Thursday, May 31, 2007

Loving this Life

It's fair to say life's pretty good at the moment. Here's my list of things I love right now:

  • Naked Organic's range of products, in particular their Pea and Lemon Risotto. Add a little grated parmesan, some freshly torn Basil, and serve with hot bread rolls straight from the oven and a green salad. Divine!
  • How to be a Princess - I walked past this book whilst on a mission to buy pain killers this morning and fell in love. So much in love that I had to email Leonie about it, then go back out into the cold to buy it, take photos with my Nokia and email them to her. It's full of beautiful cartoon imagery, lush colours and lots of advice on how to be a real princess. Normally I wouldn't go for the girly stuff, but this has just enough attitude to make it something special.
  • Mighty Mighty - Hamish and I visited this bar for the first time on Saturday night, and I can't believe it's taken us so long. A lovely long bar down one end, and an intimate Cabaret style venue down the other - complete with Twin Peaks styled red curtains. I always love venues with red curtains!
  • Cassette - I love a little alt-country/Indie rock with my lemon, lime and bitters! Thanks to these lovely guys I have my going-out mojo back. Plus, you have to love a singer who can get down on his knees and sing backwards (Twin Peaks stylz).
  • Adidas running gear - Ok, I admit it, I'm a sell-out. I'm aware my highly expensive shoes and my attractive, beautifully styled wind parker are probably made by some poor sweatshop worker earning two cents an hour, but when it comes to running gear I've learned that it pays to pay top dollar. It's no coincidence that I discovered new speed the first night I ran in my latest Adistar Contro, or that I've been running pain free ver since. And when I was running along the Hutt Rd yesterday in a stiff Northerly I was running fast partly because I was wearing my wind parker with my matching shoes, and a small corner of my mind was thinking "I look good", and every time I thought that I moved more quickly. If I were wearing cheap cotton I'd be chafing and getting cold and wet. If I were wearing cheap shoes I'd (still) be getting injured all the time. I may wear $20 boots from the No. 1 Shoe Warehouse all day at work, but you'll not get me out on the pavement for anything less than $230.
  • My No. 1 Shoe Warehouse boots. I have never been a shoe person. I own two pairs of high heels - one pair of which is ten years old. However I recently spotted the most divine pair of dark pink suide boots in the window of the aforementioned shoe store. They go perfectly with my pink Annah Stretton fish-tailed jacket, and with the skirt I bought at the market at Uprising over New Years. A week later I was back buying one pair of black boots, and one red pair, $20 each, or $30 with the 'buy one pair get the second pair free' deal. I'm going to pay for this in the 'ethical shopping' purgatory for several years. But hey, I'll look sexy while I'm suffering!
  • Running - I'm the lightest, mot muscular and fittest I've ever been. I haven't had a cold in around three years (even when everyone in our office bar me came down with the same virus within weeks of each other). I haven't had any tmj problems since the running. My former generalised anxiety disorder wouldn't even dare to raise its head, nor would the depression. I have so much energy it's stupid. Not to mention the fringe benefits for Hamish!
  • Body Balance - Tai Chi, Yoga and Pilates in an easily digested capsule. It's kept me at least minimally supple for the last year. Now it's time to move on. Or rather, it's time to go back to the place where I first found a yogic home.
There's more, but I don't want to bore you any more with the obsessiveness of my own joy for living at this particular stage in my life. I will finish by wishing the same for you, in your own way, through your own path.

Poetry Thursday: Rivers

In New Zealand it is traditional for Maori to identify themselves by their mountain and their river. I grew up, not next to a river, but next to the Opanuku Stream. This stream flowed through my dreams on rainy nights, and would sometimes escape and run, unstoppable, through our garden and beneath our house.

At night she dreamed of rivers,
ribbons spread thinly over
beds of shale, swollen
jugular veins flowing
darkly through pasture.

In daylight she watched
blue lines pulsating under
her skin and remembered with a
sense of longing that puzzled her
until she realised that rivers
were always running and that
she was looking
for escape.

One evening she dreamed
of an expanding delta and
when she woke her bed
was floating on
an ocean.

More poets writing about rivers here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


The training has continued to go well. With the half marathon less than a month away I'm happy with how I'm progressing and confident that, although I may not do a fast time, if I keep my head and stick to the plan I will be able to run a steady event.

So, here's how just over a week of running looks in retrospect:

Last Monday: Feeling a little weary from the week before' s massive effort, I surrendered to the call of the duvet rather than climbing out of bed to do a weights workout. I was still tired by the time I met with the Squad for our evening's training. We started out by running at what was supposed to be an easy pace to the Westpac Stadium concourse. The speedies set a fairly cracking pace on the way there, that saw me questioning my sanity and dropping back a bit by the time we reached One Red Dog.

The intervals went ok, although my effort was rather lacklustre until I realised I was overtaking some of the faster new runners, and some of the women from the original squads who used to be faster than me. That picked up my competitive spirit somewhat, but the energy still wasn't completely there. In fact it didn't kick in until , on my way back to the gym (supposedly at an easy pace) I realised I was running with Dionne, who usually blitzes me. With dogged determination I kept up a speed that nearly killed me, but in the end reached the gym triumphant.

A good night's sleep, another late morning, a good Body Balance class, and I was feeling much more energised. I went for a quickish 35 minute run around the Bays, then followed that up with Duck's RPM class. Mindful of the next night's training, I kept the dial turned back a little more than usual until the adrenalin kicked in and I lost all sense of reason. So much for saving myself...

All the same, my measured approach to the week seemed to be paying off when I reached Wednesday night still feeling relatively fresh. We set out along the waterfront, then turned up Bowen and it was uphill all the way to Kelburn. We stopped 100 metres or so before the Viaduct, then turned around and went back to the gym via the same route.

Knowing how much of a climb we had ahead of us, I tackled the hill at a steady pace, not trying to race any of the other runners. I could hear Ale breathing at my neck the whole way up, but I tried not to let that push me! Once again, after the turn around I took the return leg at a steady pace. I wasn't in the mood to sprint the downhill. It was an invigorating run.

Duck tried to break me on Thursday morning with a hard upper body workout, but I refused to die. Amazingly, I seemed to be gathering power as the week went on. I may have mentioned from time to time that we've had some gorgeous running weather here. Winter has not yet bitten, and although the weather has been cool it has also been sunny and more often than not windless. Thursday was such a day, and I spent the whole morning hanging out to hit the pavement. I was out of the office just before 12.

The Northerly was up a little, so I had a few ideas about running up to the Botanical Gardens. Prue, one of the Jog Squad trainers, suggested I run up to Kelburn and then back through the Gardens. It would take me around 35 minutes. Seemed like a perfect plan.

So it was up Bowen again, up Glenmore again, under the Viaduct and all the way to the Kelburn shops. My legs were hurting, but my lungs weren't protesting too badly, and at no point did I need to stop. I ran through the shops, then turned into the lookout at the top of the Cable Car and loped easily down through the gardens, through the cemetery, across the bridge over the motorway, then along the trail between the Terrace and the motorway, back to the gym. All up it took me 36 and a half minutes. And did I mention the beautiful gardens, the sun, the stunning views out over the harbour? Did I mention loving this city, loving being outside, and being incredibly grateful to running for giving all of this to me? Did I mention being on a high for the next couple of days?

Friday brought a very intensive Body Balance class, which came as a breakthrough. Never have I felt so worked out in a Body Balance. Never have I felt my body making small adjustments, easing more deeply into each pose, making such progress. Even my lower back, which I had long ago given up on, finally started to show signs of some flexibility.

