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

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???


21 September 2013

Not Knowing

Running your first marathon is exactly like giving birth to your first baby. You get the same length of time to prepare - 4 to 6 months. The event happens at a pre-determined time and place. It’s guaranteed to last a set amount of time - 3 to 5 hours. Three quarters of the way through someone gives you a handful of jelly babies which helps the last quarter go easier than you thought it would. And most importantly of all, after you’re done, and they’ve put the medal round your neck, your can put your feet up and decide never to lift a finger ever again.

So in summary your first marathon is exactly like the birth of your first child, but only in 2 specific ways. 
The first way is that you don’t know how it’s going to go. You don’t have a freakin' clue. You have a rough approximation based on shaky supposition built on a foundation of random half truths, or to use the correct terminology, a guess. A great big stinkin' shot in the dark guess. You have no expectations because you have no knowledge. No experience. No clue.  5 years, 15 pounds and 6 months of proper training ago I was capable of 3 and a half hours. Right now for that I would need a taxi. In my dreams I am capable of four hours. My 17 mile final training run put me at 4 and a half. But which way do you go? The positivity which will propel you forward, or the unrealistic irrational hope which will crush you half way round when you realise you’re heading for 5 hours and you just got lapped - by a person on crutches. I’ve done training runs where I felt after 12 miles I could have easily gone on. But hey, what about the training run where after 12 miles I thought I was dead? Again a half truth, the real truth is that I was dead, in hell, and the devil had the car parked another 3 miles away. With the wind against. The devil always has the wind against. He’s the devil. Which will tomorrow be? I just don’t know. I know I’ve trained well, my previously torn hip lasting 3 months more than it has any right to do, the knees only giving way once, the new attempted torn calf muscle repaired itself. All of which should be positive and help, but it makes it worse because all of them mean that tomorrow could be my first and last marathon. Tomorrow could be it, so hey, no pressure.

The second way your first marathon is like your first baby is that everyone has a story. There are many types of story teller. The first are your broad strokers, the ones who, lost for anything to say in the face of your obvious insanity/senility/intoxication in wanting to run a marathon, come out with “Wow, a marathon, 26 miles. That’s, like, a long way.” Thanks for that. While we’re on the topic why don’t you let me know that Hitler was a bad man, drinks in bars cost too much and giving birth might hurt a little. Then we have the Stephen Kings – the ones who delight in telling you of that friend of a friend who tried to run a marathon, ripped his knee, tripped on a curb, broke his ankle, couldn’t move and then the blood attracted a nearby shoal of piranha. They tell this story in the manner of Rafiki, the wise old sage, confident that you will listen to their wise lesson and immediately give up on the marathon and return with your friends to your true calling, the couch. And finally you have the extremists, both of the experienced and in-experienced [guessing] type. Who will tell you that giving birth/running a marathon is easy/insane, life changing/certain death, addictive/an evil once in a lifetime personal trauma forged on the shores of hell.  I get a lot of that in my role with early pregnancy counseling. The woman who told me she wasn’t worried about the birth because her sisters had told her that all of them shell them out like peas [Yes, she listened to her sisters. Does life teach us nothing? Brothers were bad enough]. And then there was the woman who had got the idea in her head, repeatedly repeated to me, that, and I quote, “I’m going to hear it when I tear, aren’t I? You don’t just feel it, you hear it. I just know I’m going to hear it. I’ve been told that”. Considering this was at 12 weeks, and she had another 28 to worry about it [and she did], this did not bode well. [For the record the second woman didn’t tear, but did describe it as horrendous. The first woman did indeed shell one out like a pea. I told her never to mention that to anyone ever again. There were other women on the planet. They might hear her]. Marathons are the same. Everyone has a tale from one end of the spectrum, confident their war story/friend’s war story/thing they read on the internet once will inspire you/motivate you/make you stop and pause/scare the enema out of you/make you run for the hills, as long as the hills aren’t 26 miles away and the wind isn’t against. Plus who wants to run uphill?? I’ve heard about the pain, the body shock, the trauma, The Wall, the exhilaration, the triumph, the success, the ability to travel the world and do marathons in different places. [I pity all those poor people who don’t do marathons and are therefore unable to travel the world.] I’ve seen the look on a patient’s face when I told him, at 70, that the surgeon’s advice was never run another marathon. I’ve seen the look on another patient’s face when I asked him if he’d enjoyed the London marathon. [Imagine I’d asked him if it was ok if I stabbed him in the eye with this cactus and then put it up on youtube]

Not knowing. Only one way to cure that

Let you all know tomorrow

1 September 2013

Random Thoughts While Running...

