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/.

spine

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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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


Meeting the Child within

09/07/2014

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Meeting the Child within

The light of life
that spark of humanity
it resides within
this form we call human.

We create, we destroy
we live, we breathe
we feel, we touch
we teach
until that final day we reach…

Yet bonded to us
through millennia
through souls and spirit
through hearts
there dwells within a child
with whom we have a shared past.

Have you met this child?
Do they have a name?
Are they gentle, wild
or are they tame?

Are they happy?
Are they sad?
Have they been told that they’re good
or that they’re bad?

Do you accept them?
Or reject them?

Do you welcome them with loving arms
and strive to keep them from any harm?

What story would they voice
if you would give them that choice?

Would they describe you as a stranger
having been kept hidden
to stay safe from danger?
Or would they be out in the open
whole, not broken?

Why not say hello?
Give them a wave…
show them that yes,
step out, be seen,
they can be that brave.

Because if you won’t accept them…
love them…
hug them…
Who will?

Step up to the mirror
take a deep breath
see who is revealed
within the eyes’ depths

Who is there?
Meet Your Inner Child laid bare!

Words © June 2014 Michelle Payne
Picture found circulating freely online


SL Marathon 2013 – Update – Facilities and Resources

14/01/2014

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Well it’s been a while… the past 6 months have been amazingly busy and I’ve struggled to keep up, which means that the writing and blogging side of things has had to take a very dim and distant back seat.  This year is also already getting pretty booked up, so I shall be posting as and when I can… hopefully without disappearing for another 6 months.

So the last time I really blogged, it was about the marathon itself in Sierra Leone… and one thing I meant to mention was that of the help I received to actually get out there and do the run safely!  Very often when we embark upon something new it can be daunting, and when it’s to do something physical one of the things we need to make sure is that not only is it going to be possible, but that we can do it safely.  A lot of people already know, some don’t, but one of the main concerns I had for this trip was my hip: I sustained an injury years ago with my karate training which eventually turned into an impingement.  Unfortunately due to the amount of time that had passed by the time I got it sorted out, it was pretty nasty and required open surgery (crutches for 3 months is not much fun).  However, rather than letting something like that stop me from going out there and doing what I wanted, I figured I’d get some help to make sure it was done safely.

Very often when we go to do something new, our lack of awareness about the new “thing” can put us off, we can feel intimidated, unsure and hesitant so one of the best ways to get around this is to look at what facilities and/or resources you have available to you that can help!  Very often people think they actually don’t have any.  Time to open your eyes *grin*… you may be very surprised to find out just what, and who, would like to help you out…

and let’s not forget that if you don’t ask, you may not get help, and by asking… well, that too can be a gift.  Who doesn’t like to feel wanted, needed and know that they are able to help another?  Doesn’t it feel good when you know that someone wants and really appreciates your help?  I’m not talking here about people who constantly “take” and drain you, that’s a whole different ball game.  Here we’re looking at positive boundaries, respect and compassion… all aspects of kindness that we can give to ourselves and others!

In my case, it turned out that a friend I’d met when he taught classes at my local gym had opened up his own business in the City, loved the idea of what I was going out to Sierra Leone to do, and offered to help me by structuring some personal training sessions for me during my lunchtimes.  This was alongside the running and yoga I was already doing and helped to build strength and condition my legs so that I could run a full 13.1 miles without stop.  Of course, that was the plan… but one of the reasons I changed to the full marathon the day before was that I knew I was strong enough to complete the full 26.2 miles, even if I had to walk half of it!

Niron was an absolute godsend… I cannot praise him enough, especially since when the going got a bit tougher and I hit some emotional roadblocks along the way, he then kept me going with added encouragement and helped me to focus on what was really important!

