Thursday, November 30, 2006

Can't Argue with the Universe

Oh my God, the following message just popped into my inbox from the Universe:

You're going to miss the slow times and quiet days, Pip.
Your anonymity, stealth, and small circle of friends.
Plodding along at your own pace, working in spurts,
and wondering where your next break will come from.
Even your uncertainties, doubts, and fears will be missed.

It just works like that once massive dreams start coming true.

You'll manage just fine -
The Universe

Thoughts become things... choose the good ones! ®
© ®

Oh, there can still be slow times, quiet days, and all the rest,
Pip, but you might have to buy a wig.

The walls have words

Ok, this one already felt like cheating, given that I've been writing about 'home' all year. We've been told several stories about the previous inhabitants of our villa, but I've never felt like the house itself has ever given up any of its secrets. Without our neighbours this house would have no history, hence my sense of it being 'pure'.

If These Walls Could Talk

If these walls could talk
I would know about
the butcher who
built this cottage
two years before the war.
They would speak
of the old woman who
hated Presbyterians and
who died bitter and
alone other than the
company of her
idle son.
They would tell me
who it was that stashed
empty beer cans and
bottles at the bottom
of the garden,
who left nails sticking out
all around the house.
They would talk about
the whale skeleton that
once hung in the hallway,
the back door that was
once the front.
They would remember fondly
the English woman who
installed central heating,
a new kitchen, breathed
life into aging crossbeams.They would tell us
who it was that cleansed
this place so that
when we walked in
there was nothing to
trouble us,
only the welcome
of clear air and
a sense of home.

More writers with their ears pressed up against walls here.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Lola, la la la la Lola, la la la la Lola....

So I lied when I said I wasn't going to blog about the fitness stuff quite so much. I'm sorry, no, actually, I'm not sorry at all. I'm going to yell and scream about tonight's Women's Multis session, because I'm just so damn proud of myself.

A few years ago I got into RPM at Les Mills in a major way, and got it into my head to buy a road bike. I went to a niche store that catered mostly for hardcore roadies and got talked into buying a rather nice bike with several bells and whistles. At the time I hadn't actually ridden for over ten years, but I didn't want to admit to that fact and as part of the deal was sold clipless SPD pedals.

The inevitable happened. Put together an anxious woman with little confidence in her physical dexterity, an unfamiliar bike and the daunting prospect of clipping in and out of a set of pedals, and you get Pip taking her bike out a couple of times, crashing out, bruising herself up badly, getting terribly overwraught about the whole thing, putting the bike away and trying to deny its existence.

Not long after Addisons came along, and in the recovery process I focused my attention elsewhere. My poor, sexy roadbike got left in the study gathering dust, but I never quite forgot her.

Thankfully Leonie got me into duathlon training, which got the bike back out of the study, and Duck provided me with a pair of ordinary pedals, which got me back on the bike. That took me up to April, which was when the duathlon took place. After that the pedals went back to Duck and the SPDs went back on. I got caught up in training for a half marathon and the poor roadbike gathered dust again in the study. But I didn't forget her, oh no. And I spent the winter using my shoes in RPM, getting used to clipping and unclipping and aquainting myself with roadie culture.

Over the last few weeks I should have been carting poor Lola (because she's red and she goes fast, like the main actress in Run Lola Run) up our 46 steps and practicing using my pedals. So what was I doing? Procrastinating. RPM classes, running, swimming, anything to avoid having to actually deal with my nemesis (hey, this is a Sunday Scribblings post after all). Poor Lola, she didn't deserve the neglect. I've treated her appallingly.

However today I could procrastinate no longer. Lola and I walked to the gym to meet up with the Women's Multis squad. What I didn't realise was that we were meeting at Freyberg, not at the gym. If I didn't bike at least part of the way we were going to be seriously late.

There was no way I was going to try the SPDs for the first time on busy Taranaki St, so three of us walked our bikes out to Te Papa. No Duck, no Ingrid, no support system. It was time to confront the demons, time to be strong, time to just bloody well get over it and do it. I clipped my left foot in, boosted myself up onto the bike seat, and before I knew it I'd clipped the right foot in and was cruising down Oriental Parade.

This is a happy story. I unclipped at Freyberg, allowing myself a small victory cry. First stage of the mission accomplished I clipped in again and we cycled to Evans Bay, unclipped, and ran a couple of kilometers. From there it was back on the bike and a case of putting the pedal down and going for it. On the return leg I overtook all of the girls except for the one other woman on a road bike. However I wasn't that far behind her. We had a horrific headwind on the return leg, but I ground through.

So, yay me. The SPD nemesis is well and truly conquered and Lola and I are back in a committed relationship.

I've been typing this while Hamish and his father talk digital cameras beside me. I'm being terribly rude and I need to rap this up to go jump in the shower and crash. While the alcohol we consumed over dinner at Hope Bros is still coursing through my brains I'm going to record this. Life is good. I am amazed at what I can do, and what I am able to do for others. Gratitude and Joy. These are the words that resonate for me right now.

Lola, la la la la Lola....

Monday, November 27, 2006

Strong Hearts

It's been too long since any quality posting. No Poetry Thursday, no Sunday Scribblings. I've been carried away by the king tide that is my life at the moment. I haven't been writer's blocked so much as writer's flat-tyred. The wish to write has been there, but the mind-space hasn't. The energy I usually send in that direction has been seeping away.

