Running the middle distance

I tried to do a 5k run this morning, but I was so uninspired halfway through that I stopped after 3k instead. It didn’t help that the weather is so humid now, although it was a lot cooler than yesterday.

Apart from that, mostly I worked on Darths & Droids writing today. In between cooking a few things – for lunch, dinner, and in mid-afternoon putting together something for dessert to chill in the fridge. Just a simple concoction of wheatmeal biscuits and mascarpone, to use up some leftover mascarpone from the other day. I had it with a scoop of ice cream on top.

Oh, I’ve been watching The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix with my wife. We’re really enjoying it. A friend of mine recommended it to me, and he was spot on.

New content today:

Let’s get physical

Today was a day of physical activity. I wanted to get back into my running, having had a couple of weeks off due to bad weather. I decided to start easy and only do a 1k “sprint” rather than a full 5k run.

That also meant I could finish that, plus a stretching routine, early enough to head out to the pitch and putt golf course for a game. I contacted my friend and he met me there, so we played together. In our initial game he granted me a handicap of 18 for matchplay, and suggested we decrease it by 1 every time I beat him. I’d gotten it down to 14, bouncing around that area. But today I blitzed him and won 14-3 (with the last hole halved). I scored a total of 75 strokes, which is my best ever on that course, beating my previous best of 79 by 4 strokes. And I recalculated what our matchplay scores would have been with different handicaps… all the way down to a handicap of 2, at which point we would have scored 9 holes each today.

So I’m pretty chuffed. But this does suggest my true handicap relative to my friend is probably something closer to 8, rather than 14. I don’t think it’s as good as 2 – today I felt freakishly good compared to normal.

After playing 18 holes, my friend left and I went next door to the driving range to hit a bucket of balls. I’m reasonably happy with short strokes, chipping, putting, and hitting irons up to about the 5 or 6. But I wanted to get some solid practice hitting a 3 iron and a driver. These clubs are my bane – and it’s hard to get practice during an actual round of golf because you hit them so infrequently. I flubbed several hits, but did manage to get some sort of groove with hitting them eventually, so that felt pretty good.

After that I went to my favourite pie shop by the beach for lunch. I planned to get a butter chicken pie, but they had sold out, so I settled for chicken in white wine sauce. It’s actually a sort of cheesy béchamel, and really delicious. Then I drove home just in time to meet my wife who is currently working mornings in the office and coming home at lunch time to work from home each afternoon.

I went for a walk with Scully up to the post office to mail an Etsy order (from my shop), and do some other shopping. Scully is now pooped and sleeping all evening, and I am tired and have that sort of muscle stiffness that comes after a day of physical exertion. No pains, but just good honest exhaustion.

New content today:

Thoughts on running

Lap 1.

I never used to be a runner. I wasn’t athletic at school or university. I played a bit of casual tennis and sometimes squash, and later took up swimming a bit, but I’ve never really been dedicated or high performing.

A few years ago I thought I should stop being lazy and do some physical activity for fitness and health’s sake. I took up jogging around the neighbourhood. But the area is hilly and going up and down hills the whole time is just a drag. It petered out within a year or so.

Lap 2.

In October last year decided to really give it a go again. Rather than do random distances around the neighbourhood, up and down hills, I now had Strava, so I could track distance and time. I decided to go up to Gore Hill Oval, a football/cricket field not far away, and run laps on the flat ground.

Gore Hill Oval

Gore Hill Oval is a kilometre from my place… uphill. To start with, I started timing myself from home, so including the uphill walk to the oval, which I sort of jog-walked as my legs could bear, before reaching the oval and completing enough laps to take my total distance to 5km. I did it once every week or two, and got times around 30-31 minutes.

Lap 3.

Then the summer hit, and the bushfires that blanketed the city with smoke for weeks on end. It was unhealthy just to be outdoors, let alone huffing and puffing for half an hour of exercise. So I stopped running. Once you start being lazy again, it’s easy to keep it up.

I didn’t start running again until July this year. This time I figured I’d walk up the hill to the oval, and only start timing my 5k run when I started doing laps on the flat ground. That immediately reduced my time to around 29 minutes.

Lap 4.

I’ve kept it up since then, one run a week, only occasionally skipping a week (twice so far up to now). My times are now around 27:30 consistently, but it varies a bit. The weather has an effect. Cool and dry is good. One morning was very hot, and my time was bad.

Lap 5.

Today it’s cool, but very humid. The air feels thicker and doesn’t inhale as easily. Sweat is dripping down my face, and into my eyes, stinging with the salt. I feel like I’m labouring and doing a slow time.

Gore Hill Oval

Lap 6.

The Oval is an interesting place. There are always people here, either running laps like myself, or simply walking laps, or using the field for soccer practice like the guy who is kicking goals, bouncing the ball off the picket fence so it returns to him. There are people walking dogs. There are mothers and babies in prams and strollers. There are personal trainers and clients, the former pushing the latter to exert themselves and not give in.

After six laps I feel like giving in.

Lap 7.

