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Arrowhead 135: The Taming of the Dragon

The Ice Dragon of Arrowhead breathes ice and snow over the North Minnesotan Plains sometimes down to -60 degs F.  In those types of temperatures, the Minnesotans hide in their warm houses, except for the 135Arrowheaders.  In 2014, it brought the temperatures down to -50 degs C striking down many 135Arrowheaders.  But there are those who can play and ride the dragon and come out unscathed. I wanted to be one of them.

Dragon Picture

Meet some of the Arrowhead Racers

The Voyageur motel is the place to be for this event. It is close to the start line and the owners Sandy and Jerald are soooooo accommodating.  Nothing is ever too much for them.  Additionally you will meet vet Arrowheaders who have tamed the beast and come out every year to give homage. At the beginning of the week, we hung out with Bill Bradley and Ray Sanchez who will one day have his own Pinky dog to bring on the trails.

Bill and Ray

Bill, Rachel, Ray with the animals

By Friday and Saturday there was a full house of Arrowhead racers – mostly vets and a couple of newbies.

VetArrowheaders.JPG

The animals went out with a bunch of vet Arrowheaders

Neighbouring our rooms was Judd with the wicked pointy mustashe and his biker gang. Parker was down the hall (first man unsupported in 41:02); and the lovely Lynn and Daryl Saari next door (Lynn hope that flu bug goes away soon).  Upstairs was Jason (who brought Bisaniiwewin the tyre from Wisconsin and really wanted to play but paid Ken to stop him doing it again!) and the very fit John Storkamp (first man through in 38 hours). All these hardcore Arrowhead legends under one roof.

As for newbies: met the laid back and calm Alex Stoltz with his son at the Voyageur Café on Friday evening whilst baking some dough for the journey. Alex asked for advice, but really wasn’t one to give advice as had never completed the course.  The best I could do was share my race plan.  Out on the trail, checking the start point were also newbies Jeff and Dan. I felt like a mom showing the boys where the registration and start points were.

Back of the pack

B.P.R = Back of the Pack Racer – “Embrace the Alternate Reality”

This year was going to be different. I actually had a plan, better gear, a lighter sled (about 20kgs = 40lbs), and a bunch of animal friends to keep me company. The plan was to finish in the middle of the pack about 55 hours. However, Judd must have had an inkling of my tardiness as he came over on Sunday night to sign Bisaniiwewin and gifted a BPR sticker.

For a bikers’ look at Arrowhead you can read the BPR gang’s report here

Sunday 10pm: I lay in bed remembering the magic of Rovaniemi, wandering in the winter forest, the aurora borelis shimmering in the night sky and the frozen moisture suspended in the air, twinkling like fairy lights when the headlamp illuminated them. In this event, the meteorologists promised a lunar eclipse and the “blood moon”…. I imagined howling to the moon.

Race Day

29 January 2018, 4am: Rachel’s alarm sounded. As she got up to prepare herself, I kept still on my spot on the floor. Sleep had been patchy and I wanted more, considering that had very little the night before. Renata stirred some moments later. “What’s the time I ask?”

“Five Ten” she replied

Dang, I shot up, as meant to get up at 5am, cleared my bedding and filled bottles with hot water from what Jerald had purposefully boiled for us, as well as from the bathroom tap. Breakfast was a glass of coconut milk and chia seeds.  Well Cliff Young survived on drinking milk in his ultra:

What’s in me Sled? A travel bag with one litre of boiling hot water, a spare empty naglene bottle, two down jackets – one is an emergency jacket; food for 3 days (didn’t want to bother about a kit or food drop at Mel Georges); stove + fuel + matches; spare base layers in case; spare googles; spare gloves; spare bungee cords, spare hat; spare knickers, girly stuff; spare goretex outer legs, first aid kit, bivvy bag + -40 below sleeping bag, one snow mobile tyre weighing approximately 8-9 kgs (17-20lbs) called Bisaniiwewin, one pink dog called Pinky, one shark called Sharkey and a penguin called Princess Suma.

What did I wear? Wearing 4 layers on my torso plus a 750 ml bottle in my jacket and a Nathan bladder + food + lights + gloves for all occasions (liner gloves + gloves + over gloves) + hand/toe warmers for just in case. On the legs was a base layer and a pair of walking trousers. On the feet a thick pair of woolly socks and a pair of running shoes covered with an overshoe. Hat on head + neoprene balaclava + wool buff.

6:15am: Renata helped us move our sleds out the door into the cold onto snowy grounds. Already the ice dragon had made its presence felt, gently cooling the previous week’s temperatures to -11 degs F (-24 degs C) and a dusting of small flakes gently fell from the skies.

Start to Gateway

As snowflakes danced, fireworks lit up the dull cold morning sky, marking the start of the event. The bikers were let loose, followed by the skiers and then the runners…..and I was there on the start line.  By the time we had started, the snow had stopped and the cold had begun to wrap itself round the body with hands slightly numb.  Big gloves were donned and jogged for at least 5K to warm up. Once the hands were warm, I stepped it down to a fast walk to regulate the body temperature. My North Pole buddy had always reminded me “You sweat you die” – Die of hypothermia if your clothes got wet.

Walking Zombie: After a mile, Rachel passed me. She is a strong, tough lady and was sure she’d be in the top 3 women. In fact, many people overtook me, as I slowed down.  Joe Lang slowed to converse with me. I grunted some responses trying to sync the brain to understand the conversation and the body to understand to keep moving.  As Joe chatted away, I wished for a cup of coffee to kick out the sludge in my head. When he finally sped on, I was thankful for the quiet and returned to closing my eyes for a one to two second walking nap.

The first 10 miles are pretty monotonous with long straight lines, nonetheless was thankful the terrain was like a frozen pavement underfoot. The trail was in the best condition compared to my previous two attempts and I speculated there would be a high number of people finishing this event compared to previous years.

After 10 miles, “eye of the tiger” Bill Bradley had caught up and we gave each other quick words of encouragement. My head was finally waking up.

Towards Gateway2

Bill and I would play leapfrog until Gateway, the first checkpoint.  Newbie Alex overtook me 10 miles from Gateway looking sturdy with every step he took.

Gateway: A Luxury Stop

17:59: At 36 miles, Gateway is checkpoint 1, a store and petrol station where we are encouraged to eat, drink and be merry. The new owners have embraced the Arrowhead event making this a luxury pit-stop with 3 types of homemade soup, multiple types of coffee, a free flow of hot water, and a “OMG from me”….shoe dryers and clothes drying facilities available.  There was a crazy merriment inside from the owners, employees, spectators, and racers. I could imagine a barn dance happening here, if it weren’t for the worn out bodies spread on the floor….

“Rachel! What’s up?” I was surprised to see her on the floor.  She was looking quite down, as she wrestled with her head.

“I’ve been here since 4pm, my stomach’s unwell and I’m bored….”  Renanta looked concerned.

“Ok rest and get something to eat. Get that mojo back” I tried to be positive for her.

Rachel forced some soup down, but I know how she was feeling, having experienced the same physical and mental attributes when mentally tired. Sometimes we just need time out to reconnect our physical, mental and spiritual selves with each other, other times we just need a reboot.

As Rachel was being well cared for, I went into “lala land” talking to other racers; catching up with Bonnie, singing my own songs whilst waiting for clothes to dry.  Lynn Saari came in, Bill followed after. He was looking anxious, wanting to get in and out to make time, and not be drawn in by negative emotions.  I considered going back out with him at 7pm, but my buddy Rachel was down.

I cajoled her and tried to lift her spirit to move on from the mental beating she was giving herself. Mike (an Arrowhead finisher and now volunteer) continued to encourage me to help her, so I patiently waited for her to get her head in order.

Facing the Ice Dragon

20:00 Rachel was ready to go….kind of reluctantly.  I was hopeful she could turn herself around and enjoy the moonlit trail, after all the trail after Gateway is more interesting with undulations and steepening hills. We headed out warm, with down jackets on + outer shell trousers, and closed down the Complaints Department.  We needed to move forward positively.  Rachel’s slow is my fast and knew I would struggle to keep her pace.  I encouraged her to keep moving at that pace as she sauntered on ahead. We both enjoy the solitude of oneself, so if she was now feeling right in herself, I was happy to let her work the trail at her own pace.  Nonetheless, I would catch up with her each time by riding the slopes.

“You should try it!” I said to her, once I had caught up with her.

Rachel was now moving at my speed and found a slope. “This one?”

“Yeah go for it”

She sat on her sled and sped off along the gentle slope.  I followed after.  As I caught up with her, she thanked me however slowed down further.

“Come on Rachel we can do this.”

