Sunday, November 30, 2014

What I Did Last Week

I've entered a race.

But not without a lot of procrastination and a lot of angst. Should I? Shouldn't I?  Will I have to pull out at the last moment? Will I be able to get a little consistent training done so that I don't literally die during the race?

I finally pulled my thumb out last Monday, filled out the entry form and paid. And that was it. I'm in. And I'm guaranteed of a race singlet. Tuesday was the deadline to be guaranteed the singlet which is why I stopped procrastinating. I absolutely, positively need another running singlet. Just not sure how I'm going to be able to close my running drawer when I get this one.

I also rang my dentist on Monday and made an appointment. Monday was a big day for procrastinators all over the world.

The race is in less than two weeks now. And my training has been a little hit and miss but I'm pretty sure that I can at least finish. And these days I'm happy with even starting so finishing is a bonus.

Last week I decided that, seeing as I'd actually entered, I'd better pull my thumb out about the training too. I got serious and didn't skip any of my runs. (Yeah, I'd done that in the previous couple of weeks).

So I did Tuesday's speed session, a 12k on Wednesday, a 16k on Thursday and a whopping 28k on Saturday. Actually it was really 28.63k but I didn't want to brag.

A couple of weeks ago I'd done a 21k and it had been horrible! I'd felt sick for days after - possibly a touch of heat exhaustion. And that run had been the reason for my procrastination. How would I be able to run 30k if a 21k had made me feel so bad? But better planning and management had resulted in a better run the next week and this week I just repeated what I'd done the previous.

My secret to a better long run? Start planning for it the day before.

It really wasn't hard. I just made sure that I had carbs at every meal and drank a lot all through the day. Then I got to bed early. See - simple! And then on the actual run I made sure I stopped and drank as often as possible. The weather's turned hot in the last couple of weeks so keeping hydrated is absolutely imperative. And I had excellent company. Even if they pushed me a little harder than I wanted and told me to harden up when I started whining.

I was especially good this week at carbing up on Friday. Possibly, I took it a little too seriously. I may have licked my fingers just a few too many times while I was baking. And I may have eaten one or two of the chocolates that I'd bought to decorate the cake. But I only do so for quality control purposes. And this cake was for an important occasion - #3 son's 21st birthday celebration - so its quality had to be first class.

#1 son even made a surprise trip up from Melbourne for the occasion.

Nothing makes my mummy's heart happier than having everyone together.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

It's Not Dementia ... Yet!

Ever have one of these moments?

You're walking along and you spot a distant relative or two that you haven't seen in years. Decades, really. You're busy. You don't want to stop to chat because it's been decades and you really don't know what's been happening in their lives any more.

Not my family but this photo was probably taken around the same time that I last saw them

And you're having trouble remembering their names - well, his name anyway. You can remember the names of most of their kids and the subjects that you shared back in high school with their daughter, who's the same age. But you can't remember his name. Seriously, why can't you remember his name????

And then they spot you. And there's no escaping. You have to go say hello. So you smile warmly and cover the fact that you can't remember his name by just saying "How are you?" in your gushiest voice like you're thrilled to see them and not trying frantically to pull that elusive name out of the locked vault that is your memory.

They say "Good, how are you?"

You blurt out "Good" but your head is still processing the 'find name' command so the 'good' is a distracted one and is followed by "How are you?" Again! And they look at you like you're a little odd. And quite frankly, you feel a little odd and stupid for asking the same question twice so you quickly try to recover with a monologue on how awful the weather is. To which they smile sympathetically at your awkwardness and lack of social skills.

After the requisite amount of uncomfortable conversation you excuse yourself with implications of extreme busy-ness. They breathe a sigh of relief that the stilted chat can finally end and they can be on their way.

You both smile, walk off and then you remember - Graham! His name is Graham!!!

Yeah, that happened to me today.

I'm thinking that my brain could use a faster processor. But I'm also thinking that the name came to me in the end so that means it's not dementia ... yet!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Just A Quiet Night In Front Of The TV

The other night I was sitting watching TV. By myself. With no one trying to talk to me over the most crucial part of the program. And no one passing judgement on the programs that I prefer to watch. Just me and Toby snuggling on the couch - until he got too hot and also left me.

I was relaxed and all was right with the world until I heard loud shrieks. Coming from the patio. From the bird cage.

