Today, October 4th, marks one month until race day. I awoke to a text on my phone from the PBM.

One month

That’s all it needed to say to strike fear deep into my heart, head, stomach and my ongoing boob blister situation.

As I sit here and type this the PBM is halfway through tomorrow on the other side of the world, one month minus one day but I still have 90 minutes left to work through the psychological barrier. I am probably going to stay awake to savour every second and then sleep as much as I can tomorrow to avoid the thought of ‘less than a month’.

I can probably manage that, I am pretty tired. Yesterday morning I got off the red eye from San Francisco at 7am, having flown a mere 4 1/2 hours home to Atlanta after seeing my mum and my aunt enter security at the SFO international terminal for their flight back to Sydney. I can report they arrived safe and sound and are currently on a comeback medical tour of the local doctors and oncologist gathering information and medication for what comes next, which is as I write still a TBA situation.

Months ago before I moved countries, started training runs or had my mum to stay for two months and manage two hospitalization events I had a target of 42 sponsors for the marathon, one for every kilometre. I even started keeping track of them and their support. I am bold enough to think its not too late to get one sponsor per kilometre (39 needed and 31 days left) and I’m feeling bolshy, so I’m just going to throw in a new goal as well as a gazillion sponsors and actually running 42 kilometres.

I want to find 42 people who would not have done a screening test for bowel cancer this year to do that test before the year is over. Although this is the whole point of the Jodi Lee Foundation, raising awareness and encouraging screening and why I am doing ridiculous things like climbing mountains and running marathons, I still want to contribute on a more personal level to this process.  I have written before about why this is important to me, one of my closest friends and a sponsor from last year’s Kilimanjaro trip was diagnosed with bowel cancer earlier this year and is currently hours away from finishing a very difficult course of treatment that has involved radiation and chemotherapy over a nine month period.

If these are the same 42 people that I find to sponsor me, that is great. If it is another 42 people I would also be happy with that. If it is more than 42 that would be even better. I understand in some countries you have to pay yourself for screening tests and they are not covered by various health insurance packages and lets be honest its not something that comes up every time you visit the GP. I would ask you to read these stories and consider being screened which is in most cases and countries a very simple non-invasive test you can pick up at the pharmacy. I would consider it a very special form of sponsorship from those that did it. I would like to keep a concurrent Hall of Fame for those that participated in screening along with the list of sponsors, if you wish to remain anonymous on the fame wall I certainly respect that but will record it against the target of 42.

Earlier this year because of my family history I had a colonoscopy in South Africa which was thankfully clear. The surgeon who performed it said to me – if you have regular mammograms, pap smears, any kind of testing, irrelevant of family history you should also have regular screening for bowel cancer. I can probably not include myself in the 42 but I wanted to share my story, the details I can save for another time.

To become a sponsor click here,  let me know what kilometre you would like to sponsor if you have a favourite (1,22 and 42 and the little bit after 42 are currently taken).

To let me know you have done a screening test please drop me an email at randomthoughtsnikki@gmail.com

42 kilometres

42 sponsors

42 people screened

It’s all possible – one month to go.

A new type of injury

I have just spent hours five minutes or so googling running injuries. I read about Snapping hip syndrome, ITBS, runners knee, shin splints and sprained ankles, all of which sound absolutely awful and I hope to have none of them (the niggle in my knee is all in my head I am sure). The thing they appear to have in common is that they seem to occur to runners in the area below the waist. This leads me to believe I may have discovered a new type of injury in the shower today post-run.

First let me update you, I have been running – actually I think it may be classified as slow jogging if I reference my recent Olympic viewing, in anticipation that is what I will need to do for most of the first Sunday in November in order to meet the target time previously mentioned. For those that didn’t read the earlier post, my target time is a complicated mathematical equation based on times the PBM and I run on the day, where the PBM runs as fast as she can so on average we are able to beat the time Katie Holmes ran for the NYC marathon in 2007, 5:29:58. We may also have to factor in wind conditions and our celebrity status but I’ll let you know of further changes as we get closer.