She moved slightly ahead and then stopped at the side, signalling she was okay and for me to move on, she would catch up. I moved on, slowly, uncertain to stay or go, but if I hung around it would irritate. Sometimes we just need space to know what we must do. I continued hoping she would regain her composure, often looking back and soon the seemingly endless trail behind collapsed into a black void.  30 minutes and she had not appeared. I wondered if I should have stayed with her. It was too late now. She is a tough gal, having undertaken enough solo expeditions in the snow and ice…. and she is Swiss…..totally organised! She had excellent gear, so I knew she’d be safe. You can read her story here

An hour later I met Bill, he was going to bivy out and I wished him a restful sleep.  As I headed on into the night, enjoying the moonlit trail, the sound of snowmobiles would soon pierce the quiet. Eight times they passed me as they headed out and then back, each time towing someone out of the event. Sheep Ranch Road felt close by.

There, just before Sheep Ranch Road, a shadowy figure was on the trail. As I closed in, it was one of the snowmobile volunteers. We chatted away and found out that Rachel had been picked up and was safe. I decided to forego saying hello, having stopped by this bus in the past to encourage someone to go on. The air would be “heavy” with weary racers beating themselves up in an almost unforgiving way.  There was nothing more to say or do but to let each reconcile their moments out on the trail.

I was in a happy place enjoying every pain free step amazed about the amount of light was projected onto the trail.

See here for great pictures and a fantastic report from Alex Elizabeth

It would be quiet from this time onwards and in the sky was a very weak shimmering green tinge. The full moon’s light was too strong for the aurora borealis and I would have to be satisfied with playing the music of War of the Worlds in my head and remembering the aurora at Rovaniemi.

I was surprised to catch up with Alex as had figured he should have been way ahead. He was with John Taylor, who after some minutes stopped to boil water.  Alex moved on slowly, always looking back, giving me time to to catch up with him and we hung out for a while. We again discussed plans and agreed to go through the night to Mel Georges. Once there we could reconsider the time to see how much “rest time” we could enjoy. He seemed serene and happy, and I was enjoying his company as we propelled ourselves down the small slopes. On one slope, he signaled for me to go ahead, I did and marched onwards, singing a song. After about 10 minutes, I realised he had not followed and was no longer behind. I called out – no one responded.

“Perhaps he stopped for a pee” I thought.

I walked slowly, looking back every so often and after 30 minutes soldiered on, deciding he must have stopped to rest.

I caught up with two women. One was strongly ascending the steepening hills, the other moving somewhat slower.  I chatted to the back lady briefly, a pretty dark haired lady, Kari, before catching up with her buddy in front. She was a shorter maybe blonde haired lady who decided to lay down on the snow whilst waiting for her buddy to get to the top. It seemed a strange thing to do, so I checked to see if she was okay. She indicated she was okay. I asked again to make sure & she signaled to me she was fine and for me to move on.

Along the spine of the dragon, temperatures were plummeting. John had earlier on told me it was about -30 degs F (-35 degs C). Am sure it was colder and a chill crept over the body, despite wearing the heavy duty over gloves and down jacket. Time to work a little harder to warm up before stopping to find the emergency down jacket in my sled. Perhaps tiredness was in my head, but an illogical brain connection had been made as I wasted time searching through a small hole that had unzipped in the bag. As my left hand cooled down, I gloved it back up with the over gloves, ran on the spot and then changed over to the warm right hand, removing the gloves down to the liner to rummage in the bag.

After a little “dig around”, felt the jacket stuck behind some other gear. The fool me continued trying to work the jacket out from behind gear and under the bungee cord strapping with the hand that was rapidly becoming cold and numb. It would have been easier to have unclipped the cords to make the task easier. By the time I had pulled out the emergency jacket, the two women had overtaken me and the fingers on my right hand had become frozen.

“Idiot! Fool me, fool me!” – I scolded myself as I recalled 2014 and had frostbite and quickly pulled the jacket on.

I could have put my hand on my neck or down my trousers but the synaptic nerves weren’t sparking. I was going to test my warming powers.

“Fool me, fool me, fool me” I again uttered. The ice dragon smiled whispering “I got you”

“No you haven’t buddy”

I flung my hand down hard several times: “C’mon babies be strong”

I moved quickly, as the ice dragon clenched my right hand….”I got you”

“No way buddy…” I punched the air several times and semi ran pushing hard up the hills and down. I soon reached the two women at the top of a hill. By now three fingers were just come back to life, and felt a little nipped. My little “pinky” finger was still rock hard.

“I couldn’t see you.” said the blonde haired lady. “Your reflectors are all covered”

“Yeah” I was a little confused. “I’ve got my emergency jacket on. Gotta warm up. It’s cold. It’s only temporary” as I continued to try to wake up my little finger in my glove by wrapping the other fingers around it.  No way did I want to sort out anything further at this moment in time.

Kari turned to me: “The snow mobiles won’t be coming out again until dawn or when we call them. It is the early morning so I wouldn’t worry.” I thanked her for her kindness.

Blinkies and reflectors are so the snowmobiles can see you and part of the mandatory gear.

There appeared to be a momentary pause, as they seemed to be waiting for me, so I took off down the hill and slightly crashed and they followed in pursuit, with a “wheee”. I smiled. Always fun to see tough people letting their hair down.

As we were together at the bottom of the hill, and to make light that I was still with them: “Just hanging out with you gals. Hope that’s okay” and thought had heard one of them respond “Yeah sure” or perhaps I had imagined it.

I hung with them, still trying to warm my little pinky and was grateful to ascend another glorious hill to force the body furnace to fire harder. This was the first of the big steep ones.  At the top, the little finger was finally free of the ice dragon. I looked up and mouthed thank you. It was alive, working well and not even nipped! This time I waited for the other two women to go down and followed them down, steering my sled on the twists and turns like a luge rider, finishing to the left of the blonde haired lady. She seemed somewhat annoyed with me:

“You know I really cannot see you! Your blinkers have turned over in your sled and your reflectors are hidden. It would be a shame if you were disqualified having got so far.”

I looked at my blinkers. “Ahh you’re right. Thanks”. I turned them back over and decided to hold back, pretending to get something from my sled. As they got up to go, Bisaniiwewin reminded me….so I whispered “Peace be with you sister” and let them move on ahead. She was right, I hadn’t thought much about the emergency down jacket covering my normal down jacket which had a reflective vest on, and perhaps I scared her when I slid in next to her…but well…. I sighed, ate and drank something, feeling a little disappointed….maybe I smell…speaking of which…

At Mel Gerorges

Bisaniiwewin: Pulling For Peace

I did a quick check of cheeks, ears, and nose. My nose had frozen solid under the balaclava. It had been constantly streaming on the way out of Gateway and should have taken that as a sign.

“No way are you getting this one either buddy. It’s mine”

I placed my gloved hand over my nose and got moving. After some minutes, it warmed back up and I pulled the wool neck gaiter over the nose to reduce the risk of further refreezing.

Soon I caught up with a woman and a man who had seemed so strong earlier on in the first leg towards Gateway. He seemed blurry eyed. They had tried to sleep but had felt cold and were feeling very tired.  I was kind of familiar with this part as had been picked up at this location in 2012 on my first attempt for being slow.

“We’re about 8 miles from Mel Georges and we’re still in excellent time. C’mon you can do it. Keep moving,”  I encouraged.

The dawn was coming and noticed they too had their reflectors covered up with their down jackets, then tried to remove the pettiness of the earlier comment out of my head.

As dawn broke, it became warm enough to take off the emergency outer jacket.  The gloominess of yesterday’s morning seemed to melt away.

Closing in on the lake, I stopped again to take my googles out of my sled ready to face the wind.  The woman, Bridget, had caught up with me, leaving her buddy about 100 metres behind.  He was moving slowly but steady.

We chatted a little, crossing the lake together and there was a calm over the lake with just a subtle light breeze and sometimes a wind behind us to push us along.  She shared with me her feet were hurting. I told her mine were too as I could feel the blisters bubbling under the forefoot on both feet.

Mel Georges – the R & R Checkpoint

09:51 Mel Georges. It turned out mine were blisters and her toes were frostbitten. Dang! I gave her a hug, acknowledging she will complete this event the next time.

Mel Georges is checkpoint 2 with hot cheese sandwiches, hot soup and a table of salty and sweet snacks. Upstairs there are beds for you to rest. Downstairs is a fire where you can try to dry your clothes.

Rachel and Renata came in to welcome me and I was happy to see Rachel safe. She lent me her “cold avenger” mask to protect my frost-nipped nose and then left to check out of their cabin to move onto Fortune Bay, the final stop.

