Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tales from the Front Line

Honestly, some people should just not be let loose in a gym. We all know the types - the grunters, the equipment hoggers, the people chatting on their mobile phones. Last night it was a woman waving her legs around half-heartedly on the abductor machine while READING A MAGAZINE! I mean, come on honey, if you have enough energy and concentration to complete your set of weights and read at the same time then you're just not working hard enough. If I were her trainer, and sorry, but there's no other words for this so skip the next couple of lines if you're easily offended, I would want to bitch-slap her.

Tonight it was the woman doing chest press on a bench with a couple of 10kg barbells. Her form was so atrocious her press looked more like a wounded fly. Her partner was hovering over her head and I was wondering why he wasn't trying to correct her form, until he took her place on the bench. Lifting weights that were obviously far too heavy for him his technique, if possible, was even worse. I turned away then turned around again just in time to see him twisting sideways as the weights he was holding dropped to the floor perilously close to his kidneys. She was standing close to his head, just watching. Obviously spotting was an unheard of concept as well. Sheesh.

Ok, whinge over! As for me, I'm still clearing my throat more often than a tobacco smoker, but the energy levels are creeping back. I even started wanting to exercise and feeling that slight frisson of anticipation. I had no muscle soreness to speak of after Monday's run and charged my way through Dee's RPM class the next morning. We did the usual hill for track 2 instead of the prescribed format, then track 3 was another hill consisting of a series of challenging intervals with standing rest breaks in between. After the second interval, which was particularly gruelling, the music died right down and everyone paused to rest. Amusingly there was a clearly audible and collective gasp of relief as our lungs collapsed into recovery mode. I've never heard a class in a more unified state of agony.

Still feeling fresh I skipped out of work at 11.10 to do Mike's Balance class. Even that seemed to go well, although the balance through my right ankle is all shot to heck again. My back seems a lot better though and I think all the twisting I've been doing between workouts is really helping. I noted particularly that my hips weren't cramping up the way they have been. Apart from the dodgy ankle and sacroilleac the rest of me seems to be in fairly good shape.

True to form it poured down on Wednesday. The Internet news sites were full of tales of flooding and general disaster, which made for a great distraction from work. Unfortunately, although Wellington was spared the general distruction that hit other areas of the island, outside it was hosing down and extremely wet. My motivation was in danger of failing me, particularly after two glasses of wine and some potato chips at work farewell drinks for one of my managers. However there's this little voice in my head, and I acknowledge that it's partly coming from a place of fear. This little voice keeps telling me that I'm the only person watching out for me now. I'm the only one making myself lift weights, making myself get out there on the footpath. It was enough to have me heading off out of the office after 5 and walking the few metres to the gym.

By that time the rain had almost stopped and there was no wind. However two glasses of wine and fatty carbs do not a good run make. I told myself I could keep the run short, but only if I did an interval session. It's been far too long since I've run the lamp post gauntlet. So intervals it was, and did they ever feel horrid. From the gym I ran down as far as Herd Street to warm up. After that it was sprint two lamp posts, jog two lamp posts past Oriental Bay. Oh, except for the "OMG I really need to go to the bathroom NOW" dash to the public toilets by Freyberg. It's taken two and a half years but I am now officially a runner ... Yes, I know, TMI.

I think I've mentioned before that I hate my Adidas Formotion shoe laces. I've never had laces that come undone as often as these do. I've tried every mechanism of double-knotting known to the Boy Scouts Association but last night was just one of those nights where they refused to play ball. So I had a couple of stops to fix those, and two "I need to reassess my pre-run hydration strategy" stops for water. On the way back to the gym I threw in a couple of longer intervals - the length of the Chaffers building, then the distance of Te Papa down the promenade, then the length of Frank Kitts. I also threw in a couple of three lamp post sprints for good measure.

The thing with intervals is that they will inevitably feel horrid and slow and nasty, particularly without a group to guage a sense of my relative speed. However afterwards there's always a sense of pride at having just willingly put myself through something so unpleasant, and the runner's high kicks in regardless. I was well-pleased and I knew that every little bit will be helping me prepare for a sub-two half.

I really wanted to do my Thursday Duck-bashing without the Duck this morning, but I had two external meetings first thing early in the morning and there wasn't enough time to gym, shower, eat and meet. Instead I got myself through work then convinced myself to head next door again by promising myself I could do a half hour on an exercise bike then see how I felt. It was still pouring down outside and it was more than I could do to force myself to run.

