12in1 challenge

Triple Edge endurance triathlon and marathon 7: race report

Two weeks have passed, the post-race high has been replaced by the Christmas sugary high, and I have finally found the time to write the race report for marathon 7. As explained in a previous post, this marathon would be completed by adding up a few extra kilometers to the run leg of the Triple Edge Endurance Triathlon with a total of 4 km swim, 120km on the bike and 30 (+12)km running.

Race preparation – the gear:

After my all-pink marathon, I thought I would give a go with the Can Too colour and run an all-orange triathlon/marathon. The Can Too people loved the idea and sent me their awesome bright orange Tri top. For the shorts I had to compromise and ended up buying a black one with details in orange. Socks were easy and the only remaining item was an orange pair of running shoes. I contact Emily, a friend from the Bilbys Triathlon Club that works at The Runners Shop,  and she gave me a few options. In normal circumstances, colour would be the least important attribute in a pair of running shoes but this time was different. Luckily, Emily brought me a pair that was not only bright orange, but also comfortable. I was dressed to race!

Race day:

After a couple of months questioning my decision to add 12 km to such a long event, came race day and I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be. I got there early, checked-in my bike at the transition, and set two separate groups of food on my towel: one for the first transition (T1) and the bike, and another for T2 and the run. I put on my wetsuit and as I was walking to the start line, Craig Johns, executive director of Triathlon ACT and race commentator on the day, grabbed me to say a few words. An article about my marathons had appeared a couple of days before the race in the Canberra Times and Craig was kind enough to give me yet another chance to promote the fundraising.

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Talking to Craig Johns from Triathlon ACT before the race

The swim

Despite the usual mess of an open water start, I quickly found a comfortable place to swim without having to fight against other arms and legs. The conditions were perfect with a calm lake and a sunny day. It was easy to navigate towards Captain James Cook memorial in the first kilometer but heading east on the way back was much harder with the sun blinding the swimmers. I followed the instructions to use the Australian-American Memorial or the “eagle on the stick” as a guide and it was spot on: second buoy found and on with the second lap.

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Paying attention to the race briefing. Photo courtesy of Scottie T Photography *.

I don’t know exactly how, but I completely forgot about the rest of the race and I found myself enjoying those 4 km of lake swim as if they were the only physical activity that I would be doing that day. I swam solid 4 km, not too hard but not holding back either, and left the water in 1:05:46 (my Garmin watch time).

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The start.

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Getting around one of the buoys. Photo courtesy of Scottie T Photography*.

The bike

I ran to the transition taking off the upper part of my wetsuit. After removing the rest of my swim gear, I uncovered the first pile of food grabbing two slices of bread folded in half and wrapped in aluminum foil and putting them in the back pocket of my Tri top. I took my time and drank a box of Up&Go (chocolate milk) before putting on my helmet and sunglasses. In my training I would ride from work to the pool and then back home. Tired after the swim session,  I would drink chocolate milk before my ride home. It worked quite well in training, so I decided to include that in my race nutrition strategy.

I started the ride and, once again, managed to forget about the rest of the race. Ignoring the marathon that was about to happen, I focused only on the task of riding 120km. The ride was mostly flat along Parkes Way but had a tricky climb going from Glenoch Interchange to Gungahlin Drive. I used the descent from Belconnen Way to the turning point as my nutrition segment: a slice of bread with vegemite in lap 1, bread with Paçoquinha spread (a kind of Brazilian peanut butter) in lap 2, and energy bar in laps 3 and 4. In some laps this was complemented by energy gels as well. I don’t really know how many I consumed during the ride, not more than one per lap for sure.

My official splits for each lap were 54:07, 55:25, 55:25, and 58:15. l slowed down considerably in the last lap as I felt the wind picking up and started feeling my left upper glutes as well. My final official time was 3:43:12.

The only photo form my ride is this one

 

which is actually a snapshot of a movie that my friend Fiona took and posted on Facebook. Thanks Fi!

The run

Another transition and another box of chocolate milk. After five hours, this one wasn’t as cold as the first one but was still nice to drink. I emptied my back pockets and filled them back again, now only with gels and one energy bar. I put my socks and my shoes on and off I went, for the first time with the full orange outfit.

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Love this photo from Scottie T Photography*. Capturing the walking sign in the photo was brilliant!

