Category Archives: Events

Chat

Sundown Marathon – The Green Ambassadors Are Back!

Background

Once upon a time there was a lady who in 2006 campaigned in Singapore for more responsibility towards waste generation. Some stuff was done: the formal introduction of recycling for each household in 2008……and not much more. So she decided to take matters into her own hand starting with the Singapore Marathon in 2017 and found a bunch of people who wanted the same thing.

https://tyrelady.wordpress.com/2017/12/05/a-glowing-feeling-of-change/

We Are Back

Through contact with the Public Hygiene Council, we are now collaborating with the Sundown Marathon four weeks before the event to do much more. The totally supportive organisers have been raising awareness a couple of weeks before the event:

SignUp

With a week to go, we went out to engage participants to agree to Bin It

Photo credits to MJ Photography

With one day to go, the Green Ambassadors are getting geared up to get out there to see if we can create a clean safe run with 25,000 participants being educated to look at the bin colour to understand what can be binned. #NoMoreRunningTossers #BinItRight #SafeRunsForAll

BinIt

Change is happening for safer, more sustainable runs that is part of the circular economy. So what the initiatives we’ve got going will ensure

  • 5000 of the 30000 Plastic bottles + bottle caps to repurposed by Playeum
  • Cans, rest of plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, paper cups to be sold by cleaning company for recycling
  • Wooden pallets will be picked up by another company who will reuse them
  • About 1.2 tonnes of Banana skins to community gardens for composting
  • Cooked food waste for bio-digesting
  • And hopefully a cleaner safer run for all without having to run through other runners’ trash and potentially slipping on cups/bottles as well as having gel wrappers stuck to the bottom of your shoe.

By using nudges to:

  • Remind runners to Bin it
  • Fun questions to encourage the participants to use their recycleables to vote
  • Volunteer runners with signage amongst the pack to remind runners to Bin It
  • Volunteer trash directors to direct participants to put their trash into the right bin

It’s gonna be a fun packed night at the Sundown Marathon.

Advertisements
Chat

Arrowhead 135, 3/4: The Hare, the Tortoise and the Moon

The story of the hare and tortoise is a thread that runs in my life. I am normally ready ahead of time and then unexplained distractions occur, making me late. It irritates me because my time clock and the earth’s time are not in sync.

Mel Georges with Lynn and Sarah, 11:10am:  With being ahead of the cut off time, I went into the “hare super chill mode”. In a cabin at Mel Geroges, Lynn and Sarah had decided to leave the event but were in positive spirits helping me dry stuff. So I lay down, sucking on the tube from my water bladder to rehydrate, noting that only a litre had been drunk over the 36 miles.

Eyes closed, listening to the creaks and groans of the cabin, time melted away. In this sweet meditative mode, I heard Bill Bradley’s booming voice pass by the window.  I thought to myself “good for him, he is on his way onto the next stage”, unaware that he was quitting due to frostbite.  It was fortunate to have heard him as it reminded me to get going. You can watch his VLog here.

Alas the girly works had started. Yah boo. But don’t feel sorry for me, because sometimes it is a secret weapon women have as it can make us stronger! (….and sometimes evil to those close to us ;p )

For women only: Have found using a menstrual cup brilliant and have cut up a microfiber pad to have a reusable liner. Hence no more trashy waste from girly time and brilliant for long expeditions.

Both Lynn and Sarah were trying to get me going, but “lala land” had returned, expecting time to be ‘hold’. I re-organised my kit, ensuring dry socks were ready to change into at Ski Pulk and drank a cup of coffee.

Ski Pulk is a tee-pee tent and the third checkpoint, about 40 miles from Mel Georges. All participants should have checked in by 10am the next day or it is a DNF (Did Not Finish)

With Lynn now anxious for me, I finally headed back out onto the trail at 2:45pm.  It was snowing outside, and the snowflakes playfully greeted me with the Viennese Waltz. Mesmerised by their gracefulness, Lynn’s truck thankfully drove past me to  point me in the right direction.

Although feeling lucid, the karaoke ultra in “Race to the Kings” taught me the brain’s sharpness reduces dramatically as time goes on. Sleep deprivation causes disruptions in the harmonious running of the brain and causes temporary dementia and illogical decisions.  Forgetfulness and corrupt synaptic connections are common.

