Thursday, 19 March 2009

getting back into the swing (run?) of things

it's time to get cracking! since i've returned from Kili, I've had a well deserved rest (six days) and then it was back to action.

strangely enough for me, i've been enjoying my runs a little more, and even managed to endure a spinning class without getting out of breath! so it seems Kili did a little more than just induce a distaste for men in board shorts.

i've decided it was time for focus, and have signed up for a smallish 10k run through Hyde Park next month, organised by the the British Heart Foundation, you can find out more here

I found the event using a great tool, courtesy of the Runners World website, where you can enter a few details and they'll suggest running events for you. you will need to register on the site prior to using the function, but it's free and quick to register. they also have a fnatastic forum, which is really helpful for answering questions about running generally, and also questions about events...

i find working towards an event gives me focus, which is often more of a mental focus than a physical one. running for me has always had a 'whats the point of this' side, because i don't tend to enjoy it half as much as other sports, so knowing i have an event in the pipeline satisfies that inevitable question.

so, my aim for this next 10k, is to sub 60 (which is fancy talk for running quicker than one hour!) i'll have to run 4 minutes faster than my previous 10k to achieve this, but i'm hoping my newfound Kili cardio strength might help me out...

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Onwards and Upwards: Post Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro is over! and we made it to the summit! horray!
I've made a trip report: and have broken it into 5 days (there was a 6th day, but it was a non-eventful!)
Have a read, look at the pics, enjoy, and be glad you weren't there on the mountain too :)
In pressing news: we didn't see Cheryl Cole, unfortunately, but maybe next time *cough*

Kilimanjaro Trip Report: Day 5

day five: the summit

at midnight we started walking. the winds were so bad if you didn't place your foot down quick enough, you were pushed back. estimated temperature was minus fifteen. let's throw snow/sleet/hail into the mix, and we're starting to paint the picture.

we climb from 4600m to 5895m.

stopping is painful, but necessary. our water freezes. board shorts man vomits. i focus on feet. when i dare to look up, i instantly feel sick. stretching vertically into the distance snakes a sea of head torches, and i know what's ahead. lisa supplies ginger lollies, which curve my nausea.
at 7.15am, as the sun rises over just another day, we reach the summit. i am crying. i haven't known such exhaustion, ever, and i realise now why so many people don't make it here. those seven hours were incredibly difficult.
When the sun broke, I barely had energy to take photographs. It was so stunning, but I literally had nothing left. My batteries died, and I couldn't replace them. My guide Michael helped me, and such a simple thing, was so necessary. There's a picture below of Michael infront of the glacier. Without his help, I wouldn't have made it.

So, all that was left, was to get down. I thought the hard part was behind me, but I had no idea.

From 8am until 6pm, we climbed down. Through snow, ice, rocks. We'd been walking for over 18 hours, and now without anything left, we had to get down. My knees took a horrific turn for the worse, and finally they failed me. The last three hours were one of the most painful I've known. There were tears, and not of joy.

There was one moment, which I believed summarised the entire day. Upon descent - I came across a girl, sitting in the snow. She was literally frozen, sitting, in the snow. There were two guides which had come across her, and I asked them if she was okay. They said she was tired. I asked the girl if she wanted a sweet, something to give her energy, and she couldn't even respond. I took it out of my pocket and placed it into her hand, and her fingers flickered slightly with recognition, but she didn't have the strength even to lift it to her mouth. So i took the lolly and placed it into her mouth. She didn't even register, and the guides picked her up, and dragged her down the mountain.

That girl represented so much of how I felt. Just empty, without anything left to give, but knowing how much was ahead.

In conclusion: I'm glad I did it.

Would I do it again? Do you even need to ask??

