Saturday, September 30, 2006

Not the way to do things...

Hamish and I turned up too early at the Coldcut gig last night. The tickets said 8.00pm. Not 'doors open at', but 8.00pm. So we wandered in right on the dot, only to encounter a mostly empty Opera House and a few also-tricked punters looking vaguely ticked off.

Our seats were kind of interesting as well. We were fourth row back from the front, but at the end of the row, and the speaker stack in front of us was blocking our view of one of the video screens. The potential for a bad let down was hovering before us.

Thankfully, a night that could have gone horribly wrong ended up being pretty much perfect. Within seconds of Pitch Black coming on we were dancing right underneath Paddy's nose up against the stage. The sound wasn't so great, but it was a great opportunity to watch the experts at work, and we had an excellent line of sight to the two screens. Plus, Pitch Black were seriously going off. So much for preserving my legs... I had some serious moving to do! See Pip dance ... a lot. Somehow the knee pain faded away as the adrenalin of the music kicked in. Oh what a short hour. God is the proverbial DJ.

I held our possie until Coldcut came on. I spent most of that time fending off a drunk teenager obsessed with my cleavage (see photo above for evidence of said cleavage). Thankfully H came back with water and rescue, just as Coldcut wandered onstage.

The legends started up with a slow, vaguely Radioheadish number that must have seriously thrown some people. The first track was not however indicative of the rest of the set, as they seriously cranked up the pace. Cue more dancing. To see a Coldcut set is to be taken on an epic journey. These guys truly are Gods, and their formative role in the industry shines through. This was some serious talent.

Hamish later had an interesting conversation with another Wellington VJ about the set. The guy took offence to Coldcut using what he regarded as a lot of anticapitalist visual material. He felt that it was hypocritical for them to be projecting that message while performing in the Opera House at $60 a ticket. It was an interesting argument, but I'm not sure I buy it. I read their work not so much as a criticism of capitalism perse, but of corruption and lack of regard for humanity and the planet. If you're in a position to be able to put that message to an audience that might not have had those ideas put to them before, then more strength to you.

I for one left the gig high on the thrill of a good dance, fantastic visuals and loud, stonking beats. From there it was a quick dash down Courtney Place to Sandwiches for the Coldcut afterparty. My superstar VJ husband had scored himself a place on the lineup. There's nothing like being the + one on the door, and walking past the queue of shivering punters...

My ego stoked, I left a party-pill amped husband rendering clips in the vj booth and caught a Wellington Combined Cab home. Wellington cab drivers can be so much fun to talk to, and I learned all about my Cambodian friend's young wife and two children on the way home to Mornington.

And yes, I gave in to the Mrs Macs chilli and cheese pie craving, flicking between Fox News on Three and BBC World on 1 at 1.30am. Bed by 2.00am then. But....

Up the next morning to run 20km...

This morning dawned a little overcast, mild and slightly gusty. No huge nerves today, just a slight sense of being the tiniest bit daunted by what was ahead of me. Running tights, my Shoe Clinic running shirt, a gel shot... and no pink hat incase it got too windy. We were quickly off. No speedies today - Sarah and I led the pack until Lyall Bay, where she deserted me when I stopped to fill up my waterbottle. Faced with running on alone for one dark moment I felt like bursting into tears. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

This was one SERIOUS run. Up the undulating Wallace Ave to Adelaide Rd, from Newtown over the hill to Kilbirnie, and here Sarah and I took a wrong turn and ended up running more like 21km than 20. This time the long straight road to Lyall Bay felt, if not effortless, then at least half as hard as last week.

As the knee pain kicked in the pace dropped off and I was overtaken by a couple of other women, but buoyed by Kate flying past me on her road bike. Duck ran with me most of the way to Island Bay, and rejoined me half way up Happy Valley. From Owhiro Bay it was a 5km climb up to Brooklyn. Hard at the best of times, it was positively cruel coming near the end of the run. It was my idea to go this way, but I was thinking of it in terms of a 12km route, not 20! The small child inside me threatened to throw a temper tantrum...

S I lost the mental battle and walked a couple of short stretches, and yes I was annoyed with myself, particularly when I was caught by some of the older women in the pack. This is my theory about older women. They are mentally tougher and are therefore much better on the hills. Anne has the same ability to just keep on going, ably demonstrated on our last Mt Vic run.

However, in all honesty, it didn't seem to take that long to get to Brooklyn, and wasn't as hard as I had expected. Then it was a relieved run down to town. I would normally have put the foot on the accelerator and gone for it, but today a sore knee and the odd sloping angle of the footpath put paid to that. I only picked up the pace when back on the flat again.

We made it back to the gym in just slightly over 2 hours. So now I want to beat Deborah's half marathon time of 2.07. I figure with fresh legs (not having danced for 4 hours the night before), a recovered knee, enough sleep and a flatter course (no 5km climb) I should be aiming for under 2 hours. But if I go over that I'm not going to be too upset.

20km really didn't feel that far. How crazy is that?!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Thursday on a Wednesday

Tomorrow's my one night at home with Hamish this week, so seeing as this was ready I thought I'd post it today.

Today was a little frustrating really. I'm someone who tends to make their mind up about something fairly quickly. I don't spend a lot of time revisiting my decisions. I don't do a lot of editing of my poetry, nor drafts of the papers I write in my role as a Business Analyst. Something comes out, and bar a little tinkering around the edges it's generally complete. So today's process of putting a Ministerial Submission I'd drafted out for comment and having several people humming and hahing and messing around while the deadline edged ever closer was extremely irritating. Generally I just accept that this is a part of my job, and just deal with it. My tolerance levels were slightly lower than usual.

By the time I left work it was nearly 6 and I was more than ready to bang out some of my frustrations on the pavement. 20 minutes of going hard, flying around the Bays from Te Papa past Pt Jerningham and back did just the trick. When I want to I can go quite fast!

It also helped to know I had this little poem germinating in my Googlemail inbox. Even though it's nearly my bed time already (and, quite appropriately, I've only just finished dinner) I thought I'd take the time to put it online.

On the way to the gym tonight I saw a blackboard outside a Wishbone store with a fantastic quip written on it. The blackboard read "Seeing is deceiving, tasting is believing". It all seemed rather appropriate really. So, without further ado:

I reach up and taste you
With my eyes.
I lick your arms
Flavoured with salt from
SundayƂ’s roast chicken.
Your hair brushes my lips
With a hint of strawberry.
My tongue traces
Channels of melted chocolate
Along the veins of your neck.
I eat the sight of you,
Digest your concentrated
Essence with a hunger
Bourne of possession.
You are the after-dinner mint
Of my vision's desire.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

It's a morality thing

I'm sitting here on the sofa wearing an old pajama top, track pants, a big old towelling dressing gown, and an ice pack on my knee. Various bits of me hurt - some more than others.

It's quite simple really. On Saturday I ran 15km, then on Saturday night I spent over four hours standing around at an outdoor dance party in Southern Karori. On Sunday morning I was up early to tramp around the Sanctuary for most of the day. On Monday the jog squad ran for over an hour up Mt Vic, down to Hataitai and back to the gym via Newtown. This morning I did an upper body weights session and tonight I ran another 55 minutes around the Bays.

I read somewhere that you know you're a runner when it hurts to walk but you can still run. Well, tonight my quads hurt, my calves threatened to cramp and my knee screamed. However stopping was never an option. I am Pip, see me run.