Right now I'm trying to run, cycle, swim, volunteer at the Sanctuary, maintain a social life, write, spend some time with Hamish and continue to perform at work. Let's not even mention the total lack of housework or gardening. I'm stretching myself thin and not giving any one area the attention it really deserves, particularly the writing.

However when I take the time to read posts like Michelle's on her nemesis marathon run, or search for Wellington poetry readings, I realise that my muse is still there, surviving independently of my main flow of attention. I just need to reprioritise my time a little!

So, one more gym-obsessed post before I start focussing a little more again on the creative mission that this blog was originally designed to carry me on. I made a commitment to provide distraction from a friend wrestling with their own exercise-goal induced nemesis, so here goes! The Strongheart 24 hour fundraiser...

Let me preface this by saying that for a long time I wasn't terribly socially assertive. I was never the leader in any social group, tended to keep only a small handful of friends close to me, and found it difficult to put myself out there. Organising the Jog Squad team for Strongheart was something that I was happy to volunteer for, but that I found more than a little stressful.

On Friday night, after a barbeque for Sanctuary volunteers, a couple of glasses of wine, a cider and a great episode of Heroes I was feeling rather euphoric. I had a good team put together for the relay and my knee was holding up well. By 6.30am on Saturday morning however I had a severe case of nervous-runner's belly and anxiety-induced insomnia.

By 8.30am I was at Les Mills on Taranaki Street sticking yellow ducks and a Jog Squad "I thought you said this was going to be an easy flat run" sign to 'our' treadmill. We were one of five treadmill teams. The team to our right - "Dorks that Walk" looked to be easy competition. The team to our left - "the Black Eyes" were the clear winners before they even pressed the 'quickstart' button. Predominantly tall, strapping and athletic looking men, I was glad our little team of intermediate and beginner runners had never entered this for the glory of a podium finish!

In front of us were three exercycle teams. Cruising along at low RPMs while idly reading magazines, there were many times the Jog Squadders decided we'd chosen the wrong event to sign up for.

At the front of the room was a whiteboard, to be used for recording our distances. The rules were simple. A team member had to be on our treadmill at all times. Distance recordings were taken during scheduled ten minute breaks at 3pm, 9pm, 3am and 9am. We could choose whether to run or walk - we just had to keep moving.

9am rolled around and I kicked off the event for our team with a quick couple of kilometres on the treadmill. After that a succession of wonderful women swapped stints. I stressed about women not turning up, about everything going pear-shaped, about not being a good organiser. Wonderful Caro dealt with Angsty Pip and kept me motivated through those early self-doubting hours.

Looking back there were so many amazing moments over the next 24 hours. Apart from having a real chance to talk to Caro (who looked at our timetable, identified when we would need her, and came back later that night to fill in some valuable time in the schedule), I also got to meet Prue, who, despite claiming not to be a runner, clocked up the bulk of our kilometres by pounding away at impressive speeds for sustained periods of time. Prue came back in to fill the hours to 3am, for which I was incredibly grateful.

There was steadfast Harriet, who put off student reports to come back into the gym at 7am on Sunday morning, when we really needed fresh runners. There was Tracey, who scared me at first with her need to timetable everything, but who slotted herself into valuable half-hour slots during the difficult times after 3am. There was Jacqui, whose hot-pink halterneck stop and faultless make-up despite high-rotation group fitness classes deserved special mention. Pregnant Megan, who, as a Les Mills employee was also flat-out helping keep the event going. Megan, true to her word, slept for a couple of hours then came to life at 3am, killing some valuable treadmill walking time. Caroline - another employee who jumped from one team's treadmill to ours for half an hour at 1.30am. Felicity, who was bullied into running half an hour, poor thing. Ingrid, who did two hours despite a rotten cold. Allie, who stayed far longer than I expected (thanks Allie), and provided me with some much needed distraction.

Last, but by no means least, there was thirteen year old Claudia, one of Duck's clients. Claudia put in huge amounts of pluck and energy, and displayed a strength of character well beyond her years. Having her around was like indulging in my own daughter fantasies for a day. All night she went from treadmill to Body Balance class to Combat, until 5am when she finally began to crumble. We took it gently on her from that point on, and from 7 till 9 she lay bleary eyed on a beanbag in the corner.

Gary stayed on reception, bright eyed despite probably having to continue working until 5pm Sunday night. Vernon remained his usual relentlessly cheerful self. Soli continued to look like he'd just stepped out of a fashion shoot. The RPM guys tried to give me beer when we were approaching the 11 hour mark.

Personal highlights/lowlights? 9pm was hard - knowing we still had twelve hours to go. I got extremely tired at around 10pm, and started to doubt I'd make it through. The period from 3am to 5am also seemed daunting, until some of the other team members stepped up. 5am to 7am were pure madness and total fun. 7am till 9am were absolute joy. Hamish made the rest of the gym howl with envy by showing up at 6.45am with a pie. Aviel stood there looking most bemused, having gone from feral psytrance party at the tattoo museum to fitness-bunny central in the course of a few minutes.

