Thursday, 31 October 2013

Embarrasing running stories

It's pretty obvious that I am passionate about running, and it's something I love to share. As far as I'm concerned there is nothing better than when someone takes up running for the first tine. Or when they achieve their dream of running a 5km race, a 1/2 marathon, marathon, or they train to break a goal time.

I don't care how fast you are, so long as you lace up your running shoes and give it a go.

However, despite running being a really great way to spend your time, there are things about it that are cause for embarrassment. If you are new to running perhaps you should stop reading now.
If someone is encouraging you to start running, there are some things that they will not share with you before you buy your first pair of asics.
To this extent, it's bit like having a baby; there is all this information about the horrors of having a child that nobody tells you until you are already pregnant.

So here are a few things, best kept between running friends.

1. Farting: yep, it's a crude one to start with, but sometime you, or someone you run with, is going to let one slip. You will all pretend it didn't happen.... but it DID.

2. Emergency toilet stops: Poor Paula, she's an amazing runner, and the world record holder. But the thing that most people remember her for is that incident. While the rest of us have not been filmed, and had it broadcast internationally, it has happened to the best of us. It's happened to you. Admit it.
Even Paula can look bad when she runs.
3. Black toenails and hideously ugly feet: This isn't embarrassing until you go for get a pedicure. You lose all tai-tai creditability as soon as you remove your shoes and your gnarly, bunion riddled feet with their black malformed toenails are revealed to the world. Oh, and then there is that mound of dead skin the poor lady doing the pedicure has to shave off. Not very ladylike!

My feet after Ironman Couer D'Alene
4. Treadmill fails: Don't laugh, it happens. And you won't be laughing when you fly off the back off the treadmill and face-plant yourself in the process. Running to the bathroom to avoid vomiting over the side of the treadmill is also not a good look.

5. Marathon photos: You think in that your finishers photo that you look elite? Think again, you look special, but not in a good way. A "friend" of mine sent me this photo of me finishing a recent race. The only good thing about it is that both my feet are off the ground. That's pretty unusual in a running photo. But the rest of it is terrible. And this was at the end of a 10km race! My Berlin Marathon photos were much too ugly to purchase, let alone share!
My face is red, the skin on my my belly looks like I've had 11 children, not one. The guy behind me does not look fast.  This implies that I am also not fast. And lets not talk about the special way that I am moving. 
A few more embarrassing running moments from Runners World, and a few more here.

Share the love people, do you have other embarrassing running moments?

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

My husband is an idiot

Though my husband has many great qualities - he is charming, he thinks he is witty, and Chinese girls think he is handsome, interior decoration and home organisation is not his strong point.
For some time now, since we moved house about 3 months ago, he has been on my case to get things organised. (Haha!  Is that because I'm a stay at home mum, that is all my time is good for now?) And, slowly that is what I have been doing.  Organising. I've also been kind of busy, so sorting and organising has not always been my top priority.
However, sick of waiting for me, Lachlan took it upon himself to find places for things.
Unsurprising to me, this has been a disaster. For example, today I needed to retrieve a document stored on an external hard-drive. Obviously, he decided to store the hard-drive in a spare cupboard in our helpers room. However, he has stored all the electrical cords somewhere else, all mixed up, together. The hard-drive requires a specific cord to plug into the computer and also into the power socket in order for it to be of any use. Otherwise, it is just a useless silver box.
Finally, I discovered we have a second, external hard-drive, still in its packaging. I was able to take the cord from that and use it to use the first hard-drive. While this whole process of actually accessing a single document only took me about 25 minutes, it was 25 minutes that I could have used for better purposes - I only had 2 hours in total to do everything I needed to do before I had to go and collect Henry from preschool. Now I had 1 hour 35 minutes.

My regular readers will also know that recently we had a rather challenging trip to Sham Shui Po to order new curtains. Once again, my darling husband got tired of waiting for me to do it, and took it into his own hands to get this sorted.

