COVID-19 DIARY – MARCH ON

Meet Australia's own fund-raising legend walker - CONTACT magazine

March 01 – March 28

You may recall previously a post on the charity Soldier On and their patron 101 year old Sgt Bert Le-Merton who had raised $107,191 for the charity by walking 96kms around his local Sydney neighbourhood.

He reached that last September.

Last check he was at 419 kilometres. 

Founded in 2012, Soldier On supports 3,000 veterans and their families with a holistic approach to their physical and mental wounds with employment programs, health and wellbeing services, learning and participation activities.

In March they ran a campaign called March On, calling on people to cover 96kms throughout the month to raise funds for the charity.

Having recently dialled back my gym attendance I saw this as a good opportunity to get back in shape and raise funds for our veterans.

I knew I could probably cover about 3-4kms on a treadmill in half an hour. This meant I would have to regularly attend the gym to get to 96kms by the end of the month.

So on the first of March I went and got on the treadmill.

I played on repeat Bill Conti’s Going The Distance theme from the film Rocky. At different points in the music I would move from a walk to a jog to a faster job and back again and repeat for 30 minutes before cooling down for five minutes.

The treadmill told me I covered 4.04 kilometres that night and burned 255 calories in those first 35minutes.

Soldier On : Home

As you get older it becomes mandatory to stretch before you exercise and I made sure I stretched but being out of shape I found my body resistant.

I jogged on Monday the 1st, Wednesday the third and by Thursday my shoulder was in a lot of pain.

From jogging.

I rubbed deep heat throughout the day and pushed myself to go back that night on the fourth.

The whole 96 kilometres loomed over me, I couldn’t afford to miss too many days.

Friday the shoulder continued to bug me but it hurt less.

I went Friday night the fifth and Saturday and Sunday and Monday right through to Thursday.

An unbroken eight day stretch and the shoulder got better, I got fitter too.

I stopped listening to Going the Distance and just listened to regular podcasts from The Ringer while shifting speeds at different timed intervals.

The RAN in the Gulf - Two Years On | Royal Australian Navy

Day 10 I was on track with 33 kilometres done so I upped the distance to cover to 100 kilometres.

I never repeated that eight day stretch.

I missed the Thursday 11th of March as I was attending Triple X and needed to write my review after.

I jogged the 12th and 13th but not the 14th. No excuses.

I had a session on the 15th and got to 51kms right on schedule but did not jog the sixteenth.

From there I had a five day unbroken streak from the 17th to the 21st.

On the 18th of March I covered 4.51 kilometres in 36 minutes. Four kilmoetres in 31minutes before starting the cool down late. 299 calories burnt, an average pace of 7.5kms/per hour. The scales put me at 109.3kgs and a BMI of 33.7.

At this point I had been jogging consistently for three weeks.

On the 17th of March I finally got under 110 kgs on the scale for the first time in forever. I started wearing ties at work and swapped out my suspenders for a belt. It made me look like I had gained weight rather than lost it but I knew that belt couldnt’ have been worn comfortably earlier without the hard work so i enjoyed it.

Friday the 19th of March I got to my lowest weight during the month with 109.1kgs and BMI of 33.7.

I was starting to increase the speeds a little to burn a little fat, to cover a little bit more distance but not too much.

Why Do People Walk The Kokoda Trail | Adventure Excellence

Ninety six kilometres was chosen because it was the length of the Kokoda Track and as you went along in your goal different milestones told you how far you had travelled.

Menari 34.8kms. Templeton’s Crossing at 63kms. Eora Creek.72kms.

Templeton’s Crossing is named after Captain Sam Templeton Commander of B Company in the famed 39th Battalion. He was also affectionately known as Uncle Sam by some of the men.

Jack Wilkinson, a fellow soldier, noted the following in his diary in 1942:

“…Two long hills to climb.  Missed out on tea as I was with last of the troops.  Had a job to get some of them to make it..

