Monday, May 25, 2015

Noosa Half Marathon

I'm still trying to process what happened on the weekend. Things went so much better than I would have dared dream - and I certainly didn't dare to dream because dreams become thoughts and thoughts can make me feel pressure. And we all know what happens when I start to feel pressure. A little bit of the crazy I try to keep under control can all come gushing out and I'll ruin any chance that I had of running well.

So I put my brain into neutral and just went about doing the things that had to be done. Pack, drive to Noosa, eat, window shop, eat more, rest, eat more, sleep. Check, check, check, check, check, check, check, fail.
Yes, I ate all of that. And it tasted amazing!

 I don't think I got more than a couple of hours sleep on Saturday night and I'm pretty sure that was because of the late afternoon coffee and the bed that insisted that Iven and I should have more closeness in our relationship. I don't sleep so well when I'm clinging to the side of the bed in fear of rolling in to the centre and being smothered by my partner.

Up before dawn and ready to be out the door at 5:30am for the short walk to the start. The plan was to go to the toilet one last time for luck and luck was really on my side because there was no loo queue. All I had to do was find the GaleForce tent and relax.

No nerves. No anxiety. No crazy lady. Objective achieved.

It's not an enormous race. Just under 900 competitors. That means that you can actually see the start when you line up. I had a pretty good position. Not too close to the start but not too far back so I'd have to be dodging and weaving. I decided that my game plan was going to be exactly the same as the one I'd used for the Gold Coast Bulletin half. Just run to how I was feeling and to believe in myself. I had a brief moment of panic when my Garmin didn't find the satellites for a while but it came good with a couple of minutes to spare and then we were off.

Noosa half is a double out and back route on a pretty flat course. My last half had been a double out and back route on a hilly course so I was quietly hopeful that I'd be able to match that time. And the first k split was exactly the same but this time I didn't get all freaked out about running too fast I just went with the flow. I hadn't warmed up (my bad) so it did feel like I was working but I felt strong and in control. 4:49. 4:42, 4:40.

By the third kilometre the 1:40 pacer had caught me and I found myself being hooked into his group. Not what I'd planned. I've only ever tried running with a pacer once and it was a disaster because he was all over the shop. But this guy seemed to be a lot more even with his running and he was letting the group know their pace at every kilometre. He also let us know that we had to stay just under 4:45 to hit the magic 1:40:00. That was way beyond anything that I'd planned to run so when I dropped off the pace (or he sped up) at around 7 or 8 k I wasn't too unhappy. At this stage I was just hoping to keep all my splits under 5:00 mins. And so far so good. 4:46, 4:42, 4:43, 4:42, 4:43.

So much can happen in your head in a half marathon. I'd chosen to run without music again because it had been fine at the Gold Coast half - except for Taylor Swift's voice in my head for most of those 21+k telling me to Shake It Off. This time it was Michael Buble telling me that The Best Is Yet To Come. Not quite as peppy as Miss Swift but the lyrics were positive. All I had to do was believe that Mike knew what he was singing about. He brought me into the turnaround still feeling strong. Past the tent where Iven tried to get an action shot of me and failed because I was there way earlier than he'd expected. I ran over the halfway mat in 49:14 with kilometres 9, 10 and 11 at 4:47, 4:44 and 4:40.

I was over halfway there and trying not to count down the kilometres in my head. Honestly I was getting a bit tired but I had some pretty big motivators pushing me along. Number one was beating my Gold Coast time so I could reward myself with an ice cream (probably would have had the ice cream regardless but it wouldn't have tasted quite so good as a consolation ice cream). Number two was the slight chance of regaining the family crown for the fastest half marathon (currently worn by Sam). The n there were the messages from squad mates wishing me luck and especially the message from a friend telling me to channel my Sasha Fierce (it's a Beyonce thing). And the voice of another friend in my ear telling me that I was running well enough to get a PB - but no pressure. And finally there were thoughts of what a totally shitty year I'd had last year and that the pain my body was feeling was nothing compared to what I'd survived. 4:52, 4:51, 4:42, 4:47, 4:52.

I went around the far turnaround for the second time and I knew there was only five kilometres to go. I also knew that my squad mate Emma was just on my tail. I'd seen her at every turnaround and she seemed to be getting closer. She's a good runner and had finished in front of me at the Gold Coast run so for the last five k I was expecting her to pass me. A few times I heard footsteps coming up next to me and each time it wasn't her. It wouldn't have mattered either way but that little competitive piece of me kind of wanted to reverse the roles this time and it helped keep me pushing through those hard last kilometres where you're so close to the finish but you've still got quite a long way to go and your body's yelling at you to stop but your head's pushing you relentlessly onwards.4:47, 4:48, 4:51, 4:56.

