Monthly Archives: April 2012

London Marathon 2012

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Pre- race: The day before, I had been invited to the London Marathon Medicine conference. This was a conference organised by the medical director of the marathon for health care workers participating in the Marathon. I had thought about giving it a miss, thinking it would be dry and boring, but it was very well organised and interesting. Topics included cardiac disorders in runners (presented by the cardiologist in looking after Boston Marathon runners), the biomechanics of breast bounce (which the gentlemen in the audience were most fascinated with) and there was a case presentation on an elite female marathoner by a  sports physiologist. Elite marathoners are physiologically very interesting and studied very closely, so it was fascinating to see changes in their physiological parameters with training and in relation to personal best times.

At this conference, I met an Australian trained GP, working in London. She was doing her first marathon. I got talking with her. We discussed why we run. She shared with me that she had lost both parents to cancer within a year of each other, a few years ago. This gave her the impetus to live her life to the fullest, and not put things off. Amen to that. We ended up having lunch together.

The afternoon before, I spent having a swim in the hotel pool, fighting off negative thoughts, thinking happy thoughts and reading funny  shit on the internet. I was in bed by 0930.

The race report…..

London (and I ) awoke bright and clear at 0530. Rain had been forecast, but I could see  no clouds a’ comin. Later I heard that It would be clear in the morning but rainy in the arvo. Impetus to finish!

Off to brekky. It was interesting to see everyone’s reaction to the nerves- some folks go quiet, some get loud and jokey. I tend toward the latter. One of the blokes was joking at breakfast: “only 8 hours till beer!”

I met a South African living in Australia, called Marina. She, too, was doing her first marathon. She, too, was just wanting to get around and not too bothered about her time. It was good to have a yap with her.

We got on the bus. I was feeling quite calm, and spoke to family and friends on the phone. We drove to the blue start in Blackheath. This, apparently, was the site where the victims of the plague were buried. Ironic to start a race on pandemic victims. A celebration of life on buried dead.

We arrived at the start at about 0730. It was chilly. While I was chatting on the phone, I spilled my instant porridge through my kit bags. Cleaning this up used some much needed time.

The starter’s area (one of three) was a fenced off, grassy park. They had tea and coffee, lucozade, changing tents and portaloos. There were trucks, tens of them, for us to put our “kit” bags into, arranged by number.

Gradually the park filled up. They were playing songs to get us “pumped” – songs like “London Calling”, “Vertigo” and “Firework”. I sat and chatted with a girl called Sarah from Lancaster, who was running her first London (but not first ever) marathon. She had finally got in on the ballot. She helped me write some things on my arm to keep me focussed. There were photographers, and I posed for photos. The atmosphere there was quite electric, but, in retrospect, nothing compared to the actual race.

Gordon Ramsay was there, he is a 3:45 marathoner. They showed the elite women’s start. Soon enough, after a few queues to the loo, it was time to start. I was at the back, with all the costumed runners – the rhinos, the ballerinas. The announcer was calling out names as we started. As I passed him, I pointed at my name on my vest, and he said “good luck, Cilla”. RAWKstar moment.

I passed the start line – the song “Seven Nation Army” was playing. I thought “here we go”. My butt pain started up from the beginning. Very soon, I ditched my top and gloves.

The first part was fairly flat, and I was keeping up with the 11-minute mile group. The first few miles were significant for feeling piddly (though I survived till the third set of portaloos as I didn’t want to queue up too long) and speed humps. There were race marshalls on either side holding a sign and saying “hump”. This was very helpful. I was smiling widely, and thought “I am here, fuck this is awesome”. This feeling continued throughout most of the race.

My plan had been to run 8 km (5 miles) and then take a good long walk break. This co-incided with a fuel stop. I started walking and downed my lucozade. A little while after this, I started getting stomach cramps. I ran with them for about a mile, then found a McDonalds to empty my stricken, osmotically loaded bowels (dunno whether the doctorly insights make things easier or harder) . Luckily, the good folk in the McLoos, seeing our race number, let us cut in. I am sure they appreciated my “urrrrrgggggggghhhhh” noise when I had finished on the loo.

