Out of the Comfort Zone – Spine Challenger

11/01/2017

Within anything there can come a time when you wonder “what next”. That can apply to your job, your home, your relationships… we get comfortable where we are, we feel safe… the parameters are pretty much “known”. It can be good to stay here to absorb everything we’ve learnt in life, to enjoy, to rest… but what about if you want “more”… if you want to challenge what you’ve become accustomed to, want to grow… well beyond that “known”… that’s when you go out of your comfort zone.

Change … It’s scary

Out of the comfort zone is not supposed to feel warm and snuggly and known. It’s most likely going to feel uncomfortable, hard… awkward… it’s going to trigger a whole heap of negativity as well. It can trigger self-doubt, anxiety, fear (whether that be emotional, mental, physical)… it makes you question what you’re doing, why you’re doing it… and all of this can mean we can set ourselves up to “fail”… it’s too hard, too scary… the goal might not be achievable… it’s easier to stay where we are… it’s where we feel strong and not weak, safe and not vulnerable…

And so it was that I decided to sign up for another race which would be a challenge. After all, if that’s what clients can do as I sit alongside them as their counsellor on their personal journeys… how can I not challenge myself from time to time, albeit in my own way? Walk my talk as it were… and in this case, it’s going to be quite literally! I’ve run in a bit of heat, and I’ve run (ok there was a lot of walking 😀 ) some long distances over the past few years. It’s been quite a journey. To go out of my “known” zone now, I need to do something I’ve not done before, and aim for something that may not be possible. After all, you can’t know what you don’t know (thank you Tom Jones for that little gem!).

I now find myself facing the very daunting task of setting foot on the start line of The Spine Challenger this weekend – have a look at http://thespinerace.com/msc/.

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For those that haven’t heard of this, it’s the first 108 miles of the Pennine Way, in the UK. In winter. It’s the “smaller” aka baby version of the main “Spine Race” which is the full Pennine Way of 268 miles. Now that’s a crazy race!! This should be sane by comparison right? I don’t do cold. I don’t like being cold. I’m one of the first to get the scarf and gloves out and layer up for the commute to work and one of the last to let them go. To willingly go into a cold race where risks include hypothermia (very common), ice burns on skin and frozen corneas (yep one guy was medically removed from the race for this I believe), where the temperatures are going to drop below freezing, where you could be wading or falling waist deep in snow… and do all that over 108 miles… it sounds pretty terrifying. An attritional hike is how one friend described it. And that’s without the sleep deprivation! You get 60 hours to complete the race, and that sounds way more than enough. It’s not. People DNF on the cut-offs due to the terrain, and the risks already mentioned. I’ve heard for the main Spine Race, one winner didn’t sleep for 2-3 days. How is that even possible?

The stats for Spine Challenger are:

Distance: 172km
Ascent: 5637m
Descent: 5636m
Max elevation: 695m (Pen y Ghent)

There is one checkpoint at 73.9km in. You have to run with a pack with a lot of mandatory equipment, which is due to the safety requirements (I’m dreaming of around 6kg at the moment) – haven’t dared weigh my pack properly because I know it’s likely to be much heavier, and am just praying I can get everything in. I may have to sit on it as I did with my suitcase for the dropbag stuff. I’m not even sure if there are a couple of points for water… the streams are going to come in handy, as is the water filter I rapidly bought – there’s a lot of sheep out on those hills.

Did I mention the route marking? There is none. This is a national trail and you have to navigate, map and compass. Handheld GPS is also required, and often needed due to the fact you could be on a whiteout on some of the “hills” and can’t see the occasional flagstones or “trail path”… or pretty much anything to be honest!