Emma and I after the race. She also ended up with a PB. I ended up with hideous hair but a smile that you couldn't wipe off my face.

Just one k to go but it was getting ugly. And then I heard someone yelling my name. A friend's daughter (who'd finished in 1:26 because she's incredibly fast and has impeccable running genes). It was the spur I needed to finish strong. Another cheer when I passed our tent. And then I could see the finish arch and the race clock - 1:40. The 21st kilometre clicked over at 4:45 and I must have found another gear because I legged in the last 100m in 4:12 pace.

I got pretty emotional coming up to the finish. I've had some horrible running years since 2009 with overtraining syndrome, medical issues and some torrid family stuff. And then there's my age. I was never expecting to PB again. Ever! And I had accepted it (not graciously but reluctant acceptance is better than no acceptance at all). It felt like a very special gift for enduring and never throwing in the towel.

But the gifts didn't stop there. I placed first in my age group. Of course I didn't hang around for the presentation because I've never placed in a half marathon before. I'm expecting a parcel to arrive in the mail in the near future. I might have to have my own presentation ceremony. And I might have to get Sam (who'll be up for a little holiday) to do the presentation because I'd really like to rub it in that I am again the Donaldson Champion Half Marathoner.

And I did get my ice cream. A double scoop with a side-order of lactase.

Still smiling

Back to regular training this week. I may have just run a two and a half minute PB but there are bigger fish to fry. Less than 6 weeks till the Gold Coast marathon!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

I'm Racing This Weekend

I'm off to Noosa this weekend to run a half marathon. It's not a big deal - the running part. The going away part is another story. Because, for the first time in a very, very, very long time my very, very, very long-suffering husband is coming with me.

I think the last time we had a weekend away together was when I did the Sunshine Coast half marathon in August '13. Since then there's been lots of reasons why it hasn't happened. Bad backs, family issues, dog-sitting and general lack of interest in spending Sunday morning hanging out in the cold (and sometimes wet) for hours to catch a fleeting glimpse of his beloved. I can't imagine why he wouldn't find that exciting.

But this time I've managed to entice him with softly whispered promises. Promises so seductive and alluring that they've enticed him away from the cosy spot on the couch and the remote control. Promises that I'd like to think that most men would find hard to resist.

Yes, I've promised him unlimited access to as many cafes as his heart desires. I've promised him a meal cooked by someone who actually knows how to cook and has more imagination than I do. That effectively means he won't have to eat stir fry chicken on brown rice, spag bog or slow cooked lamb rogan josh (sauce from a bottle). And I've promised him that he won't have to get up and stand in the cold and watch. He can just tottle over from our accommodation to be at the finish line some time after 8:00am.

And as long as he behaves himself I may even ask him to do it again. Cause I'm kind like that.

Should be quite a fun weekend. And I'm not even saying that sarcastically. I'm actually really looking forward to getting away. To not having to cook. To stuffing myself with carbs tomorrow. And to just getting out there and giving it a crack. And I'm not meaning the 'Fat Amy'-type crack from Pitch Perfect 2.

As usual I have some fairly underwhelming goals going into this race. I want to be able to think about the race without getting any nervous jitters (so far so good). I want to be able to eat on Saturday (which I can't do if I'm nervous). And I want to line up on Sunday morning feeling relaxed. As far as times are concerned I'm not doing too much thinking about that. I'd love to run as fast or faster than the Gold Coast Bulletin Half but if I don't the world won't stop turning. But if I do I'll be treating myself to a post-race ice cream. And I've already packed my lactase tablets.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Magical Mystery Tour

Every long run can be a bit of an adventure. Not knowing how your body will hold up to the demands of a couple of hours on the road, not knowing if toilets and drink stops will materialise at exactly the right moments or not knowing that Wonder Woman will come around the corner just after you've been talking about her (yes, that happened last week) all add to the mystery and wonder of a Saturday morning.

But not knowing exactly where you're going adds a whole new element. So from this time forth, the run that seven of the GaleForce sqaud set out on at 4:00am on the 16th on May 2015 will be known as the Magical Mystery Tour. Because Magical, Mystery makes it sound all magical and mysterious and kind of fun and I'd like the six other runners to remember it that way because the reason that we were lost was me.