With everything that's been happening in my life lately I haven't really had much chance to blog, but there's something that's been playing on my mind that I really need to put in writing.
On Sunday Hamish, Nic and I went to see An Inconvenient Truth at the Penthouse in Brooklyn. Hamish and I were operating on very little sleep, and I was probably open to a more emotional reaction than I was when I first saw it, at home with the distraction of my iBook and Blogger.

The message that my tired state was open to receiving was that of averting climate change being a moral responsibility. We are the ones we have been waiting for. It is up to us to change the way we live, for the sake of future generations.

I have no time now for people who try to argue that climate change is still open to debate. Global warming is a reality. Forget sex before marriage or even gay marriage. The true immorality is the voice that continues to preach a culture of consumerism and plenty in a time when we are theatening to wipe ourselves and a whole heap of other living beings off this planet.

It is hard for me to understand how we can continue to drive around in our four wheel drives, throwing our fast food wrappers out of the window, on the way to the local large discount retail outlet to buy more overly packaged electronic toys. I don't understand how humans can continue to pollute our planet through the plunder of finite oil and coal reserves. It's our children (and I use the term loosely, since neither Hamish nor I plan to have any of our own) who will be the ones who suffer, and who will wonder why we didn't act while there was still time.

I went through a stage of feeling really depressed about the world in which I lived. Then I read A Short History of Progress, which essentially confirmed for me that we were all wiping ourselves out. Strangely it made me feel better about things. It's not crazy to think that we're due for a population correction in the near future. Heck, it will be hard for us humans, but it will make the planet feel a lot better.

Even before I read that amazing book I had taken steps to fulfil what I felt was my own moral obligation towards this planet. That's why I volunteer at the Sanctuary. In my own small way I'm contributing to healing the damage that we have done in the short time we have walked on the land in Aotearoa.

For me it's quite simple. I don't want to be sucking from this planet's lifeforce under a misguided illusion that the world around us is of abundance. I want to give to this planet, not rob from it. When I feel that this earth is healing (and although it sounds a little odd I can feel when I walk through the Sanctuary that the land there is, indeed, healing), then I would hope that it will be able to give over the plenty that, if we treat it with respect I believe it can provide.

Right now we're in triage mode. You don't take blood from someone who's bleeding out on the table...

Notes on reflection, a few minutes post-publish: I would like to make it clear that my position on moral responsibility for climate change comes not primarily from a place of anger or despair (although there have been times when I've felt both) but from a love for the world around me. I hope that I transmit a sense of that love in my writing. Change has to come from a positive place, not from a place of fear or guilt or imposed obligation.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Better late than not at all

Hmmm, posting Poetry Thursday contributions on a Monday...
It was a big week (-end). That's my excuse!

This week we had to write in our own voice. It's funny that when I write about myself I find that I'm writing out stuff that I've already dealt with and moved past. However it still seems important to put it down on paper somehow, like a record of my former selves. So here's a record of the me that was:

The Other
I have carried with me
an evil twin.
This Doppelganger,
epiphyte, latched itself
around my adrenal cortex,
lay blinking in quiet
malevolence, whispering
me angst- ridden lullabies,
feeding on my childhood,
filling me with fear of
incoming tides, electric fences,
water in my ears.
This shadow clung close and
whispered with such charm and guile
I could not see anything
other than my own reflection,
could not hear
other than my own voice,
blind to this growth,
this greedy, sucking tumour until
foolish with power it
ate on itself, wasting
away as my own body
waned with it.
A crone and a midwife
Called to me, crooned to
my withering other,
coaxed it from its
fleshy nest, grasped its
breach birth feet.
With shrunken thoat it howled
as it was drawn from me.
I felt the wrench and
ripping of flesh and it
lost grip and
fell from my back.
Now I carry this other self
with me in a box, a
small token, worry bead,
a companion.
It still sweetly sings and I
feed it soft morsels,
stroke it, and lull it
back to sleep.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Can't Keep a Girl Down...

Yay - after nearly a week of not running the drought was broken yesterday. Duck's half marathon training plan for me has moved into the next phase - speed. I knew this was going to be hard! Yesterday we spent an hour in the aerobics studio at the Terrace gym doing circuit training. I was sprinting up and down the room, using powerbags to do walking lunges and upright rows, sets of press ups and sets of sit ups. Towards the end of the class Duck was getting me to do pushups while she pressed down on my shoulders. We finished up with a thirty second hover, again while Duck pushed down on my shoulders. Feel the burn honey, and get hard! There's no point sitting there discussing and admiring the Combat instructor's gorgeous arms (and the purple hair - I do like purple hair) if you're not prepared to do the work. Nausea is your friend.

As if that wasn't enough, last night the jog squad had a circuit training session around Frank Kitts. We jogged around the waterfront, mixing in some sprint intervals, more pushups and more walking lunges.

At the end of that my knee was still intact, and I was feeling well and truly trained. I got back to the gym and, given that I still had fifteen minutes till our stretch session, took a quick look at my mobile. Just as well - turns out Hamish had free tickets to Handle the Jandal, the music video awards. Soundline was one of the sponsors this year. So there was no stretching, no shower and no dinner. I threw my work clothes back on and hurried to the Embassy. As if I wasn't feeling grotty enough, we ended up seated behind a bunch of immaculately made up and cute-little-dress wearing blonde Red Bull rent-a-chicks. Sigh!

Dinner ended up being popcorn, sauvignon blanc and Goody Bag M & Ms (in a little Resene Paints test pot). That model of of healthy training diet was followed by two-minute noodles at 11pm. Still, it was worth it to sit in the Embassy's comfy leather chairs and watch the cream of up-and-coming Wellington music video talent. Go the red teddy bear!

Ironcially the video that got the biggest cheer of the night wasn't even one of the finalists, but one of the almost-rans that screened during the interval. The storyline consisted of a rather depressed, hunched over and shabby old guy slowly walking away from his run-down villa on a farm somewhere unknown. As the song progressed he slowly straightened up, his face developing life and hope. As he walked he pulled off his trousers, shirt and singlet (dig the baggy y-fronts). Finally he arrived at an old hay barn. Inside the hay barn are two elderly but attractive women sipping champagne in a spa pool. The video concludes with the now rather smug looking old guy smooching his two female acquaintances in the pool.

Back to reality today, and galeforce Northerlies. I spent the whole day debating the should I/shouldn't I running question. Did I really want to run in that wind, and did I really want to risk stuffing up this knee again. In the end I had a rather rotten day and needed to go out and tread the pavement for a while to get my head straight.

I left the Terrace at around 5.30, running up Molesworth, down Tinakori, and along Old Hutt Rd as far as the turn-off to Khandallah. I then returned via Thorndon Quay, Bowen and back to the Terrace. All up it took 53 minutes. I ran at a steady pace, but certainly not my fastest. My breathing remained easy, my quads didn't tire, and I felt really good. Certainly I felt I could have kept going for another 50 minutes or so. Psychologically it was a good booster before Saturday's 100 minute run. My knee isn't even that sore, though it will be interesting to see what the physio says tomorrow.

And in other news, I've booked a swimming coach for next Thursday at Freyberg Pool. I'm waiting for the fear to kick in. Right now there's just a calm determination to do what needs to be done.

