Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Racing With Friends

I had a revelation on Saturday night.

I was reclining on the chaise watching the Broncos flog the Bulldogs and counting up votes for which outfit I was going to wear in the following day's race when I realised that I had zero anxiety about racing. No little flutters when I thought of the race. Nothing at all. Racing has become a non-event. I have finally got to a point in my life that something that I choose to do, pay to do, love to do, doesn't fill me with so much stress that I'm taking prescription drugs and spewing into the toilet.

Hallelujah! I'm slightly less crazy than I used to be.

I was actually excited about the event. Not the running part necessarily because running hard hurts and if I like pain that makes me a masochist and masochists are crazy so that would have me sliding back up the crazy scale. Running hard makes me feel satisfied. Like I've achieved something. Which I have. I've achieved ignoring the voice in my head that says to stop because it's hurting.

The excitement was because I was getting to do the event with a car full of friends. Yeah, road trip!

It was an early start on Sunday. 4am alarm. Trawling the streets of Bardon to find the right number in the right street then picking up a couple of dodgy looking characters over in Highgate Hill. We got to C-Bus Stadium in Robina in plenty of time, made use of the facilities and then just hung out until the races started. I used the facilities twice because (a) I needed to, (b) there was no queuing, (c) I am and over achiever and (d) three babies. I would do this race again and again because of the toilets. Plenty of them! Real toilets - not portaloos!!  

The half marathon started at 6:30 and we waved Jess off. Then Ian and I contemplated a warm-up and while we were contemplating heard the call for the 10k runners to line up. Oops. Decision made for us. There were less than 600 in the race so we were close to the start line. A little waiting and then we were off.


Or kind of off. There were a fair few runners ahead of me who'd done a pretty ordinary job of working out where they should be in the pack. Slow, slow runners up near the front. But I was feeling pretty Zen about the race so I decided it wasn't a bad thing to not run too fast in the first kilometre, like I sometimes have a tendency to do, so I didn't mentally taser any of them. 

The first kilometre ticked over and then the hill loomed in front of us. I remembered the hill from last year when I did the half marathon. It's short and sharp so it was just a matter of sucking it up and sucking the big ones in then enjoying the downhill on the other side. And once that was over with it was a fairly flattish run to the 5k turnaround. 

I can't say it's a terribly scenic course. Kind of a pity to have a race down at the Gold Coast and not see any of the beaches. But then we wouldn't get those awesome toilets at the start so I guess that's the trade-off. There was nothing to distract me from the pain of running hard except the thoughts in my head and the other runners. There was one runner in particular that I'd noticed at the beginning. Hard to miss because he would have been at least 6'5" in a red singlet. He'd been just ahead of me in the first couple of kilometres then had pulled away but once I'd passed the 6k mark I could see him up ahead of me. And I was starting to close the gap.

Kilometre 7 came and the gap was getting really small but I had this vivid memory flash from last year. My memory's pretty crap these days so to remember something so vividly means that it was pretty significant. There was big pain ahead. In the form of three longish (for me) inclines and then the climb to the traffic lights. I just wanted to slow down. To save myself for what lay ahead. But I've mentally given up in races before and I hate the regret afterwards so I told myself to suck it up and keep putting in the effort. The hills would slow me down a little but it's effort that counts. 

The first bump wasn't too bad. Then the second bump came and I managed that okay. The third one bit hard and I was hurting when I hit the top. Then there wasn't the normal downhill to recover. It was flat until I reached the last hill. But at this point there was only 2k to go and, miraculously I'd passed my giant in red so all I had to do now was stay ahead and see what I had left.

Soon we were running through the 1k race. It was like I'd gone from running with giants to running with dwarfs. Time to keep my wits about me. Little people have no idea about running in a straight line so I tried to keep a wide berth. I found it a bit inspiring to see these future runners giving it their all and I loved the wisdom of the mother who told her daughter that if her brain told her that she couldn't do it then she wouldn't be able to but if her brain told her she could do it she would. I made my brain use that message all the way back to the finish. 

And then it was over. I stopped my watch. 48:12. Not too bad considering the hills. The work was done. Now it was time to kick back and relax. Wait for Jess to finish her half. Enjoy that post race euphoria and wait for the results.

I'm still confused about the time difference between my watch and the official time. But whatever. 

Nice to get the age group win but honestly the best part of the whole day was the time spent with my posse. Support, encouragement and laughing till your cheeks hurt.

When can we do it again?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Just Walking The Dog

The weekend was looking full of possibility on Friday. #1 son was visiting his fiancée at the coast. #2 son was off to Singapore for a long weekend. Iven and I were going to have the house to ourselves. Bliss!