Unfortunately when we received the curtains today, and hung them in Henry's room, it turned out that the curtains were not quite wide enough. I wanted to give my dear husband the benefit of the doubt, and blame the lady in the shop for this, but before I called her and demanded a refund, I thought that first I should double check and make sure that it was the shop lady, not my husband who had made the mistake.
First, I measured the window width. It was 280cm.
Next I called Lachlan: "Do you have the measurements still for the curtains?"
Lachlan: "Yes, I have them in my wallet."
Me: "What is the width of Henry's room?"
Lachlan: "250cm".

This is the result. Look at the right sight of the window. You can see outside. It's really lucky we got blackout curtains in order to try to make Henry sleep past 5am. They are going to be really useful.
Henry thinks it's funny. Mummy doesn't.
But even sillier than the curtain incident was this. After the initial phone call regarding the curtains, a few hours later, Lachlan called me and said, "Am I in big trouble for the curtains? Is your husband an idiot?" (He was trying to defuse the situation by being funny because he knew how exasperated I would be).
And then he said, "Am I going to pay for this on your blog?"
Until that point in time, I had not thought to blog about either hard-drive, or the curtain incident. It had not occurred to me.
However, it was my dear, loving husband who out the idea into my head to blog about his follies, immortalising them for all else to read.
And so, if you should see my husband in the street, I dare you to ask him about the curtains in Henry's room. Haha.

My question is, are all husbands this silly? Do you have a husband that does things like this?  Is this kind of behaviour common to all husbands, or am I just lucky?

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

What do you do to stay positive?

We all have those days where we feel blah. No matter how well things are going, and how good life is, sometimes you just wake up feeling cross and over it all. Unfortunately however, in order to wait it out, most of us do not have the luxury of crawling under the doona with a block of chocolate for a True Blood marathon.

I once had a great Doctor who told me that everyday you should do something for the mind, something for the body, and something social. So if I catch myself feeling a bit down, I try to think back to this advice and take action.

For example, I might force myself to go for a run, call a friend, or read an interesting article, if I haven't done so already.

And so I'm wondering what you do when you feel like this? I'd love for you to share your tips! There can never be too much happiness going round!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Ode to the treadmill

During my time as an expat, Lachlan, Henry and I have done a lot of travelling. I recently worked out that Henry had done roughly 25 long haul flights before he turned one! Crazy!

During this period, I've also done a lot of running.

The combination of travelling, as well as two years living in Shanghai's pollution, has resulted in a lot of treadmill time for me!

To start with, there are so many cities where even if you know where you are going, they are not great for joggers. Saigon, Sanya and Shanghai spring to mind. You've got a strong chance of being run over by a forklift, an earth mover or even a car on the footpath in any of these cities. I love running, but that's too much of sacrifice - even for me.

In Shanghai, I used to run on the treadmill 5 days per week, and then try to do my Sunday long run on the 393 meter track at Jiao Tong Unniversity. The reason for this is that usually by Sunday morning, the PM2.5 air quality monitor published hourly by the American Consulate, had dropped to below 150, i.e. "unhealthy for sensitive groups", as opposed to "unhealthy,", "very unhealthy", or even  "hazardous". (It's worth noting that the ratings in Shanghai are significantly more lenient than, for example, Hong Kong or Australia. In Australia a PM2.5 rating above 200 is deemed "hazardous", but it's not until it gets to 300 in Shanghai, that the air quality is deemed "hazardous".)

And so as I've continued to run, I've come to love running on a treadmill.

Indeed, I think treadmills get an undeservedly bad rap. To start with, I would not be the runner I am, or for that matter, the woman I am, without them!

I've had many great runs on a treadmill.

For example, the day I ran 35km is one that I will never forget. When I'm on the tready, I don't tend to watch tv; it was a long couple of hours! Afterwards, I just lay down on the floor beside the treadmill, unable to believe I'd actually finished.

