Two Bays 2016: a tail of a snake, a wedge-tailed eagle and a fairy-wren (part 1)

My action foretold disaster.  Like in horror movies, when the hero says, “I’m just going to check outside (after a strange scream. in the dark. all alone. when there are clowns around).”

I had acted too quickly, without forethought.  That’s what happens with Facebook groups.  Especially when a race is sold out, and suddenly registrations become available on a first-come first-served basis.  At least that’s how I react.  Especially when I’m not sure I’m up to the distance.

I’d completed the Marysville Half-Marathon about seven weeks prior to this, and was studying my recovery closely, trying to be wise, trying not to do the same stupid things which had led to injury in previous years.  I’d completed the Two Bays 28k race only in 2013, but had signed up and pulled out of both the 2014 and 2015 Two Bays so far, both due to injury.  So for 2016, I was checking the Two Bays website periodically, but not signing up.  Not yet, I told myself.  I’d only done 14k for my long run since Marysville.  Nothing hurt, but I was going slowly.

Then one day, I checked the website, and the race had SOLD OUT!  What!  But I hadn’t decided yet.  I scrolled down.  There was an option of placing my name on the second- chance list on the Facebook Group page, so I did what any fool runner would do, and typed my name in straight away.  I’d be notified if a place became available.  So would all the others on the list.  The fastest typist would get the spot.

I used to type for a living.  In the olden days, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and people had to type on actual type-writers with perfect accuracy, or type the entire document again from scratch.  I took typing speed tests, and aced them.  I was not a hunt-and-peck girl.  This was one event I could win.

And BOOM, I did.

Scored myself an entry the first week.  I cheered aloud, alone in my office.  Over lunch, I told my husband the wonderful news, and when I went to teach, I shared my delight with the members of my BodyPump class.  They all looked at me with the same dumb-founded expressions, and some even repeated my words back to me:  you said you weren’t going to do that race, you were going to train to get stronger and faster.  Remember?  Do a fast 10k?  That’s what you said.

Yes, but…

Oh the error of my ways.  I knew they were right – they were speaking my own words – but I had to prove they were wrong.  Or I was a complete moron who simply followed the herd.

So I went out for a long training run in the very hot sun, my longest since Marysville, 20k along the Bayside Coastal Track on 4 December.  I wore my Hippy-Chick running belt to hold my valuables, because I didn’t want to wear a big pack in the heat.  I also wore my Two Bays singlet I’d bought for the 2015 race.  Because it seemed fitting if I was going to do this.

And off I ran.  It was 35 degrees, and it was a tough run, but I made it.  I was so overheated when I got home, that I went straight to the back and leapt into the swimming pool fully clothed, stopping only long enough to take off my runners and my Garmin.  The relief was enormous.

I swam a few laps, floated on my back, contemplated the distance I had run, and whether it was far enough assure a 28k race.  My husband gave me “the look”, the one he always gave me when I did idiotic things, which is too often than I’d like to admit, and anyway, I call it pushing the boundaries.

I climbed out of the pool, and went to get a towel from the line, and to hang up my wet running clothes.

You’ll have seen this coming long before I did.  As I stripped off the Two Bays singlet and went to hang it on the line, I noticed with horror that I was still wearing my Hippy Chick running belt.  Which contained my house keys, my $50 in emergency taxi money.  And my iPhone.

And no, it wasn’t waterproof.

Did it presage disaster, this rash jumping into the pool with my phone?

Or was it something I would overcome and laugh about as I danced across the 2016 Two Bays finish line?  Was it the path to a new phone that I wanted anyway, or confirmation that I was a complete and utter idiot?

Only time would tell.

“For one white singing hour of joy… (the Marysville Marathon Festival)

I’m running down the wide gravel bike trail, feeling nearly airborne.  It’s been years since I’ve run this fast, years since it hasn’t hurt.  Flying, I pass the runners who left me behind on the steep uphill, as well as the ones who blew by me on the rough downhill.  I don’t mean to pass them.  I’m simply running free for the first time in two years.

Still, we’re only four kilometers into the 21k Marysville Half-Marathon, and I think to check my pace.  I gasp: I’m running a 4:10 kilometer!  My training pace varies from 5:30 for my fast intervals, to 8:30 on the steep hills.  What in God’s name am I doing, running this fast!  I tell myself to slow down, to conserve my energy for the many kilometers to come.