As the blisters were being tended to by Bill the medic, Lynn turned up with Sarah: “Come on over and see us. We’ve got a cabin”

11:05 Blood blister was drained, covered with Compeed, applied a whole lot of Vaseline to my nose, and checked out of the crowded checkpoint, to head over to the cabin Lynn and co had rented.

I was happy to have escaped the talons of the dragon.  I got nipped but was not bitten and the dragon had let me play on those spiny hills. As for the nose, it must have been to celebrate the year of the dog.

Burnt Nose

16 Feb 2018 = Chinese New Year

Kindness brings so much more joy to those around as well as yourself. I am thankful and blessed to have met so many kind people in this event who have warmly welcomed me back each and every time. Lynn and Daryl certainly went over the top for me, which I will be eternally grateful to them.

72 miles completed and 63 miles to go. Time is going good but it ain’t over until the fat lady sings.

Race Post Part 3: The Hare and the Tortoise

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Arrowhead 135: Connecting with My Fluffy Team

I had started this event as a girl and finished the event as a lady!

Some background

This is a 135 mile event that has to be completed within a 60 hour limit

You can run, bike or ski. Temperatures can go down to -50 degs C as it did in 2014 and bit my fingers.

It is held at the end of January as this typically has the worst weather and starts at International Falls, a town on the US/Canadian border. It should be known as Killer Frost Falls but not to put off visitors, it is called the Icebox of the Nation. The route is along a snowmobile trail, which is mostly along the Arrowhead Trail. It is very reasonably priced at $200 USD. You are expected to carry all your own survival gear and boil water if you have to. There are 3 checkpoints along the entire route and a snowmobile rescue will come out if you call for one.

Know how to use your gear and ensure you have the right gear for your own safety. The official website is here: http://www.arrowheadultra.com

I went hunting for the Ice Dragon 2012 and 2014. Both times the dragon kicked me off and in 2014 bit my fingers as a warning.

2012 attempt: http://tyregirl.com/the-adventures-of-tyre-girl/arrowhead-ultra-pulling-for-peace

2014 attempt: http://tyregirl.com/the-adventures-of-tyre-girl/arrowhead-ultra

2018 would be my 3rd attempt.

Many sprouted the “3rd time lucky” motto. I really dislike this phrase as it feels like you can keep trying and luck will somehow intervene on your 3rd attempt and miraculously make everything happen. How about 1st time lucky or 2nd time lucky or nth time lucky? Load of hash browns & fish fingers if you ask me. Am happy that I did fail the first two times. It taught me to be more respectful of the environment, and how to better equip myself in my mind, body and soul. Failure happens because we fail to prepare in areas that need strengthening. God likes proactive people. The Bible is littered with “proactive” people doing great things who have been both physically, mentally and spiritually prepared to go forward.

To prepare, I found a shorter event to complete in the form of Rovaniemi 150 (150 kilometres). In this event, Isaiah 40:29-31 and Matthew 14:22-33 whispered continually in my ear.

https://tyrelady.wordpress.com/2017/02/27/65-rovaniemi-150-luck-angels-and-lsd/

So 150K completed, and now with my newfound confidence, I no longer wanted to hunt the dragon, but was ready to tame the great Ice Dragon of Arrowhead.

Arrowhead Preparations

9 December 2017 completed my last long run along the North Downs Way of 30 miles with my buddy Paddy. December and January are administrative months with the taxman thumping on my door, so training was limited to strengthening the Achilles and lower back with stair dips and back exercises respectively, interspersed with about 10 miles a week to keep the body going.  At the same time, I visualised the route to the first two Arrowhead checkpoints, seeing what I was doing, how I was feeling. In my mind, once I had got to the second checkpoint in good time, then I could play it by ear. Rome marathon taught me the power of visualisation.

17 January 2018: Finished personal tax, dumped winter gear onto sled and flew out to the US on the morning of 18 January.

I dropped in to visit my adopted US family that has been part of this learning journey on my last two attempts; who cared for me when I limped back to them. It was also to pick up important team members:

  • Bisaniiwewin (16-18 lb tyre) – Lynn, an Arrowhead finisher, had organised the tyre to be brought up by Jason – a dedicated athlete & Arrowhead multi-finisher.
  • Princess Suma – a peace penguin and daughter of an Emperor
  • Pinky – a fluffy dog full of love
  • Sharkey – to provide aggression to help me attack the route when needed
TeamMembers

Pinky and Sharkey in the picture; Princess Suma is absent as out playing in the snow

The plan was to go to International Falls the week before to get some R & R as the last two attempts, my very jetlagged brain hated starting at 7am. 2012/2014 taught me to arrive with plenty of time to keep the mental side calm. In 2014, I was still in the toilet when the start had kicked off.

22nd January 2018: A snow storm visited Minneapolis and all flights were cancelled to International Falls. Plans scuppered temporarily and instead a snow shoveling workout would have to be sufficient.

SnowShovelled Drive

Left: Shoveled Drive; Right: Snowstorm

23rd January 2018: More snow shoveling to get out of the drive. Managed to strain a muscle in the peck. So pathetic!

Arnica

Arnica to the rescue

You’re Going No Where

I laid my cardboard boxed sled next to the rope barrier that guided passengers to collect their boarding pass and informed a “check in” service lady that I was just leaving the sled to queue to get my pass. As I went to the back of the queue she calls out:

Check-in Lady1: “Are you checking that in?”

“Yes” I replied

Check-in Lady1: “Hmm, that is rather big and will be $200 USD to go through”

“Ok” I replied a little puzzled

Check-in Lady1: “Where are you going?”

“International Falls”

Check-in Lady1: “Hmm. Come on over, I’ll check you in”

I was grateful, but as I followed her to her counter another lady who was managing the Boarding Pass line calls out to me and tells me that I need to go pick up my boarding pass first.

Check-in Lady1: “It’s okay, I’ve got this”

Check-in Lady2 comes over to me, and wags her finger at me, annoyed that I was “jumping the queue”, telling me what I was doing was not right and what I should be doing.

I looked at her, trying to give her a puppy dog confused look (Pinky’s head was peering out of my coat at the time) and she wagged her finger further. After her tirade at me, I responded “Thank you for letting me know”. She then turned away and returned to the other passengers.

In the meantime, Check-in Lady1 had taken out her measuring tape, ummed and ahhed: “This isn’t going to fit in the hold. It’s a small plane. Look it is one inch too long! I am not going to check you in because we cannot guarantee this will get on with you. You need to go to Specials and send this some other way”

Anxious and confused, I borrowed a trolley and took the sled over to Specials, leaving it near the front and joined the queue. There were two service women on one side and two service men on the other. I wished to see a man as have been “unlucky” with the check in women at St Pauls in the past. I remember having baggage of 51.5 lbs and was told to take out 1.5lbs of gear or be charged an excess weight. 1.5lbs is about the weight of a pair of socks! One of the men called me over and I explained that the other lady would not check me in as she thought my sled would be too big for the hold. He asked to see the sled. I placed Pinky and Sharkey on the counter top, introduced them to him……and he greeted each one of them as I went to pull over the trolley with my sled to his counter.

BoxedSled.JPG

Check-in man: “Yup looks no problem”

Me: “Really?”

Check-in man: “Yup and when I sign it, it will be on that plane”

My anxiety dropped and we had a nice conversation about the Arrowhead event.

Check-in man: “Now have a great event and don’t get frostbite”

Me: “I love you sir. Thank you”

Yeah I went a bit mushy as I just experienced night and day and a good reminder that an event can start off negative, but just got to believe in the positives. A pat on the head to Pinky

Catch Up and Final Preps

I would catch up with the amazing Rachel and her equally wonderful and loving friend Renata at St Paul’s airport.

Meeting Rachel

Rachel had decided to see this dragon that I had chatted about when she was doing Rovaniemi 300 and I was doing Rovaniemi 150. Her friend Renata came to support her. We shared a room and the organisation of each of us couldn’t be more different:

  • Rachel was so well organised and ready to try out her gear
  • I was still sorting out stuff, deciding on what I should take on the trail. My kit exploded into piles of mess in the room and I couldn’t find a thing….but it had been a long day and bed reeled us in early.

24th – 28th January 2018

Being part of the “Last Minute” club, I was still sorting out gear, purchasing another set of lights and carabineers, sewing on reflective tape onto my harness and gluing the over boots onto my running shoes (as suggested by Ray Sanchez – another participant). The tireless Jerald and Sandy (owners of the Voyageur Motel) were soooo helpful having all the tools to help make all the last minute adjustments. So many more thank yous to them both and hope they can find good people to work in their motel.

At the same time, Bill Bradley, whose team had helped me get around when my fingers had been burned in 2014, was at the motel. He was doing his 7th attempt and had concerns. We concluded that with the right reasons for completing an event, the negative and disappointment that can be felt from fellow competitors who quit can be deflected…..and off I went to do some sled practice with Bill. Bill is like a big brother, who I want to help just as much as he cares for others (myself included).

