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Little nuisances

Terrigal Trotters doing leech inspections after a trail run.

After yesterday's somewhat heavy blog post, I thought I would talk about something lighter today, the little creepy crawlies that I have encountered while running.

Probably the worst are leeches, which are quite common on the NSW Central Coast where I now live.  In fact, I don't recall ever encountering them while running before moving here ten years ago.  You can get leeches on any long run in the nearby forests, but they are usually worst after rain and in the moist rainforest gullies.  Runners have various home remedies for keeping them at bay, but I don't think any are fool-proof.

One of the offenders.

The leech bites themselves are not painful, but the sight of an engorged leech, or one looking for somewhere to latch on, is always a gruesome find.  Getting them off can be tough, though I have usually managed to flick or pull them off.  Alternatives are salt or flame, I hear.  Often you do not know you have one until you see blood on a shoe or sock, and I have seen some very bloody socks revealed when shoes are removed.  There are also plenty of stories about leeches being found on other parts of the anatomy that I won't go into here.  Initially, the main problem is the anticoagulant used by the leech to facilitate feeding which causes their bites to bleed continuously.  However, the worst impact comes a few days later when the bites begin to itch savagely.  I have woken up at night scratching furiously at badly bitten, red and swollen ankles.  In some cases, the bites can even lead to blood poisoning and a trip to hospital, as happened to Sharon a few years ago.

A Golden Orb spider.

Spider webs are an occupational hazard for trail runners and it often pays to run behind someone else when you are the first runners along a trail.  I'm not aware of ever having been bitten by a spider while out running, but the encounters can be scary.  Locally, we have the Golden Orb spider which is quite large and builds strong and extensive webs, often across trails.  The large spider then sits in the web waiting for something to be caught.  They generally feed on moths, beetles and insects caught in their webs, but they have been known to catch and eat small birds and bats.  I have had the experience of running into one of the webs and then, while scrambling to extricate myself, finding the huge spider almost sitting on my face.  They're not dangerous, but can give you a good scare.

The country lane in Essex near where I was stung
by the wasp.

Perhaps the biggest scare I had from a small animal happened when I was out for a long Sunday morning run through the Essex countryside one Spring Sunday morning.  A wasp flew into my mouth and bit me on the very back of my tongue near my throat before I could spit it out.  Initially, it was just painful, and I continued running, but a few kilometres later, I could feel my tongue swelling up and my breathing becoming restricted.  I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and swallowing my pride (actually I couldn't swallow anything by this time), I found a public telephone in a small village and called my wife reverse charges to come and get me.  I was a bit anxious for the next couple of hours, but the swelling gradually subsided and there were no other symptoms.

Voyageurs Provincial Park, near Montreal in Canada.

Flies and mosquitoes can also be irritating, but not particularly dangerous.  I can still remember a long run in a Voyageur Provincial Park near Montreal in Canada in the late spring when the mosquitoes were voracious and biting me incessantly through the back of my sweaty T-shirt, no matter how fast I ran.  You just have to try not to think about it or it drives you nuts.  Apparently caribou lose half a pint of blood a day to mosquitoes in the spring and early summer.

I walked about 6km today, taking care not to get my heart rate too high when walking up hills.  I learned that my Electrical Cardioversion procedure will be this coming Monday.