L-R Emmy (lying down), Drama, Kendra, Savannah & Teya

2 June 2014

How Did We Get Here?!

When you own a dog or two people look at your little canine family and think 'aww, how sweet, how normal', and things are good, and you expect to see your vet once a year for your annual vaccinations, and maybe once more for good measure if an injury happens on a walk, or a small illness takes hold.  

When your pack expands beyond that two to something like, say, five, the general public looks at you and your number of dogs as abnormal, strange, they think there must be something wrong in your wiring - you are the 'crazy dog people' or worse - you are 'hoarders' or 'collectors'.  And with those numbers come several vet visits per year due to the regular things like 5 sets of vaccinations, illnesses that then go through every dog, scratches and tears that come from the play (especially with a thin-skinned breed like a whippet).  You are on a first name basis with every member of your vet practice and you're sure you've helped pay for a huge portion of that new piece of medical equipment they are now using on your pooch.

And it never happens one here, one there.  It always happens in clusters.  We can go a few months without seeing a vet, but then as soon as we go in once we will be there at least once or twice a week guaranteed for the next month or two.  Never fails!

For example - we'd done quite well since January.  Just a round of boosters for everyone, then the day before we went on holiday in mid-April Teya got a puncture which needed more than just my regular in-home care (following the advice of vets after previous punctures), so the in-laws, who were whippet-sitting, had to take her to the vet as we were driving to the airport.  The next day Emmy came down with a virus that hit her hard, and she actually ended up in the vets on a drip for a day.  Poor pups - poor in-laws.

We arrived home from holiday at the beginning of May to take care of that bill, and then 2 weeks later booked Savvy in because she was being funny about eating (though in every other way she's doing great!).  She wanted to eat, but then sometimes she would just stop - like she had a sore tooth.  Turns out she does have a slight gum infection, so we have her booked in for a dental for this coming Tuesday.  In the meantime on Friday Kendra got a tear which wouldn't stop bleeding so off to the out of hours vet for stitches, and then Saturday she and her grandma Teya found a bowl of cooked chicken wing bones (bad mummy - we are obsessive about things like that, so I cannot believe I let that happen) and had themselves a snack before I caught them.  No vet visit, but lots of worry and watching and making them eat lots of soft food like bread and rice to help cushion the sharp bones, and 36 hours later (touch wood) all seems to still be ok.  And as you can see -  it clusters.

So never a dull moment when you have 5.  But how did we get here?  I have a few answers to that question...

I blame Chelsea for being the best dog in the whole world.  Our heart dog.  Discovering the whippety parts of her personality then led us to the whippet breed.  You can read more about how she is responsible for this on her website page HERE and by reading Chelsea's Legacy (be prepared with some tissues for that one).

Dawn & Richard Mason - Aphrael Whippets
I blame Dawn and Richard because they bred and graced us with the beautiful Savannah from their first litter under the Aphrael kennel name.  She is everything a whippet should be - beauty, speed, elegance, loving, and she has an amazing sense of humour.  She's a social butterfly and loves everyone.  She truly spoiled us for any other whippet.  They then introduced us to showing whippets, which put us in the orbit of other people just as dog and whippet-mad as we had become, which led to our next whippet from them, Teya (out of Savannah's sister), and then they encouraged us to consider breeding.  Need I say more?

I lay a huge portion of the blame with Patience.  Her writing on the whippet email lists about her whippets (she had NINE - five doesn't sound so bad now does it!!) and their adventures just captured us.  Way back when it was just us and Chelsea we read her tales of their experiences and longed for a houseful.  A few months after we moved to a house with a garden (yard for the North Americans) and got Savannah, Nick said, after reading a Patience story, that he would happily have half a dozen whippets if we could.

Through email lists and message boards Patience became a treasured friend; she helped supply my collar and lead addiction; she became a co-manager of Whippet World (a great whippet message board); she visited us one year and our girlies (by then we had 3) adored her on sight.  I think they recognised her scent from the many packages of collars that had arrived through the post over the years.  And then she actually published her stories in a book called 'Mama Pajama Tells a Story'.  And we read the stories and we laughed and we cried, and we wanted more whippets.

