Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Run.....

So on Eddie's count I was off, and with a little trepidation took those first steps across Marble Arch square, following Jo out of central London. In my enthusiasm, I got a little carried away at the first road crossing and nearly got wiped out by a bendy bus!! A little more caution required me thinks! After the first near miss, I concentrated on settling down into a rhythm, chatting to Jo and generally trying to remain calm. A few times a little voice crept into my head trying to overawe me with the distances still left to travel but I pushed it to the side and concentrated on breaking down the run into its various parts. I am normally extremely grumpy for the first 20miles or so as it seems so pointless - I've run 20miles loads of times, it still hurts and I still have miles and miles to go. I can't really get focused on the task in hand and am usually quite introspective. However, it was great to have Jo with me, she provided a welcome distraction and that, coupled with the busy London streets, helped the first hour pass easily. I enjoyed running along looking at the sights, skirting through the edges of Hyde and Green Parks, heading for Vauxhall Bridge where we planned to meet up with the support vehicle so Jo could head off home. Jo was concerned about making sure she got the route right but I just let it all wash over me trying to absorb the experience, walking or waiting where needed so she could check directions, taking every opportunity to conserve energy both physically and mentally. Just before Vauxhall Bridge we pulled over to the side to await the support vehicle. After a few minutes they swung up to us, saying the traffic was pretty busy (it was 3pm on a Friday afternoon after all) and would Jo be happy to continue for a few more miles with me until we were out of central London. Jo, bless her, happily gave up her time even though she had things to do that evening and we were somewhat taking her out of her way, and we continued on over Vauxhall Bridge, through South London to the Oval.

England were playing India in the Test as we passed Oval Cricket ground and I imagined Adam wishing he was stopping off to watch the game not having to watch his crazy fiance running her way through London! There was a Pepsi promotional stand outside and the girls offered us a few cans. I was a bit concerned about having the sugar and caffeine at this stage so declined but Jo grabbed a can. It was really hot in London that afternoon and I was a little bit jealous so when she offered me a sip, I gave in and enjoyed a good drink from the can! As we moved away from the stand, Jo nearly wiped out this poor old man - I thought he was going to shout at her for cycling on the pavement but he just seemed a bit bemused at these lycra-clad figures jogging along and we apologised and headed off. Jo was keen to accompany me through Peckham and Lewisham as she feared a young blonde woman in lycra might attract a little bit of attention in those areas but the cultural melting pot again provided a welcome distraction though the streets did get a bit busy and, at times, we were reduced to walking pace. I did get a few comments, notably about my bottom (!), some complimentary and one not so much, which I think was a bit cruel given the circumstances!! As we reached the outskirts of Lewisham and were into the suburban boroughs proper it was finally time for Jo to head home. I gave her a huge hug and thanked her so much for being part of my Arch 2 Arc journey both literally and metaphorically! Those first few hours had flown by thanks to her but now I was safely in the hands of my support crew as we headed down the Sidcup Road en route to the first major checkpoint at Swanley around 20miles into the run.

