Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Warrior Woman

I am a Warrior Woman.

It's not something I admit to very often, but I am she. I am strong. I have stamina. I have endurance. I can go further, faster, longer, stronger than most. I have the physical, mental and emotional strength to do ANYTHING.

Today, I ran 21.1 kilometres. I ran the distance. I didn't walk. I didn't stop. I started grumpy, snotty and a bit stiff at 8.20 in the morning. Two hours, thirty four minutes and a handful of seconds later, I crossed the finish line.


It nearly didn't happen. After a kilometre, right at the start, the last thing I wanted to do was run around Williamstown. Blah - didn't want to do it. Silly thing to do. Fools errand. Bloody Reindert, making me get up at 5.45 to drop him at the marathon start at 7 am. My mind is screaming 'Turn around, go back and read your book in the car. Go on," I tell myself.

But I keep running.

Then the stroke of luck happened. About the three kilometre mark I met up with Stuart and Margaret. Stuart is a marathon veteran, returning to running after injury. Margaret was two days off her sixtieth birthday. They were chugging along quite nicely and I asked if I could run with them for a bit. Lovely people, easy to chat to. Here was me, with my tactic of run five minutes walk two all the way around. After ten minute of running with them I think, ah, keep plodding away, they're nice, they're at a comfortable pace. Keep going.

There is no shame running with some of these oldies. A lot of them will leave you for dead. I have no illusions that I am fast - I just like doing the distance. I get a lot of strength from these older women who chug along at the back of races. They all have their own stories - they re just as courageous as the guys up the front. As a novice, it's just nice to find people who run at your slow pace.

We reach the seven kilometre mark in fifty minutes. Stuart tells us that we're on track for a 2.30 time. What? Me? Half marathon in two hours thirty. Nah. I quit the urge to walk and keep shuffling away at a steady seven minute kilometre pace.

Got to the ten kilometre mark in just under 72 minutes - the last ten kilometre run I did in December I made it in 74 minutes. Okay, I tell myself to keep running. Personal best for a ten kilometres. I'm tracking well. Breathing is good, legs are holding up. Feet feel fresh.

I let out a banshee scream then. It's dawning on me that the training is beginning to pay off.

I see Reindert running from the other direction around the thirteen kilometre mark - with the circular track he had to do that last eight kilometre loop three times - thankfully we only had to do it once - He's running well.. Stuart and Margaret are still with me.  I have to keep going, though I keep threatening to walk every ten minutes or so.

Reindert passes us around the fifteen kilometre mark. Watching him from behind he looks a little tired, but fine, and very thin. I haven't noticed this before. I introduce him to Stuart and Margaret. By this stage Reindert has run 35 kilometres. Freak.

Sixteen kilometre mark all I want to do is walk. Stuart stops me from doing this. He reminds me it's all downhilll from here, and to keep going. He reminds me running is all mental. He also tells me that if I walk I will continue to walk. "Keep on shuffling," he says, "You're looking fine."

I keep on running.

Margaret then tells me, "You have to run now. You're a warrior. You can do anything. You take up running at forty. You've overcome neglect, abuse, poor self image, no self esteem, obesity.... All the bad crap. You have to honour the warrior woman. The warrior who made you strong. The warrior who makes you happy.To walk would be a travesty. Honour the her. Honour you."

I kept running.

The last kilometre is always bittersweet. Margaret reminds me that it's only another five minutes of running (well,seven) and it's all over. You can feel every muscle in your body. Yet you find something in the tank to keep on going, and go faster. And some stupid part of you would like to continue.

Reindert meets me a hundred metres from the finish line. He finished in 3.12. He's also dragging a leg, which is not a good thing.

I finish. Five minutes have come off my personal best time for the half marathon. And I have run all the way, without stopping, without walking, without breaking down, without doing myself and injury. And without bailing as I was tempted to do ten minutes in.

I let out another banshee cry. I have conquered the 21.1 kilometre run. I have run for over two hours and thirty minutes. I can still walk, breathe, talk, sing.

Non-runners will never experience the exhillaration of battling a half marathon. It is the best feeling in the world.