‘Uncle Sam’ came back and helped me about half way up the last hill.  I was carrying four rifles and three packs and had doubts about making it myself. 

But ‘Uncle Sam’ insisted on carrying all my gear as well as that of others. “

Captain Templeton went Missing in Action during the Kokoda campaign. He never returned home. Another casaulty of war.

625 Australians died during the Kokoda Track campaign. The battle saved Australia from invasion.

Virtual War Memorial | Samuel Victor TEMPLETON

I reached Templeton’s Crossing on the 21st of March at the end of the five day streak. I was covering consistently 4.4 to 4.5 kilometres now in the same time frame where I had covered a little over 4 on the first night.

I had worked through the initial pain for getting back into exercise. I was now leaner, more fit and faster.

I had to complete seven sessions in the next ten days to reach my goal.

But on Monday the 22nd my left leg was bothering me with soreness. I decided to rest it.

Tuesday the 22nd I came back and did my best session but the left leg was still bothering me.

4.47 kilometres in 35 minutes to score an average pace of 7.7 kilometres per hour and burn 309 calories. I had jogged one minute longer by mistake on the 18th to reach 4.51kilometres.

I went and saw Two Man Tarantino on Wednesday the 24th and rested it again.

Thursday the 25th I raised in conversation with a colleague about maybe just walking the rest of the campaign but I had set myself a goal and really wanted to see it through.

Thursday I worked through the pain and jogged but made sure I didn’t push myself. I was back down to 4.32kms, 290 calories, 7.4kph but was grateful to see the scales tip at 109.3kgs having recently chowed down on the Brisbane Powerhouse Snackbar Menu Pizzas.

RAMSI chapter ends in Australia's Pacific story - Devpolicy Blog from the  Development Policy Centre

Friday morning I felt pretty good.

I was getting lunch at a burger joint when my legs got caught in between two chairs.

My body reflexively pulled up to get out of it and I felt my RIGHT leg explode and i let out a yelp.

I limped out with my lunch and back to work.

No matter how gently I walked, the back of my right leg will regularly send this tearing sensation to my brain and I would be unable to take another step for a brief second.

I was in pain.

Having never been an athlete i had no reference for what was happening.

This was more than a pulled muscle.

I struggled back to work but found only standing gave me releif. Sitting down the back of the leg became sore from the pressure and walking constantly agitated it.

I asked a very kind colleague to drive me back to my car and I’ve got to be honest, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to drive it. I pushed the chair back a little which made the leg rest more horizontally than usual and that seemed to not agitate it.

I went to bed with some deep heat and tried to rest it up.

Pilots from 75 Squadron RAAF are welcomed back to Al Udeid airbase by Group  Captain William ... | Australian War Memorial

My dream of jogging the whole month was over.

I had 19 kilometres to go in five days and no way I would be able to jog in the next five days.

I was not even sure if I would be able to complete the 100 kilometres.

I was so disappointed.

Because during that month many kind donors some of which remained anonymous had given money for our veterans in the belief that I would reach my goal.

I went back to the gym on Saturday and walked on the treadmill for 50 minutes and covered 4.37kilometres. This would keep me on track to get to 100kms by the end of the month but it was going to be close.

The next night I went back and found the leg was doing okay so I stepped up the walking pace and covered 4.70kms.

As I walked those two nights my leg would seize up but I found I was able to keep going.

On the second night I did seize up at one point quite a bit and my right leg went down. Fortunately I grabbed the handles, shot my left leg to the side off the treadmill and was able to drag my right leg up and keep going.

I haven’t seen a physio but it appears that I tore my hammy.

Why was I doing this you may ask?

There were 6,268 participants in the March On campaign.

They raised $1,549,576 dollars for veterans and covered 483,060 kilometres.

Soldier On on Twitter: "August 15 1975, Sergeant Bert Le-Merton was in  Borneo receiving news that the war was over. 75 years later, he will  #MarchOn as he begins his 96km journey

One of them was 102 year old World War II veteran Sgt Bert who walked 159 kilometres in March.

