Deadwater . . . . unfinished business!!

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I write this blog the day after it all finished. A massive congrats to the 12 finishers of Deadwater! Gutted I could not be amongst you.

What is Deadwater?

Run by the company Beyond Marathon – Deadwater by race director Richard, this is a 6 day, multi-stage event.  You begin by running from a place called Deadwater, yep it exists on the Scottish/English border, it is an old dis-used railway station, to 1.5 miles shy of the Welsh border in Chester.  It is all of 225 miles, each day is an A to B route,  all of which are ultra-marathons. Relatively self-sufficient, you carry the majority of your kit with hot water, drinking water and tents all supplied, as are maps (GPX as well).

Copied from Beyond Marathon website

It is a race description that draws in any runner that thrives on challenge, adventure, seeing the English countryside and being surrounded by like-minded individuals who get it! We get why we put ourselves at what can be described as misery at times, you question yourself, you question whether your mind and body can take anymore and then you keep going.  Who on earth does that?  Ultra-runners!

My Experience – Albeit a brief one:
Could I be less Prepared?

Registration was on Friday 28th July 2017 in Keilder Forest at the campsite. I headed down from sunny Dundee, relatively lovely morning to get me started and I thought, “yasss this is a great start”. Easy train rides got me all the way to Hexham train station and there the comfort stopped. Enroute to Hexham train station I realised I had left practically all my rations for the week at home!!! I mean how stupid could you get?! I would normally panic in this situation but I stayed calm, how could I rectify this, what options were available to me right now?IMG_2869

Hexham was probably too small to be off any use

Google maps outdoor stores

I needed dehydrated food for 6 days and snacks for daytime.

Back to Newcastle it was, so I basically walked straight over to the other side of the station and jumped on the next train to Newcastle. I would have been in dire straights if we had not been approximately 20 mins out.  But I knew that I had until 7pm (last pick-up to the campsite) and I was there in plenty time for first pick-up.

Go Outdoors was the main store in the town centre, straight there and practically cleared them out of specific dehydrated foods, unfortunately it was a make I had never used before but it was the only viable one I had from their store. Next up I needed a Tesco or supermarket to get the rest of my snacks/food. Luckily I had brought my food lists with me and used this to whiz around the store picking up a second batch of food, I only needed minimal adjustments due to specific items being unavailable.

Can you believe I made it back to Hexham in time for the first pick-up? No me either! Owen, Patrick (a fellow OCR racer) and Ivan shared the taxi to the registration campsite.

Registration

This was the most impressive kit-check I have ever had! Is that because I haven’t done enough races of this size? I don’t know but nevertheless, Tom and Darren were thorough and checked EVERY item on the mandatory kit list and informed us waterproof trousers,

due to conditions, had been changed from optional to mandatory, as well as a second long-sleeved layer. This would prove essential in the conditions we were facing.

Then into the hut, we met Janet, we registered our names, received our trackers, ordered food for the meal at the end and received a map protector and Day 1 map.

We were the first few to arrive and register, others started to trickle in. At this point I found out that only 18 people were making the start line if they all arrived! OMG! That was scary, I love the smaller races but this scared me as it reinforced that I was likely to be on my own a lot and I am not the most confident at navigation.  I need to sort this out! But I felt better that we had trackers on constantly and would be contacted if we went off route or we could phone Rich if needed to get us back on track.

(From 45 possible entries down to what I thought was 28 in the final few weeks and is small enough as it was, it had apparently fallen further.)

I was relatively quiet at this point, just observing, taking it all in.

Again, that fear that everyone is more experienced than I, that they all sound like they’ve managed to recce the route, they have prepped better than me.  All these are simply magnified concerns and based on fear, not reality.

Jo and I headed for the females tent, getting in was like the Krypton factor, this did not change and would prove to be a huge source of amusement (it’s the small things).