They say there’s a “runner’s high” that you feel when running – a feeling of euphoria that drives people to keep going because it feels so good. All I feel is exhaustion and an overwhelming desire to stop.

I stumbled onto a thread on reddit yesterday where someone was saying that running feels surprisingly good. A bunch of people commented that yes, it does, they love that feeling they get while doing a run. One person commented (paraphrased):

“I wish you could show me how to get that feeling. I run, but only because I force myself to because I know it’s good for me. I hate every single step and when I’m doing it all I want to do is stop and never run again.”

That’s me. I’m running and I hate it. I just want it to stop.

Lap 8.

The first few laps are okay, because my body is fresh. But it gets harder and harder as the laps pile up. This is where sheer bloody-minded stubbornness takes over. I’ve done more than half the distance. If I give up now, I lose. I don’t want to lose. I don’t want to be a loser.

I keep going.

Lap 9.

Younger guys, bare chested, impressive six-packs, are doing laps of the oval too, overtaking me every few laps. Yeah, if you were my age you wouldn’t be running so fast!

Maybe you would, but I can dream. There are other people, old and young, just walking around the oval for exercise. I’m lapping a few of them. Eat my dust!

Lap 10.

The end is close now. Light at the end of the tunnel. If I can just complete this lap, there’s only one more to go, and then – blessed relief – I can stop.

I start counting steps, in a 4-beat rhythm. Like counting bars when drumming. ONE-two-three-four ONE-two-three-four ONE-two-three-four ONE-two-three-four. It takes a lot of bars to progress a quarter of the way around the oval. One lap is like a whole song.

I sing lyrics in my head to stop myself thinking about how much I want to stop running.

Lap 11.

This is it! The last lap! I know 11 laps is a bit over 5 kilometres.

Halfway around I pull out my phone and open Strava to check the distance. 4.84 km. I pick up the pace and start a sprint to the finish. My breathing, heavy but regular, shifts to double time as my legs pump the ground for the last hundred and a bit metres.


At 5k I turn off the tracker and slow to a walk as I catch my breath. My time is 27:42. Not as bad as I thought with this humid air, but I’ve done better.

I wander over to the open-air gym equipment next to the oval, and go through a stretching routine and some sit-ups and push-ups.

Other people are still using the oval. A mums & bubs fitness class begins.

Gore Hill Oval

I stretch my legs out. I head off for the downhill walk home.

It’s done. Until next week.

New content today:

Little tasks and writing

I did a lot of little housekeeping tasks today – some literally housework, some just some things I needed to get done for other reasons.

And I did a 1k run, setting a time of 4:25, exactly the same as last week.

And then I spent most of the day working on Darths & Droids comic scripts.

New content today:

Busy busy Monday

The start of a new working week! I had a lot of chores and tasks I wanted to get done today. First cab off the rank was a 5k run. The weather was a lot cooler than last week, which I think helped, and I felt a bit more at ease through the last few laps than last week, and ran a better time of 27:32, so that’s good. Although I’m beginning to think the 26:32 I ran a few weeks ago might have been a GPS glitch that credited me with more distance in a shorter time somehow, as I haven’t been able to break 27 minutes since.

I had some errands to run, visiting the post office to mail some things that somebody bought from me, and then a tailor to drop off a jacket for alteration. I got a new lightweight cotton jacket on the trip to the city a week or so ago, and it’s good, but the breast pocket is weirdly sideways – it opens on the side rather than the top, and I feel that as soon as I put anything in there it will just fall out unless I button the flap over it, which is just annoying and not normally something I do with pockets. So I put it in to be altered by removing the flap, stitching up the side, and unstitching the top, to turn it into a normal pocket. I don’t quite understand how any clothing designer could thing a pocket that opens on the side and not the top is a good idea. I had to wait about 15 minutes in the tailor’s shop because there was a woman in there ahead of me, having a dress altered, and she was wearing it and making lots of little adjustments and the tailor was putting pins in all over the place, and it honestly took about 15 minutes until they were done and I was served.

I spent the afternoon writing Irregular Webcomic! annotations to fully finish off that batch I started working on last week. And picked up Scully from my wife’s work and took her to a nearby park (not our usual dog park, which is a short drive away) for some ball chasing. There was a woman there with a boy about 6 or 7 years old, and he was keen to throw the ball and have Scully chase it, so I let him do that a bit.

The conversation with my friends about the definition of a game slopped over into today, with someone suggesting the following:

I’m imagining a pastime in which people take turns drawing cards with activities named on each card, such as Monopoly, Settlers of Catan, or Snakes and Ladders [or maybe even soccer, or crossword puzzles], and then attempt to refine an evolving definition of “game” such that there are more cards in front of that person meeting that definition than anyone else. This proceeds until someone draws a card named “This Pastime” at which point the pastime ends, and either the current definition of “game” encompasses the pastime itself, in which case someone may win, or else the definition does not encompass the pastime, in which case the people were not playing a game after all, it was merely a pastime.