After such a great week of training, I sabotaged it all on Friday night. Our office broke for drinks at 4.30, and I didn't leave work until 7.30. By that time I'd had two glasses of bubbly and a glass of wine, not to mention a pile of chips, dips and salsa. I followed that up at home with a cider and a burger and fries from Burger Wisconsin. The aftermath the next morning was not pretty. I could feel the dodginess of my stomach before I even got out of bed. The squad was running 80 minutes, and given that I ran 80 minutes the weekend before I had been planning on trying to increase my speed. The lack of discipline the night before had put paid to that.

By keeping my pace steady I managed to hold back the nausea, but I know I was probably dehydrated. Thankfully it was another of those beautiful mornings, there was no wind and in fact it was rather hot. However that didn't help the nausea any! If I'd been wise I should have stopped off at Freyberg, Balaena Bay and Hataitai Beach for water. Instead I was reluctant to fall back any further from the front pack, and kept going. The speedies took off early on with me not keen to chase them, and Ale took off after them, leaving me humbled in her dust.

In the end I made it to within 100m or so of the first roundabout on Cobham Drive. I felt comfortable on the way back, and toyed with the idea of running out to Westpac Stadium and back to the gym. I took the wimping out option. Waves of nausea passed over me as I was sitting in the changing rooms after my shower, but I put my head down and toughed it out. With the blog community as my witness I will not indulge in any more Friday night binges until the half marathon is over!

The long run and the night before didn't stop me from indulging in a rare night out. Did I mention all my training has turned me into a big grandma? Hamish and I used to be right into the Wellington clubbing scene, but all of that fell by the wayside around the time the running got serious and Hamish started getting busy at work. No longer so much into the clubbing, on Saturday night Hamish and I met Ale and a friend at Mighty Mighty to hear Cassette play. It seems I'm not such a doof doof girl any more, more of an alt-country/indie rock chick.

We met up with the Southern VJ, Naomi, now not so Southern any more and living in Wellington, where I finally graduated from the Lemon, Lime and Bitters I'd been rehydrating with at Mighty Mighty, and sipped on wine in Naomi's Wellington Performing Arts Centre studio while we waited for her friends to arrive. Things got rather random from that point in, and we wound up at a party in the old Powerhouse Gym at the top of Taranaki Street. Apparently it's now a big warehouse flat, and it was filled with young drunk students from the university hostels nearby.

Things were looking rather dire, but thankfully Olmecha Supreme came on and rocked the place with their Jamaican and African inspired dubby beats. I managed to dance through the band's set, even after being kicked in the calf by one drunk lad, and slammed in the back by another who fell into me. This partying could be dangerous to my training!

All up we got to bed at around 4am, and I was rather aware of the irony that the day began in a gym and ended in a gym. I was proud of myself for having the energy to have made it through such a huge day. I even made it to Petone for a New Zealand Addison's Disease Network meeting at 1.00 on Sunday, although my 20 minute shake-out run fell by the wayside.

After my day of rest on Sunday and my moderate approach to the last week I set out on Monday morning determined to step up the pace this week. That meant getting up first thing to do a lower body session, and not dropping the leg press. I added in the extra leg extension Duck has prescribed to strengthen my quads above the knee, and felt the burn.

Remarkably, everything came together on Monday night. How to explain the feeling of being in my mind the whole way, of checking in with my body, monitoring my breath, feeling my glutes, tracking my feet as they landed, quieting the voice in my mind each time it tried to tell me to slow down? Turning around at Carlton Gore Rd and suddenly realising that it was a stunningly beautiful evening, and I hadn't even noticed?

Yes, it was a good run. Stop reading here Sarah, if you're still enduring my blather. Up Dixon Street, up those darn steps, getting left behind the front pack a little near the top, chasing them hard up the Terrace, catching them up and overtaking them on the long downhill to Bowen. Staying ahead most of the way up Molesworth, and holding my own most of the way along Thorndon Quay. It was only there that Karen moved ahead a little. We stopped briefly at the lights on the waterfront, and then it was across the road and past the ferry terminals on the way back to Te Papa.

I kept pace with Karen and the leggy blonde all the way to Frank Kitts, were I then proceeded to die a little death all the way to Chaffers. I thought I was going to have to slow down. Part of this was psychological. We were told that we were to run for an hour, and that if we made it to Te Papa within 40 minutes that we were to continue around the Bays. Well, we made it within 35 minutes, cutting several minutes off our last time. That meant another 25 minutes, and how could I sustain that speed?

Crossing the bridge into Chaffers I breathed out a stitch that was threatening. Suddenly, as we ran past Freyberg, I was experiencing a second wind and powering past Leggy Blonde. Everyone else turned around at Oriental Bay, but looking at my watch we still had another 15 minutes to run, and each time I thought I was going to slow down I could feel my glutes kicking in just that little bit more, and seemingly with little effort. I loved that last push to Carlton Gore, and I loved the push back to the gym. I made it back in around 58 minutes. All up I covered around 10.5km, and subtracting a couple of minutes for traffic lights, plus allowing for the hills, this was a huge new personal best for me. I began to imagine that I could one day sustain the pace for a whole two hours, and in doing so run a sub-2 hour half.

As I said in an email to Nic today (in relation to something completely different), it won't happen overnight, but it will happen. Might I also add that Duck's extortions to eat more may have had some substance to them. I ate a small tub of Cyclops yoghurt at around 3.00 in addition to my usual fruit, and I certainly think it fuelled my run. I've run at that speed before, but never for that sustained period of time.

I still felt ok this morning, but I didn't get up to do weights. It was too cold, too dark! Where did my willpower come from last winter? Even worse, half way through the balance track in Balance today the fire alarm went off. We spent 20 minutes shivering in bare feet in the street. Thankfully I'd brought a polyprop with me to class!

Our training schedule called for a day off today, and I didn't feel like hanging around until 6.35 for Duck's RPM class. My legs were also sore from yesterday's weights, so I also wiped out of Sharyn's 5.45 RPM class. Instead I caught a bus home. Wow - a real rest day, how novel!

Tomorrow' aim is for upper body weights before work and Jog Squad afterwards. I have a sore wisdom tooth at the moment which is causing me to wince each time I swallow, but which is not draining me enough to make me want to call in sick or miss any training. I have a dental hygenist appointment tomorrow that was scheduled before the wisdom tooth started hurting, and an appointment with my dentist to fix some decay next week. I will try to hang in there till next week and see whether he thinks it needs to come out. It's incredibly bad timing, and I really don't want to have to take time out from my training to recover from an extraction.

Persistent and consistent, that's been my training this time around. It's also been well-rounded, and I've focused both on the physical and mental aspects of this whole thing. A few more weeks and it will all be on!

Friday, May 25, 2007


Tagged by Leonie... Here we go:

4 jobs I have held:

  1. strawberry picker: during my first university summer break. We picked strawberries from Labour Weekend in October right through till April. It was the longest strawberry season on record, and it took a whole year for my 'strawberry picker tan' (lines where my shirt rode up my back and where my shorts ended) to fade. Not to mention the damage it did to my back...
  2. Pizza Hut kitchen hand: back in the days where we used to cook fish, steak and cheese meals, cook fries, prepare soup and entrees and salads, and at the same time keep dishes moving through the dishwasher, whilst trying to prep for the next day. I used to work an eight hour shift without a break, in a kitchen where the temperature sat at around 40 degrees. When I wasn't being bullied by inept managers on a power trip, screaming at the waitresses, being screamed at by waitresses or kicking the wall in frustration I had a blast. I loved that job really
  3. Book store sales drone: I started out handing out discount vouchers in a santa suit for Whitcoulls, got promoted to a full-time holiday job in the general books section, and later worked during summer breaks for London Books as a paperback buyer and duty manager. I still have a lot of random books in my collection that were given to me as reading copies. Once again, when I wasn't being bullied by inept managers I loved that job...
  4. Data-entry drone: I worked for a while as a data-entry clerk for a coupon promotions company. I got really quick at typing and knew where every suburb was in every town in New Zealand, and what data-entry code that corresponded to. I learned all of the ins and outs of a very cantakerous database system, and worked with some very sweet people (one of whom was the first to find out about my engagement, and talked my heart-rate down to a normal level). It fitted in perfectly around my study, and paid reasonably well.