No Pip in a pink hat today

The digital camera's at Soundline, so some naked kitty porn instead. Here's Ede on the veranda on Monday morning... Ede is a chocolate tabby Burmese. She's around six years old now, and is the dignified matron of the household. She used to be a slim miss, until she got stuck into Gaffer's kitten biccies a few years ago. She never lost the weight, although the vet thinks she's perfectly healthy.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Why I love Wellington

Here, courtesy of Nic, is why I love Wellington. This was the view from Nic's office window yesterday. The Orongorongo mountains are in the distance, with Frank Kitts park and the wharf at the bottom of the photograph, with Roseneath and Pt Jerningham off to the right. A regular running squad training session would involve intervals in front of Frank Kitts, or a stamina session around the bays.

Now one from our place. This was taken from our East-facing veranda in Mornington at around 7.30am on the same day. Again, the Orongorongos are in the distance. The houses in the middle of the shot are in Newtown. Also in the middle of the photo is a small flat patch of green grass. That's the top of the hill I wrote about a few posts ago, where I was passed by a woman who had just run up the path behind me. I drove past on Sunday, and the hill seemed tiny after Mt Vic!

Another shot taken from our veranda, this time looking South across the bottom of our neighbours' gardens. You can see how lovely and green it is. I don't think it's really visible in this shot, but there's a sliver of Cook Strait in the distance.

The great sunshine lasted all day, although the wind got up a bit. It was sunny for most of today today as well, but by mid afternoon the rain had kicked in and the temperatures had plummeted. It is spring after all.

Also on the positive side, I had a fantastic Body Balance class today. I really feel like my body is lengthening out in the forward folds now, and my downward dogs are getting better and better. The balance on the right side is still atrocious though. I will get the physio to do a general 'state of the nation' check on me tomorrow before I go running tomorrow night...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A Good Day

Day 3 of no running. Dare I say it, not running has been good for me. This knee is recovering, with no real stiffness today, and my IT band is loosening up. There's still a little tightness through the butt, but nothing major.

My goal for today was to sleep in. However getting up to go to the bathroom at 7am made that a real challenge. From the bed I could see a telling yellow glow wafting down the hallway, and my suspicions were soon confirmed. Standing in the hallway I looked through the window in our back door out to the warm morning sun and the stark outline of the Orongorongos. Wellington had turned on one of those perfect spring mornings.

It was tough, but a good book and Media Watch on National Radio kept me in bed till 9.30. Cooking bacon for breakfast took another half hour. However the obvious kept cycling through my mind. This was the day of the Pelorus Trust 10km run in Petone. This was supposed to have been my day. The weather was perfect, and I had no idea whether Allie was running it without me. I'm obviously doomed to never run a successful 10km event.

Finally I was dressed and driving to the landfill. This is one of the amusing things about my new life in Wellington. When we were Auckland apartment dwellers Hamish and I wondered obnoxiously (true Jafas) about why anyone would want a garden. Now we are the unwitting owners of 600sqm of garden wilderness, and the landfill's green waste facility has become my most-used council service.

If you'd have told me a few years ago that I'd be spending my weekends at the tip I would have laughed in your face. Yet there's something about the long drive down Happy Valley, and up the winding road between bleak exposed gorse-covered slopes to the dump site that is strangely compelling. Even the staff manning the weighbridge are oddly friendly.

As I approach the sickly waft of decomposing waste usually compels me to switch the air conditioning to recycle. Yet the exposure to the sheer mass of human discard is a sobering reminder of how large our ecological footprint is in this country. Think about where all those disposable nappies are going, people!

I'm happy to be able to report that the worst component of the majority of my landfill loads is the odd flax leaf hidden in the middle of more legitimate green waste. I try to pretend I haven't seen the large signs stating that flax is not welcome in what will eventually be sold back to me as compost. I try to pluck most of it out, but some still slips through. Today's load was thankfully flax free, and within minutes, and $4 poorer, I was on the way back down the hill again.

I decided to take the scenic route to the Newtown supermarket, so turned left and drove till I reached the Southern coast. The Kaikoura ranges seemed close enough to touch, with only a light sprinkling of snow already, despite our punishing winter. There were scores of people out biking, scuba diving and drinking coffee outside The Bach. Island Bay was swarming with couples out walking, children wading and dogs running across the sand.

I turned inland again and got stuck behind a big ute that crawled at 30 to 40 kmph the whole way to Newtown. If nothing else it gave me the chance to look around at the Island Bay shops (must go to the new theatre, and check out the local butcher, and Black Rocks deserves another visit). I tried not to feel impatient, resisted the urge to overtake, and pondered at my sense of urgency, when it was a gorgeous Sunday with plenty of time to take in the scenary and no place in particular to rush to. All the same, I was glad when the ute finally turned off shortly before I reached the supermarket.

A flight of whimsy led to the inclusion of a bottle of pink bubbly in my shopping trolley. That was accompanied by beer and cider, and my resolution to give up drinking for a month went out the window. A bunch of asparagus soon followed, to celebrate the beautiful spring day. Unfortunately the asparagus never made it onto my shopping receipt, and having seen a bunch in the groceries piled on the counter behind me, I suspect someone else ended up buying my expensive fresh produce.

A brief interlude spent reading the paper out on our East-facing veranda in the sun (with Gaffer curled up on the seat behind me), and then I rounded up the Tivoli and headed into the garden. Active was playing some really bizarre tracks, but they were excellent distraction as I hacked back ivy and ripped out weeds. I'm really glad someone had the foresight to plant our garden with natives.

When I moved here I spent a lot of time ripping out Wandering Jew and other weeds, uncovering a hidden rock garden in the process. Since then the natives have continued to grow, and now all I need to do is plant some native groundcover to prevent the weeds from returning. Eventually Hamish and I want to turn all of the lawn at the top of the garden into native garden. It will be far lower maintenance, and as long as we include a couple of paths leading up to a park bench, it will be just as usable. It's so sheltered and sunny up there, and the views out to the mountains are so tranquil, that it's a part of the garden we really should use more.

There's something about working out in our garden that is both physically and spiritually fulfilling. It amazes me in part because before moving here I was the only non-green thumbed member of a very horticultural family. I was very much a city chick. We didn't even realise until we'd already gone unconditional exactly how much garden we'd bought into, and it's been a bit of a steep learning curve.

I've written before about the energy that comes from the mountains, but every time I spend an afternoon out there playing in the soil I'm amazed at how palpable it is. Once I'm there I never want to leave. A connection forms that goes far deeper than the roots of the weeds in the dirt around me. When I'm old and someone asks me about my fondest memories I will reminisce about sunny Sunday afternoons spent in the garden listening to the Americana show on my Tivoli, followed by cider on the veranda.

However today before the familiar Pat Green lyrics kicked in:

"I gave up on Nashville a long time ago
Well here I go, Lord once again,
Oh here I go..."

... I was with Hamish in our little Polo driving back around the coast to Chocolate Fish. Leonie was due to fly out to California, and we were meeting her and Nic for coffee and cake before she left. They had scored a beach-side table in the sun, and coffee (for them), OJ (for me) and cake (carrot, passionfruit and chocolate caramel slice) were on their way.

The sun was shining, but a stiff Northerly kept the temperatures at a 'yes it's still spring, and this is Wellington' temperature. Leonie had 'duck bumps' on her goose pimples, but was typically staunch. Behind us small children ran into the water and squealed at the bracing Cook Strait currents. The cake got eaten, the coffee got drunk, and before long Leonie was leaving on a jet plane and Hamish and I were back at home, where I drank more cider, Hamish drank unseasonal Monteith's Winter Ale and we polished off the pink bubbly and way too much Whitakers Dark Ghana.