But I don’t; not right away.

I continue to run just as fast as I can because it feels so tremendously – so life-affirmingly – good.

There’s a lot of water under this bridge.

I’m 49 years old.  At the top end of my 40-49 year age category.  I began this category Adventure Racing in Hong Kong, a lifetime ago.  Now, nearly ten years later, I’m back in Australia, and my passion is trail running.  It’s been good to me.

But since 2013, since my last Marysville Marathon Festival, in fact, I’ve been injured in various ways.  I hurt my knee the week after the marathon, then my ankle, then my foot.  I had a bit of surgery to remove a dodgy vein in the middle of all that, and thought I thought all had healed, it hadn’t.  I ended up with a severe case of Plantar Faschiitis, and a damaged Posterior Tibialis.

After doing the 2015 Roller Coaster 21k Run in March, I took a break.  Though I completed that race, I did it the hard way, in pain most of the way, and just dragging myself over the finish line.

Since, I’ve cross-trained, rehab-ed, grown stronger, and hopefully grown smarter.  And I’d set my sights on Marysville for my comeback run.  On the way, I had the joy of the Salomon Trail Series in the middle of the season, where I did a 5k as well as a 15k race, loving both, feeling my strength and speed return.

Marysville though, felt elusive.  Things kept hurting as I went longer, until about two weeks before the race.  Then, during a 20k solo training run in the Dandenongs, I felt it all come together.  My gluts woke up (ha, funny the way runners talk!), and I found myself running with much shorter, faster, powerful strides.

But in the clever way I have of adding a stir to the pot just when it is setting and cooking nicely, I decided to bring home a new puppy three weeks before Marysville.  So what, I hear you say.  What does a puppy have to do with a half-marathon?

Well, here’s the thing.  If you read my last blog, you know that I wasn’t afraid of running this time.  I was afraid of driving!  (See https://patriciaabowmer.wordpress.com/2015/11/05/the-long-road-to-marysville-half-marathon-2015/

The puppy meant my husband and children weren’t coming; he wasn’t driving.  I was.

Turns out my fear of the drive was well-founded.  I missed the first major turn off of East-Link and drove through a strange, long tunnel I didn’t even know existed, practically crying, as I thought I’d never find my way back.  I talked to myself aloud all the way through that tunnel, telling myself it would be ok, I’d find my way back, and I did.

The trip to Marysville, though,  involves a two-hour drive for me, with the last 15k of that on a single-lane twisty-turny terrifying mountain road.  That was the bit I was most worried about.  I did ok.  But still, cars backed up behind me, tailgating, forcing me faster than my confidence allowed, and I was often too scared to even pull over to let them pass.  When I did, I would count one, two, three, maybe ten cars go by, and then I’d pull back on the road to drive alone for a while.  But I made it there, with white hands from gripping the steering wheel so tightly!

Image result for black spur

Black Spur, image from mapio.cz as I couldn’t possibly take a photo on this road!

The actual race I remember in the moments.

The flying downhill at the bike trail; Red Hill being just as horrible and painful as I remembered from the Marathon in 2013; passing and being passed by the same three or four people again and again.

There was the mean woman, who when I politely asked to pass, snarled at me and said, “Sure, you can pass”, saying clearly, “if you are able to” and being unwilling to let me by on the rough single track where passing without her stepping slightly aside was impossible.  That saddened me; that doesn’t tend to happen in these friendly country races, that degree of nasty competitiveness.  We all want to run our own pace; I always let people by, stepping to the side, knowing the joy in moving at one’s own best on whatever terrain we can.

Forget her, though.

There was the delight of children cheering me through by the oval, and my ability to run up the steep road (short stride, gluts firing, power in me I’d forgotten), and the utter joy when we turned off into the woods, unlike the first year I’d run here, when we ran all the way up the road to the falls.

Coming back on the road, steep uphill, fighting to keep running, being told how well I was doing by others, pushing and pushing, knowing the top was coming soon, then the turn-off to the waterfall, stopping a moment to gaze at the water flowing, to say a quiet, I love you to the waterfall, because I was just so thrilled to have made it there.

Steavenson Falls close-up

Steavenson Falls close-up from my 2013 race

And then…

The last 3k to the finish line.  The downhill gravel track, where two years ago, my feet were hurting so badly I could barely run, where I just couldn’t wait for it to be over.

