Fifth Continent Down!
Who would have thought that the most scenic, easiest, well organised course would turn out to be one of my toughest marathons? That is the crazy thing about running, you would think if you trained the same and you had run 7 marathons already, with some on extremely tough courses that you would be able to predict how you would go and what time you could do on a relatively easy road course...I guess that’s what keeps us running...the mystery of it all!
Rio Race Day
I love point to point marathons and if you ever get a chance to do one, try it. Rio was a point to point of 40km coastline, about one kilometre of road tunnels and one kilometre detour through the city. The only problem with point to points it seems to take so long to get them sorted out. Rio for instance, I was up at 5am for an 8am start. My hotel was at the 25km mark of the course, but I had to get a taxi all the way to the end, then purchase a bus ticket from the end to the start and then wait there for 1.5hours. The start was an amazing bayside village just out of Rio and we sat or nervously paced and watched the early morning surfers, or like me waited an hour in line for the porta loos. Once I got to my turn at the loo I started to feel quite nauseas but I thought 50 porta loos that have already had 1000 nervous runners go through them is likely to cause that sensation.
Three kilometres in I was sweating profusely, which amazed me, the weather was overcast and not warm, but I soon realised the humidity was quite high, I checked out my fellow runners and they were dripping as well, I hadn’t really pushed myself in humidity since last November in Bangkok and the sweat combined with sunscreen stinging my eyes soon brought it all back to me.
At 20km I was sitting on 1:45 and quite happy at 21km I was on 1:51 and the wheels were shaking! I couldn’t believe that one kilometre could make me go from Ok to over it. It is never a good thing to die half way because it’s a bloody long way to drag yourself. I don’t know why it happened, but my feet started becoming very painful, my legs were drilling and my head was not in the right place. I kept thinking about my easy 30km plus training runs with the marathoners back home and wondering what the hell was going on.
My main thought was to get to the Intercontinental at the 25km where David was going to be to take photos and support me. I also left him a bag the night before with strict instructions to have it with him when I passed by and no, there were not illegal substances in the bag, but there were substances!!
I saw the Intercontinental, thank goodness, I saw David wearing the Lazy Runner shirt , I saw his camera...I saw the...where the bloody hell was the bag? When I got closer I gasped “where’s my bag? Casually he replied “oh I left it in the hotel room, did you want it?”...marathon supporter he is, a drug runner he is not!
I was in a lot of pain and thought a couple of Voltaren might help, but it was not to be, after the Intercontinental there was the one long hill climb and once I got my head around that medication wasn’t forthcoming, I actually lifted a bit, I ran up the hill and down through the large Fevella (slums) on the other side, we were told to move through this area fairly fast, after 30km of running they had to be joking!
I thought “maybe I am over my hit the wall moment”, and then as soon as that thought entered my head, the sun came out blazing from all fronts, the crowds and traffic got bigger, and the wheels were more than shaky they were starting to become unattached
I can only say I don’t know how I got through the last 8km, which should of been the run of a lifetime, along Cococabana beach with so many distractions, mainly the near naked bodies playing soccer, beach volleyball, sunbaking on the beaches, but I’m afraid Brad Pitt could of gone by on roller blades wearing a G-string and I wouldn’t of noticed...how sad is that?.
At 40km I knew if I was going to break 4 hours I needed to run a bit faster, so I had to dig deep, but by doing that I felt whatever was going on with my feet, burst and the leg cramps were setting in...Long story short something got me over the line in 3:59...
