Saturday, February 10, 2007

Summer Running

Poor Lola. My beautiful red road bike has suffered the indignity of being left in the car, then being carted back down the steps to our house, twice this week. She's in danger of becoming a Cinderella.

It's not that I didn't intend to leave One Love to cycle around the Bays to the Women's Multis session on Tuesday, but I was having a fabulous time in the scorching sun dancing to some good New Zealand roots music. After a couple of ciders and a Margharita slushy (thanks to the lovely people sitting next to us), and permission from Duck to skip training, I realised that my cycle helmet was, in any case, in our other car at home.

I made up for things somewhat on Wednesday, when Allie and I got changed at her flat in Hawker Street and went for a run to Greta Point and back. It was a close thing, and we nearly ended up drinking wine in the sun instead. Wellington had put on another perfect summer scorcher of a day, and we had to walk past a number of people drinking outside waterfront bars in the sun. By the time we got to Hawker Street we were already hot and sweaty.

The idea of a swim after the run got us out of the house, although not before I had run up and down her hallway in my togs and running tights a couple of times to ensure that I wasn't going to make too much of a spectacle of myself. In the end there was a Splash and Dash event on, and therefore I wasn't the only woman running in my swimming gear. The only time I felt a little self-conscious was when running past a group of slightly leery fishermen.

It was a rather hot evening for a run, and we stopped at Balaena Bay for water, and walked a short section. However once around Pt Jerningham we were in the shade, and what breeze there was trended Southerly. We made it to Greta Point before running out into the sun again, at which point I turned tail and headed straight back the way we'd come.

Allie insisted I go on ahead and, feeling better than I had any right to, I pushed on towards Oriental Bay on my own. I found a good steady pace, and occupied my head with thoughts of how beautiful the evening was so that I was less inclined to stop. All the same, it was a relief to make it back to Oriental Bay. By the time Allie rounded the corner I was already floating in the sea.

I can honestly say that the swim that night will go down as one of the most enjoyable in history. Allie was eventually convinced to join me, and we hung out in the surprisingly warm water for quite a while. Little Oriental Bay resembled the Riviera, there were so many people out and about. On a night like that being a runner, a Wellingtonian, and a swimmer, equated to being the luckiest person on the planet.

On Thursday Duck ran through my new programme with me. From now on I will have one core and upper body session and one leg session a week, on top of our personal training session. Both workouts were extremely challenging, and by the end of it all I was a sweaty, slightly queasy heap. After a few sets of burpees I was seriously questioning how fit I really was.

That, and five hours sleep the night before (I woke at 4am and couldn't get back to sleep again), meant that I was really flagging by the evening and was questioning whether I really wanted to do a Women's Multis session. When I got to Freyberg there were more people out and about than ever, as the fine weather continued. I was really hoping for a nice flat ride around the Bays, a quick run and a swim. However I should know by now that with Women's Multis it's never as simple as getting what I want, even if I usually get what I need.

Poor Lola got put back in the Mazda, and Duck sent us off around the Bays on exactly the same run Allie and I had completed the night before. We were split into small groups according to how fast she thought we could run, and she made me run with the fastest girls. That included a girl from the last Jog Squad who blitzes me at the best of times. My legs were suffering, and I knew I wouldn't be able to keep up. Sure enough, as Duck's cycle computer read 12kmph, I kept up for around 10 minutes before having to drop back and plod my way around to Hataitai Beach.

Once at Hataitai Beach we jumped in the water. Duck made me swim out over my head, which I accomplished without too much difficulty. Being in the water was, as it had been the night before, like swimming through silk while on really good drugs. In other words, it was pretty wonderful. The only bad part about it was having to get out and run back to Freyberg again. But I managed that ok, and even managed to get home again without falling asleep at the wheel.

I'm not quite sure how I got through RPM on Friday morning, but I think it involved not using a lot of dial and a fair bit of grim determination. Leonie turning up to meet Nic and I for breakfast was a lovely surprise, and we all sat outside at Rise drinking yet more Kawakawa tea.

