Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Three runs and a dilemma

My running schedule for the rest of 2007 was looking pretty straightforward: Pelorus Trust half marathon, a month of speed training, Wairarapa Country half marathon, Rimutaka Incline, then multi-sport over summer with the Wellington half marathon in February. Unfortunately my mother-in-law emailed me this morning with a rumour that this is the last year the Auckland event will be held over the harbour bridge.

I can't really afford the $85 entry fee and trip up to Auckland at the moment, but let's face it, the attraction of Auckland is the bridge, and Ruth has been talking about running the half as well this year (her big comeback). I had quietly been planning to run Auckland as my first full marathon next year, but removing the bridge takes the edge off the appeal. So now what do I do? Bruce, any indication of the truth of these rumours? At this point, I'm going to stick to my guns. Pelorus, Wairarapa and Rimutaka. Unless my mother-in-law comes up with an offer to pay my entry fee. I'm not holding out any hope!

In the meantime, my training continues. I haven't had any major breakthroughs in terms of suddenly discovering superhuman strengths, but I'm quietly getting on with things. We had a hard, fast run out along the waterfront on Monday night, taking Aotea Quay past the stadium and crossing over to Thorndon Quay via a fly-over bridge. I feel satisfied that I pushed it quite hard, although I was thrown on the return leg by being much further North than I'd anticipated. I let myself die a little death on Lambton Quay, but then recovered up Willis to catch Sarah for the last sprint back through Manners Mall and Dixon. I think we were out for a total of around 50 minutes.

I was in Auckland on Tuesday, which meant no Body Balance and no RPM. I made it out of my meetings at around 1.30 so hoofed it the ten minute walk to Les Mills Victoria Street. I had been planning to do some intervals around Victoria Park, perhaps followed with a run up College Hill then down through Herne Bay and back to the gym via Westhaven Marina. I'm not sure what happened, but the day was overcast and windy and I decided to run on the treadmill. Obviously the treadmill option was the inferior choice, especially in the rather industrial warehouse-style city gym facilities. There wasn't any decent audible music to keep my attention diverted from the timer. It made me appreciate the cardio theatre at Xtreme all the more.

I jumped on for half an hour, warming up at 10.5, then doing three short intervals, with the fastest at just over 15kmph, the fastest I've ever run on a treadmill. I finished off at around 12kmph, sweaty but not with any real sense of having exerted myself. I finished up with a long stretch before heading for the spa complex in the women's changing rooms.

After a quick shower I headed for the spa pool, which had a big 'no entry' sign up in front of it. Darn, foiled. I sat in the sauna for a while, then moved to the less-than-hot steam room but it wasn't the same. Thankfully the showers are at least strong and scalding hot, so I enjoyed one last long blast before heading out to the cafe. I wish the cafe were similarly enjoyable. I ordered a chicken chilli with rice. The chicken was bland, the rice gluggy, and the overwhelming impression was of school canteen food. Still, it filled a gap until I could get home and have a proper meal.

Before long I was in a plane back to Wellington looking out at a full moon hovering above clouds tinged pink from the sunset, admiring the stunning beauty of it all. If I'd delayed my flight by a couple of hours I would have had a ringside seat of the eclipse, but that would have meant having even more time to kill. I'm an ex-Aucklander (Westie, in case you're wondering), so I do have friends there, but really I was just hanging out to get home.

It was incredibly hard to drag myself out of bed this morning for a weights session, but I'm still struggling to regain my former dedication to multiple sessions a day so I felt I had a point to prove. I elected for upper body/core, upping the weight on the last set of star gazers and doing a few extra pull-ups. I think it's time for a new weights programme, as my body seems to have acquainted itself to my current one quite well and my mind is losing a certain amount of interest. I've already decided I'm going to focus on speed work once Pelorus is out the way, so it's probably a good time to refocus in general.

All up our run tonight went well and I'm pleased with how steady I've been this week. We ran a very undulating route, along Courtney, up Kent to Elizabeth Street, up Elizabeth to Austin, down Ellis, around the Basin, up Buckle, down onto Willis Street, up Willis to Aro Street, up Aro to the pedestrian crossing then back down Willis Street to the waterfront, Taranaki Street and back to the gym. The real route was was supposed to be a half kilometre longer, but Sarah and the other Jog Squadder I was running with both headed home mid-run. I continued on with Pru, but she was having knee issues and had to cut things short. In the end we covered around 7km in 40 minutes, which was pretty good considering all the traffic lights we had to stop at

I have a session with Duck in the morning and another homework run to get out of the way at lunchtime. I'll do Balance on Friday, then it's a 110 minute run on Saturday. If the weather's good I'll reattempt my last abortive attempt at running around the coast and off to the Terrace gym via Kilbirnie and Hataitai Bay etc, hopefully winding up there in time for a 10am Balance. I'll check it all out on Map My Run and see how it looks. All up though I'm feeling good with no real injuries other than my slightly nagging sacroiliac. I may well assemble at the start of the Pelorus Trust event feeling right on top of things.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Bring it on, she whispered

Like Sarah, I was rather nervous before my run on Saturday (I'd link to Sarah's actual post, but I'm having to use Safari tonight because Firefox is gobbling up all my CPU, and Blogger and Safari don't seem to speak the same language). My long runs recently have been such disasters that I wasn't at all sure I'd be able to last 100 minutes. I knew that if I failed yesterday that it would all be over as far as the Pelorus half is concerned, and that I'd have to seriously talk myself into continuing on. In fact I was already trying to tell myself to give up on Pelorus all together and aim for Wairarapa Country.

It helped that Ingrid made us all run behind her for the first ten minutes as we made our way to the Hutt river trail and then onto the Hutt Rd. She started out at the pace I was hoping to maintain anyway. I was going for consistency, not speed, so I let much of the pack overtake me without letting it get to me at all. By the time we were nearing Petone it was warming up, and I was already wishing I was carrying water.

Things got abruptly interesting when I crossed a road on a pedestrian (zebra) crossing about 20 minutes in. I looked to my right and there were no cars turning into the street. I looked down the street and there was nothing coming. Rose was at my shoulder as I ran across the road, and I heard her cry out before I saw a road cyclist heading straight for me. He swore, I swore, he braked, I braked. I ended up kind of running into him in slow motion, my knee colliding with his pedal, his helmet smacking me on my right cheekbone.

I thought he was going to go over, but he somehow managed to unclip and stabilise himself. I said something about being a cyclist as well, but that this was a pedestrian crossing and he was supposed to stop or slow down and keep out of our way. I should have just kept my mouth shut, but I was charged with adrenalin and speaking out of shock more than anything. He told me where to go, then clipped back in and cycled off. I rubbed at my face and kept running!

To be honest I was more worried about getting some water than I was about any damage. It wasn't until I could see my cheek swelling underneath my eye that it occured to me that I might have some battle wounds! Sure enough, I now have a nice black eye, and Hamish's boss is teasing him about being a wife beater. Yeah - as if! I also have a pretty impressive bruise on my left knee, although that didn't really start hurting until today. I may be little, but I guess I'm tough!

Finally we made it to the Petone foreshore and we ducked down onto the path that runs between the sand dunes and the beach. The first block of toilets we came to were closed, but the second were open and we stopped briefly for a comfort stop and a drink. I splashed some water on my eye and then we kicked off again. A quick look at my watch showed that we'd been out for forty minutes. By this time we were running with Ingrid and Margriet. Margriet is a lovely older woman with a huge sense of humour. She and I both have blonde bobs, and every Wednesday we both run in our Addidas running tights, Addidas wind parkers and our SPARC duathlon shirts. Margriet was on fire today and left us all in her dust.

We were assisted a little by the occasional tailwind which carried us to Seaview. The temperature was still rising, and when I spotted a tap sticking out of the wall in the Beaurepairs I stopped off for another drink. This is what running in warm weather reduces me to, drinking out of scody taps on the side of the road! There must be a better way...