Reindert, Stuart and Margaret - if you're reading this, I cannot thank you enough for your generosity, your advice, your encouragement, your wisdom and your presence on the run. I doubt I would have run this time without you.

Ten minutes later after a decent stretch and a visit to the dunny bus, Reindert and I pop over to Blarney and Barney's to see the boys who live a short distance from the race. A bag of frozen peas is strapped to Reindert's leg. Blarney feeds us a cup of tea and some biscuits, and I'm given my favorite cat to cuddle and a baby to feed.

The perfect ending to a fantastic morning.

I'll come off Cloud Eleven in a few days. I've managed to smash so many perceptions of myself in a two and a half hour period today.

This is why I run. This is why I will continue to run. It's the best feeling in the world.

Pandora Behr - Warrior Woman

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Murder of Work Husbands

What is the collective noun for Work Husbands?

There are two swanning about at the moment and half of me is enjoying it, the other half wishes they weren't about. I should be grateful - not often a woman gets two husbands and doesn't get thrown in prison.

Glen Waverley continues to be stressed. I wouldn't want his job if you paid me. Add to work stress, he's turning 39 on the weekend. And then there was the box debarcle.

We had a desk move late last week here at Tin Can, String and Whistle. I scored well - not only did I get a window seat, but Eddie is now situated in another pod. It's bliss! I never knew what working in an environment where you're not being interrupted every five minutes could be so condusive to work. It always takes  a few days to settle into to your new position, but this move has been lovely. The guys in the new pod are great, and quiet, and they don't ask me stupid questions every three minutes.

Poor Glen Waverley - he didn't get such a good deal. Firstly he's been moved to the other side of the building - and his pod mates, though good people, aren't that interesting. He also moved all his stuff in preparation for the weekend move. Stuck big notes on his boxes - "Already shifted - Please don't touch." He got in on Monday morning to find his new desk empty - no sign of the boxes, his phone, his computer and all his paperwork, ready for an 8.30 meeting. Everything was gone.

Needless to say, Glen Waverley has been roaming around the building looking like somebody has skinned his puppy. It's been quite pityable. By Thursday, two of the three boxes had been found - strangely, the one with his laptop, monitor and phone are yet to surface.... I think he should start scouring Ebay.

Work Husband Two, Reindert, is also back in town - making this virtual bigamy reality. Reindert is making life a bit of a double edged sword. He makes me run!. Did a 16.5 km tramp around the Yarra and the Tan on Sunday - didn't do too badly considering I was taking it pretty easily. This was all in preparation for the Williamstown Half Marathon he's talked me into doing on Sunday. The way I see it, I'm in better shape for this than the others I have done - it's 2.5 hours of my life - I'll be fine.

Reindert has had a really strange effect on me over the last two years. What started out as a rather strained relationship has grown into a lovely friendship. He got me into running. He instilled some self-confidence and self-worth into me. We've been on a few adventures over the last few years - like going on a two day drive from Newcastle to Melbourne, and the trip to Adelaide for a winery jaunt and the Adelaide Marathon. He's intelligent, easy company. That can be hard to find. We get on a bit like brother and sister - just happy to be around each other - silences and conversations aren't strained.

I thing Reindert really makes me realise more than anything is that I do want a partner now. We do cool things together, get to be ratbags together - sort of partners in crime. It's been a very long time since I've had somebody to do mad things with - go on adventures with. Actually, who am I kidding - I've never really had somebody like that in my life.

So maybe that's my next journey - after the marathon, after the overseas trip, after all the preparation.

Find that somebody to go with to see the world in a different way. To go on adventures with - cos you're never too old to go on adventures.And I like going out in search of mischief, trouble and fun. It's what I do best.

Put that down on paper now too.

Can't go back on it.

Oh, add also to the equation, the Grounded Dutchman has announced that he's ready to come back.
And Lachlan's still asking about my visit to the UK.

It's all a bit noisy here at the moment.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Nutella and Migraines

I wish I didn't get migraines.

I should be thankful that they only blight my consciousness periodically, once or twice a year - but they really do wreck me for a few days. Thankfully, the pain is the least of the problems - Panadeine Forte sorts that out quick smart. It's the dicky stomach, the light sensitivity, the lethargy and the complete sense of helplessness that follows you around for the next few days that gets to me more.

