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.