Following on from Friday's blog entry of my run on the same airshow weekend as 2 years ago...

I am in the final stretch of training for the New Forest Marathon - my first Full Marathon.  Today I ran 17 miles in 3 hours (give or take a bit I'm ignoring), which makes a full marathon time of 4 hours 30 minutes (give or take a bit I'm ignoring).

Today's random thoughts while running included:
  • 8 am would be the perfect time to run if if didn't involve getting up at 7 am
  • Running along a quayside is much more fun when you're not running in and out of tourists who have a habit of stopping    For    No    Apparent    Reason.
  • Normally I hate everyone when I run. The young people who run past me; the old people who run past me; the fat people who run past me; the fat dogs who run past me; and in particular the people who run past me while talking. HOW DO YOU TALK AND RUN AT THE SAME TIME??? I can't even think when I run, let alone talk. Today was different. Today as I ran across Baiter Park, a gentle harbour breeze blowing across, I was coursed at full pelt by a whippet (not one of mine), who would do several figure eights around me at 90 miles an hour, before jogging by my side and giving me a look that said "you are the worst bunny I've ever come across". Then off he'd go for a few more 90 mile an hour circuits , before appearing at my side again with a look that said "you're really not getting the hang of this are you"
  • Kudos to the mum who grabbed her 4 year old and told her she couldn't just wander up to the loveable old bull mastiff and say hello
  • Daggers to the same mum who continued to drag her daughter away from the loveable old mastiff like he was a devil dog, turning common sense into a fear
  • Harry Redknapp (very famous football manager who lives in one of the big coastal houses I run past) was sat out at a cafe having a Sunday morning coffee, chatting away and doing photos and autographs. Seems like a genuinely nice bloke.
  • The only thing better than stopping at traffic lights (while driving home afterward) and seeing the red arrows jet display team fly overhead, is stopping at traffic lights, looking through your sunroof, and seeing a Wellington bomber flanked by 2 Spitfires fly overhead
And Finally...
  • You know you've lived too long / been married too long / been running too long when a beautiful woman walks towards you along the quay, skimpy skin tight outfit, carrying a flattish silver box with a birthday bow on top, and your first thought is "Mmmm. Cake!"

30 August 2013

The Drill Sergeant is Waiting For You....

As mentioned in a previous post Nick was taken out of running for just over a year after an injury.  Prior to that he had been training for his first full marathon.  This weekend is the Bournemouth Air Festival which means figther jet displays amongst all kinds of other military displays, and LOTS of tourists for the final weekend of the summer. This reminded us of his last training run before his injury and the Facebook post that he wrote afterwards. Unfortunately he never did make that marathon.  Here's hoping he can finally do it this year!
(Originally posted on Facebook 18th August 2011)

I ran 12 miles this morning along the sea front, 6 miles there, 6 back. Unfortunately I was cold when I started and didn't realise the wind was behind me to the degree it was, so ran the first half way too fast. I got to about 8 miles and figured I could push it to 9, then it would be sensible to stop. 

Unfortunately it's currently Bournemouth Air Show, and the sea front has been turned into a carnival/stall/shopping centre. And who is waiting for me at 9 miles, just when I'm about to give up and stop? The Army, that's who. Plus the Navy stall, the Marine Commando stall, The RAF helicopter stall, the Help for Heroes stall, the Navy Cadets stall, the Royal Artillery stall, the Territorial Army stall, all in all about a 100 people, in uniform, who've served our country and risked their lives, and there's the fat bloke giving up after only nine miles.  I could cope with running past the cake stall, the doughnut stall, the candy floss stall, the baked potato stall [the smell of which stalked me for at least half a mile] the candy shop, the fish and chip stall and the freshly baked bread stall, but I am not stopping and giving up in front of an Afghan Heroes charity sign of a guy in uniform, in a wheelchair, who's a bilateral amputee. So I did what any man would do, I ran past them, confident and strong, intending to stop as soon as I was round the corner and out of view.

10 and a half miles, the corner beckons and I am safely out of sight-line and out of the embarrassment zone. I am now, unfortunately, in the beach volleyball training area. And to give the girls some credit, they were training in the rain, in uniform.