Now I am absolutely positive when Patience penned 'Adventures in Bungee Walking' (where she describes creating a contraption to help her walk her then 7 whippets at once, and where they race off after some type of prey and she flies behind them and lands in a thorny hedge), or any of her other stories about the whippets pulling her over or making her fall down, and the many injuries she sustained, that she did not envision those stories as enticements to get more whippets.  I am truly certain she wrote them as cautionary tales.  But she also wrote about love, and friends, and devotion and these amazing dogs who are so precious.  And somehow all of those beautiful word pictures seeped into our subconscious and I believe they played a HUGE role in our ever expanding whippet pack.


And so somehow we now have five.  We were up to six for a year until we lost Chelsea. We spent a few months at eight when two boys from our last litter took a few extra months to find their forever homes.  And our house is chaotic and manic, and we have weeks on end where things just seem to go wrong and everyone has a vet visit. But we also have lots of laughs (just last week I wrote a Facebook post about Kendra who, in the middle of a whippet wrestling match, accidentally executed a perfect back flip off our bed and landed on her dog bed on the floor), lots of love and lots cuddles, cuteness and sweetness.

Of course there are days that things take their toll and I feel myself longing for the ease of just two.  But then one (usually the one who has just driven me out of my mind) will crawl up in my lap and tuck their head under my chin, or press the side of their head against my lips so I can smooch that soft spot in front of their ears, and I melt and everything is fine again. And to be honest there's not a single one of them I would part with. 

Seriously - this is just too cute!!

27 May 2014

Mornings and Old Dogs

I don't do mornings, never have, never will.  I am not a morning person, I'm a night owl and insomniac.  I do mornings when I have to, but it kills me.

Normal household mornings involve the dogs waking Nick sometime between 5:30 and 6am.  It's supposed to be 6, but some mornings one of them (usually Teya with her 'whisper whinging') just cannot be reasoned with and Nick is forced up a bit earlier.

As soon as it becomes obvious he's getting up the chaos begins.  Drama digs his feet out from under the covers, Teya gets behind him and tries to herd him off the bed while talking at him loudly, the twinnies Kendra and Emmy (we are trying not to call them 'the puppies' any more since they're almost 3) shout and jump on and off the bed, killing my feet and almost knocking VOD Savannah (VOD = Very Old Dog) off the bed.  Savvy could come up to the top of the bed out of the chaos and be safe, but instead chooses to stand right on the bottom corner and let them knock her about.

Once Nick is off the bed then there is mass pushing and shoving of 4 dogs jockeying for position at the dog-gated bedroom door (Savvy is smart enough to either hang back at this point or still be on the bed). It's like the starting line of a horse race.  As Nick swings the gate open you can hear the announcer in your head going 'Aand they're off!' as 4 bodies race, woo-woo / warble (Teya). shout (twinnies & Drama) and roar (all four) their way down the stairs.  Horse race analogy aside, if you watch them move together they almost look like a school of fish.  

Savannah cleverly stays out of this particular fray.  She dives (or is helped) off the bed as the others race through the door and then she heads for the bathroom - out of the way of flying hooligans who are still shouting and wooing and may still be running up and down the stairs a couple more times just for fun.  She has been the unfortunate victim of the 'racing back upstairs' at the wrong moment and ended up being dragged/falling down the bottom section of stairs, so self preservation and common sense does show itself here.  Once she's absolutely sure the coast is clear she will come out and escort Nick safely down the stairs. 

A calmer version of the gate lineup - wanting
back in from the rain
The same 'starting gate' melee happens at the back door and again Savvy usually sensibly hangs back until it's safe for her to get outside without being body slammed by one or both of the twinnies who are shouting and racing each other round the back garden in sheer joy of morning and anticipation of breakfast. 

Once that 'business' is done everyone comes back in the house and Savannah starts her signature BaahRoo 'feed me now' while Teya warbles, whinges, woowoos and talks, Drama grabs a bone and chews hard to redirect her excitement and they all meet at the dog-gate to the kitchen.  A bit of sorting, and we have Savannah and twinnies inside the kitchen and Drama and Teya outside and breakfast happens.

One more run outside and they curl up downstairs for 'Daddy time' while Nick eats his breakfast and goes about getting ready for work. Then he drops them all back in bed with me before he leaves, where we all stay happily until it's time for me get up and the fray starts for me, similar to above.