Luckily I had the presence of mind to pause my show as I went out to investigate. Little did I know that what I found was going to take a good half hour chunk of viewing time and I was sure to miss something important in thirty minutes.

Our patio light isn't working so when I went out I really couldn't see any reason that the lorikeet should be carrying on but my night vision isn't as good as my dogs'. There's a structure in the dog's eye which helps with that called the tapetum lucidum. And yes, you should be impressed that I can still remember that 34 years after graduating.

My dogs could see that there was good reason for the bird to be shrieking and it was their reaction that made me take a second look. There was something on the cage and I was pretty sure it was a snake.

So I yelled snake. As you do. A couple of times. With the right amount of panic in my voice so I'd maybe attract the attention of the two adult males in the house. And then I went to grab my phone so I'd at least be able to see what I was up against.

#2 son, Josh showed up with Serena just as I was throwing some light on this dilemma. And it really was a dilemma - the snake was half in the cage and wrapped around the bird. So the question was - how do we manage to extricate the bird from the grasp of the snake without getting bitten?

Josh's instincts kicked in. He grabbed the snake's tail - perfectly safe to do because it was just a carpet snake (non-venomous) and its head was trapped in the cage. The snake sensed the threat and dropped the bird to the base of the cage. The base of the cage is detachable so I decided that I'd detach it but it took me a couple of flustered minutes to remember how that was done.

Once I got the base off the cage I went to grab the bird but the poor thing was in such a state of panic that it saw my hand as a threat and flew up the cage back towards the snake. Luckily a few shakes and whacks of the cage got it back down so I could pick it up without having snake fangs sink into my hand.

I grabbed the poor still-screeching lorikeet and rushed it inside the house. It tried to bite me so I dropped it (instinct is a powerful thing - both his and mine) and as soon as it hit the floor it was in Toby's mouth. But luckily Toby, being a retriever, has a soft mouth and he's been trained to drop things when I tell him to so the bird survived its second near miss of the night.

Meanwhile Josh was still on the patio holding the snake's tail while trying to work out what to do with it.

In the end he decided to take it over to the school next door and let it loose there. Why the school? Because it's surrounded by a lot of bushland and I'm pretty sure that's where it came from in the first place. School kids = food scraps = rats and mice = snakes. 

The snake was pretty happy when Josh finally let go of his tail. Happy enough to slither off without his evening meal. And Josh was pretty happy to wash his hands. Because apparently snakes smell like rotting stuff. And I was happy to go back to my TV program and finish it off. And I can't remember what I was watching after all that so it obviously wasn't that important after all.

The bird comes inside to sleep every night now. But I'm not entirely sure that the snakes won't just follow him. I'm pretty sure if they are determined enough they'll find a way. Shudder!!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Attracting Birds

I thought it was time that I gave you an update on my mission to attract beautiful, wild birds to our garden.

When I embarked on this mission I thought that it would just be a matter of throwing a bit of birdseed into a container and the local feathered fauna would come flocking to my patio. After all my sister manages to regularly get some gorgeous birds and she doesn't even feed them.

Two of my sister's regulars

And my Mum gets so many birds that she's buying huge sacks of feed every week or so.

Me? In three months I've had one magpie, one scrub turkey and one cockatoo. And I didn't even get to see the cockatoo. It waited till I was out to come visit. Luckily #3 son was there to provide proof before the dogs scared it off.

We are attracting other wildlife though. One night #2 son came home late from soccer and found a possum and a rat feeding on the seed. The possum had the grace to take off but the rat wasn't so easily scared off. Great! All we need are bold rats infesting our house. That's such a comforting thought to take to bed each night.

But I think the tides are finally turning. Yesterday Bubbles gave me a present. She caught me this Scaly Breasted Lorikeet. In her mouth. While I had a client over. Nothing like a shrieking bird to liven up a business meeting. 

Of course my heroic instincts kicked in to rescue the poor bedraggled thing from the semi-toothless jaws of our geriatric dog. And of course I was rewarded with a blood-drawing bite from that powerful beak. No gratitude! 

He just couldn't seem to fly. Which is why Bubbles caught him in the first place I guess. So I've stuck him in a cage with some food and water in the hope that he'll regain his strength and we'll be able to release him into the wild before too long.

But in the meanwhile he's providing hours of entertainment to Toby (who's back in the cone of shame unless he's supervised. Allergies are a bitch!)

