Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Crises, Questions and Dilemmas

I'm having an existential crisis.

Actually crisis is a bit of an exaggeration. It's more that I'm grappling with an existential question. Not a deep existential question like 'why do I exist?' or 'what is the meaning of life?' So I guess that grappling might also be an exaggeration. But I can't think of any better word at the moment so I guess we'll stick with it. Unless I have some bolt of inspiration before I'm done.

My question? If I run and it's not documented photographically, does it actually count?

It used to be that I ran and it counted just because I ran. Then I got my first Garmin and then the run counted because it was uploaded onto the computer. And then I joined the Garmin community and then it counted because other people could see it. Now it's got to be documented in pictures for it to count in my head.

How did things change? Why did they change? Will they change again? Will I cope - especially over the next few weeks when the chief photographers are off swanning in NY (marathon and glory-bound)? Should I even bother running if it's not on Instagram or FB? What IS the meaning of life?

See!! It's a real dilemma.

Funny thing is that I don't even like having my photo taken. Comes from being brought up with very attractive sisters. But I haven't minded it - even though they're taken when I've dragged myself out of bed before the sun's up and I'm usually red-faced, sweating and tousled. And the reason that I haven't minded them is because I look happy. Because I am happy. Running's my happy place. And running with friends is the best!

And talking about crises, we have a little one in the laundry. I only have to wash once a week now that the kid washing is no longer my responsibility and today Iven couldn't find a dry pair of undies!! I had washed and it all would have been fine if the weather had been. I'm not sure how he solved his dilemma and I don't think I want to. There are no good answers to that question. 

I looked around the laundry to see if any of his jocks had fallen behind the dryer (which I won't use unless there's a real weather crisis). No luck. But what I did see were all of the clean, damp running clothes I'd used this week that made up about a third of the wash. So I guess the answer to my existentialist question is that yes, photographically undocumented runs do count and I have the washing to prove it.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Can't Think Today - I Have The Dumbs

It's just a week since the marathon and already I'm bored.

It was okay while I was still away and had distractions. Like #1 son, Sam and his girlfriend Hannah.

No picture of Hannah (my bad) but it is Hannah's apron 

And the zoo. Werribee Zoo is pretty good - especially having the meerkat exhibit backing onto the cafe. Watching an erotic interlude between star-crossed meerkats while I sip a soy cappuccino? Don't mind if I do.

But eventually the fun had to be over and we had to return to the land of same-old-same-old without my endorphin fix to numb the boredom. 

It is totally normal to get the blahs after a marathon. So of course the logical thing is to immediately enter other races. All week I've been tossing up ideas in my head and so far only have one firm definite. Maybe two. See! That's just an example of where my head's at. My firm definites are not that firm. They're like just-set jelly that could have done with a tablespoon more of gelatine. 

So here's my maybe firm definite list thus far - Port Macquarie Half Marathon (on my birthday in March so I think that's a sign that I'm supposed to do it) and Melbourne Marathon in October.

I've got a whole list of other halves that I'd like to do but keep wondering how many is too many. I'd kinda like to try for a sub 1:40 half (seeing as I was less than 30 seconds away so that's only a bit over 1 second per kilometre faster and that should be doable shouldn't it?) so maybe less is more. But on the other hand most events are a weekend away and more mini-holidays aren't a bad thing - except for the bank balance.

I think what I'm really wanting is for someone to make the decisions for me cause my ability to make decisions is at an all-time low.

Take this cake, for example. 

I decided, with the wisdom of many years of cake making and decorating experience, that it'd be fine to leave the dome on top. And then cover it with oozy caramel. And then put stuff all over the oozy caramel. This is after only recently making a cake which oozed everywhere. And then I was disappointed when all the stuff on the top oozed over the edge. I also decided that it'd be great to put raspberries in the chocolate mousse filling. With a caramel topping. And then I decided it was fine to give as a birthday cake because it was the recipient's fault for having a birthday just after my marathon when, patently, I wouldn't be at my sharpest mentally. 

Yep, decision-making at its finest. 