Like a true champion, I trotted bravely back out onto the course. I lapped up the support of the crowd. Not a minute or two passed by that somebody didn’t yell out “go Cilla”. This made me smile. I felt like a rockstar. I did the high fives. After the little lucozade incident, I began to take advantage of smaller doses of carbs, vis a vis jelly babies that were being handed out by generous Londoners. Little kids got in on the action, giving high fives and handing out jelly babies.

I crossed the prime meridian again. The Cutty Sark was there at about 7 miles- it was the first time I had laid eyes on it! There was a tight corner. Around this corner, I saw somebody hold up a sign that said “Worst Parade Ever”. I yelled this out to her and had a little chuckle. From the ankles up, I was feeling great. People were milling about, some having barbecues on their front lawns. Quite a few with beer. All of the pubs were open, many of them were blaring music. One of them was blaring out a techno version of “Chariots of fire”. The second fuel station, I drank the Lucozade with water. It felt good having a bottle in both hands. I remember around this point an orchestra was assembled, playing the Rocky theme song.

I was looking forward to the halfway point. We rounded a corner at about 12.5 miles and there it was – the London Bridge, in all it’s Grey and Aqua glory! I think my mouth hung open for this entire stretch. The crowds along this were thick and cheery, and I felt magnificent.

At 13.1 miles, something happened. I was in a bit of pain and started to panic. “Shit” I thought “I have another one of these to go”. My 5×8 plan went out the window, and I started walking. Here, I got a lot of “Go, Cilla” yells. Somebody yelled out “Go Cilla, Our Cilla” in a thick Liverpudlian accent. Then I saw a lady limping. I put my arm around her, and said “You are doing well, sweetie”. She replied “Oh, Bless you”. Then I thought “Heck, she is doing it tougher than me” and started running again.

The part after this was tough. My thunder was being stolen by men in pink tutus, rhinos and a tub of rice pudding. My feet began to burn. It became tiring – thin roads, and having to duck and weave through walkers. A skinny woman wearing a spangly bra walking quicker than I could run strangely irritated me. I was starting to get a stitch. Then I started walking, and I got a shooting pain down my butt. I dealt with this by shuffling along as fast as I could until the stitch became too painful. Still, the crowd kept me going, with the “Go, Cilla”s coming thick and fast. At one point, I even had a group of people chanting my name and ringing a bell. I smiled widely and pumped my fists in rhythm with it.

After 25 km, I thought “This is it. After this is what it’s all about. The bit that’s further than you’ve ever gone before. Time to dig deep”.

At about 28km, with my back and butt aching, I thought I might have to quit running after this. I imagined my protruding vertebral disc rubbing painfully against my L45 nerve root. The cheers from the crowd helped push this from my mind. I also thought “another couple of hours, and that’s it. Finished. Just 2 hours of your life. Hold on”.

Strangely, the poem “If” did not go through my head. Instead, another stanza came through, from the poem “Invictus”. I am surprised I remembered it.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance,

My head is bloodied, but unbowed”.

I held my head high, despite the tightness across my shoulders. I smiled bravely at every person I heard cheering me on.

There were a few open-air concerts around, and at the 30 km mark, it was going off like a frog in a sock. Just the medicine I needed. The high stayed with me for a few km.

After this, my right foot cramped up. I stretched my foot on the side of the road. Race volunteers made sympathetic noises in my direction. I was getting blisters! I just hung in there as best I could. I kept going in my awkward slow shuffle. My run was as fast as a brisk walk, but it was a run.

Given my carbo loading, and keeping up the carbs and fluid throughout the race, I was feeling OK from the ankles up. A little sore in my right leg from holding my foot in an awkward position, but ok. The point was, I thought happily, I was not hitting the wall.

The 20, 21 and subsequent markers seemed to get farther away, though. The fine weather turned foul. A few spectators were driven away. Yet there were still plenty of cheers. I looked out hopefully for my friends.

The pain in my blisters continued and, at just after the 23mile mark, I could go no further. I sat down on the side of the road and pulled out my blister plasters. The spectators, still quite thick, said “oooh, are you ok”. A race marshall rushed up. I calmly explained that I had blisters that I needed to attend to. Bless the marshall, she helped me remove my socks and shoes, which, after 23 miles, probably looked a little manky. My shoulder/neck seized up painfully, and I said to the marshall “I want this fucker over”. She said, kindly “yes, you need to put it to bed, you are seizing up”. With some difficulty I got back on my feet, and I had a cheer from the crowd. This, I think, was one of the highlights of the race.

