Monday, April 21, 2008

An Engineer's Guide to Cats

It seems Hamish is THAT guy, you know, the one with THREE cats ...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

And then the moon rose

After the RPM class the sun went down, a full moon rose over the mountains and the wind stilled. The evening was crisp and clear and suddenly Wellington in autumn felt like the right place to be.
I've been lurking over at Steve Stenzel's blog for a year or two now. When I started reading Steve was experiencing some knee issues and couldn't run for more than a few miles at a time. This was all a bit disturbing, because Steve was training for Ironman. Since then he's completed Ironman, started looking a bit like Clark Kent and can't head out for a simple training run without smashing another 5km PR, even while scoffing donuts. What really makes Steve's blog special though are his graphic (parental guidance required) photos of his blisters and shaving action. Trust me, you just have to go take a look!

I can't compete with Steve on the gross-out factor when it comes to running. I did once head back to the gym from a run with a bit of a 'nip' bleed thanks to a poor choice of bra, but my feet don't really blister up, and I'm not about to start showing photos of the kind of friction burns I get from cycling. Er, this just ain't that kind of blog! It did occur to me this afternoon though that I could gross you all out quite nicely with a few photos of the kinds of messes I have to clean up thanks to the furry members of our family (and I'm not talking the newly hairy Yeti).

Earlier this week Hamish and I were struggling to locate what we knew must be something dead somewhere. There was a distinct odour of decomposition and the odd blowfly or two. Well, today I found the writhing skeleton of what must have been a very fat mouse, complete with very healthy maggots. Then there was the putrid lizard found under the dining table, the Tui (a nationally iconic bird) I found Tiss rolling around on the sofa with, the countless mouse heads retrieved from under the drying rack, the mouse skeleton we found under the carpet underlay in the study, the mouse skeleton in a box under the spare bed ... Trust me, you can't live in this household and have a weak stomach or a fear of death!

By late this afternoon it was becoming obvious that the weather was improving, but it was still a little too cool for me to really want to head out on Lola (or her blue foster-sister, now sitting in our hallway). Instead I headed off to the gym for RPM. It turned out Charlotte was teaching, which cheered me, because I haven't sat in on one of her classes for a long time.

As I had expected, the class turned out to be hard. By the end of track three (Stomp) I was gasping for breath in a way I haven't for a little while. Things got harder from there when track four turned out to be the Irish jig. This was no ordinary track four though. Charlotte had us do it as a seated climb, with repeated dial action. This is a track that is normally loaded with jumps, and we did it all (with one small break) in the saddle.

There was a point halfway through when everything went to another level. A primal scream, a distinct 'aarrrrghhhh' escaped from my lips as the dial went up yet another notch. My legs were screaming they couldn't go any harder, my lungs were screaming they couldn't get enough air in, my mind was yelling to quit, yet something else (spirit, Mad Dog?) yelled louder "get hard beeeyyytchhhh. You may have spent the first 33 years of your life a mouse but you ain't quitting any more". So, er, I kept going!

Track 5 was supposed to involve interval training but turned into one long fast climb, track 6 turned into a whooping competition, track 7 was a party. So yes, quite a fun and satisfying way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Now I'm sitting on the sofa with a quite lovely Pinot Gris filling my mouth with peaches and toffee apple and there are some delicious smelling chicken burritos in the oven. The central heating is keeping my toasty, and life could be a lot worse really!

Edit: seconds after I published this post a blowfly (bred, no doubt from the maggots from the mouse in the spare room) fell into my glass of wine. Sigh ...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

No dedication, obviously.

As if it weren't bad enough that I've fallen off the NaPoWriMo bandwagon, now I'm wimping out of runs. I was going to meet Sarah at 9am this morning at the Terrace for a 40 to 50 minute run followed by Balance. I was even really looking forward to it.

Looking forward to it, that is, until 7.30am when it started pouring down. That was ok - I could just through on a polyprop and my jacket.

At 7.45am it started hailing. I'm sorry, call me a wimp but I don't do hail! For the record Sarah, when it started pouring down again at around 9.30 I was selfishly glad I'd stayed in bed. In fact, I stayed in bed until after 1pm. The first of the big Southerly blows of the season has been passing through and the temperature gauge in our hallway read 11 degrees when I finally caved in and turned the central heating on at 4.30.