So, 12 miles completed on schedule.  If I could just put my request in now for the New Forest Marathon this September, I would like some people in uniform, preferably with a charity sign, around the 17 mile mark, and some girls playing beach volleyball at around 22 miles. Then I'll finish it no problem.


16 July 2013

Very Long & Unfathomably Whingey Irrational Rant Of The Day

I just spent an hour in my local supermarket being photoblocked

I had 80 pictures on a USB key of our "Staff barbecue and sports day" from a couple of weekends ago. It took me about 3hrs at home on the computer to wean them down from the original 240 photos taken on the day, and then to crop, size and do some tasteful editing.  I'm going to be creating a photo montage on the main wall at work to try and give everyone a few smiles over the next month.  How difficult could it be to just pop into my local Tesco [a big sell everything Walmarty type of supermarket], stick the key in the machine and hit the "order all" button?

Well I arrived to find 6 people already waiting in the queue in front of me, but for all the difference it would have made it could have been 25.  The wall of animosity directed at the 2 photo order machines in use in front of them was palpable.  It was also audible.  My first clue to this was when one of the ladies, using some very unladylike [albeit very accurate] language announced that this was a complete joke - with sexual connotations. Bear in mind she said this out loud, about the two people standing about a foot and a half in front of her. The man on the left wasn't ordering prints of his holiday snaps, oh no. He was creating a photo book, probably a present. But more than that, he was creating a work of art. And it wasn't right, it... just... wasn't... right!  He was on page 21 ["he's been at this for 40 minutes" - with sexual connotations - announced one of the other ladies], and every page had 2, or 3, or 4 photos, in different orders, in different shapes, he could move them, flip them, rotate them, no, still not right, rotate them back.  Some he wanted to expand, some he wanted to crop. And every time he put one in, he'd look back at the 500 photos on his card to see if he'd picked the right one. He hadn't.  Every single - with sexual connotations - time he'd picked the wrong one and had to change it back. And then he'd put one back in again. But it... still... wasn't... right. 

At one point he put in a picture of a sheep on a mountainside, and I looked at one of my fellow volcanic grumblers, all of us about to go pyroclastic on his backside, as if to say "hasn't he already used that one earlier?".  Bear in mind, we're standing in the middle of a busy shopping aisle, being rammed by trolleys and prams and shopping bags.  There is nothing else to do but stare at this man's photos.  One of the ladies looked at her friend.  "He used that one earlier didn't he?"  The man heard her.  He checked back to page six.  He had!  He HAD used the picture of a sheep on a mountainside before.  How could he have missed it when he flicked from page 6 back to page 19, and compared it to page 8, then swapped for the photo on page 14, before rotating then unrotating the 4 photos on page 15?  What sort of a dumb idiot was he?  He then proceeded to delete 6 pages of photos, all the way back from page 22 to page 16! We stared.  We just stared, immobile with rage.  He shook his head, stiffened his shoulders to provide himself the courage that all artists need when creating a masterpiece, and put 4 photos onto his new page 17.  Rotated them, rotated them again, then changed them all.

The woman to his right on the other machine glanced nervously back, obviously knowing she'd be next in the firing line when someone finally blew.  She had a card from her camera in the machine, and had spent the past half hour choosing from every fourth or fifth family and friend beach photo. I knew this because it was clear she'd set the burst function on her camera - every 3 or 4 photos were identical.  All posed portraits, of the same 10 people, beach, sea, sky, shot repeatedly over milliseconds, all 500 of them.  She still couldn't choose between them though. She glanced back again, sorrowfully, apologetically, before adding with perfect comedic timing "and I've still got 2 more cards to go sorry".  She wasn't sure if she'd driven  the woman directly behind her mad enough, so she pulled the 2 cards out of her pocket and showed them to her, just to make sure.

I gave up. I had to shop for lunch then get back to work, you know, sick people and all that. 20 minutes later, an hour after I entered the store, I exited the checkouts, food in hand, and walked past the photo aisle.  No one had moved.  Not the photoblockers, not the queue.  Especially not the man on the left machine.  Stiff backed, sweat on his brow, immune to the fury of the intemperate critics behind him, he continued on in his quest for artistic perfection.  He glanced at the Page 23 he'd just created, he stopped and stared, and paused, and waited, because he knew that he had finally created something worthy of the image in his head...

