. Of all days for it to come!

But I kept on. We ran down St Kilda Rd and then turned right along the waterfront on Beaconsfield Terrace then doubled back to run up the other direction. 

At around 18k I realised that I couldn't see properly. It was raining but it wasn't rain causing my problem. I was getting an aura - the visual disturbance that people get before they get a migraine. Great!! Here I am not even half way through my event underfuelled, not being able to see properly, having period cramps, knowing that there was every chance I'd end up with a major headache and already feeling like I was done. 

A couple of my friends ran past me and asked how I was doing. It really sucked to have to say that I was struggling even before halfway. But it was what it was and there was nothing I could do except suck it up and keep going. I told myself I just had to make it to the half marathon point. And once I made it there I wasn't too far from 30k and once I got to 30k I was going to allow myself to run/walk the rest of the way.

But I didn't quite make it to 30k before I had my first walk break. By 28k I had an awful stitch that just wasn't letting up. So I walked a bit. But when I stopped to walk the cramps felt worse. So I took the two ibuprofen tablets that I'd brought along as a 'desperate measure' and started to run again. 

I kept on run/walking for a few kilometres as we headed back up St Kilda Rd. I felt miserable. I'd wanted so badly to finish this run better than I had my first marathon. I hadn't cared too much about the time but I'd wanted to run the whole way and I felt that I'd let myself down. But I wasn't going to give up. Sometimes just finishing instead of giving up is the victory so I continued to plod along as best I could.

I was almost up at the Botanical Gardens when two angels appeared on the course. It was my bossy friend, Bec and Youngie (another friend from the squad) who were doing the half marathon. I can't put into words exactly how much they lifted my spirits. I ran with them for a bit until their course veered off from ours but that little time with them was just what I'd needed. 

My sweaty angels in disguise.

I stopped to walk just once more up a long hill but something had happened in my head. My body didn't hurt any less but I'd surrendered to everything. Every step that I took now was a little victory against all the stressful things that had happened in the last week. A victory against my long stretch of bad health. Against all the personal crap that had happened in the last four years. Every step was like I was thumbing my nose at the universe and saying 'throw your worst at me, I'm not going to let it beat me!' 

It was six glorious kilometres! 

There was one clear moment where all I felt was gratitude. Even though I was hurting and everything had seemed to conspire against me in that last week, I was doing it. I couldn't have done it last year and all I wanted back then was just to be able to run. So how could I not feel grateful?

The 40k marker was a huge surprise - somehow I'd missed number 39. That was an exciting moment because I knew that the squad tent wasn't too far away. And once I reached the squad I knew that their cheers were going to carry me to the finish line. 

The GaleForcers are a rowdy bunch when they see one of their own. They made me feel like I was a superstar. And it wasn't hard to run the last stretch into the MCG and around to the finish.

My finishing time? 4:21. 

It might not have been exactly how I'd hoped, but I feel so much prouder of this event than my first marathon. And this medal is now the pride of my collection.

And before I finish I just want to say a huge thanks to every member of the GaleForce squad. You guys are truly amazing!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

And One Last Thing ...

Just one last post before I become a marathoner for the second time.

If you thought the drama was over once we brought Iven home from hospital you'd be wrong. Yes, he was feeling a lot better. I had secured not just one travel companions but two. And it was all looking a lot better than it had 24 hours before. But I still had to do a bit of work to get my travel plans rearranged with Josh as my new travel companion.

His girlfriend Serena was now coming too. It was too good an opportunity to see some more of Australia to pass up. So there were flights to book for her and I had to see if it was okay to get another person in our room. No problems at all. The woman on the other end of the phone couldn't have been nicer or more helpful. She even booked us in to get an early check-in.

So far so good.

Then I had to make a decision about the plane tickets. My options were to get Josh to travel on his father's tickets. Identification is rarely checked when you check in at home so we probably could have gotten away with it. But I like to do the right thing and when I went on the website it looked like it would cost $40 both ways to get the name changed on his ticket so I decided to do the honest thing.

Big mistake!!

And by big I mean $365.00 which is almost double what I paid originally. Oh and I had to pay a credit card surcharge which I'd avoided the first time by doing a direct deposit. But their policy for name changes means that you HAVE to pay by credit card so you HAVE to pay their surcharge.

I stupidly thought that changing the name meant just that. Silly me.

No - changing the name means that you're handing in your tickets and buying new ones as well as paying the name-change fee. We had to pay the cost of the cheapest ticket available on that day which really wasn't that cheap minus what we'd originally paid.

