Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Cautionary Tale to Anyone Contemplating Buying a Dog

I beat my alarm on Tuesday morning. By just a minute. I'd had my full allotment of sleep without the confused terror of an alarm wake-up. Winning! I just knew that it was going to be a good day.

Tuesday's one of my favourite days of the week. I've said it before and it still holds true. Yes, it's speed session and speed session holds a special kind of hurt but it's one of those sessions that challenges me and I always end up feeling immensely satisfied at the end for putting in a solid effort of hard running. Plus I have breakfast with a friend afterwards where we can talk about running to our hearts content without anyone's eyes rolling back in their heads.

So it was with a sense of anticipation that I got out of bed. I walked into the kitchen, turned on the light and peered through the darkness in the lounge room to get the sleepy morning greetings from the wolf pack when I noticed that something was wrong. A waft of something foul assaulted my delicate nostrils. And was it? Yes it was! Three dark patches on the carpet.

I flicked the light on. Ughhh! Someone had a sick tummy. A really sick tummy. A 'how in hell am I going to clean this slop off the carpet' sick tummy. And how was I going to get it done in the tight time frame before having to leave for speed.

I have to confess that I did momentarily think of leaving it for Iven to clean up. But there are rules in our house. Whoever finds it has to clean it. And because I made up the rule, I really am obliged to keep it. So I set about it. Wads of tissues in hand. Bucket of disinfectant and rags by my side. Eternally grateful that it was our bin pick-up day so that vile, disgusting plastic bag wouldn't be in there for more than a few hours.

I got it all done and was out the door on time. Which did make me wonder why I give myself so much time to get ready normally. I'm clearly capable of getting ready in less than ten minutes, having achieved that benchmark twice in the last week.

The session went well. Breakfast was nice and then it was back home to see if any more liquid brown joy awaited me. I peered into the lounge room with a little fear and trepidation. Phew! Nothing - except the lingering odour of what had gone before. So I decided to open up the glass doors and air the room. And that's when I found it. Ground zero. The plug that had been trying to hold back the tide. Luckily solid enough to just pick up (with a tissue not my hand - I'm not that gross!) and throw into the toilet.

But this was a gift that just kept giving. I flushed the toilet only to have it block. That parcel, so lovingly given a burial at sea, was threatening a resurrection. I grabbed the toilet brush and frantically jabbed and poked it into submission.

Note to self - buy a new toilet brush today!

This tale ends well. The toilet did eventually flush. Iven woke up before me the next day and got his fair share of cleaning duties - a good marriage is all about sharing. Ricky (yes, he was the culprit but who can be mad at a puppy who smiles at you and wags his tail pathetically because he's happy to see you even if he's feeling really sick) is now feeling much better.

Our carpet, however, will never be the same.

Ah the joys of dog-ownership!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

My Week - Could Have Been Better But It Could Have Been Worse

There is quite possibly nothing that gets your blood pumping and your body galvanised into action as waking up to find that you were supposed to have started your long run five minutes ago.

I'm speaking with the voice of experience here. Very recent, very bitter experience. I'd spent Thursday rallying a small posse to join me at 4:00am to get 4k done before meeting a few more people at 4:30. Yes, some of my friends are just as crazy as I am. Friday morning I set my alarm for 3:25am and it was still on when I woke up at 3:05 and told myself that I could doze for 20 more minutes. But at 4:05 when I woke again it was off.

What the??

No time to ponder the who, what, when, where and why of the situation though. If I was going to get to the 4:30 start I was going to have to move my butt. It's amazing how quickly one can move when one has incentive. And my incentive was to get 28 out of my 32k done with company. I made it with minutes to spare.

I still have no idea how my alarm got turned off except that I would have to have done it myself. I'm guessing I was in the middle of a dream and the alarm became part of the dream. Maybe a door bell went or a phone. Either way I dealt with it without gaining consciousness. Hmmm - I wonder if I could incorporate this new-found skill into my working day.

And really, that event was indicative of my week. Could have been better but could have been worse.

On the could have been better side there were a few missed runs. I was feeling tired and unwell but wasn't actually sick sick. No fevers, sore throat, vomiting or diarrhoea. Just not 100%. So I missed the previous Saturday's long run. And then I missed Tuesday's run. And Friday it was raining so I went back to bed instead of pulling on running shoes. Not a stellar running week. But in saying that I did notch up almost 50k in two runs and completed my strength session at Body track to rave reviews. About my tights again. Definitely could have been better but could have been much, much worse.