This whole run was conceived from boredom. I was a bit bored with work on Friday and the boredom flowed over to thoughts of running the same old, same old again the next day. Sure they're safe bets and flat and everyone knows the way but we do them over and over and over again. I wanted to see somewhere that I hadn't seen in a while. The fact that we'd be running in the dark for at least the first ninety minutes was neither here not there. And the fact that the route I was thinking of had a fair few hills and I hate hills was also such a minor consideration that I just didn't.

I can get my way fairly easily in this group of runners. I think it's because I'm the oldest and they've all been taught to respect their elders. Or maybe they don't want to upset me because they've read my blogs and rightfully acknowledge that it's safer not to poke the crazy lady. Anyway it wasn't too hard to get a couple of them onside using all my powers of manipulation that I've honed raising three sons and a fairly obedient husband. Adrian took a little more to convince because he too doesn't like hills  and he wasn't familiar with the area I wanted to run in but I told him that there was only a couple of hills and that we wouldn't get lost.

I lied!

But I didn't lie intentionally. I knew most of the route. There's just a little bit of it that I'm woolly on. And I've run it quite a few times. But mostly with people who knew the way and in daylight. I figured that at least one other person in the group would know where to go to get to the Corso. But when we met at the Regatta Saturday morning I found out I was wrong.

Should have done a little homework Friday night and at least taken a look at the woolly area.

We set off dauntlessly. I'm pretty sure the whole group thought I knew exactly where to go. Boy, did I have them fooled. We ran towards Indooroopilly and over the bridge, through the back streets of Chelmer, out to Tennyson and through the tennis centre. And that's where I started to feel a little concerned. I'd run to the Corso two different ways - through more back streets or down Hyde Rd. I'd been going to attempt the back streets way but a little voice of reason told me that the Hyde Rd was was more straightforward so that's the way we went.

And it should have been more straightforward. I checked the map once we finally got back and we were so, so close.But somehow we took a left instead of the right we needed.

I've gone over it and over it in my mind and where I thought we were running looks nothing like that map. That's probably because I have a really lousy sense of direction. Probably should have disclosed that to the group before they put all their trust in my navigational skills. And they were so nice about our aimless little 4k jaunt. Not once did anyone mention the word idiot. They all kept running those dark, hilly streets without complaint. Oh yeah - forgot to say that this area had a lot of hills. Not the couple that I'd promised Adrian. There were a heap of them! So sorry about that Adrian. My bad!

We ended up trying to choose bigger roads with bus stops on them in the hope that they'd lead to even bigger roads that might look vaguely familiar. It was a good strategy and led us to a place a couple of hundred metres from where we'd turned off the main road in the first place. Yeah, we'd gone in a complete circle.

But at least I knew an alternate route that would get us back to where we wanted to be. And it wasn't a kinda-think-I-have-an-idea know. This time I definitely knew. So the remainder of the run was uneventful.

And once we got back to the Regatta we were able to regale the rest of the group about our Magical Mystery tour. There was thoughts that maybe I'd tried to sign my name on the route map (would I be that arrogant?). Or that I was trying to draw dirty pictures (which is much more my style). But the map will attest that if I was attempting the latter I have a poor grasp of anatomy.

Strangely, though, I'd like to try that route again. Because I don't like to leave things on a fail. I'm just not totally sure that I'll be able to convince anyone to come with me next time.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

More Thoughts From An Empty Mind

I'm loving Thursday evenings at the moment.

Not only is it almost the last day of the working week but I've also just finished three days of solid training and I DON'T have to set an alarm for an early wake up. Going to bed knowing you can sleep in until you wake up without loud beeping in your ear is a delight that I savour.

It means that I can stay up late on Thursday night and get up to mischief - and I did. 9:15pm and three episodes of Nurse Jackie. Then I went to bed and read until my eyes were shutting. Which, admittedly, wasn't very long because after you've woken up three days in a row in the vicinity of 4:00am then run about 40k in those three days you generally have no problem falling asleep. And then, when I woke up at 4:00am (which is when my body's alarm is set for now) it was just so glorious to be able to snuggle back under the warm covers knowing that I didn't have to shiver out on the cold, dark streets.

Then there's the weekly special treat of not having to cook on Thursdays because my Mum has us over (and by us I mean all of the sisters and the spouses and the offspring that are available) for dinner. Cooking dinner is not one of my favourite things. It's a necessary evil. So to have it cooked for me is bliss. And to catch up with my sisters - a lot of fun.