Yesterday was spent under the duvet in a darkened room, the television was on quietly in the corner, the sound and colour muted to give me the impression that somebody was around and I wasn't on my own, defenseless, useless and good for nothing.

Late in the day I crawled to the shops to get my prescription for my codeine lollies (Panadeine Forte) filled, buying a litre of milk while I was there. I rang dream group and said I wasn't coming, then back to the duvet cocoon on the couch for the rest of the evening to sleep most of the evening away.

Yesterday can be classed as a write off.

Today, I'm left with cotton wool head, no concentration, no energy and a dull ache between my eyes. Wouldn't have come to work except for the fact that the training course I'm due to take took a month to arrange and nobody else is around to take it. Might schlep home after that. Might also just sit here and look useless. We'll see how things pan out.

What perpelexes me is what triggered this event. I don't get migraines from neck or back pain - I'm blessed that way. I used to get them when I was having an existential crisis - friends would tell me they were pregnant and I would fall down with one - thankfully that stopped happening a few years ago. I remember one time I was out for four days with one - two friends announced their pending births on the same day. I went into therapy after that for a bit - it helped - it hasn't happened since.

So yeah, no existential crises are happening, well nothing out of the ordinary. Okay,. I can't run, my blood pressure's doing silly thinks, my job's not really stimulating me and I don't have two minutes to rub together at the moment - but that's normal.

I'm blaming nutella for the migraine.

The night before this happened I had a great session with Pinochet. And then I did something stupid.

Nutella. And lots of it. Half a small jar to be precise. I don't normally have that stuff in the house - but for making biscuits for the boys barbeque I got some in. Here's  me thinking I can stop at a small taste at the end of the spoon. Right.

Nutella is more addictive than heroin and crack cocaine.

The following morning my blood pressure had spiked and my head was about to explode.

I'm going to have to blame this one on my own stupidity...


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ten Random Things

I have been too busy to blog and I don't like it. My head is about to explode - I haven't had a chance to just sit and write. I've been writing, but Systems Engineering garbage is not real writing.

So, ten quick things about what's going on - and why I'm so busy. In very random order.

1. Blarney is out of hospital - her children are not, but not because they are ill - they just need round the clock care until they're big and strong enough to go home. I think the boys now know me by my scent of Polish beer mixed with Stella McCartney's Rose Absolute. I'm rather enjoying having small people to cuddle on a regular basis. They smell good.

2. I have my free, company paid for airline ticket for my overseas trip in my hot little hand. I need this five weeks off more than you realise. Roll on October 10.

3. A lot of planning is starting to get done for this five week stretch out of Australia. Where do I want to go? What do I want to do? Who do I want to see? How do I get from Boston to Philadelphia? How do I get from Grenada to London? Do I have to go to Cork, Ireland to see the head wettings of Chance and Lance? Lots to consider.

4. I'm on an economy drive, trying to save money for this trip, looking to spend no more than $10 a day while at work. This means lots of Subway lunches, periodic, rather than daily coffee rounds - will have to go to the tea room for my daily top up of coffee. At least the stuff in the work kitchen is semi-decent. I shouldn't moan. I've been in workplaces where instead of our super-dooper coffee machine all we had was Nescafe instant coffee. Nescafe is a crime against humanity and should be eradicated as soon as possible.

5. Went running with Roger from beer club yesterday lunchtime. Roger hasn't run in about six months since the birth of his youngest son in December. I suggested running intervals over 5 km - run three minutes, walk two minutes. Yeah, yeah, she says - nice relaxing, doddle recovery run. Doing the intervals we covered the 5.1 kms in 36 minutes - that's a minute less that what I normally do it in! Bugger made me run fast. Will do me good. Reindert arrives tomorrow afternoon - I think I'll be back on track by Thursday. Reindert like kicking my bum.

6. Listening in to a conference call rather than attending the meeting has it's pros and cons. Listening to "English" in the forms of Franglais, Chinglish, Japalese, Dutchese and Subcontinental dronings is just as boring over a headset, but you can't bludge off and fall asleep at your desk like you do when you sit in these tripe sessions. You could bottle inter-continental teleconferences for sleeping pills. Really.

