Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Year in Review Post

Mad Dog is back and hitting the gym big-time.  I ran again today!  More precisely I ran half an hour, slowly, on a treadmill.  I felt great the whole time, though my heart rate again got up higher than I would have liked.  My ankle ached a bit, but it didn't get any worse and I didn't feel like I needed to stop.  Puzzingly, the pain in my ankle has moved to the inside ankle bone, having started out at the front outside edge then moved into the tendon that runs up to the shin.  I'm not sure what's going on, so I will have to continue taking it easy until everything works itself out.  The most positive indication is that I still have a full range of motion.

I followed the run up with Margaret's Balance class.  We did release 37, which is a goodie, but I was all over the place and it was clear I haven't done Balance in a few weeks.  Of course, the 'hitting the gym' bit meant that my legs were a little sore as well!  

If there's one thing that everyone in the blogosphere seems to do, it's the 'summing up my year' post, so I though I should probably chip in.  In short, this year was absolutely amazing.  If this is what it means to get older, then I can't wait for my forties.  Let's get the ovious out of the way first...

Running and all things fitness
Or, the year in which I discovered the Mad Dog.  If last year was the year I discovered running and fitness in general, this was the year I lived it.  This was once again a year of training well then running badly on the day of the event.  It was also another year of injuries.  I started off the year with Round the Bays.  Afterwards I ran two 10km events and two half marathons.  One of each I was happy with.  I had planned to run at least another couple of half marathons and the Rimutaka Incline, but an abductor injury, then an ankle injury, put paid to those.  I did the SPARC duathlon again (last year the Special K), and inspired my mother to take part.  I spent much of summer in a wetsuit in Oriental Bay, then stopped swimming as soon as summer came to an end.  Poor Lola has sat unused in the study (bar one short ride with Nic and Leonie) since the duathlon.  However all year I have faithfully gotten up several mornings a week, skipped out of work at lunchtime, headed off to the gym after work, spent Saturday morning working out.  All year I've maintained a combination of disciplines, from swimming to biking, running, RPM, Balance and weights. There have been times when I've trained for up to 13 hours a week, but ten seems to be reasonably sustainable!  Despite the injuries I know that I've finished the year fitter, and I know I have 
muscle.  I'm a LOT stronger than I was before.  I'm also a little heavier at the moment, but I'm working on getting that off again and I was probably too thin at my lightest anyway.  All of this means more to me than it is possible to eloquently express.  

I hesitate to set goals for this year, because it all depends on whether I can stay injury free.  On 
the list of possible events are the SPARC duathlon again, the Shewoman triathlon, the Grape Ride (a cycling event in Marlborough), and the Harbour Capital half marathon again in June.  I was planning on doing the full marathon, but I think that would be too much to focus on if I want to up my cycling.  It would still be nice to think I could run a full marathon this year, but perhaps in October (perhaps the Auckland).  Other triathlons are a possibility, but it's all about the swim. Obviously I need to sort that out first. 

I started out this year as a business analyst, fairly quickly got bumped up to a senior BA role, and shortly I will be taking over management of a fairly large project in my department.  I agonised about whether to return to my old organisation (I'd been away for two and a half years), but it was obviously the right decision.  I went back knowing where I wanted to go once I got there, and that clear-sightedness obviously worked in my favour.  I got to where I wanted to be much more quickly than I'd anticipated.  

 My writing continued to new levels this year.  The highlight was NaPoWriMo, and I was very nearly successful in posting a poem a day for a whole month.  Looking back some of those poems were actually rather good.  I also started to read a lot more poetry (and books about writing poetry), and I attended poetry readings.  I contributed to several poetry communities.  Unfortunately my writing has tapered off dramatically over the last couple of months as the stresses of a busy life have taken hold.  I'm hoping to address that in the new year, by
timetabling my writing the way I timetable my exercise.  

After monitoring Hihi every weekend last summer I burnt myself out a little and barely went into the Santuary over the winter.  Thankfully they took me back, and although I originally said I'd only go in once a fortnight this season, inevitably I've ended up there every Sunday.  I still love being up there in the trees with my birds, although the inevitable deaths are as difficult as always.  However, just when it seems to be all too hard - an afternoon spent shivering in the 
cold rain, an abandoned nest - a fledgling takes its first leap from the box in front of me, or a male sits a metre from my face chattering, and I realise it's still all worth it.  

Life in general
Last year New Years began shivering on a hill in Golden Bay.  This year I will be in Shed 1 dancing to Fat Freddy's Drop.  Music has continued to play a part in our lives, though not as large as it once did.  Hamish has continued working with Theatre Militia, and there have been the odd few big nights out (notably dancing for six hours in high heeled boots on Sandwiches' concrete floor).  This year we're looking forward to Luminate, a five night festival at Canaan Downs in February.  Hopefully it will be a bit warmer!  

This year everyone went off overseas, and those who were already overseas dropped by for quick visits.  I started thinking about trips to India and making megabucks as a project manager in the UK.  Who would look after the cats though?  We have a great life here, and it seems unlikely we will leave Wellington long-term any time soon.  And yes, I do still love this city.  

Hamish's year has been a bit stressful at times with big changes afoot at his company.  However things seem to be working themselves out there, and the general environment seems to be more positive.  I've spent a fair few weekends zipping up and down to Taranaki to see my parents.  My mother had problems with her diabetes, my father with a slipped disc in his back.  Both seem to be fairly stable right now.  My own health continues to be excellent, with no issues with my Addison's other than a brief, unfortunate bout of campylobacter, which I managed without the need for hospitalisation or injection with Solucortef.  

We still haven't done much around the house.  Unexpected repairs to the roof dominated late in the year.  I contemplated moving to a smaller, new house in Northland, but in the end it just didn't feel right.  I still come home and count my blessings that we bought this house when we did.  

We've enjoyed some great meals.  Maria Pia's stands out.  Flying Burrito Brothers continued to be as consistent as always.  Scopa was good, as was Hope Bros.  Piccolo Pizzeria continued to be a reliable standby.  Ernestos was great for brunch, as was The Matterhorn.  Midnight 
Espresso won out for its cheesecake at 3a.m.  Mavericks did great fish and chips and pizza.  
Chow was still the best place to take Auckland visitors. Tinakori Bistro won for being BYO friendly (essential when your father-in-law owns a vineyard in Central Otago). The Majestic overwhelmed us with its banquet.  The Duxton however was notable for the crushing awfulness of its vegetarian food service at 
the Chapman Tripp awards.

All up it was a good year.  There were definitely more ups than downs.  The goals for 2008 then are really to keep moving in the same direction.  

And that's my year.  It's now just after 9pm on New Year's Eve.  Time to put those boots back on and head off to hear Fat Freddy's.  Love to everyone and have a great night!  

Saturday, December 29, 2007

I'm Back

I'm back in Wellington, happy to be here, and preparing a series of proper blog posts.  In the meantime, the Mad Dog has returned.  Today I did an RPM class with Dee, then followed that up with Body Attack.  I cruised through Attack, never really feeling as though I was over-exerting myself.  Afterwards I ate a nectarine in the car on the way home, showered, ate a lovely smoked chicken and feta salad for lunch, then spent five hours gardening and doing housework.  I am incredibly grateful to this body for being strong and fit. I am thankful for the things I am able to do.  If I were the type of person who counted my 
blessings, my health would be top of the list.

Monday, December 17, 2007

If I go crazy then will you still call me Superman?

Yay! A twist of fate saw release 30's tape missing tonight when Steve went to do Track 4. We had the choice of Kryptonite or Paradise City. It's not that I don't like Paradise City, but I've heard it far too often lately, and I LOVE Kryptonite. In my opinion it's one of the most under-rated RPM tracks out there.

I've been feeling so grumpy lately, and I know that's partly to do with the time of year, but I'm convinced it's also to do with the lack of running. A major study published recently claimed that it's not how thin you are, but how fit you are that determines whether you are likely to live to a ripe, healthy old age or not. When I started exercising it was the increased fitness levels that got me motivated. The weight loss didn't start to kick in until I'd already been training for several months, and when it came it was a pleasant side-effect. Later I became determined to get my weight down to lower my training, but I never intended to end up five kgs below my goal weight, and I never thought I'd end up in my doctor's office asking how I could put weight back on again.

I've said this before and I'll say it again. Exercise makes me feel great. Exercise makes everything bright and shiny and crisp. Before exercise I was plagued with low-level depression and a borderline anxiety disorder. Being diagnosed with Addison's Disease helped, but it wasn't until I started doing prolonged sessions of intense cardio and weights that I discovered the true secret of mood elevation.

We are not sedentary creatures. Once we were hunters and gatherers. Our main defense against predators was our ability to keep moving for long periods of time without stopping. We were genetically programmed to be marathon runners. So what do we do now? We sit at computers all day under fluorescent lights. We feed our children additives and colouring, corn oil and salt, then make them sit in a classroom all day. When they get out of control we diagnose them with ADD and feed them more chemicals. We are so far away from what we were supposed to do naturally that we don't actually know what it means to be normal anymore. We are all convinced that we have a condition that sits somewhere on the DMSM, when really we just need to get back to basics and get moving. Would I be dependent on corticosteroids if I'd discovered this secret in my teens when I first started suffering from anxiety? No, I don't think I would.

