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Last minute change of plans
Thursday, 20 February 2014 06:04

Thursday 20 February 2014

Sydney International Airport

It has been a very busy couple of days before getting away today.  Tuesday morning, after Charlie had gone to work (at 6am!), just as I was ready to clean my teeth and get to work as well, an email arrived at 7:06am from Marathon Caracas.  Violent political protests in the last few days have led to the organisers deciding to postpone the marathon.  Which in my case means it is cancelled.  All of a sudden - what do we do?  We were due to be leaving only 48 hours later.  A call to the insurance company (they don't open until 9 am), an email to Charlie, an email to Ben from Angel Eco tours, with whom I had organised our trip to Angel Falls just after the marathon, to check the safety of the country (outside of the capital) and to request suggestions to a change in schedule.  Off to work, and more checking of the internet - other places in South America, short trips?  Other marathons?  Do I contact the airline to change flights, to delay the trip?  What do we do?

On Tuesday, I just felt flat and very anti climatic.  I appreciate that the organisers have no choice but to cancel the event given the riots and deaths on the street in Caracas - there is no way you could have 10 000 people running through the streets safely.  But I was really looking forward to finishing this project.  Finishing my 7 marathons on 7 continents. A project over 2 years in the execution and 3 years in the planning.  I was really looking forward to finishing.  There were a couple of options for other South American events that I found, but none that I could still enter, and all involved coming home later than planned.  Between work, locum replacement at work, arrangements with the kids for each of us - it was just too hard.

Of course, I am still running in Antarctica in a couple of weeks.  That is still a very awesome thing to be doing, but I am not excited about that yet.  We have organised a pretty cool looking trip to Venezuela now - a combination of jungle and safari, so we should see some waterfalls, wild life and some local people.  We are not likely to ever get back to Venezuela, so we are going to make the most of it.  I don't know yet when I will actually run my 7th marathon.  This trip was relatively convenient in terms of time and money with the two marathons so close together, and it will take a while before I can afford both the time and money to get over this side of the Pacific again.  

And rehab my feet enough to manage a full marathon training cycle again.  Perhaps that is the most daunting bit.


The countdown to the last two marathons
Saturday, 15 February 2014 10:07

Saturday 15th February 2014


The last 3 weeks of my project starts now. This time in 21 days, marathon #7 on the last continent will be complete. I paid the deposit for this trip before I ran my first marathon in November of 2011. I committed to this last marathon before I had even run one.

It's been almost 7000km of training since I started running in January 2011.
Chiro, physio, massage and podiatry appointments.
A couple of bowel screening tests, just to be safe.
6 lost toenails.
Too many blisters and chafed spots.
Presentations about bowel cancer and the marathon project to groups of fitness trainers, new mums, women's activist groups.

I haven't been able to train the way I had intended to over the last 3 months. I have plantar fasciopathy (it used to be known as plantar fasciitis, but not anymore) in both feet, with a tear and a bone spur on the left. It hurts. I rested a month, then ran for a month, now I'm running a little only.

I am a bit scared by how underdone I am. My last proper long runs were in the lead up to the Amsterdam marathon - therefore in September. I know I have pretty good endurance anyway. But running a marathon is pretty tough. 42.2km is a long way. And next Sunday I get to run that far on a hilly course on the other side of the world.

It is pretty exciting. And pretty scary. I think it will hurt. A lot.

So the plan is - fly to Caracas, Venezuela on Thursday and Friday. Pick up the race bib, get a bit of a look at the city on Saturday, run on Sunday. Caracas is a dangerous city, so we have organised the cousin of a client of Charlie's (who lives there) to act as our driver and guide for Saturday, and assist Charlie on Sunday so he can hopefully get some shots of the marathon safely. Venezuela is in the northern part of South America, on the Caribbean Sea, above the equator. Temperature should be about 25 degrees, as the city is at about 800m elevation - similar to Mt Lofty.