All in all it's been a pretty perfect Wellington day. I have to regard it as a good thing that this knee kept me out of my running shoes and off my bike. Resting has restored some much needed balance into my life, and I'm feeling emotionally and spiritually replenished.

Oh, and Allie DID complete the Petone 10km, despite me thinking she might give in to the temptation to sleep in (sorry for the lack of faith). She thinks she did it in around 55 minutes, which is a good indication of the time I would have done it in. Tragically, I completed a 10km by proxy. Never mind - who needs a paltry 10km event when there's a half to run?

Though if anyone in charge of Wellington running events reads this, could someone PLEASE organise a Wellington half with some decent hills? This is a great city with some great trails. Let's actually use them!

Sunday Scribblings: Researching Rata

This week the Sunday Scribblings suggestion was to research something we were interested in. In the Sanctuary yesterday I walked past a research area, where conservation staff are trialling planting Rata epiphytes in different varities of native tree. I decided I would do some research into Rata, given that I know shamefully little about New Zealand botany.

Northern and Southern Rata belong to the Myrtle family. Other members of the Myrtle family include Eucalyptus, Feijoa, Clove and Guava. The Northern rata is an epiphyte. That means it grows perched on a host tree (commonly Rimu), which it eventually overwhelms. The Northern Rata grows up to 25 metres tall, with a trunk up to 2.5 metres thick. It is found all over the North Island, and in the South Island to Westport. The Southern Rata grows from seed, to about 15 metres.

Rata grow very slowly. They display beautiful red flowers from November to January, but may only flower every few years. Native bees, Tui, Bellbird and Kaka all feed off the trees' nectar. Rata honey is exceptionally sweet. Hamish and I tried some Golden Bay Rata honey last Christmas, but although I could see the attraction it was too strong for my taste.

Birds such as the Kaka rely on the tree for holes in which to nest. In the Sanctuary Rata are too small to provide suitable nesting sites for Kaka, so introduced Pine are being retained until such time as the Rata are mature enough to take over. As it is the Pines are reaching the end of their natural life, and each bit storm threatens to topple a few more.

Rata are endangered, primarily thanks to the introduced Possum. Before human settlement the only native New Zealand mammal was the bat. Native flora and fora stood no chance in the face of introduced pests. Possums browse heavily on Rata and can kill a mature tree in three years.

Early British settlers to Wellington hastened the Rata's decline by burning it from the young city's slopes, then planted fast growing Pohutukawa when the hillsides seemed too bare. Unfortunately Pohutukawa are a pest plant in the Wellington region, taking over space Rata would once have occupied, and hybridising with the local plant. However Rata can still be found in the Tararua and Rimutaka Ranges, and keen local conservationists are tracking its survival in more urban areas.

Project Crimson is working with the Wellington Counsel to plant over 7,500 Rata on the Tinakori Hills over a five year period. A huge storm a couple of years ago felled hundreds of settler-planted Pine trees, and a large cleanup project left the hills again looking bare and scarred. Debate has raged here over the political correctness of planting only natives. It's true that the Rata will take a long time to replace the lost pines, but in one hundred years or so the approach to the city centre along the motorway will be spectacular. With a riot of red on one side and the harbour on the other. I only wish I could be there to see it.

In Maori mythology Rata sets out to avenge the death of his father at the hands of an ogre, Matuku. Matuku's servant advises Rata that the ogre comes out to eat people at each new moon, and can be killed at the pool where he washes his hair. Rata goes on to kill the ogre, and uses his bones to make spears for hunting birds.

Rata then searches for his father's bones. Before he can begin his quest he must build a canoe. He cuts off the top of a tree to begin carving the canoe, but when he wakes the next morning the tree is again whole. He cuts down the tree again, but in the morning the tree is again whole. This process continues, until one morning he hears the tree spirits, who tell him he has offended Tane, the God of the forest, by not performing the correct rituals. Rata is ashamed and apologises. As a result he is allowed to complete his canoe.

Rata then hunts down the people who have his father's bones. He kills their priests, and retrieves the bones. However the villagers chase him, and overwhelm him in battle. When everything seems lost he remembers the priests reciting an incantation as they tapped his father's bones together. He repeats the incantation, and immediately his dead warriors return and slaughter their attackers.

A rather bloody tale, but then Rata is also said to have given the tree that bears his name its red colour, so probably also appropriate. I'm glad now that a previous owner planted our hillside with natives, and that I resisted the temptation when we first moved here to transform it into a model of colonial cottage garden style. I'm going to go out and buy some more indigenous flora so that I can ditch the lawn!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Chasing Birds...

Today was spent chasing birds in the Sanctuary. Specifically, today was spent chasing this bird. I've been trying to work out whether he has an established territory or not. Today he turned up at two different nestboxes and one feeder. I'm sure he's just toying with me. At the moment I don't think he's set up home. Instead I think he's dashing around playing bachelor, checking out all the other males' pads, trying to work out whether he can break in and steal their girlfriends.

Hihi males are known for their slightly less than desirable sexual behaviour, which includes opportunistic bird rape (face to face). However they can also be very accepting of blended families. Thanks to the aforementioned bird rape issue, one male may end up raising chicks of mixed parentage. His female may lay up to five eggs in a clutch, fertilised by more than one bird. Hihi males will also take over the raising of another male's chicks, as happened last year when one of my males died.

Other than trying to work out where Mr No Home is hanging out, today I had a long list of other feeders and nestboxes to monitor. Thankfully the weather was actually springlike, and unlike last week at no point was I at risk of dying from the cold. As a result I monitored for around five hours.

Early on in the day I was watching a nestbox where it was known nesting activity was taking place, but not by whom. Suddenly a Hihi male landed around a metre away from me. He sat next to me for around 10 minutes, preening and eyeballing me, before flying off. He remained in the area for the whole time I was there, flying around, checking out one of the nestboxes, and dropping to the forest floor occasionally to eat, before returning again to perch nearby and keep an eye on me. Unfortunately there was no sign of a female, and the next puzzle for the day became "where are all the females"?

As if the close contact at the last nestbox wasn't enough, the male at the next nestbox wanted to get even more up close and personal. As I sat watching he siddled up a branch at my head level. He stopped a few inches from my face, looked intently at me, paused, took a deep breath, opened his beak, and before I could take evasive action, let out a piercing teesaavee call at the top of his lungs. That's okay, I didn't actually want to be able to hear anyway. Looking smug, he backed off and continued calling as he flew around the area, just to make sure everyone knew he was at home.

Towards the end of the day, when I'd decided all the females must have been off at a Hihi hen party somewhere, one quiet female turned up at a feeder, and then an adjacent nestbox. She hopped around on the ground, chortling quietly to herself, but did not appear to be in the right mood for nestbuilding. After a while she disappeared back off into the bush, and that was my dose of female Hihi spotting finished with.

All up a great day, although it didn't really do my poor knee any favours. I'm looking forward to a good sleep in tomorrow, followed by a cooked breakfast, and I might try to get out to an art exhibition or two. Or perhaps I'll sneak in a yoga class. A whole day to myself - what a novelty!

As I was walking around the lake today I became more and more determined to come back again after the half and slot in a bit of trail running. I think I could lead the jog squad girls on a fun run. How about it Sarah? Down the Te Mahanga track, up the gentle Swamp Track incline, onto Round the Lake (walking the stupid steep bit up from the bridge), down via the gentle Beech Track, and back to the entrance via the road. I wonder how long THAT would take...