At lunchtime I escaped for another Body Balance class, this time enjoying the strength through my arms as I dropped down from the plank into a hover, then an upward dog. My hamstrings were really aching by this point, as were my quads. In contrast I could tell that I have really improved significantly in the balance poses. The moves on my left leg are almost easy now, and even on my weaker right side I was able to hold the tree and dancer poses without too much difficulty. Actually having some glute activation works wonders!

Leonie and I are planning on doing a mini-triathlon tomorrow morning, as the $40 entry fee for the Scorching duathlon and triathlon was a bit too steep for my liking. So I've taken today off, and it has been sorely needed. I clocked up nearly 30km this week, from almost nothing, and my legs are a little annoyed with me. Surprisingly though my right knee has fared rather well. In fact it has been my left knee that has ached a bit, and I suspect I'm now overcompensating. I want to start working on my speed again, but not until I'm satisfied my technique has improved enough that I don't shatter my IT band and knees the second I crank things up.

Jog Squad starts again on the 19th, and we're training for a 10km trail run. I'm already running 10km with no problems, so working on speed doesn't seem out of the question. It would be silly to think I could work up to a half marathon in such a short timeframe (only 7 weeks), so I'm going to have to be sensible and restrict myself for the time being. My focus HAS to be on not overtraining.

Yummy, Or the Memory of Scent

Nobody owned a coffee perculator in suburban West Auckland in 1990, let alone an espresso machine. People drank instant with milk and sugar, or black gumboot tea, also with milk. In Holland, however, coffee was thick and dark, and taken from large bowls that were clasped in two hands and held up to the face. To a barely 18-year old Kiwi kid in Europe on student exchange this was the height of sophistication.

Joosje was my second host mother. She was a slight woman with long straight grey hair that she wore parted down the middle. She could speak English with a British or Chicago accent, depending on the occasion, and worked in a small literary bookstore. At home her living area was dominated by a large collection of modern English-language literature.

Some of my fondest memories will always be of cold winter afternoons nestled on Joosje's big, comfortable sofa with a stroop waffel warming on the radiator and a book on my lap. The coffee perculator would be quietly bubbling away nearby, and the scent permeated the entire living area. Now when I walk past one particular espresso bar on my way to work the smell of coffee wafting from the open doorway always takes me back to that time, and its associated memories of homeliness, literary companionship and calm.

Back in New Zealand home was a much more bustling affair, where my mother was always up to something in the kitchen that would invariably involve the extended use of a loud blender, a radio station playing continuously on a cheap transistor in the background. My memories of my childhood are tied up with the smell of a Sunday roast - chicken, leg of lamb or side of beef. Crisp potatoes sucked up artery clogging, delicious animal fats and salt as they cooked. Our plates would overflow with creamy gravy. We ate peas and cauliflower mushed up in a white sauce.

After Hamish and I moved in together I did what I could to spend as many Sunday dinners with my parents as possible. As we got out of the car and walked around the side of the house to the back door the smell of that roast would travel out on the cooling early-evening air. Even now a Sunday roast signifies family.

A year or so ago I walked into a fruit store and fell upon a display of old-fashioned table grapes. Their distinctive aroma took me back to the valley where I grew up. There, each autumn, row upon row of vines would ripen, releasing a sweet, distinctive cloud of fragrance that would settle over the neighbourhood.

Similarly, a bowl of Christmas plums brings forth memories of summer holidays spent bagging fruit and placing it at the front gate with an honesty box. The greasy smell of fish and chips recalls trips with my father each Thursday night to the local shop to fetch dinner.

Hamish accuses me of having an overly sensitive nose, and I do seem to rely on my sense of smell rather heavily. It's one of the reasons why I'm considering doing a Wine Master's course and following his father into the wine industry. Someone, after all, has to show an interest in the family business!

Friday, February 09, 2007


The Poetry Thursday theme for this week was changes, and inevitably the lyrics 'Ch, ch, ch,ch changes..." with their accompanying line "turn and face the world" went into high rotate through my consciousness. There are some major changes afoot in my life, and that of people close to me, and it's only appropriate that they be expressed in this week's poem.

