The Plodder

slowrunner

I have never worried too much about being a slow runner. I was never a sprinter at school, much more a cross country girl. Long and slow for me, really very slow – even back in the day when I wore short shorts rather than three quarter pants to run because I didn’t care so much who saw my legs.

In the recent 10km races I have participated in I don’t worry when the crowd takes off in front of me, even the yummy mummies with their prams. They hover ahead in the distance and slowly, slowly, very slowly – I make up that ground. Usually on the hills, which is a surprise as I am the slowest hill runner known to mankind. They may be pushing a pram with a toddler (or two sometimes) but I partly justify that I am carrying the extra kg’s on my person, sadly not in the form of a weight belt.  I get frustrated with the sprinter, walker crowd – they put me off a bit, get in my head, when they sprint past and then then five minutes later rounding a corner they are walking and I plod past them only to be taken again in another few minutes time.

By about two thirds of the way through, the yummy mummies with prams, the sprinter walkers and a few others pulled up with injuries or for other various reasons are generally behind me and I start to see people I haven’t seen since the starting line. A fit father and middle school daughter running together, at some stage one of them must have needed to walk and so I inch towards and then surprising myself, past them. A guy running by himself who at the start I guessed as someone I would probably finish around the same time as – by what exact evaluation method I cannot tell you. Two women running together who look way fitter than I do, to me – in my mind, who probably didn’t train and just turned up and now are slowing down, just enough so I can edge past.

The point is, my brilliant strategy – is my only strategy, and I have always been quite happy with it. Not every man in the street can run a sub 2hr half marathon or sub 4hr full marathon. Hats off to those who can and do. I have several friends who can achieve this amazing feat and I have never been jealous of them – only in awe of their dedication and achievement as regular people who can train hard while managing families and jobs and their lives and just whip out a sub 4 hour marathon once in a while.

I have never really cared about being a slow runner until about 10 days ago when I had a 28km training run that took around 3 hours and 30 minutes. That was a looooong run that took a very long time. I got pretty jealous around kilometre 20. I was thinking off all the people I know who would already be home lying in their ice baths, eating protein bars and glugging down water and other rehydration substances. I do not put the end of that run in the win column for the mental game.

This weekend I have a 30km run to do, my last ‘long’ run before the marathon according to my trusty training plan that has my current ETA on November 3rd as 5:16 – 5:22. I can’t say I’m not a bit nervous, about this run and the big one in 25 days time. I am nervous, a lot. It is too late to change my pace, strategy, training plan and a  lot of other things – so plodding it is.

Maybe I just need to Google ‘mental game for plodders’ and I’ll nail this thing.

Thank you to everyone for your messages of support and to those who have sponsored me for my long long long jog around New York City on Sunday November 3rd.

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!

Numbers marked in red are taken, perhaps your lucky number is still available?!

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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 ;)

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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?!

We did it!

And just like that – two weeks away is over and I am back home again from Kilimanjaro ‘Zip off pant capital of the world’,  having actually climbed the mountain all the way to the very top.

There are so many things to tell – I could write a book about the experience, with one chapter alone dedicated to the toilet and toilet paper situation on that mountain…. that might not be to everyone’s taste but is possibly a story that needs to be heard.

It was hands down one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life – its likely parenting will win that race in the long term but for now – moving countries, giving birth (although I was too posh to push), the previously hardest physical event I had subjected myself to – the HK 50km Greenpower hike pale in comparison to eventually hauling myself to the top of Kilimanjaro as one of the 22,000 ‘ordinary’ people who try that every year (remember only about 10,000 make it).

The whole experience from the minute I left home on Tuesday September 6th, till summit day Tuesday September 13th, descending and showering for the first time in seven days Wednesday September 14th to the sneaky few days at a game reserve with the OAC afterwards – to returning home yesterday Monday 19th September to a huge poster on my front door put there by friends to congratulate the LDL and I on our ascent – was amazing and almost surreal.

There are many upcoming posts in the works for now I just want to say thank you to everyone for all the support you gave us.

Thanks to friends and family for their heartfelt and unwavering support (and congratulations when we made it)

Thanks to those that have donated to The Jodi Lee Foundation and supported such a worthy cause. I remember my promise to you all for that signed photo – once I get the photo from the LDL’s camera (mine didn’t make it to the top) I will happily oblige.

Thanks to my climbing companions, the LDL and the OAC – and our eight new South African friends Heidi, Anette, Antonette, Ryno, Kevin, Charles, Salomien and Henk who although took a little bit of cracking (OK not Charles or Kevin) were the best climbing crew we could have hoped for – supportive, friendly, handy with the duct tape & prepared with the Vicks, educational and even super hero like (told you there are many more stories to come – and you guys reading this – still not my whole speech).

Thanks to Thomas & Nico our guides, Simon the most amazing camp manager and to Stator my personal guide for summit day. I had not seen him before that terrible night and didn’t again until we had walked off the mountain, but he was the only person who could have got me there and back, of that I am 100% sure.

After falling out of the main group early on in our 8 hour hike through the night uphill he was like a patient angel who coaxed me through it – always telling me ‘you will make it, I don’t lie – I am telling you the truth. Pole, Pole*, Twende**….’ – and he was right.

Swahili words
*Pole Pole – pronounced Pol-ay, Pol-ay meaning slowly slowly (much more on this later)
** Twende – Let’s Go

9 sleeps to go – What was I thinking?

Today I had a moment, actually I had several moments of absolute fear and terror at the thought of not making it all the way up the mountain. After all that is the point of whole expedition isn’t it? Why I am going to go shower-less for seven days, possibly vomit regularly, use open air toilet facilities, sleep on the ground and perhaps even consent to be photographed without full hair and make-up – I may possibly wear some tinted sunscreen – but you get the idea.

At this point there is not much I can do except stick to my training schedule for the last week (once I write it) and cross my fingers very hard, which will likely be increasingly trickier the higher we get up the mountain with all those layers of gloves I have planned.

At one point this morning I wanted to stand up in the middle of a paddock and yell – ‘Mid life crisis over’ can I just decide to play golf next Friday instead?’

I know I have a good reasons for going – but they make me even more scared, a lot of people, including some I have never met, have donated money to The Jodi Lee Foundation – an excellent cause – on the premise that I will make it to the top.

Here’s what I know
I’m fitter than I look – its terrible to have to say but it is actually true – I could have a lot of people who know me vouch for that, but that’s probably not going to help me get up the hill. Its also a very defensive comment and my first response when I tell people I am climbing Kili in less than two weeks and they ask me ‘have you been training?’ To be fair I have been polling the LDL and the OAC both very fit looking specimens and people do ask them the exact same question.

I walk very slowly uphill, but am regular speed on the flat and super speedy on the downhill – it wouldn’t matter how fit I was or if my BMI was 18 I am convinced I would still be the slowest person up a hill. As a friend kindly pointed out to me though, I am like a Clydesdale – I just put my head down and keep going. Deep down I know I can get there, I just have to stay convinced that I can do it at my own pace. Everyone who has done it says to you ‘it is so slow – you will walk so slowly’ – but I know I will even be slower than that. Admitting it out loud, early, I think is helpful for any mind games I may get into with myself later – I mean what else am I going to do without regular Twitter and Facebook access – I will ultimately in all likelihood end up talking to myself constantly.

Here’s my plan
Just do it
Or was that plan/slogan already taken by a large publicly traded sportswear and equipment supplier?
Do you think I can borrow it for a couple of weeks?

9 sleeps to go – many many swear words