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.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Cautionary Tale For The Spouses Of Marathoners

I've been tired this week. Achingly, bone-weary tired. And cranky. Look-at-me-sideways-and-I'll-poke-your-eye-out-with-a-blunt-chopstick tired. And talking about chopsticks - I've been hungry too. Rungry.

I guess it's to be expected. I just ran my peak week of marathon training and marathon training is not for the light-hearted,

Special dispensation should be made for runners in and around peak week of marathon training. Especially by their spouses. We might glare at you for eating too loudly. We might threaten physical harm for eating the one and only thing in the full refrigerator that we were craving. We might go one step further and punch you on the arm for deciding to mow the lawn when we were trying to nap. We might be totally and unfairly unreasonable but in our exhausted brains be able to convince ourselves that our thinking is reasonable and fair and just.

I'm telling the following story as a cautionary tale to the uninitiated marathoner's spouse or the spouse who still hasn't understood the rules to living with a marathoner in heavy training.

A week and a half ago I went down to Sydney with #2 son leaving my very own marathoner's spouse home alone for 2 days. Before I asked, being a loving and caring wife, I asked him how he'd be filling his time. Apart from sitting on the couch naked, eating crackers and cheese and gherkins and watching the sci-fi channel. And he told me that he was planning on patching up the paint in the toilet.

Now our toilet is tiny. I painted it last time and it took me less than an hour. In the twenty years since it was done it's had one of the boys fall against the wall and crack the fibreboard which was patched and painted in a slightly different shade of blue. Then we replaced the old toilet that used to get blocked frequently with a shiny new one that only blocks occasionally. The new one had a different sized cistern so our toilet wall had a nice outline of the old one. It was sadly in need of a new paint job.

I suggested in not too whiney a voice that he might paint the whole thing rather than just patch it. He looked horrified. Not at the amount of time that it would take away from his naked, cracker, cheese and sci-fi fest but because he would have to choose the colour of the paint. Because he would get it wrong.

I assured him, in my marathon-addled-brain state that it couldn't go wrong if I gave him a fabric sample to colour-match fairly closely. So I found something that I liked the colour of and left it for him to take on his paint-shopping expedition. He couldn't possibly get it wrong, could he?

When I came back from Sydney exhausted but elated two days later I found out the answer to that question. First thing I did when I walked into the house was have to use the facilities and when I turned the light on I was flabbergasted. Where was the nice calming grey-blue that I'd chosen? Had I got it wrong and not realised that it was almost an aqua blue that clashed so badly with the adjoining bathroom and bedroom?

I got out the piece of fabric that I'd carefully chosen for him to match and it was nothing like it. So now I was left with a very hard choice to make. Be a kind and loving wife and ignore the ugly colour clash for the next twenty years till it's due for its next paint job? Or be the nasty bitch wife?

Because I was at my most vulnerable because of the demands of marathon training. Because all my resources were going to just getting from one run to the next because of marathon training. Because I had no energy left to squash down what I was really thinking because of marathon training I chose option number 2.

He didn't take it very well. At first. But when I admitted that I was being a bitch but that I was HIS bitch he softened a little and said it was the nicest thing I'd said to him in years. And I got my toilet repainted. But this time I chose the colour.

So the moral of the story is if your spouse is in the throes of marathon training and goes away for the weekend, do not decide to paint anything. But if you really can't resist the lure of the paintbrush, take the colour swatch along with you to the paint shop and don't try to remember the colour. But if you do choose the wrong colour, just be gracious when your marathon-crazed spouse has a hissy fit and repaint the damned toilet without complaint because really this is a fight you won't win without divorce proceedings.

And, for the love of God, DO NOT rearrange her wardrobe while she's away. Even if you think it works better that way. She will not thank you for it. But that's a story for another day.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Saturday's Run

I had to run my one and only 37k run for this marathon cycle last Saturday.

I missed my other two 37k-ers because of my hammy and a badly timed race so I needed to get this done. But come Friday night a little dread had set in. And by Saturday, when my alarm went off (at 3:25) I was trying hard to remember why I profess to love running and who had brain-washed me into thinking another marathon was an awesome idea.