When I started this post the point was to express my joy at a ten minute run on a treadmill followed by an RPM in which I was actually able to stand on my pedals without my ankle screaming. Touch wood all seems well. We'll see whether the inflammation returns overnight! So now I'm sitting on the sofa in post-workout bliss, experiencing that particular deep relaxation that only comes from a good workout.

This feeling takes a lot of effort and time. At full pitch I can be doing some form of exercise for around 13 or 14 hours a week. that includes a mix of yoga, weights, running, RPM, swimming and cycling. I would like to be running six days a week, but until I manage to stop injuring myself I'm best limited to four or five. I'm learning about periodisation. I'm learning about active recovery, and learning that an easy flat run should be an easy flat run. It's there for a reason!

I'm not suggesting everyone go out there and work out for a couple of hours a day either, but for me this works. Find your own endorphine trigger, then go for it.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I finally stopped putting it off!

Today I got back in the water for the first time since the end of last summer. Boy do I suck at swimming! In fact, I didn't really swim at all today. I did some lengths of aqua jogging, some kickboard, and some side swimming with a little buoyancy thing. Earlier this year I was doing little half-lengths of Oriental Bay, but that was in a wet suit in salt water. Put me in a swimming pool and I magically transform into granite.

So, in the pool there's the flotation issue. On its own I could work that out, but at the same time I'm trying to not suffocate. How on earth do you people swim and breathe at the same time? Perhaps I'm just expending so much effort trying to keep on top of the water that I'm getting too out of breath to breathe properly.

Oh well, I'll go easy on myself and just be happy that I finally got back in the pool. I'll keep going now and I'll get back to where I was at the start of the year again soon enough. I think though that swimming is the hardest thing I have ever tried to learn to do. It all feels so completely foreign to me.

I loved being back in the water again. It felt wonderful and I remembered why I enjoyed my lessons so much. However I just can't seem to work out the mechanics of it all. My sessions with Duck lately have made it clear to me that I learn best by doing, not by watching, and I usually manage to work out most physical activities by making little adjustments to the way my body moves and noting the result. Swimming feels like it should be easy. I understand the theory of it all, but I can't get the knack.

I'm on a roll now though, so I'm sure that I'll either be back at the pool tomorrow or on my bike. My ankle's also feeling healed enough that I'm contemplating trying another run some time this week. It would be nice to think I will be able to run around Cornwall Park while I'm up in Auckland over Christmas.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Still Here

There just doesn't seem like there's much to say at the moment. I'm not really writing anything I would want to publish, and I'm still not running. My ankle continues to niggle. It settles down, then as soon as I get on a treadmill it flares up again. I worked out that RPM wasn't helping, or at least, standing up on the pedals wasn't helping. So I've done the last couple of classes in my seat. 45 minutes of grinding. Yep, it's not fun.

Thank heavens Duck continues to come up with new ways of torturing me, and thank heavens RPM instructors Steve and Mike continue to be loud and vocal, and to play good tracks. I finally got to hear Underneath the Radar today, and it was fun. I also did the latest Balance release on Saturday. I found the tracks a bit insipid, and there's no way I can ever see myself being able to do anything even closing resembling the splits (curse bendy Sarah). Mind you, I was hung over from a staff Xmas do the day before, so shouldn't really have expected to enjoy myself.

Duck's going to write me up a training calendar for the New Year, and I think that will help me get out of my current end-of-year blah. Training for long-distance running is on hold for the time being, so it's the Shewoman triathlon in March, the SPARC duathlon in April, and the Grape Ride the week after that. I miss running though. I miss running soooo badly. I'm becoming a terribly grumpy cow.

But good things have happened. Dinner at Maria Pia's Italian Restaurant in Thorndon with Hamish's company on Saturday night was quite possibly one of the most divine eating experiences ever. I scored myself a huge great slab of crispy slow-roasted duck. It was good, and I ate it without irony. Yes, ducks are friends and not food, but sometimes they also just taste good.

The next morning I got rid of the second hangover in two days by spending several glorious hours drinking in the warm earthy air of the Sanctuary. I spent a lot of time following three young Hihi fledglings around the bush. The sun shone and I felt myself filling up and relaxing.

Perhaps I'm not grumpy because of the lack of running, but simply because of the lack of fresh air. Sun, sea, sky, mountains, trees. These things have been lacking in my life the last few weeks. Normal service will soon return ...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Shameless small furry creature linking

Just go there ...

And in other news, it occurred to me that the reason my ankle was feeling better as because I wasn't doing anything to aggravate it. So I didn't run today, and I didn't go to the gym. I feel like a big fat blob, but I'm relatively pain-free. I have another physio appointment tomorrow so I'll see how that goes.

I had my exam today as well. It was open-book, although I answered most of the questions without picking up the course text, as recommended. I had half an hour left over to flick through the book to correct some of the answers I'd been unsure of. I did well enough to pass. I'm fairly confident of that.

The exam was, ironically enough, held at the Duxton. Today I got my risotto, and it was okay. I'm still amazed at the standard of Sunday's meal though. Time to let it go.

Sorry about the inanity of the last few posts. Normal service will resume shortly!

Monday, December 03, 2007


My ankle feels good. I may try to run tomorrow. Any takers on ten minutes?

I also have an exam tomorrow. I don't feel at all confident, even though I did well enough in the practice exam today. All I need is 50%, and I'm never going to know my score, only whether I pass or fail. I keep thinking I should have put more study in, but when I look through the manual it all looks familiar.

I feel hung over, tired and heavy after last night. I'm sure I would feel better right now if I'd been able to go for a run or do an RPM class today. I went for a gorgeous long walk around Vogeltown this afternoon in the sun, but it just wasn't the same. And lunch tomorrow means running the gauntlet of the Duxton kitchen again. Don't even get me started on the fiasco that was the Chapman Tripp awards ceremony dinner last night. Let's just say that a few steamed vegetables, some mashed potato and some fried rice with a few corn kernels, does not a vegetarian meal make.

Which isn't to say that we didn't have fun, because obviously we did. But the food was appalling.

Right. Off to see if anyone else has played their turn in Scrabulous!

Ever have one of those nights ...

where you just somehow knew that life was good, and that you had created this world for yourself?

Theatre Militia were up for three awards at the Chapman Tripp awards tonight. We didn't win anything, but we were up against some heavyweight nominees. The lighting designer lost out to Maui. His budget was around $100. Maui had a TEAM of lighting people, and needless to say, the budget was somewhat larger.

Oh, and Hamish looked HOT in his floral shirt from Mandatory. Eleven years, still all good. Love you babe ...

Friday, November 30, 2007


Bits of me hurt. Specifically, my hamstrings are at that particular stage of soreness that makes it extremely painful to sit down on a toilet seat. Too much information, I know, but hovering isn't exactly an option right now. I'm not so sure I can even blame this one on Duck. I think I've done this to myself.

I'm still not running again, but as Sarah and my physio both observed, that just means I do everything else harder. After spending Sunday hauling myself around in the bush at the Sanctuary, on Monday I got up and did my usual lower body weights workout. After work I jumped into Steve's RPM class and got shouted at because I supposedly wasn't going hard enough. Well, it felt pretty hard at the time! At least our RPM instructors hassle us from the safety of their bikes. I'm not sure I'd want an instructor wandering around randomly turning up my dial.

On Tuesday Mike was typically brutal in Balance. After work I was brutal to myself, spending fifty minutes on a x-trainer. Well, my ankle didn't like that, and neither did my sanity. All up things were feeling a bit niggly afterwards. Unfortunately though, there's only so much RPM a girl can do in one week without emptying her bank account, and the songs keep turning up in my dreams.

I was brutal to myself again on Wednesday. I couldn't get near the cable machines, so I mixed things up a bit, doing four sets of hovers, chest press, shoulder raises, upright row, tricep extensions and a couple of sets of pull-ups. I was already hurting from Mike's Balance the day before (I'm always overly optimistic about how many tricep push-ups I can do in one class, and my face was firmly fixed in a grimace during the standing strength track), so I was feeling satisfactorily fatigued at the end.

On Wednesday night Mike's replacement turned out to be a Westie chick who usually only teaches RPM out at the Hutt. We got shouted at again as she picked on our technique and exertion levels. Honestly though, I went really hard. Too hard, given that I was fairly confident Duck would be attacking my legs again in the morning. I was fairly confident she wouldn't do two interval training sessions in a row. I was picking we'd be doing some more lower body weights.

