Three great things…

The sun is shining outside in the true Melbourne autumn way.  That means blue skies, perfect temperatures and a light breeze off the bay.  It is the sort of day that recharges everything, and I’m feeling content right now.  So I thought I’d share a few of the beautiful moments that life has created for me recently…

– Just now, I took our lovely Leila (our four-month old rescue Labrador) for a walk around the block.  She was a bit tired from a great play at the beach this morning, where she had her first real socializing with other dogs.  Around the block, for the first time, she walked next to me on a loose lease, stopping to sniff now and then, not pulling, not dragging me behind her. It was such a contrast to our drag-and-tow walk on Sunday, from which my hands are still healing.  It was a magical twenty minutes with my first ever dog, and as I type this, she wanders in, contentedly licks my hand, and wanders out again.

Lovely Leila

Lovely Leila

– On Friday last week, I took a friend for a run in Sherbrooke Forest.  That sounds simple enough, but for me it was an epic journey.  I didn’t want to admit it to her, but I’d never driven to Belgrave alone, and was terrified.  Even finding the train station to pick her up was a big deal, as I was navigating alone and the signs were not good.

But I found her, drove her up the long, scary, single lane road, and found my way to Grant’s Picnic Area.  I’d been wanting to drive here for a year, but chickened out each time, going back to Mount Dandenong because I knew the way.  I led her on a 7.5k loop through tall gum trees, pointing out Lyrebirds and Kookaburras, Wallabies, Rosellas and Magpies.  Afterwards I drove us to Olinda for lunch down small roads I had never traveled.

The drive home took us down a twisty, turny, single-lane road.  If I’d been alone, I probably would have pulled over to still my shaking hands, but with her, I kept going, and drove us the hour home, finding the way without help.

Stepping beyond my comfort zones is never, well, comfortable, but once my territory is expanded, I have found it never shrinks back to the same size again.  So I’m grateful to her in so many ways, because now Sherbrooke Forest is mine too.  I know I can drive there without such great fear, and this opens the door.


Me running downhill in Sherbrooke Forest

– The same friend, it turned out, is an accomplished pianist.  She came home with me, and I asked her to show me something on the piece that had stalled me in my forward progress.  She pointed out that “both hands played in the Bass Clef”, and I knew just what she meant, and suddenly the mystery became clear and I could play the piece and move forward again.  I’ve only been playing for three months, teaching myself from children’s books, so each step forward is a small miracle.

– Yesterday, I went to train in the free weights area at the gym.  These two gigantic young men were training there too.  Next to them, someone had set up the squat rack with 60 kg of plates.  I asked them if they were using it.  They said no, but would not meet my eye, and I felt suddenly invisible.  One of them pointed out to me that there was a water bottle near the rack, so someone must be using it.  Go away, he was saying, some big guy like me is using that squat rack.  You’re too old and female to work out here next to us big blokes.  I looked around the room.  There was one elderly gentlemen, the two men I had spoken to, and one woman with a trainer.  No one was using that squat rack, and so I proceeded to unload it and use it, while the two muscle-men alternated between pretending I didn’t exist, and scowling at me.  No one came back to the rack, and I felt, somehow, that I had forced a space for us women in the free weights area that had not been there before I arrived.  Later, one of the men came and asked me to use a grip on a machine I’d just finished with.  This time, he met my eye, and I was no longer invisible.

So, three great things.  On this glorious blue-sky day, the world is seeming a whole lot brighter than it did a few weeks ago.

Oh, and the Roller Coaster Run is about ten days away.  I’ve dropped back to the 21km option, and I’m thrilled I’m going to get to do this wonderful race that had seemed out of reach when I was injured back in January.

Wishing you a day of blue skies and sunshine…

“Drop that Garmin!” and other fun moments in running life with a puppy…

I knew it the moment I saw it sitting on my desk.  That’s not where I left it, I thought.  I’d just gotten home from riding the kids to school, so I knew it wasn’t their shenanigans.  I didn’t examine the running watch too closely, simply put it back on to charge, and silently thanked my husband.

The same husband who later at lunch told me with an unspoken “you big dummy” in his voice that the puppy had (again) got hold of my Garmin.  She’d been quiet for a few minutes – never a good sign, he said.  He’d found her contentedly chewing on my watch in the playroom, and had saved it from sure demise.

I was grateful, of course.  But I wasn’t surprised.  I knew that smelly black Garmin, caked in salty sweat, would be damn near irresistible to the puppy, so I’d shoved it under a bookshelf to charge.  She’d nosed it out.  Apparently a few times.

The last three weeks have taught me that any item left on the floor will be chewed, and, if not quickly confiscated, completely destroyed.  On the weekend, I bought Leila (that’s the puppy’s name) a new toy to chew – it was a rope thingy with two rubber balls attached.  One ball is gone already.  Gone.  There are dog-sized holes on the back lawn.  And each night, she takes one of the sofas for her very own.