Within a couple of hundreds of metres from Mel Georges there is a sign that points to International Falls to the left and Tower to the right.

I paused looking at the sign, goofy pondering to return to International Falls with the snowflakes singing “left” until a gust of wind blew them in my face. An internal switch flicked on. My shoes had not been done up, snow had got in, the bungee cords had been left loose on my sled, and it was 2:45 pm on the clock when I headed out!  Nearly 5 hours at Mel Georges doing mostly nothing and destroying the buffer time that had been built up. The last person would have checked out of Mel Georges at 1pm at the latest.  The snow giggled, “you’ll never make it”

“I surely will”

The BPR sticker was blazing on my sled but the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland took over from the “hare brain”.  My mental self slapped me!  “Stop arsing around and get moving”.

My short regret turned to urgency. The snowfall changed its tune to tango, twisting and twirling with a sharp invigoration and then cross-overed to a Riverdance to fill the sled with a pointless weight:

A couple of inches of soft fresh snow already lined the previously hard packed trail, hiding any other tracks, creating greater resistance and thus more effort in pulling the sled.  Ignoring the discomfort of the blisters, ignoring the snow flakes on the face….I had to move to make up time.

At Play on the Dragon’s Back

I was at the first shelter, 3 miles from Mel Georges in 40 minutes,  Then a glorious sight appeared: a large downward slope of over 200 metres. Luge brain in gear, jumped on my sled and paddled with my poles until I had taken off.

Despite the slower terrain, the sled picked up speed, my feet steering along the twisted trail, finishing part way up the next hill.  Woo hoo for the Arrowhead hills – best parts for a bit of wild speed.

The next hill was a steep climb and the weight of environmental peace and reducing trash weighed heavy on my sled (Bisaniiwewin).  I turned round to walk backwards up: Pinky blew kisses, Princess Suma waved at me and Sharkey laughed as my thoughts turned to “gee it would be bad if I slipped or accidental unclipped the carabineer that joined the sled’s rope to my harness”.

StraightTrail

Bisaniiwewin keeping the fluffy team safe: Princess Suma penguin of peace, Pinky smiling lovingly, Sharkey laughing at the madness

Up on the top of the this hill, I surveyed the track below noting a sharp right hand bend a 100 metres down, and put my Bobsled head on…

I pushed my sled, jumped on and sped down and……oh crapsy doo……a snowmobiler appeared out from the right hand bend.  The snowmobile stopped dead and I steered myself sharply into a snowy bank. Fortunately, he was riding cautiously and the gang, that was following him in a domino effect, all in turn stopped one after another.

“Sorry – my fault. So sorry ….Good afternoon to you all. I’m from England….. where Prince Harry is getting married to an American actress….Am in that crazy Arrowhead race and am late” I said in my best English accent, embarrassed about my recklessness.  The front snowmobiler waved, signalling all okay. “Thank you” I called back hurrying on.

Before sliding down a slope on a track shared with snowmobiles, remember a golden rule: check, look and listen before heading down the slope.

Back to Rabbit Mode

Quickly moving on, footprints appeared that had a dusting of snow. Detective interpretation was: they were fresh meaning a participant was close by. Sure enough within 30 minutes John Taylor was in sight.  We were surprised to see each other and after a quick chitchat about why we were at this point….he got the “I’m late” song

“Well we’re late. Gotta make up time. I’ll see you up the next lot of hills as am slow up them. I’m late, am late, am late!”

I hurried on ahead, grooming the snow covered trail for John as the snowstorm continued. Crossed a road, onto the next part of the trail and soon observed a faint set of footprints and sled tracks that looked about a couple of hours old. The wind now behind me, pushed me along and the distance between John and myself rapidly lengthened and would soon lose sight of him.

3.5 hours from Mel Georges, met Todd, an awesome snowmobile volunteer:

I apologised for my tardiness but Todd responded

“You’re going well. You’ve got 5 more miles to the Highway 53 crossing”

“What does that mean?” I responded

“Highway 53 means you’ve gone 23 miles”

I thanked Todd for the information and soldiered on. My head spinning on the calculations and then uncertainty. Surely that can’t be right? That means about 17 miles in 3.5 hours. Was sure had been moving at 3-3.5 miles an hour, which should translate to 10 miles completed. Decided to reframe & degrade the distance quoted to mean there were 10 miles to highway 53 to help the personal time expectations.