I backed up the next week for 32km on that same machine. In fact,it was the same one that I ran on in the gym in our compound in Shanghai almost everyday. I loved that treadmill. When I moved to Hong Kong, I actually missed it. Running on the track, though great in a different way, is just not the same.

Our time in Vietnam was one of the first occasions in 6 months that I have actually run on a treadmill. Given how much time I used to spend on a treadmill, it seems hard to believe how long it's been.

It's because of my love affair with a good tready that I believe that those who say that the treadmill running is too boring are just yet to try hard enough.

A good treadmill can be a great friend (so long as it's correctly calibrated). After all, it's usually in an air-conditioned gym, with access to free water and possibly even a towel. You can pump some great tunes on your iPod, and just forget yourself as you focus on going faster. It's a major plus in my book that you are not likely to be run over, nor inhale tons of toxic chemicals, nor even have to dodge slow-walkers who manage to take up the entire foot path. You also don't need to worry about the weather, getting your shoes dirty, or that you will get lost.

Because I want to spread the love, I thought I'd share some of my favourite treadmill workouts with you. Try these, and then tell me it's too boring.

Note, all these workouts are done on an incline of 1.5 or higher. Though don't set the incline too high - you don't want to destroy your achilles!
Unless otherwise noted, you should have no longer than 1 minute between efforts.

Workout 1: 600s (This is adapted from one of my favourite track sessions that my old triathlon coach gave me.)
Warmup: 2km, 5x200m "pickups" - each one to be faster than the previous. You are trying to get your legs kicking over fast.
Main set: 5x600m; each 600 should be faster than the previous, and each time you do this workout, you are aiming to go just a little faster overall than last time.
Cool down: 2km
Total: 8km

Workout 2: Pyramid
Warmup: 2km, 5x200m pickups.
Mainset: 2km, 1600m, 1200, 1km, 800m, 600m, 800m, 1km, 1200m, 1600m, 2km.
The shorter the effort, the faster it should be. For example, if your 2km is run at 4min / km, your 1600m should be run at 3min 50 pace, and so on. During the second half of the set, you need to ensure that the second set of efforts are at least as quick, if not slightly quicker than you ran during the first half. For example, if you do the first 2km at 4min / km pace, the second should be at 3.58. I find getting the pacing in this session without blowing up, to be really difficult.
You can adapt the duration of the pyramid, for example, by skipping the 2kms if you have less time. Of course, you can always make it longer!
Cool down: 2km
Total: 18.8km

Workout 3: 3x3s
This sounds a lot easier than it is.
Warmup: 10min
Do 3 sets (3min easy, 3min medium-hard pace, 3min flat-out.) Focus on trying to recover while still running. Do not stop the belt!
Cool-down: 10min
Total: 47 min.

Do you have any great treadmill workouts you'd like to share? I'd love to hear them!

Possibly the best treadmill video ever, by "Ok Go" Here it goes again.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Two water chickens are set free!

As you will know, yesterday we did a family trip to the Cu Chi tunnels. It was a great day out.

When we were there, our trusty guide, Mr Hung found 50 000 Dong (about $US2.50). Though he looked around a bit, we were not sure who the money belonged to. Lachlan suggested that Mr Hung keep the cash, and Mr Hung said he would donate it.

He did something even better.

On the trip back to Saigon we stopped at a roadside bird and rodent stall.

Mr Hung got out of the car and with the money he had found, purchased two water chickens that were otherwise going to be sold for someone's dinner.

The birds were tied in string and put into a plastic bag, with a little hole torn for their heads to poke through.

We then drove around the corner to find some fields that had largish puddles - perfect for water chickens!

Mr Hung set the water chickens free, so they can now have a happy life.

How great is that!

Negotiating a reasonable price for two water chickens
Henry was impressed by the chickens. Mr Hung was confused when Henry started "quaking" at the chickens. We may need to work on that!

The chickens are free!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Wolfers family day-trip... uh-oh!