At a few points along the way, the RAF Media team who were accompanying me, stopped for a few minutes to take some footage or photos. Whenever I came across them I always took a moment to stop to record a few of my thoughts. I think they were a bit surprised that I was happy to stop and chat and reassured me that I didn't need to stop everytime if it was disrupting my rhythm. I was quite happy to stop though - it was a nice distraction at the moment whilst I was feeling fairly fresh plus it would be a good momento for me and also nice for all those people supporting me virtually as the media team were providing real-time uploads as we went along. The first 20miles to the first check point passed relatively quickly helped by the fact that Jo had done the first 9 or 10 with me so I only had a few hours alone before we pulled into the Swanley ASDA for my first proper re-fuel stop somewhere around 7pm that evening. The crew had done a brilliant job of getting everything set up for my arrival. They had got a chair ready with somewhere to lean my feet on, I had coats and blankets immediately thrown around my shoulders and was handed a steaming bowl of chicken super-noodles, a treat I discovered at the Double Ironman which is my favourite thing to eat during the run. My drinks bottle was refilled with the H3O Pro isotonic drink I was using to keep hydrated and I did my first official piece to camera with the media guys. After that they discreetly moved away to start some of their editing so I could have a few moments chewing the fat with my team. I could see they were still nervous about getting everything right for me as they flitted round sorting things out but generally they were acting as an extremely well-oiled machine. That was the advantage of both Adam and Mike being part of some of my biggest training sessions - it meant they knew exactly what I needed at each stage but also how to adapt if something wasn't working for me. A bucket of warm water, sponge and baby wipes were placed in front of me and I took the time to wash and dry my feet thoroughly before changing my socks. Refuelled and refreshed I had a little stretch and got ready to head back out into the dusk of evening. I had a feeling that I would enjoy the next bit as I had got the first boring 20-odd miles out the way but it was still early enough in the event that I didn't feel totally fatigued. The next stop point was about another 10miles or so down the road where I was going to meet up with my parents at the hotel where they were staying the night. I was looking forward to seeing them again, as I knew they would be really excited to see me and to see that I was making progress towards the goal they had heard so much about over the last two years. I would continue to follow the A20 down to Wrotham Heath were they would be waiting with the promise of a coffee. Soon after we set off again from Swanley the A20 has to cross under the M25 - which was a great feeling as I knew now I was properly out of London and well on the way to completing the first stage of my epic journey. The road meets the M25 at a big roundabout which can be a bit confusing so Eddie got out of the support vehicle to jog with me under the various underpasses to make sure I got the right exit. Eddie had badly hurt his shoulder and had been trying to avoid using it at all so I was thankful we had Mike along to do most of the driving. However, we were just jogging along one of the underpasses and he turned to tell me to watch my footing and went absolutely head over heels himself. He tried to protect his shoulder by not putting out his arm when he fell so it was quite a heavy landing and I was full of immediate concern. Obviously being Ed, he brushed it off but I could tell it was hurting him quite a bit and hoped it wasn't an omen for the challenge!! After he had got me set again on the right road, he beat a hasty retreat to the van, probably so he could wipe off the brave face he was putting on! Hopefully someone got him a cup of tea soon after that to help him through the pain (Ed is obsessed by tea!!). I had tried to memorise some of the key points of the run so that I would know how we were progressing and soon after passing under the M25 we passed the famous motor-circuit of Brands Hatch at the next point I had memorised in my head, West Kingsdown. Obviously as we were running along the road, I could pick up road signs to places which helped break things down a little. The problem was it was often things like 'West Kingsdown, 8miles' which is ok if you are in a car but if you are running and averaging 4-5miles an hour, takes a pretty long time to reach!! Upon reaching West Kingsdown, Ad informed me that my parents were all checked in to the hotel they were staying in overnight (lucky them!) a few miles further on down the road at Wrotham Heath. So that became the next target and I was looking forward to seeing my parents who I hadn't seen since we set off a good seven hours ago. By now it was dark and I had my luminous vest and lights on. It was still really warm though and I was enjoying just running in a t-shirt through the velvety night. It sounds silly but it felt quite comforting, I guess there is some womb-like psychology here, and I happily plodded on. Soon, I could see the outline of lights ahead and not too much further after that a shady figure grasping at a wine bottle emerged out of a dusky bus shelter. Fearing an unwanted encounter (!), I slowed until I realised it happened to be my Dad!! The shame! ;)

Friday, 23 September 2011

Race Report - the build up.......