I started strong, running the first couple of kilometers in just over 9 minutes. Four minutes and thirty seconds per kilometer is way faster than my marathon pace, let alone after one hour swimming and almost four hours riding. However, I decided not to control my pace and let the body dictate what a “comfortably hard” run would mean at that stage. I was backing this decision on how I felt the previous weekend in my last long training session before the race. This 11km run at 4:30 min/km pace after a solid 85km ride boosted my confidence and completely changed my mindset for the race. This is the magic of training: not only it strengthens your body but, perhaps even more important, it prepares your mind for race day.

Of course I wasn’t expecting to keep that pace for much longer, certainly not on the climb to Parliament House. Not even the massive cheering from my friends at the Bilbys’ aid station halfway through the climb could make me run fast uphill. In the end I manage to keep a decent pace in the first ten kilometers with a time of 49:36.

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A big thank you to all the Bilbys for cheering me up and for these photos!

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A much happier face going downhill. Thanks Trent Dawson for the photo.

I was slowed down quite a bit in the next 10km doing it in 54:22, but I was still running at a pace that would allow me to complete the marathon in under four hours. Talking about marathon, the third lap came and I started to think about the extra kilometers that I needed to do. I noticed that the course lap was slightly shorter than 10km and began to do calculations in my head to decide the best way to add the extra bit. The original plan was to do one lap and a half and complete 45 km. However, that would lead to two consecutive climbs to the Parliament House and, given that I was getting pretty tired, I decided that that was not the best of the plans. Instead,  I decided to go for an extra couple of laps around the Parliament gardens: it was flat up there, plenty of shade, pleasant surroundings and I thought I could convince someone to join me at least on that short loop. Next time I passed by the Bilbys tent I asked: “Anyone keen for a run around the Parliament to keep me company in my extra lap?” Tim Kinder accepted the invitation and I headed to the finish line with a plan for the extra 12km.

As I approached the finish line I looked for Marcele and Clara and there they were. I was so happy to see my wife and daughter waiting for me under the Triathlon ACT’s blue inflatable arch. I crossed the finish line,  kissed them (see Clara’s video below), received my medal, ate some fruit that Fiona brought me, and posed for pictures. I finished the race in 11th place with a total time of 7:23:53 but I still had some kilometers to cover so I gave my medal to Marcele and kept running.

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Waving to Clara at the finish line

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Fruits! So sick of gels at that point.

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Throwing garbage in the wrong bin. The race chip was supposed to go there!

 

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As I was about to start, Brad and Liz (the race organisers that gave me all the support to include my marathon in their Triple Edge event) told me that their daughter wanted to run with me. What a start! She was so quick that I couldn’t keep up with her. I’m serious, she was too fast for my tired legs. The funny thing is that she kept going despite Liz’s calls for her to stop. Eventually she stopped. Lucky me!

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The little Arabella outran me easily!

After this sprint start I slowed down the pace quite a lot, running at over 6 min/km. With the race over, my only worry was not to drag for too long as people volunteering at the aid stations probably wanted to go home. At the Bilbys aid station, Tim joined me. We climbed towards the Parliament House and ran around the gardens twice before going down again past the aid station. Tim decided to keep running to the finish line. It was so refreshing to have someone to talk to and share the final moments of that race, even more so with such a lovely person as Tim. As we hit the lake and approached the finish line, Tim stopped and told me he would let me enjoy the last two kilometers by myself. Two tough and slow kilometers. And after 8:54:13 I crossed the finish line for the second time, completing my seventh marathon in 3:59:16.

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Crossing the finish line for the second time: 8:54:13 for the whole thing and 3:59:16 for the marathon. Photos courtesy of the Triple Edge team and Fiona.

How did I feel after? Extremely happy and extremely hungry! It was an amazing feeling to finish such a tough race and to finish it well. Everything worked as planned, no foggy googles, no chaffing, no flat tyres, no blisters, no cramps, nothing. Just the awesome feeling of having achieved something that, until the week before the race, I feared I wasn’t prepared enough to do.

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Looking pretty relaxed after the race. Does it look like I raced for almost 9 hours? Thanks Fi for the photo.

It took me quite some to get over the post-race high and to take the smile off my face. The only disappointment was the fundraising as I couldn’t reach my goal of $3500 by the end of marathon 7. I thought that the media coverage and the toughness of this race would encourage more people to donate. The lesson is that donations from people that don’t know you is rare (in my case $0 so far) so the fundraising still relies on generous friends and family. Talking about them, I should thank them all for helping me raise $3240 for cancer research!!