I'm fairly certain that my session with Duck is responsible for a fair proportion of today's soreness. She's just completed a functional training workshop and was keen to try out her new skills. We did some great cable work on one of the new machines, featuring two vertical cables side-by side. I got to do lunges (front and side)with a weights belt around my waist, so that I was lunging against the resistance of the machine. I got to do lots of them. When I first tried I unbalanced and nearly fell over each time I dropped into the lunge. It took my brain a little while to work out the logistics of the whole thing, but by the end I was lunging against those plates like a pro. I had heaps of practice though.

After endless sets I had that mastered. Turning to face the machine I took a handle in each hand and jumped from side to side, allowing the machine to pull me into the air and landing in a squat. As I landed I alternated sets of pull-downs and wood-chopper movements. I ended up gasping at the end of each set, but it was a lot of fun. As I got more confident I was able to jump higher and higher, using the weights to take me up.

Not so much fun was turning around and jabbing with my arms (ouch - those upper body weights from the day before were looking like a bad idea) while stepping from side to side. Functional training? This was the gym equivalent of rubbing my stomach and tapping my nose at the same time. Something to work on then.

And then, the finale. Picture me in a plank pose, with my hands resting on two 6kg barbells. I had to start with an upright row from the plank position, then move forward two steps in the plank position, then do the upright row with each arm again, then move forward again, etc. After I'd done enough of them I had to do one full press up, then a press up with my left arm out to the side, then my right arm, then my left arm forward, then my right arm forward, then another full press up. We did two sets of those. The upright row was the hardest. If I lifted the weight with my right arm my left leg would threaten to lift right off the ground. There were times I didn't think I'd be able to lift that darn barbell again. But quitting wasn't an option, so I just told myself to get hard, and each time that barbell would somehow raise itself into the air. And you know what? When I finished that session I felt strong, strong and co-ordinated.

And then I got up this morning and did RPM with Dee. And it was soooo not on. My quads hurt, and there was no way I was going to manage even the vaguest hint of a hover. But I still went hard, which is why I don't think I can blame Duck for the ouch factor. I'm supposed to be going for a bike ride in the morning. Um, yeah, right.

I'm feeling so much more bike fit though. I can really feel the difference all this RPM is making with each stroke. I'm pushing and pulling much more consistently, and I'm isolating the power in my legs much more effectively. I'm also holding my upper body much more still. There's a reason why I need to increase my leg weights.

Plus, there's the muscle. I can feel the difference in my quads, particularly the lower quads that take up the effort on a hill climb. My upper body's changed for the better lately as well. My shoulders are much more defined. The pull ups are getting easier. I still hate them, but I can do them!

To add to that there's the co-ordination. I've always said I didn't have any . Then last week I managed to save myself from a nasty accident. I was walking down a steep flight of tiled steps when the cuff of my jeans leg got caught on my right boot heel. As I was tipping forwards I was looking down that long flight of steps thinking "this is not good, this is going to hurt, and this is going to take a lot longer to get over than an ankle inflammation" (apparently the fact I was thinking about how this was going to interrupt my training is a sign that I'm completely mad). Then somehow, and I still don't know how, I managed to get my left leg forwards enough to rebalance. I landed very heavily on my left foot, jarring it badly. I had to limp the rest of the way to the bus, but at least I was alive. So, it seems I need to get better at my tailoring, but I might have a little agility after all.

All of which is stopping me from feeling too upset about the weight I saw on the scales this morning. Some of that must be muscle right? Gluttony. It had to catch up with me at some point ...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Totally Optional Prompts: One Small Fluffy Moggy

A rough draft this week, and not a poem I'm happy with, but I wanted to get something published this week. I'm looking forward to reading everyone else's efforts.

Love Song in a High Pitched Meow
Tissy is in the hallway
announcing she is home
and that she has brought
with her a conquest,
perhaps this time a sock
from the drying rack, a
skink hooked from under
the flax bushes, a weta from
beneath the house or a
mouse from the blackberry.
Once it was a Tui I found her
rolling around on the sofa,
still beautiful but horrifyingly
and inexcusably dead.
I love my small fluffy
hunter but I do not love
her predatorial instincts.

More animal poems here.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Read/Write/Poem: Eat Drink

Bare feet running between
rows of grapes land
with abandon on
old vine cuttings still
lying on the ground.

The scent of
ripening fruit hangs
heavy over the valley
and we are chasing
birds, timing our
sprints to the explosion
of the cannon that
they have learned
to ignore.

It is April and our
parents are harvesting.

Beyond the grapes
Feijoa trees are dropping
their fruit. We
race to collect
them before the
centipedes move in.

At home bunches of
Muscat in a brown
paper bag are
sitting on the bench
sweating juice.

Our plucking fingers
are sticky, our mouths
prickling at their
sharp sugary taste.

More feasting here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Writer's Island: Dream

This week's Writer's Island prompt went in a strange direction. What are the thoughts in your head that you hope others can't see?

If I could explain myself
to you, film reel the
grainy close-up of my
internal musings, would
you recoil from the
villain I would reveal,
the selfish motivations
and double-crossings?
Or would you recognise
yourself in the frame,
the murmered dialogue
an echo of your own
soundtrack, a love song
played backwards? As
we lie so close at night is
it a small grace that we
cannot interpret
each other’s dreams?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: I Carry

Better late than never ...

I Carry

I carry Karekare sand

between my toes,

Opanuku silt in the

pores of my skin.

This hair hides

silvered fern snagged

in passing through

Waitakere bush,

supplejack has wound

itself around my bones.

Take me from the land

but the land will find

ways to travel with me.

Concrete and glass

have not found such organic

purchase in my soul.

More Sunday Scribblings here.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I Am That Woman

It’s been an insane week. I’ve been on a project management course since Tuesday, with the first of two exams tomorrow. I took time out for an RPM class on Tuesday night, but by Wednesday the amount of study I needed to get done was starting to stress me out, so I traded my usual run for three hours at my desk swotting instead.

What with the lack of exercise and the stodgy hotel food at the venue where the course is being run I was decidedly twitchy by this morning. Duck has switched our sessions to Extreme, which is good in that it means we have a lot more gym equipment to play with, but bad in that it leaves me with almost no time to warm up if I catch my usual bus. I had to do a bit of mental balancing between the need for enough sleep to get me through today's course in a minimum state of awareness and the need for a bit of cardio. In the end I decided to catch an earlier bus into town, leaving Kingston at 6.30am (the first run of the morning).

I got to the gym at 7, with my session not till 7.30. Not wanting to test my ankle on the treadmill I jumped on an exercycle and set it to a hill programme. Thirty minutes later the bike switched into cool-down mode, and five minutes after that Duck arrived. By that stage I’d finished the cool-down and had switched to manual control. We talked for ten minutes, until I finally realised that I’d now been on the bike for 45 minutes and that it was probably time to do some weights. So we headed off to the main weights floor and worked my upper body and core for an hour.

Yes, that’s right. I worked out for nearly two hours BEFORE spending the day at a training course. I am that woman. I am the one who is always at the gym, no matter what time of the day you are there. I am the one you see doing weights in the morning, Balance at lunchtime, and heading out for a run at night. I am the one who knows all the trainers and gym staff by name. I am the one who also knows half of the other gym members by name and who hangs out at the front of the class with the other regulars. I am either your worst enemy or your biggest inspiration.

I am Mad Dog, hear me squeak!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Rocking the RPM

Just call me the crank-room spin diva. Heck, if I can't run in the sun I'll sit on a bike in the dark instead. At least I'm getting to go to a few classes with some new instructors, and as a result I'm learning a few new tracks. Tonight Steve played 'I like to Move It', which a certain Auckland blogger is a fan of, but which I hadn't heard before. Steve also played 'Painkiller', which is a fantastic track five. Today I went a bit nuts, regretted the diet softdrink I'd quaffed earlier that afternoon, and spent the interval between each track desperately gasping for breath. Frustration can get me a long way it seems. Mind you, so can an instructor who continually yells that he's about to catch up with you and you'd better crank the dial before he gets past. I dearly wish I'd been wearing a Garmin so that I could estimate how many calories I managed to burn my way through.

On Thursday it was a new instructor, Chris, who played stonking house tracks and got lippy. It seems I like my instructors vocal. On Friday I was back in the Friday morning house of pain with Dee at the wheel, then at lunchtime I was trying and failing to do tree pose on my dodgy ankle. Despite the best intentions I spent the weekend eating and doing family duty in Taranaki, visiting my mother who was in hospital supposedly recovering from an operation. In reality she was spending her recovery time going for walks around the hospital and begging anyone who would listen to allow her to go home. In the end she was discharged two days early, and as a result I didn't get to make use of my running, cycling or swimming gear.

I bounced into my physio appointment today, confident the x-ray wouldn't have revealed any stress fractures. It seems I have a slight visible stiffness through my tibia, but nothing too problematic. She is pleased, but not pleased enough to give me permission to run the Rimutaka Incline this weekend. So I will again revise my targets, breathe a sigh of resignation and aim for Korokoro on December 9. We're talking an intense half-marathon through Belmont Park with a climb to a trig station at over 400 metres. Even Duck admitted that she'd be walking the really steep bit, and Sarah the hill muncher thinks I'm mad.

