Monday, July 30, 2007

Bidwill Street Kicked My Butt

Ingrid has been taking lessons from Duck. Do not believe this woman when she says that tonight's run is an easy half an hour. Those of us seasoned Jog Squadders will remember the days of training diaries and the innocuous "flat run" note alongside a scheduled Jog Squad run. Substitute the words "short hill" for "flat run" and you'll start to see where tonight's run is heading!

We started easily, with a fairly fast-paced run along Courtney and up Cambridge to the Basin. From there we hung a right up Buckle Street back onto Taranaki. From there it was uphill to Bidwill, and then straight up. Short hill? Yeah, right.

Halfway up I found myself standing doubled in one spot, without any recollection of actually having stopped. It was all I could do to get to the top of the hill. I got overtaken by certain Jog Squadders on the way, but was happy with that, because certain members have obviously gotten quite a bit fitter of late!

Once we were on the downhill though the world was Pip's. Flying past at a Mad Dog clip I muttered something over my shoulder about reclaiming some lost pride. By the bottom of the hill I'd caught up with Legs and Sarah, Trudi and co again, and from there we all ran back down Willis and Dixon to the gym, pretty much right on half an hour. I wanted to prove something to myself, so sprinted with Karen the length of Dixon. Now that felt good!

I have definitely lost some leg strength over the last month. My quads in particular seem to have gotten weaker, possibly because I was reluctant to use too much leg lift when I was running with the abductor strain. I've only been doing my lower body weights every fortnight on average, and with Duck staying away from my lower body and a number of lower-impact workouts on the x-trainer and spin classes, things have definitely atrophied. I think my cardio fitness has dropped off a little, but not as much as my leg strength.

I may be the only client in record who has asked their personal trainer to insert hill repeats into their training programme. As I was running Bidwill I was thinking back to the days of suicide sprints up Aurora Terrace with the Special K squad. I find myself longing for the pain. The thing I want the most right now is to be able to run hills with power and form. Bring on the quads and buns of steel...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

I may be some time ...

I have on my lap three books: Mary Oliver's "A Poetry Handbook" and "Rules for the Dance" and a collection of poems by Barbara Brooks, "The Catbird Sang".

I may be some time!

I'll take it

Today's image is of the lagoon next to the boathouse, including the city-to-sea bridge and, to the right of the photo, the albatross sculpture. The Jog Squad sometimes does circuit training around here.

Leonie sent me a text at around 7am this morning to let me know they'd missed their connecting flight and were now going to be arriving around 10. I lay in bed for a while but never really went back to sleep and it slowly dawned on me that everything outside was quiet and still. Sure enough, it was a mild calm morning and I had just enough time to fit in my 35 minute homework run. I also wanted the opportunity to prove to myself that I could have an ok run still.

Running from home equals rolling hills, downhill stretches and uphill climbs. From the top of our path it's a one minute warm-up run on the flat, then a quick short uphill to the main road, a short flat recovery stretch, a small rolling hill, a short steep hill, then it's downhill all the way to the Brooklyn shops. From there I ran up the very gradual incline to the point where Brooklyn hill drops off down towards town, then turned around and ran past the shops down to Garfield street, where I climbed for about 10 minutes to get back up to the Ridgway. I still had another ten minutes to kill by this point, so ran another couple of rolling hills before turning back down Farnham Street. I picked up the pace and sprinted along our flat street to home.

This still wasn't a fast run and the uphill bits felt harder than they should have done. But I could feel my muscles remembering what to do and my lungs switching back on. It felt good to sprint the last couple of minutes, and I could sense my body preparing for speed again. I'm curious to see how I run tomorrow night, and whether things continue their slow, gradual improvement. I suspect that my leg strength suffered during my confinement to the x-trainer, so I'll make an effort to fit some weights in this week.

So, all up I'm feeling a lot more positive about things, and that's most of the battle won already! It was such a beautiful morning for running, and I had enough time to shower before sitting out on the veranda to watch Nic and Leonie's plane fly in.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


The photograph above is one of a series I took on my big three hour walk on Tuesday afternoon. The significance of this image is more symbolic for me than anything. This is the start of the 2.4km time trial route from Frank Kitts park to Te Papa. The guy in the blue shirt running in the centre of the shot is at roughly the start line. From there you run between the two chain link fences, then straight down the promenade to Te Papa, where you then hang a left and keep running to the lamp post with the rubbish bin attached at the end of the wharf. You then turn around, run back to the beginning, then repeat. I need this shot to remind me that not that long ago I ran the distance in 10.36, and that I will be fast again.

Tuesday's run, Balance and walk left my calves absolutely rigid for the rest of the week. I missed intervals with the Squad on Wednesday because I was stuck at the hairdresser's. On Thursday morning Duck put me through a series of lunges and squats and ab work. Highlights included walking lunges the length of the gym floor while holding a 10kg straight up above my head, and lying on my back with my legs lifted at a 45 degree angle, with a medicine ball balancing on my shins. This workout consisted of a number of contained moments of intense pain.

My calves were still sore, my archilles niggling, and Hamish and I were off to the Wairarapa for the day. My homework run went out the window in favour of lunch in the sun on the terrace outside the White Swan, then wine tasting around Martinborough. The weather Gods shone upon us and the day felt so decadent that I found myself sitting outside the French Bakery at 3.00 eating a pain au chocolat. Devine!

Friday was the diarised Jog Squad day off. I was considering running anyway, given that I hadn't run since Tuesday, but my calves and archilles were still aching and I was in the midst of holiday-induced lethargy. In fact, but the end of the week I was wondering again whether there was something else going on. I know I've had a bit of an infection, and I suspect they knock me about more than I realise. I know I've been stressed and I know that being pulled out of my normal routine, even to go on holiday, can make me feel worn out. However I was surprised by how little desire I had to run. In the end I compromised by walking into town, taking Ohiro Rd down to Aro Valley, then cutting through onto the bottom of the Terrace for a rolling hill walk to my office. All up it took around an hour.