But all is not rainbows and sunshine in my little corner of the world. I've just got my next four weeks of marathon training from Coach Chris. Give me strength! There's a few hairy looking weeks in there. And by hairy I mean 40 Year Old virgin hairy.

There is going to be significant pain and possibly even bleeding nipples before the four weeks are over. I have a couple of weeks that top out at over 80k. More than I've ever done for a marathon before. But I'm running better than I have in the lead-up to any marathon (all two) than I've run before and Coach Chris knows this and has set the program accordingly.

So I'm likely to be tireder. And crankier (cause the two go hand in hand). And hungrier. And even more forgetful than I have been in the last couple of weeks. I call it Marathon Brain and I'm pretty sure it's a real thing. It's already starting to show itself in little ways. I couldn't do basic arithmetic the other day. Like really basic primary school stuff. And just today I forgot to put sugar in my scones. Luckily I put heaps of white choc chips in them so there's enough sweetness but I can foresee that there may be some culinary disasters before July the 5th. So for all the squad members having a birthday in the next few weeks I apologise in advance if your cake doesn't rise or I use salt instead of sugar.

Luckily, though, there were a couple of things that Marathon Brain didn't wipe from my memory banks. I did remember to wear clean, unholey undies to the Physio this week. I wore them under shorts so he probably didn't even realise that he had been so honoured. And (and this is the big one so drum roll please) I shaved my legs. I figure that if he has access to parts of me that he can inflict pain on, I should treat him as nicely as possible.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day Classic 2015

When I entered the Mother's Day Classic earlier in the year I didn't really put any thought into where I'd be in marathon training when it came along.

Well it turns out that I was 32k long run into marathon training on the Mother's Day Classic weekend and there was no way that Coach Chris was going to let me off that one. He'll give me a long run pass mark for a half marathon but there's no let-off when it's only 8k.

All week beforehand I was having doubts about the wisdom of what had seemed like a good idea months earlier. I've never run a 32k then backed it up with a race the very next day. It was going to be taxing enough to just get the long run done so maybe I should just ditch the race and sacrifice my entry fee. Or maybe I could just do the race as a slow recovery run. But what's the point in getting up early on Mother's Day just to do a slow recovery run? 

Yep, I was in a quandary.

And I didn't really want to spend too much time thinking about it. Because when I think too much I can get a bit anxious. So my last thoughts on the matter were that I'd take it as easy as possible on the 32k, try to recover well then just see how my legs were when I started to run on Sunday morning.

A fairly sensible plan. But the whole 'take it easy as possible' part ... well let's just say that I'm never very good at that. I finished the 32k in just under 3 hours with tired legs.

Luckily, I'm much better at taking the recovery part seriously. Compression tights. Lots of fluids. Food. A two hour dribble-on-the-pillow afternoon sleep. Lots of stretching and some painful rolling. I did whatever I could to get my body ready for the next day within the short time frame. 

There were still lots of questions that I had no answers to. But the only way I was going to get answers was by running the next day so I tried not to let those little niggles of doubt settle in and take root. More than anything I want this year to be the year of no (or little) race nerves.

5:30am on Sunday saw me sitting in the kitchen eating a banana. Legs were a bit tight but not too bad. And the nerves? Well there really weren't any. No point in being nervous if you have no expectations.

6:30am saw me sitting in my car in South Brisbane in my dressing gown. Don't judge! It was cold and the only reason I was there that early for a 7:45 start was to get a good, free park. 

7:00am saw me with the little group of GaleForcers who'd decided to do the event, pondering the closest toilets.

7:25am saw me on the start line. Way earlier than I'd normally be but this is one of those events that lots of people do. And by lots of people I mean lots of people who have no idea about race etiquette because they're not really runners. They just want to get as close to the start line as possible. Doesn't matter if you have a baby strapped to your chest (yes, I saw just that woman very close to the front) or have a double pram (pretty sure that was her husband). My aim was to get out from behind these sorts of people so I didn't have to spend the first couple of k dodging and weaving.

But getting there that early meant standing in a shadowed wind tunnel on the coldest morning of the year so far. In singlet and shorts and goose-bumps. I was actually looking forward to the warm-up which I usually scoff at, but the woman who led the warm-up had absolutely no idea what she was doing. She asked the crowd to push forward as close to the line as possible so we were all bunched up and then proceeded to do a routine which involved lots of big arm swings. Not the greatest idea when there are so many faces within slapping range. At least bunching up meant that we were sharing a bit of body heat and blocking out some of the wind so she did actually warm me up - even if it wasn't in the way that she intended.