The Threesome Dawdle

My left calf was now aching, the same calf I had pulled in July 2017 and had healed in September 2017. It felt strained. I returned to applying the “Pose” technique: straightening up, which seemed a small struggle as the back around the kidney area also ached, and took smaller lighter steps. With the better posture, the pain eased off and my fluffy team encouraged me onwards.

I recalculated and reconciled that if 17 miles in 3.5 hours had been completed, and the last “check in check out” time at Ski Pulk was 10am that would leave about 15 hours for 23 miles.  Surely that was doable which could mean slowing down the pace to manage the calf. I “minced” to Highway 53 as darkness crept in.

The Night of the Blood Red Super Moon

The moon was being held hostage by the clouds, weakening its illumination cast upon the trail, though still bright enough to see the trail without a headlamp. Upon crossing Highway 53, I stopped to eat the cheese sandwich the Mel Georges volunteers had made for me. It was just “divine” (thank you Mel Georges volunteers). Soon a light appeared.  It was John. He had caught up and was marching with a consistent strong pace.

Quick friendly chat and he went on ahead. Soon his red blinkie joined another red blinkie. It was Jennifer. She was tired and was glad to see some others to overcome the “walking in my sleep” feeling. It was good to see her as well. The last time we had met was in 2012 where we both had to bail some ways after Gateway and converted to volunteers.

Time whispered the illusion of distance

All of us went into a kind of “dilly dally la la holiday time” mode.  Each of us constantly stopped along the trail for whatever reason, but we roughly moved as a group, frog leaping each other.  About 1.5 hours later Jennifer who was generally in front stopped for a caffeine drink to try to free her brain from sludge mode. We had a casual chat as if time didn’t matter.

She looked at her wrist: “We’ve gone about 2 miles from Highway 53”

“Really?” I didn’t believe her as had thought that we must have at least been going 3 miles an hour.

“Yeah that’s what my GPS says”

“Impossible!” I thought, but recalculated what this meant….

“Okay I’m going to keep moving. You will catch up as am slow going up the hills and my calf hurts”

I chased on after John, knowing that once she got her mojo back, she would certainly catch up.

Starvation & Dehydration

Up to this point had 5 dough balls, 100g of nuts, 2 cereal bars, soup at Gateway and 2 cheese sandwiches at Mel Georges + soup + the sandwich earlier on. Drunk about 2.5 litres of electrolyte from the start to Mel Georges + one coffee at Gateway & one coffee at Mel Georges.

I was feeling quite ravenous and greedily ate a bag of nuts, drank a whole lot of electrolyte, then threw up.

“Well that ain’t good” I thought.

Tried to drink again, but perhaps too soon, and threw it back out.

“Okay body – fine do without for the moment.” Must be another corruption on the eating and drinking brain cells. It’s a common symptom for me when have had several days of sleep deprivation.  Bizarrely, found eating snow quite satisfying and the cold ice took away the slight rancid taste in the mouth. I filled my now empty 75 ml bottle 3 times with snow and let the ice melt in my mouth.

To Go or Not to Go That is the Question

Again I caught up with John, who seemed to be holding back, and we walked together for awhile.  This time we hung out for a longer duration. At one point, the wind dropped and the night was calm, feeling much warmer due to the cloud cover. This temporary calm was soon changed as the winds returned in a wild expanse, and I became a little desperate for a wee.  However, the thought of stopping to do my thing in the wind and cold produced the thought possibility of a frostbitten butt.  After all, had heard of a participant who managed to frost nip her “thingy” and heard about guys who have frostbitten their thingies when they had forgotten to zip up their trousers after a pee.

As the winds continued, I told John of my demise.

“We should be coming up to a hill shortly and it is more sheltered there” he reassured

As a distraction, I tried to think of other things and admired the wild expanse in the dim light.  We talked and walked and walked and talked……alas, a nagging urgency was in my head with whirring sirens.  The winds suddenly dropped. Red alert flashed across my forehead.

“Seems good right now John. Excuse me for a moment”.

“Sure I’ll carry on. I won’t look!”