This week with the kids back at school and the boxes from our move finally all having left the building I have been able to run a couple of more times than I have averaged in recent weeks and have been breaking all sorts of records according to Runkeeper. Farthest distance in a month for jogging, farthest distance in a month for walking – best time for certain distance – the list might go on but it actually thats it.  Still, this gives me some sort of encouragement to continue on the path to more kilometres – a unit of measurement I am resolutely sticking with even though I now live in a country that uses the unit ‘miles’. To say you ran ’16k’s’ to me sounds seriously better than you ran 10 miles, but that could just be me. As one of the world’s online oversharers it may surprise you to know I don’t auto populate my Facebook and Twitter feeds with my running distances, routes or times. I just keep it all to me to panic about.

World first injuries to delicate parts of my upper torso – they’re totally in the public domain.

Back to the point then. After my slow jog of 14k’s through the pretty – pretty hilly – streets of East Cobb this morning I was very keen to shower and rid myself of the extra moisture attached to my body and my hair so jumped straight into the shower and under the full force of the actually very weak water flow. I immediately shrieked and jumped back out. I was suffering from an acute pain that seemed to be stemming from my chest area. Looking down show the reason for concern, it seems that my favourite running top is not equipped for over 10km outings – it had somehow started to chafe and given me blisters – in fact two of them, one each side. If we have to call a spade a spade, we have to call them upper boob blisters. I could find no reference to this as an official running injury so believe this could be a world first. Please let me know if you have in fact suffered this injury previously so I can disabuse myself of the notion of discovering this particularly painful ‘world first’. I’d be happy to note it with an updated entry. Ouch.

As I am not showing you a picture of my injury (I am sure the mental picture is already bad enough) I will substitute with these pretty flowers that I saw today on my route. Enjoy!

Pretty flowers

PBM update – PBM completed the Sydney City to Surf, a 14km gruelling up and down run from central Sydney to Bondi Beach on Sunday in 76 minutes, her target was 75. I have suggested she see a Sports Psychologist, one of us should.

Ten Tips for climbing Kili

Since I’ve been back from Kili I have met people who have done it – and I’ve also increasingly met people who are going to do it.

Everyone you meet has different questions to ask and I can talk about it for hours – I am after all now a self-proclaimed expert, I’ve ‘been there, done that’ and have the photo (see above), although I didn’t buy the t-shirt, not because I respected Nike’s possible patent breach of an entire range of ‘Just Done it’ t-shirts, its just I didn’t find one that I would ever wear again – as I’ve become older I appreciate this part of a purchase more, there were none in my colour….

A Quick top ten tips for those thinking of it –

1. If you are already training and you’re not going for 12 months or more, don’t worry, its in the bag.

If you followed my journey at all you will know my training was quite ‘compact’ and if I can do it, YOU can do it, and then you can buy the ‘Just Done it’ t-shirt.

2. Don’t spend a lot of time googling ‘Summiting Kilimanjaro’ or more specifically ‘failing to summit Kilimanjaro’ not good for the motivation and there are hundreds of horrifying You Tube videos out there of people gasping what appears to be their last breath, looking un-showered and in some distress due to altitude sickness or they might just be faking it – who knows, that’s why you can’t always trust the internet- people. You will make it!!! Believe!!!!
(Watch those videos when you get back, like I did)

3. Take Vicks – this is related to the fact that at some time in the vast rocky wasteland that is about three days worth of climb you will have to use a long drop or portable toilet. The Vicks is for across your top lip to protect your gagging reflex. I don’t think I need to elaborate further.

4. There will be things you take you don’t use, things you wish you took, the hours and days spent worrying about your packing will feel useless above 3000 metres so don’t worry too much. If you take one of everything you will still make it (although I do recommend two poles and two boots).
4a. Don’t wear all your gear at the airport before you get on the plane to go to Kili, boots maybe, we all understand luggage restrictions, everything else – not so much. It just looks wrong – on the way home, sure go for it, just not on the way there.

