Sunday, September 26, 2010

Brunch at the new Parade Cafe

Those of you from Wellington will remember the Parade Cafe in Oriental Bay. The building in which the cafe was situated was recently demolished and apartments are being built in its place. Parade has now reopened in the Tug Boat next to Freyberg and, as luck would have it, is busier and better than ever.

H and I enjoyed brunch in a small side area nearly at water level. It was a blustery, choppy day on the sea and the swaying of the boat was a little disorientating at first. It was fun to watch seagulls hovering in the wind, fixed in place.

I have a bike ride and big week of training, plus race plans, to discuss. Right now though it's time for bed.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Mad Kind of Day

Today has been notable for its moments of oddness. It started out with the unbelievable sight above. Our 10 year old female Burmese, Ede, hated Tissy, our fluffy moggy, when Tissy was a kitten. She wouldn't even be in the same room with her and almost moved out of the house for six months. To see them eating from the same plate - so much cuteness! I had the warm fuzzies all morning.

From there things got increasingly bizarre. From strange guys initiating random conversations in the lift to a guy wandering round the weights floor at the gym in a tiny pair of white shorts and a t-shirt a couple of sizes too small for him (and he wasn't a small lad), to the water that suddenly started streaming down from the ceiling of our floor. We're on the 13th floor of an 18 storey building and apparently there's a server room above us. Something went wrong with the ventilation and suddenly there were bulging ceiling tiles and buckets everywhere. Thankfully this time around none were near my team.

I left the office at 4.45 to make my way to Extreme for RPM, and was greeted with this:

Some poor road worker put his jack hammer right through a water main. Someone wasn't having a good day.

Skirting the flood I made it safely to the gym and then proceeded to do three RPM classes followed by ten minutes of cadence drills. I was fueled by an Em's Power Bar (Oatmeal and Chocolate Chip), which I swear was crack. It's release week so I got to hear release 48 two more times (on top of the two repeats on Saturday). I've decided it's probably one of the best crafted releases ever. Sure, I wouldn't have said I was likely to have any of them individually on my iPod, though they are definitely growing on me (One Love!). I just think they are all pitched nicely and they all fit really well together. It's as if the track selectors have finally gotten to grips with the new RPM format.

I was thrilled with how each class went tonight. I can honestly say that I didn't hold back in any of them. I left it all out there in the crank room. However I also felt strong and consistent the whole time. Even during the last hill I was still working the dial even though my legs were burning. I never run out of energy. Thanks Em!

Add to that the 8k run we did last night with the squad and it's turning into a solid week. I am still going to run tomorrow but it will definitely be pitched at an easy recovery level and pace. I have another big weekend ahead so I need to let my body get over tonight's punishment!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

And she rode!

Ok, so in the face of a storm the size of Australia I will admit to wimping out of a ride yesterday morning. Well, the predictions were for severe gales. What can I say? Instead I ran for 45 minutes with Duck and Sarah. During the whole run I felt absolutely hideous. My legs were dead and I felt slow, slow, slow. We were supposed to be running up Aro Valley and back via Kelburn but I just didn't have it in me. I turned around at the base of the hill and ran back to Freyberg.

By the time I got there the wind was getting up and I wasn't confident of not being blown off my bike so I retreated to the gym and did two RPM classes. I didn't feel good about my decision, but I made up for it by flogging myself and finishing sweaty and with very shaky legs. It was Release 48 day, which meant I got to hear the same tracks twice, but it also meant that there were two trainers teaching. The first class was taken by Jude and Stephen, and the second by Justine and Stephen. Yay - three of my favourite teachers! Add to that packed classes full of people in a good mood, and most of whom knew each other, and you have a recipe for an awesome workout.

Of course I later discovered that the wind, while certainly up there, didn't reach severe level. In fact I'm pretty sure I've ridden in worse. So when I woke up at 7am this morning and it was gorgeous outside, well I wasn't going to make the same mistake again.

I knew that the Gearshifters would have done hills on Saturday, and I knew what that probably meant. My mission now was to not let myself talk myself out of doing them myself. I'm a bit bad that way. I start out all keen then I somehow find myself doing a gentle spin round the Bays. A gentle spin around the Bays is not going to get me round Taupo.

