Inexplicably a better running year

Sitting on 800+ kilometres so far this year and a really good half marathon result in October, I can only surmise that Woopi (and the accompanying rest / less time on my feet) has been good for my preparation. As has running through continual hip discomfort.

It’s taken me till now to realise that the extra Pilates sessions I took on last January had made things worse, so I stopped all Pilates in August however mild pain lingers even when walking.

I always feel like I am on the cusp of a complete bodily breakdown and am just grateful for all the runs I manage. I don’t really know what I would do if I had to stop… it’s tied so much to my wellbeing and goals now (and increasingly to my way of meeting new people / getting out of the house).

Through running I began my first genuine bromance and friendship with another fella a bit older than me via parkrun, and hopefully we may run a marathon together in 2018. He’s a bit devastated by his recent first attempt at it and admitted the lack of company and the mental side of it was a huge factor so I am considering being his training buddy through summer to get us both over the line. What a great memory to share…can I really just run side by side the whole way and disregard my time? I am a fairly fierce competitor and find it hard to run slower than my best.

I managed to best my modest goals (1/2M less than 1:39:00 – did 1:31:10 and 5k parkrun under 20 mins – did 19:39) this year and am scared to take them to a new level, especially since it would mean an increase in mileage. Everything from here till January is a bonus so perhaps my 10k Zatopek time from last year may fall in December.

When I think back to 2006 till 2015 when I mostly sat in a chair playing WoW for pleasure/leisure, they seem like wasted years in terms of my fitness. I probably played a couple of years too long if I’m honest. Cycling may have to come back onto the agenda if I can’t get this hip into a manageable state. The cortisone injection did nothing so I’m unsure what else can be done.

Not the best patch for book reading

Whoa…a bit of a rough run it’s been in 2017. A few unfinished novels including the lauded Richard Ford (Lay of the Land – 2 stars). I guess this signals I’m really not truly ever going back to an American novel phase in a hurry. Having said that, I managed to read Haruf’s Our Souls at Night which was sweet but didn’t quite have the impact I’d hoped (4 stars). The fourth of the English history series Revolution by Ackroyd (3 stars) was a bit of a dry slog, and did inform me of the first three Georgians, but I feel like I need to read another book to commit Hannover things to memory a little better.

Somewhere in the pile was a decent Quarterly Essay by David Marr on Pauline Hanson. My god, I am leaving things so long before write ups that I can barely remember them.

The Tontine books (by Costain) I got for a buck each from an Op Shop and were an enjoyable romp, though they took awhile to get through. 3 stars.

The Stone Raft by Saramago was a magical road trip by a small group of oddballs and a stray dog around a cast-adrift and erratic Iberian peninsula for a purpose I can no longer remember. Quite a charming novel though – 4 stars.

When I was Mortal by Marias was a fantastic bunch of often menacing and unpredictable short stories, translated from Spanish. Loved nearly all of them and just tore through this book. 4.5 stars.

A gift from my old mate James, In Love With These Times by Flying Nun Records founder Roger Shepherd was an easy, if mediocre read. He seems to have done his fair share of drugs and booze and the recollections are accordingly hazy. 3 stars for him being an unapologetic Clean and Chris Knox fan, and for admitting he was often pretty bumbling and incompetent.

Woopi summary

We’ve been back at work for a month now and holiday memories recede quickly. This was our fourth year up north (for ~4 weeks) and things went fairly predictably. The highlights were my parents and sister staying in a nearby cabin; catching up with old colleague Jamie Stammers, a parkrun PB at Coffs Harbour (19:39!), 3 games of golf, forest running with the local cross-country team, and losing my wallet at the pub one night (blame loose jean pockets). The oddest moment was seeing Kim get a rush of nostalgia and buy a pair of Op Shop roller skates, which I was terrified she’d break a leg with.

No fishing rods this year, because I was told things were poorly. It was very dry, and didn’t rain once. Folks were watering their sites to keep the grass alive, and many python sitings were made in Josie’s back garden (coming in for domestic water). Bonnie had a good time, with minimal toilet incidents, but I feel like I spent a good chunk of each day escorting her and Fergus on toilet breaks. It was not the most restful of holidays for me in that way.

Plans for next year – buy / loan a boogie board. Buy golf clubs – those hire ones were terrible. Bring a less-weighty book that I will actually finish.

 

 

Another pleasant few months spent

 This Dutch print is probably the best jigsaw gift I could have received and I’ve struggled to choose a successor. We’re loaning our house out to Michael and Jenny when away in Whoopi this year and they’ll need this space, so no new 3000+ piece puzzles are being started now. Took about 9-10 weeks and a ton of fantasy baseball podcasts to do this beauty.