Turn and face the world.
Shed skin like
worn cotton cloth.
Shades of island-flower
pink fall from your shoulders.
Change and know
that now all things are
possible and that the
small seed of potential
you have carried within
you has burst
open and is pushing
through the earth.
You do not recognise
yourself nor do you
really know what
you are capable of.
You will make your
first tentative steps
on feet that are still
soft and overly
aware of each small
stone beneath them.
We know that your
rawness will fade.
Everything that is
new will slowly mature
and meld itself to
your sharp edges.
You will become
all that we already
see as we gather
close to wrap you in
new robes made of
the dawn chorus and
fastened with clasps
carved from greenstone.
We will send you out
into the world as your
new self and we will
sing of and with you.

Monday, February 05, 2007


Time to weigh in again on the training I guess. It's been nearly a week.

Looking back, last Tuesday I commented that I expected a big hill ride on Thursday night. I believe I commented that I thought we'd be going up to the prison. Oh, if it were that easy...

Following Tuesday's effort my knee was starting to grumble, and I had enough sense to take advantage of the lovely evening and go home for a rest day. I promised myself I would spent both Saturday and Sunday at the pool to make up for being lazy.

On Thursday morning Duck continued to work my upper body and core, and reassured me that we were not riding up Maupuia Road that night. Silly me, I trusted her and accepted the denial at face value. I spent the day floating on a little cloud of relief, convinced the evening would bring nothing more taxing than a brief run and a leisurely flat cycle around the Bays. And that was a good thing as far as I was concerned, as my legs were still shot from the previous week's madness.

Which is why I had to fight the urge to slap the Duck at 6.00 at Freyberg, when she blithely informed us we were cycling up to the summit of Mt Victoria. And not from the comparatively gentle Newtown side. We were starting at Carlton Gore Rd, ground zero, and we were going the whole way. To the top. And then we were going to go for a run. And then presumably we were going to roll back down the hill again, tumble into the sea, and hang there limply resembling the jellyfish we would by then have become.

Now, two things: I am not confident riding hills, and I am not confident using my SPDs. In particular, I have a morbid fear of riding up hills and not being able to unclip and falling over in front of a car and dying. And, partly because of this fear, I suck at riding hills, because I give in too easily. In short, I wanted to cry. I wanted to throw my toys and go home. But once was enough, and I didn't fancy getting bailed up in the women's toilets at Hope Bros again for a heart-to-heart. So there was only one thing to do, and that was get on my bike and get moving.

By the time we got to the point where we had turned and headed back down hill the week before I knew I was in trouble. Somehow top gear seemed to sneak up that much sooner. And then Duck made the tactical error of yelling out from behind me that it was about to get steep, and I did what I expected of myself, rode a little further, turned a corner, saw that the steepness kept on going, spotted a flat driveway in which to turn into, pulled in and unclipped.

Still, I made it around two thirds of the way up, and I didn't ass off my bike and kill myself. So I should be happy with myself, because just the fact I even tried was HUGE. And, as Sarah's been pointing out all week, the hill is even bigger than my angsty-Pipness. Hamish is in awe that I even made it a small way up. And when I got to the top (riding the last couple of hundred metres) I got off my bike and ran around the summit road at a pretty good clip, without jelly legs. And then I got back on my bike and rode back down again.

Going down was ok, despite going the wrong way and having to get off at the Monastry and walk down the pedestrian access to Oriental Bay. Driving home was a bit scarey though. I was mentally and physically shattered, and I'm sure I was a danger on the road. Hamish was good enough not to let me loose in the kitchen, and we both thoroughly enjoyed our Hell pizza when it eventually turned up.

I'm feeling a lot more confident with the clipping and unclipping now. I just have to remember that my pedal often turns upside down when I push off, and that I need to flip it to clip in. Once I got that sorted I was clipping in and out much more quickly.

It sounds mad to say that I got up the next morning and did an RPM class, but I did. I missed having fresh legs, but I dutifully turned up the dial and went hard. I even followed that up with a Body Balance. My big Body Balance revelation for the day was my shoulders suddenly opening up and getting into some kind of parallel alignment in the warrior poses. Finally - some progress in that area!

