What should we expect from our swimmers?

If you were to follow the reaction of Australian media after the London Olympic Games, you would have come to the conclusion that the performance of our swimming team was disappointing, to say the least. The “London fiasco”, to use the words featured in the news headlines, was followed by the scrutiny of our athletes’ behaviour prior and during the games. Evidences of a “toxic culture”, which involved the breach of team rules on alcohol, bullying and curfews, were promptly highlighted in the media. But I don’t want to go into the blaming game, the media already did a terrific job with their witch-hunting.

As the Rio 2016 swimming competition comes to an end in a few hours, and we have less medals than in London (we have more golds and, as I write, we still have a couple of chances in the pool today), should we be disappointed again? Well, disappointment is caused by the non-fulfilment of our hopes or expectations, so the question really is: are our expectations realistic? I know that this is a complex question and I’m going to focus on a single issue here, our Olympic medals retrospect.

The graphic below shows our medals in swimming since Paris 1900(1). To make the comparison fair, I divided the number of medals by the total number of medals available (in 1956 there were only 13 swimming events as compared to the current 32(2)). In this way, the number in the vertical axis corresponds to the percentage of medals won by Australia. For example, in St. Louis 1904, Australia won about 15% of the available medals.


Australian Olympic medals in swimming. Numbers are normalised by the total number of medals up for grabs.

Looking at the recent history we can understand the disappointment. Australia had spectacular results (in terms of medal tally) in three consecutive Olympic games: Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. This set the bar pretty high. However, if we go back a little bit, we see that London results are not only on par with the long term average, but also similar to those from the 80’s and 90’s(3).

Note the peak in medal numbers that happened in 1956 and 2000, exactly when Australia hosted the games. This may be an indication that we invested and prepared more for the home games. Interestingly, in both occasions, the numbers remained high for the next two following Olympics (it decayed quickly after Melbourne but was still quite high in 1964), but then went back again to lower levels.

It took me half an hour to get these numbers from the web and plot the graph but I don’t think the TV commentators have done the same exercise. They go with the emotion and tend to expect the best possible outcome from the athletes. When I race I usually set 3 goals: (i)  the dream goal – the one that I would achieve if everything is absolutely perfect; (ii) the realistic goal – the one that I would be very happy with and is consistent with my training; (iii) the pessimistic goal – when things go wrong but I would still be OK with it. Anything under (iii) is a total disappointment, above (i) and I’m over the moon.

I believe that the elite athletes have a similar approach and that Swimming Australia has its own goals for the whole team (and it doesn’t need to be in terms of medals, could be number of athletes reaching finals, for example), but it is that being communicated to the media? We can’t only blame the journalists. It would be much easier to manage media and public expectations if the sports associations fed the information to them rather then letting them create their own fantasies based on previous best-case scenarios.

(1) Source: http://corporate.olympics.com.au/sports/swimming/medals
(2) 1956: 7 male events and 6 female events. Since 1996: 16 events for each gender. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swimming_at_the_Summer_Olympics
(3) Remember that the 1980 and 1984 numbers were probably affected by US and USSR boycotts.


Great Ocean Road ultra marathon: last race report

As mentioned in my race preview post, I chose the Great Ocean Road (GOR) ultra marathon as my last one. With almost 800km of road separating my home to the start line, I decided to take a few days off work to drive with the family and enjoy a long weekend at the beautiful town of Lorne. We rented a house big enough to fit the four of us (dog included) and seven of our best friends in Australia (two dachshunds included 😉 ). What a crew for marathon 12! We were all there by Friday night and had a light dinner with wine and cheese by the fireplace. Well, the others had wine…

Saturday – course familiarisation

We had already been to the GOR a couple of times but it was the first time for Tiberio, Cami, Anita, Jana, and Gui, and we took the Saturday to drive to the 12 Apostles. It was also my chance to follow the full marathon course by car. The astonishing view of the sea on the left got me pumped for the race but the number of ups and downs on that road… not so much. As I drove along the road, I tried to picture how the race would unfold the next day: the drinking stations, the points where I would eat, the more critical climbs and the gentle descends where I could pick up the pace. The remaining mysteries were the two big climbs that only the ultra runners would do. I knew them on paper but couldn’t spot them while driving. Maybe it was better that way…

It wasn’t all about the race, though. We really had fun.


Jana, Cele, Cami and me

When we got back from the drive, Gui cooked a great carbonara for us. Again, by the fireplace and with good wine. Well, the others had wine…

Sunday: race day

I woke up early in the morning and couldn’t believe it was time for the last marathon. It seemed like yesterday that I started all this. As I’ve done so many times, I put my bright orange Can Too gear and logged into my Can Too fundraising page to check the donations. I went through all the messages of support from my friends and got extra emotional. They were doing their part with the donations, now it was my turn to finish up with the final (ultra)marathon.