Here he is putting someone through their paces (not me):

photo 1

So I guess this post is also a recommendation one… if you’re in the City (London, UK) and want some personal training, whether that be for conditioning, helping you get fit or to meet specific challenges you’ve taken on (including marathon training) then give Niron (or one of the team) a call, and let them know where you heard about them.  Their details are:

Activate+
Templeton House, 33-34 Chiswell Street, London, EC1Y 8LP

Tel: +44 (0)20 7628 5514
Mob: +44 (0)7835 918 368 / +44 (0)7932 668 505
Email: activateplusstudio@gmail.com

Website:   http://www.activatepluspersonaltraining.com

And remember, someone may be wanting to help you right now, if you would but ask.  So why not reach out a hand and do just that… or offer to someone who may be in need!

Have a great week everyone! 🙂

© 2014 Michelle Payne


The Broken Child

19/12/2012

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The Broken Child

For children who were broken
it is very hard to mend…
Our pain was rarely spoken
and we hid the truth from friends.

Our parents said they loved us,
but they didn’t act that way.
They broke our hearts and stole our worth,
with the things that they would say.

We wanted them to love us.
We didn’t know what we did
to make them yell at us and hit us,
and wish we weren’t their kid.

They’d beat us up and scream at us
and blame us for their lives.
Then they’d hold us close inside their
arms and tell us confusing lies
of how they really loved us
— even though we were BAD,
and how it was OUR fault they hit us,
OUR fault that they were mad.

When days were just beginning
we sometimes prayed for them to end,
and when the pain kept coming,
we learned to just pretend
that we were good and so were they
and this was just one of those days
…tomorrow we’d be friends.

We had to believe it so.
We had nowhere else to go.
Each day that we pretended,
we replaced reality
with lies, or dreams,
or angry schemes,
in search of dignity ….
until our lies got bigger
than the truth,
and we had no one real to be

Our bodies were forsaken.
With no safe place to hide,
we learned to stop
hearing and feeling
what they did to our outsides.

We tried to make them love us,
till we hated ourselves instead,
and couldn’t see a way out,
and wished that they were dead.
We scared ourselves by thinking that
and scared ourselves to know,
that we were acting just like them
–and might ever more be so.

To be half the size of a grown-
up and trapped inside their pain….
To every day lose everything
with no savior or refrain…
To wonder how it is possible
that God could so forget
the worthy child you knew you were,
when you had not been damaged yet …

To figure on your fingers
the years till you’d be grown
enough to leave the torment
and survive away from home,
were more than you could count to,
or more than you could bear,
was the reality we lived in
and we knew it wasn’t fair.

We who grew up broken
are somewhat out of time,
struggling to mend our childhood,
when our peers are in their prime.
Where others find love and contentment,
we still often have to strive
to remember we are worthy,
and heroes just to be alive.

Some of us are healing.
some of us are stealing.
Most are passing the anger on.
Some give their lives away to drugs,
or the promise of like beyond.
Some still hide from society.
Some struggle to belong.
But all of us are wishing
the past would not hold on so long.

There’s a lot of digging down to do
to find the child within,
to love away the ugly pain
and feel innocence again.
There is forgiveness worthy of angel’s
wings for remembering those at all,
who abused our sacred childhood
and programmed us to fall.
To seek to understand them,
and how their pain became our own,
is to risk the ground we stand on
to climb the mountain home.

The journey is not so lonely
as in the past it has been …
More of us are strong enough
to let the growth begin.
But while we’re trekking up the mountain
we need everything we’ve got,
to face the adults we have become,
and all that we are not.

So when you see us weary
from the day’s internal climb …
When we find fault with your best efforts,
or treat imperfection as purposeful crime …
When you see our quick defenses,
our efforts to control,
our readiness to form a
plan of unrealistic goals …
When we run into a conflict
and fight to the bitter end,
remember ….
We think that winning means
we won’t be hurt again.

When we abandon OUR thoughts and feelings,
to be what we believe YOU want us to,
or look at trouble we’re having,
and want to blame it all on you…
When life calls for new beginnings,
and we fear they re doomed to end,
remember…
Wounded trust is like a wounded knee–
It is very hard to bend.

Please remember this
when we are out of sorts.
Tell us the truth, and be our friend.
For children who were broken…
it is very hard to mend.

~~ Elia Wise ~~


Image origin: Unknown, found circulating on Facebook

With thanks to Serena Poor for sharing this on my Facebook page!


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