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New horizons

12 Sep

It has been a very long time since I last contributed to this blog of ours, it might have even been this time last year. Louise does such a good job of keeping up with our comings and goings, I sometimes feel that what I can say will be of any interest. Besides I am a much more passive communicator; listening and reading are more my comfort zones!

Talking of comfort zones this is a year for us to be well and truly tested with a baby on the way.   The due date in the middle of September is fast approaching, having seemed for so long to be have been a point far on the horizon. I am incredibly excited, but daunted at the same time. I know that our lives will never be the same again in a matter of days. Louise, as ever, has been extremely organised and we have been busy shopping for baby ‘essentials’, she even managed to bring me along to a baby expo in Sydney a couple of months ago. I will be honest, it was not my idea of fun as I don’t have the best patience for shopping at the best of times, but it was a useful trip and we came home with a pram!

Ardent 2 on the uniform

Ardent 2 on the uniform

Along with fatherhood, 2014 has also seen me taking command of a warship for the first time in my career. I joined my crew, called ‘Ardent Two’ in Darwin at the end of May and we embarked in HMAS Wollongong, an Arimdale Class Patrol Boat (ACPB). The patrol boat community in the RAN is unconventionally manned, with more crews than hulls, and a rotation system of 8 weeks ‘on’ and 4 weeks ‘off’. This means that each crew goes back to a different Ship each time, odd, but it almost works. Anyway, Wollongong was my first and I have since been back briefly to Sydney and am now back for a longer duration, until the birth and hopefully, for a few weeks after it as well. I have immensely enjoyed the first four months in command, have quickly come to realise that all my time in the Navy to date has prepared me for this one job. Each day on board I seem to find myself remembering instances when something similar occurred under different commanding officers and how I reacted then and now. It surprises me how lessons were imparted to me in all manner of situations.

July also saw me reach the halfway point of my Masters of Business programme, which I am being funded to complete by the RAN. It is a pleasing milestone, but the end still seems some way of, particularly as I have taken a break for the first six months in command whilst I get myself settled into the job at sea.

After my first stint in patrol, I had to find myself a place to liven Cairns (well, Louise did, and I just inspected on my arrival in Cairns!) I managed to secure an apartment in the city, which gives me a base up there  and somewhere for Louise and the baby to visit occasionally as well.

The new Cairns pad

The new Cairns pad

Winter sun at Bondi

Winter sun at Bondi

Physically I have also embarked on a press-up (push-up) challenge. I saw this being talked about on Facebook at the end of last year and it intrigued me. The challenge is simply one press-up on Jan 1st, two on Jan 2nd continuing in this vein until Dec 31st! Today I have had to complete 256 press-ups, not in all in one go thankfully, but it is a physical and psychological test that I am determined to complete. In total I will have knocked out over 66,000 over the course of the year.

Doing the push-ups in front of the Ship

Doing the push-ups in front of the Ship

By the end of this year I will have taken on a hugely responsible role in two regards, both in my personal and professional life. They are both responsibilities I feel ready for, although something tells me a tiny newborn may prove more testing than a crew of grown men. Either way, Louise and I are about to find out very soon.

 

 

The Kindness of Strangers

13 Jul

As a military wife, you get used to periods on your own and getting on with the day to day. A lack of companionship aside, you soon establish your routines and develop strategies to get through the weeks and months solo; arranging social get togethers, scheduling catch-ups and making lists of things you need to get done and coming up with little projects you can do on evenings or weekends.

But there occasionally comes a time when that question, “Can I call your husband?” is necessary and that’s when being on your own can prove more difficult.

As ‘deployments’ go, eight weeks is not a long time but admittedly I was a little anxious beforehand this time round because being pregnant adds a layer of vulnerability, and inevitably, the further along you get, the fewer tasks you feel up to doing.

I’ve had my weekly yoga classes, antenatal classes and catch-ups with friends. Periodic check-ups have meant trips to the hospital and GP, which do mean there has been some reassurance on a regular basis as well.

In fact, everything had been going pretty well for a few weeks and I’d only been told to come into the hospital for monitoring and a scan once after questioning how much I’d been feeling the baby move. Of course, as soon as I arrived, it was kicking up a storm again and all was fine.

Then came 28 weeks and my midwife checkup at the hospital. All looked normal and I set off on the drive home, but decided to call into the supermarket en route to pick up a few bits and pieces. It was nearly lunchtime so, being sensible (it happens sometimes), I stopped and had a bowl of soup before braving the crowds in a large supermarket in the middle of a bustling shopping centre.

That’s when I started feeling hot. I began fanning myself, thinking I was having some sort of odd, pregnancy-induced hot flush. Maybe this is one of the joys of the third trimester… But the fanning was futile and I was just becoming hotter and perspiring and started feeling really sick. I looked down the mall to the toilets, thinking I needed cold water on my face but at that point I didn’t think I was going to make it through the throngs to get there. I needed to cool down and so my next thought was the supermarket opposite because supermarkets have fridges and freezers and so that’s where I headed.

It all happened very quickly. I think I had just gone past the Asian dipping sauces and was somewhere between the crisps and the line of cashiers when my hearing went. At that point I knew I was going down and in that split second I just put myself on the floor. I didn’t think there would ever come a time in my life when the cold, hard, tiled floor of Coles would look appealing but in that moment, it won over falling.

It wasn’t long before a few people had rushed over, asking me if I was ok. At that point I was too hot and dizzy to point out that if I was ok, I would not be choosing to lie there… I would have clearly chosen the ice cream section. I think I murmured something about being pregnant and heard another voice say, “Call triple zero.” I was pretty sure I didn’t need an ambulance but I was equally a little concerned that this might be affecting the baby. I had no idea, I was just aware of a girl, feeling my head, pulling an elastic from round my wrist and tying back my hair.

“Has someone called a ambulance?”

“Yes, they’re on their way.”

A bottle of water was shoved under my nose and I managed to half sit, slumped against a checkout booth and sip water. This is when the reality of the situation sank in and I became aware of several pairs of concerned eyes coming into focus and the ogling faces, pretending they were just stopping to stock up on hot chilli sauce, which had never been more popular.

In the minutes that followed I think I explained the same story of what had happened to at least four or five different people. There was the man, I assume was the floor manager, who suddenly had a legitimate reason to start using the walkie talkie strapped to his belt, there was the shopping centre security manager, who had been called and had come with first aid box in hand, the girl at the checkout who went to fetch me a chair and there were the two girls who had stopped and stayed by my side until they knew I was going to be ok.

One girl, the one who had tied back my hair, had managed to get through to an emergency service I hadn’t even known existed; a local volunteer service, who act as a first response and bridge of medical care before a main NSW Ambulance can arrive on the scene. It meant that within no more than five minutes, someone was there, an oxygen mask was clamped to my face, my blood pressure was being checked, my pulse monitored and my finger pricked to check my glucose levels.

It was around this time that the floor manager returned and cordoned off the area, so I felt more like the victim in an episode of Crime Scene in the Crisp Aisle  than a pregnant lady with low blood pressure.

However, amid all the attention and drama, I was incredibly touched by the solicitude shown by the people around me. As both the medical guy and the centre manager got all my details, the girl by my side was asking who she should call.

“Can I call your partner?”

I shook my head. “He’s away.”

“Ok, what about any family, are they local?”

I probably could have cried at this point but just shook my head. ‘In England.”

