Thursday, April 30, 2015

Thoughts From An Empty Mind

What a quiet week it's been.

I've been without a spouse since Monday and my youngest was away this week (and his girlfriend) which has meant that the house had only three humans and three dogs in it. Half the number of last week - humans that is, not dogs.

There are some very real advantages to having less people in the house. Mostly it's how neat the house stays. I tidy in the morning and, apart from dog toys strewn around the lounge room, the house stays that way. No dishes in the sink apart from the ones I leave there. Cushions stay exactly where they're placed and there's very little washing to do. Which is just as well because we're smack bang in the middle of a low weather system. It's going to be a fun, wet 28k tomorrow.

But despite the positives - and I really do love a tidy house that stays tidy - there's been something that I haven't coped with at all well this week. Cooking for a small number. I've been cooking for five or more people for almost 22 years and having to cook for just two (Serena works nights) is an almost impossible concept. Two people can not eat four cups of rice for dinner. And last night's soup could have fed most of the homeless this side of the city. Just as well it's good soup weather cause we'll be eating it for days to come.

I have no idea what's going to happen once Iven and I finally have an empty house. I may have to branch out and buy lots of new cookbooks that have 'cooking for two' on their cover.

The other issue I've had is that the baked goods on my bench are not disappearing at their usual rate. There is the very real chance that they might go mouldy!! What a waste of caramel mud cupcakes that would be. And brownies. And those peanut butter blondies. This is probably the thing about being an empty-nester that scares me the most - not having the opportunity or the excuse to bake as much. I'm going to have to find another outlet to palm off all my baking when that happens because not baking is not an option!

Luckily, though, I don't have to worry about that this weekend. I have a birthday to bake for. A cake to create.

The plan is a triple layer chocolate cake with peanut butter/cream cheese filling and lots of peanut butter/peanut/chocolate goodness on top. I've even bought the ingredients to try to make peanut brittle.

Maybe a little like this

 Don't call the fire brigade if you smell burning from our house - it'll just be a ruined saucepan full of burnt sugar. Yes, there's a very real chance of a cooking disaster after a 28k run. The weird cakes that I made last Sunday are still fresh in my mind.

And talking of 28k runs - it kind of blows my mind that this is the shortest distance that I'm going to run on a Saturday for the next couple of months. Next week I go up to 32k. Woohoo! (she says with a certain amount of trepidation). Experience tells me that I don't have to worry about the increases though. My only job is to just run the run in front of me. And to not think too much about it before I do. Yes, the distances might be daunting but they're do-able.

And there's some very real advantages to running long distances every week. All the licking of those wooden spoons and beaters doesn't have such a negative effect on the waistline.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Gold Coast Bulletin Half Marathon

Have you ever had a race that's gone horribly wrong? Where all the plans and dreams you'd had for it are flushed down the toilet that you'd wished had materialised at the 15k mark. Where you start with a bang, running controlled and strongly, but end with a mere whimper that you can hardly utter because you don't have enough breath.

I definitely have. I've had some mightily ugly races. Races that should have been forced to wear a paper bag over their heads because they were just that hideous. Races that made me wonder why I even bother.

And then there was yesterday. When I was reminded exactly why I bother. Where it all goes to plan even though I didn't have a plan in my head because I know just how horribly plans can end.

Actually, I lie - I did have a plan. A very simple plan. To run how I was feeling. To just listen to my body.

I also had a goal for this race. Not a time goal - a personal one. To get to the line without any anxiety. To be calm. Because not being calm wastes an awful lot of energy and I needed my energy for more important things.

I'd driven to the coast the day before to spend time with a friend and to pick up my race kit. Thank goodness for the little man in my phone who got me to CBUS Stadium with no dramas whatsoever. Even when I didn't follow his instructions, he never lost his cool with me or told me I was an idiot. He just recalculated and got me back on track.

I could have picked the kit up on the day but I wanted to get some idea of where I'd have to go the next morning. Step one in making sure I stayed calm. I also wanted to see the hill that everyone had told me about. It was short but it was sharp and we were going to have to run it twice.