Yes, even die-hard runners have days when they'd rather not get out of bed. Sometimes the distance seems too daunting and the voice of doubt too loud. 37 kilometres is a really long way. It's well over three hours of running. Well over three hours of sweating and having your feet hurt and having bits of elastic that are preventing things from bouncing around too much rub you raw. And that's where my head was when I started.

"37k!! I'm tired already and we haven't even finished the first k. I shouldn't be counting k's already. Should have brought enough money for a taxi."

"Good that's 2 done. Only 35 more to go. Would anyone notice if I cried just a little? Not a big ugly cry cause I couldn't run if I was crying that hard - just delicate little tears running in small rivulets down my face with no actual sobbing."

"What pace is this? Should we be going this fast? Why am I running with the fast boys again? Stupid! Stupid!! Stupid!!! You're going to regret this."

"It's so hard to have a Gaytime on your own. It's so hard to have a Gaytime on your own. It's so hard to have a Gaytime on your own. Bet the person who wrote that ad is regretting it now. Stupid ad. Maybe I should stop and buy ice cream on the way home"

"I think I need a toilet. Will they wait if I go? They have to wait cause I don't know the route and I'm directionally-challenged and I don't have a phone so I could be running around Brisbane lost for hours. Nah I don't need to go."

"Toilet's locked."

"Yep, definitely need to go to the toilet. Only have to get to Mowbray Park. Can I hold on for 3 more k's? Oh well, there's always trees and it's still pretty dark."

"I hate hills, I hate hills, I hate hills."

"Yay, the toilet's unlocked. It's the little things ..."

"10k done only 27k to go."

"Feeling better now. Maybe I just needed to warm up. 10k is a long warm up. How fast are we going? I was only planning on 5:30s. Why am I running with the fast boys?"

"I hate hills, I hate hills. That's right I really hate this hill. You think you're at the top, you turn the corner and there's still more hill to go."

"I like downhills!"

"Damn, I thought we'd be stopping at that park. Keep running. Stop thinking."

""It's so much lighter now than when I ran this route last. Summer's coming. I hate Summer! At least I'll be finished marathon training before it gets too hot."

"I thought it was going to rain. Where's that rain I saw on the radar? I wouldn't have worn this stupid cap if it wasn't going to rain. I hate caps. I hate hills, I hate hills, I hate hills!"

"Where's that water stop? Oh up there where that man's having a drink. Hey it's Nige!"

"I hate hills, I hate hills, I hate hills!"

"Longest downhill ever. I love downhills. I love gravity. I love running fast. Oww my toenails are hitting the front of my shoes. I hope I don't get another black one. Not before the marathon. I hate downhills!"

"Active wear, active wear, buying active wear in my active wear. Where's that Lorna Jane factory?"

" Lift up your feet. Lift up your feet. Don't trip over the roots. This is like trail running. I don't like trail running. I like the idea of trail running but I don't actually like trail running. Where's the footpath start again?"

"Finally, some nice scenery. Love running along the river. Ooh there's a runner up there. I think we can take her. I like her top. Nice colour! I wonder where she got it from. Nope, don't like the straps. I knew we'd pass her."

"How come she's passing back? It's not a race lady!! We've already run 26k. You've probably only just started."

"Nearly down to single digits. Yay!! I think I'm going to make it. Hey isn't this near Chester Street Bakery? I could really go for one of their cakes about now. Except that I've only got $5 on me. Wonder if Ian has any money. I'm sure he wouldn't mind a slice of cake. We could split the cost."

"So tired! My feet hurt. My calves hurt. My shoulders hurt. My neck hurts. My head hurts. Of course it hurts. You're training for a marathon stupid! It's supposed to hurt. Just surrender to the pain. Accept that it's a part of the process."

"I hate pain. I hate pain, I hate pain."

"I know where we are now. Finally! Yep, you boys can run as fast as you like. Don't care any more because I can't possibly get lost. Wish we didn't have to go over the bridges again. Bridges are hills. I hate hills."