And then Iven came home from work. With the flu. Real flu. He's a man - so it's real man flu. Not just a cold that miraculously is called flu because he's a man.

This was serious. Not the flu part. He'll probably be sick for the best part of a week and then be fine. And the fact that he collapsed in the hall on the way back from a toilet visit was most likely due to his normal hypotension on top of the virus. Nothing to get too alarmed over - even though being woken from a dead sleep at 4:00am by your husband collapsing in the hall is a little alarming at the time.

The serious part was that all my weekend plans dematerialise in a blink of an eye and I was looking down the barrel of having to take on Iven's hardest chore. Walking that black and white devil disguised as a cute dog.

Iven takes all three of the wolf pack for a daily walk. Well, almost daily. Sometimes life gets in the way and it just doesn't happen. Two out of the three of them are beautiful on the leash. They just trot along obediently and occasionally pull you up when they find something interesting to sniff.

Not the hellhound. He must have heard me mention that Dalmatians were originally bred to be carriage dogs and thought I meant that they pulled the carriage rather than ran alongside it. He's been in training to pull carriages ever since. Ricky gets a leash on and once he's out of the gate he's a dog on a mission.

I decided that I couldn't possibly take all three dogs on Saturday so Bubbles would have to stay home. She's like 115 in dog years so a restful evening was probably a nice change. I had just under my own weight of dog-power on the lead and we were taking no prisoners. I have never walked up hills that fast. Down hills were even more terrifying. Down hills with a scrub turkey in the distance were an unimaginable horror that I had to face. Twice.

There was swearing. Lots of swearing. Boatloads of scurvy sailors' worth of swearing. Out of fear. And anger. I made it home in one piece and swore (with a lot of the words I'd been using on the walk) that I'd never take that #### $!@$ dog for another walk in his lifetime - which I was hoping would be very short.

But then this happened.

He looked so cute and adorable that I forgave him. And tried to work out a better way to walk him. That didn't involve a taser - because I don't have one.

So I came up with a plan. I would take Ricky for a little run. Alone. Surely I could manage 25 kilos of stupid on a leash?

And the answer to that question was probably. If there had been no other dog-walkers out at the same time as me. But there were a lot of dog walkers out at the same time as me so the honest answer is really no. Ricky can see another dog at 200 paces and, being the sociable beast that he is, he wants a meet and greet asap.

Again it was a terrifying flight of potential disaster. And I do mean flight because my feet hardly touched the ground. My internal dialogue was mostly every swear word that I knew and a few I made up to suit the occasion. I can't even promise that my internal dialogue stayed internal. A few of the expletives may have slipped out under moments of extreme duress. 

But again, I survived. Only to get home and have to repeat the process with the two patient pooches who'd been waiting at home for their turn. Another four and a half kilometres but this time at a much more pleasant pace.

Today I'm sore all over. I'd guessed that my shoulders would be sore but I'm pleasantly surprised that my core got a work out too. Maybe I could market Ricky as the perfect all-over body workout and hire him out as a personal trainer.

I'm hoping Iven recovers quickly. Really, really quickly. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Why Do I Do It?

Some days I wonder why I do it to myself.

This running thing that I'm so obsessed with. Some days I'm just not feeling the love. Some days I'm tired and cranky and just so 53.

Most 53 year old women lounge around in bed until their hot flash alarm system gets them up. And most 53 year old women don't pretend they're Paula Radcliffe or Kara Goucher (or their slower half-sisters) and run speed sessions that have me wanting to go to bed for the rest of the day - except that I can't go back to bed because there's that pesky little thing called work.

This was kind of how I was feeling on Saturday morning in the short 5 minutes that I had between waking up and knowing that I had to get up to get to the run on time. I was tired. It had been one of those nights. Where I toss and turn and can't fall asleep but then realise that I have fallen asleep probably half an hour before the alarm is supposed to go off. I'd been stupidly tired the day before. For no good reason that I could think of. I'm just thinking it's a little gift that menopause is bestowing on me.

But the thing was that there were only a couple of us running and I didn't want to deprive anyone of my scintillating conversational skills that are at their peak at 5:00am when I've hardly slept. So I pulled on my big girl panties made of the funky rainbow zebra fabric and tried not to think about the two and a half hours of running that I was going to do.

In my head I allowed myself to pull the pin at any stage where I just wasn't feeling it. I could turn around early. It could be a 10k-er for all I cared. I could surely do 10k. Or if I warmed into it I could just do the first 20k and then call it quits. Craig only had a 20k on his program so I could stop when he did. Jess wouldn't mind running the last 30 or so minutes by herself.