Friday, September 15, 2006

What's Missing?

I've been thinking a bit this week about how, although I'm really enjoying all the training I'm doing at the moment, it isn't leaving a lot of time for the other parts of my life. If I join both the next Jog Squad and Women's Multis that means I'll be training four nights a week, plus one day a week at the Sanctuary. That means no time for art lessons, and no meditation evenings.

I really haven't had any writing inspiration lately. I think all my mental energy has been going into my running. I've been a little one dimensional. This week's Poetry Thursday challenge was to write in a different voice. I liked the idea, but I just couldn't pull myself together to actually do it.

So instead I decided to give some time to seeking meditation inspiration instead. I found this poem, written by Buddhist teacher Christopher Titmuss. It's very simple, but I like the intention behind it.


I vow to remember that today is a new day
Full of new beginnings and fresh moments
Today, I will not cling to events of yesterday nor yesteryear
But stay connected with what today brings.
I will not madly pursue my desires at the expense of others
Nor flee from challenging tasks.
I will remain true to the unfolding process of today
Without losing myself in thoughts of what was or what might be.
I will treat today with awareness and sensitivity
Even in the most ordinary of tasks.
I will apply myself wholeheartedly to the fullness of today
For I know that today holds the resource for authenticity.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Broken Pip

And it's all my fault. My knee hasn't been right since storming down Mt Vic on the weekend.

I had a physio session yesterday, with some ultrasound on my knee to help break up the inflamation. Ironically my back and butt are now feeling really good. By last night and a couple of applications of anti-inflam cream my knee was feeling ok. This morning it was still a little stiff, but not too bad. There was never a question of doing interval training last night - it would have been madness.

Unfortunately it was perfect running weather this morning. By that I don't just mean it was a nice morning. It was one of those 'you'd be mad not to miss it' mornings. Well, the physio said I could run today if I was feeling okay. I spent some time warming up on a crosstrainer and watching a really obese woman walking slowly on a treadmill, wondering why the heck she didn't just go for a walk outside and actually enjoy herself.

Though I was still harbouring doubts about the wisdom of running, Duck greeted me with "so, are you ready for a run?" and it was all on. As we were leaving the gym I had the satisfaction of running past one of the EAs at work. It's nice to be seen out and about! Ok, so I'm still a recognition junkie...

We ran up Molesworth, down Tinakori, along Thorndon Quay, and around the waterfront. Right on 15 minutes my usual 'difficult patch' kicked in. I had felt like I was flying, then suddenly I was crawling. We kept going regardless, turning at the Rowing Club and returning to the gym. We ran for just on half an hour, and did slightly over 5km. Not bad given that I felt like I was plodding for the last half and felt a bit queasy for a while. It's the whole 'running in the morning when you're usually an evening runner' thing. Well, the half starts at 9am so I'd better get used to it. As long as I get up early enough, eat a good breakfast, and take my meds early enough I should be fine.

The aftermath of the run has not been good. For a while there today I was really hobbling. Now I've just got a bit of an ache, but the IT band has spasmed up halfway up my thigh. I've had another go with the foam roller tonight and I'll rub on some more anti-inflam before bed. I'm not running until Wednesday now, given that the problem is not my fitness level but getting my poor body to the starting line. I am still going to do RPM in the morning, but I'll have to keep the resistance really light. I'll do some yoga over the weekend, and spend some time in the Sanctuary.

Michelle, if you read this, I had meant to say that I've done a lot of work to strengthen my quads. Duck's a really good trainer, and she and I spent a month or so focusing specifically on quad strength before shifting the focus to my core strength. I can leg press more than some of her male clients, and I'm 5' 4 and weigh 57kg, so I'm a fair bit smaller than them as well! This really is all a result of my hips being all out of alignment, and because I've pushed myself so hard to get from not being able to run in February to doing huge hill runs.

I've booked our accommodation in Masterton for the half in October. Now I just need to send in my entry form. I've also just found out that there's no Special K duathlon next year. I'm really disappointed, as I was looking forward to smashing this year's time. Fitter, faster, stronger and nearly 10kg lighter. It would have been a blast! Oh well, I pretty much remember the route, so I guess I could do a mock duathlon of my own.

Oh, and I think I just gave Duck an idea for a really gnarly long weekend run. Allie, Sarah - think up Adelaide Rd all the way to Island Bay, around the Southern Coast, up the long slow climb through Happy Valley to Brooklyn, down the hill on the other side, and back to the gym.
I might head out in my car this weekend to measure the distance. If I get too tired on the day I can always peel off back home when I get to Brooklyn!

No poetry today. I may go through my study and see if I can pull out someone else's poem to publish. I've been too distracted with training to sit down and focus on my writing. Naughty Pip.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Yay and Grrr Simultaneously

I guess this is now officially both a running blog and a writing blog. So, together with today's inspiration, a running update.

Yesterday our running group was down for a flat endurance-building run. Ingrid assured us that it genuinely was a flat run, not a "Duck" flat run. It's a route we know well right now, and psychologically that familiarity can make it difficult if you're not having a good day. It was that same initial route that left me struggling to Baleana Bay on Saturday.

Last night, however, I was not struggling. From Te Papa I could sense the strength in my legs. My quads, far from being wiped out from Saturday's run, had responded with increased power and speed. Unfortunately Allie wasn't so lucky, and by Pt Jerningham I was pulling ahead.

As I ran past Freyberg Pools I could hear someone right behind me with an unfamiliar footfall. Looking back I saw a rather tall athletic guy running at my pace. As we ran through Oriental Bay he began attempting to chat up Lisa. We all got talking, and he commented on our good speed. However there was a Southerly blowing, and as predicted, once we rounded the point we were hit by an arctic blast. Us tough Wellington chicks braced ourselves and kept going. Our visitor from Tauranga, however (for that was where he was from) turned tail and headed straight back towards town. The guy needed to harden up!

The distraction over, and now running on my own with Lisa slightly ahead and Allie behind, we all continued at a good pace. The 30 minute turn-around point came at Cog Park, with me still pumping away trying to beat my prior performance. On the way back I concentrated on catching Allie, who had turned around before me and found her second wind, and then put in additional bursts of speed to pass other, slower runners.

I timed a kilometre through Oriental Bay and estimate I was doing around 5.5 minute kms. I only started to flag a little as we passed Te Papa, but was barely flushed when we got back to the gym and wasn't really breathing hard at all.

Our run last Monday up to Kelburn was 10km and I did it in 56 minutes, which means I knocked nearly 15 minutes off my Shoe Clinic time in June. Even though I 'bonked' on that day and ended up run walking when I should have been able to run the whole thing, that is an amazing improvement.

Unfortunately my right IT band has decided to do the tight rubber-band thing and I've been hobbling around all day on a bung knee. Thankfully I have a physio appointment tomorrow and I'll spend some time with a foam roller tonight. However I decided it would be stupid to try to run 75 minutes today. We've got interval training tomorrow night, and hopefully I'll get my knee into shape enough to run my homework run on Thursday. Then I'll do the Petone 10km fun run on Sunday as my other homework run.

Instead of running today I did Body Balance. I'm really loving the new release. It's very hard, but very fulfilling and targets all my problem areas. I was able to make the most of the relaxation today, and had a wonderful visualisation involving amalgamating a spirit guide's strength into my own self. Given my usual grasshopper mind I was quite pleased with myself.