But I was informed that if I submit a medical certificate they MIGHT refund me the $40 per sector name-change fee under their "compassionate" policy. The company has an interesting concept of compassion. My dictionary says it's the "deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it." There was no relief in what they did. They basically just sold us back the seat that we'd already paid for at a higher cost. Looks to me like profiteering from someone else's suffering.

So you'll all want to know what airline to avoid? Jetstar.

I was really upset about it so I posted on their Facebook page and was asked to message them privately only to be given exactly the same lecture that I'd been given over the phone the day before. I kindly suggested that they might like to look up the word of compassion and either change their policy or change the name of it. 

And today's little dramas - Josh is home from work with a sore throat, Toby has come out in an allergic rash on his belly and Iven is still not much better. But, surprisingly, I haven't resorted to medication. Yet.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Why I Nearly Didn't Get to Run Melbourne Marathon

I swear that I don't like drama. I like a peaceful, quiet life. Where I plan ahead for things and work towards making them happen.

But somehow drama just keeps happening despite all my best plans.

Yesterday started out the way all Tuesdays start out - with a speed session and breakfast with friends. And then the drama kicked in.

Iven was supposed to get a CT scan of his back so that was the first order of the day. He'd hardly slept again with the pain - his third almost-sleepless night - and he was incredibly uncomfortable. I had no idea how he was going to get downstairs to the car, let alone be able to sit through the five minute drive to get to his appointment. But he gritted his teeth and leant on a walking stick and slowly made his way down the steps and just lay on the back seat.

He was taken in almost straight away and the scan took no time so we were back in the car and back home within thirty minutes. Then we had to repeat the process in the afternoon to the GP to get the result from the scan. And the news was not good.

Surgery! That really wasn't what I was expecting to hear. The worst possible outcome with the worst possible timing. I'm supposed to be running a marathon in just five days. My plans were to have a quiet week, enjoy the taper, carb load towards the end of the week, try not to freak out about flying down to Melbourne, get on the start line, run for a few hours and end up with a nice, shiny medal. Nowhere in there did I factor in taking my husband on multiple medical visits, putting him in an ambulance and making a hospital my second home.

Honestly the only way I could describe the feeling is deflated. If my husband has surgery there's no way I go to Melbourne. Even if he tells me to. Which he did. Because he's like that - self-sacrificing. And kind. And he's seen just how much hard work I've done over the last few months and knows how much this means to me. But it's a no-brainer. There are always other marathons.

After he left in the ambulance I texted all the boys to let them know what was happening. #1 son Sam has been doing his prac work at the hospital that Iven was being taken to so he let me know that he'd hang around till the ambulance arrived then go sit with him till I got there. I packed up a bag with anything that I thought Iven might need then headed out.

I arrived just in time for Iven to be discharged. No surgery after all. Apparently they prefer not to because of the high risk of complications which may actually be worse than the initial problem. But they were able to give him a shot of a much stronger pain killer and a prescription that was more effective than what the GP had initially given him.

Iven slept last night for the first time in days and has been a lot happier all day. He's managed to get around a bit more - he's still spending most of the day on his back but he can move from one room to the next without the agony of yesterday. It's going to be a long process but he should start to improve in the next 2-4 weeks.

And for me, Melbourne is back on. And I can leave knowing that he's comfortable and will be looked after by his loving eldest and youngest sons. Not the middle one because the middle one and his girlfriend will be keeping his slightly crazy mum company and getting her to the start line on Sunday.

But despite yesterday being just so awful in parts it had its silver lining. It was a reminder again of just how wonderful my friends and family are. A few texts and a Facebook update were all that was needed to get support from everywhere. I even got the offer of a dinner to be delivered to the hospital from one of the most awesome people I know. And today Coach Chris was over with chocolate for the invalid and the invalid's carer.

I guess the other good thing about all the drama is that it's been a huge distraction from my pre-race  (pre-flight) nerves. Nothing like a good dose of perspective to keep you grounded.

Iven performing his husbandly duties pre-back pain.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Where Did My Zen Go?

It was appropriate that I woke up to a great big pile of doggy poo in my lounge room this morning. Appropriate because that's what all my plans for a Zen taper and a relaxed, non-stressed week leading up to the marathon have turned into - a great big pile of steaming ... You can add in your favourite faecal word.

Where's my Zen gone? It vanished the moment Iven's back (or hip - we can't work out exactly where the pain's coming from) decided to start hurting. Again! He can't sit up for long. He can't find a comfortable position to lie in. He can't walk for any long distances and by long I mean walking to the toilet and back is about his limit. He's on day 3 now and there's been absolutely no improvement. And he's getting no relief from any of the three drugs that he's tried.

