Wednesday, July 29, 2015

From Dilemma To Decision

I've got a little dilemma.

I'm currently debating the wisdom of a decision I made a couple of months ago. I'm running a race this Sunday. Just four weeks after my marathon. And I don't really know how I'm planning to attack it.

Not sure what possessed me. Possibly I was high on something at the time. Like post-run endorphins. And they must have been pretty strong that day because my personal history has said that I take quite a long time to recover from marathons. I usually remember relevant personal history like that in plenty of time to prevent myself from doing spontaneous, injudicious stuff like that.

I think my rationale at the time was that it's peak race season in my part of the world and it'd be a pity to miss out on one in my back yard. And a bigger pity to miss out on one where a lot of my friends are running. And the race singlet's kind of nice. And I don't actually have to race it. And it's only 10k so that should be simple after a marathon - right?

I didn't factor into my decision-making at the time that I might have just been getting over a cold. And that the day before I'll be running my first significant long slow run since Gold Coast. But, hey, let's just pretend that I'm a person who thrives on challenges.

And while I'm pretending that I'm a person who thrives on challenges, I'll also pretend that I'm a person who loves hills. While it's not exactly a mountainous route, it's not exactly a flat one either. But I'm not complaining because, for the next couple of days only, I AM a hill-lover.

I think that my current doubts about this event lie in something that I did the other day. I looked up previous race results. And the age group places for 'mature but not old yet' ladies (ie 50-59 y.o.) lie in my range. When I'm running well. Maybe not a month out from a marathon and when I have had a cold. But on the other hand, maybe ...

Sometimes I think I'm too competitive.

Sometimes I think that I think too much.

On Tuesday after speed I would have said that I was just going to take it easy and enjoy the event without pushing myself into the imminent puke zone. I struggled on my fourth 1600m rep and finished the session early. But on Wednesday I did an 11k tempo run with some fast bodies and finished up with a 4:58 average pace. And that flamed those little embers of competitiveness. 

Sure, there's no guarantee of a place even if I do run well. I have no idea who's running this event and there are some seriously fast 'mature but not old yet' ladies in Brisbane. Plus we all know that anything can happen on race day - and by that I mean unplanned toilet stops or accidents or toilet accidents. But there's a little part of me that wants to give it a shot.

Sometimes I'm really grateful that I have this blog because writing this post has actually helped give me clarity. I will just show up on Sunday and run how I feel. Like I've done with every other race that I've run this year. If I feel good I will push the pace and if I don't I'll just relax and enjoy the event.

Decision made.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Weekend In Review

It was inevitable. Bound to happen. No bookie would have given decent odds on it.

Getting a post-marathon cold is just one of those rights of passage. Especially when nearly everyone around you is sniffing into tissues. Run for four hours and it will have a negative effect on your immune system. I'm not sure if the negative effect lasts for almost three weeks but I'm happy to blame my present state on the marathon. I'm just grateful that it happened now and not three weeks ago because I feel crap.

I hate being sick. Not that I'm really sick - just sick enough to have no energy and want to lay around and watch really bad movies all day. And drink tea that I've guilted my husband into making for me. Guilty tea tastes so much better than regular tea. I think it's the salt in the 'my poor darling is sick and I could lose her and then who would make me cake?' tears he spills. I've gotten good at faking imminent death so I can get just one of these delicious beverages served to me on the couch while I control the TV viewing. And my grade 8 English teacher gave me such a bad mark for acting.

I wasn't sick enough, though, to miss the long slow run for the week. Yeah, I didn't feel great but I did the above/below neck check and all my symptoms were in my head (and I don't mean in the hypochondriac sense) so I figured it'd be fine to get the 16k on my program done. Running it with the fast boys and Sue was just an added bonus. A special treat for me in my weakened state. It felt hard! It felt hard enough for me to say that I didn't mind being left behind - and I hate admitting weakness like that. I didn't actually get left behind so yay for me but that could have been one of the reasons why faking imminent death wasn't so hard in the afternoon.

Unfortunately the novelty of lying around and being waited on wore off pretty quickly. So I'm now at the 'I want to just be doing normal stuff but I'm still feeling a bit too blah to actually do it' phase. Hopefully I'll wake up tomorrow and everything will be back to normal. I'm really not a good patient. Or a patient one.