Of course, after a very hard half hour hill session on the bike where I bumped the level up to stupid heights I was warmed up and a bit psyched. As a result I raced off upstairs and put myself through the first of Duck's three programmes, the one that is mainly upper-body focused. And being as fired up as I was, I cranked the weights up and threw in some extra pull-ups. The shaky arms afterwards were were both gratifying and reassuring. Perhaps I won't turn into a muscle-free wimp zone after all ...

I'm hopeful that next week will be more of the same but that the quality of the runs will increase as my lungs reinflate. Tomorrow I plan a hill run and on Saturday I'm going to limit myself to a Balance class. On Sunday I'm meeting up with the weekday runners to do Belmont Park. Unfortunately due to time constraints I'm going to have to limit myself to 10km, but the trail is likely to be a mud bath so I'm sure it will be challenging enough.

Monday, July 28, 2008

I tell myself it's just a blue day

And perhaps that's all it was - a whole series of the darn things. After pouring out a tale of internal woe yesterday today seemed positively cheery.

Perhaps it was being back at work in air-conditioned warmth. Perhaps it was the sun that broke briefly through the clouds mid-morning and bathed my desk in a welcome pool of sun. Perhaps it was a day of eating to plan. Even though I spent part of today filling out my end-of-year performance review document (never a fulfilling task), which led to an inevitable bout of navel-gazing (am I really fit to do this job?), I left work feeling positively optomistic. More than that, I actually spent the afternoon WANTING to run. Yay - I think I might finally be recovering. Perhaps the weekend of rest paid off.

I stuck to the physio's plan though and scheduled that flat 7km run after work. I stopped off briefly to chat to Sarah, who was sitting by the waterfront opposite Frank Kitts reading a book before meeting the former Jog Squadders for their 6pm run. Sarah didn't seem to think that 7km constitued a short run. I begged to differ!

It seemed like every runner in Wellington was out for what must be one of the very few perfectly calm, still evenings of this winter. Sure, it was still overcast, but it was no more than crisp and it was possible to venture outside without being blasted across the harbour or frozen to death. As I crossed over Jervois Quay to the waterfront a woman in a long-sleeved merino top took off past me. In fact, everyone took off past me. I wasn't running that slowly, surely?

Pink merino disappeared off into the distance and stopping for Sarah lost me anyone else who had been in the vicinity when I crossed the road. Despite promising Sarah I wouldn't run too fast pride made me pick it up a bit. Another woman in a long-sleeved blue top ran past then seemed to slow down a bit. I ran a short distance behind her until she stopped near Pt Jerningham. As I ran past I called out to her not to stop because she was setting me a good pace. She looked a little startled so perhaps I should have held my tongue! I'm so dorky that way.

Did I mention it was a beautiful evening? Two rowers stroked gentle laps backwards and forwards near Frank Kitts. Two small yachts were out enjoying the still evening twilight. Gentle swells rolled in, creating ripples in the otherwise mirror-like harbour. Oriental Bay looked terribly inviting, even only if triple-layered in neoprene! Everything took on pastel shades of pink and blue, edged with silver as the sun slowly set. Back across the harbour the city lights were flicking on, a pale orange against all that pastel. When I reached the turn-around point I wanted to keep going. I was good though. I turned back.

The further I ran the better I felt. My form returned as my body remembered what this running thing was all about. I ran a negative split as I allowed myself to push the pace a bit. I enjoyed the feeling of my lungs opening up again, shaking loose the remaining vestiges of this virus. I knew I would have post-run cough this evening.

Pink merino appeared behind me as I was approaching the Jervois Rd crossing again. We ran almost side-by-side, matching strides, all the way back to the gym. As we were stretching I complimented her on her pace and we exchanged a few words about being knocked out by colds and grinding our way through recovery runs.

I did my physio-prescribed glute exercises, stretched a bit, then jumped on a bus back home. Chicken and salad for dinner, a small glass of wine, a wonderfully hot shower ...

The last few weeks of mental madness seem a distant memory, at least for this evening. Am I finally getting better? Was it getting out of the house, away from the cold, or was it the run? Whatever it was, I now feel more like myself than I have done for a little while. It's a relief, to say the least.

Let's see how I feel after 6.30 a.m. RPM tomorrow! I'm pleasantly surprised by how good my legs feel, given the weights and RPM combo I put them through on Sunday (when I upped the leg press quite significantly). I marvel again at how the amount of muscle soreness I experience these days is much less than it was pre-B12 shots.

