Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Power

In the stoic shoulder of
red, the soft arm
unused to manual labour

In the quiet refusal
of that which would
be given, the integrity
of Karmic accumulation.

What is the power
wielded here against such
gentle determination?

Photo courtesy of Racole.
More writing on the theme of power here.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Spare a thought for the monks

One of the positive things about a week on the couch is the time that it has given me to slow down and think about things again. It's fair to say that life this year has been little more than work and exercise. I've been able to spend the last few days rediscovering my social conscience. Primarily that has involved reading blogs such as Tree Hugger, Celsius and Gristmill. I've been following up on the local Wellington Green movement, deciding how to vote in the local body elections, and just becoming more aware of the world outside of the gym in general.

However there's one news story that is weighing heavily on my mind today. Spare a thought for the monks in Burma (Myanmar). This story puts the current conflicts into context.

If my lungs are still too full to run on Monday then I'll probably be at the Wellington Buddhist Centre instead. It feels like the right time to rediscover myself in a puja and to send out a little loving kindness to the Burmese monks..

Still sick

A week on since my sinuses clogged up and I'm STILL sick. I went to work for half a day on Thursday, got sent home, spent Friday languishing in bed (at least Friday was sunny), and have been messing around at home today. My head still feels like it's about to explode. I have a slamming headache and I can't lean forward without shooting pain across my forehead. Last night I wondered whether the headache was in fact due to my shunt blocking up. Wouldn't that be ironic? I've had Hydrocephalus (or Water on the Brain) all my life, but I haven't had any problems since I was around 20. I started to get paranoid that my headache was due to a buildup of cerebro-spinal fluid, rather than just a mucus attack. Then I started to worry about the Addison's Disease, and going into crisis. Finally I had to take myself off to bed to get some relief. Unfortunately I couldn't sleep in this morning because I was lying there half awake, listening to my rasping breathing, thinking that I must be driving Hamish crazy.

If I don't feel like I'm getting any better by Monday I'll have to give in and go to the doctor. I stuck up a random conversation with a woman who lives nearby on Friday, and she said she'd been sick for five weeks with a nasty bug. I can't afford to be out of commission for that long.

Sorry to be such a soggy ball of misery. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

How many planets?

This is one of the best ecological footprint calculators I've come across. For a New Zealander it's still not entirely perfect. I had to do a lot of conversion from metric to imperial, we have no idea how many kilometres our car does to the gallon, and it was difficult to work out how much of our power company's generation is renewable. That said, I did a bit of surfing around the company's website, and was pleasantly surprised to see that it seemed to be mainly hydroelectrical and geothermal. It is also supportive of individual consumer power-generation, and it seems to be exploring wind generation options. Hydroelectrical generation has its own problems here, where there have been attempts to dam valuable South Island braided river ecosystems. Unfortunately I can't add the word 'pristine' to that description, as most of those rivers are now infected with nasty Didymo. I think we're past the point of large-scale hydroelectrical schemes now. Wind turbines are far more beautiful, and I wish the Makara wind-farm could finally get underway.

We were actually doing ok until we got to food, as I knew we would. My weekends were so busy last year that it got to be too difficult to do anything other than dash into a supermarket on the way home from volunteering at the Karori sanctuary. From now on it's farmer's markets, the local butcher and growing as many of our vegetables as I can. The price of tomatoes has gotten to be ridiculous!

I'm not sure that our transport energy consumption is as bad as our score might suggest. We own one small fuel-efficient car. I either car-pool to work with Hamish, or I catch a bus. Most of the buses here are electric, and we only live around 5km from my office. I sold my other car recently because it just wasn't getting used, and I'm planning on buying a scooter.

At home we have the usual villa single light bulb in the middle of the room set-up. We've replaced nearly all of our lights with those fuel-efficient bulbs. We have thermal curtains in the lounge and main bedroom, although we probably still lose a lot of energy through the other windows. I've blocked up the unused chimney in the lounge, but it would make a huge difference if we had under-floor insulation below our wooden floorboards. We leave too many appliances on standby, and we do use our gas central-heating over winter, because it just gets too cold here otherwise. We keep it turned really low, and most of our visitors do rely on a heater in their bedroom to survive.

We're not big consumers really, but it would still take 2.7 planets to sustain our lifestyle. Room for improvement, obviously.

In other news, the head cold from hell is still persisting, and we woke up this morning to the sound of a steady stream of water dripping through the ceiling hatch in the kitchen. I've since had a crash-course in how to obtain a roofing quote, and how much can actually be wrong with the roof that your building inspector told you three years ago looked to be fine. The things you learn when you own a villa that was built in 1913! In the end the lovely old guy who drove out from Wainui and walked around on the roof in the rain, and who then ordered me to go back to bed, will probably get our custom. There's something about good, old-fashioned service and courtesy that seems appealing. Now to convince the home loan company to shell out some of our equity.