Nasi Lemak in Perth

Summoned to Perth for a work emergency I find myself mercifully alone at dinner having a famous Malaysian dish and wondering how I just blew 150 on some CDs at the wonderfully old fashioned Dada Records. That is all. Life is great!

2016 windup

My reading has slowed in the last few months, as, on holidays up north, I started listening to weekly ESPN Cleveland Browns podcasts and found myself intrigued by a sensationally bad Browns team. This rapidly led to buying an NFL Game Pass in late October, and downloading 4-5 games a week to an old IPad and watching them on the daily tram to work. It confirmed for me that I enjoy it more when my team is losing than winning, and it was the sporting highlight of my year to see the 0-14 Browns finally win the second last game of the season in the dying seconds, and act like world champions.

Books:

Ended up reading Richard Flanagan’s Booker Prize winning The Narrow Road to the Deep North, which was and wasn’t what I expected. The Burma railway work camp and prisoner of war-scenes were graphic and revolting, and the description of surgery being performed with a sharpened spoon nearly made me put the book down for good. It was a terrific book I thought – 4.5 stars.

Had a 100-page go at Ruth Scurr’s John Aubrey – My Own Life, and loved the snippets and diary format, however it was hard to stomach 500 pages of diary entries. Abandoned!

Finally for the year, a wonderful crime gem, translated from the French by Scot Graeme Macrae Burnet. The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau was an odd and charming novel. The guilt-driven paranoia of Manfred; his obsession with routine, and the oddly abrupt and suitable ending made for a perfect few days of entertainment. Just loved it. 5 stars.

Running:

Had a great end to an interrupted year by surpassing some modest goals post knee surgery in April. I didn’t really get back to running till July but I was fairly aggressive in building up mileage at Woolgoolga in September, and managed a first half marathon (1:39:00) in October, a 10k best (42:30) in the Zatopek minor grade track race in Nov., and a painful best Coburg parkrun (20:12) in December. Knee and hip issues have intervened though, and yesterday’s hip MRI apparently means stop everything for now. Gah.

Bonnie the wonder dog:

She continues to delight, and yet be completely ravenous at all times. We found out her original birthdate was 21st February 2004, and that she is a Jack Russell x Maltese. So fat!

Kim’s Christmas Presents:

Many books, many running tops and a whopper of an intimidating 3000 piece jigsaw which I hope to show more of later. Overall rating: 8/10.

TV this year:

These are the ones I remember: House of Cards, MadMen, WestWorld, Tudors, Wolf Hall, Ask the Midwife, Last Hope U, Midnight Sun, The Detectorists, Gavin and Stacey, Still Game,  Raised by Wolves, Please Like Me, Rosehaven, Stranger Things, Downton Abbey, Fargo, The Killing, The Legacy and other Scandinavian stuff.

Things to look forward to in 2017:

More jumbo Flat Whites; playing old records on my newly fixed turntable; Malaysian trip in Jan; seeing The Bats in late-Jan; 50th birthday dinner in March; another year up at Woopi in August; a ton of books to work through all year; the end of summer (and daily plant watering); some running without knee issues – maybe?

Deaf Bonnie arrives

We now have a second dog again, though it nearly didn’t happen. I kept thinking that 13 year old Fergus was a little lonely, or acting weird – barking at non-existent cats on the fence at dusk has been his latest trick. Plus, I wanted another affection outlet too. Nothing too puppy-like; something that wouldn’t commit me to 10 years of care, in case we wanted to do a big 6 month trip overseas.

Fergus is an odd dog. A dog that lunges at any unfamiliar dog just out of habit – a dog we really didn’t socialise properly in 2003 as a puppy because he was coupled with a dog that would fear bark at man and beast alike. But also a dog who loves routine, and is used to playing second fiddle – an all white, no-fuss, mostly ignored second dog.

bonnie

So, I apply on PetRescue for a second dog, and mostly miss out on small non-shedding dogs because they are snapped up fast, or because we work 5 days, and pensioners don’t. Fair enough. So, my expectations lower each week – now I’m looking at only older dogs, and ones with medical conditions, and even then, I have to get through a meet and greet, and fill in 3 page applications.

After he chomped at another dog in Wonga Park, I started writing applications that mentioned he was “dog reactive”, a buddy within 5 minutes wasn’t going to happen with him. Then we got lucky. We found an older lady who didn’t mind us spending an hour at her house whilst we walked Fergus back and forth in circles, parallel or perpendicular, but never face to face. Sure he barked and tried to snap, but we got them closer and closer. Maria was either convinced we would make it work, or just happy to see the dog gone, but a week later we paid our money online, plonked her into a dog bed in the back seat and Fergus didn’t move a muscle. Not a single problem since – the difference is astounding.