New content today:

Comic photos day

It was a busy day today. First thing off the agenda was the weekly grocery shop. Normally it’s a short drive up to the supermarket, but today there was some sort of traffic blockage on the street I normally take. I could see police lights flashing, and the traffic at a standstill. So I turned off into a back street and took a roundabout route, which took me several minutes longer, but probably faster than waiting to get through the blockage.

When I got home, I started doing photography for the batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips that I finished writing yesterday. I got about halfway through and then took a break for lunch. I walked up to the oval and ran a 1k, and managed my fastest time, a second faster than previously, at 4:25.

I grabbed some lunch on the way home, and then finished off photographing the comics. Then it was time to go pick up Scully from my wife’s office, and bring her home. Then shortly after that my wife came home, and we went out for dinner at the local pizza place.

Oh, I forgot to post a photo I took yesterday of the cool change hitting after the hot day:

Cold change

New content today:

A slower run

Monday morning was time for my 5k run for the week. I took a gentle pace, but felt like I was really pushing myself hard today, and having to struggle to keep going. I was hoping this meant I was clocking a fast time. I miscounted my laps again, discovering I was one short and had to keep going for another lap. But even though I got my sprint finish in, I recorded 27:53, which is slower than my last four times. I guess it just wasn’t my day today.

For lunch today I decided to make a fancy grilled cheese sandwich. I used three types of cheese: cheddar, Jarlsberg, and Parmigiano; added a spread of caramelised onion relish, and then sliced gherkins I used the kibble rye sourdough that we’d bought yesterday. It turned out delicious!

Other than that, I spent much of the day assembling new Darths & Droids comics.

Oh, I forgot to mention yesterday that Scully has notified us that the bindii is sprouting thorns for the spring. She’s started avoiding patches of grass where bindii grows, and sure enough, when I bent down to feel it, the thorns have appeared. Fortunately, as we discovered last year, the thorns are only there for a couple of months, and go away by summer.

New content today:

5.4k run

It was about time for another 5k run today, and the weather was fine, so I set out early, leaving home before 9 am. Unfortunately I miscounted my laps again today, although this time instead of thinking I’d finished when I still had a lap to go, I accidentally ran an extra lap. Since I sprint for the last half lap or so, I didn’t have the advantage of having that faster half lap included in my 5k split time, so my time was a bit slower today, at 27:16, my fourth fastest.

After that I walked up to my dentist’s office and gave the receptionist a pack of photo prints for the dentist to look through – hoping to keep it in his mind to select one of my photos to redecorate his waiting room (as mentioned last week).

This afternoon I did some comic writing stuff, and then took Scully to the dog park for a walk and playing time with other dogs. The park we got to is 5 minutes drive away. Usually on the way there Scully just lies down in the passenger seat of the car, but on the way back she’s worked up and stands up, putting her paws on the centre console to get a view out the windows. Today she learnt a new trick… she stood on the radio button, turning it on and…

Well, let’s just say that Scully has learnt how to Rickroll me.

New content today:

Back into running

After last week’s relative laziness, I returned to doing a 5k run today. I figured after a two week break I wouldn’t be setting a best time today, and I took it fairly easy. But it turned out that I clocked 27:02, my third best time, and only a second behind my second best time. And although I was certainly ready to stop by the end of it, I didn’t really feel like I was pushing myself hard today. I guess my body is getting more used to running that distance!

On the way home I treated myself to a couple of vegetable pies from the pie shop near the sports oval. A “pumpkin, coriander, and cheese” pie which also has a layer of mashed potato inside. The pumpkin is blended smooth and very soft, really like a thick pumpkin soup, and the cheese is a soft creamy sort, a bit like sour cream. It’s a nice pie, but feels a bit insubstantial. The second was a spinach, corn, and cheese, which is more solid and features a feta-like cheese.

This afternoon I worked on some photo processing and updating of some old travel diaries. And took Scully to the dog park. It was a lot warmer out late this afternoon than it had been even at lunch time. I checked the Weather Bureau and the temperature in Sydney was still rising around 4pm – it got up to almost 22°C.

New content today:

Side strain, taking it easy

I think on Sunday when I played golf I slightly pulled a muscle in the left side of my torso. It didn’t bother me much on Monday, but during the night last night I woke up and went to the toilet, then when I came back and had to move Scully from my spot on the bed, I bent over and the muscle really twinged badly. I slept poorly after that, and today got up with a real strain there, very sore and restricting my twisting and bending movement.

I think sleeping on it made it worse, as it got better during the day. I would have gone for a 5k run today, but decided to take it a bit easy. Although I didn’t want to just sit around the house all day, so I did walk up to the oval and then ran just 1 kilometre, to see if I could record a better time than the 1k split on my 5k runs. My best 1k split was 4:59, but today I ran 4:33. It felt like a lot faster pace and I was worn out after the 1k – I definitely wouldn’t have been able to keep that pace up much longer. I might try and mix up between 1k and 5k to improve both my sprinting and my endurance.

And something unusual I found out about today: Moonlight towers. These are urban lighting done by erecting tall towers with bright lights that cast light over large areas – up to several blocks in size. (Rather than multiple dimmer lights on shorter poles, which is now almost universal.)

New content today: