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

Run Rabbit Run

Once again, I am excited to introduce you all to a good friend of mine, Jeni, I am always blown away by her running exploits.  They put me to shame, I love hearing about her upcoming goals and dreams.  We first met a few years ago through a mutual friend and from there I have followed Jeni’s journey through trail running.

Get a wee squiz on Jeni’s fab achievements and learning her why . . . 19619751_10155397983105775_2051904924_o

1. When did you first get involved in sport/ exercise/ physical activity?

In 2005 I found myself in front of a mirror and saw myself for the first time in a very long time, I didn’t like what I saw.  Many struggles of life had occurred before that point but the truth was I was unfit, lumpy, grey, dull and needing to lose some weight.  I changed my lifesty19650506_10155397982840775_64886262_oe for the better and along with some gym stuff I found running was most convenient for my life.  So I ran a few 10k races, they were tough.  I completed a half marathon in Glasgow and I was destroyed, it wasn’t good, I ran other in Aviemore a few weeks later and had to walk half the way due to pain.  I gave up running that day.  In 2011 I found myself in-front of a mirror again, I was 14 stone, I had a 6 month old baby and a 2 yr old.  My youngest had a bad start in this world and we struggled through 6 months of hospital visits and zero rest.  I was tired, fed up, depressed, and lacking in energy.  A couple of pals (Donna; who introduced me to the inspiration behind these questions; Louise) encouraged me to hit the gym and join JogScotland.  So I did…. In 8 months I had lost 5 stone and had completed my jog leader qualification and was back to work, happy, and running….

2. I know you through your fantastic and inspirational running exploits, can you tell us more about your journey through running?  

I have a passion for mountains and big days out, I wanted to have the strength to run further to make hill days count for more, fell running was my goal and I knew ultra-distance would be good for me.  In 2014 I ran my first Ultra (D33).  I ran 2 ultra-marathons that year and to be honest I found it tough and mentally awful.  The following year I ran a few more; I visited some beautiful places through events such as the Highland Fling race,19692191_10155397983125775_47539126_n Speyside way, Jedburgh 3 peaks and Glenmore 24; many many lessons were learned that year as I found I loved running further, I absolutely loved the ultra-family who adopted me with little bribery.  I loved the events but I felt I could be using my running for a greater cause.  Then 2016 happened.  It was never the plan to run as much as I did and I properly do not condone it as it nearly broke me, but in a mission to complete a charity challenge I had the goal of running 70 miles a week.  On paper, ultra races would help to cover those miles, I absolutely would not race, I would have company (I was already feeling isolated in my village), it would be fun, there would be bling and I get to check out awesome places…. so it was a no brainer at the time; enter loads of events throughout the year till my 5000km year was filled; BOOM.  I finished my challenge and ran the distance as well as raising £7000 for MNDScotland, I am still so grateful to all those that helped me and although I was mentally and physically broken I felt at peace.  Oh and I won the Scottish UltraMarathon Series for the lassies…

I now focus my charity work towards mental health charities as I have struggled myself over the years and running has helped me to work through some of my issues.  Makes sense to support others.

3. Do you have anymore running goals in the coming months and years?

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My goals this year are to heal my mind and soul, I need a year to get a normal life back and let my body recover properly.  I have started to prepare for mountain marathons and completed the L

one Alpine Mountain Marathon a few weeks ago.  We tackled the top head on and entered the A class, probably a bad idea for your first one but I loved it.  I am also having a shot at the Salomon skyraces in the Lake district which again could be a complete disaster but I know I will enjoy the adventure whatever happens!  It is after all only running.  Next year my goals are to complete a 100 mile race and have a bash at actually racing it.  Then its all about the mountain rounds for me, starting with the Ramsey round, then Bob Graham and if I survive then its the Paddy Buckley!

4. What would you say to women/ anyone wanting to get started in running but is thinking ‘I’d never be able to do that’ or they fear being last?

I have started and stopped a few times now, every-time I gave up was due to being under trained and lacking knowledge of what I was taking on.  Since training properly and taking as much advice as possible I find I can run distances more comfortably.  So don’t give up, you can do it but you need to put the work in.  Every runner starts the same, we all start struggling that first mile and some days its as hard to run that first mile as it was all those years ago.  As for being last, I’ve been last plenty, and you know what its not that bad.  I read a great article once and will never forget the lesson.  It was about putting more value on a PW (personal worst) than a PB (personal best) performance.  When your oranges are down (an orange represents a reason not to run, if you have 3 or more reasons not to venture out then don’t… could be tiredness, an over run meeting, a cold… anything) and your race/run is terrible and you achieve a PW then actually you have gained more, so be proud that you did it.  You got out and battled against all odds.  Always remember those who actually can’t run, do it for them!  Do it for your heart; mentally and physically.

5.  What does running give you?

Mentally running is very very important to me, any exercise in fact has been a blessing.  It helps me process my day, mostly I’m quite happy and I like to think through my endless ‘to do’ lists and plan my next adventures while running.  Some days I don’t cope with being on planet Earth very well and if I go for a run in the woods or up a hill its all sorted and I find I’m able to give myself a good talking to.  Life is always better after a reality check in the hills.

Physically I’m now fitter than I have ever been, I turned 40 this year and I’m delight19686267_10155397982950775_294395409_oed to feel that I’m improving my running and I hope that by the time I’m 60 I’m still gunning for big adventures and gaining personal bests.

Socially, I am grateful to running, I currently partake in long distance events that are as off road as possible.  Through this I have made some amazing lifelong friends.  Adventures and shared experience give us a connection that is very special and I do whole heartily admire, respect and love those who take time to get to know me and hang out while on the trails.  I’ve been lucky to have fallen in with a crazy bunch who enjoy meeting up regularly and am lucky to have many chums across the country.  I must add in that marshaling at these events also helps my socialization on the planet and I encourage anyone wishing to run far to try marshaling first to gain insight to our ultra world; this is my only regret and wish I’d helped sooner.

Thank you to Jeni for bring my ‘Women In Sport Week’ blog series to a close (ahem, albeit Im late on this).

The primary aim was always to celebrate the successes and amazing feats of those who are around us every day.  I think sometimes we can forget just how much inspiration can be taken from our friends, our families or our colleagues.

Thank you everyone, I hope you enjoyed this little series as much as I did.

What did previous runners say???

Well it is now only 4 days, 22 hours, 11 minutes, ? seconds and counting – oh god its drawing closer and I am scarily calm.  Is it the calm before the storm?  Well we’ll soon see.

I thought you guys would find it interesting yo see what previous MDS runners to say about the race . . .

Name: Gordon Barrie12510725_10153207786621861_1501170662_o

When did you complete the Marathon des Sables? 2005

What was your background in running?     I started running in 1st year at school (Madras College in St Andrews) and joined Fife AC. I now run for Dundee Hawkhill Harriers (since 1991). I have competed over various
distances on the track, cross country and road.
What made you sign up?   I was in danger of drifting away from the sport
and wanted a fresh challenge. Plus, I had seen the MdS on the TV and in
Runner’s World and thought it looked amazing (and it was!).
What was/ is your best memory of being out in the Sahara?    Running
through the desert on the long stage in the middle of the night was
fantastic. There was nobody else around, it was nice and cool and the
stars in the night sky were amazing!
What was/ is your worst memory of the race?     Waking up on the morning of
the long stage (about 50 miles!) and being sick with nerves. I honestly
though I was going to quit at the first checkpoint that day. Then I
looked at the guy lying next to me in the tent, who looked worse than I
felt! He kept going and I was immediately motivated again. I never
looked back after that. In a race like the MdS, everybody has highs and
lows, you just have to keep focussed on the goal. Plus, everybody
encourages one another. There’s a real bond between the runners.
How long did you have or take to train for the race?     I was running
anyway but specific training for the MdS was probably 5 or 6 months,
with the bulk of it in the last 12 weeks. Back to back 20+ milers at the
weekends!
What is the one thing you would have changed about your training?   I
would have done some upper body strengthening and carried a pack more
often in training.
What is the one piece of knowledge or recommendation you wished you had
had going out there?   Make sure you like all the food that you’re
carrying. I discovered that I should have taken more savoury stuff. I
found the sweet food unpalatable in the heat!

Name: Keith Anderson

 When did you completethe Marathon des Sables? 2009

What was yourbackground in running?   No background prior to entering the event
in 2007. Was formerly a rugby player.

What made you signup?   Had seen Ben Fogles documentary a few years before which
was the first awareness of the event. I was looking for a challenge and wanted
to prove that the ordinary person can achieve anything.

What was/ is your best memory of being out in the Sahara?
Difficult. In short the camaraderie and “journey” everyone shared. Personally,
on the long day I suffered sickness bug and almost retired at the first
checkpoint. I got medical assistance for extreme dehydration 7 x 1/2 litre bags
of saline and glucose via a drip, after which I got up and walked the next 66
miles non stop. That episode was “my mds”.

What was/ is yourworst memory of the race?    Sickness bug which swept the
campsite on day 2.

How long did you have or take to train for the race?   2 years building from 10
km up to ultra distance races as long as 64 miles.

 What is the one thing you would have changed about your training?
You don’t need to train for 2 years. 6 months should be long enough. However my
experience was in 2 stages. The journey to the start line which comprised of 2
years of fundraising and training which was an amazing time, and then there was
the race itself. The more training you do the more you get to know your body’s
limitations.

What is the one piece of knowledge or recommendation you wished you had had
 going out there?
I researched every element of the race to an extreme level and so I had all the
info I needed and there was no real surprises which gave me confidence in my
abilities. The best piece of advice that I had was to never withdraw yourself
from the race, get a medical assessment and let them withdraw you. You’ll be
surprised how much you can achieve even when you think you are done.
Also, never share anything with fellow participants, that’s not being selfish
it’s self preservation as bugs transmit very very easily so no sharing
water/food/cutlery/etc.

 

Name:  Lucja Leonard1902795_10152441613959924_4052712739759365014_n

When did you complete the MDS?    I did my first one in 2014, now up for my 2nd.

What was your background in running?   I took up running to lose weight about 8 years ago, hated running or any sport growing up, I was a size 18, weighing 98kg when I started with a walk/jog routine and next thing you know…..I’m running MdS (ha ha not quite, it did take quite some time but it was pretty quick considering my history) First marathon in 2011, first ultra 2013.

What made you sign-up?   I’d watched a documentary about it on TV and was gob smacked by the sheer challenge.

and then return again . . . and again?    My first MdS was a real eye opener, a real kick in the guts every day I was out there to say you are not as fit as you thought you were and I found it brutally difficult and although I finished I was personally disappointed with my result so even though on the finish line I vowed I would not be back….whilst I was watching my husband compete in it again last year (2015) and he did super amazing (32nd overall!) I just got so excited I had signed up before he had even finished the last stage!  I am really keen to go back and run it better and stronger.  I am fitter, lighter, stronger and wiser than last time so that has to help right?

What was/is the best memory of being out in the Sahara desert?    The total isolation, I love that feeling of being away from everything that is routine to my normal daily life in a stunningly beautiful place whilst pushing my body and mind to the limit.  It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

What was/ is your worst memory of being in the Sahara?    The heat & the sand!

How long did you have to or take to train for the race the first time round and then thereafter or have you been keeping fit doing other races in between?   I was marathon/ultra fit, or at least I thought I was (it’s all relevant) already so my training kicked off in the December of 2013 so a good 4 months of solid training with a mixture of training and a few races in between to keep me focussed.  Christmas is always a hard time though so that was a blip in the schedule.  In hindsight I can see now that I overtrained, I was so focussed on my weekly mileage rather than the quality of my training, and spent too many hours running ‘junk’ mileage and too much running with my bag instead of focussing on quality sessions and including strength work into it.  After MdS I remember it took at least a month for my body to recover, I recall feeling like I wanted to run about a week after and about 1/2mile in I just stopped and was totally exhausted, the mind wanted but the body couldn’t.  It really takes a lot out of you.