And this lack of ability to make a decision is creeping into other areas of my life - not just the fun running and baking ones. I want to start an online business selling my loud tights to other runners who, like me, enjoy a little colour in their lives. I know I can do all the sewing/manufacturing stuff and I have a good name (or I think it's good anyway) - it's just all the other stuff. Tech stuff. Money stuff. Registration stuff. 

There's so much that I know that I don't know and it seems such an effort to try to wrap my head around. Maybe that's the post-marathon ennui. Or maybe it's that I'm 52 and it actually is harder to learn new stuff. I'm hoping that it's the former and that my ability to think clearly without being overwhelmed will return soon. Today would be good.

But even if it doesn't, I'll be back running this week. On my usual schedule. Just shorter and slower. So at least I'll be getting my endorphin fix.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Melbourne 2015

A bit over five years ago I started writing this blog. It was to chronicle my journey to the start line of my very first marathon on the 10:10:10. The training had gone really well but the marathon didn't quite go to plan. My stomach didn't cooperate and my sub-4 goal wasn't achieved. But I'd finished my first marathon so I had to be proud.

Three years later I lined up again. The training cycle leading into it had been filled with self-doubt after some poor health but I'd gotten all the runs done. Just before the race there were a series of unfortunate events which led to a really tough day at the office and again no sub-4. But I was incredibly proud of the run - that I'd finished despite nearly everything going wrong.

Then I lined up at Gold Coast earlier this year after a training cycle that went better than I could have expected. I was running well and I knew that the sub-4 I'd been after was well within my capabilities. And it may have been if my ITBs hadn't given me grief. A new PB but still no sub-4. Still I was so proud that I'd run the entire way and not walked like in my previous two marathons.

I really had no expectations of time leading into Melbourne on Sunday. Running three prior marathons without achieving what I knew I was capable of made me a little leery of getting too caught up in goals and times. If there's one thing that running marathons has taught me is that it can expose all your physical and mental flaws. It is a humbling, pitiless master that must be respected without being feared.

In my first marathon I was a little cocky with my expectations and went out too hard and that led to the stomach issues. In my second marathon I was so nervous that I'd hardly been able to eat beforehand and ran out of fuel before halfway. My third marathon exposed my lack of attention to other areas of my fitness - namely strength. For this one I just tried to fix what I could - the strength, the anxiety and overambitious expectations - and show that I'd learned from all my mistakes. I had a plan and I was going to try to stick to it.

So 5:45 found me standing on a dark corner in Melbourne city with a couple of friends ready to walk to the start. There's nothing better for calming pre-race jitters than to be amongst fellow crazies. I had slept okay but woken up with an adrenalin rush that I'd had to do a bit of mental self-talk to get under control. I'd managed to subdue the butterflies kicking up a storm in my stomach so I could eat. By the time I was dressed there were no nerves at all - just a determination to run smart.

Ready as I'll ever be

We met up with some more friends, did the last-minute toilet visit (and for the first time I picked the right queue), obligatory pre-race photos and then made our way over to the start line. While I was standing there I pondered whether I should have visited the loo just once more for good measure but decided that the queues were too long and it was probably all in my head. I got my watch ready. Then finally we were off.

Where's Wally?
The plan was to run within myself. To sit somewhere between 5:30 and 5:40 pace. To run relaxed and to try to enjoy as much of it as possible. In a marathon pain is inevitable - I just wanted to delay it for as long as possible.

The first kilometre was slower than my pace plan but I wasn't worried in the least. A few seconds lost at the beginning can be made up over the other 41.2k. And at the beginning of a race there's usually a fair amount of traffic to navigate. Melbourne has the added joys of tram lines that you have to be aware of so a 5:49 start wasn't an issue. By the second kilometre that was down to 5:29 and I wanted to keep it around there or maybe just a smidge slower.

We headed down St Kilda Road towards Albert Park and somewhere along there one of my running friends caught up with me. Tracey had contacted me during the previous week and had said she wanted to run a similar pace but I hadn't seen her before the start. She fell in beside me and I'm pretty sure that's why the race went so well. She stuck with me from before Albert Park and kept my mind from the unhelpful chatter that it can sometimes go on with.

