It’s tomorrow!

bib

Right now I am sitting on the couch in my friend BC’s apartment listening to the hustle and bustle of the early Saturday morning NY streets below. I have been awake for a couple of hours. There is a lot going on in my brain.

I arrived in New York yesterday morning in what felt like the start and end (I am still not sure, I suppose it is both) of an enormous journey, but in reality was a two hour flight from the ATL.

A message from my aunt this morning

Well Nik, we have gone full circle. This time last year you were arriving in Australia. We will be with you every step of the way. Looking forward to the finish photo and medal. Be brave. With love

It’s true, on this day last year I was landing in Australia. When I took off from LA the 2012 NYC marathon had not been cancelled, when I landed in Sydney it had. Either way it didn’t matter so much to me then, but because of the cancellation I had the opportunity to run this year. I would probably have not been able to otherwise. Small things.

Yesterday I went to the Expo to pick up my bib. There were thousands of people there, expothousands of fit looking, marathon running types of people. It was a daunting experience. The bag check, id check, the bib pick up and then the only possible exit is through the rest of the expo area.  A bit like the people you always curse when traveling with small kids and you have to travel through the duty free shop on your way into and out of customs, the very clever organisers funnel you into the world’s biggest ASICS NYC Marathon shop where people are in a frenzy buying themselves mementos and gifts for family and friends.  While you stand still, trying to think and take it all in you wonder why you can’t – it must be the DJ in the middle of it all pumping tunes designed for maximised purchasing opportunities. If you don’t move you are at risk of being knocked over – good practice for the start line tomorrow?

I didn’t go with the shiny silver jacket with inbuilt red flashing lights on the shoulders, not sure if it was an 80’s throwback or not but not that many chilly days in Atlanta to justify.

silverjacket

The shirt I wanted to get wasn’t in my size, but I was able to buy it anyway for the PBM who by chance was corresponding with me via fb chat at that exact time and was happy to take the XS on offer.

freyashirt

After I made it out alive from the ASICS store there were rows and rows of running related things that were what I imagine to be a bit like a runners heaven running shop.

It was about the same time that a message came in from another friend having seen my check in to the expo (I am nothing if not a slave to social media)

You can never buy too much gear there

Thanks for the green light Soph!

Luckily the headbands were in my size so a did snap up a few of those, although not all of mine say 26.2.

headbands

I got a couple of other t-shirts and thought I should stop then – and didn’t go through with the thigh warmers, shoes, flouro long socks or various protein bars or the Vitamixes on offer.

I did want the gloves but left without them somehow.

glovesAfter I escaped the madness and was walking back to BC’s there was a beautiful New York sunset.

sunset

Tomorrow’s high in NY is predicted to be 9 degrees celsius. Chilly and windy. Better than too hot I suppose. The OAC (from Kili adventures) ran a marathon in Myanmar today where the temperature was 32 degrees celsius but the ‘comfort level’ was 39!?

In other news as I start in the final wave at 10.55am I wasn’t keen on being on a bus at 6am and having to wait at the start line with my 48 000 closest friends wearing running gear and garbage bags, so I enquired about alternative transport yesterday at the Expo and was able to get on a Staten Island Ferry at 8.15am, which will bring me to the start line at about 9, a much more acceptable arrangement.

I am feeling the love from around the world so much. Thank you all for your messages via various forms of social media and telephone. I treasure every one of them and will draw on them tomorrow.

I suspect ( not having ever manged more than 11km) a marathon is like childbirth where you set off with good intentions but take sound medical advice if required through the process.

Thanks Sally C for this giggle with excellent advice.

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I may not get to 42 sponsors tomorrow but there is no harm in trying. I will be chasing Sponsors to be Committed to Testing for the rest of the year, and a very long time yet. I believe that awareness of possible symptoms and testing when appropriate are so important.

How to sponsor me for your very own kilometre – click here and don’t forget to let me know which kilometre you want. Again I am focussing on value for money, your kilometre will last at least 7 minutes!

Slide1

Numbers marked in red are taken, perhaps your lucky number is still available?! Snap it up now before those that haven’t chosen yet pick it.

