Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Have you ever seen Sydney from a 747 at Night?

I would have last weekend if it were not daylight savings!  We took what is called Cup Week off work in Melbourne (horse racing carnival) & headed up to Sydney, Canberra & Wollongong to visit family.

Airport bound

We usually try to take a week off around this time to recharge before the inevitable Christmas rush - it was much needed this year!

A quick drink at the airport & we were away.  

Spent the weekend hanging out with my cousin's mainly eating, drinking & catching up on each others lives.  While we live in the same country, sometimes we only see each other once or twice a year if we are lucky!

 12 hour smoked goodness above & some funky street art below

a local Sydney brewery who's beer & cider we enjoyed

Monday morning arrived in a flash & time in Sydney was done.  Next stop: Canberra - the capital of Australia - to visit my aunt who has lived there for about 4 years now.  This was our first visit to her in this location.  I hadn't been to Canberra since I was a teenager & remembered little about the city other than the roads going around & around in circles & Mum being sacked as map reader.  I got promoted to the front seat - not sure I was any better!

                                flowers from my aunt's dining table arrangement

Canberra is home to many national things of which we visited the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, National Library & National War Museum with my aunt as tour guide.  We particularly liked the sculpture garden that is part of the National Gallery.

And the portrait gallery was amazing.  We spent a couple of hours in the national gallery & saw only a small portion of what was on offer.  This piece affected me the most:

We attended the war memorial twice: the day we arrived we spent a couple of hours in the afternoon before attending the closing ceremony for the day whereby a solider is remembered & the last post played, very moving.  We went back before we left for Hubs to see G For George - his father was a mid & rear gunner in this plane in during WW2.  It was hard to get the whole plane in the picture due to the space it was in, but you get the idea.

The plane was impressive & it was both good yet horrifying to learn the statistics about the men who flew in these things.  The survival rate was not high.  Hubs father survived, but did not have a single friend who survived at the end of the war.

We moved on to look for information on the Black Cat Track which is where my grandpa Blue fought - no a mention although a little of the area; most was about Kokoda in the Papua New Guinea campaign section.  Lastly we found the names of my great uncle (Blue's brother, who's grave we saw when we trekked the Black Cat in 2013) WW2, & my Great Great Uncle (Blue's uncle) WW1.

While I am interested in the history because of my family & in particular Blue, I found this place incredibly sad.  So much death.  So much destruction.

The last leg of our journey was Wollongong, an hour or so South of Sydney on the East coast of Australia to visit friends.  There was much eating & drinking (way to much of both) but we had a lovely time just hanging out & again catching up on each others lives.

And finally, what would a running blog be without running!  I'm still in the recovery phase from the Melbourne Marathon - 4 weeks ago today.  I ran lakeside in Canberra, in the suburbs & on the beach in Wollongong & the same again + Parkrun also in Wollongong.

5kms lakeside in Canberra - chilly 12 degrees @ 9am

7.5kms through the burbs to the beach & along the beach in Wollongon - maybe 17 degrees by 9.30am; the view below across to the City of Wollongong from Corrimal beach

Parkrun morning I set out from where we were staying & ran down to the beach, along the beach to the park where Parkrun starts - or so I thought, to find that the start point had moved to the other side of the park back at the beach where I pretty much started from!  

Luckily I'd allowed plenty of time.  It was a beautiful morning & I didn't mind the extra kms - it was the longest I'd run since the Marathon.  

Nice & sweaty here - maybe 18 degrees by 9am.

Back home to 30+ degrees & I'm scrambling to keep up & get back into routine.  Need to shift the 2kgs I acquired around my middle while I was away!  Onwards!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Melbourne Marathon 2017

This year was my first attempt at 2 x marathons in one year.  Melbourne was the first marathon (left medal) I ran back in 2014 & while I achieved my goal time & was absolutely bouncing off the walls with excitement at my accomplishment post run, the lead up to & run itself was lonely & stressful.  

Then I had PB cycling with me from the 18kms til 39kms & family on course supporting me in 3 x locations; & 30 odd thousand runners on course with me, so I wasn't exactly alone; but I spent most of the run focused on maintaining that goal pace & stressing about whether or not I could:

A. make the whole 42.2kms & 
B. if I could finish in sub 4 hours.

Fast forward 4 years & this race was probably my happiest event yet.  I went into it not as fit as my first knowing I couldn't beat my old time (less pressure); I had less support on the side lines (didn't need PB to cycle with me this time) but I did have 7 other runner mates out on course & spent most of the run with a huge smile on my face & actually enjoyed the run.  