Kinder Scout – Peak District South 2 North, Ranger Ultras
Photo credit: Peter Owen

A lot of runners who enter this race have either years of running experience or a background of being outdoors, hiking, mountaineering, love the cold etc… so how does a townie with only a few years of running prepare for something they know nothing about? I take you back to the post about accessing your tool box or “kit list” (which can be found here). So in this case it’s:

Physical:
Training – sessions with my coach and following my training schedule that he writes for me
Testing kit – there’s a lot of kit, and then there’s even more. You need to test what you’re going to be using in as similar conditions as possible
Recce – checking the route you will be running, although it could look a lot different depending on the weather conditions

Pyschological:
Goal – you have to know what you’re aiming for and set a realistic goal
Expectations – modifying these as you learn
Self-awareness – know your weaknesses and strengths and how to minimise/utilise to your best advantage

Knowledge:
Past experience – use what you already have as a foundation
Learn – get help where you feel you have weaknesses

Emotional:
Support – ensure you have the right support around you, from those you learn from to those in your inner circle as it were
Positivity – if you’re around people who bring you down, how will that help you? Be around those who encourage, want the best for you
Drive – call it what you will… the human spirit… a yearning… a chest-thumping feeling in the very heart of your self… that call to adventure… it’s what can carry you through some of the dark parts…

My coach has been fantastic with numerous pep talks and encouragement, and he (alongside others) have also reminded me about the positive skills I have from the past (basic navigation and first aid (should the worst happen) from the Army, albeit a few decades ago), just over 3.5 years of running, 3 stage races… numerous other ultras/challenges… I’ve also finished two Centurion Running 100 milers now so it’s only (ha!) another 6ish miles longer than my longest race. I’m also hoping to run this alongside one of my tentmates from the Marathon des Sables (he couldn’t get time off to do the full one, crazy man!). I have the experience of few severe “hills” from a recent race which I didn’t finish: the CCC (more on that in another post).

The Spine Race also hosts a training weekend so I trotted along to the Peak District for that, where I met some really great people for the first time and got the chance to catch up with another MdS tentmate who’s doing the full race. They had various speakers (Richard Lendon in particular stuck in my head – “it’s not a race” complete with pictures of several full Spine Race starts where he’s flying over the start line!) over the weekend, plus the chance to get out on a nearby training loop, and where they test you on a variety of skills (such as bivvying out, distance & timing, the use of your stove – I think I nearly blew mine up – first time I’d used it *oops*). The coordinator for the Spine safety team (Stu Westfield) also hosts races, training, and guides expeditions, see here for his website. His courses includes Spine specific ones. Due to my nervousness and lack of experience especially around navigation, I wanted to attend these, but unfortunately time and travel didn’t allow. However there’s usually a second option, and in this case I booked Stu for a 1-2-1 over two days up in the Peak District. This was very good and I can’t recommend highly enough for anyone considering doing the same. Usually you’d go away after a day of full on navigation and absorb before going back and putting into practice, but I didn’t have that option. So the second day out, the aim was to move and navigate a lot faster. Which it was. Although compared to most, I’m probably still extremely snail-like 😀 But that, combined with Stu’s everlasting patience, meant that I got the train home feeling more confident, and meant some of the more “negative voices” were being drowned out. Every little helps!

Fast forward two weeks, and there was a race to be used as a “training run” – the Peak District South 2 North, which is a 100k self-navigational race over two days. A local running friend who has also signed up for Challenger had highlighted this to me a while back, so I agreed to run the second day (Dark Peak Challenge) with him as it was on most of the route for Challenger. However two days before the race, he had to pull out due to injury, so I trotted off on my own. Daunting was an understatement. It was an utter and complete wake-up call, plus the weather was so bad that they had to abandon the wilderness sections and we followed just the Pennine Way. Over 13 hours to get through less than 29 miles, lack of visibility, waist deep snow in parts, icy rocks, windy, not much to run on and no lovely flagstones in sight. See the picture above for the beginning up on Kinder! There was also lots of falling over, breaking new trail, sliding down parts on my backside for safety and at one point in the dark we got lost and ended up on the edge of what appeared an abyss… looking down into a sheer drop of blackness. I refused to go down for fear of injury and never getting back up! Thanks to the navigation skills of the guys I was with, we ended up contouring round and got to where we needed to be. When I say huge wake-up call, what I really mean is had I done this before signing up to Challenger… I wouldn’t be hitting the start line on Saturday because I would never have signed up for it! So for anyone who wants a “taster” be sure to try Stu’s race first!

