Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Highlight Of My Day

Sometimes I think I spend too much time by myself.

Actually I'm pretty sure I said that out loud to Bubbles yesterday when we were walking back inside after hanging out a load of towels.

Yes, my life is that exciting! She looked up at me with her cloudy eyes full of the wisdom of a life well lived, dropped on her rear and proceeded to scoot along the grass.

No, not Bubbles - just a graphic demonstration of the one of the joys of dog ownership.

The problem with my business is that there are busy times and slow times. And when it's a slow time it can get really quiet around here. Quiet enough that I talk to the animals. No biggie there unless the neighbours are hanging around, listening to our conversation. And even that's not too big of a deal because I know, from the number of wine bottles that get dumped in their recycling that, if any accusatory dirt was cast in my direction that I could dispel it with sly hints of alcoholic tendencies.

I'm going through a slow patch at work at the moment and I knew that apart from cutting out 43 pairs of royal blue tights there wasn't a lot of other stuff to look forward to so Bubbles' timely actions gave me a raison d'etre. For all of you non-French speakers out there, that means reason for existence. And no, I don't speak French - I've just read a lot of books.

My raison d'etre? To bring comfort to a small, furry companion who regularly gives me comfort and always gives me unconditional love. To use some of the five years of university training that it took to achieve my degree that I hardly ever dust off. To find those impacted anal glands and release them.

I chose the above graphic illustration of the approximate region that the anal glands are found. This was the toned-down version because I was pretty sure that the squeamish amongst you may not appreciate the tail up, full-pucker view of where I had to head. It's also the exact location that I found Bubbles after she'd seen me come in her direction with a tissue and had taken off. Hiding on my bed in full view may not be entirely the smartest thing to do but it does afford the potential for revenge if my tissue positioning is not perfect and the pressure in those anal glands is high.

I have a confession to make here. I love squeezing impacted anal glands. It's almost as much fun as popping pimples or removing blackheads from your spouse or progeny. And can I say that yesterday's experience did not disappoint. I would almost go so far as to say that it was the highlight of my day because cutting out 43 pair of royal blue tights and running 500m reps, although fun, was not quite as scintillating.

The only thing that might have been more exciting would have been getting a visitor to our newly-created bird-feeder.My parents have been feeding birds for a while and I've been getting a little envious of their fine feathered friends. So on the weekend I convinced Iven to create a bird-feeding zone, carefully suspended over the garden so I won't be having to clean up birdseed off our patio every day.

So far it hasn't mattered that the bowl is suspended over the garden because we haven't had a single visitor to our newly created all-you-can-eat buffet. Not one single bird!

I stupidly thought that we'd put out the bowl and we'd be inundated with flocks of cockatoos, lorikeets and galahs. Not so. Word needs to get out amongst the avian community first, it seems.

But I'm living in hope that if I build it they will come.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Leave No Man (Or Woman) Behind

Saturday mornings is always long run morning. Rain, hail or shine. (The hail part may be a bit of an exaggeration because that's never actually happened in the many years I've been running).

This Saturday was no different to any other Saturday. Except that it was. Yes, we all congregated at an ungodly hour. And we all were wearing appropriate running gear. And we all complained a little about the cool and the aforementioned ungodly hour. But our intrepid leader didn't show.

This has never happened before. Sure, he hasn't been to every single Saturday run but never before has he not turned up without someone knowing why. Turns out that the why was a really bad dose of the flu and he'd basically been sleeping since his last session on Friday morning.

But, being that we're all adults and quite capable of getting ourselves underway, we set off with the belief that we could do this alone. And of course we could. But there's something that Coach Chris does very well every time he leads and something that kind of gets neglected if he's not there. He makes sure that we take the first couple of kilometres pretty slowly and stick together as a group.

I understand why it's important to run the long runs slowly but this last Saturday I worked out why it was important to keep the group together. It's for idiots like me who take off with the quicker kids then realise that they're going too fast. It's no biggie to drop back in pace if there's plenty of people to run with once you've had that lightbulb moment. It is, however, a biggie to have that realisation when the rest of the group is quite a long way back and you're left with the decision to keep running at the too fast pace, run by yourself or wait a while at a water stop till the rest of the runners catch up.

