Walking Into Reality

The original name of this post was supposed to be “Running On More of THE Road” as a follow up to my blog a year ago called “Running On THE Road” about the Great Ocean Road Half-Marathon I ran. ‘More of THE Road’ meant running from Lorne to Apollo Bay, the length of the 44km Full Marathon.

“Supposed” to be?

Yeah. Guess what? I didn’t run it.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I possess a very wide stubborn streak. I don’t like giving up. Admittedly, sometimes when something is very challenging I will have a meltdown and declare I can’t do it but usually the melting down also melts down the stress and I pick myself up and get on with it.

And that is exactly how it originally went. One might suppose that scheduling a three week trip to Nepal, closely followed by completing a 100km charity walk and then giving myself six weeks to train for a full marathon was perhaps overdoing it a tad but, you know, shiny things….

Predictably, limited training due to travel and a focus on long-distance walking and then a week’s wait for blisters to heal, did not leave me in prime running condition when I picked up marathon training halfway through the program.

I was slow. Like, a full minute or more per kilometre than I was used to. And an attempted 3.5 hour training run ended after 2.5 hours when I just couldn’t go any further.

Did I consider giving up? You bet. And I think I would have. I could have easily dropped back to run the half-marathon instead except…. well …. been there, done that, got the medal. So nothing for it but to push on.

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Got one of these already

So I did. Slowly my pace picked up and the following weekend, I successfully completed that 3.5 hour run. I was feeling confident again I’d make it to the finish line. Maybe not in a spectacular time but you get the medal whether you’re first or last as long as you finish so no biggy.

But then my body had other ideas.

Getting up off the couch in the early morning after a wee hours insomnia-induced movie watching session, I suddenly felt pain in the left side of my chest and my shoulder. I thought I must have been lying awkwardly. Or maybe it was another version of a similar problem I had three years ago that turned up nothing. So I got on with my usual day.

Yeah, yeah, before you lecture me, I’ve already had that lecture from the doctor. “Next time, if you have pain in your chest and arm, you call the ambulance or get to an emergency department!” Okay, okay.

Two days of pain in my chest and two days of pain in the neck hassling from friends and family sent me off to the doctor only to be told there there was nothing wrong with my heart or lungs and it was muscular. Take some anti-inflammatories and wait for it to get better.

“Poor health is not caused by something you don’t have; it’s caused by disturbing something that you already have. Healthy is not something that you need to get, it’s something you have already if you don’t disturb it.” ~ Dean Ornish

Which it kind of did. Until it didn’t.

A week after the first lot of pain, a new development began. I was now accompanied by a silent, invisible assassin who would stab me in the lower left of my back at random intervals. He/she especially liked cuddling up to me in bed and sticking in the knife every time I moved.

It took me five days to go and see a doctor. I know, I know.

I had to dedicate a whole morning to blood tests, a urine test, ECG and a chest x-ray. I threw in some pre-poll voting while I was at it since it was in the same vicinity and I was going to be away the day of the coming federal election. Such a productive day.

By 5.00pm I was in the Emergency Department. One of the blood tests had indicated the possible presence of a blood clot. The admitting nurse and the consulting doctor both reacted as if my GP was an over-anxious parent with a cold-ridden child convinced she has pneumonia and declared that as I had none of the physical indicators of a clot and the blood test was notoriously often false, I was probably wasting my time. But as I’d been sent there, they had to give me a CT scan.

They found a small blood clot in my left lung. Also inflammation and a small amount of fluid. How embarrassing.

And how mysterious.

Fortunately, a hospital stay was not required and I was sent home with a prescription for blood thinners and an appointment with a haematologist the next day.

The haematologist was just as mystified. I am a fit non-smoker and have not had a virus or an injury. There were no signs a blood clot would be lurking at the bottom of my lung. All he could do was confirm the emergency doctor’s instructions to take blood thinners for three months and I’d be retested at the end of it to see what happens.