So, progress all around, and Pip continuing to feel pleased with herself!

Running on Mountain Power

DailyOm sent through this inspiration today. With the exception of my year in Holland I've always lived within sight of mountains. In Auckland we lived at the base of the Waitakeres. In Wellington we look across to the Orongarongas. I have written before about the energy that radiates from my mountains and the strength that I draw from them. When I come home on the bus at night I look to my left when we reach The Ridgeway and acknowledge them. I'm going to try and incorporate this meditation into my weekly routine.

Experiences To Savor
Magical Moments

Throughout history, humankind has stood in awe of mountains. The strength and sturdiness evident in the rocky crags and smooth slopes of peaks around the globe have from time immemorial inspired creativity and kindled courage. Mountains have been venerated by many cultures, which worshipped great summits as gods and sacred beings. In their looming presence, humanity has seen power, steadfastness, and resolve. Yet you needn't live near a mountain to tap into this vast energy of commanding grandeur. Conversely, since mountains are as unique in form as human beings, your locale may exist under the unwavering gaze of a small mountain without your knowing it. As you practice mountain meditation, the power that lurks in the heart of all mountains will flow into you while their essential beauty reminds you that you, too, are a creature of the earth.

If there are mountains in your area, plan to spend some time enjoying the peaceful embrace of Mother Nature, which can be a potent meditation aid. Likewise, grasping a rock or stone in your hand will enable you to easily tap into earth energy. If you are prevented by circumstance from visiting a mountain, however, begin by visualizing yourself at the base of a towering summit. Holding a rock can be helpful to tune into mountain energy. You may find yourself picturing a steep and majestic snowcapped peak or a lush, tree-covered mass that rises gently from the earth. Sit or imagine yourself sitting at the mountain's base and spend a few minutes simply coexisting with it. When you feel tranquil, express your intention to commune with your mountain and ask to receive its energy. Project your consciousness onto the mountain's peak, and look down upon the flatlands over which it stands guard. Send light to the flora and fauna that call the mountain home. You may discover that you ! feel wonderfully immense and unshakable as you delve deeper into the meditation.

Finally, ask the mountain to serve as a guide and give it your sincerest gratitude. If you have literally visited a plateau or summit, pass time with the mountain by camping, hiking, or picnicking upon it. Or, if your journey has been a spiritual one, use your imagination to survey the sights, sounds, and scents of your mountain. As your explorations progress, you will become ever more grounded, growing gradually into your personal power. When you are finished meditating with mountain energy, give thanks to this strong and powerful energy for sharing time with you.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

If I write it, it will be so

My half marathon is on 15 October. Last night I drank a bottle of cider and two cocktails. Today I've had two bottles of cider (and too much dark chocolate). The chocolate I'm not so worried about. I very rarely eat chocolate. However I feel like I'm drinking too much at the moment. All those empty calories keep translating themselves into Weight Watchers points in my mind. It's also possible it could be damaging to to my running performance.

I've decided that, from 15 September I'm giving up alcohol for a month. No more quenching, cold Brightstone Dry after a long run. I won't drink again until after the half. Yes, that does give me a couple of nights to finish off the last of the cider. However it also means I won't be able to touch the lovely Fiddleback wine we have stashed in three places around the house.

I won't be able to drink at my sister's 30th birthday either. Is that ok Shaz? Anyway, what ARE we doing for your celebration?

What Could I Still Become?

I wasn't feeling terribly inspired about this week's Sunday Scribbings theme, and wasn't going to write anything. However last night I was out with Hamish, Nic and Leonie, and decided instead to write about a dream I used to have that I hadn't really given much thought to in a while.

What could I still become? I could still become a member of a jazz band.

This idea came to me while we were sitting in Chow Cabaret drinking cocktails, eating Blue Cheese Wontons (mmmmm....) and listening to Twinset. We had scored a great table up against the low stage, and I was loving the music and the retro Cabaret atmosphere. The long red Twin Peaks curtains and orange carpet take me back to my childhood, spent running around the (now demolished and turned into nasty apartments ) Mandalay Reception Lounge in Newmarket, Auckland.

Dad started working at the Mandalay when I was still at primary school. During school holidays he would take us into work with him. We would hide under the long white table clothes that were set up for weddings, or one of his workmates would turn a spotlight onto the glitter ball and we would chase little white lights all around the dancefloor. In the changing rooms upstairs from the stage we would crawl around looking for the sequins that dropped off the gowns of the ballroom dancers. However my favourite thing in the whole wide world was to sit up on the stage and pick out tunes on the grand piano.

Sometimes, for a special treat, Dad would allow us to go to Cotton Club shows on a Sunday. I loved the Queen City Big Band (my music teacher was a singer) and would beg to be allowed to see them perform. I shook hands with pianist Oliver Jones and sat above him on the mezzanine level watching as he rubbed powder on his huge fingers before playing. I developed an unnatural fondness for Dixieland music for someone of my generation.

While still at school I took piano lessons and learned to play the saxophone. My teacher talked about me joining a youth jazz band, but unfortunately when he left for America the lessons stopped. I was also a member of the school choir and the school orchestra, but jazz music wasn't exactly part of our repertoire.

Eventually Dad left the Mandalay, I left home, and the playing stopped. My piano stayed at Mum and Dad's until Hamish organised for it to be trucked down last year. It still hasn't been tuned and both it and I sound terrible! I do still sing, although not as often as I would like. Instead Hamish and I have gotten into the local underground dance music scene. For several years we have helped put on dance parties around Wellington. We have also crewed some of the big outdoor New Years festivals in Golden Bay.

I still love the smell of stale alcohol that wafts out from bars when they are closed and empty. It reminds me so much of my childhood. My early exposure to jazz has influenced the music I listen to, and I particularly like the jazz-influenced Wellington sound of groups like Fat Freddy's Drop. I think Dad would like them as well. But watching Twinset last night made me think that I would love to perform again.

I haven't decided what my instrument of choice would be yet. Jazz improvisation was never really my forte on the piano. I could always sing. I used to do a mean rendition of "That Old Devil Called Love". However I have a fascination with the sexiness of well-played sax. I would have to buy an instrument, and I haven't played in over 15 years, so I'd have a lot of catching up to do, but I'm sure I could do it. Hey, perhaps I could sing AND play saxophone. Just not at the same time!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Channelling Melissa Moon

If there's someone I admire it's Wellington mountain runner Melissa Moon. I admire her mental strength and physical toughness. Melissa has also talked about her Buddhist sentiments, so we share a common interest in that area. I have seen her running past once or twice on my Saturday mornings around the Bays, and she is another passionate Wellingtonian.

A couple of years ago I was walking in the town belt on a hot summer day. I had climbed to the top of a steep hill and was puffing and sweaty. A rather fit woman appeared at the top of the path and flew past me, before reappearing a few minutes later on her way back down again. I wondered how anyone EVER got fit enough to do that! Well ....

Last night I started to get very anxious about this morning's run. I think it stemmed from Wednesday and feeling that I should be able to run faster. I was putting pressure on myself and started to worry that I wouldn't be able to pace myself and that I would crash and burn like I did in the Shoe Clinic 10km. I started to doubt my own newfound mental toughness. That feeling built this morning, and I woke feeling very nervous and a bit stomachy.