It wasn’t planned,  but the house we rented was conveniently located just a couple of minutes from the start line. As I walked down the hill and approached the beach, I could see other runners arriving and started to feel that pre-race excitement. More than 1000 competitors for the marathon and another 65 ultra runners were about to race along one of the most scenic roads in the world.

And here we go! My goal in the first few hundred meters was to control my pace, trying not to follow the speedy guys ahead of me. Despite my intentions, I still went faster than planned with paces of 4:32, 4:38 and 4:33 min/km in the first three kilometers. After that I tried to follow my race plan.

I was still scarred by my two previous attempts at running distances close to 50km in hilly courses (see marathons 4 and 11) and I set my race strategy based on that experience. Afraid of the two big hills at kilometers 33 and 47, I decided to run at a solid but not too hard marathon pace (around 5:00 min/km) for the first 33 km and then see how my body would react to the hills. In other words, I had no serious plan for the second half of the race but to survive.

With so many ups and downs it was hard to control the pace. I was going slow in the ascents and playing my strength by going fast in the downhills. For quite a few kilometers a pattern emerged: I would overtake a couple of runners in the descents while they would take their positions back in the climbs. It went like this for a long time and I completed the first 10 km in just over 46 min., 4 minutes ahead of my planned time. If you like numbers, here is a screenshot of the data from my watch for the first 10km.


Data from my Garmin for the first 10km (for the full stats click here). The pace was faster than planned but the heart rate was around 155 bpm, which is the normal level for my long distance efforts.

If you are not interest in the numbers, maybe you’ll enjoy the pictures I’ve taken along the way (click on the images larger versions).

I was feeling pretty well and given the strong pace in the first 10km, I decided that I could afford to update my goal pace for the half-marathon distance to 4:50min/km. The ups and downs of the road continued and I kept going comfortably without raising my heart rate. Unfortunately at kilometer 15 my HR monitor went crazy and locked at a much higher rate. From then on I relied only on my perceived effort as the HR monitor took a couple of hours to get back to its normal readings.

The ocean views were amazing, the sun shining on the sea, the waves breaking on the rocks, the rainbow coming out of those dark grey clouds at the horizon… Wait! Rainbow? Dark grey clouds? Oops! It seems that the weather was holding some surprises for the runners.


Look! A rainbow. I should take a pict… What? A rainbow? I wondered what was waiting for us behind that hill.

I crossed the half-marathon distance in 1h 38min, a 4:38 min/km pace. It was a fast half-marathon (for my standards), even more so if you consider the undulation of the course. I was surprised, happy, but also worried that failing to sticky to the plan could hurt me later on…


Data for 11 to 21 km and the HR monitor signal going crazy for a good part of the race.

Is it time for more photos?


When I realised that I was going faster than my PB marathon pace, I decided that was time to slow down a bit. I kept around 5min/km for the next 4 kilometers but then started to slow down even further as I began to stop at aid stations and felt hard to get back on track. As I was moving toward the dark clouds, the conditions were getting worse with a strong head wind that was picking up speed quite quickly. I was getting close to the 30km mark, the point where I usually feel the marathon pain and my morale goes down. It wasn’t that bad this time and apart from the urge to use the toilet and my focus on finding a bush where I could relieve my bladder, my mind was in a pretty good shape. After all, it was the last marathon and I was determined to enjoy every moment as much as I could. Finally at km 32 a portable loo! The pit stop lasted less than a minute and I was ready for the first big hill.


And here is the data from the 22nd to the 33rd km.

At the 33rd km a sharp right turn split for the first time the field of marathoners and ultra-marathoners. I had finally reached the first of the two dreaded hills of the course. My goal for this one, a 5km-long and 5% incline, was to just run without stopping or walking. But things turned out for the better and fear was replaced by strength and confidence. As I turned right, the wind stopped and the rain started to fall. The climb turned out to be well protected from the wind and that was a relief. I also began to reproduce in my mind the feelings and thoughts from a recent training session on the treadmill where I ran 5km with 5% incline at 5:30min/km to try to reproduce this part of the race. If I did on the treadmill I could do in the race! Well, not exactly at 5:30min/km as I had already 33km accumulated in my legs, but still…


It took me less than 34 minutes to get to the top. On my way down, I completed the marathon distance and took a photo of my watch: 3h38 min. Not a bad effort! The downhill wasn’t as fast as I thought it would be as my legs weren’t very responsive at that point. It took me 26 minutes to get down that hill.


My watch as I crossed the marathon mark.


Splits for the ten kilometers of the first long hill.

