My trusty Garmin. I hope.

My run Ks are starting to build and today after a recovery week last week, I was back up to 18Ks.

I ran a fairly flat run along the river this morning towards New Farm Park, familiar territory that I frequented a lot during last year's marathon training. As always I ran with my trusty Garmin. These days it's the only way I know how far I've run.

I don't remember feeling especially good this morning, or fast. But my Garmin tells me otherwise.

Like deja vu

I am tired, emotional, and physically bereft. Today's ride took in two of south-east Queensland's best climbs, and was long, lonely and hilly.

It was my longest day in the saddle to date in my current training program; the first of more to come this time around. It felt reminiscent of the first long training ride I did for my first Ironman, a ride which my friends and I still look back on with pain, pride, and disbelief.

My first Ironman predates this blog, and I haven't spent much time tripping down memory lane. This story deserves to be told though, because it has become pivotal in forming not only my training mindset, but also my friendships with Annie and Jill (my fellow "Ironmoles"). It's one of our favourite war stories.

A lesson in history... and the value of hurting

I stayed on the Moreton Bay Cycleway this morning to complete my ride with a high cadence. This is a recurring training session designed to build balance and strength on the bike by providing some instability.

I was approaching home when I started making ground on an older gent who was pedaling along at a decent pace. I thought twice about making the pass, because my session today wasn't about speed, and I always feel discouraged when someone I've passed gets me back. Given I was focusing on skill rather than speed, I thought it likely.

What I hadn't counted on was the conversation he sparked up with me when he did pass me back, and the food for thought he provided.

Commuting is fun!

Yes, I know. Mostly, commuting isn't fun. If you drive, it's peak hour traffic and idiots switching lanes all over the shop. If you catch the bus or train, there's the too-loud-iPod guy, the loud talker on the mobile phone, or someone who's just so weird you can't look at them straight.

Today I'd planned ahead and my weekly long run served as my commute to work.

Discovering Mt Coot-tha

I know, I know. I'm always banging on about how I did something new or different, and how great it was, and how I shouldn't have been worried about it after all.

I won't put you through that same old story again. But I will write about my discovery of Mt Coot-tha.

To set the scene - I've been a cyclist in Brisbane for eight years or so and for most of those years I lived a maximum of five kilometres from the base of Mt Coot-tha. Although I've often ridden up the front, I hadn't, until this morning, ever been up the back. Many of my friends, including KKB, find it incomprehensible that I've never ridden up the back. So much so that it's almost become a joke around the posse.

It might be surprising to some of you that I tackled this 'first' by myself. When I was driving there, knowing I was riding alone, I considered many options that would get me out of this predicament. But I knew there was no way out, so I parked at Toowong and set off.

Across the overpass (another first), up the bottom bit past the Mt Coot-tha Gardens and Planetarium then on around past Slaughter Falls to the start of the climb. I don't know why I was surprised, but I was both surprised and delighted to be all of a sudden surrounded by many fellow cyclists, all toiling away up one of Brisbane's favourite training locations.

What I thought would be a lonely, onerous training session was, yes, physically demanding, but beyond that, a real buzz. Particularly after weeks being holed up at home on the home trainer due to rain.

An excellent discovery. And I'll be back. Next week in fact. And I may never ride up the front again.

Amazing, or not?

Out on Mt Gravatt this morning for some reps. On my first trip up the hill I passed a woman running. I smiled at her on the way back down, and when I passed again on the second lap, she called out to me,

"You guys are amazing!"

I returned the compliment, calling out to her that I thought SHE was the amazing one. I have never even contemplated running up Mt Gravatt and can't imagine doing so. (Hope my coach doesn't read this and get some ideas...)

Thinking about it now though, I'm sure both of us really just felt that we were going about our business. Running, cycling, or even walking up any mountain, even if it is only a 2K suburban climb, may not be what most people do in a morning before work. But whether it's heroic enough to be considered "amazing"... I'm not sure. Any thoughts?

At the time, I gladly took the compliment, and without even thinking about it, offered the same encouragement in return. The support from this stranger helped keep me motivated and focused. It felt good. (Maybe even amazing.)

The Unknown

My long runs are getting longer. Today when I set out on my 14k out and back, I had no idea that I'd end up at West Chermside! It seemed like a long way from home. (But I guess it was only 7ks...)

Even so, I got that feeling of accomplishment that you often get when you train somewhere new. Maybe it's something to do with overcoming the unknown?

When I got to the Prince Charles Hospital, that feeling grew. When I was a little kid, we'd always pass by on Webster Road when we came to Brisbane. My family would always remind me it was "my" hospital. I was too young to remember, but the Prince Charles Hospital is where I had my heart surgery as a toddler. I vaguely remember getting a day off school for a check up years later, but it's not something I even think off all that often.

From time to time people ask me what happened to my back. Sometimes I try to tell them that the scar is the result of a shark bite. (It's never really worked, unfortunately!) But there's been the odd occasion where, if the question is asked with a sense of urgency, or a tone of shock or surprise, it startles me. I forget about the scar and wonder what's happened that I should be worried about.

Even though I'm not all that aware of it, from time to time I think about what I've come through, and how lucky I am to be alive, let alone to train the way I do. 

Yes, sometimes the unknown can spur you on to a new level.