But something happened on the run. That fatigue that I'd been feeling the day before just seemed to slip away. We ran, we talked, we listened, we watched the sun rise, we saw other runners and cyclists and walkers doing what we were doing and I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Running along the river with my people. Enjoying the best part of the day.

Running isn't just running. It's not just about getting fit or losing weight. Running is experiencing life. Breathing in the freshest morning air. Seeing those little things that can surprise and delight. It's sharing laughs and dreams and those things that are hurting you inside but hurt less when you get to share them with people who have sweat and strived and gasped alongside you kilometre after kilometre.

I finished the entire run on Saturday. All two and half hours. And it was probably the best two and a half hours of the week. Closely followed by the hour and a half tempo running on Wednesday morning and the hour recovery run on Friday and that hour on Tuesday that we were running 1k reps at South Bank. Not necessarily in that order.

Yes, they were all runs but the thing that made them so good was the people. My tribe. So now I think about it, I am not doing it to myself - we are doing it together. We may each have different goals but we're there supporting each other. Helping each other achieve them.

That's why I get up out of bed when I'm tired and it's dark and my bed's warm. And that's why I'll be doing it for as long as I possibly can.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Shock, Horror, Shame!

I had a blinding moment of horror on Saturday.

The day had started okay. 4:15am alarm. Two and a half hour run that I really wasn't into at the beginning but got past and ended up enjoying. Coffee and toast with the crew. Some grocery shopping. A normal, run-of-the-mill, unspectacular kind of Saturday.

And then it happened. The horrific part. When we were driving back home.

I'd stiffened up after the two and a half hour run and all the sitting at breakfast and in the car and I just thought I'd do a little bit of stretching while Iven chauffeured me home. So I had a fighting chance of getting out of the car at the other end - let alone get up the stairs.

I lifted my left leg onto my right knee and something caught my eye. I think it was the angle of the light as the sun came through the windscreen. Because at home in the dingy light, I'd never seen what I saw. A very long - and by very long I'm talking about a good inch - hair on the back of my thigh.

I assumed it was one of the dogs and tried to brush it off. But it didn't budge. So I grabbed it and pulled. Ouch! Nope, definitely not one of the dog's.

And then I inspected a little further. It was not the only one!!! And I will never get a job as a contortionist because that closer inspection was really, really tricky.

I changed sides and sure enough this cosmetic disaster was not confined to just my left leg. Shock, horror, shame!

Iven assured me that he'd never seen any long black hairs on the back of my legs. But he thinks I don't have any wrinkles. Or flabby bits. That's the beauty of being married to someone who's a little older. Their eyesight fades just as time is wreaking havoc on your body.

I spent the rest of the trip home plucking out the offending hairs. And the damned things are just like spiders. If you don't get a good grip on them when you pull they just shrivel up into tight little Shirley Temple ringlets. Nowhere near as impressive as they were. Not that I'm wanting anyone to be impressed with the pelt on the back of my legs.

So I feel I must take this opportunity to apologise to anyone who may have caught sight of this offence against humanity. I've plucked out the worst of them now. And I'll try to keep on top of things. Every Saturday on the way home from getting the groceries when the light is at just the right angle. At least until it gets cooler and I can finally wear capris again.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

What's In A Name?

When I was growing up my Mother told me that lying was wrong. Lying never leads to good. Lies are like scars to the soul. Liars never prosper. Or is that cheaters?

I'm not a very good liar. I don't do it very often so I'm not practised at it. If I do lie it's generally to do with business stuff - 'the fabric was out of stock' (I forgot to order it) - or keep the peace stuff - 'no of course I'm not upset that you left your washing on the floor.' Little, inconsequential lies that don't really hurt anyone.

The other day I got a reminder why lying is bad. And I didn't really even lie. Except by omission.

We were having our painting done and I introduced myself to our painter, Neil. His memory for names must be as good as mine because I became Chantelle instead of Charmaine. I felt bad about correcting him. Figured that it didn't matter because he'd paint the house and be gone. I could be Chantelle just for Neil. No harm, no foul.

No, it wasn't role-playing, Bob. Bob's one of my running friends who suggested I was enjoying my new persona with a warped sense of gratification. I may have created a whole personality profile for Chantelle including the private jet that whisks her away to exotic locations to run events. And the Swedish masseuse, Sven, who accompanies me on these running junkets. But that's only because I have a vivid imagination. Only yesterday I was parking next to an impeccably clean car (unlike my own) at the shopping centre and saw fingerprints on the dark tinted window of the back seat. Instead of assuming that the car was owned by a family with kids, I assumed that the car was owned by a psychopathic killer who'd abducted a teenage girl. See - vivid imagination.