Today…God, today.  My white singing hour of joy.  I flew down that trail.  My feet found their way.  Nothing hurt.  Not my knee or my foot or my ankle.  I had plenty left in the tank.  I felt unstoppable and alive and young and free.

There was a final stretch through the woods.  After being surrounded by so many people as the different race distances had converged, I was surprised to find myself alone, with perhaps one kilometer to go.  I could hear the crowd at the finish, cheers and cowbells and music, but I was utterly alone in the green of the trees.  I began to sing,  Bon Jovi, of course, “I don’t wanna be another wave in the ocean, I am a rock, not another grain of sand, wanna be the one you run to when you need a shoulder, I ain’t a soldier but I’m here to take a stand, because we can…”

That’s how good I felt.

Right before the finish, I saw the girl in pink shorts in front of me; we had passed each other a hundred times during the race.  I suddenly wanted to catch her.  So I bolted.  I passed her, and it took me a little while to realise that this wasn’t the finish line.  I had to keep right on bolting for the full 3/4 lap around the oval and I don’t even now know where the finish line was!  I do believe I stayed in front, though I can’t be sure.

All I know is I found my one white singing hour of joy.  My moments of delight that come from dancing in this glorious body, fully well, feeling courageous and full of light.

By the way, the poem I began this blog with is called Barter, by  Sara Teasdale.  I memorised it in college when I was 21, and often recite it to myself when I run.  Funny thing though – I was looking up the original poem for this blog, and realised I’d altered some words in my memory.  She says, “one white singing hour of peace”.  I say joy.

I utterly love the last two lines:

“For a breath of ecstasy, give all you have been, or could be.”

Thank you, Marysville, for my breath of ecstasy.

 

Here’s the full poem:

Barter

Sara Teasdale, 18841933

Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And childrens’s faces looking up
Holding wonder in a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit’s still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.


This poem is in the public domain.

On the road (trail) again….

I always begin in fear.  Always.

At Mount Dandenong on the 31st of July, after nearly three months away, it was no different.  I’d been playing games with myself for days, wondering whether it was the right time for me to re-visit my mountain playground.  I’d been back from my New York trip for a week.  I was feeling distinctly unsettled.  Each night, deep in the middle of the darkness, I’d wake up and not know where I was.  I’d look at the outlines of pictures on the bedroom wall, and wonder why my wedding picture was above the bed in the hotel room.  Why the small picture of the Dandenongs was where it was.  I would panic, not knowing where I was, or even which country I was in.

My foot was mostly healed, and I’d built up to 9k on the gentler trails of home, the treadmill, and Central Park, New York.  But I still wasn’t sure I was up to the bigger hills at Mount Dandenong.

Then I got the news that my Aunt had died.  This Aunt who was the last survivor of my parents’ generation.  She who had bought me a tiny bottle of Chanel #5 when I was 14, telling me without telling me, that I had become a woman.  When hurricanes hit our low-lying beach suburb, we used to flee to her high-rise apartment in New York City.  She would cook Yorkshire Pudding and Brussel Sprouts for Christmas dinner, serving while drinking vodka on the rocks that she would mix with her little finger.  On my bookshelf is an entire collection of Charles Dickens she bought for me one book at a time.  She was elegant; an actress in New York doing one-woman shows, living on her own in her apartment for the forty years of my awareness.  And now, she was gone.

I was full of jet-lagged exhaustion, contemplation about where home was, worry about my foot being hurt, and profound sorrow at the loss of my Aunt.

I go to the woods when I need soothing, when I need to meditate and reflect on things.

So early on Friday, I went.  It is an hour’s drive from home, plenty of time to let my nerves get jangly.  The parking area at The Basin Theatre was more populated than usual.  This played on me too.  I like it deserted.  It feels safer somehow.

I trotted off into the woods in quest of a 9k run.  The thin, technical trail from the car park helped me to focus my mind on the physical.  I slid down a steep incline at its end, to cross a road and join Edgars Track.  This is my least favorite section.  It’s so close to the road that I almost expect bad guys to jump out from the trees.  I have to coach myself to run and not look behind me, to be in the moment.

A short while later, I turn right onto Golf Course Track, slanting uphill, working harder.  This leads me back to the hard-packed dirt road, which I follow uphill to the Stables car park.  Here’s where my heart settles.  The track is rocky and slants downhill.  It’s studded with rocks and littered with gum-tree bark in long strips.  It smells of earth and trees and life.  I fly down, leaving fear behind, galloping in joy.

