Squashed breasts

“Didn’t you take some pain killers before you came?” The radiographer asked me smugly as I winced for the second time in as many minutes. Pain killers? No one had mentioned that to me …

“Please don’t tense up – now I am going to have to do that right side again.”  I could feel her soft yet firm hands move my breast to where she wanted it – then she wrenched my shoulder back, told me to face ‘over there’ and “stay put”.  “Drop that shoulder, relax it. There. Stay like that …”

“Ouch” The words came out involuntarily …

“Just breathe normally please” this said, as she pressed on the pedal to make the two sheets of hard plastic come together further.  It was so hard not to wriggle, or to wince when every fibre of my being was screaming in agony at the pain being inflicted on such a tender part of my body.

“Now, we need to take the pictures from another angle.” She smiled, I could tell she was enjoying every minute of my discomfort. What was she, I wondered? A masochist?

Knowing that it would be over quickly if I was compliant, I told myself that this time it wouldn’t hurt so much, cos I knew what I was in for … but, my mind forgot to tell the pain receptors, or something. It still hurt, only this time I didn’t mention it – for fear of retaliation that maybe, just maybe she would want to do it another time, just for good measure.

(Sort of like that teacher years ago who continued to threaten another strapping if I cried ..)

So those of you reading this, who are over 45, will understand and know that I had my two yearly mammogram. Its not something we talk about a lot – aside from when its Breast Cancer awareness week. But we are privileged to have a health care system which provides these checks for every woman over 50, every two years. Yes, I see it as something to be endured as a sort of form of health insurance. No, they don’t catch every problem, but sure do go a long way towards it.

I guess it could be a bit like childbirth – you forget the pain inflicted until you arrive for the next one … and suddenly remember .. “oh no, I had forgotten how much this will hurt!”

It was back to work for me, but beforehand, I took a sneak peek to see if I really was as black and blue as I felt after all, I had been pummelled and prodded! I was pleasantly surprised to see that I didn’t look any different. I just felt it, and knew that I now had a couple of years to wait for that particular sort of pain to come my way again.

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The Power in a Medal

I recently read a Runners’ World article on the above topic.  It brought to mind the many races I have run, and how few of them actually give out a medal.  I have only got two medals – both are finishers’ medals.

I’m not a fast runner so don’t envisage ever receiving a 1st, 2nd or 3rd … so on the two occasions I have felt recognised for actually being in the running – I have felt on top of the world!

A medal does something to my psyche – there is definitely power in a medal. Knowing that every participant receives a medal,  gives the incentive to keep going, to hang in there, to continue training – even when you don’t want to, or don’t have the energy.

We are told in Philippians (in the Bible) to strive for the prize, to keep going to the end … to run the race set before us.

And that’s just what I  plan to do in the three (?) events that are definite for this years running goals. Interestingly they are placed three months apart, which means I have incentive to continue training even through the cooler months.

To push onwards and upwards … and have fun on the way. And, hopefully in some of those races, I will receive a medal for my effort!

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Runner’s High

It is an interesting thing … this thing called a “Runners High”.

On 14 February I had the joy of running the Buller Gorge Marathon again. It was only my second marathon, and it had been a full  year since running it for the first time. This time I felt much less well trained for it, and wondered even whether I would actually make it to the end.

A combination of factors led to that thought pattern, lack of time for training due to extra long working hours, an achilles problem which niggled – but not enough to stop me in my tracks, and a general state of tiredness and lethargy leading up to the event. I had decided tho, that as I had paid for it, and entered it – I would still run it … even if it meant walking most of the way!

However this year I had planned some holidays – a few days before and a week following. What a difference that made. Instead of driving over 8 hours the day before the race, the trip up the west coast was relaxed and refreshing. I arrived in Westport with a sense of anticipation and excitement. From deep within I felt ‘ready’ after all.

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Al & me, ready to head to the start line. (This time we knew what was ahead … 42 km of scenic running)

The day dawned – high cloud,  the air early in the morning was cool. Perfect conditions for a jaunt along the gorge, alongside the Buller river.  Other runners around me were in various stages of preparation … twitching, stretching, chatting, looking nervous, etc!