10153771_10152441614489924_1331766896319222961_nThis time around my training has been all about quality sessions, getting in my key sessions each week – strength, flexibility, speed, hills, tempo, long back to back runs and most importantly – rest!  I have only just had a run with my bag and only plan on about 4 runs with my bag fully weighted, and I will start heat chamber sessions and Bikram yoga 2 weeks out from the race.

What is the one thing you would have changed about your training?   Sometimes less is more.

What is the one piece of knowledge or recommendation you wished you had had before going out there the first time (if you can remember)?    It is probably really obvious and it does sound stupid but I wish I had realised how damn hot and sandy it was going to be, nothing prepares you for the furnace that is the Sahara and no one can explain it to you.

Did you change things massively year on year?    More in my training approach, a few tweaks to nutrition, especially for during the race, the first year I took lots of nuts and bars to eat whilst ‘running’ and found them impossible to stomach, so this time I am going for gels and liquid energy (like Hammer Perpeteum and Torq energy sachets to add to my water) and save the chewable stuff for back in camp.

Here are Lucja’s own blogs: MDS Preparation 2014 and Post-event – please do check them out.

 

Thank you for reading folks, I really do appreciate everyones support and words of motivation.  Big thank you to Gordon, Keith and Lucja for answering these questions for my blog but also for answering my incessant questions and fielding my worries.

 

I am raising money for a small local mental health charity – Dundee Association for Mental Health – DAMH – they are a wonderful Dundee based charity who do fantastic work to help local people.  As someone who understands the need for this kind of invaluable suppo12687943_10205375836827795_8892240053623715467_nrt, both personally and professionally, I aim to do my very best out there in Morroco.

I will be taking on my biggest challenge to date,
if you would like to donate to the charity and sponsor myself you can do so here – Sponsor Page – Thank you

Follow me from your comfortable seat 😉 – Here is a link you can go to to follow me on a ‘live’ basis but if you wish you can also send good luck messages to keep my spirits raised during the event!    I am runner number . . .  1013 (#scary)

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/

 

My biggest Challenge yet but I need YOUR help!

The last few days has been a whirlwind of activity as soon as I received an email that was giving me the possibility of a cancellation place in the MDS – Marathon des Sables . What a phenomenal opportunity to raise money for the local mental health charity I like to support – Dundee Association for Mental Health (DAMH).

The problem or shall we call it a challenge, is that, as it is a potential cancellation place, everything is all very last minute.  Including securing corporate sponsorship to pay the initial £2175, unbelieveably I am in the position to say all the fantastic businesses, the people driving these companies have gotten us to a place where I only need to raise just under £600 by approximately Tues/ Wed this week.  A big ask, not when you consider we have already raised the amount to get here since Thurs evening – when all hell broke loose hahaha.

I have been truly honoured to be supported and blown away by people wanting to get involved and support this.  I really think it shows the change in attitude toward mental health on a larger scale but also, something I always underestimate, peoples support and I guess faith in me to achieve what I set out to do!

Why is this important?

I am one of those who is not afraid to say I have had mental health issues, it doesn’t define me, it is not all that I am.  I think this is important to remember this, to remember that mental health is not selective, it doesn’t matter whether you are a fitness professional, a high-flying career woman/ man, a child or an elderly person.  The severity that anyone can be affected is variable and the diagnosis can be variable also.  We need to begin moving away from the idea that those who suffer from mental health difficulties are a certain type of person (yes there are risk-factors but this is not  a definitive) or have a specific job/ background.  1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health problem!  A family member, a work colleague, a friend, we all know someone.

I want to help DAMH to help meet the needs of there service users,they use physical activity based groups, greenbuds, relaxation periods.  A variety of support is available for their service users, I volunteer and run a ‘Lifestyle with Louise’ where service users can book in to see me and we discuss what can help improve their health and how to go about this.  This is no longer about me, this is about what i can do to help raise the profile of a fantastic local charity and raising funds to help them do this.

Taking on my biggest challenge to date to raise sponsorship funds for this fantastic charity is something I relish, being driven forward with each step, to keep going with the training and the actual race with the belief and support of others makes the decisions easy.