Thankfully I didn't have much time to wait around at the gym stewing on things and we set out very quickly. Things started out in a straightforward fashion - around the Bays to Baleana, by now a very familiar route. It was fifteen minutes of hell. No rhythm and the beginnings of a stitch. The mental dialogue kicked in. What was I thinking? Why did I believe I was someone who could run a half marathon? I must be crazy. I should go home and go to bed. I later found out Allie and a number of the others were feeling the same way. I think we were all feeling a little intimidated.

When we got to Baleana the mountain climbing games began, and all mental dialogue was pushed aside in the face of simply trying not to die! The first stretch was a steep climb up a path towards a road. We were all made to walk the path, then ran up the steady incline before dropping down the other side. After a few minutes we turned onto the Southern walkway, and the trail running began. From then on we ran along gravel paths that threaded through bush and above houses, climbing and falling in steep gradients.

We all had to walk some of the steeper parts of the track, but what amazed me was how quickly I was able to recover my breath and pick up the pace again once things levelled out. I decided I liked trail running, particularly on the occasions when the track opened out and Wellingon opened up below us. It was a beautiful morning, slightly overcast but cool and very still. I would have liked to have been able to stop and take in the views, but that will have to wait for another time.

Finally we emerged onto the road that we had run up on our Mt Vic run a week or so ago. We stopped to regroup, which gave me the opportunity to try my Lemon and Lime gel shot. The trick is obviously to chase it with a lot of water, but I think I could probably stand to use one again, and the energy certainly did help.

The choice was ours - up or down. We chose up. We quickly passed our turnaround point from the last run, and then suddenly we were on the summit road. We had nearly been there! If we had run only a few more minutes we would have been standing on the top. We weren't going to let the opportunity pass us by again, although we did have to walk up the last flight of stairs.

No time to admire the view or feel too much of a sense of satisfaction - it was straight back down the other side. I have discovered my new niche - downhill running. I made it my mission to catch the front runners, opened things up and flew down the incline. Great fun! Halfway down the Lake Taupo squad came grinding up the hill towards us on their road bikes. Cheering and waving to Leonie and then Nic made a huge difference and gave me yet another big boost.

Down the hill, and then down into Newtown, past the greengrocers and people out shopping, past the hospital, through the Basin, down Cambridge Terrace, then suddenly we were on Courtney Place and back at the gym.

Physical rundown - breath even, legs still feeling strong, hip good, butt good. Less of the sweaty tomato even! Just a bit of tightness around the right knee. A bit of time spent with a foam roller sorted most of that out. The more I run the better my injury gets. I really noticed the difference in Body Balance yesterday. It was the first class I didn't spend feeling frustrated about the pain. I'm glad in retrospect that I took an extra 5mg of hydrocortisone this morning. I think I probably genuinely needed it.

So, back to Melissa Moon and that woman running up the path behind me. That's me! I did it! I ran for NINETY minutes and kept up the whole way. A half marathon on the flat should be straightforward by comparison. The word for today is 'achievement', as in having an amazing sense of.

Oh, and I am now the proud owner of a size 8 pair of board shorts. I've never ever been a size 8 in my entire life!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Poetry Thursday: Blue

Yesterday's Poetry Thursday inspiration was the topic 'blue'. Given that I've been thinking about home lately I thought I would continue the domestic theme and write about my bluest room - our bathroom.

Incidentally, this photo was taken before we went unconditional on the purchase of our house, so the towels and bath mat aren't ours. I've been looking through all the photos we took thinking "this is our house, but it's not our house". It's so weird seeing our place with someone else's stuff in it. The woman who lived here before us had moved here from England, and my main impression looking back is that we have a lot more clutter! Although I guess if I were setting my house up for an open day I would hide a lot of the day to day detritus I can see littering the lounge at this moment.


My bathroom is a shocking shade
of blue that catches visitors’ breath
as they swing open the door.
The paint extends the whole way up
the walls and covers the ceiling,
which in the narrow high room
serves only to amplify the effect.
The light coming from the one small window
is quickly captured and beaten into
submission and the room seems dark
even in the middle of the day.

When I moved here I planned
to paint it a more acceptable shade of eggshell
but the colour has grown
on me. I lie in the bath and pretend
I am at the bottom of some deep swimming
pool. I imagine I am curled up within
the lustre of a paua shell.

This room will never win any design awards
but its character has earned it the right to
a prolonged existence so I continue
to surprise my guests with the richness of
the palette of the place where
I live.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Sand Underfoot...

There are times in life when goals are being achieved and everything seems exciting. Not everything in my life is perfect right now. Work, in particular, is proving to be very stressful this week, which is probably why I’m writing this rather than typing up the minutes to the meeting I just attended or reworking my figures for the latest draft costings I’m finalising for a big project. But the fact that I’m feeling so good about other areas of my life is making the work issues a lot easier to deal with.

Last night the jog squad ran from the gym to the Fisherman’s Table, back as far as the Freyberg Pool, and then met up at the concrete steps at the Southern end of Oriental Bay. We spent the next half an hour sprinting along the sand and jogging slowly back along the footpath. The Northerly was still blowing, but down by the water we were sheltered. The famed golden sand was tinged with the black colour of diesel at the high tide mark, and fringed with seaweed.

From the waterline the noise of the cars was muffled by the seawall, the main sounds the waves as they washed in and the rasping of my breath. The sand has a surprisingly coarse texture that is more like crushed glass than you would expect. It crunched beneath my feet as I ran. I could smell the slightly fermented, sharp odour of inner-harbour sea water, and the breeze carried with it an occasional hint of the spilt diesel.

I kept as close to the waves as possible, trying to find a firm surface to run on. I was too busy trying to keep my footing and not turn an ankle to really turn up the speed. But I was lifting my legs and pumping with my arms, and that small stretch of sand started to feel like a huge distance after the first couple of circuits.

I remember looking at the faster girls all running together in a bunch and being frustrated that I wasn’t with them, despite how hard I’ve worked. I decided that it was perfectly possible for me to be running at their speed. So when we ran back to the gym I stayed at the front. I made it back in a reasonably intact state, rather smug with myself. Having said that, it’s not that I’m that far behind them, but when Allie’s not there I do tend to end up running in a little space of my own.

So that was the major chunk of this week’s running over until Saturday. I am blown away by the increase in my fitness and strength over the last couple of weeks. I can run these long hard runs, then get up the next day and do it all again. I joke that I feel like a machine, but it is obviously much more organic than that. My body is simply being primed to work at an optimal level.

This morning Duck took me through a quite intense hour of circuit-style weights training, focusing on the upper body and core. At the end of each circuit I did ten full press-ups. By the end of the workout I’d completed 100 in total. I remember getting out of hospital after being diagnosed with Addison’s and nearly bursting into tears because I was so weak I could barely do one. I’ve come a proverbial and literal long way.

On Saturday we are running 80 minutes, and I already know from Duck’s hedged comments that we are running up to Roseneath and that parts of the route are so steep we will be walking them. Why this is a prospect that excites me I am not entirely sure!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Urk. 70 minutes of solo plodding around the waterfront completing my homework run. The lungs - easy. The legs - shot! My aim for the day - simply to keep moving, never mind the speed. That strategy thankfully worked. Other than a quick water stop at Baleana and a 30 second walk to stretch a cramped foot near Te Papa I kept up the same slow but steady jog the whole way. The mental dialogue was good as well - no begging to stop, just grim determination. It's a little humiliating to be running at a pace not much faster than the Loaded Hog walkers, but there you go. Yesterday I was the 'caning it queen'. Tomorrow I'm doing intervals. Time, not distance or speed, was the aim of the day, and I got there. Another run closer to the half marathon. Learning to keep going when the legs are dead is surely another important part of the lesson.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Define Rolling Hills!

