Saturday 14th May
The last 24 hours have been somewhat a little crazy. 12 hours of the 24 have been sleep, 1.5 hours have been yoga and the rest have been a combination of adrenaline, cortisol and strange events.
It all started last night when Erik and I decided to go out for something to eat. Each restaurant looks the same. Each place has pictures of the food, which all looks the same. We decided to go somewhere that was busy with locals. A few streets away was a modern looking restaurant, buzzing full of young people. We decided to go in. In the middle of each table was a burner where a big pan would go to cook the food. We were excited. The lovely smiling waitress handed us a menu that had been translated into English. There were rows and rows of food. Some of the items were as follows:
9 feet of intestines
Beef Heart & Liver
And even more suff than I can remember.
The list was endless. And with each item I read, I became less and less hungry.
Don’t get me wrong, the food on other tables looked delicious. A boiling hot pan of stock in which they dipped meat, vegetables and noddles, then all shared the freshly cooked food. But my stomach was turning over. Having been a vegetarian for 5 years and having only just introduced meat into my diet a few months ago, I wasn’t sure I could eat something so ‘graphic’ as the items listed. I am very open minded when it comes to food but didn’t feel in a position to be eating such a different cuisine 2 days prior to one of the biggest events of my life. I sheepishly told Erik I didn’t feel comfortable staying and we quietly slid out the restaurant.
Just round the corner from our hotel was a busy little restaurant. Sitting on plastic garden furniture in the street, we enjoyed an enormous (!) dinner costing just £8.
The language barrier here is a challenge. It’s naughty of me to visit a country and not know how to say a single word in their language. Even ordering a bottle of water took about 4 minutes and involved a combination of words, pointing and in the end a full acting role. I am going to Hollywood next month to start a new career : )
We got to bed around 11.00pm and woke up at 11.30am. I can’t believe I have slept for over 12 hours but feel grateful as know I will not get much sleep tonight. Our plan for a morning run was now redundant. Instead I went upstairs to the roof top terrace and lost myself in 1.5 hours of yoga.
Next stop was the Renaissance Capital Hotel Beijing to collect my marathon pack. I was feeling quite calm after my yoga session but my body was telling me different story. As I poured my vitamin powder into my water bottle before leaving, my hands were shaking. It reminded me of a story Mat told me:
(Bear with me, as I am not very good at telling stories)
There was a group of buddhist monks sitting in a circle. Suddenly the earth started to shake. It was an earthquake. Most started to panic, running around not knowing what to do. But the head monk sat relaxed in the same position drinking his cup of water.
After the earthquake passed, the group asked the head monk how he remained so calm. He explained that nothing is achieved panicking, that he knew remaining calm was the best thing to do. They praised him then asked why he had been drinking a cup of soy sauce during the earthquake.
It turns out that despite appearing calm on the outside, he was doing a good job of covering up his panic, as his cup of water was actually a cup of soy sauce.
This was me this morning. Clearly my body was feeling different to my mind.
(see, I told you I was rubbish at telling stories)
A quick omelette and a bowl of rice porridge with a healthy dollop of strawberry jam, then came the challenge of getting a taxi to the hotel for registration.
I can’t really work out anything in China. I’m usually quite good at sussing things out but apparently not here. There are so many taxis yet to is difficult to track one down. The roads are crazy.
After our taxi struggle, we finally pull up at one of the grandest looking hotels I have ever seen in my life! On the 20th floor are a couple of rooms where I register, collect my race number, timing chip and t-shirt. I chat with the race organiser and get some stats (I’ll write all the info down in another post).
The course has been changed 4 times since I have registered so it is a good job I haven’t studied the course map. Casey, one of the organisers, explains that things can change so many times in China at the last minute.
She also explains that one year, only 2 females and 10 males completed the full marathon. Suddenly, my veins and arteries open up and are flooded with adrenaline. It even makes me feel a bit light headed. What am I doing?????
I am pleased to report though, it has been raining all day today, and that means the weather tomorrow is going to be slightly overcast with a maximum of 24 degrees. As of Tuesday, it is going to hit 30 degrees!!! I would really struggle to run in that heat so feel like Mother Nature is on my side and looking after me.
We are directed to the 4th floor for a race briefing. We take a seat in the circle and the briefing begins. I struggle to concentrate on what the man is saying as suddenly it all feels like it’s getting too much. Plus, the guy sitting opposite me I recognise.
I continue to stare at him and he looks cautiously at me. I have this terrible habit of staring at people when I think I know them. I do have an excellent memory for faces though. I bash him on the leg with my notebook mid meeting and tell him I recognise him. He says the same back. He lives in Stamford. That’s where I am from. He lives on the same street as my beauty salon used to be, less than 100m away. We used to drink in the same pub and have a collection of mutual friends. What are the chances? Things like this happen to me a lot. I am pleased I have met Andrew, as Erik is not running due to injury. It’s made me feel a little more relaxed even though it’s unlikely I’ll see him during the event. But at least we can talk English/Stamford stuff to relax my mind on the bus there tomorrow morning.
It’s now 5pm, 25 hours before the event, and all I have eaten is a small omelette and a very small bowl of porridge. I am not hungry but know I need food otherwise will get in a terrible state tomorrow. It’s that dreaded time again – find somewhere to eat. We’re told there are lots of foods places at the top of the shopping mall opposite. That makes life very easy indeed. We navigate to the top, there is no food market. The shopping centre is hot, stuffy, with very low ceilings. The lift the top floor took ages and I am starting to panic. Or at least my heart is racing. Right now, all I want is an English meal and some familiarity. I am usually great at getting into the cultural spirit of things but have never been abroad for a sporting event before. I am suddenly feeling the pressure.
We end up in a Seven Eleven shop and I am so happy!!! Crisps, Mentos, Peanut M & M’s, dark chocolate. We buy so much junk and it costs us quite a bit but it’s worth it. I then proceed to eat 2 family packets of crisps and a Snickers bar in the taxi (it was just as hard to get a taxi) back to the hotel. The diet of an athlete! I would never usually do this, but figure it all adds the plan of not having a plan, right?
Now we are back and needing to book a taxi back to the Renaissance Hotel for the event bus at 1.30am. The English speaking receptionist has left for the night and it takes about 10 minutes for me to try and explain we need a taxi very early in the morning. More cortisol is released into my blood stream. I decide this is a job best left to Erik.
I am now laying in bed typing this. I am feeling strange and hoped I would still feel relaxed. The enormity of this event has really hit me today. I feel a little emotional and also, a little embarrassed to say, frustrated that I can access my Facebook account or emails. I could quite fancy logging in and chatting to some friends, perhaps getting some messages of encouragement. But I suppose it’s like being on the boat. I won’t be able to communicate much with the normal world. (It’s also frustrating I can’t upload many pictures on this post- I’ll do it when I get home).
Apologies for the long post (and any typos). I am feeling the affects of today and completely aware I need to be awake in 4 hours. It’s going to take 5.5 hours from when I get up to the start line at 6am. I reckon it all falls into me not wanting a plan. Who needs sleep anyway?
See you on the other side.
LT – fuelled by crisps and cortisol.