Monday, November 30, 2009

Fruit Toast and Lattes

Saturday morning's run (21km) was my last long run before I leave for Antarctica. I decided I wanted to share the run with some friends so I put the call out to the CoolRunners to join me and got a crew together, Chilli, GreyBeard(less), Darkum, Di, Go4it (me) and Maggot (who arrived to late to get in the photo). We started at the Brighton Beach Baths (in the picture) and headed out to Ricketts Point - a nice little half marathon course. It turned out to be a stunning day, just perfect for a run. Maybe not so good for the cicada that was caught and eaten by an Indian Myna Bird just as we ran past! The ultra crew took off quickly and did some investigations of the beach trails as well as the running trail. I chose to wear my trailrunning shoes to test them out on the longer run and they worked well - although my feet were very toasty warm!

On the homeward journey we caught up with Kevin Cassidy who is gradually building up his running kilometers after successfully completing a swimming crossing of the English Channel - about the same time I was running the Alice Springs Marathon - where we both finished wet and salty!

We made it back to the Brighton Beach Baths and were greeted by Courtly who had been with me in Alice Springs Marathon, while she completed the Alice Springs Half Marathon. Also joining us for breakfast was Eat Em who had cheered us on while he went zipping past on his bike! The breakfast is always the nicest part of the long run and great to share it with good company - I wonder if they have fruit toast and lattes in Antarctica!!

To complete my weekend I had a BBQ with my greatest supporters - my family! We had the chance to talk about my Antarctic adventure and what I would wear. For example the balaclava and snow goggles - not a good photo since I wasn't smiling :). The comment was made that perhaps I was ready to supplement my income by visiting some banks while wearing the mask! I didn't wear the balaclava for too long - it just got too hot!

My dad was reassured when I told him that there would be a snow mobile on the running course - that could transport runners back to the tents if the weather conditions turned bad!

I thought I might end this blog with a picture of some of my family (my parents, brother and two nephews) who I am sure don't really understand why I would chose to undertake such a difficult challenge as running a marathon in sub zero conditions but have nevertheless been 100% supportive of my efforts. Not in the picture - because she was taking the photo was my Aunt who has also played a role a major role in promoting my event - fingers crossed that Channel Nine comes through!

Friday, November 27, 2009

You Are Crazy!

I thought it would be good to answer some of the questions people have been asking me about running a marathon in Antarctica. The first comment I usually get from people is 'you are crazy'. Well at least I have 19 other crazy people to join me in my adventure in Antarctica!

What are you going to wear on your feet?
Yodgee have generously donated my running shoes for Antarctica a pair of Merrell Trail running shoes with good tread and goretex to keep my feet warm.
What are you going to wear running?
With the generous gear support from Anaconda I will be wearing lots of layers. Base Layer: merino thermals which will whisk moisture away from the skin, Mid Layer: fleece layer to provide insulation and trap body warmth, Outer Layer: wind barrier to prevent wind from blowing away body warmth. Also a Balaclava and snow goggles and mittens - they keep the hands warmer than gloves.
What are you going to do about hydration while running?
I plan on wearing a camelbak which holds 1.5l water. This will have go under my Outer layer to make sure the water doesn't freeze. Remember water freezes at 0C and I will be running in temperatures of -12C or less! There will also be aid stations every 8-10km with water.
What are you going to do about toilet breaks?
There are toilet facilities at the half-way (21km) mark.
Will the course be marked?
The course is very well marked with little orange flags - it is impossible to get lost!
How are they going to keep track of the runners?
Runners are marked down at every aid station they pass and there will be snowmobiles on the course.
Will there be penguins?
Patriot Hills where the marathon will be run is too far inland (~800km from the coast) for any animal or bird life - so no penguins, seals or birds. Also no polar bears - they only live in the North Pole - with Santa Claus!
Will you be able to use your Garmin GPS? (used while running to provide distance travelled and pace)
I have been assured that Garmin will work - nothing to block the satellites!
Is there a cut-off time for the marathon?
There will be no cut-off times, no need to worry about road closures or darkness (Antarctica will have 24 hours of day light at that time of year)
What is the time difference from Australia?
Patriot Hills Campsite is set to the same time as Puntas Arenas, Chile which is 14 hours behind Australia.
What is the accommodation like?
Patriot Hills is a summer camp -so NO permanent buildings only tents. I will be sleeping in a two-man, double lined tent, constructed of a high-tech nylon covering. Heat is maintained with zippered doors and a plywood floor.
What will the temperature be?
At this time of year the temperature ranges from -10C to -20C with highs of about -4C!!! Winds generally blow at a steady 18-37 km/hr from a southerly direction, creating a 'wind chill' and lowering the apparent temperature by some 10 to 20 degrees.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Land of no trees!

