Saturday, June 25, 2011

Getting excited about hair gel...

I am going to pre-warn all those who think this is a running blog.  Generally it is, but I do other stuff as well.  Unfortunately world-famous super-hero isn't one of my other roles.  General barefoot drunkard, yep that's my evening job.  My other role in life -my day job- is a Mum to an autistic kid.  This post is about that...

I walk in after my Doctor's appointment into the drop-in day-care D had gone to after morning Kindergarten.  It's actually not a drop-in day-care as such, but the owner, Helen, has known us since Pre-school times and in times of need she picks up D after class and looks after him if I am running late.  Without her, my life as an 'almost' single-mum, (i.e. single Mum between the hours of 7-7) with no family would be super-painful.  "CKC" as we know it, runs an pre/post school care program, so there is a whole mixture of ages and demographics in the group. Digressing.. anyway. I pick him up and he announces...

 "Mummy I want to get spikey hair for my girlfriends.  Do I have any other clothes? You know smarter ones. Can I borrow your make-up I need to look beautiful"

He's 6 and we haven't really had any discussion about how your appearance can be viewed by others.  In fact, I am glad if I manage to wrestle his clothes on the right way before school.  When he has matching sock's I almost call a national party.  We aren't a family that concentrate on how we look.  To be honest I am usually found turning up at the school gate at drop-off in running gear and hair that needs to be washed.  At the pick-up the only change in my appearance is that I now stink.  You get the idea.  However, this isn't why D's comment was so amazing, (well amazing to us that is).

He's Autistic -okay mildly- but one of the common characteristics that Autistic kids share, is that they don't give a fudge what anyone else thinks.  D falls into this group in spades.  It all comes down to something Psychologists called "Theory of Mind".  Essentially, understanding that other people have different thoughts to us.  Other people view and judge us on their own personal or social rules.  It's the basis of empathy, the basis of understanding social cues and I suppose the basis of basic grooming.

Most Autistic kids (and adults) don't have "Theory of Mind".  They don't give a 'rat's arse' what you think of them.  A lecturer on one of my courses once said you can't embarrass an Autistic person into doing something, because they aren't embarrassed.  They also believe that everyone is thinking the same thing they are; hence the random comments about unrelated topics in the middle of conversations, why you can't shut them up if they start talking and how they laugh inappropriately.  The whole "If I do this, people will think..." Autistic people just don't get it.

So to have someone on the spectrum say "I want to look good because it will make someone like me more", (although looks aren't generally considered the meter you should base your friendships), well it's huge.  It means that they are concerned about what other people think about them and what they do.

Yes, I know that most 6 year olds will want to look good for their friends.  That they will want to act correctly to get praise.  This behaviour is all embryonic.  Children pick this up from a very early age from the body cues and "un-spoken" language that we all give out every moment of the day.  "Theory of Mind" is something we instinctively learn.  I know I shouldn't make a big deal...

Yet, I understood what I huge step this was for my little one.  I realised that his request to dress up in a yellow shirt and wear a necklace of pony beads was the formation of a type of "Theory of Mind".  That this could mean that he could more easily learn social interaction.  This could mean that would develop more advanced empathy.  That social rules won't have to be taught via lists and scripts.  He is understanding that what people think of him matters.  Party? You bet ya! I almost had to stop myself writing to the Prime Minister announcing that "On this Day, D started to develop the concepts of "Theory of Mind", please make this a National Holiday"

So yes, I brought him hair-gel to spike his hair - even though I just blow-dry mine… maybe.  Yes, I let him chose the most outrageous outfit he wanted - even though he looked like a lemon.  No, I didn't let him near my make-up.  It's not that I care about if he wears make-up, but last time he raided my cupboard it cost me a $100 and I spent 2 weeks walking around with a kid that looked like he had been beaten. (Long story.. very long). *Rolls Eyes*

But Yes, we are going shopping for kid-friendly make-up on the weekend...  I mean, he has to look good for his girlfriends. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What a difference a couple of years make...