I continued my waddle past St. Pauls and along the embankment. I got another chant from the crowd, and this time I joined in. The wind was up, and a barrier blew over. It started to rain. A sign said “Only 2.5 miles and then you have made it into history”. Somebody was holding a placard that said “Don’t do a Paula”.

On the embankment, I heard a faint “Cilla” behind me, and I turned and waved, then kept going. Later, the “Cilla, Cilla” got louder. Shauna and Phil were there! And so was my friend Sarah! I ran to greet them, exclaiming “I got BLISTERS!” I gave them a big hug, then kept going.

I passed the Big Ben as the clock struck 4. My spine tingled – what a moment!

The 25 mile sign came. Then a sign came up – I was thinking it was the 26 mile sign, but it was one that said “800 metres to go”. Strangely, I got all disappointed, thinking “that’s nearly a kilometre”. I walked. Then I started my painful shuffle. I really wanted to cane it through that park, but my blisters wouldn’t let me. Some American guy said “Cilla, your’e in the park. You got this, girl”. I looked as the markers went down – 600, then 385 yards. Then I rounded a corner into the mall. I thought I would get all emotional at this point, seeing the big gold statue in front of Buckingham palace. All I felt was relief. I am feeling more emotional typing about it. I went as fast as I could through the final 200 metres.

I finished.

I felt bewildered. Then the pain train hit. I wondered internally “can I go home now?”

I got my timing chip taken off, then a volunteer put a medal over our head. I queued for a finisher’s photo, then commenced the very long walk to get my kit bag. I was wheezing – my rare exercise induced asthma had made an appearance. I asked at the medical tent if they had some ventolin I could take. They didn’t, so I coughed and wheezed and whimpered and staggered. I saw my friends, who had come to meet me – this eased some of the bewilderment I was feeling, but I am sure I had a big “what just happened?” look on my face. I called a special friend in Australia. He had been following me on the marathon site, and texting me throughout, bless him! I don’t know that I made much sense on that phone call.

I staggered on to the tube station. The downstairs were excruciating. Some drunk people wanted to take a photo with me. The train home was crowded, but, despite my fatigue and pain, I was patient.

I met Phil and Shauna back at the hotel. We had a drink. I gleefully showed them my blisters and recounted my battle stories. The achievement had not yet sunk in.  It was so lovely to see them. My people.

That night, I met with my fellow “Travelling fit” comrades. I again showed my blisters. Some people were happy – mainly the first-timers. Some people were disappointed. I think I was in the former group. I went for dinner, wanting a big hunk of cow and some red wine.

I went to bed that night, exhausted but happy, proudly wearing my finisher’s t-shirt and medal.

The achievement sunk in over the next few days.

The thing I was most proud of was not my time (6:10:48). This was slower than I wanted.

Everything that I was worried about prior to the marathon occurred during the marathon. The diarrhoea, cramps, stitches, blisters. The mental freak-outs. Yet, at no point did I say “I can’t do it”. I carried on with a gracious smile, and finished with my head held high and proud. I was slowed down, for sure, but I did not quit. This is what I am most proud of.

A good metaphor for life, really.

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The night before….

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Activities:

  • Went to London marathon medicine conference. I had been invited by the organizers of the marathon. There were about 150-200 health professionals there. I was expecting it to be really dry, but the topics were really interesting. They covered things like eating disorders in elite athletes, The biomechanics of breast bounce, cardiac problems in athletes and they did a case report on amarathoner, presenting all her physiological parameters during and between training, and the changes in them prior to her pb runs.
  • At this conference, I met an Australian trained London GP, and we started chatting. She told me that she started running after the death of both parents (within 1 year through cancer). An amazing woman, and proofthat everybody has a story.  We had a pasta lunch together.
  • Went for a swim in the hotel pool, then bummed about.
  • A pasta party with the other travelers. Had a most amusing discussion re excuses to get out of running (too wet, too dry, too dark, too light, too hot, too cold, too windy, too still, too early, too late, too hungry, too full, too tired, tooawake etc)

 

My excitement has turned into apprehension….am trying to think happy thoughts. I am scared of pain, exhaustion, failure, and fear itself.

Am looking forward to getting out there….

