Best Australian Blogs 2014 Competition

gnatHi Guys,

Once again I have a massive favour to ask all of you.

This year my blog is both a nominee for the Best Australian Blogs competition and the Peoples Choice Awards, along with half the population of the known world.

Last year I just missed out by a gnat’s whisker, so if you’re a basher of Burbage, a lover of lame humour, a fun runner, another frustrated parent, or an aficionado of literary genius, please mobilise your clicking digits and show me the love.

Here’s how you create history:

Follow the link below, swat the big arse bug, or click the Vote For Me Now button on the right of this post, to start the voting process.

http://www.writerscentre.com.au/community/best-australian-blogs-comp/peoples-choice/

Once you arrive on the home page, click on the big blue button that says ‘Vote here’.

Now you will have arrived at the welcome page. Isn’t it nice to be thanked for all the hard work they are about to put you through 😉 On the welcome page click ‘next’.

Everything is alphabetised so you’ll have to scroll through to the third page to find Matts Notes. Place a little tick in my box and once again click ‘next’ at the bottom of the page.

You should now arrive at a blank page that gives you the opportunity to choose to continue the voting process by clicking ‘next’ again, or you can choose to finish up and leave by clicking ‘exit this survey’ in the top right of the screen.

Phew, wasn’t that a giant pain in the backside. But as Loreal continually reminds us, I’m worth it.

Voting closes on Monday the 5th May so please get cracking over the next couple of weeks and spread the love.

I promise I really will respect you in the morning 😉

Back on the horse – so to speak.

By now most of you would have read my running ramblings on, well, running. And you’ve probably had a giggle or three at my expense. That’s ok! I exist only to entertain, or as an automatic teller machine for my children 🙂

Today though instead of dodging doggy doo and the usual shelob shenanigans, I though I would share something a little different – Injury.Injury

In August 2012 I was running between 30 and 40 kilometres per week. I had completed my first ever City to Surf at my fastest ever time per kilometre. My weight was a comfortable 82 kilograms and I was feeling fantastic. Then it all fell apart.

Injury 1: Calf Muscle Calamity.

In early September that year I was running through Port Meadow, just outside of Oxford in the UK, when I stepped in a divot and hurt my leg. I tried to run through it but the pain was too much, so we settled down at the Trout Inn for a couple of pints and an ice pack. The bar staff teased me mercilessly, but kept the amber fluid flowing so I didn’t really care. A few days later I hobbled out for a slow jaunt around Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. It was stupid, but there was no way I was going all the way to London and not take in a run. Abbey Road, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, too much to see and do. Injuries were sent packing, but when I got off the plane in Sydney they were waiting for me with reinforcements.

My Achilles tendon was damaged and, by pushing myself, I had strained my calf muscle. Diagnosis – several months to heal. Bugger!

So I spent the summer playing with the kids and taking it easy on my leg. We bodysurfed, jumped off jetties, rode waterslides, raised chickens and BBQ’d every day. Sunburn was inevitable as were mosquito bites, but it was a brilliant summer of relative inactivity. As the leaves began changing colour I began running again and by May I was on track to return to my pre-Oxford state. My leg nagged me a little, but it wasn’t anything to really worry about. Then it all fell apart again.

Injury 2: Nerve Wracking Neck

Cervical VertebraeWhilst moving house in May 2013 I managed to wrench the nerves in my neck. The resulting disc bulge between vertebrae 5 and 6 in my cervical spine caused numbness and strange pain sensations down my left arm and into my hand. My triceps ache as if I have just undergone a strenuous workout. My forearm is painful to the touch and my thumb feels as though it is recovering from a severe burn. There is no damage to my arm whatsoever, but my nerves think that there is and the feeling is surreal.

Exercise was out of the question. Wii bowling and PS3 Rugby League were the only sports I could play, and even that was limited to short bursts before my neck gave up on me. In spite of the fact that muscular definition was still there, my left arm could scarcely hold up my iPhone. Brushing my teeth was a chore and carrying my kids was impossible.

Eventually, thanks largely to a brilliant physiotherapist, opioid analgesics gave way to paracetamol and I was able to walk without wincing at every step.  Finally, thirteen months after my initial injury, I am back pounding the pavement.

My weight has gone up – I hate that.

My fitness level has gone down – I hate that too.

But I am back on the horse now and hoping its not headed for the glue factory.

Inner City Oink

I’ve written before about the pneuma of the urban dweller. Smokers desperately inhaling their last puff of poison before boarding the train to work. Boofheads going nun-bowling and smelly swearing students show boating in front of schoolgirls. That’s all part and parcel of life in the big city and it provides a vibrant backdrop for the upcoming eight hours of mundane office work most people endure. Public transport however, is not the only place in Sydney inhabited by ‘colourful’ characters.

