Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Survival Instincts

I nearly died yesterday.

No joke. I'm serious. Deadly serious. (See what I did there?) Luckily I didn't or else you wouldn't get to read the tale of how I almost died.

Why I almost died has its origins way back a couple of weeks to the week after I ran Melbourne Half Marathon. Oh yeah, I ran Melbourne Half Marathon about a month ago.

It was fun but extremely windy with lots of flies. Came home with another NY qualifier and a 6th in my AG but no sub 1:40. Also came home with a virus that really took hold about a week later. URT infection, fevers and a nasty cough that's taken a while to shake.

Roll on a couple of weeks and I'm still occasionally coughing and it's the coughing that nearly killed me yesterday. The coughing and the lovely salad roll on a toasted bun that I had for lunch. An unfortunate timing of a coughing fit when I had a mouthful of chicken, avocado, cucumber, tomato and a very crusty piece of bread that I hadn't quite chewed enough. The cough took me by surprise. A quick inhalation and that very crusty piece of bread lodged at the back of my throat and I couldn't breathe.

Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit!

I'm not going to apologise for my language because I was terrified. Totally alone - except for the wolf pack (that are untrained in first aid procedures). Not able to speak because I couldn't breathe. I couldn't ring 000 because I couldn't talk and anyway, by the time they arrived I probably would have already carked it. Or at least have a severe brain injury from oxygen deprivation.

I don't think I've ever been more scared - apart from the time that I almost choked on a two cent piece when I was quite young. But then there were people to run to. My Dad picked me up and hung me upside down and whacked my back and the coin dislodged. Yesterday my Dad wasn't there and even if he was I'm pretty sure he wouldn't be able to hang me upside down any more. I'm pretty sure he can't lift me up either. Things have changed since I was 6 or 7.

It's weird the things that go through your head when you're potentially taking your last breaths. There was no 'my life flashed before my eyes' moments. It was all about survival. What can I do to breathe again? The instinct to survive is incredibly strong.

I remembered reading in the Readers Digest about someone doing the Heimlich Manoeuvre to himself so that's what I did. A hard punch to my stomach. Not easy to be effective when you're doing it to yourself. The angle is all wrong. And let's face it - my upper body strength is really crap. I'm an endurance athlete not a strength one.

Then I found a chair to try to do it against (and just a side note here - a swivelling desk chair on wheels on a slippery floor is probably not a good option). Again  not immediately effective but between the punch in the stomach and the chair procedure and the frantic gasping for breath, the very crusty piece of bread dislodged and I could breathe freely again.

It took a good twenty minutes for my heart rate to settle while I contemplated what could have been. Iven walking in after work to find me on the floor of the workroom. An autopsy. Ughh, I'd rather go to my grave without being sliced up unless it's to use my organs for a good cause - and really, who wouldn't want my heart? It's pretty damned strong. My liver's been barely touched by alcohol but I can't guarantee the same about liver flukes or other parasites that like to wander through viscera from my vet days. Then a quiet and dignified memorial service where all attendees were required to wear bright, fun activewear in keeping with the Run Amok ethos.

Then I googled 'what to do when you're choking and alone' and I'd been pretty right with what I'd tried but I found something that may have been even better which I want to share today. Just in case any of you find yourself with a very crusty piece of bread lodged at the back of your throat.

Watch it! Embed it in your brain. Make your family members watch it. One day it might save your life.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Fancy Meeting You Here

Have you ever have something weird happen to you in a race?

I'm not talking about farting, burping, wetting yourself, pooping, or vomiting. They're all pretty normal activities for a race. I'm talking more about something that leaves you thinking 'can't believe that happened'.

Something weird happened to me in last week's half marathon. Yeah, I know - you didn't know I was running a half marathon. Yes, I've been an absent blogger. Again. Because life. Because busy. Because stuff. Excuses, excuses, excuses.

So just to catch you up, I ran a half marathon last weekend. In Sydney. It was originally going to be a marathon but I just wasn't feeling the training love and lots of my friends were doing the half so the full became a half. No regrets. Just a fun weekend in Sydney. A well-needed long weekend of no jobs and no responsibility and no stress of worrying about running 42.2k.

