Sunday, October 29, 2006

Bedtime Stories

This week's Sunday Scribblings theme is Bedtime Stories.

My father will tell you that when I was growing up I would refuse to go to sleep until he had read through a whole book of nursery rhymes. I remember that book - it was huge. My parents always read to me, and it's something I'm really grateful for. There were the usual fairy stories, and there were large numbers of Golden Books. Apparently I was able to remember the stories long before I could read them, and would complain if Dad tried to change the storyline.

I remember that I refused to let Dad leave when he finished reading. There must have been many a night when he lay cramped and cold at the end of the bed with only a thin woollen blanket for comfort, waiting impatiently for me to sleep. I could never work out why he wasn't there the next morning.

When I got a little older we developed a ritual where he would slowly creep down the hallway and slowly close the door at the end, waving to me the whole way. When he began working at a reception lounge he would come in to check on me at 3am in the morning. I would sit up and chat with him, but I would never remember having done so.

My childhood was full of books. I loved The Very Hungry Caterpillar because of the colours and the rhythm of the tale. I loved Winnie the Pooh - because my Nana would sing Pooh songs to me when I stayed overnight there. I remember the momentous day when my Dad took me to the library and told me that I was old enough to choose books from the shelves, rather than the boxes of picture books. I even remember the first book I chose. It had a pink cover and was about a witch's cat.

As I grew older I graduated to Trixie Beldons and books about little girls with horses. Our school teacher would read us Roald Dahl or the Hardy Boys, one chapter at a time. The only book I can ever remember disliking was The Wind in the Willows. It just seemed too silly. Toad was obnoxious, and I have never read the whole thing.

My books are gone. All those Golden Books were taken to a second hand store when my parents moved to Taranaki. The Trixie Beldons were kept, but every time I think of a book that is no longer with me I feel a little grief.

Now I buy books for my nieces. I only hope that they leave their Nintendo machines, DVDs and computers long enough to read them.

Inspiration. You have been warned...

So I spoke at the Jog Squad/Women's Multis info session today. It's hard not to sound evangelistic about something that's changed my life so radically, but I did my best to control the enthusiasm. It was a miracle that I was there at all. I got soaked in the Sanctuary this morning with little result, got home, showered, got warm and was not in the mood to go out into gale Northwesterlies and pouring rain.

With Duck on one shoulder and Lesleigh on the other I made it to the pool before 6. Things didn't exactly go smoothly. I still can't work out how to breathe using the kickboard without ended up gasping for air, and the earplugs just refused to feel comfortable. There were a couple of girls messing around with the aquajogging toys and generally getting in the way, and I seemed to be having my usual panic-after-a-breakthrough pool session.

I could have just given in and taken it easy on myself, but I perservered and spent quite a bit of time holding onto the side of the pool practising my breathing. Every time I stick my head under the water it gets easier. Time and time again I tried relaxing while resting my hands on the side of the pool and trying to float. At first, as with previous attempts, I sank like the proverbial stone. Float, damn it!

Finally, I drew break, dunked my head, lifted my torso, relaxed my shoulders, drew my legs in slightly and held myself still. And guess what? I floated.

Let me say that again... I floated!

At the grand age of 33 and a half I floated for the first time ever. I am the starfish queen. Everybody now together... do the Pip celebration dance. Wohoo! Women's Multis starts on 21 November. I WILL be swimming with the squad!

In other momentous news... as I stepped from the shower my greenstone necklace came unclasped, fell to the ground and broke in half. For a few minutes I felt absolutely bereft. However it doesn't seem to me to be a coincidence that I've lost my pendant just as I've internalised the strength and determination I always felt it represented to me. I want more than ever to have the mako tattooed on my shoulder now, so that I always remember what I am carrying inside me. I guess it broke because I didn't need it any more.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Cure for a Hangover

A housewarming party at Julia's with the girls from work turned a little debaucherous last night and I found myself in the back of a cab at around 12.30am having drunk over a bottle of red wine. A chilli and cheese pie soon followed.

I woke at 7.30am with the words "Oh my God" echoing through my head. A litre of water and an apple later and I was feeling no better. I dozed while listening to National Radio until the 9.00am news, then started crawling around the house in preparation for RPM.

I'm keeping off my knee until Monday and am a little more hopeful it will be ok. I was almost tempted to go for a short run today, but thought better of it and stuck to the RPM plan. I was still horrifically hung over, but desperate to sweat out a few toxins.

I got to the gym just after 10am and did 20 minutes on a crosstrainer before grabbing an RPM bike. At first nothing wanted to work. My body felt sluggish - the remains of last night's overindulgence sloshing around in my veins. Every time I tried to ease off something in my head said that there was no point being there if I was going to waste my time. In short, I ignored my headache and queasiness, turned up the dial and went hard. Very hard. Every time I thought I was gong easy on myself I cranked up the dial. This was penance.

I took a quick break, grabbed a protein shake, then it was into Body Balance. Sarah was there, as was an equally hung over Louise. Ingrid and several of the jog squadders were also in attendance.

Body Balance went well. I felt strong, if not completely supple. Some of the back stretches made me feel more than a little ill. My balance has, however, improved hugely, although my right glut still aches. My Warrior poses felt firm and my knee held up well. We did a release that I was not familiar with, but I really enjoyed the Tai Chi. I left the class feeling a little cleansed, if still slightly hung over. I also left feeling grateful for the lovely women who were at the class who I count as my friends.