Two of the tags I use in social media are #runhappy & #runfree - this race for me epitomized this!  As does the following picture taken by one of the course photographers at 18kms:

I managed this mid stride & it is possibly my most coordinated moment in life LOL.  But let me go back to the beginning.  I only signed up for this as 2 of my running mates (sisters) were running their first marathons at this event so I figured it would be an awesome way to support them.  PB dropped me off in the city, then went for breakfast with the hubby of one of the other runners & then set up camp at 18kms.

The day started out cool (10deg C) with a forecast top of 21.  I found my crew, we took a few pre-race pictures & found our way into the starting corral.  There were no waves so we all started together regardless of pace & eventually we were off.  The start of any run this big is a bit messy dodging slower runners &/or walkers, but I found some space by the 2nd KM & settled into my run.

It wasn't until the 9th KM that I could start looking for my running family along the first switch back.  Spotted the first, 2nd & 3rd along Albert Park Lake - we hollered & waved & I felt so happy to be out there with them!  Next opportunity was the 14 - 22km stretch along Beaconsfield Parade where I saw all of them!  Even ran onto the oposite side of the road to hug one of the first timers!  

The boys were exactly where they were supposed to be at the 18km turn around & had put up the signs.  I stopped here & had the caffeinated drink I'd left with PB & a quick chat before I continued on.  Pulled in at a public toilet that seemed to belong to a cafe 2kms on - there was a toilet sign out the front so who was I to argue!  There were even flowers on the counter!  Fanciest running toilet's I'd ever used & certainly beat the on course port-a-loos!!!

3 of us made the halfway point before the cut off time & continued towards St Kilda & past Luna Park (the other 4 were diverted back up Fitzroy Street & had to make up the missing 8kms running laps of Batman Avenue at the back of the MCG).  I amused myself continuing to look out for them along the out & back section & still felt pretty good.  Walked through my first drink station @ 24kms & continued this until the last drink station which I ran through.

Didn't feel like stopping & walking until 35kms (other than the planned drink station walk through's), but pushed on to 36 & was planning on walking up the rise heading into the Royal Botanic Gardens - was just about to stop before then when I spied one of our first timers on the short course walking up ahead!  I pushed on & walked with her for a bit, chatting about how we were feeling.  She was OK & started to push on running before I was ready to.

I pushed on shortly thereafter, over took her while still keeping an eye out for the others.  Took another walk break up another rise, round the corner & I hear someone calling my name!  PB was there to say hello & to tell me to keep going!  He'd been with our god daughters who I knew were up at the 39km point!  Ran on then walked up another pimple of a hill; was feeling tired, but OK that I was close to the girls & not far off finishing.  

At this point I had no idea if I was on target for the sub 4.5 hour target I'd answered to everyone who'd asked me what my goal time was - I wasn't sure I could make this but it would be a faster pace than Great Ocean Road & should be considering this run is flatter!  Next minute I'm running a slight downhill & there are our goddaughters!!!  Big waves, sweaty hugs & high 5's.  

They made me so happy that I ran the last 3.2kms without stopping!  My music had cut out here - normally that would be a big deal & would stress me out - I just took my earbuds out & called out encouragement to anyone who looked like they were struggling, bantered with the crowd & continued to run with a big smile on my face.

Down the hill, around the corner & there was the MCG!  Along the back of it & into the ground.  There is a coloured mat for you to run on (red was for marathon) but I ran along the side of the mat for most of it - I wasn't running that bloody far to miss out on actually running on the hallowed turf!  And across the finish line & I was done! Net time 4.25.24 with 3 chat stops, 1 pee break & 3 unscheduled walk breaks!

Made my way into the belly of the MCG to firstly get my medal on the way down & then grab some post run refreshments.  Not sure if I missed it this year but there appeared to be only water & the sponsored sports drink.  Most events provide fruit post run & I was so looking forward to a nice cold piece of orange or something!

Found my way out; found PB & remaining spectators & we made our way back into the MCG to await the last of our runners!  One first timer was pulled of course due to illness so very disappointing for her first campaign; one sister came in just under 6 hours as hoped & the other was the last to enter the MCG at 7 hours - her goal was to finish before cut off!!  They shut the gate behind her leaving I think 4 runner still on course.  It was a massive effort by all runners & of course the newby's were NO NEVER AGAIN!!!!

Home via a burger place for a well earned spicy chicken burger & some cheesy chili fries, then a long soak in the tub with a glass of champagne (or 2).  Slept really well that night (usually I'm achy & toss & turn) & recovered really well.  