"Only three k done. You've still got 39 to go. And don't forget the point 2. Are you feeling tired already? Yeah, I think you're feeling tired. You might as well just turn around and go out for breakfast.Whose stupid idea was this anyway??"

Yeah, I'd gone through all of those thoughts in the first couple of kilometres. And a couple more that were bladder-focused. I was pretty sure that I was going to have to find a toilet before I was finished. And I'll admit that I had penis-envy seeing the male runners lined up in the bushes in the park. But once I had Tracey's company I seemed to forget about my bouncing bladder.

Our pacing was pretty good. Any time it crept down to the low 5:20's we'd ease back a little. It concerned me a little that my watch was beeping kilometres before the marker and the distance between the beep and the marker was getting further and further apart. But Tracey was wearing a pace band and was able to check when we passed the markers so we knew we were on track. We'd even banked a little margin.

We got to the halfway point feeling pretty good. A couple of minutes ahead of Tracey's pace band time but nothing to be alarmed about. The next goal was to make it to 30 still feeling okay and then to 32 where we could start counting down the kilometres in single digits. We were down in St Kilda along the waterfront at this stage. It was cool and a little bit breezy. There were a couple of rises but I didn't find them too tough - they were actually a pleasant change from running flat. We got to the turnaround and back to St Kilda Road still feeling okay. Yes, we could feel the 30 kilometres that we'd run in our legs and feet but we were both feeling strong and it was about then that I really started to believe that my sub-4 was going to happen. Finally!

But I didn't want to get too far ahead of myself. In my first marathon I'd been on sub-4 pace up to 35k so I knew that it wasn't over until it was over.

We got to 32k and I was so excited to start counting the kilometres down. We were reaching the spot where I'd had to find a toilet immediately and lightning struck again - but this time it struck Tracey. We scoured the route for potential toilet stops and she managed to make it to the same Arts Centre that I'd stopped at in 2010.

All of a sudden I was running alone. And that wasn't good. Somehow without my pacing buddy I'd picked up some speed - not smart when you're heading into the 'Tan and you know that there's a bit of a nasty hill ahead. But also ahead I could see Jess and I knew that she was within reach. I might be able to catch her before the end. I caught her without even realising. She was ahead of me one minute, I got distracted at a water stop and all of a sudden I heard her voice from behind me. I had company again.

The hill in the 'Tan took its toll on my now-very-weary legs. My pace dropped a little but it was still within my 5:30-40 window. It was hurting and I was wanting it to be over but I knew that it wouldn't be long until I could finally stop. The crowds were getting thicker and we could see the MCG. Then we ran past where the squad had set up and I saw my husband, son and his girlfriend. Just a little further and we were in the MCG running that last lap. And it was done. 3:53:53!

Jess had finished about 30 seconds ahead of me but we found each other. Tired, sore but oh, so happy!

A bit later on I caught up with Tracey for a sweaty, salty hug. She'd managed her sub-4 too despite the toilet stop. 

The effort it took for some of us to get up for this photo was unbelievable - you'd never know it from the smiles.

So how many minutes did I cut off my PB? Just count the fingers and you'll see why my smile's so big.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

I Swear The Internet Made Me Do It

The last run has been run. The last pair of running shoes has been untied. The last sweaty bra thrown into the wash - along with the sweaty socks, tights, undies and singlet. No wonder I always have a big laundry pile.

I've decided on my pace. I've decided on my outfit. Haven't decided whether to music or not but I will decide at some point. And I will charge my headphones just in case it's a yay.

All there is to do now is wait, rest and eat. And keep my brain from thinking too much.

I'm guessing that my fellow marathoners are all in the same boat after a very innocent conversation about our food plans for Saturday night somehow went a little awry down a path of puppies, pasties, pole-dancing and progeny-shaming. Admittedly I was the one doing a lot of the off-topic steering but when presented with a comment of "I'll be entertaining/cooking for the people who are putting me up for the night" who wouldn't immediately think of gold tassels and a choreographed pole routine?!!