Sponsors:

Once again a huge thank you to those already invested:

Art of Communication – Catherine MacDonald – She has set up this fantastic new business which is transforming her clients interactions with others.

Stuart Aitken Fitness – Stuart has been fantastic at helping me to stay accountable and focused in my gym based training when I often become distracted!

Lift the Bar – These guys are simply amazing!!  A company/ group run by Chris Burgess, a personal training education and mentoring.  Leading the way in personal trainer development!  If you are in the fitness industry please head over and check them out, you will not regret it.

Sole Body Sole – Bharti runs this company, looking after all your foot problems – I have a feeling I will need alot, alot of care of my feet when I get back from this race next year!  Have you seen the pictures????

Gas Technology Partnership Ltd – This company is run independently by Sarah Bridge!

If you would like to become a corporate sponsor please get in touch as soon as possible – my email address is louisept4u@yahoo.co.uk

Challenging you, Challenging Me: Mental Health

I contemplated many a time how to write this blog post and many will go to town on it for their own reasons, but thats okay because that is them and this is me, but as a word of warning, I will take down any negative comments in any shape or form.  This is not the place for them.  (I do like to be clear! 😉 )thinking-1471454-639x432

I also wondered which of my blog sites to write it under, this one, my personal blog post journaling most of my training and racing experiences OR my business blog under Louise’s PT 4 U (https://louisept4u.wordpress.com/2015/05/05/ladies-i-apologise-for-raising-the-embarrassing/).  But you know, there is no realm where it is not applicable, therefore I will share across the board and if you feel this blog will help anyone please feel free to also share.  Sometimes we must choose to do whats right, or at least I like to help others and hope that in sharing this it will help someone.

Its a big scary world oot there, to expose yourself for all to see is ridiculously scary, but I am also not known for being put off doing what I believe to be the right and honest thing, BUT and this is a big but to put out your worries and fears where others may or may not support you leaves you with a sinking pit where your stomach used to be.

So with that, you are probably wondering exactly what is this post about, get around to it woooman for gawds sake!

Within the scope of my business I have been supporting the month of May #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth by posting tips every few days on both twitter and facebook, primarily to give people some ideas or suggestions that they may or may not decide to use.  I profusely support mental health issues in Dundee and have raised money for the local charity, DAMH (Dundee Association for Mental Health – http://damh.org.uk/ ), I have detailed these efforts in some of my blogs.  My conviction to do this comes from my own experiences within mental health.  Those who have known me for a long time may know of parts of my journey, or maybe you have guessed at some point.  .  .  .  .

I have suffered from mental health difficulties for much of my life, depression, anxiety, stress, panic attacks, they have all reared their heads at varying points throughout my life and to varying degrees.  The depth of which I will not go into within this blog, I am actually a very private person but so many times I see the blogs I write helping others and as I write more blogs for the area I specialise in within my work role – ‘women through the passage of life, at any age’ I see how letting others see that we all go through very similar experiences at varying points and for differing reasons within our lives but nevertheless the similarities are there.

priority-mental-health-1546123-638x477Depression is a dark cloud that masks every part of life when it emerges, we can sometimes feel a shadow in the background of our lives, growing like a dark cloud over the bright sun-lit sky and it comes to nothing because we pick up on the tell-tale signals and use strategies to subvert.  At other times its almost like it appears from nowhere and I haven’t even been aware of what is emerging, I have not been aware on any level that something is amiss, friends may enquire but denial is the initial reaction to any query about anything we are not happy with or feel strong enough to admit.  I have been rejected by family and ‘shushed’, that happened a number of times both by friends, family and those professionals, that is all it takes.  I also listen to those around me, how they view mental health and you know, anyone reading this who has suffered mental health issues will understand what I mean when I say, we gauge who is safe and who is not within our group of friends.  But it is also not all that we are, I am more than my mental health difficulties, I attribute alot of my strength to the journey I have had and the challenges I have had to overcome throughout my life. Let me also add, I have some of THE most fantastic friends!hand-in-hand-1310453-640x480

Words often used to describe me include, strong, independent, adventurous, determined, an encourager, ambitious and hahaha bonkers (now don’t go off on one, they simply refer to my challenges and my funny nature 😉 ) and vulnerable (this one surprised me), not words that the stereotypical view of depression or mental health issue sufferers are associated with.  Common misconceptions that are held about those with depression include: those that are happy on the outside dont get depressed, depression is only related to life events, those with depression are weak, fragile, can’t cope with any stress, you must take medication when depressed.  These are simply a few of the misconceptions, which are half-truths for want of a better description.