So it was that I started out from Oriental Bay, a girl on a mission. The wind had gotten up already but it could have been worse. I started out sitting on the tail of a small pack of riders training to complete 40k of Taupo each. I left them behind at Evans Bay and headed off up Mt Crawford.

I'm sure I've gotten up Crawford more quickly but to my surprise the climb itself didn't feel too bad. I'm not sure I ever got into my comfortable climbing rhythm, but I certainly didn't kill myself either. It didn't seem to take that long to get up to the prison, where I stopped for a quick drink before heading off down the other side. Halfway down I nearly t-boned an elderly woman in a late model silver car. She pulled up to a stop sign on my right then decided to check only her right side before driving straight across the intersection. Luckily I have a loud voice and my "WHOA, WHOA, STOPPPPPP!" got through to her. She stopped just in time for me to go swerving past. I joked to a couple walking past that I was certainly awake now and kept going.

Down the hill and back onto the waterfront. I turned right and headed for Lyall Bay. I wasn't breaking any speed records but I wasn't concerned as my main energy today was reserved for the hills. When I got to Lyall I stopped again for a quick bite from a Power Bar and then it was up Sutherland Rd, otherwise known as that stupidly steep, OMG I can't believe I just CHOSE to do this, climb. I swear it nearly killed me. I swear that about three quarters of the way up I was panicking thinking I was going to have to stop and that I wasn't going to be able to unclip and that I'd fall off. However I didn't stop, I didn't fall off, and I didn't die. At the top I paused briefly to consider my own mortality as evidenced by the pounding of my heart, then I turned and cycled back down again. Rather anti-climactic really.

I had one more climb on the schedule for today. I turned up Queen's Drive and headed towards Newtown, turning right at the base of Mt Victoria up Alexandra Rd. I don't know whether I found a second wind somewhere or what, but I think I fairly flew up there. If I was following the schedule to the T I would have done three hill repeats before climbing to the top, but I decided doing all that on my own counted for enough effort for the day. I cycled my way slowly back down the narrow winding roads on the side of the mount and made it safely back to my car.

I love how proud of myself I get after a bike ride like that. It's hard to explain exactly how many demons I needed to tackle to get out there and do it. I'm also happy that I don't feel overly tired, in fact I feel quite energised. When I got home I cooked corn fritters with bacon and avocado and I could tell I'd burned some calories before they were amazingly good.

Now all I have to do is work out how I can get my long run mojo back in time to do the half marathon in a few weeks. Erk ....

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sunday, September 12, 2010


The results of the cycling time trial from yesterday are in, and I am officially slow. I am slow as in 'that can't be right, surely the results are wrong' slow. I am trying not to let this upset me.

I went out for my long run today and twenty minutes in I looked out to Eastbourne and saw a band of rain. I wondered idly whether it was moving towards me and then a few minutes later got my answer when it started to hose down. I proceeded to take a bath as I ran backwards and forwards around the Southern coast, stopping off on my way back past my car to remove my iPhone. By the time I met Jo for coffee one and a half hours after I'd set out I was sodden. I sat on a towel in Maranui and tried not to drip all over the floor. Thankfully it was quite warm and my merino jacket kept me from freezing.

By the time I'd made it home, showered and changed, the sun had come out again and it was lovely. Of course. Sigh.

Now, if only I could find some straightforward explanation for why I'm so slow on my bike. Something easy to fix, like a fit issue for example?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Post-ride coffee

Today I left Freyberg at 7.30a.m. for a run, then met the Gearshifters for a ride. We did our usual time trial from Shelley Bay round to Lyall Bay. There was a headwind and I was (depressingly) slow, but then what's new? I can only get faster, right?

After the time trial we rode round to Owhiro Bay, taking a spin up Murchison Rd before looping around and riding back up Happy Valley and into town again. Murchison Rd was my first test of my hill legs. The verdict? Could be better, could be worse. I've got some work to do before Taupo, that's for sure.

Friday, September 10, 2010

That Update

Well, I guess I owe people an update, so I'd better start writing. I am not quite sure exactly where this is going to go, but let's just embark on the journey and see where it ends up!

It's been 11 months roughly since the neurosurgery that turned the summer of 2009/2010 into clusterf@#k of monumental proportions. Since then life has largely returned to normal. What helped in the end was deciding to take a big step and start taking an anxiety medication. My mind had been put into such a spin by everything that had gone on up there that it needed some assistance to rediscover its equilibrium.