We ran to the end of Seaview on the grass verge and then we turned onto the Port Rd. From here back to the gym we were running into a stiff Northerly that was less than pleasant. Rose overtook me, and then Ann (!) overtook me as well when I stopped off at another random tap for another drink. The speedies were ahead of us now, having taken a bit of an unplanned detour that enabled us to catch up.

By this point I was getting flashbacks to the Harbour Capital half. I was rapid-cycling between these crazy bursts of energy, when I would speed up and start to push, and between feeling like crap and wanting to die. Each episode would last no more than a few minutes, like my body couldn't decide what it wanted to do. It was starting to drive me crazy! Mad Dog did kick in though, and there was no way I was giving in...

Finally we were on the Hutt River trail, but I got a bit disoriented and for some reason thought we had a lot further to go than we actually did. Things got a bit chaotic as part of the path was closed off. We jumped over the fence and kept running anyway, having to pick our way along the grass next to big bulldozers and workmen giving us odd looks. We carefully edged our way down the stop bank, through some mud at the bottom, then made our way back up again. Then it was under a bridge and back towards the Lower Hutt town centre. I was incredibly overjoyed to see the car park between the stop bank and the river, as I knew we were only a few minutes from the gym. We had to dodge cyclists and pedestrians carrying big bags of vegetables and fruit from the farmer's market, but that only made things more interesting!

At last we made it back to the gym. So much for 100 minutes - we ended up out there for just under two hours! I managed to put on a little burst of speed at the end and felt pretty good afterwards. I was just pleased to be able to keep running for that amount of time, given that even 80 minutes had seemed impossible the week before. My poor feet weren't feeling that great though. I've developed some impressive blisters on the soles. My beloved Orca socks are fine for the shorter runs, but I think they slide around a bit much on the longer runs and I may have to give in and try some Thorlos.

My lower back was a bit sore as well. My poor sacroiliac! My right hip and glute were pretty achy, but that's all part of the same injury. It's not really getting any worse though, and I think it will resolve itself. I can't be bothered going back to my physio for a telling off, so it will just jolly well have to! Given how dead my shoes are I'm pleased that my knees are feeling good, my shins are fine, and I took my sore glutes as a good sign that they were actually being used.

As soon as I made it through the gym doors I was on the lookout for a water cooler. I stood at the first fountain I could find gulping down cold liquid for several minutes, just not able to get it in quickly enough. I know that I was well hydrated beforehand, so the warmer temperatures obviously did make a difference. Mum's offered to buy me a Camelbak for Christmas, and at this rate I'm definitely going to need one.

A quick stretch and then it was into the car for a four hour drive to Taranaki to spend some quality time with my parents. For the record, sitting in a car for that period of time after the longest run you've done in two months, not such a good idea. By the end of the drive I could barely flex my right ankle! Thankfully Mum and Dad have carpet (what a luxury) and a nice hot fire. The lounge reached temperatures of Bikram proportions, inspiring me to spend an hour or so sitting in front of the television dong hamstring stretches, hip openers, twists and downwards dogs until even my dodgy right hip started to let go. It must have helped because I felt great today - almost no pain whatsoever. I was almost inspired enough to head out along the Patea River for a half hour recovery run. Hmmm, almost, but not quite!

It was a lovely afternoon for a drive yesterday. For once there was (almost) no rain. The spring sun was shining on the green pastures of the Manawatu and Southern Taranaki, National Radio played the whole way up the island, and a post-run gentle sense of well-being and euphoria settled in. I drove along mulling over my training and slowly concluding that I am going to run the Pelorus half. I know that I can do it. I've run the course a couple of times now. I'm familiar enough with its little tricks and its rhythms, its stages. I don't think it's going to be a fast run. It somehow seems like a slower course than the Harbour Capital. However it's going to be fun. I recognised my mind and body responding yesterday the way that it did on the day of the last race. I know how "I" work now.

I'm doing things in exactly the way I should have expected myself to. I just got here a couple of weeks later than I did last time around, which in a way is good because I'm not feeling overtrained having backed off a bit this week. According to my Pip predictor I'm going to head out this weekend and run a hard, fast 90 minutes and be completely thrilled with myself. On the day I'm going to respond to having a few other runners around me. I'm going to be so focused on picking one off after another that I'm not going to notice the discomfort I'm in. When I reach the the 16km mark I'm going to be happy that I've only got 5km left to run, because 5km is nothing, and this time I'm going to put a little extra speed in.

I made it to Taranaki in good time, had a huge roast lamb dinner with my family, watched some amusing British melodrama and then slept incredibly soundly on their spare futon, undisturbed by husband or cats. The next morning Mum made us all french toast with banana, stewed plums and yoghurt, then we all went for a bracing walk along Hawera Beach. After that we returned home for more food (fresh bread and a spread of delicatessan items) before sitting around in the sun for a while reading. Finally it was time for me to jump back in the car again. I arrived at the Kapiti Coast in time to see the sun setting over the tip of the South Island. How much do I love living here? Almost as much as Kate (again, no link) loves running around the Southern Coast.

I'm so looking forward to my runs this week. I think I finally got that loving feeling back. Bring it on. Bring it alllllll on!!!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Poetry Thurday: Endings and a Beginning

This is the poem I referred to in my last post. I wanted to write about things ending, about how that is the nature of things, and yet I didn't want this to be a sad poem. I wanted to write a poem about how life goes on. If gaps aren't always filled, then the pain left by their absence is eased by the emergence of new life.

Endings and a Beginning
like the cat that
jumped out a window
one day and never returned,
like the box of family
photo albums misplaced
by the removal company.

The loss of you
left more space than
your body ever claimed
on the living room sofa.

We do not know
how to read the words
you will never write, nor
can we spread our arms
across the hole you left,
the chasm between us.

But the roses still
smelled sweet in the
Botanical Gardens today,
the kettle still boiled and the
phone still rang.

And at the letterbox
a strange tabby wound itself
around my ankles and
followed me inside.

Next week is the last Poetry Thursday. You helped me find my voice as a writer. I will miss you when you are gone.

Spring is here! Acchhhhoooo

Well, the last few days have been beautiful here in Wellington, and it seems that Wednesday's sneezes were more a sign of the change in season than a simple overreaction to the speed test. I do seem to remember reading that it was pine pollen time. I've been sneezing madly ever since.

Duck left my legs alone yesterday morning, as I thought she might. Instead we worked my upper body and core, and my pecs and abs have been rather sore today as a result. It was cold enough to turn my hands to ice cubes at 6.50 yesterday morning on my way to the bus, but by lunchtime the temperature gauge was being much more forgiving. the sun was out and there was a notable lack of any kind of wind.

By ten to twelve I had given up trying to pretend I was working and was donning running tights and trainers. There's something very handy about working right above the Terrace gym! It was a toss-up between running around the Bays or heading for Kelburn, but the opportunity to run for half an hour without traffic lights had me heading up Bowen. Besides, I'd been looking out the window at the Botanical Gardens all morning, and I was itching to test myself on the climb.

I took Bowen Street fairly easily and was ripping my polyprop off by the time I got to Tinakori. I'm not quite sure why I felt the need to take it with me in the first place. I guess it's a psychological crutch to get me out the door.

I was following a male runner up Bowen and I followed him across the road and up Glenmore, alongside the Gardens. By Garden Rd it occurred to me that I was steadily gaining on the man. Now, I'm not speedy on the hills, and this guy looked fairly athletic (mid-40s, with the physique of a runner), but I had him in my sights. I put on a burst of speed, and suddenly he was behind me!