7. Eddie has been driving me insane over the last few weeks. He's been migrated into our lovely team, which is fine, as I can still ignore him most of the time - but he is soooo high maintenance. He was on a course for four days. He wasn't there. Bliss. I didn't realise how much ambient noise he produces.

8. Realising that my blood pressure and weight are linked, I'm running a campaign to get both down. This is boring, but necessary and I refuse to go on about it. Needless to say, there is lots of lean protein and vegetables and very little saturated fats and sugar in my diet. Told you it was boring.I won't bring it up again.

9. Must stop fantasising about Lachlan. Must stop fantasising about Lachlan. Must stop fantasising about Lachlan. He's taking up too much head space.

10.  Though I haven't been blogging, I have managed to get out a couple of poems. Find below. I'm not really a poet, but enjoy the form.


Rescue Dog

Okay, I don’t communicate that well
My needs, basic, shelter, food, safety
Occasionally articulated
Normally inappropriately.
I apologise.
I have not had lessons from a young age.
You found me wanting, you kept me
Sometimes you see me, normally you don’t
Sitting, waiting for more than a cursory pat.

For what responsibility
Do we have to each other?
You, in your wisdom,
Chose not to walk away.
I, in my naivety and need,
Chose not to run or bite.

Okay, I’ll say it. You don’t communicate that well.
I’m with you on your terms
And you let me know it.
I’m learning my place,
Grateful I’m not forgotten.
I just live for the moment
When my head on your lap,
Your hand on my head
We commune, content, warm, silent.
And there are no words to sound
For this unfathomable peace
This unspoken, most natural love.

Mistress Cleansheets Longs for Touch

She, cats-mother-lumpy-lithe, knows she hates the morning
As her foot engages with the cold air
Of the darkened, slumber-wearied room.
Aforesaid cat, paws intermittently crunch
To the beat of his mistresses bidding,
Warm fingers, soft chin supine in sleep.

They stretch together

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ah, The Difference a Year Makes

It was last year on Mother's Day that I did my first outside timed run. M from the gym and I had trained up on the treadies at the gym and set ourselves this goal of the 4 km Mother's Day Classic - a charity run for breast cancer research. I remember the adrenalin rush of starting this event, coaxing M up the gentle slope of the Tan track, stalling a little as she asked to walk in a couple of places. I also remember the exhilaration of passing the finish line, knowing I didn't have to run any more and the pure delight of acheivement. We'd worked for it - and me made it around the four kilometre track in a smidge under 31 minutes.

As I prepared for the same event this year - only this year I was doing the eight kilometre course with K, did I realise just what I've really done in the last 14 months.

Firstly, on retrieving some safety pins from old race bibs for my tummy number, I looked at the pile. Ten other numbers were in the pile - the Run Melbourne 5 km, the Grape Run, The Sussan Classic 10 km, The Olympic Dream (which I piked on as it was bucketing down that day) The Puffing Billy Great Race - and most incredibly, the Adelaide and Melbourne Half Marathon bibs.

Okay, the times aren't of any great feat - but for me - I've done them all and that makes me proud.
So Mother's Day, around 7 am, K and I got the 109  tram into town, following the tradition that M and I set the year before. We got there with a little time to spare, dropped off the bags and took our place near the back of the pack. I said we'd take about an hour to do this - slow in comparison to many, but an acheivement for us.

K, to give her due - did brilliantly. She signed up for the eight km race only six weeks ago and has been training ever since. I said I'd run with her to keep her company and to spur her along. Adding a bit of coaxing here and there, bribing her with the phrase "you can walk a bit at the next street sign" and making her sprint the last 100 metres after which she nearly threw up. We ran 90% of it easily. She's as stoked as I am.

We made it around in an hour and 36 seconds. I feel wonderful in the knowledge that I could have done it well under the hour if I was alone, but there was no way I was letting K down on her first big run.

My other discovery. I can run, for an hour, outside, hills and all - and not feel tired, puffed out, exhausted, strained or miserable. I can even sing and run at the same time after an hour. This is all a bit scary.