Just a little side-note here - #2 son and girlfriend coincidentally chose last weekend to move into a unit. And because of the Sydney trip we managed to miss out on having to haul furniture. Mostly. Except for the fridge that arrived on Friday before keys were in possession and when no one except little old me was around to help lug it up two flights of stairs. There was a near-death crushing accident because I'm not so coordinated at pulling extremely heavy white goods while walking backwards up steps. But I lived to tell the tale and so, fortunately, did the fridge.

Anyway, back to the race. And the weird thing that happened. I was running along thinking the usual things that I think in a race - Am I running too fast? Am I going to die? This is not fun. I'm going to have ice cream afterwards. How can they call this course flatter with all these hills? Shake it off, shake it off. Oh no - not another 16k of Tay-Tay. Think of another song. Shake it off, shake it off. Ooh look at those cute tights. Is that rain? - when I heard a voice next to me.

"Hey, you live in Howitt St don't you?"

A woman that I'd never seen before was right next to me. A woman who freakily knew which street I live in.


"I live up the road in the blue house. I see you out running all the time. Love your tights."

Okay, so a neighbour not a stalker - phew. And a neighbour with pretty damn good taste in tights. And a neighbour who's training for Melbourne marathon and was doing Sydney as a bit of a hit-out.

She ran off (a neighbour who's faster than me) then when she got about 30 metres away she turned around and ran back.

"That was rude of me. My name's Kerrie"


And she was off again. Leaving me a little bemused. I'd finally met the lady in the blue house but in another city in the middle of a race.

So has anything like this happened to any of you?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Not Dead!

Not dead!

I know you were probably wondering. And secretly suspecting Iven of something nefarious. Because it's the quiet ones that you can never trust.

I've just been busy. With life. Business. Running. Racing. Caking. Attending weddings. Taking dogs to the emergency vets and getting yelled at by psycho personal trainers for parking in their spot. You know. The usual.

In the time since I last wrote anything here I've done two races.

One was the River Run 100. Just part of a relay team - not the whole 100 solo. Not that crazy! And the other was the Brisbane Half Marathon which went pretty much how I expected it to go. Not super-fast because, hills. But totally respectable as far as finishing time's concerned.

Is it weird that I checked out the guy's finishing time to see if I beat him? (Yeah - I totally chicked him)

My tights business seems to be gathering a little bit of momentum. Mostly because of the advertising I'm getting through Intraining - a local business that stocks my label. And because of the exposure they've given the tights at a couple of race expos. I've also been lucky enough to get them in Sportsfirst at Toombul and Kenmore and the tights have been selling at both places. I get such a buzz to be in a race and see someone I don't know wearing my tights.

 The caking was for a friend's sister's baby shower. Guess what sex she's having?!!

And for my sister's wedding. 

 She makes a pretty stunning bride. And he scrubs up pretty well too.

As does my mob. Love all of these to bits!

That was all the fun stuff from the last month. Now for the not-so-fun.

Ricky got blocked up again. And by blocked up I mean he couldn't pee properly. Urinary urolithiasis is the medical term - aka bladder stones. It's a fairly common problem with Dalmatians. They lack an enzyme to break down protein properly. They get crystals in their urine and the crystals can become stones which can block up their urethras. Ouch! 

Poor Ricky was trying to pee but not very much was coming out so we had to take him to the vet. She unblocked him but strongly recommended that he have an ultrasound to see what was happening inside. The ultrasound results were ominous so we booked him in to have surgery.There just happened to be a public holiday that week so he was booked in for Thursday and of course he got blocked up again on Wednesday - the public holiday. 

We had to rush him to an emergency vet clinic in Woolloongabba across town. So stressful! We arrived at the clinic and parked out the side in a parking spot that was designated for another business. It was a public holiday and the street looked totally deserted apart from the vet clinic so I assumed that the parking spot wouldn't be needed. 

I was wrong.

