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when the pain sets in …

A shot of inspiration anyone?

“What counts in battle, is what you do when the pain sets in…”



It’s 4.45am and it’s just under 8 degrees. People are wearing various amounts of clothing, as we board the bus to the start line. One guy, just a pair of running shorts and a singlet, looks like he regrets the decision not to rug up and leave his stuff in the left luggage facility.

One thing about being advised to switch to the Half Marathon by my GP was that the half starts at 6am – at the time I remember thinking that’s EARLY – as it turned out I was grateful of the early start, as sleep proved to be an illusive commodity the night before. I woke every hour, visited the bathroom, had a drink of water and relaxed for another 55 minutes. So when it came time to get up, the alarm brought with it a sense of relief.

I had made the decision to stay rugged up until the very last opportunity, to make sure the crisp air didn’t reignite my recuperating respiratory system. 5.40am and there is just enough time to join the long queues for the toilet blocks. The queue moves quickly and as it shortens there is a pungent smell as we discover that the first casualty of the day is one of the toilets. It has filled up and backed up, lacking the stamina required to be a toilet on race day. Race preparation is so critical.

Now to find the start line. As I turn the corner and the sea of people come in to view, I am immediately aware of the bassy music. I spare a fleeting thought for those not involved in the activities who might be trying to rest. The atmosphere is electric and infectious. I find my place towards the back of the pack and take to pacing backwards and forwards to ease the tightening sensation I can feel in my gut. As I walk past the same man for the second time, we smile at each other and share a comment. “This is where the winners hang out isn’t it?’ I manage, sensing that the cold air has attacked my conversational skills. “Yeh mate, this is the beer drinkers end!” comes the reply.

8 minutes to 6am and the energy in the group cranks up a notch. The music is louder and the beat is recognizable, Chemical Brothers I think. Nerves or excitement… excitement I decide… I know this. Nearly 9,000 runners are moving stretching and merging into one fluid group about to run 21.1 Kilometers, in the predawn light.

The sensation moves from my stomach to my chest and throat as a voice announces the start. The group begins to bob up and down as one, and we inch our way forward.

I am not sure which I am aware of first, the 1 K sign or the fact that the pack is starting to thin out and we are able to relax in to our pace more without fear of knocking or stepping on someone. Next the hypnotic hum of thousands of feet striking the road. The anxiety as to how my lungs would hold up at the beginning of the race in the cold is now replaced by the familiar warm sensation of settling into my rhythm. “This is what I came for!” I whisper to myself.

My attention flits from person to person, my run nutrition plan, the fullness of my bladder, and then back to my breathing. 2K, then a drinks station, 3K, 4K, then a well placed public toilet with only a small cue outside. As I rejoin the group I have my first carb gel and feel a huge sense of relief – I must be on the outside of this virus, just take it nice and easy and enjoy the run.

I feel the benefits of having trained comprehensively for the full marathon and my legs are strong, I know I can pick up the pace, but resist the temptation so as not to tempt fate. Running is so meditative – each time I start to think about how far I have gone and how far to go, I gently bring my attention back to my breathing and just ‘be’. Each time I am rewarded as I slip back in to my being and just enjoy; the clean sea air, the promise of sunrise over the water, the incredible sensation of running with so many people, my body’s positive response to movement.

As we hit the paved area at Runaway bay, less than a Kilometer from the turn around point, I promise myself the first of my Smart 1 gels – a specially formulated carbohydrate gel with caffeine, blackcurrant anthocyanins and orange bioflavinoids – an antioxidant mix designed to improve blood flow, protect against oxidative stress and reduce cramp and muscle strain. I stop, devour and then sip some water – tastes great. As I rejoin the run, I am aware of a warm clear feeling, now more awake and refreshed. Once again I have to resist the temptation to push harder as I now feel strong, warmed up and energized.

As I have done so many times during the longer training runs for the marathon, I play a game with myself … twister… or do I? No, I pretend that each 5K segment is the only one I have run. Every time I see a marker; 5K, 10K, 15K, I say to myself, it’s just a 5K you could do this in your sleep. It works! As I get to the 16K point I am aware of slight tension in my left knee. It feels like a cramp around the knee. I ease back the pace a little and take several sips of water. ‘Breathe’ I tell myself, as I attempt to take deeper breaths than normal. For about half a kilometer, a distant thought lurks in the periphery of my awareness – ‘Be a shit if you had plenty of energy but couldn’t finish because your knee gave way?’ I push the thought away. A few minutes on, two men in their forties are standing and energetically cheering people on.

‘Mate you don’t have far to go, well done, keep going!’ I feel the urge to reach out and ‘Hi Five’ him, he enthusiastically obliges.