Its official there is now less than two weeks until I leave for Antarctica (the land of no trees as a friend aptly described it) and I am on running taper. For those of you not familiar with the magical words 'running taper' it means that during the last few weeks before the marathon you reduce the number of kilometers you run per week (especially the Long run) to give your body a chance to rest and recover for the marathon.

On sunday morning after listening to the heavy rain all night I wasn't convinced that I should get up and go for a 32km run but since I had made plans to meet a friend at 6.30am I felt obliged to get out there - rain or no rain! We started running together but it became apparent that we were pacing differently and since she was more than happy to do her own run that meant I had a 32km solo run, just me and my thoughts - excellent training for Antarctica !

I was thinking a lot about what motivated me to undertake this 'crazy' challenge and get up and go for a run in the rain at 6.30am on a sunday morning. There are a number of different reasons, probably the initiating drive was to undertake the Antarctic Ice Marathon - the uniqueness of the event really sparked my interest. Then I decided to combine the Antarctic Ice Marathon with the Alice Springs Marathon to create the two desert marathons and raise funds and awareness for Indigenous Cardiovascular disease research. This campaign put my little challenge into the public domain and made me very much accountable for delivering on my challenge. And the final reason - well last week I read a short story that provided a lovely analogy of one my drivers to undertake and complete the challenge.

I will shorten the story but it started with a little girl and her grandfather walking along a beach when they noticed all these starfish washed up on the beach. The little girl immediately started picking up the the starfish one by one and throwing them back into the sea as far as her little arm could reach. Her grandfather eventually called her over and explained that were 1000s of starfish on the beach and she couldn't save them all. She looked down at the starfish in her hand and threw it into the sea and said, "no, but it sure made a difference to that one".

So what does this all mean to me - well I can't cure cardiovascular disease in Indigenous Australians but I hope that perhaps that what I have been doing may contribute to more people being aware of the issues and supporting the valuable research done by Centre for Indigenous Vascular and Diabetes Research . I also hope that maybe my event might inspire someone else to go and take up their own challenge - we are all only limited by our self-belief.

Monday, November 16, 2009

3 Weeks to go!

I can't believe how quickly time has flown by and now I have only 3 weeks to go till I leave for Antarctica!! On Saturday morning I did some cross training with a little bike ride from Prahran to Mordialloc, but all in a good cause. Team Paceline are a group of guys who are riding their bikes from Melbourne to Sydney over 8 days to raise awareness about heart disease and to raise funds for the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne and the Victor Chang Research Institute in Sydney.

These group of guys have seen the devastating affects of heart disease and are doing what they can to help improve outcome by raising awareness and funds. I was really pleased to help support their ride from Melbourne with a cyclist escort to Mordialloc. I must admit as well that it was pretty cool having a police escort for our cyclist pack of about 20-30 cyclists. Apparently along the way someone on the street asked about the 'police escort' and assumed that it must have been 'pro riders' :). We finished the ride and while we stopped for a coffee before heading home, the Paceline team still had another 150km before they were finished - for the day! I was running- actually I guess I mean cycling a bit late and almost missed the team photo - I literally rode into it!