So I am injured.  Kind of serves me right thinking I can take "trail" on and not give her respect; she is a fickle mistress. Boy, did she whoop me... I still love her though.


I am still unsure what the situation is with my knee.  The swelling has pretty much died down, but as the physiotherapist moves and pulls, it is apparent there is SOMETHING going on.  I have an orthopeadic appointment next week but what they say and what my outcome is, I can't hazard to guess.  As I sit here in my knee brace, drinking coffee with my leg proped up, I think, I will be up and running in no time.  However, once the painkillers die off or if my knee twists I am suddenly reminded, that... ummm... maybe I won't.


This kind of uncertainty has lead me to examine what is my next course of action and how I would feel if I had more bad news than good.  In thinking about the next few months I have discovered aspects of myself and my life which are as welcomed as they are surprising.


I have been in this situation before.  Over two years ago I was in a leg cast, but in a completely different place mentally.  I was a new runner and I had just been told that perhaps it wasn't a good thing that I was running because no-one get's stress fractures in their heel from running 10 miles a week.  I was structurally NOT able to run.  Try Swimming instead.


Last time I was in a cast I was also in a state of depression.  My Son wasn't coping well with school and had to be removed and I couldn't understand why. I felt isolated as my family was far away and my social group was so small.  My husband was busy with work and then to cap it all, my only outlet for any physical release had been taken away from me.  I literally felt as if my world had ended.


As people may know from me, you never say "Don't" to me.  If you tell me I can't do something then I will go all out and prove you wrong.  It's a trait I am quite proud of -as I found out after taking 3 courses of applied economic statistics in college after only taking intermediate maths in high school.  It is a trait I wish my 6 year old hadn't inherited.  I am now beginning to realise why my parent's used to do a LOT of "counting to 10" when I was a kid.


So I went out and I came across barefoot running and decided that I wouldn't lose anything by trying it out.  What I gained was so much more than the ability to run again.  That summer of hanging out in the Runners World on-line forum forged virtual friendships that are as important to me as the ones I have in real-life.  The kooky crowd of mis-fits helped me in more ways than just finding a way to run.


I am marvelling about how 2 years of barefoot running and hanging out with the right crowd has altered how I feel about my mishap.  


I am probably seen more as a runner now than I ever was 2 years ago. In fact the ER doctor even said "athlete".  I am quite glad I wasn't drinking coffee at the time because he would have been showered with it. I know he was being nice, but really? I did have to chuckle, I barely count myself as a runner.  Running IS more of my life than it was last time I was injured.  I have more to lose this time. Shouldn't I be more concerned about my outcome? Because frankly I'm not.


What I have learnt over the last couple of years has taught me that with every setback there are infinite possibilities.  Barefoot running has taught me to embrace everything; embrace the challenges, embrace every opportunity presented to you. Embrace the comments and strange looks, embrace the new and different. Barefoot running has shown me that patience and looking inside yourself has more rewards and benefits than looking to others or tools.  Others will not solve your problems. You have it within yourself to overcome everything life sets before you.


I have also learnt NOT to take myself or life too seriously.  My running lately has not been about goals and times, but about having fun - running smiley.  Does it mean that because running is not part of my life at the moment, that I still can't do this.  Of course not Running smiley is just an extension of living smiley.  I enjoy running for what it is not what I can get out of it.  I enjoy life for what it is and not the arbitary measures people usually assign to life; job description, pay, bonuses, houses, cars, gadgets. I can hop with a smile on my face just as easily as I can run.


I am also aware that things in life happen for a reason.  As it was mentioned in the Steve Jobs speech which Jason Robillard posted a while back.  Life is a series of dots (connections) we just have to accept that they WILL join up, even if we can't see it now.  I know there is a reason for where I am at the moment sporting a very cute, grey leg brace with  black velcro strap accents; just because i can't see that reason, doesn't mean I should negate it.  


