Sunday, June 28, 2015

Don't Toot The Tapering Runner

I thought I was holding it all together so well for this marathon. I seemed to have a handle on the taper - relaxing, rejuvenating, refreshing all those muscles that have worked so hard for months.

And then someone tooted at me on the way home from Saturday's long run - which was only 12k so actually wasn't long at all - and I realised just how tenuous my grip on control was.

I was wanting to turn right at a set of lights but there was a car coming so I stopped to let it pass. That's me - considerate on the roads. Trying to not make the other driver slam on his brakes to avoid a nasty start to his morning. But that wasn't good enough for the driver behind me who'd obviously slept in late for his incredibly important appointment.

Yeah, I might have cute doggy paw print decals on my car but that doesn't mean I roll over submissively to have my belly rubbed if someone's trying to intimidate me. Add in lack of mileage to keep me at a nice calm zen level and stop me from overthinking AND a healthy dose of PMS and I went from zero to indignant rage in 2.4 seconds. Gesticulated wildly so the other driver was sure to notice then drove through the intersection at an incredible 40k per hour just to annoy him. As I said - I wasn't in a hurry, even if he was.

And then I got a little freaked out because he was taking every turn I was taking. I thought for a moment that I shouldn't have poked the bear (even if he had no qualms in doing so). I even planned how I was going to exit my car and race upstairs to get reinforcements if he pulled into the driveway after me. And I was sincerely grateful that I had only run 12k instead of 37 because I'd have a reasonable chance of getting out of the car and up the stairs in less than the 10 minutes it usually takes.

Luckily he kept driving straight when I took a right turn and breathed a sigh of relief.

So maybe the taper crazies are starting to get me just a little.

I'll freely admit to being paranoid about anyone who coughs or sneezes within my vicinity. And I'll admit to wondering if I was coming down with something all day Saturday - which was a great excuse to laze around all day and read. Then there's all the potential hazards I've imagined from everyday events - like slipping down the spiral staircase when I was sweeping it the other day and potentially rupturing any number of tendons in my knee or breaking my ankle or being bitten accidentally in the middle of a doggy play-fight and getting a nasty infection. I even refused to speak to Iven for half an hour after he threw a ball IN THE LIVINGROOM and Ricky barrelled into my shin. He might not have noticed that I wasn't speaking to him because he often blocks me out while he's doing the crossword.

Not sure how I'm going to keep it all at bay this week without being able to run very much. I might do a bit of baking because that's my other go-to sanity-saver. I just need to wait until Sunday's cake has been eaten because there's no room in the freezer for any overflow. My family may just have to sacrifice any thoughts of eating healthily this week on the alter of my taper madness.

So just a little warning to anyone who's driving around the western suburbs of Brisbane in the next few days - if you see a little blue Swift with paw print decals on the back don't toot. I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't be held responsible for my actions in court.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Crisis Of Confidence

I had a little crisis of confidence yesterday.

Not about my running - all's good there. Tapering's going fine. I haven't maimed or killed anyone yet. I haven't even thought of maiming or killing anyone. Hmmm - must be doing it wrong.

My crisis of confidence was over my appearance and it all started with a visit to the vet.

The dogs are all fine, by the way. Toby's over his last bout of allergy-induced infection and Ricky's stitches have healed and his nether region is starting to shrink up and become a little more stream-line from the back view.

The vet visit was to try and get a handle on Toby's allergies. To see if there's something else we can do apart from washing him in hypoallergenic shampoo and putting him into the cone of shame. Our local vet had suggested a specialist dermatologist. Woohoo - goodbye kids' inheritance.

As soon as the vet looked at me she said 'Has anyone ever told you that you look like that English actress? Can't remember her name at the moment but it'll come to me.'

Well of course I had to scour my memory banks for mental images of English actresses that I might remotely resemble. And of course the only ones I could even think of was Dame Judy Dench and Helen Mirren - both lovely ladies but a little older than me. I spent the rest of the visit hoping it wasn't either of them just because of their ages. And the vet never remembered - or if she did chose the tactful option of silence.

When I got home I decided to Google-search English actresses and I came across a huge number ranging from 'oh please don't let it be her' to 'I wish'. I was still none the wiser so I let it go. Sort of. Almost ... Okay - not at all and I'm still wondering.

That wasn't the crisis of confidence part. That came later on that evening when I was browsing Facebook and saw that one of my friends had played one of those silly games. This was called 'What Animal Do You Look Like?' Hers had been a cute baby penguin so of course I wanted to know what cute baby animal I might look like. So I clicked on the link and got this -

Not cute. Not a baby. And frankly I can't see the resemblance. For a start - BLONDE!! 

