Grand2Grand Ultra – Rest, Regret and the last half of the race

01/04/2015

The best bit after the Long Stage? You’d think it would be sleep… after all, if you’ve been going over 24 hours without any, most people think sleep would be easy. Not so… not when it’s daylight, the camp is awake and runners are still coming in, especially when it’s your tent mates… and it’s the only day you’re actually back in time to hit the comms tent!

There were also treats… I thought it a rumour but no… lo and behold a treasure… not something I usually drink but after days in the middle of nowhere, it’s like nectar…

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and we were even treated to some live music… right there in the middle of nowhere… there were a lot of happy campers as you can imagine!

There had been more drop outs by this time and unfortunately this included one of our tent 😦 … Steve had got soaked in the torrential rain and hail storm on Day 1… including his trainers which, I believe, did not dry out properly before the start of the next day… what I hadn’t realised was just how much pain he had been in on the Long Stage… his feet were totally and utterly shredded.  How he managed to push through is unbelievable… because of this…

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Blistered, macerated, bleeding, infected… by now he could barely hobble… so after returning from a trip to the medics, he gave out his food to be divided amongst those of us who wanted it and made the choice to go back to Kanab, when he would eventually meet up with us in Vegas at the after party. A sombre mood descended.

Feet. They make or break your race…

Stage 4

And so the next day dawned, not much sleep gained… you think you’d be so tired that not even the devil would be able to rouse you.  This just doesn’t happen… not for me anyway. A couple of hours, a bit of catnapping… and before you knew it, the music started up… and the question… what time is it? a tent would yell… 3 songs past 6, another would reply!

Memories…

Yuri dashed by… stuck his head in the tent and reminded me to pop by the medic tent again to check my hip… angel in disguise! My leg felt somewhat better, I wasn’t limping as much and the piriformis hadn’t cramped… that little bit of rest had helped tremendously, aided hugely by Yuri’s help and I actually felt ok… I knew I was deterioriating… you don’t do this kind of event without getting drained… lack of energy, speed, hydration, calories… you’re pushing through a deficit each and every day… but today there were more downhills… much better for me… I could run… well, there was still huffing and puffing up the hills, but more downs = more running or shuffling 😉 … and I took advantage of that… no matter how tired or aching I was… I took the choice to tell myself I would run the downs…

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The scenery was amazing… huge cliffs, trees so high they looked tiny… huge boulders to navigate down, rocks carved out by the weather over many years, by rains and floods… and in some parts it looks like we were running on a moonscape… it was also baking hot. So much so that as I ran I kept a very watchful eye out for any water, desperate to try and lower my temperature… the riverbeds crossed were dry… a few muddy puddles, a couple that had a little bit of water in… but how to get at it? Balance very carefully, put your cap on the end of your trekking pole and dangle it just enough to wet it slightly. It was that hot I certainly wasn’t worried about whether the water was clean, it was wet and that was enough. And then there appeared a mirage… a properly flowing river… stream may be a better description but at that point it felt like a full blown river!

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And this is my only other real regret from the whole race…

As I was shuffling along the road I noticed some other runners ahead rejoining the road… I’d seen the river but figured it was too far off course… as I reached the point I had seen them at… I decided to take a few minutes and see how near I could get. It was so hot and my head felt like it was on fire… heaven… you could go right up to it. So that’s what I did.  Took off my arm sleeves and hat and soaked them in the water… I turned around and noticed another runner go past so hurried up to get back on track.  Only a few minutes ahead was the next checkpoint. I could have left my pack there and gone in the water. I wish I had. Later that night, when everyone had returned, some of my tent mates told us what they’d done… they’d stopped, taken their packs and shoes off, and had actually laid down in it… how I wish I had done that. Laughter, fun, friends… surely that’s worth losing a bit of time for in a race instead of pushing through?

Anyway, that was not the choice I had made at the time… instead I pushed on through the rest of the course encountering some pretty evil inclines: looking back at some of the photos, it looks like we were crawling up.  I hit a few low points especially when hitting some long stretches until I caught up to Danny and we leapfrogged each other until we got to camp. I probably wouldn’t have run as much of the last leg if it hadn’t been for him. We hadn’t had much chance to chat up to that point as he was always well ahead of me but while we had this opportunity to talk, he shared how he found the race, the highs and lows to date and that he had been aching a lot and, like a lot of us, had found it hard to get out of a warm sleeping bag that morning, was tired and missing home but since he knew I had just completed a similar type of event in Madagascar, he thought if I could get up each day and do this, then so could he. A truly humbling moment and I don’t think he is aware of how much that meant to me. It kept my spirits up, helped me keep running and we eventually reached camp at the same time. I felt very happy with how I’d done overall that day; top half, position 37  or thereabouts… just a shame about the river…

Stage 4 survived: 7 hours, 21 minutes, 16 seconds

Stage 5

As so the last full day dawned… today was slot canyon day. I think everyone was looking forward to this… we’d seen all the photos from previous years and I naively assumed it would mean a lot of flat.