Duck has asked me to organise the Jog Squad team for the Heartbeat Challenge. I'm a bit nervous, but it should be fun. I am truly a gym junkie...

No swimming though. Louise and I checked out Zigarat for second hand clothes instead. I'll go tomorrow after the Sanctuary.

Water ran through it

I grew up in Henderson Valley beside the Opanuku Stream. When my parents moved there they were told the house was located in a fifty-year flood zone. The first flood arrived when I was only a few years old. The house was raised onto poles and my parents kept on with life. Over the years the floods grew steadily more frequent and ever more deep. They began to sweep down the valley in a wall of water. My neighbour once saw a flash flood rushing towards her as she stood in her garden. One day I narrowly missed being beside the streambank when a wall of water came crashing down.

Eventually the council was forced to admit that subdivision on the ridgeline had increased runoff and worsened the problem. The council bought the family home and after over 30 years my parents packed up and moved to Taranaki. My mother had never lived anywhere other than West Auckland before, but had fallen in love with the mountain.

Now there is only bare land where my house once stood. Oddly I don't feel sad at its loss.

Opanuku Flow
The flood waters came
Ever more frequently and
Ever higher until the counsel
Called time on the house
In the valley where my
Parents lived frozen in
Time and place.
Two cars, a swimming pool
Several fences and
The odd sheep claimed
Over 30 years.
One mother in wet
Cotton nightgown rescued by
Chubby middle-aged fireman in
Jockeys underwear making
Primetime news.

So my parents chose a
Mountain as their new
Place on which to stand and
Moved to Taranaki.
The house stood empty except for
Clandestine visits
Using unsurrendered keys,
Souveniring lost artefacts
From empty rooms.
We got used to being able to
Return at will, grew complacent
That home would always
Be there.

One evening
We received a phonecall
From old neighbours.
The house was on a truck and
Was being removed in the

We mourned from a distance
And when I returned there
Was only dirt where once
There were walls and doors.
I found old jars of preserves
Buried in the clay, bits
Of my first bicycle
Strewn in the grass.
Half ripe Christmas plums
Still clung to the trees my
Grandfather had planted.

It seemed wrong to abandon
These small fragments of
Memory so
We scooped hard fruit into
Supermarket shopping bags,
Dug jars from the earth and
Collected blue sections of
Bike frame.
I grew dizzy looking at
The empty space where
Home had once been.

Now home is a villa on a
Ridge looking out at the mountains.
Horses graze on unmown grass
In empty spaces
While record of human occupation
Is covered by bush.
The water rises and
Steals the final remnants of
Childhood memory.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

My Inspiration

Today is Thursday, which must mean poetry. As of 1.00pm today I hadn't written anything at all, but was driven by a desire to do something other than work, train or socialise. I haven't been giving my creative self enough attention lately.

Thankfully this week's prompt involved me writing from a place where I gain my inspiration. I'm embarrassed to say (especially when I know people from work read this) that most of my writing takes place at my desk. So I decided to choose something I could see from my desk to write about. I looked out of the window and spotted the wind turbine in the distance, spinning away in the seasonal wind.

While slightly OT, my other inspiration at the moment is my yeti husband. Hamish snuck his way into this poem without asking for permission. I was surprised to find him there, but decided to let him stay.

In the end I did get to see him before he got on the ferry, but only because he called asking me to come and pick our car up from the terminal. The storms we have been experiencing all year resulted in 9 metre swells and a 10 and a half hour journey (the Strait crossing normally takes around 3 hours) for some unfortunate passengers a couple of days ago, and Hamish is by now about to leave Wellington harbour on the very same ship.

Me, I'm sitting here with a weekend alone, an array of group classes at Les Mills, an IBook and 5 girly DVDs stretching out in front of me.

Afternoon at the Office
The wind turbine is
Facing North West today,
Its eggshell-coloured form
Barely visible against
Low cloud racing across
The sky.

I am thinking about you and
Your leaving and not about
The Word document opened
In front of me. I keep you
Minimised at the bottom of my
Screen to entertain me.

The paper debris of too many
Projects lies windblown, scattered
By a breeze risen from
These turbulent thoughts.

Tonight you sail,
Shake hands with the gales,
Make a pact for safe passage.
You don’t know how far
You will go or when you will
Return and a quirk of timing
Means I will not see you
Before you leave.

The turbine will act as
My scout. I will breath
Warm whispers in its direction
Until it turns South to
Face your return.

My sentry can stand and
Keep watch until you
Are safe in harbour and
On your way back
To me.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Like a Fish

I'm slowly plugging away at the swimming thing. I'm making small steps, but every little bit of progress leaves me so ridiculously proud of myself. A few weeks ago I turned up for my first lesson quivering with fear. It took three lessons to get my ears under the water. Lesleigh dropped my lessons down to 20 minutes, because I was nearly dying of cold by the end of 30. I spent one lesson holding onto the side of the pool kicking and getting my ears under. I followed that up with another session on my own, messing around with feeling comfortable under the water.

On Thursday the kickboard, the flotation device I had been dreading, arrived in my life. We marked out the length of the pool I could swim to without going out of my depth - a pitifully small distance. Then, with bravery born from a determination not to quit, I launched myself, face in the water, towards the end of the pool. I emerged at the other end grinning and laughing like a kid. A small boy bobbed and dived around me - just like a fish.