I would have laughed but needed to get my trousers down – NOW! Except… whilst trying to navigate over the harness, under the food pouch, to find the belt buckle, then fumbling to release the buckle, it was too late. Noooo! Managed to get the trousers down for the bulk of the bodily fluids to drop on the snow. DANG – hit and miss!

As I thought about changing underwear, memories returned of having got my entire leg wet in the Arctic Ocean. Thus decided it would be best to keep all clothes on rather than try to change and get cold. Instead I placed a spare small towel on my underwear to keep the damp from my skin.  At least it was a number 1 and not a number 2, and being on the clothing near the warmest part of the body, the damp clothes would hopefully dry. Yes readers I was wet and I smelt bad! (Thank you so much to Rachel and Renata who dealt with my disgusting stuff at the end.)

A Magic Hill Moment:  I rejoined John going up the hill he had mentioned earlier. The wind had dropped and wondered if he could smell me! Once up the top of the hill, he excused himself to boil water at the shelter. I contemplated stopping with him, but he told me to continue on.

A little ways on, the moon pulled apart the clouds to light up a beautiful steep downward slope before me. So as Doctor Who would say “Allons-y”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3IlJFNMAJ-k

Luge, skeleton, bob sleigh head on. I paddled my sled over the edge and woosh – down a big dipper, through a narrow passage, twisted right, up a small slope, then back down, then left then right again, over a bridge, onwards a little further……woo hoo.  “Indian Jones, eat your heart out”! Yup a big grin stretched across my face and was excited at the prospect of doing it all over again. (nearly 40 hours into the event)

More Food Rejections: Walking on, my tummy was really rumbling. Nevertheless, trying to eat anything was super hard. The mouth rejected any more dough balls so I scratched around in my pulka for other types of bars. My mouth refused the 4 different varieties I carried. The Power Bar was sickly sweet, the Cliff Bar was yucky, the Life bar nearly made me throw up and the harvest crunch wasn’t doing anything for me.  The stomach complained so I forced down a Cliff bar. The body was repulsed and threw it back out.  I dug out the sweets the Arrowhead organisation had put in our “goody” bag. The body accepted it and would have to suffice for now.

Shoulder Injury: I continued slowly, contemplating picking up the bits of salty dropped food along the route, like cheesy biscuits, however decided it might be a bad idea. Jennifer caught up with me. She was moving strong. No sign of John. We moved together for awhile. She couldn’t be bothered to ride the small slopes and so I followed her on a “run down a small slope” and “Bam”. I tripped over my own rope, hit the ground hard, landing on my right shoulder. Jen hadn’t seen it and continued on, just as I must have done previously when people disappeared behind me.

I lay there temporarily looking up at the moon, thinking “Romeo, Romeo, where forth are thy, oh Romeo?”  Did my brain really want Romeo to pick me up?  Haha no such luck and no point in feeling sorry for myself.  My right shoulder hurt and was unable to extend, so rolled over, got up and adjusted how I would use the arm.  No more running down slopes for me!

Back to reality: Jennifer was leading about 50-100m ahead as I would sometimes sight her blinkies.  As I prepared to ride another steep slope, a snowmobiler appeared. Todd had come out to check on us:

“You’ve got 8 more miles to complete in 5 hours”

My brain spun. Time had taken a leap forward. We all blew 10 hours in lala land for 15 miles.

Todd indicated Jennifer was just in front by 100 metres.  Acknowledging, I let him know that John had stopped to boil water and would be close behind after.  Todd suggested we three work as a team to get each other there.  I acknowledged to hold back for John and we would all get there.  I felt confident John would catch up at my current speed as he had done so before.  In the meantime, I had a hill to ride. I took off, trying to look super cool as Todd looked on.  It went spectacularly wrong as I crashed into the side of the slope.

Electric Blue shapes

Electric currents that ran on the ground when I blinked

About 5am – Electric Ground: Soon blinking caused the ground to spark with electric blue lines and hints of red. Abstract lines that seemed to outline the texture of the terrain.

Perhaps the changing moon was affecting me, or perhaps the amyloid beta waste that was building up from sleep deprivation was short-circuiting something in my head. I blinked at the trees around to see if the same phenomenon would happen – nothing. I blinked back at the snow covered ground and sure enough electric blue lines spread out in all directions.