A woman came out from the 'boutique' fitness centre that the park belonged to and asked us to move our car. We said 'no problem' but when my husband walked towards the road to check out where to move the car to she totally lost the plot and started yelling at us, threatening to have us towed. We tried to explain to her that yes, we were going to move it but she wouldn't let up. It made what was an already stressful situation so much more so. And apparently we're not the first people that she's done this to. The receptionist at the clinic told us that she's made a lot of their clients cry and they now report her to the city council. My tip for Brisbane locals is to give the 'boutique' gym on Balaclava St in Woollongabba a big swerve. No one needs that bad energy in their lives.

The vet was able to unblock Ricky again. Thank goodness. And first thing Thursday morning he was back at our local vets to have these nasty not-so-little things flushed out of his bladder.

The cone of shame made for a very frustrated Dalmatian for ten days. Actually it was a double cone of shame because the first cone wasn't quite long enough to stop a very flexible dog from creating a sore right next to his suture line. He needed lots of cuddles and tummy rubs.

You've never seen a more excited dog than when we finally removed the stitches and the cones on Sunday. The celebrations were exuberant ... and R-rated.

So now we've got to try to prevent it from happening again. He's on a special diet and on gout medication (because it's basically the same issue). And we have to try to get his urine to a neutral pH instead of the acid pH that it was. This basically means that for ten minutes a day I'm chasing a very suspicious Ricky around the garden with a kidney dish begging him to pee.

My life is so glamorous!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Pokemon Go Cautionary Tale

Anyone else been swept up in the Pokemon Go craze?

My sons were really into Pokemon when they were young. I knew all about Ash and Misty and Team Rocket and Pikachu and Pokeballs. And then time passed and they grew up and I forgot. Until a couple of weeks ago. All of a sudden they were talking about it again.

I had some vivid deja vu moments. My sons were going on hunts to catch Pokemon. But not imaginary ones any more. Real, virtual Pokemon. And they sounded like they were having fun. Good, clean, healthy fun. So I hopped on board.

Took me no time to catch my first Pokemon. A Charmander for Charmaine. Couldn't have been more perfect. I was hooked. The excitement of the chase. The collecting. The comparing (do you have a Vaporeon with a combat power of 933 because I do?). Hatching eggs by walking - or running - as long as you put them in an incubator first. And laughing with my Pokemon-chasing posse about the nay-sayers. Nothing wrong with a little bit of silly, childish fun. And certainly nothing wrong with a fully grown, 53 year old woman living in a virtual world for a few minutes a day.

I might need to keep my eye out for  the symptoms of Lyssa Virus after Iven's close encounter.

Not even a cheeky Clefairy can wake a tired Dalmatian
But in the last couple of days I found out that there is a dark side to living the Pokemon Life. My health and well-being have been challenged. Twice.

The first was Monday night. My middle son and I decided we'd take the dogs for a walk around UQ after work. For a bit of exercise for us and the dogs and some quality time hunting Pokemon. Oh and bonding. Let's not forget bonding.

The dogs were soooo excited to be having a walk in a new and interesting-smelling place. Especially once we got to the duck pond. Duck poo is like Old Spice to the discerning dog nose. Toby was a sniffing machine which was a little inconvenient as I was deep in Psyduck territory. I'd missed catching one the day before so I was determined to add one to my Pokedex.

The phone vibrated in my hand and there it was - the elusive Psyduck. Right near Josh and Ricky. I tapped on him and got ready to aim and fire off a Pokeball. Or two. Or even three if it took that many. And while I was in that distracted state Toby took his opportunity. He'd spotted a little cluster of real ducks down at the water's edge and he was on his own duck hunt. With me attached.

Did you know that it's really hard to stop a determined 32k retriever who has a bit of momentum and the smell of duck up his nostrils? The ducks took flight into the water thinking that would stop Toby but retrievers are water dogs and he wasn't planning on stopping. It was only my significant weight advantage and my equal determination not to go swimming in the university duck pond in the middle of winter that stopped us. Right at the water's edge. Heart racing. Breathless. With the sound of my son's laughter ringing in my ears.