But she’s a great dog, and I’m not complaining.  That wagging tail when I come in the front door?  No one has ever greeted me with such fervor.  When she settles down to go to sleep she kind of sighs, and wiggles her head side to side like a child.  She’s got several blankets with paw-print designs that she carries around the house to curl up on.  And she is learning how to walk by my side on a loose lead, which seems somewhat miraculous.  When I say, “Sit”, she sits!  It has been years since anyone responded to me with such immediate compliance.  And she does it whilst wagging her tail.

Leila on her sun lounger

Leila on her sun lounger

Running, you ask?  It has been progressing, but somehow with less obsession of late.  The puppy and the piano, the kids, life in general – all of it seems to be shifting back to the center, and running is taking a nice steady side track.  It’s a good thing.  I feel calmer and more myself than I have in a couple of years.  In pursuit of really long distance, I had let a lot of the balance slip from my life.  I was a bit like Forrest Gump I think, running because I needed to.  Now, thankfully, I don’t need to in such a huge way anymore.

At Mount Dandenong on Friday last week, I managed my first 15k run in four months.  I did bits of the Roller Coaster Run course, with a few detours to shorten it to the right length.  The fact that I know the trails so well delights me, that I can run where I like alone, navigate, dance the trails, and take care of so many elements of myself at once, well, that is pretty perfect.  I’m secretly targeting the real Roller Coaster Run in three weeks time, depending on how well I run the longer distance.  Today I dropped back to the 21k instead of 43k option, which seems quite far enough now.  I’d pretty much given up on doing the race at all, but now I’ve got a bit more hope.

RollerCoaster Medal

The Buffalo Stampede Marathon I’d planned for April I’ve had to declare impossible.  The North Face 50k in May remains to be seen.

It is great that, while important, these races are not everything.

The love that surrounds me?  That is everything, and I’m feeling pretty blessed at the moment.

And now I’d better go and see what Leila has eaten while I’ve been busy writing…

The dumbest thing I’ve ever done. Perhaps.

On Wednesday last week, after two months of searching, learning, exploring and deciding, a twelve-week old puppy arrived on our doorstep.  She was in the care of a foster mom at Labrador Rescue up in Queensland, having been saved from a shelter.  I knew she was the one the moment I saw her photo and I pursued her, well, like a Labrador pursues anything.  Doggedly, until she was ours, and we were hers.


She flew from Brisbane to Melbourne in the care of Jet Pets, and was handed to me (me who had never held a puppy before) in front of my house at 3:42 pm.  The kids got home at 4:00.  The cats?  They were seen once or twice shaking their heads in dismay through the windows.  I quickly captured and brought them in, so they wouldn’t disappear.  They cowered in their laundry room, disbelief in their eyes.

Leila, the pup, is good as gold, and behaving exactly as a puppy should behave.  In other words, peeing on the floor, crying for half the night, terrorizing the cats, and eating everything in sight.  She is like a living vacuum cleaner with no off switch.

Of course she is adorable and her ears as soft as silk, her wagging tail a delight to behold.

But here’s the thing:  life was already a challenge.  My youngest child has some serious learning issues, and does not respond well to change.  This means that the week we had of peace in my home – the first week of peace in eight years – has been suddenly replaced by dog toys being thrown at my head, and chants of “You’re a loser” copied direct from some TV show.  Saturday morning, I cleaned the kitchen and did six loads of laundry.  This is never a good sign.

A good friend found me walking the neighborhood on Saturday (I’d needed a breath of fresh air), pulled her car over, and said, “You look like you need a drink!”  I didn’t go with her – that would be a Pandora’s Box for sure, but my tight shoulders said she was right.

Monday has come, and the kids are at school.  Our little pup had a tummy ache but a race to the vet proves it is nothing too serious, and she settles down for a nap.

And I, after two sedentary days following this pup around my house (did I mention she can’t leave for another two weeks because she needs another vaccination?), I got my running shoes on.

Somewhere along that 7k of solitude, I found the strength to continue on.  My head cleared; I felt a sense of hope.  This is not the end.  This is only the beginning.  My cats and my children and I will all stretch a bit to accommodate this new creature.  I will open my heart and love her.

So…is it the dumbest thing I’ve ever done?  Ask me in a year, when my new Labrador/Kelpie is able to run with me.  Ask me in six months when she comes to the beach to chase balls.  Ask me later today when her whole body wags when she sees me.

I suppose great things do not come without great risks.  A lesson I have had to learn yet again.

I’ve also re-learnt the lesson about running, how it puts things in perspective and makes sane the crazy in me.