You would think from our recent "adventures" to Mont St Michel and Sham Shui Po, that maybe Lachlan and I would learn our lesson and stop doing stupid day trips which inevitably end in disaster.

Apparently not.

Today, after being motivated by my little spat regarding "Henry and I flying all the way out here to see you, and then you relying on me to arrange our itinerary", Lachlan booked a family tour for us to visit the Cu Chi tunnels.

I've got to say that I was against this trip, thinking it would be a long day out, crawling through muddy tunnels with hours spent in a car.

However, on this occasion at least, I have to admit that I was wrong. (Hey, it happens, occasionally.)

Henry slept in the car on the way to the tunnels, and our guide, Mr Hung was great with him, playing songs on his harmonica.

Mr Hung gave us a great and toddler friendly tour. And Henry was really well behaved. Even now, I cannot believe it!

Even during the hour-and-a-half car trip back, Henry chattered away and barely complained.

Is this the calm before a storm calming? Call me cynical, but I'm not holding my breath that this is going to last! Still, I'm not complaining!

Mr Hung is hiding.... we could hear him as he played his harmonica. Henry got very confused because he couldn't work out where he was. Can you spot Mr Hung?
There is Mr Hung! We found him. What an awesome guy.
It was Mr Hung's idea to sit Henry on the tank. 
Grinding down rice to make rice paper

Drinking tea and eating tapioca - apparently this was VC (Vietcong) food. It was pretty tasty, dipped in salt!
In the tunnels
We stopped for BBQ rolls for lunch on the way home. Thank goodness they were sold out. It didn't look particularly appetising!

Saigon 12 years on!

I last visited Saigon in 2001! Can you believe it? That's so long ago. It makes me feel so old.

I was 20 and had spent 5 weeks travelling around Vietnam on my own. I started in Hanoi, then went on a tour to Halong Bay, did a 5 day hike in the mountains in Sapa where I stayed in villager's huts. I spent time in Hue, Hoi An, and Mui Ne beach when it was literally a fishing village with only one hotel, one mid-range guesthouse and one backpackers. I did a boat tour of the Mekong Delta - including visiting a tiny village with just me and my guide, where the locals thought it was hilarious because I was so big for 20! They also wondered why I didn't have a husband and could afford to travel, even as a waitress!

By the time I got to Saigon, I had literally about $40 left. I needed to save $20 to pay the airport departure fee, I also needed money to get to the airport. I spent $6.00 on a scungy bed in an even scungier dorm room. I bought a packet of crisps and beer for dinner, and stocked up on local cigarettes. So gross! Despite all this, I had the time of my life.

Fortunately, I've calmed down a bit since then! I like to think that I've grown up a bit too! I ended my wild ways some time ago and so hopefully I'm quite a lot more responsible.

Though my memory of that time is starting to grow a little hazy - I am getting on after all, and to be honest, there was a probably more than a little booze that dulled my memory - I can already notice quite a few changes since I was last here.

For example, there are a lot less motorbike touts. In fact, so far I'v only seen one. My memory is of being constantly followed by moto taxis!

While there are still a lot of motorbikes, there are a lot more cars. And new laws mean everyone is wearing helmets - basically unheard of 12 years ago.

There are also a lot more foreign restaurants, and right near our hotel is an amazing foreign supermarket. Though these kind of places were out of my budget before, previously restaurants were almost exclusively Vietnamese. Maybe this is different outside Saigon? Has anyone travelled recently?

Also, though I haven't seen a McDonalds, I've seen Pizza Hut, KFC, Gloria Jeans and The Coffee Bean. When I was on the backpacker trail, the rumour was that because there was no such thing as Copyright, chain restaurants didn't exist in Vietnam. There were no Maccas or any other fast food outlets. I guess like so many cities, it's become a lot more "international" as the big corporations move in.

Though these are small observations (I've only been here for a day after all!) I guess it shows that  continued travel is necessary if you are going to understand even a little of a country or culture. What you take from a place, and what you learn, also depends on who you are when you visit.