I'm not the only patient in the family. My poor baby had to go to the vet on Friday to get allergy tested. We've bitten the bullet with Toby and dived in to the world of veterinary specialists because I'm so sick of his skin infections and having to deal with a bucket-headed dog. Oh, and I do feel sorry that he feels itchy nearly all the time.

So Friday we drove for half an hour to pay an exorbitant sum to have Toby play pin-cushion. Half an hour isn't really that far but it can seem like it when your dog is almost choking the whole way because he wants to sit on your lap for the drive but he has a restraint preventing him. He was incredibly excited to finally get there and go in to the surgery but a lot less excited when he realised I wasn't going in with him. He's such a mummy's boy!

And then he was returned to me like this.

They did the test on his chest near his front leg. Which just happens to be one of the only places he can scratch with his back legs. And he wanted to scratch! Those tests had stirred up a hornets' nest of histamine release. Luckily the vet had had the foresight to give me some cortisone to keep him comfortable or he would have torn himself to pieces.

The upshot is that he's allergic to so many things! Lots of plants, feathers, ants, moths, mice, cockroaches and dust-mites. He definitely is living in the wrong house. Our place is riddled with cockroaches, ants, moths and dust-mites. Not so sure about mice ... but I wouldn't be surprised.

So the next step is desensitisation shots. Also a very exorbitant procedure but Toby is only three and has quite a few years left in him (I hope). It will save us a lot of money in vet bills over the years if these shots improve his condition. And I'll feel happier that he's not so incredibly itchy.

In other news - my Dad turned 75. And we all know what that means. I get to make cake! My current cake obsession is learning to temper chocolate so I can make amazing chocolate decorations. About a kilo of chocolate later I can say that I do know how to temper dark chocolate now. As for making amazing chocolate decorations - well that's still a work in progress. I can do curls and that's about it.

But I figure if I'm determined and practice enough I'll master fans one day. And in the meanwhile I have all these failed fans that I can't bear to just throw away. Failed baked goods have no calories don't they?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Getting A Handle on Things.

I never like getting certified mail. From past experience the only good thing that I've ever got that way was a passport. Usually it's some demand that the sender isn't going to let you ignore.

I got a certified letter just a couple of days before my marathon. From my doctor. And I knew immediately that it had something to do with the results of the Pap test that I'd had over a month before. And I was right.

The only saving grace to this letter were the words 'non urgent'.

There are plenty of reasons that you might get a letter like this. The first sample might have been flawed. There may have been blood in it or infection or not enough cells. The sample may have been misplaced or the slide broken. There may be cell abnormalities relating to inflammation. A recall letter does not necessarily mean that you have cervical cancer. But of course it's hard to not think that when you get a letter by registered mail.

Of course I didn't want to have to try and squeeze in an appointment in the only day that I had before the marathon but I did want to know if I was going to have to do a repeat test because there's no point in scheduling an appointment for a repeat test while it's that time of the month. So I rang the receptionist and asked if I was going to have to have a repeat test and she said that I would but that there was no urgency. So I decided that I wasn't going to waste any energy worrying about it when I had bigger fish to fry. So I shoved it to the back of my brain to deal with at another time.

Doing that was like trying to sweep a small pile of manure under a rug. Most of the time I could ignore that it was there but occasionally a waft of something unpleasant would come seeping out to remind me that I hadn't actually dealt with it yet.

Well today I dealt with it. I'd made the appointment last week after telling a friend that I had to. So I'd feel accountable. I had to wait a while to see the doctor and I tried to placate my over-active imagination with a game of sudoku - which I couldn't finish because my brain was elsewhere.

When I was finally called in, the doctor asked why I was there and when I told her that I'd gotten a certified letter about my results she pulled them up and found ...

Nothing! The results were perfect. But the medical centre had recently had a computer upgrade and there had been a few glitches.

Not a particularly exciting or funny story but it's another lesson on worrying for a worry wart. Most of the time the things we worry about never happen. And if they do worrying didn't stop them from happening so it's a complete waste of time and energy.

