Monthly Archives: March 2012

M&MRC Cruce Story #8: Risks must be taken

Another warning we had received was that the downhill could be just as challenging as the uphill. The day before we’d run most of the declines as our blood was pumping with so much excitement from the views on top of the volcano and the run through the snow. Today was a different story. The sensation we felt in our legs with each step was something we’d never experienced with such intensity before.

We worked our way down the switchbacks and played what seemed like games with other runners as we passed each other again and again. It felt like it was never going to end. Earlier in the day, we’d made comments about it being next to impossible to move at the pace according to the distance markers we were given by volunteers and other people’s GPS. Finally, it seemed as if we were getting closer. We crossed a couple streams, which meant we were nearing the lake. And then we had a more definite answer. A volunteer informed us that we were meters from the shore and only 2 kilometers stood between us and the finish line.

We arrived to an incredible view. The lake we had crossed earlier in boat to get to Camp 1 laid before us and a blue speck could be seen in the distance. It was the finish line with the arch and clock. Two runners before us were already being helped into the water as the only way to finish was through waist-high water and along the beach. Then a voice was heard through the volunteer’s walkie-talkie. The race medic wanted to end the race. There was too much risk of getting hypothermia to continue allowing the runners in the lake. The course was to be closed and runners would be bused to Camp 2.

I’m sure you can imagine the fury. We hadn’t put in so much effort in the past two days to be disqualified. Slowly more runners accumulated at that spot while the young volunteer tried to stand his ground and convey the bad news. We argued and fought until finally someone said, “We signed a consent form so all responsibility is on us and we want to get wet.” And that’s just what we did.

There were about 15 of us at that point and one-by-one we stepped into the water while bracing ourselves on the fallen tree trunks and made our way to the finish line. We went over trees, beside the big, slippery rocks and then the final meters on the pebble beach. It was like an obstacle course that (at least for me) was the most exciting part of the day. It made those last kilometers different and the cold water helped us forget what your muscles had been telling us all day.

We crossed the finish line after 10 hours, no lunch and the sun setting over the mountains. What a day it had been, but one that can never be forgotten. Day 2 was done, which meant the majority of the mileage was behind us.

We’d taken a risk, went against the doctor’s orders and got wet, but what was all that fuss about hypothermia? We had dry, warm clothes waiting for us at the camp. Right?

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M&MRC Cruce Story #7: The Long and Winding Road

It shouldn’t have been a surprise. We had been warned. Day two is harder than day one. We woke up the next morning, the rain had gone. So had my thighs.

In the queue for the toilet, everyone was stretching out their quads this time. Some people came out of the portaloo looking as if they really still needed to go for a number two quite badly. The volcano had shot a lot of muscles. But today, there was further to go. We had come here for this: challenge, mystery… seeing how much we could take.

So, our training hadn’t been in the mountains. That didn’t matter now, the super steep was over. All we had to do was keep moving. After packing up our backpacks and dumping them on the beach, we set off on the same walk through the woods to the starting point over the bridge. We would follow a brief section through the forest as per yesterday and then veer off through the green mountains bordering the lake we had boated up two days before. Our second camp was on the southern shore of the lake in the tiny village near the Argentine border. Just a short diversion of 40km to get there.

The sun shone down on us again, breaking in golden strands through the trees. This part was undulating, but we had a pattern of jogging and walking to suit the legs. The worst bit for the thighs was the downhills.

“Eee, ow, ooh, ahh, heee, uhh, ouch!” were the acoustics to the downhill steps. We happily ran the flats. “It’s actually easier to run once you get into a rhythm,” Maria said and I agreed.

We left the forest and hit some open countryside. Green mountains encased us as we jogged on dirt tracks through gold and jade fields. Behind us rose the previous day’s challenge, that majestic volcano. With each step it became some far away land we had dreamt of. We passed a llama farm; we stopped at streams to fill up on fresh, cold water. The sun beat harder.

People passed us and we passed others with fleeces tied to their packs. “Why would you run in this weather with a fleece?” I asked. “Completely stupid,” Maria agreed.

After a couple of hours, the track started to point upwards. This was the climb we had had to save ourselves for. We were now back among the trees and couldn’t see anything beyond the next curve. Lining the route were flowers bursting with bright orange and yellow colours. Above us birds sang. They could see our route. We knew nothing of what was ahead.

“Anyone got a GPS?” This was a dangerous question. No one knew at what point it would level and we’d be going down again. At one stream, Maria jumped down to get fresh water and I heard someone clocking 23km. We were around four hours in. Well, it can’t be much further to the top, we thought.