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There was, but to get to it you had to go down… and part of that meant, for me, holding onto tree branches as I slithered down scarily high inclines… yelps included! I also knew there would be climbing down over rocks a bit in those canyons but what I hadn’t expected was a very high ladder… the choice, just go for it and pray I wouldn’t fall or use a harness that had been provided. Sod the time, go for the harness… it just looked too damn high. Afterwards I heard a snake had been relocated not long beforehand so I definitely made the right choice… what if I’d got there and seen a snake… you’d have heard the screams for miles!

And of course, given we are generally getting higher each day, for all those wonderful downs, there is going to be a lot of ups. Again. Crazy painful ups… I doubt I will ever view local hills in the same way!

Eventually we reached flatter ground, although that did still have an incline to it… it just wasn’t as obvious. There were also rain clouds gathering and I have to say, at that point because it was so hot and the air so still, as I saw some dark clouds approaching, I prayed it would cover me with rain. It didn’t… it stayed tantalisingly just out of reach… and I couldn’t catch it! I passed a field of cows… my poles tip tapping the ground as I walked this part… and then I realised I was being watched! There were a lot of cows. There were bulls too. It was a bull that watched me. I averted my gaze and then snuck a sideways glance… it was still watching me… I held my poles off the ground and still it watched me, it’s tail flicking from side to side and then it moved… a few steps toward the road, no fence in sight… I tried to walk with a lighter footstep, holding my breath… and eventually, thankfully, I was sufficiently past that it turned back to its herd, and I could breathe again!

What I wasn’t aware of was that this was the area that my tent mate Lee had had a close encounter on. Not with a bull but a moose. Apparently a moose had mown him down into a hedge. I kid you not… read his write-up in GQ Magazine!  Killer moose, watchful bulls, sneaky snakes… what is this? Next there would be zombies… oh and don’t forget the tarantulas and scorpion holes…

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I continued up the winding road… on and on, just where was the camp? It seemed to take forever and much longer than the previous day until eventually it came into sight… with pools on the other side of the fence… pools of water which looked so inviting… however given the previous cow incident, yours truly was not taking any chances… I didn’t want to be potentially ambushed and trampled so near to the finish of the race! Wise choice indeed as I found out that those were probably pasture water for the horses and cows… and given experiences to date, it would be just my luck that the horses were not that friendly despite outward appearances!

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Another stage finished and surprisingly only 4 and a half minutes slower than the previous day, around position 33 or something, so top half again and a very happy bunny 🙂

Stage 5 survived: 7 hours, 25 minutes, 56 seconds

Stage 6

The weather had been getting cooler, natural I thought given the ascension of course profile. However that night another storm hit, bad enough to keep us awake all night long with only little catnaps until one of the poles collapsed due to the strength of the wind and we thought the whole tent was going to come down. Those amazing sturdy volunteers came once again to the rescue  and were out in that weather checking everyone was ok and hammering down tent pegs, poles and anything else that could potentially go flying off into the night! I’m not a fan of being cold and the thought at that time of even getting out of my sleeping bag, let alone run in winds which sounded like something from the Wizard of Oz… well…

And at 5am Race Director Colin made his rounds – they were checking in to see how much worse it would get, how safe it would be up to get up to the Grand Staircase. Around 6ish, he made another round… they’d been informed it was just too dangerous and they couldn’t risk flooding especially due to parts being single track (if I’m remembering correctly). Safety is paramount and in those conditions there was a real possibility of people being swept away or falling… so while there was obvious disappointment in not reaching the full 273km, there was also a lot of very happy people staying in their sleeping bags just that little bit longer.  To ensure we had a Stage 6 and to fit in with the expected torrents, the organisers arranged for an “out and back” couple of miles, and everyone would get the same time recorded. A very fitting end for the team spirit and camaraderie that had built up over the past week. Our surviving tent:

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I’d made it and got my buckle!

