Winning is everything!

My feet ache. My legs twitch. My belly demands feeding, again, as I look at the empty bowl next to me. My butt feels tight as, or should I say tight ass! And my arms are tired. How can my arms be tired?

This morning I ran 30 odd kilometres, 22 of those being part of a race. The Sri Chinmoy Waimairi Beach challenge. I was aiming to run at tempo, come in the top three women. And tack on an extra eight to fulfil my Jantastic long run. I had raced a pretty speedy off road 4k yesterday.

I woke early. It is a big day today. Later this afternoon we have the “grandparents” coming for afternoon tea. At 6am I got up and made scones, and mashed eggs ready for sandwiches. By 7am I was in the car heading east to Waimairi beach.

It was very dark. And a thick sea fog covered the slumbering city. This was good. This meant no easterly wind.

I warmed up with a 2k jog along the track, and then my routine of lunges, leg swings, hacky sacks, single skips. It works for me. I registered. Checked out the entry list. Very few women. No names I recognised.

I talked to one younger woman. This was her longest run. Ever. Sweet. Crossed her off of my list of threats. Then this uber fit skinny bitch bounced up. All muscle and speed. Top three, Robyn. I had already discarded any momentary thought that this was not a race. It was on.

It is the usual practice at Sri Chinmoy races to have a moment of reflection. I used this moment to rub my hands up and down my thighs, to feel the muscle bound by compression shorts, to focus on their strength. My mantra today would be strong. Vajin sounded the hooter and we were racing.

It was still. It was foggy. There was no colour. Grey sand. Grey cloud. Grey sea.

A wee dot of a thing headed to the front of the women. She was wearing a lot of colour – bright blue shorts and a red cotton Sri Chinmoy tee shirt. She was determined to stay ahead of me. I was sitting on her shoulder. When I went ahead a bit she sped up to catch me and stay just ahead. This went on for 2k. I was thinking, dumb move. My legs must be eight inches longer than yours, you are breathing heavily wasting all this mental and physical energy surging. I am a nasty mean cat toying with a weak mouse.

To my left I see the skinny bitch, all in blue bound alongside me. Wee dot pulled right back. I think she realised she was up against the big guns. Skinny bitch and I ran side by side for about 3k. The tide was out and there was a wide expanse of hard, fast sand. And pure luxury, no easterly headwind.

I could tell Skinny was determined. But so was I. Was I prepared to battle this out for 17 more kilometres, she was breathing heavier than I was but I was being made to work.

The beach calms me. I love the waves and I am sure the positive ionic energy created by the breaking water breathes new life into me. I thought of my mother. Part of my therapy to deal with depression involved me coming to the beach and having an out loud conversation with my mother. Yeah, I felt like an idiot but I found it helpful.

Today I heard the gentle ching ching of the two stone hearts my mother gave me as they tapped together. I focussed on mum. Come on, it is your time to help me. I changed my mantra to “give me wings, and make me fly.”

And fly I did. I subconsciously kicked it up a gear. Very soon Skinny was behind me. I felt strong. I was tearing north along that beach.

Ahead of me I could see just one other runner, a black silhouette. I knew he was third male. I was fourth overall, and now leading woman. I felt strong. I felt invincible. By golly, I must be Helen Reddy!

My pace was pretty steady half marathon pace, 4:35ish. Everything felt good. My Garmin was burring kilometre markings frequently. It seemed like no time until I could see more disturbed sea as the great Waimakariri river, which has come from deep in the mountains, meets the Pacific Ocean.

Cones marked our change of direction. And also change of surface. Farewell hard flat and fast sand. Hello marshmallow. Instantly we were on a rough beach track. The sand was incredibly dry and soft. My legs which for the previous 55 minutes had been pounding out speedy ks suddenly had the brakes slammed on. Every foot placement slid or sunk. It was hard. And slow. My pace dropped to about 5:40 but my effortometre was heading to a high nine out of 10. I knew we had a good five to seven ks of this. I dreaded being caught by someone else. Oh the horror if Skinny chased me down. I kept pushing through the thickness.