I ran until my knee started hurting after around twelve hours, then fast walked the rest. I remember major group fitness instructor eye-candy in the middle of the night on the Combat stage. I remember glow-sticks and UV lighting at 2am for one of the most spiritual Body Balance classes I've ever participated in. I remember dancing two Attack tracks before regaining my senses. I remember chocolate, Jellybeans, Airplanes, two cans of Red Bull. I remember caffeine jitters and running to the bathroom as a result. I remember a burst of euphoria and energy at around 6am after dawn and a dose of cortisol. I remember Underworld's "You Let Light In" at 8.45am, so beautiful I had to dance or I'd cry, and I had vowed by that point not to cry.

So when I had thought there would be tears, there was only the warmth of a team spirit and women who genuinely cared enough to be there supporting us.

Harriet jumped off the treadmill and I jumped on with just under 10 minutes to go. I ran the last five minutes, amping the pace up to 12km per hour to squeeze out every last bit of mileage. We counted down the last thirty seconds and everyone cheered.

In the end we came third, although we came second in the 3pm to 9pm slot after some team-rousing by Ingrid. I was extremely pleased with our result, given that several of us were carrying injuries. It was also amazing to hear that, by the end of the event, we'd already raised $21,000. The goal for this year is $24,000, and I'm confident we should achieve that easily.

A quick shared breakfast in the reception area, then there were lots of hugs and we all headed for bed. I was a little worried about driving home, but thankfully stayed alert for the ten minutes necessary to get me up the hill and between the sheets.

Fatigue does interesting things. In particular I noticed my ability to engage in complex analytical tasks bottoming out completely. Mental arithmetic took three times as long as usual. I struggled to remember who was on the treadmill at any one time. I know my reaction times were much slower - the second most dangerous aspect of driving home, with falling asleep at the wheel the big risk. Once home I slept solidly till 2pm, then fell asleep again til 4pm. After that I spent the evening in a dressing gown on the sofa, getting to bed again at 10.30pm and sleeping through till 7am this morning.

In the usual aftermath analysis - my knee feels oddly fine. My left shin is aching, as is my left quad and hamstring. Perhaps the podiatrist is right and I am now overcompensating for my right-sided injuries. I felt ok today, just stiff and drained. I avoided both a Jog Squad run and swim in favour of cider and chocolate at home. My diet has become quite shocking this week!

My only break from the gym over the whole 24 hours was the quick scheduled trip to Newtown Park so the podiatrist could film me running. It was a gorgeous afternoon and a real pleasure to be on a proper track. I immediately vowed to return again for some proper training. I haven't had a detailed analysis yet, but John did comment that I wasn't using my gluts when I was walking. As I said - no surprise there! I concentrated on my gluts when walking on the treadmill that night, and they were achy this morning, so hopefully I can retrain myself.

In the end the biggest surprise for me in organising the Jog Squad team was that it went so well, and that the girls wanted to help and support me. I'm not used to thinking of myself as being that kind of motivator. I even decided I would be prepared to organise a team again, maybe.

Duck and Ingrid are taking me out to lunch to thank me, but I don't really need the thanks. I got more than enough out of just being there. Besides - my kitchen is filled with chocolate and lollies. What more thanks could a girl possibly need?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Everything's coming up rosy

My little snooze in the sun yesterday became the source of great amusement today. I should have worn something high-necked and long-sleeved, then people wouldn't have been filing past my desk all day to check out the sunburn. Admittedly - it looks very impressive, but it doesn't really hurt as much as it looks like it would.

At 3.30 our group manager wandered around telling everyone to go home and enjoy the gorgeous day. Most of us heeded her word, and by 4pm the office was looking decidedly empty. I wandered around town for a while checking out clothing stores, looking at clothes that fitted me that I couldn't afford to buy because I'm giving all my money to personal trainers, swim coaches, physios, spin instructors and podiatrists. Sigh...

Six o'clock came around and I was kitted out in running tights, Jog Squad shirt and pink hat. I decided that tonight I would try a little experiment to see how well this knee would really cope with some pavement running. It felt unbelievably good to be out with the girls again, running with Harriet and Allie at a good steady pace around the Bays.

Tonight the squad did some quick intervals along the sand at Oriental Bay. I, on the other hand, ran slowly along the beach and slowly back down the pavement, then up and down the pavement again. After the first beach lap I figured it wasn't worth the potential knee damage. After that we ran up Carlton Gore Rd, up the side of Mt Victoria, for 200m or so. Again, I took it slowly, wasn't panting that hard at the top of the hill, and cruised back down at non-knee-injuring pace. Then it was a gentle jog back to the gym.

So my knee feels fine, and I'm feeling much more optomistic about my running future.
Once I realised that I had to stop being so hard on myself, stop obsessing about training for events, and just go with the flow for a while, things just snapped into place for me. Exercise makes me feel so much happier and more mentally balanced than any anti-depressant ever could. People who meet me now only know this Pip - the small fit one.

I'm in charge of the Jog Squad relay team for the Les Mills Heartbeat Challenge this weekend. We're raising money for Heart Children. At 9am on Saturday we start running on a treadmill, and we keep going for 24 hours. Organising it has been a bit of a nuisance when I've been so busy, but I'm glad I've done it.