It ended up being a 2.5 hour bike ride which made for a pleasant day but confirmed the vastly different impact of cycling and running on my body. A 2.5 hour bike ride was low impact and I felt fine afterwards in comparison a 2.5 hour run leaves me feeling quite tired and my legs are weary!

On Sunday morning it was back to running and in order to avoid the heat and have some great running company I started my run at 6am. I wasn't very happy when my alarm clock went off - even before the birds had started chirping but once I was up and moving around I guess it wasn't that bad. I caught up with Dave and Miranda at our starting point and we headed off for our run while enjoying the gorgeous sunrise. It was great running with Dave, I made him do all the talking to distract me while I concentrated on just breathing! At about 13km I started feeling a little light-headed so I just made sure I drank more water and I deliberately took it easy running up the hills. We reached the 16km turn around point, consumed a GU gel and headed home. At this point we could feel the temperature picking up but it was still comfortable running.

At various sections both Dave and I found the going tough but the great thing about running with running buddy is that just having them with you keeps you running. I think its the issue of 'accountability' if I run by myself no-one but me will know if I stop and walk the rest of the way home if I am feeling tired. Another runner with you means a witness to see you taking the easy option - so I don't! So I kept running all the way home and ultimately finished with an even split 1h35min for each 16km. My average pace was 6:03min/km with an average heart rate of 142 bpm and max heart rate 168 bpm.

The really cool thing about the run was the fact that even after having already run 30km for the last two kilometres I was able to pick up my running pace to 5:30min/km and then 4:29min/km. Okay I admit it this was purely because of my strong competitive streak. Dave is a very strong runner and he had the energy to pick up the pace in the last two kilometers. I briefly considered letting him get ahead of me but then the competitive spirit came over me and I did my best to catch him and attempt to overtake him. He was just messing with me and easily stayed in front. But it really proved to me that even though I thought up until that point I was going as fast as could - all I needed was the right motivation to pick up the pace!! Something to ponder when I find it tough going in a long run!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Marysville Half Marathon

I had a great weekend of running, on Saturday morning I ran 10km with a good friend who got me started running in fun runs and on Sunday morning I ran my 14th half marathon - the Marysville Half Marathon.

On Saturday morning I arranged to catch up with my friend Leah and go for a run. It was kind of coming full circle. Leah and I both grew up in Wonthaggi, then we shared a house a Melbourne and ironically we ended up sharing a house in Jackson, Mississippi where we both worked at the University of Mississippi Medical Centre. It was in 1999 when I took up running seriously, I had been to an event downtown and happened to watch a 5km fun run. It was really interesting for me to see that while there were definitely some very speedy people, there were also lots of people who weren't quite so fast. After going home and chatting with Leah we decided that maybe we could do a fun run together. The very next weekend Leah and I completed our very first 5km fun run in downtown Jackson. That's all it took having someone to encourage me to run and I have never looked back I even placed second in my age class!

The really great thing now with running with Leah is that this time I am encouraging her and supporting her goal of completing her first marathon in Pittsburgh next year - if all goes well I plan on being there to run with her on the day! We had a lovely run along the rail trail although it was getting a little warm. We finally reached the 5km turn around point and as always felt great knowing over I was over half way finished.

I spent the rest of Saturday drinking lots of water because I wanted to stay well hydrated for the half marathon on Sunday which I knew was going to be warm. Although the Marysville run started at 10.30am on Sunday morning, it was a 1.5 hour drive and we needed to get there earlier to pick up our race numbers so that meant a 7.30am departure time. Luckily for me, my running buddy Rob was happy to drive which was nice. The day was already starting to warm up by the time we reached Marysville and met up some fellow Gunn Runners. This was the inaugural running of the Marysville running festival to help support the community after the devastating fires on Black Saturday in February this year. The organisers were hoping to attract a 1000 runners - they got 3000 runners all entering to show their support of the community.