A final, revolting post-script. I've been wondering off and on all day how many calories I'm taking in through the rather persistent post-nasal drip that has accompanied this cold. I think I remember reading somewhere that the associated mucus is mostly glucose. It probably doesn't bear thinking about in too great a detail! On the positive side, my temperature as of a few minutes ago was 36.8, so no fever, despite feeling so rotten. I am wondering though what kind of virus brings with it an all-over body rash, which kicks in any time my skin comes into contact with something. Perhaps spending so much time at home has unleashed a sudden alltergy to the cats. I was considering a reaction to our laundry powder, but I think it's one we've used regularly in the past. Odd ...

Sunday, September 23, 2007


I am sick. I am sick and I don't do sick very well. It's been around four years since I last had a cold (since before my Addison's Disease diagnosis), so I guess it was about due, but it still sucks! I have very narrow Eustachian tubes, so I end up in agony every time. Driving down the hill into town this morning was a fraught experience, as my ears just can't handle even the slightest change in altitude right now, and I am considering calling in sick tomorrow (which never happens). I think I've got a bit of a temperature, so I'm hoping like heck I'm not brewing an ear infection.

This all sucks even more because it's prime spring weather at the moment. The sun has been shining, the wind has died to the point that the grand opening of a wind turbine in Waitangi Park was a fizzer, and the temperatures have been distinctly pleasant. Other than an enthusiastic RPM with Dee on Friday, Thursday morning bashing and two Balance classes, the exercise levels have been the lowest since I first started training with Duck. With the gorgeous conditions out there it's almost criminal. If it weren't for the temperature and the chronic ear pain I'd consider running anyway. In fact I may still tomorrow night. We'll see.

On the other hand it's been good for me to rest. I was a bit knocked around emotionally after Sunday, without even realising it. A trip up to Auckland, wandering around getting teary and nostalgic about the early days of my relationship with Hamish and a teary set of sun salutes were a good signal that there was some shifting going on.

Small things have been beautiful this week. Farewelling Hamish's boss over the course of a slightly chaotic Friday night, an afternoon in the garden, a brunch with a friend. A package arrived in the mail with a book (just as I was about to head into town to go second-hand book hunting) and an affirmation. My own manager ended up having a conversation with me about broken greenstone and White Tara. I discovered the copy of our wedding service our celebrant had typed up for us, and that the two poems I'd selected for the ceremony were by two of my now-favourite New Zeaalnd poets. The Vogeltown Kaka flew over my head two mornings in a row as I walked up to the road.

So I might be surviving being sick by eating and then obsessing about gaining weight, but I'm gaining perspective in other ways. And that's what matters, I guess.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Writing from an Island: Imaginary Life

The writing's been tough of late. I know I haven't been feeding my muse, and so it's all my fault. I wanted badly to contribute to the inaugural Writer's Island prompt, but I just couldn't pull it together in time. I'm still not happy with this poem. It's very rough and I don't think I've managed to express the idea I was trying to convey very clearly.

This poem came to me while I was hanging out the washing on a single line we have strung along our veranda. There was a single spider web above the line. It was covered in dew and was newly spun, so it was perfectly intact and symmetrical. It occurred to me that it would have been easy to have missed it if it had not been glistening in the dew. That led me to further think about how many things of beauty we miss every day.

Passed Unobserved
There’s a spider web above the
washing line this morning,
hanging with the frosted symmetry
of a snowflake.

A few more hours and I would
have missed it, invisible against
a pale spring sky, and any wind
last night would have blown
it away.

You could not see me as
you blundered past on your
way to buy your double black,
running late for work this morning.
But catch me in the right light
and you will see my glass
slippers and my eyes …
my eyes glint ruby red.

This is my life,
not hidden, just

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Burn Baby Burn

Well, it appears I chose the crash and burn option. In fact, I crashed and burnt in spectacular fashion, even for me! I'm not going to reveal my time, though you can always search for it if you're really that interested. Let's just say that it wasn't even close to what I should have been able to do.

I honestly don't know what went wrong, but I'm proud of myself that I decided to keep going and didn't quit. I was already feeling stomachy before the race, and I nearly chose to skip breakfast and settle on some fruit instead. I should have taken that option. I had a brief period of feeling ok at around 40 minutes, and my 10km time didn't reflect my final finishing time. However in the second half the wheels just fell off.

I had a couple of incidents of having to stop to spit out bile, and despite the drink stops I was very thirsty and had to stop at a couple of random taps. The final killer for me was hearing Ann chatting away behind me for around 10 minutes, knowing that she was about to overtake me. She duly did so, which was hugely demoralising.