The climb carried on, and we continued pounding up switchback after switchback, hoping to see some peak, some sign of blue bodies disappearing over the horizon. But we could see no horizon. We enjoyed the scenery: the further we climbed, the further we could out from the mountain. The lake, our home, our destination, was behind another belt of emerald mountains. Even when we hit the top, we had to get down through them. Somehow.

There is a feeling you get when you are exhausted and waiting for change. It’s hope. You grasp onto any little sign that the next corner, the next moment will bring some relief. “Where is the peak?” we asked ourselves, time and again.

And then, high up above the trees, now above many birds, our twisting mountain track hugged the peak and opened out. Just a few more dips and rises and we would be there. It was an incredible view. In our tiredness you still had to appreciate it. And as we hit the crest of our long and winding climb, there were those magic digits.

30km. Set into the mountainside written with stones. A wondrous sight. Hope and truth rolled into one. It was downhill from now on, still painful and uncomfortable, but a mere 10km going down after all that? Sounded like heaven. And just 10km before home? Easy peasy. We’d be on the beach in no time.

Wouldn’t we?  

M&MRC Cruce Story #6: The sun went down on Day 1

We had made it through Day 1 and were on the bus back to camp.  People were telling stories of how their day unfolded around us.  Each of us sitting, and those unfortunate ones that had to stand, had particular events happen during the day.  Some didn’t make it around the volcano as they took too long getting up the mountain, others had fallen on their way down the snow and many more were on an adrenaline high from the experience we just had lived.

Laura and I chatted a bit, but we also let it all sink in.  We talked some with an American girl that was standing next to us and heard about her day and before we knew it we were back at camp.  We exited the bus and made our way across the sea of tents.  Equipo 86 heard us as we began fiddling with our tent.  They’d been back for hours, but were glad to see us back and alive.  Let’s just say they didn’t have as much faith in us as we did.

My goal for the day was to make it back for lunch.  Lucky for us, lunch lasted until dinner so technically we made it.  And after a quick bite to eat, we hopped in the lake as others had suggested that the cool water would help our muscles.  So we stood for a few minutes while shivering before getting out and quickly putting on dry, warm clothes.  Of course this didn’t stop Laura from singing Mr. Jones when it came on the sound system.

That night a storm was coming and as we wrote before, Equipo 86 saved the day.  Our tents were located at the bottom of a slope so we needed canals around the edges to make sure the runoff wouldn’t end up in our tent.  Meanwhile Laura was in charge of packing up our things as we had to turn in our bags before heading out the next day.  I on the other hand opted for another round of food and headed out for dinner.  The rain hit and our beds (or rolling mats) were calling our names.  No more small talk for us.  It was time to crawl into our sleeping bags and get some sleep.

Day 2 was on the horizon and it was going to be harder than we could have ever imagined.

Going the distance

I did something rather cheeky this weekend. I signed my mum up for an event. This was our conversation:

“Hi Mum. Hahahahahaha.”

“What have you done?”

“Hahahaha. I’ve signed us up for something.”

“Oh no. What? I’m not climbing a volcano. What have you done?”

“It’s a Race for Life 5k for Cancer Research.”

Silence.

“What do you think?”

“Well, um, right.”

“It’s only 5k.”

“You’re right. This is good. I can do this. You don’t have to run the whole thing, do you?”

“No. But we can run a bit.”

“Hmm, yeah ok. Powerwalk and run. I can do that.”

“That’s the spirit. Good-Oh. It’ll be fun.”

“Oh dear…”

So Wo (my mum) and I are going to do one of the Race for Life events in Cambridge on July 1st. This is a yearly event with lots of 5 and 10ks all over the country. It’s a women only event and very pink. I did a couple of their 10ks before leaving for South America. It’s really good fun; a whole host of women with stories and inspiration just looking to get to the finish line with a smile on their face.

I chose Cambridge as it’s between where my parents live in Norfolk and us in London. And we can celebrate by punting along the River Cam. And it means Wo can take advantage of training now the days are longer and warmer. It’s also something we can do together as part of Wedding Bootcamp – getting married at the end of the year will get the mother-of-the-bride into a pair of trainers.

So, as I was running around the squirrel woods yesterday I got to thinking about my summer running. Do I keep building up distance again? Or should I work on speed for a while? Or do a bit of both?

It is quite funny to think that my next ‘race’ is a 5k with my mother after the hours spent training and doing Cruce. Maybe I need something else in between to keep me going the distance.

But then, and I’ve written this here before, does it matter how far you go? Or just that you go? My mum is going a distance for a great cause. As a running buddy she’ll be very different from Maria, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be there every step of that way.