5. Walk, walk and walk those boots in. Your boots and you – going up a mountain. That’s as close as it gets to the most important thing you take with you. Wear your boots in, if you get blisters still after a month or so of wearing them in, if you have time, change boots, if you don’t (like me) just wear plasters and pack enough for the trip – they still work, there is no pain and your boots will have a slightly worn in look before you start. You don’t want to be the only person with brand new boots at the start – because, you just don’t.

6. Kilimanjaro is the zip off pant capital of the world, you will buy some zip off pants, you will wear them, you will notice no guides or porters wearing them. You will probably never use any of the zip off functionality – or you may. That’s just how it is. You may give your gear at the end to the porters as many do, no idea what they do with the zip off pants – they must sell them. Remember – you will probably never wear the zip off pants again, give them away.

7. Do not listen to all the other people in your hotel / backpackers / lean-to that are just back from the mountain if they have anything negative to say, didn’t make it, vomited a lot, or if they talk about Diamox. It is unlikely any medical professional or other climber knows as much about taking Diamox as your guide does. Only listen to your guide about Diamox. The guide you will have does that sh*t once a week – you have trained for months and they turn around and do it every SEVEN days – they know their stuff.  Listen to the returned hikers only about glory stories. It will make you feel better, it will also make you think – if THEY made it, I can make it.
(I am not a medical professional, so don’t listen to me about Diamox either)

8. ‘Pole, pole’ (pol-ay, pol-ay) – this has nothing to do with the two walking poles most climbers carry with them.  It is how you are told to walk – slowly, slowly. If you think you can walk slowly now – you are wrong, you have never walked as slowly as you will climbing Kili (unless you’re up for Everest next) it will feel so slow and yet still too fast, especially on that midnight trek from whatever base camp you are using up to the top.

9. Take the longest route you can. You don’t want to train, fly all the way to Tanzania (guessing most of you don’t already live there) and then not make it because you chose the six day route, not the seven day one. Far fitter and stronger men and women than me failed to summit (22,000 a year attempt and 10,000 make it) because they had to walk past that second last campsite while I got to lay down and sleep for a night. I know because I watched them do it and spoke to them afterwards.

10. Don’t be Henk the guy with the fancy equipment that tells you how far you’ve walked that day, hour, minute, the temperature & perhaps more specifically and importantly what your altitude is. Or if you are that guy/girl, don’t tell Charles anyone else – because they will share the good news of your technologically advanced scientific device with others near and far and every 10 seconds someone will ask you something about how far / high / what the temperature is. If you can believe it this will be more annoying on the way down than on the way up. Trust me!

Go with old friends, make new ones, have fun!

That’s my Top 10 – what are your tips? What questions do you have left? I can help – the expert now remember?!

And we’re off….

OAC's last shot of HK as she boarded the plane

By the time you read this it is likely we will be off on our adventure – one happy camper aka the OAC has already left her home and is winging her way across the skies in her Cathay business class bed, nice for some – but it is a 12 hour flight and her ‘0’ birthday pressie so we don’t begrudge her too much. We also expect her to travel a 15 hour day with us once she arrives so – she can have a lie down for a little while first.

At 8am Durban time the LDL and I will leave to join her in Jozi for a few hours before taking off for Moshi via Nairobi (where we have several hours waiting time – be prepared for many airport photos at a later date).

The confirmation phone call came today from our travel organiser, as well as the list of the other members of our group – 8 more. With the three of us there will be 11 altogether – not sure how many porters and guides that translates to but I imagine you won’t be able to miss us as we traverse the slopes.