Halfway through Hikoikoi Reserve the trail crossed a dead-end road. There was no martial to tell us which way to go, so I stood there for a few seconds, ran a little way further up the trail, still couldn't see anyone, ran back to the road, and spotted an official 100 metres or so down the road. I started off that way, got around 50 metres, then got called back by a guy who had finished and was running back to come in with the tail enders. I was furious, as was he. We ran along the trail a little way together and he was wonderful, encouraging me and keeping me going. Mention must also be made of a lovely older Scottish Harriers guy who ran with me for a way on the Hutt River trail, and encouraged me to not worry about my time. I passed him again on the Port Rd. He looked like he'd torn a hamstring or something fairly race-ending, and I would have loved to have been able to stop and walk with him. In the end I was at least able to send a passing ambulance off in his direction.

Let me just say that I think this is my least favourite course of those I have ever run. First the ugly industrial Hutt Rd, then some relief along the river trail, then a mix of more industrial and suburban streets. Lots of corner turning, lots of road crossing, lots of little humps to get up and over bridges. Just when you think you're nearly onto the Port Rd you realise that actually you still need to keep traveling off to your left for another kilometre or so. Around Port Rd, then onto the extremely narrow Hikoikoi trail, with more doubling back, more little undulations. Finally onto the Petone Foreshore with the finishline in the distance, seeming to take forever to reach. And whose stupid idea was it to put a sausage sizzle right next to the finishline? If I wasn't about to vomit beforehand the odour nearly put me over the edge.

Thanks to all the Jog Squad girls who cheered me as I ran in, even though they how badly I'd done. I got over the line and everything cramped up. I couldn't move without something else going into spasm. The guy handing out water made me drink three cups of strong Gatorade before he would let me get up from the post he'd ordered me to sit on. I missed out on a banana because they were all gone. That made me very grumpy. I had been followed around the course by guys who looked like they wanted to pick up the road cones, and by the ambulance driver, who looked like he wanted to pick me up, which had only served to rub in the fact that I was running at a snail's pace. I hated the event and was determined never to do it again. I didn't even win a spotprize.

Then something funny happened. I got home, ate, sat down and immediately wanted to go out and run it all over again to demonstrate that I was actually better than that. I even started toying with the idea of doing Wairarapa Country again. To my credit I finished today, even when everything seemed like purgatory. I didn't let my wipeout affect me too deeply. And I started to plan my triumphant return to the sport that is the half marathon.

I did astoundingly badly today, but this is not the end of the story. It's a fairly repetitive story. Girl trains. Girl runs a bad event. Girl trains again. However this story WILL have a happy ending. There is a sub two hour run in this girl.

Wouldn't life be so much easier if I wasn't so hung up on times?

Kate - I think playing the 'I'm sick' card was the good option! Get well soon...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Night Before

So I'm running the Pelorus Trust half marathon in the morning. I have absolutely no idea how it's going to go. I might go out and blitz the course, or I may simply plod my way around and come in somewhere around or slightly slower than Harbour Capital. It feels strange having such little sense of where I'm at.

If the Northerly comes up overnight then all bets are off. Plus I'm running in my new shoes for only the second time, which is a fundamental nono. I just lost all motivation to run this week after my fast 45 minutes on Monday. I enjoyed lifting some heavy upper body weights on Tuesday, going hard enough in RPM afterwards to leave my upper quads sore on Wednesday, doing Balance on both Tuesday and Friday, flogging my upper body again on Thursday... and that was it. The gale Northerlies on Thursday put me off a last run. I'm feeling physically good. I THINK I'm stronger and fitter, and certainly this training programme hasn't taken it out of me the way the last one did. Again, I really don't know.

I've been pretty sensible today and hydrated well. Sarah and I picked up our race packs and I'm meeting her in Northland tomorrow morning. I'm not going to make a big deal out of this run, but it will be hard to own up if I feel I've done badly. Like I said, we'll just have to see how it goes.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Writing

It used to be all about the paper. I love school exercise books - the ones with the big wide lines and space above for pictures, and the ones with the lines close together that we were allowed to 'graduate' to once our penmanship improved. I love the crisp whiteness of a fresh page, the staples in the middle, the space on the front of the cover to write my name. I love scrapbooks - whole blank pages waiting for me to give them a personality.

I wrote my first novel when I was still in primary school. It was about a flying cow called Cloudy. It took up two of those wide-lined exercise books. I started writing poetry around the same time. When we were 10 we started intermediate school. Creative writing became confined to a narrow part of our curriculum, and my enjoyment of the education system suffered. Later there was the vocal Jewish English teacher who smoked like a chimney during parent teacher evenings in the library, and swore like a trooper. Outside of class she insisted I read Shakespeare and dragged me to third form camp against my will.

After there was Mary, the spaced out hippie with half a daisy tattooed on one ankle. I was left to my own devices to some extent. My poetry appeared in school magazines and I learned how to perform my work in front of an audience. I also learned how to use a typewriter. I fell in love again with the materials of writing. I loved typewriter ribbons, Tippex, the feeling of my fingers hitting the keys, the rhythm of it and the sound of letters being marked on the page. I loved the speed with which I could commit word to paper.