Another tool that was due to be added into my “toolbox” was a recce on course, however the person I was meant to be going with, and who would be driving, dropped out. Extortionate train fares (everyone in the UK would probably nod their heads in agreement at that description)… meant I then had to forgo this, so instead I figured some more nav awareness would be key. Luckily the director of a race I did only a month earlier, and who coincidentally is also on the Spine safety team, lives not too far a distance from me. If you’re in the Essex area you have probably already come across, or heard of, Lindley Chambers of Challenge Running. Lindley came down and helped me to work out how to use my handheld GPS, how to load up the gpx files, and how to plot some of my own basic courses. Highly recommend his tuition, which can be booked via his website. Unfortunately I’ve not had much time to practice with it, but again… every little helps and you have to start somewhere!

And then there’s support: well as I mentioned earlier, I’m planning on doing this challenge with my tentmate from MdS, James (front of picture)… and there will also be two others doing the full Spine (Lee (behind me) and Gwynn (number 501)) so hopefully we will get the chance to catch up pre-race…

329Half of Tent 117, Start Line
Charity stage – 30th Marathon Des Sables 2015
Photo copyright: Michelle Payne

… and The Spine is up North… not too far from where a certain incorrigible person lives, who helped to start me on this whole ultra running lark. Had I not had Helen’s support in Sierra Leone (and encouragement to switch races), who knows whether I’d have moved up to ultras at all! She and her other half are coming down to see us off the start line, and (hopefully) over the finish line. Then there’s all the others who have helped and encouraged along the way, fellow competitors who have emailed and offered advice and help… this race creates a family where everyone wants everyone else to do their best, and do not hesitate to look after each other (and rescue them *eek*) when things get bad!

So now race day approaches rapidly. Reality is kicking in especially when it comes to expectations. Doing the PS2N means I am being very realistic about chasing cut-offs yet again, the wake-up call regarding terrain was much needed however as we are now only days away, there isn’t much more that can be added into the toolbox. The weather is predicted to be snowy, wet, gale force winds, black ice, gnarly, boggy and with plummeting temperatures… aka a nasty start. Winter on the Pennines… why would you expect anything else 😉

For anyone that wants to track some sane (Challenger) and crazy (Full Spine) racers, check out http://spine.opentracking.co.uk/race/ – it starts with the Challenger on Saturday at 0800 hours, and the full Spine on Sunday! I’ve already started carb-loading… or as one friend literally said to me this afternoon when she read my draft post… “Have you ever stopped!”… how rude 😀

When it comes to goals… to challenges…

Dare to dream it, plan it… learn, grow… you never know where one decision may take you… just who you might inspire… who might think that “because she or he can “do it”, so could I”.

Challenger start line… here I come! Please don’t be too cold…

Wishing you a great week ahead 🙂
Michelle

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Refuge

07/11/2015

Although I’ve mentioned the charity Refuge briefly on this blog before, this charity does such much needed work that I think it should be highlighted again, and also because the Charity covers the same subject matter that I work with as a volunteer counsellor at a local charity… that of domestic violence and abuse.

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Deliberately hurting, harming and damaging another person shouldn’t happen, but it does. Most people don’t want to acknowledge the existence of such abuse, but it affects so many that every single human being is likely to know at least one person who has experienced a form of it. I mentioned some personal thoughts here when I spoke about choosing this charity to fundraise for with my Triple Continent Challenge.

When people talk to me about domestic abuse, they often have the misguided and wrong belief that it only occurs when a person physically hurts another, such as punching and kicking, black eyes, broken limbs or, a bit further down the scale, torture or murder.

No.

Yes the physical abuse happens. Way too often. But domestic abuse isn’t just this.  Yes, it often does include physical violence, but what about sexual abuse… the partner who has been “conditioned” to never say no to sex? Who is shared with that partner’s friends… pimped? Or worse?