I'm so happy with myself after tonight's run that this post is going to wind up being a bit of a self-appreciation session. I have to keep reminding myself that at the start of this year I could barely run 500m without dying.

Tonight we ran from the gym, up Dixon Street and the Dixon Street steps to the Terrace, then up Salamanca Rd to the Kelburn shops, over the viaduct, and back down past the Botanic Gardens to Tinakori Rd. Allie and I made it to Bowen Street in under 30 minutes, well before the cut-off time of 40 minutes, so we had to run to the bottom of Tinakori, then along Thorndon Quay, and back to the gym via Jervois Quay. We made it back in just over 55 minutes.

Tonight's workout was advertised as a 60 minute rolling hill run. For the record, this was NOT rolling hills. From the gym it was essentially all uphill for most of the way. Thankfully it wasn't as steep as I had remembered, and my hill running has improved beyond belief, so I was able to keep up a good steady pace and at no point did I feel like stopping. Lisa was around 100m ahead of us the whole way, although the front pack did disappear off into the distance as always.

The downhill leg was so much fun. It felt like we were, to use a term from my Westie youth, caning it the whole way down, and it was a LONG way down! We didn't slow down that much once we got to the waterfront, so I'm really pleased with our time. Tonight was one of those runs where my mental dialogue was pretty much "my God you've improved - look at what you're doing", rather than "stop, stop, stop, stop". I still ended up looking like a sweaty tomato, but I was a smiling one!

I can really feel how much stronger my body has gotten in even just the last two weeks. Running an hour isn't an issue for me now. My legs really look the part as well. I have that nice little runner bulge thing happening in my quads. Definition - nice! Not bad for a 33 year old...

Add to that a few of the jog squadders telling me I was a machine, and that they were absolutely blown away by my story of how much I've improved, well...

So I'm in a good frame of mind going into the rest of the week's runs. Our homework run, which I need to get out of the way before Saturday, is a flat 70 minutes. I'm going to try to do it tomorrow, even if it kills me and makes the intervals on Wednesday an instrument of torture. That way I'll wind up concentrating on upper body and core with Duck on Thursday, a light RPM (sniff, farewell Jocko) on Friday, then our 80 minute run with the squad on Saturday.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Runner Pip!

I had what will go down in history as a defining run yesterday. My 10km demons are well and truly vanquished!

Allie and I met up at Les Mills at 8.30 and headed out around the Bays. It's spring, so that of course meant a blustery North Westerly. At times we were being blown to one side, then we would round a bend and suddenly we would be pushed along faster than our legs could move. There were a few genuinely frightening moments.

Running round Oriental Bay we could see wet pavement and sea spray ahead of us. There was nothing for it than to run through the waves. Thankfully we didn't get too wet. One woman who came running towards us was quite drenched.

A quick stop at Baleana Bay for a toilet stop and drink of water, and another to strip off in Hataitai Park. No more wearing polyprops on morning runs - I was roasting! Somehow I've also managed to lose all but one of my hairclips, and my hair was going everywhere.

Before I knew it we were at the turnaround for the bike leg of the Special K duathlon, so I knew we'd done over 5km in just on half an hour. From there it was no time at all to the Wind Wand and the turn right to the climb up over the saddle to Newtown. After the Mt Vic climb this little hill felt like nothing at all. We hit the top of the rise and then had the joy of knowing it was downhill all the way to the gym. Running past our reflections in a shop front I even noted that we LOOKED like runners. No shuffling and dragging of feet - body held erect, long stride, good knee lift. Now that's a bit different to a few months ago!

As we hit the one hour mark I started thinking ruefully of Duck's instructions to bring along water and gel shots. That's the last time I'll go out for over an hour without fuel. Still, even running against the Northerly with tired legs didn't dampen the enthusiasm, and the last little stretch down Courtney Place was postively joyful! We made it back to the gym in under 70 minutes. 10.6km with a hill and a few stops for traffic lights etc. If we'd set out again and repeated the route we would have had our half-marathon polished off. I estimate I'm running roughly 6 minute kms, which is still slow compared to some but about where I wanted to be, so I'm pretty contented.

Allie took me back to her lovely little rented villa in Mt Vic for a shower. Thanks to the central city gas issues the Les Mills showers were cold. With my complexion I looked like a sweaty tomato, while Allie's olive skin just had a bit of a rosy glow on. After she dropped me back in town I had half an hour till I was due to meet up with Hamish for brunch, so I dashed back up to the gym to dry my hair off. The gas had just come back on, but the showers were still lukewarm and I had to keep explaining to other questioning women that I hadn't actually used them.

Brunch at the Matterhorn had never tasted so good. A gorgeous garlicy, buttery potato soup with crostini, and I didn't want to think about exactly HOW MUCH butter! A quick wander around town and I headed back home to a cider and a paper. We had grand ideas about theatre or a Soundline thing, but after dinner I crashed on the sofa and slept soundly till 10pm. I woke only for long enough to stagger groggily into bed.

All that sleep did me good though, and I was up and awake early this morning to head into the Sanctuary. In case you haven't already figured as much out from my previous posts, it's SPRING. The Tuis are in full-on mad, crazy, chasing each other through the sky breeding mode. The Hihi are getting the idea as well. The males are claiming their territories and defending them voraciously, even the ones that don't yet have females. I visited ten nestboxes and managed not to kill myself climbing up the stream bank or sliding down into the gully. I even managed to do a spot of writing (see previous post). Not a bad day.

Sometimes I wonder whether I should be more sociable, and whether it is bad for us to be spending so much time on our own together at home rather than out on the town, but then I think I am still busy, just a different kind of busy. I am still socialising, just in different ways. I'm not exactly a recluse. Vestigates of still being too hard on myself.

So, tomorrow rolling hills, Wednesday sprints. Oh, and at some stage I need to call a swimming instructor. Err, yup, ok then!

Sunday Scribbings: Fortune Cookie

As I write this Sunday Scribbings post I am sitting on the ground leaning against a tree in the middle of a stand of young Kauri trees and Mamaku ferns. The Tuis have returned for the start of the breeding season and are calling and chasing each other all around me while Kaka squawk and Tieke alarm call in the distance. Every pore of my body has registered the change in the seasons. I am in tune with the birds and the young growth on the shrubs brushing up against me.

My fortune cookie would say something like "do what you know makes you happy, not what is easy". for doing what is easy may lead to some kind of initial, surface gratification, but pursuing a greater goal, no matter how much it scares me, will always lead to the greater reward of genuine satisfaction.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Another Wellington Poem

Southerlies Again

A Taniwha takes on its wind form
and stampedes in from the south
races through Berhampore and
crashes into the side of our villa on
this ridge where our heads try to sleep.

I think about Dorothy but Hamish
says this house has been here for
ninety years and will outlast us yet.

The retaining wall below us
leans peering down towards
Macallister Park. We
joke if this house slides
down the hill we will simply build
an ecohouse over the ruins
but in winter as others, less stubborn,
slide off piles beneath sodden slips
downwards motion loses its humour.

I remember clinging to our bed at 2am
during a 6.4, wondering whether this was
the big one. Hamish woke to my
swearing, dreaming cats were chasing
birds squawking on the roof.

I want to see this house turn
100, if only I could feel
we were permanent here in this city
where gravity has such a
fickle humour.