I could have done better at work. I spent all week trying to work out how to steal time away from it so I could do what I really wanted to do - bake! Did I need to bake? No. There was a large lemon cake in the fridge, scones in the freezer and a couple of brownies left in a cake container. But I had a desperate urge to bake brought on by a picture posted three times on Facebook.

Whoever came up with this beauty must have been having the mother of all chocolate cravings. I too enjoy the occasional piece of chocolate and saw the potential to sneak a piece or two from the many opened packets that this cake would require. It was a match made in heaven - except for the part about actually having to work for money to buy the ingredients and the many, many packets of chocolate for decoration. 

By Friday I could resist no longer and just ignored the pile of posing trunks that needed to be cut out. And the clown costume that still has to be drafted. Four blissful hours later I had this in my fridge.

And this one too.  

And I didn't eat any of the chocolates while I was making it. Major win for self-discipline there. But two days later half of the chocolates on the cake board have been picked off. Could have been better but it could have been worse.

Then we had a farewell lunch for #3 son and his girlfriend on Sunday before they head off to Europe for 12 weeks. Paris, England, Ireland, Wales, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Spain and Portugal. It's going to be epic!

I agonised over where to go for lunch. I wanted it to be an iconic Brisbane location. So I thought about Mt Coottha so they could overlook all of Brisbane while we ate. But discounted it because I really don't like the cafe up there. Then I thought of Southbank because it's where they used to walk through when Becky would walk down to the CityCat stop to meet Luke before school. And it was going to be Southbank until I was hit with a flash of inspiration. It had to be Park Rd in Milton so I could get a photo in front of the Eiffel Tower so they could practice for the real thing.

I know - I am a genius! The cafe we ended up at was okay. Not bad. Not brilliant. And Luke couldn't eat because he had food poisoning or a mild gastro virus. Could have been better but it could have been worse.

And finally I survived the final week of Iven's long service leave without killing anyone. That's two months total so far this year of having him in my way in the kitchen whenever I've wanted to do something important like bake a cake that we don't need. I actually think my excessive fatigue last week was because I have to walk around him all the time. But I guess that's increasing my incidental exercise so I can justify eating the chocolates off the board of the cake. Could have been better (Like he could have taken holidays when I could take holidays too. Not that I'm bitter about that. Okay, maybe a little bit bitter) but it could have been worse. Can't think how at the moment but I'm sure I will eventually.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Kind Of Public Apology - Sort Of

It was a fight that we had to have.

It had been brewing for two weeks. Well actually there'd been a mini-version of it two weeks beforehand when I found out by sheer accident that #1 husband was going away to visit his mother for ten days.

Can I just say at this point that I'm not a heinous witch who doesn't allow her husband to visit his 94 year old mother? I actively encourage it. I know that every visit at this stage of her life could be the last. Plus I get the house to myself - and whichever kids and girlfriends and dogs happen to be there too and there were the full contingent so I didn't have anything to myself except the remote control.

My annoyance was that he hadn't told me he was going to be away for so long. Usually he can only stand it down there for three days. Four max. So ten days came at me from left field.

Ten days meant having to wake up early on my non-running sleep in days to let the wolf pack out because they've been trained by my dearly beloved that 4:00am is an acceptable wake-up time. Ten days meant putting the bins out - twice! Ten days meant trying to fit in a daily walk with the wolf pack on top of everything else that I'm trying to do. Ten days was clearly not satisfactory particularly with such little notice that I barely would have time to wrap my head around it before having to pretend to be bereft as he drove up the street.

He swore that he'd told me. I swore that he didn't and that that conversation had only happened in his head. And because I'm 10 years younger (much further from senility) and I run and produce new brain cells at a prodigious rate as evidenced by my ability to remember an entire shopping list without prompts, then I was clearly right.

The ten days passed way too quickly in my opinion. I hadn't finished the second season of Great British Bake-Off before it was time for Iven to return home. Yes, I was tired from those early morning starts on my rest days but the wolf pack and I had reached an agreement that if I got up at 4:00 to let them out to wee then they'd leave me in peace to get a couple more hours of sleep. And they weren't even complaining about lack of walks which were banned after they'd dragged me across the oval after a black poodle and only my diligence in attending speed sessions had kept me from face planting. We'd compromised on indoor fun - like baking.