I'm popping out briefly on Saturday afternoon to meet my podiatrist at the Newtown track. He's going to film me running. I'm already guessing he's going to say I'm not using my gluts when I run. No surprises there. He did confirm something for me though. My Addidas shoes are indeed the devil's spawn. Despite the salesperson assuring me the new model was exactly the same as the old model, they apparently have a much greater area of support. This means I have potentially been running in a shoe with more support than I really need. I should have trusted my instincts and ditched them right at the start.

Monday, November 20, 2006

This is NOT what I'm training for...

No... seriously! Watching too much of this sort of thing makes me want to go back to lying around with a pile of books beside me ...

Large Man

He was a large man
even in death, his
barrelled chest now
still but solid lying waiting
on the bed for the

We felt the need to
rest our hands on his
ribcage in hope of
understanding the mystery
of death, that someone
could be there and still
not be with us, that
a heart could really
stop and blood
run cold.

When he was cremated
the weight of his presence
resisted the furnace’s heat.
The small box in which he was
returned to us possessed a
startling heaviness, a
big man squeezed into
a cube of rosewood.

One spring afternoon
we embarked on
a clandestine mission.
We trespassed the scout
camp where we had been raised,
took the path to the outdoor chapel.
Birds and insects watched
as we scattered him,
soft grey dust
billowing in warm air.
We lay him down under the
trees he had tended,
and on the grass
he once had trimmed.

When we got home
we found he was lodged
under our fingernails,
encrusted in our skin.
We wondered about etiquette
in such situations then shrugged
as we washed him off.
Earth and water, man of
elements returned to the
place of his making.
Our large man
at last reduced.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

300m by the end of January

That's the goal. I checked out the triathlon programme, and I'm aiming for early next year. The More FM triathlon sounds about right - a 300m swim, 10km cycle and 3.5km run. The 10km cycle and 3.5km run will be sprints for me by that point. They're the same distance as the Special K duathlon back in April. So all my energy needs to go into getting the swim down.

I'm not quite sure where I'll be doing the event yet. Hamish's father is planning to have his 60th birthday in Bannock Burn at the end of January, and the Porirua triathlon is on 28 January. If we do end up in Central Otago for the Porirua event I'll do the Wanaka event instead, which is on 3 February. The only thing I need to get my head around is swimming in the lake. It's not the lake itself that scares me. I'm sure a calm lake will be easier than a rough Porirua Harbour. It's the idea of being in the freezing water that gets me. I'm thinking a wetsuit may definitely be needed, but I don't want to have to waste that time in transition.

In the meantime, I headed back to to the pool today for another practice, dragging Hamish along with me. We got there around 5, and to my delight the aqua jogging lane was completely empty. Not wanting to waste my opportunity I skipped the aqua jogging warmup and did six lengths with a kickboard before practicing my new drill - swimming on my side with one arm on the board.

I swam backwards and forwards between the half-way ladder and the shallow end of the pool, first one side, then the other. It still felt weird having only one ear in the water, and I had to keep reminding myself to look forward. Every time it started to feel awkward I told myself to drop my head to lift my mouth out of the water. Invariably, if I also dropped my shoulder and relaxed my arm on the kickboard then my hips would lift and suddenly I would start to fly down the lane.

I'm not going to say this stuff feels natural yet. Although my kicking style's quite good I can tell that I'm going to have to work really hard to get my breathing right. Lesleigh and I have another lesson some time this week (yet to be organised). Once she's taught me how to actually stroke I'll be at the pool every chance I can get.

I had to get out earlier than I would have liked today, as Hamish was sitting there waiting for me. I joined him in the spa for a while and we had fish and chips for dinner. Grease - an essential part of every budding triathlete's diet!


Like some of the other Sunday Scribblers I've been browsing through this week, one of my favourite programmes at the moment is the American series "Heroes". Although I like all of the characters, my favourite is probably the Japanese man who can stop time. I like the fact that he doesn't always get it right, but still tries to do his best. I like that he has failings.

It struck me that most 'superheroes' spend a lot of time trying to keep their identities secret. They keep their deeds separate from the image they present of themselves to others. They often face internal anguish and wrestle with moral and ethical issues because of their powers.

I believe that the real life heroes are also often the quiet ones. They are too busy doing to try to talk up what they have done. A few days ago there was an article in the newspaper about a New Zealand man who tried to save the life of a woman who had been set alight by her husband. Although he put the fire out she eventually died. He was so moved by the experience that he retrained and became a police officer so that he could continue to try to help others. Now that is a real hero.

I admire those people who make huge shifts in their lives in response to some kind of calling. Another woman I admire lived a comfortable middle-class life until she discovered Buddhism. She sold her home and became a Buddhist nun. She now teaches meditation practice in an inner-Wellington Buddhism centre.

For me it is a lack of selfishness that marks someone as a hero. It is not that they have some kind of super strength, that they are somehow morally superior, or that they never make mistakes. It is that they are prepared to put themselves on the line for something they believe in. However even as I type this I realise that some of the worst kinds of religious extremists would fall within my definition. I therefore add one more criterion to my list of things I regard as signifiying a hero. I believe it is important that, in pursuing what you believe in, you should also pledge to do no harm, or as little harm as possible.

In other words it may be preferable to kill one man than to allow him to live and let him sink the ship he is piloting, thereby killing 100 people. Or, to use a Kiwi analogy, it is better to kill one possum than allow that possum to kill a forest.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


Well, I tried and completely failed to post a Poetry Thursday poem, because this week's task was to choose something and lie about it. Turns out I cannot tell a lie...