But I caught my Psyduck. So it was definitely worth it.

So I survived my first negative Pokemon experience without any real disaster. Number two happened just a couple of days later. 

Wednesday I turned up at the morning run just not feeling the love. I was supposed to do a 16k with a 10k tempo portion. I'd had an ordinary speed session the day before and just felt off for the rest of the day and I wasn't feeling much better after a night's sleep so I pulled the pin on the tempo bit and just ran what-should-have-been-easy-but-felt-way-harder pace and when it turned out to be a kilometre short I didn't worry.

We had our usual coffee and my stomach churned. I went home and had breakfast and it churned some more. Worked for a few hours then had lunch and my stomach churned so much that I threw up. A couple of times. Ughh! I'd caught the virus that had struck Josh down the day before. The same Josh that I'd shared the Pokemon walk and a car ride in close quarters with on Monday just before he got sick. 

Strike two Pokemon Go!

But again, this experience had its silver lining. I'm a couple of kilos lighter today. So winning! And while I was feeling so disgustingly nauseated last night and not able to go out in the real world to hunt for virtual monsters, I used a lure and caught a Jigglypuff. When life gives you lemons it doesn't hurt to make lemonade.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


I just added another half marathon to the list I keep in my phone. Of half marathons I've run in.

It's probably a strange list to have in a phone but if I had it on a piece of paper and put the paper somewhere safe I'd probably forget where I put it. Because, yep memory is an issue at my age.  And the whole reason that I want a list of races that I've run is because of my memory. I don't want to forget any of them. Not a single one.

I've done 23 now. Not a huge number in the scheme of things but not a small number either. And, considering number 2 was going to be my last ever, quite a big number really.

 Number 2 was going to be my last because it was awful. Horrible. Painful. Miserable. And disappointing. And it wasn't like I hadn't trained hard for it. I'd done nearly all of the training sessions I'd been set. I'd battled through a case of ITBS and come through. And I'd run a pretty okay-for-a-newbie-runner half a few months before. That one I'd finished in 2:01 and I knew I could run under 2 hours. In fact I was so determined that I put too much pressure on myself and totally fell apart on the morning of the race. Spent a lot of time in the bathroom throwing up and barely made the start line. In fact the thing that got me to the start line was the fact that I'd paid for the race and money was tight back then so I didn't want to waste it. I ran 10k of the race then had to walk most of the rest of the way. Pride and getting the t shirt and medal I'd paid for were the only things that kept me going.

That race is still my PW time - 2:20. And I swore I would never do another. Not under any circumstances. Ever!

Then I joined a running group and it was one of those 'lie with dogs - rise with fleas' kinda things. Spend enough time around people who think that doing a half marathon is a good idea and you end up warming to the idea. So I did another. And another. And another. And now there's 23 entries to my list. 23 times that I've trained for weeks to get to a starting line. 23 times I've had to quash doubts and fears and believe that I can do it. 23 times that I've had to ignore the voices in my head that have told me to stop because it's hard and it hurts. 23 times that I've seen that 21k marker and known that I've done it. I've beaten the Beast-this time anyway. And 23 times that I've felt the elation of finishing and the incredible sense of achievement - which is why I keep on signing up for races.

I have my next half in just a couple of weeks. And then I'm really not certain about the rest of my racing year. I've signed up for Sydney marathon in September but I'm tossing up with dropping back to the half for a couple of reasons. I've got a minor toe issue. A tendinopathy of the
extensor-something-or-other-scientificky-sounding of my big toe. I don't think running's making it worse but it's not making it better and I'm not quite sure how it'll hold up to the stupid long runs ahead.

And then there's the whole sub 1:40 thing that didn't happen at the Gold Coast. I don't think I'll get it in the Brisbane half because it's a hillier course than Gold Coast and I truly suck at hills. Sydney is supposed to be flatter this year and I've run some good times there on the old, slightly hilly course in the past. And then, if I don't hit the time in Sydney there's always Melbourne a month later. And Melbourne is a pretty flat course. I'm not the fastest recoverer from marathons in the world so there's no way I could attempt a pb if I ran the Sydney full.