With relentless forward progress you do eventually reach your destination, or at least a marker in the journey. As we neared Spencer Park more people-traffic had hardened the track. And coming out of Spencer Park I know the track well. There are five little dune climbs, but the rest is hard and fast multi-use track. Which meant, of course, that there were mountain bikers, and men with dogs, and baby buggies the size of a small RV, and couples taking their Sunday constitutional. I was still asking for wings. I had picked up speed. I was flying again. My final kilometres were at 4:30 pace.

There were the flags. There was the finish line. If there is one thing I do, it is a strong sprint finish. I crossed that line, 1:47:05 after I had started. I don’t know the exact mileage, but it was pretty close to 22k, either up or down. I kept my Garmin running and went for a slow jog cool down to get my final kilometres in for Jantastic.

There might not have been many people in this event, maybe 40. There were only five or six women. But I gave it everything I had. I won it fair and square. More than the medal, though, I won the feeling that the training is going well. I feel confident heading into Rotorua in just under five weeks.

I ache, but it was worth it.

Beach runner photo

My final Jantastic score was 99.6%
Skinny finished about five minutes behind me.
Wee Dot came in about 2:15

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Does my butt look big in this?

Shopping for clothes can be so much fun, but shopping for some things can fill a person with dread.

I hate trying to buy jeans and togs (swim suit).

It is obvious why I don’t like trying on togs. Stripping down to near nakedness and having to examine yourself in bright white lights. Usually buying togs is done out of season so there are remnants of yellowing tan and a few extra kilos lurking around the belly and thighs. They need to fit well, especially if I am buying them for training purposes (boring one piece, standard issue Speedo) or beach purposes (prettier, preferable two piece so I can wear them all day and not strip naked everytime I need to pee).

And then there is the cost. For each tiny scrap or two of lycra there seems to a proportionally oversized price tag.

Unfortunately I am due to replace my beach togs sometime before my next beach holiday. My current ones have worn out, which is a shame because I actually do love them.

I also hate buying jeans. Again the price pisses me off. I refuse to buy department/chain store brands. Yes, I am a label snob! I am a ladder shape – straight up and down. Also very short through the body, with not much length between bottom of rib cage and hips. I am almost 50. I have had three large pregnancies followed by three caesarian operations. Flat belly? Dream on!! I also consider my thighs to be chunky. It might be muscle. It could be fat. Whatever. I don’t like them.

So jeans don’t fit me. I hate trying them on, squeezing into pair after pair, or having the next size up hang off me, being able to slide them up and down without undoing them. And for the privilege of walking out of the store with a bag, handing over a wad of hard earned money.

It must be more than 10 years since I bought a brand new pair of jeans. I have been buying other people’s mistakes off Trade Me or from the op shop. If I only spend $25 maximum, I don’t care if they don’t fit me perfectly. I usually buy Levis. I know my size. I know which styles I prefer. I haven’t had a total disaster.

My jeans might not fit me perfectly but they have always been good enough.

On Friday I went op shopping with a friend. I was on the hunt for new jeans. I thought I might try skinny jeans, tuck into boots jeans. I picked three pairs to try on off the first rack. The jeans are not sorted so you go through all the pairs. I look at the butt side. It is easy to pick the Levi pockets. But this time I chose three non Levi pairs.

The first pair looked tiny. But I pulled them on and they fitted like the proverbial glove – except I couldn’t actually get my foot through the bottom of the leg. Stirrup jeans, anyone? I figured I could get my favourite alteration lady to fix that for me if I chose to go ahead.

The second pair were dressier jeans. Perfect for wearing to work in my new job. WTH? Again a perfect fit. No gap around the waist, no muffin top, butt tucked away in a nice neat package and thighs didn’t have neon signs advertising their size. Plus these still had the original shop tags attached.

The third pair were Workshop brand, an edgy NZ fashion label. Holy Cow! They must use a mannequin who resembles a middle aged mother who runs but eats cake! These jeans were perfect in absolutely every way. Not even any sign of being worn before (the inside label showed no sign of fading or washing).

I bought them. And the dressier pair. Total price for two pairs $18. The way I feel when I wear them – priceless.