“No running for a month,” I was told.

“But I have a race on Sunday! What about…,” I pleaded. “What about I walk the half-marathon? It has a six and a half hour cut off. That’s like less than 5km/h!”

He grudgingly agreed. I had to promise not to run and also not to push too hard and to pull out if I felt unwell.

Yep. Definitely going to do that.

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Goodbye Full Marathon Bib, Hello Half-Marathon Walk Bib. This helped because I told myself I couldn’t run because it was against the rules.

I didn’t run. But I did walk kind of fast. By accident. I swear. It was a lovely day and a stunningly beautiful route and I just got kind of excited. Truly.

I finished in 3 hours and 16 minutes. That’s an hour longer than it took me to run it last year. Under the circumstances, I can be happy with that.

(Those circumstances, by the way, included a migraine the night before the race and almost having to push my way off the bus when we got to the start line because I was about to be sick. One of the tough things about the Great Ocean Road races is that you have to sit on a bus for 30-60 minutes on a windy road to get to the start line. Most challenging race start anywhere, I reckon.)

Unsurprising to other runners who understand, at the end of the race I felt the best I’d felt in weeks. Even during the race, as I found last year, the sheer joy of running walking along one of the most scenic roads in the world lifted my spirits and made me feel whole again.

 

Who wouldn’t want to beg their medical specialist to be allowed to traverse this road?

 

Postscript 1: The day after the race, an ultrasound found a blood clot behind my left knee caused by the combination of a varicose vein and an overseas flight (it is assumed). This provides something of an answer to the mysterious clot in my lung. It also appears that this will be an ongoing problem so there are more doctors, tests and procedures in my future.

 

Postscript 2: I’d like to dedicate this post to my friend Rachel who moved to New Zealand via Apollo Bay so we could enjoy this last run together. She also kindly looked after me when I was being a misery guts.

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Two happy half-marathoners

 

 

 

 

All That Glitters

I ran another marathon.

I know, I know.

Last year’s marathon was supposed to be the once-only, tick-it-off-the-bucket-list means of avoiding a significant birthday party.

And right up until I ran it, I was definitely only doing one. But then I crossed the finish line in a not-embarrassing time and then I got handed a big shiny medal. Ooh. Hard to resist a repeat of that experience.

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There’s more to it, though. Unbeknownst to me, I’d signed up to run the 40th Edition of the Melbourne Marathon. You realise what that means? The medal I was handed at that finish line was a medal only those who completed that particular marathon will ever possess because it has “40 Years” on it.

All together now: Ooooh.

So when Facebook, in its infinite wisdom, decided to float into my news stream the news that the Gold Coast Marathon was celebrating 40 Years in 2018, what was a now-marathon-runner supposed to do?

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I signed up.

My family sighed.

I sold it to them on the basis that we’d get a family holiday out of it at a warm Northern place in the cold Southern winter.

Okay.

And I spent the following training months vowing I’d never do another one. I mean, who really has time for all that training?

That training was less than optimal. I pretty much dropped the ball between February and April. I kept finding excuses not to go to the gym to do my strength training or to cut short a difficult interval training run or to swap a run for a gym session because it was cold and dark outside and I didn’t wanna. I “didn’t wanna” quite a bit too much.

Because of this or maybe not because of this, maybe because I’m older or maybe just because life can be like that, I was also battling a bit of knee and hip annoyance in the weeks leading up the marathon. Well, that’s not good.

So, I shrugged and figured “all I have to do is cross the finish line”. After all, it’s the same medal whether you come 100th or 1000th. Even if I had to walk the last 10kms I’d make it. Damn, I’d crawl if I had to.

The upshot of this approach is that I rather enjoyed the marathon. I didn’t push hard, I took the time to have a proper drink at every station (although, over hydrating at the start meant a 3 minute layover at the 5km mark when I decided a use of facilities might be a good idea before my bladder burst) and I just tried to enjoy the experience and the scenery.