At least I have a new pair of (pink) glasses arriving from the optometrist this week and our roofing guy is arriving tomorrow to repair said roof. So there are exciting things happening, none the least of which appears to be the amazing ability of my ankle to rid itself of inflamation. It's nice to actually be healing faster than expected for a change!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Sigh ...

If I weren't such a determined runner I swear I would have given up by now. The latest? A self-diagnosed synovial impingement. The OSH woman doing a ergonomic assessment of our new EA's desk set-up had a quick look and agreed with my suspicions this afternoon.

I have a crease of pain running horizontally across the area where my foot connects to my tibia (across the front of the very base of my shin). It hurts when I push my foot upwards, and it hurts when I flex it downwards. It hurts if I compress everything by running on it. I have a reduced range of motion that makes it difficult to walk in flat shoes. Essentially, I am again bung. And of course, the last two days have been PERFECT for running.

I should have been able to fend this off. I know that I have a tendency to stiffness across that area. In the past I've been able to keep it sufficiently mobile by doing ankle rotations and crouching down and rocking on my feet while holding on to a pole. I think all the hills I have been running lately have simply been too much. I knew I was slightly stiff on Sunday, but not sufficiently to set off any alarm bells.

On Monday I was undeniably sore. Pretending it was still just a bit of stiffness I completed my scheduled forty inutes on the flat, and ended up running closer to fifty. Ironically, I was feeling really fit, but I knew I was in pain and my reduced range of motion was making it difficult to run with any real technique. I wanted to go faster and I should have been capable of going faster, but my foot wouldn't let me.

I had a terrible day at work on Tuesday. I couldn't do Balance because someone scheduled a meeting over the top of my out-of-office time. I got really grumpy, and wanted badly to run to let go of some of my aggression. Of course, it was a beautiful evening. Frustrated I went home, ate way too much Chana Masala from Khana Khazana and drank a huge glass of red wine. This morning I felt lumpen as well as sore!

A good weights session this morning at least made me feel slightly more active, and after work I decided to give RPM a try. Turns out, my ankle can handle the spin. The instructor did well at maintaining momentum in a mostly empty class, and I managed to burn off a little of that curry. Mike was worried that I would hurt my ankle, but he commented that I was stubborn, like him. That's me - stubborn enough to run on an ankle that was already hurting, and stubborn enough to keep exercising, even if it meant sitting in a dark crank room on the most beautiful spring evening yet. Darn. It's just occurred to me that I really should have gone for a spin on the long neglected Lola instead.

I'm dreading telling Duck in the morning that I'm injured again. I was really looking forward to running my second set of treadmill intervals today. Hopefully I will be right in time for my sixty minutes on Saturday, but if need be I'll hold off until the inflammation has died down. I know I'm going to be able to do the Rimutaka Incline as long as I don't worsen any injuries. It's not my fitness levels that are the problem!

On the positive side, this is the last niggle that has finally turned into something more than a nuisance. If I deal with this (and I'm getting smarter at dealing with each issue that arises) then hopefully I'll emerge even stronger. I can only hope. I can't face the thought of just quitting.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Writer's Island: Unforgettable

Writer's Island this week asked us to think about the unforgettable events in our lives.

When I was 17 I left New Zealand to spend ten months in Holland on an AFS student exchange programme. I had grown up in a small town on the outskirts of New Zealand's largest city, lived in the same house all my life, and up to the day I got on that Singapore Airlines plane the only other overseas travel I'd experienced had been seven days in the Cook Islands with my family. My host mother later graciously described me as having been 'young for my age'. In fact I was extremely sheltered and had very little knowledge of the world outside of my little West-Auckland valley.

I remember how strange it felt to say goodbye to my parents for the last time. I remember walking into the Customs area, looking back to see them standing there forlornly, then turning with a grim finality towards the gate, acutely aware that I had just looked on them for the last time in what then seemed like a very long time.

Not long after I sat with the four other young Kiwis flying to Holland that day. As the plane geared up for take-off I whispered "I can't believe I'm doing this". "Neither can I," said the boy sitting next to me. "No", I countered, "I REALLY can't believe I'm doing this". I was telling the truth, I really couldn't believe I was leaping off that cliff. I was a home-body. Other people's lives made me nervous. I was a picky eater, I was shy. I really wasn't quite sure what I'd thought I was doing when I applied.

Of course I survived. I survived my first host mother, who decided she didn't like me the very day I arrived, simply because I didn't drink tea or coffee. I spent three months wondering what I might have done that would next bring her wrath down upon me. Once it was leaving my towel on the bedroom floor. Once it was putting my jeans in the wrong washing basket. Once it was not eating my liver. On the day I left it was her discovery that I had been overwatering a pot plant in my bedroom. I survived that, I survived the family's trip to a nudist colony, and I survived cycling twenty kilometres per day to school and back, even in the middle of winter. When I left it was because of the tragedy that was my sweet host father's worsening cancer, not because of any admission of defeat on my part.

If those first three months felt like an exercise in survival the rest of the exchange was a wonderful adventure. Joosje worked in a literary bookstore and at home had an English language library full of contemporary novels. She was worldly, considered, and had a remarkable instinct for guiding a naive young New Zealand girl through the world. I learned to get on well with the one host brother who still lived at home. We were the same age, and once I learned that he didn't understand my Kiwi sarcasm we got on just fine. I ended up dating one of the other two brothers, although I never got to know the oldest that well, and my host father and I never really quite got up the nerve to work each other out either. Nevertheless, I had a deep respect and admiration for all of them.

I know that I would not be the person I am today had my parents not made sacrifices to ensure that I was able to get on that flight. Those ten months of my life, although so long ago now, were truly unforgettable.

NB: If you want to read a poem about an unforgettable experience of a completely different kind, check out my last post. After publishing it I realised I had written this poem three years to the day after the event. The subconscious is a powerful thing!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Random Poem: The Cleansing

The Cleansing
When it left
there was no final struggle,
no climax of battle.
When it left there was
only a gentle subsidence,
like the outwards tide
at Pakawau, a slow
exhale of breath.
I had to stop for a moment
to listen for its silence,
to ensure that it was
really gone.
It took some time
to unwind myself
from its absence,
to quietly explore the
exposed tidal pools
and to wade amongst
the sea anemones I found
waving their rose-coloured
tentacles in my soul.
Although it took from
me its volume it did
not leave me smaller.
It removed only excess,
and afterwards I was
more precisely crafted,
and therefore stronger.
It took a while to know
that it was really gone,
but once I was truly
certain I could not
mourn its passing.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

It's a Miracle

Hamish came across this cosy scene and had to take a photo, knowing I'd never believe him if he told me. Yes, in this scene Ede is actually leaning slightly on Tissy's back leg. Three cats, all snuggled up together, and they didn't even need the services of the cat shrink to get there!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Running on Rocket Fuel

Oh dear. I knew what I was doing and I did it anyway. Yesterday was Hamish's birthday. It's also Day of the Dead, a Mexican celebration. For the last three years that's meant dinner at the Flying Burrito Brothers on Cuba Street. Two things were certain. There would be tequila, and there would be chillis.

My office started drinking at 4.30, so I was already one large glass of bubbly and some French bread with cream cheese and hummus ahead by the time I met up with Hamish at 5.30. After that we spent a couple of hours at a friend's place, where I ate too many corn chips and managed to get through two bottles of cider. It was after 8.30 when we finally made it to FBB and there was an hour and a half wait on a table. So it was off to the bar for a Margarita and a tequila tasting plate.

Hamish enjoyed some crab cakes to start, and I ordered the crumbed, stuffed Jalapenos. Both were delicious. We followed that up with a rabbit and lentil stew (Hamish) and chicken mole enchiladas for me (with more Jalapenos). There may also have been another couple of Margaritas.

By this time it was after 10.30 and we were in the mood for dessert. So we adjourned to Midnight Expresso for strawberry cheesecake and the cafe's divine vegan chocolate cake. We got to bed around midnight, and when I woke at around 4a.m. our cat Gaffer had still not come home. With this being the first day of firework sales, and with it also being a Friday night, the thought was there that he may have been disturbed by some going off nearby. So I had a very disturbed sleep until he finally walked through the cat door at 7.15.

Which would have all been fine, had I not been down for 90 minutes of hills this morning. Let's just say that ordinarily eating a heap of chillis, drinking a heap of tequila, and getting very little sleep would not be part of my pre-long run game plan. I don't think I woke up until about ten minutes into my run. I limited the damage as much as I could. My stomach rebelled when I tried to drink water before leaving, and I couldn't face eating anything more than a small apple. I waited twenty minutes or so before leaving home.

I wasn't in the mood to run up into the town belt again today, so I just ran straight down Farnham and towards Island Bay. As I rounded the coast towards Owhiro Bay I was hit by a stiff Northerly that was going to make things interesting. In fact I ended up running into a strong headwind all the way up to Brooklyn. Lots of things should have been bad about this run, but in fact it was pretty good. I ran steadily the whole way down to the coast, felt fine, enjoyed the views to the Kaikouras, then gritted my teeth and faced the long climb.