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The “research dollars” vs. marathons race. To donate visit http://cantoo.org.au/fundraisers/AndreCarvalho

 

 

*Scott was very kind to allow me to use his photos. If you liked his work, you can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.

I’m halfway there! Marathon 6: race report

As mentioned in the post with the race preview, marathon number 6 was completed during the Sri Chinmoy Triple Triathlon here in Canberra. This meant a very early start for me as the first swim would begin at 6am. Since I’d be away for most of the day, I woke up at 4:30 to get everything ready: wetsuit, goggles, swim cap, running shoes, Can Too shirt, socks, running shorts, extra clothes for after the race, towel, race bib, vaseline, energy bars, gels… did I miss anything?

The (first) swim

It was still dark when I got to Lake Ginninderra. I saw Martin, a friend from Bilbys, getting ready to get in the water at 5:30 together with the other competitors in the solo category. I wished him good luck with what was going to be a long day (he ended up finishing in 13:27:32), and continued my preparation for the race.

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The brave solo competitors getting ready for the start.

I did this leg in 2011 and finished in 27:36 but I’ve improved a lot since then and my prediction for the 1500m swim was 25 min. As always, the first 100m were hard with many swimmers battling for space. I found myself between two competitors but still with enough space to swim without being hit by others. The group was pretty packed until the first buoy (at least that was my perception) but after that I found myself with plenty of space.  A quick check to see if I hadn’t gone off course and I noticed that I was alone between the front pack and another pack coming behind. I was swimming well and feeling good, despite the first signs of chaffing from the wetsuit rubbing on my neck. I’ve used that wetsuit many times and never had problems before. Well, there is always a first…

I began to breath more on the left side to avoid the rubbing and just kept going. Before the second buoy I started to get close to a guy that was getting dropped by the front pack and my competitive side gave me extra energy to chase him. We swam close together for a while but with the finish line in sight I forgot about him and focused on the beach.

I got out of the water and immediately started screaming Ben’s name. I tagged him, he went off and I finally looked at my time: 23:50, more than a minute faster than my prediction. I couldn’t be happier.

While Ben rides…

I knew that Ben would take a while to finish the first bike leg so I took my time and talked to friends while watching competitors from other waves arriving. I was enjoying the race atmosphere but it was time to drive to the next transition and get into my marathon gear, but not before making a pit stop to grab a coffee and a banana bread.

I got to the transition with time to spare and got ready to run. I met Michelle, Ben’s wife, and she asked me if I was going to take it easy on the race because of the marathon, or if I would run hard the 20km of the race and then survive the rest of the marathon. To be honest I hadn’t planned a race strategy until that point and I thought: “I’m not sure it is a good idea, but since I’m here with a number on my chest, I should go hard.” So I replied to Michelle: “I thin I’ll go hard…”

Let the marathon begin!

Ben arrived, tagged me and I started my sixth marathon. I was excited to reach the halfway mark of my fundraising challenge. It was my third marathon in Canberra and for the third time I was going to climb both Mount Majura and Mont Ainslie. The last time I met these two climbs was in my fourth marathon and it was really tough. I found it easier this time: the knee was pain free, I was in a good mood after my first swim, and I knew the course this time ;-). I just went steady uphill and then used the gentle descent from Mount Majura to make the most out of my fearless downhill style :-). The highlight of this part was running following the mountain bike course at Majura Pines. It was really cool!

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Left: Average pace and elevation per kilometer. Right: full race map. Bottom: Elevation profile and pace. First 8km highlighted in orange.

After the mountain bike course, another climb. This time was Hackett Hill. Once again a steady climb followed by faster downhill runs over a rocky surface. Tripping over is not a thought that should ever cross your mind when you want to run fast downhill. Luckily, it only crossed mine now, weeks after the run.

A sharp left turn took me to the Mount Ainslie climb. I focused on not stopping and went up, again slow but steady. I reached the summit and then dashed downhill along the walking trail, eventually dodging people and dogs walking up the hill.

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Same as in the second figure but now for Hackett-Ainslie.

The hills were over and now it was a flat run towards the finish line were I would tag Perry for his lake swim. I finished in 1:35:26, more than four minutes faster then my best time in this leg in 2011.

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Tagging Perry at the second transition. The mission now was to run the extra 22 km to complete a marathon. Photo courtesy of Emily Stacey, our friend and support crew throughout the race.