Video of Sled Practice

The undertaking to organise this event is huge, and so offered my services to help out. We were given a special project to put fluorescent tape on the posts.

Preparing Posts

Yup – Pinky (Ray) staples the tape onto the post, Princess S (Bill) cuts the tape and Sharkey (Me) sticks the tape onto the posts.

During the week, Ray and Bill pitched in to help create the posts that would guide participants along parts of the route, and on Saturday we loaded and unloaded two trucks of gear to Baccus – the registration area. We would have happily done more, except we all still had to do last minute preparations. I was still sewing the reflective tape onto my harness to prepare for the 4 o’clock registration.  Jason also dropped by to present Bisaniiwewin…..the animals brought her in.

The Animals Bring Bisaniiwewin to Tyre Lady

GearCheck

Mandatory Gear Check

Saturday at 17:30 had organised a dinner date with Al – a Canadian who I had met on my last 2 attempts at Gateway and always got me food. I must have looked pathetic! He would be helping and supporting some other racers this time round and great for my Swiss buddies to meet someone new.

By Sunday, my gear was finally ready to do a test run with my entire entourage. I had made some minor changes to the Rovaniemi gear, carrying more food and an extra emergency down jacket for the extra cold. It roughly weighed 40lbs (about 20kgs).

TEsting the Trail

The team testing the trail

Rachel and I ran over to the Baccus for the pre-race briefing, and I hung around after for the pasta dinner to chat with Stephen and Erv the oldest man in the event at 75 young years. Great to see the dinner now uses ceramic plates instead of the single use plastic polystyrene in previous years. In the future, hope they get rid of the plastic cups for drinking, perhaps encourage the participants to Bring Their Own Cup as provided in the goody bag!

PastaDinner

Pasta Dinner on Reusable Dishes

The only part missing now was sleep. A sleepless night on Saturday night and a chopped up sleep on Sunday night.

The difference between quitting and finishing is having the right reasons for completing an event. Without those reasons, it is so easy to quit when the going gets tough.

Next post: The Taming of the Ice Dragon

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A Glowing Feeling of Change

TucksmansModel

Tuckmans Model from Shift-IT 

My highly performing bunch of 40 volunteers pretty much dived into Norming and Performing. There really wasn’t time for the first two stages of Tucksman model. Cuifen and I seemed to hit it off pretty immediately and when the rest of the amazing Green Ambassadors came on board, the team were immediately coming forward with ideas and taking on responsibilities that were part of their skill set to get tasks completed.

More blessings came in the penultimate week, with Cuifen picking up a photographer, another community clean up volunteer, a much needed banana marshal and a banana mascot 2 days before the event. Yes a banana mascot. Ivan volunteered to be our most amazing mascot ever and gave trash education, cajoled, enticed and encouraged the crowd to get their banana skins in the bin or hit the person holding the bin!

BananaMacot at Play

And although everything might not have gone to plan, the Green Ambassadors dealt with it.

Expo – Bin It

Though there was some information in the info leaflets, Nicholas and Sharon took the initiative to remind runners to keep the course clear of trash at the Expo.

SharonNicholas

 

Sssh There’s a Tyre on Site

With the help of June, Greenie / Greenit made it over to the Ironman site office at the Padang, to errrr inspire and encourage the organisation. Hope Greenie GreenIt behaved herself.

Greenie

 

Banana Skin Bins

Veolia provided six bins specially for the banana skins, but it was up to us to differentiate the bins from the rest. There was a spark of light coming from an online community (Journey to Zero Waste, Sg) in the form of Wai Sen. 5 days before the event, this bundle of energy came on board and dived straight into the performing side coming up with ideas and then picking up kit for the team and scrounging around in market dumpsters for abandoned cardboard boxes to execute those ideas. Cuifen definitely was my right hand woman, and Wai Sen became my left hand woman: who brought in Kampong Sengang to support us with kit and printing as well as Funatics to happily sponsor inflatable bananas.

And tada we now had bin decorations at the Padang and funky looking banana marshals to interact with the runners to collect their banana skins.

On the Day

The Better Trails team of 5 kicked it off at 2am to prepare for the oncoming 45,000 runners. Their mission was to perform an impact assessment / green audit of the 1/2 marathon route during and after the event. It would be a long day for them.

BetterTrailsTeam

Next up were the Half marathon and Full marathon runners, Bin It bibs to the ready and their own BYOB

SiliaMax

At 6am –  Wai Sen and Jim needed guidance to find the best place to get to the banana point location. Of course I was up with my team to ensure they were all well. The internet is an amazing tool that helped me guide them to the nearest location to avoid the road closures.

BananaMarshalPickupBananaCollectionJim

Pledges

Pledges collected

And then the Trash Marshals trooped in. They handled any “issues” with perfect adaptability. After all plans are simply guidelines. A highly performing team will adapt to the situation and make stuff happen.

The runners came through and despite their very early morning start, some stayed on to double up on their role as Trash Directors and Pledge Collectors.

TrashDirectorsPadang

Trash Directors and Runners

Am proud of those 40 ambassadors who came forward to make an impression amongst 45,000 runners. We estimate about 350kg of banana skins were diverted from the landfill. This is about the fifth of the bananas that were made available to the runners that day.

How Effective Were the Contracted Cleaners After the Event?

Mechanical cleaners were used on the main route along the ECP. Sadly stuff that ended up in the grass that were not at check points were neglected. 10 green ambassadors did a cross check of the area, some having started their day at 6am as Trash Directors and ending the day as Community Clean Up.  About 3 bags of trash were picked up. Here are examples of  items the group found 2 metres on either side of 8km of the route: sponge, blinky light as this event starts in the dark, the nasty gel packets, soles of shoes, bottle caps, caffeine tablets, sun block.

This is a reminder to events to look on either side of the course. Thank you to the green ambassadors for putting up with the mosquitos!

CCUCLeanUpTeam

How Effective Were The Bin It Ambassador Runners?

Bearing in mind there were only 15 runners amongst 45,000 runners, and thus there would still be running tossers, Ambassador runners were seen. Here are some comments from sgrunners which  is a running forum.

Comment1

Comment3

Just like any fire, we got the tinder going, and then we added some kindling. Now  we need the fire wood…… The Public Health Council would like to collaborate.

May this initiative be duplicated, morphed and allowed to burn bright.

To the Green Ambassadors, thank you for your enthusiasm, passion, and energy to make this green initiative happen. Green Ambassadors you are now ready to lead….

 

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A Step Closer to No More Trashy Events

My vision is to see more effort and responsibility towards the amount of trash outdoor events generate by all parties (organisation, participants and volunteers); from the generation to the disposal and beyond. To see a clean, green attitude as a norm and not as an exception.

Earlier this year, I finally got a bite from the Singapore Marathon. Met with the organisers on the 20th October, who were open and agreed to many of the initiatives. This would mean about a month to make some changes in the way the organisation would normally operate, to the way the volunteers would encourage runners and finally the education the participants and public will receive.

At the same time, if this goes really well, other organisations will want help as they will need to raise their game! So the challenge would be to inspire as many as possible who will want to replicate the initiative in other organisations. To do this, I would need to stay away from Singapore as this would force everyone to be involved. It would also be a personal challenge to organise and build virtual relationships.

Thankfully, whilst in Singapore, this lone wolf found a buddy to collaborate with, in the form of Cuifen, an enthusiastic environmentalist who wanted to be part of the deal. Despite knowing very little about each other, we have complimented each other over and over again with being as upfront and as open as possible. It has been pure bliss to collaborate with someone who has similar goals, who wants to see a social “we” goal rather than a personal egotistical “I” goal and ideas are recognised between the two of us.

She has certainly been a huge resource, meeting various organisations on my behalf, helping me create and develop documentation. I have sat long days for a month behind a computer, tapping away on a keyboard as Singapore is 8 hours ahead of the UK. Between the two of us we have gathered a group of 28 enthusiastic volunteers who also want to see change in the way mass events are organised and allowed to operate.

And everyone has certainly played a role in progressing this forward.

Marinna conceived “Bin It” at the 2XU 50K marathon and we flew with it; Chun Yeow stepped in to make my clumsy logo look amazing; Hangzhong, Wayde, Sharon, and more recently Wai Sen have all taken action to progress the initiatives forward. I feel blessed to have this amazing, enthusiastic team as energy generates more energy.