At university I struggled with digital composition. I continued to write my essays by hand, typing them into the computer afterwards. It wasn't until I was forced to write reports for work years later that I ever learned to compose onscreen. I even wrote my thesis by hand, although I'm incredulous now! Writing my thesis was a different process again. I loved the research, the recording of material worthy of quotes, the formulation of an argument, the linear process of it all. I loved the carefully typed, green hard-bound product of my labours. I loved the gold lettering and my name on the cover, and I loved the grade I got at the end!

Years later I find myself writing my poetry at my desk. Avoiding work my brain seeks ways to distract me from the task at hand. I find my creative muse, a mischievous elf, tapping me on the shoulder with ideas for the first line of a new verse. Now writing to a computer screen seems normal, natural. I enjoy the flexibility of the delete key, the space bar, the enter key and the back button. I email my home email address, then publish my work to my blog, and the world (or at least those of you who have stumbled across me), sees it.

Of course there is the little red notebook with the thin blue lines and the magnetic clasp. There are the inspirational writing books full of prompts and the two slim volumes of work by Mary Oliver on the art of writing poetry. These sit my my bed on a small chest of drawers, beneath a white lamp and next to my radio alarm clock, a bottle of water, some moisturiser and a pen. On the floor below are the novels I am reading. These are the private places, the writing you will not get to see unless I feel they are ready to be shared.

After all, every writer needs her secrets!

More writers talking about writing here.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

New Old Shoes!

I'm so happy! After a few weeks of sore shins (I never get sore shins) and slightly grumbly bits and pieces I finally surrendered to the inevitable and bought myself a new pair of running shoes.

I was incredibly attached to my old pair of shoes. Things started going right with my running the day that I first wore them. They were my go-faster shoes. Compared to the last pair of Addidas, which were stiff and heavy and made me sound like I was running in clown shoes, these almost felt like running in no shoes at all. they were the shoes I wore when I PR'd my 2.4km time, the shoes I wore for my first sub-60 10km in Levin, the shoes I ran my first half marathon in. Imagine my trepidation then at having to enter the uncharted territory that is a new pair of shoes once again.

Imagine, if you will, my joy at seeing the exact same pair of shoes, right down to the colour, in the box that the sales assistant was opening in front of me. "Oh," she said, "I can get you the new colour if you want it". I looked at her feet, which were sporting the same Addidas with a yellow stripe. "No, " I replied, looking down at my grey and orange Addidas wind parker, "I'm kind of fond of the orange, and you know, it colour co-ordinates and all".

I think I've developed a couple of running superstitions. Firstly, I have to have my Special K with tinned fruit salad before a long run. Secondly, I HAVE to be wearing my lucky Addidas running shoes with the orange stripe. Of course, there's the whole pie and cider thing as well, but that's more gluttony than anything else!

All up it's been a pretty good week of training, and my leg strength is back where I want it to be. I felt fine after Monday's fast 10.6km. V took Mike's lunchtime Balance class at the Terrace gym, and after work I fitted in my leg workout before RPM. I went back to my programme and the leg press seemed almost easy. That was a definite indicator to me that my legs have strengthened up again. I also noted that at some point I've become one of those people who spends a lot of time talking to other people between sets. I guess that happened around the time I started spending half my waking hours there!

After the weights it was downstairs to RPM. Duck was sick and Dee was filling in. It's been too long since a Dee class, and I'll have to start doing Friday mornings again after this. Before the class Dee asked who was up for the Irish jig, and of course I said yes. when the time came I felt compelled to yell out that I'd changed my mind, but of course it was too late. The only option was to fight back, and I did. My dial went up every time Dee even started to think about turning up the dial. Every time the class stood I was already standing. Every time they sat I was grinding away. I didn't allow myself to slow for even a fraction of a second, even as the ante was upped time and time again, the volume increased, the speed quickened. The battle was fought and won on the bike. All that AND Nirvana. There's a reason why Dee's classes are always full.

Surprisingly my legs were still reasonably intact on Wednesday, although my shins were a little grumbly and it took a while for my muscles to shake out. We ran up Willis Street then straight up Aro Valley, and I made it a good way up the hill before it was time to turn around and sprint for the bottom. I ended up running fast back down Willis and was happy with how things went. Oh, and I manged to fit in an upper body/core workout as well. Did I mention I was trying to reintroduce some discipline into my training?

Duck was still sick on Thursday, but I got out of bed anyway and made up a circuit session. I focused on the box step-ups, walking lunges, squats, bench push-ups, glute exercises and ab work we've been working on lately, then cut things a little short to fit in some yoga stretches. At lunchtime I went out for a half hour interval session around the Bays. It was a cold day but there wasn't much wind and quite a few runners were out. I must have been going faster than I gave myself credit for. One guy I overtook (another of those ball-of-their-feet shufflers) took exception and overtook me only to fall back into a shuffle so that I overtook him again a few minutes later. He didn't catch me again as I put my foot down to make sure he stayed behind!