4 movies I can watch over and over:

  1. Magnolia: Just beautiful
  2. American Beauty: Ditto
  3. Donnie Darko (both versions)
  4. 12 Monkeys: focus!

4 places I have lived:

  1. Henderson Valley, Waitakere City
  2. Ede, Gelderland, Holland (on student exchange)
  3. Ponsonby, Auckland (our first apartment together)
  4. Mornington, Wellington (home sweet home)

4 Categories of TV programming I enjoy:
I dont' really think I could list four 'categories' of programming as such. I don't watch television, although Hamish and I do have some programmes we download and watch:

  1. Heroes (sigh, season 1 has just finished)
  2. Dr Who (I thought it would be impossible to replace Chris Eccleston and Billy Piper, but thankfully I was mistaken)
  3. ER
  4. Desperate Housewives

4 Places I have been on Holiday:

  1. Paris
  2. Sydney (on our honeymoon)
  3. The Grand Chateau, National Park (also on our honeymoon)
  4. Lushington's Bay, Banks Peninsula (Hamish's family have a holiday home there)

4 of my Favorite Dishes:

  1. chicken risotto
  2. chicken teriyaki on rice
  3. Szichuan chilli tofu from Shanghai Restaurant
  4. Mrs Mac's chilli cheese pies (only after a long run, with cider)

4 websites I visit daily:
(i only really have three)

  1. Google Reader (thanks Leonie, it's a life saver)
  2. The Cool Running forums
  3. Digg. Yeah, I know, predictable. But Google Reader means I don't have to go that far from home.

4 places I would rather be right now:
As Leonie said, I'm quite happy being where I am, but other places I would like to be include:

  1. dancing in the sun to Paddy Free or Adham Sheik at Canaan Downs
  2. Lying in a fire bath near the Riwaka Resurgence.
  3. Sitting on the veranda at the Lushingtons Bay holiday home with a glass of chardonnay watching for Hector's Dolphins and waving at the tourist boats.
  4. Sitting in Joosje, my host mother's kitchen in Holland, reading a good book while coffee brews in the perculator.

love to do in my spare time:

  1. run (duh)
  2. read
  3. write poetry
  4. go on adventures around Wellington


1. Sarah
2. Deborah
3. Anyone else who wants to join in. Most of you have been tagged already!

Poetry Thursday: Not a team player!

Winter has hidden today
behind the Tinakori hills.
and the observatory is thrusting
its chest into a sky so
blue that you could almost
imagine it to be solid.
Start running up Bowen Street,
turning left and placing one
foot in front of another until
you reach the entrance of
the Botanical Gardens.
Circle once around the
duck pond for luck, then
climb past the old pines,
skip triumphant down the
steps through the herb garden,
and weave around pensioners
sniffing the roses.
Check your pulse and your
resolve then climb again
up through the Serpentine
path, shoes crunching softly
on the curving trail.
Are you feeling strong today?
Do you want a challenge?
Climb again if you wish.
Your breath will clutch
more firmly at your chest.
Your calves will burn and
your quads will whine.
Distract yourself by
dodging small children
and admiring the harbour
as it imitates the sky
to your East.
Remind yourself why
you live here as you turn
and lope easily back down
through the cemetery,
across the motorway and
back to your office.

I was trying to finish my poem inspired by last week's Poetry Thursday prompt, at the same time planning to do a little more research on dialogue poems, but I'm still on an endorphin high from yesterday's run, and so I had to get this out of the way first!

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Yesterday's 13.36km effort caught up with me today, and my quads are aching. A knot has formed in my right hamstring. I woke overnight to hear rain falling outside, and regretted trusting the weather forecast when it said that rain wouldn't fall until tonight. Three loads of washing hung on the line.

Come morning the rain had stopped, but a fearsome Northerly was shaking the house and dawn seemed slow to arrive. I slept until 8.30, which is unheard of. Tad Williams' "Tailchaser's Song", and Hamish's pancakes (with maple syrup and lemon curd) kept me in bed until late. It wasn't until after 1.00 that I worked up the motivation to change into my running gear and to head out into the wind.

My training goal for the day was straightforward - an easy 20 minutes. Leaving from home there is nowhere to run that doesn't involve hills. I ran up and down our flat street for five minutes, then it was uphill to the Ridgeway, a gradual incline, and a roller-coaster run for a kilometre or so before I could turn back towards home.

At one point the wind swept me sideways, catching my legs so that one foot kicked the other calf. I winced, but braced myself and kept the forward momentum. The aim today was simply to move. This was not about speed, despite the 30 second sprint I forced myself into as I turned back into our street. This was about getting out there and sticking to the plan.

Something has been bothering me for the last few days, and I think I've finally figured out how to put it into words. Some people I know, or whose blogs I read, describe themselves as seekers. I understand the sentiment, and I would once have claimed that identity for myself. However, as I was running my 13.36km on Saturday it occurred to me that I wouldn't call myself a seeker any longer. I found myself when I found running. I'm not a seeker, I'm a finder. There's no part of me that is missing, or that I need to do away with. There is only me, discovering more about myself every time I hit the pavement.

I'm not trying to say that I'm perfect, that I'm completely happy with myself, or that I feel I have nothing more to achieve. It's more that I know I have everything here, within myself, that I need to succeed. I'm not so much into talking about my perceived problems or weaknesses right now. I'm more into doing.

This is me, and I like this me.

The wind is still blowing outside. From my seat on the sofa in the bay window I can feel the house shuddering from time to time, and the trees down the side of the house can be heard thrashing around. I had to come to this place to witness a city reduced to nature's purest elements. I had to come to this place to find myself exposed to my own basic essence. Here in this city I have finally found the freedom to breathe.

NB: Thanks to the occasional emailer/blog lurker. You inspired this train of thought all those drunken months ago, and you know who you are!


For several years, while we were heavily into the Wellington outdoor party scene, Hamish and I used to carry masks around in our VW Polo. At a moment's notice the masks could be called into action. Hamish spent many an evening, having assumed his Yetimon alter-ego, VJing from a corner of the dancefloor. Standing focused behind his mixing desk with mask in place, I often saw him completely weirding out anyone who happened to look closely enough to notice.

We bought the masks while we were still living in Auckland. I think someone had invited us to a masquerade party. I stopped into a local costume hire and picked up two cheap masks - a cat face covered in brown feathers, and a matching owl. Hamish became the cat, and I the owl.

Some time after we moved to Wellington we were involved in an outdoor party at Tunnel Gully in Upper Hutt. Hamish spent the day running cables and I spent the day creating a fire circle. In the heat of summer I formed a circle out of stones, dragged log stumps around that circle for seating, decorated the space with found objects from the bush, then spent the rest of the day gathering firewood.