The cats must be feeling this weather as well. Some kind of truce has been called, allowing all three to be on the bed in close proximity with little or no hissing and stalking off. For most of the morning Ede was pressed up against my right side under the duvet, Gaffer on my left and Tiss on top of the duvet between Hamish and me. If nothing else they double as great hot water bottles.

I'm not holding out much hope of the temperatures increasing enough by tomorrow for me to be out on Lola, but there's a 4.30 RPM class that's always a fun way to end the weekend. Must stop by Kilbirnie at some stage as well and pick up Leonie's bike. Lola's already giving me dirty looks. She definitely knows something is up!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My running likes cycling

I got to play with the Garmin today. At lunchtime I went out for a run with a group of girls from the gym. We were going to run for around 7km and my goal pace was an easy six minutes per kilometre. I obviously haven't been running much since the ankle injury in November, and it's only really been the last month that I've been running once or twice a week. My plan for today was to simply take it easy. My body had other ideas!

I met with personal trainer Emma at the Terrace gym and we jogged down to Ferg's Kayaks to meet up with the first of our other runners. The Garmin wasn't too happy trying to find satellites on the Terrace, surrounded by skyscrapers, but I turned it on again at Ferg's and it seemed to be able to hook up a connection quite easily there.

We stuck to our planned six minute pace to Freyberg, where Emma eased off and joined up with the last of our runners. Rachel and I ran ahead on a hunt for the marker signaling we'd run 3.5km from Ferg's. We stuck to that pace for a while but then both of us started to up the pace as we warmed up. On the way back we were running between five and a half and 5.45 minute pace. I didn't even know I could comfortably hold a 5.30 pace! I'm sure I wasn't running that fast when I was training for the Rimutaka Incline last year.

All up I ran around 8km and I was thrilled with my effort. As I've noted in earlier posts, it seems that the cycling has had a very positive impact on my running. I'm now starting to wonder whether I should be aiming for the Harbour Capital half marathon in June, rather than the 10km I had planned. Almost as encouraging as the pace was my ankle. I felt no pain whatsoever. Woohoo!

The Grape Ride photos are up. Bib number 4319. The photos really do show what a great time I was having. I may even shell out for the digital photo package. And in other news, Leonie has said that I might be able to borrow her EMC2 bike, which is sitting unused in a storage locker in Kilbirnie. I feel like I'm being unfaithful to Lola, but Leonie's bike is a lot lighter, newer and really nice. Using it will enable me to tell whether a better bike will really help me much with my speed. If I think it's worth it I'll get a new one when Gearshifters starts up again in a couple of months.

Exciting times!

Monday, April 14, 2008

NaPoWriMo 14: Road Trip

The road is narrow.
It twists and turns.
Here it rises steeply,
now it drops tightly,
gravel lying treacherously
at its corners.

If you were not vigilant
you could come this way
and see only road.
Lift your eyes however,
and here you will see
bush reaching to your left
elbow, the marble
stretch of water to
your right that is
the Sounds.

If you take the time
to notice you will
register that you travel
to a chorus of bellbirds.
If you should care to listen,
that is.

If you are lucky you
will remind yourself in time
that it is not the destination
that is important,
it is the journey you take
on the way to getting there.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Grape Ride: This Could Get Long

So let's just sum it up at the start by saying "Woohoooo"! That has to be one of the best events ever ...

But to start at the beginning, Friday morning saw me lying in bed while Hamish got ready for work. After he left I got everything on the bed that I knew I would need for the weekend. Helmet, gloves, sunglasses, shoes, Camelbak, water bottles, power biscuit, Replace powder, shorts, top, arm warmers, two jackets, toiletries, medication, clothes, Garmin ... Two packed bags later I was pretty sure I had everything. From there it was a quick trip on a bus into town, another quick trip to the supermarket for some fruit, and across the road to the Bluebridge ferry terminal to meet Kathryn and Lauren.

The Bluebridge was doing a special deal for Grape Riders, so pretty much everyone on board had a bike attached to their car. It made for a great atmosphere on the way over, although I had to grumble about being charged $12.50 for a mediocre chicken burger (I'd asked for it without the accompanying wedges). That small grumble aside we had a lovely crossing, getting into Picton by late afternoon. We stopped off at a supermarket for dinner supplies (hot chicken, pasta salad and green salad), then it was off to Renwick to register.