7:45am saw me running. I'd managed to get so close to the front that it only took 3 seconds to cross the line. But with close start-line proximity comes great responsibility to run fast and not hold up anyone. I took off like a scared rabbit and forgot all about the 32k already in my legs.

Part of the first kilometre goes under a car tunnel and for a little while we lost satellite reception. I knew that was going to mess up the auto-timing for my watch so I decided to check my time when I went past the first k marker. 4:16. Hmm - don't think I was actually running that fast so maybe the marker was in the wrong place. My watch beeped 4:33 which felt much more reasonable even if we'd lost reception for a little.

I was happy with the pace but not really sure how my body would go sustaining it. The only way I could find out, though was to keep pushing along. Second kilometre beeped a bit short of the marker which made me fairly certain that the first marker had been short. 4:36. So far so good.

It's a route that I'm pretty familiar with heading up to West End. I knew exactly where all the little rises were and I tried to block out all thoughts of them because I knew they were going to hurt. But I've done that run as a tempo run with some friends a couple of times and we've run sub-5 pace so that's what I kept reminding myself (while trying not to remind myself that I hadn't run 32k the day before). 4:35, 4:31. Turn around and we're heading for home. 4:33.

And then I started to get a bit tired. 4:41. The pace was slipping just a little so I tried to focus on picking off people in front of me. And I did. Just a couple who were hurting worse than I was. 

There was one in particular that I really wanted to get. A young (late 20s?) guy in a red singlet. His pace kept drifting. He'd slow down then speed up if anyone got close. Then if it started to get too hard he'd let them pass and slow down again. We'd just passed the 7k marker (4:44) and I made my move. I ran up next to him and edged slightly in front. I think he took one look at the old lady passing him and decided that he had one good kilometre left in him and he could cope with the physical pain of pushing harder more than the emotional, ego-driven pain of being beaten by a woman in her second half-century. He took off and finished a couple of hundred metres in front of me. And if that was a PB for him I'm totally taking credit.

That last kilometre race-within-a-race and seeing the finish arch pulled my pace back down to 4:34. And the extra 120m on my Garmin had me running at 4:08 pace which was probably why I had to keep walking for quite a while to suppress the urge to hurl up my 5:30am banana.

Final time - 37:03. Just 20 seconds off my best time for this event back in 2009 and I know that I didn't run that the day after a 32k.

The run set up Mother's Day beautifully. Breakfast with most of my boys (Sam's still in Melbourne but we've taken a rain check on Mother's Day till he's up in a couple of weeks) just rounded off the morning perfectly.

My next race is in a couple of weeks. The half at Noosa and then it's just over a month till the marathon. But for this week it's back to business. Regular training and as much recovery as I can manage.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Why I Bought New Undies Today.

I bought new undies today.

Yes, earth-shattering news from my little corner of Brisbane. But the story really doesn't start there. That's the finale. How I got to that point is the real story and I will be presenting it in the flash-back format so often employed by good screenplay writers in the hope that someone, somewhere with some amount of clout in the movie industry reads it and wants to make it into a feature film. (And on a side note I think Cate Blanchett would be perfect playing me because we're almost twins!)

Checking on the weather forecast yesterday I was aghast to see that it was going to hit almost 30C. Almost half way into autumn! The weather check is a daily event so I can work out which of my uniforms I'll wear - the summer one (denim skirt, t-shirt and sandals) or the winter one (jeans, long t-shirt and closed-in shoes). The summer weather forecast dictated my garb. I tossed on the denim skirt without a second thought as to what was ahead of me and how my poor time management was going to impact on my day. (Cue ominous music - I'm hearing the theme music from Jaws)

I'd planned to be out the door just before nine so I could be at the shops and ordering my coffee as soon as my coffee shop was open. But I got talking. And I waffled around a little cleaning benches and filling up dog bowls and plumping cushions. And as it turned out didn't get to the shops until quarter past. I checked on my phone while I was waiting for the coffee to be made. The Jaws music swells slightly as I see the reminder on my phone screen - Physio appointment at 10:00

Quick mental calculation in my head. There was definitely shopping that I had to get or we would have no dinner. Ten minutes for that. Ten minutes to get to the physio. That's twenty minutes. Plus five minutes to walk from one end of the centre to the grocery store and five minutes to get back to my car. That gave me fifteen minutes to have my daily ahhhh moment with the newspaper crossword.

But who notices time relentlessly marching on when they're engrossed in puzzle solving? Obviously not me. And I couldn't leave one particular section while I was on a roll. I kept telling myself that there was still plenty of time until I really couldn't delude myself any longer. I was going to be late if I didn't move! And move fast.