I'm not exactly twinkle-toes and I've had to work hard on my footfall. Sarah still has to remind me to keep my feet light every now and then. However this guy was REALLY heavy. He wasn't so much running up the hill as he was shuffling. I had to listen to him slapping away behind me the rest of the way up to Kelburn, and I think it gave me extra momentum to keep moving.

I'm happy to say my own hill technique was much better. I really concentrated on gliding up the incline, using lots of leg-lift and glute action, and imagining a string pulling my head up so that my torso didn't fall forwards. It felt great - like I was bouncing or skipping rather than grinding.

I crossed over halfway up the hill so that I could run in the shade. It felt like the top of the rise would never come. I was sure that someone had added a couple of extra corners in while I wasn't looking. Finally I was running over the viaduct enroute to the Kelburn shops. On the flat I picked up the pace and was satisfied that I was running quite strongly. However someone behind me must have had some pride to recover, because Mr Heavy feet came flying up behind me. I smiled and said hello as he drew level and he commented about it being his turn. I told him to go for it and waved him past. I was hoping to catch him again on the downhill through the Gardens, but he must have taken a different path and I never saw him again. I'm still genuinely puzzled by his speed on level territory compared to his speed on the hill. Perhaps he's a visitor from somewhere very flat!

I was still feeling good by the time I made it to the entry to the Gardens at the top of the cable car. I decided not to stop to admire the view from the lookout and instead continued down the hill, taking the longer walk back to town via the sculpture walk and snatching views of the harbour as I could. I even remembered to keep an eye out for the turn-off to the Serpentine Walk. Usually I forget and end up at the main entrance on Glenmore Rd, then have to run my way back up through the pines to get to the herb garden. This time I really wanted to go via the Serpentine Walk because I wanted to run on the trail under the shade of the bush.

I had great fun running on the well-graded gravel path, which twists amusingly sharply down to the Rose Gardens. I found the gravel much easier on my knees and when a slower pair of runners appeared ahead of me I decided to make up for being overtaken by the guy with the heavy feet. I changed gear, picked up the speed and overtook them at the first opportunity. The woman in the pair exclaimed as I disappeared off around the next corner.

The bottom of the path came up too soon, and I kept up a fast pace past the Rose Gardens, only slowly slightly as I entered the cemetery in order to spare my knees again. As I passed the crumbling graves the scent of early spring flowers flooded my senses. The last few verses of a poem I have been working on sprung unbidden into my mind. I can honestly say that's the first time I have ever composed a poem while running!

I crossed over the motorway then ducked down to run back to the gym alongside the motorway. I picked up the pace again, with the aim of making it back to the gym in under 37 minutes. I fairly flew down the last little stretch of Aurora Terrace, thoroughly terrifying a woman too busy feeding change into a parking meter to notice the runner rapidly approaching. I reached out and grasped a conveniently placed awning pole and used it to spin around the corner onto the Terrace, coming to a stop at the entrance to the gym in just under 37. Success!

What a great run! That's what this is all about. It's supposed to be fun! I didn't go out thinking "this is half-marathon training". I went out there thinking "it's a gorgeous day and I'm going to celebrate by running in the sun in some gorgeous gardens". I felt so much better about things, and that feeling got me through work today, and carried me through a lovely Balance class. My poor abs and hips though!

So let's see how tomorrow goes. I can always view Pelorus as a 'C' race. A Wairarapa Country entry form arrived in the post today. Pelorus can always be training for the moment I head out there to pick Masterton's bones. Bring it on!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Hack, Cough, Acchoooo

No, I don't have a cold, but my body has once again decided to initiate an immune defense following a 2.4km time trial tonight. I wasn't psyched for it, I wasn't warmed up enough, and I wasn't expecting a good time.

I set out quite fast, and although my first split was slower than when I ran my personal best my pace throughout was more consistent. Of course I hated every second of it, but I felt reasonably strong the whole way. Let's ignore the fact that I considered stopping when I recorded a slower first split and realised I wasn't going to be personal besting. However I decided to at least aim for under 11 minutes and kept going. I probably lost a few seconds in the slow-down of indecision though.

It was a nice if cold night, and I was ripping off my wind parker by half way. It was so calm that it seemed a shame not to be taking a longer run around the Bays. I think I picked up the pace again in the last quarter, and certainly I was dogged enough not to let myself peter out. So how did I do? 10.45 compared to a personal best of 10.36 earlier this year. I was annoyed until I worked out that was a difference of only slightly more than two seconds on each quarter. That's nothing! I know I wasn't pushing myself as hard as I was to get 10.36, and I certainly didn't feel as destroyed afterwards, although my chest was still hurting and I've emptied my lungs of any residual phlegm that might have been lurking there. Given how badly things have been going lately, I'll take it.

I'm still not sure whether I was right to take yesterday as a complete rest day. I want to do at least half an hour, preferably 40, which seems to be the time at which I usually start to really settle into a run. We're running 100 minutes this weekend and I'm in no way sure of how I'm going to do. At least my legs won't be as slammed! I think tomorrow's run will be a good indicator of where I'm really at.

BTW: tonight's star was a newbie who managed to knock a whopping three whole minutes off her time. It's amazing how sticking to a training programme can help even someone who's starting completely from scratch.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Talking myself down off the ledge

After Saturday's effort it's been a battle to retain confidence in my ability to run the half marathon in three weeks. Yes - it's only three weeks away! A few of us have commented that we don't feel as prepared this time around. It's occurred to me that I haven't been doing as much running with this programme. Whereas last time I was running five to six days a week this programme I've still been doing the RPM and sometimes not running on the days I also have a session with Duck. Plus we started working my legs a lot later in the training this time, and we're still working them hard a lot later. I think I've simply been getting to Saturday with nothing left to give.

So - my new plan for this week is to cut out my extra leg session and to keep up the running. Rather than weights before RPM tomorrow night I'm going to do a light half hour run. I'll run with the Squad on Wednesday night, train with Duck on Thursday morning, and go for another light run on Thursday. I'll do Balance on Friday and then hopefully I'll be feeling good on Saturday for our 100 minute run. Tomorrow may have to be my last RPM until after Pelorus, and I'll keep the dial light (huh, yeah right!).

As always, my Monday night run went well enough that I regained a little confidence. We did the same speed session from a couple of weeks ago - warm up from Ferg's to the new Subway in Chaffer's Park, sprint back as far as the bridge closest to the entrance to Te Papa (the one that raises up), jog slowly to Fergs, turn around and sprint back to the bridge, slow to Subway, sprint to the bridge, slow to Fergs, sprint back to the bridge, then a shorter sprint to the St Johns building and back, then 20 walking lunges and 15 tricep dips, then a walk back to the gym.

I kept pace with Sarah for the first sprint. In other words I went waayyyyy too fast! During the warm-up I'd felt pretty good. I was imagining my head being pulled up by a piece of string, pushing off my back foot and engaging my glutes. Of course all form went out the window during the sprints, but the thought was there! I felt sooo slow, but I think it's more that the younger girls have gotten so much faster. Darn unfair advantage of youth...

Kate got me thinking about ways to finish off my run if I leave from home on a Saturday morning. It occurred to me that there's a dairy in Vogeltown/Mt Cook on the corner of Liardet Street that I could stop at. I could then walk up the steps between Balfour and Ingestre Street to make my way home. A bit of a killer way to end the workout though! If only the house below us on Balfour Street didn't have a back yard full of blackberry. I could take a sneaky shortcut through their back yard otherwise! Although I might need a ladder to get from their back yard to ours...

Right, off to bed. Let's see if I can dream some positive running visualisations.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Unexpected Guests

Spring came knocking on our door this morning, a little earlier than expected. We were able to open up the house to let the warm air move through each room while we ate pancakes with bacon, banana and maple syrup on the veranda. Hamish is turning into quite the chef.