And then he deleted it.


8 July 2013


No it’s not a metaphor for a naughty word, though I'm sure many could use it that way if they're fed up enough with it. Those of you with dogs should understand. And your tolerance of it will vary depending on many factors (OCD, laziness, appreciation of your dogs' efforts), but if you’re like me you give up trying to keep on top of it and eventually it just takes over. So what is SNART you ask? It’s the lovely doggie nose art (or unbecomingly called ‘snot art’ or SNART for short) that decorates the windows of most dog lovers’ homes.

Dogs love to watch out the window. Unfortunately, with my dogs, the window watching comes with barking and shouting at the kitties sitting across the street, the children running in the street, birds flying above the street, leaves blowing down the street, basically at anything that moves. Well they are sighthounds, and anything that moves must be shouted at and/or chased. Then there’s the excessive display when we arrive home from a human only outing and don’t get in the house fast enough. The screaming and swearing and language that comes from those normally sweet little faces is a bit startling. And in the midst of all this being nosey and watching, shouting and swearing comes the inevitable nose prints.

When we just had 2 or 3 dogs we had this pretty much under control. We had wooden slatted blinds. They pretty much respected the blinds. Occasionally a nose would peek through when we got home to check it was us, but they would wait (still shouting at us to hurry up) inside the door instead of banging at the window. The few prints that got on the window could be easily wiped away.

As the number of dogs grew (we are NOT collectors, we are just addicted to whippets), a couple of them (*cough* Drama & Teya *cough*) got clever and started sticking whole heads through the slats. Then Drama got even more clever and would stand up and put the whole front of her body through! 

And that was the end of using the blinds alone to cover the windows for fear of her bringing them and the plasterboard crashing down on her. 

We thought we’d outsmart them and put up some muslin curtains between the window and the blinds so that when they looked through they couldn't see out and would give up. But nope – Drama was having none of it. She taught her children and her mother (sweet Queen Savannah would never be part of that hooliganism) to push aside the blinds and curtains, or to push the blinds up from the bottom. Kendra helped by adding her teeth to the mix and chewing out a section of the blinds. 

And then that WAS the end of using the blinds for the bottom half of the window at all. I love my dogs but sometimes their cleverness is their undoing (or should that read MY undoing?) 

So we gave up on trying to stop them seeing out, and relied on the muslin curtains to provide some kind of privacy from the outside. But let's be honest, when you’ve got 4 dogs pulling them aside at every opportunity there really is no privacy. And where we once had little manageable nose prints, they now had full access to the window whenever they wanted (especially when we were gone and couldn’t tell them to get out of the window) and the nose prints multiplied into full on SNART! It grew, layer upon layer until when you looked at it up close it almost looked like privacy glass.

I tried to photograph it, but apparently SNART has magical properties. It cannot be photographed. It completely disappears in pictures, and the glass looks clean as a whistle. I’ve gone back through our photos for pics of the dogs in the window where I know there was plenty, and the window is clean in every single one. I bet the neighbours wish they’d been looking at photos of our window instead of the real thing! 

I mention above that it was so thick it looked like privacy glass. I truly wish it would have worked like privacy glass because if it had it might have stopped the excess shouting at kitties, leaves, children, birds etc. But perhaps SNART is invisible to the dogs as well as the camera because it never stopped them. So finally we have decided to add a privacy film to the glass in the hope this will curb the naughty whippet chorus. And also because I’m sure the neighbours will look more kindly on it than the SNART. 

In preparation for the privacy film today was the day the SNART was removed. I’m sort of embarrassed at how much elbow grease it took to get it all off. As I said, for some of us it gets to a point where it’s easier to ignore it than keep on top of it. I kind of knew in my head how out of control it had become, but it wasn’t until the stuff actually started fighting back that I realised the enormity of it. But then again it is art, and art doesn’t want to be destroyed. Yeah, that’s what I’ll tell myself, I’m sure someone will buy that explanation. Eventually I won and the front window is now sparkly clean - at least until tomorrow afternoon’s kitty barking brigade. 

Hopefully the privacy film will arrive soon, and the dogs will be disappointed to no longer see clearly through the front window. They'll just have to settle for using the back sliding door as their only canvas.