By the end of the day I was hot, sweaty and dusty, and it was at this point that it occurred to me that I had completely forgotten to bring a change of clothing. I didn't have any kind of costume with which to take on an alternate, party identity. I was just Pip, bedraggled and scruffy looking, in an owl mask.

However darkness and firelight can be forgiving, and I spent much of the rest of the evening sitting quietly amidst the drummers, saying little and observing. Countless party-goers would sit down across from me, then see the owl for the first time. They would wonder whether they were really seeing me, whether I was a hallucination brought on by whatever substance they had chosen to imbibe that evening. Perhaps I was even a visitor in spirit, summonsed by the beats that shook the earth beneath us.

Masks can hide us, but they can also liberate us and enable us to experience being something other than what we are from 9 to 5. That evening I wandered freely through the crowds on the dance floor. I acknowledged those who chose to interact with me. I danced with strangers, I responded to challenges. I laughed.

Some time during the night a woman in a floating cotton floral dress tried to get me to remove my mask. Flustered, I was unprepared for her flirtation. With this mask I could play along with her. Without it what would she see? Hair in need of a comb, an old t-shirt and dusty cotton trousers. And me - ordinary, old and very much part of this world me. She coaxed, but I demurred and, with regret, backed away until I was hidden on the dance floor.

I'm braver these days, and wiser. Now I like to think I would have had a change of clothes with me that more accurately revealed my inner self to the other party goers, and that I would not have been afraid to have removed the mask. Who knows, the person who eventually got me to remove that mask may even have liked what they saw.

More Sunday Scribblers hiding behind masks here.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Pain of No Regrets

What a huge week of training. This was another milestone week for me, training-wise. This was the week that I put in the miles and the psychology of running began to fall into place. When Duck told me that the half-marathon training programme would involve a higher number of runs, but shorter, I didn't think it would work. I'm being proven wrong. Who would have thought that to become a runner all you have to do is run? It makes sense when you think about it!

Bouyed by Saturday's 70 minute run I signed up for the Shoe Clinic half marathon at the end of June. I realised as I plodded around the Bays that time didn't matter. If I kept to a comfortable pace I could run for as long as I wanted, and therefore I could run a half if I so chose.

On Tuesday I chose to sleep in, and then did a Body Balance class at 11.10. After work I headed over to Xtreme, where I ran 35 minutes around the Bays at a steady pace. Thankfully the strong Northerlies had backed off a bit, so the return back to the gym wasn't too intense.

I grabbed my cycle shoes out of my locker and headed up to the crank room for Duck's RPM class. I didn't use as much dial as I could have, but I didn't exactly take it easy either. I had a lot of fun, but I wasn't sure whether it was smart for me to be doing an RPM with a whole week of running still ahead of me. Would I regret throwing in the extra class?

On Wednesday I headed off to the gym at 11.00am to do my upper body weights programme. Duck's given me an evil workout that involves lots of cable work, targeting both my upper body and my core. Even after a couple of months I still find it extremely hard, and my obliques were complaining by the end. However I like that the programme is so intense. I like that it makes me feel strong. I like that I can see definition in my abs. I hate it while I'm doing it, but I like the results.

After work the Jog Squad met up for a fast run out to Newtown. Whereas last time we had 25 minutes to reach the roundabout, this time we had 20. Even though Karen has increased her pace significantly over the last few weeks, and even though Sarah's still faster than me, I can keep up provided I get the occasional light change to enable me to catch my breath. I made it to the roundabout with the speedies, and with a few minutes still to go we headed up the hill. I totally lost it at that point and got left behind, although I still made it to the top of the rise before turning round.

After that it was downhill all the way back to Wallace Street, and I made the most of it to keep pace with Sarah. It was only once we got onto the rolling hills of Wallace that I dropped back again a bit. However I pounded down Taranaki with the grim aim of catching the front pack, and it was a triumphant sprint back to the gym in the lead. All up I felt pretty happy with my performance.

On Thursday Duck had me doing sprints on the treadmill at 13.5kmph. I could have gone faster I think, but even 13.5kmph is a huge improvement for me over where I started out. We followed that up with swiss ball squats and jumping squats, and leg extensions. My legs were really burning, and I still had a 35 minute run to get through at lunch time. Needless to say my lunchtime run was very slow! However I did it, and it was a lovely day to be out.

No RPM for me on Friday morning, and no Body Balance either. It felt strange to be having a complete day of rest, and it put my whole Friday routine out. The saving grace was stepping on the scales that morning to discover that I was back down to 55.5kg. It seems that when I'm training hard this is the weight that my body sits at most comfortably. I thought I'd dropped again this week. I felt leaner and I could feel more definition, but it took jumping on the scales to confirm it. Now I just have to be careful to maintain, and not to drop much lower with the longer runs.

Suddenly it was Saturday morning. I wasn't too sure this morning how my scheduled 75 minute run would go. My legs were still feeling it a little from Thursday, and my hip felt a little stiff. I had toyed with the idea of running up Wadestown Rd, but faced with one of the most perfect Wellington mornings ever (as if the weather hadn't already been beautiful enough all week), and wanting to have a good steady run with as few stops as possible, I elected to run around the Bays. I jumped on an exercycle for 5 minutes, then jogged slowly down to Queen's Wharf as a warm-up. After that I ran around the Bays at a steady pace. The harbour was absolutely flat, and the sea almost silver in colour. The temperatures were mild and there wasn't even the tiniest hint of a breeze.

Pt Jerningham came and went, then Greta Point. I started to pick my pace up with the aim of reaching the Zephometer, and made it in just over 38 minutes. From there I got the bit between my teeth, and picked the pace up again for most of the way back. I passed Catherine race walking, and Ingrid out running with her husband. One of the nicest things about being a Jog Squad member has been the large number of other women I now see out running. It makes a difference!

I have discovered that the trick to running long distance is to enjoy the sensation of one foot in front of the other, one breath in, one breath out. To begin thinking about how much further there is yet to run is to start to crumble. Start rushing and the diaphragm tightens, the breath shortens. Relax into your pace, simply feel the movement, and everything flows.

Everything flowed very well until around Frank Kitts, when the toast and peanut butter I'd had for breakfast started to repeat on me. When I stopped back at Queen's Wharf I had to hold back a bit of nausea, but it quickly passed, and was gone by the time I'd walked back to the gym.

I followed up the run with a great Body Balance, although it wasn't fair of Clare to pick on me during the strength poses. I know the releases well enough today to be able to simply do the moves, and not have to think too hard about them. It's fair to say I had a huge grin on my face for most of the class.

I'm heartened by how good I'm feeling. My sacroiliac seems to get better the more I run, and the running is also getting better the more I run. I've never felt stronger or fitter or more ready than I do now. All that remains is for me to retain this momentum over the next month, and to use what I've learned about myself to not flip out on the day of the actual event.

Let's hope!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Poetry Thursday: Not Following the Prompt

I was happily working away at my poem for this week's Poetry Thursday, when this poem pushed in the queue. It was inspired by one of the lines in a poem by Carolyn Forche, as quoted in Pepek's blog post. I thought it was fitting that I borrow one of Carolyn's lines somehow.

This is a poem about 'little things'. My father used to lie at the end of my bed every night, just as the person who is not me but not me does in this one. This poem is me, in a parallel life, taking on my father's point of view and claiming it as my own, if that makes sense. The little blonde girl is back as well. This is one of those poems that sprung instantly into the world, one of those "one day you knew what had to be done" poems.

Because I wrote this one, I didn't finish the 'joke' poem I was writing into this week's prompt. My 'joke' poem is taking a long time to emerge, as it is in fact a very sad poem, and has required a level of attention and sensitivity that I have not yet had time to give it.