Ok, so nearly a month has passed since my successful attempt on the Enduroman Arch 2 Arc and I have finally sat down to try and pen a few thoughts on the attempt. The build up was actually fairly stressful. We were due to swim any time from Saturday 20th August which would mean running anytime from Thursday 18th. However, Adam was involved in a really important project at work that was due to report on Friday 19th which meant, really he didn't want to go prior to that. As Ad was so busy it fell to me to do all the organising, shopping, packing, list-writing, double-checking and panicking so when the initial call came I wasn't really in a focused state of mind. We had told Ed that really we were happy to delay as long as possible, obviously without jeopardising the attempt, and that we definitely couldn't start before Friday. As it happened Sunday looked the best day to swim so Friday at 3am became our start time. Whilst within our constraints of not starting before Friday it was pushing it to get Ad back home from work on the Thursday, try and get him some sleep and then get to London before kick off. It did all get a bit much for me at that point, I think I was probably a bit tired and sitting by myself on Thursday afternoon thinking I was going to start at 3am that night made me a bit panicky. It wasn't helped by the fact that we had massive faff organising the support vehicle which we had hired. After a catalogue of disasters we finally got it home only to find it was leaking brake fluid all over the driveway. RAC was summoned and it disappeared back from whence it came. All very well but we were due to start in 12 hours and now didn't have a support vehicle. Luckily my wonderful father-in-law to be stepped in and offered up his 4x4 as an alternative. We were aware it was going to be a squeeze but after a quick trip to Halfords to buy bike racks, we at least had options available.

Soon after, Eddie rang and said the weather looked better to delay for 12hrs until 3pm on Friday. I cannot express how relieved I was. It sounds silly, after waiting and waiting for the moment, but I just didn't feel ready to go and the prospect off having another night in my own bed, getting some proper rest and having a chance to talk everything through with Ad seemed to make an absolutely extraordinary distance and I cheered up no end. I knew that timing would meant I would end up swimming through the night but I figured I'd worry about that when the time came!

The Cadman family had arrived on the Wednesday so we all settled down for a final supper, made sure all the equipment was ready for packing when the Troughton contingent arrived the next morning and then headed off to bed. I woke up feeling much better prepared and with only the smallest hint of butterflies. The Troughtons arrived early, Mike was assigned chief-driver during our expedition and Ellen was going to be UK-co-ord and chief dog-sitter. I was so so grateful to both of them for all the help they gave during the challenge - it is safe to say I couldn't have done it without them both. Team Cadman were going to see us off and then leap-frog along the route with the responsibility of arriving at the end of each stage fresh and ready to do all the feeding/hotel-check-in/supply-buying jobs required for the tired crew. Our system worked like a charm, but more on that later. Around 10am it was time for the off and we said Goodbye to Ellen and I gave Heidi a huge hug before Mike, Ad and I loaded up into our newly acquired support vehicle and headed for London. Mum and Dad has already gone ahead so they could check into their hotel and then head to Marble Arch to wave us off. The journey down was fairly uneventful, both Mike and Ad have been part of my training build up so were pretty aware of how I might be feeling emotionally, how my feeds work, what to say to encourage me etc so there wasn't much that needed to be discussed. I tried to nap and keep all the emotions bubbling around inside of me under control. Obviously we had let a lot of people know I was finally setting off so I was kept very busy answering the gazillion wonderful messages of support that started to flood in.

About 45minutes from London we stopped at the final service station on the motorway for me to go and get changed into my race gear, have a final coffee stop and get ready for the off. Ad helped me carry my run kit box in and I went to get changed. I took a moment to myself in the loo just thinking of everything that lay ahead as I knew I wouldn't have any further moments alone to try and absorb the enormity of it all after that. I got changed into my run kit, pulled on a Herbalife top and headed back to the car. Ad met me outside the loos and all of a sudden all the emotions I was feeling built up again and flooded out. I got really teary but Ad was brilliant and talked me through it all. I was so scared of failing, of letting people down and not being able to finish what I had invested so much in. After a bit of reassuring and a big hug, I calmed down and headed with Ad out to the car. After getting all the worries out I suddenly felt much calmer, it was time to race!

We headed into central London where Mike had the unenviable task of trying to drop us off close to the Arch and then circling round until we were a go, ready to pick up Eddie and Ad again. We got onto Oxford Street and then he pulled over and let us out. Ad and I headed up towards the Arch. We had a last loo break in a conveniently located KFC opposite and then headed onto the square of Marble Arch itself. A wonderful little group of well-wishers had assembled to see me off, my Mum and Dad were there busy explaining to some interested tourists what I was about to set off and do, the RAF media team were there ready to follow the whole event as it unfolded, and Gavin and Mila were there to represent my wonderful sponsors, Herbalife. I was also joined by a wonderful guy called Cyril Morrin who had come to wish me well and also Jo Kilkenny. Jo and I have trained together through the year and she will be attempting the Arch 2 Arc in September. Jo had offered to cycle the first leg with me through London in case the support vehicle got held up and it was great to have her there to steady my nerves. Jo has a really good understanding of the A2A and is a great ultra-runner to it was fabulous to have her there to get me through the first 8-10miles.