And I've placed the cage close to the bird-feeder in the hope that his calls will attract other birds our way.

There's hope yet!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

They're Not Always Good Runs

I know it was less than two weeks ago that I was waxing lyrical about how amazing my runs were. How good I felt. How life was filled with rainbows and unicorns.

Well, it really was at the time. And then I did my long, slow run on Saturday. Not my best ever! In fact it could go down in the annals of time as one of my least pleasant.

It wasn't because of the company because the company is always good. And we didn't have any trouble with the route despite all the expected G20 chaos in the city - which turned out to be not much chaos at all.

The run certainly didn't start off badly. The first 10k felt like most long runs - except that it was hot before we even started. But somewhere in the second 10k the wheels started to come off a little. It may have been the long hill going up beside the cemetery that started the rot but the second hill going up to Dornoch Tce was definitely the one that finished me off - and we still had 6k to go till we reached the end.

That 6k felt like a death march. If my ego would have let me stop and walk I would have. At least my ego let me slow right down and plod my way to the end. And all the while I was wondering where the girl from the previous week had gone.

Having had time to analyse what went wrong I've come up with a few thoughts.

1. It was a pretty warm morning
2. I went out a bit hard considering that the temperatures were higher.
3. I forgot to fuel at my usual point and only remembered when I was already tired.
4. This route didn't have as many water stops as we usually have - not great on a warm morning.

Each of those points pretty much says the same thing - I didn't run to the conditions.

And I paid for it. I spent the rest of the day feeling nauseated and headachey. I'm thinking it was a touch of heat stress. Lesson learned - on hot days take it slow and make sure you fuel and hydrate adequately.

And as for the G20. It turned out to be not that much of a big deal after all. Most Brisbanites vanished from the city and headed for the beaches. And the ones who did hang around spent most of their time indoors in air-conditioning because the weather turned really nasty. (Side note to Tony Abbott - how much longer are you going to deny that the science on climate change is real. 40C temperatures in November are not normal.)

Friday wasn't too bad temperature-wise and I got some fun stuff done. Like sorting out this mess.

Looks way better now and all I needed was a drill, the right bit, a long piece of dowel and a handy husband. Thanks Iven!

And I iced a cake. A new technique that I'd seen in a book. Seemed like it would be easy but it wasn't. The icing stretched out when I was putting it on the cake and I almost lost some of the coloured stars. I should also have put on more stars closer together. Que sera. You live and learn. Plus I have even more respect for the Cake Boss now - he makes it look like anyone could do it.

I finished Friday feeling like I'd achieved something. Then came Saturday and the awful run and feeling sick. Didn't get much done after that. Sunday was all about finding a cool spot to hide and trying not to move so all the little jobs I'd wanted to do over the weekend just didn't get done. 

I'm sincerely hoping that that's the only hideous weekend we have all summer (even though it's not summer yet) but I'm pretty sure that it won't be. Roll on winter!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It's G20 Time

The G20 is in my city over the weekend and I'm excited!

Actually that's a lie. I'm not excited at all. I'm annoyed. And I've been heading down the slippery slope from slightly irked to full on lucky-I'm-not-allowed-to-carry-a-weapon annoyed over the past couple of weeks.

The irked part was from having our house buzzed at all hours of the day or night by Black Hawk helicopters. And by buzzed I mean the whole house was shaking and I couldn't hear the Bachelor, Blake, defend himself for breaking his engagement to Sam. Generally they chose to practice their late night manoeuvres the night before speed session. Speed session is hard enough by itself without being sleep deprived.

I did manage to keep from getting too annoyed by telling myself that if I ever write a novel that involves having to describe life in a war zone I'd be able to describe that aspect pretty well. So actually the whole experience could have helped with my Pulitzer Prize aspirations.

The irritation built when I realised that it's almost impossible to find out exactly where we can and cannot run for the three days of the summit. Sure there are maps of the restricted zone where the roads that are closed are marked but I haven't been able to source a map that shows where pedestrian access will be denied. The best I could come up with was this -