I have learned
to leave a bed
without being seen.
Small voices elicit
promises in half light.
Yes, blonde child,
I will sleep with you tonight.
I lie curled at the
foot of the bed with
a small woollen blanket
to keep me warm
until her eyes close.
Then I take the book of
Mother Goose we have
just read from start
to finish as we do
each evening (she
can’t read yet but
she knows every word)
and place it on the ground
near her outstretched
hand then I
ease myself upwards
as gently as possible
so as not to wake her.
She sleeps completely
now, her chest rising
and falling in the
safety of my watch.
I pull the door to
as I leave and
wave to her dreams
as my father did
to mine many years ago.
She will wonder why
I did not stay to
watch over her
through the night
but what she does
not yet understand is
that, like my father
who watches over
me still, I look out
for her wherever I
am, whatever I
am doing.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh ...

So I dragged my butt out of bed this morning. The house was freezing at 6am, and dark. I can't turn the central heating on at that hour because the air vents make a heap of noise, and I don't want to wake Hamish up. So I layered up and hustled my way up to the bus stop.

At the gym I did my usual lower body workout, with my only concession to the big week of running ahead being to drop 10kg off the leg press. Other than that it was the standard number of jumping squats, walking lunges, frog jumps (burpees for the old school amongst us), hamstring curls and jack knifes. I followed that up with a good stretch, then it was off to work.

Feeling rather pleased with myself I fired an email off to Leonie about how well everything was going, then at around mid-day I wandered down to Starmart where, standing in line, I yawned and managed to put my neck out. Shooting pain spread down my left side, and suddenly it was difficult to move my head. The universe teaching me a lesson for being smug, obviously.

I spent the afternoon rather miserably with a heat pad on my left shoulder and my right shoulderblade cramping up from being held at a defensive angle. I considered trying to get into my physio, but I have an appointment tomorrow afternoon anyway, so I decided to play the 'wait and see' game. A couple of Neurofen, and it was off to Jog Squad.

Duck had said we would be doing drills, but Ingrid send us off to do some speed work around the Bays instead. The idea was to run a five minute warm up, then four minutes at a fast pace, then 2 minutes recovery, then 3 minutes, then 1 minute recovery, then 2 minutes, then 1 minute, then we were to turn around and jog back. Within 10 seconds of leaving the gym my neck was objecting to being jolted around and I considered turning back and jumping on an exercycle instead. However I decided I would just go out for a 40 minute easy run, and make up the speed work later on in the week.

In the end the legs argued more loudly than the neck, and although I didn't sprint I certainly ran at a fast pace. I stayed fairly close to the girls sprinting ahead of me. The Northerly had turned the harbour into a washing machine, but the evening was crisp, clear and pleasant. As we ran past Oriental Bay I stayed close to the sea wall, allowing the spray to hit me in the face. The further around we got the stronger the wind became. Rounding Pt Jerningham the Gods of Wind picked me up and threw me 200 metres or so down the road. At one point I extended my arms out either side of my body, picturing myself as the King of the World as the wind propelled me forwards at breakneck (literally) speed.

Somehow I managed to stay on my feet and everyone turned around not far past Balaena Bay. From there it was a grind back to the gym. I tried to draft behind some of the other girls, but every time I made it into someone's lee the sudden lack of wind nearly sent me flying forwards into them. Eventually I gave up and just plowed on. Walls of spray hit us in the face and combined with sweat to make our eyes sting. Our hair blew in our faces. I found it exhilerating, and the adrenalin rush continued as I stepped out, engaged my glutes, and focused on overtaking one runner after another. By the time we reached Freyberg I was really starting to sprint, and I kept up the pace all the way back to the gym. Each time I needed more speed I could feel my stride alter, my butt engage a little more, and as if by magic I would leave another runner in my wake.

A good run then. It's becoming increasingly clear to me that my tactic for out-and-backs needs to be to take the first half steadily, because my will power will kick in on the way back and my pace will increase in response. Tonight I felt like some of the power I had a couple of months ago has returned, and reassuringly I'm experiencing very little back pain right now. A corner appears to have been turned, mentally and physically. Just as well, because this is going to be another big week of training!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Winter continued...

My walk today took me from the high ridge at the Southern end of Kingston, all the way down to the Southern Coast. Although it is winter, Wellington was in a gentle, meditative frame of mind.

Pencarrow sat slumbering under benevolent clouds.

Everywhere families made the most of the forgiving weather conditions.

Owhiro Bay chanted mantras quietly to itself as the sun marked time and waves breathed in and out.

Happy Valley continued to cheerfully incline upwards to the suburban oasis that is Brooklyn.

Nature continued to mark the seasons,

its mood changing with the light as the sun shifted in and out of passing clouds.

Nature merged with suburbia, with neither winning the battle for dominance.

But the better part of the city knew that its only hope for a continued existence was to work in tandem with nature.

So nature decided to be kind and let us stay on for another day.


Today my camera and I went on a Wellington walking adventure...


The city today
is paused in the space
between the in-breath
and the out.

I walk in silence
and stillness
down to the coast
and the sea.

You walk this way
with me in a
parallel universe
some weeks earlier.

Later I will cross the
space-time continuum,
call a Wellington number
and speak to you in America
about this.

Saturday Afternoon

After our massage on Saturday Hamish and I took some time out to wander up and down Cuba Street. Aside from a rumage through the bargain bins at Real Groovy we also stopped in for coffee at Midnight Espresso.

When I first left Auckland and was seeking a replacement for Expresso Love in Ponsonby, Midnight Espresso seemed to be the most likely candidate. Although we don't do the ocffee thing that often these days, I do love this place. Thanks too to Leonie for putting me on to Comic Life. I'm having fun working out how to use it!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Over an hour...

I can tell that my training is going to get tunnel-visioned again from now until the half marathon at the end of June. Duck and Ingrid's new programme has us running up to six days a week, which doesn't leave a lot of time for cycling, swimming or RPM, especially not with three weights sessions to fit in and the aim of also fitting in up to three Body Balance classes.

I skipped lower body weights on Wednesday, wanting to have fresh legs that night. I was also conscious that Duck had promised a return to circuit training on Thursday morning, so I actually wanted to be able to walk!

The Squad ran a classic route on Wednesday night - up Taranaki Street, down Buckle, through the Mt Vic tunnel, past the Velodrome, up over into Newtown, back to the Basin, then up Ellis, along Austin and down Majoribanks to Courtney, followed by the sprint to home. I ran with the speedies until Mt Vic, but they pulled slightly away on me on the long slow grind through the tunnel itself. I caught them slightly on the run downhill once we left the tunnel, but they left me behind running up to Newtown. For some reason I could not keep up on the hills. I'm not entirely sure why, although I wonder whether it's got something to do with my sacroiliac still not being right.

All the same I was happy with my pace, and sped up considerably down Adelaide Rd. I could see the girls just ahead, and with a grim determination I managed to catch them at the Basin, only to lose them again up Ellis. I overtook a couple of new girls by absolutely flying down Majoribanks, something I haven't allowed myself to do since last year's knee problems. The knee held up, but an unforgiving light change meant I got left behind.

I feel that I haven't yet gained back the speed I had a couple of months ago before the injury resurfaced. I think a lot of it's mental, but I also seem to be getting tired more easily at the moment. Again, I'm not sure why, although obviously the last few months have been a bit stressful. However there's no way I can hope to keep up with Karen, who has hit her own golden spot in her training. The woman's legs are about twice the length of mine, and when she gets going there's just too much power there for me to have any chance! And if she's there then Sarah will do anything she can to keep up...