The next step is going to get a CT scan but because it's been a long weekend we haven't been able to get it done yet. Hopefully he'll be able to have that tomorrow and then we might know what we're dealing with. And then maybe we'll be able to have a direction for his treatment.

But the upshot is that I'm holding out absolutely no hope that he'll be able to come to Melbourne with me. So I have a couple of options open to me. The first is to not go and pretend the last four months of hard training (to say nothing of the year of overcoming my illness) didn't happen. It would be the proper, loving-wife thing to do BUT is fraught with the danger of a resentment build-up of volcanic proportions (I never claimed to be perfect - just human and a little bit crazy). And seeing as I get most of my answers to all of life's hard questions from Modern Family I thought I should take a leaf out of Mitchell's relationship play-book.

I know that I'd be leaving him in Sam's tender care. Sam's almost a physiotherapist which means that there's be at least a chance of treatment whereas I'm just an ex-vet and my answer to all of the most tricky medical problems is euthanasia and cremation. I'm thinking Iven would vote for Sam too.

The second option is to put on my big girl panties and go alone. Umm, yeah - not really so keen on that option. Not from the stand-point of the race but because of the aeroplane that's needed to get me down to it.

And the third option (and the most appealing from my stand-point) is to talk someone into coming to Melbourne with me - all expenses paid. 

You'd think that would appeal to at least one of my boys but I'm having a hard time talking them into it. It's the short notice, the timing in relation to the university term and the fact that the return flight is late Monday afternoon. So far son #2 is my best bet. It will all depend on whether he can get Monday off at such short notice AND how well I can do the sad puppy eyes.

And at this point of desperation, long painful labour stories are not beneath me. Those ones never get old.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Zen Tapering

Tapering is supposed to be a time to recover. To give all that hard work that you've done over the months a chance to work. It's also the traditional time for runners to let out their inner crazy person to become a hypochondriac for a week or two and basically become impossible to live with.

I am currently tapering. But I'm trying to do it the non-traditional route. I'm trying to be calm, cool and collected. And I'm trying not to let my latent hypochondriac out to mess with my head. And so far I'm doing okay. That means there's something wrong with me, doesn't it?

And really I have every reason to be a little bit worried at the moment. I've had two runs this week and they've both been a little bit awful.

The first was Tuesday's speed session. The set was 4 blocks of 10 minute efforts with only a 1 minute recovery. After my second one I'd had it and sat out the third (or, more accurately, stood it out and chatted with Coach Chris) then I ran the last. It was incredibly humid and I don't think anyone finished at the same pace that they started on. I could have spent the rest of the day and, on past form, week mulling over my inability to perform and what it meant. But I chalked it up to the humidity and still being a bit tired from all those long run weekends. Sure I was hoping that an extra day rest on Sunday would have had me feeling fresh as a daisy but I wasn't so that was that.

Today's 12k run was also a little blah. Yes, blah is a word just ask Urban Dictionary. And you can use it to describe pretty much anything negative. In the case of today's run it meant that I stuffed up the timing with my watch, I wanted to stay in bed and keep dreaming because my dreams were strangely fascinating and involved monkeys that were trying to eat off my face (I wanted to see if they succeeded or if I escaped), there were hills and I hate hills and it felt hard (please refer to the aforementioned hills).

When I got home I looked at my watch's stats and what I saw didn't please me. My heart rate did seem a bit high and it wasn't that hot or humid this morning. A high heart rate has always been one of the first symptoms of over-training and I don't want to go back there. But then I remembered that part of me stuffing up the timing of the run was having to restart my Garmin after a kilometre so that meant my first and lowest heartrate kilometre wasn't counted in the data I was looking at. So I've disregarded all the negatives I had about the run. Sure it didn't reach my expectations but so what.

So the plan now is to try to keep this zenness (once again a real word - as long as Urban Dictionary is a real dictionary) for ten more days. And to run really easy for the last few runs - even the speed session (hear that Coach Chris? It's a mini-mutiny but only by one person and only for one session). I really don't know how well I'll go with my plans being that next week will be a perfect storm for me - tapering, PMS and pre-flight anxiety. Let's hope the Zen is more powerful than all those surging hormones. Otherwise it could get ugly.

So in the spirit of Zen I'm going to leave a happy photo of dogs and butterflies (actually it's just one dog and a moth. But a moth's like a butterfly isn't it?)