Andrew and Robyn – 29 January 1994 – Christchurch Cathedral

I think it is appropriate to start this post with a link to this Little River Band classic. For 20 years ago three of us walked down the aisle as a married family – Andrew, Robyn and baby Juliet.

Wow. A lifetime ago.

Somehow we are still married. It certainly has not been a Mills and Boon romantic story. Romance? Andrew? Flying pigs? Life has had its ups and downs. Literally.

It seems appropriate to compare our marriage to life in post-quake Christchurch. I wait ages for Andrew to get things done. He communicates about things that matter about as well as EQC. Road-trips are never straight-forward. We always have to have detours. The house always look like an earthquake happened within the previous 24 hours. I won’t mention the similarity between Andrew and Gerry Brownlee in shape! Like progress on our house, that work is in progress! We have an orange road cone decorating our garden. But the spirit of togetherness and community keeps us going when time gets tough. Families that pee in the garden together, stay together.

Marriage is also like marathon training. To do it well you need a plan. My plan is to stick it out as long as I feel it brings me happiness and satisfaction. There will be times when it all feels too hard and you have had enough. Throw in the towel. Find a new hobby/hubby. But then you get one of those runs/days/times/things when it all falls into place and you remember how much you enjoy/love this and why you want to keep doing it. There are easy runs. Tempo runs when you struggle to keep up with the pace. Lots of slogging it out runs. Making up time and distance, hanging on for the finish. Sometimes it hurts. And makes you cry. Hopefully this is a temporary setback and you keep going.

So I wonder what Andrew would say about me if you asked him. Something along the lines of “Nosey, with a weird (wacky?) sense of humour.” And maybe a few other comments not suitable for public knowledge!

We are not really celebrating today. We don’t actually go in for big romantic gestures. However I have been told to be ready at 5pm on Saturday with an overnight bag and toothbrush. And I know that he knows that I want to know what we are doing. He is getting the last laugh – for once.

Here’s to sticking it out for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part.

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A right royal Wow!

Lorde won two Grammy awards last night. I am sure she would rate it as one of the biggest Wows in her seventeen years.

I take pleasure in her win because it puts New Zealand on the worldwide map – again. For a country with fewer people than most cities we do like to scramble to the top of the heap and wave our flag.

We are getting better at celebrating honest achievement, talent, dedication and hard work. The tall poppie syndrome is subsiding, gradually.

So Lorde, congratulations. May your head stay level on your shoulders. May you avoid the temptations of fame and money. May your life bring you satisfaction. May the people who surround you support you and care for you, not just your name and fortune.

Good on ya, girl!

A plethora of Wows

My body is stiff and sore. A small price to pay for sleeping crooked in the car as we drove home last night from our holiday.

Was it only two weeks?

It was one of those holidays where every morning I woke and thought I could go home today. This has been good. A simple word but it satisfactorily sums up the days.

I was offline and so could not post all my wow moments. There were a lot. As the heading says, a plethora. I started to get quite fussy about whether or not a moment qualified.

In no particular order these were the moments which made me feel good. Amazed. Wowed!

The sea. I have never seen it so clear. Even quite a distance out to sea you could see the bottom. At the 5 knot buoy I could see the wheel rim anchoring it to the sea bed. Of course the downside was I could see all the marine life. Real and imagined. Although the beach was patrolled daily by a couple of eagle rays, and once by a shark (which has never happened before), I only saw jelly fish and one flounder – while I was swimming out deep. Phew!

My sons. Robbie in particular. A typical teenage boy, who is growing so quickly and always tired. But there were girls in camp for the day. They were staying over two rather big hills at another beach. Robbie decided to bike to visit them. It was a 90minute ride in each direction – I know because I biked home with him in the evening.

Then a couple of days later Robbie decided to run the Abel Tasman Coast Track. A good 40 kilometres of trails and hills and beaches. It took us 4 hours and 45 minutes but he kept going, never complaining. Fuelled on Powerade, jet planes and a bumper bar. He would not borrow a running pack so carried his drink in bottles in his school back pack. Legend!

Jonny – Captain Jonny. Worshipped by young Sam (aged 10) in the next camp. Jonny played cricket with him, and took him out boating a lot. Insisting Sam sat down and wore his life jacket. I love seeing the boy who used to follow around the big boys, being a big boy role model himself. Jonny also impressed a lot of the adults with his prowess at camp cooking – the bread cooked on the campfire and the mussels were highly praised.