He arrived home late afternoon and I did the solicitous wife thing - shut down shop and went upstairs to spend quality time. Over a cup of tea (get your minds out of the gutter). I bombarded him with questions. How was his Mum? Good. How was his sister? Good. How was the drive? Good. And then proceeded to tell him what had happened in his absence. I was right in the middle of an important story - not sure what story it was but it had to have been important coming from his wife that he'd barely spoken to in the best part of a fortnight - when I noticed that he was no longer listening. I'd made the rookie's error of leaving the newspaper out on the table we were sitting at. So we had that interchange that happens in every household.

'You're not listening to me.'

'Yes I am'

'Well what was the last thing I said?'

No more needs to be said other than he failed the recitation test big time and now knows that the newspaper must be out of sight and the television must be off next time we're having a deep and meaningful.

I was relating this to my running companion, who just happens to be male, a few days later as a cautionary tale. To enlighten him about the mysterious ways of women - which we ourselves are often at a loss to understand. And it was I who came away from the conversation enlightened.

'Do you know how hard it is to be a man? You ask questions like how does this look and want an opinion and we have to go through all the answer options in our heads and hopefully pick the right one. It never is!' (Disclaimer - this is not word-for-word because I can't remember verbatim and would have clearly failed my own 'what was the last thing I said' challenge. But the gist is there.) I also was informed that women worry too much about the small stuff and we talk. A lot.

I walked away from the run with a lot better understanding of the tightrope that men have to walk daily. And that sometimes I'm a little less than reasonable. And by that I mean that Iven will be damned no matter what he does if I'm feeling hormonal enough.

So I guess I'm sorry for tearing up the newspaper.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What Doesn't Kill You

It seems like my life is back to a very strict routine of sleep, eat, run, recover, work, repeat.
Once the weekly mileage gets up to the 70k mark I find that I don't have the energy for anything much more than this. And yet for this marathon cycle I have added more. Because I am a masochist. And because #1 son has sworn to me on his life that the more that I'm doing will reduce the risk of my knee crapping out on me in Melbourne.

This week's session at Bodytrack I unwisely scheduled on Tuesday. I say unwisely because Tuesday's speed day and speed is always a tough workout. This particular Tuesday was even tougher than usual. Probably because Coach Chris could sense that I had a strength session on later and he is a sadist. It was a hellish 9 km of running loops around a steep hilly circuit. Even the recovery involved running up a hill which I mentioned to Coach Chris may actually take the recovery effect out of it but he wasn't having any of it. As I said - he's a sadist!

I finished the session knowing that my glutes had gotten a good workout but also knowing that there was more to come. 

I did what I could to recover in the little time I had. Ate, stretched, showered. collapsed on the bed with the wolf pack on top of me and then I geared up and headed off. And when I arrived I complained to everyone in earshot that I'd already run 11k that day. On hills. At speed. Hoping that whining would get me a slight reprieve. 

Dan, my EP, looked concerned. Possibly at my choice of wardrobe. Then offered a slight modification to my session. We would start with some glute-release stretches before he trashed them again.

Stretching at Bodytrack is pretty awesome because basically I don't have to do any of the work. I just lie there and get stretched. Heaven! The first stretch we did was a hamstring one. Dan was up on the swiss ball with my leg over his shoulder pushing towards me when something that would have been inappropriate in any other setting came out of his mouth.

'Are those tights new? They smell new.'

I am unaccustomed to anyone sniffing my clothing so it was hard to know how to react. I was momentarily grateful that the comment hadn't been 'Did you just fart? Smells like you had beans for dinner' or 'Did you even bother to shower after your run? Smells like you didn't'. And then I realised that Dan is a kindred spirit. I too sometimes let things fall out of my mouth without filtering them first. And I like that feature in others.

As it so happened they were new. I've been making up samples for a client and field-testing them to make sure they do what they're supposed to do. Of course I've opted for the loudest colours I could find. Makes me a little more visible when I'm running in the pre-dawn gloom. 

But back to the session. Dan was very good about me laughing at him and then got his own revenge through a variety of cruel and unusual squats, squats and more squats. With resistance, on a decline board, stepping up, balancing on a bosu ball (and I use the term balancing very loosely - it's intent rather than execution). He even threw in some upper body stuff because he couldn't stand the thought of leaving any of my muscle groups without pain.