As I reached the base I was feeling awesome but had to face the strong winds back again and slowed down considerably again. At kilometer 47 the steepest hill of the race started: 2.5km at 9.7%. I had also mimic that on the treadmill and used the same strategy as in the previous hill: project in my mind the positive outcomes from that training session. I just said to myself: I won’t walk, I’ll run! It was slow and painful but I did, and it felt really good. So good that I dashed downhill feeling much better than in the previous hill.


From 44 to 52, including the biggest hill of the day.

Back to the road and into the last part of the race, an eight km mostly flat stretch toward Apollo Bay. I tried to keep up with the momentum from the downhill but my left calf started to cramp. I limped, stopped at the side, stretched a bit and continued. I felt that I had more in me and that I could go a bit faster but every time that I pushed a bit more, my calf would contract as if it would cramp. I changed my stride and managed to keep running. Another small contraction, now on my right calf. Walk, jog, and back to running.


The final kilometers!

I had reached the point where the road was partially open and cars were coming against the runners flow on the other lane. Drivers would honk their horns, passengers would shout out loud to cheer us up. Whenever my black ultramarathon bib got noticed, the cheering would intensify. Yes, I was close, very close. Just before reaching the fenced area, I picked my camera from my back pocket and started to film. I wanted to have that moment registered. Funny enough I got the moment when a runner overtook me less than 50 m from the finish line. Not only was he in the ultra race, but he was also in my age group and beat me by two seconds. I didn’t really care, I had so much more to celebrate. It wasn’t just an ultra marathon, it was the end of a year-long journey of running and fundraising.



The final meters!


Official result

I crossed the finish line, received my medal and started to look for the family and friends. Couldn’t find them. It was a bit of an anticlimax as I really wanted to share that moment with them. Phone calls, messages… they were stuck in the traffic. As I was waiting for them, I found the Can Too tent with the Melbourne crew. I introduced myself, and received a warm welcome from everyone there, especially from Deb Christie, Can Too’s program manager in Melbourne. We took photos, talked about the race and also about my 12 marathons while waiting for my crew. They found me and it was a big, noisy celebration as it always is with Brazilians involved. I even got flowers!


They were late but they were there, and that’s what matters!




Can Too!



I learned a lot in the past year. I learned about my body, my strengths and weakness, my physical abilities and limitations. I learned about my mind and the power it has to affect my body. In occasions I was let down by my own thoughts but most of the time my thoughts were the only reason my legs kept going.

I learned that sometimes you need to put yourself out there, that to achieve some goals you need to expose yourself, and this was by far the hardest part. People who know me well know that if there were automatic donations for my marathons I would have run them quietly. But there is no free lunch and after all, alongside the donations, I wanted to promote the awesome work done by Can Too in raising funds for cancer research.

It was never my intention to inspire anyone but, if I am to believe in Facebook posts, apparently I did. What people may not know is that they inspired me. I lost count of the times when the message “Andre someone has donated to your Can Too fundraising!” blinked on my phone and tears came to my eyes. Throughout the year, especially on the nights before the marathons, I would read and reread over and over again the messages left in my fundraising page and there was not a single occasion where I didn’t shed a tear.

You inspired me with your donations, you inspired me when you ran by my side, you inspired me when you left me a message, you inspired me when you clapped your hands by the side of the road, and you inspired me with your stories. So, the most important lesson, or actually a reminder, is that there are many, many amazing and generous people out there to support you. I’m so thankful for what you helped me achieve. Couldn’t have done without you. These people deserve this “Thank you” post, you deserve this “Thank you” post.


Donation thermometer on 20/05/16!

That’s it! Marathon 12: race preview

The time has come and I’m really excited with my choice of event for marathon 12: The Great Ocean Road Marathon. Well, to be more precise, the Ultra Marathon. This year they introduced the 60km distance and when registration time came, I thought: “Since I set my Can Too fundraising goal to $6000, why not match the numbers with a 60km run? I should finish it off in style.” So in the heat of the moment that was the box that I ticked.

That sounded like a good idea until I struggled quite a lot with a bit over 50km in marathon 11. My performance put a lot of question marks on my ability to race the 60km distance but at the same time I keep I’m telling myself that it was only the effect of heat and humidity and not lack of preparation. We’ll see this Sunday.

Here is the course of what promises to be a scenic and tough race.


Course map

ULTRA_Elevation map_thumb

Elevation profile. A 9.7% climb after 47km, really?

And remember: 60km to reach the $6000 to help cancer research. Donate here.


The personalised race bib!