Friends. Old friends. New friends. We camped next to a family we had met last year. Mum Linda. Dad Brian. Three teenage kids like us. Through them we met Sam and his family, John, Mo and little Phoebe. And Sue and Bruce. Many laughs, banter, jugs of Pimms, swims and runs were shared. The highlight was one perfect summers evening which began with a big shared meal and ended up with a male chest waxing session.

Old friends. The people we have camped with for many years. Catching up after a couple of weeks, or months, or even years. We update each other on our lives and we talk and laugh a lot of crap. The boys too, just pick up on friendships forged over many summers. Growing from little kids with plastic buckets and spades and toy trucks, to young men with big spades and real boats. And always the card and board games when shade or sitting down is required.

Other friends. A woman my kids and I went through Playcentre (a pre-school group) with was camped with her family. We spent a good hour or two catching up. An old university friend of my husband’s who we hadn’t seen for 15 years. Running into (literally) a family breakfasting at a hut while Robbie and I were running the Abel Tasman track. They were walking the track. The other mum and I decided each other was familiar but this woman was Australian. Finally linked it back to Playcentre (again) – she had spent two years in Christchurch when her kids were very small. There were other links like this – New Zealand is just a small village!

Special moments in time. The realisation that you perhaps are the only person who will ever witness this moment. One in particular was while I was going for one of my longer swims. I had woken early – for holidays. It was about 7am. The camp was asleep and I felt too tired to run. I wandered down to the beach and the sea was glassy with a small swell rolling to shore. Swim time. The sky already cornflower blue. The sun high and slowly sending the temperature higher. I decided to swim out to a small fishing belt sheltering the night in the lee of the bushclad headland. As I rounded the stern of the boat I really was amazed at the sheer simplicity of the scene. White boat reflected in the marine blue sea. Two symmetrical fishing booms extended port and starboard, crisp black straight lines stark against the sky. The only sound was me swimming, breaststroking the water. In the distance the golden beach, a long stripe of sand, and then the differing greens and blacks of the bush, silhouetted against that sky. Still blue to all compass points. I head back to shore. Already the first puffs of wind are ruffling the sea. By the time I am walking up the beach, the camp has woken. The moment has passed. And not long after that the boat weighed anchor and sailed quietly back to work.

The night sky. This was one I wasn’t gong to add. Because why it does wow me it has since I was a little girl and allowed to stay up around the campfire until we could see the first “sputnik” – satellite passing above. Now, there are so many satellites it appears half the stars are buzzing around. I actually have to admit I didn’t see any this year – mostly because I was in bed before dark! But on my midnight wanderings to the toilet I loved seeing the milky way. Picking out the constellations I know – Venus big and golden, Orion’s belt, and of course the Southern Cross, the constellation of home! Coming home last night I was mesmerized by the stars. Jonathan was somehow navigating by taking photos of the night sky with his iPhone and telling us which direction we were travelling – the modern day sextant.

And then I saw the moon. A small wedge of lemon, compete with a thicker rind. Crisp and succulent against the inky black of space.

Wow.

These moments and memories will sustain me for the next year, and beyond. Yep. A simple but truly delightful holiday in a simple but delightful place.

The lagoon at low tide

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The shared meal with friends

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Awaroa inlet at dawn

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Captain Jonny and First Mate Robbie

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Solar recharge

Where deepest green meets grains of gold.
Brightest blue reflects in cooling seas.
Totaranui.
The most beautiful place I know.

Winding through the hills
On a road narrow and fragile.
Dust clouds surround our load.
Cicadas herald our arrival.

We drive through the avenue
Of English trees planted years ago.
The sun beats down. Our clothes feel sticky.
As possessions tumble around the car and trailer.
The children vanish into thin air.

They will return. Occasionally.
To eat.
To sleep.
To eat some more.
The only signs of their existence.
Dishes on the table.
Wet towels on the floor.

Meanwhile it is us. Mum and Dad.
Who build a castle out of canvas and boxes.
The sounds of metal on metal ring out across the bay
As poles are assembled. Tent pegs hammered home.
Beds are made. Kitchen organised.
The lounge is on the beach.
My work is done.