Half-way up I slipped into a higher mindspace, where I wasn't really aware of anything much more than that I was continuing to put one foot in front of the other. I wasn't feeling any pain, I wasn't feeling any tiredness or any shortness of breath. I was just moving forwards. Each milestone passed me by, and each time I was surprised. Already I was at the entry to the landfill. There was the first house on the right. There was the 50km sign. There was the Masonic Centre, the first street off to the right, the new housing development on the left. Taft Street, the petrol station. There were the shops. I got there without having to fight myself to keep going.

I continued to the top of Brooklyn Hill, then dropped down into Central Park, choosing a gravel trail that dropped reasonably quickly towards the stream at the bottom. It was only halfway down that I finally got hit by a wave of nausea that thankfully passed reasonably quickly after a quick stop to drop my head a bit nearer my knees. After that I was able to pick up the pace and weave my way through Te Aro and down Taranaki Street to the gym. Ninety minutes, pretty much on the dot.

I even followed that up with Balance. I had enough time to buy a Replace drink and a banana. I sat in the changing rooms slowly alternating between the two. My stomach wasn't overly enthusiastic, but I knew I needed to get some energy in before the class.

Mike filled in for Margaret, taking us through release 31. The ab track consists primarily of plank pose and side-plank. The back track includes a fairly grueling animal pose sequence. My shoulders are still feeling quite knotty after the weights I've been pushing the last couple of weeks, but my hips really appreciated doing two classes in a row. My back's loosening up now in the twists too since I've been focusing on those.

Finally class was over and I was dashing into Subway for some real food (well, realish), then into the supermarket for a few groceries. It was such a relief to get off the bus and into the shower at home. I'm feeling remarkably good now, and still haven't been able to surrender to a Nana nap. I may regret that later as it's another big night tonight, with Singstar at Sarah's then Hamish is performing at San Francisco Bathhouse. There's also a very good German minimalist djing at Sandwiches.

My whole week of training has gone well actually, and my energy levels continue to remain high. After Monday's treadmill intervals I did Mike's Tuesday Balance class, following that up with some more leg weights after work, then Duck's RPM class. This time the leg press didn't leave me with rigid quads the next day. Perhaps I may also have been a bit lighter in the dial in class. Whatever, I felt fairly fresh on Wednesday. I modified my usual upper body/core workout slightly, not being in the mood for as much cable work.

At lunchtime I was scheduled to run for half an hour at a easy pace. Instead I ran up to Kelburn then floored it back down through the gardens in an attempt to better my last time. Then it was Thursday and Duck stuck mainly to my core and upper body again, with only a little leg work. I was down for twenty minutes at an easy pace at lunchtime and was a bit stuck for routes that wouldn't involve spending up most of that time at traffic lights. Outside the wind had dropped ahead of a Southerly change and it was pleasantly cool.

I headed off up to the top of Molesworth, then dropped down onto a trail that runs alongside the Terrace side of the motorway. It's a bit of an agility course, with lots of small inclines and flights of stairs, a bit of mixed terrain and a few quiet roads to cross. I got back to the gym with five minutes to spare, so looped back to Bowen Street and ran back up to the trail again, pushing the pace through the cemetery and back down Aurora Terrace.

Other than another Balance on Friday (Margaret standing in for Clare), that was my week. I'm spending part of my 'rest' day tomorrow in the Sanctuary. Next weekend I'm going to be in Taranaki, so goodness knows where I'll be running. After that it's Rimutaka Incline. I'm also eying up new places to run. I'm looking at heading up towards Melrose, and Kate's also put me onto a series of Scottish runs. I'm feeling good, really good.

There's a post coming soon on how much of a difference running and being fit in general has made to my life. In the meantime I'm off to find some food. I'm suddenly starving!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Totally Optional Prompts: Work

My first Totally Optional Prompt post and my second poetry post this week. There's not much I really want to say about this one. Like the last it is rough and pretty much unedited. Perhaps in a year or two I might be able to pick it up and refine it, but not yet.

The Ballad of a Man
It has been claimed
that when he was young
he worked for a circus and
looked after the elephants.
When he’d had enough of
that he disappeared off into
the bush to become a good
keen man and to hunt
deer. Barry Crump was
out of it by then and the
glory days were gone and
he eventually emerged and
sashed and set off to
Auckland to make his fortune.
Instead he met my mother,
tried to leave but made the
mistake of returning one last
time to discover her standing
in his empty flat, crying tears
into her long blonde hair.
Then came work as a sales
rep, weeks on the road
selling blocks of toffee and
salt and vinegar chips,
until I was born and threw
another spanner in the works.
So there was bar work and
then bar manager work
and nights in a tuxedo playing
host at the old Mandalay
in Newmarket, the Sunday
Cotton Clubs, the Polynesian
weddings and the ballroom
dancing competitions.
Eventually the fat lady
sang and the curtain
closed and it was time
to move on again.
There was warehouse
work, then the recession
of the early 90s rolled in,
so there was time in the
fields, then the economy
improved and there was
more warehouse work and
ascending and descending
levels of seniority and
eventually there were only
a couple of years to
retirement and the
cold hard fact of being
unemployable, even
in this time of low

At first all he’d wanted
was freedom and after that
all he’d wanted was for
his family to be secure
and fed and happy, and
in the end his family would
say that he had lived his
life well and unselfishly
and that throughout he
had always done
good work.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Writer's Island: Haunted

Halloween isn’t really celebrated in New Zealand. Over the last few years there has been a bit of a marketing push to introduce the concept, but it still hasn’t really taken. We’ve never had anyone come knocking on our door. So this week’s prompt didn’t lead me in any seasonal direction. Instead I started thinking about being haunted by things, emotions or events. This is the result.

The Haunting
They say I am haunted,
and these arms that flail
are possessed. My
tongue is gripped with
a grasp that leaves it able
only to roll exhaustedly
in the roof of my mouth.
At night I lie and dream
of healing hands and of
exorcism in the form of
holy embrace and rose water
sweet with sugar.
If there is a devil in me
it did not spring from my
own soul nor from the
misdeeds of my prior
lifetimes. This poltergeist
that chews at me like a
parasite is the lingering
shadow of a dark angel
who was sent to wrap his
hands around my neck at
the moment of my birth and
who nurtured himself on the
laboured reflex of an
infant’s first breath.

You can read more poems on the topic of haunting here.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Speed freak!

I think I just got addicted to speed.

My workout for today was down as a hard speed/interval session on a treadmill. I was dreading it, but I was still feeling good after yesterday's 80 minutes of hills, and as the day went on I started to get excited.

I skipped out of the office ten minutes early to ensure my spot on the dreaded machine. The plan was to walk for two minutes, then run for a minute at a very slow pace, slowly upping the pace by a minute each kilometre until I was maxing out. Then it was back to the low running speed, rinse and repeat (three times through all up). Duck had me starting on 8kmph, which felt like I was walking. 9km didn't feel much faster. 10km was feeling ok. 11km was starting to feel a little bit more like it. 12km felt faster than usual. 13km felt fast, 14km felt very fast. However it could have been worse. My heartrate got up, but I felt strong and never like I was going to fall on my face.

The second time through was definitely easier. The third time through I commanded myself out loud to 'go' as I hit the 14km switch. My heartrate maxed out at just over 170 the first time through, 176 the second and 180 the third. So obviously I was working pretty hard. However I still think I could have gone faster. I was grinning madly and euphoric at the end and my hair was going in all directions. I was a sweaty mess.

I walked for two minutes and my heartrate came back down reassuringly quickly. 21 minutes of running, and I felt like I hadn't yet done enough. I flirted with doing leg weights or hanging around for 6.30 Balance, but in the end I called Hamish and jumped on a bus home.

So I love interval training. I need speed. I had forgotten how effective this kind of training can be. So much of my training lately has been about long and slow. Short and hard appealed to my Mad Dog tendencies tonight.

Congratulations to Kate for her personal best marathon in Auckland, (read her grumpy multi-entry marathon report and grin) and to my colleague Kate for her half. It was wonderful to see a female triathlete win the women's marathon event, especially one who does not look like a traditional marathon runner. Girl got muscle!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Fair weather runner

It seems my body has decided that I am a fair weather runner. I was supposed to run around Karori Sanctuary with Karen and Sarah yesterday morning, but languished at home instead with an unexplained dodgy stomach. Outside it was cold, grey, windy and intermittently wet. Bed seemed like a good place to be, so there I stayed.

This morning I woke at 7am, once again to the realisation that it was both sunny and seemingly wind-free. I left home at around 8.30 and was glad that I'd decided to tie a polyprop around my waist. Once I got up to the street I was hit by a rather icy south-easterly that was likely to make things interesting running around the coast.