Apart from the fact that I put on around 5kg almost straight away, the medication did what it was supposed to do. Suddenly I could sleep again and the worst of the vertigo symptoms died away. For the record I still think the surgery messed up my vestibular system, but my mind then latched onto the disturbance and took it to another level. Lucky me - I've had issues with anxiety in the past and have thankfully been able to get over them before without help, though I now think I could definitely have done with some medical assistance back then as well.

What also helped was starting to exercise again. I started training with Duck again, then running with the Squad. I ran a 10k in June, and although it wasn't fast it was comfortable and fun. I started running trails - something I thought at one point would be impossible with my vision issues. I even started cycling again.

In July I committed to 30 Days of Yoga. Around that time I also started suffering what seemed to be side effects from the medication - mostly restless legs and muscle spasms that kept me awake when I was trying to fall asleep. Seeing as I was doing so well I talked my GP into agreeing that I try coming off the meds. I'd only been on them for four months rather than the usual six, but I was motivated and eager. The weaning went pretty well too, other than the standard side effects, including tingling hands and legs and an 'electrical' or buzzy feeling in my head.

As the calming aspects of the medication started to ease off I regained a new sense of energy and enthusiasm. Everything I took on I took on to the extreme. I practiced hip openers in yoga until my poor hip flexors groaned with pain. I went back to lifting weights in the morning, running or doing RPM at night, and then threw a yoga session on top of that. I started to get some of the vertigo symptoms back. However I was holding it all together until a hellish week at work started to tip me back over the edge. By the Thursday afternoon I was crying out to go home and just disappear into bed for a while. However I was booked on a flight to Auckland that night to attend a conference in Auckland the next day.

I was quite aware that I was starting to feel a bit manic. I was suddenly gripped with insomnia again and started taking sleeping pills for the first time in months. On Friday night I lay in bed as obsessive thoughts cycled over and over through my mind, and it took forever to get to sleep. On Saturday morning I was up early to meet a friend for an RPM class, then straight after that I met with another friend to see her new house. We had a lovely visit but my mind was still racing and she soon realised that I wasn't quite right.

By the time I got home on Saturday night I was a little bit of a mess. I was really very rational about how irrational I was feeling. I knew I was getting obsessive. Funnily enough, one of the neurologists I saw had asked me if I'd ever suffered from OCD and I'd said no. Now I realised that I was in fact experiencing an OCD of a kind, and that was causing my vertigo symptoms to relapse.

As wonderful as it had been to be off the meds, as much as it had for a while made me feel like I'd recovered, that I was normal and had 'control' of my life, I knew that I still needed some assistance. I also knew that admitting that was not a failure. I took a half dose of the medication that night and saw my doctor again as soon as I could. She was very positive and made me feel that I wasn't doomed to be on this stuff forever, just that my mind needed a little longer to get over the trauma of the surgery. That resonated with me. I'd been through a traumatic experience, and I was still recovering from it. It was all so simple when it was put to me that way!

So I started taking a half dose of the medication again. The relief kicked in an improvement in the vertigo symptoms long before the medication had any real time to take effect. It felt like I'd been given a safety blanket. After two weeks I knew the meds really were working when I felt my mind let out a kind of sigh, and my body finally relaxed. I got back off the sleeping pills again.

By August though I knew I needed some time out. I decided to take an August 'mini-break' from blogging and simply post the occasional photo. I decided to stop beating myself up about not wanting to communicate with all the wonderful people I'd been put into contact with during the 30 Days of Yoga. I was feeling overwhelmed and inadequate, and I needed to be kind to myself and to let being myself be enough.

Now I'm happy with my life, but am left grasping a number of strands that I can't quite weave into a whole just yet. For now I'm not making audacious goals (well, other than committing to train for the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge again, duh). I've decided to stay silent when trying to be present in the blogging community wears me out. Right now I'm focusing on that which I know I can achieve. I know I can work full time and do a pretty good job of it. I know I can run or cycle most days, and throw in the odd weights or yoga session. However if I don't take a lot of photos, if I don't write, if I don't plan and cook amazing meals or have a tidy, clutter free house, if I have a huge pile of books in the spare bedroom that I may not read again but can't let go, well that's all ok.