I told her I didn’t think I needed to call anyone but when the ‘Ambos’ arrived (you will find Australians abbreviate everything and stick an ‘o’ on the end) and informed me they thought it best I went to hospital to get checked over, I realised I probably should tell someone. I ran through the list of friends, most of whom I knew would be at work and settled on the wife of a Navy friend. The message was passed and I was told she would call to check on me.

The ambulance crew seemed concerned that I was on my own and would be going back home alone and with my blood pressure still “too low” for their liking, they got ready to take me to hospital.

The security manager assured me that they would look after my car and I needn’t worry about leaving it and to come back when I was ready. Just before the ambos decided to cart me away, the girl who had waited all this time, made sure I had all my bags and took my number, saying she would call to check if I was ok and if I needed anything, she lived near by.

If the whole incident of collapsing on the floor in the middle of a supermarket wasn’t embarrassing enough, being wheeled out on a stretcher and into the crowds of shoppers in a packed Westfield was definitely mortifying. I stared at the ceiling and tried to avoid any eye contact.

The ambulance guys were brilliant, although they kind of reminded me a bit of a young Chuckle Brothers (a not-that-funny-comedy duo to the non-English residents). I could almost imagine them saying, “to me, to you,” as they parked me in the ambulance. However, the guy in the back of the ambulance was lovely and explained that his wife was also expecting their first child.

Although still very shaky I was feeling a lot better and I started to realise how lucky I was that I had been in a public place, despite the obvious embarrassment factor! I was also incredibly touched by the number of strangers who had shown so much care and concern: from the girl in the shop, to the supermarket staff, the security manager, the initial emergency response team and the ambulance crew themselves.

I felt completely safe and in good hands and shortly after arriving in hospital (I should have just stayed after my morning check up), my friend and her husband both arrived to see how I was doing and insisted that I come home with them.

So it was that I ended up spending the next couple of days at their house, with their four children, being fed wonderful, home-cooked, family dinners and being able to curl up in front of the TV with their Labrador.

I did call the girl and let her know I was ok and in fact we went out for a coffee a few days later so I could say thank you in person, with a bunch of flowers. I also left with a few more tips about becoming a mum and good shopping advice, as it turned out she has a nine-month old.

It can definitely be hard at times when you are on your own and your husband is somewhere in the middle of the ocean but if I needed my faith restored in humanity, that day was probably it. Now just two more days to go before James is back, but you will be glad to know I have set up online supermarket delivery for the future.

 

Making our way down the produce aisle

18 Jun

So as of yesterday, our unborn child is the size of a cauliflower (a pretty large one if the measurements from my last ultrasound are to go by). He or she has grown, however, from being a red cabbage last week and the length of a cucumber the week before. It’s quite amusing to do the weekly shop and think you are holding the fruit or vegetable, which corresponds to baby’s weight or size. We have graduated from the little peanut to the runner bean and continued to blossom from fig to avocado to grapefruit to well… the slightly less glamorous cauliflower.

These small increments are helping me tick off the milestones as I reach them. Finally, I have hit the third trimester and that is one big hurdle to have crossed. It started with just wanting to reach the ‘safe’ twelve-week mark, to then making it another couple of weeks into the second trimester. Then came the 20-week milestone and waiting for the “all clear” from the morphology scan. After this I breathed a little easier and allowed myself our first purchase of one babygro! (Or bodysuit depending on where you are.) Then the parameters were pushed further to just wanting to reach 25 weeks, the next ‘safe’ mark when in theory, a baby can survive outside the womb (with a lot of medical assistance) and now I’ve made it to almost 28 weeks, I’m already looking to the next big one: 35, when I’ll have my next scan.

Profile of baby at 20 weeks

Profile of baby at 20 weeks

This pregnancy has definitely been one of stages: the nausea stage, the worrying stage, the itching phase, the “I think everything’s ok now” stage, the baby brain stage (not sure I’ve quite got through that one yet) and I’ve almost got to the ‘home-stretch’ stage. By the time James is back I’ll be past 31 weeks and when he leaves again, I’ll be nearly 35. Then we just have to hope that baby decides to stay in there until at least 38 weeks when James will finally return for a few weeks, and at least until after the birth.

I’d like to say it’s been a completely smooth ride and in hindsight, there has never been anything wrong; the ‘womb child’ as my meditation CD likes to call it, has been measuring correct for dates, growing consistently and has shown no signs of problems. But after the relief of subsiding nausea from week 15, I started getting the abdominal pains. They weren’t too severe but enough for the GP to recommend an abdominal scan (probably to check for any gall bladder issues.)

I got the call that evening with his first line being, “Well, the baby is fine.”

After that I almost didn’t listen to the next bit. The baby was fine, that was all that mattered.

“But they did find a small mass on your liver.”

“Right.”

“But we don’t think it is sinister.”

OK. That doesn’t sound so great but still, the baby was fine. I hung up.

It was only lying in bed that night that I played through the conversation and suddenly “mass” became “tumour” and “don’t think it is sinister,” translated to, “it could be.”

Now try telling a first time pregnant lady (or indeed any pregnant lady) that she has a growth, which they can’t properly diagnose because of the limited procedures possible during pregnancy, and expect her not to worry. Try telling her it will be ok when one possible diagnosis is a hormone-related growth, which could continue to enlarge and even rupture and requires constant monitoring and then ask her not to go to bed worrying that something terrible is going to happen while she sleeps while those lovely hormone levels continue to rise.

I managed to put it to the back of my mind until the itching started. I’m not talking the odd itchy moment, or the normal skin stretching type of itching as your belly expands, I’m talking all-over body, drive-you-nuts itching that wakes you up every hour of the night and is only temporarily soothed with an ice block, kept by the side of the bed. I bought out the local chemist’s supply of calamine lotion and oatmeal moisturisers, even took tepid baths with oatmeal, which made the bathroom smell of porridge. I would like to say I stepped away from Doctor Google but during my frantic scratching sessions, I found some reassurance that itchy skin is quite common… Oh, hang on, unless it’s the condition linked to your liver function, which is actually potentially very harmful.

Back to the GP. Liver panel test immediately ordered and results: normal. Itching continues. More googling. Apparently it is the bile acid levels that should be tested. Back to the GP. Bile acid tests done. Ten days of waiting. Results: normal.

A week later a third liver scan reveals no change and the likely diagnosis is a completely benign hemangioma. By this point I am more reassured, even though I had already been referred to the obstetrician for a second opinion and was told, with a roll of the eyes, that there was, “no need to worry.”

Finally, I can relax (with the help of the womb child meditation CD, lent to me by a friend.)

I am pleased to say that so far since then, all has been going well. I have been going to prenatal yoga, which has been amazing, and taught by one of the midwives at the hospital. It is great to stretch but not always so great when one of the other ladies informs us that one particular move is meant to bring on labour. We were assured, the move was entirely different. I seem to have a fan inside me too judging by the jabs in my stomach as I touch my toes. (I can still do this… perhaps it’s being squashed.) Mind you, the jabs are fairly frequent and have been pretty strong for several weeks. He or she seems to perform a Hakka inside me every night, which does not always make for a comfortable sleep, and I am fairly used to my stomach pulsing away as I sit down for my nightly dose of Masterchef.

In fact my only issue has been with me, and my brain, or lack of. Quite how I went from being completely able to hold a normal conversation one day to forgetting half of my vocabulary the next is beyond me. I have at times driven the wrong way home from the hospital, which has become quite a frequent trip of late, spent fifteen minutes looking for the car I’ve ‘lost’ in the car park, burnt toast because I’ve put it down in the toaster twice, and even left the hob on for hours after cooking. Worse still, was returning home from the shops to the unlocked front door, the lights on and the balcony doors wide open. After tentatively opening doors, thinking a burglar was hiding somewhere, I realised that in fact, it was just me, who had left the house completely wide open. Try telling me that ‘baby brain’ is all in my imagination.