Another Balance on Friday (in which Clare was greatly amused by my sudden inability to tell my right from my left), and then the bulk of the training for the week was over. I wasn't feeling overly sore, I wasn't feeling exhausted. I wasn't feeling like I'd put myself through a particularly rigorous week of training. And yet I knew I had. Hmmm, perhaps I AM a little fitter now after all. I guess I must be or I wouldn't be telling everyone I'm doing my first marathon next year. Plus I'm finally at the point I've been trying to get to all year. I've finished a whole training programme without any serious injuries and I'm ready to move straight into the next one. This feels like the tipping point into something greater - a higher level of personal performance. It's all a little exciting, to be quite honest!

Everything nearly went awry this morning, though it was completely my own fault. Duck and Ingrid sent out a message to say that there would be prizes at today's run, and my guess was that they would be running another treasure hunt. I drank three glasses of wine last night then ate fish and chips for dinner. It's been a while since I've been that self-destructive, and I was quite aware it would impact on my performance today. I was nearly at the gym when I remembered that I hadn't taken any of my medication. I wasn't keen to find out how well I can run without cortisol (I figured an Addisonian crisis on the last Saturday run would not be cool), so I dashed home, swallowed some pills, and made it back to the gym with two minutes to spare.

Ingrid divided us into four teams. Our little team was the second to leave, but we were never going to be the winners. We jogged slowly around collecting clues and chatting as we went. I was happy to run at the pace of the slowest Squadder. My legs were still a little sore from the week's activities and my shins were aching.

Most of the clues were fairly easy, although one of the activities involved all of us sliding down the highest slide in the 'lighthouse' by Frank Kitts Park. It's the biggest slide I've ever been down, and yes, I did squeal like a girl! The last clue involved going to the place where the police worked. Ingrid had said that the treasurehunt was taking place around the waterfront, so the smartest in our team suggested the police launch. We ran all the way there, only to find no one in situ. So we ran all the way back to the police station in Victoria Street, where Ingrid was waiting. We were the last team to arrive back by 9 minutes, and everyone was waiting outside the gym cheering us as we approached the finish. We were only out for around half an hour, but it was a nice way to finish up the week. Afterwards we all sat around drinking coffee, before I finally headed off to do the aforementioned shoe shopping.

And in other news, Hamish's mechanic wants to buy my Mazda and is going to give Hamish the money on Tuesday. Which means I'll have money to buy a scooter with this week. At the moment I've got my eye on a pale blue VMoto. Woohoo!

More Garden Poetry

Back to last summer's recurring theme.

Clearing Blackberry in Spring
The anise odour of wild fennel
is wafting over the edge of the
veranda from the garden below.
Today we slashed back blackberry
and honeysuckle until we could
again walk around the cabbage tree,
if only for a few short months.
Your fingers have been attacked
by thorns and I have forgotten
to wear long sleeves so the skin
on my arms is raised red by the
Wandering Dew.

We are sitting now looking East
to the mountains as they turn
to shadow. I am swinging in the
hammock and you are sprawled
beneath the open bedroom window.
Our sunburned faces are weary
but content as we sip Pinot Gris
and reflect on a job well done.

We can even kid ourselves for
a moment longer that the onion weed
will not flower, that no mice will
feast on native berries and that
the cat didn’t just kill the fantail
that was nesting in the courtyard.
Below us the Vogeltown Kaka are
chasing each other in lazy circles
over the golf course and for a few
still moments their screeches are
the only sound we can hear.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: A Family Thing

There was a widely bruited-about statistic reported last week, stating that 1 in 4 Americans did not read a single book last year. Clearly, we don’t fall into that category, but . . . how many of our friends do? Do you have friends/family who read as much as you do? Or are you the only person you know who has a serious reading habit?

Given that I'm now going to be posting poetry on a Tuesday rather than a Thursday I thought I would finally take the time to write on a prompt from Booking Through Thursday.

Of course I'm a New Zealander, not an American, and I don't have a clue what percentage of New Zealanders would claim to have read a book in the last year, however I hope it's higher than one in four. I have to admit that my reading of actual books has suffered as the number of blogs in my blog reader has grown, and I'm finally learning that it's ok to unsubscribe from a blog and that no one's going to hunt me down and demand to know why I'm abandoning them!

However I am and always have been a voracious reader. If there's nothing in the house to read then I will get extremely fidgety. I have been known to read the backs of detergent bottles. All my friends read, and we have a widely divergent set of reading habits, from modern New Zealand literature to cyberpunk novels.