I beat my alarm on Sunday morning after a pretty ordinary night's sleep. Too many loud, drunk idiots who must have known I was wanting a good night's sleep. I was ready to leave by 5:00 and was at the stadium by 5:30. And I found my posse with no trouble at all.
The venue was excellent. And yes, that means the toilet situation. Real toilets. Clean toilets. And plenty of them. It was a runner's dream. I did not have to queue once. 

It's also quite a small event which meant that I was almost right on the starting line. And that meant that when the gun went off I could just run - no trying to get around slower runners or having to slow down till I could make a break. Just run to how I was feeling. And apparently I was feeling like running my first kilometre in 4:50. Probably a little faster than what I'd expected.

Seeing the 4:50 made me worry just a little. Had I gone out too fast? Would I pay for it later? It wouldn't be the first time that I'd been a little over-ambitious. But I kept reassuring myself that I've been running strong lately. I've had some really good, confidence-building tempo runs. I just had to trust in myself and my training.

The hill was between the first and second kilometre and I'll admit that it did bite just a little. Okay on the first lap. Wasn't so sure about the second. But I reminded myself to stay in the kilometre I was running. I didn't have to deal with it until I had to deal with it. That kilometre was just over five minutes but once we were on flatter terrain my splits were all coming up with a four at the start - 4:48, 4:50, 4:57, 4:53, 4:57.

I'd been told that after that hill the course was pretty much flat. And I'd like to categorically state that that's not true. Especially to someone who counts a speed bump as a hill. It was undulating and on the way back (it was a double out and back course) there were a couple of long, slow rises. And judging from my next split it was in the eighth kilometre where these rises were - 5:05.

We ran back into the stadium and started the second lap and I was still feeling okay. Like I was working hard but strong and able to keep putting in the effort. 4:56, 4:52, 4:51, 4:48. And then the hill loomed in front of me for the second time. 5:08 - yep that hurt a bit more than the first time but the beauty of an uphill is the down hill on the other side - 4:43, 4:58, 4:54, 4:49, 4:55. 

There was only three kilometres to go when I hit the hills on the way back and that's when it really started to get tough. 5:10 - my slowest split for the day. But knowing there's only three kilometres to go was enough to keep me pushing through the fatigue and heavy legs. 4:47, 4:56 and I was at the stadium. 1:19 and I was over the line. 

1:44:36. My second ever sub 1:45. Colour me ecstatic! And I wasn't the only one in the squad. There were a lot of smiling, happy people who'd run really, really well. 

My take on the event is that it's one that's really well worth doing. The venue is great. Lots of well-manned water stops. It was well marked and marshalled. The only slight negative I have is the hills and even they didn't have too big an impact on my race. The fact that we had to run the course twice didn't phase me either because at each turnaround I thought 'there's only five kilometres till the next turnaround'. It helped me divide the course into bite-sized chunks that were easier to swallow.

I left the race on an endorphin high and then proceeded to do a couple of things that tired, euphoric people should never do. I went shopping and came out with three new running tops and a pair of shorts. Then I drove home and baked cakes for this week's round of birthdays. Good intentions to get on top for the week ahead but in my tired, addled state I used the wrong flour and they were a total flop. Lesson learnt.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Public Service Announcement - Girls, Check Your Straps!

I'm running a half marathon on Sunday.

It's not my A race for this year. It's just one to see how I'm tracking with my marathon training. Sure, I'd like to run strong and well but I'm not expecting anything spectacular. Just a solid hit-out.

But something happened yesterday that almost put paid to my participation. A near disaster caused by a tiny piece of purple plastic.

Most of you women out there will know what this is. The hook on the end of my running bra's strap. Usually not seen like this because it's hooked into the loop on the back strap. Yesterday, though it made its bid for freedom. Luckily it happened at home but it occurred to me afterwards that I was only 30 minutes out from having a wardrobe malfunction while pounding the pavements.

I'm sure you'd like to know how this would have prevented me from running on Sunday. And I've given it a lot of thought - because I spend a lot of time by myself and have hours to create all manner of doomsday scenarios. And I came up with two highly-probables.

The first I've extrapolated from my times trying to steer a canoe while paddling with a friend. If there's any imbalance in the boat it tends to go round and round and round in endless circles. If that strap had gone while I was out running I might still be in New Farm Park as we speak circling the same drink fountain. I don't do well going round and round in circles as my last ride in an amusement park would attest to. 