Running by myself was never an option. I don't set my alarm for 4:45am to run solo. And waiting just didn't seem like that much fun so I chose Option A - run too fast and hope that I didn't crash and burn by the end.

Oh, did I mention that this was my first 20k-er in a couple of months? Running my first 20k at a quick pace was obviously the only logical decision. Go hard or go home! In a body bag.

We were running a route that we hadn't been able to take in a long time. In 2011 Brisbane had a lot of rain which resulted in a bit of a flood which resulted in this happening to our beloved Riverwalk.

The Riverwalk had been an integral part of our 20k run to New Farm Park and without it we had to run up Medina Hill. I hate Medina Hill!! It's a hill and it's steep. Enough said.

The new Riverwalk opened last weekend to much joy and elation from the running community. We could again run all the way to New Farm Park without having to do a hill session in the middle. 

I'd been excited about the run from the moment that I'd managed to elicit our route from our tight-lipped coach earlier during the week. (Don't ask me how I do it but it does involve a clever combination of nagging, the threat of bodily harm and the withdrawal of cupcake privileges). But I was less excited about doing it at the pace we were going. 

I'm not talking world record pace here. It was low 5 min k's as opposed to almost 6 min pace. Not an enormous difference but enough to make me question what the hell I was doing.

We got to New Farm Park, refuelled and rehydrated then set off back home. It was about then that I might have mentioned that if I started drifting back no one should worry. But I was told, in no uncertain terms, that no man (or woman - as the case may be) would be left behind. 

I wasn't going to get an out. So I sucked up all those doubts about what I could and couldn't do. And I tried hard to not think about how much further there was to go.

The mind is a powerful thing. If it says that you can't do something then you probably won't be able to do it. When it believes that something is possible then, miraculously, something that may have seemed too hard suddenly becomes achievable. And somewhere along those last 10k back I started to have glimmers of belief that I might make it.

There was no slowing on the way back. In fact we may have run it slightly faster. There were a couple of sub-5 min k's thrown in before the end. And I finished with some of my confidence restored.

I realised again just how important my running group is to me. There is no way that I would have run that far that fast without the company and support. 

But next week I'll be running a lot more conservatively. It might have been a great run and a real confidence boost but we can't be stupid about these things.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Another Important Life Lesson

I'm a girl.

Not a big surprise there since I've birthed three no-longer-tiny humans. And have all of the appropriate accessories that girls usually have.

I'm not always girlish when it comes to certain things - like wearing make-up and high heels. And I'd prefer to wear shorts over a skirt. But there are definitely times that my gender makes itself felt. Like when I bought these.

No, they're not the most unusually shaped tampons on the market. 

They just happen to be the prettiest dog poop bags that I've ever seen. Seriously, the only way they could have been prettier is if they were encrusted with glitter and diamantes. So when I saw them I just had to have them. And at $2.00 from the cheap shop, I had to have two.

Yes, I could have bought plain, clear ones cheaper but these ones spoke to me. And I'm pretty sure they said 'buy me'. So I did. Talk about extravagant! If Iven asks me about them I'll be using the 'this old thing? I've had it for years' line. Wouldn't want him to think I was squandering his hard-earned money.

Yesterday I realised that I really should have saved that extra twenty cents.

I took these two out for their walk.

And of course Toby did what he always does on a walk. Took a dump that a horse would be proud of. I pulled out a pretty little red poop bag with white hearts on it and did what a responsible dog owner that doesn't want to pay a $227.70 (who decides these random numbers?) fine does. I picked up the poop. In my pretty bag that, oddly, didn't look quite so pretty any more. But felt lovely and warm.

And it was at that point that I learnt an important life lesson. You can wrap up a turd in the most beautiful of wrappings and tie it up with a big sparkly bow but when you open up the wrapping it will still be a turd.