The bump is growing (although have been frequently told it is “very compact”.) During a maternity jeans purchase the other week, the sales assistant said he hadn’t realised I was pregnant and had been about to point out that I was buying maternity jeans. When I informed him I was six months pregnant, you could have prised his jaw from the floor. More disconcerting was the lady at the swimming pool who said she thought I must be “just a few weeks along” when I’m stood there in a wet costume, clinging to what is most definitely a round bump – holding a cauliflower no less (or I think it might have been a cabbage at that point.)

I guess now I should actually start to buy things. Thanks to my mum he or she will at least have a couple of things to wear. This arrived in the post the other week to much excitement!

Baby outfit

Baby outfit

 

However, the poor child as yet has nowhere to sleep, nothing to ride home in from hospital, will be wearing one of a total of three newborn vests and certainly has no blankets, nappies or anywhere to be changed. I have a good few weeks left to go but would rather have finished the shopping before I get to elephantine proportions where a trip to the shops is more of a breathless waddle interspersed by dashes to the toilet. By that point the baby will have gone through the pineapple stage to more of a watermelon, but at least that’s a little more exotic than a cauliflower.

 

Can I breathe yet?

20 Mar

When we started this blog, we titled it Upside Down because not only were we making the move ‘down under’ to Australia, but we were changing our jobs, home and entire lifestyle. We were turning our lives “upside down.”

Well, if we haven’t already, in about six months, we are going to understand the true meaning of that phrase because James and I are expecting our first baby in September.

Hopefully, this news explains the recent hiatus in blogging. Shortly after landing back in Australia from the UK the nausea hit and after several days of feeling less than wonderful and wondering why a walk down to the beach and back (uphill) had take it out of me, I began to assume something was up. Turns out it was, and by the time we had the first dating scan, I was already nine weeks pregnant.

Before then, the little person growing inside me had already been well and truly making their presence felt. The fatigue was one thing but it seems I was a text book case in every way: from the strange tastes in my mouth, the food aversions, and the nausea to the more weird symptoms of constant sneezing and odd aversions to certain smells. In fact I think I suffered the full gamut of early pregnancy symptoms.

What I hadn’t realized was how debilitating that lovely misnomer, “morning” sickness can be. There were days when I could not leave the sofa and any position other than horizontal had me running to the bathroom. On the plus side (there had to be one) it was mainly nausea rather than sickness, but a day when I felt well enough to make it out into the fresh air and even do something normal such as pop to the shops became a lovely novelty.

Food was fun as well. Carrs probably saw their profit margin double during January and February as I munched my way through packets of water biscuits. The things I usually don’t care about, my body seemed to crave, and the things I used to love became the food of the devil. I still can’t look at a pepper, worse still if it’s roasted.

Luckily, if only on a nutritional level, I can face broccoli again and my penchant for salt and vinegar crisps has died down to maybe just one bag a week!

James had to put up with the brunt of it; for a start, he was often left to fend for himself in the kitchen, although he got his revenge by cooking some stinking concoction, which meant I had to spend a good half hour out on the balcony while the smell dispersed.

My newly developed bloodhound sense of smell meant I couldn’t (and at times still can’t) abide the smell of his shower gel or deodorant. As he steps out the shower, thinking he’s clean and fresh, he is greeted with me retching in the bedroom and ordering him out the room. It got to a point where I had to buy different soap for the bathrooms because the scent, which I usually love, was turning me green.

If that wasn’t bad enough, he had to be on bathroom cleaning duty as well until I changed to the eco-friendly, less potent products. (I should have done that a while a go to be honest).

On the subject of eco-friendly, the things you are advised to buy and not buy nowadays when you’re pregnant can be a little like navigating a minefield.  I have to say if I envy mothers-to-be of the pre-digital age, it is because of one thing: they didn’t have Google.

Google can be at once a question-answering God send and a panic-inducing scaremonger. Sadly when it comes to pregnancy it is quite frequently the latter.

Type in the phrase: “Is (insert food/product) safe when pregnant?” into Google and inevitably some website will tell you explicitly: No.

We’re not just talking soft cheese, raw fish and alcohol, but over the past few weeks I have seen warnings about eating rhubarb, pineapple, mango, basil and parsley to name a few. I think some people seem to think we plan on munching on handfuls of poisonous rhubarb leaves, drinking mugs of essential basil oil or eating ten pineapples in one sitting (which I admit, could cause a few problems).

It’s not just what you put in your body, but on your body as well. I am all in favour of eliminating toxic chemicals from your life but I am starting to wonder how so many healthy babies have been born in the last decades when their mothers washed their hair with shampoo, put moisturizer in their bodies and maybe even did their makeup once in a while. If you were to take heed of every warning out there you would spend hours searching for products that not only did not contain sodium laureth sulfate, parabens and other ‘nasties’ but are also organic and have no essential oils, which can be “harmful”.

In fact, I was reading a blog by a lady discussing her pregnancy who said she avoided anything with citric acid in during the first trimester because she had heard too much vitamin C could be dangerous.

If you add this to some advice out there such as avoiding new cars (chemicals used to clean interiors) and not getting your hair cut (fumes from the salon), and you can begin to understand why I might be wondering if it safe to breath.

By some miracle I have survived the first trimester and I even managed to keep clean and not starve in the process. Now we feel able to tell our friends and family, it has been very reassuring to see how many friends out here have come forward offering any help they can, whether it be from accompanying me to appointments if James is away to simply coming over and having a chat if I am worried about anything. One of our good friends even sent James home with a lamb casserole for us to heat up one evening because she knew I was struggling to get out to do food shopping and cooking.

Already saluting and getting ready to meet "dad"

Already saluting and getting ready to meet “dad”

Luckily the symptoms have started to ease and although our plans for a romantic meal out after our 12-week scan did not go quite as planned after I started feeling so sick after ordering that we ended up taking the meal home in a doggy bag, I am feeling a lot better.

I do sometimes look down at my stomach and think, “(insert expletive) when did that appear?” but judging by the fact people aren’t leaping up out of their seats to offer them to me on the bus, I am not actually showing very much… yet!

I look forward to that day, because as much as everyone tells me, “the time will fly by”, right now I am looking ahead at six months and I feel as if there is a very long way to go!

Finishing Lines

8 Nov Credit: BitScan Pty Ltd

There are two kinds of lines where meeting one automatically means meeting the other, but the reverse is not trrue. I’m talking deadlines and finishing lines. Meet your deadline and you’ve crossed the finishing line, pass the finishing line but the deadline may well have past long a go. With most projects, deadlines seem to act as a vague guideline because invariably they keep getting pushed back. Construction projects and house building seem to be a prime example. How often do Kevin McCloud or Peter Maddison revisit a build to see months have slipped by and they are still awaiting planning permission for a crucial feature wall? Well, it seems building an app is no different.

The past few months have involved dozens of meetings, where we have asked the question: How long now, two weeks? Do you think we’ll be ready by September.. Make that October? Mid October? Oh…

 

There is never one person or company to blame; as with all things technical, issues arise, things breakdown, pieces of code don’t work, updates are always available; as with all things human, people fall sick, people do make mistakes and people underestimate how long a ‘relatively small job’ will take.