"Nearly there. Wish I could stop. Nearly there. Wish I could stop. Nearly there. Wish I could stop."

"Last bridge. Last hill. Only 2k to go. I'm not getting off the couch all afternoon."

"And we're done. 37k finished! Great run boys!!"

PS - I didn't leave the couch for the rest of the day. Apart from getting up to go to bed and having a real sleep. And getting up to get food. And liquids. Yeah, it was a great run.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Banishing Demons

I was really happy with how I ran on Sunday. Really, really happy. But the run wasn't what I was happiest about over the weekend.

I've talked in the past about my anxiety before races. And when I've had to fly. It's stopped me from doing a lot of stuff. I haven't gotten on planes at the last minute. I've missed out on weekends away. I've spent days with a big lump in my stomach not being able to eat properly because it's hard to swallow with that big lump in your stomach. I've had to be medicated to travel. And to stand on the start line of races. In fact my entire trip to Canberra for the half marathon last year was only done with the help of little white pills.

Not something I'm proud of. But not something I've ever hidden because I know I'm not alone in this.

Most of the time I'm fully functional but just certain situations bring out the fear. And it can be debilitating. Try running a marathon or half marathon on nearly no food. And I'm not just talking about the day before. The lack of eating can happen for almost a week in anticipation. Great for weight control but hopeless for a good race.

Last year I had to accompany someone close to me to a psychologist and in our visits the psychologist picked up on my tendency to anxiety. He claimed that he could help so I set up a couple of appointments with him to see if I could get my imaginary monsters under control. We did some work on motivations, gaining perspective and self talk. It was an interesting process but I wasn't sure that it had really helped. I couldn't be until I put it to the test.

And I've put it to the test in race situations quite a few times this year. And every single time I've been able to draw on what I learnt to banish my demons. I can honestly say that I've stood on each start line relaxed. Calm. At peace.

It's been awesome.

I've come to embrace the joys of carb loading. Something I couldn't face before. For this long-time calorie watcher, having to stuff yourself is a real pleasure. I can talk about the race before hand without wanting to rush to the toilet and vomit. I can be like all the other runners who line up and enjoy the day.
Yay - I can eat before I race!

But last weekend's event was a whole different scenario. It was the first time that I had to get on a plane. And I wasn't really sure how my new-found powers were going to hold up.

I'll admit to a couple of mornings where I woke up thinking about the flight. But I was able to manage those thoughts without them escalating. And any time I could that little pinch of anxiety I could talk it away. Not out loud - cause that would make me look like a crazy lady!

What will stay with me longer than the feelings of satisfaction from a race run well, is the feeling I got when my son said "You're usually worried when you fly" after he'd noticed how relaxed I was.

Those sessions that I had have given me a whole new joy in life. Being able to do what you want to do without your head getting in the way is real freedom!

So I guess this post is really to encourage anyone who's had similar issues. A good psychologist can really help in managing those little foibles that make life harder. You don't even have to be as crazy as me to go.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sydney Half Marathon - Remembering Why I Love To Race

Standing at the starting line of the Sydney Half marathon yesterday I wanted to be anywhere else. I was tired. Dog-tired. Roll-me-into-bed-and-let-me-sleep-for-a-week tired. It'd been a hard week leading up to the race and the timing really couldn't have been worse.

But I was there. With my running clothes. And a race bib. So I guess I was committed. Except for in my head. I told myself that I could take it easy. Just do it like a training run. To be kind to myself. All I had to do was finish and if I finished under 1:50 I'd be happy.

It had seemed like such a good idea a couple of months ago when Josh had said he was going to do it and I'd decided to tag along. A fun weekend in Sydney. A little scenic sight-seeing tour on foot and lots of justification to eat.

Josh hadn't really trained for 21 kilometres but he wasn't unfit. Four indoor soccer matches, a 90 minute outdoor match and a mountain bike ride every week gave him a good base level but he wasn't sure if he'd last the distance.