As I jogged over the bridge into Westport, (which meant just one kilometer left to go), I could feel the excitement in my spirit grow. I knew that not only had I made it to the end, but I had probably done not too badly with the time. Running between the flags lining the path before the finishing chute,  I stepped up a gear and RAN … wow, where did that burst of energy come from? I looked up and saw my time at 4:53:53. My grin said it all. I had taken a whopping 17 minutes off my previous time of 5:10:24.

I was on a high all day, and the following days … and even today at work when a customer (and good friend) I hadn’t seen since being back, asked me how it had gone – I realised when relaying the story to her that I was still “up there”. The high had not really abated much at all.

The power the comes with completion, brings with it a pride of achievement – that of accomplishing against all odds. That is, what I call ‘my runners high’ and I am so keen know that feeling again one day.

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Remove every obstacle

Remove every obstacle out of the way of my people coming to worship and follow me.
Stop putting the man made rules in front of them – these are hindrances to them reaching the very throne of our Father God.
When jesus walked this earth people needed only to walk in his shadow, or touch the hem of his robe to receive healing- to know his power moving within them.
Remove the obstacles – not just for others, but for ourselves.

For ourselves :
Allow the very light of His Holy presence to shine in the dark, closed up areas of your life.
Worship in spirit and in truth. The holy spirit will reveal the darkness in us so we can repent. The truth will set us free – free to worship our Holy God. Free to worship Jesus- to offer continuously our praises. Free to stand in awe before the throne. Without barrier or obstacles.
Free to touch the hem of his robe – to glory in his presence.

Removing the obstacles for others means just that. Removing our man-made rules for how we think they should look, act and behave before allowing them to join in.
It means giving the Holy Spirit the room and space to move in the way He wants.

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A bit of a Jog – revisiting 2013

2013:
Over coffee with a girlfriend at the end of 2012, I casually mentioned that it could be time to dig out my running shoes. I said, “Its been a while, but I feel like I need to be getting a bit fitter.”
To which she replied, “Go for it Val”. So I did.
Early in January I went shopping for the new shoes – and there it began.

My year of running started with small steps, run a bit, walk a bit … my first goal was the 10km Stadium to Surf fun run to be held on 17 March.
To help me reach the goal, I conned one of my workmates to also get up early and train with me on some of the days – as she also planned to do the run. This meant rising at 4:15 am, and meeting up. The joys of a job where you start around 6 am.
I was rapt with the perfect conditions, and a not too unreasonable time of 1:03.

The next goal was to be the Christchurch half marathon on Queens Birthday weekend (1 June). However while planning for that, and with training going well, I noticed an advertisement for the Gore half marathon, early in May.
“Hey, that could be a good one as a practice” – I said eagerly to a friend. “We could do that as a long fun run …” I couldn’t quite decipher the look I received at the time. “If nothing else, its a day out – a trip out of Dunedin”. “Oh, OK then!”

Gore, on 9 May was raining, windy and not remotely inspirational for any sort of run. But I was committed, and with a borrowed rain jacket (fully waterproof), I set off with other enthusiastic early starters. They started us in two time slots depending on how quick we thought we might be!
So Gore was memorable for some reasons unable to be written about. Needless to say, I made it to the end and my time wasn’t too bad considering the conditions. The meal put on by the lovely Gore people more than made up for any discomfort. I was rapt with my time of 2 hrs 17. It was my first half marathon since 2005.

Only one month to go until Christchurch, yay. I was eagerly looking forward to both the weekend away, and revisiting a place I hadn’t run a half marathon in since the year 2000! Memories galore there!

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Christchurch didn’t disappoint with an amazing sunrise, huge crowds and a wonderful atmosphere. I even felt inclined to purchase some goods from the big expo tent … they say never to wear something new on race day, but I did. The thermal tech tee shirt which I bought, and wore, has become one of my best training mates – especially through the winter months.
It was so special running it with both my sister and my daughter. Although we all ran different times, we shared in the joys and a few disappointments too!
I was a bit disappointed with my 2:15 time as I felt I was much quicker than that on the flat course. Maybe Gore’s hills weren’t quite so bad after all?