When you realise that being raised in the tropics doesn’t make you tougher. Marathon 11: race report

When I travel for work, running is my way of knowing the place. It doesn’t allow me to visit museums, or stop for lunch at a nice restaurant, but it is a great way to do some sightseeing. In April I had a conference in Phuket and a seminar to present in Singapore and I thought that running in one of these locations would be a good idea. My original plan was to run in Singapore because it would be much easier to fit my schedule. However, when I knew that the social program for the conference (there is always one…) would be a boat trip that I had done before, that opened an opportunity to run in Phuket.

This time my family travelled with me and every night they would share photos and stories of the places they’d visited. That settled it! I decided to run in Phuket and visit as many places as possible during my marathon.

The final course wasn’t decided until two days before the run. The main reason was that I made a promise on Facebook that the distance for my run would increase with the donations in my Can Too fundraising page: 47km for $4700, 49km for $4900, and so on… The night before the run I had reached $5020 in donations, plus a misplaced $200 donation from my sister-in-law that went through the main Can Too donation page instead of mine. It didn’t matter, it went to the right cause and I had to run 52km.

Here is the map that I came up with:


Planned course for marathon 11: nice sightseeing and nasty hills. The interactive course can be accessed here.

I would start from Patong Beach and head south passing by beaches, elephant camps, Phromthep Cape, some forest, Big Buddha, Chaithararam Temple, cross again the forest and finish back at Patong. Or so I thought…

Marathon day

I woke up, left the girls sleeping in the hotel room and met with Joe downstairs. He had already secured his record as the person that ran the most kilometers with me in my marathons and also the person with most appearances (marathons 3, 6 and 9), but he decided to go for a few more km and put his name on marathon 11 as well. Joe didn’t run for long as he had the boat to catch. He wished me good luck and left me as I started the first climb of the day.

It was a short climb, two small peaks in 2.5 km, without much to see and with very little space between me and the cars. Luckily there weren’t many at that time of the day.

Going down I reached Karon beach and was welcomed by a sign sponsored by 7eleven (I didn’t know at that time but 7eleven and FamilyMart would be the most sought after places during the marathon). I made a small detour just to check the beach. There were lots of people dressed in white in what seemed to be a religious ceremony. It reminded me of the offers that are made to Yemanjá on New Year’s Eve in Brazil. Add this to the hot and humid weather and it made me feel at home. From there to Kata beach it was an easy flat run, just made a bit hard by the heat. A few kilometers down the track and I made my first stop to buy fluids: a bottle of water to throw on my head and a bottle of sports drink to help with the hydration.

After that came the first real hill: 2.5km finishing up at the Karon view point at 193m. Despite the heat, I actually enjoyed the hill. Spotting a road sign reminding you that elephants are around, similar to our kangaroo signs here in Australia, and seeing the first elephants did help.

From there it was an enjoyable downhill with elephants on both sides of the road. Fast downhill with distracting views? A recipe for disaster as I missed a right turn. It didn’t take long to realise that I was off course. I decided that climbing a kilometer back wasn’t an option and that finding my way back wouldn’t be too hard. I looked at the map in my watch and took the next right turn going through an unsealed road. Again elephants, now with more space to roam, which made me be more cautious. I kept following a direction that would lead me back to the original course and started going up an extremely steep climb that led to… nowhere. A dead end! I went back down, passed by the elephants and joined the main road again.


The big fellows


Elephants everywhere


More of the same 😉


More common than elephants are the places that sell gasoline by the bottle. This one was a more sophisticated version that had an actual pump.

A mistake like this so early in the run (it happened around km 16) could made me run much further and could require a serious change in my course. That was the first blow to my morale and also the point where I started to feel the heat. I had been drinking from my camel back but hadn’t seen a single shop for the past 5 km and I started to worry about my fluids supply. I kept following the main road and came across a sign pointing to the direction to my next sightseeing stop: Phromthep Cape. I regained my confidence on the path chosen but the heat was brutal. I made my second stop at a 7eleven and took my time just to enjoy the air-conditioning inside. Another bottle of water and this time a bottle of ice tea.

I reached Phromthep Cape after 22.5 km and it was worth it. What a great view from the south of the island! Another stop at the shop and because I was at a major touristic spot, I had to pay four times what I had been paying so far for water. I didn’t mind because at that stage I was having trouble cooling down.

I was back to my course and had run only 2.5 km more than what was originally planned. Not bad. Running down from the cape with the blue sea on the left was amazing. The kind of view that reinvigorates you and lifts your spirit, and believe me, I needed that badly at that point. At the bottom of the descent I reached the beautiful little Yanui beach where I dipped my head in sea water just to refresh a little.


Refreshing at Yanui beach

A quick climb after the beach and I then another flat segment. At km 26 I ran past a woman that was watering the plants with a hose. I didn’t hesitate and asked, with hand signs, if I could have some water thrown on my head. She smiled and poured the much needed water over me. I joined the palms of my hands together and bowed my head to thank for those few seconds of pure joy!