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Nice scenery

Okay, I didn’t enjoy all of it. I mean, it’s a marathon. Nobody enjoys all of it. There was a 6km section from about the 31km mark when we’d just passed the entrance into the park where the finish line is and we had to keep going before we could loop back for the final leg that seemed interminable. I’ve never known 6km to be so loooooong.

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Yeah, not enjoying this bit

It was also a bit warm for my liking. I’ve mentioned before that I prefer to run in the cold. It wasn’t Commonwealth-Games-collapse-on-the-side-of-the-road level heat but it was too warm for this woman from the Victorian wintry lands.

In the end, I ran a similar time to last year, just a few minutes over my previous time. To have enjoyed the race and finished well (and no trouble with the cramping I had last time) was worth a few extra minutes.

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The organisers of the Gold Coast Marathon claim 60% of participants achieve a personal best time in this event. That makes the sneaky voices whisper “if only”s in your ear when you don’t achieve one. But here’s the thing about that statistic. I’ve just filled out a survey about the event and one of the questions was “Did you make a personal best time?” for which you can answer “Yes” or “No”. Here’s what I also know: according to the announcer at the finish line, 30% of participants were running their first marathon. If it’s your first marathon, it’s a given that you’re going to answer “Yes” to that question. Right? Plus, if you ran a shocker and didn’t beat a previous time, perhaps you’d be disinclined to fill out a survey and answer such a question. So it puts that 60% figure in a dodgy light, I reckon.

Damn statistics.

In the end, all that mattered was crossing that finish line and collecting another big shiny medal. It’s always about the bling for me.

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Shiny!

All that glitters is on the Gold Coast.

 

Postscript: A friend texted today to ask how the marathon went. I told her it went well and I enjoyed it. Then I said:

“Unfortunately, that probably means I’ll do another one. LOL”

🙄

Lament of the Lonely Runner

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She runs alone

with no partner, friend, coach or team

to while away the hours

as the kilometres plod by

 

Time in her head

her own company she keeps

She sings to herself

to keep the rhythm in her feet

and silently screams at the voices

that tell her to stop

that she can’t do it

that she shouldn’t be there

 

She revisits past troubles

and reviews ones yet to come

She rewrites past conversations

and rehearses ones that have to come

 

It has always been thus

and she has met the challenges

she has set for herself

and overcome them

Alone

 

And she has not minded

the time alone

She is alone

but not lonely

 

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Until today

 

Today the loneliness strikes hard

Even the usual fleeting connections

with strangers on the track

a smile, a wave, a breathless ‘Hello’

are rare on this cold and blustery winter day

as sensible people stay indoors

curled up on the couch

watching their footy team play

 

Perhaps, in these days of reduced social interaction

this introvert has had too much of a good thing

like an overly restrictive diet

As coffee dates and drinks and dinners out

have all but disappeared

perhaps loneliness has put a foot in the door

 

The loneliness in her life

finds its way onto the track

 

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As the kilometres of bitumen

pass endlessly by

under her pounding feet

she questions this life choice

this pursuit of isolation

And she knows

 

Because loneliness is hard

but also all too easy

 

She questions her value as a friend

to all but a tiny few

Reaching out is easy when one feels

one’s value to the other

 

She knows she is appreciated

for her willingness to help

and her acts of generosity

She knows she is respected

for her tenacity in the face of challenge

and her passion for justice

 

But she longs to be loved

for her sense of humour

and her addiction to American late night talk shows

for her innate childish silliness

and her ridiculous dance moves

for her love of cosplay

and musicals and themed birthday parties

 

She wishes her annoying traits

that keep her from friendship

could be softened and understood

couched in an understanding

of her shyness and social awkwardness

her need for order

and her belief that life should be fair and just

 

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As she reaches the end

the thoughts ease for now

and she knows

tomorrow she will lace these shoes again

and run

alone again

 

Always alone

but not always lonely

 

 

Running On THE Road

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The Great Ocean Road is one of the most iconic stretches of tarmac in the world.