After the run, we are doing a quick trip into the jungle to see (hopefully, dry season not withstanding) Angel Falls - the longest drop in the world, and as featured in the movie 'Up' as Paradise Falls. That's exciting. And hopefully less painful.

We will then head down to Buenos Aires to meet up with the rest of the group from Marathon Tours. I don't know how many Aussies will be part of this trip - I don't know of any at this point. We will spend a few days together there then we have a 3:30am hotel departure to get to the airport and fly down to Ushuaia - the southern most city in the world. We'll spend the day looking at the town, then board our ship, the Academik Ioffe, for the 10 day trip around the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula.

We'll have 2 days at sea, crossing the Drake Passage before we see our first icebergs and then catch sight of land - the last continent. The run will be held on King George Island. Last year it was a 14km loop, running between the research bases of China, Uruguay, Chile and
Russia. So we'll do three laps. Hills, ice, mud, penguins on a mostly gravel road. The weather will determine how much snow, ice, mud and slush we have to contend with. The temperature will likely be between -10 and 5 degrees C, so I'll wear fairly normal cold weather running clothes - trail shoes, long tights, an I/O Merino top plus t shirt, maybe a rain jacket, gloves and something covering my ears. I am taking a few different options with me. I should be able to find some ice for my feet at the end!

We do a BBQ on the deck of the boat to celebrate the run, and spend the next day kayaking amongst the icebergs and whales. That sounds like the best post race treat I've come across!

Very excited now - a couple more days with my kids, a couple more runs, a couple more workdays, a board meeting, a physio presentation, lunch with running friends, a yoga session or two, and we'll be on our way.


The trip, like all the others, is entirely self funded. Along the way, I have been spreading the message that bowel cancer screening saves lives. Tests are available from your chemist or from bowel cancer Australia. Do it every year from 40. If you'd like to support my rub, please donate to the Jodi Lee Foundation, via my page. 

Progress report
Friday, 17 January 2014 22:29

18th January 2013


50 days to go until Antarctica (only 36 to Caracas!)

I had a scan on my foot this week - plantar fascia tear, swelling and many small gaps in it, a large calcaneal spur confirmed on XRay, and similar pathology on the right side as well.  Yikes.  I was hoping the scan would show me that there was little wrong and that it is all in my head!  I ran a grand total of 38 km in December, just short runs to check the progress on the foot.  I have run more this week, including a 2 hr run last Sunday - my longest run since the Amsterdam marathon.  I plan to do 26km tomorrow.  After that, perhaps 1x 30km run will do me for the proper long runs.  I think I'll get on the bike (I need to get it back from a friend) to get more km in my legs, even though it is such a different pattern, but I can't do the running km I normally would.


I'm pleased my endurance is not too bad.  I'm pleased my hip feels good now.  I'm pleased I can do any of this any way.  I am not pleased that my shoes of choice for everyday wear are now sneakers, but I can live with that :)


Running on this foot is not ideal.  If I didn't have these deadlines, I wouldn't run at all right now.  But I think the risk of rupturing completely is low, so long as I am conservative in my training.  I certainly hope I don't rupture it in South America!  I do have insurance, bought months and months ago. 



A minor setback
Monday, 09 December 2013 01:07

9th December 2013


It's now less than 11 weeks until the Caracas marathon, and 13 weks until the 7 marathon project is complete.  But my left foot hurts.


It's been niggling for months, but what started as referred pain from my left hip (which has troubled me a bit for over a year now), became much inhibition of muscles around the hip, altered gait patterns and especially an altered awareness in the left leg, nerve signs all through the back of the left leg and now seems to be plantar fasciopathy.  I think a few other factors contributed to it - like using low drop Spira Stinger shoes as part of a shoe study, but the shoes were a little large, felt odd, and I think caused more problems in the 12 weeks I wore them (only for speed and recovery runs, never the long run).  