Being a person who likes to have a goal to work towards, it was casually suggested to me that I might like to try for the Naseby Water Race run. Now, this is an ultra – meaning its 50km and over. However they do have a teams race where you do 30km per person. Achievable? I did wonder, but thought – “Hey, why not? If I can find a person to be part of my team, then I will do it!” Hence the search began. I thought Nite church would be a good place to look – as lots of them there are into fitness and running.

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Eventually Nolan took the bait, and the decision to run on 31 August was made.
That meant upping my training – gradually – so I got used to running a little bit further at a time. My muscles protested at times, but they did come to the party.
Naseby put on the perfect weather, snow on the hills, clear blue skies and a frosty start. Perfect. Lots of muddy patches to negotiate at times too. All part of the fun.

The following week was the Dunedin half marathon … what had I done? Signed up for Naseby of 30km, and a week later doing another half? Had I lost the plot?

The power of positive thinking won the day on 8 September when I lined up along with my sister, and daughter again. Another stunning day – slightly warm, but no complaints. Crowds of people both on and off the field. The train of supporters on the way to Port Chalmers – all part of the atmosphere. It was here I ran my best for the year – finishing in 2:12. Wow! What an effort, but so pleased.

At that time I thought that there was nothing more until 2014. But wait … I saw another carrot dangling … Cromwell at Labour weekend. Twizel pyramid run? Same weekend, but not possible this time. So Cromwell it was. They didn’t quite turn on the weather … gale winds, and then after I got in, it poured and poured. There had been rain prior to the event too with snow all around the hills. Yes, I got cold and No, I didn’t have my best run which I blamed in part to the late start time. Seriously, starting a half marathon at midday? Mental. (Remember I prefer to run early in the day) But I did finish it! 2:16.
Labour weekend was also my little grand-daughters 2nd birthday, so I had a party the day before the run … excuses? hey, why not!

Throughout the year I had enjoyed doing some training on the trails around Dunedin as and when I could, so when I saw the Coastal classic run advertised, I thought it would be a nice change, running over farmland and along the beach. This time I took with me another workmate who enjoyed the walk side of it. This run was 12km (or thats the option I chose this time). Due to the up hills, sand and interesting terrain, my time was way off – but the whole day more than made up for it.
After all, this was also a practice for El Dorado (Waikouaiti – north of Dunedin).

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El Dorado (17 November) was normally listed as a race for mountain bikers, but this year they opened it up to runners as well. An off road, country – hills and more hills. 17km of good hard slog. We were promised amazing views from the tops … where? In the low cloud and slight mist we are still waiting! However it was all fun, and again the camaraderie of the runners and bikers was just amazing.

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As I was planning a trip to Central Otago before Christmas to visit family and friends, I spotted yet another opportunity to enjoy the countryside and views on a long ‘fun run’. The Jacks Point, Queenstown half marathon at the golf course was on 23 November … scenery, heat, sunshine, crowds, atmosphere – and the opportunity to see some amazing new homes being built all while I ran the 21.1 km. What I didn’t know was that this was a ‘double loop’ course – one that took you through the finish line to do the whole thing again with a bit of an extra loop thrown in for good measure. Oh no. That did weird things to my brain, and my legs did not understand one bit, why the finish line did not mean stop! Now I know why so many signed up for the 10km. Smile!
My 2:20 time attested to the feelings I had …

But then it was a time to head bush to do some long-awaited tramping. Using spare muscles, or should I say, some different muscles. I enjoyed the long walks each day – even with the pack on my back!

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So 2013 will be known as the year I ran the most half marathons ever – many unplanned for, but enjoyed them all for various reasons.

No it did not see me running any quicker – but I now know I am able to endure – long and slow. Hare and tortoise type stuff. Will I ever win? No, but I will reach the finish line usually with a smile on my face.

2014 sees me planning my very first ever marathon. This one is on the West coast early in February. My goal? To finish with a smile.