I believe that someone will someday identify a bookworm gene. I feel that I inherited my love of reading from my father. From the cheap soft-cover Western serials stacked behind the toilet to the beautifully bound tales of the New Zealand bush, Dad was always surrounded by books. When Dad finally tracked down his long-lost older brother the two sat on their respective armchairs in our lounge and read together. They hadn't spoken in years, but there was nothing to say that would cement their relationship more than the simple act of sharing words.

My mother, who we believe to be an undiagnosed Dyslexic, shared our love of books in her own way. As a young teenager I flicked through the Mills and Boon novels stashed on her side of the bed. As our reading habits advanced, so did hers. We moved through Virginia Andrews and Jean M Auel, then onto my university texts. When I last saw her I took my copy of the latest Harry Potter with me, and she cast her eye over the Elizabeth Knox novel I was reading at the time and commented that she thought she might like to read it.

My childhood was full of Golden Books and trips to the library where I was one day allowed to pick a book from the shelves, not from the boxes of picture books. We ordered books through the Lucky and Arrow book schemes. Each week my sister and I would pick up copies of imported English children's magazines from the local dairy. Boxes of cast-off books would arrive from my cousins and be absorbed into our general collections. I had shelves full of books about ponies, yet never learned to ride.

I'm sure that there are people in my immediate acquaintance who do not read books. Without getting into a wider philosophical debate about living in the age of electronic media, I think it's a shame that a child might not know the pleasure of curling up in bed with a rectangle of printed paper, and of opening up the world inside.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Mad Dog Yelps

Oh, so that's where my speed was hiding!

It was a low turnout for the Squad tonight. Legs is away, Allie was hiding behind her desk and Sarah was off with a virus that was providing her with great moments of fevered amusement. The wind was threatening violence, so of course we ran around the Bays. Or to be exact, we were to run to the Zephrometer, and if we made it there in 30 minutes we were to run over the hill into Newtown and back to the gym. Otherwise we were to turn around and run back the way we came.

Turning around meant battling the Northwesterlies the whole way home. I swear there was no full moon, but Mad Dog wasn't backing down. I put my foot down, clenched those glutes and went for it. I overtook Trudi and co at Greta Point then lead all the way through to an unfortunate choice of crossings and a bad light change at the base of the hill up to Newtown, where they got ahead of me again. I overtook them on the way through the Newtown shops, then managed to stay just ahead until Courtney Place, where they ran ahead and I chased their tails all the way back to the gym.

I wasn't letting myself slow down for anything tonight. I floored it the whole way. Even better, as I was sprinting down Courtney I made myself straighten up, doing the whole 'string through the top of my head' thing again, lifted my feet, and realised that I could have kept going at that pace if I had needed to. Oh to have had the nerve to have headed back out around the Bays. If I'd kept that pace up for another ten and a half kilometres a sub-two hour half could easily have been mine. I knew it was a good run when the traffic lights were a nuisance rather than a blessed relief.

The Mad Dog is back. Long live the Mad Dog.

Oh, and I might also have made noises to a few people today about running the Harbour Capital marathon in June 2008. Something about being inspired by certain Ironman bloggers to set myself some impossible goals and to go out and achieve them.

Damn Type A personality.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

A Weekend

It's been a busy weekend here in Mornington. I had big plans for Saturday, along the lines of going scooter shopping and putting the Mazda up on Trademe. However I got overtaken by a bout of post-run inertia. I wasn't really tired, just not in the mood for doing anything. I would have stayed on the sofa all day if it weren't for our neighbour.

Barry is a member of the Wellington band President Gas. He has invited us to at least a couple of his gigs in the past and we've never managed to get our act together to go. Once we simply forgot, and once I had terrible runner's knee and the idea of climbing up and down our 46 steps to go out was just too much to bear. So we thought we should probably make the effort this time around before he came to the conclusion that we were bad neighbours!

So just before 8 we reached the top of our steps at the same time as Barry and his son were loading instruments into the back of a taxi. We climbed into our Polo and everyone headed off to the Bluenote Bar. Hamish and I got there in time to grab a sofa in front of the stage and Hamish headed off to the bar for beer and cider.

Bluenote has always struck us as a bit of a bad pub rock kind of bar. We've walked past too many times when someone was singing bad karaoke to have any real desire to go there without good reason. However we were pleasantly surprised last night. Sure, the sound quality wasn't amazing, and the long-haired guy who staggered around for a while swigging from a bottle of whiskey before passing out on another couch and, er, wetting himself, kind of confirmed some of our suspicions. However for the main the crowd were an amicable bunch of enthusiastic fans, the bar was warm, the cider cold and the sofa comfortable.

And guess what? Our Barry can rock! Well, to be precise, the band of three fighting-back- middle-aging guys and Barry's young emo son rocked, enthusiastically, through what was apparently their whole album and several covers. Two ciders in I was dancing around on the sofa and singing as loudly as the guy standing behind me who knew every song and its entire history.