I was torn today between needing to practice before my lesson tomorrow and wanting to have a day at home with Hamish. The perfect compromise seemed to be a trip to the pool together, with a spa as the reward at the end. I did my obligatory couple of lengths of aqua jogging, then donned my lilac cap, pink goggles and ear plugs, grabbed the kick board and off I went. I can't say kickboarding completely gelled with me today. Getting my head deep enough to lift my torso was a challenge, and breathing often enough to avoid ending up gasping somehow eluded me. However I happily did my little laps up and down my 'safe' length of the pool for some time.

I was aware that I needed to be seen to have made progress, so I turned around, summonsed up all my courage, and kick-boarded my way to the ladder half-way down the pool. Well over my head I hugged the wall, and snatched at the ladder railing when I finally got there. I paused briefly, then, without giving myself time to think, launched myself off with one arm and kicked for home. The grin on my face at the other end nearly split my face...

A little more time kicking and immersing my head while holding onto the side of the pool, and I felt justified in calling it quits. A little while ago I wrote about longing for the peace that I imagined I would feel if I could suspend myself under water. Today I held my head under, held my breath, and there it was. Everything was quiet and calm. It was beautiful. How could I have lived a whole life without this?

Hamish had managed 10 lengths of the pool before stopping - a bit comedown from his former 1km distance, but a good start given his complete lack of physical activity over the last few years. We retreated to the spa, which we shared for a time with two big young German guys before they left and we had the space to ourselves.

I'm glad we've gotten to the 10 year point in our relationship on such a high. Things are really good with us right now, and with life in general. Now, all I need is for this knee to hold up for long enough to get me through the half marthon in November. I think if I can fend Duck off long enough to get away with not running this week I should be ok.

If I finish this half marathon I'm getting the Mako design on my greenstone tattooed onto my shoulderblade. By then I will have earned a permanent declaration of strength and determination. There, I've said it, and unlike my post declaring my intention to give up alcohol for a month, this one is something I'll actually go through with.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Cat Burglar

It was a soggy day in the Sanctuary today, and I was definitely living in my head. My mental processes were ticking overtime, whether to block out the general discomfit, to resolve some issues, or just simply to allow myself some pleasurable distraction, I'm not sure.

Despite it being a quick visit it was productive. Over the course of three hours I identified that one of our females is still incubating her eggs, another has just laid her second egg, and a third nest is still ready and waiting for laying to begin. I was about to sit down to start some feeder observations when I looked down at my pink hands, so cold they could barely hold the pen. My notebook was so damp I couldn't really write in it anyway, and the water had seeped through my polyprop leggings. I had one of those 'what the heck am I doing' epiphanies and hightailed it back to the car.

A hot shower, some curried kumara soup, and time on the sofa with a newpaper and my IBook seemed in order. The rain has continued steadily all afternoon, and the temperature guage in the hallway was sitting on 12.5 until the central heating kicked in 45 minutes ago. Someone forgot to tell the weather that it's not winter any more.

Tiss has provided the day's entertainment. She's developed a fascination with my clothing. Last night it was my expensive Elle McPherson bra. At 5am she was running around our bedroom with something, and this morning I discovered my good Asics running tights half-dragged into the little space under the climbing post. All day she has been bringing in a succession of clothing. I've rescued my favourite Pagani top, my good Orca running singlet and a series of other choice items. I have to hand it to her, she has good taste.

Right now Tiss is sitting in front of the TV watching the sports news. It appears our little moggie is a fan of rugby. The Burmese are far too high class for that kind of carry-on.

This was supposed to be a rest weekend, but Friday night's Jam class and the Attack class I treated myself to yesterday put paid to that. Hamish and I have been together for around 10 years, give or take a few weeks. We usually celebrate our 'anniversary' every Labour Weekend. There's a bottle of bubbly chilling in the fridge, but really this celebration has been pretty low-key. If the weather stays the way it does I hope to celebrate by spending most of tomorrow in bed. It's Hamish's turn to cook breakfast. I might have to drag him down to the pool in the afternoon though, or I'll get in trouble with Lesleigh. Mmmm.... spa!

He swears he does read this, so I guess I'll take the opportunity to thank the Yeti for 10 great years. He put up with a lot over thanks to Addisons lurking around in the background. He hung in there through the bout of depression and the general health issues that kicked in not long after we were married, and didn't complain (that much). I'm really glad to have him in my life, and I'm glad that I'm in a place right now where I can give back some of that love. Here's to the bottle of bubbly in the fridge and weekends in bed!

Saturday, October 21, 2006


I am Good 1294-0987-098. My mother was a breeder class B, my father a producer class E. I am 35 years of age. I am on official record as being 90% gene potentiality recognised.

My sister was born two years after my entry into public manifest. Her post-birth scan detected a rare and statistically improbable genetic defect, small, but enough to delist our parents from the register of public Good. My parents were retired to the outfields. My sister was classified as a wombhost class D - suitable for carriage of the likely lower classes of workers, no higher.

I got lucky. My sister's defect did not lead to my being retired. My breeder status was retained, although dropped to a lower level. At the age of 19 my first girl was born, all fingers and toes, perfect in my heart, official records notwithstanding. It was three years before the birth of my son, leading to a reforecast of my potentiality, but no drop in standard. My position in my Patron's household remained intact. Since then I have given my patron further Goods every other year, raising my status again and ensuring favourable standing for my female offspring.

When I am not in confinement I enjoy walking the boundaries of my Patron's precinct. Various labourer Goods defer to me as I pass. Outside the fence I can sometimes glimpse those Goods whose predispositions have led to assignments in roles involving pressed shirts, ties or high heels. I wonder how it would be to sit behind a desk for ten hours per day, and whether the professional Goods have more space for thought than I, whose inheritance was the ability to grow life within me.