Why wouldn't I just stop, you ask? I'm a runner - I don't stop until I get to where I was going. Relentless forward motion is my motto. 

The second and the worst scenario would have, at the very least, put me in hospital and, at the worst, had me six feet under. 

Those bra straps are placed at some considerable strain keeping everything rounded up and held in tight. If one of them went it could have flung up and hit me in the eye because, at that precise moment, I'd been looking over my shoulder to respond to the comment that one of my running companions had made about my age - not a flattering comment, I might add. Luckily I was wearing my big girl panties and could brush it aside with a comment on his lack of hair. 

Anyway the plastic hook in my eye might have caused me to be temporarily sight impaired. Even more so than usual. Causing me to stumble. But because there'd been such a sudden and catastrophic change in my centre of gravity on one side and because I'm no longer as nimble as I once was I would not have been able to regain my footing. Head meets concrete. Intracranial bleed. Brain surgery and an uncertain outcome. Definitely no Sunday half marathon.

So I'm eternally grateful that the bra strap didn't go until I was about to head into the shower. And I thought it was a timely reminder for us all (or all of us who wear sports bars with convertible straps) to check that they're still firmly attached.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Domestic Disturbances

My husband and I had a fight the other day.

We don't fight a lot. In fact it's really, really rare. We both are keep-the-peace type people. And I've always believed that what has been said in the heat of the moment can never be unsaid so raised voices are not common at our address.

But things had been building up. Too much togetherness from my husband's one month (and yes, I know there's still ten days to go before that month is up) and a lot of family pressures from an on-going situation had us almost come to blows. Over some chicken.

That's right. The stupid piece of hay that broke the camel's back was a pan of chicken that we were going to have for dinner. But, being a woman, I still contend that I was right.

I'd put the pan of chicken on to brown and had walked into the laundry a few metres away to fold some washing when Iven asked if I wanted him to stir it. I said no because I wanted the chicken to brown. I walked back into the kitchen to find Iven stirring the chicken and that's when it started.

I asked what he was doing and he said he was just flattening the mound down. I asked why even ask me what I want if he's not going to listen to the answer. He asserted that he wasn't stirring - just evening things out.

I do want to state at this point that I had a good dose of PMS and I'm pretty sure I'm menopausal. Or at the very least peri-menopausal. But those unpredictable hormone levels don't necessarily make me irrational. They just reduce my ability to keep a lid on whatever's seething under the surface. And when your husband's been underfoot for a couple of weeks while you've been super-busy there is a lot of stuff seething under the surface.

Sentences were thrown about like knives. "What about No don't you get?!!" Things escalated from there. The volume was turned up and the neighbours got to hear all our personal flaws. Except that Iven is really craptastic at fighting and didn't seem to be able to find any for me. Things like "You're always so perfect!" and "You don't do anything wrong" - well, he might have said them with a bitter tone but I took them as a compliment.

It was such an unsatisfactory fight that it petered away within a couple of minutes, in which time my chicken got nicely browned on the bottom because he'd stopped stirring it!

Peace has returned to Chez Donaldson and I now have come up with a tactic to prevent further recurrences of our verbal throw-downs. Henceforth I will not be cooking dinner until he's taken the wolf pack out on its walk. And if he doesn't want to walk the dogs, he doesn't get to eat.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Only 12 Weeks To Go

Only twelve weeks to go till the Gold Coast marathon.

I say 'only' a little facetiously because 12 weeks is still a pretty long time and it feels like I'm only just starting to up my weekly kilometres.

I hit 28k for my Saturday long run last week. Actually it was 28.5k - all those extra 500m's count don't they? It's a little daunting knowing that that will be my shortest Saturday run (minus the couple of half marathons I have scheduled) for the next couple of months. It's lucky that I actually really enjoy doing them.

For most of you this would seem really strange. How is it possible to enjoy something that involves you getting up before 4am in the morning, running for two and a half, three or three and a half hours, the very real chance of blisters, chafing or black toenails and the desperate need to spend the rest of the day either eating or sleeping? It's a strange and wonderful paradox.