How to be a sponsor committed to testing – send an email to randomthoughtsnikki@gmail.com to let me know and get along to your local GP or pharmacy, whatever way is accepted in your country of residence and do yourself a favour and get tested. I won’t be asking for medical results or certificates ;)

It’s a small crowd so far, but don’t let that deter you from joining.

Slide2

6 days

shoes6 days.

In 6 days these shoes will take me on a journey that I will probably never forget. A journey I can’t yet imagine fully without waves of panic and a little bit of nausea.

The shoes are in honour of my mum who fought Bowel Cancer (or Colon Cancer, dependsphoto 1 which country you live in as to what you call it) for over six years with a ferocity that would surely have carried her through many a marathon.  I can’t believe it was only 11 months ago she was standing in my living room, wearing the hot pink shoes she bought on arrival in Atlanta, to do another walk around our neighbourhood, even after discontinuing all treatment and having two stints in hospital during her three month stay with us.

She never gave up. I hope that I don’t give up on Sunday.

I am running / plodding for the Jodi Lee Foundation. The gorgeous Jodi was a fabulous friend of mine. Jodi was diagnosed with Bowel Cancer at 39 and passed away two years later, after a tremendous battle. Although friends from ‘home’ our families both lived parts of our lives as expats, happily landing us in Asia at the same time. They visited Hong Kong and we visited Vietnam, leaving great memories of fun times – but not the best group photos. Note to everyone, even though you may hate photos of yourself, have photos taken with your friends often, they are not the most important memory but they are pretty good to have.

The Lee / Moffitt trip - Hoi An 2006

The Lee / Moffitt trip to Hoi An 2006

After she passed away, her husband Nick founded the Jodi Lee Foundation. The foundation promotes awareness of Bowel Cancer (particularly in Australia where 1 in 12 will develop Bowel Cancer in their lifetime), education about the importance of screening and the tests available and aims to improve the uptake of regular and appropriate screening by those at risk.

With Sarah in South Africa, 2011

With Sarah in South Africa, 2011

I am running for Sarah, a friend from Hong Kong. Our sons were best friends in pre-school and beyond. Luckily her husband is South African with family in Durban, so we were treated to more than one visit during our time there.

This photo was taken a couple of months before Sarah ran the GreenPower in Hong Kong, a grueling 25km trail race, she set a cracking pace and recorded a great time. The race was one month before she was diagnosed with Bowel Cancer in Stage III.  What followed, was a tough and unimaginable treatment process that lasted almost a year. As with Mum (most of the time) and Jodi, I followed from afar – only able to offer support by electronic and telephonic means. The tears I cried on March 2nd this year when I received the email saying her tests had come back showing the all clear were real, heartfelt and happy.

This past week I cried again, our neighbour’s 34 year old brother died of Colon Cancer. I had never met him, but his family have been our ‘go to’ people this move. They are wonderful and generous and have made our landing here softer. This weekend I will also remember Corey.

Mum, Jodi, Sarah and Corey never gave up. I’m going to try very hard to remember that for 42.2 kilometres on Sunday.

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As the big day approaches I am loving all the messages of support I am getting from places near and far. I appreciate that there will be people thinking of me from so many countries around the world, some of which will have daytime at the same time we do!

I may not get to 42 sponsors by Sunday but I am going to do my best. I will be chasing Sponsors to be Committed to Testing for the rest of the year, and a very long time yet. I believe that awareness of possible symptoms and testing when appropriate are so important.

How to sponsor me for your very own kilometre – click here and don’t forget to let me know which kilometre you want. Still so many to choose from and don’t say I don’t give value for money, your kilometre will last at least 7 minutes!

Slide1

Numbers marked in red are taken, perhaps your lucky number is still available?! Snap it up now before those that haven’t chosen yet pick it.

How to be a sponsor committed to testing – send an email to randomthoughtsnikki@gmail.com to let me know and get along to your local GP or pharmacy, whatever way is accepted in your country of residence and do yourself a favour and get tested. I won’t be asking for medical results or certificates ;)

Slide2

42

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.