See you on the other side.

Yes I have set up my kit…..

Reflecting pool

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Iwent over to an expat friends place for dinner last night. Her fella is a  keen cook, and we had galettes (ham/egg/cheese for main,banana/rum for dessert).

My friend gave me a great compliment- I was expressing my doubts about being able to finish the marathon. She said: ” you have trained, you have come halfway round the world, on your own, that’s very brave, you know”

That made me feel really good.

Today, I was sat in a cafe eating carbs. Alone. And most importantly, quite contented. It is certainly not the first time I have travelled or been alone, but this is the first penny drop of contentedness.

Of course, I love being with people, and would prefer to have somebody to share my experiences with, but I am ok.

It helps that I am connected with people on the phone, Facebook etcetera. But my experience has been rich. No sadness, just reflection, and a bit of emotional incontinence.

I also had a lovely surprise today which made my heart sing, something small,but very big. Something that I want to keep close to my heart.

This arvo, after seeing an exhibition at the Tate modern, I went back to my hotel and did…. Bugger all. Took a bath with Jo Malone bath oil. Lolled about. Ordered room service. Laughed at funny shit on the computer… I couldbeget used to it, bufor doing bugger all isn’t really my thing….

Happy as….

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A sparrow with a French fry?

A pig in shit?

Errrrr….

I am so very, very happy. And excited!

I love London. Just love it. All the little doubts and worries in my mind abour running the marathon have been diluted by spending a couple of  days here.

I cannot help but contrast it with my last trip to Europe. I had an upgrade to business class,but I cried all the way to heathrow. Grieving the end of a marriage. Feeling insecure in a rebound relationship with a guy who was not that into me (and, in retrospect, he was not really worth my time).

I was unsure of myself. At odds with myself. Feeling angry and guilty and confused. It was all just an ill defined feeling of shit, which threatened to tip me into another bout of depression.

I got back from Europe, got the douchebag to show his intentions. I went into a tailspin, and could not really see the point of anything. Dark, dark days.

Then I thought “this is bullshit”.

I looked up from the bottom of the hole.

I got myself a new therapist (I suspected the previous one had her own issues).

I took a breather from dating. I decided that I had to tackle my loneliness head on. I joined a social group, and went out. Did normal things like going to see movies, with other people.

I started in- earnest training for the marathon. IN this, I had to show consistency and focus that I had not yet shown before in athletic pursuits. I could not afford to go feral, as is the temptation when when one finds oneself newly single.

(however, for the record, there has been  good measure of debauchery, and very freaking fabulous it was too)

At the beginning of the training, I felt slow and fat. I felt like I didn’t belong there, especially on the long runs where there were all these fit, lithe gazelles. I felt like a fraud. And, to a degree, I still do.

Then, I thought “No! I have a right to be here!”

Sure enough, the inner bully shrank, and in her place came …… Well, not quite Xena warrior princess…….but somebody with a burgeoning sense of self belief and worth.

The whole- body ache I had when I started was replaced with strength and endurance. At the end of some of my latter long runs, I felt damn near invincible.

I did end up getting back on the dating scene, but with a new approach. Less end- game focussed, more about getting to know myself, others and the world. It is amazing how much I learned about my own behavior through watching others. I had fun (mostly), and enjoyed a rip-roaring social life. My company needed to be booked in advance. Did it affect my training? Probably. Would I have done it differently? Hell no!

Underlyingthirds great social life was some anxiety about being home alone and idle…. As though I would fall in a screaming heap if I stood still.

Fatigue set in, and I learned that I would not self- combust if I slowed down a bit. I spent the odd Friday or Saturday night at home alone, in front of the Telly, resplendent in my trackie daks.

I started owning my life. My choices. Saying “this is me, and I am loving it”. Accepting my flaws and learning how best to work them in. The latter was learned via a few disappointments. And a fuckload of therapy.

I worked out what I needed- not the material things, but things like affection, physical contact, things like that. I worked out how I could best obtain them, without compromising myself.

Recently, I found myself irritated with people commiserating my single status on Facebook. I thought ” I don’t have a problem, my life is fucking fabulous”…. For sure, I wanted a partner, and occasionally struggled with lack of cuddles, but it was at the back of my mind, not the forefront.

But somebody came out of the woodwork…….early days, but lovely. So lovely.