Damn he's good! And by good I mean cruel but able to make me smile while I'm hurting.

And he picks on everything! Not one flaw in positioning or movement escapes his eagle eye. I thought I had a flat back before he took this photo and showed me how arched it actually was.

The visual made it easier to correct my form and voilĂ  - the back is flatter.

I left the session shattered but feeling satisfied that there is improvement and that I always get an A+ for plank position. 

Sometimes I wonder why I do this to myself. I'm 52 and training harder than I did when I was in my 20s. And then I realise that I CAN do it and why not while I still can. I still have goals and goals don't have age-limits.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Running Is Good For The Brain

All obsessed runners can sprout off lots of reasons as to why running is good for them. Ranging from weight control to mood enhancement to heart health to over-all well-being. A lot of this we know from personal experience but a lot we pick up from those running magazines that are our literature-of-choice.

In the last Runner's World I got sucked into just such an article and the little paragraph that stood out to me was that 'Running sparks the growth of fresh nerve cells and new blood vessels. This increases brain-tissue volume - which otherwise shrinks with age - helping to maintain brain function.' And last week I had a personal experience that proves that this is true.

I went to the grocery store without my shopping list on Thursday. I realised when I'd gotten into the car and I could have gone upstairs and run the three-dog gauntlet of welcome but that seemed like too much effort. To say nothing of the dog saliva playing havoc with my meticulous make-up. And if you believe I was actually wearing make-up you'd believe anything. Wanna buy a slightly used car? Only one owner who only used the car to drive to church on Sunday.

So I arrived at the supermarket naked - so to speak. With only the memories of the previous evening's list-making to steer me through the aisles with any purpose at all. And as I plodded slowly up and down the aisle - because Thursday is pension day and the shop is usually full of pensioners at that hour and pensioners don't move fast - I could visualise exactly what was on my list. I even picked up a few extras that I realised should have been on there. I walked out of the shop pretty happy with my performance but not entirely convinced that I'd bought everything.

When I got home I unpacked with my list nearby and I'm amazed to report that I missed nothing. I nailed shopping without a list at the age of 52!! And I'm pretty sure I owe it all to my obsessive running habit. And all those baby-fresh, new nerve cells.

The fact that I forgot the list in the first place - well that's beside the point.

And in other news - I'm back up to 70k for my weekly running total. And when I hit 70k I have this delusion that I can eat whatever I want. I swear that's sometimes why I enjoy training such long distances. Son Luke's girlfriend told be about this bakery that I 'really need to check out' and that's all it took for me to organise a little expedition with son #2 and son #3. In the interest of research, of course.

And yes, they did taste as good as they looked.

It was also birthday cake week here. My total for the week is four. All variations on the chocolate-strawberry theme. 

No blood was shed in the making of these chocolate decorations. Lesson well learned.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

My Bodytrack Experience

I've actually been doing what I said I'd do.

This might seem a strange statement for the decisive, pro-active amongst you but to the procrastinators it's significant. I will often say that I'll do something and somewhere along the way the impetus to actually get it done fizzles away. A bit like a sparkler on Guy Fawkes night - not that a lot of you will remember what Guy Fawkes night was. That was back in the day when it seemed like a good idea for fathers across Australia to put a match to explosives for the entertainment of their kids and the kids got to hold spitting flames in their hands while wearing highly-flammable nylon nighties. Seems a pity that our nanny-state government did away with it.

But I digress. Back to doing what I said I'd do. And my grand sweeping statement of change had to do with running my next marathon without ITB pain for over 21km. Yes, that pain made such an impact on me that I rang up Bodytrack the day after my marathon and booked in an appointment.

Bodytrack is where my exercise physiologist/physio son used to work before he left on an extended working holiday to Melbourne. I'd say he moved there (which is actually the truth) but I like to keep my delusion, that he's only gone for a little while, alive and well.

I managed to get a booking with Dan Harth who was a student doing prac work when Sam was there. And so far I've been very impressed.

Firstly Dan asked a few questions about my goals for the sessions. That was easy. Running without pain and reducing the risk of injury. Then he got me to walk. Just up and down and up and down.