The week before my friend Gloria's partner, Gaynor, and I went up to the Dandenongs for the 13.2 km Puffing Billy Race. The goal for the fast guys is to beat the old, iconic steam train to Lakeside Station - 13 kilometres away.

The goal for me was to run hills and not die.

Added to the fear factor was a warning from my doctor. My blood pressure has been doing silly things of late and I've been warned to take it easy - no over training or going over 80% of my maximum heart rate. I heeded the warning and took my time.

Whining all the way up to Belgrave on the 7.30 am train, Gaynor and I were joined by hundreds of others there to run with the iconic steam train. ( for those who might be interested) I met up with Dan, who I used to run with at lunchtime before he left. He wanted to beat the "Ladie's Train" or the second train that pulls into Lakeside Station after the initial train.

The Puffing Billy Race, hands down, was the BEST event I have ever competed in. It was superb. Running up and down the hills of the Dandenongs on a blissfully cool, overcast day, actually overtaking quite a few people near the end. The best bit - the last three kilometres of gentle downhill gradients down a mountain path. Absolute magic. Again, I finished with the last 200 people - but I did it. And I did not die, or get injured or feel at all bad about my effort.

I want to do this race for as long as I am distance running - it was truly spectacular.

And pushing things further along, Reindert comes back on Wednesday - so I really have to pull my finger out.

Funny what a difference a year makes.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Waiting for the Beer Fairy

One of the joys of running a beer club is organising the beer delivery. The is quite an easy thing to arrange. You just call the beer fairy, give the beer fairy money and the beer fairy gives you beer.

It sort of works like the tooth fairy, except the beer fairy has a tippy truck, tattoos and goes by the name of Quentin.You also have to arrange with the lady on reception about the delivery - she's used to the beer fairy chatting her up now.

We drank the fridges dry on Friday night - it was El Presidente's leaving do - and the takings were three times what they normally were. I hope I do El Presidente proud.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


The last three days have brought some of the biggest highs and lows.

Firstly, Blarney has given birth. The boys, Chance Rex and Lance Reg, were born by caesarean on Sunday afternoon. This wasn't a surprise. Blarney had been in a state for over a week - the doctor decided that they needed to come out and come out now.

First I knew of this was when I turned up to the to the hospital to visit the day after I painted her toenails. When I got to her room, there was stuff everywhere, the odd blood patch in spots, her dressing gown, which she has lived in for the last fortnight, on the floor. And Blarney was nowhere in sight.

On making my way to the nurse's station I saw a woman being trolleyed into the lift. A mass of brown curly hair made things a bit more apparent. I gently edged over to the trolley. It was her, looking deathly pale and strangely deflated.
'Pand, I've had them. I'm off to Intensive Care,' was her weak reply.
'Congratulations, Little Mum.'
'Go find Barney - he's show them to you,' she said as the lift doors closed around her.

So I wandered around to her room, sat down, made a call or two while the nurses gave me a cup of tea (bless) and we talked babies a bit. I met her obstetrician who said not to fret that she was off to the ICU. She would be there overnight, that was it. That was all a precaution.

Barney was found in the waiting room looking completely out of it. The children, by this stage, were about an hour old. We spend the next hour fluffing about the maternity ward. I was the hold and carry person, holding and carrying what needed to be held and carried - of which there was a bit as Blarney's room was being given up for another patient. Then we went into the nursery to meet the boys. They were in humidicribs, all pink and furry and new, cleaned of most of the muck. Lovely little fellows.

Its hard to think that these little creatures, with their snub noses, smattering of blonde curls and tiny fingers were inside Blarney only three days ago.

Once Barney and I had checked out the babies we wandered across the road to the Intensive Care unit. Poor Blarney. It's a good thing that morphine suits her. She only got out of intensive care, back to the maternity ward this afternoon - three nights of no fun at all. At least she's had some rest now.

Adding to the concern about Blarney came the phone call last night. My beloved stepdad has had a heart attack. He's okay - he's going to be okay. The tests show he's not in the quadruple bypass league but these things throw you for a six when they happen.

Thankfully I working from home today, allowing me to not only work in my pyjamas, but to avoid people, which is all I really wanted today.