However, the months, weeks, days and hours of talking, researching, planning, designing and head-scratching is coming to a close and we can now talk about the launch of our new app in matters of days. It is exciting. It’s exciting because we are, currently, first to market with anything of this kind, and because we are actually pretty pleased with the result.

Without attempting the bitcoin explainer again (see previous posts), the app has been designed as an interface for all and any users of bitcoin. It is packed full of features and we hope offers a sleek, user-friendly and fully functional application whether you want to trade, invest, analyse, inform, sell, promote or spend. It is, as we like to say: The World of Bitcoin in the Palm of Your Hand. For details about what it does and all its features, if you are interested, you can read more here. What might encourage you is that bitcoin is growing in value steadily again. Over the past few weeks it has grown in a fairly sustained, measured way and the price is now at an all-time high of around $300 a bitcoin. It has proven resilient to the Silk Road bust and resistant to attempts by the FBI to crack its code seeing as even they cannot access the almost 489,000 bitcoins it seized as a result, safely stashed in an encrypted wallet. With China now entering the picture, it is unlikely that bitcoin is going to disappear for a while. It seems a prime time to be launching the app. The finishing line is in sight.

Credit: BitScan Pty Ltd

The new BitScan app

I happened to cross another finishing line a couple of week’s ago. That of the Sydney’s Rebel Run half marathon at the Olympic Park. It was not an easy run and for whatever reason that day, I really struggled. I tend to be able to pace myself quite well and have enough in reserve for a bit of a spurt at the end, but not this time. Training had not been easy due to the searing temperatures we had been having. 30-degree plus days in October are not what I’m used to and the atmosphere for a few weeks has been hazy at the best of times with the smoke from the bushfires blowing over. Most mornings I felt I could have been training for the Sahara desert run! I had done a few long runs in preparation and had managed a sub 1hour 50minutes in training.

The weekend in question, our friend Will came to visit from Melbourne, which was brilliant and great to catch up with him. When the sun’s out and there are beers to be had (it was the Sydney Craft Beer Festival that week) Will and James were keen to head out. I joined them for a hog roast on the Saturday afternoon, although no alcohol, plenty of fluids, and plenty of pasta that night was order of the day for me!

As with all race mornings, I felt a little nervous with the anticipation of the 21.1 km ahead of me. A little tired as well, but only to be expected when you have to get up at 5am to make the 6.30am gun. I set off well, but possibly a little fast. After 11 km, the distance markers disappeared because we were running along track by the river and through parkland. I do not own a Garmin watch, and wasn’t running with my Nike Plus, so was having to estimate how far I had gone, but by what must have been about 16 km, I was starting to flag. The day was already warming up and a grey, smoky haze suddenly wafted over, which is never helpful when you’re relying on oxygen! Apart from once when training too late in the day and it was nearing 26 degrees, I have never had that urge come over me to stop like I did then. Of course, I couldn’t. If I stopped or walked, I knew I’d never get going again. I felt as if I was staggering along, forcing one foot in front of the other, not feeling breathless, just lethargic. My energy was completely sapped. Despite my little jelly bean stash for a glucose hit as I went round, my blood sugar must have taken a serious dip because at one point double vision set in. Dreams of making it anywhere in near 1 hour 45 vanished, I knew 1 hour 50 was going to be highly unlikely and I had to hope I could still finish in under 2 hours. I just kept telling myself to keep going. My muscles, which never usually suffer from lactic acid build up, were suddenly screaming, and my head was screaming at me in a different way. I have never had such a mental, let a lone physical, struggle during a run.

When the stewards in the sidelines yelled, “3km to go” I think I deflated even more. In the grand scheme of things, it was a short distance and this was usually when I would have started to increase the pace slightly if I had anything left. I didn’t. In fact, one man, running by, must have seen me wilting and said, “We’re nearly there, come on.” I had no intention of stopping but I think the feeling of disappointment that my goal times were a distant memory was an extra burden I was dragging along!

The last stretch along to the Olympic stadium felt never ending but even in the state I was in, there was something about running through the tunnel and into the stadium that meant the struggle was forgotten for a brief few seconds. Any fantasy of sprinting over the finish line with my hands in the air remained just that. As soon as the line was crossed I staggered to one side, collapsed in a corner and did not stand up again for a good five minutes.

Finishing the Rebel Run half marathon

Finishing the Rebel Run half marathon

Amazingly by the time I was home half an hour later, I felt fine. No aches, no pains, just ready for a nap! There was no stiffness over the following days either but the thought of running anything over 10km didn’t appeal so much!

Oh, and you’re probably wondering how I did… Well I crossed the finish line in 1 hour 52 minutes, which given everything, absolutely amazed me. Not my finest hour (or two) but it’s one finishing line I don’t have to worry about again.

Raro Time

6 Sep

From the moment we stepped off the plane, the Cook Islands welcomed us. It was the sound of the man in the straw hat and tropical shirt (who we now know is called Jake) strumming away on his guitar with island tunes while we waited in the tiny arrivals area for our bags to appear on the one luggage carousel. It was the sign saying ‘Welcome Louise & James’ when we headed to the desk for our transfer and it was our driver, Gna, offering us a glass of champagne in the back of the car before taking us to our accommodation. We had arrived in Rarotonga and from now on, everything was going to happen in ‘Raro time.’

The brief introduction to Rarotonga as we sat in the taxi, watching the dark shapes of palm trees and low-rise buildings slide past (the speed limit is a maximum 50kph on the whole island), informed us that tourists make up a higher percentage of the population than locals, the entire island is only 35km around and one of the best places to watch sunset is at the end of the runway.

It was 1.30 am and the owners at our accommodation had long gone home but Gna walked in, found the keys and showed us to our villa. Anywhere else, it might have seemed odd, but this was Rarotonga, a tiny speck in the middle of the Pacific, as far from anywhere as you can pretty much get and right then, Sydney, the city, work and daily routine felt very very far away.

Just before heading to bed, with the sound of the waves enticingly close, we had to walk down to the beach and less than twenty metres from our front door, we were on the sand and looking out over the lagoon, which surrounds the island. It was dark of course but feeling the sand between our toes and hearing nothing but water lapping the shore and a sweet, balmy breeze, we were on holiday.

Mii greeted us on our first morning and offered to take us to the supermarket to stock up on a few provisions. We weren’t planning on doing much self-catering, but a few bits for breakfast and lunch were all we needed. In the daylight, we saw our first glimpse of the inland lushness of the island; mountains reared up in the centre, covered in a vivid green carpet and all along the roadside were lawns, palm trees and bright flowers punctuating the dense foliage.

On the other side of the road, white sand sloped down to the lagoon, crystal clear and bright turquoise. I might be describing your typical tropical island paradise, but then, that is exactly where we were.

Rarotonga from the lagoon

Rarotonga from the lagoon

Rarotonga - main road

Rarotonga – main road

Titikaveka Beach

Titikaveka Beach

We hopped out of Mii’s car. The windows were left down, the doors left unlocked and every other person waved, smiled and hugged Mii as we walked in.

This is the kind of island, unsurprisingly, where everyone knows everyone. It is the kind if island where “going up town” refers to heading to the one settlement with more than two roads, on the north side. It is the kind of island where there are only two buses: clockwise and anti-clockwise and where, if you are waiting for a bus to take you home from ‘town’ at night and the police drive by, they tell you to “hop in” and give you a ride back to your villa.