The start of the half-marathon was provided by the ringing of a bell - another survivor of the bushfire. We took off down the road and then turned onto a trail section, it wasn't until we turned around from the trail section that I realised that the entire section had been gradually rising. This made the return section downhill which was lovely - until it started rising again!. The organisers had told us there was one section that was quite steep going down hill - although it was only a short section of about 100m, but suggested we might want to walk it. I got to the steep section and really enjoyed going down fast!

We then followed the creek bed for a while, ran past the football and started the final 4km climb up to Stevenson's Falls. This is where things started getting tough with the incline and the heat. I finally made it the falls, which sadly had been dramatically altered by the fires and unfortunately hasn't recovered with the landscape still quite barren with very little regrowth. The Falls themselves were still flowing and I was happy to turn around and complete the last 4km section - running downhill!

I was feeling the effects of the heat and the hills - but I didn't feel as bad as I had while running the Alice Springs Marathon. This time when I had to stop and walk it wasn't so hard to start back running again, in comparison to my run in Alice Springs where my mind was willing to continue running but my body refused. I knew I would finish this event running and I did, crossing over the finish line in a Personal Worst time of 02:00:45!!!

Interestingly enough my heart rate data show clearly why I was struggling, with an average heart rate of 163bpm and max heart rate of 171 bpm. When I compare this to my heart rate after running the Melbourne Half Marathon 4 weeks ago where my average heart rate was 154bpm and max heart rate was 163bpm you can clearly see that I was working harder 10bpm harder, phew there is a good reason why I was tired!

My other news of the moment is that I have got my flights organised, I leave Melbourne on December 5th and arrive in Chile on the 6th. I also bought some mittens - since they are better protection against frostbite than gloves. I found it particularly amusing when reading the blurb about the gloves that they come with a built in 'suede snot wipe'.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Athletic Heart

Last week I went to visit my cardiologist for a check-up. It has been 3 years since I saw him last when I was having dizzy spells while running. At the time after a thorough check up - including an echocardiograph report that stated, 'some exercise-induced ventricular hypertrophy consistent with athletes heart' - my cardiologist stated that I was probably going to be okay but he couldn't guarantee that I wouldn't die while running . Just to let you know that he couldn't guarantee that 'anyone' wouldn't die running or for that matter while sitting on their couch at home!

So this time around my cardiologist checked out my ECG trace which like last time showed that I have an inverted P wave. He explained that this just means that unlike most people where the heart beat is initiated by an electrical signal at the sinoatrial node because I run a lot and have a low resting heart rate (about 45 beats per minute) my heart beat is initiated at a different site, lower down in the heart at an 'ectopic pacemaker'. This is nothing to worry about at all and he gave me the all clear to run the Antarctic Marathon - although this time he wouldn't guarantee that I wouldn't get frostbite!!

I was very pleased to hear my heart report and to celebrate on Saturday morning I did a 30km run. Using my trusty Garmin GPS I was able to run from Brighton Beach Baths for 15km to Mentone and then turn around and run 15km back to complete my 30km run. Unfortunately it wasn't quite that easy and even though we started running at 7.30am it was still a bit too warm so the last 10km were really hard work. At the 10 and 20km mark I stopped and took a gel to give me energy I also had to refill my camelbak (which holds about 2 litres) so at least I knew I was well-hydrated. So I finally finished my 30km run in a time of 3hr 4min with an average heart rate of 147 bpm and average pace of 6:07min/km. So overall a good run but I was pleased it was over and it now means I only have two more long runs (over 30km) to complete before I leave for Antarctica :).

This afternoon I did my second interview for ABC Southern Queensland Drive and really had a fun time. The guy chatting with me suggested I could acclimate by running in a 'cold room' I replied that I wasn't sure if a treadmill would work in the cold - but I was willing to try! Does anyone have a really big freezer room for me to test out running?