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Pre-run Feast

The weather we received on this day was to prove an indicator of things to come, wet, wet, wet, winds, did I say wet? As evening came in the sun did emerge and we managed to enjoy a sliver of sunshine and a break in the clouds around mealtime.

 

 

 

Day 1 – The Forest20641397_10210530313962204_1939068621_o

Expected: 29 miles

Actual: 33.7 miles

Time taken: 7 hours 08 mins

We were ferried to the start area, where we could take the obligatory photos of the border. We then moved to the actual start line a short walk away. We had to run back along a trail that was the old Deadwater railway line to the campsite we had just left. It’s always good to hear some cheers, these came from other campers and of course the old cow bell is just brilliant!

We were following a trail sign posted by bananas – yes you really did read that correctly. How awesome and novel haha.  I was pretty pleased each time I came upon a banana excitedly announcing “there’s the banana”. (It’s definitely the small things)

We followed the lakeside for several miles, viewing some pretty awesome views to be honest but it was just too wet to pull out my mobile or my camera. They are forever consigned to my memory.

It was at a point alongside the reservoir, I saw some of the other runners going over a road crossing which seemed to contradict my direction of movement.  I backtracked until I bumped into Charl and a few others who said that I was in fact on the correct path.  Together we carried on and got directly onto the right track, each key point brought back a recollection from the race briefing. It was nice moving forward with others, I tended to be with Charl for a lot of the next section before breaking off a little.

This section was mainly track up to checkpoint 2 at 19 miles before it turned into road. We had a route change due to forestry works, which meant a long section on road, it hurt the feet and the legs.  These roads were incredibly quiet but had water running down a lot of them with the rain we were getting.  I thought I’d had my fill of weather at the West Highland Way race. Heading into Gilsland, we were getting a lift 6 miles along Hadrian Wall to the point we would have come out on the original track to cover the last 1 mile to camp. It was not far.

My aches and pains were in full flow when I reached Gilsland, it really was affecting how I was feeling about my capabilities in the race. I questioned myself and whether I had been stupid to start this race. I ached from head to toe, a lot of it featured around the niggles I had had in the West Highland Way. The pack was heavy as day 1 was fullest it was going to be and Day 4.  I was warm enough but definitely soaked through. On reflection I don’t know if this is just a rite of passage I have to endure on multi-stage events – day one aches/ adjustments to the pack, it has been the same on others.

Something to consider both from a mental and physical perspective. My lower back was covered in welts, from my bag we think – the medics were great: Jono and Sue from Trailmed.  Not just looking at what was bothering us but how to reduce the impact moving forwards for the week.

The campsite had a great drying room, this was brilliant to get our kit dried of for Day 2. I was shattered, not hungry, this could be a problem for my energy levels but I had a

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Day 1 Camp

quick kip which was miraculous in its powers! I woke up after my kip and was able to move, deep squat, move around camp = I felt great. . . .  well nearly haha.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2 – The Pennine Way

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Day 2 – Partial Recording

Expected: 36 miles

Actual: 37 miles

Time Taken: 11hours 28 mins

This was a tough day at the office, we knew we would be hitting the highest point of the course, the previous evening we had been told there may be a route change due to weather conditions. There was predicted thunder and lightening for the top of Cross Fell, fortunately this changed and we could stay on the designated route. It just seemed like “oh more rain – fabulous”.

We started in sunshine, it was so nice, we headed across the the fields, we hit the dreaded ‘field of cows’. After the first half of the group crossed the fields, the cows decided to thunder straight across between us. They got to the other side, great we started nervously forward but then they decided to head back, none of us wanted to get 20629991_10210530328282562_1807931261_oin the way. We got a teeny tiny bit lost but not lost haha.  Anyway, we got out of that situation, always good to be with others in this scenario. We were quickly on track, but not before I got my first warning – rolled that right ankle slightly in the field but easily ran this off.  But as in the MDS it set my nerve off for the next 15 miles or so.  It was in these stages that I realised Jo was really struggling with her knee, it looked really sore.