As I was busying myself with a little housework Hamish's mobile phone rang. It was his father, who has been down in his vineyard in Bannock Burn for the last few months building a barn and working through the harvest. He toughed out the coldest hoar frosts Bannock Burn could through at him over winter, but now he is on his way back up to Auckland and asked if he could stay the night enroute. Cue a couple more frantic hours of housework, but now the house is shining from top to toe, and once again I'm wondering how I could ever have thought about moving somewhere else.

Richard is keen to show off the fruits of his labour, and so asked us to book into a BYO restaurant for dinner. I had read an article a few weeks ago that bemoaned the decline of the BYO tradition, but I didn't believe it true until I tried to find a good, non-ethnic restaurant for the three of us. In the end I managed to book us into the Tinakori Bistro. I've never been there before, but the reviews seem ok.

It seems a shame that restaurants are no longer willing to allow people to bring along a special bottle of wine, although I realise BYO often just means the cheapest bottle of plonk from the nearest dairy. I'm quite happy to pay corkage.

Hamish and I don't get to go out to dinner very often at the moment, so I'm really looking forward to it. It will be nice to see Richard as well, who is a completely different person since he sold off his business and started pursuing his real love.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Note to self

If going for a 90 minute run on a Saturday morning, do not eat two slices of Vogel's with jam shortly beforehand. You know that's the one thing most likely to make you want to vomit 30 minutes into your run.

Sometimes your body does know best If your body tells you it wants to wait another day to go on a long run then listen to it. If your body says it's had enough, sometimes it really means it. 80 minutes is not a failure.

Darn that Northerly was brisk this morning. I hate how it seems to come from all directions at once! On the plus side, running around the Southern coast was gorgeous, and the Kaikouras were stunning in the distance all covered in snow.

One more run down. Balance tomorrow and a huuuggggeeee stretch.

Friday, August 17, 2007

I knew what the result was going to be

Even as I was answering the questions:

You Have A Type A Personality

You are hyper, energetic, and always on the mood
You tend to succeed at everything you attempt
And if you don't succeed at first, you quickly climb your way to the top!

You could be called a workaholic, but you also make time for fun
As long as it's high energy and competitive, you're interested
You have the perfect personality for business and atheltic success

Monday Mad Dog Mojo

After Saturday's effort I took Sunday off, then skipped leg weights on Monday morning with the aim of leaving my legs as fresh as possible for a run that night. I desperately needed to have a good run and I needed to prove to myself that I could still do this.

I still wasn't terribly sure of myself when I met the squad that night. My legs still felt a bit sore from Saturday, and my confidence had taken a hit. However determination got me through. I knew as we ran up Dixon that I was feeling quite strong. My hunch that even a disastrous 90 minute run would up my endurance seemed to prove to be correct.

I took the Dixon Street steps at an easy pace, knowing that I would catch everyone on the Terrace downhill. Indeed, I was starting to catch up before we got to the top of the hill opposite Salamanca Terrace. By the time I got to Bowen Street only Sarah and Karen were ahead of me, although I couldn't see them anywhere.

Rose helped me out by pushing me on, sitting hard on my heels. Molesworth passed by without me even noticing, and at that point I really started to believe that I was running well. Down Tinakori, again with Rose at my heels. We matched each other step for step down Thorndon Quay. She overtook me when I walked the steps up to the stadium concourse, silently cursing the missed opportunity to take a rest break at the Quay lights.

Running along Thorndon Quay I experienced another of those little 'aha' moments. I was meditating on the mental state that is the good run, and thinking about those nights that I had barely even noticed the gorgeous evening around me. suddenly I felt like I was floating above my body, that my self was running in my mind. I had a sense that I had been letting my mind get bogged down in the weight and physicality of my body, and that I had allowed myself to suffer from the more painful aspects of running as a result.

I messed around with this concept for a few minutes, and discovered that I could shift my experiential run from my mind to my body, just by deciding how I wanted to 'feel'. I ended up settling somewhere between the two. Running in my mind was less painful, but also took a lot more mental energy to sustain, for obvious reasons. A part of me felt like apologising to Rose, as I could hear some of the others chatting away behind us. I'm not a talker when I run. I like having the others around me, but I usually need to focus all my energy on what I'm doing.

Onto the waterfront, now with Lisa, Trudi and some of the other speedier runners at my heels. No sign of Sarah or Karen. Still feeling good. We made it to Te Papa just on 40 minutes. I've gotten there faster, but doubling back on the concourse to take the ramp down to the waterfront added some extra distance. I waited for my energy levels to start to dive, but they remained steady. Finally I saw Karen ahead at Fisherman's Table heading down onto the beach. A minute or two later I was also running along the sand.

Rose had run ahead of me at the concourse and met up with Felicity as we neared Fisherman's Table. I overtook them again as we headed back to the gym. Mad dog had well and truly kicked in and I was enjoying still feeling good. I made it back to the gym in 57 minutes, then ran around the block for a total of 60, sprinting the last couple of hundred metres.

So I was thrilled with Monday's run. I followed that up with a Balance on Tuesday, some more squats, box knee-raises and glute work after work, followed by RPM. My legs were feeling sore from Monday night, more sore than I'd expected. However I still felt good. At some point though I've aggravated my sacroiliac again. I can feel the familiar ache in my right hip and pinch in my glute.

With self-preservation in mind I was hoping for a shorter run on Wednesday. I got up and went to the gym before work. I had to force myself to get out of bed, and switched my alarm off at least a couple of times. Once I got there though I did the whole workout, as I always do. when I met the squad that night I was a bit tired, but not too bad, although my legs were definitely feeling it. So I was surprised by how well the evening went.

First, an easy 30 minute run out around the Bays and back. Once again I noted a general underlying strength, and my legs cooperating despite being tired. I sat somewhere near the front until we started heading up Majoribanks Street, then I allowed the younger of the squad to forge ahead.

We stopped at the bottom of Hawker street and then ran for three minutes up the hill, ran back down, then ran up again for two minutes. We were supposed to go as hard as we could up the hill, but with my hip and glute pain I wasn't terribly keen to push it that intensely. All the same, the Monastery arrived before I knew it. I remembered the last time Sarah and I had run this way, and the way that I had wanted to vomit by the time I got to the top. This time I felt that I could have kept going.

I pushed it a little harder the second time, and when I got to the end of the second minute I considered continuing to the top again. However I saw Sarah coming back down the hill and decided to follow. when we got to the bottom and Duck tricked us into thinking we had to run up again for another minute I was ready to go and had my watch set within a few seconds.

I wore off that enthusiasm by racing Karen back down Courtney to Xtreme. I was fully sprinting by the time we got back. It felt fantastic! I wish I felt that way the next day though. Duck put me through a fairly intense and fun workout involving 20kg power bags, lengths of the gym my arms extended upwards, and stepping up and down off a box step. Stepping up and down off the box was particularly scary, as I fought the instinctual feeling that 20kg was about to drop on my head. Some low, low walking lunges, more box step leg raises, some core work, and I was reasonably confident I was going to hurt at some point.

I spent the rest of the day at home and had to eventually email Sarah to get her permission to skip my last homework run. I was gutted to have to do this, because outside the weather was perfect. However with my hip issues, tight Archilles and sore heel (I think my shoes are dying rapidly) I was wary about pushing my body. In the end I settled for a 20 minute walk to the Brooklyn shops, then 20 minutes back again.

Today my glutes are indeed feeling yesterday's session with Duck. My hip's a bit better and my ankle's almost right again. I'm cautiously optimistic about my 90 minute run in the morning. I'm planning to head out from home for a change, running down Happy Valley and around the Southern Coast to Lyall Bay. From there I'll decide whether I want to climb through Newtown and back home again. The idea of Brooklyn Hill or Farnham Street at the end of the run doesn't do much for me, so I may end up walking the last stretch, or finishing up in town and bussing home.