From there the conversation deteriorated until the boys got into a pissing competition of likes. And it was rapidly getting out of hand (please, please get the subtle pun) until I stepped in and shut it down with the mother of all likes.

Who says that size doesn't matter?

Yes taper-madness is real. And it's kinda fun too.

But in all seriousness, I'm not remotely anxious about Sunday's race. I've done the runs. I've done the strength work. My body is feeling rested and recovered. And I've got a secret weapon that I'm going to use when it starts to really hurt. Let's be honest here - it is going to really hurt at some stage. I'm just hoping that it's later rather than sooner.

I'm going to share this secret weapon because I'm kind like that. (And I wanted material to fill out this post.) 

When it gets tough on Sunday I'm going to swear. Like a trooper. Cuss, curse, turn the air blue. Make my mother's hair curl without a perming solution. I'd suggest that if you're spectating with children to bring noise-cancelling headphones to protect their sensibilities. 

Not what you were probably expecting from a delicate little flower like me (who assumes that entertainment is nothing without a pole and pasties) but there's a reason. Of course there's a reason. I never do anything without a reason. And this article is the reason. Science is condoning my use of bad language. 

The first reason for swearing is pain relief - "Swearing activates the so-called 'fight or flight' response, leading to a surge of adrenaline and a corresponding analgesic effect. Richard Stephens of Keele University in England found that people who swear are able to hold their hands in ice-water for twice as long."

And the second is power and control - "Swearing can give us a greater sense of power and control over a bad situation. By swearing we show, if only to ourselves, that we are not passive victims but empowered to react and fight back. This can boost our confidence and self-esteem, and also provide the impetus for further corrective action to be taken."

Thank you World Wide Web for providing me with yet another answer to my dilemma-filled life.

I'll let you know next week if it works. Or if I was arrested. Either way I'll have an interesting post to write.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Six Days To Go

It's that time! Finally!! 

Less than a week to go and there's a reasonably high probability that the weather forecast will be close to not being totally wrong.

Checking it was the first thing I did this morning.

Well, not the first. The first would have been to check the clock and see that I could sleep in another hour. Then I made the bed. Went to the loo while patting three dogs simultaneously (winning at multi-tasking). Accepted the gift of a scraggly, chewed up and de-stuffed bunny. Ran the canine gauntlet into the kitchen without being knocked over (winning at early-morning agility testing). Unpacked the dishwasher. Made breakfast. Read emails while eating breakfast. Checked FaceBook. Realised that the mince that I'd left defrosting might potentially be filled with E Coli or Salmonella but I'm sure it'll be fine if I stick it in the fridge and thoroughly cook it. And then I checked the weather so it's just about the first thing I did.

And what I saw made me happy. All I ever ask for is a start temperature in the single digits and it looks like I'm going to get what I want. It's almost enough to make me say that I don't want any Christmas presents because I've already had mine. But I won't say that because I'll have forgotten about this early gift by the 25th of December. And I do like to see Iven sweat about what he's going to get me every year. The terror on his face when he heads to the shop - now that's the joy of Christmas!

We had our last 'long' run on Saturday. Followed by the obligatory photo shoot where someone (and I won't mention any names) forgot the dress code.

This is my band of brothers. My posse. The boys who've had my back on the long training runs for the last umpteen weeks. And I wanted to introduce them to you all. From the left there's Crackers, The Hollowman, Moi, Mr Beard of Awesomeness and the Mathemagician. They're good men to have in a crisis. Like encouraging you to get out of bed for a 37k run that you're really not keen on running. Or finding a key to a locked toilet. Or working out just how much further we have to run to our turnaround.

I've repaid their support by providing tissues for failed snot rockets and for bringing up the sartorial standards in the group.

They've all trained really hard and, if everything goes well on the day, should bring home some great results.

It was kind of weird not spending the rest of the weekend exhausted after the long run. I actually had energy and I didn't want to cry when I was faced by a flight of steps. I guess that means the taper is working. It also means that I had the energy to experiment in the kitchen. 

I learned an interesting fact in my experimentation. Warm caramel oozes. Therefore it's important to let the caramel set in the fridge before decorating the top.