But having said that, if I ever do find poop bags encrusted with glitter and diamantes I'll probably still buy them. Hang the expense. And I'll do it because I'm a girl and I just couldn't resist.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

We Know How To Party

Something happened this last weekend that has rarely happened in the 27 years since I've had kids. We ended up with an offspring-free house!

To have all three of our sons gone at once is comparable in frequency to the passing of Halley's Comet. But certain events aligned to create this miracle. Sam was in Melbourne - no surprise there seeing as he moved there at the beginning of the year. Luke was house-sitting. And Josh went to Sydney to do this -

Add another medal to his collection.

All week I'd pondered the big question. What can Iven and I do? We couldn't go away too because all our puppy sitters were previously occupied. And, as Iven let me know on Friday because he isn't good at sharing pertinent information in a timely manner, he had a shift at work on Saturday. Years of weekend soccer matches and weekend work and just being tired from having a busy life has left both of us a little lacking in imagination when thinking up fun things to do.

I totally vetoed Iven's first suggestion of running around the house naked and after that he was a little reluctant to being forthcoming with genius ideas. However, I was just thinking of his health. Two bulging discs and some annoying bony bits that rub on his spinal nerve means that he shouldn't be running anywhere. And I was also protecting any unwary visitor or charity collector from the sight of pale, unfettered, saggy flesh. No one needs to see that.

I also vetoed any thought of cleaning, tidying or garden work. There is nothing mini-home-vacation-like about working. That can happen on any weekend.

Going out clubbing was also added to the 'no way' list. You get to an age when that's just not appealing - too many people, too much noise, too late at night. I got to that age before I actually tried it. 

So with so many ideas being taken off the table it was amazing that we actually had a nice weekend. But we did. We proved that despite our age we still know how to party.

Admittedly we ended up doing a lot of our normal weekend stuff - the long run, the breakfast out with extended family and the fruit and veggie shopping. But we added in a couple of extra things that we don't normally do.

Like heading out to Eat Street Markets. And eating Peruvian Paella - yum!

Followed by a Tim Tam Cronut and a Nutella Pretzel. I have never tasted anything so divine as that pretzel. Soft, warm chewy bread slathered in nutella. When they talk about Food of the Gods I'm pretty sure they're referring to this.

And to go some way towards paying off all those unnecessary, but totally delicious calories we got up early Sunday and took the dogs for a walk up a mountain.

Then had breakfast up the top. Which kind of defeated the idea that we'd be paying off some of the previous night's indulgence.

Toby and Bubbles loved every single minute of it - especially all the scrub turkey spotting.

We rounded off Sunday with a movie and then I took to bed to read an entire book. That's my idea of decadence. And then I managed to squeeze in another run. Just an easy 7k that felt really good despite the previous day's 17k.

Okay, it's probably not everyone's idea of a fun weekend but you get to an age where you don't actually care what anyone else thinks. And I'm pretty sure that in years to come I'll be looking back on this weekend  and wondering where I got the energy to do so much stuff. And when I do ask that question I'll think fondly about that nutella pretzel.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Crazy Loves Company

I just need to have a little whinge.

Yesterday's speed session was hard!

Not that speed session is ever easy. You can't run fast (ish) for 45 minutes without wanting to toss up your pre-run banana on the odd occasion. And I'd be lying if I said that I'd never thought about faking an injury well before the end of a session. I have those thoughts on a very regular basis but have yet to act on them - I'm saving that for a very special case of desperation.

Yesterday's session was a little bit harder than usual because it was in a different location. It wasn't on our usual almost dead-flat stretch. It was up this enormous mountain!!

Slight exaggeration there. It was up a little bit of an incline. But I swear that incline felt like an enormous mountain by the end. And my legs are assuring me even as I sit here at the keyboard that there was extra work involved. Hello DOMS.

I'm still not back to where I want to be fitness-wise so that might have added to how hard it felt. And I certainly haven't done any hill sessions for probably two months. And I'm only running two or three times a week at the moment. But I'm pretty sure that it wasn't just me who found it a challenging session.