So I have a quandary. And I'm vacillating on the best option. And I really should decide sooner rather than later. What would you do?

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Elusive 1:40 Half Marathon

Everything had gone well leading into Gold Coast half marathon. Training had gone well. Tapering had gone well. And my headspace was, well - fabulous, as was my outfit. I knew what I had to do. I knew it'd be tough. But I was going to give it a good shot. And not beat myself up if I didn't reach my goal. I even had a personal pacer/mobile cheersquad of one, Elio, to keep me company when the going got tough. It was as good a time as any to go for my sub 1:40.

Sunday saw me on the start line with 8781 other runners huddled in the pre-dawn cold. Perfect weather conditions. A good starting spot - not too close but not too far back and just in front of the official 1:40 pacer. Pondering whether I should have braved the horrendously long toilet queue for one last nervous wee but knowing it was too late so best stop thinking about my bladder because I'm sure I really didn't need to go again. Well, almost sure.

And while I was pondering the vagaries of my bladder the time had ticked down and we were off. My bladder could wait. There were bigger issues at hand. My magic number was 4:44 and I had to hit that 21.1 times before I could stop.

Kilometre 1 - 5:01. Lots of traffic. No room to just run. Keep moving. It'll clear soon.

Kilometre 2 - 4:40. Right where I need to be. Running strong but not too hard.

Kilometre 3 - 4:40. Lock in this pace and try to stick it a few more times.

Kilometre 4 - 4:38. Oops a little fast. Didn't mean to get any in the 30s but on the up-side the first kilometres deficit is nearly gone. Slow down a bit next kilometre. Don't want to crash and burn too soon. Actually, don't want to crash and burn at all.

Kilometre 5 - 4:36. Oops again. But seriously, slow down!

Kilometre 6 - 4:42. Yep, that's more like it. Don't think about how far you have to go. Just keep running. Those kilometre markers are ticking down nicely and you're feeling strong.

Kilometre 7 - 4:40

Kilometre 8 - 4:42. Another oops but this time it was almost a trip on a speed bump. Traffic calming measures aren't great for racing. Especially for runners who are economical with their vertical oscillation. A little bit of excitement for a moment but good recovery.

Kilometre 9 - 4:40

Kilometre 10 - 4:44. Bang on the magic number finally and almost halfway done. Still feeling okay - tired but not too tired. There's still a few good kilometres in me yet.

Kilometre 11 - 4:40. Yay, we're over halfway. On our way back to the start. This is just like my tempo runs on tired legs. I can do this.

Kilometre 12 - 4:54. Damned traffic calming speed bumps! One second I'm running along and the next second I'm flying. Then the next second I'm flat out on the road. Like a felled tree. I've never been a graceful faller. Elio retrieved my visor and helped me up. Did a mental checklist of moving parts on the run. A couple of sore spots, shoulder and the side of my calf, and a nice trickle of blood down my forearm but nothing to stop me running. Only lost a little time. My race is not over yet.

Kilometre 13 - 4:46. The running's feeling tougher now. That fall and the adrenalin rush knocked the stuffing out of me. Time to bring in the mental big guns. You want this. You can do it. More hard-core points if you can do it with visible blood.

Kilometre 14 - 4:43. 2/3 done. Only 7 to go. Just keep running. One k at a time. The quicker you do them, the sooner you can stop.

Kilometre 15 - 4:46. Glad I banked a bit before I fell over to cover the couple of extra seconds.

Kilometre 16 - 5:10. Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap. Where's a toilet?? That adrenalin rush did more than make my heart rate go up for a bit. And the man in the vest on the side of the road could only tell me that the closest loos were in the direction I was already going. The finish line is also in that direction. I hope he doesn't mean that far away because I'm not going to make 5k intact.

Kilometre 17 - 4:46. No loos but taking the foot off the accelerator seemed to help a bit. Maybe I will get to the line without shaming myself. Still not giving up. There's still a glimmer of hope. I think. Maybe. If I can just keep pushing.