“If I can do it, you can too… so get up off your saddle and March On with me to support our veterans.” said Sgt Bert.

Another was a young veteran named Holly who had been diagnosed with complex PTSD and received help from Soldier On.

“Soldier On provided a safe space for me during some of my darkest times. I am forever grateful for the support I received following my diagnosis of complex-PTSD. Without Soldier On, I’m not sure if I would be here today.” Holly said.

These were words that galvanised me through the month when I felt lazy or tired.

Maybe ego was involved, I was pushing myself and seeing results and admitting to injury would derail all of that. I like to think of myself of someone who rarely sets goals but often sees them through.

But mostly i just wanted to say I did it for all of the people who were supporting our veterans

And for the veterans themselves.

Two people I served with briefly in the Reserves both did March On. One of them had been in the Regs and gone to East TImor.

Two friends I had at school had served.

One was a signaller in the Army and served in the Solomon Islands.

Another went into the RAAF and did two tours of Iraq.

They seem fine but they know as I do that many of our veterans are not fine.

Since 1999: 46 AUST soldiers killed on active service. 239 returned  soldiers have taken their lives. - Michael Smith News

They’re comitting suicide at an alarming rate and Soldier On is helping them as are many of other worthy charities.

For Holly, for Sgt Bert, for Captain Sam Templeton, for all of our veterans I wanted to see this through.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – THIS IS NOT WHO WE ARE

US election 2020: Election Day shadowed by threats of legal challenges

November 03

It was Wednesday the 3rd of November in Australia when the U.S. election took place on the other side of the world.

In Australia there is growing interest in U.S. elections, since America entered the Pacific war and with its allies turn the tide of war, Australia has taken a great interest in America and forged a partnership with it and other nations.

As a kid who loved the movies America captured my imagination with its culture and aspirations. Since blogging I have come to know some Americans and admire them.

1980s Lower Manhattan Skyline At Night Photograph by Vintage Images

I was angry and heartbroken when the towers fell, angry and heartbroken again when the bombs dropped on Baghdad and have made it a point to support Australians of those wars.

Of course I couldn’t imagine Ballbag winning in 2016, my heroes were President Roosevelt (both of them), President Truman, President Eisenhower, President Kennedy, President Ford, President Reagan, President Clinton and President Obama. Politicians like Senator John McCain and John Kerry.

But I got it.

Ballbag was a moment of great disappointment but the hyperbole in 2016 struck me as odd, surely he would get a good team around him. It wasn’t like it was the end of the world.

….

Well.

It’s no secret I am angry, appalled and vitrolic about my disdain for Ballbag on this blog. If you support him you may not want to read the rest of this post and that is fine by me.

Heading into the U.S. election I watched the 60 Minutes interview with President-elect Joe Biden and Ballbag.

I am always angered by Ballbag’s demeanour and disrespect to others. But also how his followers espouse him as a tough guy when he so often acts like a little bitch and toddles at the first sign of a challenging question.

Planet America on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation was still covering the election. As Ballbag sang one of his standards, that case numbers were going up because we were testing the best. Well testing was up by 13 per cent and case numbers were up by 51 per cent. Do the maths Ballbag.

Over 69 million Americans had already voted and 46 million of those by mail in votes. Chas Licciardello also advised that if Democrats won either North Carolina, Florida or Arizona they’d be looking good. The Republicans would need all three.

Heading into the U.S. election I mentioned it to a family member my concern that Ballbag may once again surprise despite recent changes to polling.

Despite a Planet America episode interviewing a election analyst Dave Wasserman who discussed the changes that had been made to increase accuracy of polling since 2016.

I hate being right sometimes.

That episode also pointed out how COVID cases were on the rise as well hospitalisations but at least hospitals had not been overrun yet and that was good news in terms of keeping the death rates down.

I would say that John Oliver maybe summed up my thoughts best in the closing moments of the 2nd of November episode of his show Last Week Tonight.