Trying on jeans

A fist pump sort of run!

It was one of those special mornings when all things felt great. I have been missing that lately, feeling like I was lugging around the world and all its problems. But this morning I remembered why I love running so much.

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I got out of bed about 8am. At 8:30am I was meeting my running club for a social run. In that 30 minutes I managed to get dressed, scoff two bits of toast with peanut butter and apricot jam, scull a cup of coffee, complete some quick ablutions, and at tempo pace cover the 3k to the meeting spot.

The still air was crisp with the scent of woodsmoke. The sun shone brightly from a clear blue sky. If I was to wish for a perfect autumnal morning this would be my desire. The trees in Hagley Park are saying farewell to summer, dropping multihued leaves and a multitude of acorns. I was not the only one out enjoying this Saturday morning.

My cohorts were waiting although I was not really late. Another couple turned up and we set off for a promised 11k around and about Hagley Park and Mona Vale. It was not going to be a slow run, with the pace quick from the start. We soon split into two groups. I was hanging on to the speedier front group. It is good for me to be pushed occasionally as it it easy to fall into the habit of plodding. Even though we were belting out sub 5 minute ks there was plenty of breath left for conversation. For some reason, maybe because we are all at that stage in life, the topic of elderly parents seemed to dominate. We went around both parks and then looped through North Hagley on our second pass.

Back at our starting point and I chose to run on to our coffee stop, adding another kilometre to my total. Other runners trickled in and we were joined by a couple of non-runners.

We have been having these monthly social runs throughout summer and they have achieved their goal – to keep us connected through the off season, and to keep us ft and motivated ready for the winter season, which opens next month. It also means we are much more in tune with each other’s lives. Again conversation was not stilted.

After a large bucket sized coffee I ran home. It was slower this time, even with 2 litres of caffeine sloshing around. By the time I reached my place I had run just short of 21k. I felt good. I felt strong. I felt better than I have felt about a training run for so long.

So what made the difference? I have eaten more this week, managing to put on about 1/2kg in the process. I haven’t felt so hungry. Consequently I might have more energy. I have also been a bit more diligent about having protein shakes. I didn’t have any pressure to achieve a specific workout. Or to fit it in before work or picking up a child. It was running for fun. And for most of the run I had company whereas usually I run solo.

Whatever the reason, it was a great run. A wow run. I know not every run will or should feel like that but when they do, yes! It is a fist pumping sort of feeling.

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“If you were born without wings, do nothing to prevent them from growing.” ― Coco Chanel

In every little girl’s life there comes a time when she realises, as much as she willed it not to happen, it has. She has turned into her mother.

I think my time has come.

I am taller than Mum ever was. And leaner. I have the brown-green eyes of my father, not her soft grey ones. My hair has her thickness and her curls, but not as much. She was also much greyer, or maybe she gave up dyeing her hair at an earlier age! I have certainly inherited her slightly olive skin, a throwback to some spaniard who washed ashore in Ireland many years ago.

I guess I must resemble her because sometimes when my father introduces me as his daughter to old friends, they tell me I look like my mother did.

But it’s the other things. I have similar priorities as she did. A good book and or a spot in the sun should never be wasted, especially on mundane tasks like housework. Many the time I remember trudging home from school to find my mother sitting in the sun, cup of coffee at hand, and either a book or knitting on the go. She always had both.

She was a very creative woman. She knitted and sewed many great pieces for her family, and when we preferred shop brought, she made clothes for the needier people in our community. She was also an accomplished artist, and in her last years enjoyed painting watercolours. I am pretty adept at stick figures.

Mum and I share the knack for the written word. Mum published numerous short stories. One of her best was called “The Empty Nest”. Totally autobiographical it was about a mother’s desire for her fledgings to learn to fly and leave the nest. With some artistic licence and the Irish gift of the gab, some of her children’s exploits were exaggerated, but we could all see ourselves in her writing.