Kilometre 18 - 4:47. Only 3k more. Passing the people who passed me when I stopped to ask for toilet directions. Keep running, keep running!

Kilometre 19 - 5:01. Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap. Does no one know where a toilet is?? Everyone I ask has no idea. Real hard core runner poop themselves in races and just splash water on themselves at the next water stop and tell everyone they're cooling their thighs. I don't think Elio would appreciate me being hard core seeing as we'll be sharing a car afterwards. But I do have a pair of tracky-daks in my bag and we are parked near a shopping centre so maybe I could buy some new undies and it'd be all good. What am I thinking? Look for a toilet!!

Kilometre 20 - 5:54. Found the toilet! Hallelujah. No way am I going to get my sub 1:40 but at least I'm not going to shame myself.

Kilometre 21 - 4:47. So much easier to run. So, so, so much easier to run.
The last .3 to the finish line - 1:14. And done!


So the elusive sub 1:40 is still dangling just out of reach. But this race showed me that it's within my capabilities. Just have to watch those speed bumps. And lift my feet. And memorise the toilet stops.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Training The Brain

Two weeks till Gold Coast marathon and I'm ready to taper.

I've been training so, so hard for this one. For the last couple of weeks anyway. Since I surprised myself at Noosa and realised that a sub-1:40 was possible. Remotely possible. If I gave it my best shot. Work hard for a few weeks and just see what happened on the day.

Working hard hasn't meant changing things too much. Speed is still speed and it will always be done as hard as I can on the day. Friday will still be my recovery run - and I'm needing that more than ever. Saturday's long run is still a long run. Done at long run pace. Except maybe the last couple of k where I might push the pace just a little. It's the Wednesday runs that have changed.

Wednesday runs have been reinstated to tempo status. They were tempo runs last year but once summer hit they just became another longish run. But now that it's cool and I have a goal in mind, they've become a little bit faster. Actually, a lot bit faster.

These were the runs that I'm certain that made the difference to my running last year. The ones that taught me to trust my body again. The ones that retrained my brain to cope with discomfort for longer. So it was an obvious step to bring them back. But, man, they're hard work!! I'm doing 16k total and at least 10 of those will be at tempo pace - which for me is the pace that I'd like to run come GC half marathon.

This week's tempo run was particularly hard. We'd done 500m reps the day before and that had been a solid session. That'll happen when you're chasing the fast boys. And believe me - they were fast on Tuesday! Then I'd gone home and done my strength work. Speed session + strength work = very tired legs. It was raining on Wednesday when I woke up and I almost pulled the pin. I almost convinced myself that my legs were too tired and I really needed the rest day but the nagging voice in my head made me look at the weather radar. Damn, the rain wasn't going to last much more than a few minutes and I couldn't risk being called soft by my running posse so I went.

We did the first 4k easy and then I got the prod to get moving. Ughh. Wasn't feeling it at all. I just wanted to run with the group at that nice, easy, comfortable pace instead of having to push on alone. Out on my own. Out of my comfort zone.

But I did it and I was so glad that I did. Because I will be feeling tired and heavy-legged in the latter parts of the GC race. I will want to mentally quit - and if I mentally quit, I generally quit physically as well. I will wonder why the hell I even wanted to set myself a stupid goal in the first place. And when I do feel all the feelings I'll be able to remind myself about this run. About how I could still push to do what I'd set myself to do even though I was tired and hurting and didn't want to do it.

Training seems like it's a purely physical exercise but it's so much more than that. Training the brain is just as important as training the body. If you think you can't then you won't. But if you think you can, you might surprise yourself with what your body can do.

These tempo sessions are doing just that. As I run them I'm practising things I'll need come race day. Things like ignoring negative thoughts. Concentrating on where I am and what I have to do now rather than anticipating how I'm going to be 3, 5 or 10k from now. Finding out what self-talk works for me. 'Feeling strong' worked for me on Wednesday so I might stick with it and use an expletive every so often - just for effect.

Roll on Gold Coast Half. I'm as well prepared as I've ever been before a half marathon. Just have to turn up on the day and see what happens.