So little space for anything other than my main self in this world where we are all defined according to what we can best contribute to the collective. No room to explore that small part of me that could have been a painter, a poet or explorer. Society decided that my place in life was to provide offspring for the ruler Good, and that is what I will continue to do.

However there is nothing against the Good in my being a dreamer, and so that small part of me is allowed to continue. The sadness of this small freedom makes my life both bearable and bittersweet.

My son, Good 2003-5427-2032, stirs within me. I turn back to my quarters and prepare for his emergence.

More Sunday Scribblings here.

Running Chick Fan...

After flunking out of the half marathon last week I read Running Chick's post about running a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon and got a little weepy. This is one motivational runner. She set herself a goal, put an action plan in place, and then on the day totally nailed it.

Pip in a Pink Hat is in awe...

Analysing the Half Marathon

I have been trying to work out why I threw up at the 10km mark on Sunday. It’s possible I pushed myself too hard over the first 10km. I was going a little fast for the first 5km, but I think I slowed to a reasonable pace after that. There’s also the possibility that I drank too much water too fast, or that it was the gel shot. I drank one small cup of water at the 5km mark, and possibly around the same or slightly less from Jo’s drink bottle. As I said in my last post, I spent the next 5km obsessing over water.

When I got to the 10km mark I drank another small cup of water with a gel shot added, then another cup of water after that. Almost immediately I started feeling nauseous, spitting out bile. I threw up a couple of minutes later, and it was all water. So it is possible the gel shot or water triggered it. However I’d already had a couple of bilious burps running up the hill to the drink station, so it’s more likely the gel shot simply tipped me over the edge.

It’s also worth noting that I had a stomach full of pills. I ate an average-sized bowl of Hubbards Nice and Lite at 7am, and accompanied that with three 5mg Hydrocortisone pills, 2 Thyroxine tablets, .05 of Fludrocortisone and 15 mg of DHEA in two capsules. I would normally have only taken one Hydrocortisone pill, so that may have had something to do with it. I’m not sure how to get around that one, other than to get up earlier and eat more.

I’m not sure how serious a problem I had with overheating and dehydration. I was a little sunburned afterwards, but I was dressed a lot more lightly than some. One of the symptoms of Addisons is heat intolerance, although it’s never been a problem for me before now. However most of our training took place in freezing cold or mild temperatures, so I certainly wasn’t used to the conditions.

Ultimately I can make a few assumptions about what happened, but I won’t ever know for certain and will simply have to treat future long runs as an experiment. My plan of attack is as follows:

∑ Start running in the heat
∑ Buy a fuel belt and carry water and an electrolyte drink with me
∑ Wear a hat
∑ Drink even more water the day before and on the morning of the event
∑ Carry medication – pills and Solu Cortef

The last is the most crucial point to note. I would have kept running if it weren’t for the fact I didn’t have any medication on me. If I’d thrown up again I could have ended up in Addisonian Crisis and in serious trouble. If I have Solu Cortef with me at least I can inject myself with extra cortisol. I will also have to carry some clear instructions with me on what to do if I collapse. If I’m going to get into endurance sports I’m going to have to take my health seriously.

Note: Having talked to some of the jog squad girls on Wednesday night, I’m now REALLY glad I didn’t continue. I realise now that my memories of the actual course are very hazy. Jo says she’s never seen anyone drink as fast as I did when I took her water bottle off her. Even worse, some of the other women were apparently there when I was throwing up, and I don’t remember them at all. So I must have been more badly affected by the heat than I thought. I’m a little unnerved….

I’ve looked at the Foxton course and there’s around 7 opportunities to take on water. So I probably won’t carry water with me, but I will still take medication and something in writing to make it clear what needs to be done if I’m found unconscious. It’s unlikely to happen, but there’s no harm in being cautious and a lot of harm in being stupid.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Stopping Time, or Pip Scores a DNF

Time started and a few hundred stop watches clicked in as we stepped over the startline. The first 400 metres was a quick out-and-back to the end of the street. Time stopped again at the 1km mark - 5.08 minutes. Too fast...

Trying to settle into a stride. Sarah running with me - what on earth are the others doing out in front? Over a bridge. God it's hot. Off the main road, past paddocks, past cows. God it's so damn flat.

God it's hot.

Time ticks over again at 5km. 26 minutes. Holy heck - that really was too fast. Sarah's gone. There's the awaited for stitch. Nope - it's gone. Settle down. Water - I need water.

6km. Water - I need water. I need water. I need water. I wonder if that spectator's got water. There's Jo. I thought she was behind me. Jo's got water. Thank God.

Running with Jo. What part of this is supposed to be fun? This is hell. Very scenic hell, but it's so damn hot, so damn flat. I need water. Although this is a lovely road. Why's Jo not ahead of me? Jo's in hell as well. What the heck is that woman in front of us doing running in a long-sleeved polyprop. She stops. I suggest she run in her sports bra. She doesn't agree. Heck, I wouldn't have hesitated to strip off in her position. We leave her behind us.

7km, 8km... this is getting a little better. Slower now - mile eating pace. Still feeling awful. We leave behind a whippet thin veteran with a long scraggly beard and the tiniest little shorts. He's a marathon runner on his second lap and he's losing the plot mentally because the nozzle on his Camelbak has just broken. Did I mention it's hot?

9km. A hill! A marshall tells us there's water at the top. The road winds up in a series of tight corners. It's only 400m but it feels like eternity. 10km! Water!