On Tuesday mornings Nick isn't here because he works overnight.  They have seemed to grasp that on Tuesday they get fed later.  They pay no notice to weekends or holidays.  If 'Daddy' is here it's 5:30-6am and there's no convincing them otherwise.  But bless my girlies, I can usually get them to wait till 7, and sometimes even 8 if they've had a 5am relief break with a cookie or two.  However once they decide I've slept long enough and their tummies can't wait any longer one of the younger ones will start the jumping and bouncing and then everyone else starts.  For me there is no digging out of the covers.  I'm on the side of the bed closest to the door.  Teya still tries to herd me, but my problem is that the other three, (and Teya when she's not herding) are jumping up and down on/off the bed and face fighting and shouting at me and each other, and knocking Savvy about (who REFUSES to move away from the jump-zone).  But of course all the jumping and shouting is also ON me, which means I can't actually get up, so I'm trying to protect Savannah while also trying to grab a shouting bouncing whippet (or two), and actually sit up or stand up.  Eventually I make it.  The rest is pretty much the same as described for other mornings except they all race each other back up the stairs to get the best bed spot as soon as breakfast and 'business' have been taken care of.

VOD Savannah (fawn & white) sleeping peacefully
in the middleof the brindles

All of this brings us to this morning.  Bless their little cotton socks they didn't decide they needed a 4am break (often the case due to Savvy and 'old lady bladder') and I had no concept of the time when I felt a couple of them jump out of the bed and I grumbled at them to get back in, and they did.  What seems like a few minutes later (could have been seconds, could have been an hour) I feel a dog land on me from a giant leap from the floor.  It's Savannah.  I tell her 'good girl' and try and persuade her back under the covers.  She is having none of it.  She jumps down off the bed, gives her signature BaahRoo (which wakes the rest of them), and leap-attacks me again, starting the morning frenzy.

I finally work my way through the leaping, spinning, shouting, woowooing pack and get to the gate.  Savvy is in the middle of the starting gate fray so I carefully move her aside and open the gate.  I'm floored to see her become part of the racing 'school of fish' down the stairs (by choice)!!  I can't remember the last time Savvy didn't hang out in the bathroom till the coast was clear.  I rush downstairs to make sure sure she didn't hurt herself to be greeted by the even more demanding Royal BaahRoo.  Everyone heads outside and Savannah is first back in, and instead of heading to the kitchen she stays by the door and decides to play goalkeeper as I keep sending racing twinnies back out to complete their business.  She play bows and rooroos and teases them while I'm trying to get them to stay outside till they're done.

My heart smiles as I watch this even though she's being completely counterproductive and contrary.  2013 was a tough year for her.  She aged very quickly, she got stiff and sore regularly, and was in a bit of an emotional funk we couldn't seem to get her out of.  There were still 'silly Savvy' moments, but for the most part she wasn't quite the same.  She seemed to be struggling both physically and mentally.  Part of it, of course, was her age which brings with it the onset of hearing loss, but it had seemed to happen overnight, so we also wondered if losing Chelsea (her lifelong companion) had hit her harder than we realised.  

In January we started her on an additional Senior supplement that was supposed to help body and mind.  We just added it into the routine and forgot about it.  We know if these things work the change will take time so we don't actively look for it.  About a month ago we realised that she hadn't been as sore and stiff, that she was more playful, she was even initiating play with the twinnies, and in general she was more engaged than she had been for a long time.  It took us a few minutes to work out that the only thing that had changed was this new supplement.

After a year of just catching glimpses of the real Savannah, we now have her back.  And I have surprises like this morning where she acts 5 instead of 13.5.  And I allow her to tease and bait the twinnies, and to BaahRoo her demand for food at me and I happily stay awake an extra hour before returning to sleep so I can capture this memory in writing.  

So it turns out some mornings aren't so bad after all!  And as my dear friend Patience  (who's blog you must read) would say 'Hug Your Hounds'. I'll add to that 'especially your VODs', they are the most precious. 


24 May 2014

The Lost Art of Writing

Sorry for the long absence.  I got so excited about doing the blog, and writing creatively again, and then Nick's marathon took over, then life took over, then Nick stole the creative gene and started writing a Novel (actually he finished a novel) for NaNoWriMo and it's taken me this long to think of something witty and clever to write.  OK, so it probably won't be witty or clever, but at least I thought of something fill the page.