At the end, a steep uphill makes me walk, and links me to Bill’s Track, which reminds me every time of an old New York friend who died (his name was Bill), and I think of him, miss him, then shimmy-shammy my way down the trail, trying not to face-plant, and find myself back on Edgars Trail again at the bottom.  I know the steepest hill is coming and I plan to walk it, but don’t plan for how unfit I feel after months away.  It is surprising and joyous because I know I’m on the comeback now.

At the top, I turn right onto Camelia Track, which is my favorite part of this run.  It is so lovely, it’s unbelievable no one else is here.  White birds of Freedom (some call them Sulfur-Crested Cockatoos) heckle me from the side of the trail, but wait for me until I’m right  up close before flying up into the trees.  I say hello because they are friends of a sort, and I’ve missed them.  They belt out their raucous cry, the one I love, full of abandon and noise and so lacking in self-consciousness it makes me wish I could be them.

The trail takes me gently downhill, not too technical, and I soak up the colors and smells and think of nothing but the next footfall.

At the end of Camelia Track are a few small trails I’ve not yet explored.  I bookmark them in my mind to explore another day when I have more km’s available in my healing legs.

At the end of the trail, I exit through a gate, and turn back onto the hard-packed dirt road that will take me back to my car.  The ground feels hard after the gentle trail and I’m aware that my foot is not fully healed so I go slowly until I’m back at my car.

Beautiful Mount Dandenong

Beautiful Mount Dandenong

The nine kilometers has given me the perspective I needed on the big events I’ve been facing.  It is a simple but priceless thing, a run in the woods.  Time and again, the trail takes me out of myself and then delivers me back home.

 

And so three months have passed…

I’ve kept quiet.  This journey back to health seems to have silenced me rather abruptly.  Perhaps a part of me thought it would make dull reading, which underestimates my reading audience – I expect many of you runners have been injured and felt much of what I’ve felt in the process.  Maybe you would have liked to share my journey?

Here’s what’s happened, in a nutshell: I maintained my commitment to returning to running slowly and healthfully, beginning with a small 3k walk/run as a dip-my-toe in strategy.  The increase has been super-slow, to a 4.5k week, then the following weeks total km of 6, 8.2, 10.7, 12, 13.3, 15.2, and 16.85.  Then I dropped back again, to 15, and 15.76, a forced decrease due to travel.  I’m still running in shoes with a slight heel lift, which I hate, and make my hips hurt, but I’m going to do this until my foot feels perfect.  I’ve done one race since the Roller Coaster half-marathon, the Salomon Trail Series Studley Park 5k, a fast and thrilling run, that reminded me why I love speed!

In the midst of all this return to running, the momentum I had long wished to sweep me off my feet finally showed up.  Kind of like a tsunami.  After seven years of planning, I spent June having my office torn apart.  It was an ugly mustard-yellow, with huge built-in robes that I’d stuffed full when we moved, and left alone in dismay all this time.  It was a mess and not a place that inspired me.  So I hired someone to design a brand-new bookcase, and someone else to tear out the ugly old wardrobe, re-plaster the wall, and paint the room a warm, clean white (I’ll share the photos in another blog).  The bookshelf is due to arrive in September, and I’m still on the search for a beautiful reading chair in aqua, and a warm charcoal-grey rug.  It is feeling more like home, more like me, than ever before.  The bonus was I got to go through all my old books and papers, and revisit my roots, and think again about who I am, and who I intend to be.

I saw this on a stall outside of Central Park, walking alone, thinking...

I saw this on a stall outside of Central Park, where I was walking alone, thinking…

Only trouble was, my computer got full of construction dust, and died.  It took a week or two to get it fixed, and with that, time slipped away.  No writing on my new novel; no blogging.  Just a lot of vacuuming up construction dust and choosing paint.  But all for a good cause.

Just when I was getting back on my feet, I learned, to my great sadness, that my favorite Aunt was dying of cancer back in New York.  I had let my passport expire, so spent a few weeks chasing up a new one, and then, just last week, had an emergency trip back to see my Aunt and say goodbye.