So what does a girl do when overburdened by honesty? She heads to the gym for some cross-training. Let's start with ten minutes on a treadmill (head down in the hope that the girls who had promised to slap me if I ran before Christmas wouldn't see me). Let's call that ten measley SLOW minutes at a 10kph pace, and I'm alarmed at how high my heartrate got, despite my breathing feeling fine. The knee felt ok as well, though I wouldn't have been wanting to run for an hour on it. Let's see what the podiatrist says on Tuesday!

Let's follow that up with 45 minutes of RPM. I haven't done one of Stephan's classes in months, and I'd forgotten how good it is to have a technically proficient instructor at the front of the class reminding me about technique regularly and hitting all the cues in the music. I had a great, sociable class chatting to the people next to me (in between dying), and opted for speed today, while still amping the dial up on the last few tracks. No jumps - my poor gluts couldn't have liked me very much if I'd succumbed to the temptation. As I was leaving Stephan asked whether I was doing Lake Taupo this weekend. I wish - I'll just leave that to Nic and Leonie this year!

A few minutes talking to another injured Jog Squadder, then it was into the shower, and then out into the showers (Wellington's in the midst of torrential downpours) to drive to the pool for my lesson with Lesleigh.

I was ten minutes early for our lesson, so got in some aqua jogging first. I've finally nailed the technique - legs straight down and fully extended. However, the striking feature of the last two pool sessions has been the lack of fear instinct kicking in. Previously, even though I knew I was safe, some primal part of me would over-ride my rational mind and amp up the adrenalin. Thankfully my rational mind was stubborn enough not to give in, and it seems the primal self is rolling over and going back to sleep. I'm having too much fun now to give in to the fear factor.

Today Lesleigh had me do a couple of lengths with the kickboard. We switched to some larger flippers, and my feet stopped cramping. She then had me holding onto the kickboard with one arm and swimming on my side. We were practicing the freestyle breathing position. It took me a couple of tries to get what I was supposed to do, and it felt weird to have only one ear under the water. However before long I was swimming along quite happily on my left side. My right side took a little more practice, but by the end of 20 minutes I had the technique down. Ironically I may yet turn out to be a good swimmer!

Out of the pool, a quick trip to the Swim Shop to buy some flippers, a dash through the supermarket, and home by 11.30. Hamish got out of bed at mid-day, but then, given the weather today, I had told him to stay there!

Out again to lunch with an American friend-of-a-friend, Dara, who has just moved down here and is looking for work. We ended up sitting in The Matterhorn for over two hours talking. Then off home again.

All in all a good day, and it's only 7pm. We're supposed to be going out to a vj friend of Hamish's party tonight. It's still pouring out and I may yet spend the night on the sofa...

Oh, and a new low this morning - 54.6! Not that I'm counting ... in fact as I type this I'm eating Dark Ghana, so no fear of an eating disorder anywhere around here...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Hamish emailed me some photos of my new obsession today, so you get to have some cute animal gratification as well! We present Louis on the stairs for your viewing pleasure...

I fought my way to the pool tonight for another lesson with Lesleigh. Given the gales and rain I decided to catch a bus, but it's quicker to walk at that time of night.

I had to guiltily admit that I hadn't been to the pool against since the last lesson, but it really didn't seem to make a difference to my progress. Tonight was one of those golden break-through nights. I aqua-jogged through the hoards, I floated, I kick-boarded to the ladder. Nothing was too difficult.

As a final treat Lesleigh got me to put on a pair of flippers, and I flew down the pool with my kickboard extended. I was instantly in love. This was great fun! I would have continued, but there was a log-jam in the lane and there didn't seem to be much point in trying.

I had decided that I was going to ask Lesleigh about speeding up the pace a bit and getting into some real swimming. However Lesleigh was as in tune with my readiness as ever. We've arranged to have another lesson on Saturday when the pool is a little quieter. We're actually going to start some real swimming - with arm movements and everything (she says, with eyes wide open). I'm so ridiculously excited. Perhaps I really will be swimming with the Women's Multis squad on the 21st. It may be a bit much to expect myself to swim a whole length, but if I work really hard perhaps it will be possible. It's unlikely we'll be in the pool that first week anyway.

I was replying to a meme my sister sent me last night. One of the questions was "what is your biggest fear"? Once it would have been going underwater. I had to think really hard, but I couldn't come up with anything that I was truly afraid of. Um, yay!

After that golden lesson everything seemed good. I walked back to town against the strongest galeforce winds I can remember with a pair of flippers in my hands. I was blown sideways at every step. I laughed myself stupid the whole way. It was ridiculous fun. Some days life is perfect in the oddest ways.

Monday, November 13, 2006

I Don't Want to be a Passenger in My Own Life

This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt was the above quote by writer, poet and naturalist Diane Ackerman. It immediately struck me as a truism. Who really wants to be a passenger in their own life? However I'm sure a large number of people are. I saw my parents get carried along on a tide of passivity for many years until the purchase of their house by their local council provoked them into action. Up to that point they didn't do things, things happened to them. Avoiding decisions was in itself a kind of decision, with its own consequences.