I don't usually worry about Addison's Disease having an impact on my ability to train, particularly since I came across a couple of Addisonian ultra runners. I've read some research lately that reported a general decline in quality of life rankings around the age of 50, but there seems to be no obvious reason why that would be. It's not so much that I feel Addison's would affect my quality of life, but I do sometimes fear developing yet another auto-immune disease. In particular diabetes would pose a real challenge. However I then remind myself that by staying healthy I'm giving myself the best possible chance of living happily to a ripe old age. I was wondering whether there was something cortisol related going on this week, but given that I'm generally slightly over-medicated it seemed unlikely.

Given my general state of lethargy I knew that this morning's run was probably not going to be the sudden return to form I was hoping for. I ensured that by stupidly drinking most of a bottle of pink bubbly and eating far too many chips and slices of pizza on Friday night at a colleague's leaving party. Stupid, stupid. How could I expect to have a good run dehydrated, queasy and hung over?

So no, this morning was not easy. I guess i can take heart that I did it, and that each kilometre back on the pavement will contribute to the sudden changing of gear I've experienced in the past. My body seems to need high mileage to operate effectively.

Today we were supposed to run for an hour. We headed out along the waterfront, up Bowen, down Tinakori, along Thorndon Quay and back onto the waterfront to the gym. If we got there in under an hour we were supposed to continue running up Taranaki Street. I held my own until we got to Bowen, and then I just faded. Ann has come on in speed amazingly, and she flew past me today, followed closely by Felicity. The bonus of running at my reduced speed was the opportunity to run with Rose, who has the right kind of 'mad dog' attitude to take her a long way with her running.

If I were honest I probably didn't feel as bad as I thought I did on the way back to the gym, but it seemed pretty ugly at the time. My quads just didn't have anything in them. It got me wondering about people who go from no physical activity to running their first half marathon in under two hours, and then musing glumly about my own comparative snail-like traits.

Then I think about that tiny little kid in primary school who was always at the back of everything. And it reminds me of how far I've come.

Having a series of bad runs does not make a runner a failure. Continuing on, pushing through the hard times and emerging stronger and mentally tougher makes a runner a success. Perseverance is the key to getting myself back on top.

NB: Nic and Leonie are flying from San Fran to New Zealand as I type this. The next week and a half or so may well be a little mad. It will be good to have them back in our lives in the physical, even if just for a short time. The coffee is brewing!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Poetry Thursday: On Holiday

While on holiday
Outside the boatsheds
on Oriental Parade a
man is feeding bread
to seagulls.

They snatch crumbs from
his fingers, hovering
inches from his face.

I watch as he reaches
to stroke their backs,
crooning as though talking
to a favoured child.

In a park across the road from
Oriental Bay there is a swing
hanging from a Pohutukawa.

As I am taking a photo
of its open invitation there
is a noise behind me.

An old man stands
with arms outspread, a
comical scarecrow on this
millionaire's row.

"Take an interesting photo,
take a photo of me".

I laugh but he is gone
before I can raise
my camera and
the moment is lost.

And in celebration of tomorrow's Montana Poetry Day, here are some photos taken on Wellington's sculpture walk. I love a city that cares enough about its art to leave verses of poetry around its waterfront.

Each verse is supposed to say something about this city. The photo above is tucked away by the rowing club and I don't think I've ever noticed it before. This is how I feel about living here. There is another somewhere (I think by Frank Kitts) that starts off "you don't live here by chance". I feel that way about Wellington as well. Life here does indeed feel precarious, and you have to make a choice to lodge yourself in her hillsides.

I've never approached Wellington through the tunnel (I'm guessing this means a train tunnel), but coming down Ngauranga Gorge and driving past that understated little 'Wellington' sign feels like this. As if you could be anywhere else!

And my last discovery, in the park where the old man approached me, and where another man sat drying clothes on a nearby bush. He seemed harmless enough - just enjoying the warm winter sun I think. I hope this one can be read okay. You might need to open it in a larger window.

All in all a very pleasant way to spend a mid-winter holiday.

More Thursday poetry here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I didn't want to go to bed anyway.

Gaffer and Ede taking up my side of the bed. I took up Hamish's side until he decided he wanted it, then I wound up sort of squished into the middle. And yes, I know I should have just pushed them off ...

Front, back and sides

I took a risk and booked a session with an apprentice hairdresser at Is Bliss hair salon in Taranaki Street. Three hours and multiple cups of tea later, this is the result. I can highly recommend Jessie to anyone! Jessie was ably assisted by my former senior stylist Ang. How could I have ever left you Ang? I promise I will be back!

This is only the second time I've posted a photo of myself that hasn't involved me looking sweaty and/or wind-blown and dressed in running gear!

Leonie will be pleased to know that I missed Jog Squad tonight thanks to Jessie and Ang (and it was quite nice to have the excuse not to go). Today has consisted of sitting on the sofa reading, writing and watching The Notebook on DVD. Tomorrow I'm off to Greytown for the day, and Friday might have to be that gallery session I've been talking about.

Monday, July 23, 2007

So close to a DNF

I'm on holiday! Not that I feel rested. I was up till late last night reading Harry, woke up at the normal time, then loitered around the house until finally reaching the last page at around 2.30. We woke to a beautiful sunny day here in Morningtonand I opened up the curtains in the lounge and bedroom to let the sun stream in. It even got to around 13 degrees in the hallway! Unfortunately the warmth dissipated as soon as the sun moved Westwards and away from us.

Living in Wellington is such a compromise. If you have sun you probably have wind. If you're sheltered you probably have bad access. In our case we have no off-street parking, 46 steps and a couple of paths, gorgeous views and sun from the East. We're quiet and private and we have great neighbours. We're sheltered from the Northerlies and we get hit by the Southerlies. This house is lovely and airy in summer when we can sleep on calm nights with the big sash windows in the bedroom open onto the veranda, leaving the curtains open to the view. However the windows rattle in the slightest breeze, the sun never reaches the courtyard behind the house in winter, and without the central heating going it's cold!