I chose not to share it on Facebook.

But it's left me wondering. Which English actress looks most like an Orang-utan? If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Only 20k - The Taper's Begun

We only had to run 20k on Saturday.

Years ago it would have seemed crazy to put 'only' in that sentence, It would have been shouted from the rooftops and bragged to any stranger who was brave enough to get close the the crazy lady who was randomly shouting from tall buildings.

But perspective becomes warped when you run stupid distances and what once was a hugely long way becomes a merely. A just. An only.

And because it was our last 'long' run before Gold Coast (next weekend's is 12k and that barely deserves the respect of the title 'long run') we'd planned something a little bit special. It was an idea that had germinated on the run many weeks before when we found ourselves running through a farmer's market over halfway through a run. Many more runs through this market when the coffee was brewing, pancakes were cooking and bacon was frying and we'd been running for over 20k consolidated the idea into a real plan. We were going to run to the market and have breakfast there.

So we planned to meet there for a 5:00am start. Ahh - the luxury of a little sleep in!

The drive to the park took all of us through the Valley - Brisbane's nightclub hub. Always interesting people-watching there. The skimpy outfits and high, high heels. The staggerers. The ones who've decided that bed is just too far away for their needs. It's really only the crazy people that are up and about at that hour but our crazy is so much different to theirs.

The plan was to run a nice, easy 20k. Because we're in taper mode and taper is all about recovery. And it did start easy. Trotting along. Chatting about marathons and goal times and paces and weekend plans and future running goals. It was cold and very dark but I like running in the dark. The kilometres seem to disappear quicker and more easily.

We reached our turnaround point and started to head back just as the sun was rising and that's when the pace started to pick up. I didn't really notice it to start off with. One minute we were just running and the next I was feeling like I was working harder. By the time we hit the park we were almost flying - for us. I'm not sure if it's that we're competitive or if the lure of the coffee was that strong but we finished on a 4:34. Or at least I did and I certainly wasn't at the front of the group.

That's the last run we'll have as a group before Gold Coast. Next week's 12k will be with the whole squad. It'll be great to be back running with them but on the other hand I'll miss the intimacy of the smaller group. There's a special sort of bonding that happens when you all have the same goal and you're all putting in an extraordinary effort to meet it. Camaraderie, support and friendship all grow over the miles that you put in together.

When I think back on this training block I'll have lots of fond memories. Of meeting before 4:00am. Of complaining about having to meet before 4:00am. Of slogging up hills. Of watching Adrian bound up steps two at a time while we with shorter legs lag behind. Of messages sent and received on Fridays organising the where and when of the next day's run - we didn't need to explain the why. And of sitting at a park bench in New Farm Park trying to soak up some sun for warmth and cradling a coffee, talking about running.

Then to round off what had already been a good day, I got to bake. For no reason at all except that I wanted to try something new. Probably was unnecessary because we already had cake and this week we have a smaller family group at home. I'm finding my need to bake is out-stripping my family's ability to eat. Ooops.

Saturday's cake was inspired by an amazing baker called Katherine Sabbath. She's on Instagram if you're interested in seeing just how amazing and creative she is. Mine is just a second-rate copy but I'm still pretty happy with how it turned out.

Thanks to Pinterest I'd finally found out how she makes those spiky pieces of chocolate that she uses to decorate her cakes. And they were too easy!

The finished product - before Ricky got to one of the sides and licked the icing off. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

All Over Bar The Shouting

I survived!

The hardest weeks of marathon training are over and done with and I'm still basically in one piece. That's a pretty good achievement for this old body.

The view of the Storey Bridge on my last mid-week 20k run. 
We ran our last almost-a-marathon long run on Saturday. Another 37k. Another pretty hilly route. And it went well. We'd decided to tackle the Corso again because last time was such a fail - thanks to my unerring sense of direction. And by unerring I probably mean non-existent. Maps were consulted. No winging it this time.

This time we found it without any problems at all. Which goes to show that consulting a map is better than winging it. Especially if you don't want to be stuck in a perpetual loop in Yeronga.

There were no recurrences of the ITB pain from last week so I'm calling that an aberration but will be meticulous in doing all my non-running exercise. I was a little bit concerned about it before we started but not concerned enough to bring a phone (just in case I needed to ditch the run). I made sure to stretch at some of the water stops but I don't really think it was necessary. There wasn't even a hint of the tightening that's the precursor to the pain. Everything felt good.