It's accurate for me to say that I don't want to be a passenger in my life. I've always wanted to be in control. However there's control for clutching, fearful reasons, and there's the kind of control that is assertive and positive, and takes you to the kind of place you want to go. For a long time I acted out of a need to protect myself. I'm taking larger risks now. Freedom is a good thing, and trying to predict every eventuality doesn't lend itself to freedom that easily. The proverbial happens sometimes. Deal with it!

I'm grateful for this week's Sunday Scribblings post because it led me to Diane Ackerman. I started out thinking about the prompt by trying to find out a little more about the writer.

So what do I know about Diane Ackerman? I know she was born in Illinois. She has an MFA and a PhD from Cornell. In her non-fiction she explores neuroscience and the poetry of the brain. She describes the natural history of her garden. She writes about play, creativity and transcendance. She also writes about endangered animals. However this is only part of what I know about Diane Ackerman. I find it difficult to write about what I know here, because my reactions to her writing are centred in my gut and difficult to put on paper (or iBook screen). My reactions are based on things I know instinctively and not borne of the rational mind. Diane Ackerman writes about nature with the same relish and juiciness that I admire in the writing of Barbara Kingsolver. This is a woman who loves. This is the kind of woman who is wise enough to describe herself as an "earth ecstatic".

When I read:

Look at your feet. You are standing in the sky. When we think of the sky, we tend to look up, but the sky actually begins at the earth...

I am reminded that all things are connected, that the binary distinctions we make between things (in/out/up/down/good/bad/real/unreal) are arbitrary at best. The sky is not separate from the earth. My body is not separate from the earth either, nor is it separate from that of my husband, my neighbour, my cousin. We are all of the same matter - the same floating particles combine to create us all.

When I read:

If a mind is just a few pounds of blood, urea and electricity, how does it manage to contemplate itself, worry about its soul, do time and motion studies, admire the shy hooves of a goat, know that it will die, enjoy all the grand and lesser mayhems of the heart?"

I am reminded of the time, as a nervous forteen year old, that I pondered the nature of existence right into my first panic attack. I could not fathom how the ethereal mind, thought, the soul, could possibly be connected to the physical brain, particularly mine with its acqeductal failings and surgical corrections. Surely we must be more than just our flesh, but how is the flesh and how is the mind/spirit? Where does one start and one begin? These are questions that still puzzle me. Binaries again fail to compute.

I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.

Self-explanatory - I want a rich and broad life - not a life lived on the narrow line.
And finally:

It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies within.

The world or this life. Both have their peaks and their chasms, their deep oceans and gentle streams. I can't explain either, but I want to continue exploring both, and to mine their secrets from their deepest seams.

To end - a Diane Ackerman poem. Again, the writer has said it all for me. This is my mantra made into the ink flowing from another woman's pen.

School Prayer

In the name of the daybreak
and the eyelids of morning
and the wayfaring moon
and the night when it departs,

I swear I will not dishonor
my soul with hatred,
but offer myself humbly
as a guardian of nature,
as a healer of misery,
as a messenger of wonder,
as an architect of peace.

In the name of the sun and its mirrors
and the day that embraces it
and the cloud veils drawn over it
and the uttermost night
and the male and the female
and the plants bursting with seed
and the crowning seasons
of the firefly and the apple,

I will honor all life
—wherever and in whatever form
it may dwell—on Earth my home,
and in the mansions of the stars.

Poem from I Praise My Destroyer. Vintage Books.

A Former Jafa in Auckland

On Thursday Hamish and I drove to Auckland for his mother Ruth's 60th birthday. The little halterneck dress went with us. The drive up the island, normally a pleasure, turned into a series of torrential downpours. There was snow on the Desert Road (although we always drive through National Park, so we weren't affected), in November!

However in the end we made it to Papatoetoe, to Nick and Damon's bungalow. Cue the start of a weekend of decadence. Random thoughts as follows:

  • Bubbly, white wine, red wine, bubbly, white wine, red wine, bubbly, white wine, red wine, vodka... STOP!!!
  • If I have to eat another cafe chicken burger/chicken focaccia sandwich with mayo I'm going to turn into a chicken and be served up at KFC.
  • Auckland has sold its soul to the shopping and car Gods. I no longer know my way around the Auckland arterials, and I am sooooo keen for it to stay that way.
  • Mt Eden v Carlaw Park v the Waterfront = WHO CARES - I just don't want to pay for it!
  • Sometimes you can go back - but there's nothing there and you're not upset by that fact.
  • Sometimes people can resent you for being successful.
  • Sometimes people you know are very successful and you love them even more for that fact.
  • Sometimes people you love make choices you disagree with, and you smile and make approving noises because that's the 'right' thing to do.
  • Getting up after a night of hard drinking to spend the morning at the gym WILL make you feel better. Lying in bed thinking you should be at the pool then not actually getting there WON'T.
  • It might be warm and sunny and perfect running conditions, but that does not mean you should run, and your physio WILL know.
  • Catching up with friends, even if it means driving from one end of a congested city to the other IS worth it. Really!
  • Spa pools are pretty damn fantastic at 3am.
  • Nick and Damon's bathroom is the nicest I will ever shower in, and huge kudos to them for that.
  • Sometimes you can open the door of a friend's house and fall in love with a Chihuahua. Louie we love you ...
  • Sometimes Cerocing to Elvis Presley at your mother-in-law's party just makes sense (nearly eight years since the last dance, and yes, we did suck).
  • Sometimes you can walk into a Trade Aid store and find the perfect necklace for $20.
Thanks to Nick and Damon for Thursday night, and David E and Sophie for Friday and Saturday nights. Thanks Deb for meeting up at Diablo, and to Nicole for a great lunch and Chai at Lagos (anyone want to buy a cafe?).