Our villa was one of just ten, all facing the water, set back a few metres from one of the best beaches on the island for snorkeling and swimming. With a coral reef, protecting the island, there was plenty of coral to snorkel around and tropical fish occasionally jumping up near where we were lying on the beach. We did a lot of that. Lying. Lying and reading, lying and sunbathing, lying and sleeping and maybe occasionally rolling over, you know, if we were getting too much sun on one side… I think we occasionally mumbled something to each other but basically, the holiday, which was booked as a much needed rest and recharge, was just that.

Lazy days

There were several restaurants within walking distance and a few, which we went to by bus. Most were small, on the beach, serving Polynesian food, which is essentially a lot of fish, rice and typical sides like papaya salad. The American influence was still apparent: key lime pie and New York cheesecake were a common feature on the dessert menu!

Beach bar

Beach bar

The resort, where we stayed hosted a couple of communal events each week, to get guests mingling and talking. The first of these was a morning tea by the pool, with hokey pokey muffins (honeycomb for the Brits.) We got chatting to another young, American couple, who were honeymooning on the island, and a few of the other guests, mainly Kiwis. The second event, fell on our last night: the Petanque Championship. The stress was on ‘fun’ not ‘competition’ but if you’re going to stick a ball in James’ hand and mention the word ‘Championship’ to either of us, we aren’t going to take it lying down (perhaps we’d had too much of that during the rest of the holiday.)

Competitive spirits aroused, the other guests were not going to get their sedate game of petanque whether they wanted it or not. We won. Of course. Petanque champions of the week. We could leave, satisfied.

Petanque Champions

Petanque Champions

Our final meal that night was as local as you could get. The American couple had befriended a woman, who lived across the road and who had offered to cook them dinner. They invited us to join them and that evening, Mama Nicky came to their villa with dishes of home-cooked food: fish in coconut cream, chicken curry, raw fish in lime juice and a home-baked banana bread. It was delicious and a good way to say goodbye to the island.

Mama Nicky and crew

Mama Nicky and crew

We never got to see a sunset from the end of the runway, but we’re sure, the ones we did see, were not too bad.

Sunset from Titikaveka

Sunset from Titikaveka

 

City2Surf 2013

14 Aug

Last year I waited anxiously on the Saturday evening before my first City2Surf as the wind howled around the house and rain battered the windows. I was hoping the following morning would at least stay dry. It did, thankfully, and I completed my first City2Surf run in a fairly respectable time of 73 minutes. What a difference a year makes. Clear blue skies and temperatures well into the double figures greeted us for City2Surf 2013 and it was not just me running but James and five other friends as well.

I have now run this event twice and feel qualified to say, I love this race. There is a real buzz and sense of fun that you do not always get with more competitive, accredited races. With a previous qualifying time, I was in a different start group to my friends and just after 8am, my gun went off, followed by James’ 20 minutes later. The nerves may not have been as bad as last year but the pressure was on. Last year, it was about finishing and experiencing the atmosphere that you can only get in amongst 85,000 runners, pounding the streets of Sydney all the way to Bondi Beach. This year I had different expectations and a time to beat. I had not put in as much training and I knew heartbreak hill was going to prove more of a struggle than I wanted but I thought a 70-minute race might just be possible if I didn’t let the muscle burn get the better of me.

I started well but it was hard to tell how I was going (I do not have a Garmin or timing device) and in amongst faster runners, I was very much ‘one of the pack’. If anything was going to spur me on, it was knowing James was going to be on my back, and although starting well behind me, I admit there was a little competition going on between us, as well as with myself!

©Louise Edmondson

©Louise Edmondson

©Louise Edmondson

©Louise Edmondson

There are not many timed running events where you can high-five children lining the street, pass a man running in a policeman’s helmet or dressed as a smurf, get sprayed by water pistols by onlookers and feel the mutual sense of pain as you all dig deep to get up that hill. The urge to pat people on the back and just say, “keep going, you can do it,” was quite strong!

Once heartbreak hill is conquered, it is not, as some people like to believe, “all down hill from then on” in fact there are a couple of pretty sneaky but nasty ascents along Military Road before Bondi comes into view. The approach to Bondi is always the hardest part. You are so close and the finish is in sight yet the course, parallel to the beach, seems to go on forever and then you have to double back on yourself to the finish line. I saw a friend among the spectating crowds and gave a yell and a wave as I ran past and then it was the final stretch to the end.

It’s a tough course, no doubt. Need to see the faces on people as they finish?

Finishing relief!

I did not feel too bad after crossing the line. There was the sense of achievement at having finished and kept running and there was the knowing I had raised over $400 for my chosen charity, The Butterfly Foundation.  I had no idea of my overall time but I knew it would be close whether I had cracked my sub-70 goal.  Fortunately, James and I managed to meet up and walked home (up another hill), feeling a little tired but proud to have completed the, let’s say, ‘undulating’ course! A sunny Bond is not a bad place to end:

James_medal

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Once home, as much as the temptation was to have a soak and fall asleep, we had a party to prepare for. We had decided it would be a good afternoon to have our belated housewarming party so there was no time to sit and relax. There was food to get ready, barbecues to light and a house to clean. We were so lucky with the weather: sunny, cloudless skies and 22 degrees, perfect for taking advantage of the views and getting use out of the balcony. This became not just a sun trap but a tourist viewing platform, with everyone getting out phones and cameras to take pictures!

Our View!

Our race times came in by text. James, 76 minutes – very impressive considering just a year a go he was hobbling about after a knee operation and myself…. 71 minutes, a minute over my target so a little disappointing but at least a bit quicker than last year. When I thought about how I could have shaved off the minute, I started blaming that brief stop at the water point, the zig-zagging between people at the beginning, the seconds spent waving to my friend in the crowd… At the end of the day, I just needed to run faster!

Next year, there is always next year… But first, there is the Sydney Half Marathon in just over one month’s time.

Sprint Finish

22 Jul

I woke up last Thursday morning and decided to enter a 10k run. A 10k run that happened to be that Sunday, in just three days’ time. James isn’t around at the moment so I thought, what else is there to do on a weekend, may as well enter a race.

Although I run the distance fairly regularly when I go for a run, I had never entered a competitive 10k. Last year I entered my first organised running event, Sydney’s City2Surf and I am doing it again this year, so I saw this 10k as a bit of an opportunity for a training run to get me back into the groove!

I submitted my entry before I had read the average and fastest times the runners tend to clock up in this particular race. The Sydney Harbour 10k sees some of the fastest times of any 10k in Australia and I had just voluntarily decided to get up at 5.30am that Sunday morning to go and try to compete with these people. Hmmmm.

There were three ‘waves’ in which I could enter: under 50 minutes, under an hour and finally, anything over 65 minutes. I would have loved to have selected under 50 minutes, but I knew my times were just not fast enough. I had this 50-minute goal in mind, which would mean averaging 12k/h over the distance but always seemed to fall just short. So, I entered the second wave and just hoped I could do it under 55 minutes.

The morning of the race was a fresh 10 degrees but Circular Quay, near the start, was at least an inspirational setting at 6am with the sun rising beyond the Opera House.

Race morning

I stood around, and could have felt slightly intimidated by the number of ‘elites’, jumping up and down, stripped down to just small running vests and shorts, oozing lean, mean, running machine from every pore, while the rest of us huddled near the outdoor heaters in leggings and long sleeves. Minutes before the start, I braved the chill, stripped down to a T-shirt and made my way nervously to the starting line. As part of the ‘B’ group, we were corralled into our holding section, just behind the ‘A’ wave. There was some light humour among the crowd but quite a few serious faces and stretching going on. I was right at the front of the section, just a few metres from the A-wave. They were in my sights. They might be fast, but they were scared (I like to think so anyway.)