I did Google Chantelle Donaldson just out of curiosity. Turns out that she's an academic at Auburn Montgomery University in Alabama. She's in the field of Communication and the Dramatic Arts. A far cry from Charmaine Donaldson from Miami whose criminal profile includes petty theft and failure to appear. Maybe a name change isn't such a bad idea.

Anyway Neil finished the painting on Wednesday. He came down to my workroom to say he was done. He also said that if there was anything he'd missed or if it needed touching up after we'd had the flooring laid that he'd come back. I took his phone number and he left.

When I finished work later on I went up to see the finished job and yes, there are some things that he's missed. Just a couple of spots have the wrong trim colour. And he's left behind a paintbrush. So now I'm left with a huge dilemma. How am I supposed to make the phone call? When I go to introduce myself do I use my real name (which he won't recognise) or do I continue to perpetrate the myth of Chantelle? It's such a tough decision for me that I've almost decided to paint the trims myself. With Neil's paintbrush. And I really hate painting.

Or I could just get Iven to make the call.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Exodus Has Started

My baby's left home.

I'm torn between crying and celebrating.

It's a bitter-sweet moment when your kid packs his bag and wishes you adieu. All the memories of my little Lukey came flooding back. The nights spent rocking him with his endless earaches. Trying to get the grease off him after he spent a couple of quiet hours trying to figure out how Daddy's bike worked. Listening to him giggle while he was reading his favourite Judy Blume Superfudge books. The frantic morning drives to try to get to the City Cat on time so he didn't have to catch the bus - because he didn't like riding the bus in the mornings. That time we took him out to dinner only to have him throw up all over the floor at the dessert place because he really didn't have any more room in his stomach. Ahhh - precious memories.

He and his girlfriend Becky took a 12 week trip to Europe last year and since they've come home it's been increasingly hard for them switching between her parents' and our places. They needed somewhere to call their own and they managed to find somewhere fairly quickly.

When your kid tells you that they're going to move out you start to hope that all the things you've tried to teach them over the years have clicked. That they'll be able to feed themselves - and I'm not talking about just buying takeaway. That they'll pay their bills on time. That if something unexpected or unusual happens they'll be able to cope. That you've done your job right and they'll be able to muddle their way through adulting just the way we did.

And they seemed to be doing great. Sorting out the lease. Organising electricity and internet. Buying a fridge and washing machine. Working out a budget.

They moved just a couple of days before we took our road trip to Port Macquarie and Saturday I finally got to see their place for the first time. Yeah - ten days after they'd moved out. And I'm trying to placate that voice in my head that's been telling me I'm a bad mother for leaving it so long by reminding it that I baked brownies for them to have a little piece of home in their new home.

It's a lovely unit. Not too small. Two bedrooms. A fairly new kitchen. Nice bathroom. A little patio to sit and watch the sun go down at the end of the day.

We got the grand tour and I checked it all out. Checked out the fridge to make sure it wasn't just filled with beer and wine - that there was at least some food. And there was. Checked out the walk-in wardrobe. More space there than my wardrobe. Checked out how much storage room they had by opening up the linen closet and found this ...

Enough toilet paper to deal with a Norovirus outbreak on 10 day cruise.

Yeah, they're going to do just fine.

And in other news, my friends organised to have a special run on Saturday in honour of my birthday. All the girls and one of the boys wore their Run Amok tights and photos were taken for promos. My favourite was the jumping one. It embodies the ethos of Run Amok. Fun, crazy and joyful.

But what you can't see here is what happened a split second later. Let's just say I didn't stick the landing. Could have been because my legs were tired from the 20k run we'd just finished. Or because these 53 year old legs don't have the stickability that their 10 year old version had. Or it might just be because I'm a klutz. Luckily nothing was hurt except my pride. At my age it could have been a broken hip and that would really have screwed my running plans for the year.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Port Macquarie Half Marathon (Or How I Spent My 53rd Birthday)

It seemed like a good idea to run a half marathon on my 53rd birthday when I decided to enter a few months ago. A gift to myself. A weekend away with Iven and Ian. And by March the weather should be cooler, right?

And then race week came and all of a sudden it didn't seem like such a good idea any more. Eight hours drive there. Summer temperatures and humidity. Busy, busy, busy with work. Feeling really sick on Thursday and Friday. Running a half marathon was a really crappy idea. A stupid, stupid decision. Who'd ever want to do something like that on their birthday??