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It was then time to grab some pizza… do you think they had ordered enough? There was another full table out of view of this 🙂

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The race organisers had timed it perfectly.  Just as the buses arrived and we headed off, the heavens opened. By the time we got to Kanab for a lunch they had also organised for us… just stepping off the bus and walking 5 steps to cover had us drenched. The highway to Vegas had been closed due to landslides and the torrential rain, but thankfully had opened up by the time we left.

And then it was Vegas bound… to meet loved ones, to celebrate, to sleep in a proper bed and eat non-rehydrated food.

And of course to Party! I’m not sure how many people stayed up all night but some did…

What an experience, what memories… what friendships made… it was tough without a doubt. My legs were completely shredded, more than I realised at the time, my achilles was bad and a huge swollen lump had grown by this time, walking was painful (and that wasn’t just because I’d insisted on wearing heels at the after party 😉 )

But…

Was it possible
to go from zero to a double-stage runner in only 18 months?

* Yes it was *

Go sign up… you know you want to 😉
http://www.g2gultra.com

Now what shall I do next…

© April 2015 Michelle Payne

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Grand2Grand Ultra – Stages 2 & 3

31/03/2015

Stage 2

And so the second day dawned… music blaring in the darkness and the camp stirring to life.  I huddled down into my sleeping bag a little deeper and wondered if I would ever be able to move without pain again… but I’d finished Stage 1 so I wasn’t going to miss being on the start line for Stage 2.  I figured if I wasn’t going to finish then it wouldn’t be of my choosing, I’d have to be pulled out by the medical team!

The tactic: start walking.  Try and shuffle if possible.  Walk it all if need be. As the saying goes, you don’t eat an elephant in one go. Where did that saying come from? Who would want to eat an elephant 😦 … magnificent creatures… anyway, make it into bitesize chunks aka checkpoint to checkpoint survival.  Head down and churn those steps out… I had wanted a challenge and I’d certainly got one!

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And so the day passed and, as for the first day, the racers eventually drifted apart the longer we were out there. Eventually I happened across an American racer called Arthur and we stuck together from Checkpoint 4, keeping each other entertained with stories about what was going on in our lives… he was pretty excited due to planning his proposal to his girlfriend and every time he spoke about the ideas he had, his face lit up and a huge smile beamed across his face, his energy infectious and the chatting meant the time passed a lot easier than had I been on my own, added to which we had expected the temperature to turn the notch down a tad… even going from full on “oven baked” to a little “fan assisted” might have helped but no… no respite until we hit the finish line where waiting for us was a momentary piece of heaven… Lisa, one of the volunteers, was ready with a bottle of cold water to spray over us! Absolute bliss. A moment to savour… you certainly appreciate the small things on adventures like this!

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Stage 2 survived: 10 hours, 8 minutes, 34 seconds

Stage 3

The Long Stage… dum dum dum!

It started well… what a sunrise to wake up to…

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Now you can dress things up however you like in your mind… you can practice positive mindfulness until the cows come home, you can meditate all night long… there are many many things you can do to bring the happy stuff into your life, change your perspectives and become a happier and more contented person. But I doubt you will ever eradicate fear in all its totality from your brain nor the accompanying negative thoughts that pop up from time to time. We are human beings and fear is actually a great tool at our disposal which alerts us to keep ourselves safe and to survive as a species. You know, back in the old days of sabre tooth tigers wanting to eat us. Or bears. Someone kept joking about bears. There were lots of trees on this race… what if a bear was hiding behind one. I kid you not… someone actually joked about this as they hotfooted it up a very steep incline while I shuffled behind them… a long way behind them… was that a tactic, was I being left as bear food while they dashed to safety? The trees rustled as I pondered this… I tried to shuffle a little quicker…

Anyway, the long stage… the hip was still hurting although Yuri had been an absolute hero the previous evening and helped release more of the pain that had accumulated throughout the second day, so how to tackle this? Go it alone and try to push myself, risking further injury or worse, not finishing… or stay with friends who were planning on sticking together as a group due to the length and technical difficulty of the day and walk it all? I wanted to push, I was frustrated at having mainly walked the previous day, but at the same time how great would it be for the Group to stick together and cheer each other on.

So that’s what I chose.

Plus I was slower than everyone else hobbling away at the back.

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We started off in almost a party mood, and as we ventured along the way, locals came out and cheered us on: such support from the local community was heart-warming and at that time it felt as if we were just going out for a day’s adventure! Until we reached the end of the flat track and it was time to cross a main road and head towards the elevation.  It was at the end of the road in the picture above that we came across Mo Foustok.  Mo had withdrawn from the race but had come out to encourage everyone else along. Another wonderful example of the camaraderie and kindness I have witnessed within the ultrarunning and racing community.