The Initiatives

We thought that intermingling with runners to educate runners to simply “bin their trash” would help break the mentality of runners who simply follow what other running tossers do. So we got some runners sponsored and other runners came on board with their own registrations to be sign mules, as well as to BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) and to be an example to disposing of their running trash in the correct manner. These runners will be spread amongst the pack, having marathon completion times ranging from 2:45 to 6:30, to help remind runners to “Bin It” plus more. After all it is about the social responsibility message that each of these runners will spread to other runners.

GreenAmbassadorRunners

To help us reduce the amount of trash that will go to landfill, the Singapore Marathon organisation will provide recycle bins at the end point (Padang) as well as special bins for banana skins. To help facilitate our request for these bins, we have “Trash Directors” to ensure the public put their trash in the right bins correctly and responsibly. At the Padang, over 50,000 500ml plastic bottles and over 50,000 cans of isotonic will be made available to participants & volunteers. If we can ensure that as much as possible goes into the right bins, Veolia (the cleaning contractors) will recycle all that goes in the recycle bins (plastic bottles and cans). Our volunteers will BYOB to again reduce the amount of trash that is generated from our involvement.

GreenAmbassadorVols

Along the East Coast Park, close to the two banana points, we will have Banana Marshals to separate the banana skin waste from the rest of the trash, so that as much as possible can go towards composting. All banana skins will be sent to community gardens / made into a composting mix.

The Padang and East Coast Park banana points will have approximately, in total close to 50,000 finger bananas provided to the runners. Only one banana point is has been ignored as we could not get enough volunteers to be banana marshals.

To encourage the Singapore Marathon’s volunteers to be proactive and help change the behaviour of “Tossers”, we hope a video will be sufficient for them to view as well as hope they will get involved with us.

At all points the Green Ambassadors will be taking videos and photos to observe behaviour during and after the event to see if the campaign has worked. Finally after the cleaning contractors have been through, more Green Ambassadors will complete a cross check of a section that has in the past had run away trash. I hope they find nothing.

And by doing all of this, we the Green Ambassadors of the Singapore Marathon hope we set a precedent for other mass outdoor events in Singapore.

Thank you to Ironman Asia, who organise this event, for believing in us and allowing us the opportunity to deliver a stronger green initiative for everyone.

https://singaporemarathon.com/towards-green-marathon/

Bring on the 3rd December, the Green Ambassadors are ready! And note this day as a turning point for other outdoor urban events in Singapore and beyond to raise their game.

Other Supporters:

Kampong Sengang: http://kampungsenang.org/

Funatics: https://www.funantics.com.sg/

 

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Achieving Beyond a Best Time

A personal record or personal best (frequently abbreviated to PR or PB) is an individual’s best performance in a given sporting discipline. It is most commonly found in athletic sports, such as track and field, other forms of running, swimming and weightlifting.

Source: Wiki Definition: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_record

Let’s not beat around the bush here – the majority of runners who enter a marathon or ½ marathon or 10 km run are doing it for the personal challenge. Less than 1% will actually put in the time and effort of an elite runner: that is training twice a day, doing 100-160 miles a week.

For professional athletes, a best time is nice to achieve but it is not the total measurement of how the athlete performed.

Yet if you talk to many non-professional runners, you would think the time element of a PB is the only component that defines a PB. Runners’ can be upset for days recounting the story of how they could have beaten their PB if they just ran that bit faster, or runners’ depression sets in when they haven’t seen sight of a best time for days, weeks or months.

Parkrun (a worldwide free 5K event that happens every Saturday) sets out some performance elements:

  • Personal best time
  • Personal Parkruns you’ve completed
  • Number of times you have volunteered to help the Parkrun community

Defining a Personal Best in a Run

If a PB = Best Performance, then a PB can relate to a culmination of many aspects, that can be treated like milestones. In addition to time, you can have a PB in your preparation, conduct and effort.

Preparation

This means you can have multiple PBs in an event:

  • How much preparation did you really put in?
  • Were you able to put in more than your effort on the day?
  • Have you PBed in your conduct? ….”Hmmmm” I hear you say…

Conduct

Your preparation should have included reading up on the rules of conduct for the event. Follow the guidelines below and you can say you PBed in your conduct. These are some typical rules of conduct:

  • For road events, keep on the inside close to the curb unless you’re over taking. In places like the UK & Singapore, keep on the left, unless overtaking on the right.
  • Drop all trash into a bin to keep the course clear and safe for other users and to prevent “run-away” trash.
    RunnerPutInBin

    • Dropping your trash on the floor can cause other runners to slip/skid/trip causing them injury

BananaSkin Slip.JPG

    • Dropping your trash on the floor can create “run-away” trash:

Run-AwayTrash

  • If you run past the bins, then hold onto your trash until you come to a checkpoint. There are several bins there to deposit your rubbish.
    • TyreLadyBelieve me, you have the strength to carry a couple of grams to the next checkpoint….I drag a 10kg tyre! It just takes a little more effort and 1km is short compared to the distance you will achieve! In the Singapore Marathon there are bins about every 20 metres in the ECP area.
    • If it is a gel packet, then put it into your short’s pocket/underwear or for women put it into your bra top. For the “euwwers” out there, you are smelly and sticky anyway, or carry a small bag for your trash.SuperHeroVolunteer
  • Thank the volunteers for their time and help. They’ve been out longer than you, setting up and then waiting to help & encourage you. At the Singapore Marathon, many will have been setting up checkpoints since midnight, and then waiting for runners from 04:30 onwards. Give them energy and they will give you energy back.

 

  • Look out for each other. You are an immediate hero when you help someone.

Effort

The effort you can expand will depend on both your physical and mental preparation.  On the saying “90% mental, 10% physical” Ross, a sports scientist, says:

An athlete who lacks talent is exposed, as a junior in many cases, and never reaches the Olympic Games.  An athlete who has abundant talent, but lacks the mental edge, may fade into obscurity because they don’t have the drive or discipline to train, or because they don’t compete well.

The athlete who lacks confidence or self-belief stands out among the crowd eventually – they reach the “highest level of insecurity”, if you will, before being exposed, often spectacularly.  On the other hand, the athlete who lacks talent often disappears into the middle of the pack and obscurity.  Perhaps this is why we have identified mental aspects as so crucial, the source of the 90-10 principle?

Source: http://sportsscientists.com/2010/02/the-mental-edge-thoughts-and-opinions/

And finally an element that very few seem to spend time on is visualization. This can be done in bed some days before an event. This can help you go so much further than you expected as it can keep you positive throughout the event.

So next time you talk about your PB, remember you can PB in other areas other than time.

 

Tips for Runners at the Singapore Marathon

  • Use rehydrating salt (@ 60cts a pack in the pharmacy). Found every 2 hours is good enough for me.
  • SwelteringRunner

    Sung to the melody of Eurythmics “Here Comes The Rain Again”

    If you are a 4 hours onwards marathon runner, the sun will suck out your energy.

    Carry a water bottle that you can refill at the hydration stations. You will be thankful you had one when 1.5km to the next checkpoint feels “forever” long after 30km in the hot blazing sun on the open road…and as you’re pouring water over your head to cool yourself down, you will overtake gaunt faces wishing they had brought their own bottle to do the same between checkpoints.

 

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#68 RTTK 2017: Karaoke Ultra Challenge: The Wonders of A Walking Stick (Part 4)

PIt Stops

Note: Basecamp was stated as 26.6 miles on the day

Previously…

  • By CP3: the tally stands at 17 songs accepted, 6 rejected
  • CP3 is a luxury pit stop with all you can eat pasta/pizza/soup/fruit buffets and…an amazing cake buffet

In Dispute 😦

I feel the following should be accepted. But the panel has rejected this submission as one word was sung incorrectly and apparently changed the meaning of the verse! Sang “Quiet” instead of “Mighty”. Do the public feel the words matter?

Latif, Jazz and Manj – you guys were amazing.

Accepted List

#18: On My Own:

Having just left CP3 by myself all was fine for a wee while. The deep massage had loosened up the “stiff leg” as Andrew (the massage therapist) had worked deeply on the abductors. I was free to move though that freedom ended too quickly.

#19: I Dreamed A Dream:

I’ve always wondered why masseurs tell you to do nothing after a deep massage. Now I knew why…..I began to talk to God and requested a walking stick. As my eyes foraged along the ground of the forest floor on either side of me, I spied a thin long branch partly buried amongst the dry leaves.  Though the sapless branch was dry it was firm enough. I snapped it into two, enjoying the crisp snap that dry wood makes and made myself the perfect walking stick, leaving the other part for someone else to perhaps pick up in their time of need.

#20: Colors of the Wind: Dedicated to those who like the wilderness

The stick was awesome. The slow slog pace had now quickened to a better walking pace, though strangely I found aided running easier on the leg than walking! Must do more training!!!