So I was sitting at the computer (getting rarer these days since Nick bought me an iPad Mini for Christmas) checking Facebook and the whippet message boards and generally catching up with the world and typing away at 80-100wpm and I looked up and saw these beautiful pens that I bought from some some members of a Facebook crafting group I belong to.  Some of the members of the group make pens (among other things) - a craft called Pen Turning if you want to look it up.  I bought a beautiful maple one for Nick (so sorry the photo doesn't do it justice, but he has it at work now - it's a maple bolt action)  and 3 acrylic ones for me.
The Maple and the bottom acrylic are from Mr Coop 
& the two top acrylic are from Dinky Dau's Crafts

Okay, so now that I have babbled and bored you, I will finally get to the point of this blog.  I have been a pen and stationery addict from really young.  There was nothing I loved more than shopping at the beginning of the school year - fresh packs of paper, new binders, and especially new pens.  I loved pens of all kinds.  Coloured pens, gel pens, fountain pens.  I REALLY loved fountain pens and then I could truly write.  I never did learn proper calligraphy, but I could write beautifully with a good fountain pen.  I LOVED writing.  I mean handwriting rather than creative writing (though I love that too).  I had really nice penmanship, and I loved to write.  As soon as I learned to type I also loved to type because it meant I could write faster, but I still loved the act of writing, and as Nick will attest my love of all things 'pen and paper' still exists.

The unfortunate thing in all this, as these beautiful pens above can attest to, is that in this current age we are always on a keyboard.  Whether it be a desktop, laptop, phone or tablet, we use our fingertips to do most of our writing these days (the latter two much to the detriment of language, but I've already talked about that HERE), and we have lost the art of actually writing.  I loved to write letters in longhand to send to my friends.  When I first moved to England from Canada I would write pages to my friends.  Of course things would have been easier had all the conveniences of the internet been around then - I wouldn't have felt so alone in a strange country if I could have jotted the odd note here and there to my friends across the sea, but I WROTE.

Then I had office jobs and I wrote there.  I also used computers, but still did a lot of handwriting.  Unfortunately these days I work from home due to health issues.  I make fleece dog toys, and now have started making paracord collars and leads (that's another post), and I keep all my work related notes in an 'app' I can access from my phone or tablet or computer so that I can access them from anywhere.  Convenient, but sad.  

So I have these new pens, along with a huge collection of other pens that I love, and the most use they will see is me writing the odd notes to myself while paying bills online, or making a reminder (if my phone isn't handy).  So they will sit here for me to look at lovingly and longingly until I force myself to write something, to write ANYTHING, just for the joy of using them and of writing again.

And that will sadden me more, because with the lack of physical writing, while I 'can' still write neatly and beautifully, I have started to scrawl and after a short time my hand will cramp.  Then I look at the chicken scratch on the page - equally as bad as anything my pharmacist father or physician husband could write, and I want to cry.  And then my wonderful husband who I truly adore will come home at the end of the day and say that the lady at the Post Office couldn't read the postcode I wrote on the envelope I asked him to mail, and that will be the crowning end to my day.

So on behalf of all of us stationery and pen addicts out there, I beg you to not let handwriting fall by the wayside. Write a letter to a friend, write a loving note to your other half, or your parent or your child.  Write a thank you to a teacher or to someone who has done something meaningful for you, or write to someone someone who needs something meaningful shown to them.  But please WRITE.


31 October 2013

The Marathon - Afterwards

Just as there’s so much information about how to train for a marathon, and so much information about what will happen during a marathon, They also Know exactly what will happen to you after the marathon. What none of them mention is the most important piece of advice, which is 'stop eating cake'. No, seriously, stop eating cake. You’re not running 18 miles a week any more, you don’t need to eat a family sized cinnamon bun for breakfast, so cut it out. 

What They do say pretty much boils down to two things, that you will get a horrible stinking cold, and you will get depressed. Both of these things are written as non-negotiable. Surprisingly though, they both have a sound foundation in science. Your immune system takes one hell of a battering during a marathon. What with the dehydration, the salt imbalance, the oxygen deprivation, and the bit at 22 miles where your body runs out of carbohydrate and fat to use as fuel, so decides to use protein instead. Considering that your body’s only source of protein is muscle, it’s that bit of the race where your body decides to eat itself, a sort of self inflicted version of necrotizing fasciitis, the “bug that eats human flesh!” [™The Daily Express 2003] (As a side note I should point out that there were as many cases of necrotizing fasciitis this year as there were 10 years ago, but none of them appeared on the front of the Daily Express) {As a side side note I should also point out that one of my patients spent the worst weekend of her life after being told by a physio that she had Plantar Fasciitis – aka a heel sprain – and spent the next 48hrs thinking her foot was about to be eaten away and fall off. Latin. Used by ordinary people since 200 BC to sound cleverer than they actually are}. So, physiologically, it’s no surprise that after all that your white cells should decide that, “hey, you asked for it” and take a bit of a breather, you get slammed by whichever respiratory virus is doing the rounds. Fortunately I managed to come up with a brilliant solution to avoid this, called delegation. I out-sourced all of my post race colds to Cate Rowan, who kindly has enough for the both of us. (Thanks Cate, always appreciated, keep up the good work)