I suppose I just find it ironic, that when I saw running as a tool to feeling better - when I was running less but relying on it MORE - a little setback felt like 'world's end".  However, now as I am older (it happens to us all) and supposedly wiser, that running although it is more a part of who am I, is less of a crutch (crutch get it?  Hardy Har har).  A setback is just an interesting problem I have to sort out.  Running won't fix my problems; it is not a magic trick I pull out to make my life perfect. I fix my problems; running is a just a part of me.  I can't see the dots at the moment, but I know that one of the dots out there is Running and I will somehow get there.  I am just happy to go with the flow and let life take me there.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Being on the receiving end... (Race report 5-peaks SFU)

This was the "Hill" we were running.
Not once but twice.  Looks small huh?
Remember this photo was taken
from a distance of over 1 mile away
Last Saturday, I decided to run an impromptu trail race.  This was another race in the 5-peaks series and it was based at Simon Fraser University (SFU) which is about 15 mins away from me.  My friend Simon wanted to run this race and I tagged along.  This was his first trail race and I thought I would come along for moral support and show him how it's done. ;)


The week before had been interesting.  I had not been feeling 100% and on the Saturday I was quietly hoping I would have an email from Simon saying he wasn't going.  I would then crawl back into bed.  No luck.  As the race is only 15 mins away and is so small, there are no huge cues or line-ups.  I didn't crawl out of bed till gone 7AM, so it wasn't as if I was losing sleep.  This is pretty much heaven as racing goes.


So after the usual pre-race stuff that kind of happens, I get to the race site at about 8:20, register and wait around for Simon.  We were planning to meet at 8:30 and I had a few minutes waiting and praying that Simon turned up.  Otherwise I was running 9.8K and 2,000ft by myself!


"Little and Large" a.k.a. Simon and Me.
Simon turned up (YAY!) and we head to the back of the corral for the race start.  So there aren't huge crowds on the course -it's mainly single track,  the 300 runners were sent in 5 waves.  We were at the back of wave 5.  We KNEW we wouldn't be the fastest, this way there was less pressure to beat everyone else.  If we knew we couldn't beat the whole group (and they whole group are made of 80% nutters), this just ensured we could chill out and enjoy the trip.  How much did that sentence come to bite me later on!


So off we went on course and after talking to another running friend of mine, (Megan my trail running hero) we had a little more idea of the course.  She mentioned that the last hill was a monster and that one of the main problems is that some of the downhill descent is in the form of a "V-shaped" gully.  You have to run down the 25% angled sides with no level path and it's tricky. 


The first 1-2 miles was all descent.  During 1 mile there was a descent of about 1,000ft. Then immediately after there was an ascent of about 900 ft, again over about 2 miles.  The first descent was a blast.  We had to take it slightly slower than we would have liked as we were still in a small pack of runners.  I didn't mind this, it just meant I had to chill out a little and enjoy the scenery.  The track although not as rocky as the last race did have these sections of gully which I did not handle well.  About half-way down I nearly fell but managed a fancy little "Bum-bounce" on the side of the gully and was back on my feet without missing a step.  Alright, the fact I "almost" fell was not showing my trail-head cred to Simon, however, I have to admit I was fairly impressed by the gracefulness of it.  I am not a graceful person, but I liked to pretend that this was a sort of move I perform ALL the time whilst trail running. *cough* In vanity we lay our own disaster!  


The first ascent was a daunting reminder that I sucked at hills.  I am reminded that I should do more hill training and that Simon was better at hills than I was.  Okay, he is 6ft 3 and I am 5ft 2.  He does have a little advantage in that he doesn't have as much leg turnover to cover the same ground. However, both of our ego's were beaten when on the start of our first ascent we were passed by the leaders starting their second ascent.  (The leader was a guy called Oliver and he won the 10K in 43 minutes - I mean that's not right.  That's almost inhuman).