I am gently encouraging my eldest bird to take her adult wings, her cat, her dancing boards, her dirty undies off the bathroom floor, and make her own nest. By gently encouraging, I mean I tell her “it is time for you to move out now. Good bye!” Juliet is off to London in 15 days for a five week trip. Three girls, a few dancing competitions, catching up with old school friends and university mates who are on exchanges. They will have so much fun. Maybe coming home will be too boring afterwards and her wings will feel decidedly clipped.

I started to flap my own wings at 17, going flatting with two girls I worked with. It was a damp, cheap, grey summerhill stone brick flat, on Lincoln Road overlooking a bikie gang. I have no idea what my parents really thought of my stamping my independent foot.

My Jonny turns 18 on Thursday. He also shows no desire to move on. He is working in an office, learning the skills associated with that and also the importance of personal hygiene and how to iron a shirt. There are mutterings of going to South America at Christmas.

South America??? I was thinking he would leave first for a uni hostel in Dunedin or take a camping to Kaikoura. Not South America! There are drugs and drug lords and pirates in South America! Murderers! Violence! Coups! Wars! Jonny doesn’t even know where he left his, or his father’s, eftpos cards. How will he cope in another continent.

After six months of flatting, when I was just 18, I flew to London with a girlfriend. Stayed away a year. Nannied the kids of the privileged and idle. Did the whole Britrail youth hostel month in the UK and bus/camping trip around Europe. Again I don’t know what my parents thought of this adventure.

The youngest, only 15, is still at school. He is a little concerned because I keep talking about if/when we rebuild post earthquake, we might replace our four bedroom family home with a nice two bedroom retirement unit. Not implying Andrew and I are ready to retire, but more a comment on how slow the process is. Robbie is most indignant that “Juliet and Jonny get to mooch off you for ages and as soon as I leave school you are forcing me out?!” I don’t see the problem.

Children come into the world so cute and helpless, loving you with all their might because they need you so much. Then they grow up and want to do things on their own. It is cute when an indignant toddler states, “me do.” Later they even push you away. Hopefully, eventually after a period of teenage angst/rebellion/self-absorption the frustrated gangly ugly ducklings return as beautiful adult birds.

A good parent has to let them grow. I want them to go. Life is outside in the world. Even if it can all be accessed by tapping on an ipad screen, I am proud that my kids feel confident enough to go and explore it in reality. Of course, they have had such sheltered middle class lives and are completely naive, but Mum, Dad and the credit card are on the other end of the virtual apron string.

So Mum, I wonder what you would make of your grandchildren now. It has been more than 10 years since you saw them. The little children you knew have evolved into adults or almost adults. .
I wonder if you would find sweet justice in what goes around, coming around. I wonder how many of my exploits contributed to your grey hair.

I look forward to the day in the future when I can watch my children struggle with their children stretching their wings. Or not.

Running up ?

I have been in Motueka for the weekend to run the Kaiteriteri Gold Half Marathon on Saturday. It was a tune up race in my training for the Rotorua full marathon in May. I usually do well in races organised by Nelson Events. This time I assumed I would too.

And I did. Theoretically. With a time of 1:42:33 I was the 28th runner home out of 127 entrants. Fifth woman overall. Second in my age group. I should be chuffed but I am not. I am accepting.

I had had ideas of blowing my PB (1:35:15) out of the water. The night before heading north I had gone online and with a race time calculator I had prepared split times for a predicted race finish of 1:32. I don’t know why I felt so confident. I had been skipping speed sessions and feeling lacklustre for weeks. Most runs began with me wondering if I would ever feel fast and strong again.

But I was cocky. Cocky and I have history. I usually come out worse when we get together. I am much better at sandbagging, of breaking my own tall poppy stem.

I had checked out the elevation profile and I was only expecting one decent sized one. But driving along the course to the start, up and over plenty of hills, I discarded any thoughts of a PB! I didn’t even bother to look at my possible split times.

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One thing which had concerned me was that I had eaten Thai the previous night. All I had wanted was a nice risotto but there are not many choices in Motueka, especially for fussy gluten free runners. I had hoped Pad Thai with tofu would do. It didn’t. Upset the tummy and related organs in the lower torso big time.