On the way out to the vineyard I could suddenly feel the long day taking its toll. I got very tired and a little grumpy and forced myself to go quiet. I'm not much of a group person, and embarking on this great adventure with two people I don't know that well was in itself a source of stress. Lauren had been caught in traffic on his way to the ferry terminal, leaving us scrambling to get Kathryn's bike onto his car in time, and all the messing around in general was wearing me out. I was excited by the registration process though. There were people everywhere and a great buzz as the stage was set up and stands were prepared for the morning.

It was a bit of a challenge to find our way back to our accommodation in the dark, but we managed it in the end. We realised it was more like 15km to the startline, not the 5km we'd been advised, so we decided we would drive there in the morning rather than treat it as a warm-up ride. The cottage we were staying in was itself very nice. It was located on a vineyard, with its own large grounds. The pantry was stocked with food and there was a bottle of wine in the fridge which, criminally, had to remain undrunk. We didn't even get to visit the adjacent cafe or cellar door.

We got the bikes off the back of the car and prepared for the morning. I lay out my clothes, put my power cookie next to my food bag, loaded up a couple of drink bottles with Replace, and filled my Camelbak. There was a bag of gummy snakes in my registration bag, so I put a few of them in my food bag as well. After all of that we sat around playing Scrabble and Connect 4 and playing our way through the cottage's dire CD collection (Freddy Mercury and Expresso Guitar). By 7.30 I was feeling very nervous and missing Hamish and the cats terribly. It didn't help that my back and leg were aching as well. I really had to give myself a good talking to, and I reminded myself that this was my 35th birthday present to myself.

Eventually it was off to bed, and a scrappy night's sleep. My mind was imagining every kind of dire race outcome possible. There was no alarm clock in the bedroom, so I had no idea what the time was, and I'd been so successful with the hydration that I had to get up three times during the night for bathroom stops. None of us was feeling terribly fresh when we finally woke, forced down our breakfasts, and put the bikes back on the back of the car.

The morning dawned overcast and a tiny bit spitty, but there wasn't any wind and it was reasonably warm. I decided to wear my arm warmers, but left the jackets behind. We had to park out the back of the vineyard then walk our bikes through the grapes to the start, so by the time we got there our wheels were covered in dead grass and general muck that we had to scrape from our tires.

I judged my last toilet stop well and we jumped into our place in the starting line. Kathryn and I were down for four to four and a half hours, Lauren for three and a half to four. Most of the Gearshifters squad were in his group or three to three and a half.

The first 800 metres of the race is down a narrow, windy driveway out of the vineyard and we were started in batches of around 100. It was my first mass start in my first race and I was battling down a sense of dread, helped by chatting to the women around me. There were a number of women feeling the same way I was, and I wasn't the only newbie by a long shot.

In the end the start was very smooth. We wheeled up to the line, the horn blew, we clipped in and we were off. Out onto the main road and the first 30km was fast. I kept slotting into packs, finding them too slow, advancing to the next pack, slowing again. I was easily maintaining a faster pace than usual, feeling elated, and really enjoying chatting to the other riders around me.

After the first hour or so though I inexplicably started to slow. The pack had spread out, I couldn't find a good bunch, and I was churning through the gears without knowing why. I started to wonder whether I was already burning out. I forced myself to drink and have some food. I slipped a gummy snake into my mouth and went into sugar heaven. Normally I wouldn't touch one of those things, but this just sat in my mouth and let out little rivulets of tart goodness that just tasted sooooo good. I instantly felt a lot better. I was also really pleased with the Camelbak, which was really easy to use, even if I did spray Replace down my leg the first time. Ugh!

Feeling the way I was I was worrying about the hill climb into Picton. I knew it was coming, and I was worried! I was frustrated by a climb that had me in my easiest gear, sure it was a bad sign that I wouldn't be able to get up the next. I was even more frustrated when we suddenly started descending. All I could think was "I'm going to have to climb again". It was about that point I saw the "Picton" sign. I'd actually climbed the hill I'd been dreading without even realising I was climbing it. Driving back that way this morning we all remarked on how long the ascent actually was, and how it explained a lot about how we were feeling at this point in our ride.