My head was all over the place on the drive to Port Macquarie on Friday. I could just pull out and enjoy a weekend away. I could try to change events. Maybe do just the 10k. Or even the 5k. Or I could start the half and pull out if I wasn't feeling it. It was a 3 lap course so if I pulled out I wouldn't have to walk very far. Too many options. And I had to make a decision at some stage. So I did - I decided that I'd defer the decision till the next day when we went to pick up our race kits.

Saturday morning I was starting to feel more like myself. So when we went to pick up our bibs I'd decided that I'd give the half a go. DNS-ing was still on the table as was DNF-ing. Decision made and I'd live with it. At least my brain could stop arguing with itself over the best option. And I got to spend the day carb-loading - so there was that positive.

Sunday morning hadn't dawned before my alarm went off at 4:45am. The race started at 7:00 NSW time but I'd stubbornly refused to put my watch forward. Ian and I were both ready by 5:40 for the short walk to the start line. We got there with 10 minutes to spare and sussed out the competition.

The half had the smallest field. Not quite 250. It was a relaxed, friendly atmosphere in the starting area. People just milling around - no need to jostle for position. A brief word from the race director, that really wasn't brief and that no one could hear clearly apart from when he asked if we could hear, a hunt for the hooter and then we were off.

I made a couple of mistakes in this race and the first was not having a clear plan for pacing. Because I'd been so ambivalent about the event I'd decided to wing it. Definitely not a great plan in a longer race. Running how I felt meant that I took it out a bit hard. 4:49 for my first k. 4:48 for the second and 4:46 for the third. I could keep that up for 18 more kilometres couldn't I? My competitive brain said yes and stop thinking so much. My rational brain said slow down - it's hot and a couple of days ago you weren't well so don't be too ambitious. My rational brain won that little debate and my pace slowed. But only marginally - 4:51, 4:51,4:51, 4:55. First lap was done. Only two to go.

At the start line I'd guessed at who I was racing. And one of those ladies had passed me in the first lap. Second lap I started to reel her in a bit. And by the first turn around on that lap I'd passed her. I hadn't seen any other elderly female runners up ahead so I guessed that I might be #1 in my category. All I had to do was hold on for another 11k. Ughh! It was getting hotter by the minute and there wasn't much shade on the course. Had a couple of snakes for fuel - but had them a couple of kilometres late and got left with sticky hands. Used my next water stop water to wash my hands and only had a little sip left to hydrate. Silly, silly silly. Stop thinking. Keep running. 4:51, 4:58, 4:58, 4:53, 4:53, 4:58, 5:07.

Second lap done and so was I. It was hot. It hurt. I wasn't having fun. And I didn't even have any music in my head. I think it was being drowned out with all the negative chatter happening up there. 2k up to the turnaround - 5:06, 5:07. Still ahead of my nemesis. 2k back down to the starting area - 5:05, 5:18. Only three k to go but that three k seemed like an awfully long way. The naysayers in my head kept telling me to walk. And I told myself that I could but only if my nemesis passed me. But until then I had to keep running. 5:08.

Just two kilometres. Anyone can run two kilometres. I can run two kilometres. Except that I don't really want to. The water stop was coming up and I did something that I haven't done in a very long time. I stopped. And walked. And drank an entire cup of water. It tasted sooooo good. That's when I realised that I was probably really dehydrated and those goosebumps I'd had a couple of times in the last few kilometres might not just be because of the sea breeze. I ran to the turnaround and then walked through the water stop again. 5:40. Who cares. It's my birthday and I'm 53 and if I want to walk through a water stop twice then I'm going to.

The last kilometre was spent reassuring myself that it wasn't failure to have walked just a little. I needed to redefine my idea of success. Running a half marathon at 53 is success. Running it without pooping or wetting yourself at 53 - incredible success. Without vomiting - success beyond my wildest dreams. Hell, getting out of bed some days is success. So walking a little bit is no big deal.

That last k went by quicker. 5:05. And all of a sudden I was able to see the finish arch. I made a final surge to the line and stopped my watch. 1:45:31.

My time wasn't even that bad - considering that I'd walked a little.

Ian had also run a great time 1:38:something. He'd died a little in the back end and we decided that it was the heat.

Iven had also run. A 5k. And a PB. Go Ive!!

A pretty successful day out. And success like that needs to be celebrated. With ice cream. For breakfast. My birthday, my rules, don't judge.

I found out on the long eight hour drive home that it really had been a pretty successful day. I'd won my age group. And, for the first time ever, I'll be getting prize money. $65 which, after the entry fee is taken out, will leave me with $5. Not enough to give up my day job but I'm not complaining.