At 18 K, the sensation has passed and I have another gel, a little earlier than planned. Once again I focus. ‘This is only a 3K run you could run a little quicker you know!’ I oblige my inner monologue. The water in my hydration belt has run out and ideally I would love a sip of water. I reason that there should be one more water station, but as the festivities build the closer we get to finish line, I begin to wonder. Just after 19 K I am rewarded. Now I feel a combination of fatigued and strong. I pick up the pace.

As I pass the 20K sign I see a woman on my right look as if she is debating whether to stop, fall over or continue, the turmoil evident on her face. “You are doing incredibly well!” I shout. “Thanks mate, so are you!” The grimace disappears and her posture straightens. “Do you know roughly what time we are?” “Somewhere between 2:20 and 2:30.” “Really, I thought it was much later than that!” “No we are doing really well!”

The mind plays tricks. Now with the chute in sight, I satisfy myself that my pep talk has had it’s desired effect and pick up the pace again, my eyes searching the crowd for Ange and the boys. As I reach the corner and enter the chute that leads to the finish line I hear Ange and the boys yelling, ‘You go Nick!’ Ange has tears in her eyes. The sound of their voice stirs something in me, and despite having just run 21K, I now sprint for all I’m worth, pouring every last bit of energy into my legs. Immediately I feel a strong wave of nausea, but I don’t care – the road and my clothes are washable.

2 hours 29 minutes and 20 Seconds (2:27:10 net) after setting out, I have finished. I walk dazed and breathless towards the fruit and water tables and feel my phone vibrate in my waist belt. A message – it’s from my friend Rob – ‘Congratulations mate, Knew you could do it! Thinking of you!’

A huge thank you to;

Chris at Northstar Property Services

Shane at Schultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers

and Michael at Science in Sport (SIS)

and my Dad

for all of your support, encouragement and enthusiasm! You have been incredible. In the next few updates, I would like to profile each of these people who have helped in the pursuit to raise the awareness that we are far from powerless to act, when faced with things like depression, panic, anxiety or chronic prolonged stress.

Next – Eat Your Brain!

a Doctor that runs…

‘Do you have a Doctor that runs?’, I said for the third time.

‘Oh you mean a Sports Doctor?’ …. it’s all in the words.

After a bit of confusion I found a great GP. I had been on the last long run of my 3 month training schedule for the Gold Coast Marathon, which should have gone for 4 hours. I ran down the road, along the golf course and started to feel weird…weirder than normal that is!

For one I couldn’t settle in to my pace, as my breathing was laboured, it felt as if I was struggling to get breath. My legs felt strong, but there was a discomfort in my chest accompanied by a mild giddiness. Surely it’ll pass. After 3 K I forced myself to stop and sat on the first bench I could find, wondering what I was feeling and what it meant.

I was just about to finish over 3 months of fairly intense training for a run that was 42.2K. I was on track, it had been tough, but I was close to finishing. 4 hours was only half an hour longer than my longest run to date, 3 and a half hours.

I rang Ange, my wife and asked her to come and pick me up. The car trip home was quick and silent. Once home I resolved to run for as long as I could on the treadmill, in half hour increments, stopping only for a drink and an SIS gel, longer if needed. I started slowly and settled quickly into a meditative pace aided by the tunes flowing through my perfect sounding, but now smelly over-ear head phones. As the two-hour mark came and went, I was aware of the return of the sensations I felt earlier. Tightness in the chest, mild dizziness (not pleasant unfortunately), and breathing laboured. At 2 and a half hours I stopped and knew I couldn’t continue. I sat sweating and crying. A sight to behold.

As I explained what had happened to my GP, he quickly explained his history with team sport and extreme sports. It had the desired effect. I was impressed. The last thing I wanted to do was sit in front of a GP, who was going to tell me that I was a lunatic for wanting to run that distance and I should stop. I was spared this – my Doc understood me and he was no fool. He order an array of tests, most of which I understood from living with a Pathology Scientist. Also an ECG, Spirometry, and a piss in a cup. Tea anyone? His greatest concern was obviously a cardiac event, followed by clots. Equally menacing apparently could be a virus playing havoc with my respiratory system.

After being told to lay off the running until he called me, or our next appointment a few days later, I felt like a caged animal. I had run everyday, 6 days a week for the last 3 months, and now nothing. My compassion and empathy was tested

The net result was great! All bloods better than they had been at last check. Cholesterol down, blood pressure down, blood sugar very normal, full blood count all good. Inflammation up. The prognosis … a virus. Prescription, take it easy! He then asked the boys to leave the room and told me of a series of fit middle age men who had died, from over stressing their systems whilst sick. “I can’t tell you not to run the full marathon, but if it where me, I would go for the half and only run that, if on the day you feel strong…they are beautiful boys you have! I’m sure they would like to grow up and run with you.” He paused for effect and looked at me to see if the message had hit home – it had!