Chelsea Window


19 June 2013

The mini Wall

Before The Drain there was The MINI Wall
(originally posted on Facebook 14th May 2013)

Today I hit The Wall. Not The Real Wall, that's reserved at 18 miles for people who can actually run. This was The MINI Wall, reserved at 6 miles for idiotic people who like object lessons in how not to run. 

  • First check the weather and see there's a storm coming, so plan to run in the calm before the storm. 

  • Get the time of your run wrong so instead of the calm before the storm you're running in the storm before the storm. 

  • Forget to hydrate properly.

  • Stretch once instead of twice because you're impatient to get going because of the weather

  • All this on top of not enough sleep. 

Result - at 2 miles slow, at 4 miles sludgy, and at six miles threateningly empty quickly became stalled. The wind against became like treacle, my legs started to get dragged to the floor, my shoes started to make scrapey noises as I wasn't lifting them properly. I was trying to just go left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, and root march my way through it , but the wind and exhaustion were drowning out the drill sergeant in my head, who from I could tell was only capable of mumbling something along the lines of 'der duh der der derduh, floppity flop.'

So I set myself a lowered target, and at least matched my last time of 90 mins, but I only covered 8.8 miles. That works out at 10.2 mins a mile, and a marathon pace [even in dreamland] of 4h 28mins, a full half hour slower than my last time.

Message to self - prat


15 June 2013

Remind Me Again When They Grow Up?

You would think at the age of 21 months (which is so close to 24 months that they really might as well be 2 years old) that the 'puppies' being quiet wouldn't mean they were being naughty.  You could be forgiven for that. However, having raised 5 whippet puppies (3 from birth - not counting their siblings), a Chelsea Bear and numerous family dogs, there is no way that *I* can be forgiven for thinking that (sigh).

I am upstairs watching TV and making Tuggitz!.  The dogs are free to come and go.  Drama and Teya are with me, Savannah and the pups are downstairs.  All is quiet and good except the occasional sound of plastic.  Good puppies playing with an empty plastic bottle (yeah right).

Kendra brings up the plastic crinkly toy and I ask her to show me.  She obligingly brings it up on the bed and drops it in my hand.  The outside packaging from a 5 pack of BRIGHT NEON GEL PENS!

My mind instantly envisions my living room carpet, rugs and furniture splashed with a psychedelic blend of neon pink, orange, yellow, green and blue.  Those of you who knew me in my early 20's are probably thinking 'yeah, that sounds like something she'd like', and you're right - it was (at least based on my wardrobe accessory choices at the time), but not in my current day living room.

In my panic I try and rush off the bed and downstairs (while telling KK she's a good girl for bringing me the 'toy') and am mobbed by 5 excited whippets wondering what game we're going to play (AARGH).  'Mummy's moving fast - it must be something AWESOME!'  Hmmph, mummy can't move fast with you're all jumping on her and bashing her in the head and knees.

I finally make it past the sea of bouncing whippets, down the stairs through the school of running whippets and discover....

Phew!!  Plastic shards, chewed up caps and ends, but NO INK!!  Gel ink is awesome - it stays put in the tubes, and doesn't leak out the back end or the writing end.  The puppies chewed the caps off (the caps had interesting bits on them) and then chewed the other ends, and then got bored before they reached the ink.

Dogs are locked outside while I clean up the shards (don't want any cut paw pads), say a sad goodbye to my pens and all is good.

And now that it's all over I'm a little disappointed.  While I'm glad my carpet and furniture were saved, I'm thinking that it might have been kind of cool to have a couple of neon coloured pups for a few days.


'A Simple Whippet' & 'Mommy's Rules'

A couple of whippety poems Nick wrote several years ago.  

He wrote the first one when we just had Chelsea (whippet mix) and were waiting for Savannah (our first purebred whippet).  At the time we only planned on 2 dogs at a time - we never dreamed we'd have a houseful of whippets. The line about 5 or 6 whippet friends must have been a bit of foreshadowing because before she left us Chelsea had 5 whippet housemates.

The second poem was written after Savannah taught Chelsea how to steal food off the kitchen counter.  Naughty Savvy!  You'd never believe that if you know her now, but she was very naughty as a young'un.

(c) Colin Penney            (c) Chelynnah

A Simple Whippet

I am a simple Whippet
and my needs are far and few
We’ll start with a big, soft, warm bed
that you thought belonged to you.

A backyard with tall fences
where I can chase some things
like squirrels, chipmunks, bags and twigs
or anything with limbs.