We started off with five sprints up the hill that turned into six because the back markers had to get their five done. Then it was a fun ten minute rep that seemed to be longer. Why is it that time goes so quickly when you're having fun yet so slowly when you're in pain?? Then we got to repeat the first five reps which again became six - despite me really taking those recoveries to the extreme.

I looked at my watch on the last rep and decided that we'd really be pushing it to get another ten minute rep done. My wish, at that point, was that we'd have to call it quits and do a slightly longer cool-down.

I've been running with Coach Chris long enough to have known better. I know he has a sadistic streak so I shouldn't have been surprised that he had an evil glint in his eye when he told us that the last rep would be fifteen minutes.

It always amazes me that despite us all being exhausted and in pain no one ever quits. There may have been dark mutterings from a certain Mr G and thoughts of revenge (the more painful the better) but to a man we all pulled on our big girl panties to finish off the session.

I like to think that it shows that we're a close-knit group of dedicated, hard-core athletes. But I sort of suspect that we're all a little crazy and we've worked out that our crazy doesn't seem so bad when we're surrounded by like-minded crazies.

And talking about crazy - my poor puppy has had an itch that has been driving him nuts. Poor Toby is allergic to something and whatever that something is it's around in abundance at the moment. So he's been spending a lot of time like this.

While the Cone of Shame has it's pluses - like storing food for a snack later on or keeping the rain off your head or making your bark sound so much more impressive due to the megaphone-like shape - it has a lot of minuses - like having your doggy sister snap at you when you make play overtures because you don't realise that the cone is almost a lethal weapon to a 6 kilo dog.

Because it's a pain to take on and off, we've gotten a bit lazy and stopped threading it onto his collar and this has worked pretty well. Until the other day. 

Toby picked up one of his toys to play with and shook it so violently that the cone came off his neck and ended up wedged over the rabbit's butt. 

Funniest thing I've seen in a long time!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Perfect Weekend

I've just had a perfect weekend.

I know that's a big call. Perfection isn't easily attained. A whole host of variables have to align the right way. But I would say that the weekend's perfection hinged on just one variable which made all the others appear to fall into place.

This person came home. 

Just for a flying visit. A friend's engagement party.

 It was so nice to have my whole family back together even if it was just for a weekend. We decided (well, really it was just me who decided and the boys humoured their mum) that it'd be nice to walk up Mt Coottha so Sam could see Brisbane from the top.

We set off having no idea how long it would take. I remember walking up it years ago at a birthday party when I was about ten. It had taken ages! And it had been so hard! And so steep! And my legs hurt!!! 

I guess my fitness level has improved a little since then. And my legs have gotten longer. It only took just over half an hour. Half an hour of enjoying the beautiful spring day and watching my man-children walking and talking and enjoying each other's company. They're the moments in life that make my mother's heart happy.

The only thing that could have made the day any better would have been to have had the two absent girlfriends with us. But work and uni commitments don't always make that possible.


And then the whole weekend was capped off by getting a visit from these two little guys. My twin great-nephews have a way of making the whole world a happy, funner (yeah, I know it's not a real word) place. There are way more smiles and laughter when they're around - and that's just from the adults.

Sam heads back down to Melbourne today but that just means that the countdown starts for his next visit. A week starting Christmas eve. Just thirteen weeks and two days to go. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Biting the Bullet

I finally bit the bullet last week.

I admitted to myself that Melbourne wasn't going to happen this year. Sure, I'd already decided that the marathon wasn't going to happen. But I was kind of, sort of, tossing up about changing down to the half.

And then I tried running two days in a row. Not even long distances. And certainly not fast. And I ended up exhausted. So tired that I could hardly get off the couch the following day. Almost too tired to sleep (if that makes any sense).

It felt the way it used to when I had over-training syndrome but this was not from over-training. This was from the result of sustained stress and raised cortisol levels. Our bodies can't distinguish between stress caused by physically pushing ourselves and stress caused by other issues. Stress is just stress and I've learnt the hard way that pushing through it can end up in tears.

So I officially withdrew. And I cancelled my flights.