I was down for 80 minutes of hills today, in preparation for the Rimutaka Incline run on November 17. I started out taking things easy down the hill to McAllister Park. Turning left I ran up Liardet Street, then headed uphill as if to take the saddle to Newtown. Instead, at the top of the hill I hung a right and ran up onto the City-to-Sea walkway, pst two little old scotty dogs. Down onto the grass, down a gravel trail, around the edge of the playing field, and it was onto Britomart Street and down towards Island Bay..

All that downhill gave me a bit of a stitch, but it died away once I got to the Parade and was running on the flat. The wind around the coast ended up not being that bad, although the surf was certainly impressive.

Before too long I was at the bottom of Happy Valley Rd and a deceptive five kilometre climb back up to Brooklyn and home. At around 50 minutes I started to have a few residual stomach issues. On the way up the valley I had to slow to spit a few times, something I'm not usually in the habit of doing. It got me through though, and I realised that I'm just going to have to learn to run through the nausea. Rather than my stomach the queasiness is based at the bottom of my ribcage and I wonder whether it's the way I'm breathing that's triggering it. It was annoying today particularly because I could have run up the hill faster but every time I pushed I had to fight back the urge to hurl.

Anyway, the climb seemed easier than last time, which seemed easier than the time before that. I'll have to start timing myself to see whether I really am making it up there more quickly. I felt fine afterwards and very proud of myself. My quads finally lost the stiffness they've been holding onto yesterday and felt good all the way around today. My calves are a little tight but I spent a good length of time stretching out my hips and glutes and they are both feeling very free. I'm not one bit tired. My stomach wasn't too keen on the chicken-bacon and hash browns Hamish cooked for breakfast afterwards, but that's probably to be expected!

Kate ran the Auckland Marathon today. I probably could have run the half and felt ok, but I didn't know that a couple of weeks ago when I would have had to make the travel arrangements. Oh well, there's always another half.

I'm dreading my run tomorrow. Duck has me down to do some insane intervals on the treadmill. I'm not quite sure that what she wants me to do is actually humanly possible. I'll update on how it goes tomorrow!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Message in a Bottle

Response to a Writer's Island prompt from a couple of weeks ago.

The Message
After 91 days and
93 nights he was forced
to admit that there was
no message in the bottle,
just the metallic buzz
of a disconnected phone
and the whispered hum
of the world going by
without him.

So he put out the
empties and filled
the dishwasher with
what was now left of
the good crystal he had
inherited from his

When he went outside
that afternoon he found
there were messages
all around him, inscribed
in the bark of the Pohutakawa
trees and broadcast from
the mouths of the old
couples holding hands
as they walked through
the Domain.

For days after his
release from self-exile
he felt as though he
had suddenly been given
the gift of sight, miraculously
woken with the ability to
speak a foreign language.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sometimes Life is Just Good

Because it just is.

Let's forget that I screamed in pain when one of our cats jumped onto my lap last night. Let's forget that my quads have been so sore all day that I shuffled around the office rather than walked. Let's acknowledge that Duck told me off this morning, just as I knew she would. Let's be grateful that she largely left my legs alone, and be thankful for a good, hard upper body and core workout and the discovery of a new exercise that works both my glutes and lower back.

Why? Because sometimes you get more than you asked for, and sometimes you get more than you ever expected.

I got offered a promotion today. I got offered a BIG promotion today. I knew that there was some reshuffling going on in our office, but I was not expecting my manager to take me out for coffee and offer me what he offered me today. I'm terrified, but I'm incredibly excited. I wanted this, but I wasn't expecting it to fall into my (sore) lap so easily. It seems that all I had to do was put my interest out there. When I got back to my desk today the coffee I'd just consumed wasn't the only reason for my shaking.

And then there was the hour-long run I had to complete this evening. Duck said that she thought I'd probably have a good run. Perhaps it was that seed planted in my mind, and perhaps it was my general joy at the good news, but against all logic (and the screaming quads), I had one of my best runs ever tonight.

I ran around the Bays to Kilbirnie, and into a strong headwind until Pt Jerningham. Once around Pt Jerningham however it was tailwind, sweet tailwind all the way to the Wind Wand. And what can I say? My legs felt fine. If ever I needed proof that I use my glutes when I run, tonight was it. Once upon a time sore quads would have meant a virtual inability to even jog at a minimum pace. Now my quads said ouch, but my glutes said 'get with the programme'.

I was a couple of minutes off pace by the time I got to the wand, but the headwind had slowed me a bit, and I think I lost some time at the peak-hour traffic lights between the gym and the waterfront. Besides, I had no one to pace myself against, and I was judging myself against a night when I had fresh legs and an absolute perfect run. That night I'd pushed myself harder than I did tonight.

Tonight just felt good. No nagging mental dialogue. No wishing I could stop. One foot in front of the other at a steady pace. One breath after another. Smiles exchanged with other runners, a deal done with the wind. Energy and a love for life and running. This was truly being alive.

From Kilbirnie it was a cinch to climb over the saddle and down into Newtown. Tonight I did not have to dodge Newtown shoppers. I barely noticed the fish and chip shop odour on Constable Street, and the fruit shop smelt good, so good.

I ran through the Basin rather than around, caught lights all the way back to Courtney Place, made myself sprint all the way back to the gym. When I got there I was red and sweaty and disheveled. On the bus home I grinned like a loon, and half way up Brooklyn Hill the pine trees in Central Park suddenly seemed like the most beautiful living things on this planet and somehow everything was connected. The bus driver overshot my stop and I walked home from the other end of my street. The mountains were pink and there was a majestic full moon hovering above them. I got home and cooked a green Thai curry. While I cooked I drank two (TWO) bottles of cider.

Yep, sometimes life is good, because it just is ...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I'll be seeing you in Palo Duro ...

Hamish and I have been using Google Earth to plan a world trip together. I'm not sure when we'll be going yet, but 2011 would be a good time if we want to miss the Rugby World Cup. Thanks to the Bad Buddha Palo Duro just got added to the list ...

A quick breakdown of this week's training. After Sunday's 70 minutes I ran a hard half hour tempo run on Monday, followed by a Balance class. On Tuesday I jumped into another Balance class at lunchtime, then after work I did a lower body session then flogged myself unintentionally in Duck's RPM when I thought we were on our last hill interval of the class. Today I got up early to whip my upper body and core back into shape. By this afternoon my quads were feeling that pinched kind of pain that says nothing less than "you've overdone it a bit in the last couple of days". Walking down stairs hurt - considerably!

The old me would have gone out tonight and completed my scheduled one hour flat run regardless. The new me is working on a theory that I'm letting my legs become progressively fatigued by working them too hard over a series of days, and it's having a cumulative effect that leads to them becoming intolerant to my workouts. Hence the nagging muscle pains and shortness. We'll see how giving them the odd chance to rest goes!

Not that I'm giving them too much of a break. I've got a Duck bashing in the morning, and I'm going to have to run my missed one hour tomorrow after work. I am, at least, being sensible enough not to do Dee's Friday RPM (just Clare's Balance class at lunchtime), but I have 80 minutes of hills to run on Saturday. Oh, and I should really do some more nestbox monitoring at the Sanctuary on Sunday.

I have had way too much energy this week though, even with the muscle soreness. I'm having to pull myself back quite hard not to do more. I'm leaning out a bit again too, in all the right places. Now, if I can just have enough sense to control the forward momentum without letting it careen out of control ...

A Poem and a Green Consciousness

Photo courtesy of Hamish - Labour Weekend Kite flying at Queen Elizabeth Park

I haven't been posting to any of the post-Poetry Thursday sites lately. I have been a bit lackadaisical when it comes to dedicating time to my writing. My current focus seems to be on environmental issues and to educating myself by reading many of the excellent greenie blogs. I've also been getting back into my training and enjoying making use of my physical, rather than my mental energy.

Two poems wrote themselves this week. One was a simple mind-blurt, a way of releasing some of that physical energy via a mental process. It was a gorgeous spring day and I was itching to be outside moving around, instead I was stuck at my desk.

The other poem was a response to a Writer's Island prompt from a week ago. Neither have had any real editing, and neither are that good, but at least I'm creating again. I will have to wait tomorrow to post my 'message in a bottle' poem, because it appears I forgot to email it to myself after I wrote it (as usual, I was composing poetry at my desk).

So for today, the mind-blurt:


When you’re dancing

on the tips of your toes.

When you’re singing

the same bar over

and over and over

again because it’s the

same tune that’s been

stuck in your head for

days. When you have to

shout because it’s all too

much and it’s pouring out

of you and if you try to

hold it in you will burst.

That’s when we want to

touch you, to feel that

energy fizzing from you,

to borrow some of that

love of everything and

anything and to feel

young by proxy because

you have never worked

out what it might mean

to grow old.