I was actually pondering that precise question on Saturday morning when I woke up at 3:10am. My alarm was set for 3:45 but I'm a bit of an over-achiever. It would have been so, so easy to switch the alarm off but I'd arranged to meet a couple of people at 4:30am and it would be mean to not turn up at that hour.

And that  was the only time that morning when I had any regrets or negative thoughts about the run. The morning was crisp and cool. The roads were quiet and dark. We ran through them like we owned them. Then the skies gradually lightened as dawn broke. There's a little bit of magic for the runner who is out at that hour. The stillness, the peace, the beauty, the birdsong. So worth pushing through the lure of the warm bed and a few extra hours sleep to give yourself the best gift.

We ran and talked. Or didn't talk - especially up Dornoch Terrace. We stopped for water, to go to the loo and for more water and then we'd get going again. For 28.5 kilometres. For over two and a half hours. And by the end my feet were tired. My shoulders were tired. My legs were tired. But I felt really, really satisfied.

Another good session at the end of a week of good sessions.

Not every week will be like this. I know that. I'm going to get tired and cranky. I'm going to need to miss sessions and that will frustrate me so the weeks that go right I'm going to appreciate. Just like I appreciate this strangely beautiful smile.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Smiling Not Snarling

Is that not the most beautiful smile in the world?!!

This is what greets us every time we come home. And no, it's not a snarl. That's a fair-dinkum Dalmatian smile.

Happy Friday!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Easter 2015

Easter's been and gone.

Sad face! Not because the chocolate has all been eaten. Because it hasn't. No, the sad face is because #1 son has to go back home to Melbourne today. And we won't get to see him until June. I miss him when he's away. And I miss his skill-set. It's kind of cool to have a live-in physiotherapist when you're an ageing runner.

Actually this was the first time I've actually used my powers of manipulation to get a consult out of him. I've been having a few little niggles and thinking that I should get them seen to but just hadn't gotten around to it.Then last week I realised that 20+ years of cooking, cleaning, washing and support, to say nothing of a 12 hour labour, might get me a little free advice.

He was very good about it. Even though he probably, internally sighed  - it's never fun to have to work on your holidays. He poked and prodded and tested and then declared that my left hip was pitifully week. Yes, he used the word pitifully.

The test that deemed my left hip so pitiful was a simple one. I just had to lie on my left side with my lower leg on a foam roller (around mid-calf level). Then I had to lift my hips off the floor so I was in a side plank position from my shoulder to my calf. Then I raised my top leg a bout 8 inches and had to hold that position for 15 seconds. I think I managed only 8 before my hips started sagging. By 15 they were touching the floor. Pitiful!

So to correct my imbalance, and the cause of all the little niggles on my left side, I have to do that exercise 6 times twice a day with the aim of getting up to a 20 second hold. I'll be ecstatic when I finally get to 15!

The Easter weekend wasn't all about running though. We actually planned stuff this year. We often just lie around the house for the 4 days and I usually have to get a bit of work done. That's paid work - not housework.

Friday started with a long run with the squad and a mini-breakfast. Then it was off to a maxi-breakfast with my family. I'm really glad I'd done 23k to pre-pay that eat-fest.

My Mum and sisters.
Saturday was a drive to the mountains for a walk in the clean, fresh air. There were supposed to be showers all day but we managed to get our walk done between them. And the previous day's rain had made for a spectacular waterfall. Serena and I were the only ones to get leeches this time. It was a lovely way to spend the day (minus the leeches of course).

Pretty pleased with his ability to attract birds.

Some of the O'Reilly's locals.

The Brains Trust trying to work out how to get us back to civilization.

Sunday started with a later-than-usual 12k then a trip to the beach with two of the dogs. Ricky loved it! Toby was a little scared of the big waves. For a water dog he really goes against type. He did suck it up in the end and go in but I think it was because he didn't like being shown up by his younger 'brother'.

A day at the beach always makes me feel like this too

And Monday was all about catching up before the work week really gets started. A bit of baking, a bit of washing a bit of work (I don't think I'll ever get through an entire Easter weekend without just a bit of work) and a bit of napping on the couch.

Such a pity that the weekend was over so soon.