I would urge anyone to listen from the 16th minute, Oliver speaks for five minutes at that point and sums up succinctly what has occurred under President Trump during COVID-19.

Highlighting how Ballbag doesn’t care about anybody else certainly not our brave health care workers who have done so much when Trump has done so little (hell fuck that! – he’s done damage), noted how the numbers don’t stack up – case in point America has four times the population of Germany who sure as hell had its fair share of cases and yet America has 17 times the number of cases as Germany and also mentioned the personal toll of the pandemic.

Never forget America, never forget any of us.

I won’t.

I didn’t give much thought to mirages on election days as Florida swung to Trump I was shocked and appalled. Ohio followed which was the state that decided the 2008 elections. Arizona being called for Biden by Fox News didn’t even get my attention.

Checking the New York Times election page I left work at 6pm to find that Biden may lose Pennsylvania with commentary about the fracking fracas from the debate being the turning point.

I wondered after all those dead Americans that Trump didn’t care about, an opportunity had been missed to give him his marching orders. Fake news worked both ways.

I could deny it now but I really did think something was really wrong in the country.

With talk of civil strife I did suggest maybe it was time to burn it down. Not in the sense that I wanted rioting or people to get hurt and not in the sense that I wanted anybody on either side to just hate and protest each other. But just in the sense if that is where we were surely the system and the culture needed radical reform and that could only come from real action.

Even with hindsight it seems there is still some truth to this.

US presidential election: New York skyline lit up to mark Election Day |  South China Morning Post

Just like in 2016 despite which ever candidate claims victory, they inherit a nation divided. I believe most of us are sick of that. That division is not just present in America but throughout the West and here in Australia.

When Prime Minister Scott Morrison was elected last year, lefty commentators up in their glass tower commented on television in the wee small hours on how Australians just didn’t get it having denied the opposition a win for their ideas. My first thought was maybe you guys didn’t get it, after all the people had spoken and they’d said that dog won’t hunt.

I like to think that the majority of us agree on the big things, you only have to see how many conservative governments give bailouts and fund major programs. That progressives mostly espouse traditional family and religious values.

As a young Senator once said in 2004 at the Democratic National Convention,

“There is not a liberal America and a conservative America —

there is the United States of America.

There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.

The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats.

But I’ve got news for them, too:

We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States.

We coach Little League in the Blue States, and, yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States.

There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.

At home during dinner I watched special election night episode of Planet America on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

President Trump at 2:30am in the morning in America claimed “We were getting ready to win this election – frankly we did the election. This is a major fraud on our nation. We want all voting to stop.”

One week in an America riven by politics and the plague - New Haven Register

With that the endgame of Trump’s efforts to undermine postal voting during a global pandemic (with anybody with a scrap of thought for the lives of Americans would have promoted) was now out in the open for all to see and it was pretty scary and it was only going to get scarier.

Former Vice President Joe Biden perhaps to avoid the mistakes of the 2000 election came out before that to say that while the results were not in he was confident Americans would ultimately choose him.

Going off the votes as they currently stood I was pretty worried. I went to the gym after dinner and watching the news on the TV screens in the gym America woke up to the next morning and there was hopeful new numbers coming out of Michigan and Wisconsin.

I actually thought about the movie Moneyball and Brad Pitt’s Billy Beane working out in the gym and listening to the results of the baseball game while he did it.

Nevada was still in play and as time went on Pennsylvania and even Georgia would come into play as more postal votes were counted.

Arizona while called by some news outlets was still in play too.

While I worked out I listened to The Rewatchables podcast cover The American President. I was slightly moved as they recalled the idealism and reverence that we used to have for politics at least in the movies and how things that were said about elections back then are oddly prescient now. 

We need to know the difference between the sand and the water.

On the 3rd of November, 2020 the World Health Organisation reported there had been 9,108,353 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States of America with a daily increase of 75,888. There had been 229,442 American deaths with a daily increase of 444.

-Lloyd Marken