And still on a green note, I was depressed today by the National Party's apparent promoting of a New Zealand "Think Tank's" recommendation that the country be a follower, rather than a leader in meeting its Kyoto commitments. At a time where all relevant experts are saying that carbon dioxide levels are increasing faster than predicted, at a time where the ice is melting at phenomenal levels, at a time of wild weather and climactic records, when the consensus seems to be that we are already at a tipping point, to argue that business sustainability will be threatened if we act quickly seems irresponsible to say the least. Sticking one's head in the sand is self-defeating when the sand is thermal-heated and scalding.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Running in and like the wind

It’s been a busy week and I’ve had little motivation to blog, but I thought I should check in with a quick breakdown of the week’s training. This was to be the week of trying to get back into a routine, of testing out my fitness levels, of discipline. Overall I was successful in achieving my aims.

On Monday I managed to get up early and head to the gym before work for a lower-body weights session. It was good to be back. My only concession to the break was to reduce the number of frog-jumps. Even so, it all felt reasonably light. Perhaps I didn’t push myself enough.

On Monday night Sarah and I arranged to walk to the gym together. I’d planned 40 minutes of rolling hills. Sarah was going to run with the Squad. I bumped into Ingrid in the changing rooms and she invited me to run with them. Feeling a little guilty I took up the offer. It was great to catch up with everyone again. I realised how much I miss the social factor of being a Squad junkie.

I wasn’t planning on going hard, as I was still supposed to be taking it easy. However I found myself in the front pack as we ran along the waterfront towards Bowen Street. I backed off a little bit as we ran up the hill, not knowing how hard to push myself. At the top we were supposed to turn left and run uphill for another six minutes. Duck turned to me and sent me off down Tinakori instead. A part of me was disappointed, but I wasn’t going to argue with her and loped off down the hill on my own.

My legs could feel the leg press that I’d done earlier that day. There was a certain heaviness in my stride that spoke of recently fatigued muscles. To add to that my feet felt really slappy, hitting the ground with a thump each stride. I felt as though my glutes weren’t firing enough to keep my feet light. I was a little frustrated! All the same I was surprised by my pace, particularly along Thorndon Quay. I think I was afraid of being caught up by the front of the pack, and that was enough to motivate me to keep going (sure enough, that night I dreamed I was running a cross-country half marathon and trying to keep ahead of someone who was running behind me). I made it to Frank Kitts bang on 40 minutes, then had to wait another five minutes or so for the speedies to catch up.

On Tuesday I headed off for Mike’s Balance class. It turns out that the class is now one of Les Mill’s new ‘Express’ classes. This means it has been shortened to 45 minutes. No hip track, no twist track. In other words – a shorter class means that some components are dropped all together, rather than all components being shortened. None of the large contingent of regulars were impressed. Those who can’t afford a whole hour usually just leave before the meditation tracks, so an Express Balance is a little redundant. Mike wasn’t terribly happy either. Next week he’s going to try using shorter tracks and dropping one meditation track. We all put notes in the suggestion box asking for the class to be returned to one hour.

After work it was a case of “where should I run to avoid the wind”? Gale force Northerlies were rocking the city, and I felt insane as I headed out for my half-hour session. My legs were suffering a little DOMS from the weights session, but oddly my feet weren’t as heavy. I slogged it through a headwind up Molesworth, doing the usual Tinakori Rd, Thorndon Quay loop, with a little extra waterfront running thrown in to make up the half hour. Again my speed wasn’t as bad as I’d expected, though I still felt slow.

Any hopes of getting up Wednesday morning to do upper body/core weights were blown away, literally, by the same gale-force wind. It kept me awake all night waiting for the roof to blow off or the window to blow in. Hamish couldn’t sleep either, and we were both pretty groggy. I was also still feeling it a bit from Monday and Tuesday. I get really frustrated by how long it takes my muscles to recover. I don’t want to drop the number of runs I do, but I find it hard to recover enough if I run too many days in succession.

Thankfully the wind dropped as the day went on, so I decided to run for 40 minutes from the Terrace gym out past Oriental Bay and back. I kept up a medium to fast pace for the first twenty minutes, dropping back slightly on the return. This run actually felt a lot better than it should have done. I stopped briefly near Freyberg to check that a cyclist who had been knocked off his bike wasn’t someone I knew, then kept going. He had lots of people helping him and didn’t seem too badly injured. Back at the gym I briefly considered joining in the Balance class that was about to start, but decided to head home instead. I ended up standing at the bus stop in the wind and cold (with dust from nearby construction blowing into my eyes) for over half an hour. Needless to say I was not impressed, and was only cheered by Hamish playing the nearest episode of Heroes for me when I got home. That’s the karma I earned for not doing Balance!

So should I have hoped for an early session on Thursday? Nope! Duck had me in the studio again jumping and hopping over a row of power bags, lifting the powerbags over my shoulder and squatting (“you can lift heavy for a little thing” she says, as I struggle with an unwieldy 20kg bag), and doing pressups and shoulder raises. From there we moved to drills with a rope ladder spread on the ground – lots of knee raises and stepping in and out of the rungs of the ladder. I love those sorts of workouts, even if that particular session left me with sore shoulders of doom the next day.

All of which was going to make Balance interesting on Friday. First though I had to get through RPM. My legs were NOT impressed, and I wasn’t really having as much fun as usual. However I did it, although that will be the last Friday RPM I will do for a while. It’s too hard to blast my legs all week then expect them to co-operate with me when I ask them to do a long run on a Saturday morning. Oh, and Balance – hard. Thanks Clare for picking an intense release with lots of standing lunges and stuff that made my shoulders hurt.

I ended up putting my Saturday run back a day, partly to give my legs a chance to recover, and partly because I needed to go into the Sanctuary to check on my nestboxes. So it wasn’t really a rest day – several hours of hauling myself up and down bush-clad slopes.

Which led to today. Sunday – the middle of a long weekend. I snapped awake at 7am, and my first thought was “hey, it’s sunny”. Ten minutes later – “hey, it’s silent – there’s no wind”. Five minutes later – “hang on, I need to do a 70 minute run today”. One minute later “hey, I’d better leave now, before it gets windy again”. Half an hour later I was out the door.

My goal for today was to enjoy my run. I told myself I wasn’t allowed to worry about speed. I just had to get out there and keep putting one foot in front of the other for 70 minutes, on the flat. Thankfully Wellington put on some weather that was extremely conducive to enjoying myself. Yes, there was a bit of a headwind, but it was needed on the way back to keep me cool. I felt good right from the start. There were plenty of runners out, and everyone was in a good mood. I got nodded at and greeted more than ever before.

I told myself I wasn’t allowed to look at my watch until after Greta Point and I relaxed into things. As I reached Oriental Bay I spotted a younger female runner ahead of me. She was decked out with a fuel belt and iPod, and I wondered how far she was going. I overtook her fairly easily, but that wasn’t the end of the story. As I got to Maidevale Rd something suddenly started beeping loudly, a bit like a truck reversing. I kept going and realised that the sound was following me. Turning around I saw the woman I had earlier overtaken. Yes, that beeping was her heartrate monitor sounding off at her. With her iPod blaring in her ears I realised she probably couldn’t hear it. I wondered if she was maxing out trying to pace herself off me.

I kept running and she kept beeping. I looked over my shoulder at her a couple of times, but she kept on grimly keeping on and didn’t get the hint. Now, am I being unreasonable in being annoyed by having to run to the accompaniment of a continually beeping monitor? Once I had decided the noise was annoying of course it started to obsess me. In the end I stopped and let her get ahead of me until I could no longer hear her. Relieved, I kept going, running past the new sea cadet buildings before turning around.

On the way back and around the 39 minute mark I suddenly felt like Superwoman. My muscles woke up and I found myself powering back towards the gym. I briefly considered running up Maidevale, but decided to stick to the plan and run on the flat. I stopped at Balaena for water, although I decided in the end that I hadn’t really needed to. At Oriental Bay swimmers in wetsuits were doing circuits of the fountain. I asked one guy walking past holding a wetsuit how the water was and he replied that it was warming up. I considered going home for my wetsuit. I kept running all the way back to the gym, for a negative split. Nice!

A good long stretch at the gym, a quick trip to the Farmer’s Market, and a cooked breakfast to get Hamish out of bed. I knew I’d had a good run because I was feeling charged rather than exhausted. My legs felt fine, my hip felt fine. I opened the bedroom curtains and told Hamish that unless he could find a beach with WiFi there was no way he was working today.

So we spent the afternoon on the beach at Queen Elizabeth Park. And now I have a face the colour of a radish. Oops. First sunburn of the season.

I have a half hour tempo run on the cards for tomorrow and it’s going to be a blast. Today’s run’s made me feel confident again. It will be hard not to get carried away this week. I need to keep myself reined in for a little longer!

11 Years Ago This Weekend

11 years ago this weekend (more or less) Hamish and I became a couple.