Never stop travelling!

Gone are my days of drinking cheap beer on the footpath. Not exactly toddler friendly!

Friday, 25 October 2013

Henry hits Ho Chi Minh

After an "eventful" flight during which my darling 2 year old son refused to either sit down or wear a seat belt during take-off, Henry and I have spent an eventful morning in HCMC.  
The adventure begins... at the airport
Feeding Henry dumplings; I'm trying to get a minutes peace. I'm a bad mother, I know. 
Butter wouldn't melt in his mouth; the moment before I had to physically restrain him so he would sit-down for takeoff.
Passed out after all the fun on the flight.
I woke up, stressed, because my darling husband had recommended not to bring a stroller because it's not a very stroller friendly city.

Let me tell you, it's a city even less friendly towards mothers who have to carry their 2 year olds, because the mother can no longer take yet more screaming tantrums.

Further, given said child was born in Shanghai - another city unfriendly towards strollers, I'm not sure what I was thinking following his advice. I have experience with this!

(I sometimes wonder what I am doing wrong.... am I failing as a parent because my son won't walk more than 25 metres? Help! I need your suggestions on how to stop this! Ignoring the tantrums is not working, nor is "naughty-corner" time-outs. Is this just a phase? How do I stay sane?)

I guess the one plus that will come out of all of this is that I am going to end up with guns of steel!

Anyway, back to the adventure at hand.

We started off at the War Remnants museum. It's not entirely child-friendly as it includes some pretty heavy stuff. We did rush through some of the more upsetting photographic displays - for example  those involving Agent Orange. I did some Vietnam War study at university, and I really enjoyed it. I've also visited lots of other really sad memorials in other places - such as the Killing Fields in Cambodia. But somedays it's just too much to handle.

Nonetheless, Henry was unsurprisingly impressed by the planes and tanks.

The Vietnamese tourists were impressed by him. The girls were lining up to take photos.

The next stop was the Reunification Palace. The famous site where the tanks crashed through the gates to end the war in 1975.

Before we went inside, my arms needed a little break, and so we indulged. I'm obsessed with Vietnamese coffee. Henry likes the ice-cream.

A much needed coffee!

Once inside the Palace, Henry tried to escape into the roped off areas (obviously). Fortunately, all my speed training came in handy and I was able to grab him before he caused too much damage.
Notice the red rope - Henry tried to run under here.
Henry was very impressed by this view.

He was even more impressed by the elephants. I'm not sure why. But we stayed and played with the elephants for at least 20 minutes.

After a long morning, it was time to go in search of spaghetti. Once again suffering from a hatred of walking, this was what happened along the way.
Despite tears (and stares) we got there in the end. 

Inspirational Women Who Run

I'm really excited to announce a new series Inspirational Women Who Run will be starting here at DS&LRs next Friday.

I can't wait to introduce these inspiring women to you!

First we will meet Kate, who waited until she was 32 to first lace up her running shoes! Now she is a half-marathoner extraordinare!

Following her will be Phoebe, who is not only a doctor and mother of triplets, but an amazingly accomplished marathoner.

I can't wait to share these, and more amazing ladies stories with you!

PS - if you have been inspired by a female runner, please get in touch. I'd love to hear their stories too!

Watch this space!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

When to make impulse decisions

I read an interesting study that you should make impulse decisions when you really need to go to the toilet, rather than waiting to relieve yourself, and and making the decision afterwards.

The theory goes that contrary to popular belief, "People who did not believe self-control was limited showed restraint in subsequent activities". This meant that people who made impulse decisions on a full-bladder held out for a larger, delayed reward. Essentially, controlling one impulse, led to a greater ability to control other impulses. 

In the past, a lot of the life changing decisions I have made have been impulse decisions. To apply for a student exchange in India, why not? To do an ironman? Sure. A move to China? To buy a house in France? They sounded like good ideas, done.