A big long beach with miles of sand
that I can fly on through
so long as it’s away from cars
(’cause I would chase them too!)

Then onward to my favourite chair
- the comfiest I’ll pick -
and whippet friends to share it with
(not many, five or six!)

I’ll deign to curl up round your knees
to show that I approve
but if I am not comfortable
then you’ll just have to move.

As long as I am not disturbed
I’ll sleep for King and Country
but one step near the kitchen door
and you’ll soon know who’s hungry

The first and last bites must be mine,
I get to lick all dishes
and leave just one crumb on your lips
for lots of doggie kisses.

And as the hour, it turns to late
and sleep-time’s where we’re heading
be sure that I will snuggle close
if I get all the bedding.

Just know whenever you’re with me
this message clear I’ll send:
You’re truly someone special
when a Whippet is your friend.

Nick Jones
January 2001


Mommy's Rules

There is a rule my mommy made
Which I’ve misunderstood
She thinks to do it I am bad
When really I am good

She yells and screams and gets all at
The short end of her tether
She thinks that I’m not listening
When really I’m just clever

She’ll give me all the finger wags
Her voice firm and insistent
Then pushes it back way out of reach
Like that will make a difference

I sneak a look, I leap and jump
My tummy gives applause
And now I have those yummy treats
Between my whippet paws

There’s no way you can stop me
Though you try for all it’s worth
You think I should be curled up tight
But I was born to counter surf

Nick Jones
13th July 2003

13 June 2013

The Tale of the Obvious Tree

(Background - Nick has run a couple of half marathons and was working up to a full marathon when an injury kept him from running for just over a year.  He is now back to training and hoping to do a full marathon in September)


Today I met The Drain. Not The Wall, not The mini Wall, The Drain. I'd gotten up early, planning to do a half marathon along the seafront, with the incentive of doing one under two hours after last weeks 15 mile epic [sorry, 15.1 mile epic, the .1 is very important - see note at bottom**] I'd checked the weather, and it was going to be bright but cloudy, and just slightly chilly. Perfect jogging weather. Did the numpty check what the wind was doing? No, the numpty did not. So, arrived at the beach, complete with sideways trees, but happy the wind was against me, so I'd have it on the way back. And that's when I met the The Drain. 

There's a great feeling at the start of any run as your GPS watch goes from the default 60 min/mile to 8 min/mile. It makes you feel you're accelerating like a proper runner, when all you're doing is stopping standing still. Today, with the wind against, it got to 10 and stayed there, then within 5 minutes had drifted back towards 11. That was just the first sign I was in trouble. The second was that my diaphragm, the thing meant to move up and down to suck air into my lungs, didn't want to move. It's supposed to feel bouncy like a beach ball, mine felt like an old car tire. And within ten minutes the oxygen depletion had got to my shoulders, by twenty it had gone to my legs. By thirty the cramp started in my right calf. There was no sudden downturn, no marked point at which my body complained, no ice picks [or blood axe] to the lungs, no moment when some part of my body broke and fell off [it has a habit of doing that]. This was gradual, like a sink full of water in a cheap hotel where the plug doesn't fit. The energy just slowly drained out of me, the stride pattern shrank, the pace slackened, the numbers slunk back down, too embarrassed to show their face in public.

It didn't help that as well as the Beaufort scale shredding force 84 wind, there where these gusts, aimed specifically at me, trying to make me feel even worse. These gusts were not aimed at anyone else, just me. All the other runners, bombing past me at 10 miles an hour, were completely left alone by the wind, glancing down at me with a kind empathetic look on their faces that quite clearly said "Why aren't his legs working?" Worse still were the runners coming the other way, floating along like rose petals on a breeze, 2 of them carrying weights. I, of course, immediately, if quietly, doubted their parentage. Just wait till you turn back, I thought, then you'll be hit with a wall of turbulent sandpaper strong enough to blow your ear buds out of your ears. Except of course, that would be when the wind would stop. The wind, quite clearly, just hated me.

I turned back at 5 miles, so I would at least hit double figures. The wind stopped -  physically, actually, literally, stopped dead the second I turned round, then 5 seconds later went "ha, ha, just kidding" and started up again with it's previous ferocity. And despite the fact the sink was empty, back i went. Not so much a rose petal as an old cone, bashed by the wind and occasionally thrown forward on its journey to somewhere. One foot in front of the other, the body having already lost, the mind too stupid to notice. 

