One week until the big day

It’s hard to believe how fast the year has flown by. It seems like only yesterday that it was early January, New Year resolutions had been made and the idea of running a marathon as a “motivator” to get fit was haphazardly formed.

On Sunday I run 42kms.

Am I ready? Well… it depends.

About 10 days ago I decided I really needed to take a small training risk and improve my pre-marathon psychology. The maximum distance I had run was about 20kms (so a bit under half-way) and although I felt good after that sort of distance – comfortable even – I needed the personal boost, the knowledge that I could go further.

I ran 32kms.16kms (on pavement) followed by an hour of core training and then 16kms back home. I felt fine. Knees a teeny bit sore that evening but the next day, aside from a bit of stiffness, I was quite mobile. Physically I feel up to the task  and my legs feel robust. My breathing is hugely improved and I have perfected my long-distance iPod shuffle playlist!

Actually, on the whole, I look and feel better than I have in a long time. I didn’t quite hit my target of 25kgs of weight loss (I got to maybe 18) but it’s not going to stop with marathon day. This has been about reform.

This is Chris v2.0.

The problem is that I have a cold. A whopper cold.  My nostrils are red from tissue abrasion and Tiger Balm. My nose is literally dripping non-stop and uncontrollably. I actually cannot breathe through my nose. Therefore my last week of pre-marathon preparation (the “taper”) is decongestant, hot baths and sleep. For all of you who supported me I am still getting on that plane to NYC and I am still going to run. But if necessary I am going to take it slow and steady. I hope you can forgive me if my time doesn’t make any record books.

Wish me luck. Home remedy suggestions for sniffles are welcome…

ING 2013 NYC Marathon – 3 Weeks to Go

Why does running somehow always look so 80s? Oh wait, maybe this picture WAS in the 80s...

Why does running somehow always look so 80s? Oh wait, maybe this picture WAS in the 80s…

Well, I’m on the final stretch.The last few weeks have been tough to stay on top of training. Partially because the distances are getting longer, partially because life has been really busy. When I started this journey, I don’t think I appreciated how tough it was going to be.

We had a major clinical milestone due at ImaginAb and after it was out of the way, I was just wiped out. As usual, after a sustained period of stress/adrenaline, my body just packed it in and I was sick for a week. Then we went on vacation for a week in Thailand and a combination of gastroenteritis and Max not sleeping (whatsoever) meant I had a break from running for almost two weeks. Not good…

Physically, I am feeling ok. My fitness is better than it has been in probably a decade, I’ve lost close to 15kgs (ideally would have lost closer to 25kgs). My legs are pretty strong, though my knees have been complaining a bit recently. Core training has helped and my back seems to survive the longer distances ok. My longest distance prior to race day will be 25kms – that’s only 60% of race day distance.

Hmmmm…

Anyhow, although I am a bit stressed about the day, I also feel I can do it. I’m not shooting for any records, my goal is just to make it over the line. I’d like to do it in less than 5 hours but if I do it in less than 6 I’ll be just delighted. For me, this has not so much been about the end-performance in the race, but rather the goal of getting back into some kind of mindset about health. Providing I don’t end up in cardiac ward or something, this goal will have been achieved.

The thing that will REALLY help me to get over the line and stay motivated on the day is your sponsorship. Thank you to all those who stepped up to the mark to help me to raise over $11,000 for the Heart Foundation. I haven’t yet hit my goal of $20,000 – despite matching the first $5,000 – but there is still time to get your wallet out. You can donate here.

Wish me luck! Any words of support, encouragement and good knee-soothing karmic thoughts on the day are appreciated!

Hopefully this will be me... wish me luck!

Hopefully this will be me… wish me luck!

Andaman dreaming : climate change is not the major issue

I just got back from a week of vacation in Phuket, Thailand. I will admit it’s not the most pristine, interesting or beautiful part of Thailand but when you have a little kid you are not necessarily looking for a lot of adventure. How days have changed…

I love the ocean and I was looking forward to some nice beaches, warm water and even a little bit of diving. We stayed down at Kata Noi, on the south-western tip of Phuket where it is a little quieter. Given the time of year, the seas were pretty rough (there are quite a few substantial tropical storms in the region at the moment) and Max being an early riser meant that we were often down on the beach at the crack of dawn. Although beaches were swept every morning it was amazing to see what the waves had thrown up on the sand during the night.

Actually, not amazing – but depressing. Garbage. Tons of it.

One morning I got up particularly early for a run along the beach and after a couple of kms I just stopped. I was barefoot and there was a lot of sharp junk so I slowed down to just look at all the rubbish. I started reading labels, processing the different languages on containers and cans, poking around with a stick. Garbage had literally floated in from all over the Indian ocean – I found labels from Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and even Australia. To some extent, considering regional coastlines are some of the most densely populated in the world and there are major shipping channels nearby (i.e. the Straits of Malacca just around the corner) I suppose I shouldn’t have been overly surprised.

But still. Depressing.

Of course, by 8am it had all been tidied away and the first proper beachgoers were greeted with beautiful clean sands… idyllic.

A message in a bottle?

A message in a bottle?

A couple of days later Zhenya and I left Max with a babysitter and went diving for the day in a marine park a couple of hours boat ride from Phuket. As we motored out toward Ko He island, I watched the incredible blue colors of the Andaman Sea, anticipating the first dive of the day. I just couldn’t wait to get into the water.

What a disappointment. Pristine and extensive coral formations – perfectly intact with absolutely no boat anchor damage or signs of blast fishing – and perfectly dead. It was like some dark and nefarious force had come in and just sucked all the color and vibrancy away and left behind the skeleton of the reef. Here and there you could still see little patches of color but one got the sense that it was a battle being lost, the last rebel strongholds against total destruction. There was a lot of fish and other types of reef flora were thriving but the coral was all but dead.