From then on I decreased the pace and went by myself to complete the marathon. I started running against the flow of competitors and got a strange look from those that had seen me at the first transition or along the course. One of the solo competitors even asked me if that was a cool down. We were both running, so there was not enough time to explain…

I ran towards the third transition at Acton terminal where I should meet Ben to get my car keys back. He greeted me with: “I found my grey bag!”. “Which grey bag?”, I replied. “My grey bag… the one you left at the beach.” In the excitement of finishing the first swim, I forgot to put Ben’s backpack in my car at the first transition! I was so embarrassed. I got my key, picked my camel back and food in the car and headed south towards Weston Park, not before apologising to Ben once more…

As I reached the Commonwealth Bridge I saw Joe (the same friend from the marathon in Rio) and Chris waiting for me. After a couple of marathons with my phone failing, this time all worked fine and they found me with no problem tracking me through the Road ID app. I had sent an invite for people to join me at the second part of the run and they were the only two to show up. I was really happy to see them as I was not looking forward to another long and lonely run. The run was much more enjoyable with someone to talk to. The only problem was that Perry and Ben were racing faster than I expected and I wouldn’t have much time to spare before meeting with Ben at the third transition. Just before the loop around Weston Park we split. Chris and I went to complete the loop while Joe was left behind. We met again and headed back to the Lake. Worried with the time, I decided to increase my pace. I thanked them for the company, apologised for splitting again, and ran the last 6 km alone.

The end of the sixth marathon was a bit anticlimactic: I finished alone at the car park, stretched for a couple of minutes, jumped into the car, and drove to the third transition. Mission accomplished! Only six more to go!

The last swim

A few minutes after my arrival at T3, Ben finished his second bike leg. A few fruits, lollies and cups of water later and we drove to the Lake Tuggeranong for my last swim. It would be a pool swim as the Lake was closed for swimming due to the water (bad) quality. My legs were quite heavy and I thought that they would sink to the bottom of the pool. When Perry arrived and I began the swim, I actually felt good. The legs were kicking OK and it felt like a recovery session. I didn’t swim very hard as my arms (surprise!) were not really responding well, but I finished in better shape than I expected. I tagged Ben for the last time and took a relaxing shower before driving to meet him again at T6.

The finish

With my two swims and a marathon out of the way, it was my time to just cheer Ben and Perry in the last two legs of the race. Perry, Emily and I were waiting for Ben to arrive at T7 but he was taking longer than expected. Another rider came and, since I had seen him chatting with Ben earlier, I decided to ask him if he had seen our team mate: “He was way ahead of me. Hasn’t he arrived?” – he said – “He must have taken a wrong turn”, he completed. Indeed Ben got lost twice in the last bike leg but still came sixth in our category.

Perry left for the last 13 km and we drove to the finish line. About an hour later we could see two runners approaching on the opposite road: Perry was about 100 m behind a runner that was clearly slower at that point. Sprint finish in such a long race? Improbable but that’s what happened. We lost sight of both as they turned left heading to the car park leading to the finish line. As they approached the last 50 m it was clear that Perry wouldn’t make it. He had given it all and finished in 1:01:51, the second fastest time in our category!

We proudly took the third place in the teams of 3 category with a time of 10:00:52, just 52 seconds over 10 hours! And here is the official team photo and all our splits:

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The Threeple Team. Photo courtesy of Emily Stacey (again).

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Our results.

TED Talks on Cancer Research

A friend of mine, Carlos Pineda (the one that ran with me in my first marathon), sent me a link to some TED talks on cancer. Since supporting cancer research is the reason behind my 12in1 marathon challenge, I decided to share some of these videos with you. The first one is a talk given in 2011 by Jay Bradner, a researcher at Harvard and Dana Farber Cancer Institute. He talks about a molecule developed in his lab that can make cancer cells forget their identity and turn into normal cells. What is interesting is that his talk was not advertised for the technical progress made with the JQ1 molecule, but was announced as “Jay Bradner: Open-source cancer research”. The reason for that is that Bradner’s group not only published their results (that’s what we, scientists, do), but published them at the early prototype stage AND shared their molecule with labs around the world. This fast-tracked our understanding of this molecule and its potential to be used in cancer treatment.

He finishes his talk (spoiler alert!!) giving me even more motivation to run my marathons. In his own words:

Now the business model involves all of you. This research is funded by the public. It’s funded by foundations. And one thing I’ve learned in Boston is that you people will do anything for cancer — and I love that. You bike across the state. You walk up and down the river. (Laughter) I’ve never seen really anywhere this unique support for cancer research. And so I want to thank you for your participation, your collaboration and most of all for your confidence in our ideas.”