It doesn't actually take 5 minutes to get to the other end of the shopping centre. Not when you're race walking. And I was in and out of the grocery store in five and back to my car in virtually no time. I totally had this. I was going to make it on time!

And I did. I got there with a couple of minutes to spare, sat down and realised my fundamental error.

Since I've graduated university in 1985 I've used the same physio. My best friend from high school. But Chris has just sold her practice and is moving into academia so it was time to find a new one. I used to rock up to Chris's and just whip off my skirt when she's treating me. That's fine when it's your friend. Probably not so acceptable when it's a complete stranger. Maybe should have worn shorts.

Peter (yes, this complete stranger was a very attractive male in his thirties) took me into the cubicle and got me to lie on the table to test my hamstring flexibility. He took one look at the skirt and asked "so are you respectable under there?"

My mind flashed back to when I was dressing that morning and couldn't for the life of me remember which pair of undies I'd put on. Stupid Lumosity isn't working as quickly as I need it to. I know that there's one pair with a very small hole in them. But I can't bear to throw them out because they're such a pretty colour and who would see them anyway? That question was answered yesterday.

I answered that I was wearing undies and that seemed good enough for him. Which makes me wonder if he's had some 'surprises' in the past.

Apart from the don't-know-which-pair issue, I wasn't too worried about exposing myself. Could be that birthing three babies with audiences, years of internal exams and pap smears and being walked in on by an NRL player who didn't know the difference between male and female while I was having a shower at UQ have made me a little less modest. So once my skirt was up I let it stay up. Poor Peter was more concerned for my decorum than I was. He kept trying to pull it down. Sweet boy. But not very flattering.

He diagnosed me with an extremely tight left hamstring and gave me a massage and some stretches to do daily. Then he finished with some acupuncture. Because he's multi-talented and really wanted to show off. He stuck the needles into my leg and left me lying face down for about ten minutes. Plenty enough time to have me pondering the length of time since I'd last shaved my legs.

We catch up again next week to see how the stretches and tennis ball massages are going and be assured that I've put a couple of reminders into my phone. The shave is scheduled for Tuesday. Shorts are on there for Wednesday. And if my phone dies between now and then at least I'll have some nice new undies to show off.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Different Sort Of Training

One of my sons and his girlfriend turned up last night for dinner. I hadn't seen them for about a week and it struck me as Becky walked through the door that something was different.

Being almost a senior (but not quite ready to claim that title yet), I did what I'm assuming lots of other not-quite-seniors do. I went through a list in my head of possibilities. When I finally worked out that her hair looked a bit different (in a good way) I had a little argument in my head.

"I think she's done something with her hair. The colours the same, I think. It's shorter. At least I think it's shorter. Was it this short last week? It might have been. Oh no, has it been shorter for a long time and I just haven't noticed? What sort of almost-mother-in-law am I that I don't notice that she's had a hair cut?!! "

It was about this point that Becky asked if we hadn't noticed that she'd had her hair cut. And I said I had but I don't think I sounded too convincing. And that's because I hadn't convinced myself that I knew what I thought I knew.

I'm always second-guessing myself these days. I just don't trust my spaghetti-strainer of a brain to be accurate like I think it used to be. Or maybe even that is just a figment of my imagination. Someone can ask me if I've heard about ... (fill in the blanks) and I'll say no because my mind is just that - full of blanks and halfway through the story I realise I've heard it all before.

I suppose it doesn't mean my brain's totally gone if there are some dim memories.

I've ramped up my efforts to try to sustain what I still have left. I know exercise is good for the brain and I've definitely got that covered. I've been doing crosswords and sudoku for a while but I've read (and remembered - will wonders never cease) that it's learning new things that is the key. So the new thing I've added is brain training. Specifically Lumosity via an app on my phone.

I've been doing my daily training sessions for a couple of weeks now and I think it's working. Today I remembered my entire shopping list of four things, plus a couple of extras that spontaneously came to mind, without having to consult my shopping list.

The reason that I didn't consult my shopping list? Well I'd left it at home. Forgot it!

And for those of you who are wondering how Becky's birthday cake went.

Finally I'm happy with my drips! The peanut brittle wasn't great - too granular and not brittle enough. But the peanut butter mousse (made with peanut butter, cream cheese, vanilla and double cream) was really, really good! Pity I forgot that I'm lactose intolerant while I was making and taste-testing it.

Maybe I need to be doing twice daily brain training.