We were then on the cycle path all the way to Alston, we met the first checkpoint along the cycle path.  It was flat and surrounded by lovely scenery, great for distracting you.  I spoke to a lot of people along this way which was really nice after not really meeting anyone the previous day.  I was around a couple of other lads at this point but we separated into individuals as we were moving.  My nerve was still firing on all cylinders, nerve pain travelling up and down my right leg, my little ones were lumps in my shoe, I was aware they were there but that was it.  The muscles were stiffening up as I progressed but I was trying my best to stay loose. At Alston we crossed the railway line and I was again stopped and asked what wee were up to, randomly the fella had family in Glasgow, Glenrothes and the surrounding area – small world!

We were now on the Pennine Way all the way to Garrigil, this again was a lovely scenery.  The aim was to get as far as possible on this day before the weather came in. At one point I thought I had come off track, so back-tracked to the last acorn (Pennine Way symbol) but met Charl and Gaz.  I hadn’t actually gone of track, I was in the right area but with all the sheep tracks it was a case of picking the correct track to carry on.  It was nice being with the. Guys again, it always boosts the spirits. Charl can move at a cracking pace with his poles, my wee short legs had to work hard to keep up!

A good check in at checkpoint 2 for the day with Janet, Sue (medic) checking in with us all. My collarbones had started to get really sore and uncomfortable with the bag weight so I stretched off.  The medics were really good at getting you to think about what we had done previously for issues and what had worked which is important when you are tired and possibly not thinking clearly.  Charl and I headed off for the climb with Janet wishing us well and hopefully little weather on Cross Fell.

100 yards or so down the road and the rain started, that was quick.  But we had done well in terms of our progress for the day. I was keen to see Gregs Hut, Charl had described it to me the previous day and I was keen to see this fantastic place shelter from the elements. Before we even got to the shelter the weather was really coming in, we both had full waterproofs on. We were quite exposed throughout, it was windy and wet but still relatively warm.  I had my shorts on for most of this part leading up to Gregs Hut until the last little bit. We took shelter here for 5-10 mins to get out of the elements and eat something, I added another layer at this point as we were going to become more and more exposed.

If it were not for Charl I would have struggled, the path was virtually nonexistent, it was boggy and quickly your feet were soaked through, I was glad for my trail shoes choice today.  The cloud cover had come in and took away our visibility, the advice of following the cairns was impossible as you could not see the next one from the one you were at. I drove on following the shadowing of Charl disappearing in the cloud. We quickly moved over the boggy top and started heading down the other side and this is where I came a cropper – my right ankle rolled on a tuft of grass. I knew instantly this was diffferent from most of those ankle rolls that you can run off.  It hurt instantly, a sharp pain over the lateral part of my ankle.  After an instant I just kept moving, limping from one clump to another but kept having to pause due to the pain. I knew this was different but I was also aware there really wasn’t any way of the hill except on my own feet.  Charl had noticed I was struggling and stopped to wait, I have to say he was brilliant, he got me to put my ankle/ foot under a running stream and any water deep enough to cover my ankle on the way down to help keep swelling down and allow me to keep going.

As we were heading for the the masts where Richard had said he would try to get to to meet us if we needed any spare water. As we moved across Little Dun Fell and up to Great Dun Fell the cloud had periods of clearing.  It was truly amazing to be up there and see it, stunning.  20641454_10210530322642421_443257698_oWe could literally lean into the wind and not fall over, it was strong and I was struggling to walk in a straight line. Since I rolled my ankle we still had approximately 7 or so miles to go to camp, I really believe getting my ankle in the stream, and having company made the difference. I had to walk the majority of the remainder miles but we got there eventually.