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Marathon #2: race report

If there is one thing that I’ve learned after just two marathons is that there will be last minute changes to the course no matter how much in advance you plan it. It was like that in the first one and it happened again. My original plan was to run from Gungahlin to the Lake Burley Griffin climbing Black Mountain and Mount Ainslie. However, to make it easier for the runners who wanted to join me at different points of the marathon, I changed the map to the one shown on the left of the figure below.

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Left: Map made to replace the original plan. Right: What actually happened on race day. Bottom: Elevation profile of the marathon. You can check the stats of the run here.

With course updated and uploaded to my watch (after struggling for the third time, I promised to myself that I’ll write a detailed post on the tricks to make this uploading process work, wait and see…), it was just a matter of a good night of sleep before the second 42.2 km. “Frost then sunny”, said the forecast for Sunday in Canberra. Apart from the expected negative temperature in the early morning, a sunny day with a predicted maximum 12oC was looking perfect for the marathon.

It came race day and even though I had arranged for a 9:00 start, I was up at 6:30 for the pre-race ritual: anti-chaffing cream, first aid tape, filling camel back, energy gels and bars, camera, watch… On top of that there was feeding the cats, the dog, and waking up my daughter. The night before, Clara seemed excited to come along to take photos but changed her mind. I couldn’t compete with the combination of adolescence tiredness, the sub-zero temperature outside, and the cosy and warm bed. So from the original group of four (myself, wife, daughter and dog), only two of us ended up going to the meeting point at Yerrabi Pond.

The temperature was still below zero when Marcele and I met Luiz, a friend of ours, at the neighbouring lake for the first 4 km of the marathon. Just before we started, I turned the RoadID app on my phone to let people track my run. As you’ll see, this step turned out to be very useful for those joining me later. Marcele, Luiz and I began our 4 km loop around the lake under freezing conditions and lots of ice still on the bike path. They deserve especial thanks for braving the Canberra cold to run with me.

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Winter sunny days in Canberra always deceive: it doesn’t look that cold but it is! Luiz, myself and Marcele braving the sub-zero temperatures. Bottom: I still don’t know whether my wife was happy or if the cold had frozen that smile on her face 😉

After completing the loop, they wished me good luck and I headed to the least interesting part of the marathon: a solo run along the bike path from Gungahlin to Mitchell and then going along the roads to reach the base of Mount Majura. Not even the kangaroos came to say good morning, so I won’t even bother putting up photos of this part.

I reached the base of Mount Majura at kilometer 14. There I met Kylie, a friend from the Bilbys triathlon club that had promised to run about 20 km with me. She had brought with her Guy Jones, another amazing triathlete to run with us. I was definitely in good company. Another Bilby, Petra Lean, was also there to take a few pictures and wish me good luck. What a lovely friend! I should have stopped to hug you, Petra!

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From top left to bottom right: (i) Kylie, Guy and Petra waiting for me with Mount Majura at the back. (ii) Thanks for the support Petra! (iii) Up Mount Majura. (iv) I didn’t quite recognise these two but they shouted “Go Bilbys!” and talked to Kylie and Guy. I think I should return to the club’s rides…

On our way to the top of Mount Majura, I missed a left turn and instead of going up, we made an unplanned loop just to come back to the same point. The first of a few mistakes along the course (compare the planned and actual courses in the first figure). Later that day, I learned from my friend Renee that she was following me on the map when she noticed our mistake: “No Andre! Wrong way, wrong way!”, she even thought of texting me, but I guess that in the end she just decided to enjoy my path getting off the original plan.

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Does it need a caption?

I was feeling quite strong at this stage and ran almost comfortably to the top of Mount Majura. We got cheered by a couple of runners that recognised Kylie and Guy and shouted “Go Bilbys!”. I still don’t know if I never met them or if I simply didn’t recognise them. If the later is true, I’ll blame my focus on the run for that. Mount Majura conquered! Quick stop for photos, energy bar, and changing my GoPro battery.

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At the highest point in Canberra!

We went down, again following a slightly different course from the original plan, and reached the more flat part along the base of Mount Ainslie. We decided to take this path to be closer to the place where Guy had parked his car. At this stage Guy and Kylie looked pretty comfortable and it was my turn to match their pace. Guy left us a bit before the Mount Ainslie climb. Another goodbye, another thankful handshake, and from then on was just me following Kylie.

