Friday, 20 October 2017 00:00

New Challenges for 2018 (blog #22)

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Hi Everyone

Today I launch my new challenge for 2018, I hope that after reading this you will see that I am yet again attempting to push myself harder than ever before and hope that you will support me as you have before in any way you feel able.

It’s a couple of weeks shy of 3 years ago when I had that fateful meeting with the Doc who told me that I may only live for 2 years. Since that time I know of others in my situation that did not even make 6 months and others who have been around for a bit longer. All I can say is that a combination of the right attention and meds from my fab oncologists and I believe a regime of amended diet and exercise have kept me not only here but still able to contemplate these challenges. That said, I would be lying if I said that my situation has not given me additional issues physically and mentally along the way.

I have gotten to know the pool very well recently...

So, since I last wrote I have not been running at all as my left leg has taken a long time to settle down after Iceland/Nottingham Marathon. Instead I have been spending countless hours in the gym and swimming pool doing as much as I am allowed. The good news is that the results of a MRI scan this week  look favourable so I can start again now which is just as well as I need to be in training.

On the cancer side, my latest blood test was also good so I can breathe for another month. It’s hard to put into words the emotion each month of sitting there waiting for the results and it takes a few days afterwards for what was said to really sink in.

So on to the important stuff. You may notice my headline “100 degrees of separation”. As you know , I have run in deserts and in Iceland in 2017. 4 months apart, both races were what are called “stage races”, so whilst 250k each in total, every day is a separate race of typically 42k (marathon distance) some days a bit shorter and one day much longer. That means at the end of the day you can rest up in tents that the organisers have put up and when running, each day has an end goal that psychologically helps during the day when its tough.

This time I really do feel that 2018 may be the last time I can push myself to the limits as age, joints, muscles, cancer and finances are gradually catching up on me so the race I have entered is a bit ‘out there’.

This race has only a small field of max 30 runners, it starts Friday 9th March and its called the 6633 Ultra as 66 degrees 33 minutes is the  latitude of the Arctic Circle.

The race is a 350 mile (563 kilometres, over twice the length of the other races I have done) non stop race that starts just south of the Arctic circle in the Yukon, Canada and heads pretty much due North.  THIS IS NOT A STAGE RACE, once you start the clock is ticking until you finish, on average you will have to travel 44 miles a day at your slowest to hit the finish cut off. No one puts a tent up for you!

What makes this race so hard (from what I have read/been told so far):-

Well,  350 miles for starters but when you want to rest/sleep you just put your bivi bag in the snow on the side of the trail and get in for a few hours, the clock never stops. I estimate that I will be moving for 18 hours a day, cooking, making water (from snow) 2 hours a day and properly resting 4 hours a day. You have to be totally self sufficient although they will give you water at check points that are around a marathon distance apart, that means clothes, food, sleeping bag, bivi bag, cooker, survival stuff and water have to be transported
You transport the above by pulling a sledge (called a pulk), its heavy!
The temperature including wind chill is regularly below -50C, this year it was colder than -60c, frostbite happens on this race.
The terrain is white, very white. You can travel for days not seeing anything but white. A tough mental challenge
The training involves 6 days a week of hours and hours jogging/running/walking, sometimes pulling a tyre around behind you to get used to a sledge (see photo of my new best tyre friend!).
With only 30 entrants (only about 9 finish on average) its quite possible to be on your own for most of the race
Staying warm but not sweating is key otherwise the sweat freezes and you get cold then frostbite then race over
Travelling 350 miles on your feet will bash your feet, think how yours feel after one day of shopping!

So that’s the first half of the challenge. I have entered the race with a potential cop out -they also have a 120 mile race that runs simultaneously and one can enter that. I have entered the 120+ race which means that if I am absolutely finished/done in etc at 120 miles (3 day max time) I can stop and get my medal however I can choose to carry on for the 350 (which is my intention) and as soon as you take one step past the 120 mark then you are no longer entitled to the 120 medal even if you don’t finish the 350. Mentally its 350 for me.

Where does 100 degrees of separation come in you say, well, I get back to the UK 22nd March and then get back on a plane two weeks later to try to complete my third Marathon Des Sables in Morocco where the temperature exceeds 50c most days. An “easier” ha ha race as its 250k and a stage race.

The challenge this time will be:-

The heat and carrying 12kg on my back
My feet will be in a bad way as its so close to the end of the previous race
The temperature change of over 100c will play havoc with my body
I think I may well be exhausted before I even start  (just a bit!)

So there you have it, as ever, there are so many factors that could stop me getting to either start line let alone finishing. Just the training this time could injure me as it is intense (insane!).

Fantastic support already received from RBS/NatWest, my wife (long suffering)  and Likeys outdoor adventure storebin Brecon as their advice on both these events is first class and without them it would not even be something I could have considered.

As before, I am paying all of my costs for both races so if you feel able to support my favourite charity, Prostate Cancer UK then please visit my just giving page. I hope that by me putting myself out that will inspire you to do what you can be it financially or make a difference in yours or someone else’s life.

As a bit of fun, if you sponsor me you can put a name in the comments on the just giving page of up to 5 letters (nothing rude or offensive mind). My wife, Sarah, will pick the best one and I will paint it in white on my tyre for the next month, I guess you get the “naming rights” and I will post the photo of it in my next blog. The cut off for the first months name will be midnight Friday 27th October. Any after that will be in the next months selections.

Other than the above races, I have a couple of UK ultra marathons lined up as training plus back to Spain for Al Andalus 230k in July (unfinished business you may recall). I also have a potential Guinness world record attempt and “world first” however for now I will keep this under wraps until Guinness have confirmed, the current date for the attempt is 19th January.

Thanks as ever for reading, I hope you will metaphorically come on the journey with me as without you I know I wont make it, feel free to forward/share with anyone.

The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams (I know I have some weird dreams!).

Remember this winter even if your heating breaks you wont be as cold as I am going to be so smile when you shiver and think of me!

Until next time

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