Taking a balance day

First nectarine of the season

I’ve run 63.39km this past week, bringing my yearly total to date to 458.53km. These 63.69km represent over 16% of the total number of kilometres I’ve run this year. It also represents a 450% increase to my average weekly kilometre. So today I know I need to let my legs recover from the efforts of the past week.

It’s also a good opportunity to regain some balance. It’s been a wet winter here in Brisbane. So, while I usually don’t have to do any garden maintenance at this time of year, I have quite a bit of weeding and lawn mowing to do. It’s also the end of July now so I need to prepare at least one vegetable garden bed so I can sow summer seeds in early August.

One of the 30-odd sugar loaf cabbages

It’s been a good winter so far in my garden. All the work I’ve done since we moved into our home three years ago is paying off. The orchard, vegetable beds and native garden are looking healthy. While the citrus trees haven’t yet started producing fruit, they are finally growing now that I’ve raised the garden bed. The tropical peaches, nectarines and apples are flowering, so hopefully we’ll get some fruit again this season. The sugar loaf cabbages I grew from seed have taken off like rockets and we have about thirty that will be ready for harvest progressively during the next 3-6 weeks.  We have eight broccoli heads that are coming into harvest and pigeon peas, which I need to harvest and shell to turn into pea and ham soup. The only thing that didn’t grow well this year were the peas. I just don’t think it got cold enough for them to set pod.

One of the 8 heads of broccoli

I can’t emphasise enough how important my garden is to me. Long before I rediscovered running, I discovered gardening. We even chose this block of land where we built our home based on the potential for garden. We have four ‘garden rooms’: a raised orchard, vegetable gardens, a native Australian garden and a more ornamental area. All this on a block that’s only just less that one-third of an acre.

Gardening helped me overcome my grief at not being able to have biological children of my own. It also helped me get grounded after I started my transition. My transition was a crazy, almost science-fiction, experience. In those early years of living as Andrew I alternated between the euphoria of making the transition and the anguish of feeling like a freak.

And then I discovered gardening. I put my hands in the soil and felt it’s texture. I realised I was connected with thousands of generations of humans who have all done the same thing. Not only that, but I could sow seeds and nurture them until food grew. My experiments started small: I bought seedlings until I was confident germinating seeds and I only had a small garden. Then I gained confidence and we bought a new block of land that I could turn into our own little sanctuary.

Over the past three years I’ve spent thousands of hours adding topsoil to our property, building raised garden beds, creating dry creek beds, laying turf and planting. I’ve designed the layout, redesigned when things haven’t worked and changed plans when I’ve needed to. It’s been a huge physical and personal achievement that I’m proud of. It’s going to take another two to three years before the garden really starts to show signs of maturity; but that’s a good lesson in patience that I need to also apply to my running.

Because it will take two to three more years before I’m a mature and consistent ultra runner.  Right now I’m like the citrus trees that are still growing roots. Every ultra I run this year will give me stronger legs and mental endurance. Every ultra I run next year will let me expand that base. And then, hopefully, in my third year I’ll finally be able to produce some fruit, just like a citrus tree shouldn’t be allowed to produce fruit until it’s three years old.

While it’s difficult to look at my running with this long-term outlook, my garden is teaching me this lesson and it’s one I want to try to learn. While I might be too undisciplined to stick to any real plan, I think I can still learn this lesson.

4 responses to “Taking a balance day

  1. Oh wow!! I love the link you have made between your garden and your running. I might not follow in your running shoes, but I do hope my green thumb develops as well as yours has! 🙂

    • Thanks Amy 🙂 I am sure your green thumb will be fab. I have learned that gardening is all about patience and persistence. When something doesn’t work, just try something else instead. And read a lot of different things. But don’t stick to them too closely because every garden is different. I tried the whole moon planting thing and a few other scientific approaches but have ended up just going free-form. Bit like my running really 😉

      As for making links – it’s the way my brain works. I write a column in a local GLBT publication and do the same there – I make loads of links between my sporting life and experiences as a transgender man. My sister says it’s just more evidence that I’m weird (in a good way 😉 ). LOL

  2. I, too, love the comparison between running and gardening (I do both). I’m only beginning my journey into ultra running, and know that it will indeed take “patience and persistence” to improve and get stronger.

    • I am also only just beginning my journey into ultra running. I have now completed two: A 43km trail run in November 2011 and the 50km trail run last weekend. I didn’t exactly train properly for either of them – I just went on a wing, a prayer and base level fitness. I want to start increasing my mileage but at the moment every time I try I seem to get a bit hurt so I’m thinking that for now I might just have to move from one event to the next, trusting that one 50km run a month is sufficient long running to get me through this first season and build strength. Not scientific but I don’t really do scientific.

      My ankle is sore from Sunday and I’ve not been able to run this week, though I can walk without pain and it’s not swollen. I am hopeful that I’ll be able to complete a 10km run on Saturday and then to start running consistently next week before the 22km Lake Manchester trail run race on Sunday week.

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