Starting line up

The countdown began and the gun was fired. I could not move. Slowly we edged our way forwards until the sea of bodies ahead of us began to move more quickly and after a couple of minutes I was over the starting line and running. The pace seemed steady. I did not feel I was pushing it and I was comfortably overtaking a few people, although admittedly, I am certain there was a stream of runners flooding past me. One of the big attractions of this run is the scenery, with Sydney harbour as a backdrop and the route taking you under the bridge, around to Darling Harbour and back, with waterfront views for most of the course. There is something wonderfully surreal about running under the Sydney Harbour Bridge with the sun just risen above the horizon and only the sound of hundreds of pairs of feet pounding the pavement around you.

The halfway point seemed like a long time in coming and in the back of my mind I was deliberating upping my pace versus having enough in reserve to keep up the momentum to the end. I noticed a few people around me seemed to be putting in some extra effort so I upped my game and kept going. I knew the elite athletes would probably finish in half my time but it was not until I had passed the halfway marker that I started to see the front runners doubling back for the final stretch. As Circular Quay came back into sight, I knew there was only a kilometre or so left and although starting to feel a little tired, I put in a bit of a spurt. It is always the case when the finish is almost within grasp that suddenly the final few hundred metres seem to stretch ahead of you, staying just out of reach.

The finish line loomed ahead and a few people were cheering and applauding and that’s when I heard it. Over the tannoy boomed, “30 seconds to make it in 50-minutes.”

That was enough. It was all I needed. From somewhere I dug deep and sprinted like I have never run before (not after 10k anyway) and just as the countdown from ten seconds began, I crossed the line. My face must have been a mixture of elation and shock. My heart was pounding. Part of me felt like crying and the other part, laughing. I think I was just beaming. I had done it. I had beaten my 50-minute milestone and not only that, I had actually beaten it by two-minutes due to the time I actually crossed the starting line. In the photo below I am in the orange T-shirt running for the finish and I would like to note, I am surrounded by A-group runners – hurray!

Finishing time shock

Of course, it would have been great to have had someone there with me but as it was, the sun was up, there was a fantastic atmosphere and I was able to watch the rest of the runners cross the line and join in the applause. Seeing the faces on some people really brought it home how much completing an event such as that means to them. Some manage to glide effortlessly over the line with a personal best, some you can tell, have put every ounce of effort into just getting round and have achieved huge personal satisfaction, some were there, running with parents or offspring, wanting to make somebody else proud.

Whatever the motivation, more than 3000 runners had all achieved something that morning; from struggling out of bed in the cold and dark to completing the 10k course. For me, there was a lot of satisfaction from walking through the door back home just after 9am, knowing some people were still having their Sunday morning lie-in, and of course, knowing that next year, I can enter the ‘A’ wave!Smiling finish

Giving the knees a rest (SUP and the adventures of the multi-vitamin aisle)

13 Apr

I’ve always been a bit sceptical about multi-vitamins, or perhaps, more cynical about the companies  persuading us we need the multi-vitamins. I was always of the school of thought: if you need to spend $50 on a tub of vitamin C and Echinacea then go and spend $2 on a bag of carrots. However, I admit, there are clearly circumstances when supplements are required and I confess, last year when I was run down with a virus that would not budge for weeks, I succumbed to a women’s multi-vitamin with Zinc to give me an added boost.

I think the reasons I’ve avoided fish oil were two-fold: First, I am useless at remembering to take pills and get into that routine where you must have one after each meal etc and second, I have always associated them with ageing. They are the things my dad took when his joints started to creak.

Then came my first knee twinge. After blogging about our running training for City2Surf, I am now looking to ease off the road running for a few days because knees (and James knows this more than anyone) are quite useful joints to have functioning well. I relented and figured that if I want to keep up this running lark, I should probably give the joints a helping hand.

Omega 3 Krill Oil

So it was, with some reluctance, I entered the domain of the vitamin aisle in the local pharmacy: shelves upon shelves, towering with an array of tubes, bottles and tubs of every type of supplement for every type of ailment or condition you could name. All I wanted was a month’s supply of fish oil but there were about twenty shelves of fish oil to choose from—and not just fish oil—now it’s krill oil they are waxing lyrical about. There are many more clinical studies on the benefits of fish oil but krill oil is the new darling of omega 3 supplements. It is supposedly much more potent than regular fish oil and has a 60% better absorption rate, depending what you read. Krill vs. Fish oil, I had no idea, but if it was a choice between needing one tablet or nine, I’ll go with one every time. For a doctor’s view on whether one is better than the other, I refer you to this blog.

I scanned the shelves and clearly my vacant stare and slack jaw drew pity from a sales assistant because she attempted to guide me through the minefield of krill oil options.

I ended up with a tub of Swisse 1000mg high strength wild krill oil for no other reasons than it is a reputable brand, the krill was ‘free range’ and as well as the usual benefits for the joints and heart, it claims to help ease symptoms at the ‘time of the month’. Hey, this was as much a pill for James as it was for me!

Sorry for banging on about krill but I shall report back on my findings (if I remember to take them everyday. Let’s face it, this will be no clinical trial or scientific study , but I may notice some improvements.)

So, in the name of protecting my knees, I ventured out on an SUP board this morning with James. This is great for core-strength and very low-impact (unless you fall in of course.) James did the usual race and is still getting to grips with his new racing board (did I mention he has bought a new toy for the garage?) and I pottered about happily in the bay and the sunshine, admiring the fish swimming about in the water and hoping I’ll soon be reaping the benefits thanks to their little crustacean cousins.

OZ SUP  Rose Bay

Rose Bay, Sydney

SUP racing board

Louise SUP

Up and running

12 Apr

This post could equally be entitled ‘Running Up’ for that is exactly what James and I have been doing – getting into training once more for this year’s City2Surf running race and running up hills, one in particular.

Heartbreak Hill now conquered, we just need to start upping the distances as well. (For those not familiar with this hill – please see last year’s post…)

Having run it last year, I now have a time to beat and so will be aiming to run in under 73 minutes, and why not just make that under 70 while I’m at it? With my qualifying time I can also move up a group so will competing against faster people. If anything will give me the drive to run faster, seeing someone half (or even twice) my age, speeding by, will do it. For James, who ten months a go was on a surgeon’s table having a broken patella operated on, I think being in a position to even run the 14km course, is achievement enough.

Training has commenced in a light-hearted way but as the weeks go on, it will kick in more seriously, although the distance is very doable and so I am contemplating doing the half marathon a few weeks later. This would be a challenge but still feasible – the full marathon may be a little beyond me (and my knees.)

Bondi runners

As with last year, I am raising money for a chosen charity and James is also doing the same. We have both chosen charities which we feel strongly about and want to support. James is running for the National Breast Cancer Foundation and I am running for The Butterfly Foundation. So – once again, we hold our hands out for donations! As there are two of us begging, we have both got modest targets in the hope people can split their donations between us. Every dollar counts and will certainly motivate us to get up at 6am for a run, come rain or shine!