And the debut of the little halterneck dress? Lots of flattering comments - only one dirty middle-aged man oogling the cleavage. All in all a success.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Diary of a Recovering Runner

This is installment number one in the ongoing diary of a broken and in recovery runner. I've been off the pavement for a week now and, dare I say it, the knee is looking good.

I saw Helen on Friday for a good telling off, some ultrasound and a little tape. I then followed that up on Saturday with two RPMs and a Body Balance and spent a few hours standing around in high heeled boots that night. Even worse, I ended up tramping around the Sanctuary on Sunday, so by rights my knee should have been shattered.

On Monday night, after a morning upper body weights session, I messed around in the pool again and discovered that it was possible to launch myself off in the middle of the pool and not sink. In fact, I even managed to kick a little and imagine that I was almost swimming. I just needed to add the arm movements and I would have been away.

However my newfound optimism was fading a little by Tuesday night. After a go-nowhere-in-particular session with Lesleigh I began to feel like this swimming thing was taking too long, I began to obsess about losing my fitness again, and I felt the nasty drifting feeling that always hits me when I don't have a goal to work towards. It may have been my body still coming down off the thyroid high, but I was thoroughly over myself.

So here's the new goal. Stop worrying about achieving the goal and simply enjoy being.

Thankfully my session with Helen today went well. More ultrasound, more tape, and distinct surprise that I made it up and down ten flights of stairs after yesterday's fire drill with no pain. Stupid Pip would be wanting to try running again as soon as possible. The Pip who actually listens to her physio and friends knows that she needs to get her biomechanics sorted out and stop injuring herself. God - even the RPM instructor told me off this morning for going too hard.

So after our Auckland holiday this weekend I'll be booking a session with John Sloane, the Wellington podiatrist famed for fixing broken runners. I'm NOT to run again until then.

I want to get to the gym while I'm in Auckland. It would have been so much easier to have just been able to pull on a pair of running tights and head out the door, but it won't be that much more of an effort to get to Victoria Street instead. I need to find a pool in town with a shallow end to it as well, as I'm assuming Newmarket will be deep at both, given that it's olympic.

The little dress is hanging in the closet, and there's a new little pair of gold sandals in a box on the bed to go with it. My hair has been slashed back into a cute little bob, and I'm as ready for Auckland as I'm ever going to be...

Monday, November 06, 2006


I’ve been thinking a lot about traditions this week, and specifically about the traditions we recognise here in New Zealand that are not our own, or that in reality have little significance for us.

Guy Fawkes is one of those celebrations. I guess that, as someone of English ancestry, I should feel some affiliation with an event that marks an unsuccessful attempt to blow up parliament. However I know little about the history behind it, and nor do I really care. It does bother me that I have to lock my cats up at night for a week to save them being scared out of their fur coats by some moron with a sky rocket.

It also bothers me that we are increasingly celebrating Halloween here. The Pagan origins seem pagan enough but the modern version just seems like a marketing ploy, another chance to sell product. I never remember to have anything at home to treat with, and even if I did remember it was Halloween I doubt I’d buy anything anyway. Last year I sat in the lounge and tried not to listen out for the door.

There are other celebrations that have little meaning for me, but which do have significance for people I know, and I’m happy enough to join in their own rituals. One of our friends is married to an American woman who loves to entertain. Every year they fill their entire house with trestle tables. Each guest brings a plate, and everyone marks Thanksgiving with this generous woman.

Some traditions we mark because they coincide with other important dates in our lives, and because it’s fun to do so. Hamish’s birthday falls on the Mexican Day of the Dead, so for the last two years we have had dinner at Flying Burrito Brothers. This year, thanks to an inspired suggestion from Leonie, we attended wearing sombreros and ponchos. It’s probably the Mexican equivalent of turning up in flax skirts with plastic Tikis around our necks, but no one seemed to take any offence.

Likewise we celebrate Valentines Day only because it’s also our wedding anniversary. We didn’t chose that day because it was Valentines, but because it fell nicely between the anniversaries of a number of people who were close to us.

I’m getting to an age where I want to claim my own traditions. Christmas holds no real meaning for me and I resent the overt commercialism involved. However Summer Solstice, and the celebration of the Earth it implies, is something I value and provides me with an opportunity to join in with the festivities on my own terms.

As we were watching the fireworks display in the harbour last night I commented that it was sad we don’t feel enough pride in ourselves as a nation to do something similar on Waitangi Day. Since being in Wellington we’ve spent every Waitangi Day in the Hataitai Velodrome listening to good roots reggae. The multicultural audience dances in the sun and celebrates both Bob Marley’s birthday and our shared culture.