And then it was up, up, up… with minimal downs to compensate. The pace: slow, very slow. Did I mention I don’t like hills. I like heights even less. I really don’t like sides of mountains where I could slither down, fall off and die. Now I know the organisers are very careful and you’re not going to be somewhere that you have to get crampons and picks out to haul yourself up, but this felt like that to me.  This wasn’t FEAR (false evidence appearing real) but aarrrgghhh FEAR (dear God it’s real and that’s bloody high).

Sometimes naivete is a good thing… it certainly was for me in this event.  I knew there was a little climb.  I’d seen the pictures of a rope and people hauling themselves up it.  I had been reassured on reading the road book we’d been given that it wasn’t as long as I’d thought.  What hadn’t been mentioned was what I actually encountered. I scaled the first bit thanks to one of my amazing tent mates, Lee, helping me up and the amazing Yvonne keeping me going with encouragement behind me.

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I heaved a huge sigh of relief only to realise after going round a corner and along a little flat that there was another one! One felt so bad that after slithering my way up (thank god for my poles is all I can say) with shale and rocks sliding away under my feet, I was so relieved and happy it was over, that three of us jumped for joy. Literally. Until I saw the next one.

130131But what a view… no matter that it’s a race, that you are being timed… at points you just have to stop and take some photos, of the views and of the people who are there supporting you each step of the way…

Can we say tough?  I can honestly say that reaching Checkpoint 2 on that day was a highlight of sheer relief. Oh yes, that was all before CP2, many more to go.

And so the day continued… our main group breaking off into twos and threes, chatting away at times, being silent at others… pushing through the terrain, the elevation… minutes and then hours passing and catching up at the checkpoints: where we took the time to fill up on water, salt tablets and see to the feet… and have a laugh… (fab photobomb!)

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…before the night started to draw down just as we were heading towards the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary… bit eerie going through with animals howling… and seeing some fantastic colours in the sky as the sun set:

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Darkness arrived and we hadn’t even reached the checkpoint before the dunes.  Debate ensued – do we push on through the night, do we stop and sleep… we were all getting exhausted and still had so far to go. Would we have enough energy to tackle the dunes without rest? We’ve all heard the saying: when the going gets tough, the tough get going… well this was a pure example of that.  On the road to the checkpoint which never seemed to appear, nerve endings in the feet being bashed with every step, tiredness, general aches and pains, sandy tracks, darkness and plenty of “are we there yet”… we were accompanied by none other than the now infamous Mr Jerky: a tough, funny, very kind copper (policeman) and race director who hails from New York.  He was injured and in a lot of pain, yet on he pushed, worrying about everyone else instead of himself, whether he was holding anyone back (he wasn’t), staying cheerful and helping to keep everyone’s spirits up. Amazing guy… and if you want to check out some great trail races he organises, go visit his facebook page here!

We eventually reached CP6 which I have to say was one of the hardest parts to a checkpoint I have ever done. We stopped, got hot water and refueled, huddled around a fire that the volunteers had going and tried to warm up.  The temperature had dropped considerably.  Unfortunately Matt (Mr Jerky) decided against pushing through the dunes as his leg was so bad.  Once we had all got ourselves sorted out and had had about an hour’s rest, we decided to push on.

Dune time.

Looking back it’s hard to recall every moment… it was certainly memorable… having never encountered dunes before there was a certain amount of trepidation.  Thankfully due to the sheer amount of elevation and climbing during the day, my piriformis had been well and truly stretched out so I wasn’t in too much pain or getting much cramping… but still, dunes! Added to which we had heard that the race director(s) had set out to make this section as hard as possible. It proved to be true.

As we traipsed down the road towards the entrance, one of the gang suggested we all turn out lights off… standing in darkness by the side of a now silent highway… looking up at the stars… hearts pounding, silence surrounded… a memory to treasure… headlights back on and quietly we walked in…

Oh My **** God! I stood at the bottom and stared upwards at what appeared to be a pure vertical line… little lights blinking somewhere god knows where in the heavens… were they stars or were they the reflective bits on the pink flags… how high was it… would I fall… how the hell was I going to get up THERE! No other option for it but to run up at it… or rather try… get the poles, stick them in the sand and shuffle through as it flowed downwards with every step… using other’s imprints as a guide. Heart in mouth, breath out of control… just get up there.

Do not try to stand up mid way through!