For those non-runners out there who probably can't wrap their heads around feeling good and running 37k I'd like to say that yes, there is some suffering involved. Legs start to get tired. Feet start to feel the constant pounding. Shoulders tighten up. Fingers swell. Stuff runs out of your nose. Bras start to chafe. And you get to the point where you've really had enough. So feeling good isn't literal. It's more that you feel good enough to keep going. That you haven't had anything major happen that makes you stop without finishing the allotted distance.

For me, last Saturday, feeling good meant that I could push the pace for the last 6k. We'd been running around the 5:30 mark for most of the run. My last 6k dropped to 5:10s and lower. And even though the body was tired there was an enormous sense of satisfaction to know that I still had something in my legs at the end.

I'm ready for this marathon.

And I'm a little bit excited because this is the first time I've really felt ready. I'm also a little bit excited that I don't have to run so far this week. And I won't have to wake up at 3:15am on Saturday morning.

But in a strange way I'm also a little bit sad that the training is all but done. This is one of the best blocks that I've ever had. I've gotten to run with some fantastic, supportive and fun people and I think that's what's made it so great. I've loved the energy that I've gotten from my Wednesday and Saturday groups and I know that I wouldn't even contemplate doing something this big by myself.

So now it's all about staying healthy, uninjured and sane. Less than three weeks to go!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Crop Dusting

Did you know that the average person passes wind fourteen times per day?

I don't know it I'm average or above average. All I know is that sometimes the need to fart comes at an inopportune time. Like when you're at the physio. And you're lying in a treatment room on your stomach - because there's nothing that makes the urge to release flatus more, well, urgent than pressing on it.

Can you tell I'm talking from personal experience? And fairly recent personal experience (cause I'd have forgotten if it was a couple of days ago).

I was at the physio for a bit of a tune-up. And by tune up I mean torturing my hamstrings, calves and hips into submission. He'd just put a couple of acupuncture needles into my ornery hamstring and told me to lie there for a while (like I'd be going somewhere with needles hanging out of the back of my leg) when I felt the urge.

I was alone so I could have let it go. Carefully, so as not to make too much noise. But there was always the risk that it may have been malodorous and I hadn't brought any of my dogs along with me to blame.

So I did what any good endurance athlete does when they've found a physio that they like. I endured. I applied all the techniques that I use on a run when I've had enough and just want to lay down and cry. I told myself I was strong. I told myself that this was what I'd trained for. Not strictly true because I usually do what Elsa from Frozen advises - let it go. And I told myself it was good practice for the marathon. Also not particularly relevant except that it was uncomfortable and I'm likely to be very uncomfortable in the marathon - but hopefully not in my intestines.

I made it to the end of the session with my dignity intact. Paid the bill and walked outside knowing that this race would soon be over. But it wasn't. It was lunch time and outside was where most of the workers from the surrounding offices had decided to congregate to eat their lunches in the sun.

I walked through them like a woman on a mission. Cause I was. And my mission was to make it down to the car park. I almost did too. Halfway down the steps I decided I was far enough away and there was enough traffic exhaust to cover my human exhaust.

The relief was wonderful. For a few seconds. Until I realised that there was a very short woman walking closely behind me. I'd crop dusted her.

I'm so sorry short lady. It wasn't intentional. But maybe next time you won't tail-gate.

Monday, June 8, 2015

It Wasn't Good.

I survived my second 37k run on Saturday.

Word selection is very important in that sentence. I chose 'survived' deliberately because it really wasn't a great run. Actually that's not totally true - the first 30k were fine. It's the last 7 (which was closer to 8) that scared me. They weren't good.

ITBFS. No Mum, that's not secret swearing - although it can bring on actual verbal swearing. Iliotibial band friction syndrome. I've had it before. When I was training for my first half marathon. I felt the first niggles at around the 30k mark. That tightening on the outside of my left knee. The twinges of pain. It had me out of action for a couple of weeks the first time and I do not have a couple of weeks at this stage of training.

Stupidly though, I didn't cut the run short. I could have. I could have turned off a few kilometres before the end and maybe cut the run down to 33k. 25 minutes or so less pain. But in my head I'd woken up that morning to run 37k and I couldn't fathom running less than that.

Then I spent the rest of the day stretching and rolling and sitting on a tennis ball. They helped a little but it wasn't until I'd really tortured myself with a dumbbell that I got real relief. There's nothing quite like sitting on an unforgiving piece of metal to make sore, tight muscles bend into submission. It's exquisitely painful but oh, so effective.