The event was a typical Nelson Events production. Very well organised in beautiful surroundings. The start was outside a major holiday park and competitors were able to use toilet facilities (and showers afterwards). I was grateful for both of those. Ideal weather conditions ideal with no wind, light cloud and comfortable temperature. Literally the calm before the storm as Tropical Cyclone Lusi was still making her way down the North Island.

I arrived with plenty of time to register. Warm-up was good. The two kilometre easy jog rid my muscles of the usual lethargy. People were relaxed and social. It was a friendly atmosphere.

I checked out the competition. I saw a young girl (early 20s) who had looking into our running club but found us wanting. I needed to beat her! There were a lot of speedy and skinny looking women. (I do not think of myself as either. Even though I know people possibly look at me and think similar thoughts.)

I set off strong and slightly more aggressive than I typically do. We were straight into a hilly section and by the third kilometre I have passed the young girl. I figured I was about sixth woman. When I pass someone early I am always afraid of a late race fade which allows everyone to catch and pass me back. As I powered past a couple of burly looking older men I heard one comment, “she could use some of my weight.”

Strong up the big hill out of Riwaka, I passed another female. Coming down the other side I could hear a light footed runner catching me. I was worried it was her, it was not. But it did make me lean forward and run with gravity on my side. I really flew down the other side. I also knew my quads would not be happy on Sunday.

Into the flat, up towards Marahau and a turn around. I could count the leaders as they passed back. I was fifth woman . But young chicky babe had caught me a little. Bugger. This meant I could not slack off.

There were seven kilometres left to run, and most of them were hills. Just one kilometre at a time. Onwards and upwards. I knew they were long. I thought I had three peaks. So I was pleasantly surprised to realise I had run out of distance and was heading doen. Round the final corner and there were the golden sands of thr finish beach.

The last 500m were tough. Coming off those hills and trying to find a speedy sprint finish. I felt like I was Lee Major without the speed. And who had the bright idea to put the finish on the beach making us run across soft sand.

I finished. I stood in the sea for about five minutes. I had the best massage on my legs ever, lying in an open sided tent with the waves providing the ambient soundtrack. Then I showered and wore compression tights for the rest of the day. Today (Sunday) I am reminded of the downhills but not unbearably so.

Looking at my Garmin I ran a negative split which is highly desirable. The first 10k was 49 minutes. The next 10k was 48 minutes. Average race pace is faster than optimum marathon pace for Rotorua which considering all the hills is confidence boosting.

Now I am home again. The rain is still falling but there is no wind. My club mates have stalked my results and are checking I am happy. No. But I accept that yesterday I left nothing on the course. 1:42 was the best I had. Second place was all I deserved. The woman who beat me for first place did so convincingly. By the time I crossed the line she had showered, changed, boiled the jug and made the scones. Well, not quite – it was only six minutes! It just feels like an eternity.

“A runners creed: I will win; if I cannot win, I shall be second; if I cannot be second, I shall be third; if I cannot place at all, I shall still do my best.”

Ken Doherty

“Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent.” Marilyn vos Savant

“Always enjoy yourself. Don’t be upset if you don’t win, you’ve won by simply not giving up.Unknown

Wildly worn out.

My feet and legs ache. My eyes are tired. Even my arms, hands and fingers seem a little worn out. Maybe a medicinal pinot gris will help soothe the aches and pains.

The 25th Wild Foods Festival seemed to be a successful occasion. People came and enjoyed themselves. They ate, drank, laughed. Listened to a selection of music from brass band to country to just a heavy bass sound. Wore some crazy costumes. And enjoyed a beautiful West Coast sunny day.

The morning attracted a lot more family groups. Sales were definitely slow during this time for the waffles. Jonny’s kebabs had a queue for almost the entire day, eventually selling out at about 4pm. His non- alcoholic sodas were wild, over-brewing in the heat of the marquee and exploding everywhere.

Just after lunch, what we call the “sevens” crowd turned up. Groups of people dressed in costume, here to drink, party, and dare each other to try strange and slightly scary food. Maybe the anti-drink message is getting through. I seemed to serve fewer real drunks than previous years. We were steadily making waffles, dolloping some blackberry sauce and whipped cream on top, and selling them. At one stage I was both decorating and selling. I got confused and started to decorate plain napkins – the waffles were still cooking! Brain was joining the list of completely knackered body parts!