I still need to work out how to help my legs recover better. I seem to just be naturally tight. I may need to follow up on those supplements I was writing about a while back, as much as it pains me to admit it. I wish I was one of those people who can run and run and never feel a thing. I guess we all have to work with what we are given.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Flirting with another life

I had intended to head this post with a photo I took from our veranda a few weeks ago of the mountains with a hint of snow on them. However my i-Book has developed sudden Internet connectivity problems and I'm typing this on Hamish's new Mac.

After a night of wind and rain we woke to a beautiful Wellington morning. Suddenly it feels like spring. It was warm and still enough for us to eat our pancake breakfast out on the veranda. The mountains seemed large in the distance and close enough to touch.

We were planning to go to this open home. It was as though our house knew, and it decided to turn on the charm offensive. We opened up the big sash windows in the lounge and in our bedroom, and the cats hopped inquisitively in and out all morning. Then, just before we left, our house tried one more trick to prevent us from being unfaithful. As we were preparing to go our dishwasher started beeping continuously. There were no lights on the display and the dishwasher engine continued to hum, even after we opened the door. After a great deal of head scratching we ended up having to pull the dishwasher out from its cubby under the bench and flick the switch at the wall.

Eventually, after a bit of a detour through Wilton, we found the house in Garden Rd. I first saw this house for sale some months ago in a real estate magazine. The idea of being able to live so close to the botanical gardens, in a brand new modern house, was enough for me to contemplate leaving our lovely old villa. Luckily for Hamish, at the time the Tender closed the next day, so I had to let i go. However the home is now back on the market.

It turns out that the house had originally been under offer, with the sale conditional on the current owners obtaining a code of compliance from the council. To get the code of compliance a leaning retaining wall has to be repaired (an irony, given the dodgy retaining wall below our own house), some flashings on the house fixed, and some railings fixed. The real estate agent told me there was a quote for $8,000 to repair the retaining wall, and a total cost of around $20,000 all up for everything needed to gain the certificate. However the current owners are no longer speaking, are living at opposite ends of the country, and just want the house gone. The first sale fell through after they refused to do anything more. They're now open to any offers. The first was for $460,000, but they will look at anything over the valuation of $360,000.

Now, $360,000 for a house on Garden Rd, even with all that work needing doing on it, is a bargain. In the middle of winter in a cold old house, the idea of living so close to town in a nice new place was overwhelmingly appealing. Hamish was quite rightly sceptical when I told him, with his experience of dealing with clients with houses under construction and the difficulties involved in dealing with the council. We wouldn't be able to live in the house until the council issued the certificate. It probably wouldn't be insurable, and the whole process could drag on for months. However I knew that I would always wonder if I didn't go to take a look. Not to mention the possibility of reducing our mortgage.

The walk-up access was indeed less than perfect. A path as angled and slippery as our own, some new but unstable wooden stairs. It wasn't bad enough to put us off, but it wasn't an improvement over our own access. However the living room was as stunning as the photos suggested, with all that glass making the most of the expansive view.

However we knew fairly instantly that this wasn't a place we were going to turn our world upside down to buy. For a start the house was very much in an unfinished state. It had clearly been rushed to bring to market, and the tradespeople had knocked it around, damaging the weatherboards outside the front door, scuffing skirting boards. The landscaping was weedy and overgrown, the fencing unfinished. Inside the house the fittings were fairly standard and roughly done. Hamish pointed to a phone jack coming out of the wall, the wire disappearing down underneath the carpet.
There was nowhere for Hamish's LCD, no space for the piano. But these issues could have been overcome. The living space WAS lovely, and the kitchen would have been great to cook in with its view out to the harbour.

Up one flight of stairs and we were in the first bedroom, with a small balcony and view out to the harbour, but with an oddly ugly pale green feature wall. A small laundry was tucked into an alcove in the hallway, up another flight of stairs was the second bedroom. Neither room was particularly large, although both had large windows and good views. They were warm and there was no smell of damp. The bathroom was as gorgeous as the photo in the advertisement suggests, and both of us could imagine lying in the bath in front of the window looking out. However the bathroom was one well-finished room in a house that had been hurried over. The back yard above the house was black berry-covered and daunting. The house ended abruptly, and where you would expect another door to the rear of the property, there was just a wall.

However it was the atmosphere of the house that probably put me off the most. We already knew from the real estate agent that the owners had probably split. From the few possessions scattered in the house I guessed that the husband had been camping out. There were a few jackets and shirts in the wardrobe in the main bedroom, some books on the shelf. Worst of all, however, where the photos. A wedding photo in the kitchen, a montage of happy couple photos in the spare bedroom. This house was telling us a story, and that story was of loneliness and abandonment. I've never felt a house so sad. It needed a couple to pick up the pieces and love it, but that couple wasn't going to be us.

Hamish checked under the house for crawl-space, I chatted to the agent about contact details for builders and the code of compliance officer, but we both knew we wouldn't be following up on our visit. We went off to Aro Cafe to meet a friend for coffee, then we drove home. As we were turning into our street the mountains called hello. I remembered turning this way the day of our own open home, and I wondered why I'd been flirting with another house. We came home to the high ceilings, the old floor boards, the yellow and red walls in the kitchen, the wooden benchtops, the native garden, the veranda, the mountains, did I mention the mountains? Even the mad, winding path that takes us down into our private little haven.

It took a brief flirtation to remember why I love this place so much. How could I imagine leaving? Even the crazy angle this place is on, the wonky veranda, leaning retaining wall, the overgrown garden, dodgy wiring, cold in winter, the now-broken dishwasher. This place is us and we're not meant to live in a pristine, shiny new environment. I don't think we'd feel comfortable.

This place is home. So no, we're not leaving.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Doing the hard yards

Me as a Simpson, apparently.

There's a gale-force northerly blowing through Wellington at the moment. We seem to have had so few big blows lately that I think I'm out of practice in dealing with them. I'm sitting on the sofa in our lounge looking out over Berhampore and Newtown, watching the neighbour's Norfolk Pine bending at hazardous angles. Earlier this morning I wasn't watching the wind, I was battling it.

The Jog Squad met at the Lower Hutt gym at 9.00 this morning. the wind was blowing then as well, but it was at least dry and reasonably warm. My legs were still feeling the week's exertions - the rolling hill run on Monday, Balance and a hard fast half hour run up Bowen, down Tinakori and around Thorndon Quay on Tuesday, speed work around the waterfront on Wednesday, a leg session with Duck on Thursday morning, an RPM class that lunchtime, and a Balance class on Friday. I had given myself permission to have a slow run, but in my mind that meant sticking to a steady pace somewhere near the mid of the pack.

In short, today's run was hell. Yet I don't feel bad about it for some strange reason. In part this is because, even though I gave up in the sense that I had walk breaks, I didn't give up in the sense that I stuck at it for the whole 13.5km rather than taking a short-cut back to the gym.

From Pretoria Street we ran up onto the Hutt River trail and down in the direction of Petone. I stuck with the front pack for a while, but was running at a pace that was faster than I wanted, so dropped back. Construction work meant we had to detour onto suburban streets, leading eventually down to the Petone foreshore. I got the stitch after 20 minutes and slowed down to a genuine plod.

the Petone foreshore finally appeared and I ran its distance into a horrific headwind. When I got to Cuba Street I considered heading straight back to the gym, but my watch read 38 minutes, and I was half-way, so it seemed more sensible to mad dog to keep going. Besides, I didn't want to risk getting lost, and I could still spy a Hutt Jog Squadder in the distance.

Onto the Hutt Rd and I plodded, mixed with a little walking, back up towards the Hutt. I got lost trying to find Melling, found myself back on the Hutt River trail, and started to sniff home. Then, with another five minutes or so to run, the clouds burst. Within seconds I was drenched, but there was nothing left in me to speed up.