Please, please!


Oh! That’s gooood.


Is my shadow trying to drink it?

Further down the road and my second problem with the course. My watch started vibrating, indicating that I went off course. This time I decided to turn back and find my way. Unfortunately the left turn in my original plan was through a private property. I put my best innocent-tourist-that-doesn’t-know-where-he’s-going face but was stopped by the person taking care of a boom gate. Back to the main road and I found myself not only stopping for water, but also to ask for directions. A few kilometers later, at the 29km mark, and another stop. This time a bag of banana chips to go with the water and the ice tea and the question: “What is the direction to the Big Buddha?”  I asked this question two times in less than 50 meters and the answers, accompanied by faces of incredulity, were the same: “too far sir, too far”. In my third attempt a bit more success: “You can go right but it is too far, 20km.” What about left?, I asked. “Works too, but also far”, she replied. I chose left, simply because it looked like I could get back on track from the map on my watch.

I was right. I got back on the road where I came from and should find my way to the next touristic stop: the Big Buddha. The downhill that made me miss that right turn at km 16, turned into a gruelling climb at km 31. I was struggling when I passed again by the elephants but manage to get to the Karon point view again with minimal walking. There I bought a big bottle of water to fill my camel back and also scored a big piece of ice with the lady from the stall.

I kept following the road but, as I began the descent, I started to doubt that I was in the right path. I vaguely remembered a right turn to the Big Buddha in the original map. However, since my watch hadn’t vibrated to tell me that I was lost, I kept going. A while later I decided to stop and check the map again just to realise that my watch had lost contact with the satellites and had frozen at km 32. Not only I had lost track of how much I had run, but even worse, I didn’t have a map anymore!


Final map of the run (red) superimposed with the original plan (light blue). The X indicate missed turns, while the circle shows the point where the watch stopped working. This map was obtained by combining the Garmin data before it died with the Strava files. I edited the gpx file to include the gap between these files. All details and stats are available here.

I got my mobile from my backpack and turned Google maps to tell me where to go, and Strava to count the kilometers. I was so pleased that I had bought a Thai SIM card the day before together with a power bank for the mobile. The first made the mobile useful while the second made it last for the whole run. I had missed another turn but it was not my fault, the watch had stopped before that.

On my way to the Big Buddha I took a busy and wide road. There was no shade to protect me from the sun and, given the traffic, I found it a bit dangerous. There was no option though, I had to keep going. At km 40 I finally start my climb to the Big Buddha (remember that I didn’t know this number by then, all I knew was that I had run 32km+some unknown distance+whatever Strava was showing to me). I was finally free from roads and found myself running along a narrow trail. However, it didn’t take long for the trail to become a dirty road and for more elephants to show up.


Trail to the Big Buddha


Here they are again


Yet another one…

When the trail ended, I found myself on the steep main road to the top and couldn’t do much but walk. I was extremely tired and couldn’t find energy to run. I stopped at a restaurant to buy more water and had my second energy bar but that wasn’t enough. Those 5km took an eternity to end but eventually it did end and I arrived at the top.

The Big Buddha is really impressive but all I wanted at that moment was another bottle of water.


Apparently my sweaty Lycra was OK, but women need to cover a bit more. Go figure…


Water, my precious.


So good to be up there.


Hello Big Buddha!

I stopped up there for a long time. I called the girls at the hotel to tell that I was very late but alive and well. I was exhausted and emotional. I checked my Facebook and saw amazing messages of support from my friends and I had tears in my eyes.Thank you! Every single word helped a lot at that point. I then started to think about more practical things and checked the maps to see how far I had run and how much I needed to complete the promised 52km. I couldn’t figure out exactly the distance covered so far, but Google maps was giving me another 15km to get back to the hotel and that would definitely be too much. I decided to run down the road that I had just climbed and take a taxi back to the hotel. After the long break I was feeling much better and ran quite comfortably not only the downhill, but also the flat that soon followed.

I couldn’t find a taxi and ended up taking a ride in a moto-taxi back to the hotel. Why not finish the day with the thrill of a moto ride with a Phuket driver? Well, I actually didn’t think about any of this, I just wanted to get back. At the hotel lobby, Marcele and Pauline were waiting for me. They spent an hour trying to buy flowers but all they could get was the little flower in the photos picked from the hotel garden. A lovely reception!


With Pauline and Cele at the hotel.