Tough Factor: Off Scale

Kilimanjaro Trip Report: Day 4

day four: first day of pain

bad bad sleep, maybe two hours. our guide wakes us, "as long as you're not sick, it's okay." i try to prepare for the day ahead, as today will be our longest. for the first time i am sore, the sides of my hips are aching - the day before three of us descended really quickly, literally running down the mountain. it was fun, but with consequence.

we set off at 8am, and vertically scrambled up the "breakfast wall" until 1pm - our first hot lunch. omlette and fries!

after lunch i broke off from the group, and walked along, ahead. it was great to clear my mind, and although the walk was tough, mentally I felt revieved.
I reached camp around 4pm and was greeted with horrific winds and snow. tonight, we would summit, and the weather was scary. Lisa and I sat in the tent as it fell down around us (badly put up) and wondered seriously if we should abort, and wait for the weather to calm.
we rested for three hours, and then were woken up (implies we were sleeping, but we weren't).
It was time to ascent to the summit. This was going to hurt. a lot.
Tough Factor: 8/10

Kilimanjaro Trip Report: Day 3

day three: the long walk up

today represented a new kind of challenge; the mental challenge. while kilimanjaro isn't a technical climb, there's a tendancy for some (including myself!) to assume it's easy. but there's a few curve balls which do increase the challenge factor. for me, these were:

1. the altitude. makes everything harder/impossible

2. walking higher, sleeping lower. today we climbed to 4600m, but slept at 3800m. it's a common technique to allow you to adjust to the altitude, in which you climb higher during the day, then come back down to sleep. it sounds great, but think of the reality of pumping those little pegs up, up, up - hanging out for a bit, then slogging out downhill - only to realise you'll be heading back up in the morning. makes you hate your guides just a little bit.

3. board shorts man. one of the boys on our climb had a love of board shorts, which he wore whenever weather permitted. after the climb he was doing a marathon - the next day. while the rest of us were puffing away, he would make a point of stretching loudly, with a sigh. you can imagine the type.

the worst crime of all, however, even more so than wearing board shorts on a mountain - was that he never walked on the path. perhaps it was the altitude/physical/mental tole but it literally started driving me crazy. i've always believed that when you're in nature, you need to respect it. that includes, when a path has been carved into ground, you stick to it, to avoid further damaging the environment. mister board shorts man, however, would roam along the mountain, and everytime i watched his oversized hiking boots crush another plant, a little light of enthusiasm dimmed. by the end of the day, my will was gone. i went to bed listening to meditation in my ipod. thank god it helped.

The good news: we arrived to camp and we were literally above the clouds. Absolutely stunning!

Tough factor: 8/10

Kilimanjaro Trip Report: Day 2

day two: five hours up
we awoke to hot tea, warm water (which we used for a face wash - albeit the last time we used our morning hot water, as it got colder the water would cool within minutes...)
three hours straight up, steep as you like. we went slowly, and stopped for lunch (carrot sandwhich, muffin, banana which had seen better days, juice, boiled egg). Lisa and i don't eat much bread, particularly carrot sandiches (?!) - so she munches on a large supply of nut bars and I choke down the bread, thinking about energy. as the days progress, i get crafty, and swap my sandwich/muffin for boiled eggs with the boys.
we scramble over rocks for another few hours, before reaching camp on a stunning plateau. we introduce the others in our group to a card name which has a slightly offensive name, and eat dinner inside the tent due to the cold.
it's our first cold, sleepless night, and we awake to ice on the tent. the clouds are clear this morning, and we see the peak for the first time. it looks a really, really long way away...
Tough Factor: 7/10

Kilimanjaro Trip Report: Day 1

day one: 6 hours walking through the rainforest.

Blister appears within 1 hour of walking. Thank god for the compeeds (

We arrive to camp, where I tend to my blisters. I strap my feet with a combination of compeed, stretch tape and bandage - which stays strong until the end of the hike.

The rainforest was beautiful, a lovely offset to the six hour inclination. There are six within our group, including three competitive boys who love racing ahead. We anticipate this will cause future problems, and are correct in our assumptions. Tonight I enjoy my first night with the new sleeping bag; which is a treat, particularly as we're still at relatively low altitude so can actually sleep. Bonus!

Tough Factor: 8/10