You will feel as if you are about to fall backwards. The pack lending itself to that too…

Reach the crest and roll yourself over… pant for breath, look up at the stars and thank god you made it…

stand up… everyone gathers… trot off trying to spot little flags in the darkness…

get to the bottom of another… try not to cry as it looks even steeper (how is this possible?)…

ignore your tent mate when he tells you that these are nothing height wise compared to another race…

try not to quake in fear when you realise he’s talking about a race you may just have signed up for already…

ignore another tent mate when he agrees with first tent mate, because they’ve both done that race…

thank your trekking poles for not breaking…

get to the next…

and the next…

and the next…

I believe it was 5.5km… it felt like more than a marathon in distance…

…and I couldn’t wait to get it done. Tired, aching, swearing… I swore I would never do anything with sand ever ever again.

Yet even then there was beauty… we came to the end and took a breather just as the sun rose…

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Time to push on, get the head down… the sun rose quickly, which meant the heat did too, on dusty trails, through shrubby areas… and most of this part is a blur… I would probably have fared much better had I taken some time to sleep, but I hadn’t… over 24 hours by this point… just wanting to get to the finish line. Which appeared in the distance… up another bloody hill. Feet, legs, hands… all swollen… hip aching, brain fuzzy… step by step to where other tent mates were waiting along with Tess and Colin…

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I told Tess when she hugged me I was never doing another race like it, I was cancelling everything else I had planned… no more.  She hugged me tighter, told me that most of these events have dunes and I would feel better after some sleep… still, it was done. I’d reached another finish line… I was still there…

Stage 3 survived: 27 hours, 38 minutes, 18 seconds

© March 2015 Michelle Payne


Challenge 2 of 3 (Triple Continent Challenge)

27/08/2014

4 deserts – Racing the Planet – Madagascar

250km unsupported

6 stages

Start line… 31st August… 

It’s finally here!

And so the time is rapidly approaching for Challenge 2 to commence… 250 km across varied terrain in Africa.  The last email I read from Racing the Planet brought more information, including the fact that 4 members of staff had had their luggage lost so it was a good idea to pack as much as you could into your hand luggage.  There then followed some frantic searching online for hand baggage allowances.

Now this may be a sign of things to come… and doesn’t really bode well for either my packing skills or how much it looks like I will be running with on my back.  It turns out the airline has an allowance of 7kg for hand luggage (within dimensions) plus you get a handbag to carry things on.  At 2am everything came out of the main bag, scattered across the living room floor and lots of squashing packets into creviches began.  I’m not quite sure how well this is going to go down when it’s time to go through those x-ray machines… what if they insist I have to open my back pack up?

There was, of course, no room to put my trainers in the pack. Now if there is one thing you will not be able to replace for a race… it’s going to be this key item. We spend time breaking them in, we send them off to get stitched up for gaitering… there is no other item that you have probably taken as much thought and planning with as what goes on your feet! And that’s not just a race of this type, but any running. Blisters and foot problems make or break a race. There is therefore only one solution… and that’s to put the Converse into the luggage and wear my running shoes. Trail shoes. Woah… what a look to rock through customs LOL!

This then has thrown up another aspect… food! For those that know me, they know I love my food… especially cake. Cake… I feel a Homer Simpson moment coming on…

I have planned my nutrition quite carefully I think… but it doesn’t fit in my pack. I chucked everything into a stuff sack. A 20L stuff sack. It was full.  My backpack is 20L. Where will everything else go? And… and… I’m under the daily calorie allowance I was hoping for as well! I’m praying I don’t get hungry… lives will be affected if I get hungry… I love my food… cake…

Doh… anyway… keep the writing on track, no time for cake tangents…  it’s time to get to the start line in Madagascar! Hopefully the rumblings from Iceland will not worsen… hopefully my luggage will arrive safely… there are 4 flights to get there but I’m reassured the weather is getting a tad hot (ok so there are murmurings of 40 degrees heat – I’m ignoring those) so I have packed a couple of bikinis for the hotel pool for which there is much logical reasoning! If you want to know what that is, email me via the 4deserts website and I will reply on the blog there and once I’ve been and got taped up, it won’t be long before I depart the UK.  Oh yes, that was another little thing… the legs have a few niggles… the plantar has kicked in again, the ankles are painful, swollen and the calves… well let’s just say if you could get rock solid, they’d be harder, so naturally the Achilles has decided to join in the grumbling. Obviously I’m ignoring all these things too, plus I’ve had a bit of help from my coach and fantastic sports therapist to keep me going 😉

So as to links…

If anyone fancies watching the updates of the race, please click here.