The second thing you will get is depressed. Again, the psychological sciences would concur. You’ve spent 6 months on a goal focused activity. Every wrong meal, every cold/damp/windy training morning when you want to stay in bed, every long weekend shift, every work place disaster time consuming stress inducing clean up operation, interferes with your training schedule, which They will tell you should involve Pilates classes, spinning classes and fartlek training. All of which add up to cheaper than the Divorce lawyer you’ll need if you did all of them. They all make sense, particularly fartlekking (it’s the Swedish word for what you do a lot of if you try and do sprint training after carb loading), but there’s no time for any of it. That just makes the time you do have to run even more vital, even more dominating in your mind. Then the event happens, and then it’s gone, and you have this gap, the thing that was the thing is no longer a thing. So your brain fills the void with blackness, isolation, wailing and gnashing of teeth, or so the four horsemen of the internet will have you believe. 

But you don’t actually get depressed. You don’t even get the blues. You get the Blahs. A severe case of 'I can’t be bothereds'. Life goes on, patients still get sick, the government still threatens to make you work 48hrs every weekend for free, and suddenly the marathon is 2 weeks ago, you haven’t done any exercise, you’re still eating cake, but, you just can’t be bothered. There are many suggestions to get you out of the Blahs. Runners will tell you that you must immediately sign up for your next marathon. Essentially create a new goal out of the ashes of the old goal. Considering at the end of a marathon you feel like someone has dropped a ton of bricks on you, this is the psychological equivalent of asking the same person to drop another ton of bricks on you, only this time you get to choose the colour of the brick. Fitness people will tell you to change your goal, introduce variety; swim, cycle, triathlon, hopscotch. Both these people forget that when you have a serious case of the 'can’t be bothereds' you, well, can’t be bothered. 

The picture attached is here for a reason. It’s on my running route, usually 2 miles from the end of the circuit, and when I run it it means I’m out of the wind / rain / sun/guffawing glances of passing strangers. It means I’m near the end of today’s run. But yesterday when I walked to the station I stopped, because I could, and thought it was very pretty. Getting yourself out of the Blahs is about seeing the big picture again. It’s not about not seeing the wood for the trees, it’s about not seeing your path through them. Today I saw the trees, and thought they really looked quite lovely (bonus points for anyone who just added “but I wouldn’t want to build a summer home there"). I felt no compunction to run it; cycle it; I just wanted to stop and enjoy it. So I did. I know the path is there, somewhere, I’ll take it when I find it, and when I know it’s the right one. 

Right now all I need to do is stop eating cake.


10 October 2013

Knowledge (Post Marathon - Long Version)

22nd September 2013

So, now I know. I’m not a marathon runner

In this I may be in exalted company. Mo Farah, one of the greatest ever distance runners, has just stepped up to the marathon after destroying all opposition at 5 and 10K. However when Paula Radcliffe, our greatest ever Marathon runner, was asked about his chances, the interviewer clearly expecting fawning praise, she said “Wait and see.” The point she was making was a simple one, that just because you’re good at one distance doesn't mean that you’ll be good at another, and a marathon is an altogether different beast. Beast is a good word. And so it proved with me. I love half marathons, but any further, for me, is Too Far. I suspect Mo might do slightly better.

Looking back, with the wisdom of experience, it’s clear to see where I went wrong. I didn't do enough training, at least, not enough of the right kind of training. I put in the right number of miles, at the right times, at the right distances, but 99% of my training was on the flat. This was a deliberate choice. I have dodgy knees that don’t like going downhill, as proved on the marathon when I had to stop on a couple of downhill stretches when my left knee started locking up. The problem is that the New Forest marathon course is described as 'undulating'. I refer you to my previous comment of Hitler being not so nice, drinks being expensive, and giving birth being a bit nippy. If there’s hills on your course that people have to get off their bikes to walk up, that’s not 'undulating'. I’d done the half marathon there 3 years ago, and I’d forgotten just how bad some of those hills were, and the fact that on the marathon course there’d be twice as many of them [all together now -Duh!!!]. But it’s that catch 22. For my knees to get through 6 months of marathon training is almost as great an achievement as doing the marathon itself. But do the necessary training the course requires and you’ll kill yourself before you get there, don’t do the hills beforehand and they’ll kill you on the course. And so it proved.