Unsurpringly, there was a lot of garbage on the reef too… bottles, cans, boat parts, fishnet tangles.

On the trip back to Phuket, I spent some time talking with one of the dive masters, an older Thai guy who had been running dive charters in the area for 20 years. He said that the coral bleaching started to get really bad in 2010 because of El Niño, apparently a lot of the major coral reefs in the area simply started to die. Even though the reserve we dived in has had boat control, mooring buoys installed to prevent anchor damage and is regularly patrolled for illicit fishing, the reef has not fared well. They no longer see larger predators in the area because the fish stocks are dwindling as the reef dies.

That evening I was feeling a bit empty and I couldn’t get the image out of my head of a plastic bottle smattered with algae (but with Sanskrit label – a large multinational company brand – still visible) sitting on a large dead coral head. I realized that the issue of our dying reefs, our dirty oceans, is not about climate change – it’s about pollution. I personally don’t need any more convincing that man-made climate change is real, and a serious issue for our planet.

But what I also think is that the focus of the debate we are having is wrong.

71% of the planet is covered in ocean. The activities that spew out CO2 (and other more potent greenhouse gases) into the air, also contaminate our land and waterways more generally. Our populations don’t just “benignly” emit carbon – if only that were true. Our power generation, our vehicles, our refrigeration and our consumption are all components of urbanization and it is the combined effects of pollution from these activities – air, land and water – that is killing our oceans.

What the climate change skeptics are really saying is that they don’t care about the fact that we are polluting the planet because the fact that we pollute is measurable and undeniable. It’s actually not about whether the temperature is rising, whether our ice caps are melting and whether our coastal populations or biodiversity is at risk due to temperature increase. The key issue is whether we can continue to pollute the way that we do – with CO2 levels only a partial side-effect – and not see collapse of our largest and most important repository of food and life on our planet – our oceans. When we focus on the issue of climate change, to some extent we are simply ignoring the primary issue that humans are net polluters, that pollution accumulates, and pollution will eventually kill our planet.

And us.

Instead of debating the impact of climate change, the skeptics need to get out of the office and start looking at the world we live in through the lens of pollution and contamination, not climate change. Walk a beach in Ko Samui at 6am in the morning and admire the garbage. Fly to Shanghai and feel unsettled after eating an expensive meal that is beautifully presented but leaves a worrying aftertaste of phenols in your mouth. Walk through the Black Forrest and see the effects of acid rain. Go to a place like São Paulo, the finance and business capital of Brazil’s “booming” economy, where the water is undrinkable and a comparatively small proportion of the population has access to sanitation. By the way ~50% of US waterways are unacceptably polluted and millions of Americans drink contaminated water – so this is not a “developing world” problem – it is within all of our communities and electorates – everywhere.

Environmental pollution is the real issue, not climate change. If only it were that simple…

A simple solution to America’s democratic crisis – British sovereignty

Dear America,

We each have distinct expectations of government. We vote to project our political views, to cast our preferences in order to serve our needs … Beliefs… In truth, most of the time, we even don’t care and countries without mandatory voting – like America – have a pitiful turnout for what should be a foremost concern of every citizen.

In the days of ancient Greece, it would be unthinkable that a kosmopolitan would not take an interest in politics and government.

But no matter how much you care – or don’t – about government, you expect at least one thing. Competent or not, it will always be there. Doing its job. Crankin’ away. Public servants administering – with greater or lesser efficacy – to the needs of the populace. In “advanced” countries like America, Canada, Australia, UK, we tend to slightly “look down the nose” at other countries that cannot rely on taxes to be collected, schools and hospitals to run, infrastructure to operate to some basic extent …

Congratulations, America! You have joined the ranks of countries like Nigeria, Afghanistan (ironic) and Somalia, that also don’t have functioning governments.

The good news is there is a solution. Afterall, we shouldn’t highlight problems without providing answers, right?

What I am going to propose is a few hundred years out of sync, so apologies for being a bit antiquidated. Also, considering that David Cameron couldn’t get parliamentary support to go and kick some ass in Syria, despite overwhelming evidence of human rights abuse and chemical weapons usage, the solution is probably going to wrankle slightly… but here goes…

Obama – go and grab Kayak One, turn up at Plymouth Dock (the original) and declare your subjugation and servience to the Queen of England. Oh, don’t worry too much about the cosmesis of it – Britain doesn’t have the economy to underwrite your debt anyhow. Also, British parliament is too filled with wimps to deal with your daunting domestic agenda, let alone project any meaningful force in the world. It can barely manage itself right now.

By the way, disregard whatever that wanker Miliband promises you, he’s a complete waste of space.

But what you WILL get is a nifty little feature of (former) British colonial rule that we, every so often, appreciate in some parts of the world, like the realm of your docile antipodean cousins – Australia. It’s called parliamentary dissolution. America, you have a “hung parliament.” If you had a Governor General, a vice-regal appointed by a Monarch (which you don’t – so nerny nerny ner ner), government would be dissolved and democratic process would simply restart in the form of an election.

… In the best interests of the people you are supposed to serve…

Crazy talk, I know…

(Editor’s note: we also have a modest sporting event every once in a while called the “Commonwealth Games” – they are not as glamorous as the Olympics but we would prefer it if you stayed the hell away from them, whatever you decide about sovereignity. It’s a chance for Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to kick ass without highly funded American sporting institutions and universities turning up… Thank you in advance)