The clock ticks on at 58 minutes. I yank a gel shot from my tights. Raspberry! I stop, empty it into a cup, down it. The gel shot has collected in a jelly at the bottom. I shudder, grab another cup. This doesn't feel right.

I wander to the side of the road, bend over, spit. This really doesn't feel right. I sit in the shade beside the marshall's 4WD. I vomit. Everywhere. The marshall looks at me. "I don't think you should go on".

The clock stops at 58 minutes. At 1 hour 15 I briefly consider starting again as some of the last of our team jog slowly past. I give in to the lack of medication and the serious possibility that I could end up a crisis case on the side of the road if I vomit again. I am given a ride back to the start line by the nice marshall and then two anxious St Johns ladies.

The clock stops for Speedy Karen at 1.47. She comes third in the open category on her first half marathon. The clock stops for Duck at around 1.53. She's got cramp, had to slow right down, and she's pissed off as well. Sarah's clock stops at 2.07. She was aiming for under two hours but got slammed by the sun and wind. Jo makes it over the finish in 2.11. That could have been me. The clock continues to stop for a series of my fellow running girls, and I cheer them all on. On the way home with Hamish I see the funny side of things.

This is NOT how it ends.

Oh well, at least I looked good...
Just ignore the first two (Pip's hair in a gale) photos...

Thursday, October 12, 2006


I was sitting here reading other posts to Poetry Thursday when I was suddenly gripped by an amazingly vivid flashback. I felt myself physically return to a time when I was filled with fear and anxiety, and I felt my legs stiffening and the vertigo starting to grip my head. I felt that way for only a second, and then I snapped out of it again, but it was enough to just briefly throw me for a six. I used to feel that way all the time. I feel so sad for that scared creature. I wish I could hug her and make her believe that everything will be ok, and that, in fact, things will end up being pretty fantastic in just a few years.

I said tonight that I was still getting to know the new me. I'm not so sure I recognise the old me either.

Thursday's Breaking News

This week's Poetry Thursday challenged us to seek inspiration from a newspaper or magazine. As I read this I looked up at the unread newspaper in front of me. The front-page headline screamed North Korea and nuclear tests. This poem followed immediately, without me even having to read any further.

Age of Uncertainty

For all my recycling,
My tree-planting
My volunteering,
Someone could still drop
The bomb tomorrow.
Birds don’t breed well
In a nuclear winter.

I could be quietly
Going about my business
And some president could
Get uptight about some dictator
And there could be some
Kind of retaliatory fire and
Suddenly we’d have WW3
And my Hihi might still not
Have fledged from their nests.

Nothing is certain and that
We will all live to an old age without
Someone deciding to
Destroy us all is no more certain
Than that we will wipe ourselves
Off the face of the planet.

Tell that to my breeding males
As they defend their territories from
Feathered invaders and my females
As they line their nests
With fern. I will sit with them
Rather than worry about
Newspaper headlines and
Broadcast updates.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Writing when I should be working

I’m sitting at my desk watching a guy abseiling down the side of the Axa Building. In a parallel world I think it would be fun to work as a high-rise window washer. A few months ago a seagull left a huge mess on the window right in front of my workmate’s desk. She was so repulsed she left the curtain down for weeks. When the window washer finally arrived she stuck a Post-It note on the glass to thank him. The stuff was so ingrained that he had to get out a scraper to attack it, but they gave each other a merry thumbs-up when he’d finished, and everyone cheered. Working in a public service job you sometimes have to take your amusement where you can get it …

I had my third swimming lesson last night, and things went a little awry at first. For a start a power surge had thrown out the heating, leaving the water a little cooler than I would have liked. I’d also had a big session with Duck that morning doing 14kmph sprints on the treadmill, followed by an upper-body and core workout, so I was extremely tired. The pool was busier than I was used to, with swim squads back in action, and I was all rugged up in ear plugs and goggles, so was feeling a bit uncomfortable. I got in the water to do my usual aqua jogging, and somehow I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t breathe, and I couldn’t float, and I ended up clutching onto the side of the pool again in a panic.

Thankfully Lesleigh is very patient. After a little while getting familiar with the water again she got me to put on some flippers and got me to kick while holding on to the side of the pool. I put my face lower and lower in the water, until eventually the momentous occasion arrived and I put my ears under. Only my ears, not my entire head, but with water coming in as far as the ear plugs, even that was a big thing. I was seriously weirded out, but I managed to stay calm.

After 20 minutes we called it a day, as my teeth were chattering so hard I thought they might break and my whole body was shaking. The walk around the pool to the spa seemed to take forever, and it took a while for me to thaw out again. Thankfully I had the spa to myself for most of the time, so was able to stretch out and immerse myself.

The whole logistics of learning to swim are a little more complicated for me than I’d realised. For a start, I hadn’t thought about having to learn in a pool that was over my head for most of its length. Plus I’m so utterly unfamiliar with being in the water that I need to spend some time simply hanging out, getting used to having my head under and getting to the point where I feel comfortable. I need to stop freaking out every time my ears get near the wet stuff. I want to get to the point where, if I do go under unexpectedly, I don’t end up having a panic attack.

However it did occur to me last night that I can’t remember ever actually failing at anything I have set my mind to achieving. Nothing has ever been so hard for me that I haven’t managed it at the end, and sometimes I end up being quite good at it. I never thought of myself as an athlete-type until I started running, and now it’s a huge component of my identity. So I have to believe, as far as swimming goes, that I can do this.