I was shattered and in pain but made it which is what matters, the medics apparently thought I was looking a bit grey but I think I was just tired and sore. Everyone rallied round to help, Hayley (my tent mate) got my sleeping bag out and sorted things, Jono helped me with my pack and food and Sue had a look at my ankle. Remarkably I walked into camp not too badly despite my ankle.  I had an awful nights sleep, in fact I’m not sure you could call it sleep – I was sore, both my knee and my ankle disturbing me every time I tried to turn. The rain was hammering of the tents all night.

I woke on day 3 struggling to walk properly, Anna did her best to convince me to start the day and see.  I also met Sue and realised she was right , it wasn’t going to get any better. I didn’t want to break my body down doing this race, I was risking the rest of my year. It was the right decision, but it’s not an easy decision, it seems like giving up and I don’t give up.

I have unfinished business with Deadwater and in true Arnie style, Ill be back! This was my first race with Richard at Beyond Marathin and I would not hesitate to recommend his events based on this very short experience. The marshalls, medics and attention to detail by Richard made this race. A thought has to go to the marshalls who have the raw end of the deal with the weather, they have to stand out there while we at least are moving. Yet they never fail to stay positive, cheer you on, give you tips, ask the right questions. It makes the difference.

I feel a bit of a con even writing a blog on a def but it was truly an experience as wanted others to hear about and highly recommend. As I say at the start of this blog, it is the people you meet, like-minded people are incredibly energising by their very nature. You spend perhaps part of day, a run with these guys but they nevertheless impact on you, you have a shared experience and it is always interesting.  I always come away from these races so chuffed with who I meet, the memories created and experience.  More and more it reinforces the importance of appreciating the journey.

 

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Finish Line on Day 2 Photo Credit: Jonny Davies

Getting Outdoors

In the second blog of my ‘Women In Sport’ series, we have one of my clients – Jane W.  I believe some of her challenges are more than worth reading about, more to come on these later in the week but to wet your appetite, if I was to say she will be canoeing 89km supporting Poitr, moving down the River Tay from Killin to Meikleour.  Wow!

So to start you off check out where this fantastic journey in sport began:-

‘Last November, 2016, I heard about a talk being given by Louise Johnstone (Louise’s PT4U) on behalf of Grow Biz East Perthshire.  A local enterprise support group for small businesses in rural Perthshire.  It sounded fascinating, Louise was going to give a motivational talk about the Marathon de Sables which she had completed earlier that year.  Following the talk I was clear that I would like to approach Louise for health and fitness training sessions.

At that point I was dealing with some back and joint problems which were having an impact on my work. And with the fact that my daughter Derryth, had left home to move to Glasgow. She was my main buddy and partner in crime. In her mid teens she became interested in a number of outdoor activities. These included mountain biking, canoeing, ski-ing, rock climbing and road biking. We gave them all a good shot. I was determined not to be just a taxi driver. I wanted to join in.  So I tried everything and found I had a passion in particular for the biking. But I love the canoeing and climbing too. We were lucky enough to have friends who could teach us the skills required to take part in these new interests.  We would buy second hand kit and to go ski-ing we would work our lunches in the ski cafes in order to get a free ski pass.  We would take ourselves off on some fairly mad adventures. We cycled the Caledonian Etape together when Derry was…almost 18.  We paddled up Loch Morar, camped out overnight and then paddled off down Loch Nevis one time. We’ve cycled the Burma Road in the Cairngorms on our mountain bikes. And for Mother’s Day this year she took me rock climbing at the crags on the edge of Kirriemuir.  I took up these outdoor sports in my early 40s as Derry entered her teens. And have had an absolute blast doing them.  I would not say that I am a naturally gifted person at learning these new skills. Unlike Derry who would get it first time. I would have to really apply myself and practice a lot. Derry took to things like a duck to water and had to exercise a lot of patience whilst waiting for Mum to get with the programme.   She would also teach me what she had learnt and picked up quickIy.  So I would have lots of opportunities for re-learning everything.