I'm a little bit proud of myself that I did manage to control any anxiety about it most of the time and certainly didn't let it overwhelm me like I might have in the past. Maybe I'm finally getting a handle on my anxiety.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Tell Me Your Deepest, Darkest Secrets

I started back running this week.

Thank goodness! And that sigh of relief is not just from me. I'm a much nicer person when I've been running.

Even the dogs hide from me when I'm not running
Of course I'm not fully recovered but I'm not too bad either. I felt tireder than normal after speed session on Tuesday and there was still the after-glow of the ITB pain that bothered me during the marathon. And my hamstrings were super-tight. So I was glad that I'd had the foresight to make another appointment with my physio.

My physio's been away on holidays with his wife so it was great to catch up on his news while I was being tortured. Hang on - great's probably too kind a word. Interestingly gross is probably more accurate because the only story he told me about his holiday was the diarrhoea one. There was no stories of great places to see in the Phillipines or interesting foods or amazing things to do. There was just a very descriptive tale of projectile evacuation in the Starbucks loos. He's such a good tale teller that I almost felt like I was there.

There was the moment when he realised all was not well. The moment when he couldn't decide whether he was going to chuck or poop. The moment when he realised that he was sweating profusely but he was so very cold. The moment of desperate knocking on the one cubicle door which was locked. The moment when he had to decide whether to use the urinal instead because the cubicle was staying locked. The moment when the fear of being caught bum-out hovering over the urinal was overtaken by the very real threat of making his shorts unwearable. And that moment when the other person did finally come out of the cubicle and they all lived happily ever after. It was kind of like a fairy tale. A very grimm fairy tale.

Earlier that day I'd been running with friends and over coffee one of them reminded me of our first run together and how I'd heard the story of his vasectomy which had happened only four days beforehand. Not that I'd forgotten. That story stands out as one of my top 10 in weird things I've heard on a run.

Those two events got me thinking. What is it about me that makes people want to share very personal stories? Is it that I have a tendency to over-share? Or is it that I can be quiet at times and the quiet disconcerts people so much that they spill all their deepest and darkest? Or is it that I secretly love all that stuff and they can sense it in me and try to fulfil my needs?

I was talking with another friend about it and she has the same thing happen to her. She's a nurse. I used to be a vet. Pretty much nothing grosses either of us out.

So I'm wondering does this happen to anyone else? Do people like to tell you really personal stuff? And what's the weirdest story you've ever been told?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

In Search Of Adventure (Of The Non-running Kind)

The night before the marathon I was sent a quote by Sue, who I'd done a lot of my training with. It was one of those quotes - exactly the right words for exactly the right occasion. 'Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.'

All through last week I'd been thinking about those words. Thinking about adventure in my life and realising that there really wasn't very much of it. Life can easily become too comfortable and routine. Iven and I had pretty much zero adventure in our lives. What would it hurt to shake it up a little?!

An opportunity came sooner than I would have thought. A few words on the weather report. An Antarctic blast of air. Chance of snow. A thought was planted.

A lot of you won't understand just how exciting the idea of snow is to someone who lives in a subtropical climate. It NEVER snows in Brisbane. It only snows in Queensland once every twenty or thirty years. And for it to maybe, possibly snow on a weekend within a couple of hours drive - too good an opportunity!

Iven and I were awake around 4:00am and on the road by 4:40. Heading to Stanthorpe in the dark. A couple of old farts in search of a little adventure. Actually, an old fart and his much younger trophy wife in search of adventure.

Doing something spontaneous is wildly out of character for both Iven and I. So we were as giddy as two little kids as we hit the road. Or maybe we were just sleep-deprived. There was banter and conversation - we've been married almost 30 years so you'll probably understand just how rare that is.

It's a two and a half hour drive to Stanthorpe - the most likely chance in Queensland. That was a long time to be wondering if the drive was going to be a wasted journey.But I decided that it really didn't matter. We'd had nothing else planned anyway and the worst the day could be was a drive in the country with a couple of cafe meals.

We got to Stanthorpe just after 7:00 and found a really nice cafe for breakfast (Cosmo Cafe if you're ever in Stanthorpe). Iven got chatting to the barista. That in itself shows just how excited he was - he's usually not a chatter. We found out that there were reports of snow in Tenterfield which was only about 30 minutes away so the plans for breakfast were shelved and the coffee put in takeaway cups and we were off.