I'm going to take heart from this run, knowing that even the bad runs will improve my fitness and endurance. Next week I will try to concentrate my hard leg workouts earlier in the week, with the aim of getting to Saturday with enough in the tank to get me through 90 minutes of steady running. there must be something I'm not doing quite right at the moment, so I will have to try to work out exactly what.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Working the Practice

I haven't been writing so much about my Balance classes lately, but that's not because of any sense of lack of progress. I'm consistently managing two or three classes a week and I'm doing a lot more hip openers and hamstring stretching outside of class. I've been watching myself in the mirror more closely, working the poses a bit harder, and I'm familiar enough now with the releases that each class feels like easing myself back into a conversation with a close friend. "Oh," says my body as we move into the Tai Chi warm-up, "that's what you want me to do".

I rushed late into Clare's class today, and the two of us eyed each other up as we raced for the last two mats. The class was full, as Friday always is, and I found myself wedged right up the front on Clare's left side, side-on to everyone else. It was odd being up there behind the speakers, but it meant there was no one in front of me for the Balance track. I could see myself front-on in the mirror as well as having a good view of everyone else.

First up then, the warm-up. I don't know the technical terms for the moves, but this release begins with both arms rising, palm upwards to shoulder level, then each arm is rolled back, then forwards again into a blocking position, palm up and outwards. From there the right warm sweeps around and back, then the left arm stretches outwards, is raised up, then the right hand reaches around to cup the left arm as the elbow is lowered. the left arm then sweeps around to the other side, right the right arm extending outwards and repeating the move just carried out on the first side. It's one of my favourite Tai Chi routines because it all flows so beautifully.

From there the sun salutations - the downwards dogs, plank, hover into cobra, and intense poses. These days I am loving the lifting up of my torso and extension of my arms into the sky, pelvis tilted and fingers reaching into the sky, the deep breath as I rise and the lowering of the arms into mountain pose as I exhale, then the in-breathe that takes my arms back up and flows into the next set. I love that my triceps are strong enough to support my weight as I hover before lowering into cobra, and I always long for longer hamstrings in downwards dog.

Into the strength poses - encouraging my shoulders around and back in Warrior 2, revolving my hip then lowering it, extending my arms out as far as they will go, trying to imagine my body as a series of straight lines. I am, as always, challenged by the triangle pose, unable to get my shoulder rotated back far enough, my arm waving crookedly in the air instead of upright and proud. My quads feel the burn in the standing lunges, still fatigued from yesterday's workouts, but my shoulders are low and pulled back, my arms extended straight above my head.

Into Balance and, without tall ungainly men wobbling in the breeze in front of my I am able to nail my poses on both sides. I do especially well in Tree pose, but I still have difficulty in the move that involves straightening one leg straight out in front while holding onto the toe, then revolving the leg to the side. I am unable to straighten my leg and have to resort to keeping it bent, with one hand underneath the thigh. In this reduced version of the pose, however, I am able to hold my balance well. As always I love the dancer's pose, and am again steady on both sides. I nail both opportunities to do the bird pose, with no cramp in my left hip.

Core then, and my abductor does not hurt despite this routine involving lots of extended leg work. Not my favourite routine, but I do it without complaint. After working the front it's time to work the back, with flutter kicks (which I hate but appreciate for the glute strengthening that will benefit my swimming), the funny move on your side where you lift one knee up and down with the toes of the corresponding foot resting on the other leg, and the bow pose. Today it is the bow pose that marks this as a better-than-average class.

I have very little flexibility through my lower back, and I'm one of those poor women who finds it difficult to lift their bust off the ground in bow pose. I've been working hard on back strength and movement, and marking changes so tiny that it was difficult to even recognise them as progress, although I knew they were. Today I was in bow pose for the first time when something sort of gave, and not in a bad way. It was like something in my body suddenly realised what it was supposed to be working towards. All of a sudden I lifted upwards a good couple of inches. It was all I could do not to laugh in amazement. It can't have just been luck though, as it happened again the second time I worked the pose.

On to hip openers, and again I am amazed at how much more open everything has become the last few weeks. Twists, which have always felt so easy for me that they've felt like cheating (hey, everyone has to be flexible somewhere, even me), then hamstrings.

I decided a few classes back to stop fighting my hamstring tightness, to acknowledge it for what it was, and to ask my body to work with me on lengthening. As soon as I did that my hamstrings started a dialogue with me, rather than stubbornly refusing to play along. I'm getting something out of each stretch now, and I may one day have some flexibility down there. Still not so much flexibility elsewhere though. Get me sitting upright with my legs extended widely in front of me then ask me to lean forwards and all I can manage to do is move enough so that I'm not sitting quite so upright any more. Get my head somewhere near my knees? Huh, how is that even possible?! Tilt from the hips? Yeah, right.

Relaxation, some nice white light visualisations and a little internal dialogue about not having to fight everything, some time with a called-up female journeyer/guide, and it was a very relaxed and happy Pip who went back to her office on a Friday afternoon.

I'm still marveling over the fact that one of the other Friday/Saturday regulars referred to me as a yoga guru (um, sorry, what did you just say?). I guess a little ego-stoking won't hurt a girl's yogic development tooooo badly....

Not to mention that I looked better in the mirror than I thought I would, as in, the poses looked better than I thought I was capable of. Still need to work on drawing back the shoulders in cobra, and something funny does still occur with the alignment of my hips and my back knee in the standing lunges sometimes, but otherwise, a much better report card than expected.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Poetry Thursday: Divine Inspiration

The Fall

What were you
before you fell,
your wings floating,
the weight of them
cast from you,
soul memory carrying
the wrench of it all?

When you stood in the
light did you choose
this ungracious descent?
They sent you down
for the sin of prophetic
fulfilment and tore
from you all that
they had wished you
to become.

No explanations for this one, other than a sudden interest in tales of angels and their half-human offspring. I thought that this poem was in need of another verse, but apparently I was wrong.

More Poetry Thursday writers here.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Good Times, They Are A-coming ...

It's Monday, so it must be Jog Squad. Tonight's run came within a few milimetres of being one of those glorious, ecstatic runs. Oooh, it was good and yet it hurt at the same time. Even as I was running I knew that this was one run that would pool in my belly and that the warmth would spread out afterwards, overflowing slowly so that by the time I finished dinner and settled on the sofa with the cats my whole body would be experiencing a soft heat of satisfaction. But first I had to push through the hurt.

We ran an interesting route tonight. From the gym we ran over to Tory Street, then up Tasman. From Tory Street we were climbing, sometimes gradually, sometimes reasonably steeply. I've never run up Tasman before, and it's a lovely street. Now I can understand why people are so opposed to the swimming pool there being demolished for a supermarket. It would totally destroy the character of the area.

I thought I was at the top of the hill, then it was over the ridge only to find that the street kept climbing. My leg strength is recovering quickly, and the uphill stretches felt much stronger than they have lately. I made the most of the brief downhill, then it was another long, slow climb up Adelaide Rd. I paced easily upwards, then it was time to lengthen my stride downhill. Left at the BP station, a brief climb up Riddiford, then downhill, sweet downhill all the way back to the gym.

Duck told us to continue around the Bays if we got back to Courtney too quickly. I decided to run around the block instead, making it back to the gym in 45 minutes and circling for a total of 50. I ended up running on my own for most of the evening, catching the speedies briefly when we all congregated at the lights in Newtown, but then losing them again in a series of light changes around the Basin.

I'm happy with tonight's run though. I accomplished what I wanted to do. I didn't feel compelled to stop, I maintained a fairly fast pace, and I could feel my leg strength and cardiovascular fitness climbing back to where they should be. My archilles is feeling ok, my knees feel fine. I might be in a good place by the time Pelorus comes around after all.