If you want to email me to send encouragement to keep me going through, what I have been reliably informed, will be moments of hell, please click here.

If you want to read a response to any emails sent, and to catch up with my thoughts on how each day is going, my blog (along with others) can be found here.

And of course, not forgetting the other aspect of what I’m doing here, highlighting the fundraising and need to get awareness out about domestic abuse / violence, to say that no, it is not ok, please share, donate, and get the message out, my justgiving page can be found here.

I look forward to hopefully hobbling over all stage finish lines… have a guess as to how long it will take me overall, and donate for each guess 😉

4 flights folks… I’m possibly on one of them right now as you read this!

Have a great week!
Michelle

© August 2014 Michelle Payne

 


Charity & Challenge 1 of the 3 (Triple Continent Challenge)

26/08/2014

Domestic abuse / violence is a topic that is not talked about easily.  It is easily hidden away because most people do not want to acknowledge the existence of it, don’t want the subject to touch their lives and also because once you know about something, there is then a choice about whether to do something about that new knowledge.  Such choice automatically then leads to responsibility.  Who wants to take responsibility for reporting domestic abuse? Who wants to get involved in that? The answer is generally a big fat no, with such inaction then lending more power to the abuser, because they get away with so much more, feel safe in the knowledge that they won’t be stopped and actually, if no-one ever does anything, it sends the implicit message that it is allowed.  Yes, you read that right… by not doing anything about it (or sitting on the fence as it were) if you know about it, do nothing about it, then you’re saying it’s ok.

The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil,
but because of those who look on and do nothing

~~ Albert Einstein ~~

But if you know abuse is happening and want to help someone, what do you do? Who do you turn to? What help is available? If you don’t know the answers to such questions, that too can stop victims getting help.  So the aim of running these challenges is not only to raise funds (which are desperately needed) but also to raise awareness of this topic.

Therefore, the charity that I chose was Refuge.

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Although I have a full time job in the City, I am also a qualified Counsellor.  I work in private practice with clients, with whatever issues they bring (from self-esteem, relationships, body image, negative thought patterns, generational patterns and more) and additionally as a volunteer with a local domestic abuse charity.  Please note that this is not Refuge.

Refuge opened the world’s first safe house for women and children escaping domestic violence in Chiswick, West London, in 1971 and have been providing help to those who need help to escape. As Government funding is not enough to sustain the demands that Refuge faces… and let’s face it, demands that shouldn’t be necessary in any day and age!… it relies on help from volunteers and donations to meet those demands… demands that ultimately means lives are saved!  Ways that they get such help is through challenges and events, such as running… which helps to raise much needed funds and helps to get the message out about what domestic violence / abuse means and can entail, and it was one such event that brought me into contact with them.

That event was the Virgin London Marathon and the first of the Triple Continent Challenge.  Now some friends (who aren’t runners) thought that because I’d already completed a long race by this point, figured it would be easy. That was, until I pointed out I wanted to run the whole way… and in a much quicker time. Specifically to shave at least half an hour off my time, or more if it was possible. But predominantly to do this without stopping, with all the niggles that I had had to date and the fact I hadn’t run more than 13.1 miles non-stop. I hadn’t figured on the amount of people running it either until someone pointed that out.

And it was at this point that I knew I needed help. Professional help (yeah yeah I can hear some of those friends’ voices laughing at that…) because it’s one thing to actually go and totter off down a trail marathon (or ultra) with a lot of walking (and pain, which kinda goes without saying) as a one-off, it’s quite another to specifically train for and run a road marathon… one of the world majors… with virtually no proper training experience, especially if you’ve had quite extensive hip surgery some years previously which meant spending about 3 months on crutches.

Life is somewhat synchronistic because I eventually, through a recent running connection, found myself making a visit to that person’s coach to see if they could help me. That initial session was more like an interview… and it wasn’t me in the driving seat! What did I want to achieve, what training and experience did I already have… and what time did I have to put into training going forwards. Looking back, it still makes me chuckle a bit to remember Rich’s face when I told him what I’d already signed up for, what little experience I had and how I had no readily available time to devote to training. He told me he didn’t think he could train me. He’s blunt like that 🙂