The second thing I got wrong was the start. When you train you get yourself into a pattern. Arrive at your start point, stretch, walk for 5 mins, stretch, quick limber, hit start on your watch and go. I’d forgotten that starting an official race takes forever. You wander round for 40 minutes, you sit down and you start getting stiff in the cold morning air, you walk round too much you get tired. Then they march you to your time corrals [I was in the 4hr + “yes we know you’re not very quick, there’s hills and it's going to be hot today, please don’t die there’ll be the most awful publicity” corral] and you’re hemmed in for another 20 minutes. You move and stretch the best you can, but the cold cramps start, first your hip, then your knees, then your lower back. By the time the race actually begins, you’re already trying to run off the niggles that will be with you for the next 5 hours. Next time I’ll stand at the back of the corral where there’s room and stretch to my heart’s content. Lesson learned.

Then, of course, the day turned out to be a hot one. The internet had promised a cloudy, cool, overcast day for the entire race. Perfect running conditions. Which it was, until we started, then it was blue skies, hot sun, heat haze and dripping sweat which sat on you like a heavy coat. [The Internet lied to me, whatever next!] People all around the course had their heavy winter coats with them. They were using them as blankets while they sat out having a picnic. I wondered how the man stood next to me in the corral was going to get on, considering he’d only ever run 10 miles before. In March.

Despite all the above I started well. Despite the niggles in the hip, the niggles in the knees, and the throat screaming “gimme water” I was doing ok. But as the 3 climbs in miles 5 to 8 started to take their toll, and it was dawning on me just how long a day it was going to be, I started to learn that the marathon is indeed a different beast [Hitler, drinks, yada yada]. To borrow an analogy from my favourite show, when you run a half marathon you are part of the Walking Dead, a small part of a great big seething mass of [non]humanity. Moving together, focused together, same direction, same goal. At any point on the course there’ll be 10-20 people within touching distance, and another couple of hundred within sight. And as a social experiment that Solomon Asch would be proud of, you take your cues from those around you. They’re not stopping, so you don’t stop. Quid Pro Quo. When you run a marathon though, you’re one of a stringed out and strung out bunch of human survivors. The fit and the strong have long since run off, leaving you alone to fend off the beast. By the top of the hill at mile 8 I could only see ten people. By the forest trail section at mile 13 there were times, despite there being 900 runners on the course, when I could not see another person. It truly was the loneliness of the long distance runner.

At 13.1 miles, halfway, in a beautiful and anachronistically peaceful section of forest, I was exhausted but moving well. I’d done the Half in 2hrs 7 mins – a good time, and was feeling positive. And I was wrong, because it was the beginning of the end. By mile 15 and the next hill my legs were going “uh oh we’re not sure about this”, by mile 17 they were certain, and by mile 20 my race was over. I’d read about The Wall [the internet again], and had been described/predicted/promised a specific and violent moment when the race would suddenly become hard. Like a petrol engine that’s had diesel put in it, a painful, sudden, noisy, apocalyptic seizing up. This was nothing like that, it was a slow and surprisingly pain free slide into oblivion. I was more a petrol engine that someone had forgotten to put petrol in, and at 20miles I ran out. I had nothing, I felt nothing. I was gone. Empty.

That was when I hit the mental wall, and the horrible maths started. And it was horribly simple. My shoe dragging stone kicking shuffling pace had dropped to 12 mins/mile. My leg pace was unchanged but my stride was baby steps [another important lesson learned –my pace was dictated by my stride length, not how fast I was moving my legs]. My pace at walking was 15mins/mile. So if I walked to the finish from here it was only going to cost me 18 minutes. And that was my race over right there. My brain was empty, I no longer cared about time, I’d run further than I’d ever run in my entire life, and I was guaranteed to finish a marathon, something my knees and rehabbed hip had no right to achieve. Who cared if I failed to break 5hrs? 