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A tramp in Siberia Valley Mt Aspiring National Park NZ

What a blessing to have a few days off work – then to allow myself the time to wander the areas of wilderness in and around Makarora and the Wilkin Valley.

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Times of peace and solitude – to enjoy and value the bush, the vast valley, the towering hills and rivers. The streams and waterfalls.

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Siberia lies within the Wilkin valley. Many who venture there either fly right in on a small plane (4 – 5 seater), or get a jet-boat ride up the Wilkin river to a place called Kerrin Forks. From there its a good 2 – 3 hour tramp, (mostly uphill I might add) to Siberia hut.

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It was nice of someone to let me know that I had in fact reached the high part of the track … very nice!

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They (or a previous tramper) had also taken time to build a nice cairn

The 20 bed hut was rebuilt in 2011 to replace the older hut which was burnt down earlier that year.
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Its cosy, and warm with a good fire and windows with amazing views the valley and to the hills all around.

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One thing I love about tramping is the people I meet on the way, from all walks of life, and many from different countries. Interesting conversations take place in the soft candle light.

Looking out at night the sky is lit – not by street lights, but by the stars and the moon, the planets seem so much closer when not fighting to be seen above the street-lights we have in our cities and towns. Bedtime comes around much earlier due to the mind telling you it must be ‘very late’ as its so so dark!

Weary bones after a days tramping snuggle into the down sleeping bag, until the morning when I thought I would get started on the next day’s walk earlier than planned … until I looked out and saw mist and fog swathing the valley. After some deliberation – and stumbling down the torch-lit track, I waited another hour till I could see more than a foot in front of me. Wise decision.

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I loved the walk through streams, bush, clambering over rocky outcrops – all the time enjoying the different views around each corner.

The verse came to mind, “I lift my eyes to the hills – from who does my help come from – my help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

Head river

The grandeur, the majestic mountains, the bitterly cold water straight from the glacial lakes, the footprints of those elusive deer (just ask the hunters who were staying there …) yet early in the morning their prints clearly show their tracks to get a refreshing drink.

I did notice the lack of bird song as opposed to other tramping tracks I have walked. This is apparently due to a lack of funding for trapping in the more remote areas.

It had been about 14 years since I last visited Siberia – at that time I was assisting the volunteer hut warden for a week or two. I have now decided that my next visit will not take as long, as I still have the areas I did not get to walk to due to time constraints.

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The trip home, down the river

The time of year though was ideal, as the sandflies which are normally out in abundance were not as prolific near the hut this time. A blessing indeed!

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The views are at the top

It has occurred to me during some recent tramping, that if you want to see the lake in all its fullness, if you want to see into the distance, if you want to view amazing scenery – then you have to do the hard yards and walk to the top.

This works equally as much in whatever you aspire to do, or become. There is nothing gained without some effort. Or some sheer hard work.

Discipline is such a dirty word – yet the endurance athletes, the ones who stand on the podium at the Olympics, even those who win small events have made it to where they are through discipline.

It just doesn’t happen by chance.

I’ve recently made some decisions to enter some sporting events in my city (and further afield). This has meant the purchase of some new jogging shoes. But, it has also meant that my alarm now sounds a wake up call even earlier than I generally get up.

Being an early morning person, this hasn’t involved huge sacrifice – although it has meant the discipline required of going to bed earlier. A sacrifice in my social life? Maybe. Yes, some things have taken second place on the days when I have an early start.

I realized I am the sort of person who works well with a goal in sight. So I’m training first for a 10km local run. Then after that in about three months a half marathon awaits me. Because the Christchurch half marathon is one I have done before (albeit a few years ago), the thought doesn’t frighten me too much. However even after the couple of weeks training, I realize there is a huge difference between being able to run 5 to 6 km and getting to the stage of once again going the full 21km.

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Tramping is also a passion, and to get to the top of the mountain pass requires a huge amount of effort. But, the views from the top – the achievement of aiming for the summit. Its all there. The ragged breathing, the warmth of the sun as you rest in the grass admiring the views.

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But I know to ensure that I see the full vista, that I accomplish the goals I have set, I must remain disciplined – even on the inclement days.

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