It amazes me that despite the statistics, 350 million individuals suffer from depression across the globe (WHO, 2015), with a quarter of the British population suffering from depression and anxiety (Mental Health Foundation), this remains a taboo topic in the 21st century.  It really does pain and anger me that people feel worried and have difficulty in talking about it, not because sufferers feel it is not right to talk but because we, as a society have created and continue to endorse this feeling by NOT talking, by not making it acceptable to discuss our mental health situation.  If you broke a leg, cut your leg open or in my case damaged a nerve (can not be seen) you would seek out the physical help of a doctor, we are more sympathetic to the implications and what it means practically for our lives.  This will only change when we really do become brave, when we are willing to be be supportive, empathetic, respectful of those who suffer from mental health difficulties.

No matter the position you hold, no matter what your job is, how old you are, we can all be susceptaible to mental health difficulties, be that person that reaches out.  People, on the whole, your friends, want to help, they want to know, let them.  In these words I do not mean it is easy, Isimply mean reach out, as its written, no underlying meaning.

How do I cope?  I strive to reach higher physical challenges, I strive to be the best that I can and to really see what I can do within the capabilities of my physical self.  I take on challenges for me, to be a better me and to help others, because you know what, if I can do it, so can you.  I am very much linked to my physical strength, I believe I am a testament to what physical activity and health can do to help relieve the symptoms of depression and mental health issues and I am hugely passionate to share with others its possibilities.

Currently, racing in obstacle races is what I do, I am very priviledged to be sponsored by some fantastic sponsors and friends, my chosen family.  This is where I leave it all out there, bettering me.  SO when I step up to the start line, I am racing no-one but myself!

In the past Ihave written poetry, trained, spoken with friends and learnt when to take timeout.  We must each work out what it is we need to do for ourselves.  We each have a unique story to tell that is our lives, our past, please do not judge unless you walked in those very shoes I wore.

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Thank you for reading folks, I appreciate you taking the time!

(Picture top right (1) by Ed Garcia from http://www.freeimages.com/photo/thinking-1471454; picture 3 by Siewlian from http://www.freeimages.com/photo/hand-in-hand-1310453)

100 Mile Challenge – The Cotswolds Way – Day 3 & 4

Day 3

It has been a while since I have been posting to my blog, simply because life, work, training all took over.  So the final installment of my 100 Mile Challenge, my big charity run is now here.  I have chosen to combine the last 2 days for reasons which will become apparent.  .  .  .  .

We woke on day 3 to what can only be described as torrential rain, a continuation of the weather we had run to our tents to sleep in.  I opened my eyes to the calming sound of rain bouncing of my tent but un-nervingly it was also causing my lining of my tent to stick to the outside sheet.  It was a case of pile on a load of clothes and run for breakfast.

At breakfast it was really quite inspiring to see so many folks brushing off the difficulties they had faced the previous day after hearing the stories told by Jamie McDonald(http://jamiemcdonald.org/).  Check out his website, pretty awesome guy!  I was not one of these people, a tired head maybe, I was sore, aching, hobbling when I walked. Lots of us were trying to get out early envisaging it being another awful day but purely due to the weather we were about to face.  The storm had finally found us!

The staff as always were incredibly helpful and cheery despite the weather.  I headed off at a weary pace while I could move well and actually felt like I found my rhythm quickly and it was back onto the trail.  We ran through a wooded area and onto a golf course, it actually felt at oints like you were running through a river, massive puddles, golfers with their huge brollies.  The rain was simply drumming down and I had to really pay attention as I felt it was difficult to work out your direction as the markers seemed few and far.

