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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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.

Memories fade, but I kept notes

It’s happened – just as we predicted. Although I was there less than five months ago when eleven tired and weary, mountain sore people sat around drinking beers after their first shower for a week, determined to never forget the pain. Ten of those (don’t forget we had Superboy doing it for fun with his mum with us) said in no uncertain terms ‘it was the hardest thing mentally and physically’ they had ever undertaken. I know because I listened to them say it and wrote notes so I wouldn’t forget later.  I feel sure if you asked them now their memories of it would be softer and they would say it was ‘one of the hardest’ or ‘quite tough’ ‘it’s just a matter of really putting your mind to it’ – which is EXACTLY what all the people who we talked to beforehand who had done it told us.

The 'kitchen' - birthplace of many a cucumber soup and fried chicken dish

Those that are yet to climb it – I will tell you here and now, there is a conspiracy by those that have gone before you, no-one tells you how hard it actually is. To be fair to them this is because unless they got back yesterday – they probably can’t actually remember. Like a lot of terrible experiences – your mind seems determined to protect you and glosses the memory to make it fuzzy and happier. I imagine this is so you don’t have some kind of post-traumatic stress situation about eating eggs where you are unable to differentiate between the ‘yolks’ and the ‘whites’ every day for a week, or wonder how there can be ‘fried chicken’ on Day 6 of a non-refrigerated trek.

Of course if I dig very very deep they are still there – the flashes of pain, exhaustion, whiffs

Toilet tent and a 'Vicks fix' - Camp Day 4

of the stench of sweating daily and not bathing for a week, along with the retching accompanied by a quick splash of Vicks under the nose so I could go back into the bathroom tent because it was that or the great rocky  outdoors with no coverage and about 200 people I didn’t know looking on – with their cameras at the ready as this photo shows.  Or the shame of the memory of being excited that the LDL was having a nose bleed so we all had to stop and rest for ten minutes and then I could manage a sip of water from my camel-bak and then face the next thirty minutes after we had been told not to ask for stops as we were simulating ‘summit day’ conditions.

My little book of notes – collated on a day to day basis while lying in the tent at night with the OAC has proved an excellent memory prompter for reliving the pain and agony and even the teary conversation we had the day before summit about handing the flag to her to photo at the top if I didn’t make it.

I promise more posts about the week that was Kili -before I tell you about what’s next as my pseudo mid-life crisis rolls into 2012.

Thanks again to all my sponsors – I now understand the South African postal service thought they would rather keep the thank you notes I posted in December (my bad doing it at Christmas time). I hope someone’s house is made much brighter by the many signed photos of me summiting they collected. I haven’t found anyone trying to sell them on eBay yet so it seems they may have worked out I wasn’t famous after all. I have more on the way – watch this space.

Even got the photo to prove it….

This was not an easily come by photo and it wasn’t just the climb – my big camera (with accompanying giant lens) was relegated to my overnight bag after finding it way too heavy to keep in my day pack after the first day, weak I know but a necessary strategic move & in no way justifies my husband’s commentary that it was too big and heavy and not to take it. My smaller point and click camera slept with me in my sleeping bag to keep it warm and the batteries from draining too fast – unfortunately at some point this meant it got rolled on and apparently didn’t enjoy the experience so while it still took photos – you just couldn’t tell what they were of.

Luckily the main group were sighted on my approach to the summit as they were returning, so after tears and hugs the LDL handed over her camera so when we got to the ‘photo place’ a grumpy Kiwi took the shots for us. I’m not sure why he was grumpy – but he was a little begrudging and didn’t seem that caught up in the euphoria of ‘making it’. However – he took not a bad photo – so thanks to him for that.

With Stator the magic guide

The pre-summit group (as in pre my summit) The LDL third from left and OAC third from right both standing

Here's one we took earlier - Day 2, the smiles still seem fairly genuine. OAC second from right, LDL, third from right then me in the middle with the big blue hat and plaits (there's a look that won't be rushing back)

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