Home to a dinner of chickpeas and potatoes in a butter-chicken style sauce (substituting light evaporated milk for the cream, and without any butter) over basmati rice, and sparkling water mixed with some 42 Below honey vodka and lime and chilli syrup. There's nothing like good food after a good run.

So tomorrow I'll do a Balance class, and then another leg circuit combined with either an RPM class or run. Right now it's time to finish watching Flight of the Concords, a shower and bed.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

One More for Luck

Three posts on a Sunday night? Yes, actually I do have better things to do (Mary Oliver calls) but I'm going to post very quickly about Saturday's run.

Sarah has already posted about her monster hill run. I wasn't up for it myself. Maybe in a couple of weeks, but not when I'm still on the comeback trail. Instead I opted for 70 minutes around the Bays, on the flat. Four people and two cars led to a bit of logistical juggling on Saturday morning, but I ended up taking Piglet (our apricot VW Polo) off to the Terrace gym.

I left the Terrace at around 8.30 and jogged slowly down to the waterfront as a warm-up. My legs were still fatigued from Thursday, and I knew this wasn't going to be effortless. It was a cool morning with a slight breeze and there weren't many people around. The Herd Street Bistro was just starting to take in its first few customers of the day. Around Oriental Bay a couple in a house truck were brewing up some coffee, the wind turbine on the truck's roof spinning frantically. I passed three other Squadders, two running and one out walking with her partner and dog. I felt happy to be part of a community, and couldn't help notice that nearly every walker or runner that morning smiled and greeted me in passing.

I'm frustrated that I seem to be battling the old mental demons at the moment. My mind is running through a familiar dialog. A voice in my head continually asks me why I'm doing this, wonders why it's so hard, pleads to stop, states emphatically that I should just quit. Something says it would be easier to stop pushing, to just go home and be like normal people. But the alternative to running is to go soft, to lose the sharp edges that being so fit gives me. Life would be easier in some respects, but it wouldn't be so bright and shiny. My senses would dim and a part of me would fall asleep. That's a sacrifice I'm just not willing to make. So I will continue to push myself, and that voice will just have to shut up.

This was the first over-60 minute run I've done since the Harbour Capital half marathon, so I'm not surprised it felt hard. Given that and the fatigued legs and in retrospect it wasn't so bad. I stopped for water at Balaena Bay, made it to Greta Point, and stopped again for water at Balaena and Freyberg on the way back. I suspect I was a bit dehydrated, which wouldn't have helped. It took over 40 minutes to settle into the high-mileage stride that got me through the half marathon training.

I made it back to the gym in time to jump up the front of Clare's Body Balance class. My legs really were tired, but I still managed the strength poses fairly easily. I concentrated on keeping my shoulders back and down, and on lifting my ribs around in Warrior 2. I loved the sun salutes, relishing the big intake of breathe as we rose up into extended mountain pose. My balance clicked on both legs, and my hips are opening in response to all the stretches I've been doing since the abductor injury. Even my hamstrings seemed to give a little more than usual.

By the time I met with Hamish, Nic, Leonie and Helen for lunch at the Matterhorn (a table that continued to grow in size as the meal went on), I was hungry enough to devour all three of our cats. I was also growing very tired, very quickly. Once I would have been able to do a long run and a Balance and go home still full of energy. Apparently I'm not at that point at the moment. I spent the afternoon chatting to Helen in our kitchen, all the while fighting an insane urge to sleep. Needless to say, with sore legs today, I wasn't up for anything more strenuous than a one-hour walk into town to celebrate Leonie's birthday at One Red Dog. Two bottles of cider over lunch and I was following Hamish around Mitre 10 wanting to buy everything in the store...

Our LCD TV is now suspended on the wall. I love it when husband gets all home handyman on me! Tomorrow's plans are to rest my legs until Jog Squad tomorrow night. Doing a circuit before RPM seemed to work well last week, so I'm aiming for the same tomorrow.

Now, time to extricate myself from beneath two large, slumbering Burmese cats and go to bed.

Tagged by a Whirling Dervish

Thanks to Whirling Dervish at Stoney Moss for the tag. This blogging thing is starting to change for me. I never expected anyone to read my blog, let alone be interested in what I have to say. Likewise, I didn't ever think anyone would be interested in any comment I had to make on what they had written.

Just lately I've come to realise that people do actually read my posts, and that people DO want to hear from me. It's taken forever for me to develop a sense of being part of a community, and of wanting to contribute. I'm still slack at posting comments and responding to comments posted here. I will try to get better. In the meantime:

-Start Copy-

It’s very simple. When this is passed on to you, copy the whole thing, skim the list and put a * star beside those that you like. (Check out especially the * starred ones.)
Add the next number (1. 2. 3. 4. 5., etc.) and write your own blogging tip for other bloggers. Try to make your tip general.

After that, tag 10 other people. Link love some friends!

Just think- if 10 people start this, the 10 people pass it onto another 10 people, you have 100 links already!

1. Look, read, and learn. ******

2. Be, EXCELLENT to each other. *****

3. Don’t let money change ya! *

4. Always reply to your comments. *******

5. Link liberally — it keeps you and your friends afloat in the Sea of Technorati. ****

6. Don’t give up - persistence is fertile. *****

7. Give link credit where credit is due. *******

8. Pictures say a thousand words and can usually add to any post.******

9. Participating in ‘memes’ is a destructive habit and should be avoided at all costs. **

10. Don’t hold back.**

11. Short Fiction is the bomb!*

12. Redesign your site often. Visual boredom breeds textual complacency. *

13. Labels--not too many, not too few--help your readers browse.**

14. Get involved in a blog community like Poetry Thursday- this adds creative inspiration to your blog and adds instant visitors- as well as connects you with other bloggers with similar interests.*

15. Don't write anything about anyone that you wouldn't want them to read. You never know who has Googled their way to your blog.

-End Copy-

Despite finding my way into a community, I'm still not that good at imposing any kind of obligation on anyone. So if you want to get involved, please feel free to steal this meme and let me know!

Sunday Scribblings: Decision

Deciding to commit to the climb. Grafton Rd, Mt Victoria, July 2007

Back in March 2002 Hamish and I were living in Auckland, the city where I had grown up. We had a little one bedroom apartment in Ponsonby, a hot inner-city suburb, that we'd bought shortly after we got married. Hamish was working for a corporate staging company and I had been promoted to a fairly senior role in my office, the large regional branch of a significant government department. Life was good, and we could have continued that way indefinitely, if it weren't for my need to always be working towards something.

I had reached a stage in my career where it was time to make a decision. If we were going to stay in Auckland I had two options: either apply to join the management pool, or go private and become a client advocate. Neither option particularly appealed. The only alternative was move to Wellington and become one of those policy wonks. To me the biggest obstacle was my commitment to my husband. How could I expect Hamish to leave the job he loved to follow me?

Life is funny. I an still remember the exact conversation Hamish and I had as we were driving through Cox's Bay on the way home from a visit to my parents. I mentioned that there were two three-month secondments on offer in Wellington. Hamish told me to apply for them. The bottom fell out of what I had previously thought of as my safe little world. I pointed out that if I moved to Wellington I wasn't likely to be coming back. Hamish didn't have a problem with that. Turned out that there was a whole new world underneath the floor of the old one.

Less than a month later I was flatting in Wellington, working as a business relationship advisor, and making a concerted effort to get to know my new city. Every two weeks I commuted back to Ponsonby for the weekend, doing the 'suit run' with numerous other working-week bureaucrats.

On the day I arrived I found my way to Island Bay, to the house of the Buddhist woman who had kindly agreed to allow me to stay with her for my first few days. I wandered down the hill to a fish and chip shop, then down to the beach on the Southern coast to eat dinner. As I sat there watching the seagulls fly past and the waves wash in, and as I looked out to the Orongarongas, I knew I wasn't going back to Auckland. It was that simple.