The Why – 2012

It was on July 11th 2011 that I wrote the first version of ‘The Why’ explaining my reasons behind climbing Kili and asking for your indulgence in following my journey.  Thankfully after being such a loudmouth about the whole thing I actually made it to the top, flew the flag, had the picture, had South Africa post lose my first round of thank you letters and dragged my heels on the second round. (Note to self – lessons for this time around). So much has happened since then just ten months ago that it seems a lot to process.

First order of business is my mum’s health, when last I wrote she was about to move into a new treatment phase to address the sinister creeping (look away kids) fucking cancer that had returned to new pastures in her body. Once again drawing on her strengths and reserves, medicine both traditional and alternative she has triumphed over the beast and after a torrid few months of radiation treatment and chemo while under the additional supervision of her Chinese medicine physician she is once again getting great blood test results, body scans and the all clear for a new international jaunt in the second half of this year where she will come and visit us in our new country of residence (yes – we’re moving in June from South Africa to the USA – Atlanta, Georgia). Did I mention last time she was diagnosed when I was pregnant with my daughter now 5? Since then she has welcomed three new grandchildren, the latest just last month and she has already had two trips to Queensland to visit the gorgeous baby Isabel and her big brother Oscar.

To summarise she is six years into her diagnosis of Bowel Cancer Stage IV, plus three grandkids (four in total), plus one Hopemobile (her own Grey Nomad method of transportation used for camping up and down the Aussie coastline) and a round the world plane ticket in hand (not her first in the last six years). Yay for my Mum!!!

I cannot say enough wonderful things about my friends, family and absolute strangers who sponsored me for my Kili climb. I am so indebted to them for their support and encouragement, I made it to the top – which was the idea and my stated goal, but in some ways I feel I let them down. I didn’t insist, nor even ask that they get tested for Bowel Cancer when I gratefully accepted their words of encouragement and sponsorship dollars.

I wish I had.

At Christmas time my wonderful friend Sarah and her family from Hong Kong came to South Africa to visit us, luckily for us her lovely husband is South African and they have been twice to visit since we have been here. Our eldest sons are best friends from pre-school days and always pick up where they left off and our youngest (hers a boy – mine a tomboy) are also very close, born a month apart at the same hotel-spital in Hong Kong. We spent some wonderful times together during their stay both at our place and with her in-laws and friends here in SA. It was so wonderful to see them all looking so well and happy. Sarah was very dedicated while she was here, running four to five times a week in training for the Hong Kong GreenPower event that she was running later in January. Her first year at 25kms (she usually tackles the 50kms – in fact we did it together twice as part of the same team) she wanted to run rather than just hike.

On the 15th January she sent me a text to say she had finished in under three hours and was very chuffed with her time – if you knew the trail you would be very impressed as I was. On the 22nd January she sent me an email titled ‘News’. It wasn’t good news, it was bad news, bowel cancer bad news.

As I write this she is in a rest week between 25 rounds of radiation and an eight cycle chemo treatment program. She is strong, positive, fit and healthy and has incredible support from family and friends near and far.

If you saw Sarah and me side by side – you would pick her as the one about to run the New York marathon, not me. This year I am going to finish the marathon and then text her to tell her my time – it will not be as impressive as hers would have been, but perhaps she’ll run it next year for a comparison, I would not count her out. Or maybe she’ll just come to visit for the shopping and a girls trip – that works too.

In July last year The Jodi Lee Foundation had raised almost AUD $250,000 towards increasing awareness of Bowel Cancer and early detection, as of today after some amazing fundraising efforts they have raised AUD $790, 844 and counting. No doubt the first million is just round the corner and more importantly increased awareness translating into saving lives. Jodi would have been amazed but not at all surprised at Nick’s dedication to the cause and success in achieving the goals of the foundation. She would also have been proud that I didn’t have any vomit in my hair after seven days on Kilimanjaro, although not sure she would have approved of the plaits I wore to stave off the greasy hair.

So The Why changes while it stays the same.

Sarah, Mum and Jodi, I am going to run, walk, limp or drag myself across that finish line on November 4th and while my body may ache, throb, cramp or seize up (why say may – lets face it – probably will) I will try to remember that its just a drop in the ocean compared to what you have faced and just keep going.

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)