Links to our fundraising pages are posted below. C’mon guys – it’s all for charidee!

https://give.everydayhero.com/au/james-edmondson-1

 https://city2surf2013.everydayhero.com/au/louiseedmondson

Surf’s Up

4 Mar

Surfing is great to watch; seeing the guys (and girls) paddling out, wait for their wave and then elegantly spring up on to their board and seemingly effortlessly ride the wave; enjoying the feeling of weightlessness as the force carries them towards the shore. People describe the freedom of flying though the water, carried purely by the power of nature, no machinery, just you, a wafer of foam and a sliver of board. When a friend asked if I fancied joining her and another girl for a surf lesson, I knew I had no reason to decline. It was time to face the fear and give it a go. Eighteen months in Australia and I had not yet stepped foot on a surfboard – it was time to correct this.

The day in question, I am waiting at Bondi Beach for my pick up. It is one of those beaches where, come rain or shine, the ocean is always filled with boards; small black dots in the mid-distance, bobbing about in a huddle, all waiting their turn for the right wave. That is, everyday but this day, when the sky is purple and pregnant with rain and the wind is blowing palm trees sideways. Ten minutes later, a four-wheel drive with trailer and surfboards arrives to collect me and Rob, the instructor, his two dogs and I, head off to meet the others who are joining for this lesson.

Tellingly, one girl is wearing a fleecy tracksuit and has brought cuppa soups to keep warm. The rest of us stare out at the impending storm. Then we have to sign the waiver, the sheet of paper that informs us: Surfing is an extreme and dangerous sport, which can result in injury or even death.

An hour later via a toilet, food and fuel stop (for there are no amenities where we are going), we drive down on to the beach, only accessible by four-wheel drive and not a soul to be seen. We stand shivering, sheltering from the wind behind the car, as the high tide laps at the wheels and Rob decides to drive on a little further so we aren’t digging a jeep out of the sand later that afternoon.

Wet suits on and surfboards laid out on the sand, seven of us start following the instructions about paddling and the steps to stand up on the board. Then we are apparently ready to go and head out into the white foam that is the churned up ocean before us.

With the first rain drops being felt and the wind blowing at around 40kmh, we walk into the surf, struggling to keep our lightweight training boards from spinning around on the leash and into someone’s face. Luckily we are only going to be practising in the small waves, nothing beyond the white water, which is lucky, because anything beyond the white water is now barely visible due to the bank of low cloud and stinging rain.

This people, is not my idea of the Australian surfing dream. Where is my sunshine, glassy water and clean waves? Instead we are faced with a leaden sea covered in white caps – and haven’t I heard that sharks are more likely on an overcast day?

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At waist height, Rob tells us we should lie on our boards and he will help us catch our first waves. At this point what does rain matter when we are wet anyway (?) and on the positive side, the sea is quite nice and warm. I look back at the large breakers and wait for the white water to roll in towards me. Rob gives me a gentle push and I am off, speeding on top of the wave and I hear, “stand up now,” and I do, and I am, and first go, I am stood, albeit slightly wobbly, on a surf board and ‘riding a wave.’

Beginner’s luck? Yes, definitely. After that I am tipping off, rolling off, nose-diving off, however you can possibly fall, I am (along with everyone else I hasten to add.) After an hour I have probably swallowed more sea water than I have surfed it but I am making some progress. I begin to instinctively know when to start paddling as I feel myself being sucked back slightly then pushed on by the wave and as long as I get into a standing position fast enough, I can actually stand. Even if it is just for a few seconds, I do experience that sensation of gliding on top of the water.

After lunch, sat huddled in the van munching on chicken salad and orange slices, two of the girls decide not to go back out. Looking at our collection of bruises, the grey cloud and choppy waves, I am almost inclined to stay with them, but as long as other people are going back out there, I am too. The second half of the day, the waves are more powerful and my friend and I decided to stick closer to the shore. We are aching from dragging the boards in the wind and this time, I cannot stop my teeth chattering. The only solution is to get moving again in the water. After a quick recap on the moves to get up on the board, I have a few more successful surfs. Just as enjoyable is catching the wave and kneeling, when in the seconds I have to stand up, I lose confidence and  back out.

I am not sure I can say I have ‘surfed’, not in the real sense of the word. I have stood on a surfboard though and I understand to a point, what they mean about the freedom of flying on the water.  There is that heart-skipping moment when you realise you are stood up and it is just you and a wave. I cannot imagine what it must be like to experience that in the heavy surf breaks. To be honest, I am not sure I want to. As enjoyable as the day was and as proud of ourselves as we all were to get standing occasionally, I think I’ll stick to the more enjoyable beach past time of surf watching – at least now knowing a little of the challenge and sensations they are experiencing.

Unfortunately there is no photographic evidence of me stood – I’m afraid you will just have to take my word for it.

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Springing into action

28 Oct

James has been on a bit of a winning streak of late: first at the races last Saturday, then at a casual poker game with work friends on Friday and yesterday in his SUP race – winning the entire race overall. The poker could be down to a bit of beginner’s luck and the hard work, training and 6am starts are clearly paying off with the SUP  but there’s also the fact he’s given up alcohol for nearly a month. Coincidence? Well, waking up refreshed, not hungover or dehydrated may be playing a big part in his performance and perhaps a clear head is giving him a better poker face too.

It started off with James taking part in ‘Ocsober’, a nationwide initiative aiming to set a good example to kids and making them choose healthier life choices. As part of his own healthier life choices, he thought he would give it a go, until he then read about ‘Hello Sunday Morning.’ It’s a movement looking to change society’s relationship with alcohol and challenging people to give it up for three months, waking up hangover free and seeing what a difference it could make. So, he has signed up and taken up the challenge and it seems he is already noticing the difference and reaping the rewards.

As I rarely drink, there’s no temptation from my end and for the past few weeks, I have not woken up on a weekend morning to a fuzzy-headed husband, who needs a ‘short’ afternoon nap or a few aspirin to get going. I’d better clarify that James was not a perpetual binge-drinker, downing shots until 3am every Saturday but a few beers seems to take its toll a little more on the wrong side of thirty.

Now its, ‘hello weekend,’ and ‘what shall we do today?’ and with Sydney alive with a festival or event every few days at the moment, there is always something to do.

The annual ‘Sculptures by the Sea’ has been running for the past week and this year is showcasing some incredible works of art from the weird and wacky to the bold and the beautiful. The more than a hundred sculptures are displayed on the 2km stretch from Bondi Beach along the cliffs to Tamarama.

The coastal path around there is heaving at the moment as tens, if not hundreds of thousands descend on the free public event. It’s another thing we love about Sydney; the number of cheap if not free events and festivals  taking place throughout the year – but particularly in the lead up to Summer.

Yesterday we met up with friends at the Surry Hills Festival. For a small donation to enter, there were dozens of food and market stalls, live music on stages and various activities to try out – including giant, inflatable Twister!

Today, we went for a picnic with Nicky and Matt, walking along the cliff tops in the other direction from Bondi, towards Vaucluse. Matt is vegetarian and I have been experimenting with a few veggie recipes so decided to get up and start baking first thing this morning. The result was Spanish tortilla, ratatouille quiche, tomato tartin and smoked cheese and herb muffins, which beat a curled up sandwich.


The herbs for the muffins were from our ‘garden’ which has suddenly shot up during the last few weeks of warm, sunny weather. There are a few strawberries showing as well now and we have just acquired some tomato plants from a friend, so if they work out, we may not just be self-sufficient in parsley.

It seems, it’s not just James who is feeling perkier – the front flower bed too is starting to wake up with our first rose blooming 🙂 and now he is on this current winning streak, I think it might be time to buy that lottery ticket for this week’s $70 million jackpot…

 

 

Stand Up and Paddle!