What about financial abuse? All money taken away, no financial support given, not allowed to get a job which could gain the victim some financial freedom?

What about emotional abuse?

Psychological abuse?

Where the victim ends up not knowing what to think, believe?

Where they are repetitively told… conditioned… to believe that they are worth less… worth nothing… that they deserve the treatment they get, that they create it because if it wasn’t for them not doing some thing “right” (such as dinner not on the table at a set time, the cat or dog making too much noise, towels not in a straight line, the children not being quiet, the weather… raining outside… the list is endless!) the abuse wouldn’t happen. It’s not about what someone isn’t doing…

Manipulation, fear and intimidation that is created to maintain control and power.

And this happens across all cultures, all societies, genders, sexuality, income levels, types of relationship, ages.

Just because there are no bruises, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. In the UK the stats are around 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men who experience domestic abuse and/or violence. Horrifying numbers. And people don’t speak up, don’t speak out. It’s seen as shameful and weak to have somehow gotten into such a situation in the first place, let alone put up with it for whatever reason (threats of death, children being snatched, taken into care, pets being hurt, being stalked, hunted, not able to survive, no money, no help, no support, no friends, no family, no home, no job)…

Two women a week are murdered by their partner or ex partner, three women a week will kill themselves because they feel they have no other way out from the hell that they are living.

There is help, but it takes a huge amount of courage to take that step forward… a leap of faith… because to everyone else that abuser may be a charmer, wonderful, kind even… because no-one else knows what goes on behind closed doors… because you might not be believed…

and this is where Refuge (in the UK) can help.  They have a helpline which is available 24/7, 7 days a week. They have refuges so someone daring to reach out and escape will not be homeless on the street.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any form of domestic abuse and/or violence, please get in touch with them.  The Helpline number is: 0808 2000 247.

If you want to know more about domestic abuse, the work that Refuge do, fundraise for them, volunteer with them, or if you need help from them, then please visit their website by clicking here.

Have a great Friday and weekend folks, and perhaps give a hug to someone who needs one!
Michelle

© 2015 Michelle Payne


If You Want to Change the World, Love a Man

24/09/2014

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If You Want to Change the World, Love a Man

If you want to change the world, love a man, really love him.
Find the one whose eyes are like blazing suns,
that make you look away the first time,
that pierce right through you,
blinding you to everything but the moment,
melting you into a puddle of soft pastel light,
even though you cringe at the color, pink.

The one who stops your thinking,
who sends your lashes fluttering
and all the blood rushing to your cheeks.
The slow-to-speak-one,
whose smile is like a flute,
who summons honey bee songs,
blossom songs and morning bird songs
with his listening.

The fallen-sky-one with the mark on his back,
where he lost his feathers from flying too close to a star.

The broken one in search of his wings,
who tells you the story of how to make fire.

If you want to change the world, love a man
beyond your fear of being burned.

Beyond unforgiveness and the walls you’ve built
to protect your sovereignity and anonymity.

Love him beyond old wounds and lies
you believed to be truth,
the hole in your heart from an absent father,
the scar on your sacred flower left by thieves.

Beyond past lives and the memory
you keep like a shrine to betrayal
when you fell to your knees in the ashes of your village,
and love became a field of bones.

Lift your darkened face to him who stands before you.
Take his hand and let him raise you to your feet.

Trust him to hold you as you tremble and weep in his arms for all that has been lost and found in this holy instant.

If you want to change the world, love a man
Beyond your faithlessness
and your secret hatred of humanity
Beyond all your judgment and self righteous projection.

The stone on your heart is as ancient
as the thought that you had to deny His existence
to know your power.

You are no less God than you ever were.
Man is no more guilty than Woman is innocent.

Love him for bearing the burden of desire in his sex
so your temple could remain whole unto itself-
for taking on the split aspect of mind
that seemed to abandon the oneness of heaven
so that you might know the joy of Its extension.

Love the ecstatic, primal root
castrated by religion as the root of all evil-
the channel of divine creative impulse-
that sparks the seeds of life, death and birth
from the womb of space and time.

