Posted in Sparks in the wild

Friday Foto – Things I never thought I’d own…

Happy Friday to you! I was very excited to receive a package from Kathmandu this morning. (That’s the big Australian outdoor retailer, not the capital of Nepal.) We started our Camino trekking training last weekend with a fantastic 18km round trip from The Spit to Manly. I wanted to take photos of the bzillion beautiful spots along the way, but I didn’t want to mess with our momentum. Next time.

Anyways, this walk made me realise that I need some more outdoorsy trekking gear if I want to do this thing properly. So, in the first of what I’m sure will be many, here’s a pic of something that I have bought that I never thought I’d own in this lifetime. It’s a 2 litre water bladder. So I don’t have to carry pesky water bottles and stop to drink – no way man, now I can just suck water through this tube and KEEP ON TREKKIN’.

Now I just have to work out how to fill it and make sure it doesn't leak through my backpack...
Now I just have to work out how to fill it and make sure it doesn’t leak through my backpack…
Posted in Sparks in the wild, Sydney sparks

Back on the run

You might recall that I suffered a bit of an overuse injury when running in Dublin recently. As a result, I have been laying low and doing very little (aside from walking slowly and painfully like an arthritic granny) for about six weeks now. It’s really disappointing, as I had been getting into a regular running pattern and was definitely seeing improvements in my ability to run further and longer. Not even close to marathon fit, by any means, but pleased with my progress. Anyways, then my bursar got bursitis and thought it would be funny to maintain a constant vigil of pain in my left leg, from my hip to my knee. Good times, bursar, good times. That led me to the horrors of the physio and his torture chamber, which left me bruised and battered. And better, it would seem. I’ve been doing my stretches (not in public, as most of them are quite strange looking) and thought that today would be a good day to get back on the run.

It’s a beautiful summery day in Sydney today, so I went to my old stomping ground – which also happens to be a welcome flat course – around Canada Bay. It’s a lovely spot to walk and run – between the water and the trees, you can kinda forget that part of it is next to one of Sydney’s busiest roads.

Not bad, eh? NB, this was taken on one of my many walking breaks.

So I walked most of the course, with three five-minute running intervals. Which felt like the physio was right beside me, punching me in the thigh as I ran along. Luckily, vanity prevailed, and the fear of being out-run by the elderly kept me going.

Discrimination in our community. KEEP TO YOUR SIDE, BIKES!

As often happens, there was a chick keeping almost the same pace as me (although probably not leaning to one side as much as me), so we traded places as one or the other started to run for a bit. I took this photo when she was ahead, as I thought it wouldn’t have been very sporting to turn around and take one as she dropped behind me. She was wearing a top like a zebra – when she was behind me, I wondered where “stripey lady” was at; and then when she repeatedly ran ahead and stopped just metres in front of me as if to taunt me, my mind said, “Oh, there you are, stripey face cow”. I’m not proud of myself, but that’s what I thought.

Run along, stripey.
Nice day for it.
Did I mention the trees? Such a pretty vista from the path, any way you look.

And as it approached midday, I was feeling pretty hot (not as in smokin’, but as in sweaty) and there, towards the end of the run was this classic Aussie mirage, looking so inviting.

They really need a slide from the bridge directly to the pool for walkers/runners – so near and yet so far…

And now? After stretching and applying anti-inflammatory gel and taking anti-inflammatory tablets, I’ve got a pack of frozen corn nestled next to me, trying to get rid of the pain that has crept back. But hopefully this is the beginning of my comeback and my bursar will return to life as before – when I didn’t even know it existed.

Posted in Sparks in the wild

Run, Pinkies, Run

I mentioned a little a while ago that I bought some ridiculously bright pink running shoes in an attempt to run faster. After a reasonable testing period, I am thinking of writing to the manufacturer to tell them that THEIR SHOES AREN’T WORKING PROPERLY.

As a bit of background, I am not what you’d call a natural athlete. It is not a genetic gift with which the children in my family were blessed. I mean, you know, we can all walk without bumping into stuff, but we weren’t really runners or netballers or footballers or gymnasts or swimmers. My younger brother and I were t-ball players (and I don’t even know if that version of junior baseball exists anymore) and I played volleyball and a teeny bit of tennis in high school. Where the coach was the same creepy old dude that had coached my mother when she attended the same school some decades earlier, so it wasn’t exactly Wimbledon.

The Bay Run, Canada Bay in Sydney.
[Image from NSW Govt Planning & Infrastructure]
Anyways, a few years ago I started to run a bit because it seemed like the thing to do. I felt like I was still too young and too dog-less to be going for walks, and running always looked pretty cool. When I watched other people doing it, that is. I was running a few times a week for a while there (the Bay Run in Sydney was my stomping / slumping ground) and my fitness improved and I remember feeling fairly self-righteous after I exercised. But then I fell off the wagon. And the cruel thing about a long break in exercise is that it’s not like riding a bike – your body (well, at least, my body) doesn’t pick up right where it left off and say, ‘oh yeah, we’re running again – I remember this, let’s go’. Not even close.

Path to Mosman Bay.
[Image from Sydney Diary Star]
So now I’m starting again. Along a beautiful track, with my new shoes, the Pinkies, for motivation. And since I’m a bit older, I don’t want to risk getting injured or collapsing on the side of the road, so I’m following a training program called Couch to 10k. I had started with a Couch to 5k program a few years ago and I liked the gradual increase in intervals, so that the running kind of snuck up on you. And I also liked the way they encouraged you to take a day off every other day.

I found an app called 10K for Pink – it’s a free app that someone somewhere had recommended and it’s pretty good – I’m up to Week 6 of the 14 week program now. It’s great because I can just concentrate on breathing while I play my music and a lady in an upbeat voice interrupts at intervals to tell me what to do – “start running”, “start walking”, “you have one minute left” and my favourite: “start your cool down”.

If the Pinkies aren’t exactly making me faster, at least they’re super-light, which must surely mean that it’s a little easier to lift my feet. And it also means that I have no excuses when I go on a couple of trips later this year – the Pinkies will be coming with me, tucked into my suitcase and ready to run in the northern hemisphere. Since the first trip is in a few weeks, I thought I should introduce the Pinkies as (a) it will help to keep me running, now that you know and (b) they may post from their travels if they run across any everyday sparks. And if you’re thinking of running, you can check out the Couch to 10k program that I’m using here. It did seem like a good idea at the time!