By Tuesday it would seem so had the others as it looks like we are all signing up for the solo 50km Surfcoast trail next year instead of doing the 100km relay!!  Including the NEVER AGAIN's!!!  These things are addictive. 

I guess ultimately having such a great run & now a new bigger challenge has led me back here.  Watch this space!!!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Maybe Elvis Was Born In A Tent

Because it seems he left the door open, just a tad.

I guess I just needed a bit of a break where I didn't have to feel guilty about not blogging.  

I'm in such a good place right now; I have so many plans & I'll drive Plumbing Boy mad babbling on about them so I think here will be the place to set them free!!!  Watch this space.  

Marathon recap coming soon.  

I'll leave you 1 picture from that day which is indicative of how I'm still feeling right now.....

Friday, August 4, 2017

Elvis Has Left The Building

After much (well, some) deliberation, I've decided to finish up here.  Those of you who still read will have noticed the decline in frequency & enthusiasm in my posts.  

To be honest, I'm finding it a bit of a chore to do it properly & frankly, I'd rather be out & about running in the limited spare time I have!  

I was hoping to make it through to my 10 year blogiversary later this year, but this morning I realized that dragging it out until then was dragging me down.  It's time to set myself free!  

So. I would like to thank everyone who has stopped by: both those who participated via commenting & those who remain anonymous:

The support I've received here has been wonderful!!!  The friendships I've made here have transcended blogging, some into real life, others via other web based media & I am truly thankful for them all.  

All good things come to their natural conclusion & I look forward to what lays ahead.

I'll continue to check in on those of you who still blog (what else would I do in my lunch break!) & am on the interwebs on instagram @alleycat1970 & from there you can follow me to facebook if you wish.

Exist stage left..........

Friday, July 14, 2017

Were Does The Time Go??

I just can't keep up lately!!!!  Don't seem to have enough time to blog, to train as much as I'd like, or get on top of the laundry, or work!!!!  As I tell Tuxedo my cat every morning, sorry mate, I can't stay & play, I have to get back onto the hamster wheel!!!!

Anyhoo.  I did make time to do something recently, but let me set the scene first 😊

Those of you who know me in real life know that Plumbing Boy is into dirt bikes; so much in fact over the past 10 years that I've been know to call myself a dirt bike widow on weekends while he's off gallivanting on his dirt bike with nae a care for his better half.

He's never been interested in riding on the road, however a lot of his mates are getting into adventure biking (as far as I can tell its a cross between dirt bike riding & road riding), as the degree of difficulty in the dirt biking style they like to do & the potential for injury is getting a bit much for some of his crew.

When my cousin who has headed off  oversea's indefinitely asked him if we could baby sit her road bike & take it for a ride from time to time, he reluctantly agreed, saying it wasn't really his thing.  She bought it over & it's been hanging out in our carport for almost 3 months.  Until last weekend, when I took it for a spin.

Somehow I managed to agree to getting my motor bike learners, if my cousin agreed to getting her advanced open water scuba ticket!!!  

In Australia, the process for getting your bike licence has changed recently & I went on a 2 day course.  I haven't grown up riding dirt bikes - even though I was on a farm, we only had 3 & 4 wheelers by the time I was old enough to ride.  I have had a go on a dirt bike, but wasn't overly confident & attended the course with an open mind hoping that the instructor would teach me to ride.  My cuz said it was a pretty cruizy course & lots of fun.

Hmmm.  Day 1 was both practical & theory; at the end of the day we had to sit the written test, which I passed no problem.  The practical though was another matter.  I was very very nervous & struggled with taking off without stalling & coming to a gentle stop without stalling!  

Slept terribly that night knowing the practical was the following day & that I was even less confident after day 1 than I was prior!  Day 2 was more practical & while I was doing well in 2nd gear & doing the required swerving at speed & acing the emergency stopping, I still struggled while taking off & coming to a smooth confident stop without putting my feet down &/or stalling the bike. 

The instructor did not put me at ease & instead of helping me decided shouting at me that I wasn't listening to him would help.  It did not help nor improve matters.  I wasn't the only one he yelled at by the way; but it was pretty horrible.

Finally it was time for the practical test.  I took out a witches cone in the first 2 minutes & stalled the bike. Then managed to stall it 2 more times over the next 30 seconds so it was all over red rover for me.  

I had to wait while the others all attempted the test; we ended up with 4 passes & 2 fails overall.  Myself & the guy who also failed were excused & the others had to go on & do an on road assessment.  No idea if they all passed or not but I hope so.

The course is structured so that if you fail you can come back as many times as you need to pass (although my sister said if I failed 3 times then perhaps it would be time to face the fact that motorbike riding just wasn't for me LOL).  