After a few conversations with the RAF media team and some photographs of me looking ready and set to go, Eddie came over to offer a final few words of advice. I gave the Herbalife team a big hug and thanked them for all their support. Then with a hug for Ed and a massive hug to my parents who I would next see around the 30mile mark I got ready to go. A final kiss from Ad and I touched the wall of Marble Arch. Ed gave me the signal, started the clock and....we were off!!

Friday, 19 August 2011

We are a go!

We are a go for 3pm today. See you all in Paris!

Thursday, 18 August 2011


The weather is not looking great for swimming Sun/Mon so we are currently delayed 12hrs. New start time 3pm tomorrow (Friday) at the Arch! Will be able to confirm 9am tomorrow.....

Wednesday, 17 August 2011


Cometh the hour.....

I have a provisional start date of 2.30am Friday morning. Wonderfully sociable. :)

Time marches on...

During the last couple of months we have been blessed with two new arrivals into our world, Kobe Brown and Isaac Hughes. Both boys are totally gorgeous and we visited their fairly sleepy parents this weekend to see how they were getting on. I was talking to my friend Zoe about how I imagine waiting for this challenge to be like being pregnant. You are so excited but also you get this inevitability factor (note I avoided the phrase 'impending sense of doom'!) that at some point the time will come, this amazing event WILL come around and you can't stop it! You know it is going to be painful and emotional but that the reward will ultimately be both worth it and a total joy. Whilst my poor friend was a bit perturbed that I was comparing her pregnancy to my endurance challenge I think she forgave me my panic-addled brain and kindly said she understood where I was coming from!

It reminds me of the Sanskrit saying that I use about a thousand times during each and every endurance challenge I get into, गच्छेदेतदपि - 'This too shall pass'

Monday, 15 August 2011

The waiting game.....

is what I'm playing. Thankfully having been here before with the two Channel relays I am not too concerned. Plus, because of Adam's constraints at work I know we can't go before Thursday anyway so at least I can plan my time until then to get everything sorted in not too mad a rush. It's a bit of a shame I guess because Friday looks a great day to swim but hey. I am frantically observing wind maps like there's no tomorrow (www.xcweather.co.uk) - anything blue is good, green is doable and above green is going to be a particularly unfun day in the water. Thankfully from Sunday onwards also looks good and at the moment I am imagining starting running Friday morning in time to swim off the Sunday high tide. However, I only have a basic understanding of the conditions and understand there is more to it than a map being blue! So basically I sit and wait and when the call comes I trust the pilot and off I go!

It has been particularly hard to taper for this event, not least as you don't have a fixed start date but also because once the key sessions are out of the way it is pretty hard to stay motivated. As I said with the 90min swim a few weeks back, you try and justify why you are doing it (keep the body ticking over, maintain feel for the water, monitor water temperature etc) but really your head is saying, "I can swim for 10hrs, we know that, why am I messing around in the sea for 90mins." I splashed around for just under an hour at Anderby yesterday - it was nice to get in and out at the same time as everyone else! Though even that plan was slightly foiled by the controversial time-keeping but some who shall remain nameless! As always, everyone was brilliantly positive and supportive and I felt good in the water so I decided to take a moment to say goodbye to Anderby training and then head in for strawberry milkshakes and bacon sarnies!

No more sessions planned for this week, I shall probably take the bikes out for 10mins just to check them over, have a swim tomorrow and maybe do some body balance classes just to stretch out. Final massage is also booked in for tomorrow and then it really is a case of just resting, hydrating and not panicking!

Obviously I'll post here immediately I know anything but, once the challenge is underway, updates can be found on the forum section of the Enduroman website (www.enduroman.com), manned ably by my wonderful Aunty Sally!