I'm not sure what is me still being in recovery mode, what is the side effects of the medication, or whether I'm being genuinely lazy. I would like, for example, to drop the weight but I can't bring myself to worry about all the chocolate and junk I'm eating which stops me from doing so. I know it's slowing me down when I'm running and I don't like how tight my clothes are. However I know it may be difficult while I'm still on the meds and they take the edge off my ability to care. When I run it's harder to make the effort to keep going and not walk. Again, am I being lazy or are the meds having a negative effect on my ability to push myself? If I'm mentally not on top of my game should I be attempting a half marathon in a month or to cycle 160k?

On the other hand, there are days like last Wednesday night when I have a blistering run. There are days when the sun shines and I get the kind of euphoric joy I used to get pre-surgery, and which I enjoyed briefly when I was off the meds (before it turned into mania). There are days when I'm reminded of how horrid my life was just a few short months ago and how miraculous it is that I'm here doing what I am now.

I say I've stopped making audacious goals, and then I give examples of how I'm doing exactly that. I think the difference is more subtle. I'm over the grand gesture. I want to just live life, have fun with good friends, sleep well every night. In a way, although I don't want to clear my house of all my worldly possessions, I feel like I've let go of attachments in other ways. I guess I don't assume so much about what life will be like in the future. For a while during my darkest moments my psychologist told to stop worrying about the future and to just focus on getting through the day. For a while there I had permission to stop planning, and that was a great freedom.

Now I find that I'm not so much looking for a higher purpose, some deep meaning for everything. Right now life is what it is. Some people have more than others, good things happen to bad people, bad things to good. An earthquake the size of that which hit Christchurch recently may hit Wellington and I may no longer have a house over my head. Right now I like my life, and I'm full of relief that I have so much of it back again. I know I'm a survivor, and I guess I take comfort in that.

I've had to let my life become quite small to survive the last year, however there are signs that it will expand again. I started to hook into something with the yoga that I need to begin exploring again. I returned to the Karori Sanctuary again a couple of weeks ago and something in my heart swelled to be back. Some of my deepest moments of relaxation have come from being out in the sun, or like last night, tucked up inside while it poured outdoors.

I want to run. I want to cycle. I want to spend time with friends. I want to be alone. I want to be outdoors. I want to be at home on the sofa or in bed with the cats and Hamish. I want to be here now, and for now I think that will have to be enough. It's spring, and I feel like I might be emerging again. I have a whole missed summer to make up for.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

First Gearshifters Taupo Ride

I woke at dawn to the most perfect morning for riding imaginable. I got up just before 7, sent out a 'woohoo' on Facebook, then straight afterwards realised there'd been a 7.4 quake in Christchurch. Damn.

All the same, it was time to ride. Around 45 cyclists gathered at a perfectly still Oriental Bay for an introductory cruise around the Bays and back via Brooklyn.

We kinda took over the footpath. We tried to keep out of people's way, but inevitably there were a few irritated glances.

However the ride itself was heavenly. Cycling round the Southern Coast was strange. There was a big dump of snow on the Kaikouras last night and looking across at them it was hard to not think about how close the quake seemed. There will be a few people setting up emergency packs round here now.

After the ride I cranked out a slow 7k run - well - a 7k shuffle. It was so lovely that it was more just a case of being out there to enjoy the day. Running AND riding in the same day? I guess I'm back!

Friday, September 03, 2010

First Spring Storm

It's been beautiful all day here, but the weather forecast was for a big Southerly storm to hit at some point, bringing rain, wind, and snow down to 400 metres. At around 5.30 tonight it landed, bringing spectacular thunder and lightening and a rather intense hail storm. Thankfully Hamish made it home on his scooter in the nick of time. I was drinking wine at work and stayed in the office till the worst was over.

I'm supposed to be riding with the Gearshifters squad tomorrow. It's our first Taupo training session. Last year I remember it pouring with rain and there being gale force winds. We rode 5k then the majority of us turned around and legged it back home. I'm hoping tomorrow will be better. Most of this is supposed to blow over by the morning so hopefully we might get a bit wet and blown around, but nothing too serious.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

First Day of Spring

The plum tree is in flower.

The morning sun was out over the Orongarongas.

The neighbour's tree is a riot of pink.

And tonight the wind stopped and the sun set over Wellington a good day.

We gathered for a run, and it was very, very good.

I have a lot to catch up on, and now that my mini August break is over and my sanity is returning I'll be doing a little more writing. Life is good. That's enough of a summary for now ...