So, I missed a week and a bit of my tapering and had to make a decision on Sunday when I picked up my race kit, to change the entry from Full to Half Marathon. This week I have managed 3 runs, two 10Ks and an 8K. Whilst still not at 100 percent, I had moderate discomfort, but I am beginning to feel stronger.

When I started training many people asked why the marathon. I remember two conversations with Chris from Northstar Property and Shane from Schultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers. They both went something like this;

‘The marathon is symbolic of the journey through depression. As distance increases in running, there are times when you feel like it is never going to end. It’s the same with depression! I want to raise awareness of the incredibly powerful benefits of a movement and a nutrition strategy in combating depression, panic and anxiety and chronic prolonged stress. If one person understands that they have the power to alter the way they feel through taking action, then it will have been a success”

Now with the obvious disappointment of not getting to run the full distance, I get to test my own definition.

Thanks to some great coverage in The Pine Rivers Press, The North Lakes Times and two radio interviews, the message was heard and received favourably. I have had many (greater than 10) comments to the effect that people have rediscovered their exercise habits as a result of being inspired by the effort. These are people that have actually been inspired and got into action. That alone is a resounding success.

The overall message has been shared with approximately 75 to 100 thousand through direct print readership. This was greatly magnified when The Gold Coast Marathon website picked up the story and ran it through their breaking news section.

It is difficult to estimate how many people listen to the radio at anyone time, but from the two interview airings, I received great feedback, and again comments along the lines of; “I knew these things were important, but I had no idea that they could help with emotionally related conditions.” Through Facebook and e-mail I have received tremendous support by way of replies to posts and updates. Again the majority of feedback is centered on, people beginning to take action and people beginning to realise the potency of nutrition and movement.

So the big question is how will my health be and how will I feel on Sunday morning at 6am ? The journey continues. Until next time, with an update and a progress report on the CD “Eat Your Brain – why what you eat effects how you think and feel.” all love and I hope you find ease of heart with whatever comes to you in life.


Running Away – and other strategies…


7 Years ago I was diagnosed with Severe Depression, Panic and Anxiety. Today, through the application of knowledge learned through intense study during those 7 years, I am no longer depressed.

During this time I learned and applied information in the areas of; Nutrition, Movement, Yoga Meditation, Goal Setting, and many other subjects as they relate to Emotional Wellbeing. I utilized some of the latest research through reading, listening and interviewing experts in the field.

On July 4th 2010, I am running my first-ever full marathon over 42.195km at the Gold Coast, to raise awareness for the incredibly powerful benefits of the exercise and nutrition components in dealing with conditions like Depression, Anxiety and Chronic Prolonged Stress.

The aim of the run is to highlight the importance of these strategies in what is a range of conditions that are reaching epidemic proportions. This will also coincide the launch of my new CD, ‘Eat Your Brain – why what you put in your mouth affects how you think and feel’ and my impending book ‘Physio for your Emotions’.

Did you know that exercise has been proven, not only to reduce anxiety, but also to rewire certain pathways in the brain and help prevent it?

Here, I will update progress on training, sponsorship support and insights gained over the course of the remaining 6 weeks.

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Why should we believe in ourselves and others?

A beautiful short piece from Dr. Viktor Emil Frankl.

Viktor was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor. He is also very well known as the author of the book Man’s Search for Meaning.

Why should we believe in our potential and others?

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Exercise and the Brain

In writing my new book Physio for your Emotions, I have a couple of questions about how exercise affects our brain function, with Dr John Ratey.

Dr Ratey is an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and has a private practice in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

For more than a decade he taught residents and Harvard medical students as the Assistant Director of Resident training at Massachusetts Mental Health Center. He continues to teach psychiatrists as a regular instructor in Harvard’s Continuing Medical Education program.

In Dr Ratey’s latest book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, he looks at a landmark study, where aerobic exercise was shown to be as effective as antidepressants. That women who exercise, lower their chances of developing dementia by 50 percent. That a revolutionary fitness program helped put one U.S. school district of 19,000 kids first in the world in science. That, in fact, exercise sparks new brain-cell growth. The evidence is in: aerobic exercise physically transforms our brains for peak performance.

Check out Dr Ratey’s blog and his recent article on how exercise helps people learn.


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The Moment I Cease to Hate

“At certain moments, always unforseen, I become happy

I look at the strangers near as if I had known them all my life

Everything fills me with affection

It may be an hour before the mood passes, but lately

I seem to understand that I enter upon it …. the moment I cease to hate

William Butler Yeats

Insane – Friedrich Nietzsche

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

I Can – Kiran Bir Seth

Kiran Bir Seth, talks about the ‘I Can mind set’. She is an absolute leading light in enabling kids and adults to understand that they have the ability to effect change at any level.

At a time when pressure and stress seem to be touching everyone it’s important to take a few minutes to lift yourself up and remind yourself that;

I Can, You Can, We Can!


Aimee Mullins

This needs no introduction– enjoy 🙂

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