On Thursday Duck did indeed reintroduce the circuit training, although rather gently I thought. The fun bit was being able to demonstrate just how much strength I have through my core now.

At lunchtime I ran for 35 minutes at an easy pace. The Northerlies were near galeforce, so I stayed inland for most of the run - jogging gently up Bowen, then down Tinakori to Thorndon Quay, past the railway station, across to the waterfront for a short while, then back through town to the gym. I chose a route that would mean as much running and as little standing at traffic lights as possible. Running at lunchtime is a hassle, but it meant an early night at home, which was much appreciated.

Friday would have been an RPM day, but the day off on Tuesday meant I had a run to catch up with, so at 6.30 when I would normally have been jumping on a spin bike I was catching a bus to the gym to jump on a treadmill. I still find it difficult to face running outside at that time of the morning, especially in the winter. 30 minutes at an easy pace, and unfortunately Sam was on reception and in charge of the music videos. Thankfully it was only a short run!

I followed the run up with a Body Balance at lunch time. I really think my warrior poses have improved. There's certainly a lot more alignment in my body, and my hips sit much squarer than they did, my shoulders draw further back, my chest lifts around more easily. If only my triangle poses felt better...

Then it was 7.30 this morning, and I was getting out of bed to join the Squad for a 70 minute run. On the one hand my archilles has been aching on and off all week, and my right hamstring was a knot of muscle just above my knee. On the other I was eager to get into the 60< minute runs again. About time! The day was pretty much perfect - cool and not much more than the hint of a Southerly. We ran a straight 35 minutes out, 35 back around the Bays. The fountain was going in Oriental Bay, and there were several occasions I wished for a camera. We live in such a beautiful city, and once again I'm grateful to running for getting me out to enjoy it.

I kept up with Sarah and the new speedy for a while, but I had decided I wanted to run this one slowly, so I dropped back and eased into a gentle pace that I estimate would have been slightly under a 6.00minute pace. And there I sat, easily, for 70 minutes. I didn't let myself hurry, I didn't let myself think about how much further I had to go. Every time I started to feel pushed I just calmed down the mental noise and concentrated on one foot in front of the other. And again, the return trip was faster than the out. That will obviously have to be my tactic - ease into it then run for home on the way back. If you'd told me to keep going for an indefinite period I would have done. So why do I find this half marathon thing so hard? Oh, perhaps I don't.

Dare I hope for a little more speed next time? The problem's not mental so much as physical I think. So, up the pace a bit but adopt the same mental attitude I was able to nurture throughout today's run. I may have stumbled upon something!

Hamish and I treated ourselves to hour long massages today in town. Mine was bliss, although the tendons in my back are pinging like rubber bands that are about to snap and the massage therapist could be heard 'tsk tsking' on a regular basis. Yes, my muscles are tight. They're like that at the best of times, let alone when I'm training. I wonder sometimes, if Lance Armstrong produces less lactic acid then most people, perhaps I produce more. It would explain a few things. No one ever believes me when I say I stretch!

15 minutes of shake out running tomorrow, and I will try to make the 1.00 Body Balance, though another gorgeous day may see me spending the day in the Sanctuary instead.

Friday, May 11, 2007

NaPoWriMo 30: Responsibility (return to Poetry Thursday)

The last NaPoWriMo prompt just did not want to turn into a poem. I think I was all washed out by the end of the month, tired of writing poems in response to an external direction, rather than allowing the words to come from within me.

Today this is what came out. Like the last prompt, this isn't really my voice. There's a roughness and anger that I don't really own. In a way I think this is a frustration at not being able to finish my NaPoWriMo business speaking.

Some sad things have been happening here. A two year old girl was killed in her bed as a result of a drive by shooting. Teenagers were killed after a car was driven through a crowd of party gatecrashers. One girl was only 16. Her mother said that she was a good girl. Her mother also said that she couldn't protect her from every danger in the world. Her mother knew that the girl was going out, but did not know where she was going, what she was going to be doing, who she was going out with or who was in charge. It makes me sad that this girl's mother did not feel an obligation to watch over her daughter in this basic way, and that the girl's life ended so tragically.

I have also been thinking about the high pedestrian count in Wellington, and the teenage girl who was knocked over and killed on Cambridge Terrace by a pair of drag racers. The girl had been drinking and was on her cell phone. The boys were speeding.

At the same time the anti-smacking debate continues, with the media tending to report at either extreme. A woman who beat one child got off the charge on a reasonable force defence, then was later found guilty of beating her second son, who ran out onto the road in front of a car to escape her.

Another teenager lies in a coma, having taken a party pill. The headlines scream that the teenager is in a coma as a result of the pill, but the story documents that they drank far too much water, and that this caused the state of unconscious.

These things circle in my head. Our actions, their consequences, the stories we tell ourselves to try to find an excuse or forgiveness.

No Fault
One small drink.
One more shot at the
end of a series at the
finish of a hard night.
One for the road mate?
Nah, one for the

Place car keys in lock.
Open door.
Place car keys in ignition.
Start car.
Drive dumbass.
Drive straight through
the red light (what light?).
Drive straight through
the 16 year old girl with
her blonde hair fanning
in the warm evening air
and her cell phone
arcing poetically
through the sky landing
beside bone and
torn cotton and

So let’s allocate blame
shall we? Blame the
father with a length of
hose and the boss
with small-man syndrome
and the text message
and the antibiotics.
Not my fault.
Zero responsibility.

For a different take on responsibility, there's been an interesting discussion on artists' responsibility over on John Smythe's message forum. What is my responsibility as a writer? Is it, indeed, to frame history?

What if I am inspired to write, not by the grand themes of history, but by the minutae of my daily life? What if I am a mother writing about my child discovering the world? As it turns out, I often write about responsibility in the form of ecology and environmentalism, but not out of some self-indulgent delusion that by doing so I might in some way change things. Does that make my writing any less important?

In the end I think I believe that all of us, whether artists, writers, poets, mothers, fathers, athletes, actors, bus drivers, teachers, doctors and ditch diggers have an ultimate responsibility to live ethically, and to spread that ethos to the extent of our influence. In that way, powerful leaders have the greatest level of responsibility to frame, not just history, but the act of living, in a way that is of most benefit to mankind and the planet. Talk without action is empty.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

NaPoWriMo 29: Split

Yep, I know. It's well into May and NaPoWriMo fell of the radar long ago. In fact it's NZ music month, and I'm compiling a list of great NZ music for you all to be inspired by. However NaPoWriMo and I have two items of unfinished business. Here's one of them, for what it's worth!

Don’t try to tell me
my life is lived in binary.
You, Mr Professor with your
mind body splits and your
duality of reality.
Try telling my mind that
it is separate from this
body next time the
red rages kick in!
Easy for you, this
rational mind thing, this
women’s body has been
accused of being
uncontrolled for too
long as it is.
Thanks very much for
your patronising patriarchy.
Who asked you anyhow?
Not me. This mind, this
heart know very well
they are connected to,
defined by these
lovehandles, the
bumps on my thighs.
Take a look at the
tits on Lara Croft
some time if you
don’t believe me.
Stop trying to sort me
into little boxes.
I’m quite happy the
way I am!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Real Duathlon More Photos

The girls - Mum, Sarah and I. I can't believe we ended up with consecutive race numbers. My hair looks a mess in this shot already and the event hasn't even started. I mean - I know it was windy, but come on! Either I'm going to have to take some hair styling tips from my mother or go the bandanna route like Sarah!