A good looking couple in Phuket 😉



In the end I ran 51.94km according to the map that I reconstructed from the data in my Garmin, the Strava files on my phone, and by filling in the gap between the two. I owe one kilometer but I’ll pay with interests in marathon 12: the Great Ocean Road Ultra Marathon. Only two weeks to go and a bit over $700 to reach my fundrasing goal of $6000. It is the final stretch, help me get there by donating to Can Too (https://www.cantoo.org.au/fundraisers/AndreCarvalho).

Marathon 10: race report

Marathon day started early (as always) with the usual preparation (you know, the same prep that I described in other race reports). This time I was going to have the company of Matt Geleta who is running 2000km in 20 weeks to raise funds for education of Ebola orphans in West Africa. I drove to pick up Matt and then we headed to the race start at Black Mountain Peninsula. Remember that the plan for marathon 10 was to run an actual race, the Weston Creek Half Marathon (WCHM), and then continue to complete the full marathon.

WCHM – the first 21km

We arrived and it was still dark, I got my race number and we discussed our plan. The goal was to take the WCHM easy and keep a steady 5 min/km pace that we would then try to hold for the whole marathon. Under race conditions you usually go out too fast in the beginning but the gentle uphill in the first 600m helped us to stay on track.


Left: our pace for the first 21km. Right: Race map. WCHM is the out and back course in blue. For the full course and stats check  my Garmin or Strava activities.

As we talked about our runs, our fundraising activities, and also about career (Matt recently finished his Honours Physics degree), we inadvertently increased our pace. It was still comfortable to chat, so we kept it close to 4:50 min/km until the turning point. The halfway mark was roughly at the highest point of the undulating course and we had three kilometers of really gentle downhill that allowed our pace to get down to the 4:30’s range. We started to catch the runners ahead of us and we overtook quite a few. We were both feeling well and it was still possible to chat, so we decided to keep it like that. I have to admit, overtaking people makes you feel good and with 4km to go we increased the pace even further. With 500m or so to the finish line we heard: “You with the hat, I’m gonna catch you!”  After so many triathlon races I have this built-in mechanism of speeding up whenever I hear that faster and louder breathing pattern typical of someone pushing hard to overtake you. So when Matt (the one with the hat being chased) looked at me and said: “Sprint finish?” it was too late, my legs were already in sprint mode. Conclusion? Crossed the finish line at a totally unplanned pace of 3:20 min/km.

After the race I briefly chatted with Trent Dawson (a friend from the Bilbys Triathlon Club that finished with an impressive time of 1:21:20), and also met a few other runners including Will, the guy to blame for the sprint finish 😉 . I picked my camel back from the car and off we went to the second half.


With Matt after the WCHM.

From 21 to 42 (or 45…)

We followed back the course of the WCHM race and cheered other runners along the way. We passed the race turning point and continued south to meet Emily at The Runners Shop in Phillip. As I mentioned in a previous post, Emily organised with On to have a pair of Cloud shoes donated to go on a raffle for my fundraising. I thought it would be a good idea to pass by and take a photo of the shoes. Here they are:

Remember, every $10 donate to Can Too from 16 March to 16 April through my fundraising page will give you an entry to the draw.


Visiting Emily at The Runners Shop.

Ah! I also took the picture above with Emily without realising that my GoPro was on for the whole time. This 9 seconds video captured her reaction when the photo was taken. What was she expecting after 34 km?

Just after leaving the shop, we called our friends Ruvi and Ethan that were supposed to meet us for the last 10km. They told us they were on the other side of Red Hill, ready for the last 5km (???). Given that we were still at least 40 minutes away from their location, they decided to start running and meet us at the finish line. So off we went to face Red Hill. It was nice to change from bike paths to trails and the hill wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be.

After Red Hill, the Parliament House, then the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. At that point we had already done the marathon distance and Tekle, on his bike, found us. He escorted us to the, again invisible, finish line.

After 4:04.45 (3:47.30 of moving time) and 45.18 km we arrived at our final destination carefully chosen to satiate two starving marathoners: Brodburger. A big thank you to Matt, Liz, Tekle, Ruvi, Ethan, Richard, Luiz, Paty, Nina, Elton, Mari, Gabi, Aline, Lachlan, and of course Marcele and Clara for joining me at the celebration of marathon number 10!


Marathon 9’s biggest hit: pão de queijo

During the breakfast that we hosted after marathon number 9 we served a typical Brazilian snack called pão de queijo (literally bread of cheese). So today I won’t write about running, training, or fundraising, but instead I’ll reveal the much requested recipe.

Pão de queijo


  • 600g of tapioca flour
  • 1 1/2 cups of milk
  • 1/2 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 tea spoon of salt
  • 200g of parmesan or romano cheese
  • 3 eggs
IMG_0411Tapioca flour can be found in the baking aisle of major Australian markets under the name Arrowroot.