However, when you really want something… ultimately, you will do what you have to do to get it… and when he told me that, apart from feeling pretty gutted for a little while… my answer was: tell me what you want from me and I will tell you if I can do it!  A day later I got an email. And nearly died in horror, wondering how on earth I’d fit one run in, let alone five… plus a coaching session, plus two conditioning sessions… all in one week, every week, plus daily stretching… plus work, college, commuting, second job, building my own business… well, you can imagine…

and so the training began, choices and sacrifices made…

until 6 months later I ended up on the start line of the London Marathon… well actually, I was in a pen… near the back which took about 10 minutes to reach the start line once the race began… but off I trotted, with one of my friends from Sierra Leone beside me…

I didn’t finish in the time I envisaged the previous year…

I had “injuries”… a niggly ITB meant pain… but worse was I had developed some painful plantar fasciitis which meant I basically limped most of the way round…

and yes it hurt, especially the last few miles (not as much as when I stopped after I crossed the finish line though… little tip… do not sit down on the grass, you will end up being helped up by the Red Cross if you are not able to pull yourself up by holding onto a nearby tree!)…

but I did it non-stop… the whole way… so damn proud…

and I did it quicker! Not too shabby a time if I do say so myself 🙂

4 hours 17 minutes 15 seconds

It’s amazing what you can achieve when you set your mind to it… but the thing is, you have to be open to the possibility… to know and be able to reach out to those that can help you. My coach Rich was amazing in helping me get to that point, he’s even more amazing for putting up with me since, or maybe that’s the wrong way round 😀 … of course, we had to get over the little thing first about how he thinks I’m absolutely nuts to even consider doing one stage run, let alone two… and let alone so close together… and that’s not normally how he works… what’s that saying Rich, it takes one to know one 😉 … anyway…

I’m still fundraising for Refuge with these runs, so if you would (hopefully) like to sponsor me for being crazy enough to attempt this challenge… to help Refuge help others, please click on my justgiving link where you can donate online:

www.justgiving.com/michelle-payne4

and if you would like to find out more about Refuge and the work it does, please click here.

And of course if you have ever fancied running or jogging/walking a marathon to help a fantastic charity, then please get in touch with Refuge to see about getting one of their bond places!

I’m flying out very shortly to start the second challenge in Madagascar, so will blog the next post when I can.

Many thanks for taking the time to read this, and please do spread awareness of what domestic violence / abuse constitutes and how people can reach out and get help.

Don’t fence sit (you’ll get splinters eventually ;)… say No to DV!

Have a great day 🙂
Michelle

August 2014 Michelle Payne


The Triple Continent Challenge

04/08/2014

So what is the next challenge?

Well after I couldn’t sign up for the Marathon des Sables, I did a little Google surfing… and it was amazing to find just how many runs, races, countries and continents these are run on… I think every country and definitely every continent. Yes you read right, every continent including Antarctica! And no, I’m not going there… I’m not a fan of feeling even a little bit cold… I blame being a summer baby for that!

But I happened to find myself at a website with THE most stunning trailer… in a different country on a different continent and while listening to the soundtrack and watching the most amazing scenery… I got the goosebumps. You know the ones, not just any old I’m feeling cold or something a little freaky has happened and raises the hairs on your arms… this was OMG I have to do this, I have to be there… it doesn’t matter how hard it is (I may regret ever thinking this shortly!)… how expensive… this is a once in a lifetime experience…

I’d found myself watching this:

GRAND TO GRAND ULTRA 

(click on the title to be taken to their website)

170 miles / 273 kilometres from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon up to the Grand Staircase

over 7 days

You get a tent for the night… and water to drink…

self-supported – you have to carry everything else you need in a backpack while you run/hike/climb

a marathon or more every day
(one day is a double marathon)
and longer than the Marathon des Sables.

But a triple continent challenge needs 3 continents… so add the continent of Europe… specifically the London Marathon… 26.2 miles, completed earlier this year, although I haven’t had time to blog about it until now… more on this in the next post!

And for the third continent… it’s back to Africa… for the 3rd time in 18 months… oh yes, I paid a little visit to another African country at the beginning of this year which I figured might help as challenging “training” albeit of a different nature… which I will write about if I ever get the time!… So yes, Africa again … specifically Madagascar… no, not like the film… though if I end up hallucinating I may very well see talking lions and giraffes… hopefully not the zebra though!

And this is part of the 4deserts series via Racing the Planet. Each year they put on a stage race, like the Marathon des Sables and Grand2Grand (or g2g as it’s more commonly known) in the 4 driest deserts: the Atacama Crossing (Chile), the Gobi March (Mongolia/China), the Sahara Race (Jordan/Egypt) and the Last Desert aka Antarctica! They also put on one extra and this is known as a roving race, held in a different country each year with 2014 being held in Madagascar… quite a good job as 2013 was in Iceland and it looked cold.