Still, there's nothing like lying about in the courtyard in the middle of summer with a cold bottle of cider, or curling up in a hammock chair on the veranda communing with the mountains. Despite all my whinging of late, I really do love this place.

Anyway, this was to be a post about running, sort of. Remember the last Squad, when every run was golden and I felt glad to be doing this? When each step heralded new speed? When I owned my spot at the front of the pack? Yeah, I need to remember those days!

My runs lately have been OK, but they haven't been fabulous. I feel like I've dropped off the speed. I know I've had the abductor problem, but there's something just not there right now. Tonight we ran for 40 minutes around the Bays. It was a cool evening, but calm. I started off ok, slowed a little but not too seriously after around 15 minutes, made it to the 20 minute turnaround ok, and like a slow-motion special effects shot of a fatal car crash, my mind sat back and watched it all turn Pete Tong.

It was a struggle to make it back to Fisherman's Table, though I managed the 15 full press-ups ok. I had to crawl to Freyberg, though the 15 walking lunges didn't feel too bad either. However the aforementioned custard started to go cold and lumpy after that. I don't even want to think how much my speed dropped off as I shuffled my way back to the gym. I even walked from Te Papa. I NEVER walk from Te Papa.

Objectively it wasn't that much of a disaster. I made it a little further than usual, but nowhere near as far as Greta Point, where Karen and the front pack ran to (I mean, come on, how could I ever keep up with THAT?). My splits weren't that bad, even with the stopping for press-ups and lunges. I even had one of the new Squaddies admiring my running technique and commenting that I must have been running for a while. Um, thanks, and now feel free to kick my butt for the rest of the run!

Reasons why this was a less-than-successful run:
  • nearly 50 minutes of reasonably paced running on Saturday followed by RPM, then 20 minutes on the treadmill on Sunday (up to 11.5kmph) and a Balance with a very hard standing strength track. Plus I walked into town - which took around an hour. Gee Sherlock, your legs weren't exactly fresh, were they?? Particularly when this is the first week you've really run on several consecutive days, because ...
  • you're still coming back from an injury. Deal with it!
  • you were probably dehydrated, because you haven't had a lot of water today (it's harder to remember to suck on the Pump bottle when you're not at your desk),
  • admit it - you ate crap yesterday, and your stomach was reminding you of that this morning,
  • lying around all morning does not make for an easy transition to evening activity.
  • you're a bit stressed right now, and come to think of it ...
  • you have a bit of an infection at the moment.
All that, and you know you totally set yourself up for a bad one! And don't you think you've over-analysed things just a teensy bit?

And when did this blog post shift to third person?

Good things that happened today: I had an excellent performance review, and Emma (hi Emma) googled Jog Squad, discovered my blog and has invited me to her Buddhist study group tomorrow night. The universe is tapping me on the shoulder again it would seem...

Hi and thanks to the Blog community members who have commented lately, and who have added me to their Blog Rolls. One of my goals for this week, before I go back to work on Monday, is to my own list up. In fact, if it's wet tomorrow, that may be my main activity (after a 40 minute rolling hill run to the Terrace and Mike's Balance class).


Saturday, July 21, 2007

I am a sheep

After a (good) 45 minute run this morning (no abductor pain), and a 45 minute RPM class (small slap merited), I stood in a queue in Whitcoulls and, like everyone else in the store, bought my Harry Potter. I'm not used to being one of the masses. It was humbling.

Now I'm sitting on the sofa with Harry and a bag of grapes. I may be some time...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Random Friday Night Thoughts

Four tracks into the new Crowded House album it's still a Neil Finn album to me. Track three was a little more early CH, but overall so far it's all about Neil.

Oh boy, I need an iPod. It's not that I'm a late adopter, it's more that I won't use something that I don't see as being of use to me. This week I've needed an iPod. That's a new thing for me, but I'm going to go with it.

I'm over the Harry Potter hype. I haven't pre-ordered the book. Nevertheless I'm going to go out tomorrow and see if I can pick up a copy somewhere. I do want to read it before the spoilers become unavoidable.

It still hasn't really registered in my mind that I'm getting up to run tomorrow morning. I've drunk too much and eaten too much and I'm going to wake up dehydrated and feel annoyed with myself. I've been reading back through my posts and eating too much seems to have become a theme. I don't want to binge eat. I want to be totally healthy. The overconsumption has to stop. I mean it!

I really am an addict. When Duck sent around a txt this afternoon to let us know she was teaching RPM at 10.30 tomorrow morning my immediate thought was "cool, I can run, then do RPM, then fit in a Balance". Slap me. Slap me now.

I'm on holiday! I don't feel like I'm on holiday. Possibly that's because I still have to go in on Monday to have a performance review meeting with my acting manager, and I have a Ministerial Submission to chase up while I'm there. Plus I'm meeting everyone for Yum Char on Wednesday, and going to a colleague's leaving party on Friday night.

Collecting for charity is fun. It helps to wear approachable and pretty pink stuff (thanks to Leonie for the pashmina, and yay for pink boots) and to give everyone a big smile, whether they donate or not. Collecting outside your office helps too! The good karma lasted for most of the day.

I've been ashamedly grumpy lately. Waiting half an hour for a bus tonight and two hours for our Indian to be delivered didn't help. I need to relax and remember that it's up to me to choose whether to be grumpy or not. I could equally choose to be philosophical and to think about something else.

I accomplished a lot at work the last couple of days. I'm good at my job. I need to ask for the opportunities to show it.

There's more going on with my parents' health than they're letting on. I need to start paying attention.

I want to run the Manawatu half marathon in August. I need to fit in a couple of 90 minute runs to reassure myself that I'm fit enough. Time to prioritise the running again.