Yesterday, Lachlan and I made an impulse decision. Not one of huge magnitude, however, still pretty exciting. 

He called me from Vietnam, where he is on a work trip. We decided that Henry and I would fly out for the weekend to meet him. 

I can't wait to share this trip with you. I spent 5 weeks in Vietnam as a backpacking, poor 20 year old. This experience I hope will be a little different. No $6 bed in a dorm room for me!

Henry is really excited about going on a "little plane". 

I am excited as I don't have a long run scheduled this weekend, so I won't mess up my training.  

It's an impulse decision, though hopefully not one of serious consequence. Though I'm not going to tell if I made it on a full bladder or not. 

I'm wondering if you make impulse decisions or not? Are you for or against acting on impulse? 

If you follow your impulse when trying to cross the road in Vietnam, you'll never get across.

Vegan before 6... diet update

Last week Lachlan and I started a new diet - Vegan before 6pm. I thought I would give you an update.

So far, I do feel like I've lost a little weight. I'm certainly less bloated anyway. However, as far as my energy levels go, I feel like it's too early to tell. I've been running less than usual, and last week I was both jet-lagged and had the flu, and so it's difficult to say whether my low energy last week, or more energy this week is in anyway related to the diet.
Mmmmm.... tofu
At first, I found the diet easy to follow. I eat a lot of vegetables anyway, and so I didn't have to make too many changes. I even managed to drink my coffee black and unsweetened.
Vegan chilli... delicious!
However, by the weekend, I was craving meat and booze. On Friday night I tucked into steak and red wine. I fell off the wagon on Saturday, with a delicious, and HUGE Dim Sum lunch. On Sunday, I went the whole hog, and had McDonalds - very unlike me! I'm wondering if it's just because I'm getting used to the program, or whether my body is craving nutrients?

I have tried some crazy recipes though - crazy in the sense that they involve tofu as a substitute for normal ingredients, like milk. I've never been one to follow fads, and am not a patchouli scented earth-mother, so this goes a little against the grain for me.

I do have to admit though, a tofu smoothie goes down a treat. It's a lot better than it sounds, and even Henry will drink it! Lachlan was less keen on the chocolate tofu desert. To be fair, it was a little weird!

There's nothing like a tofu smoothie after a hard run!
My good helper 

Neither of us could taste the difference.
Chocolate tofu desert... a little weird.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

How to be cool (probably best not to follow my example.)

Balancing being a stay-at-home-mum, as well as having interests outside the family (for example, RUNNING), and also having a semblance of a social life is something I don't often feel I get right. I think it's fair to say that I'm starting to feel a little old even, and that I know longer have my finger on the pulse.

I often feel guilty for the time spent away from my son (after reading my blog, one of my dear readers told me that kid owns you... however, it's true!)

I've even skipped training, on occasion, to go home and hang out with the little brat... despite the fact that his response is to throw a tantrum anyway!

And I have refused invitations to go out and drink champagne with fabulous people in fashionable locations because of my responsibilities.

Nonetheless, the mum guilt only goes so far, and sometimes I go CRAZY - like last night. Not only did I go to training and not tuck Henry into bed, but then I went out with my friends from the track, to see a band. How cool am I!

(Though I guess you know you are a stay-at-home-mum when you get this excited about a weeknight outing. I'm certainly not as cool as I used to be!)

I can report that the band - mOdO - were seriously cool. You can check them out next at Peel Fresco in November.

mOdO - How cool are these guys? They rocked!
It's when you see other hip-young-people out on the town, and you are trying to stop yourself talking about preschools, you realise that maybe you've passed it. Any street cred I ever had has gone!

As such, despite the fact that on rare occasions I do things that are cool, on this occasion I'm how to advise you that if you do want to be cool, don't follow my example.

A friend who is much cooler than me.

If you want to be cool, I recommend you go and check out one of mOdO's gigs.

Alternatively, study this book. It has loads of great tips on how to be cool.