RTP Madagascar

(click on the title to be taken to their website)

Again, you get a tent for the night… and water to drink…

and you have to carry everything you need in a backpack while you run/wade (there are river crossings above knee height *eek*) and no doubt walk (lots of walking, I plan on lots of walking).

And just to make it harder… because surely that doesn’t sound hard enough?

The two stage runs (as these type of multi-day events/races are known as) are only a few weeks apart!

Actually they are 15 days apart, from the finish line in Africa to the start line in America… and in that time I have to fly home from Africa, get back to work, college and daily life, recover (heaven help me)… and then fly out to America to get on that starting line.

15 days between the two events… running a total of 324 miles.

Yes, you read that right too… 324 miles, across remote and difficult terrain, carrying everything I need and giving an overall total of, I believe just over 350 miles for the 3 events.

I am of course fundraising for such a challenge… and it’s for a fantastic charity that deals with challenges, survival, motivation, courage, fears (amongst other aspects)… details will be given with the London Marathon post 🙂 so please do take time to visit their website and share information once that post has been blogged.

From new runner in February 2013
to double stage runner in September 2014

18 months!

Is it do-able?

 I’m about to find out.

“You only get one life: aim high and be all that you can be”
~ Michelle Payne ~

© August 2014 Michelle Payne


Song of the Week

03/08/2014

Indiana – Heart on Fire


SL Marathon 2013 – Update – Week 6 – The week Hell decided to visit #SLM13

31/03/2013

Where has the time gone?  I meant to get this posted last week but time and circumstances have conspired to pile things up to such a degree my to-do list has it’s own to-do list!  Not good!

So five weeks in and the initial euphoria was starting to wear off as I mentioned previously, and as is often the case, when you’re experiencing difficulties with one thing, then many others will very often appear to turn to crap as well… sod’s law or whatever you want to call it, this was the week that Hell decided to come calling at my door… and what a doozy it was… I don’t think one area of life was unaffected!

And then, just to add to the delights of the week, I had to slightly extend my longer run… 70 minutes along the freezing seafront… when it was attempting to rain/sleet/snow… into a nasty headwind that not only saw my baseball cap flying off (gave up on that in the end) and freeze my hands within 5 minutes but one that meant I couldn’t actually breathe when facing straight ahead.  35 minutes of that before I could turn around… there was a saving grace however… the weather was so crap and cold that it meant there was virtually no-one out… and therefore no-one to see the grimaces I pulled, the language I muttered… or the colour I turned!

It’s at times like these that finding positivity and maintaining focus is especially hard… time to be pleased with the small gains… health results that came back positive (or rather negative LOL), college work that went well, loving supportive friends and family, a fantastic personal trainer who on seeing the state of me on the Wednesday not only boosted my confidence but took the time out to give me a hug… and even of being grateful that I got to finish the cholera vaccinations (seriously… it does not taste like raspberry Andrews salts like they tell you it will!) which had been sitting in my fridge for a week. Probably a very good deterrent if anyone had wanted to raid it for chocolate…

cholera-fridge

Training for Week 6 included:

***lunchtime treadmill run of 30 minutes x 1

***PT session with Activate Plus PT x 1

***lunchtime outdoor run of 40 minutes x 1

***lunchtime treadmill run of 40 minutes x 1

***weekend run of 70 minutes x 1

***2 hour karate session

Total overall running: 19.45 miles / 180 minutes (3 hours)

Unfortunately the yoga had to get sacrificed yet again due to needing to leave the office early to get to the hospital, and much as I would have loved to do it afterwards, that was Tuesday and the worst day of Hell week and I had to go straight from hospital to college! A very long and hard day indeed. My Friday treadmill pace also was a bit slower but I put that down to the Cholera as I had the same reaction as the previous week… it’s obviously not something that agrees with me 😀

Overall, I was pleased with how the running progressed, how my hip handled the increase in exercise… and it held a valuable lesson in learning where and who I do and can learn on when I need some extra motivation to get me through the tougher times and just where my psychological challenges lie! I wonder how many other runners encounter weeks like this…

But it got done which is what matters… so to quote one of my Texan twitter friends (who happens to be in sports himself)… “I GOT THIS” 😉

Links:

My fundraising page: MichellePayne13

Street Child

Sierra Leone Marathon 2013

© 2013 Michelle Payne


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