#21: Three Blind Mice:

Dedicated to all the wee children out there. Back up support from the boyz (Latif, Jazz, and beat box Manj)

#22: I Love You Lord:

Dedicated to God for keeping me safe and always showing me the magic of this world.

#23: I Wanna Go to the Overworld:

Dedicated to my family, brothers and their kids. May we continue to invent and imagine.

#24: Livin’ On A Prayer:

Dedicated to James from Tesco and his Dad

#25: Hey Diddle Diddle:

Dedicated to everyone who has a small child

By check point 4, the grand total is 25 with the public to vote on the acceptance of “Lion Sleeps Tonight”  28 more songs to sing for 20 miles.

Leaving CP4, Dave (RD) gave me a kind reminder, the leg should get better……in my head that meant get out of the stiff leg walk and relax the muscle.

EveningFromCP4

Sunset view from CP4

Next post: The Darkness Comes

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53 Verses 53 Songs 53 Miles

My main enjoyment for running over a period of time is for: the meditative part of the run; to battle and resolve the daily challenges of living; to observe one’s own surroundings; and on a trail: to allow one’s senses to dance with nature. By the end of a marathon or ultra there is a thorough feeling of well being….

RunnersGotTalent

Yes, easily persuaded when you are tweeting nonsense to Stuart, who is an amazing positive person and a fantastic human being. Yes easy to get caught up in the moment and then boom a challenge results.

With Stuart’s encouragement, I wrote to the Race to the Kings organisation (a 53 mile event) telling them I was going to do this singing challenge “53 verses from 53 songs in 53 miles”, to cement my commitment. Additionally said DNF me if am unable to complete 53 verses and will produce video evidence.

Completing 53 miles with a tyre over the South Downs is going to be hard enough in the current heat wave we are experiencing (35-35 degs celcius) so what fool world was I in? Just to really really ensure I did not back out, I sent another email to EarthWatch to cement that commitment that I will be singing to raise funds for the:

…as well as on social media to tell the world my intention.

The truth is, I do like to belt out the odd ballard on a run to occupy my mind. This is normally somewhere in the middle of the event distance, for a couple of minutes to motivate myself. However my preference is to save one’s breath for breathing, contain the moisture in one’s mouth, and listen to the natural world as well as Drue singing “Take a Chance On Me”

So in the last couple of weeks I have tried to remember verses from 53 songs. I know odd lines from songs but not 53 full verses. My mother has helped me find more songs we used to sing together on car journeys when I was a wee lass – a very nostalgic moment.

Then tried singing for an hour on a run. After 15 minutes, it all just sounded like noise.

I enjoy being at the back of the pack in my own world in my own silence but a challenge has been set for Race to the Kings and rules have been made.

Rules

I am nervous about this, but as the good Doctor (David Tenant version) says “allons-y” and if I’m to make a noise, let’s hope it’s a good noise. Public decides.

Anyhoo, maybe Stuart will be dancing at his next ultra challenge 😉

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#66 St Illtyds Trail Race 50K: The Tyre and the Snail

0-OpeningWeb

Event Type: A trail ultra with a couple of miles on the main road as well as through some villages. The route is an out and back.
Start Time:
9am.
Weather: Started at @ 9 degs C at 8am. Increased to to 13 degs C by about 11am
During: 5 checkpoints in total stocked with food + water to refill
At the End: A large medallion medal + t-shirt and food to eat
Website: http://www.goeventswales.com

After Rovaniemi 150, 23 Feb and 62 hours of no sleep during the event, I took 2 months off to stabalise my sleep patterns. At the Glen Coe Skyline 2015, and after 5 days of very little sleep, I learned that I really do need sleep for my head to allow my physical being to work effectively. St Illtyds 50K Ultra in South Wales would be the next event at the end of April. 3 weeks before the event, my legs were strong and pulling Big Bluey (15kg tyre) in 5K events. However in a marathon I will always bring a lighter tyre. So Drue (an anagram from Reduce), to Wales we go……

Some Preamble Event Thoughts

Croeso. Cymru am byth! (Welcome. Wales Forever!)

….When I was 8 years old, our Welsh teacher felt he had a duty to teach us these words. I think he brainwashed us because I have remembered these words since then. We also learned that Wales has the longest town name in the UK: Llanfairpwllgwyngyll and the train station you need to go to if you want to visit this place is Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. Yep learned all of that at primary school.

April 2017 Snapshot

“Change” is rapidly occurring around us. Stuff that we thought was just fiction in the movies is now real.

•    A snap shot on computer technology advancements:
TechnologyAdvancements
Computing technology is moving exponentially fast with AI’s (Artificial Intelligence) presence now built into our devices; our increasing dependency on robotics (yes Humans is around the corner); computers interfacing with our brains (2010)

See https://www.ted.com/talks/tan_le_a_headset_that_reads_your_brainwaves

….and Facebook’s recent announcement of augmented reality via Oculus means Star Trek’s Holodeck is fast becoming a reality or perhaps “Total Recall” will emerge. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2U9lXEnHns It is only a matter of time when runners will be telling us of their VR experiences, such as running with the dinosaurs.

•    On the political scene is certainly changing with Brexit; 2 crazy guys in power: North Korea and the USA seeing whose bomb is bigger; and Marine Le Pen coming closer to being President of France with the potential to bring France to Frexit.

Pre Race Day

So to be in Burry Port, South Wales where the pace of life slows down was just pure bliss with its hilly green views, sweet smelling air, and water that is soft and sweet. Additional bonus, we were greeted to a show of crepuscular rays over the port.
CrepsularBurryPort

The BBC weather forecast was rain and wind for race day. But just as we are interfacing with computers what if we could really “plug in” to our weather patterns. I would unite with my fellow Ultra colleagues, organisers and volunteers to see dry weather for at least the start of the event.  The night of the event, our doors shuddered in the accommodation as the wind vortexed through the room. As I lay in bed listening to the howling wind, I willed it to keep blowing the rain clouds further away. The reward was a dry start on race day. Thank you to everyone who pictured a dry start to the event. We did it.

Race Day

Registration was inside the Neptune pub. A small intimate group collected with many seeming to already know each other through Twitter with #UKRunChat #Whatever.  This day, I learned Twitter is a place to “meet up” with mainly 30 to 50 whatever year olds.  For me, Twitter was mainly a blog feed, and chatting was in Facebook.  Oh well, another social media to suck time away.

Anyhoo race briefing with Nathan (RD) warning that the Tyre Lady would bounce her tyre Drue on anyone dropping their litter along the trail. That would surely make me a grumpy lady and no one likes a grumpy lady especially with a 10kg lump of rubber handy! Of course some thought the Tyre Lady was a Welsh country myth.

08:00, We started with the 100K participants, an hour ahead of the 50K participants.
StartOfEvent
Love a head start. Feels like a hare being chased by the hounds.  How far would we get before the first 50K runner overtook us? What time would they pass us? (Stephen Shanks was the first to go by at 10:07, completing the entire course in a stonking 4:24).

The course starts off flat and I met a couple of perhaps retired Welshmen riding their bicycles. They tried to have a conversation with me and unfortunately I had no clue what they were saying to me. I could only imagine what they were saying and responded according to what I thought they had asked, until one of them threw some coins into my bucket and said something with the word “charity” in the sentence. I responded EarthWatch www.justgiving.com/tyregirl

Gave me a thumbs up, so must have been the correct response!

Thus, decided I had to make more of an effort to practice my Welsh and greeted other passerbys with Cymru am byth! At checkpoints I practised saying my number with a Welsh accent. Of course with a sing song Welsh accent forming, it was time to sing songs in the woodlands as Drue got caught on rocks and roots.

StuartTree

Just behind us in Stuart’s photo above, I got stuck between the fallen sawn tree and immediately after Drue was stuck. Suddenly we were all giggling at the thought of going on a diet just to fit thru the tree on the way back. Elevation

As for the hilly terrain, it is true that any tyre is a drag going up hill. On this event there are quite a lot of them.

However for every up hill, most of them had awesome downhills. Drue loves a downhill thrill,  except one where Drue dumped bucket on his head for wobbling all over the place.

GoingDownHill
There are a couple of main roads we have to venture out onto, but the majority of this event is on trail with gorgeous scenic hill top views and pretty woodlands filled with bluebells and interesting tree shapes + some posh houses to pass (reminded by the amazing Jane who popped up all over the event doing bonus miles and kept going to the end)

Bluebells

No Bluebells were dragged up during this event.

At about 1:30pm, the heavens opened up and the wind blew. Drue loved the rain, becoming an easier pull uphill!

Between the final 2 checkpoints, I met Rob Mills doing his second lap towards the 100K still smiling despite the rain and soaking wet (he said forgot to put on his waterproofs!!!). He had about 35K more to do. Gave him a big hug and told him I’d see him at the end. Rob was the only finisher for the 100K, completing in a brilliantly run 12:33.