I have been going for so many years I don’t really bother with “weird” food. Plus being gluten free makes it harder to find something to eat. I tried a sheep’s milk haloumi kebab, a pork belly kebab, a goat’s cheese blueberry cheesecake, a pork and watercress sausage, and a blackberry custard dessert thing.

Jonny and Robbie worked so hard. Jonny almost runs the kebab stall by himself. It is great experience for a young man to serve customers like this. He has been doing it for about six years now. Plus he is integral in the planning/innovation of the product. Robbie was in the waffle stall, mixing, beating egg whites and cream, decorating and selling. As much as I resent the festival sometimes, the benefits of Andrew and his sons having this massive bonding session every year is worth a little inconvenience to me.

I hear the others returning. There will be a number of worn out bodies comparing war stories now. It is a strange hobby, selling waffles etc at Wild Foods, but it is a big part of who we are. And I guess we will be back again next year.

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Wild Wows

Have I mentioned how much I love New Zealand?

Godzone. Not meaning the zone of God but more the country God created for himself, God’s own. Without getting into a theological discussion, let’s just appreciate the most awesome country hidden away at the bottom of the world.

Today I did the Coast to Coast. East coast to west. Pacific Ocean to Tasman Sea. Leaving a city filled with demolition and construction, earthquake damage and still suffering from a massive flood earlier this week. Roadworks and Friday afternoon traffic slowing our departure.

But soon we were travelling west, slowly climbing across the Canterbury Plains towards the purple ridgeline of the Southern Alps. It was a long slow climb up Porter’s Pass as our elderly Pajero struggled with a furniture trailer filled with a tonne of gear. No hyperbole here – we actually were towing a ton.

It is the 25th Wild Foods Festival in Hokitika tomorrow. It is our 24th year of having a stall, or two. The trailer was chocka with the actual stall, which is being erected in the marquee while I blob out in the motel. (Yay for teenage boys!) plus all the equipment and a lot of the ingredients needed to feed the festival goers.

We reached the summit of Porter’s Pass and began the beautiful drive through the alps to Otira. This country is used a lot in film sets: Narnia, the Lord of the Rings, and even this great ad. It never fails to impress me. Something about the clean simple lines, contrasting colours. Especially on a day like today. Blue sky, golden tussock, sharp grey rocks, purple mountains, green bush. And the rocks. So many opportunities to be amazed at the construction of a wild country as evidenced by whole hills thrust upwards by some ancient, or not so ancient, subterranean force.

We drive pass two small lakes, leftover from melted glaciers. Traverse the wide river bed of the Waimakariri River, remembering fifth form geography and alluvial plains, shingle screes and braided river systems. Learning is so much easier when you live among it.

A short stop in Arthur’s Pass. We were amused that the Doc centre’s stone wall was fenced off, probably because of “earthquake risk”. Hello, red tape bureaucrats! Arthurs Pass sits right on the Alpine fault, in a cleft in the Alps. If there is an earthquake, the whole bloody mountain will land on the village. Who cares about a five foot high wall? And we won’t mention avalanche risk!

Onwards and upwards over the Otira Pass, down the viaduct and the gorge. Even though these days it is a “feat of modern engineering”, I am always relieved to be down the bottom again.

From there it is a simple drive through Jackson’s, Kumara, and along the coast south to Hokitika.

Kumara is known as being the base for the start of the Coast to Coast multisport race. Also famous for its cop. Today he was hiding as a tradie in a white van. Just past the junction the booze bus was busy catching the revellers who could not wait to start drinking.

It was a lovely journey. Uneventful. I would say let’s hope the weekend continues like this but my “workers” have just turned up and announced they forgot to bring kebab sticks. A necessary item when planning to sell 700 wild kebabs. The only supermarket in Hokitika did not have any. Neither did the main Four Square. But the last wee store they tried had some. We have their entire stock now.

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