The first person who approached me after the finish line was a young Brazilian boy, he very gently put my medal around my neck, and let me lean on his shoulder while he knelt down and took my chip out and then tied my undone shoe lace in a double knot so tenderly, I felt like saying “leave it undone mate those shoes are going in the bin and I’m never running again”, but I didn’t want to crush his spirit, he stood up and shook my hand..I know we all rave about wonderful souls like Ghandi, Mother Theresa and Nelson Mandela, but I think saint hood should be bestowed on the guys who take your chip out of your shoe at the end of a marathon, no greater deed can be done...to marathon runners that is
David was there to greet me, but I had to sit down pretty quick as I had a bit of a head spin. Usually I like to hang around for a bit to soak up the atmosphere, but David thought I wasn’t a good colour and hailed a taxi to take us back to the hotel. I was really relieved it was over and whilst sipping on my water in the back of the cab I was starting to appreciate that I could tick off my fifth continent.
The taxi went through one of Rio's famous long, dark tunnels and I suddenly felt very unwell, I told David to quickly finish off my water, and then I used to 250ml cup to catch my projectile vomit, unfortunately the other 4,750mls went all over me and the back seat of the cab.
I was hovering between fainting, vomiting and trying to look normal, thank God it happened in the tunnel as it was dark and noisy so I don’t think the driver twigged what was happening, but let me say I filled every nook and cranny in the back seat of that cab, the cup holders the side door holders, my marathon bag, I swear that everything I had drank in the last three days (and that included 10 bottles of carbo loading Gatorade) came up in a very rainbow like river and flooded me and the back seat.
The driver was very erratic and took the long way around and then took us to the wrong hotel, David was getting pretty angry with him and was looking at me for support, but I didn’t think it would be polite to criticise his driving when I was sitting in a pool of my own vomitus in the back seat of his taxi.
When we finally arrived at the hotel, I was so worried about the hotel door porters opening my taxi door and the deluge of vomit covering their nice shiny shoes, so I just did what all polite aussie girls covered in their own vomit would do, I opened the door and did a runner ,dripping all the way...So much for not running again, I raced to the lift and only collapsed when I got to my bathroom. What a nightmare! I had a bath and fell into bed and crashed for three hours...not my usual celebratory end to a marathon....
The next day I was very sick, sore and sorry for myself, needless to say I hadn’t stretched or drank and ate anything, so not a good recovery program. However, after a light breakfast I started to feel semi conscious and told David not to cancel our jungle trip that we had booked for the afternoon.
The trip was in a bouncy open top jeep, through Rios’s urban jungle (the biggest urban jungle in the world). I saw lots of monkeys, I swear they were laughing at the way I was walking, I saw a sloth (my new hero, I aspire to live like him now) and a Toucan.
The elderly female Brazilian tour guide, took me on a tour of the jungle flora and fauna and showed me all the offerings that had been made to the Voo Doo Gods, she filled me up with so many Voo Doo stories I was tempted to ask if she knew of a good Witch Doctor who may be able to cure my Jungle fever and my crazy notions of thinking I can still run marathons at my age. After a lot more hobbling and climbing up and down the jeep, I went back to the hotel and you guessed it...more vomiting and sleeping...
Two days post marathon I still had my jungle fever, up half the night with diarrhoea and disorientated and swoony during the day. However, I had a bone to pick with someone today and I was going to face off with him. Him being the Almighty one “Christ the Redeemer”, that amazing statue that overlooks all of Rio. I wanted to have a word with the big guy because I felt he had been avoiding me from day one. Christ the Redeemer is usually seen from every point in Rio's city and from miles away but the whole time I was in Rio he was covered in his own little private dark cloud. I would jump up every morning throw back the curtains and look for him from my hotel window, the day would be clear and blue and only one cloud, and it happened to be surrounding the great one. I was starting to get paranoid that he didn’t love me anymore!
During the marathon I kept looking for him, willing for him to give me strength, but no he was nowhere to be seen, just hiding under his little cloud, as if he was saying “if you lot are going to torture those fine bodies I gave you then don’t expect me to stand by and watch”. I have great respect for the big fella, being a Christian and to add insult to injury raised as a Roman Catholic, this guy really is my God, but on this particular occasion not so much my Saviour
But on the Tuesday I jumped up and looked at the window and there he was in the clear, blue sunny sky, quickly we caught a cab (yes another thing I was never going to do again!) to take us to the cable car which chugged more than 700 metres straight up the side of the mountain, not good for the jungle fever, but an almighty view.