RPM in the morning, Balance at lunch and Black Tuesday at BATS tomorrow night. Tomorrow should be quite pleasant ...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Pause Before the Beginning

It's been a while since I last posted. I think when I left you all I was suffering from a cold, which I think I caught from Duck before she left. Getting sick put a full-stop on the personal trainer era, forcing me to take a week and a half out from the gym. During that time I went through a bit of a dark patch. Sitting around at home didn't do much for my anxiety levels and general mental health.

As soon as I could I got back to the gym. In my first week post-cold I did two forty minute runs, one sixty minute run (a horrific experience in very cold rain), two RPM classes, a Balance class and some weights. I felt like I was easing myself back in easily, but in retrospect perhaps not. Perhaps understandably I felt like I was dragging myself through my workouts. I wasn't dying, but I was lacking the zing.

Last week the feeling of suffering something post-viral was growing stronger. I couldn't stop coughing and my lungs just weren't up to scratch. I ran with the former Jog Squadders on the Monday night, setting them some circuits around Frank Kitts, but pulled out after the second lap. I'm taking advantage of my time out to try to get my back problems sorted and the physio had given me permission to run within a certain pain limit. By the time I finished taking the City-to-Sea bridge steps two at a time I could feel myself getting too sore.

Tuesday I fitted in another RPM class, still feeling very tired. Steve took over for the evening and his screaming got me working harder than I'd expected. Wednesday was a forced rest day, thanks to a day trip up to Auckland and back for a conference (in itself exhausting). I had a 6.30 a.m flight to Auckland and didn't get home till 8.30 that night.

On Thursday I got up planning to do a Duck session without the Duck. I set my exercycle for a challenging half hour hill programme then settled in to watch the Tour de France. A ride through a picturesque valley turned into a beautiful long hill climb in the sun. Thirty minutes turned into around 55 minutes and I stayed glued to the screen until the stage finished. That left me only half an hour to try one of Duck's new programmes so I decided to head to work early instead. After work I selected the most leg-focused of the three workouts, heading home still feeling tired but happy.

I had a meeting scheduled over the top of Friday's Balance class and it was simply too cold and wet to venture out for a run in my post-viral state. The physio that aafternoon got me to do some one-legged squats and I was shocked at how unstable my right side has become. I worked so hard to build it up and then let it all slip away. So now I'm working on my glutes again - sigh! I have some exercises to do and I'm allowed to run, just not too far downhill. The physio was also concerned that I would try to push myself too hard before my body had recovered from this cold. She gave me permission to do some short runs but nothing too intense. Seriously reined in then!

On Saturday the 'mother of all storms' was hitting the country. Hamish took off with the car and it was just too extreme outside to try bussing or walking anywhere. Staying inside in the warm seemed like a sensible option, in keeping with the general spirit of being kind to myself and allowing my body to heal.

Being kind to myself was all very well, but there was of course the side of me worrying about dwindling fitness and increasing body fat. Today it was still cold but the wind backed off and I took possession of the car for an afternoon at the gym. It was time for the third of Duck's programmes, followed by another RPM. They both went well. I still don't quite have my full energy levels back but I'm getting there. I'll try a run tomorrow and see how that goes. I continue to cough, but not as badly.

The last few weeks have been challenging. The lack of exercise, not matched by a drop in food intake, and the onset of two cold, fierce storms have played havoc with my sanity. Not only do I know I've put on a little weight but I've been struggling to keep my mind from spinning out of control. I've been over-reacting to stress-triggers that I would usually shrug off. I worry a lot about this house. I worry the central heating is breaking again, the hot water cylinder packing up. The dish washer definitely isn't working properly and the fridge is questionable. The piles under the spare bedroom seem to be a bit soft. A leak in the kitchen cupboard has damaged the formica cabinetry to the point where we might need to lodge an insurance claim. Through it all it's cold, cold, cold. Outside it is regularly wet and windy beyond belief. Work has been stressful. This all adds up to a strange form of claustrophobia that can only be solved through some serious time out, away from everything. However that's unlikely to happen, so I'm hoping the usual round of running and cycling and Balance will eventually kick the demons to the curb again.