As for the snail at the beginning of this post: after the final check point, we were joined by the final 50Kers: Lyndon and Aimee. Aimee was doing her first 50K (no training, no other running events prior like a ½ marathon or marathon, just straight into an ultra!)

LyndonOur conversation veered towards technology, social media and how children today were lacking social skills to be able to read and negotiate with each other (think Lyndon brought this topic up). More cyberbullying was happening with schools seeing an increase in child depression due to cyberbullying. We decided that children and adults today need rules and regulations with using “chat” apps to express their feelings.

Do we need to keep ahead of technology? Parents certainly do need to know about the different apps in order to protect their children, especially with adults pretending to be kids and sex grooming. All of us will be forced to experience augmented reality via VR to protect our children.

As the gentle Aimee diverted her path to avoid crunching snails, Drue waited for the snails to pass.

SnailSpeaks

And we learned that although our social interaction is changing, we need to teach our children about the joys of the outdoor, the physical world and the creatures that will touch our lives. Snails are cute!

Aimee you did brilliant and hope to see you on another.

Besides the top of a red gel tab, there was absolutely no runners’ trash on the course. So you all rocked!

WithOrganisersTshirt.jpg

Thank you to the organisers for doing a litter run at the end and picking up 2 full bags worth of garbage left on the trail by the general public. Tori and Nath thank you for a truly excellent event that was well organised and for using biodegradeable compostable cups and bags for the “disposable trash”. Big hugs to all the volunteers for being out there for us even in the wind and rain and to Stuart and Rob for letting me use your tweeted photos. Lots more photos of the event can be found here at Rob’s Flickr site: https://www.flickr.com/photos/awv/albums/72157683182452006

And a view of the event from the organisers: http://nathanflear.co.uk/2017/05/02/st-illtyds-ultra-marathon-race-report/

Finish time = 10:48 (watching snails passing by)

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#65 Rovaniemi 150: Luck, Angels and LSD

Rovaniemi 150 Background

150results

2017 Results

Ultra races are a test of mind, some body and a lot of soul. The added snow and ice gives an ultra an added twist. Here participants can die from hypothermia or become badly wounded with frostbite. Temperatures can swing from 5 degrees celcius (in 2016) to -27 degrees celcius (in 2017). No year is the same.

Superficially participants come to be out in the wild to survive. In reality, they come to face their demons. Everyone of us (readers included) have hurts and fears that we have pushed to the dark corners of our mind.

60 people entered the 150, 45 completed the entire event. Unless you have formed partnerships, you will be alone, perhaps in darkness, listening to the forest “pop” sounds.

It is in those moments of loneliness that our minds wander along the corridor memory banks searching those hidden corners, pulling forth the demons so that we can do battle. Out in the darkness, with no one around, no distractions, our demons are exposed and we must fight them. So that we can find the peace and joy of the world around us.

The demons I fought in Arrowhead 135 (which I have yet to complete), caused tears to fall. I had to stop my emotions running away as my eyes began to form ice, and were sticking each time I blinked. The second attempt to complete Arrowhead, ended early with grade 2-3 frostbite which took 3 months for the outer skin to heal and nearly a year for the finger to have 95% feeling but I was still in battle mode.

2015, Rovaniemi 150, sickness prevented me completing. Although I made the time limit, it is miserable when you are fighting yourself and fooling yourself. When your health is poor an endurance event will not heal it!

2017, Rovaniemi 150, I am at peace with my world (see previous post). With prayers and scripture behind me, I was prepared regardless of the lack of physical training. One more of “Peter’s winds” would try to hijack this victory…. a sleepless, restless night.  In total, 22 hours awake before the event had started.  Faith and trust were my focus.

The 150 Race

routemap

Map of route but plenty of markings/signage to indicate direction

route-markers

Yellow and black route markers by the side of the route – photo by Watson Bassett

Although this is called a race, it is also about humanity. We all have our reasons for being here, but this is an evemt where participants help each other to be safe. The cold can kill. And it soon becomes apparent we all want each other to be well. Sometimes we have to take charge of a fellow participant, ordering them to put on clothes and gloves, to dry out, or making sure there are logs for the next participant to make a fire.

 

new-old-friends

The 2015 gals are back in town; Rachel to complete 300km; Marketa to complete 900km – photo by Aleksander Wiatrowski

It was great to catch up with Rachel who would go on to be the first lady to complete the 300km event and Marketa who will complete the Lapland Challenge, a 900km event, that will end on the 20th March. These are women who are filled with joy and love, with spirits that dance in the wilderness and watched over by angels.

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Lumi posing with Rachel and Aleksander

A glorious, sunny bright day, sees everyone start with gusto, a quick “get-away” on Lake Porohovi for the next 12.5km.

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Lake Sinettäjärvi – photo taken by Paolo Della Patrona

Despite a night void of sleep, my mind feels alert and thus the body is able to jog the first 10km. After all, dragging a 30kg pulka on a solid flat icy ground is effortless, though the lungs had to do a little adaption to the -10 degs C start.

This year the hills were easier to climb ….though many people still overtook us (Lumi and myself), I could breathe!

This year, the “pain in the arse” first forest section ground was solid – no snow shoes were required unlike 2015. Though care still needed to be taken on the steep undulations. 30kg smashing into your legs is a little painful!

Entering Lake Sinettäjärvi, we could resume a run, walk. In fact, I walked more of this as I enjoyed the feeling of health and thankful for my face mask to protect the face from the biting breeze. This is a long 20km lake stretch and with nothing to torture my mind, except a Mongolian song to loop round over and over again.

Unfortunately as this route unfolded, gel and bar wrappers had been left on the ice. Perhaps accidently dropped. After having picked up 5 wrappers, decided to leave the couple more I came across, hoping that someone behind might pick them up. It was a moral dilemna of responsibility as the area is pristine and yet annoyingly there are wrappers seemingy tossed on the ground by other participants! Plastic trash that will pollute the rivers that would eventually end up in our oceans or swallowed by a fish. I did not pick up 2 that I had seen and now was guilty of ignoring the trash on the ground, just as so many in society ignore the trash around.

More than 8 million tonnes of plastic leak into our oceans….Read here from the UN.

5 measly pieces of trash…..I was ashamed for turning my face away from the rest. It would be great if the organisers gave an award to people who picked up other people’s trash so that everyone took responsibility. However, I believe that there were other “aware” participant who would have taken responsibility for the trash I refused to pick up.

Note to other participants: I still have someone’s selfie stick that was dropped on the trail.

The Dancing Lights

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Captured by Watson Bassett

As night fell, temperatures rapidly dropped. From the lake to CP 6,  we would continually leap frog a Spanish duo (Carlos (150km) and Esteban (300km)) who would in turn overtake us when we were going up hill.

Approaching CP4, Carlos and Esteban stopped. Their light beams seemed to capture ice crystals suspended in the air that surrounded us like fairy lights, and there was a strange alien green light swirling in the sky.

At this point my Mongolian head song is interrupted by War of the Worlds music by Jeff Wayne:

The Pain in the Arse Rickety Bridge

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Photo by Watson Bassett

By about 8pm we are crossing the rickety bridge. My plan was to turn the pulka on its side to drag Lumi’s fat rubber body thru. In 2015 I had managed to wedge Lumi between the wooden posts and was forced to climb over the pulka to release Lumi and carry her separately to the other side of the slippery bridge.

My plan to drag Lumi on her side failed. Thankfully Carlos and Esteban graciously helped me, carefully carrying my pulka across the bridge.

As temperatures dropped to -25 deg celcius, I put on my big mitten gloves. Unfortunately I dropped one of them in the forests. My one hand was becoming frozen. I knew I needed to find the lost glove or face having another round of frost bite.

I called back to the Spanish duo and they had thankfully picked it up.

Energy renewed, we were on our way to CP5. There I met a participant who was shivering by the fire and commanded her to put on clothes and her overgloves. Immediately I apologised for being so authoritive, though it was what was needed. Sometimes we think we are with it, but actually we can become confused, as I was at the end of this tale. She was at a check point, safe. It was questionable whether she would go on. I left her to be looked after by the volunteers so that she could deal with her demons.

As we headed into midnight, we were treated to another blast of green swirling lights. We were in a magical wonderland and still feeling very lucid despite the sleep deprivation.

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CP6, Kuusilampi in the twilight. Photo by Paolo Della Patrona

CP6 @ 02:00. The plan was to spend @ 3 hours at Kuusilampi, to eat and dry clothes.  It is the only hut that has a closed door and a burning fire inside. It was great to see Ollie and Jaana again.