I like to go for a run in the mornings and, whilst my usual route crosses some unpleasant roads, the overall experience is generally peaceful and serene. Today however was a little different.

Wyndham Street in Alexandria is a busy thoroughfare of commuter vehicles, buses and trucks heading for the fringe of the city and the north. From 6:00am onwards there is a steady stream of carbon monoxide belching from blackened exhausts and a cacophony of horns honking for no apparent reason. It’s enough to make you sick – literally. In the midst of this motorised chaos was a cyclist, weaving in and out of traffic, with headphones in his ears and no helmet on his head. Was he drunk, on drugs or just plain stupid – I don’t know. We call people like that ‘temporary Australians.’

A few minutes later I am jogging down Bourke Street in Waterloo and another cyclist almost cleans me up on the footpath. I ride a bike too and I don’t like battling for space with cars, so I understand the desire to get off the road. However, what you may not know dear reader is that the footpath I was on runs parallel to a purpose-built bike lane. Yes there is a lane dedicated to push bikes. Only push bikes! No cats, dogs, kids, cars, camels, goats or joggers are allowed on it. Just cyclists. Yet this fool figured he was better off bashing into pedestrians. Seriously fellow riders, it’s no wonder motorists hate us.

After a cursory spray of bad language from yours truly, which was met with a flippant flipping of the bird from the two-wheeled twat, I headed back towards Redfern Park. As I enjoyed a long cool drink from the bubbler I felt a dog snuffling around my feet. It’s a very family friendly park full of people and pets so I leaned down to give the little fellow a pat. But this weren’t no canine. Instead of a cute little puppy there was a huge black pig snorting and lapping at the water I had splashed onto the ground.

Pigs don’t scare me, but seeing one in the city is certainly a strange sight, especially one so at ease with humans all around. I plucked up some courage and gingerly touched his head. It was covered in thick bristly fur that felt more like a scrubbing-brush than the soft hair of a typical domesticated animal. His curly tailed wiggled. Suddenly high-pitched whistle shattered the serenity and Bacon Sandwich (or whatever his name was) oinked and shot off across the grass to play with his owner. He had a lead. He chased tennis balls. He wrestled with the other dogs. Clearly Porky was a pooch, or at least he thought he was. With a fat and happy hog frolicking in the fountain I headed home to shower and go to work.

The train ride was largely uneventful, until it began rattling its way out of Wynyard Station. A couple of girls, with foundation like Liquid Paper and teeth bleached beyond a whiter shade of pale, plopped their dainty derrieres in the chair opposite me and proceeded to critique my fellow passengers. With high-pitched squeaky voices and an annoying penchant for finishing their sentences with an inflection as if posing a question, where no question existed, these two little bimbos from Ella Baché squawked on about how grey hair makes you look old. Its called DISTINGUISHED ladies. Thankfully they got off at Milson’s Point and gave everyone’s ears a rest.

As I arrived at my destination I reflected on how my day had begun.

Out of the idiot, the ignoramus, the bimbos and the swine; piglet was the nicest person.

One Million Metres

Check it out guys, I made it.

Eighty six thousand six hundred and seventy calories and eighty runs later, I have chalked up a magic 1,000,000 metres.

It has been a hard slog at times filled with magpies and kookaburras, spiders and dog poo.

There have been ups, downs and plenty of days when the motivation to get out of bed was extremely hard to find.

I’ve watched my weight plummet and, at times, felt my confidence shatter.

I’ve broken toes, twisted knees and torn tendons (the plantar fascia tear was particularly uncomfortable).

But the effort has been well worth it.

According to the Nike Community I am running further and faster than most men my age. Go figure 😯

I’ve done the Blackmores Bridge Run, the Sydney Half Marathon and this weekend, to complete a year of firsts, the City-to-Surf.

You guys have teased me, taunted me, jeered me and cheered me. Slapping me down when I got a big head and picking me up when I needed it.

Its been a lot of fun.

Thanks for your support.

My knee hurts!

Marathon Dad

Hills are just an excuse to run faster!

I’m talking uphill, not downhill of course because that would be crazy. I did it once. Tearing like a startled jackrabbit down the embankment at Moore Park where people used to grass ski, I hit the pavement at the speed of sound. My knee went backwards, my face went forwards and my head held a groundbreaking ceremony sans the ceremonial shovel.

Don’t worry dear reader I was fine, if just a little dirty. A mouthful of sod has many nutrients that the body requires as well as a uniquely crunch texture. Like peanut butter if it were made out of the shells instead of the kernel within.