I managed to get through the speed session this morning. I spent the whole time thinking about my ITB. Wondering if it was tightening up. Wondering if the pain was going to return. Wondering whether I'd be able to do my other scheduled sessions for this week. Wondering about next Saturday's last 37k run. But it seemed to hold its own. No tightening. No pain. Tentative hope that it was just an aberration.

Tomorrow I'll test it out on a 16k tempo-ish run. Then I head to the physio so he can torture me a little bit more.

I must be a masochist. All of this pain and discomfort so I can run 42.2k - which is really just an exaggeration of the pain and discomfort that I'm already feeling. Luckily I hang out with people who think that this is all quite normal or else I'd think I was crazy. Or crazier that I already know I am.

In other news. One of my younger sisters turns 50 today. Happy Birthday Fiona!

It was all well and good accepting turning 50 myself but having your younger siblings do it is a bit of a reality check. I'm not sure how it's going to be when my youngest one gets there. But that's not for another 6 years so I'll deal with it then.

I'm really pleased with how her cake turned out apart from one very small detail. I learnt that Persian fairy floss is best added to the cake just before it's served. It melted away overnight.

And because I didn't want the Queen to feel like she'd been left out, I made her a cake too.  I know it wasn't actually her birthday yesterday but if that's when we get the day off to celebrate then that's when she gets her cake.

She hasn't turned up for her slice yet. Let's hope she comes soon or there won't be any left.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

My Week - Reader's Digest Version

It's been a while since I've blogged. Over a week!

I'm feeling like a bit of a bad blogger but I've been busy. Unfortunately not with media engagements, which would be justified given my recent running exploits. I can see the headlines now - Geriatric Runner Breaks PB.

Work, running, family, running, sleeping, running. Yes, all that excitement has been happening in my life - stopping me from sitting down at the computer and sharing. But I'm here now to give a quick catch up of the week that was.

One hundred and five is the big news. That's the number of kilometres I logged in a seven day period. My biggest week ever! It was only that big because of the Sunday race and Saturday 37k long run book-ends - none of the rest of my marathon training weeks will be that big.

I'm pretty pleased with how well my body has held up to the demands of a week like that. Not so pleased with how my brain coped though. I know running is supposed to be good at warding off dementia but I think there's a distance that, when passed, is the point of diminishing returns. I've had a couple of bouts of marathon brain. Like not closing my shampoo bottle properly and finding shampoo all through my toiletries bag. And not packing a shirt to put on after my shower yesterday after speed session. And let's not forget (although I probably will - because marathon brain) all the times I've gone into the supermarket in the last week and looked at the shelves knowing I was there for something but not being able to pinpoint what.

Then there's been the fun and games of having two cone-of-shame-wearing dogs in the house. Ricky had a little procedure done to hopefully eliminate the X-rated floor show that we have to watch every evening. It's been a dangerous house to live in since he's come home. He and Toby have decided that wearing a bucket on their heads shouldn't stop them from having fun. It's even helped them invent new games like bucket jousting and pin-your-owner's-head-to-the-floor-while-she's-stretching-and-lick-her-face-till-she-squeals. That one's a little dangerous for the owner if the bucket placement isn't quite perfect. And in the meanwhile the X-rated floor show has continued unabated. I guess it takes a while for the hormone levels to go down.

There's also been a visit from my prodigal son. So I did like the father did in the bible. I baked a cake. Which is my version of killing a fatted calf. Poor Sam's had to see all the birthday cakes on Facebook for the past year and a bit and just imagine how they'd be tasting so how could I not bake him a cake? The fact that I'd seen this on Pinterest or Instagram (can't remember which - because marathon brain) and desperately wanted to give it a go was not a factor at all in the cake-making decision.

Work's been pretty busy too trying to get out as much as I can to my machinist before she heads off on a three week trip to Canada. How dare she have her first holiday in the 20-odd years of working for me! Should be an interesting time without her. I'm pretty sure that sewing's a little like riding a bike. Let's hope I haven't forgotten how.

And finally there was a little incident where I found myself in a dark, deserted park with two younger men in a fairly compromising position this morning. It's not often that any man other than my husband has been allowed to put his hand up my top. And I've certainly never had an audience before but hey, you only live once. My only regret is that it was the coldest morning of the year so far. Cold fingers!! 

Four weeks and four days till Gold Coast marathon.