Love the humble guardian and warrior
Man has been to Woman
even as he hunts her,
even in his drive towards self gratification,
which ultimately is the portal to soul union.

Love the violator who holds the mirror
to everything you have disowned within yourself-
so that all your desire, your creative impulse
may be freed
from the chains of separation, lack and guilt
and you can finally trust your Self.

If you want to change the world, love a man
in all his instinctual animal nature,
in all his hunger and devotion to beauty.

Love him beyond your vanity and pridefulness,
your gilded possessiveness and need to special-
beyond your well thought out conditions for safety
and all your concepts of how a man
should be in relationship.

Love him beyond your anger at not getting your way,
beyond your terror of not knowing or being in control.

Love him in his relentless pursuit
to penetrate the deepest sanctuaries within you,
that hold the chaos of your strongest emotions,
your carefully guarded secrets of separation
between light and dark, virgin and whore,
man and woman, spirit and form.

Love him for opening the door to sensuality,
to your primordial self that is beyond duality,
for binding you to pleasure
even as the air closes in around you,
even as you writhe with madness,
cursing your incarnation as the enemy-
even as you contract and claw,
crying out in despair, such joy it brings.

Love him for not yielding
to your resistance to surrender-
for standing in his masculine power
even as you threaten to destroy him.

If you want to change the world, love your man
for leaving you to live his purpose,
whether it’s for a day, a week, months or years.

Love him for breaking his own heart over and over-
for holding the tension and balance
of polarity and intimacy,
of distance and closeness.

Love his need for silence and solace-
for keeping some of his mystery to himself-
not that he has anything to hide,
but so you will always have surprises!

Love his evolutionary nature
that seeks new experiences,
that can never be satisfied-
for his boundless curiosity,
that if allowed to be free
might be your own liberation
from complacency.

Love him for shining independently
from the seat of his own majesty-
for not needing, yet choosing you
from a place of knowing his magnificence.

Love him for being your patient direction and destiny-
for returning to you
your own brightness through the dark night-
for helping you to remember
the one and only relationship you’ve ever had
and tried to forget-
for bringing you to that vulnerable, powerless
abiding place of surrender
you’ve been afraid of and waiting for all your life-
where you can finally be consumed by Love-
where you can finally be claimed by God.

by Lisa Citore
Picture found circulating freely online


First session

10/09/2014

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First session

The door swings open
a face then appears
an arm ushers you in…
you want to turn back
as your head starts to spin.

You enter a room and notice
a sofa, a chair, a table
you choose, you sit
your stomach starts to churn…
more than a little bit.

They smile and sit down
bring out some papers
their expression holding a slight frown.

Form filling
factual questions
the word “confidential”…
it’s not what you expected!
Where’s the warmth?
The confessional time?
Why are they not giving you
advice straight down the line?

And then it begins…
an invitation
please tell me
what brings you here?
What would you like to offload?
To share?
What burden do you bear?

Their tone isn’t cold
nor their stare bold
instead, a slight leaning forward
soft words
a smile..
and then you know
you realise
you may be here a while.

You glance around the room
evaluate and wonder…
what if you make a blunder?
Who can hear?
Does everyone feel this fear?

How much should I share?
Why would they even care?
Where should I start?
My god…
calm down…
my racing heart!

A breath, a pause
another thought.
Will I be judged or mocked?
Will they be blase or just plain shocked?

The tears begin to well
the hands go all sticky
by now the stomach feels just plain icky!

Then you decide
even thought it’s unknown
and feels hit or miss
you take a deep breath
and jump into the abyss.

I’m here because…

Your face floods red
your stomach pounds with dread.
You battle the feeling of creeping shame
where you have long held a belief of blame.
You lower your gaze to the floor
and out of your mouth
the words start to pour…

Words © August 2014 Michelle Payne
Picture found circulating freely online


A Life to Create

23/07/2014

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A Life to Create

How hard can it be
to relax and let go
to say that’s enough
there’s nothing to prove
or put on show?