I was surprised to see Simone enter in only 1/2 an hour after me. She had got herself together and made the journey to CP6. Her boyfriend had only just left CP6 as I could not give him positive feedback on whether Simone would make it. He had waited some hours. I felt bad for her and found myself again commanding her to get her clothes dry.

Being dry does much to lift the spirit. We talked and she seemed much more positive. We both filled our Nathan Bladders with hot water. As I continued to bimble around, Simone felt ready to face the world and went on outside to move onto the next check point. Unfortunately her bladder somehow burst and her clothes were wet. At this point she decided to call it a day and I left her in the safe hands of Jaana and Ollie. I thanked God that my water bladder did not burst in the same way despite me filling it with very hot water.

My gripe to other participants: Trash was left on the floor and on the benches of the Kuusilampi hut. This is a self supporting event that just so happens to have an awesome shelter that was built by Ollie! If you enter this event again, please leave no trace and be responsible for your own trash!

downhill-with-lumiSunday, 6am the motivation for hauling Lumi up hills is to use her as a seat to ride down. Va va voom.

Note to other participants: If you use your pulka as a sled, remember to check for road traffic and slow down at the road crossings. Always listen for the silence.

Just over 24 hours into the event (plus the 22 hours of sleep deprivation), my concentration was sometimes waning and I took a 2 hour detour believing I had seen the correct signage. Before I went up the detour, a lady called me. She had seen a glove on the road that I had left at my break stop and had decided it belonged to me. It was my glove! I thanked Geoff and Stephen for their prayers as a lot of “luck” was accumulating. Snow shoes on, I wandered along the incorrect track believing signage I had seen was the event’s signage. After 2-3km in, decided I was just on an exporation route. With a sudden sense of urgency, I returned back to the road and met Stein who confirmed the correct direction.

Reflecting back, nothing was really correct, but my mind tricked me into believing it was correct. I had to be more careful. Although I thought I was lucid I was tired. It is @ 52 hours since I last slept (about 30 race hours + 22 deficit pre-hours). Here now in broad daylight on the track up to CP7, I began to have minor hullucination, thinking I could see people dressed in red or blue, the trees in the snow looked like a little cemetary, and sometimes I thought I heard voices. I let my brain toy with me, sometimes enjoying seeing an imaginary building in the woodlands. Who needs LSD!

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Little trees making cross signs

CP7: I forced myself to drink some luke warm chicken soup. After all I didn’t really want to continue to the end with 2 litres of liquid still in my pulka. I still had a mostly full 750ml bottle and 2 litres in my bladder.

Having forced myself to breathe through my nose though most of the journey, I found that I didn’t need to drink so often. My throat was fine. I could still sing to the weary participants at CP7 to get them going with “eye of the tiger” or “when you’re happy and you know it….” I must have been annoying!

Sunday @16:03

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Selfie with Lumi

On to the “never ending road” and Alex (Organiser) passes by, asking me who I am!….Guess I must have looked wild with white frozen hair and a tyre behind. You know beared guys look like Santa Claus with their ice white frozen beards!

Note to self: If you have to pee, just pee and don’t worry about anyone seeing you out on a long road…..far better to get it out than having to deal with an embarrassing accident!

Onward bound and as darkness set in, I checked the markers mulitple times, no longer trusting my own eyes.

56 hours sleep deprivation and at the lake before the final check point Porohovi, I had to make a decision to go left or right. I took out the map to make sure the signs I was following was correct.

Now in the final woodlands, after flying down a hill, I decided I had gone the wrong way. So stormed back up 500m to confirm I had gone the right way! Oh well “whee” all the way back down.

Back on the final lake pass with the city lights in sight. I found the city lights annoying as they never seemed to be in focus. Instead I enjoyed looking at the signage waving at me as I went by each one of them!

60 hours sleep deprivation (38 hours 49 mins race hours + 22 prior deficit)  – a gang of 4 fat bikers cheered us in through the door. We clocked in at 38 hours 51 mins.

Our first snow and ice ultra completed with loads of thanks to the volunteers; organisers; Esteban and Carlos for being my initial angels, Rev Jeff & parkrun buddy Stephen for prayers; the participants who stayed to support incoming participants; Bjorn for helping me take my gear to the wrong flat (my fault), getting me to see I had taken him to the wrong flat and then him helping me take everything over to the right block of flat; and thank you to God and his team of angels.

Sending apologies to the flat owner whose bell I rang at 1am and probably rang a couple of times as I thought the button was the light switch. I was so confused about the door change! (wrong building)

To get a feel of Rovaniemi 150, here is a French version with moving pictures: http://www.lci.fr/sport/la-rovaniemi-150-kilometres-en-laponie-seul-face-a-soi-meme-2027255.html

Chat

#65 Rovaniemi 150: Preparations

Some History: Better Heath than Being A Hero

One day, as I was completing a 50km event in Salisbury, a fellow participant told me about Arrowhead 135. He had tried to fat bike the distance and failed and was unlikely to enter again as it was too hard…….so I entered my first snow and ice event in 2012. I failed due to not understanding how to work with soft packed snow under foot and suffered with “beaten up” achilles.

I attempted again in 2014 and failed again due to not being vigilent enough and being complacent. Extreme cold is unforgiving and frost bite can take hold in 5 minutes! I had frost bite on my fingers by the first check point and thought I’d prefer to have working fingers rather than be a hero.  The hand specialist in London wanted to chop, thankfully I had spoken to more experienced consultants in the North of the UK and Minnesota who gave some sound advice….leave it to see how it heals. However my confidence for dealing with cold by myself was low.

I needed something shorter, so I entered Rovaniemi 150 in 2015. At the start of the event, I was not well. However a Polish participant had given me some anti-flu pills and I felt temporarily good. I pulled myself out at 115km due to lungs seemingly blocked and breathing difficulties despite the warmish weather (about -5 deg C at the time).

After all as Alex (the Event Organiser) has said to his participants: “This event will  be back next year. Better safe than having permanent health issues.”.

2016 I didn’t attempt any snow ice events due to insomnia messing with my system. Sleep deprivation before an event is hard to deal with. For the Glen Coe sky running event, I had 5 days of no sleep prior and was on the start line thinking “Just enjoy the scenery and hopefully you will physically exhaust yourself to sleep deep”. I completed 1/2 of the course. Note this is a tough event as you do have to scramble up mountains and I did not take a tyre companion with me.

Really there are no failures in life, just as long as we reflect and make our experiences to become better the next time.

….and here we are in 2017…. I have kind of learned how to deal with the insomnia!

Preparation

homewood-parkrunHmmm…..Parkrun 5K every Saturday (this is free to join – walk it, run it, pull a tyre in it)…if I felt like it.

Life has to keep rolling forward. It is not that I was complacent, but I was focusing on the thoughts of tax, work to pay for stuff, renovations, fixing stuff, social stuff…… you know living!

Ok really….I focused on “seeing” myself complete the event. Those who have been following this blog will know I finally understood the power of visualisation in the Rome Marathon and separated it from the “imagination of the distance”.

4 weeks before the event, Isaiah 40:29-31 was given to me.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

NIV version

And I met a Buddhist monk friend who reminded me about Peter trying to walk on water. Matthew 14:22-33

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

NIV version

My preparation was spiritual to remind me God can take us through the worst storms.

2 weeks before the event, I checked into my local church to see how they were going. I saw they were still trying to raise funds for their building. However they had progessed on forward and borrowed the funds instead to make a vision reality. They now need a couple of million to pay back and it seemed right to dedicate this event to them and God. If you want to support me in my endeavours, it would be great if you could place a donation with them to help them with their building which serves Egham community and put “TyreLady” in the reference so I can thank you. (See previous post)

The Winds of Doubt

A week before the event, a cold was sneaking in. Also I did a 4 mile cross country event on the Saturday prior and appeared to have a niggle on the left foot. On the Tuesday prior to the event, I completed a 7 mile run with Runnymede Runners and my left foot was sore with tendonitis. My thoughts flashed back to Peter……and like the wind he encountered, this too would just blow over. Prescriprion “calf massage and R&R (Rest and Relaxation)”.

Calf muscle massage saw me in giggle fits (very tight calves). As for R&R I still had packing….which took me all 3 days prior to flying. More insominia smacking me round the head….average 3-4 hours a night. But still it would all be positive, afterall I would be looked after. I had reverend Geoff of St John’s praying for me + a running buddy Stephen from Audio Kitchen keeping me safe in prayer.

Wednesday evening I was ready.

Thursday evening we had arrived in Rovaniemi and I was ready for bed!

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Sled arrived in one piece

Thursday’s sleep was great and by Friday, we had rejoined with Lumi

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Next post: Rovaniemi 150: The Event.