On my first day of work I wandered down the Terrace, looked at the Beehive, and knew I had arrived. This felt like the centre of something important. Three months later Hamish had quit his job, rented out our apartment, and we had moved into a rented house in Brooklyn with a panoramic view of the harbour.

Five years on that one decision has triggered a chain of events that has been fundamental to the people that we are now and the way that we live our lives. Hamish ended up working for his dream company, doing his dream job. After a brief flirtation with a couple of other government agencies I ended up back at that same department, where I'm now employed as a senior business analyst on a big project.

After a year and a half we sold our little apartment to buy our villa in Mornington. It was the second house we looked at on our first day of 'checking out the market'. I knew by the time I was a couple of feet in the door that it was the right place. I think this house itself made our decision for us. It ticked all the boxes I had on my mental checklist, then opened its heart to us.

My decision to get to grips with the local dance music scene here led to us becoming friends with a dance party promoter, which then led to Hamish getting his first VJ work. That then led to him getting work with a local band, and in turn to work with a wonderful theatre group. My own desire to give something back to this city led to my involvement in volunteering at the local wildlife sanctuary. Living here was also a catalyst in my getting involved in running and multi-sport, and in my beginning to write again.

Life is a series of decisions, and the big ones can have far-reaching consequences. Nic and Leonie, when faced with a big decision, sold everything and set off to travel around the world. My mother, in her 50s, chose to leave West Auckland for the first time in her life to move to Taranaki.

Making the big decisions is not safe. Any big decision is likely to involve an element of risk. However the big decisions carry the greatest rewards. I know from experience that I can do anything I want, no excuses. I just have to decide that I want whatever it is badly enough.

My biggest question right now is what do I want that badly? I know that the reason I'm feeling so rootless right now is that I have achieved my main goals of the past couple of years. I need to face facts and make some hard decisions. It's that time again.

What will my answer be?

More decision-makers here.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Return of the Suicide Sprint

Or, how to get what you ask for ...

After Monday night's run it was clear to me that I need to get my leg strength back up, and I've been doing this stuff for long enough to know what I have to do! After a good Balance class on Tuesday (where once again I was able to focus on my breathing, and my balance poses flowed) Duck suggested that I do a circuit workout before her 6.35 RPM class. This is what I came up with:
  • 24 walking lunges with a 15kg power bag, followed by
  • 20 squats with the same power bag, followed by
  • 15 jumping squats, followed by
  • a one minute hover, followed by
  • 10 full press-ups.
I ran through that four times, and still had some time left over, so did four sets of swiss-ball hamstring curls and jack-knives, then four sets of calf-raises. Then I went downstairs and did some work on my abductor. After all that I was thoroughly sweaty and it was time for RPM. The most notable feature of the class was the amount of sweat that continued to pour off me, to the point where I was mopping off my chest with my hand-towel. Obviously I managed to stumble across a very effective combination of workouts, and I would love to know how many calories I burned through.

I went home feeling very mad dog and much happier about my fitness levels. However by the end of Wednesday and a frustrating day at work I was feeling exhausted and unmotivated. Even as I was changing before Jog Squad I was contemplating just packing it in and going home for a glass of wine. I'm glad I stuck it out though. Each run I tick off improves a little. Wednesday's run felt pretty horrid until about half an hour in, when I pulled myself out of the mire for long enough to realise I was feeling ok.

We ran up Willis Street, up Aro Street to the shops, back over the pedestrian crossing, down Webb Street, up Wallace Street to Newtown, then back down around the Basin to Courtney Place and back to the gym. From there I ran around the block to bring the total running time to 40 minutes. The speedies took off early in the run, but then they've increased in fitness when I've been recovering from injury, so I can't feel sad about losing my brief spot at the front of the pack. Instead, running on my own, I was able to settle into a good pace.

I still didn't have the strength I would have liked on the rolling hills, but coming back down Adelaide Rd and Cambridge I was able to once again crank up my glutes and turn up the speed a bit. Although that little voice in my head was complaining, when I really challenged myself I had to admit that I could keep going, and for quite a bit longer. So now I'm looking forward to running 70 minutes this weekend, just to see what I can do. I went home in an excellent mood, which just goes to show I did the right thing by choosing cardio over wine, and that endorphins are a wonderful thing!

My legs were feeling it a bit as I walked up the steps to the gym for my session with Duck this morning. They weren't terribly keen on the exercycle when I was warming up either. Which was all rather worrying, because I suspected that I was in for the Aurora Terrace suicide sprint workout of doom... Not that Duck's predictable or anything, but ...

And sure enough, it was off to Aurora Terrace. To explain, Aurora Terrace runs very steeply up the side of the gym, with a bridge over a four-lane motorway. At 7.30 in the morning most of the pedestrian traffic consists of people on their way down the hill to work. My office looks directly down on the bridge. And it was here that we did the following:
  • A warm-up walk up to the top of the bridge and back again, with me holding a 10kg powerbag straight up over my head and Duck hassling me every time my arms started to bend.
  • A round of suicide sprints (a short sprint uphill and slow descent, followed by a longer sprint halfway up the bridge and slow descent, then a sprint right to the top of the bridge and VERY slow descent)
  • A set of walking lunges up Aurora Terrace to roughly the mid-point of the bridge, with the power bag on my back
  • Another, shorter set of walking lunges up the Terrace with the power bag held straight up over my head.
  • Another round of suicide sprints.
Somehow that doesn't seem like enough sprints up the Terrace. Perhaps there were one or two straight uphill sprints that I blocked out. I do remember wondering whether I was going to vomit at one point. I do remember feeling like I was going to die while at the same time flogging myself mentally for not going harder. I distinctly remember not being able to catch my breath on the last return downhill. I remember being happy that we had returned to a "this is killing me in the best possible way" level of intensity.

From there it was back to the gym, and the workout continued:
  • walking duck squats (a kind of wide-legged waddle) the length of the weights floor, with a 20kg power bag
  • 20 basic squats with the power bag, then
  • walking duck squats back again with the power bag, then
  • a repeat of the duck squats and basic squats with a 15kg power bag, then
  • another set of walking squats, this with legs hip-distance apart, crouching down very low the entire length of the weights floor, again with the power bag, then
  • 20 lunges with the power bag, then returning in the crouched walking squat position, then
  • another set of walking squats and lunges with the power bag.
We finished that off with four sets of calf raises. Phew! All of which left me thanking my personal trainer and staggering to the showers. If that workout doesn't earn me some results I don't know what will!

I have nothing more strenuous planned for tomorrow than a Balance class. I suspect I will be a little stiff in the morning. My metabolism has gone insane this week. I'm eating like crazy and only just managing to maintain my weight over 55kg. My body will appreciate the rest.

Finally, here's an interesting post from the Running Chick that I wish I had written myself. It's all about how we runners tend to push ourselves too hard, and about learning balance.

Poetry Thursday: Getting Nostalgic

I would love to have a photo to accompany this week's poem. I'm not sure where this one came from - some deep recess of my subconscious.

West Auckland Childhood
On Thursdays Dad got paid,
and he would drive with us
up the hill to the fish and chip shop.
Every week we would order the
same scoop of chips, fish for
Mum and Dad, hotdogs for us kids.
While we waited we would perch
on the window ledge by the
side of the counter and if
it were cold the window would
be all steamed over.
Once the owner took us out
the back to see the fish all lying
dead and still in their crates.
I don’t know what I was expecting,
big aquariums and snapper
swimming around in circles?
Our house is gone now but
that chip shop is still there,
the same faded and oily
trawler company posters still
cellotaped to the walls.
The window ledge seems lower,
the magazines more dog-eared.
The wood paneling is still ugly.
It seems a miracle that
there exist these spaces still
where we can return to
fragments of our youth and
glance around in wonder.

More Thursday Poets here.