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From top left to bottom right: (i) Kylie and Guy looking good on the road at the base of Mount Ainslie. (ii) Kylie leading the way up. (iii) Here they are again! (iv) Happy to finish the last climb. It is all downhill from here!

With the change in course, we started the climb to Mount Ainslie at the 27 km mark from the south part, behind the War Memorial. The original plan was to climb from the west around kilometer 21. At least we didn’t do the whole loop around the base before climbing. It would have been a lot harder going up with more than 30 km on my legs. Kylie led the way up to Mount Ainslie and there we met the two runners again. We were not the only ones doing long runs up the hills! Quick stop for photos and down we went again.

Having changed the course after a few missed turns, we ended up doing a couple of extra kilometers. At km 33, we met Elton, a Brazilian friend that followed my path from the app and decided to meet us a couple of kilometers before the meeting point at the War Memorial. We were again three.

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Left: Elton joining us at km 33. Right: Time for Kylie to go. It was a good run!

Behind the War Memorial another goodbye, now to Kylie. It was a pleasure running with you Kylie! I enjoyed the challenge of keeping up with her pace in our last 5 km together. It was at this point that my camera ran out of battery. No photos after that until the finish line! Grrrrrr!

It was now just me and Elton, but not for long. At the front of the War Memorial Alex was waiting to join us. When we reached the Lake Burley Griffin we met Kate, a Can Too runner that trained with me for the Sydney Half Marathon in May. Again, point for the ecrumbs app! Shortly after that and we were joined by Massao and Lucas, two other Brazilian friends. “This is looking like Forrest Gump”, said Kate. Well, there were two more to join: Heather, close to the National Gallery, and Renee at the Commonwealth bridge, With the two Can Tooers joining us, the group was complete!

We ran down the bridge back to the north part of the Lake where a few others were waiting at the finish line: Louise, Luiz, Paty, Nina and Marcele. We passed by them, ran a little more to make the right distance, and came back to celebrate the end of my second marathon.

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Back row: Renee, Alex, Elton, Lucas, Heather. Front row: Kate, me and Massao. Thank you all for running with me!

During my stretching I learned that I had reached my fundraising goal for the second marathon while running. What a feeling! Again, a big thank you for all who ran with me on the day and for those who donated for cancer research!

To finish, the link to a one minute video with the group running at the 41 km mark.

Airplane post: marathon #1 preview

Yesterday I left Canberra on my way to a workshop in Benasque, a small Spanish village at the Pyrenees. In the past 24 hours I have watched three movies, read a book, worked on a grant proposal rejoinder, eaten four airplane meals, and slept for a few hours. The problem? I’m still in an airplane!

I also watched a couple of sports documentaries: one about the 2015 Dubai marathon, and another about the Austrian cyclist Gerhard Gulewicz and his breathtaking attempts to win the Race Across America (RAAM). This reminded me that I have an extra reason, besides science, to be excited about this workshop. As you may have read in this post, Benasque is the place I chose to run the first marathon of my fundraising challenge. Since I have some time to spare before I’m asked “lamb or chicken” and before we land in Barcelona, I thought it was a good time to write a marathon preview.

I always knew that planning a marathon in Benasque would be challenging. There is no way to avoid the mountains. Of course you can limit the amount of climb by designing a course with multiple laps along a less hilly loop, but that would be no fun, would it? I studied some maps from the Wikiloc website and used my previous limited knowledge of the region to design a course. I was tempted to go to the lakes that I showed here, but that would involve some steep hiking over rocks rather than running, so I ditched it. Instead, I went with this* (similar to what I described here):

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Course map for the first marathon. You can find the details at: http://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/fullscreen/747602475/

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You certainly noticed the long way up, 1650 m of elevation gain, with two category 1 and one category 5 climbs. Sounds very hard but you know what they say: the more impressive your challenge, the better your chances of a successful fundraising. You may have also noticed the ridiculous maze-like beginning, included just to reach the marathon distance. ‘Why not extend the course one more kilometer from the final point?’ – you may ask. Well, that final point was meticulously planned to be the highest point of that track. If I went a few hundred meters further, then I’d have a steep descent that would need to be climbed back. No, I didn’t want to make it any harder than already is.