I could see the course I had run all the way on two days earlier and it made me shudder, or that could have been my fever as well! Once at the top of the hill, I gazed into his beautiful face (nearly gave myself whiplash) and promptly forgot what I was going to say, Christ the Redeemer is the most serene, and beautiful statue I have ever seen.
The views of Rio de Janerio from this point are amazing, but my wonky legs and disorientation was not good on hills, so down the cable car we went, best bit about Tuesday was that Christ and I were bosom buddies again, well that’s how I see it anyway.
My Jungle Fever was really cramping my post marathon celebrations, I hadn’t even had a celebratory drink and as for the local Cachaca I wasn’t even game to mention its name. So Tuesday afternoon, I thought what the hell...I mean I’m wonky in the legs, I’m not thinking straight, I have a funny tummy..God I might as well get drunk I already have the symptoms. Please note: If you are drinking in Rio and you are traditionally a two pot screamer in Australia (that's me), then you would be labelled a half a pot screamer in this town. Everything here is super sized, the meals in Brazil are known to be the biggest serving sizes in the world, but it’s the drinks that have no limits.
They have never heard of nips or shots, the liquor bottles do not have the little pourers attached, the bar men just remove the caps and slop as much as they feel like into your glass. I quickly became accustomed to this practise when I asked for my first Gin and Tonic in Brazil, he brought me over a tall glass, three quarters filled with liquid and ice and a piece of lime, I thought “Oh that’s funny he didn’t fill the glass”, I went to take a sip and he said “No, please madam I haven’t added the tonic yet”!!, let’s just say its 4 shots gin to one shot tonic in Brazil!
So knowing I would be courting trouble I did the Rio thing, lounged by the hotel pool that overlooked Leblon beach and was waited on by Brazilian boys bringing me cocktails. I decided to try out all the ones named after Rio’s beaches, by the time I was at Ipanema, I’m afraid I wasn’t looking as good as their famous girl in the song, and then once Lema sunk in.. I didn’t know if the Jungle fever was back or if I was paralytic...anyway I’m sure you know the ending, vomiting and sleeping.....
Wednesday was to be my last full day in Rio, the sun was shining the beaches were full and believe it or not the alcohol seemed to have killed my jungle fever. David and I hired bicycles and rode all around Rio, past the magnificent beaches,I kept my eyes peeled for Brad and his g string, but wouldn’t you know it he wasn’t out and about in Cococabana today, but there were plenty of other G strings about to keep me amused and in some cases horrified!
We also rode around the 7km lagoon in the middle of Rio, all the while I’m thinking what a great running track, but then I quickly reminded myself that I’m never running again. Halfway around the Lagoon, David had one of his Benny Hill moments when he thought we were not going to get the bikes back in time, so there we were one mad Englishman going hell for leather on a girls bike and me coming up the rear, and you know the drill..cue the Benny Hill music.
We did get the bikes back and then we did the touristy things, I had a coconut water out of a real coconut, and David a beer, I then had a massage on the beach, performed by a Brazilian Boy of course..and then we strolled along Cococabana, finishing off with Hi Tea at the Cococabana Palace...If you have read my previous blogs you will know that not only am I on a quest to run a marathon on each continent, but I’m going for the Hi Tea goal as well, unusually enough one goal is a lot more enjoyable than the other!
Time to say goodbye to Rio de Janerio and Brazil and South America on Thursday. I had a wonderful trip, jungle Fever , horrible marathon and all... I will probably never return to South America, but I will always remember it to be a beautiful place...all I can say is now bring on North America..Las Vegas in December, maybe Elvis the Redeemer may help me more there..apparently he and few of his buddies make appearances on the course....and they tell me everything is bigger, brighter and better in Vegas, so I can't wait to see the size of their drinks!