20 Oct

Louise has mentioned in a few blogs that I have recently got into Stand Up Paddle boarding.  I thought it might be interesting if I wrote a quick blog about it for our site.

Stand Up Paddling is known as SUP, pronounced ‘S’… ‘U’… ‘P’.  It involves the paddler standing up on a long, wide surfboard and using a long paddle to propel yourself on the water.  You can paddle almost anywhere: on the flat water of rivers, harbours and lakes, in the surf and even out at sea (down wind and with the sea only).

I first tried it a couple of years ago when I was in Florida and when we arrived in Sydney last year I was pleased to see loads of people doing it in Rose Bay.  Only now that I have a little more time have I had the chance to give it a real go, and for the last few weeks I have been going with a Club in Rose bay a couple of times a week.

We train every Tuesday and Friday at 6 am (Aussies tend to get going earlier than Brits!), and there are races on Wednesday evening and Saturday mornings.  Both training and the races are fairly chilled affairs, but my competitive side has begun to show through in the races and as my technique and fitness improve, I am keen to improve my course times and get further up the leader board!  The trouble is there are different styles of board, some suited for racing, some for surf and some hybrids.  Then you have different lengths and widths and volumes of the boards, all of which have an effect on the boards’ stability, but the more stable the board, the slower it is!   As you can see there are many factors affecting the race, and I haven’t even begun to describe how wind speed plays a massive part.  Needless to say I am starting off at a disadvantage over someone with a smaller surface area than me!

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Unusually for a new sport and me, I have not rushed out to buy a board and all the accessories – I am not allowed!  But I am hoping that by showing that I am really committed to SUP I might be allowed to invest in a board of some kind in the not too distant future!!!  Meanwhile I am lobbying hard for my own paddle for a birthday or Christmas present…..

SUPing is great fun and anyone can do it, Louise is waiting for warmer water temperatures before she gives it another go, although we both did quite a lot down in Jervis Bay.  I have begun to meet a new crowd of people down at the paddles, and it is a really fun, social activity with some real fitness benefits.

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As a quick addition, I have just got back from my Saturday morning race and came first in my category and third overall. This a is a great achievement and considering the two ahead of me were using racing boards, it might not be too long before I am topping that leaderboard.

The Alternative Workout

11 Sep

Mention yoga to anyone and images of poised women in serene positions, eyes closed, breathing peacefully, may come to mind, or likewise, someone contorting their body into a position no one ever thought realistically possible. What probably does not spring to mind is a darkened room of mood lighting, a DJ at one end and a group of brightly-coloured-lycra-clad people dancing around like lunatics waving glow sticks in the air – however, this is what The Future Sound of Yoga is all about. Yoga to music and not just calm, tranquil soothing sounds but a gradually increasing beat until high-tempo techno dance tunes are blaring out of the speakers.

This is what Shan, Sophie, Nicky and I decided to do with our Friday night and despite a few reservations about what the freestyle dance section of the class might involve, we went along and went with the flow – quite literally. The class started out quite as you would expect a yoga class to start; everyone on mats, breathing exercises and then a few sun salutations and downward dogs later, the mats were pushed aside, the upbeat tunes kicked in and the rave began. Twenty minutes later, a much hotter, sweatier but invigorated group of people returned to the mats and the tempo was brought back down with some more relaxing music. Certainly not the most conformative style of yoga we’ve ever tried but probably the most fun – it beat any night out in a club where instead of dodging drunk people on the dance floor, we were encouraged to meet and greet are yogi comrades while jumping about and trying not to be too self-conscious. The latter took a bit of time and a shot of something strong might have gone down quite well beforehand but the dimmed lights certainly helped and soon there were no inhibitions; everyone looked as mad as the next person.

While I recovered on the Saturday morning, James took himself down to the bay to take part in a Stand Up Paddle race: 2.5 km stood on the board, paddling against the wind round a set course. It was the first time he had entered a race, although he said it was more a group of people paddling with a goal, rather than an ultra-competitive paddles at dawn type affair. Having said that, he was pretty pleased to zip past a few of the other competitors and not to fall in either (the water temperature is still a little of the cold side!)

On Sunday we decided to check out the Royal National Park, south of Sydney – absolutely beautiful. We took a walking trail along the coast, which meandered over the cliffs and back along the beach – the perfect way to walk off the long, boozy, birthday lunch we’d had the day before with a group of friends but also to enjoy the amazing weather at the moment.

So while we can all sweat it out in a gym and pound the pavements on a run, we’ve tried a few alternatives and been preserving our knees this weekend – and for James, its still all about his knees!

City2Surf

13 Aug

What do you get when you take over 85,000 people, 14 km of hilly roads, and one very cold and blustery day?  It can only be this year’s Sydney’s City2Surf. My starting gun went at 8.30 am in the city on Sunday and 73 minutes later, I crossed the finishing line at Bondi Beach after completing the world’s largest annual running event.

Channelling my inner ‘Mo’, I managed to beat my target of finishing in 80 minutes. The training finally paid off and I am sure the added adrenalin and fantastic atmosphere, with the crowds along the roadside, the live music striking up along the route and the huge numbers of runners, spurred me along. I had been fairly nervous the night before the race; the weather on Friday and Saturday had been horrendous with winds of over 100kph and lashing rain. The forecast was not much better for Sunday and it was arguably the worst weather in the event’s 31-year history, but despite a chill in the air and the odd strong gust of wind, Sunday stayed dry and the weather did nothing to dampen the spirits of everyone in the starting groups at Hyde Park.

I have never experienced being right in amongst so many thousands of people before. As far as the eyes could see were bodies, limbering up, jumping up and down, cheering; a sea of colourful running gear, caps and fancy dress costumes. The elite athletes set off first, followed by runners who had a qualifying time and half an hour later, my blue group were off. Minutes before the gun was fired, the sky was obscured with hundreds of items of clothing: jumpers, trousers and tops; flung into the air as people stripped off ready to run. The clothes are collected later by the Girl Guides for charity. I had managed to get as close to the front of my group as I could so it was only a minute before I was running over the starting line pads and from then on, I never looked back and was happy to find myself overtaking as many people as were sprinting past me!

I was aware Heartbreak Hill was approaching (hard to ignore the banners and flags being waved to remind you!) but strangely it did not seem much of a struggle and as soon as it began to flatten, I picked up the pace again and before I knew it, I was rounding the corner of Military Road and Bondi was in sight. I was spurred along again by the sight of James, Caroline and our neighbour, Katie, who were there at Bondi Beach to cheer me on and it was a fantastic feeling to cross the finishing pads 73 minutes and 18 seconds later.

I was so pleased with my finishing time but decided I really could have pushed myself to do it faster, especially as I had enough to put in a sprint finish for the last few hundred metres.

It was a fantastic day, despite the cold, and I have definitely been encouraged to do a few more races now and hopefully City2Surf next year as well. It was a particularly pertinent time for the event with Olympic fever having swept across the country, and having missed the excitement and atmosphere of having the Olympics in our home country, it was a little bit of sporting action we could get involved with. My medal may have been of a very different metal and I certainly broke no records but as a first-timer, I did achieve a PB and who knows, next year, I might be competing against James and a few other friends as well, who have now said they’re keen to take on Heartbreak Hill!

I also have to mention the generosity of everyone who sponsored me for beyondblue. I managed to double my target and raise over $500, which is fantastic and, although there was no blood and very few tears, it makes all the sweat very worthwhile!

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