Built by returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932, it is both a testament to human endeavour and a striking memorial to those who lost their lives in the First World War.

The Road is featured in many a Top 10 traveller list and thousands of tourists traverse it every day in buses, cars, campervans and motorcycles.

What they can’t do, if they value their lives, is travel the road on foot.

Except for one special day in the year.

The Great Ocean Road Running Festival is a two day event in May incorporating races for everyone from the 1.5km Kids’ Gallop to the 60km Ultra Marathon. There are also multiple distances for walkers.

The shorter races are held around the township of Lorne on the Saturday and has quite the party atmosphere.

But it’s the Sunday that is special. On Sunday, the Great Ocean Road is closed to traffic between Lorne and Apollo Bay and thousands of runners and walkers line up to complete the 23km Half Marathon, the 44km Marathon or the 60km Ultra Marathon. (Yes, they run the Half and Full Marathons hard here, tacking on an extra couple of kilometres.)

With a 24km run on the training schedule, it seemed logical to run the GOR Half Marathon instead. Run much the same distance and gain some bling at the end? Easy decision.

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Very nice bling it is, too.

I think because I only saw it as a training run, I didn’t really take the run all that seriously. I didn’t chase up accommodation, choosing instead to travel from home on the morning. The night before, I was wondering about the wisdom of that decision as I was facing a 5am departure. Meh. Who sleeps before a race anyway?

The Marathon and Ultra Marathon both kick off from Lorne and finish in Apollo Bay (the Ultra taking a detour or two off the road to add the extra distance). The Half Marathon starts (predictably) half way at Kennett River. Shuttle buses run from both Lorne and Apollo Bay to the start line.

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Kennett River – Not a bad place to start a race

For some, this is not the optimum start to a race. The Great Ocean Road is a very windy road and those of a travel sickness disposition can find the bus ride to the start a bit unsettling. Hard to face 23km of running when you feel like you’re going to throw up at the start line.

We’ve been having some unseasonably warm and sunny days this Autumn but typically, Mother Nature decided to pull out a cold, misty and windy day for Race Day.

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I loved it. I am most definitely a cold weather runner. I am also a winter beach person. I would much rather a walk beside a wintry, wild ocean than a warm, crystal blue lagoon.

I had registered in the 2.5 hours plus group since I’ve only just got back into a proper training program and it being a bit further than a normal half marathon.

I surprised myself and finished in 2:15:17. I had a great run. So much so, that I actually got a bit of a shock when I reached the 18km aid station. I was beginning to wonder if I’d miscounted the stops until I saw a walking track sign saying “5km to Apollo Bay”. Only 5km to go? Sweet!

Now, that time of 2:15:17 is the actual time it took from the start line to the finish – my “net time”. My “official” time is more than two minutes longer than that.

Results

This is the injustice of the humble runner. You put yourself at the back of the group and then it takes you several minutes to reach the start line when the gun goes off. I noticed a runner on the list who crossed the finish line a few minutes after I did but her official time was almost the same as her net time. This means she stood right on the line at the start but took longer to run the race than I did. Sometimes I wish I had that level of nerve. You can see the difference the time makes in the rankings between the two times.

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Feels like a half marathon just to get to the start line

Of course, it must be confessed that as a white-bibbed more-than-2.5-hour runner, there was some measure of psychological boost whenever I overtook a red-bibbed less-than-2.5-hour runner who got to start closer to the line than I did. There’s always a silver lining.

The Great Ocean Road Marathon is included in the book “50 Place to Run Before You Die” and I can definitely say it’s a run to be experienced. Of course, the great thing is that you don’t even have to run it. With the option to walk 5km, 10km or the Half Marathon (or, if you’re a bit sneaky and can walk fast, even the full Marathon), it’s an experience open to more than marathoners. Put it on your bucket list.

 

 

 

Now, what else is in that book….?