The descent into Picton is great. The road is straight and even. I lowered myself onto the drops, removed my fingers from any proximity to the brakes and went for it. I lined up a woman ahead of me and aimed to take her out. We were doing around 65 and I was loving it. As I reached her I slowed and we chatted for a bit before I took off again. Now that I knew I'd been climbing the whole time I'd been feeling bad I felt a lot better. Doesn't that sound stupid? How could I not have realised I was climbing?

Happy to be over the first big hill I was grinning all the way through Picton township, thanking the volunteers steering us in the direction of Queen Charlotte Drive. The next leg of the race was classed as 'undulating', with one largish climb. We were riding with bush on one side and the panorama of the Sounds to our right. Our soundtrack was the chorus of bellbirds. I had to keep reminding myself to look up at the view, which was of course stunning. I was still feeling great, the sun was coming out, and I had to keep reminding myself to drink. The arm warmers were shoved to my wrists and I was glad I'd left my jacket behind.

Queen Charlotte had one or two smallish hills then it was onto the main climb. It took me a while to realise this was it, as each corner went by and no end came into sight. Once it dawned this was the moment of truth I settled in and started picking people off one by one. Hills are my thing and this was my chance to make some ground. I slowly passed one rider after another, feeling sorry for the poor guy vomiting loudly and copiously on the side of the road about half-way up. A lot of people were using the Peak Fuel gel from their goodie bags and I was wondering whether he'd done the same thing and had an unfortunate gastrological reaction. Me, I was loving those gummy snakes, though the biscuit was starting to feel a little dry in my mouth. A gel would have been the last thing I felt like.

A long climb and two photographers later (calling out to both and grinning straight into the lens) we were at the top. A sign advised it was all downhill from there. That might not have quite been true, but the descents certainly were as steep as we had been warned, and the corners as tight. New seal meant a lot of gravel on the corners and the sight of a person under a blanket with medics in attendance slowed us all down. Unfortunately the person down turned out to be the youngest of the Gearshifters, a lovely young teenage girl. Jenna has a reputation for being fast but a little reckless. Until she came off she had been in line for a top-three finish. Now she was off to hospital for stitches. Thankfully the damage wasn't too serious, and she was back in time for prizegiving.

As I turned into the descent I went to change cogs and nothing happened. I'm not quite sure exactly what happened, but it appears I climbed that long hill on my large cog. I may even have climbed to Picton on my large cog. In fact, I may even have tried to climb Mt Crawford last Sunday on my large cog. Which may explain why the hills felt harder than they should have done. Like I said, I'm confused, but I don't really have any other explanation.

Despite us all slowing down slightly after passing Jenna the downhills were still fast and technical. For once I held my own and didn't get overtaken by all and sundry. For a while I was plagued by a girl who kept creeping up in my left side and crossing my rear wheel. The only reason I knew she was there was because of the clattering noise her bike made very time she stopped pedaling. I was getting so annoyed (and nervous) that I nearly turned around and gave her an earful. Finally she snuck up on my left side, pulled alongside me and started chatting away about how this was her first race and how she hadn't been cycling for long. I figured she hadn't ridden in a pack before and couldn't bring myself to give her a bit of a lesson in cycle etiquette, so I let her go. There were plenty of other incidents of passing without calling, passing on the left etc, and all the Gearshifters crew commented on it afterwards. Dee is always so insistent on us calling, so I guess I've been spoilt.

My Camelbak emptied just as I reached Linkwater, about 60km in and the site of the only drink stop. I still had a full bottle of Replace, but was enjoying using the Camelbak so much I decided to stop to refill it. I should have kept going. After filling up with Lime Peak Fuel my Camelbak decided to develop a leak. I tried to ignore the sticky liquid dropping down my back, but stopped when I realised it was dripping all over my phone. I couldn't stop the leak, so I drank as much as I could and emptied the rest. All up I figure I lost around ten minutes, a ten minutes I was to later regret.

From Linkwater it was only another couple of undulations to Havelock, then a sharp left-hand turn and short, steep climb to start heading back towards Renwick. A road sign said 29km to go. I had ridden 5km further than ever before. It was about this point that the ride went from being a lot of fun to only slightly fun and possibly not fun at all.