Cyclist and Pedestrian Access

A small number of footpaths will be closed in the Brisbane CBD and South Brisbane. There will also be a number of footpaths and bikeways closed in South Bank surrounding the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.  Signage and diversions will be in place to advise pedestrians and cyclists of closures and alternative routes.
Cyclists should look out for signage as there will be impacts on footpaths and street access in the Brisbane CBD and South Brisbane which will extend to bikeways.
This is not particularly useful when you're trying to plan a run, which I've been trying to do for Saturday's group.
Originally I'd thought it might be fun to run towards the city and see what all the hype is about. Maybe catch a glimpse of a sniper or the secret service or even a head of state. And then the part of me that's a little scared of being strip-searched in public or seeing that happen to any of my squad friends (actually that thought is quite terrifying because what has been seen can never be unseen) told me that that might not be the best idea.
So then I thought we should head out towards Tennyson and then back to our starting point over the Green Bridge and through the uni. But a certain VIP decided to accept an invitation to speak at the University of Queensland and now that's off-limits too. 
I'm desperately hoping that pedestrian access will still be allowed on the Go Between Bridge or else we'll be running an unplanned 38k. That could be a bit of an adventure.

The thing that really took the irritation up the next step was this article. The secret service wanted a roundabout demolished so the US presidential motorcade wouldn't have to slow down. Seriously?!! Mr Obama has brought his very own Cadillac which can withstand biochemical attacks, bullets and roadside bombs so why are they worried about slowing down for a roundabout?

I don't know - you invite some people over for a visit and all of a sudden they want to redecorate. At your expense.

I know I should be mollified a little by the fact that we've been given an extra public holiday but when you can't do your usual stuff without having to think and plan and then rethink it all because there's been a change to the G20 schedule, the holiday doesn't even come close to making up for it.

Next time, all you important heads of state, maybe you should consider having your summit somewhere that doesn't cause as much of a hassle to the locals. Richard Branson's island comes to mind.

I'm sure there'd be plenty of room if people were happy to share. Just as long as Mr Abbott isn't put in with Mr Putin cause I'm pretty sure there'd be some towel flicking and undie-wedgie action if that happened.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Kitchen Confessions

I have always maintained that I'm quite an open person. I don't believe in keeping things hidden away just to maintain an image. If I've had to poo behind a tree, I'll tell the world that I pooed behind a tree. If I make a fool out of myself by saying something inappropriate, I'll happily post a blog about it. And if I have fantasies of mariticide (and what married woman doesn't at one time or another?), I'll be asking for tips on best methods for body disposal.

But just recently I realised that, if I was to be totally honest, I haven't been totally honest. I've held back some of my most shameful secrets. And it's time to rectify that wrong.

Confession #1

I have old food in my freezer. Check out the use-by date on that lasagne.

I'm not sure if you can make it out but it says Feb '11. It is now Nov '14. 

And that's not the sole packet of expired foodstuffs. I have meat from cows that were grazing pastures back in the John Howard era. He finished his Prime Ministerial term in 2007! 

Having this geriatric food is an incredible dilemma to me. I hate to just throw it out. Because it's wasteful and children are starving in Africa. But I would also hate to serve it up and have my whole family die of salmonella, clostridium, E coli or ebola. So the food remains in the freezer in a state of limbo. Or suspended animation. 

Last time I had this problem it was miraculously solved by a freezer breakdown. The freezer was still under warranty so I was able to claim back the cost of the spoiled food that we would never have eaten anyway. And I was able to toss out all the stuff that needed to go without feeling any guilt whatsoever.

But the warranty has lapsed now so that's never going to happen again. 

Writing out this confession has given me the courage to actually take action. I'm going to chuck out the chuck, and the diced pork and the pre-made lasagne that tastes a little like cardboard. But I'm going to do it sneakily. Because if Iven found out he'd insist that I cook it up - even if he was the only one who dared eat it. That might help with my mariticide fantasy but I'm sure that it would be messy and when if I finally getting around to fulfilling that one, I'd like to do it with a minimal amount of clean up. 

Give me a month or so of throwing out a meat tray on garbage pick up day and I'll get my freezer back under control.

Confession #2

Maggots don't disturb me very much.

I'm sure they would if they were feeding off a dead body that I'd accidentally stumbled across in my husband's wardrobe. But the likelihood of that happening is pretty minimal. For a start, his wardrobe is pretty small and his propensity to behave a little like a pack rat (yes, he has clothes in there dating back to when we were married and no, he can't fit into them any more) means that there wouldn't be enough room to stuff a body. Unless he dismembered it and put it in little plastic bags. But that would probably keep the flies from breeding and, voilĂ , no maggots.