We walked/ran a little up the first ascent.  We had picked up some "shot-blocks" that they were giving away at the first aid station.  We had both decided NOT to take anything with us on the race, so we did need to take in water and food at each station.  I've never had shot-blocks before and I must say, overall if I was reviewing them... my conclusion would be, they are impossible to open whilst moving.  It took Simon and I over 1K to get the blasted packet open.  The contents were okay, but not anything special enough to warrant the almost animal behaviour we had to produce to open the packet.  Teeth, nails, even growling at the packet did not work.


It became apparent during the first few KM, that Simon had a clothing problem.  I like  smiling during my races and it always made me smile seeing Simon try and pull his shorts up.  Sorry Simon, but it was funny.  


I kept mentioning to Simon that he didn't need to hang around with me, that if he wanted to go faster he could.  "Likewise" he said and we settled into an even pace as we hit the second descent.  Half way, down the second descent I was VERY pleased Simon decided to stick around.


We reached the "V-shaped" gully descent again and with the legs getting tired it was harder for me to stay on my feet.  Today was all about falling over it seems.  All of a sudden, my foot decided to go one way, my knee went another and the rest of my body went in a different direction entirely.  There was a crack from my knee and I landed face first.  The immediate pain was intense. I knew I had done something and it took a couple of minutes of staying still before I got a handle of what had happened.  The bodies natural painkillers took over and Simon offered his hand to pull me up.  I gingerly tried it and although sore it seemed okay.  I told Simon he could go on, but he decided to stay.  This was when I was on the receiving end of "his perfect race"


Simon could have gone and easily run quicker than me.  He didn't.  He didn't have to walk as much as I did, but he did anyway.  He stayed, he kept MY pace and he ran to keep ME company.  If it wasn't for him there, I would have gone to the next volunteer and stopped.  I knew my leg wasn't the best and for safety I would have quit, but knowing Simon was there, I carried on.  I knew if it got too much then I could stop and Simon would get help, but as I had that safety net, I knew I could carry on.  He didn't make a fuss, or make me feel guilty about holding him back.  We just ran a little, walked a lot more and had a laugh.  At that point I realised that those moments you make when you concentrate on the people you are with and NOT the numbers DOES make a difference.  I would have been on course for a DNF, but Simon with his quiet friendship meant I could go on.  I am very thankful he was there, more so because it validates my thinking that putting other racers before your own goals DOES mean something.


At the aid station second time we spent a few more minutes than before joking with the volunteers.  The female volunteer kept saying we were looking great and fantastic.  I was covered in mud, my knee must have looked a sight and my leg was full of grazes. I did a look of "Yeah right!" to another volunteer and we had a bit of a laugh about it.  We were about 2.5K from the end and about to hit the last ascent of about 800 feet - including the stretch of Cardiac Hill (as we found out it was called).  At this point my sore knee was causing me not to pick my feet as much and I stumbled again.  I have only fallen on a trail once in over 12 months before this race and here I was flat on my back AGAIN, grinning.  I gave a shout "Really? Come on? Are you serious?" to the sky above.  Here I was trying to show Simon how to run a trail race and all I showed was that I was exceptionally good at falling over!  Simon took a stumble a few meters on, but I think he did that on purpose just to make me feel better. :)


Post race.  I am sporting the new fashion.
TENSOR bandage.
As we thought the hill would never end, we could hear the music from the finish line.  We rounded the corner to the quick downhill sprint to the finish, I over heard the volunteer saying "The party pack are on the way down".  I knew it was code for the stragglers were finishing and they could start the course sweep, but it made me smile. As if the RD and volunteers knew me. :)


The clock said 1:30 at the end and after grabbing a cup of water and some fruit I headed to the aid station to get some ice for my knee.  Now I had stopped I could feel it stiffening up.  The Snow Patrol station iced and bandaged my knee up telling me I needed to get it seen to.  I waved off that concern, thinking RICE would sort it out.  It wasn't until the next day when my leg looked like a small bomb had been placed under my knee and exploded and my knee was replaced by what appeared to be a large potato did I go to the ER. 


