striding out with GG

today was a rest day – well, ostensibly. my calves are tight and i am walking with care, downstairs is a killer. but, rest day or no, the world waits for me to walk in it. so i just returned from a stunning 10 km (give or take) walk through bush tracks, along the shoreline, climbing makeshift coastal steps and rocky outcrops. then swimming, sand scrub, rejuvenating ocean cleanse.

i’m staying down at the beach in ballina for a few days, ostensibly on writing retreat. the writing is as stiff as my calves.

this is me whingeing about my writer’s block to my friend adam, who is, i have to say, less that sympathetic;

“maybe, i’m just deep in the murk of pessimism around writing” i whined
“maple, ham jus deep fried pork of parmesan ground whiting” he responded.

i’m using it. my thesis will be so much better with the addition of this line.

anyway, so here i am at the beach. stunning. glass fronted apartment overlooking the lagoon, the ocean and the river. 180 degrees of stun.

view from "jedda" out over shaws bay, richmond river to the right and the ocean.

view from “jedda” out over shaws bay, richmond river to the right and the ocean.

i used to live in this apartment, now my sister lives here and my friend greggie, or gg, lives downstairs. greggie is tall and he walks a teeny tiny dog called dd most days, across to angel’s beach, through the bush tracks that front the beach, where the massacres of indigenous inhabitants took place last century. the heritage walk, it’s called, and there are plaques memorialising the terrible event.whenever i stay at the beach i walk with gg. a walk with gg is not like a regular walk. gg’s legs are as long as i am tall, so his single stride is worth a couple of mine, and he’s an uphill machine, taking a small incline in a couple of extra-human stretchy strides. this morning i woke early with the sun, which ignites the horizon, reflecting off the ocean and bouncing its rays into my bedroom. the sun rises just before 6. living in the hills i see the sun slightly later, and the remnants of misty ghosts are still hanging around until they are burned away by the morning warmth.


i’ve been quite excited by the prospect of running barefoot after a month or so of being laced up and trying to maintain barefoot running form. i’ve also been excited by the prospect of a different route, outlook and elevation. not much variation here in the hills. i really needed a breath of fresh outlook. it’s hard to maintain the practise when there are no new surprises. and by surprise i mean anything. a stunning new view. an insight. a breakthrough. on all fronts. running and writing.

it’s kind of great running around this stretch of coast, because there are endless detours, byways, tracks to explore. yesterday i took a route that was flat, hilly, beachy and a little bit urban. running along the pier i passed the usual morning exercise cohort. ballina has a peak hour of promenaders at around 6.30am or so. all along the pier are people fishing and at the end of the pier there’s a bunch of surfers in various states of undress. such a classic image, surfer dudes getting dressed or undressed by their panel vans, kombis, station wagons with a board at the ready. then the run down to the water’s edge, board under one arm. there’s always such a joy in that image. i envy surfers and swear one day i’ll learn. my aunt started surfing in her late 60s, part of a local crew of elder ladies called the “granny grommets” in albany, western australia.


checking out the surf at lighthouse beach

once i reached lighthouse beach i unlaced and oh! how wonderful to feel liberated from the shoe and sink into the sand. it was like exhaling. i mention barefoot running and barefoot running style quite often in this blog, and have linked to sites discussing the pros and cons of running barefoot and the various technical approaches people use. i work towards the idea of pushing off the midfoot with a minimal heelstrike. i ran this way for the months that i was up north, and it builds up great foot and calf strength, but building up that strength can be a painful process. it was with great difficulty that i walked downstairs in those weeks when i was first running barefoot with beverley.  but it’s been over a month since then, and i’ve been in shoes which do not lend themselves towards this technique. i’m back at square one (or 2 maybe), and my naked civilised feet are soft and have lost their strength.

so it is with a pained happiness that i welcome the sting of abraded soles anew, and the blistering of tender toes after my temporary return to barefoot beach running (because i go home again soon). i didn’t realise how much my running was affected by wearing shoes, but i’ve been hobbling around for a couple of days now with tight calves. i daren’t sit down for fear i will sieze up. so extra stretching and a not-so-gentle walk it is today.

the other change i’m making is to vegetarianism. i was vegetarian for many years when i was younger, but when i moved to the region i was able to ethically justify eating meat because i could buy free-ranged, small holding, local organic meats. still, a kill is a kill and now i feel that unless i am hunting the meat myself or eating roadkill, i can no longer justify killing another being in order to eat it. i’ve kind of forgotten how to be a vegetarian, and i worry about my iron, B12 and protein intake. i’m small, prone to anemia and have to work hard to stay strong and put on any size at all. i’ve found some sites for vegetarian runners (see links in my sidebar) and have made a commitment to making sure i’m fueled enough to support the activity i’m doing. i’m thinking that hemp (seeds, oil) is the protein wonder food at the moment, but it’s prohibited for sale as a food in australia. presumably because there are trace amounts of thc in it, and that is a prohibited drug in this country. cannabis is also a wonder drug and food, and sadly prohibited, but that’s another story). however, there is a local plantation and factory that produces milled organic seed and cold pressed oil, which is sold as skin scrub and massage oil.

i’m only a few weeks away from thesis submission date and i wake most mornings in a cold panic, fearing that i can’t do it, that the obstacles are too great and that academia is not for me. all that came before was just a lucky strike. i’m no writer. i hate every word of my thesis, and every word of my play. i can’t make it up that hill (even if i play kate bush over and over again…). and so i run to assuage the nauseating anxiety and to see that i *can* make it up that hill. it’s a strategy. 5 km, 6km, 8km, 12… 2, 4, 8 thousand words.

so this week i am grateful for the companionship of long-legged companions to walk with, and an ocean view…


greggy and dd. walking companions.


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