Having said that, perhaps I need to set a goal to complete a standard length triathlon this summer. I am soooo fit enough. S**t. I need to get back in the pool.

Small vanity moment - getting dressed in the bathroom this morning I caught a glimpse of some ab'age in the mirror. Oh yeah - now THAT's why my obliques hurt.

I got annoyed with a colleague tonight when she talked about contributing to local charities rather than international ones like the Red Cross. That's fine in theory, but the problems in the more disadvantaged sectors of New Zealand society can hardly be compared to those in places like Darfur, for example, and should largely be handled by central and local government.

People say the most wonderful things about my poetry. I love what they get out of them and the feedback gives me new insight into my own words.

Enough. If I haven't already said too much I very soon will. Time to go to bed. Goodnight!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Poetry Thursday: Weather with You

Every where you go you always take the weather ... Poetry inspired by a party, a calm still evening over Wellington harbour and a storm front.

Thanks to Philip C for the gorgeous photo. I love this talented local photographer. He captures the spirit of this city so well.

Internal Turbulence
Winter is within today,
cold winds of malaise and
a hoar frost of discontent.
I watched the front move in
indomitable from the South.
I could not run nor shelter,
nor escape the clouds that
gathered on my horizon.

I watched you all dancing
last night in the warmth
and wondered whether you cared
about anything at all but the
gentle breezes that encircled
you in the room together.
The iced droplets of my cynicism
created a fog that separated us,
creeping around my arms so
that I could not reach out.

I do not wish to be this
snow maiden shivering in a
chill of my own making.
Tomorrow I will climb
Mt Kaukau until I finally
ascend above cloud and
stand in stunned awe gazing
up at the sun that was, after all,
always there and only briefly
dulled by the dark nachtmusik
of a weary mind.

More Poetry Thursday contributors here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

My Name is Pip. I am an Addict

Oooh, am I ever an addict. Nothing gives me the same high that running does. Nothing makes me feel as good as getting up at 6am for a weights session. Nothing integrates my fitness mind and my expansive mind the way a good Balance in the middle of the working day can do. Nothing takes me back to the seratonin rush of my crazy young Hard House days on the dance floor the way a pumping RPM track does.

I need this. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes I feel like I'm going backwards. Sometimes I'd rather be sitting on the sofa with chocolate. However get me out on the pavement around the Bays on a Saturday morning with fresh legs. Get me working my obliques on a cable machine. Get me into Warrior 2 in one of Mike's insane Tuesday classes. Listen to me signing along to a huge hill track on a Friday morning. Ask me then how I feel. Ask me then whether there's anything I would rather be doing.

It's not even like training is going particularly well at the moment. Winter is sapping my will to get out from under the duvet, and I'm having to be flexible about when I do my workouts. Add to that the abductor injury, which is only this week starting to show signs of improvement. My runs have been pretty mediocre at an objective level, especially when compared to the excellent runs I was enjoying towards the end of the last half marathon training programme.

I had a good session with my physio last Wednesday. She did some soft tissue massage on my abductor and a bit of ultrasound. I was feeling good, but then ran with the Squad and aggravated it again. For what it was it was a hard run. From Xtreme out to Fisherman's table, back along the beach, along the waterfront to the Shell station, then back to the gym. It was cold and the rain started to come down towards the end. I told myself that this was only my second real run since the half. I told myself I was injured. I tried not to let it bother me too much.

It wasn't like I had time to dwell on things, what with Duck, as promised, starting to work on my legs again on Thursday morning. Walking lunges with 20kg power bags. Balance poses with power bags. Squats. Press-ups. How I managed to survive the next day without serious pain I'm not sure. A rest day from cardio seemed prudent. However there was no escape from Dee's 6.30am RPM class on Friday morning and that darn Riverdance track. Pain. Glorious pain.

Things went into decline on Friday night with a staff mid-winter Christmas party in which I managed to eat my own weight in chips, garlic bread and Turkish. At 11.00 I left my colleagues in the Southern Cross and went on to join Hamish at a party in Oriental Bay. Big mistake. I was tired, nauseaus and in no real mood to linger. I found myself standing in the driveway looking out at a calm and still harbour. I came to a horrific conclusion. It was going to be a perfect morning for running with the Squad, and I was going to miss it because I was too busy partying. Even worse - I'd turned into the kind of person who avoids going out because they need to exercise. However there was something that seemed self-indulgent and ultimately destructive in the evening, and I wanted to be at home in bed. By 2am I'd decided to walk back to town and catch a cab home. I spent most of the rest of the weekend feeling unexpectedly queasy.

With a self-imposed sense of being in purgatory I headed off to the gym on Sunday, only realising half-way there that the day was perfect for cycling. Instead I managed 40 minutes on the X-Trainer (Level 12 on random), actually managing to spike my heart rate for a change. After that Sarah and I did Margaret's Balance class, then I headed home for some more eating.

I was vowing to purge on Monday and to reintroduce discipline to my training, but I was still feeling vaguely ill and it was just too cold to get out of bed to work out before work. Instead I had relatively fresh legs for my Monday Jog Squad run. I wasn't sure how my abductor was going to hold out, but my competitive nature wasn't going to let me take it slowly either.

We ran along the waterfront, up Bowen Street, down Molesworth and back along the waterfront. I would like to say I felt fantastic the whole way. Instead there were good aspects and bad aspects. It still felt hard but not as hard as Wednesday. I kept up with the front of the pack for most of it. My abductor didn't begin to hurt until around 25 minutes in, and even then the pain wasn't that bad. We made it back to the gym in around 39 minutes, longer than I'd intended, and I wasn't even left limping. By the next morning I felt fine.

My evident path to recovery led to the rediscovery of my mad dog tendencies. Mike's Balance class at lunchtime included the most intense strength track with lots of standing lunges, and also the most intense ab track. My obliques felt the burn! I followed that up after work with my lower body routine. I wasn't able to allow myself to drop anything, and really should have known better. I'm surprised my legs felt as good as they did during RPM. I turned up the dial at every opportunity and took pleasure out of paying attention to the details. Was my cadence in time with the music? Was I changing gear and standing or sitting on the beat? Were my legs working at capacity? What were my lungs telling me? Was I keeping my upper body still, not dropping my head, bending my arms, keeping my weight over my saddle?

Buoyed on by my return to training insanity I made it out of bed the next morning for an upper body/core workout. I didn't exactly take that easy either, despite still feeling my obliques from Tuesday. I can't remember what weight I usually do the woodchopper on, but I suspect it is a lot lower than what I managed on Wednesday.

I knew by 5.00pm that I was in trouble. I couldn't imagine running with my obliques in spasm mode, let alone with my quads in the state they were in post Tuesday's adventures with the leg press. Duck laughed, as I knew she would. Not only did I have to run that night, but I had to get up this morning and have a session with her. And she wasn't going to take it easy on me just because I'd gone a bit stupid this week.

I'm proud to say that I didn't give in though. I knew that the pain I was in was self-inflicted. I set out to keep up with the front pack as well as I was able, and I almost managed it. I was assisted by traffic lights for the duration, thankfully, or I would have been on my own! We ran up Taranaki Street and Wallace to Newtown. At Constable Street we crossed over and ran back down to the Basin. Then it was the familiar Ellis Street/Austin Street/Majoribanks rolling hill set, followed by a run down to Fisherman's Table, back along the sand, and back to the gym. It was supposed to take 40 minutes, but even those of us at the front took closer to 55.

This time my abductor didn't start to complain until nearly 35 minutes in, and again not badly. It was my quads and my glutes that were protesting more loudly. My breathing didn't feel that great either! I felt slow. I wondered what had happened to my ability to sit with the women at the front, and how Allie had suddenly developed the ability to kick my butt with such regularity. I admired Trudi's sheer speed and fitness and apparent natural ability. I admired Sarah's ability to fly up hills. However I also reminded myself of how sore I was, and gave myself permission to have a slow run. After all, it wasn't THAT slow. I was still within sight of Karen.

I considered running straight back to the gym at the end of Majoribanks, particularly given that we'd already been out for around 45 minutes and I didn't want to stress my abductor. Mad Dog wouldn't let me though, even though my pace coming off the sand had distinct snail-like qualities. My sense of pride was glad that traffic lights on Taranaki Street enabled me to catch the girls up and return to Xtreme seemingly victorious. 55 minutes of VERY hard running. How did I ever run for over two hours? How was I ever going to do it again?

I got a lecture from Duck this morning about not overtraining and turning up for Jog Squad runs with tired legs. In my defense, most of the time my legs are fairly fresh, and I'm only doing the programme she prescribed me, I swear! Ok, so a lower body workout and RPM on Tuesday could be classed as overdoing it, but the X-trainer on Sunday just made up for the run I missed on Saturday, and the RPM was to replace a homework run. Ok, so the homework run was only 20 minutes at an easy pace, and 45 minutes of intense spinning doesn't quite compare, but why should I drop back my fitness levels when I've worked so hard to get here?

I knew this morning that it was my fault I was sore, and there was no way I was going to try to beg for a light workout. This was going to be punishment, and I was turning up to serve my sentence. Oh how I hated the Duck halfway through though. It seems that sometimes Ducks don't play fair!

Today I was put through a circuit, starting with pull-ups, then full push-ups, then I had to jump from a standing squat, swinging a pair of barbells from behind me to my chest as I jumped. Once I landed I had to jump upwards, lifting the weights above my head in a shoulder raise motion. It took several goes for the neural pathways to grow for me to get that one right! From the jump/squat thingies it was straight into a leg press, then a swiss-ball jack-knife.

We started out doing 8 sets of each, then 6, 4 and 2. That was supposed to be it. As I stood there wanting to die the ante was upped. Despite my darkest looks and muttered references to Duck and Porcini sausages I completed another round of 1 rep of each exercise, 3, 5, 7 and 9. Die? Yes, now please.

Actually, I was amazed at how good I felt at the end of it all. In fact I think I increased in speed with each set, probably as I got to grips with the jump/squat thingies and the circuit. I took away a new pride in my increased upper body strength. I was able to manage the pull-ups with an ease that surprised me. If I gained one thing from today, it was a new perception of my muscular prowess. I was also pleased with my ability to take an exercise that involved a significant amount of coordination, and to systematically break it down and figure out what I needed to do to put theory into practice. It seems I'm finally making up for all those years I wasn't allowed on the jungle gym when I was younger.

So, over all a good workout! And I'm under strict instructions to take a day off tomorrow. Works for me. I have to collect for Women's Refuge from 8 till 9 before work in the morning, and it's my turn to cook for Baking Club (the Creme de Cacao slice is cooling on the stovetop as I type). I have a lot to get through before I go on leave tomorrow, and it won't hurt me to skip a Balance, as I will do my usual run/Balance combo on Saturday. There will be plenty of time to work out next week as well.

I don't know that I'll make the Manawatu half marathon now, but Pelorus is definitely on. The two hour half marathon WILL happen - and hopefully this year.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Hair

My hair and I have never had a particularly easy relationship. When I was a toddler my hair was so thin and pale as to be non-existent. No matter how frilly the dresses my mother dressed me in I was repeatedly mistaken for a boy.

I guess Mum despaired of ever being able to do anything with my hair. She kept it short when I was growing up, always parted to one side and sometimes held in place with a single clip. Of course I grew it as soon as I was old enough to have my say in these things, and by the end of my teens it reached right down my back (although I could never quite sit on it, as my mother once could). Always dead straight, as my hair grew it suddenly started to kink. Photos of me at the age of 17 reveal that, for a time at least, I had hair to die for. Honey-blonde and wavy, it was a small source of vanity.

I left my hair long well beyond the point at which I should have surrendered myself to the mercy of a good hairdresser. Ten years passed without a single trip to a salon. I finished university, got married and started my first job. After a while it became impossible to even find someone who would contemplate the big cut. Not even the English-speaking hairdresser my husband and I found on a trip to Paris would consider allowing me to chop off my locks. She did take off a few inches, but that was all I was allowed.

A few more years passed, and the appeal of long hair was steadily giving way to a frustration with the twenty minutes it took every morning to tease out the knots. Even worse, it didn't feel terribly professional to still be wearing my hair the same way I did back in high school! After a long hunt I finally found a young male hairdresser willing to do the deed. I told him that I didn't really know what I wanted, but that I knew I wanted it cut off. Off it came, and it was only afterwards that it occurred to me that I may have been able to sell it.

I was thrilled with the results, but I had no idea how to replicate the look at home. I've never been any good at styling, so any cut has to be very much 'wash and go', with a quick going over with a brush and hair dryer. Over the years I stuck to a fairly basic jaw-length bob, either middle or side-parted. I went through a phase of blonde highlights, until I realised I was spending huge amounts of money to colour my hair only a shade or lighter than its own natural hue. I went copper once or twice but that was about the extent of my daring. I've flirted from time to time with ideas of going pink, or perhaps getting dreadlocks, but I don't think either option is really me.

This year a dissatisfaction with my usual salon, laziness and the practical realities of multisports training have seen my hair grow back to just below shoulder length. To my surprise I really like it. Sure, it's still thinner than you'd expect, and it gets frizzy because I don't treat it that well, but it feels more feminine and forgiving. Plus it's great just being able to tie it back and forget about it. However it really does need some attention, so I've booked myself an appointment with a local apprentice who was advertising free haircuts at my local gym. I only want a couple of inches taken off, some layers put through, and a little shape around my face. I'm telling myself she can't mess things up that badly. If she does then I will simply have to go back to a jaw-length bob for a while. No great hardship!

Although I have always complained about how hard it is to do anything with my hair, things could have been worse. Now, my sister's childhood Janet Frame afro curls... there's hair that was hard to control!

More hairy scribblers here.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Poetry Thursday: Sharing, not Writing

I haven't had time to write any of my own poetry this week. I've been too busy writing my first column for the Jog Squad website. Hamish just asked me whether that was my first piece as a professional writer. I'm not getting paid to do this, but yes I guess in a strange sort of way it is.

Instead of sharing a poem of my own today I thought I would share another from Essential New Zealand Poems, selected by Lauris Edmond and Bill Sewell. It was the beautiful imagery that drew me to this piece, the observation of a slow easing of day into night. That and my as-yet unanswered question as to the identity of the unaccomplished bride.

In Abendrot
By Ken Arvidson
From The Last four Songs of Richard Strauss at Takahe Creek above the Kaipara

The far Brynderwyns heave across the harbour,
rising upon the second tide, mountains
in mangrove moving, weaving
the last complexities of the sun. These
are a tangle of reflections. Over them,
the next peninsula shines yellow,
pastoral century of slow change,
and the roofs of pioneers, like beacons, prophesy
the imminence of fishermen, their lights
alive and casting, quick
to be out before the strong tide sucks and runs.

I sing of our long voyaging,
and you who led me, at my side;
I sing the saddest of all things;
I sing the unaccomplished bride.

The hills will cease to float soon, and the mangroves
ripple themselves away.
the wandering flames of grass will calm, and the cattle
boom night's gullies up and down. My lights
will anchor a headland. Boats will take bearings,
seeking the channel; and then,
the Kaipara will move out.
A shag clap-claps in shallows.
I point the way to an open sea,
though all my doors are closed,
and I within.

Go slowly, sun. A gentle death
of day is in the birds that wheel
in clouds to their accustomed rest,
and in the racing of the keel

before the racing of the tide,
and in the crowding of dark trees.
I sing the unaccomplished bride.
I sing my death in all of these.

(Originally published in Riding the Pendulum, Oxford University Press, 1973)

For more inspired New Zealand poetry I can highly recommend Poetry Thursday contributors
Catherine and Kay (Chief Biscuit). If I ever quit being so slack and get my blog roll established their's will be two of the first blogs I link to.

And, because it's not quite true that I haven't been writing poetry, here's a poem I posted to my blog on the weekend.

Monday, July 09, 2007

It Was Sunny, I Ran

This abductor strain is taking longer than I'd hoped to heal. Thankfully the weather on Saturday was highly facilitative of rest. Cold and wet, I chose staying in bed over a x-trainer and a Balance class. However I really am happier when I run, and I start to feel extremely slothful if I take too much time off.

Sunday turned into a beautiful day, if extremely cold. I drove to the gym planning on doing another half an hour on a x-trainer followed by a Balance class. However as I drove to the gym I caught glimpses of a mirror-calm harbour, reflecting every square inch of the sun above me. By the time I got to the gym, abductor injury or no abductor injury, I was going running.

So I ran. Only half an hour - just out to Pt Jerningham and back. But it felt good. I was in party mode again, and so was half of Wellington. I ran quite quickly, or as quickly as I could while dodging kids on bikes and hoards of Sunday afternoon amblers. The Rimutakas reclined on the horizon, wearing a full coat of snow and looking stunning. I concentrated on technique, engaging glutes and pushing off each footfall. I maintained a moderate heartrate, not feeling any urge to stop. It was more than enough to remind me of why I do this.

As I ran past Freyberg two young guys approached me on one of the four-wheel cycles available for hire on the waterfront. They were wearing handkerchiefs at their necks and cowboy hats. I was marveling at their interesting appearance, when one of them put his hand up at a 45 degree angle in front of me. Not quite believing what I was seeing I returned the favour, high fived him, and continued down the footpath laughing. Thanks to the mysterious stranger - he made my day!

My abductor started hurting after around 20 minutes, but wasn't too bad, and by the end of Balance I was feeling okay again. I managed to score a spot in the sun in the studio and enjoyed lying in the warmth during relaxation.

Afterwards Sarah and I walked to Frank Kitts Park for post-workout sorbet. Sitting there on the water's edge, gazing out at the snow, it was only half-way through our cones that our core temperatures started to drop and it suddenly occurred to us that this was not the smartest thing in the world to be doing. Sarah scurried off to her bus, and I to the warmth of my car.

Hamish and I spent the evening at the Petone Winter Carnival. We watched a video production created by a friend of a friend next to the beach, where we were kept warm with pizza and mulled wine, but even so after an hour I was shivering badly. Things improved a bit when Hamish and I went to sit in the sand dunes to watch the fireworks and I managed to warm up a bit. The gorgeous evening had continued, and we enjoyed sitting there gazing out at Sommes Island and the city. There is so much beauty in this little world of ours. It was a perfect night for pyrotechnics. However afterwards, as the second half of the production began, I found myself shivering again. After ten minutes or so my leg was cramping up and I was completely unable to focus on anything other than my discomfort. Finally I gave in and limped back to our car, where I stayed for the next hour until Hamish and Naomi joined me, relieved to be out of the cold.

I felt better again this morning, but my abductor was still nagging when I lifted my leg. by six o'clock it was very dark, very cold and very wet. Ironically this only made me want to run even more. Some of my best runs have been mad, crazy sprints between raindrops. However common sense won over and instead I spent 45 minutes on a x-trainer. As the last of the Jog Squadders trickled home with wet, cold, grim looks on their faces I felt a little relieved that I had not been with them around Pt Jerningham. I headed off to the bus, comparatively warm and dry.

I will do Duck's RPM class tomorrow, and catch up on a missed weights workout (I just couldn't get out of bed this morning, it was soooo cold), then will try running again on Wednesday. As I said, I'm disappointed it's taking so long to recover, but I guess I have to be sensible.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

There are forces at work

Image borrowed from here


Here the ice groans and shudders.
Beneath our feet the tide ebbs
and flows immeasurably,
something we can sense but not see.
What seems solid rises and falls.
Cracks open in front of us only to
close again by morning.

Everything here defies time
yet nothing is permanent.
Flux and flow are one continuum.
What we see is not what we know.
We can not settle here in this land
of unease and elements.

This place was not put here to comfort
us but rather to open us to the
uncertainty of change and permanence.
Death and eternity, life and
regeneration. Who will you be here
when everything is shifting
where you stand?


Thanks to everyone who expressed concern for my mother's well-being following the tornado this week. I spoke to her again the next morning, and the exact chain of events was a little clearer, although Mum was, I think, still shaking.

It seems that a series of tornadoes hit Taranaki over a period of an hour or so. Most came in off the sea and Oakura suffered the most damage. Amazingly no one was killed, although one man was asleep in his caravan and woke to find the caravan on its side and his fridge on top of him.

From what Mum has said, the tornado that hit Stratford came from the direction of the mountain rather than the ocean. It hit the house behind theirs, lifted that house's roof up, blew it OVER the top of Mum and Dad's house, and dumped it onto the roof of the house in front of them. Mum and Dad lost part of their fence, and a concrete water trough in the back yard was blown over. Debris went through the skylight in their garage. Their back yard is littered with wreckage, including chunks of insulation and other rubbish. However their house is intact, and no one was hurt.

Our family are no strangers to weather hazards. Mum and Dad moved from Auckland to Taranaki after the council bought their house when the flooding in their valley got too dangerous to allow them to stay. We grew up with the knowledge that dirty brown water could overflow and run underneath our bedroom windows at any time. I once narrowly missed being swept away by a flash flood that swept down the stream bed minutes after I had been standing there. Mum was rescued from the roof of my car by a fireman after flood waters rose too quickly for her to get back to the house.

Mum is used to police and firemen knocking on her door. She just didn't expect to find it happening again. When Mum and Dad were traveling the North Island looking for somewhere to live, any house near a stream was ruled out pretty quickly. Then not long after they had settled into their great home with a stunning view of the mountain, news reports began to make a big deal about the risk of eruption. Apparently eruption is well overdue. Now Taranaki is being described as a tornado 'hotspot'.

With my family history there's no way I should be living in a city built on major faultlines!

Specials Board

Dinner this evening, Little Boys Duck and Porcini sausages, served over a sage and lentil risotto.

On the drinks menu, a shot of tequila at the stove, and a glass of Pinot over dinner.

I'm liking this cooking thing at the moment. Earlier this week I cooked a smoked chicken risotto, adding some baby peas and a shot of Limoncello. The liqueur added a hint of sweetness to the chicken, and the whole combination worked extremely well.

Tomorrow I'm going to cook Thai chicken meatballs over coconut rice, and I'm planning a buttered chickpea (a vegetarian alternative to buttered chicken) meal with basmati rice for later on this week. Tomorrow afternoon I'll cook up a pot of curried kumara soup to have for lunch at work on Monday.

It was 8.5 degrees in the hallway all day. I kept warm by doing housework and not sitting still. The temperature could have something to do with my renewed interest in cooking!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Poetry Thursday: The weather dominates

Yesterday I suddenly realised that it was Wednesday and I hadn't even given half a thought to writing any poetry. I've been really excited by preparing to write columns for my running group's website, and that distracted me from more literary pursuits.

I thought I was going to have to bypass this week's Poetry Thursday post, but I managed to start something this afternoon. It's in first draft and very rough, but I thought it was worth putting out there. I've been on the phone to my mother this evening. A series of tornadoes has hit the Taranaki area. One went right through Mum and Dad's street, hitting houses all around them but missing their place. They apparently have pieces of their neighbour's garage in their back yard and are missing part of their fence. Poor Mum is pretty shaken up, but they will be ok. It seems fitting therefore that today's poem was about the outdoors.