I have always been pretty active tending to work outdoors part time in conservation and rural management work.  And also in running my own business, where I make baskets, willow fences and coracles. When I was younger I played team sports such as netball and lacrosse at my High School. But I hadn’t done any sporting activities in over 20 years until I started mountain biking and canoeing with Derry.

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Why did I chose the activities I engage in?

I could have gone down the team sport route if Derry had gone down that route. But she chose the fields that I am now participating in. So to begin with I followed Derry. I let her lead rather than the other way round. Which seemed to suit both of us.    But they have continued to suit me particularly well. I have always had a love of the great outdoors, of forests, mountains and rivers. My dad used to take me fishing when I was in my teens and bird watching. And I went hill walking in the Lake District with a group of girls from my Secondary School..

 

All these were formative experiences.

And I am at my happiest when I am out of the house in a wild place.  And to be able to navigate through that landscape under my own steam with the aid of a boat, bike or a rock climbing rope has and still does give me immense satisfaction.  When I am on my bike I get two amazing sets of feelings. I feel wild, ferrel, completely free and full of physical power (even more so following the training sessions with Louise!).  The stronger I become physically, the more those sensations are magnified.  But if I am feeling stressed, rung ouDSCI0011t or under pressure the bike is always the solution. If my heart is racing due to menopausal hormones; daily stresses; or caring for my parents the bike has an incredibly calming and steadying effect.  When I have had the opportunity to cycle for extended periods I seem to find a natural rhythm or cadence. A certain number of pedal strokes per minute am not sure what it actually is. But just that I know it when I have hit that pace it is a lovely feeling and makes me feel like I could keep going indefinitely. That rhythm is like a meditation, and really grounds me both mentally and physically. ‘

Jane is embarking on a remarkable challenge on Wednesday 21st june 2017, there will be an update later in the week  to let you know more . . . .

 

(PS:  You may be able to follow their progress at Outdoor Explore on social media)

 

Sponsor Profile:Gas Technology Partnership Ltd

Gas Technology Partnership Ltd

As with many of my corporate sponsors Sarah has chosen to write about the why of getting involved in sponsoring myself for the Marathon des Sables.  Few of them have taken the opportunity to showcase their business.  BUT, I think the way they have written their profiles says alot about them as business owners and how they want you, potential clients, to see what they value.  I am delighted that these businesses have gotten involved, that they value mental health and, it always astounds me, but their belief in my abilities.  Anyway, enough rambling on my part, here is Sarah’s words:-

You’d be forgiven for thinking ‘why is a Specialist Gas Consultant sponsoring Louise for the MDS Event?’

Actually, there’s more common ground here than meets the eye. Read on…

 

Louise and I first met during the 2014 Spartan Sprint just south of Edinburgh. Well when I say we met, what I mean is we didn’t have a clue who each other was but I decided to embark on a silent competition between us during the 5k obstacle race. Ridiculous I know, I had no chance against Louise.

I went away always wondering who my nemesis was.

The 2nd time we met was at an OCR training day that Louise was coaching in Ayrshire last year. I remember smiling to myself when I saw her stomping around and I thought ‘at last I get to meet the wee powerhouse herself’. (Sarah is on the left, conquering the high wall at the muddyraces OCR training day at Scottish Assault Courses Ayrshire).

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I knew right away we’d get along like we’d known each other for years. Louise is passionate about her sports and her goals. That comes across right away. It’s an attractive trait and you can see that people really warm to her.

We’ve been in touch ever since with the conversation always about racing and our personal physical goals, including the inevitable ups and downs that this always entails, but Louise always sees the positive and she’s a total inspiration for me.

I was so excited to hear that Louise had been selected to take part in the Marathon des Sables – ‘The toughest footrace on Earth’. 5 ½ marathons in 5 or 6 days – across the Sahara Desert!

Without a 2nd thought I wanted to support her in this epic dream.

This is where the commonality is between Louise’s goal and my company – Gas Technology Partnership Ltd. My dream was to always run my own company. After years of being constantly let down by employers I decided ‘ENOUGH!’ I can do better for myself.