For two weeks I live here,
Off the grid as they say.
There is no electricity.
Or cellphones.
Perfect for recharging the batteries.

Before packing it all up.
And driving back to the city.
Until next year.
When we will come again.

I wrote this poem about a place very dear to me. I go there tomorrow. I won’t be able to blog while I am away. But I am sure I will have plenty to say upon my return. Until then.

Nailing education!

When I left school I had had enough of education. I was sick of filling my folders with information which once or twice a year I would have to cement in my brain, only to regurgitate it all during a three hour exam.

The thought of going to university for three or four more years was not appealing. It did not help that I had no real idea of what I wanted to “do”. Well, I did, actually but I didn’t need a formal qualification for that, though some may argue it would be a good thing. I wanted to be a mum. Not straight away. I had a backpack of wild oats to sow first.

Mid-year exams loomed in my seventh-form year at school. I realised that whilst everyone around me was lugging around those big black folders filled with notes, one for each subject, I was blithely ambling to all my classes with just one small folder for all five subjects. I loved school. But I was sick of the constant pressure.

I left. Got a couple of mindless jobs. Learned to live. Scattered my oats across Australia, Canada, the UK, Europe and Israel. Came home. Became a mum.

In the intervening years I have returned to formal study and I have a collection of certificates proving that I can learn stuff and do stuff.

And I love learning now. Because it is on my terms. I have learned to run an effective marathon. I had a swimming lesson earlier in the week to improve my efficiency in the water. I annually have to attend courses related to my work to keep my certification current. I talk to other people and through them learn about the world, different cultures, politics, current issues.

Life is all about learning and growing. It is not all about folders of notes and exams to prove it sunk in. It is a process. A dance with some forward steps, some sideways steps, a few dips here and there. Listen to the music. Enjoy. It can be more fun with someone else, but I am happy to dance or learn alone.

Today I signed up for a woodwork class. I have a project and in the process of reaching the end goal I need to master a few basic techniques. Introductory Woodwork for Women. Perfect.

But looking down the list of other classes I see so many which tempt me – conversational Spanish, Te reo, websites, sail a keel yacht, sign language. If only I didn’t have to work! I would love to be a full-time student of life.

Nailing a workout

Speedwork. It pops up on my training plan all the time. I dread the sessions and make all sorts of excuses to get out of them. If I manage to convince my body that it is going to happen, my Garmin will be flat. Or set wrong. Or the track is crowded. Or wet. Or I stuff it up and only do half of the required repeats.

For the number of speed sessions I have not done, I am surprised I run as well as I do.

Once a month I am supposed to do 5 x 1k repeats. I was given this back in November. I have done it once and not completely. My excuse that day was I had run 35k the previous day and hadn’t known I would be running 1k repeats until I turned up for a club run.

Through November my excuse was too much high mileage, no energy (mental or physical) left for speedwork. I would focus on it in the New Year.

Once a week. Speed sessions.

My coach wants me to do any one of three sessions once a week – the 1k repeats, 3 x 6 steep hill sprints, or 8-12 x 400m.

Today I attempted the 1k repeats.

I drove to Hagley Park and parked on Hagley Ave near the Carlton bridge. I turned my Garmin on and jogged to the “start”. My Garmin was having issues finding the satellite. I warmed up with my usual routine. Garmin still not loaded. I turned it off and on again. This time no worries.

I set off on the first 1k. Fast and strong. Thighs were high, arms like pistons, hands like blades. I was Usain Bolt – not a white woman twice his age! My mantra was focus. Fo-o-o-cus. Four strides, one breath. There was a headwind on the final straight.

I walked back to the start.

And again. Focus. Focus. Focus. It is really easy to get distracted. Focus. Focus. The last 100m were tough. Okay two down. Three to go.

I had told people I was doing this workout. A friend. My boss. By now I had worked out I wanted to blog about it. I was going to finish the whole session. Or look really stupid.

Back to the start.

This time I changed my mantra to the time I wanted to see on my Garmin. 3:55. 3:55. Focus. 3:55. I rounded the corner for the last straight – I was running two sides of a triangle – it was getting harder, that wind was strong but I was stronger and kept going to the end.

Walked back to the start. Over halfway now. Only eight more minutes of suffering.