Preparation method: read the captions in the photos.

Marathon 10: race preview

Tomorrow I’ll be running marathon number 10! It is the last one in Canberra and will be a mix of official race and my own made up course. I’ll start at 7:30 with the Weston Creek Half Marathon (WCHM) that goes from the Black Mountain peninsula down to Phillip and back (see map below). After the WCHM I’ll get my backpack and follow the race course once again just continuing a bit further to pay a visit to The Runners Shop. I want to pass by and thank them for the pair of On Cloud shoes that will be given to a lucky supporter after marathon 11 (check the details of the prize draw in my previous post).

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Course map. Click here for an interactive version and .gpx file

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Elevation profile. Red Hill is going to be interesting.

From there I’ll head northeast, climb Red Hill and pass by the Parliament House before reaching Lake Burley Griffin for the last 1.5 km. I’ll finish in Kingston, more precisely in front of Brodburger where I’ll have a well deserved after-marathon burger.

This time I’ll have the company of Matthew Geleta for the whole marathon. Matt is doing his own fundraising event to help provide education to Ebola orphans in West Africa. He is running 2000km in 20 weeks finishing with a marathon in Sierra Leone. It will be a pleasure to share the roads and trails with him tomorrow. I’ll also have the company of Ethan and Ruvi for the last 10km. These guys will bravely face the steepest part of the race.

If you want to run with us, you’re more than welcome. If not, join us for burgers afterwards. We are expecting to arrive between 11:30 and 12:00. I’ll be using the real-time tracking app again. I hope this time it will work properly.

Don’t forget Give $10 for 10 and go into the draw for the pair of Cloud shoes from On.



Give $10 for 10: running shoes draw

To celebrate marathon number 10 I had the idea of promoting a “Give $10 for 10” campaign to encourage people to donate as little as ten dollars to cancer research through Can Too. However, I thought that would be even more interesting if I had a prize to draw. I contacted my friend Emily from The Runners Shop in Canberra and shamelessly asked her if they could donate a pair of running shoes for the draw. The next morning I received the good news: “I have a sponsor for the shoes” – she said – “On is happy to donate a pair of On Cloud“. I must confess that I had never heard about the Swiss company On before and I went straight to the web to check it out. Their website gives a very good first impression and I enjoyed reading about their story. Unfortunately I can’t comment on the shoes as I have never tried them. However I did look for reviews and I must say that I am now very curious to try them. Some reviews can be found here, here or here.

So, it is On! (pun intended) I have a prize to draw and the rules are the following:

  • For every $10 donated through my fundraising website you’ll receive an entry number for the draw.
  • Donations from 16/03 (the day of my first post about this on Facebook) until marathon number 11 (mid April, exact date to be confirmed) will be valid for the draw.
  • I’ll ship the shoes anywhere in Australia (overseas supporters are welcome to continue donating but unfortunately won’t be considered in the draw).

You can get in the draw by donating here. Gook luck everyone!

UPDATE 1 (15/04/16): the final date for donations is 16/04/16 and the draw will take place on Sunday 17/04/16

UPDATE 2 (17/04/16): some overseas supporters are keen to cover the postage costs if they win the shoes. So they’ll all be included in the draw.



Marathon 9 – the birthday marathon: race report

After the lonely marathon in January and a rather low influx of donations for cancer research, I decided to organise a more eventful marathon in February. I set the marathon on a Saturday, a couple of days after my birthday, and invited friends to a big breakfast after the run. What better than 42km to celebrate my 42nd birthday? 😉 In a bold move I put the invitation on Facebook. I knew I was under a serious risk of having way too many people to cook for, but I really wanted to get my fundraising back on track and boost the donations to Can Too.

A big line-up was expected for the marathon with people intending to run from as little as 5km up to the full distance. Joe (the same that ran 10km in the marathon in Rio and a similar distance in marathon 6) wanted to do a full marathon without walking for the first time. I prepared two marathon courses in such a way that we would start from our own homes and meet at around kilometer 10. With a prediction of a 5 hours-long marathon and the breakfast scheduled for 10am, we were in for a very early start…

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Course map. For the full statistics check the Garmin activity.

The night before

By Friday we had around 40 people confirmed for breakfast. That meant a long night preparing things for the next morning. While Marcele was making quiches and baking cakes, I was making banana bread and “pão de queijo”, a Brazilian savoury snack that literally means “bread of cheese” (not really a bread though). I finished rolling them after 1am and went to bed to have a little rest before the marathon. The plan was to wake up at 4:30, get ready in 30 minutes and leave home at 5am. The first people that I was going to meet were my friends Ping Koy (from the ANU)  and Tim (from Bilbys Triathlon Club – the same guy that ran with me the last part of marathon 7 during the Triple Edge Endurance triathlon).