I knew what my goal was; I could see the end game. I just needed to make it happen. 2 and half years later and I’m now running a very successful business, in fact it’s surpassed even my own expectations.

It takes hard work, determination, tenacity, positivity – especially when things get tough – which they do. And you have to keep that end game clear in your head – never lose sight of what your goal is.

But I gotta say, you do need a strong support network behind you. For me it was my friends and family who simply just believed in me.

Louise has all those traits in abundance and I know she’ll achieve her goal and it’ll be the experience of a lifetime. I also know what it means to just need some support along the way. It feels like perfect Karma to be able to give something back to help Louise live her dream.

 

Good luck my friend!

So again, thank you to all who take the time to read these blogs, please pop over to Sarah’s website/ facebook page and give her a ‘like’ and share the love as they say.

Website:  www.gtp-gas.co.uk

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/gastechnologypartnership/?fref=ts

 

 

Sponsor Profile: The Art of Communication

I feel incredibly honored to be sponsored by Cathy from  The Art of Communication  Cathy was in fact my first sponsor for this event – The Marathon des Sables – please do click on the link and visit/ catch up with her news on facebook.

 

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Here is Cathy’s take on the whole situation (with some pics I’d forgotten about) :

 

THE ART OF COMMUNICATION PROUDLY SUPPORTS LOUISE

 

‘My name is Cathy MacDonald and The Art of Communication is my business – a young, fresh and slightly unusual business I guess which helps people to improve their communication skills, understand human behaviour and positively influence those around them.  It is a light hearted but truly effective approach if good communication is important to the success or wellbeing of what you do.

 

While I would like to boast that the young and fresh description is just like me, that is probably stretching the truth in terms of years but when it comes to attitude, values and my frame of mind, it reflects my approach perfectly.  I have built my business on ethics and values so when you ask the question as to why am I am proudly supporting Louise my explanation sits so much with what I have just written.

 

Louise and I met around 5 years ago at Good Health and Fitness, an amazing gym with amazing trainers and it wasn’t long before we were discussing events.  I had just embarked on some adventure races and Louise was most definitely an adventure race type of trainer.  Should I say the rest is history? Perhaps.

We did an event together in an all girls team.  It was fun but not quite tough enough so we did another that claimed to be the worlds toughest forming part of a mixed team.  Months of training, months mentally preparing and months of logistical planning ……. Well, it was fun …. but not quite tough enough.

So here we are years later, the adventure races have toughened up and in fairness have left me in their wake but Louise has not only embraced the challenge they hold but faced it head on and has simply excelled.

 

When Louise announced that there was an opportunity for her to compete in Marathon Des Sables, my immediate reaction was of excitement and admiration. This really is a race that is ‘tough enough’ and I respect Louise and all that she will have to endure in preparation, during and after the race.

 

My thoughts of tough centre around the training and preparation while Louise’s thoughts of tough centre around finances, sponsorship and her charity  The personal responsibility to be resilient, strong and well prepared is something that Louise is taking in her stride – that is truly amazing.

 

I am sure The Art of Communication is not the normal type of business that people would expect to sponsor sports people, but in my mind ‘why not’.  Built on positivity, focus and strong ethics it seems a natural thing to do and I hope that Louise will be the first of many sportsmen and women i can support in future years.

 

Louise Johnstone, you are a strong and determined lady and The Art of Communication through me is proud to support you on this mammoth adventure.’

Thank you for your unwaivering support and confidence!  Moving closer and closer to raising much needed funds for local charity Dundee Association for Mental Health is becoming exciting but nevertheless holds much responsibility.  Responsibility I wish to fulfil to the best of my abilities.  If you would like to become a corporate sponsor please do contact me on louisept4u@yahoo.co.uk as soon as possible (early Janaury 2016) or to sponsor myself by donating to the charity please click on this justgiving link:

https://www.justgiving.com/Louise-Johnstone3/