It was wonderful to see my friends and family after eleven long years away.  I had a sense of homecoming, of being surrounded by familiar accents, food and places.  I ran around the local neighborhood on Long Island where my brother lives,

 

A run along on Long Island

A run along on Long Island

in a nature reserve with my best friend, on the treadmill in my hotel on 57th Street, and finally, in a small, lovely touch of home, with a friend from Australia who happened to be in New York, on a 9k loop around Central Park.

Central Park, New York

Central Park, New York

Those running moments were my touchstone, my way of finding my way home again.  Yet I missed my family in Australia with a terrible ache.

Six days ago, I returned to Australia.  I’ve felt unsettled and uncertain where home really is.  Yesterday I got the news that my Aunt had passed away.  I’ve been pondering life and death and home.  I’ve been running and swimming and lifting weights, and hugging my children, husband, dog and cats.

In the next few weeks, I hope to get back to blogging more regularly.  Please excuse my long absence.  Life seemed to whisk me away from my computer, and my blogging skills feel rusty and strange.  If I think too much before I press publish, I’ll scare myself out of telling the truth so bear with me as I learn to write compelling, exciting prose again.

Seems I have to stumble around a bit in writing as in life to get back on my feet…

My new Brooks Pure Grit trail shoes...

My new Brooks Pure Grit trail shoes…hope they help me find my feet again!

The Injured Runners’ Swimming Club

Seems like every second thing I read from a friend these days has to do with a running-related injury.  We’ve all been pushing the limits, testing them, finding them.  The trouble comes when we have to accept that we have over-stepped the line.  How are we to know where the line is, if we never over-step it?  I’ve done my share of over-stepping in the last year or so, and I know well the emotions that stalk the injured runner.

For me, it starts this way:

Oh, that was an odd little niggle.  Ouch.  Not so sure about that pain.  I think it will go away if I keep running on it a little longer.  And it does.

The next run.  OUCH.  It hurts again.  Maybe I’ll try shortening my stride.  Increasing the cadence.  Ah, the pain isn’t so bad.  I’ll keep running.

Two weeks later.  I’ve become accustomed to this pain.  It happens every time I run.  If I wait it out, maybe in 5k it will lesson.  Ow, ow, ow.  Now it’s gone numb.  That’s better.

Three weeks later.  OW!  How come it hurts to cook my kids’ dinner?  I’m not even running!  Maybe if I balance on one foot whilst cooking, it will challenge my stabilisers and fix things.

Three months later.  It hurts all the time.  Okay, maybe I’ll change shoes.  Still hurts.  Where are the anti-inflammatories?  Oh good, a large box.  That’ll last me a bit.

Six months later.  La la la.  If I sing loud enough while I run, maybe I won’t notice that every step is agony because my goal race is coming up and I can’t miss my goal race.  I wonder if I have a stress fracture?

Eight months later.  My physio says I should take some time off running and do some cross-training.  He/she’s obviously not a runner.  And an idiot.  Both, non-runner and idiot.  I hate him/her now and will have to find a new physio.

Eight and a bit months later.  How come all the physio’s don’t get it?  They seem to think I can just STOP running and be okay with this?  Time to Google this injury and really get on top of it.  Must be some YouTube videos on how to fix it instantly.

Finally, I meet a running-oriented physio who doesn’t tell me to stop.  She gets it.  In fact, she’s training for a big race herself.  And she gets injured.  And stops running.  It’s after she’s helped me hobble my way through my goal race, to achieve what I’ve set out to, that she stays stop.  And I do.  Because if someone like her – a runner, who has run herself into injury – if she says stop, I know I must.

So I do.  And I don’t even miss it!  That’s the irony.  It’s a relief to not have to run in pain anymore.  I miss my mountain trails and the woods, but it’s okay.  I realise this is needed, necessary, vital, this rest.

Fast forward: eight weeks later.  I’ve taken seven solid weeks off running.  I’ve begun swimming twice a week, and can feel my strength and speed sky-rocketing.  There’s power in me I forgot about.  I’m back to lifting heavy weights at the gym.  I’d forgotten how meditative weight-lifting can be.  I’ve downloaded a mindfulness App to my phone and am meditating in five minute intervals, three times a day.  I’m playing piano better than ever, and my foot doesn’t hurt to press the pedals anymore.  I’m happy.  Content.  Healthy.  With a vitality (and muscles) that had gone while I was running too far for my body.