Over time this country will develop its own celebrations. I can see a strong sense of culture in members of my generation, and in many of those who are younger. The increased tendency to recognise Matariki is only one indication of our maturity as a nation.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Today has consisted of a series of ouch moments. The day started with my weekly session with Duck. We're still focusing on my upper body in the lead-up to Ruth's 60th birthday and the debut of the little halterneck dress. As I've said before, I asked for pain, and I received it.

We were particularly brutal to my shoulders today. After eight sets of shoulder weights I was definitely feeling the burn. The final insult to my poor deltoids, however, was the sets of hovers on the bosu ball. For once it wasn't my abs giving in - it was my arms refusing to hold me upright.

A perfect day and over-optimism led to me sneaking out of work at 11.30 for a scheduled one-hour run. I wanted to avoid the interruption of too many traffic lights, so headed back up Molesworth, Tinakori and Thorndon Quay. I turned around at Spotlight as a Northerly hit me in the face.

I was running quite slowly, but feeling relaxed and my breathing was calm. It appears that the 15 minute "I want to stop" moment has morphed into the 20 minute "I want to stop" moment. It wasn't that I was feeling particularly bad, just that my mind was telling me that this was all too much effort.

I distracted myself to the 30 minute point, and it all started getting easier after that. Ironically, as I approached the 40 minute mark, I was starting to feel really good. I was lulled into a false sense of security.

I stopped by the railway station to cross over onto the waterfront, and had to wait a couple of minutes for the lights. As I went to run off my knee just absolutely gave in on me. I felt a huge pain, and I found myself unable to put any pressure on it. I walked to the footpath, stopped for a second, then tried to run on. I quickly realised that this time I was not going to be able to run through the pain. I finally saw sense and quit before I did myself any further damage.

Cursing I hobbled back to Capital Sports, grabbed an instant icepack, and iced my knee while making an appointment to see my physio tomorrow. Then I hobbled back to the gym, moaned to Gary and the others on reception for a little bit, showered and hobbled back to work.

A couple of hours later I was being put through the third 'ouch' inducing session for the day - a one hour sports massage with Dale. My back felt fine, but my right quad is REALLY tight, and both gluts were pretty locked up as well.

To Dale's credit I am walking on this knee okay at the moment, and feeling only a little pain. At its worst after some of my previous runs I would not have been able to bend it. However I realise that Foxton is pretty much a no goer. I'd cry bitter tears of frustration, but there's not really much point, is there?!

Instead I'm going to get to the pool for a swim tomorrow before work, and get out Lola for a ride on Saturday. I guess it'll be swimming and cycling probably until Christmas. My life as an athlete is not over - it's only parts of it that are going to be curtailed.

On the plus side, it's a gorgeous evening and there's Margharitas to be drunk. Happy birthday Yetimon!!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Karori Sanctuary #1

Deep in the valley the
North Westerlies are waging
a campaign of mass destruction.
Up and down its slopes young saplings
are rippling in unison like a
Len Lye installation.

We are huddled under an
adolescent Beech tree.
As it sways we feel the earth
creaking and groaning beneath us,
roots tearing at the fabric of Papa’s soil,
fighting to turn tendrils to the sky.

The kinetic force of the weather
exerts its pressure on
all living form. We are
slapped into awareness of the
world, shoved sideways
by gusts swept in by the wave
of a Taniwha’s tail,
swept away by the rage of
Rangi’s sky-borne tears.

We are small and we can
try to hide, shelter in our
drafty villas, shying away from
fingers poking through
cracks in floorboards and
under sash window frames.
We can turn coward but
how better to raise fists at
Rangi, plant feet into Papa’s
rain-slick side.

We are part wild.
We are Karaka berries.
We are lurking eels.
Rain falls on us and
on flax leaves alike.
We shake feathers and
turn faces to the hanging
sky. We smirk
at the wind.

Back on the pavement again

After two and a half weeks of forced, grudging rest, I've hit the pavement twice this week for short test-the-knee runs. The first was a half-hour route up Molesworth, down Tinakori, along Thorndon Quay to the waterfront, and then along the waterfront a short way back to the gym. Tonight I ran with the new, enlarged Jog Squad (there's a HUGE number of us now). I ran near the front of the front pack, up Taranaki Street, along Wallace Ave, down Adelaide Rd, around the Basin, up Elllis Street, along Austin, then back down Majoribanks and Courtney Place to the gym.

I wouldn't say that either run was at top pace, and I can definitely tell I haven't run for two and a half weeks, but I'm feeling pretty good. I've showered and am icing my knee as I speak. Hopefully I'll fit in an hour run tomorrow night before dinner at Flying Burrito Brothers for Hamish's birthday, and then 80 minutes on Saturday. I'm still debating where I'll run on Saturday. I think the route I had planned to do is closer to 90 minutes, but I may be able to shorten it.

Of course, this is assuming the knee holds up. God I hate being a runner with knee problems. What a cliche!

Of course there's always swimming, and with my body suddenly deciding that, not only can it float, but its natural state is that of flotation, that's looking more and more possible all the time. I didn't want to get out of the pool at the end of my session with Lesleigh. I could have kept messing around with a kickboard forever.

And there's always Lola, sitting in the spare room waiting for me to pull her out and ride her. There's another cycle training squad starting in January for a ride in Martinborough and another in Taranaki. It would fill a gap nicely between New Years and the next Jog Squad starting up in February.