Lovely Lola, racked and waiting (bike 555 midshot). I have to admit to a pang of anxiety having to leave her there overnight, not for fear of rain or theft, but because when we left the wind was blowing the bike racks in all directions!

A nice shot of Dad, waiting for us all in the cold and on bag minding duty.

No official photos up on Smileclick yet. Waiting waiting!

On Duck's instructions I took today off, other than an excellent Body Balance with Mike. After all, Body Balance doesn't count! I forced myself to leave my running shoes at home. I was feeling much recovered after a decent night's sleep and it was another of those perfect Wellington winter days, ideal for running. I knew if I had my running gear with me that I wouldn't be able to resist the temptation.

A run with the Squad tomorrow, and two thirty-five minute homework runs on Thursday and Friday (plus a Body Balance, plus a Duck Session, plus RPM), and then a Jog Squad run on Saturday morning, rounded off by 15 minutes of recovery run on Sunday. Might have to follow that up with the oft-talked about but not yet accomplished return to the pool.

The physio told me that my body's been too busy fighting off this UTI to put any energy into recovering from my injury, and that all the other stress I've been under has exacerbated the situation. She's confident that with my antibiotics finishing tomorrow and the pressure coming off that I'm going to be on the mend again. I hope so. I'm sick of being achy!

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Trainer Hath Spoken

The sum of the aftermath of the last few weeks has been greater than its parts. Physically, mentally and emotionally I am wrung out. I had this crazy idea that I was going to have a 'hard' week of training this week, that I was going to reintroduce commitment and discipline, that I was going to do an upper body weights session, a lower body session, a Duck session, all my Jog Squad and homework runs, and chuck in some Body Balance classes and RPM as well.

Unfortunately I've underestimated the effect of having a constant stream of people in and out of the house, a persistent urinary tract infection, several events, varying levels of medication, a new role at work and the constant pressure I put on myself.

I did get up this morning and do my upper body routine. I'd vaguely promised myself I would drop the reps, but of course once I was at the gym I did the whole thing. My only concession was to drop the weight on the cable and do slightly fewer chin raises.

I met up with the Squad tonight, and even managed to run with the speedies for a good 15 minutes. If I'd been fresh I could have kept going. But I was bone tired and mentally the tenacity was just not there. I only backed the pace off slightly, but it was enough for the front pack to get away from me. At my slightly reduced pace I kept running, kept the glutes engaged, and continued to feel strong. I guess I should feel happy about that. But I wasn't as fast as I could have been.

I wanted to go home. In fact I was desperate to go home. As I waited for the bus afterwards I was fantasizing about walking through the front door, sitting down with Hamish, drinking cider, eating a big bowl of pasta and watching the latest episode of Heroes. Which, once I got home, is what I did.

Duck (who is probably reading this, since I sent her a link to this blog, if she hasn't already Googled it already anyway) has ordered me to take tomorrow off. If she hadn't (thanks, by the way) I would have been dragging myself off to do a lower body workout in the morning, then heading out for a short run tomorrow night. Instead I'm planning on treating myself to V's Balance class at 11.15, then going home straight after work, cooking Hamish and I a nice dinner and crashing.

Sleep is screaming for attention. I am going to sign off, shower and fall into oblivion. Right now!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Real Duathlon photos

That's me - returning from the bike stage, looking remarkably good at this point I must say!

Waiting for the starter's gun in Wave 12. I can't actually see Sarah and I, but I'm assuming we're here somewhere.

Mum - returning from the first run/walk stage, and looking very good!

And in case I forget how far I've come in the last year, this was me back in April, at the end of the first run stage. You've come a long way baby!

Phew - I needed that little reminder!

pip returns from run one
Originally uploaded by leoniewise.

Warning - Angsty Training Report

What a weird week it's been. Nic and Leonie left on Tuesday, then Deborah arrived on Thursday and Mum and Dad arrived on Saturday. Five people in the house! Work was flat out, and the pressure went on. My training, which has always been constant and structured, suffered and became a bit random. My stress levels sky rocketed and some of my old Angsty Pip tendencies started to resurface, which of course only made me more uptight.

I didn't run with the Squad on Monday, choosing instead to spend the evening with our departing guests. I had a session with Duck in the morning, and we worked my upper body again. This week we are getting back into circuit training, which I'm looking forward to.

At lunch time I ducked out and ran for 45 minutes along the Bays. From my desk the outdoors looked grey and uninviting, but outside it was mild and still. The harbour was perfectly calm and I had another of those days where I was able to escape from my mind and enjoy being outdoors. The run wasn't that bad either! I ran the first 20 minutes at a fast pace, and the last 25 at a medium pace.

On Tuesday I was too busy to go to Balance, and rushed home after work to drop Nic and Leonie at the airport, so Tuesday ended up being a reluctant rest day. On Wednesday I made it out of bed to do a lower body weights workout, and that night I ran with the squad. We ran North along the waterfront and down Thorndon Quay. The idea was to run for 20 minutes at a fast pace, then if we felt ok we were to continue for another 10 minutes before turning around.

I kept up with the speedies, but got unaccountably nervous about my ability to keep up at 22 minutes, and turned around. I made it back to the gym in 29 minutes and, feeling ok, decided to run around the block, getting back to the gym right on 40 minutes. It seems that I'm out of practice when it comes to running with a group. I've been running on my own so often lately.

With Deborah arriving on Thursday, I ended up having another rest day. Hamish and I had been toying with the idea of going to a dance party at Sandwiches on Thursday night, so I had cancelled my RPM booking on Friday morning, which I later regretted. Instead I ran for 50 minutes at lunch time. As it turned out a run was by far the better option. Finally, a Wellington-on-a-good-day run! To celebrate the sun, calm air and mild temperatures I challenged myself to a repeat of Sarah's challenge of a couple of months back.

From the Terrace gym I ran up Bowen Street, then turned up Tinakori and ran up past the Botanical Gardens. From there it was a right turn up the dreaded Garden Rd. Knowing the extent of the challenge ahead of me was in this case a good thing, and I ran slowly but doggedly and steadily up the hill. I made it to the top in one piece! From there I ran easily back down The Rigi, back onto Glenmore and into the Botanical Gardens. I ran over to the Rose Gardens, then up the Serpentine Walk, back up into the Herb Gardens, and from the Rose Gardens down through the cemetary, up and down the Terrace a couple of times, and back to the gym for a total of 50 minutes. I felt strong and confident, and my knee caused me no problems whatsoever. I did have a few issues with downhill stitch. That still puzzles me. I figure I must tense everything up on the uphill then loosen it all up on the downhill, thus leading to the stitch. I can get rid of it by breathing out hard and digging my finger into my side, so it's not too much of a problem.

I did a Balance class on Saturday, and everything felt stiff and awkward. I could tell I haven't been doing enough yoga of late! My right glute was still causing me problems, but has eased off a bit over the last couple of weeks. Clare corrected one of my warrior poses from the front of the class, reminding me to breathe and telling me to extend my arm out a little further over my head. To my surprise I tried stretching my arm and it moved quite significantly further than I thought it would!

So that was my week of training - random, abbreviated, and punctuated by way too much time running around, and not enough time running. Almost time for stillness or calm, no time to myself. Not a good way to lead up to the duathlon today. I should have known better! Life kinda got away on me ...