The clouds looked menacing on the way to Tenterfield. But we got there and nothing. So we kept going and just outside of the town we saw a sign that said something about sleet and snow and proceeding with caution - but I was too slow to get a decent pic. Bad blogger!

The temperature on the dashboard was looking more and more promising. Surely it has to snow when it hits the magical 0!!


And then, finally, the menacing clouds produced rain. But it wasn't like the rain I was used to. The drops were slower. Almost floating. Was it sleet? No. It was snow! We were in the middle of a blizzard!!!

Okay, it wasn't a blizzard but it was falling snow and that's close enough. There were patches of white on the sides of the road and both Iven and I agreed that it was totally worth driving for four hours to find. 

We ended up in Glen Innes trying to find a cafe for our long-delayed breakfast and then had another long delay when our food order went missing. But the bonus was that we ended up not having to pay. Snow and a free breakfast - could this day get any better?!

While we were waiting for the fruit toast that took over an hour to arrive, we'd been on-line looking for places where there had been fairly decent falls and there was a place, Mt Mackenzie, just outside of Tenterfield that had had a dusting so we hopped back in the car, turned it around and set off again. 

But by now it was quite late and the sun had come out so there was every chance that whatever snow had fallen was now melted. But we went on. Just in case.

Sure enough, the white wonderland of the morning had disappeared but there were lots of people walking in the bush so we decided to park and explore. And I'm glad we did. Little pockets of bushland had been more sheltered from the sun. There was still remnants. And it was beautiful!

Mini-snowman convention

Spot the snowman

My Very First Snowman 
We played around for a little while. Until our fingers were so cold that we couldn't feel them any more and then headed off. Adventure successfully complete. And not even the flat tyre on the way home could ruin our moods.

We've already planned our next adventure. 

This could become addictive.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

But First - Recovery

There are certain things that one should not be required to do in the week after a marathon.

Beautiful location for a marathon
Seriously, nothing works like it normally does. Legs, body or brain. Everything is either sore or tired. Starting from the bottom up - feet hurt, two toes and toenails on the right foot (pretty sure they're courtesy of the idiot who almost wiped me out at a water stop darting in front of me), tight calves, twingey knee, super-tight hamstrings, achey hips, lower abs and stiff shoulders.

Then there's the brain. Yesterday I spent the day walking back upstairs to get the thing I'd forgotten to take down only to get distracted on the way up and forget again. Just what you want to do when all your muscles are tired. Another of my friends reported trying to spread butter on his toast with a spoon. Better than a fork I reckon.

But every day I'm feeling a little less tired and less sore. I can now sit down and get up without making very audible groans - which is good

because, apparently, it's not socially acceptable to make those kinds of noises in public toilets. Especially on school holidays when there's lots of kids around who think that noises of pain emanating from the toilet are hysterically funny. Hey cool mean girl, you run a marathon and I'll stand outside your cubicle and laugh at you next time.
There's been lots of these on the menu
This week's been all about recovery so far. Stretching. Rolling. Eating good quality food (when I haven't felt nauseated because I've felt nauseated a lot for the first couple of days). Drinking heaps of water. And electrolytes. A visit to the physio to release the muscle that was causing the ITB knee pain. Sleeping. Napping. Complaining about how tired I am so someone else will wash up the dinner dishes.
And I'm making plans. Working out a way that my body holds together a little better for my next marathon in October.

I had a chat with my eldest son on Monday night to pick his brains. His brains have useful information in it when it comes to recovery and injury. I'm kind of grateful to the kid who almost broke his ankle back when he was a teenager and made him interested in physiotherapy as a profession. And I'm glad that he didn't get into it straight away and had to get a degree in exercise physiology first. All those years studying are now paying off for me.

He gave it to me straight. I'm weak. Soft! Especially in the centre. I'd like to blame it on having three bouncing baby boys but if I'm honest I've always been soft there. I totally need to harden up and hit the gym to get my muscle imbalances sorted.

So I've made an appointment at the place he used to work at to get an assessment and a program. And I'm going to work hard.