I woke up at 4am, looked at the clock and thought: “Nice! Still 30 minutes of sleep.” The next time I heard my own thoughts they’re saying: “Hmmm, these 30 minute have been really effective. It seems like I slept for…” I jumped from my bed, eyes wide open: 5:08 am! I rushed to the computer, sent a message to Tim and Ping Koy (PK) telling I’d be late and got ready as fast as I could.

How to mess up the first quarter of your marathon

I left home trying to setup my GPS watch and the app to track my run. During the first 2 km I was trying to run and type messages in my mobile at the same time and I almost fell twice. I gave up messaging and just ran as fast as I could to meet them. I found PK just before the 4km mark at the south bridge of the Gungahlin Lake and we ran together to the meeting point with Tim. When we got there Tim had already left. He had to drive to Sydney that morning and my delay meant that he couldn’t wait any longer. Sorry Tim!

PK and I headed south to meet Joe who had messaged me just then to tell that my tracking app wasn’t working properly. He was way ahead from the meeting point but that shouldn’t be a problem as we were running along the bike path in opposite directions. There was no way we could miss each other… except that we did! Joe went up along the path on the east side of the road and we were coming down on the west side. After a couple of calls we turned back but Joe was already way north. We pushed a bit more to see if we could catch him but that would take a while…

The first lights and the lakes

When we got back to the Gungahlin lake we met Geoff, another friend from the ANU. Geoff is training for the Australian Running Festival marathon in April and was keen to run as far as possible. The sun was finally up and we were all happy.


Geoff, PK, and I somewhere in Gungahlin

From there it didn’t take long to reach Yerrabi Pond and by then we had finally found Joe and were joined by Oliver (also ANU) and Brendan (from Gungahlin Parkrun). I recognised Brendan’s face at the Bateman’s Bay marathon (the all pink marathon) and on a later occasion he knocked at my door to pick up his daughter. Small world, our daughters are very good friends from school. Brendan is also training for the ARF marathon in April and he did a loop with us before heading to the Gungahlin Parkrun.


Brendan joining for a short 3km loop before going to the Gungahlin Parkrun. Oliver (in green) and Joe also in the picture.

We headed yet again south for a loop around Gungahlin pond where PK left us after more than 20km with me. He showed that, despite the chronic back and neck pain, there is stil a lot left from the great runner that he was in the past.


Almost 20km and we’re still happy. Some out of focus, but still smiling 😉


Oliver and I around Yerrabi Pond.

Heading north again Joe had a quick support visit from his family. Janet and James met us just at the crossing between Gundaroo and Mirrabei Drive and James ran with his dad for a while. What a great supporter!


Joe, James and Janet.

Mulligans Flat

As you may have noticed, there are multiple mentions to the lakes around Gungahlin. The reason for multiple loops around Yerrabi Pond was to make sure that we had access to water at least every 10 km and also to make easier for people to find me. On our last stop at the bubbler before heading to Mulligans Flat we found Mary (or she found us). Mary was training for the Six-foot track and was also going for a long distance run. For Joe and I, the loop in Mulligans Flat started at 28.5 km and ended at 35km, arguably the toughest and most critical part of a marathon. In our favour, the views, the trail, and a break from the hard surface of the bike paths. A lovely place to run.


Mary leading in Mulligans Flat. She was looking very strong and comfortable. Joe and Oliver just behind her.

Again the Lake and final stretch home

After Mulligans Flat we went south, once again to Yerrabi Pond. I was expecting another group to join us for the last 5km to the finish line. It didn’t take long for Emily (on her bike) and Katie from the Bilbys, as well as Ethan, Richard, Sam and Tekle (ANU) to join us. It was really nice to have so many enthusiastic people in the final 5km.


Mary leading the ANU students. From left to right: Tekle, Sam and Richard.


100 metres to go: Mary, Richard, Sam, Tekle, Ethan, Geoff, Joe and Katie

Party time!

We finally got home and it was party time! Marcele and Clara (wife and daughter) did a brilliant job with the decoration: everything was all in the bright orange Can Too colour and the table was amazingly set with great food. I didn’t have much time to rest as someone had to cook the eggs, bacon and mushroom. There were friends from work, from the Bilbys Triathlon Club, from a previous Can Too program, and close Brazilian friends from Canberra. It was a great way to celebrate my birthday and marathon number 9.


Marathoners and cooks

Thank you all for coming. I really appreciated your presence. You made my day very special.

Special thanks to the runners that joined me as well as those who donated to Can Too, after all this is the reason why I’m doing this!

And above all, my gratitude to my girls who have always been so supportive and understanding. You organized an amazing party!