Here’s who I don’t want to be anymore: a runner who can’t stop running even when injured.  Who uses running to meet all these super-important mental-health and physical-health needs, all whilst not noticing that running has actually become a problem in itself.  An out-of-balance runner who loses perspective on health in pursuit of a race goal.

With time off, I have found a new perspective.

Last week, the physio told me I could run again, for  up to 3k, 2 minutes running, 1 minute walking.  And I was scared.  Scared I’d go right back to who I was, running too far, running over injuries, forgetting that my health is my most sacred value.  So I kept the brake on for a few extra days, to remind myself that it is me who is in charge of when and how I run.  That running is an add-on to an exceptional life, and not the key to it.  I want to run mindfully, and notice what hurts, and respond to it, instead of trying to mask it or wish it away.

I ran my 3k.  My foot hurt afterwards.  Then felt better.  So I tried again on the treadmill last night.  It began to hurt at 1.5k.  I stopped the treadmill.  I got off.  I listened.

There is wisdom here.  I can feel it.  When I stop long enough to hear what my body – indeed, what my mind – is saying.  Stop, it is saying.  Rest.  Please.  Listening and responding to this wonderful machine that I live in feels so much better than pounding it into the ground.

The future?  Balance.  Running with mindfulness.  Running without pain.  And doing other cool stuff too.

I joke with my running friends that I have started a new club, called the Injured Runners’ Swimming Club.  It is growing rapidly.  But somewhere along the way, I discovered something.  I like swimming.  And cycling.  And weight lifting.  The world is a much bigger place than it was eight weeks ago.  And I’m going to keep it this way.

A time to recover.

I’m finding it hard to tell you.  Hard to say.  You’ve known what running means to me.  I haven’t held back in detailing how it heals me, allows me to cope with what life throws at me.  How the woods bring me back to life and give me the room I need to howl out in pain when necessary.  How I feel most myself, most alive, when running free on a wooded trail.

And that’s gone.  All gone, for now.  For three weeks and one day, and for many more days to come.

Until I heal.  Until I can honestly run pain-free.  Because my method of coping in the last 12 months has been so unhealthy.  It has led to me walking in pain every single day, snarling like a bear with a thorn in its paw.  I knew what I was doing was nuts, but I told myself it was my only way of coping.  I was wrong.

After the Roller Coaster Run, I ran twice.  The pain had not changed (funny that!).  Even after I bought a new pair of running shoes.  So I agreed to take two weeks off running.  To allow my plantar faschia and tibialis posterior the time they needed to heal.  To strengthen myself.

So, instead of running 50km a week, here’s what I’ve been doing. Swimming 1k twice a week.  Teaching 3 BodyPump classes.  Doing cardio on the Elliptical Trainer or my bike twice a week.  I’ve been doing lots of calf raises, single-leg squats, and exercises to strengthen gluteus medius and the gluts.  I’ve felt healthier than I have in ages.  I can feel my muscles coming back, the ones that had been eaten away by too much running.

Do I miss it?  I miss my woods and trails with an ache I am unwilling to study too closely.  But I don’t miss every single step hurting.  I don’t miss feeling obsessed and willing to run through injury.  I don’t miss forcing myself out when my body really has had enough.

Running had overtaken me.  Instead of being a cure, it had become an illness, or, at least, a pathway to illness.

So this period of my life is about healing.  Healing mind and body, and coming back strong, stable, and light on my feet.  This is strangely (at times) okay.  I’m playing the piano more, thinking about writing my next novel, and trying to be a little more aware of the sane voice inside my head that says, ”no”.

I know I’ve been quiet since the Roller Coaster Run.  For the first time in a while, that quiet hasn’t been a whitewater.  It has been a calmness.  A centering.  A trying to feel myself again, to hear myself and what my body needs.

In time, I will run free and fast again, but that time is not now.

This is a time to recover.

Image result for recovery

Is it to be or not to be…the Roller Coaster Run. A trip along the Surfcoast Trail…

I’ve been quiet.  It’s hard to write when all I seem to be doing is whinging and crying about my sore, injured body all the time.

It’s as if my body is trying to tell me something.  And it keeps turning up the volume.  At the physio last week, it was almost comical.  “How are you?  What hurts?”

“Um, my right heel, right calf, left achilles, and my neck.”  I sighed, thinking of the psychological pain, but didn’t mention it.  “Where do we start?”