But not quite yet. Because recovery comes first.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Gold Coast Marathon

I went into the Gold Coast marathon with a couple of very significant personal goals. 

The first was to get to the start without any anxiety. I've struggled a lot with nerves in some of my races. To the point where I've had to medicate to get to the start line. It's something that I've not been proud of but something that I've had to deal with since I was a nervous little kid. I've been to a psychologist about it and worked hard on not letting my head take over before a race and for all my lead up races I was fine. In fact I was great. But a marathon is a totally different creature so there was every chance that the demons of my past would revisit.

The second goal was to run the entire way. For both of my other marathons I'd had walking breaks. And I'd secretly wondered if I was mentally strong enough to ever complete one without giving in. In both previous marathons I'd been happy enough to finish but always a little disappointed in myself for throwing in the towel.

Apart from that it would have been great to get a PB and even better to go under 4 hours. But the first two were my biggies. Had all the work I'd done on my head paid off?

I knew as soon as I woke up on Sunday that I had my first goal in the bag. I was amazingly calm. No jitters. Able to eat without wanting to throw it all back up. Just in a good head space. I didn't think about what was ahead just what I had to do. Get dressed. Eat. Poop. Get to the squad tent. Cheer our half marathoners. Queue for the loos. And find my running buddies, Sue, Adrian and Craig, who were about to slay their own personal dragons.

At 7:00 we headed up to the start line. Made another pit stop and then squeezed between the fencing railings to get into our start zone. Got my Garmin started and then sweated on it finding the satellites before the gun went off. No worries - made it with a couple of minutes to spare. Then the gun went off and I realised that there was still a couple of minutes before we crossed the start anyway.

We were off. Our group of 4 were planning to run around 5:30 pace. And the first kilometre was pretty spot on. It was tough running though - way too much traffic. Lots of stop-start running and avoiding people who were trying to find their own space to run in. It was hard to resist the temptation to dodge and weave and even harder to resist the temptation to stay together as a pack. So much nicer to spend as many kilometres together with friends than to run by yourself for hours. I didn't resist either temptation - something I regretted later on.

Thanks Mel and Youngie for the pic and the cheer

It all seemed great at the start. Running along the road looking at the surf and the other runners. Bantering with my friends. It was a gorgeous morning and we were on an adventure of sorts. Sue was running strongly and had pulled away fairly early. Then before halfway Adrian pulled away. I was content to keep running at the pace I was at - around the 5:20-5:30 zone - probably a little faster than I'd planned but I was feeling ok. Except for a tightness that was starting to build on my left side. Just a little tightness around my left knee and in my glute. 

I knew exactly what it was. Been there done that a few times before. My ITB was starting to complain. Bugger! It wasn't even halfway. I tried to consciously relax the area. I prayed. I tried to distract myself. But after a while I knew that I was just going to have to live with it and hope that it didn't get to the point where I had to stop and walk. Or pull out altogether.

I'm not exactly sure when I lost Craig but I know it was before 30k. I was sure he was still on my shoulder but it turned out to be another tall man in a blue shirt with a white cap. I was on my own and heading back to the start area. Up and over the Sundale Bridge and then up quite a long but not steep ascent. I had no strength in my knee at all. My stride length had become so small that I felt like I was shuffling but if I tried to lengthen it out my knee felt like it was going to collapse so short and shuffly it had to be. 

And then I passed the GaleForce squad tent and for that brief time the pain disappeared. They were loud and raucous and I felt like a rock star. Like Keith Richards because I'm sure at his age his knees give him curry too. It didn't matter how tired I was or how much I was hurting, I was going to believe what every person in that tent was telling me - that I could finish.

Photo credit - Miss Megs Photography

But I wanted to stop! So badly!! Ten kilometres can seem so far when your body hurts so much. A huge argument was raging in my head. I kept reminding myself that I had something to prove - to myself and to my boys. That we're stronger than we think we are. That we don't have to quit when things get tough. That we can defeat those voices in our head that would defeat us. 

It was ugly. Really ugly. And demoralising to have people passing continually. The worst was when the 4:00 hour pacer passed and disappeared into the distance. There would be no catching him. It was as much as I could to to keep running - or doing the only version of running that was possible at that moment. I counted the kilometres down. Each one getting slower than the last. 