We'd done this race together in 2011 and he'd done a little training for it then. And he'd flogged me. 1:43 on his debut. But he'd also done it in 2014 on even less training and he'd had to walk some. I'd been ribbing him all day before that he was going to be beaten by his mother but standing there before the start I really didn't care. All I wanted was for it to all be over.

The gun went off and we were running. And it felt hard. Really hard. My head was in such a negative place. I was dreading the later kilometres already. It's not good when you're anticipating kilometre 15 when you're only in the first one.

I had to give myself a stern little talking to. I told myself to relax. Don't try to push. That it'd feel easier when I'd warmed up. To listen to my music and take in the sights.

And the sights really were spectacular. Running along the Sydney Harbour Bridge. A beautiful crisp morning. Some blue skies even though we'd been promised rain. I would have been loving it is only I wasn't so tired.

I can honestly say that I hated every step of the first two kilometres. But somewhere in the third I started to feel a bit better. My guess is that it was because we'd stopped climbing and were getting a rest on a downhill. My splits dropped from 5:10s to 4:52 then 4:43 and all of a sudden I could see reward for effort and some of the negativity vanished. Not all, mind you. I knew it was a hilly course so I had no idea what toll those hills would have in the later stages. For now, though I just had to run each kilometre on its merits.

We ran through a tunnel on kilometre 5 and my satellite dropped out and from then on my watch beeped well after each of the kilometre markers. It told me I'd done a 5:15 for that kilometre but I knew it hadn't been that slow. Kilometre 6 was bang on 5:00. 7 and 6 were back in the 4's and we were running through one of the prettiest parts of the run - Mrs Macquarie's Chair - and I was kind of enjoying myself.

I hadn't seen Josh since somewhere in the first kilometre. He'd taken off and looked like he was running so easily. I'd given up on reclaiming the family Sydney winner's mantle. And it kind of annoyed me that he could run so fast without all the training that I was doing. But I was kind of proud cause he's my boy. I kept my eye out on the turn-arounds to spot a tall, extremely good-looking man (of course I'm not biased at all) wearing the official race singlet. It proved a good distraction. There were lots of runners wearing it so I'd pick out a likely candidate in front of me and try to get closer to see better. 

At around 10 or 11k I finally spotted him a little way ahead. Still running well and looking pretty comfortable. I slowly ran him down then patted him on the back and told him he was doing well as I ran past. And that's when my competitive spirit really kicked in. Once you run past a rival, no matter how friendly that rival is, you don't want to be passed back.

I won't bore you all with the splits but they were a bit all over the place. I'd have a couple of great kilometres then we'd hit another hill and I'd be back over 5 minute pace again. And the fact that my watch wasn't beeping at the markers didn't really give me any idea of what time I'd finish in. My fastest k was 4:39 and the slowest was 5:27. That one was up a long slow climb which almost broke my will to live. But I knew that after the turn-around (our last) there was a long downhill and I was really looking forward to that.

That 5:27 made me wonder whether Josh would be passing me back at any moment. He'd looked like he was running within himself when I'd passed him and I didn't doubt that he'd inherited my competitive spirit. So once I'd recovered from that effort I was back to pushing hard. 4:49, 4:51, 4:54. 

Running under the Sydney Harbour Bridge I could see the Opera House finally. It was still two kilometres away but I knew I had enough to push for home. 4:51. Almost there. Up a ramp, around a corner and there was the finishing line just ahead. I stopped my watch at 1:43:38. 20.95 kilometres - I'd lost probably 200m in the tunnel.

There's a special kind of happiness that comes with running better than you'd thought you could. I would have been happy with anything under 1:50. 

I stood around for a little while to see if I could see Josh cross the line then decided to go to our meeting point and as I walked I checked my phone. He'd texted to say that he'd finished and while I was messaging back I saw him. With a new friend who he'd run with for the last few kilometres. 

We met back up with friends and swapped war stories then it was back to our room for a shower, to pack and check out. 

And then it was time to refuel.

There are lots of reasons why I love to race.