We started at my neck and worked our way down.  At the end of the session, which included every sore part as well as my liver somehow, we agreed I’d try a long 18k run on Friday.  If I could handle this, I could handle the Roller Coaster Run 21k in two weeks time. Good plan.

When Friday came, though, my feet were so sore from a 10k on Thursday, I couldn’t even contemplate running (well, I could – I’m aware that my 10-year-old son has more sense than me, so I asked him his opinion, and he told me to stay home).  So I stayed home.  And growled and groused and cleaned the stupid house.  Did eight loads of laundry and didn’t go for a bike ride.

We drove down to Ocean Grove for the long weekend.  Me, with a sore foot, without my long run on a long weekend in a small beach house with two young kids, a puppy, two cats, and a very patient husband – ugly stuff.

I lasted until 2 pm on Saturday, at which point I decided that my foot didn’t hurt anymore, filled up my water backpack with gear, and bolted out the door.  My family seemed to be encouraging me to go.  I was headed to Torquay, half an hour up the road.  I Google-mapped it, and planned a cool, easy back route, memorizing street names on the fly.

Part-way there, I saw a sign reading “Bramlea” and, as I was aiming for Bramlea Road, I turned.  I found myself on a corrugated dirt track.  I bumped along slowly, pebbles bouncing off the sides of my car, dust rising, for about 300 metres.  Then I swore loudly, and did a quick u-turn back to the main road.  Darn!  So much for short cuts.

A few minutes later, I came to the paved version of Bramlea Road, and turned again.  In twenty minutes, I’d pulled up triumphantly (yes, these things seem important to me) to the playground at White’s Beach, where I’ve run from before.

My foot hurt by now, but I really didn’t care.  It had been a rough morning with one of my children trying out every form of abuse they could dish out (“I hate you.  I wish you were dead, etc ect”, followed by spitting, kicking, and again, etc etc).  I needed this run.

Off I went.  Except my Garmin had switched itself to telling me how many calories I was burning, instead of how far I was running!  Not so useful.  I needed to know when 9k was up so I could turn around.  If I could still run at that stage.  A few battles with “Settings” ensued, and I finally had it right.  On I ran, watching for snakes, not fully awake to my surroundings yet.  Quickly, I was too hot.  I stopped to take off my long-sleeved t-shirt, when I heard someone shout, “Hey, Patricia!”

What a delight!  A friend from Hampton was holidaying in Torquay and happened to be parked by the path.  And this friend is a runner.  AND he was going to have a run in a few minutes, he just had to race home to change!  We made a plan – he’d park further up the long trail I was running, and we’d meet partway.  It seemed unlikely but cool nonetheless.  I ran off smiling, wondering if we’d meet up again.

My mood had lifted with that chance encounter.  Sometimes other people seem to see me in a way that I don’t see myself.  They smile and seem excited to see me, and that can blow away the blues quicker than anything.  It is always a puzzle though, especially when I’ve been feeling down. So a double-dose of delight, a running friend and a friend who was glad to see me.

I ran on.  Noticed each change in coastline.  I’d run the beach below during my 23k in the Surfcoast Century.  Today I was up on the cliff on the Surfcoast Walking Trail and the views were breathtaking.  I knew this coast intimately after a few races here, and a few training runs.  I felt independent, competent, alive.

Looking back towards Torquay

Looking back towards Torquay

And a few times scared.  When the crowds thinned and I was alone on the trail, bounded by fences on both sides, and worried about bad guys, but I ran on.

Along the trail

Along the trail

Bells Beach came just before my 9k turnaround so I explored further than I’ve gone before, making my way by accident down to the beach.  What an uplifting moment, to be there in the sunshine, watching the surfers roll in on the massive waves.  I hadn’t expected to get to the beach.  I went on a little further (chasing that 9k), and turned back at 9.1.

Bells Beach

Bells Beach

Back to Bells Beach, and who should I meet but my slightly breathless friend from Hampton,  He’d chased me down.  I was overjoyed!  A friend to run with in this most beautiful of places.  And he was happy to run at my slow, injured pace, and kept me entertained with stories of his life, which were different from my life, and a wonderful reassurance that everyone has their own challenges, even when they seem chirpy and light.

Back at White’s Beach, we said farewell.  My foot hurt like hell, but I didn’t really care.  I was sweaty and happy and alive again.

The drive back seemed effortless, like floating.