I have a thing I tend to do called the Reverse Ed Moses. Edwin Moses was famous for winning the Olympic 400m hurdles with a stride pattern of 9ft.  I do the Reverse Ed, which is a stride pattern of 9in. So there I was, bumbling along, when who should come back along but one of the runners carrying weights. He was IN PAIN. The wind had defeated him, his shoulders and head wobbling erratically side to side like the jelly monster, his arms draped down like an octopus  And did he hate those weights. His friend was nowhere to be seen, presumably off crying behind one of the beach huts, or burying his weights. The now lone-runner looked up at me, an understanding, self pitying glance that said "Ah, so that's why your legs weren't working". Either that or "please could you shoot me", one of the two. And schadenfraude proving that most wonderful of adrenalin boosts I managed to speed up, and lo and behold as my right calf stretched out to something more than a tippy toe the cramp went, sort of.

5 miles later I had defeated mother nature. Well, insulted her quietly then ran away before she could ask me what I said. And although my finish time was truly horrible, I didn't stop, so it's the straw I'm clutching to -.before the wind blows it into the next county.


**Note:  The 15.1 mile epic is a reference to the Nick's Facebook post from 6th June
"I ran further than I've ever run today , 15.1 miles [the point 1 is very important]. Pace was good, 2h 23mins, which is 9.47 mins/mile, and a marathon pace of 4hr 8 min. In theory. Cos right now I hurt, man do I hurt, oh my deity {OMD} do I hurt. Unless you're that way inclined, in which case oh my lack of deities {OMLOD} do I hurt"

7 June 2013

Eau de Smushed Dead Worm

So we've finally had the beginning of summer. The most wonderfully warm and gorgeous days, and I'm at the computer and the dogs are out sunning themselves, and then I see Kendra doing the 'neck dive' that is so reminiscent of her Auntie Bear. Down she goes again and again, and then my brain finally catches up and I shout NO. And she comes to me and thank goodness there is no smell. I watch the others investigate the spot and they are interested, but I am able to warn them away.

Later I see Emmy doing a full neck dive and back roll. Again no (or very little) smell, but I see Teya digging at the grass a bit looking for whatever it was. I go out and have a look but see nothing, so I pull one of their blankets over the spot and go about my business.

About 1/2 hour later I see Emmy having the best neck dive and roll I have ever seen. She's throwing herself all over and having a good old full on whole body roll. ON THE BLANKET!! So obviously even though I can't smell it she can, but as she's on the blanket I don't care. It was actually really nice to watch her just give in completely to her doggie instincts and enjoy herself.

And it's been so nice to have the door open and watch them come and go and enjoy sunning themselves. At one point 2 were on the blanket on the ground beside the raised bed, 3 were on the raised bed, and of course when I went to take a photo they all had to come see what I was doing (sigh), so no go there. (Though I have included a photo below of all five the day before enjoying the weather while tucking into some marrowbones.)

And thank goodness no one actually stinks of Eau de Smushed Dead Worm.



I've thought about blogging for a while. I love writing. I have always loved writing. I love telling stories. I even started to do a double major in Creative Writing (along with my Phsych Degree) in University till I realised I couldn't be the type of writer they were wanting to shape us into. That didn't stop me totally though, and through the various whippet forums I'm on (Whippet World, The Whippet Forum) and more recently Facebook, my creative streak has come back. Mostly it's just telling stories about the dogs and things that are going on in our lives, I have so much in my head that I want to write about breeding Drama as a followup to the Musings of a First Time Breeder that I did for Teya, but life just kind of ticked along and got in the way.

Recently a couple of real life friends have commented about both mine and Nick's Facebook posts and how they enjoy our writing and our sense of humour and suggested that we should start doing more 'official' writing (Nick has also always been a writer by nature). So I started thinking about adding a blog section to our website. Then yesterday I wrote a post on Whippet World about something that happened and a member there was wonderfully encouraging about my writing and how she can 'see' the pictures in her head that I paint with my words. Thank you so much for that! So that finally has pushed me to take the plunge and open a blog.

For now I will probably go back through things Nick and I have already posted on the forums or on Facebook, but I'll add things as they come to mind. Hopefully we won't bore you all to tears (assuming we have or gain any followers LOL).

So for those who have always encouraged me in my writing, and for the new friends who have done so recently - thank you, but you may regret it!