I'm feeling a little trepidation about having sole responsibility now for maintaining my fitness levels. Duck's three programmes are good, but they don't feel intense enough and I may tweak them a bit. I was really enjoying doing pull-ups, so I plan to throw in some sets of those somewhere. I want to do some heavier leg weights over the next month in preparation for the Taupo training when I will have to back off again. I also need to do more core work than is provided for in any of the programmes. I feel like I need to be focussing the next month on strength training overall, then introducing some interval stuff around the start of the cycling sessions before easing into maintenance mode as the weekend rides get longer. I think I know what I need and I have a lot of tools on hand. I just need to sit down and get myself organised. But first I need to get over this darn virus.

All is not bad though. I had some delicious porridge for breakfast, cooked a fantastic and healthy black bean soup for lunch and followed that with pasta with ratatouille for dinner (and a wonderfully crisp Packham pear for dessert). The cats have been cute and the weather tomorrow is supposed to be a little better. Worse things have happened!

Monday, July 14, 2008


Stolen from Whirling Dervish at Stoney Moss

You are The Lovers

Motive, power, and action, arising from Inspiration and Impulse.

The Lovers represents intuition and inspiration. Very often a choice needs to be made.

Originally, this card was called just LOVE. And that's actually more apt than "Lovers." Love follows in this sequence of growth and maturity. And, coming after the Emperor, who is about control, it is a radical change in perspective. LOVE is a force that makes you choose and decide for reasons you often can't understand; it makes you surrender control to a higher power. And that is what this card is all about. Finding something or someone who is so much a part of yourself, so perfectly attuned to you and you to them, that you cannot, dare not resist. This card indicates that the you have or will come across a person, career, challenge or thing that you will fall in love with. You will know instinctively that you must have this, even if it means diverging from your chosen path. No matter the difficulties, without it you will never be complete.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Read Write Poem: Dark Summer

Totaranui Beach, Golden Bay
Summer 2007

Summer Holiday
That day
we walked
too far and
the tide covered
the rocks
on our return.

We timed our
wading with
the waves,
oyster shells
cutting our feet.
A sting-ray swam

Back on the
beach the surf
pursued us
into the
sand dunes where
Katipo hid

There were sea
lice in your
togs and
sunburn stung
so that the
elastic from
your underwear
bit at your legs.

We had dinner
at Cobb and Co
and Dad got
food poisoning
from the mushrooms.

It was the
worst day
of the summer.

And a bonus, seeing as the Read Write Poem girls were sweet enough to provide me with my own prompt. I had already started working on the original prompt, but their generosity could not be overlooked!

In Wellington
we dwindle,
shrink to fit
between the rain,
to duck beneath
the wind.
We slow -
houses growing
drafty villas too
cold for movement.
We hide in bed,
preserve energy instead.
Yes, we know these are
not tropical isles.
And yet here,
no double glazing,
central heating.
Such ridiculous
We are
hills and sleet
carried across
the water from
the Kaikouras.
We are waiting,
waiting for the
storm to pass,
the wind to die,
the sun to shine.
We are waiting
for the Shining
, the
orgiastic Tuis
of the spring.
We are waiting,
but we,
the antipodians,
are survivors.
Here at the
Southern end
of this Northern

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

This 14 year old girl

Is a Junior Olympic ski champion and an inspiration.

I was happy to see that my workouts have included a good percentage of the stuff she's doing here, but she's lunging a lot more weight in her sandbag than I carry in a powerbag! I can't do any of the backflips or any other gymnastic-type moves either.

Sigh. I love Crossfit. I wish a gym in Wellington would take on the concept.

Listening and Understanding

If there's one thing I've learned the hard way, it's how to listen to my body. My body has been telling me it's sick!

I stayed home on Monday, but grudgingly. It's so cold here at the moment. Over the course of the day I started to get a very particular kind of cabin craziness. This house started to feel like the enemy. I was convinced the hot water cylinder was playing up again and reverting to its former rumbling, shaking behaviour. Things were either in the process of breaking or already broken (the dishwasher, the fridge, the piles under the spare room). At one point I became convinced I could smell gas coming from the central heating unit (like I could really smell much at all) and phoned Hamish to come home and check it.

I knew staying home on my own in this frame of mind was self-destructive. Unfortunately the only other option was to head back to the office. That option wasn't really going to work for me either. On Tuesday, despite being up most of the night coughing and struggling to breathe, I managed to convince myself I would still be better off at work. My wiser self knew I was wrong. Sure enough, I declined as the day went on. At one point I came over all whoozy while listening to one of my team members explaining a problem she had identified and felt like I was going to pass out. I caved in at 2.00, by which time I was so achy I could barely sit at my desk. At home I checked my temperature and found I had developed a fever. Power bills be damned, I cranked up the central heating and jumped in the shower, then spent the rest of the afternoon with a polarfleece blanket around my shoulders and a sleeping bag over my lap. By the time I went to bed the temperature was receding and I was feeling a lot more normal.