We celebrated by driving out to Queen Elizabeth Park where we lay around on the beach all afternoon eating strawberries and grapes and talking. Somehow the idea of getting a dog entered the conversation. Does that mean we're finally growing up?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Weekend of Good Things

I wish I could sleep in on a Sunday morning. It's not a skill I've ever learned. This morning I woke up at 7.30am, registered that it was lovely and sunny outside and managed to rein myself in long enough to listen to the 8am news. After finding out that Kerry Prendergast has been voted back in as mayor (so now I can hassle Hamish that it's his fault for the next three years, as he forgot to send in his papers), I got dressed and headed off to the farmer's market in Willis/Victoria Street.

This is only the second time I've been to this market, and it's not what I would technically call a farmer's market. The Californian grapes and nectarines could hardly be described as local. Somehow I also doubt that the av0cados were grown within 150 miles of Wellington. However most of the produce looked fresh, and it was certainly much cheaper than buying from a supermarket. There was a good range of Chinese vegetables and herbs, although this was very much a fruit and vegetable market, without any other forms of produce. It was very social though, and I struck up some interesting conversations between the crates of cauliflower and apples. I was able to point one lovely man in the direction of the tree tomatoes (tamarillos), and theorised on the philosophy of queuing with another lovely woman who was marveling at the size of a nearby cauliflower.

I sized up the various offerings of asparagus before selecting from a crate of lovely, slender stalks. I treated myself to some of the tamarillos and some Packham pears (I'm pretty certain the pears weren't local, although I'm not so sure about the tamarillos). I couldn't pass up another punnet of strawberries either. I filled up with red capsicum (half the price of supermarkets), courgettes and a firm, shiny aubergine (is it the right season?). I added some mandarins and oranges, and I was done. I strolled back towards Brooklyn Hill, watching in amusement as cars vied to park as close as possible to the market, no doubt all competing to be as eco-friendly as possible.

I arrived home just as Hamish was mashing up a couple of old bananas that had been languishing in the fruit bowl. He whipped up a batch of some of the lightest, fluffiest banana pancakes ever. While he was doing his thing with the pancake pan I chopped up the strawberries and covered them with some organic yoghurt, then drizzled the bowl with a little honey. We ate the pancakes with the last of our Canadian maple syrup, the last of the lemon curd and the strawberries. Delicious! It was too windy to eat them on the veranda, but it was sunny in the lounge and pleasantly warm.

At 1.00 we wandered up the road to an open home. Our friend Rose lives in one of two semi-detached townhouses a few minutes' walk from us. They are quite well built, with a large balcony off the living area, three good bedrooms, a huge main bathroom and nice ensuite (with under-floor heating). They're warm and low maintenance, private, West-facing for good afternoon sun, and they have internal access garaging. If we were sensible we'd be living next door to Rose instead of in our lovely old villa that needs things doing to it and that we don't have time to maintain. But hey, I've talked before about how much I love this house of ours.
We did spend a lovely hour or so sitting out on Rose's balcony however, drinking tea and discussing the relative merits of each townhouse. If I were in the market I wouldn't hesitate to put an offer in, but I'm kind of settled where I am.

Back at home I spent a couple of hours claiming the garden back from the weeds and listening to the Americana show on the Tivoli. The soil doesn't seem too worse for wear given that it hasn't had any attention since last summer. A pleasing amount of natives have self-seeded in that time. The flax and Punga are taking up an increasing amount of space, and the Hebe is getting taller and taller. Amazingly, the Rhododendron in the middle of it all is flourishing. I'm concerned that it will get over-run, particularly as I plan to plant more natives around it. I may need to transplant it before it grows too much more.

My whole approach to this garden has changed. When I first moved here I wanted to turn it into the classic English country garden. Now I love all the natives and the bird and insect life they attract. Right now the Tuis are loving the Kowhai tree and a fantail is flitting around the courtyard. There's a lot of bush in our neighbourhood, and I like to think it provides a green corridor for birds from the Sanctuary passing through to the Mt Cook/Mt Victoria town belts. Certainly the Kaka seem to have adopted this area as their own.

Next weekend I'll finish off weeding the middle garden and tidy up the edging. After that I'll move up and tidy the top of the garden, then drop back down and have another go at the courtyard. After that I'll head off to a garden store to ask about composting and to get some tips about extending the garden. Most of the lawn up there has been over-run by onion weed, so that will have to be dealt to first.

The top of the garden can be maintained but the larger part of the work is in the bottom of the garden. The blackberry is growing up around the cabbage tree again. Last summer's cuttings are still heaped up in the box garden and need to be put through a mulcher and disposed of. I need to fill the box garden with some decent soil, and then I can finally turn it into the vegetable garden I've been hanging out for. It sounds straight-forward, but it's hugely labour intensive, as it takes so long to get the garden waste up to the road, and the soil down to the garden. As I've said before, it's 46 steps down to the house, and the bottom of the garden is a long way further down from that!

A little housework and a bit more lounging around in the sun, some time in the kitchen cooking up a pot of Minestrone, and the day was nearly over. I've been left feeling energised and keen to get back to the gym in the morning ahead of a busy week at work. A little exercise, a little socialising, a little time in the sun and some good food. All of this makes me feel like the world is revolving around me and I'm keeping perfect pace.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Illicit workouts...

If there’s anything better than the first punnet of strawberries in springtime then I don’t know what it is. Technically I should have waited until Labour Weekend, but they were sitting there calling to me. So red, so fat, so juicy. Regretfully, the strawberries exist no more. They disappeared into my stomach devastatingly quickly. Mmmm…

I’ve had a good week this week. I started off obeying Duck and keeping things light. There was the short half hour on Monday, which I planned to follow up with a rolling hill run on Tuesday. Here’s where I find out whether my trainer reads my blog or not…

I bumped into Duck and Ingrid on my way to Balance and stopped to say hello. Duck then told me that I wasn’t to do anything else that day. For once I had no intention of doing what I was told. Sarah and I had already arranged to meet up after work for a half hour run. It was a nice day and I was itching to get back out there.

So, at 5.15 I was standing around nervously outside the gym hoping I wasn’t about to get sprung. Sarah came bounding down to meet me and we agreed to run up to the Botanical Gardens. We ended up flying up Bowen, with me keeping pace most of the way. By the time I got to the top I could feel every little bit of congestion left in my lungs, which were rattling again. Oops.

I caught my breath at the lights, then it was up and around the duck pond, over to the rose gardens, up the Serpentine Path (where I got chased by a strange white cat), back over to the rose gardens, then down through the cemetery and along the motorway to Aurora Terrace, down the Terrace to Bowen, then back to the gym. Thirty minutes all up, with a fair percentage of hill work. I was coughing and spluttering for the rest of the night…

Wednesday did, however, end up being an unintentional rest day. It was absolutely bucketing down when I was considering running at lunchtime, and then some friends from Auckland arranged to meet Hamish and I after work on their way through to the airport. I figured the rest probably wouldn’t hurt.

On Thursday I was expecting Duck to take things lightly. All the bikes were taken so I ran 2km on the treadmill to warm up instead. Then it was up to the studio where I was made to crab step lengths of the studio, followed by lengths of knee raises, then bounding knee raises, then crab steps with a squat in the middle of each step. Then it was some knee raises on the box step and some upper body and core work with the power bags. Oh, and Duck had me stooped over pushing a power bag up and down the studio floor. Brilliant, mad fun that nearly killed me. I was drenched with sweat by the end of it all and spent the rest of the day in a happy post-exercise fog.

I followed that with RPM on Friday morning. I couldn’t do Balance because our team was in an all-day workshop at a near-by conference centre. Instead I drank four glasses of wine and ate way too many savouries. Oops, again. All of which meant that I was sure my scheduled one hour run was going to be painful today. I made it to the Terrace gym just before 9. It was horrifically windy again, so I decided to stay inland. Unfortunately that meant that I was going to have to negotiate a series of traffic lights. Normally that would bother me. Today I was sure I’d be grateful of the breaks.

From the gym I ran down Lambton Quay at an easy pace. At this hour of the morning there were very few people out, so I didn’t have to do too much weaving. I ran up Willis, down Manners Street to Dixon, then up Taranaki. From Taranaki I ran up the rolling hills of Wallace Street to Newtown, then back down Adelaide and Cambridge to Courtney Place. When I got back to Xtreme I turned up Taranaki again, along Webb, down Willis and back to the Terrace gym via Lambton Quay again.

So how was it? It felt slow and it felt nasty, but at least I didn’t have any stomach issues. I can certainly feel that some of my strength has been lost over the break, but things aren’t catastrophically bad. When I looked at my watch and saw I’d only been running for half an hour I have to admit to having a bad moment, but I just kept on keeping on, and I got through in the end.

From there it was straight into Balance. We did release 37, which I do like. My shoulders were still sore from Duck on Thursday, which made the warrior poses interesting. My hips were a bit tight from the running and my hamstrings felt quite short. I let myself take things easy and enjoyed myself.

So there it was, two hours of exercise on a Saturday morning. It feels soooo good to be back into things again. I feel so much happier when I work out. I’ve been feeling quite tired this afternoon, but in the best possible way. I’ll do a short run tomorrow then try for a longer run again on Monday night. Yay!