It has been an up-and-down roller coaster sort of a week since I last wrote, with a few more downs than ups, to be honest. But running, as usual, has kept me hanging on through the steeper dives.
And running – well, thanks to my new running coach, Shaun Brewster – running has felt like a completely new sport. I clocked 53 kilometers last week, my largest in quite a while, but I don’t really feel like I ran all of that because of the massive diversity in training. Monday was an 18k long slow run up on Mount Dandenong, amongst the fern trees and eucalypts, with just mud for company. Tuesday was a fast 10k along my Bayside Coastal Track. Wednesday I taught two BodyPump classes back-to-back, which nearly killed me, so Thursday I only ran with the kids (1k with my daughter; 3 with my son) before driving us all to Ocean Grove for a short family holiday. Friday I learned about Fast Downhill training, racing to the base of a steepish hill on a cliff in Ocean Grove, and walking back up, maybe 12 times, followed by 20 minutes of flat-out fast running. Saturday, I ran 25 minutes fast, then practiced uphill running, driving up the cliffs on the bluff above Barwon Heads, running up as hard as I could, jogging down. It all added up to 53 kilometers, but it didn’t feel like it. And that was the joy of it. It wasn’t any hard slogging down trails I didn’t enjoy; it was fast and fun and diverse, and just what my heart, soul, and body had been craving.
That’s the running part of last week. And the running certainly helped me cope with the nose-dives of bringing young, emotional children to a different house. I could share the downs that came with those emotions, but rather than focus there, I’d like to tell you about the ups.
There’s Leila, our seven-month-old Labrador Kelpie. You might recall we adopted her from Labrador Rescue back in February, and I was a tiny bit dubious about the decision. How wrong I was. She’s the light of our lives. Last week in Ocean Grove, she spent many hours off lead down at the beach, and if ever you want to see absolute joy, that’s where to look.
She loves every dog and every human she sees, so much so, that she tends to follow whichever dog happens along, in whatever direction it happens to be going. Her whole body wags and is full of enthusiasm for the simplest of things. A stick – oh my God – a stick! And look – seaweed! Do you see it? Seaweed! Dogs!! People!! Dogs!! We spent a lot of time walking back and forth along the same stretch of beautiful coastline in Ocean Grove, with the ongoing call of Leeillaa. Sometimes she’d come running back to us like a racehorse, tongue hanging from the side of her mouth, joy in every inch of her body, as she buzzed us, and kept running. If hungry though, she’d drop into a sit directly in front of me and fix me with her lovely brown eyes saying treat, treat, look I’m sitting, treat…
Then there were the cats, Jakie and Mini. Both black-and-white, like Leila, though Jake is fat and lazy, and Mini is, well, Mini. Fast, skittish, but hugely affectionate, standing on her back paws and reaching up to be petted. I found them curled up together on our sofa, a picture of contentment on a cold Ocean Grove day.
They even get along with Leila now, which is a staggering thing to see after the initial fear they had of her.
Oh, and then there were the four of us, in a rare moment of family harmony, playing Scrabble on our small oak dining table, me noting how well my daughter is able to spell, and how clever my son is at using strategy to score extra points. And how patient my husband is with our young children, under all circumstances. The simple pleasure of no electronics, just family, playing an age-old board game.
The hours after the kids bedtime, where my husband and I curled up with books and beer and Leila, with the warmth of the gas heater filling our tiny living room, the curtains drawn, and rain falling on the tin roof.
The absolute beauty of the shoreline in Ocean Grove, which mesmerized me as I did my downhill running at sunset, watching the sky change color, the waves roll in, the surfers gather in the last of the day’s rides. The wildish view from the top of the Bluff in Barwon Heads, with storm clouds in the distance, mist in the air, large waves rolling onto wild shore as far as the eye could see. The green of the grass and yellow of the wildflowers. The white of the crushed shell underfoot, and the small undulations and curves of the trail that made me be present.
And finally, the great joy of arriving home just one hour before dark, and my husband saying, I’ll empty the car, why don’t you go for a run. My running clothes hanging dry in the laundry room, my watch charged. I bolted out the door, ten minutes easy, then 7 intervals with 2 minutes fast, 1 slow, then 25 minutes of moderate (ok, fast as I could) running to return home, elated, and to notice that my average pace was faster than it has been in years. And that it hardly felt like I had run at all, it was so much fun.
Now, my whole body is saying ouch, that’s a lot of running in two days, and I’m delighted that the kids are in bed, the dog is in her basket by me snoring as I type, the cats have curled up somewhere warm, and my husband has gone to the gym. I have had one golden hour to share with you, reflecting on all that’s been good for the last six days. Downs? I can’t seem to recall any downs anymore.