The hip problems (a significant neural / dural component to the problem, as well as sacrotuberous ligament and may be some other structures around there, very high up in the back of the leg and the medial parts of the buttock) caused a lot of issues, with pain inhibition and apparent weakness or slow initiation of my glut medius, glut max, glut min and subsequent overactivity / compensatory patterns from iliacus, psoas, TFL, piriformis and hamstrings.  Full and moderate hip flexion werre very painful, sitting would aggravate the pain, and it behaved a lot like a hamsting tendinopathy, except that the proximal hamstring itself was non tender, except for perhaps a very medial / anterior portion that was almost impossible to reach.  


My weekly yoga session dropped off, such that I've been 20 times in 9 months, only 6 times from late June to early December.  The flexed positions hurt too much, made the hip worse afterwards, I struggled to get into lunge positions, let alone hold them strongly and the balance on my left leg was affected.  And that, I think, has not been so good for the rest of me, especially as I used it as my main stretching and conditioning work.  I have also managed to steadily gain some weight since the 12 hour run in July, so that can't be helping my foot (all that load, every single step).


I've done exercises - strength, stretch, coordination, had physio of a couple of different sorts, including some cranial sacral work, chiro and massage - especially for the long adductors and hip flexors.  I've addressed every weird little part of this problem.  I stopped sprinting hard during the middle part of the year, to avoid overstriding.  I stopped yoga.


Crunch time really came last week, when after a short run in the hills with a friend on Wednesday, I really really hurt.  On Thursday morning, I was up bright and early (it was cold!! only 8 degrees that morning - in December!), headed out to run, walking and limping while the watch found the satellites.  As I was limping, I figured I'd walk until it loosened up.  It was over a kilometer of slow walking (a bit embarrassing having all these morning brisk walkers striding on past) later, I decided a walk back home was best - running on it now that it didn't make me limp was not going to help.  So home, hip strengthening exercises, taping the foot up, and being more diligent with massage and stretching.  I didn't run for the rest of the week, and after 4 days of being taped, it is feeling a little better.  I limp for less time in the mornings, I am doing better on my calf raises (just flat for now - from a step in another few days), and yoga has felt better in the last week (a good sign for the hip).


Fingers crossed I can get back into the swing of things properly in the next week or so.  2 marathons in 2 weeks is going to be a challenge, and I'd like to be very well prepared for it.

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Health News

This weeks links

The Cancer Council came out this week and announced that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption, and that alcohol should be considered to be as carcinogenic as smoking and asbestos are.  As well as being highly associated with throat and mouth cancers, it is now found to correlate highly with breast and bowel cancers.  Perhaps it should not be so surprising that a substance that can so alter mood and ability, even at very mild levels should turn out to be in fact, not good for us.

This story, an editorial from the British Journal of Sports Medicine earlier this year has some amazing targets - it ties in with our look at sitting and health, and is about developing healthcare systems that support exercise - recognise it as being as vital a measure of our health as is blood sugar levels or blood pressure.  It recommends 150 minutes of physical activity per week for adults as a minimum.  30 mins on 5 days.  For children, it is 420 mins / week - 60 minutes every day.  How close are you?

This is another article on inactivity / obesity and health from Sports Medicine Australia, highlighting the link between an inactive childhood and a lifetime of battling depression.  It is food for thought (!) these days where there seems to be much paranoia about safety of children away from their parents watchful eyes, and therefore a tendency to want to keep them closely under watch instead of encouraging more activity and indeed risk taking behaviours.  The ability to judge situations for risk and to be able to take appropriate risks builds self esteem and resilience.  Not much to do with bowel cancer awareness, but close to my heart as well.

Another article on sitting

This one is in really simple terms - if you walk 30 mins (as recommended) and sleep 8 hours, most of us still have 15.5 hours per day not moving.  You cannot sit all day behind a screen, then drive your car and sit and watch tv with out it being bad for you.  A good read.