But I digress.

The good thing about running uphill is the way your body reacts. Your heart gets a workout pumping oxygenated blood to your muscles, your lungs heave and expel the old stale air, your body sweats out all the toxins that accumulate from eating and drinking the wrong things, and your mind clears. I’ve not always been able to do this though. Eighteen months ago I weighed over 104 kilograms, and no, that was not muscle. A year or so before that I had had a little ‘scare’. Chest pains at forty are more frightening than a good zombie movie and a night in Prince of Wales Hospital with electrodes stuck all over your person is THE wakeup call to take notice of. Thankfully it was a false alarm but I decided to see a specialist anyway and see what sort of condition I was in.

The first test was to jog on a treadmill for fifteen minutes to see how my heart would react. After two minutes I was drenched with perspiration. Five minutes later I could no longer talk to the nurse. Within seven minutes my nipples were chafed and my lungs were screaming. By the eleven-minute mark I was hallucinating and had to stop. Not good at all. My heart recovered well – for a sixty year old man.

The second test was a blood sample and an x-ray of my neck. Thickened arteries – bloody hell.

The verdict: I was overweight, that was a given. My fitness level was a dismal failure though and that worried me, especially with five children, so I made a decision to get well.

I won’t bore you by repeating my initial escapades. If you would like to read about my first foray into jogging and the subsequent attack on my person by Tolkien’s Ents and Shelob the spider, click the image of the arachnid. Go on, I’ll wait for you 🙂

Suffice to say I had to do something and running for my life sounded like the best course of action. As I got fitter and the weight began to fall off, I found that I could push myself to longer distances. I did the Blackmores Bridge Run last September, a nine kilometre trip across the harbour and around the Domain to finish in Hyde Park. Beautiful!

Ten kilometres became fifteen. Fifteen became twenty. I began to run the coastal route from north Bondi to south Coogee and back. The stairs at Gordon’s Bay seem to go on forever and the hills around Clovelly and Tamarama are just plain vicious. My body responded well though and the fat cells continued to depart in droves.

Then I got cocky and decided to have a go at the half marathon.

This would be a test of endurance for a forty something year old that hadn’t exercised properly since his twenties and with daylight saving time now over it was becoming increasingly more difficult to find an opportunity to run the distances required to maintain my stamina. The outside track at Centennial Park was the nearest and best option however, although running the park in the dark is creepily cool, it is also a little unnerving. It is also very difficult to see the humongous piles of equine excrement at the Lang road exit. I don’t care if they are vegetarians, horse poo stinks!

As the distances shortened and the big day approached I started to worry, then I did something really stupid. After returning from work one evening I decided to test my mettle. The concept was simple, run from Erskineville train station to Centennial Park, two and a half times around the outside track and back again. The distance would have been between twenty three and twenty four kilometres and my stupid male pride would have been satisfied.

I made it there.

I made it around.

I didn’t make it back.

Somewhere in the dark, silent streets of Redfern my legs gave up on me. The cramping in my hamstrings was excruciating and my calf muscles felt as though they were about to liquefy. I could not walk more than a few steps before having to lie down on the footpath and I was getting cold. Foolishly I had left the house without a mobile phone or any money to catch a bus and so I ended up practically crawling home, my entire body shivering uncontrollably and frozen to the core. It took my physical being several days to recover, but the damage to my emotional and mental state was a lot worse. Running was no longer fun. It had become a painful chore and I was making up excuses to avoid it. With the half marathon only two weeks away, my campaign had ground to a halt.

Feeling more than just a little down in the dumps about my predicament, I headed over to my parents house for a few beers and a home cooked meal. As I passed by Booralee I saw an old friend whose name I never knew. The brunette with a bob haircut was still plodding her way round the park, looking fitter and faster than I remember. She had that smile on her face that a runner gets when they have conquered their demons and she looked like she was exercising for fun, and not because she had too.

Watching her I began to recall those feelings too. The sunrise over Wedding Cake Island. The silence of Waverly cemetery. Flocks of huge Puddle Ducks crankily quacking at me in Sir Joseph Banks Park. Rabbits, kookaburras, magpies, peace, solitude, tranquility.

I got my groove back.

I managed one more run before the big day. Thirteen kilometres. My legs were fine and my smile had returned.

I completed the half marathon a little slower than I would have liked. Twenty one thousand five hundred metres in two hours, one minute and one second. I felt fantastic.

A week later I headed out from Erskineville train station again.

I made it there.

I made it around.

I MADE IT BACK.

I’m still getting passed by blond hotties and bald dynamos, but I’ve beaten my demons and achieved something I never thought I could.

iDad did it and so can you.