We turned onto what was supposed to be a fast, flat ride back to the start. Unfortunately the tailwind we'd been promised turned into a distinct headwind. It was also overcast again. Oh, and that shop-standard unisex saddle? Not so good! The last thirty kilometres were a test of fortitude. My legs hurt, my hip hurt, my knee hurt, my butt hurt. OMG did my butt hurt! My sit bones ached in the worst way. I had to keep standing up in the saddle for relief. And that wind kept blowing.

My speedometer, which had been sitting comfortably over 30 for most of the race (except obviously for the climbs) told the sad tale. I struggled to simply stick over 25. The snakes and biscuit and Replace just weren't doing it any more. There wasn't much more to give. I tried without success to find a pack to jump onto. A couple on a tandem kept flying past me then slowing, causing me to have to pull out around them to overtake again, only to have them flying past again a few minutes later.

Finally a lovely older guy appeared next to me and told me to grab his wheel and take a break. Thanks guy on a blue Avanti with cages and sneakers. I wanted to hug you! I stayed with Avanti guy for quite a while. We would sit in behind packs, then overtake them, then he would get a little ahead of me, then I would catch up again. Finally he got a little too far ahead of me, but by that point the 10km sign had appeared. I tried not to think about how much longer that 10km would take me at the pace I was riding. Every little incline made me want to weep. I could still get up them easy enough, but psychologically I just didn't want to have to!

At this point it's criminal not to mention the excellent crowd support. Thanks to all the people sitting on the side of the road clapping and cheering. It really meant a lot. You are all wonderful. You made me want to be a race volunteer.

We turned a corner and there it was - a vine. Vines meant vineyards, and vineyards meant we must be nearly there. Finally there was a 5km sign. Those of us still riding started pulling alongside each other, smiling and chatting. I thought by this point that I'd gone well over four and a half hours. I had stopped caring about my time. was just so pleased to be finishing, and so proud of myself for having made it around.

Then there was a 1km sign, then a marshall I wanted to kiss waving us into the vineyard. From there it was another windy 800m down the driveway, then over the finishline, unclipping, pulling up onto the grass, getting off my bike, actually being able to get my leg over, noticing immediately how cramped my quads were, having a wonderful woman bend down to take my transponder off, and was it really all over?

It took a few minutes to find everyone in the heaving mass. I still had no idea what my time was. I was feeling a little lonely, then I came across a Gearshifters shirt. Kathryn told me I was a few minutes behind her, and that her watch had said 4.05. I figured I'd probably come in around 4.15. I'd wanted to do under 4 and a half, with 4 being my best case scenario. Given the ten minutes or so I'd lost to the Camelbak I was thrilled.

Do you know that feeling of accomplishment? That feeling that you get when you've worked really, really hard at something, and you've succeeded. You realise that you haven't just finished what you'd set out to do, but that you've finished it really well? That feeling hit me hard and fast and suddenly I was as chatty and ecstatic as I had been tired and grumpy the night before. No, I couldn't shut up. I was reliving every single happy little moment. I couldn't really walk, but I was happy!

I grabbed my free Subway ham six-inch from the stand, along with a chocolate cookie. I couldn't stomach the sandwich but that cookie was probably the best damn cookie I've ever tasted. We sat around and chatted for a while longer, then Lauren and Kathryn and I dashed home for a shower. I still wasn't hungry, but I realised after my shower that I was shaking, so I forced myself to eat half of my sandwich, then binned the rest. I also figured it would probably be a good idea to take a little more Hydrocortisone.

At the prizegiving none of us won any iPod docking stations or roof racks or overseas holidays or any of the other fabulous prizes. We admired the 70 year old guy who made it around the course in a faster time than us, and the guy who rode around the course twice in a single-geared bike that was over 50 years old and weighed 25kg. Afterwards we checked out our official times. Mine - 4.12. Kathryn's - 4.02. If only I hadn't stopped .... If only there hadn't been a headwind on the return ....

Of course, the time is really not that important. Compared to most I'm slow, but I was fast on the day for me, and for someone who's really only been riding a couple of months, and for someone who might well have been born brain-damaged, and for someone with three auto-immune disorders, and for someone who's only really just been active the last couple of years. I'm actually not trying to explain away my comparative slowness here. I'm actually trying to say "yay me". What a great 35th birthday present - to be so proud of myself.