Do you think I did something to my knee?
This was taken in the ER.  Hoping it's not
the predicted Cartilage damage the ER
doctor thinks. :/
I am now in a knee brace, crutches and I have an orthopedic appointment in a few weeks.  I ran two miles on that knee - how bad arse am I?  Okay, not as hard arse as Oliver who managed to run the whole thing in 43 minutes but still, a few kudos points? 


Our final time was 1:26 and we were about 8 mins behind my running hero Megan.  So overall we actually didn't do a bad time.  Despite my fantastic fall I still enjoyed this race.  I still had fun (even after my fall) and I can't wait to hit the trails again.



Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Perfect Runner - Guest Post on BRU

Jason has been super busy lately with planning to travel around the US, taking on the shoe-industry and frankly [attempting] to be awesome that the second part of my "Runner" blog has just gone up.

My Definition of a perfect runner

(The first part can be found here)

Thanks to Jason for letting me vent my usual nonsense in multiple places. :D

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Dr Craig Richards. Independent Shoe Testing [from BRU]

So Jason Robillard posted  on the Barefoot Running University details about how Dr. Craig Richards of Hunter Gait and co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Barefoot Running, has called for all shoe manufacturers to voluntarily put their shoes up for independent testing.  It's an attempt to finally put the whole "Shoes are better vs. barefoot/minimalist running is better" saga to bed.


This sort of independent research has been needed for a long time.  Only when we have accurate, independent data can we start to ensure that people are able to run safely.


The initial post regarding the study was posted on Jason's blog here
Dr Craig Richards: A call for independent shoe testing


More finalised details of the Study can be found here:
Details of Dr Craig Richards Study


If there is any way you can help, then please do and then spread the word. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Giving myself permission...


Dirty dishes on the counter-top,
   Mutter...
Rubbish by the sink,
   Grrrr...
Kid wants to make a present for his friend as I put my shoes on,
   *Rolls eye's to the Sky*...
Running late to school,
   Is it too early for coffee?
Kids bike in the boot of the car, need to go back home instead of starting my run
   AGGHHHHH
I seem to be surrounded by idiots (all driving cars)
   A silent plea to the Universe, Really? Come On!
Garage door won't open
   *WANTING TO THUMP AND SCREAM*
Out on the gravel trail...
   Crunch, Crunch...
I have a right to be upset...
   I give myself permission to be upset... Crunch, Crunch
I have no help at home...
   I give myself permission to be upset.. Crunch, Crunch
Why doesn't my son understand we need to go?
   I give myself permission to be upset ..Crunch, Crunch
Why am I always running late?
   I give myself permission to be upset ..Crunch, Crunch
Why is there no time for me?
   I give myself permission to be upset ..Crunch, Crunch
I have no help because I don't ask for it - I can fix that
   Sigh.. Crunch, Crunch
My son doesn't know the time in the morning, I need to warn him more - I can fix that
   Sigh, Relax.. Crunch, Crunch
I am running late, because I don't plan better - I can fix that
   Sigh, Smile.. Crunch, Crunch
I have no time, because I don't make time - I can fix that
   Sigh, Grin.. Crunch, Crunch
I feel I am surrounded by idiots because I take life too seriously - I can fix that
   Sigh, Laugh... Crunch, Crunch
My calves are sore.. I give myself permission to slow down
   I see a racoon in the inlet drinking from a creek
My form is off... I give myself permission to relax
   I wonder if Yoga may help - I meet a Yoga teacher on the trail
The run isn't quite happening - I give myself permission to cut the run short and head back for coffee
   The "I am the Doctor" song comes on the iPod
   and I run sprint the last 4 mins pretending to be chased by aliens.

It's amazing how the Universe seems to provide what we need if we just give ourselves permission to be upset and then to just Run and Smile.