The hard thing about all this - is that in times like this, when things are really stressful, there is nobody there to lighten the load. I don't let myself think about how hard this is most of the time. Some friends have been kind. Popeye was brilliant this morning - told me to go to Adelaide - I said no - nothing I could do and my mother didn't want me there anyway. I might go in a few weeks time.

It just brings home the fact that we're mortal and that there are reasons why generally avoid being alone like we avoid the dentist.

Rather glad I'm borrowing a friends cat on the weekend - I get some company for a bit.


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Madonna Fingers, Magdalene Toes

Blarney is currently in hospital awaiting the birth of her twins. She's had a rough few weeks - her back, which isn't the best in normal times, is buckling under the weight of her two boys snuggled in her extended uterus. Her normally muscular calves are now the size of my thighs, swollen with fluid. Her blood pressure is doing strange things. She has no energy. She can barely walk. Thankfully, she's in the best place: hospital. Even better, she's in hospital ten minutes walk away from where I live.

A lot of time has been spent in the hospital with her over the last week. I normally pop in on the way home from work. All of her family are in Ireland, not in a position to come out here, so her network of friends are making sure that she is not wanting for anything, keeping her company, ensuring she has somebody about the place during visiting hours. All she has to do is lie there and wait. The wait is excruciating for her. Thankfully she's far enough along that when the babies are delivered they'll be fine - they're not too far off term. Blarney's partner, Barney, is being wonderful too. He's a good man. They have a loving, giving, peaceful relationship. I don't worry about them - they'll be grand when the boys get here.

So today, after doing my morning stuff, I dropped into the hospital this afternoon on a mission. After looking at her feet and hands the evening before with another of her circle of friends, Niamh, we agreed that one of us had to step up to the plate and give her a manicure and pedicure - her nails were a bit of a fright.

I'm getting used to performing unusual tasks in  hospital rooms. When Grounded Dutchman was in hospital for three months last year I found myself giving him a haircut. I haven't cut hair since university - and to be honest, it wasn't a too bad a job - not that anybody other than his mother was going to see him before his next professional haircut when he got back to Holland about two months later. When Reindert and I saw him off six weeks later the cut was lasting well. After the haircut, he looked cared for - it really perked him up. I'm still amazed that he let me do it - but he was looking like the wild man of Borneo by that stage - he was wanting a haircut when he had the accident.

So today, armed with an emery board, nail polish remover, base coat, a couple of colours in shades of polish from gothic black to pale pink, I set to work on her nails. As a reflexologist I'm used to feet yet it's a really different perspective to clean, cut, trim, paint and polish somebody else's nails. After an hour of gentle work, stopping to let the colour dry between coats, Blarney was restored.
"What do ya think?" I asked.
"Lovely colours." She said, admiring her scarlet toenails and baby pink fingernails. Not a too bad a job if I don't say so myself.
"Quite proud of that job. I normally stuff it up on myself."
"You did well."
I told her I rather enjoyed the experience. I didn't get to do this for my own sister when she was pregnant with my nieces. Blarney's the closest thing I have to a sister.
"What are the colours called?" she asked.
I had to have a giggle. "Your fingernails are painted in "Innocence". The stuff on your toes is called "Slut"."
We giggled.
The joyous paradox of womanhood - Madonna /Whore, innocence/experience, virgin/slut. Maiden.Mother.Crone.

What Blarney can't see is that behind the swollen legs, the soreness, the lethargy and the placenta head is the pure potential of pregnancy. She looks the Eternal Earth Mother. I've never seen her look so beautiful. She can't see it - she says she looks like the back side of a barn. I took a photo of her on my phone, making the promise not to distribute the shot. This hasn't stopped me showing a couple of mutual friends... but that isn't distributing technically - the shot hasn't left my phone.... She really is blooming in every way. it's a joy to see.

She'll have her babies in a couple of days. It sounds like her doctor will be giving her a caesarean  sooner rather than later.

After the paint job, we sat and chatted, before Naimh returned for her shift. It feels a bit like tag team visiting. I know that Aoife will come early in the evening and other friends will pop by. She's being looked after well.

I said my goodbyes and returned home, feeling that small sadness that I'm feeling more and more when friends are expecting. I often wonder what it would be like to go though such an experience.