At some point the rain eased and it felt very mild, soaked through I began to enjoy myself, the cooling effect of the rain had really worked for me.  I clearly needed to get used to running in the mild heat.  Now this day I remmeber vividly because, well, I had to deal with the delicate matter of needing the toilet .  Of course I was, as mentioned soaked to the skin.  Now we all know there is nothing worse than hauling doon wet knickers for a piddle in the underbrush, actually praying, YES, I was praying that no-one would appear on the path from either end as they would have a clear view of me in all my glory!  NOT a pretty sight I have to tell you.  Not only that I managed to sting my arse on the nettles, aye not the best.  It was a now or never moment but on the other hand there was never going to be a never moment.

 

This day by far felt and was the shortest, I arrived at the camp along with several others ahead of the expected time. I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed day 3 way more, I think because of the coolness of the day and the weather, true scots.

 

I felt alot better after my run today, my legs had eased, it felt good, yes I ached but who wouldn’t after taking on this.  But I was tired, all through my run I had gone over and over the order I would do things when I got into camp.  Then I would re-think it, and again, and again.  It changed as soon as I arrived in camp for numerous reasons outside of my control and the best way forward?   Sleep!

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Day 4

 

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Day 4 was a strange day with the weather going on and off all day, now I mean ALL day!  I would leave each checkpoint dry and become soaked.  I started the day talking to myself over and over, giving myself a pep talk.  I had packed my bag, unpacked, re-packed it and repeat.  This was the longest day but also our final day.

 

There was a slight deviation to the route, this was fine, my mantra today was – ‘Do not get lost, do not get lost’.  In fact I had several, ‘keep going Louise’, everytime I passed an acorn, for some reason unknown to myself, ‘Carry on sir’ with a chuckle to myself.  Its the little things that keep us going.  For alot of today I would be on my own, with groups of folks in front or behind me to some degree.  Again, some incredible scenery, along the way.  I passed sections with telephone wires overhead, I swear they sounded like sizzling bacon!  I had a few dodgy moments on day 4, a few wobblers, I had to steady myself.

 

In fact coming up toward the half way checkpoint, I believe I lost myself for a period, almost got myself run over but I was still going.  Not intentional of course, it was a really bad section of road where cars flew round the corner, one minute clear, the next not.  It was a bad period in the run.  My head went down for a while, a long while it seemed.  I was working on, for example, checkpoint 1 out of 4, then 2 out of 4 = half way.  There was also a very long section I had to count down the miles on that section also.  I had to keep it in my head so that I was always, where feasible, I was making progress and winning.  It was tough, reall tough, I began to start hurting.  And then . . . . . .

 

 

I came to the bottom of a field and looked up, I couldn’t see another post but I could see loads and loads of cows!  All paths led to the cows, so off I went, only to find they were all hanging about at my next gate, hahah.  This cheered me up no end, while we eye-balled each other wondering who was moving.  Well I decided I wasnt spending all day witing and no one was appearing behind me to save me, damsel in distress style.

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This has to be one of my greatest feats to date.  To be able to push my own boundaries and combine this with raising funds for a local charity which is using physical activity to help their users is simply an amazing feeling!  I dont want to give too much away for those doing this in the future.  But without doubt I would highly recommend it!  As a runner I found it diffiuclt to adjust my mindset from a competitive one, but there was great banter from staff and fellow runners alike.  However, it is alittle dangerous – major discussion point is other races.

I had to dig deep to do this and complete my chosen task, remembering that so many people believed in me, they had sponsored me to complete this.  The more I focused on this the more determination and grit I was able to take from it and keep pushing.  Have  alook at my pictures, pop any comments or questions below and Ill get back to as many as I can.

 

Finally, I would like to say a MASSIVE thank you to every single person who sponsored me, who text me and motivated me and encouraged me.  For my feel good package I recieved on my return because I was full of the cold from day 3, simply to everyone who took the time to support and help me in any way.  I cant say how much I appreciate it.

 

 

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