I got up early this morning and ran a quick 30 minutes around the Bays, my last before the half-marathon on Sunday. I got the stitch again after 20 minutes. It could have been because I hadn’t waited long enough after eating breakfast. I had a little can of creamed rice, which was also heavier than my normal pre-run cereal. It could also have been dehydration – not drinking anything that morning. However I also wonder how much this cramp is simply a psychological, pre-race nerves thing.

I don’t know that I’m a taper kind of person. Although physically my body’s enjoying the chance to recover, mentally as soon as I stop running the high mileage something in my head loses confidence in my ability to do it. Seriously though, it was only a week and a half ago that I ran over 20km. My fitness can’t have dropped off that quickly …

In other things-that-have-been-bugging-me news, I’m still losing weight. Things are sagging damn it! I’m going to have to have a serious talk to my doctor about my Thyroxin medication. I’m now four kilos lighter than my previous goal weight. I’m not exactly skeletal yet, and I still have a healthy BMI, but it is a little concerning that I’m eating plenty and still dropping.

Thanks as well to everyone who responded to my txt last night after I left the pool. It was really encouraging to get such a great response. I’m lucky to have friends who are truly supportive of my attempts to deal with this swimming thing, and to get over the fear that I’ve held onto for so long.

Late Assignment

Shivering in the cold I think dark thoughts to myself as I check the time yet again on my mobile phone. I’m tired and hungry from a hard workout at the gym, and I just want to get home. The bus I have been waiting for is ten minutes late, and the next one is due in just over five minutes. Finally a creaking old trolley bus rounds the corner, and as expected, the usual driver is at the wheel.

I always used to assume this driver was quite old, but one day I took a closer look and realised that he was probably only in his fifties. He is small-framed and his face wizened and chimp-like. Lines form around his mouth and jaw where the skin has been stretched too tightly over his face. He holds that face rigid, as if the stress of driving that huge vehicle and having to deal with a constant stream of customers compells him to keep as still as possible to remain in control. Hunched over, he clutches at the steering wheel with an air of fatalistic resignation.

The bus shudders up to the bus stop and the driver clips the irritable passengers on. In a series of slow, deliberate steps he closes the door, grips the steering wheel again, turns on his indicator, checks his side mirror and moves out onto Lambton Quay. He takes an almost imperceptible pause before moving on to the next step, as if checking off a mental list.

The ride home is mind-numbingly slow. Each micro-second he pauses causes the service to run even later. People are turning up to catch the next scheduled bus and getting onto ours, further slowing things down. As the seats fill bodies stand swaying in the aisle. Those lucky enough to be seated bury their noses in magazines or stare resolutely out of the window.

The driver’s face retains that taut impassivity for all but one passenger. She is a small Cambodian woman probably in her middle age, neatly and conservatively dressed in cords, a woollen jumper and jacket. This one passenger earns a smile and a few words of greeting. She acknowledges him briefly, but is already turning away as she places her ticket back in her wallet. For a few seconds his face crumples like a spurned puppy. He reacts this way every time, and she has never noticed.

The bus turns up Brooklyn Hill. The driver brakes heavily as we go through the shops, and everyone in the aisle struggles to retain their balance. We sit for an eternity waiting to turn onto Washington Ave. Every time the driver gets up the nerve to pull out, another car appears over the top of the hill. Predictably, the bus that was scheduled to run fifteen minutes after ours passes before we reach Mills Rd.

Finally, as if he has tapped into a hidden well of courage, the driver thunders down a hill, and the momentum carries us all the way to The Ridgeway. I press the bell for my stop and walk to the rear door. Worn out and grumpy I consider saying nothing as I step down to the footpath. However convention and a sense of guilt have me calling out my thanks. The driver turns his head slightly in acknowledgement as the door closes behind me and the bus shudders off towards Kingston.

More Sunday Scribblings here

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Message

Dream to me of flying
Soar these feathers
High towards the sun.
Sing me hopes sent
On updrafts warm from
The fires of possibility.
I have chosen this life,
Its dark and lights
Carried over water and
Straddling hills.
Some of my journey
May be the same as yours
If so we can glide together
Sharing uplift.
Some of this path
I will dive into on my own.
I do not want these feathers preened.
I want your honest opinion
And to share our lullabies.
Where do you rest
When you land at night?
Do you face the rising sun
When you lift your wings
Each morning?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Making Good Some Promises

Firstly, some writing links for Steph. The two sites I post my writing to (when the Muse has had enough sleep) are:

Sunday Scribblings and Poetry Thursday

Other writing sites I've explored include:

Moondance (Celebrating Creative Women)
Women's Creativity
The Creativity Portal
The Practically Creative Quarterly
The Soul Food Cafe

And for Shaz, some exercise and healthy eating sites:

Cool Running My favourite running site - with a really good beginner's training programme. It also has a good links section under the Resources tab and great message forums.

Active Women Run Walk Series
Healthy Eating.Net
Health Castle

And of course there's always Hmm... looking for good diet sites was a lot harder than looking for writing sites!

I really should sort this template out and post some links down the side of this blog. I'm really starting to find it very limiting, and the green is getting to me. I sense a change in the wind.

And wind there certainly was today. I spent another five hours in the Sanctuary on a beautiful spring morning. When I arrived the sky was blue and everything was still. I was the first to walk up the valley, surrounded by the call of Bellbirds, Tui, Grey Warblers, Saddlebacks, Shining Cuckoo and of course Hihi. A short list of nestboxes and mild temperatures left me in no mood to hurry. The recent rain had left everything fresh, although it made for an interesting, slightly uncontrolled slide down to the Turbine Track nestboxes. Other than the resident male coming to check me out a couple of times not much was going on, though the nest looks like it could be nearly ready to go.