Confusion: Jen wasn’t too far in front and had stopped to debate with another participant, Jim Wilson. Jim insisted we were going the wrong way, at the same time he talked about going round in circles.  We pondered, thought about it and decided he was confused. We asserted we were going in the right direction and he needed to turn around, otherwise he would be backtracking on himself and would surely meet John who was behind us. He decided to go with our rationale and u-turned back up the track he had come from.

Nature’s Magic: The moon’s super brightness begun to dim.  The lunar eclipse was happening and as it progressed, the route ahead darkened forcing me to use my head lamp for the first time.  Temperatures dropped with the fading light. I called out to Jen and Jim to let them know, but they had now disappeared. With a down jacket thrown back on & avenger mask back in position, I walked slowly, watching the sky transfixed as the reddish tinge was being replaced with the moon’s blue. An eerie hush came over the world which was broken each time with my bizarre blue electricity blinking striking across the ground.

As some time went by, John appeared:

“Thank you for waiting for me. You really shouldn’t have. I’ve completed this event several times already. So you should make sure you finish as it’s your first time.”

“That’s okay, we have time for all of us to finish. Anyway look up at the moon. The lunar eclipse is happening.”  I was more excited about sharing the magic wonder that was taking place before us.

John looked up to admire the eclipse taking place, which was partly a dull reddish orange orb in the sky and partly a blue moon, then we continued on together.

Race to Checkpoint 3: As dawn brightened the sky, Todd appeared checking to see his “children at play” were safe. I yabbered about hallucinations and lunar eclipses and laughing patiently reminded me:

“You’ve got 5 more miles and 3 hours to go”

Dang –time was being screwy.  This meant 3 miles had been covered in 2 hours.  Needed to stop gawping at nature’s wonders and get moving.

“Yeah we’ll get there” I reaffirmed to Todd.

We got moving at what I thought was a 3 mile an hour pace.  John moves at a consistent metronome pace whether uphill, downhill, or on the flat. He is a machine! Mine varies: slow uphill, ride downhill and can be whatever speed on the flat.

John tried to encourage me to go on ahead as I maintained staying just before or behind him. So he tried to throw a small stone at the dog (me – not Pinky).

“A team is only as fast as its slowest member.”

Brain didn’t process and responded “We’ll all get there”

As John continued to talk and share stories on the uphill, John would slow down for me as I crawled up.

“Sorry John. Can’t respond much on the up hills” as I slowly trudged up backwards, “but don’t wait for me, keep going cos I’ll catch up”.

John understood as time was tight.  We only needed to have each other in sight to encourage each other along. As John continued up and then disappeared over the brow of each hill, I would struggle up and see him half way down the hill…..reminding me of a song:

He frequently looked back for me.  On seeing me at the top, and me waiting for him to clear the hill, he would move aside, signal for me to come and watch the mad lady careering down on her “luge-mobile”.

With the sun out, a glorious bright day, I checked with John on the time. We had two more hours. I schemed and shared a plan:

“If time becomes really tight, and when we get to the bottom of Wakemeup Hill, am gonna leave my sled at the bottom, run up, check in and then out and come back for my sled”.

John tried to explain the illogicalness of that plan as the check in point is partly on the hill.  The plan seemed logical to me as am faster going up the hill without the sled.  John’s words re-entered my brain:

“I’ve completed this event several times….” as I thought about bolted.  “Will see you at Ski Pulk”

One last phenomena was in the sky; a vertical rainbow! A partial Sun Dog to welcome the year of the dog!

SunDog

Photo credit: http://mendonomasightings.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/horizontal-rainbow-in-sky-photo-of.html

Approximately 2.5 miles covered and landed at Ski Pulk at 08:57. Caught Jim on his way out and Jennifer sorting stuff out. John came in 20 minutes behind. The team all clocked in with some time to spare.

Over 53 hours awake and personally still had not experienced the sleepy monsters.

However there was still about 23-24 miles to the finish which closed at 19:00 that day and 10 hours to complete this final section. This is where the hallucinations really began!

Next Post: The Battle

Chat

Arrowhead 135, (2/4): 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

Chat

Arrowhead 135, (1/4): 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

Chat

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….

 

Chat

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/

 

Chat

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.

 

Chat

#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

Chat

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 😉

Chat

#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)