(For those Geeks out there.. you know who you are;  the run today reminded me of this..)
Doctor Who, Series 6 Episode 4.  "The Doctors Wife"
Doctor: You know since we're talking with mouths, not really an opportunity that comes around that often, I would just like to say, you have never been very reliable.  
Idris: and you have? 
Doctor: You never took me where I wanted to go. 
Idris to Doctor:  No, but I always took you where you NEEDED to go.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

My "Run Smiley" inspiration.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been amazed by the response "The RUN SMILEY collective" has been getting.  Not bad for a drunken experiment.  We have been honoured to have the sort of numbers and stats a lot of blogs take months and years to collect, (This blog included).  But at the RUN SMILEY Collective, we don't really care about numbers.  What we do like though, are the stories people have shared.  The (now) 25 or so authors have created such beautiful and up-lifting posts I am now getting mails about how runners have been inspired and have changed the way they see running.  This is what it's all about!  Like a new strain of fungus we are getting everywhere.

The last couple of days or so, these emails of affirmation have lead me to think about where my RUN SMILEY attitude comes from and like a bad D-list hollywood actress (who has won some award or other) I am going to ramble for what may seem like hours.

I am going to keep the list short.  You can all breathe a sigh of relief.  (This will only SEEM like hours).  I am not going to do a Gwyneth Paltrow here.  There are loads of people who have shaped the runner I am.  Most would be from the running world and they pretty much know who they are.  Just look at the list of  authors in the Collective to see who have been  my inspiration.  They all had a similar attitude from "my" get-go *cough* 2+ years ago,  hence why I asked them aboard.

So I am going to use this post highlighting the inspiration of one man who probably doesn't realise how important to RUN SMILEY he is.  My Dad.

My Dad isn't a runner, (he was more a cyclist in his younger days).  In fact my Dad is wheelchair bound.      He has (like most of our family) suffered from the blues and yet, his daily goal in life is one that is so positive, he brings joy to the people around him.  Even people he actually doesn't know.    Before you ask he isn't a Circus clown - although he might reveal that was a secret ambition as a kid.  He's a bit perverse like that ;)  He spent his working life, all 27 years of it, as a Policeman; a cop. A job I am fairly sure many of us wouldn't want to do; a job I know meant he saw parts of society we all pray we never see.

He has had a very rough trot in life over the last couple of years.  I won't go into the details, however events in his life would make most people want to hole up and not venture out.  Yet he attempts to go out every day and achieve his daily goal.  His aim is to make at least ONE person smile/laugh a day.  It's such a simple goal, but one most people never would consider to attempt.  Perhaps they just don't realise that this is something they could do.  Perhaps they feel it's something they feel they can't do.  I don't know why, but just think how great life would be if people did set out with the aim to make one person smile that day.

A simple joke in the aisle of the supermarket.  Offering to help someone hold the door.  A self-deprecating wise crack comment as you pass someone in the street.  Maybe even just a stupid grin when something unexpected happens.  Acting the fool, making fun of your faults, pretending to be 6.   These are all achievable things you can do regardless of your social-confidence level.  Most people take themselves and their life too seriously.  Don't they know how liberating it is accepting your faults and making fun of them. For me, I have to do this - If I didn't I would probably end up being the most insane and boring person on the planet.  Instead I am only the second most insane and boring person on the planet.

Through adversity -through the nastiness in life which my Dad has seen- my Dad still goes out of his way to see the joy in life.  In my view it's his most admirable trait and one I have sub-consciously tried to emulate.

This attitude has tainted my life and made the natural ups and downs easier to cope with.  Practising "his" daily goal has made my running better, because now it's fun.  In the end, wanting to spread this attitude has lead to "The RUN SMILEY collective".

So even though my Dad can't walk, let alone even run, I think it's fitting that he is an 'honourary" member of the Collective.  I mean without his big red nose and [singular] floppy shoe (sorry, he only acts the clown, I must remember that bit), we wouldn't be spreading the RUN SMILEY love around!