Lauren, Kathryn and I gave two of the Gearshifters, Veejay and "Buzzer" a lift to Blenheim and we all decided to try our luck getting a table at the Cornerstore. The restaurant was empty but booked out, but they allowed us to order from the restaurant menu while sitting at a table in the bar. Conveniently we were right next to the large screen, broadcasting a Crusaders game (which they then won).

Kathryn ordered five huge chocolate bonbons for the table, so we started with dessert. I downed most of a bottle of cider before realising I was really dehydrated and switching to water. Lauren, Kathryn and I ordered the "Graperide" pasta: penne with chicken and basil pesto. I ordered the accompanying Chardonnay. The bowls when they arrived were massive, but they disappeared in short order. My stomach kind of went into shock at that point ... it still hasn't completely recovered.

We spent the rest of our time at the restaurant convincing Veejay and Buzzer to sign up for Taupo. I think we succeeded. After that we headed back to our little cottage in Renwick and it wasn't long before I was in bed. I read for a while then turned the light out. I was dead tired, but my mind was racing and still on the bike course. It took a little while, but I finally dropped into a heavy sleep. I woke at 5.45, then we were all racing to get packed and to get our bikes back on the car. We were at the ferry terminal by 7a.m. It was a freezing morning and we were glad it had been so much warmer the day before.

Kathryn and I sat with some of the other Gearshifters women, Karen, Karyn and Julia (and another woman whose name I've temporarily forgotten) in the lounge bar all of the way home. We pulled into Wellington on one of those sunny, still 'good' days. It's safe to say I was happy. Very happy.

So, I love cycling and I had a fantastic time. It's as simple as that. My glutes still ache a bit, my quads are a bit tight, and my hip's probably in worse condition than it seems right now. However I feel ok. I'm still in a little bubble of joy. Today was such a perfect day for a recovery ride, but I held back. My sitbones didn't want to be anywhere near that saddle. Maybe later this week.

Bring on Taupo! And I've booked the cottage again for Grape Ride next year. There are two single beds going if anyone's interested. Oh, and I've also come to the sad conclusion that Lola needs to go on a diet. I picked up Kathryn's full-carbon Giant and nearly died of shock. I hadn't realised how heavy Lola was. I'm now thinking Lola will get to pull me around Taupo, then it might be time to pass her on to another home. Sniff ... perhaps my mother will be ready to go road bike by then!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

All geeked out and off to Marlborough

I love my husband. I told him my Grape Ride adventure, so what does he give me today, the night before I head off to Renwick? Only .... a .....

Garmin Forerunner 305!!!!!!!!!

I've been lusting after these for a looong, looonnnng time. I am so geeked out right now! My new little baby is happily charging away on her docking station and the software is being loaded onto our PC. On Saturday I will know exactly how much further I have to ride, and I will know exactly what pace I am going. No cadence monitor yet - that's another $90, but I think I have enough gadgetry to be going on with.

Oh, and the best bit is that she is the exact red, silver and black as depicted on the Garmin website, which means she even matches Lola perfectly.

So, my last ride may have been dismal, I may have spent the whole week trying to heal my sacroilleac, I may feel nervous and hellishly underprepared, but hey, I'm going to look the part out there. And the weather forecast isn't too bad either.

Though I admit to a feeling of trepidation as I left my bike with Lauren this evening, the guy who is driving us down to Renwick. I really would have liked to have seen her placed safely on the back of his car, but he insisted he could handle things on his own. Sigh ...

This whole Grape Ride expedition feels like a HUGE event. I'm looking forward to it, in between the bouts of nerves!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

NaPoWriMo 8: The Cats

Well, my pain levels are dropping but I'm suffering extreme exercise withdrawal. I now know what it means to have taper madness. My body is jangling with unused hormones and energy and I've been on a bit of a psychological roller coaster. The only thing getting me through this is the knowledge that I do seem to be healing, so I'm obviously doing the right thing. In any case, I needed to concentrate on something a little more lighthearted today. Here's an off-the-cuff piece on a less substantial topic!

The Meeting of the Feline Bonnie and Clyde
You can see the hamster
wheel smoking in the
poor boy’s brain, the
cat that thinks he’s a
dog, the blue Burmese
baby indoors, bully without.
There is a small brown ball
of fluff wending its way
towards him, orange eyes,
orange chin, small orange paw.