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Two days later, the euphoria has worn off a little, and things have become apparent. She’s deaf. She has a big belly and drinks lots of water (Canine Cushings – hello Chloe!) and is ravenous all the time. She is badly in need of some grooming, but has an awesome huge tail which goes crazy. Maria must have fed her a lot because the 5.5kg at the North Melbourne Dogs Home in August is now about 8kg. She can’t get in the dog flap (hey even Fergus can hardly make it nowadays) and boy I’m glad we just redid the decking steps because jumping is not her strong suit. Still, I am loving having another dog around, even if she only gives us a couple of years. I’d love to know her background, but everything about her is made up – her name, and probably her age (12), and no-one seems to know much. I hope you like living with us Bonnie.

Life without a Chloe

Home life is definitely more settled since we gulped, booked our little Chloe in for a lethal injection and eventually went through a rough few days of tears, usually coming out of nowhere at all. I don’t think I was in total denial about the deterioration in her condition, but once the two week countdown had begun, I kept finding reasons why it was too soon to put her down. The last couple of days were complete shockers and I knew it was the right time, and yet even then I was unable to be in the room to face my decision. Poor old Kim took the fall for me that day.

It didn’t take long to feel the burden of her longstanding difficult condition start to lift from my shoulders. The first day I took Fergus out afterwards was an exercise in exhilaration and catharsis for both man and animal; we power-walked distant territory long unavailable to us due to Chloe’s limited speed and range. It was just fantastic. Now we have other issues, like what do we do with the second half of the dog food can, or will he handle a new dog well (or teach it how to lunge at other canines) or even, do we bother with another dog at all? Getting daily PetRescue new-dog alerts is not helping. We’ll see.

Back in the Austin

I’ve had a rough few weeks really; feeling sick and having almost continuous pain in my back and sides, made worse by eating. The pancreatitis has returned and there is little relief from the random spasms and nighttime wake ups. I’ve dropped 4kgs and am down to 64.5 today. A lot of time things have worsened on weekends meaning I haven’t had to take much time off work really, but each day is a crap shoot.

Reading online is not exactly reassuring and it is sobering stuff to read of chronic pancreatitis bringing reduced life expectancy and the challenges of long term pain management.

I don’t believe I’m an alarmist but I have come to accept the seriousness of my position. Things I’ve taken for granted like holidays away or an income until I choose to retire may no longer be options. I feel lucky that my work are so reasonable and understanding…2016 might put them to the test!

I find myself a little emotional about my possible fate and feel for my wonderful wife who has been a helpful and upbeat presence. It’s not been helped by us deciding to put our 16 year old dog down in the near future.

Stopping alcohol in 2013 was a cinch but this time around, the muffins, pizza, chips, pastries and chocolate are a lot harder.  I find myself staring at people in shops and salavating. Wanting to eat but being afraid of the consequences has been the biggest challenge so far.

Let’s see what tomorrow’s x-ray and ultrasound show..I’m not expecting anything but there’s always a chance something might show up.

Some easier 2016 goals knocked over

I don’t know what it was about this year which made me write down some Post-It note goals and want to actually do some of them. I’ve read about people hitting middle age and sensing the tightening of time they have left, which leaves them feverish till the end; ambivalent years in their 20s seeming wasteful in hindsite. Maybe I’ve become one of those people.

 

Ommegang

 

Finished a 3000 piece jigsaw puzzle which took me about 5 months in the end. It only cost $1 – a shrewd buy from Kim at an Op shop up north. Choosing a 1615 Belgian civic parade or “Ommegang” ticked all the right boxes (historic, low countries, and fine detail) which generally draw me to a picture. At one point it sat untouched for 6 weeks around Christmas, when I’d done all the easier bits (top 3rd) and had to identify maybe 2000 single pieces and place them in their spots – never connecting them all till right near the end. That was exhausting, and the lighting and uncomfortable seating didn’t help. But I’m really pleased I did it in the end – many cups of herbal tea (and dry biscuits) later. Now I want to go see a real one!

pg-38-war-and-peace-1-bbc

Then War and Peace got read. When I heard the series was coming on TV this year, I knew that my 2013 purchase needed to come off the shelf, and at first I was worried with all the French phrasing interspersed amongst the Russian to English translation, but it was quite a pleasure to read really. Apart from a tedious Epilogue which I think Tolstoy intended to prove his rigour but to a modern reader seemed like the same argument twisted 20 ways to fill pages, it was surprisingly breezy and fun. I didn’t really know what to expect, not an anti-war piece; Tolstoy at pains to point out the fate of the naive, seeking glory or the blind worship of the Tsar, and scornful of those wishing to summarise the result as a series of won or lost encounters. General Kutuzov seemed to be the anti-hero, unpopularly retreating again and again to save the Russian Army, at the risk of being un-Russian but in doing so, gaining eventual victory but lifelong ignomony amongst his peers. Loved the 6 part series on the BBC too. 4.5 stars.