So I started walking. I tried to run a few more times, particularly at 23 miles when I knew my boss was waiting with a camera, but every time I tried I had the indescribably strange sensation of running, then finding I was actually walking, and not being able to remember slowing down. And Solomon Asch got his full sweep of social conformity, because I wasn’t the only one stopping. Every long straight had a slow moving body ahead, every hill had an even slower body shuffling and shambling onwards. They were stopping, so you stopped too.

The crowd at the end was amazing. I had no intention of running that last half mile, but they made me, and they were right. Probably the most important lesson of the day, you've just done a marathon, possibly your only one, you've earned the right to run through the finish line. So I did, and the crowds cheered me as I started running [they went a little nuts actually]. Just for me.  There was no-one 2 minutes before or 2 minutes after me. I ran round those final bends to the most amazing noise, and wondered why I couldn't have had this second wind at 21 miles which is when the internet told me I would get it [the internet lies, I tell ya]. 

My 2 fellow docs who’d both done the half marathon were there waiting for me, and we got some group photos. Words still can’t describe how proud and shocked I am to have achieved what I did. Quite a few people didn't make it, and there were, sadly, 3 ambulances out on the course. I may not be a marathon runner, but I damn well just finished a marathon.

23rd September 2013

Addendum. Today I saw the pictures. When you run a marathon you aren’t one of the Walking Dead. You just look like one.

Nick (the Zombie on the left)

26 September 2013

The End of the Word as We Know It

No – that is not a typo – I did mean ‘word’ and not ‘world’. Though with today’s smart phones, mini/virtual keyboards, autocorrect and text speak you’d be forgiven for thinking so.

I used to hear my dad malign the ‘current day’ education system (my current day – think somewhere back in the 70’s and early 80’s) stating that they weren’t teaching us the important things any more. ‘In my day we learned…’ Well at least we were still learning phonics, sentence structure and proper grammar. Spelling, grammar and English were ‘my thing’. I aced those subjects. Even at a very young age I was an avid reader and had little time for authors who couldn’t use language properly (the exceptions being, of course, where it was misused in context). I was also potentially a bit of a know-it-all with a bad habit of correcting everyone (oops). I prefer to view it as an early presentation of OCD.

By the time I finished high school they had thrown phonics out the window and were teaching by ‘memory’. In my early 20’s some young teens I was working with, who had been diagnosed with learning disorders, bought themselves ‘Hooked on Phonics’ and (shock-horror) their grades went up and so did their self-esteem, and already I was starting to sound like my dad.  ‘In my day we learned…’

In Grade 10 (age 15 for people in different school systems) I learned to touch-type on a manual typewriter, and then in grades 11-12 we got to move onto an electric (with a ball!). I was jealous when the year behind me got to start on electric typewriters and missed out on the manuals. By the time my youngest brother reached high school (7 years younger than me) they were using computers from the off, but I’m not sure that proper touch-typing was taught any more.  If it was, it doesn’t seem many actually used it then (or now). I’m grateful for having learned that way, and being able to type 80-110wpm is a skill I’m proud of – on an actual keyboard…

I managed to miss the computers that filled rooms and required punch cards by about 2 years, but our home computer (mostly for games and a bit of word processing) was a Commodore 64. Those of us who could touch type were able to really fly on the keyboards then. Even the two finger (or two plus a thumb) typists were able to catch up some. Then followed the real explosion – the rush of IBM’s, Mac’s and PC’s, the internet, laptops, notebooks, netbooks, tablets, shrinking physical sizes, growing storage requirements, cell phones as big as bricks, cell phones smaller than your palm, texting and now smartphones (back to bigger sizes with the smartphones).

Language itself seems to have devolved while technology has evolved. Yet again I find myself sounding like my father did at my age, criticising education, society, the young. I don’t mean to really; it’s meant more as an observation. Having moved from Canada to the UK and having become aware that the language, dialect and accent can change from county to county. city to city, or in fact even a mile down the road has broadened my thinking, experience and tolerance for different ‘forms’ of language. Canada is a country that, west of Quebec, pretty much has the same accent and dialect throughout, and while I understood the existence of regional accents/dialects (north, south, east, west) across in the US, the UK pretty much blew my mind!