I had 2 options; repeat the Sunday in 2 weeks or wait 5 as I was going away for a running event on the Gold Coast at the end of the month.  I figured sooner was better than later - get back on the horse, strike while the iron is hot etc etc.

I considered having a private lesson, but there were none available after hours.  EEEK.  PB to the rescue - he borrowed a kids/teenagers dirt bike & arranged a place close by where I could practice.  I was so stressed out that he was going to teach me bad habits that would fail me - don't worry, he tried!!!  

So we went for a practice for a few hours on the Sunday the weekend before my repeat & I was still not great; then again on the day before the repeat where I finally managed to start & stop without too much effort.  I had to apply driving my car to riding the bike I guess.  The instructor taught us to brake & then pull the clutch in at the last minute as you are coming to a stop.  When I drive I tend to do this in reverse, clutch goes in & then I come to a slow stop using the brake.

Using this method, I already had the clutch in so couldn't really stall it.  Then PB reinforced the need on a bike to ride the clutch as you take off (you wont damage a bike, unlike the car) - you don't let it all the way out until you have both feet comfortably on the pegs!

Sunday arrived & I wasn't sure if I would be pleased to see the same instructor - to have at least one friendly face if I was going to be joining a group who'd spent the previous day together - or not. 

Thankfully I had a different instructor who was just lovely both in the class room & out on the range.  He was so encouraging & if we didn't get something right or he could see we were feeling uncomfortable, he'd take us aside & have a quite chat while everyone else kept practising what ever we were doing.

The group were fantastic too - it really helped that there were 2 other girls doing the course & they were super friendly & welcoming; made me feel like I was part of the group.  

After 3.5 hours out on the practice range it was time again to do the practical exam.  I volunteered to go first, explaining that if I was going to fail in spectacular fashion for the 2nd time, I'd rather get it over & done with.  

No one else wanted to go first so off I went with the instructor while the rest of the group sorted out their order (first time around we didn't have a choice, we were told what order to do it in).  Thankfully I passed with flying colours.  

I had one safety item (forgot 1 head check) & that was it.  The rest of the group did their test, 2 out of 3 guys failed (all on safely items - they were really good riders too), 1 guy & the other two girls passed which meant we had 4 left for the on road assessment.

We did a couple of laps of the practice range to make sure everyone could change up into 3rd & 4th gear (the rest of the course is done in 1st & 2nd) & then followed the instructor out onto the main road into a 70km per hour speed zone & traffic!!  Yikes!

Down the main road & into a small housing estate & we had to take it in turns of leading the pack firstly anti clock wise (all left hand turns) then clock wise (all right hand turns) around a big block while the instructor marked us on our skills (indicating, checking for traffic, riding position on the road, adjusting riding position on the road when confronted with traffic or other hazards etc).  

Thankfully we all passed & once the paper work was completed, we were free to go & ride a bike if we had one, displaying L plates & wearing a bright yellow or orange safety vest as is the new requirement for at least the next 3 months!

I was so relieved.  This is possibly one of the most stressful things I have every done.  I was a nervous wreck I tells you!  Fast forward a couple of weeks as I had my trip to the Gold Coast the weekend after the resit & I finally had time to go for my first official ride.  

PB came with me to make sure I was OK.  My cousin's bike is 400 & the ones we used in the course were 125's so is heaps heavier & I was apprehensive for the first 5 minutes, but she did tell me it is super easy to ride & of course she was right! 

We putted around a small industrial estate 1/2 a km from home first so I could practice turning left & right; indicating; coming to stop at stop signs; giving way at give way signs & generally getting comfortable on the bike with not to much traffic.  

We set off at 7am & it was 6 degrees.  I froze!!!  Had to pull over after 30 minutes & defrost my fingers on the engine/exhaust air!  Finally  the sun came out & I was a bit warmer, so we left the industrial estate for a more main road & headed into Williamstown via the beach road for coffee!  

After coffee we rode a bit more around Williamstown & then back home safely.  Rode for 2.5 hours with a 20 minute coffee stop.  So there you have it.  One more thing for me to lose time (& money) on!!!!  Thankfully I fit into my cousins jacket, helmet & gloves.  Had to purchase some Kevlar jeans to get me started & I'm still wearing my hiking boots until I decide what boots to get.

Oh, & what was PB riding around town on with me? Surely not his beloved dirt bike?? No.  Sometime while I was booking & doing my course he managed to buy himself an adventure bike (the guy he bought it from's wife was having a baby & they needed the funds, so of course he had to help him out by taking the bike off his hands).  It would seem if you cant beat them, join them!