Flushed with embarrassment

I feel I need to apologise to people who were (admittedly until now) unaware of my scorn.

I need to apologise to North American users of portaloos. Porta pottys. Shitboxes. Cabinets of doom. Portable toilets. Plastic shitters.

You see, I would read on Reddit and Facebook and other forms of expression the abject horror people would feel when they were faced with using a portaloo. I thought: “Yeah, they can get a bit stinky, particularly at race startlines with all the nervous shitters, but jesus! It’s just for a few minutes!”

I just didn’t understand the general revulsion until the other week when we were cycling round Stanley Park in Vancouver and stopped at a small park playspace. The park authorities were renovating the public washrooms there, and had put in a bank of hired portaloos. Until then, I didn’t know that North American portaloos aren’t like Australian portaloos. They aren’t the same design.

My Australian friends, North American portaloos DON’T HAVE A BOWL.

Seriously. It’s just a wide mouthed toilet seat and lid, atop a large plastic box with a big hole, filled with blue liquid. (And floating used toilet paper, bobbing like jellyfish). At least with the classic Australian long drop bush toilets there’s a good metre or so between your arse and the pile of poo, but here, there’s not even that. Maybe 15 centimetres, max, between you and a small lake of blue liquid.

That this was not a one off was semi-confirmed last week when we were in Seattle (maybe it’s a Pacific Northwest thing, but still, two different countries). We were heading into an exhibit, and they had a bank of portaloos set up outside. I needed to go, and was a bit curious as to whether my horrific discovery was an aberration, but no – a big old hole again.

The portaloos back home have a seat, a bowl and a flap at the bottom of the bowl connected to a foot operated pump that allows you to blue water flush your waste away into the plastic box, leaving the bowl, if not semi-pristine, at least not completely loaded up with the aftermath of the human digestive system. There is also a small sink with running water (attached to a smaller, foot operated pump) and usually some spray soap in a dispenser so you can wash your hands.

It wasn’t until this trip that I realised that Australian portaloos are relatively civilised.

Australian portaloos give you the ability to pretend that if you were to accidentally drop something into the bowl – a mobile phone, or an energy gel packet – that it would be salvageable. I mean we all know that if anyone actually dropped their iPhone X into a portaloo toilet bowl that they’d immediately be calculating how they feel about disposing of A$1000, but you still get that choice! In North America you don’t get that choice: one poorly angled pocket emptying moment and it’s goodbye device.

So please consider this an apology to my North American brethren; your revulsion is completely understandable.

Someone further down this road

There is always someone further down the road.

Not in a one-upmanship way, but in simple fact.

I’m a bit hungry, but they are actually starving.

I hurt my back, they slipped a disc so bad they were on morphine and hoped for surgery.

I had a small tear in a tendon in my foot, they ripped their Achilles clean off the bone.

There is always someone more broken than you. It helps, because there is that tiny dose of positivity in there. It doesn’t sound positive, but it is.

It could be worse.

It works the same with distance.

You run 5km, they’re doing the half marathon.

You get to half marathon, and they’re doing the full.

You decide to challenge yourself with a marathon and there are people using your challenging race as recovery runs from their Ironman, their 100km race, their 240km race.

You run in the heat of summer, from North Dandalup to Dwellingup.

So it’s a bit hot, but it could be worse. It could be Badwater.

Now that’s hot.

But eventually you hit a limit, where you are comfortable to stop at.

I’m not running further than the Kep 75 km race.

I’ll do the Waterous Trail 50 miler, but not the 100 miler.

I’ll do this, but only up to that.

A couple of days ago I read Bernadette Benson’s blog post about training for the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra. It’s 304 miles through snow dragging a sled. Bernadette has calculated that the checkpoints will be roughly every 18 hours. When she reaches each one they will give her a single meal and boiling water. At three of the eight checkpoints she can retrieve from drop bags provisions for the next 36-48 hours.

She’s learning what accidental actions may cause her death.

I’m still stuck at Nothing further than the WTF 50 miler. I’m very happy there.