Six days to go.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

I'm Just Quoting Shakespeare

One of my friends really gets me. 

Actually more than one of my friends really gets me - but for this story I'll stick with the first statement otherwise it'll get too messy.

Anyway, my lovely friend was over in Denmark visiting her son recently and brought me back a gift from Hamlet's castle. It was my most perfect gift. Ever! 

Firstly it's a mug. I do love my tea. 

And it's a big mug. A big mug means that you get to have a longer tea break during work. 

And it's covered in Shakespearean quotes. Which, to any observer, makes me look pretty smart. 

The best bit, though, is that all the Shakespearean quotes are actually insults. Boy, does my friend get me! She totally understands that some people just piss me off sometimes and a little colourful language just isn't satisfying enough to a person who loves words.

"Highly fed and lowly taught" just sounds better than "fat and stupid". And I can't wait to use "lump of foul deformity" to someone who's cut me off in traffic.

What do you mean I'm the 'veriest varlet that ever chewed with a tooth'? 

I'm slowly memorising the entire mug so I'll have a plethora of erudite invectives at my disposal.  
And if someone actually overhears me muttering an insult in their direction I can just say, hand on heart, with no trace of dishonesty, that I'm just quoting Shakespeare.

Ten days till race day. A tapering runner. Yeah, I reckon that mug is going to be put to good use very, very soon.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Saturdays Are For Running And Cake

Last long run on Saturday and I'm officially tapering.

It was another doozy. Almost three hours of running. Just over 32k. And the weather's starting to get warmer so there was a lot of sweat!

The run had started well but about 14k in there was a bit of an emergency. One of those 'never trust a fart' emergencies. One of the challenges of starting runs at 4:00am, besides the whole waking up at a time that starts with a 3 and the running on only a few hours sleep aspects, is the fact that a lot of Brisbane's public toilets are locked overnight. And we, the good people of Brisbane, are not expected to require the use of said facilities until the oh, so reasonable hour of 6 am.

It wasn't quite 6am. And it was no longer dark so the bush/tree/lush foliage option seemed less attractive than it normally does. Luckily one of our group knew of a nearby convenience. And when it was locked, hammered on the window of the local coffee shop to get the key. Okay, hammered might be an exaggeration but tapping politely doesn't convey the urgency I was feeling at that particular moment and therefore my extreme gratitude. Ian, I have to thank you from the bottom of my .... not heart - something geographically south of there.

That's what running friends will do for you.

They will also remind you why you ever thought running a second marathon in a year was a sensible decision. By organising a 'we've finished marathon training' epicurean event (also known as a sugar binge) to a bakery whose photos on Facebook we've all been slavering over. Running for three hours means never having to say you're sorry to the occasional sugary treat.

They look good, don't they?! I really tried hard but I just couldn't indulge for breakfast. I went with the eggs on toast option and after that there was no room for cake. Damn my small, pathetic stomach that has no staying power!

It was a really nice way to celebrate completing another big block of training. Hanging around, talking about running and dogs and events and food and Melbourne (where we'll be running the marathon in a couple of weeks) and New York (where some of the others will be running a marathon a few weeks after that).

I'm sure we looked like a bunch of hard-core athletes to all the other diners there. Tanned, lean, muscular, full of the joy of living life to its fullest - at least until the food hit our stomachs and the stupid, early start began to catch up to us. Someone yawned. Then someone else did. All of a sudden the party was winding up.

And the moment that we all got up and started to walk away from the bakery was when collective super-athlete image was shattered. There were low groans and there was hobbling. Not one of us (except for the one recovering from injury and the dog) could manage a walk that didn't look like it belonged in a nursing home.

For those who are wondering, I did eventually get my sugar hit. A little bit of cake decorating is what everyone does after a three hour run isn't it? And one cannot decorate cakes without a little sugar accidentally getting into one's mouth. And a little chocolate. Or a lot of chocolate if I'm going to be perfectly honest.

This is the first cake I've ever named. It's called 'Party - The Aftermath'

And that was how I spent my Saturday.