There is a time to push
to strive for more
but also a time to stop
to say No
I’m feeling too raw

To soften doesn’t equate to being weak
it can remove inner barriers
open your mind
help you find answers that you seek

Being hard doesn’t equate
to always being strong
There’s no specific line
No definitive right or wrong

So much in this life
we are told that we need
but what is your soul crying out for?
On what does it feed?

Money
Results
Work done at high speed
Or is it just
that your soul
needs you to see
the self laid open
Flying free?

But in this life
many don’t seem to care
so how can you trust
open up
share?

Where do you sit
What could you shift
What do you want to change
and within what range
between the one side of hard
and the other of soft
where you don’t have to fear
being scoffed

What step can you take
to give yourself a break
to let go of anger
of judgement
of self hate?

Which could lead
to a chance
to begin again
where self-acceptance
is no longer in vain

For new decisions to make
A life chosen
A life you can create.

Words © June 2014 Michelle Payne
Picture found circulating freely online


Affirmation of the Week

23/07/2012

“I WELCOME SOMETHING NEW INTO MY LIFE”

Change… it’s scary… so we resist… yet unless we want our general life or self to be the same in another year, 5 years or even 10 years time… change has to happen. Now, I’m a fan of integrating things fully which then necessitates moving slowly… as I was told a few years ago, you can’t rush or miss out certain steps, as they will only re-appear at a later date… so this affirmation isn’t just about changing a thought pattern, it’s actually also a physical change!!! Yes, very often everyone at some point in their lives will need to change a thought pattern, will need to continuously repeat it mentally in order for it to take hold… but some things actually need us to physically DO!

I believe that thoughts have energy… when we think something, we are sending that energy out into the world, and then generally reaping its’ reward… and for  affirmations that’s good… however we can wish, hope, affirm and pray all the most wonderful thoughts in the world… but if we want new, we have to help ourselves physically too… we can create change, we can bring in new and wonderful opportunities into our lives, but some of them require physical action… there’s no point in wishing for a new door to open in front of us if we don’t actually step through it… we can ask the Angels, Gods, Goddesses, Guides, Helpers (or whatever higher deity you happen to believe in) for their help but in this world, on this plane, we also have to physically help ourselves!

This doesn’t have to be a big change… in fact, big changes are probably the hardest because to maintain… so why not start small?  What small change can you make right now?  It can be as small as you want… do you want to learn something new? Try new recipes? New make up? A new hairstyle? Dress differently? Do you want to be around people more? Or less? Get a new job? Move to a new town? Change your relationship?

What little step can you take to help you start to move through that door? It could even be as simple of buying a book secondhand or even looking a recipe up online… or stepping into the gym for the first time!  What new thing would you like to try and what is the baby step to start you on your way?  Feel free to comment and share with us!

This also brings to mind an email joke I received some time ago (and found on http://www.jakesjokes.com):

“Flood ShmudIt was flooding in California. As the flood waters were rising, a man was on the stoop of his house and another man in a row boat came by. The man in the row boat told the man on the stoop to get in and he’d save him. The man on the stoop said, no, he had faith in God and would wait for God to save him.

The flood waters kept rising and the man had to go to the second floor of his house. A man in a motor boat came by and told the man in the house to get in because he had come to rescue him. The man in the house said no thank you. He had perfect faith in God and would wait for God to save him. The flood waters kept rising. Pretty soon they were up to the man’s roof and he got out on the roof.

A helicopter then came by, lowered a rope and the pilot shouted down in the man in the house to climb up the rope because the helicopter had come to rescue him. The man in the house wouldn’t get in. He told the pilot that he had faith in God and would wait for God to rescue him. The flood waters kept rising and the man in the house drowned.

When he got to heaven, he asked God where he went wrong. He told God that he had perfect faith in God, but God had let him drown.”What more do you want from me?” asked God. “I sent you two boats and a helicopter.”

Wishing you a wonderful week ahead ♥

© 2012 Michelle Payne


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