As all the other travelers are South African – I joked with the organiser – ‘I hope they don’t mind traveling with foreigners…’ in all seriousness she said to me ‘I’m sure they won’t but please call me if you have any concerns and I can arrange something’ – …………. moving on……. I was joking but am now thinking we may have to tone our ‘Aussie-ness’ down a little, although it will be too early in the Rugby World Cup for any fixtures that may cause fisticuffs. I’m sure the LDL can smooth it all over, although she has found amusement in the surname of two of our travelling companions which means ‘scary monster’ or something similar in Dutch. We may need to make that phone call after all.

As I am avoiding packing I will just include a quick itinerary so those of you who are interested can follow our projected path as we do the up and down thing.

Day 1 – Thursday 8th September – From Machame Park Gate at @1500m 18km to the Machame camp at @2980m (approx 7 hours)

Day 2 – From @2980 9kms to the Shira camp at @3840m (approx 6 hours)
Hmm already half the distance but nearly the same amount of estimated time

Day 3 – From @3840 up to the Lava Tower @4600m and then to Barranco camp @3950m +/- 15kms (approx 7 hours)

Day 4 – From @3950 to Karanga Valley camp at @4100m – not a lot of metres gained but it will be about 7kms and 4 hours.
Apparently a lot of the time is spent getting across the scarily named Great Barranco Wall.

Day 5 – From @4100 to Barafu camp at @4600 about 5km and 4 hours.
Leave early, get to camp early and get ready for summit night

Day 6 -Tuesday 13th September (starting midnight) This has it all – loose gravel, altitude, cold, dark & possibly vomiting.
7 hours from camp @4600 to Stella Point at @5250m
Then another hour to Uhuru Peak @5895m – the highest point in Africa
Photos, high fives and then straight back down to @3100m to Mweka Camp.

Day 7 – Wednesday 14th September about 15kms straight downhill and out – the itinerary says something about enjoying the scenery through the rainforest but am thinking my thoughts will be firmly on the shower ahead (after drawing straws with my roomies to see who gets to go last – longest shower)

I have spent so much of today receiving good wishes and support for the trip – I am so thankful to all my family and friends new and old, online and IRL who are supporting me in this climb. Your support makes me really believe I can do it!

Will give the last word tonight to my gorgeous children and the card they made me for my trip – presented this afternoon.

My good luck card - by 8yo son and 4yo daughter (WAFYO)

These boots were made for walking…

With less than two weeks to go until we leave SA and exactly two weeks today until we start ‘the climb’ I thought it was time to check on our ‘boots prep’ level.
Don’t ever say we aren’t covering all the big topics here.

For this purpose I have secured photographs taken in the last 24 hours of the three pairs of boots that will be participating.

From quick observation I am sure you will be able to guess which ones are from HK – hi-tech, fashionable (for boots), relatively colourful (well at least ‘not brown’) and which ones are from Africa – functional. unattractive, brown.
There will be a test at the end.

Exhibit A

Any marks appear to be significantly more on the left hand side boot rather than the right. Does this person even walk in a straight line or perhaps with a limp?
‘Cankles’ appear to be a feature here as well – although we must give this boot owner credit for photo taking while wearing, the many layers of socks may be somewhat deceptive.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

These boots seem to have more even markings than those seen above – perhaps indicating a more balanced walking style?!?

Exhibit B

Exhibit C

Moon boots, clubbing boots, hiking boots – all in one pair. Swiss brand – lots of hills there, also indicative usually of a quality product. Not too much visible wear and tear.

Exhibit C

That last comment may be the clue you need to answer the question – Do these three pairs of boots look like they have done enough miles to make it up the mountain?
In 20 days we will have the answer.
The anticipation is now officially messing me up – today I am on day 5 of conjunctivitis and a sore throat and various aches and pains.
To be fair the aches and pains may be kettlebell related.

Did you guess which boots belonged to the LDL* and the OAC**?
* Hint – the LDL doesn’t walk with a limp
** Hint – the OAC works for a Swiss company (not that would have anything to do with her choice of boot)
Plus – I don’t really have cankles either (except when I’m pregnant) – it was all those socks

Stay tuned for more thrilling installments in the final days of our countdown