The moment Scott Wylie opened his mouth to sing I was reminded of Bowie. He backed that up for me nicely by doing a cover of We Can Be Heroes, not the only Bowie song of the evening. The guitarist shone on this track, and Barry funked it up in general on bass. Behind him Ben was doing a pretty good job on the drums, despite smashing through the skin of his snare half-way into the set. It was particularly nice to see the way the two communicated during the gig. The original songs were memorable, and it was great to be given a free copy of the album at the end of the evening. We would have bought one anyway.

I haven't had a good night out at a bar listening to good honest rock for too long, and I'm glad we pulled ourselves up off the sofa at home to go sit on another sofa! I don't even regret the slice of Vegan Chocolate Cake and Chocolate Mocha Cheesecake Hamish and I treated ourselves to at Midnight Expresso afterwards. Mmmm. Oh, and the Warriors won and the rowers won a pile of medals. So it was an excellent evening all around.

I had lots of plans for today, including getting up to go to the Farmers Market for vegetables. Instead my late night and big day of exercise caught up with me. I didn't wake up until 8.30, didn't get up until after 10, and even then I remained stuck in a fog, unable to think clearly. I couldn't even stomach the idea of any food, unheard of for me.

Eventually i woke up enough to pick up a few groceries. When my stomach finally woke up it began to crave fries in the worst possible way, so when I got home I cooked up a big bowl of wedges with cheese. By 1.00 I was finally starting to feel a little more alive, so Hamish and I headed off to wash and vacuum the Mazda. We had to queue for ages to get into the car wash, then we had to queue again to use the vacuum cleaner. I began to regret having used the car to transport green waste to the landfill for so long, as the poor vacuum struggled to cope. Finally however the job was done.

I've got mixed feelings about selling the Mazda. It's silly to keep a car that gets used maybe once a week if it's lucky, and I'll get more use out of a scooter. However my little Mazda is so fun to drive, and she corners like a dream. I spun her hard into each camber on the way down to Newtown and dreaded the day I will no longer be able to get behind that sporty little steering wheel.

Back home Hamish did some household maintenance, getting his hacksaw stuck into fixing the hinges on the veranda gate. I decided to ease myself into the gardening by scooping up leaves from the courtyard and doing a bit of weeding. Gaffer decided to help out by climbing into the bag I was using to collect the rubbish. Tissy sat and watched, not quite sure what was going on.

At 4.00 The Americana Show, which I was listening to on the Tivoli, finished on Active, and the temperature was starting to drop. Inside Hamish was baking scones, and the whole batch got eaten as soon as they were out of the oven. Yes, I can honestly say that Hamish is a master scone maker, just as claimed. His scones were light and fluffy and delicious. I hope the same can be said about the ginger crunch I made as soon as he cleared the kitchen. I shouldn't have tried to bake immediately after drinking a Scrumpy cider.

I followed up the ginger crunch by cooking a roast pork dinner with herby roast potatoes, salad and a home-made dressing. I think that's enough domestic goddessness for now! Having said that though, we have a mad genius Italian-Kiwi coming to stay tomorrow, so my days in the kitchen are not yet over...

In other minor revelations, the anniversary of the death of Princess Diana was remarkable for me in the sense that it means Hamish and I have been living together for over ten years. Ten years ago I was lying on the bed in our little bedsit flat in Newmarket when my sister called to tell me she was dead. We can't have been living there for long, perhaps only a couple of months. Labour Weekend will be the 11th anniversary of our getting together as a couple. Now that makes me feel old - we've been together nearly a third of my life!

And finally, not from this weekend but worthy of sharing:

Nic and Emo-Cat (modeling a Two-Dollar Shop floral lei). Emo was trying to drink the coffee dregs from the mugs on the bench:

Leonie and Hamish find something amusing. Our original Fergus Collinson painting is in the background:

And lastly, Hamish gets a Mac and is pleased:

Saturday, September 01, 2007


Yay! Every cell in my body has been screaming joy at the change in the seasons this week. I've been forced to sit at my desk, fidgeting and fussing, while out the window the sun has shone and the trees erupted with new growth. There hasn't been much productivity going on, so I've listened to my body and spent as much time as possible outside.

I had a remarkably ordinary run on Thursday, but then I was running during my lunchbreak, so had limited options route-wise. Duck worked my glutes and legs on Thursday morning, and I wasn't in the mood to climb to Kelburn. Instead I decided to see how fast I could run the Molesworth Street, Tinakori, Thorndon Quay loop. It's not the most exciting run in the world, but I know it well enough to know how fast I should be getting through it.

My legs quietly let me know that this was the fourth day in a row of running, and that I'd already worked them that morning. I still managed to get to Thorndon Quay in fairly handy time, but I can't truly say that the rest of the run was completed at a fast pace, even if I did overtake another guy along the waterfront. Let's just say that my shoes need replacing. By the end of the thirty minutes my left shin was
aching to the point where I could imagine it eventually becoming too sore to continue.