Winter Thursday 2007
I’ve been sitting here
all week fulfilling some
politician’s desire to seek out
a non-existent whiff of scandal,
hitting print and killing trees,
cultivating repetitive strain injury.
Outside the sky has hardened
and is pressing on the pine
trees in the Botanical Gardens.
It must have flattened some as
a helicopter is spiriting them away.
Tomorrow you and I should
go seeking entertainment carried
on the steel edges of a breeze
sharpened by the Kaikouras.
We will insulate our brittle bones,
wrap them in merino and
sheath them with polarfleece.
I want to collect päua and seaweed,
gather the discards of passing ships.
We can tramp coarse sand back
to our house where it will settle
into the cracks in our floorboards,
bringing the sea to whisper
under our feet where waves will
sing lullabies with the wind.

Don't Give Up

It's been over a week now since the half marathon. The abductor strain has kept me off the pavement, so I've been dealing with the aftermath of success and the removal of an obsession. I was surprised by how sore I felt after Sunday. Obviously the abductor hurt, but my quads and calves quickly stiffened up to the point where I was I was hobbling around the office with a pained expression on my face. As predicted, I was in good company.

Balance on Tuesday helped the hamstrings, but my abductor stopped me from being able to fully engage in a surprising number of moves. So it was off to the physio again. Thankfully the diagnosis wasn't too scary - a probable strained long abductor, no tear, no damage to the quad. If I hold off the running and stretch everything should come right fairly quickly.

Duck played her part by working my upper body and core reasonably hard on Thursday (though the gossip to exercise ratio was fairly poor). By Friday I was already feeling a lot better and the physio seemed pleased. A weekend in Taranaki with my parents ensured that I got more rest. I took my tramping gear, cycling gear and running clothes with me, but in the end the weather was horrific - pouring rain and gale winds. Instead of climbing the mountain we spent the weekend eating and sitting in front of the fire. A toasted sandwich on arrival segued into a bottle of wine. A full roast chicken dinner was followed by a yummy berry cheesecake for dessert (admittedly from Mum's favourite diabetic magazine).

We decided to stay up to watch the America's Cup, so it was off to the supermarket for a bag of grapes and a bag of corn chips. At 11pm Dad started on a chocolate cake Mum had hiding in the pantry, so of course everyone had to have chocolate cake. I polished off most of the grapes and we all had a good go at the corn chips. The next day I polished off some cereal and two bowls of chicken soup with bread, then after driving through torrential rain to get back home again, Hamish and I shared fish and chips for dinner. I'm surprised I didn't roll into bed.

This week I've been (in theory) easing back into things (and trying to eat a bit better). I did my lower body weights session for the first time in weeks on Monday morning and ran with the squad on Monday night. We did the standard 2.4km fit test, but it was my first run since the half and I wasn't planning on pushing it. With my abductor hurting by the half way mark I ended up running a very slow 11.48, well down from my PB of 10.36. I'm trying not to let that bother me, because I know I took it easy and still managed to run under 5 minute km's.

On Tuesday a ruthless Balance class with Mike left my shoulders and abs aching, so I skipped the upper body/core workout I'd been planning. I jumped on a x-trainer and went hardout for 20 minutes, then I jumped on a spin bike and went even harder for 45 minutes in Duck's RPM class. It's been ages since I did RPM and I can feel the improvement in my leg strength and cardio fitness. It will be a good summer on my bike if I keep this up.

A physio appointment on Wednesday, then I watched the girls head out for a short run as I prepared to do another 30 minutes on a x-trainer. I hate the darn thing, but it will enable me to keep my fitness up while this poor body repairs itself. Already I'm pushing myself too hard. After Monday's weights my quads and hamstrings were aching.

I had a good upper body/core session with Duck this morning, and decided to take the rest of the day off from any cardio. However I'm going to be up early tomorrow morning for my first Friday RPM in months, and I'll do Balance at lunch time. Depending on how I'm feeling I may try to run for a short time on the treadmill on Saturday before Balance with Clare. Otherwise there will again be a x-trainer with my name on it.

One thing that has become clear to me this week is that I need to have another goal. Thankfully I have several half marathons on the agenda. It seems I need to always be working towards something to feel happy.

As I move on from the Harbour Capital half I've been enjoying the feeling of consolidating my success. In the end I think I was surprised, not so much by the fact that I'd finally done it, but that it felt so easy. After a few Google searches on success and achievement I came across this quote:

Success is doing what you said you would do, with ease

I don't know that I totally agree. I think that I would still have been successful had I run the half whilst finding it incredibly hard. I agree more that success is finishing what you planned to do. It's taken me several years to finally reach this point, but I was successful in the end because I was persistent. At a certain point I decided I wanted to do something, then I consistently put steps in place to get there. I had to overcome several obstacles, but I didn't let them stop me, and each time I hit a wall I worked out a way to get around it. Success, then is:

Steadily taking action on our most important goals.

I made this one of my important goals, and I will admit that I have at times been almost obsessive about reaching it.

Lastly, I overcame failure - defined as a lack of faith in one self. I reached a point where I believed in my own ability to do this thing, demonstrated in the little voice in my head that told me how wonderful I was and how much fun I was having, the whole 21km.

Duck said something in RPM on Tuesday night that I couldn't get out of my head. All she said to the class was 'don't give up'. She says it all the time, and she's sure as heck said it to me more than once. I will even admit that, at times, I've given up anyway (which was my choice, by the way, and I regretted it each time). There have been times where my self-doubt has won over. I can't guarantee it won't happen again in the future, but I suspect it's going to happen a lot less often.

A funny thing happened on Wednesday night. I know that if you Google jog squad my blog comes up, but I wasn't expecting to be recognised as the writer of 'that blog'. I guess now I'm imfamous!

If you are a Jog Squadder and you read this, please do let me know. It's nice to know that someone out there takes an interest in my blathering on!