However, I digress. What really prompted this post (with all of its background – note its not it’s) is that it seems we have lost the ‘art’ of the written word, and we have become very lazy with it. I blame ‘text-speak’ to begin with. Phone companies were charging for a maximum number of characters per message, so people had to cram what they wanted to say into the smallest numbers of characters. In addition, using numeric keys to write words was a pain. I ‘get’ that. I am on record (there is actual video footage where you can hear me texting in the background) as the slowest person in the world to ever send texts – and that was using predictive text. But do we really need to carry it into every day life? Cmon ppl ur gr8 enuf not 2 nd 2 do that. (Ooh, I cringed typing that). Now we have smart phones and actual Qwerty keyboards, and unlimited text plans. We could easily go back to using full words and sentences, but the text-speak has stuck.

I manage/moderate a couple of online forums and read several more, and my OCD (especially with regard to written language) kicks in on a regular basis. I have relatively successfully forced myself to accept spelling errors and grammatical errors, and bad punctuation (and just plain typos). For the most part I’m good at ignoring them (or correcting them in my head and moving on), however I draw the line at text speak. I just feel it has no place there - or even on Facebook for that matter. And reading text-speak from people my age or older is just plain weird. It’s probably just me, and I’ve probably lost most of you by now, but I promise you this is going somewhere.

Keeping in mind everything I’ve said above:  I love language, I respect grammar, sentence structure, punctuation and spelling, hate text-speak except where absolutely necessary, love typing and writing… I finally broke down and got a smartphone. In my case it was an iPhone, though the Blackberry (with actual rather than virtual keyboard) was up there for a while. I was SO grateful for a Qwerty keyboard. No more stupid numbers and hitting buttons two or three times for the letter I wanted, no more having it predict words I never intended. It was going to be GREAT (not gr8).

And now I am the bane of my own existence. For some reason (eyesight getting poor with age, fingers too clumsy, stupid virtual iPhone keyboard in general) I cannot seem to hit the right letters a good proportion of the time. I hit an ‘o’ and it becomes an ‘i’, I hit an ‘e’ and it’s an ‘r’, an 's' becomes a 'd' (I'm constantly 'do dorry'). The iPhone is great, it makes suggestions and has an autocorrect, and a lot of the time it works in my favour (I can leave out apostrophes and it will put them in – it saves me changing keyboard levels). Unfortunately it also is wrong half the time, so I now have a combination of ‘user error’ (aka me hitting the wrong keys), and iPhone interpretation (iPhone correcting words that I AM typing correctly and it thinks I don’t want, or iPhone correcting the words I misspelled into words that make no sense in the context). On a dog forum ‘I live my digs’ can probably be interpreted to mean ‘I love my dogs’ by anyone who has the same autocorrect issues with their smartphone/tablet, however in the real world no one would have a clue - or else think I was making a very pathetic attempt at being ‘cool’.

The result is that while I was bad enough editing and re-editing any posts I wrote on the forums before, I am now obsessive about it. From a regular keyboard there might be the odd typo, or I might decide to reword something for clarity (I tend to babble if you haven’t noticed). Often that would mean a couple of quick edits after typing. Not now. Now if I write from the phone I will proof it as much as I can on that little tiny screen, then I will hit send. Somewhere between hitting send and reaching the forum it becomes pure nonsense. I have had entire sentences where even I, who wrote the darn thing, cannot make out what I’ve tried to say. And now ‘I’m’ the one who’s grammar needs to be ignored, who’s typos and ‘autocorrects’ need to be interpreted, and I’m sure there are people out there thinking ‘my gosh that woman needs an education’. So now, instead of a couple of quick edits, I go back and fix and edit and resave a dozen or more times (while being thoroughly shamed by myself). And it seems I have become that which I despised.

So it’s the end of the word as I know it (and I don’t feel fine).

ps:  For a quick laugh at my expense here's a screen grab of a text between myself and a friend where I was using the slang 'ta muchly' for 'thank you very much' (see I can actually use 'silly speak' in every day talk).  This is what the iPhone mangled it into.

pps:  Feel free to have further laughs at my expense.  While I've tried very hard to ensure there are few to no grammatical errors in this post I'm sure I've missed several.  (I did it on purpose to see if you were paying attention.  Yes I absolutely did.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it!)

22 September 2013

Post Marathon - the Short Version

Turns out they were right , 26 miles is a long way!

If you want an idea of how running 26 miles messes with you head, it interferes with your ability to do basic maths. There were 10 drink stations on the marathon, each serving water in 200ml cups. Like everyone else I had 2 at each station. Then after the Finish I downed 4 more, then at the car I drank a 500ml bottle of Mountain Dew. To my marathon addled brain that means I just drank 5.3 litres of fluid. That can't be right, can it???