So my run on Thursday was ok, but not fantastic. I can't expect every run to be amazing after all. I still had that great 'I just ran' feeling half an hour or so later at my desk. It's the best form of stress-reduction I know. Running has shut the lid on my anxiety episodes, for which I am eternally grateful.

I was hopeful that a day off would allow the various aches to subside, and by Friday morning things were already on the improve. I had a good Balance class with Clare at lunchtime. We did release number 35, which I'm not familiar enough with to be able to avoid watching Clare for cues. I love the Tai Chi warm-up and did get into a kind of groove, but again, it was just an ordinary class, nothing revelatory.

I had a quiet night last night. Hamish was out drinking with his colleagues, so I sat at home avoiding alcohol and watching Project Runway. How sad is the life of a runner? My alarm went off at 6.45 this morning and, not for the first time, I wondered what on earth I was doing getting out of bed at this time on a Saturday morning. If you'd told me that I'd be up so early on a Saturday morning to go for a run three years ago I would have laughed in your face.

Thankfully I knew that the Northerlies were supposed to be increasing as the day went on, (rising to galeforce) and that there was rain forecast for Saturday evening and Sunday. I was also supposed to be meeting Sarah at the Terrace gym, and we wanted to be back in time for Clare's 10am Balance. That was enough to get me out of bed.

Sarah met me outside the gym at 8, and we were inside dropping off our gear the second it opened. Then it was off around the Bays. We turned left out of the gym, right into Bowen and down onto the waterfront. We kept pace with each other for the first 20 minutes, then Sarah pulled away. I wasn't sure whether my shin was going to start aching again, so I held back on the pace a little which showed in my eventual stats.

Despite the Northerly, which was already rather fresher than I'd hoped, it was a gorgeous morning. I haven't run around the Bays for quite some time, and it was nice to be back on familiar territory. I got into my long-distance groove quite quickly. My feet felt much lighter than Thursday and everything just seemed to flow. Again I concentrated on keeping upright and pushing through my glutes. Thanks to Duck's Thursday bashing I could definitely tell when I was using them. they were little knots of steel and they weren't terribly happy with me!

Greta Point arrived before I knew it. An unmarked police car was cruising the streets and passed me several times, pulling over unsuspecting speeding drivers. I kept going, remembering running this way for the Round The Bays at the start of the year, and feeling much fitter this time around. Checking my watch I realised I would be at the needle well before it would be time to turn around. That got me moving a little faster. My goal then became to make it to the first round-a-bout. I got there right on 50 minutes and started heading back to the gym.

Running back along Cobham was a bit nasty as I was getting blown around by the Northerlies. They continued to be a feature around each point, slowing me down a bit. However I was heading for a fairly good split, not negative, but not that far into the positive. It was quite a warm morning, so I stopped for water at Hataitai and Balaena Bays, and again at Freyberg. Sarah caught me when I stopped at Balaena and we ran together for a while. Both of us were feeling quite upbeat and happy with how we were going.

I went to cross Jervois Quay at Queens Wharf and was going to run up Woodward Street back to the gym, but my watch only read 1 hour 42 and I wasn't ready to stop. So I turned right down Lambton Quay, then forced myself to run up Bowen. My body did what it was told, although I walked a little bit of the Terrace before running the last couple of hundred metres. Sarah was inside waiting for me.

It was straight into Balance. The sun was shining in and it was fabulously warm. We did release 36, which is one of my favourites and has some great hip openers. We showered and it was great to get the salt off our faces, then I sat in the sun to wait for Hamish to drop off the spare car key to me. My own set of keys were sitting in the ignition of the Mazda, trapped behind a locked driver's door. Yes, I am an idiot.

Since then I've eaten a pie, some toasted pumpkin seeds and a mandarin. I've drunk a bottle of sports replacement drink and a bottle of cider. Not the best day diet-wise then. I've done three loads of washing and read the paper. What I haven't done is wash my Mazda or prepare her for sale. I haven't been to look at any scooters either. It's not that I'm feeling particularly tired. I'm feeling very good actually, not at all like I spent most of the morning exercising, but I sort of lost momentum once I got home.

Tomorrow the Mazda will get cleaned and photographed and placed on Trademe. Hamish is following up on a scooter-lead via a client whose partner imports Vespas. The garden will get weeded, if I don't blow away in the process.

So two things to be happy about: it's spring, most emphatically spring, and my training is back on track. I'm peaking right on time instead of two weeks too early. I'm fitter than I think I am, and I'm sustaining my workouts at a higher level with less effort. My pace today was right on target for a good time at Pelorus. It may well happen!

Finally, I have a confession. I ead a number of triathlon blogs, and every time I read a first Iron-Man race reports I have to fight back the tears. Today I read a second Ironman report and was so inspired that I went back to the first blog entry and read from the beginning. Then I decided that I should set myself some impossible goals and set out to achieve them. If you only read one blog today, let it be this one.