Four kilometres - I can do that. 

Three - yep, I can do it. 

Two - so close and yet so far. It was around here that I ran into Chris, from the squad who'd run down to the coast from Brisbane overnight and then lined up to do the marathon. I have incredible respect for that level of crazy. We ran together for a bit and were joined by Katherine who was helping us strugglers to get to the finish line. She dragged me back past our cheering tent so I could suck in as much of their enthusiasm to get me through the last kilometre.

Photo credit - Miss Megs Photography

The finish chute at Gold Coast is sooo long. And the finishing arch was such a welcome sight. I'd done it! 4:03:13. Three minute PB.

My legs were a mess so I sat down as soon as I could. Sue came over with a bottle of water and a big smile and we debriefed about our races. When I got up my knee had completely seized up and I could only walk with it straight. Took forever to get back to the tent and finally stretch out.

Then came the best part of the day. Being able to say I'd done it. That I hadn't been sick with nerves. That I'd run every step. The PB was just the icing on the cake.

I can't say exactly what the best part of the day was. The run was great and awful. Meeting my goals was fabulous. But I think the messages I got from my boys were probably the things that will stay with me most. Nothing is more special than have your child tell you that they're proud of you.

And the celebratory ice cream was pretty damned good too.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Voices In My Head

You're probably all sick of hearing about this marathon that I'm running on Sunday.

What marathon, you ask? Obviously a new reader. I haven't been talking about an awful lot else in the last month or so. Don't worry. I'll bring you up to speed. I'm running a marathon this Sunday. I made a decision at the beginning of the year that, at this very moment I'm thinking was a little rash. A did the training and in just a couple of days I'll be lining up about 100m back from the start line. Or further back depending on how many people have put themselves into the A category.

It's about now that the little voices in my head start to make themselves heard. You know the ones. That tell you that you're not good enough. That you're going to fail. Or make a fool of yourself. That you're not going to live up to expectations. Those voices of doubt and doom and fear.

Mine remind me of my previous two marathons. And how awful they felt. How I didn't run anywhere near what I think I'm capable of. They might have both been a few years ago but I remember them both more clearly than my three labours.

My first was okay until the 37k mark when I felt like I was going to lose everything in my intestines from one end or the other or both so I ducked into the closest loo which happened to be in an Arts Centre and promptly got lost in a maze of mirrors while beautiful classical violin music was playing. I lost 8 minutes in there and missed out on my sub-4:00 by 6 minutes.

My second one was way, way worse. The week before my husband ended up in Emergency with a really bad back looking down the barrel of surgery. Mega-stress! Didn't eat well for days. Ended up going down to Melbourne but my head was all over the place and the only way I got to the starting line was with medication. And to top it all off, I ended up getting my period then a migraine aura where I couldn't even see where I was running for half an hour. Yeah, that was fun!

Those voices in my head can get incredibly loud and distracting at times but I've been learning how to deal with them. With logic. And my logic is this

- I have done all the training. No cheating. No short-cuts. Except for a couple of Thursday runs before and after half marathons when I was feeling really tired. But training is all about listening to your body and a day off when you're really tired can actually save your entire marathon block so I've forgiven myself those.

- All my long runs went really well. Even the one straight after my half marathon PB when one of my running buddies was pushing the pace and I wanted to slap him. (It's okay, I've forgiven you now Adrian and gotten my revenge)

- It's not in my character to give up. Ever! Even in that awful last marathon when I was wishing that I had my Myki card to catch the tram back from mid-way, I knew that I'd never do it.

- I'm running better than I have in years. The half marathon PB is proof of that.

- I chose to do this. For fun. Because I love to run.No one's making me do it so there's absolutely no need to put any pressure on myself.

For both my other marathons I was so nervous in the week leading up and I'm pretty sure that affected my races - especially when being nervous = not eating in my world. This time I'm not. I had a moment on Monday but got it all back under control and now I'm actually a little bit excited. About carb-loading. And having a couple of days away with Iven (yes, I've allowed him to come away with me again because he did a spectacular job of looking after me last time.)

I'm not going to say that I'm definitely going to run a PB because anything can happen in a marathon. But I will say that I've given myself every chance.