It was plain I wasn't going to be going to work today, but I knew I couldn't repeat Monday's descent into paranoia either. The solution has been a couple of good books, some healthy food and some not so healthy food. I don't know what it is about being ill that makes me crave hydrogenised fats (Cheezels, for goodness sake), but for once I was going to indulge myself. They went well with the Minestrone soup!

I AM genuinely on the improve today. The cold is clearing from my head quite quickly, but is definitely lingering in my chest. I'm feeling wheezy and am having a bit of difficulty filling my lungs. The slight struggle is causing me to hyperventilate. So no exercise for me tomorrow then. However the weekday runners have their first Belmont Park run on Sunday and I badly want to be on board. There are 10km 15km and 18km options and I'd normally be in for 18. Realistically I'll be struggling to do 10km max. Thankfully there are some slower runners for me to hang with if need be!

There is some comfort in the way that I have responded to this latest cold in a predictable manner, and that I have been able to address that behaviour with rehearsed and effective strategies. I still have a neurotic side, obviously, but I think I have it a little more under control!

Monday, July 07, 2008


I just couldn't believe my ears when I heard an advertisement for this product.

Do we REALLY need individually wrapped dried plums? The counter on the site boasts that over quarter of a million 'Ones' are sold every day. That's 250,000 individual plastic wrappers littering the environment.

Time to take a leaf out of Fake Plastic Fish's book and stop the lunacy.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Since when ...

Is a cold considered to be a suitable going away present?

I have a sore throat. I'm trying to pretend it's not there, but unfortunately I don't think it's going to let me ignore it.

It's been an odd week. RPM on Tuesday night, boxing training on Wednesday morning then a solitary 7km run around the waterfront on Wednesday night. On Thursday Duck made me do more pushups than I could count, adding in a few pull-ups and various other pain-inducing exercises. At one point I told her I hated her, and it's been a while since I've felt inclined to do that. So that was it - almost the end of the Duck era. We agreed we didn't want to get emotional, we agreed I was in a good place, then I got teary out of nowhere and we both took off.

This morning was spent with a bowl of porridge, a dozen personal trainers and Duck again - the final goodbye! When I wasn't looking the small handful of other clients who had turned up disappeared. So I gave Ms PT a hug then disappeared as well, apparently taking a cold bug with me.

I've been a bit off in general all week. It's not often these days that my mood hikes downwards, but something just hasn't been right. Call it winter, call it whatever. I went out for a run at lunchtime feeling strangely sad and oddly angry at something I couldn't isolate. It was rather cold and the wind was particularly frigid and I expected to be feeling fatigued. I pushed my way up to Kelburn and disappeared from the conscious realm for long minutes at a time. Every now and then I would resurface, unable to remember what I'd been thinking, for just long enough to note that I was still running steadily, then I would just kind of waft off again. As I ran through Kelburn I found myself running faster and faster, some unbidden energy pushing me forwards. I turned the wrong way again in the Botanical Gardens and began to turn randomly down new paths. Every time I hit a hill I used my anger to surge up it. There weren't many people out in the cold, but every now and then someone would stop and move to the side for me to pass.

It was about halfway through my angry hill-training that my general sense of dislocation started to right itself. Still outside of myself I had a sudden glimpse of a woman running at pace up hills, mid-way through a challenging run and still holding her own. The me of two and a half years ago did not recognise the now me as herself. For a few seconds I got to see myself the way those strangers who were getting out of my way did. A part of me was graduating from a long course of study. A part of me was coming to the end of one stage of a journey.

I got to the end of that run still not really sure where I'd been or where I'd ended up. I think though that I got a slightly different sense of myself today, and that I also took on responsibility for something. It feels like it was significant.

Either that or it was just my immune system bottoming out!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A Random Poem

Small Observations
The light arrives through
the sash windows,
filtered by yesterday's washing
still hanging under the veranda.

Morning creeps onwards,
despite your night-time hair, a
greying shadow retreating
back underneath the duvet.

The cats are completing
their change-of-shift handover,
one waking, one settling,
seeking the heat of the sun.

I am getting ready
around your bare consciousness,
listening to the weather forecast,
switching on the hair dryer.

After all this time
you are still not fit for the morning.
and still there are aspects of you
that I find strange and amazing.