And here I am, in London. Excited about the 42.2. A bit trepidatious about the pain….. Yet, writing this, I realize how far I have come, and the pain I have already endured. I have triumphed. 42.2 does not seem like that far now.

I look in the shops, but want for nothing. I enjoy the sights,sounds. I have patted dogs, smiled at people. I went to Jo Malone, and purchased some nice smelly things I had promised myself, and got a hand massage there. I bought a pair of jeans at 70% off at Anthropologie. I bumped into Melissa George! She was gracious enough to let me have a photograph with her! I have met some lovely cabbies and met up with friends.

I am so happy.

Still here. Still running. Still excited.

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And I am back on Facebook, mainly to brag about running.

With the injury/lurgy, the running slowed down a bit, but did not stop. I am feeling a bit nervous about the Marathon, mainly because I get emails from other Travelling Fit participants of the London Marathon, talking about their 25km taper runs, or telling me that they could not reply to my initial email because they were flat out with training/work etc.

I feel a bit underdone when I hear that. My confidence is down.

Life continues to happen, even when training for a marathon, even when doing a PhD. These things have me excited, but there are other things, I’ve discovered.

I had been getting busy with my work and running. Moreover, I had just gotten to a place where I felt happy and fulfilled alone. I resented the pitying remarks on facebook about my “new” relationship status. I thought, fuck, man, my life is great, better than it has ever been.

I was going to continue on with the dating stuff, maybe slow it down. But continue; I (mostly) enjoyed it in and of itself, without particular attention to the “end-game”.

A few short weeks ago, a fellow got in contact with me on an internet dating site. There were a few things on the profile that nearly had me sending a “no thanks” return message immediately (will go into that later). But I slept on it, and then decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. I got a prompt email reply. He seemed nice. He was off on holidays and wanted to meet up with me before he went, so we promptly arranged a get together.

Most first dates are a bit like job interviews. This one was not – the conversation flowed freely, pleasantly. How do I write about it without it sounding cliched? I felt excited, not in a heart-pounding butterflies way, but in a comfortable, easy, happy way. We had a lovely night, and a second date was arranged for that weekend. Same again – happy, comfortable.

Long story short, I went to meet him and his (8 and 10 year old) daughters in Hobart, where they were holidaying. A prolonged third date.

There is all the “too soon” stuff that entered my head, but then I thought, hey, what the hell else am I doing this Easter? Nothing! So I went.

I had an amazing, joyous time. Not just sharing it with one person, but with three people. Three great people.

There is more stuff planned, but I feel a bit funny about sharing it. Like I will jinx it or something. I don’t know. There are a lot of emotions gushing around, most of them good.

I had not expected this to happen…..what it will turn out as is hard to say, but it certainly feels good. Easy. Lovely.

Am off to London in five days….this is exciting. So much to do…..

Miss me?

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I have been a bit slack, sorry.

Life has been interesting lately. Interesting good. Interesting interesting. A bit of a roller coaster. So much keeps happening and things seem to change week to week. And yes I am being deliberately cryptic.

So, the running. Yes, I am still running.

I did my very last 3 hour run last Sunday the 25th of March. I ran very strongly, for me. Not even the slowest I can run, managed a few kms sub 7 minutes, on the flat. There were quite a few hills. I also finished really strong, with my final 1.5km about 30 sec per km faster than average. So I felt great.

The only problem was some butt and hammy pain. The ITB was nice and quiet.

Last Thursday, I went to the sports doc. He had a good look at me. He did not make too much of a big deal, told me I had some friction symptoms around the lower part of the ITB. Then he had a look at my back, butt and hammies. He said that the pain was likely due to nerve root irritation from a previous slipped disc rather than from the hammy itself. I have been put on a course of celebrex. Hopefully it gets better.

I have come down with a bit of a lurgy – this and the back issues meant that I took the weekend off running. I figure I have my base, just got to keep it ticking over.

Oooh, and last wednesday – a PB in the 4km time trial – I ran 25:10! Usually I am a bit cactus the wednesday after a long run, and not doing too well with speed sessions, but I did alright on that one!

Today, lots of shit to sort out. Am a bit tired. Need a holiday. Heading off to Tassie on the weekend – should be nice!

Not long now, peeps. Not long.