I walk all wrong apparently. My feet turn out like a duck. My hips roll. My knees collapse inwards. My glutes do almost nothing. No wonder I've been getting a few niggling injuries. I'm probably lucky that I haven't had more.

The first session ended with him giving me a couple of interim exercises to do in the week till my next appointment when I'd get my full home program.

So I went back a week later after doing my exercises religiously and Dan was ready for me. He had a list of exercises that are designed to get my lazy glutes and core actually working. None of them were particularly hard. It's not like I have to squat with 100 kilos on my back. It's all about getting the right muscles working and the right patterns of movement.

I was sent home with a promise of an email with a link to my program which I can download to an app, TrackActive, on my phone. They didn't have this back when my son was working there and I can honestly say it's a fantastic tool to have access to. My program was there when I logged into it - the exercises, the sets, the reps. But the thing that's so good is that it comes with a series of photos for each exercise so if you've forgotten (which I generally do) you can get a quick reminder. And if that's not enough, there's also a video plus a paragraph with reminders of things that you should focus on during the exercise. Things like maintaining a neutral spine, drawing up your abdominals, contracting your glutes during the lift ...

The program times the session and at the end you have to rank your performance and leave a comment. I didn't realise that the comments were interactive. The other day after my mid-week long run I was doing the exercises and was getting hamstring cramps during the hold phase of the bridge so I mentioned it. The next day I got an email from Dan to say to place my foot closer to my buttocks and concentrate on using my glutes. Wow! I didn't have to wait till the next session and try to remember to let him know.

The following week it was all about the Clinic Program which is different to what I do at home because I get to use the equipment they have there. Again it didn't seem too arduous. That was until 3/4 of the way through the session when I had to get down onto the floor and I realised that my legs were like jelly.

So this is week four and I'm noticing things like my glutes being tired after a running session. In fact I'm noticing that my glutes and core are working during my everyday life - not just during exercise. And that I'm more aware of my posture. Things are changing and I'm pretty sure it's for the better.

So if you're a Brisbane local in need of rehab or strength and conditioning, I would heartily recommend Bodytrack. I'm really confident that I'll be toeing the line in Melbourne in better shape than I've ever been and without fear of another ITB flare-up.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Whining For Sympathy (or How I Cut Myself And Almost Died In An Unfortunate Cake-Decorating Incident)

I haven't shared this with too many people but I've been a bit injured.

Okay that might be an exaggeration. I've shared it with everyone who's been unlucky enough to be in earshot lately. But this injury really hurt. And I bled - a lot! I wouldn't be surprised if I'm anaemic. (Note to self - eat more red meat this week.) And you don't get sympathy for such a big boo-boo unless you let people know that you're injured.

I told my running friends as we were about to start our long run last week and the sympathy was overwhelming. It gushed right over me and made me feel all warm and fuzzy. 'You poor thing I don't know how you can even run with that injury.' Made me feel so loved and admired for my hard-cored-ness. But I did have just a little inkling that maybe, just maybe, there was a touch of sarcasm in that comment. That what the commenter was really wanting to say was 'Stop your whining - it's only a little cut on your thumb.' But only a heartless person who's so dried up inside that their nose does not drip when running in the cold would ever think of being sarcastic to a mortally wounded fellow-runner so I assumed that the sympathy was real.

But just to make sure that everyone knew how deep my cut was I thought I'd better post a picture of it on Facebook. Serious matters should always be aired on Facebook. Unfortunately the gaping flap of skin had glued itself down and what was supposed to be an impressive picture of gore was incredibly underwhelming. A bit like the enormous spider that you kill that shrivels up to pea-size before anyone can be astounded with your bravery. 

No one was overwhelmed.

So I have had to battle through this week with quite a disability and only a modicum of empathy. It's been hard to do anything. I managed to get out of washing up for a couple of days and that was kind of fun. But there was no getting out of working when there were deadlines. I kept getting pins and thread caught in it. But worst of all was writing. It was so hard to do my crossword every day. But I'm a trouper and soldiered on through the pain and each crossword was completed (or almost - some of the clues were ridiculous).

I bet you're all wondering exactly how I injured myself. It was one of those run-of-the-mill chocolate curling accidents. Who knew that creating chocolate cake-toppers would be fraught with such peril?!! I've spent a lot of last week Googling the mortality rates of chocolatiers but the stats seem so be pretty hard to find. 

I think I should stay away from sharp implements.