To be honest, I don’t really know whether I can run that last bit or not. I’ve been on a bike for most of that course before, but the last climb from kilometer 18 to half-marathon mark is unknown to me. I guess I’ll have to check that on the day. I can always make up for the distance by running past Benasque and then coming back. But anyone that has had the chance to race in a course that you pass in front of the finishing line and still having a few kilometers to run knows that it is no fun.

By the way, I went for the lamb! 😉

* Since I published this post the course has been changed to make it easier for people to run parts of the marathon with me. The final map can be found here.

The whys

Since I announced my “Fit it in one” project, people have been asking a simple question: Why?

After answering this question over and over again in the past week, I realised that it is not as simple as I thought. In a typical conversation, I’ve been bombarded by a sequence of whys: Why? Why cancer? Why now? Why 12 marathons in one year?

The simple why

To raise funds for cancer research. That’s the easy one, but very few people stop here. Possibly only the ones that asked just for politeness.

Why cancer?

That’s the second level of curiosity.

The first thing that makes cancer special is its reach. Ask anyone and they will have a relative, a friend, or at least a friend of friend that has been affected by cancer. The second one, in my view, is its unpredictable nature: a person that looks perfectly healthy today, may be laying on a hospital bed tomorrow awaiting for surgery. The third is the severity of cancer: in many cases it represents a real life threat.

These are all reasons that anyone could use to justify fundraising for cancer research. However, in many situations these are followed by very personal reasons, and my case is no different. My father and grandmother have both been through surgery for bowel cancer, I have a cousin that was treated for Hodgkin in his 20’s, relatives that died of lung cancer, and a few friends that have survived or are still battling cancer. When it is that close to you, you can’t turn your back to it.

Why now?

It is funny how things work. Despite my family history and my personal connection with people with cancer, it took a person that I’ve only seen twice to trigger this project. It was a freezing morning in Canberra and I was coaching the last Saturday run of the Canberra pod of the Can Too Foundation. In the long runs we always have what we call the Energy Champ. This is a volunteer that is willing to be at 7am on a Saturday morning ready to hand drinks and lollies to our runners, and cheer them up as they pass the halfway mark. That Saturday our Energy Champ was there with her two kids. Because it was the last weekend before race day, we gathered at the meeting point after the run and talked about their race expectations and also why they were doing it. That was when our Energy Champ asked to say a few words. She thanked everyone for their effort for such a good cause. She then revealed, with her two kids by her side, that she is a cancer patient herself and that the money raised was helping research to increase her life expectancy. That hit me so hard that I immediately decided that I needed to do something special. I didn’t know what, but I knew I had to.

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The Can Too Canberra pod celebrating just after finishing the SMH half-marathon. This amazing group of people raised more than $14k for cancer research!

Why marathons? Why 12 in one year?

Driving back home I was thinking about what to do. In the previous fundraising events that I participated my results were pathetic. In most cases the only money I raised was what I put myself as part of the event registration. For some time I’ve been trying to find the reason for my inability to raise funds. It could be the lack of family in Australia, my discomfort in asking people for money, or simply that my friends don’t see those events as a real challenge for me.

Recently I tried to tackle the last problem. For the third time I joined the Bilby Bathers team and participated in the Mega Swim Canberra, a 24h relay swim event to raise funds for multiple sclerosis. What could I do to make it look more challenging? Well, first of all I said that I would be happy to take any available shift. I ended up with the 4am to 5am and the 6am to 7am shifts, and also joined the short distance team relay from 9:30 to 12pm. On top of that I arrived one hour earlier to count laps for the poor guy swimming at 3am. I was taking pictures and posting on Facebook. I got lots of likes and one donation! Woo hoo! But that was all… 😦

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Some of the awesome members of the Bilby Bathers team at the 24h Mega Swim 2015. After only 2 and a half hours of sleep and more than 8km swum I raised the stunning amount of… $55 😦 ! The team effort was great though, almost $6500! (Photo from the Mega Swim website)

So, for my new fundraising project I decided to do something impressive, something that I would never do just for fun. Well, an Ironman is in my plans, so no. An Ultraman? Not in my plans (yet?) but the amazing Debi Hazelden and John Mergler had just done that, also raising funds for Can Too. As I was discarding crazy one-off events I thought of doing a long term project, just like the treatments that my friends and relatives went (or are going) through. That’s how I came up with the “Fit it in one” idea: 12 marathons in one year! And here I am less than a month away from the first 42.195 km!