Then, as we wonder whether
the new edition will become
fodder, whether we need to
embark on a rescue mission,
we can see him thinking
“Oh look, it plays”!

There follow a couple more
fraught hours as he works out
that six kilos of muscle must
adapt its methods if it wants
the game to continue for
very long, then suddenly
success and running and
chasing and friendship and …

That was the last night we
were able to sleep without
disturbance in a very long,
long time.

Monday, April 07, 2008

My Wild Self

Build your own wild self.

NaPoWriMo 7: Healing

Without realising it I've written poems about being kind to myself two days in a row.

In Need of Healing
There is nothing much
to be said today.
The words have all
been sucked away,
pulled in by a hip
that pinches and
snarls, reaches
upwards and
forwards, dragging
me with it, radiating
a gagged ache
through my shoulders,
down my right
quadricep and into
my right knee.
Stand and the rope
it holds binds
tighter. Lie and
it bears down,
weighting bone.

Soon I will rip
free of these
bonds, scream
defiance then
once certain of
my strength
soften again,
croon gently to
these punished
limbs, be kind
to myself, and

Sunday, April 06, 2008

NaPoWriMo 6: Feeling Moody

End of Daylight Savings
Early autumn in this
city bares her
complex beauty.
No showy coat of
reds and golds here.
The Southerly has not
yet arrived and the
harbour is a flat
slick slate.

At home mist is
channeling through
Berhampore from
the Strait and across
to Brooklyn. The sea
is grey, the sky is
grey and the mountains
have turned their
flanks to sulk
behind a curtain.

I would feel better
about this flux, the
clocks set back for
the year, the dip
in the temperature,
but my body aches
for sun and warmth
and in the absence of
both demands rest.

Today I will cower
beneath a blanket
and be gentle on
myself. All reckoning
can wait until

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Deja Vu

It's Saturday night again, and it's raining. Again! I was relieved in a way to have an excuse not to ride my planned 30km of hills today (Houghton Bay Rd, Alexandra Rd, home up Brooklyn), because I was nursing the hangover to beat all hangovers and a huge dose of contrition. So I've sat on the sofa and eaten rubbish all day instead!

Other than that my week has gone really well. I'm having to manage my sacroilleac injury. A massage on Monday morning left me feeling a lot better for a few hours, then very sore and emotional that night. It's taken the rest of the week to start to feel like I might be recovering. Still, I'm a bit worried. Duck had me doing one-legged drills on a spin bike on Thursday morning and I was noticeably weaker on my right side. I really need to get this sorted.

Given that my training this week had the potential to make things even worse I should be pleased I'm feeling relatively pain-free today. After taking Monday off I fitted in my lower-body workout and an RPM class after work on Tuesday. The fourth floor was unusually testosterone-fueled. One of the leg press machines was loaded up with 14 20kg plates, and there was no way I was going to take all of them off, so I waited until another became available. Even then I had to take six plates off to do my single-leg reps. Grrr! Afterwards Duck's class was fun, though my hip was feeling quite pinchy by the end of it.

The next day I walked up to the Botanical Gardens and did intervals around the sports field there. It's the first time I've done outside since the ankle injury back in November. Speed work probably wasn't the best thing to be doing with the back injury either, but I was on a mission.

The first interval felt slow, slow, slow. The third was the best. The fifth was slow again. I knew I was killing myself each time but I felt like I was barely moving. Afterwards it was such a lovely evening that I decided I wasn't ready to finish up, so I ran up the Serpentine Path (which felt flat), back down through the Gardens and cemetery, and along the side of the motorway back to the gym.

Thursday was a mammoth day. I spun my legs out on a fairly light setting for nearly 40 minutes waiting for Duck to finish up. We mixed up the drills with lunges on a balance disc and mixed up a number of different lower- and upper-body reps. After work I was down to run 40 minutes of hills, preferably on a trail. I was still feeling sore and my legs were pretty dead but I got a bit stubborn and decided I was going to run anyway. In the end I decided to try the Kelburn loop I was starting to time myself on just before I injured my ankle. I wanted to know whether I really had slowed down.

I'm not sure whether I've lost speed, but I do know that I've gained endurance on hill climbs. I jogged up to the viaduct at an easy, steady pace with a good heart rate. I made myself speed up a bit once on the flat and did feel like I was running a little more like my old self. Unfortunately I took a wrong turn in the Gardens, got rather lost, ended up coming out in a completely different place from what I was expecting, and had to double back up and down a few more small hills than I'd planned. I did reach a good sprint pace though running back along the side of the motorway. In the end I was out for 50 minutes.