On to the next site. Saddlebacks were everywhere, hammering out their warning calls as I approached. One of the staff had located two nestboxes that had somehow been left off our list. I had an interesting time trying to find them, managing to find then lose the transect, then find it again, then somehow head West instead of East, hauling myself up from one end of the Round the Lake track to the other, realising what I'd done, then having to turn around and slide back down the bank again. How the seat of my trousers escaped intact I don't know.

Eventually I found the new nestboxes in an easily accessible and sunny young area of regrowth. Both were clearly visible from the same position. I settled in for a tranquil 45 minutes of observations, disturbed only by a helicopter that for some reason spent several minutes hovering above me. Having watched for the correct period of time and only seen the resident male I checked the nestbox. One egg! The first for our breeding pairs! Both the male and the female entered the feeder as I returned to the track, so the female was obviously biding her time somewhere high in the trees.

From there it was off to try to find out what our resident Lothario was doing. A brief check of the nice nestboxes we'd left for him and his mate confirmed no action, but a bird was consistently calling back down the stream near the track. I returned in that direction, only to hear a male calling from the area I'd just vacated. As I stood there the calls gradually came closer and a Hihi was visible flying East along the ridgeline. Determined, I staked out the nearest feeder, to be rewarded by the sight of my wandering male territory calling in various spots around me. I ignored the rain of debree that was pouring down on me from the Saddlebacks foraging above, and felt even more vindicated when the female Hihi appeared from the same direction as the male, fed, then returned immediately the same way. It now appears we may have a nest somewhere other than in the provided accommodation. Very inconsiderate!

The rest of the afternoon was comparitively uneventful, other than the rising Northerly that is currently blowing past outside, and culminated in cider and the Americana Show on the Tivoli in the sun in our rear courtyard. No trip to the pool this weekend, and it's unlikely I'll get one in tomorrow, with weights in the morning, a run at lunchtime, and a chance to sit with a group of wonderful women tomorrow night. I'll have to save the big going underwater moment for my lesson with Lesleigh on Tuesday.

Sunday Scribblings One Week Late: Skin

Let's see if Hamish is still reading...


In those first years the
touch of your skin was given
to me like the joy of
the pink flush on the
season’s first peach.
I breathed you in, your
sweetness and an earthiness
that marked the boundaries
of your limbs, entangled,
from my own.
We grew together,
our follicles entwining
molecules migrating between
us so that we became more alike,
more of each other.
I know you now.
I touch the fine hairs on your
back like those on my arms that
still stand on end when
we are near.
Your skin and mine
are familiar to me,
ten years of parallel
life that has
bound us together.
This skin is older now, our
love more like the
heady aroma that lingers
in a valley of grapes
left on the vine
to dry in the sun.

More Sunday Scribblers here.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Float, Damn It!

It's official, I can't float for jack.

Ever since I was a child I've had an intense fear of going underwater. I could never stand getting water in my ears. At my worst I couldn't even cope with having ear drops put in them. As a result I never learned to swim, and hardly ever go near the water. If I did go in I would stick to water that was no deeper than my waist.

That was all well and good until Duck and the approaching multisport season. Suddenly restricting myself to running and duathlons seemed like a copout. So, to my family's disbelief, I found a swim instructor. Last Thursday, to my own disbelief, I found myself walking around the waterfront to Freyberg Pools, pulling on a pair of togs, and sitting by the poolside to wait for my lesson to begin.

Despite nearly bursting into tears when we first started talking, things went surprisingly well. For most of my half hour my instructor, Lesleigh, had me aqua jogging up and down the pool. For that first lesson I couldn't work up the nerve to jog all the way to the end - which was well over my head. Even going halfway was deeper than my real comfort level. However I managed it, and even managed to put my face in the water towards the end of the lesson and blow bubbles. I left feeling pleased but like my true mission had not yet been fulfilled. I had not yet put my head under the water.

On Wednesday I went back to the pool to practice. This time I jogged all the way to the end, and on the return journey had to move away from the side of the pool to accommodate other women jogging along behind me. I played around with blowing bubbles and kicking while holding onto the side of the pool, but had no earplugs on me, so still no ears in the water.

Last night I had my second lesson. More aqua jogging, more putting my face in the water, and this time a few dismal attempts at floating. I got my ears to within milimetres of being immersed, but my reluctance to go any deeper meant that I didn't relax. Without relaxing I couldn't float. I could have been frustrated, but as Lesleigh and I chatted while I warmed up in the spa pool afterwards I experienced a sudden sense of elation. Sure, I still hadn't gone underwater, but I'd felt comfortable enough to do all but. Even better, I felt comfortable enough with my new earplugs to feel certain they'd keep the water out if I went a few milimetres further. I knew that I would be going back to the pool to practice, and that by our next lesson I would be under the water and hopefully even managing to float.

I was still amped when I went to bed, and spent the whole night dreaming. In my dreams I saw myself in the pool, over and over again. As the night went on I eventually accomplished my goal. I experienced the tranquility of being immersed in the water, and the joy of floating. I woke amazed at my mind's ability to use positive visualisation to accomplish a difficult task.

Buoyed on by my mental state I was at the gym this morning before 6am. I did my glut exercises, some ab work, and then had a stonking RPM class. I'm only running 45 minutes tomorrow so wasn't worried about my legs needing to be fresh. I think I'll follow up the run with another quick trip to the pool.