I'm ashamed to admit that fine weather, bacon for breakfast and a trip to Petone to buy a barbeque put paid to any exercise on Saturday. An achy IT band didn't help either. And then Sunday was spent in the Sanctuary chasing my birds. The breeding season is coming to an end, and I had a strange sense of this being the last time I would visit a number of the nestbox sites. As a result I made a conscious effort to take note of everything I loved about each location, and to commit it firmly to memory. I was in the bush from 9am till 4pm, and I enjoyed every second.

A gorgeous evening and lamb chops on the barbeque put paid to a Sunday evening swim, and somehow I managed to avoid the gym and the pool for the whole weekend. I was still a little worried about my knee, which was still achy, so taking a break probably wasn't a bad thing, but I was wishing I hadn't eaten so much by the end of it all.

Today the knee seemed to be on the mend. The weather has continued its late spring run, and for the last three nights we've slept with the windows and blinds wide open. We're lucky enough that our house is private enough for that little luxury. It's rare that the wind dies off enough to stop our wobbly old sash windows rattling when they are open, but there's nothing like the scent of the trees lining the ridge below us wafting up on the night air, and the soft thud as cat after cat enters and exits via the window sill.

I woke at 6am to a welcome sunrise, and pushed myself a little harder with the weights, mixing it up a bit and focusing on technique. Dale and I ran around checking out Brian Tamaki, who was seriously weirding out the other gym punters, as was another guy with an 'absolute absintence' t-shirt on. There must be a religious gathering in town.

The gorgeous Wellington day continued, and work was interupted by a welcome fire alarm right on morning tea time. Forty minutes spent sitting in the sun outside Rise drinking Kawakawa tea. Nice! Nobody doing any work because we were all seriously regretting not taking the day off ahead of the Waitangi Day holiday tomorrow... even better!

Sarah and I met up after 5 and walked to Xtreme to get changed, then set out around the Bays for the Newtown 10.6km route. Let's be kind and blame the heat, and let's just say it wasn't one of the quickest runs we've ever done. I for one was quite happy for the leisurely pace and regular breaks. It was a joy to be out there with a running buddy, enjoying Wellington on a good day. Although the prevailing Southerly was a cruel joke. Where was the tail wind when we needed it?!

One Love tomorrow, Women's Multis tomorrow night. I still want to do a short hill run on Wedneday, and then it's Duck and Women's Multis again Thursday, RPM Friday, and a Scorching Duathlon on Sunday. Which means Saturday will have to be active recovery - a swim day in other words.

Aahhh, training.... Joy!

Sunday, February 04, 2007


I don't want to be writing about goodbyes right now. I don't want to because I'm in denial. I don't want to because in too short a time I'm going to be saying goodbye to an amazing, inspirational, challenging, frustrating, crazy, sane, brave, funny, loving woman, and I don't want to have to do that yet.

Oh, I don't mean goodbye as in 'never to have contact ever again'. I'm sure there will still be emails (daily on my part, bored from my work computer) and phonecalls (I'm soon to discover the joys of Internet telephony). But we're not talking 'staggering distance' down the road contact, or 'see you at 6am for a ride to the gym' contact, or brunch at our place, dinner at yours weekends.

You know who you are. You're going off to have some huge amazing adventures, and I've never been more proud of you and the way that you approach life face on. But I'm going to miss you. Just thought you ought to know that ...

Other writers have also been saying their goodbyes over at the Sunday Scribblings site.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Infinity Equals ...

The Poetry Thursday headmistresses set us some homework this week. Our task was to use a maths equation in a poem. My imagination was captured by the possibilities, and it's been a long couple of days waiting for the Thursday prompt to post.

Let Infinity Equal
Let infinity equal
all individual human genes,
a struggling mass of start
and end points.
Male plus female equals
Darwinian advantage or
hidden inheritance
emerging in the
casual slip of
wasting muscle.

Let infinity equal
an array of possibilities,
the promise of
a cell dividing.
Where human is not
yet God, no genome
project yet calculating
all human weakness into
plus or minus,
we go blindly into
the biological soup of
mathematical equation.