With the plan being to ride both days this weekend, yesterday was a rest day and, although I could have swapped the ride for a spin class the hangover and rain killed my motivation. Tomorrow's supposed to be 'the big ride' before Grape Ride. If this weather keeps up it isn't going to happen! At least the two rest days have given my back an opportunity to heal up a bit I guess. This week is a light week, so I should be in a pretty good place come Saturday. The nervousness and excitement are building!

NaPoWriMo5: Rain

Do not curse the rain
falling from a Sunday sky.
The rain is a river
running through the
valley of your memory.
It is the pulse at
the corner of your eye,
the mist rising from the
earth at midnight
at Canaan Downs, the
dancers with their
hands in the air.

The rain carries with
it no motive or
malice. It simply
falls and does not
mind where or on
whom it lands.

You are the rain,
lying on your bed
with its sheets warm
from the moist
pores of you body.

Go, spread floods over
waiting seeds in the
fields of your life.

Friday, April 04, 2008

NaPoWriMo 4: For Leonie

Because it's always nice to have a fan club ...

A Conversation That Never Happened But
Could Have Done
We are sitting on the bench at
the bottom of the garden,
the one that looks out over
the airport runway and
Peter Jackson’s film set,
the one with the giant

Planes are landing
from the South and when
they touch down there is
smoke from the tires and
the loud roaring of brakes.

I didn’t know, he says
that the sound is the planes
taking off, not landing.
We all nod, take another
sip from our wine glasses,
and watch in silence.

Do you ever think, he asks,
about the woman sitting
by the Ganges somewhere
in India, scrubbing her
Sari clean? Or about the
old man sitting on his
porch in Kansas, watching
his corn grow?

There’s a woman sitting
on that plane who is
returning home from
a business meeting and
is hoping her husband
has cooked her dinner.

The sun sets, the sky
grows dark and everywhere
street lights flicker on.
We watch cars driving
along Lyall Bay,
and we wonder who
is watching us and
whether anyone is
watching everyone.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

NaPoWriMo 3: Eyedropping

In response to the prompt "Eavesdropping"

There's a guy,
short, light
grey pinstriped suit,
Black curly hair,
Talking on a cellphone
with his right hand,
supermarket bag,
department store,
in the other.
His hips pulse
rapidly to
the left,
the bag
swings revolutions
around a bollard.
He talks,

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

NaPoWriMo2: Let's get this started

On the prompt "Smudge":

There’s a smudge on the
wall under the window sill,
right below where a spider
web is gathering dust.

Outside the peach tree
has blossomed, people
are walking in the park
in short sleeves and
dogs are chasing frisbees
in the Domain.

But here grease is collecting
behind the stove-top and
mould is growing in the
vegetable bin.

I’m lying in bed
watching the spider web
blowing in a draught
coming through a gap
in the window frame.

Over and over
I’m thinking of
dirt and disorder and
I’m thinking of

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

NaPoWriMo 1: Am I really doing this again?

I must be mad. Here's one based on a prompt from a few weeks back:


There were days when she

felt everything to be surreal,

days of disassociation from

the world around her, nights

where her hand was not her

hand and the connection between

the woman who thought and

spoke and the flesh that

carried those proclamations

of identity seemed

overwhelmingly tenuous.

One morning she sat in

a garden in the sun and

silence listening to the

sound of her heart and her

breathing and felt everything

receding until rational

experience shrank into a

single strand on the woven

fabric of the universe.

She could not explain who

she was nor how she

had come to be here, any

more than she could explain

the Bumble Bee humming

nearby nor the mildew on

the shaded side of the

wall against which she

was leaning.

From paralysis and division

there somehow grew

an awareness that

some things are best

not thought too deeply

about. Some matters are

best left to surrender and

acceptance and a trust

that somewhere something

or someone must have

some kind of plan.

Because regardless of

her perception of

separation or otherwise

the world stubbornly

continued to go on

its own business, refused

to collapse in response

to a simple crisis of

self and confidence.

Because in fact she

was not other,

merely but not simply

part of an unquantifiable