I asked Lesleigh whether I was her most neurotic client yet. She replied that I was actually one of her dream clients because I was very motivated. Damn tootin... I'm as motivated as I've ever been about anything. I am Pip, see me swim....

Body Talk

I should really get around to checking the Poetry Thursday page a bit earlier than the Wednesday night before Thursday deadline. That said, I’ve been thinking about bodies, and my body in particular, a lot this week. So in a way I’ve been mulling over my homework anyway, although it hasn’t really inspired a poem just yet. My muse is lying collapsed in a corner, exhausted from running around trying to keep up with me…

Some of you reading this will know that I have lost a reasonable amount of weight this year after putting it since being diagnosed with Addison’s Disease and being prescribed corticosteroids a couple of years ago. Boredom eating in a job I didn’t really enjoy and dropping back on visits to the gym did the rest.

I don’t know exactly how much weight I’ve lost, but it’s in the realm of twelve kilos since January. I’ve lost it the healthy way – slowly through diet and exercise. I reached my ‘goal weight’ a few kilos ago and, although I’m not consciously trying to lose any more, because I’m running a lot at the moment, and because I’m still watching what I eat to a certain degree, the weight is still coming off.

Yesterday the annual “It’s spring, get off your butt and lose weight” marketing flyer from Weight Watchers arrived in my mail box. Normally this would be a cue for me to start wondering guiltily whether I should in fact go back to an organisation whose philosophy I disagree with, for the simple motivation of having to stand on the scales in front of someone each week. However this year I just laughed and tossed it aside.

When Hamish took my photo at the Coldcut gig on Friday night I hardly recognised myself. The last photo taken of me was back in June – at least five kilos ago. Did my face really look a little gaunt, or had I just not noticed the new angles? So that was my ‘tiny’ waist the woman in the second-hand clothing store had commented on last week. Where were my hips? Well, at least the cleavage is still there!

I’ve lost weight before – the last time around 15 kilos (at my heaviest I weighed around 20kg more than I do now), but this time around I’ve really had to get to know my body all over again. I think that’s possibly also because this time around I’ve got muscle. My back and legs have a whole new topography.

So here’s where I confess to an internal dilemma. I love this new body. I think it looks great, and I feel strong and sexy. I will openly admit that I was not happy with myself when I was larger. However I have spent enough time in feminist studies lectures to also have a certain investment in the whole ‘love yourself and not your weight’ philosophy. Am I buying into some patriarchal culture by wanting to reach my perception of my own physical ideal? Am I just a victim of the image industry? Last night I was reading through a number of blog entries that would argue that I am.

I have nothing against normal, curvy women’s bodies. I think it’s sad that women like Victoria Beckham are held up as physical ideals, and that the rest of us in comparison are left with the inevitable conclusion that there is something wrong with us. I do have a problem with the idea of being overweight to the point where it would affect my ability to carry out normal, everyday tasks, and to where it would endanger my physical health. I acknowledge that some people are happy at that weight. I also acknowledge that some people are not happy at that weight, but have other emotional issues which have led to them using food inappropriately. However I also hold my own self up to higher standards of physicality.

Intellectually I’m okay with the idea that, even when I was heavier, I was still perfectly healthy and as likely as not my curves (which are always classic hourglass) WERE attractive. But I didn’t FEEL as attractive as I do now. If I’d been happy with the way I was then it would have been fine to stay that way, but I wasn’t.

So here’s where it stands. I like being this weight. I like having muscle. I like being fit and I like being healthy, and I like that my husband loves the way I look right now. So sue me!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Get Hard

I've been thinking over my run yesterday and I've been annoyed with myself. From Lyall Bay it was a constant battle to stop myself from walking, and the fact I lost that battle twice up Happy Valley to Brooklyn quite frankly p**ses me off. I didn't need to stop - I could have kept going. Watching Duck pull away in pursuit of the front-runners was the worst possible feeling. When she left and I stopped I felt defeated, and I felt like I'd let both myself and her down.

On the other hand, I was also in a lot of pain from Lyall Bay onwards, and today I could barely walk around the Sanctuary. Bending my knee was an exercise in mental torture all on its own, and walking downhill excruciating. I'm torn between trying not to be too hard on myself and trying not to give myself excuses. The fact Sarah had such a good run makes it a little worse somehow (don't get guilty about that Sarah, I'm just super envious).

Mum was amazed when I told her I was learning to swim. She couldn't believe I would go anywhere near the water. I tried to explain that it was something that I wanted to do, and something that my trainer wanted to do. She found it hard to comprehend that I would take orders from anyone. It's a mark of my respect for Duck that I'm doing this, but it's also a sign of how much my life has changed this year, and how great my gratitude is. No - gratitude is somehow the wrong word, but it's something similar.

I also think part of my own mental battle problem is simply that it hasn't really occured to me yet what I'm now capable of. My own progress has been so rapid and so steep that I haven't quite yet caught up with it. Heck - I all but ran a half marathon yesterday! It was 5km further than I've ever run before. I really should have more faith.

In other news, today was a soggy but not too cold day at the Sanctuary. Two of my absentee female Hihi delighted me by demonstrating their nestbuilding skills with great enthusiasm while I watched. The first egg of the season has been laid, and my rather reticent children are now hurrying to catch up.

I'm a little concerned about this knee, but as long as I keep off it as much as possible over the next couple of weeks I should be fine for the half on the 15th. ALL systems should be go. It will happen...