I picked up a grain of cooked rice this morning as I was tidying the kitchen and the grain of rice wriggled. On closer inspection I realised that I should probably go have an eye test again because the rice I cook is not segmented and does not have mouth parts. 

My reaction to realising that I was holding a fly baby was to flick it out of the window. No screaming. No fuss. I didn't bother looking into where it may have come from because that would involve house-cleaning and we all know that I'm not great at that. Which is probably why the maggot was in my kitchen in the first place.

So that's it, all my dirty laundry aired. Over to you - anyone else got a secret that they need to get off their chest?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Still Loving It

It's only 4:00 in the afternoon and already my clothes are laid out for tomorrow's run.

It's not that I have OCD. Well, I'll admit to having a little of it when it comes to packing the dishwasher - but seriously, who intersperses dishes and plates?? That is not the most economical use of space! And I do like to have the cushions just so on the couch - like they've just been tossed there stylishly but not like they've been chucked from the other side of the room Frisbee-style. There's a fine line.

The reason for my excessive enthusiasm for being prepared is my excessive enthusiasm to run. I'm loving it at the moment!

It's been a tough year for my running. It's had to take a back-seat to bigger life issues and I don't resent that at all. I've had to cancel races that were planned and paid for and miss countless running sessions. And I'd do it all again if circumstances dictated. But things have settled down and the sailing has been smoother and all of a sudden running is a joy again.

It is just so wonderful to run without a lump of anxiety in my chest. To be able to see the world wake up in the morning and really appreciate the sights and smells and sounds without being preoccupied with a load of heaviness. To really just be there - fully be there. It's hard to really put into words just how it feels. How it feeds my soul and fills me up.

There have been times this year that I didn't really think it would happen again. That there really was a tunnel and there was no light at the end of it. But, as always, those dark times pass. The black turns to grey and all of a sudden you're seeing little glimpses of light. Eventually there's enough light for you to see all the world in its dazzling colours again.

And I'm appreciating that world with different eyes now. Coming through hard stuff really makes you enjoy the ordinary that much more.

Breathe deeply and appreciate the moment.

Post Script (or should I say post-run script)

The run was every bit as good as I had anticipated. 

Maybe some of that was my attitude. Although I can't say my attitude was really great when I dropped my alarm clock on the floor at 3:20 am when I was checking to see how much time I had left to sleep. My clock disgorged its battery so I had to turn on the light and reset it. Effectively I ended up with zero extra minutes of sleep. But my clothes were already out so I really had no excuse but to get out.

It was still a little dark outside but I could see a pink glow through the trees. The colours of the sky alone would have made it a great run but getting 16k done on my favourite route ... Yep, I'm a contented runner today. 

Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever get sick of running. Somehow I doubt it.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

One Of THOSE Runs

Please don't hate me but I had one of THOSE runs yesterday.

Don't know what I mean by THOSE runs? That's okay - I'm happy to elaborate.

They're the Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket of runs.

The sort of run that gets us runners addicted to spending hours sweating and panting and hurting.

They're as elusive as a unicorn next to a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

But they do actually exist.

They're the magic runs. Where you can push yourself and can just keep going. Where you're strong. Invincible. Unstoppable - except when you're crossing the road. Road safety is important even when you're feeling like a superhero.

It shouldn't have been a great run. I'd done my long run only the day before so my legs weren't the freshest. And I'd walked up the mountain with #1 husband and the dogs earlier that day. And it was warmer than I like - but I've been toying with entering a December race so thought that running in the heat would be good training.

It was going to be an easy run. And I really did have all intentions of keeping it easy. But when the magic happens, who am I to throw it all back in the face of the running Gods? The first couple of kilometres felt so good that when I hit the hills on Hillside Tce., I just kept running at the same pace. And of course my legs could feel the effort by the top of each of the rises and my lungs were burning but the down-hills took care of that. 

I kept expecting to die. But as each kilometre ticked over I had enough in the tank to promise myself another at this pace and then I'd ease back if I was feeling done. But I never had to keep that promise. Twelve kilometres done in just over an hour and my last kilometre split at 4:37. 

Pain has never felt so good.

I wanted to blog about it right away but decided that in my endorphin-riddled state that it would probably be a little over the top. Too evangelical. Too gushy. Too running-crazed. 

But it seems that over twelve hours haven't blunted how good that run felt. There still may be a few extra endorphins pumping around my body - and I'm not complaining. But it's left me wondering - how long until I get another run like that?