A little aside here to sing the praises of Virgin Airlines. I'd bought the cheapest flights and certainly expected nothing back after the Jetstar debacle of 2013. Virgin, however, was much more empathetic and have refunded my fares totally as credit. I was astounded, amazed and very grateful.

So now I have nothing on my plate for the rest of the year. No pressure to get back to a decent fitness level quickly. And it feels really, really good.

I decided for last week's long slow run that I'd start towards the back of the group and try to stay there. Make myself go slower and finish the run feeling like I could have done more. I managed to do just that and in doing so had one of the most fun runs that I've had in a long time. These runners know how to really enjoy their running.

At Tuesday's speed session my aim was to work a little harder without killing myself. And I nailed that too - despite the session combining speed and hills. I finished the set still standing. And starving. 

I've always loved running to train for an event. I love having a focus to all the sessions. A reason to get out of bed at a time when Toby just ignores me putting on my running shoes because it's way too early to even contemplate a walk. I love being part of a group that's working towards something big - and Melbourne is going to be big for the GaleForce Squad this year. The excitement in the group is contagious and energising. Sure I'm a little bit sad not to be a part of it this year but I'm a lot bit relieved to be able to take my foot off the accelerator and just cruise for a while. I've totally accepted that it wasn't the right year for me this year. 

And on a totally unrelated note, I wanted to share this photo I got of a visitor to my parents' house. They've been leaving seed out in their feeder and word has spread through the avian community. This guy was so greedy that he didn't want to move even when I got up really close. The posturing was to scare me away.

I don't scare that easily. Well, not because of a cockatoo. Maybe if it had been a cockroach that had dropped on me unexpectedly when having a shower ... But that's a different story.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


I've been having flashbacks a lot lately. Pretty much every time I go to the university (and that's at least twice a week).

The flashbacks have been triggered by the sight of uniforms and the sound of gunfire. They have me feeling this sense of nervous anticipation. Of being on edge - knowing that it's time to give it my all.

No, I've never been part of the armed forces. Or been in a military action. Although I was in Los Angeles when it was under martial law after the Rodney King verdict and the subsequent rioting.

The uniforms I'm talking about are more the sports kind. And the guns are starter's pistols. It's athletic season and the flashbacks I'm having were of my last year of high school and the pinnacle of my spectacular but brief athletics career.

I wasn't always a runner. Back at high school I was a thrower. Specifically a discus thrower. It was something that I'd been quite good at right from the start. In year 8 I'd come second at zones and from then on no one beat me. But in my last year of high school something had clicked and I started throwing even better and by the time the zone championships came around there was no one that could come within metres of me. I knew I had it in the bag and that zones were only a formality to getting into the state championships.

The day of zones came and I turned up at the venue to find that the event was manned by some very cocky boys from a rival school. They were really good throwers and had been roped into helping by a teacher. And they were a little scathing about having to help out at a girl's event. Because girl throwers were usually just fat girls who couldn't throw very far. I was a bit porkier then but I could throw a long way and I certainly didn't like the patronising way that they were acting. I specifically didn't like the way that they'd laugh whenever a girl threw badly - which was most of the time.

It finally got to be my turn to throw and they were only standing about 15 metres away from the circle. I'd thrown over 37m in a practice comp so I indicated that they should move back a bit. They looked at each other with sneering disbelief and a bit of eye-rolling and stepped back a couple of metres.

Yep, they were jerks but I didn't really want to kill either of them so I asked them to move further back. Again with the sneering disbelief, eye-rolling and the couple of steps back. Still way too close for my liking.

These days I'm a lot less shy than I was back then. These days I would have told them to get out of the way in no uncertain terms. Back then I just was too quiet to ever be so bold. And I kind of wanted to put them in their places so I decided that I'd just have to demonstrate how far they needed to get back. I wound up, spun across the circle and let it fly.

You've never seen two cocky teenagers run so fast. Those sneers had disappeared in the urgency of running for their lives. And for my following throws they stepped back respectfully to an appropriate distance.

It was one of my finest athletic achievements. And one of my fondest memories.

Third in the State Open Championships the following year.