Round four. 3:55. 3:55. Focus. Don’t think about the swim session coming next, or getting Robert to mow his grandmother’s lawn before the rain. The last straight. And the headwind was tough but Mt Hagley – that was even tougher. For those who don’t know, Hagley Park is in the centre of Christchurch which is flat. But there are little undulations in the ground which are barely noticeable unless you are running 5 x 1k repeats when all of a sudden you wish there was a chair lift to get you to the summit. I summitted. Knocked the bastard off!

One more to go. I can do this. Legs are still high and strong. Arms are still pumping piston.s Hands slicing the air like a Ninja warrior. I am focussed on my mantra. 3:55. 3:55. 3:55. I am passing people walking in the park who I have maybe passed once or twice before today. I don’t care if this looks strange. Last straight and this speed session will be logged.

I finish. What a great feeling. I check my Garmin. Damn. What I thought was 1k was only 940m. But the splits were 3:52 (4:08), 3:47 (4:01), 3:51 (4:05), 3:46 (4:00), 3:47 (4:04). The times in brackets are adjusted for 1k.

Coach Simon wants me to hit the 4min k mark. I am pleased with me effort – there is good consistency across the five splits and no fade at the end.

Yep, I nailed that work out.

And I feel confident having done it that i can now complete other speed sessions. Yes, they suck at the time but the feeling of accomplishment lasts so much longer than the period of discomfort.

For running geeks:
I use a Garmin Forerunner 310XT
I log my training with Training Peaks because that is the system my coach uses.
I am coached by Simon Huntly at Complete Performance.

Oh yeah, then I had to go and swim some crazy drills in the pool! But that workout too, was nailed!

Ow not wow!

Two days ago I met a wasp. It flew into my left arm as I was running around Lake Rotoiti, an area renowned for wasps, and large sandflies.

The wasp stung me, just the once. At first it was just an angry red mark with a small white hard swelling, about the size of a small coin, a NZ 10 cents. It did not hurt. It did not itch. It was just annoying. I could finish my run, though I was wary of it.

I was running to the head of the lake where I was to meet Andrew and the boys who were boating up. Although I carry emergency supplies and a first aid kit, I didn’t have antihistamine. Or the kitchen sink. I had everything else. Note to self – buy some antihistamine cream for kit. Don’t bother with the kitchen sink!

It was about an hour later that I could spray some Stingose and then my afternoon was filled with packing up and cleaning the bach we had rented for the week. We had given up on the crappy weather and chosen to head home a day early.

My arm was swelling. It was now noticeably bigger than the right arm. And radiating heat. But not enough to illicit any sympathy from any of my boys!!

When we arrived home in Christchurch I put some antihistamine cream onto it.

That night I could not sleep. It was nice to be back in my own bed. The bed at the bach had been playing havoc with my back. But it was a hot sticky night. Aaaah, summer, how I had missed you.

My arm itched. It throbbed. I got up twice in the night to take Panadol and one of Juliet’s hayfever pills. I wrapped a cold flannel around it. More cream.

By the time morning came, my forearm was huge, red, swollen, hard, throbbing, sore, and itchy.

I measured around it. It was 26cm in comparison to my right arm at 22cm. My wrist was unaffected and measured 14cm. My left bicep is only 24cm. Yes, I have chicken arms!

I took more drugs. Used more cream. And put up with mocking derision from three teenagers. “Oh, your biceps are so big. Oh, wait that is just your wasp sting.” “You look just like Popeye!”

I took a nap and slept for two hours. Possibly the drugs. Possibly the restless night. When I woke my arm felt better. I mowed the lawn, with a push mower and tackled two weeks of weed growth. It was lovely to be in the sun, but it did not help my arm.

It grew even bigger. 27cm around the widest part, and the wrist swelled too, into the hand. My wrist was now 16cm.

More cream. More Stingose. I tried arnica too. And wrapped it in ice. Living with a dancer we always have ice packs on the go.

Now almost 48hours later it is still swollen. 26.5 cm and 16.5cm around the wrist. Still itchy but not as much.

It is now annoying me as I have things to do which I cannot.

Oh well, it could be worse. It is, after all, only a wasp sting. And while it has affected me, it is not life and death. Just a normal reaction to a nasty insect. And it will go away. I just need to be a patient patient.

the Department of Conservation’s wasp eradication plan

Dealing with wasps at Lake Rotoiti