Deborah and I went to the Hurricanes game at the Stadium last night. It was my first time at Westpac and I was rather excited, but in the end it reminded me of how much I dislike large crowds, and confirmed for me that I'm a league girl rather than a Union fan. The game seemed broken and ungraceful, and frankly a little boring. The Hurricanes lost badly and the crowd lost interest rather early on. The obnoxious women behind us bellowed obscenities in our ears and one of them spilt beer down my back ten minutes into the first half. The highlight was a car giveaway that went wrong. Five people were given a key to a new Ford, one of which was supposed to open the car. Unfortunately none of the keys did... Hilarious!

I got home, jumped in the shower to wash the brewery smell off myself, managed to drop my glasses on the floor and break them, groped around getting my bag packed for this morning, and spent the night running to the bathroom with a worsening UTI. Hamish got home around 1.30a.m, unloaded his car (it was the last night of Bright Room and he'd packed out all of his AV gear), then left to go to the crew afterparty. He finally got home at around 1oam this morning, and spent all day in bed sleeping.

After my broken sleep I finally woke at around 5.20 and lay there until 6a.m, when I got up and went through my standard pre-race routine, right down to putting on the standard number of layers and eating my usual Special K with tinned fruit. I took a few sips of a Horleys sports drink, and then the family convoyed in two cars down to Waitangi Park.

The signs were not terribly auspicious. Apart from the UTI and general tiredness the weather was rather nasty, with a stiff Northerly and threatening rain. Poor Jane, the series organiser must wonder what to do about Wellington. Last year the weather the day before was perfect, and this year the perfect day was two days' prior!

I must say I was very proud about how Mum conducted herself throughout the whole thing. She never showed any real signs of nervousness and took everything in her stride. She's looking fantastic, and has clearly developed some real muscle in the last few months. Dad says she spends around two hours every day exercising - walking, cycling and doing weights or classes at the gym. My mother is an inspiration.

Sarah found us and I spotted a couple of other jog squad and women's multis girls before the event started. We all lined up in Wave 12, and before too long we were off. I got separated from Sarah early on by a group of slow women, but she stayed around 20 metres or so ahead of me most of the way, and I could always see her head scarf bobbing away in front of me.

I wish I could say the 3.5km went well, but the run felt dreadful! I was regretting wearing my polyprop under my race shirt, and I was rather hot by the time I made it to the turn around. All the same, I steadily overtook a stream of women, and hardly anyone overtook me. Unfortunately I forgot to press my stop watch at the start of the event, so had no idea what my splits were like, but I think they would have been somewhere between 5 and 5 and a half minutes.

Before long it was on the bike. I think I could have pushed the cycle harder, but it was by far the best part of the race. The road was closed this year (a necessity after last year saw a woman getting knocked off her bike), and I spent most of the time sitting on the centre line flying past slower riders. A group of road bikers ended up pacing off each other for most of the distance. One woman was faster than me in the wind, but every time we hit shelter I would fly past her again. I obviously need to work on my wind cycling. A few super-fit looking girls on very fancy road bikes overtook me, but generally I held my own.

Back to transition, and I ran as quickly as I could in my cycle shoes back to rack Lola. I was regretting not having put my elastic laces on my running shoes, and I think I probably lost a good 3 minutes in transition that Sarah gained on me. Having said that, Sarah did have a problem with someone having racked their bike so one of their pedals went through her spokes, and she told me that lost her a couple of minutes.

I still had no idea how I was doing time-wise. I had forgotten to spin my legs out and I had serious off-the-bike issues. Never has 1.5km felt so long! So much for sprinting. It was a hard job just to keep moving. Soon after the turn around I had a real problem with needing to vomit, to the extent that I actually had to stop for 30 seconds or so to stoop over and spit out a heap of bile. A very concerned woman stopped to ask how I was, and I replied that it was just a bit of nausea, stood up, wiped my mouth and started running again. How hard am I!!

So I made it over the finish line five or so minutes behind Sarah, but with no real idea of how I'd gone. In the final analysis I came in at 57 minutes, so only 2 minutes faster than last year, or around 5 minutes if I allow time for shoe changing. Not good! I was really bitterly disappointed, but then I started doing a little analysis.

Last year I came in at around 360, this year at around 120. Sarah came in at around 45, which is where Bronwyn placed last year in under 50 minutes. It seems that everyone did a slower time this year, with the wind the most likely culprit. I managed to finish significantly further forward in the field, and that's probably the best indication of my improvement. I guess I would feel better if I didn't know I was capable of going faster, but for the stupid leg and nausea issues. On a good day I would have kept pace with Sarah. She didn't blitz me as much on the initial run as I'd expected, and I should have been able to blitz her on the bike.

So what's the next step? I need to perservere. It would be easy to start thinking that this eventing stuff is all too much of a hassle. But that would be giving up. Onwards and upwards.

Besides, the proof of what is possible was shown to me today in the form of Mum, who came home in 1 hour 20, looking like she'd just gone out for nothing more than a gentle stroll, and with a huge grin on her face. I'm so incredibly proud!

The plan for this week is to reintroduce the consistency and focus on my training. I'm going to do an upper body workout in the morning and run with the squad tomorrow night. After that it will be a week of homework runs, another Jog Squad run, a Duck session, a lower body session, an RPM class and as many Body Balance classes as I can squeeze in. I'm looking forward to it. It's time to get serious again!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

NaPoWriMo 28: Circle

So many nice things I could have written about circles, and I come up with something completely opposite! Goodness knows why goats popped into my head, but I kept thinking about the habit we have in New Zealand of tying a goat on a rope to a stake in the ground, so that it grazes the grass down in a circle. The poor goat is often left to graze down grass verges with no access to shelter or water. It's a real issue for the SPCA.

As a child we had three goats: two lovely docile females who called to each other from their respective corners of the lawn, and one very aggressive billy goat, who used to charge anyone who got near him. I actually love goats (and goat's cheese), though I guess you wouldn't know it from this poem.

This one doesn't feel finished, but I couldn't work out any other way to end it. I like the first two verses, then it kind of loses its way. In case Hamish still reads this blog I would like to point out that it is not about us, or in fact anyone else I know!

It seems we’ve been here before.
like goats we have worn the grass
down around us straining at the
tether that keeps us in place and together.

Frustrated we move in circles,
gnawing hungrily at every corner
of this relationship until
all fresh green tips are gone and
we are left gumming dry roots
and spitting out soil.

This marriage has reduced to a
four-legged cantankerous beast,
held onto because its all-consuming
habits would take too much effort
to cure or dispose of.

NaPoWriMo 27: Improper

The fog has settled on
this ridge again tonight,
cold winds and warm air,
the chemistry of opposites
that attract.

I am lying here thinking
highly improper thoughts,
imagining the weight
of the warmth of your skin,
my cool feet against
your shins.

In dreams I massage
swollen bellies,
grown pregnant with
the imagining of a
cheek, a shoulder blade,
a thigh.

Mist condenses on
the sash windows and
hangs weighty over
my bed as I gestate these
particles of you.

Cute confused furry animals

Emo-Cat keeps wandering inside and looking at us with big, wide and confused eyes. He didn't come to bed last night and we find ourselves wondering where he was holed up while it poured outside.

In the spare bedroom the sheets have been stripped from the bed. The pillows are stacked awaiting pillow cases and the duvet is folded neatly at the foot.

We sit in the lounge doing human stuff. Emo appears and stands in front of us. He watches silently for a moment, then lets out a single, plaintive and very distinct Burmese 'meeoooow'. All we can do is shrug our shoulders and say:

What? It wasn't our fault they left. We didn't kick them out. Don't blame us!

In response Emo turns around and wanders off again, searching for who knows what? No wonder the vet recommended kitty prozac...