And however far it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are raising money for Cancer Research UK.

Please visit out donation page here: http://www.raceforlifesponsorme.org/lauraandwo

Running boosts when you need them

So, Maria and I are both back into our groove and I just wanted to share three things which have boosted my running this week. They are simple things which came along and made running moments better. What have been yours?

ORANGE SURPRISES

My friend Jenny who lives in Spain, also runs and has followed our Cruce adventure with mountain lover envy sent me a wonderful package this week and inside was this delightful surprise for my feet.

I’ve already written about how wearing pro gear instead of pyjamas and someone else’s hand-me-downs makes you feel better when you’re out there. But there is nothing better than the feeling of running in something groovy that your friend saw and thought of you. And something orange. But that goes without saying.

SIMPLE SUNSHINE

We have officially turned the corner. Spring is here and we’re on British summer time: warmer and longer days full of garden time and barbecues. Martín my boyfriend said to me this week that when the sun comes out after winter, everyone seems to wake up and feel happier. It’s true.

And as the sun gets weaker in Maria’s part of the woods, so it gets stronger here in London (though we’re never reaching a humid Buenos Aires 40 degrees, mind!) and on a quiet morning with the sun already at the tops of the trees, there’s nothing better than hitting the pavements and parks, as I did yesterday.

RUN TO THE BEAT

I’ve lost my running music. OK, what I mean is I no longer run with it. My iPod is old and temperamental. It no longer likes to be swaddled next to my upper arm and bounce along with me, drowning out cars, lorries and (oops) bike horns. So, it’s just me and my thoughts alone and the sounds of the cars, birds and people. Yesterday I headed into a little wood to do some loops and squirrels were scuttling about as robins and larks sang their Saturday morning songs. Good tunes.

However, later, when was I was back on the road heading up a hill (it’s post Cruce so please read slope) a car pulled alongside me at a junction. SHA LA LA LA LA LA LA! Ah, the familiar beat of my song supreme Mr Jones. I don’t really miss my music; well, maybe the randomness of it which used to make me laugh as I was running when Mozart would suddenly come on. But at that moment, as I needed a push to bound me up the hill (slope), it was a fabulous kick.

Maybe I need to learn to run and sing at the same time; so I can still hear the birds and bike horns, but I also get my musical boost.

What gives you a boost when you’re out running? Share your thoughts with us.

Back in action

I completely agree with Laura that events get the best of us at times and running is put on the back burner. I have been missing from the blog for quite some time (3 weeks!) as well as neglecting my trainers. But today, I woke up on a mission to get back into the groove.

I couldn’t remember how many days it’d been since my last run, but vacation and school had gotten the best of me lately. The weather has been cooling off so going for an 11 a.m. run was possible again. I’m sad to see summer on its way out, but planning runs around the presence of the sun is annoying at times. Due to time constraints, I opted for a 4-miler instead of adding on an extra mile. Needless to say, this was a good decision considering my recent hiatus.

Regardless of the distance, it felt great to get out there again. I bounced along the sidewalk and dodged the cars before making it to the park. I was out and back in no time and glad that I got myself moving again. I’m also eyeing a half marathon at the end of April. Unlike Laura, I need goals to keep myself running. It may add running to my to-do list, but thankfully it doesn’t come with the pressure that many other items carry with them.

And with the return of running comes more blog entries. More Cruce memories are on their way…

“Everyone who has run knows that…

“Everyone who has run knows that its most important value is in removing tension and allowing a release from whatever other cares the day may bring.” ~Jimmy Carter

I was looking for something to inspire me into my trainers. I’ve been feeling guilty. I am a runner and it has been six days since my last run. Does that make me part-time? Do I need to talk to my running partner Maria daily (she’s been on holiday) to get me out there? Am I a fake, or have I just been busy doing other things for a bit?

Well, I was reading some running stories and blogs and came across this quote today. It’s not guilt I feel, it’s tension from my ‘To Do’ list. You can be busy in between runs, but make sure it is in between. If not, the runs become the filling and not the bread.

Time for the trainers.

Believe we were ‘Born to Run’

Before picking up Born to Run I had never read a book about running. I thought books about running would be full of torturous workouts, the innermost thoughts of lonely runners pounding pavements and something about achieving goals. What else could there be to write about? You get up, you put your trainers on and you run. By doing that, and only that, in some people’s eyes, you already achieve.

But then again, Born to Run is about more than that. It’s about evolution, biomechanics, nutrition, history, conflict, secrets and some crazy yet wonderful characters the writer didn’t even have to dream up. Reading on page six about a cult devoted to “distance running and sex parties” does shake up boring runner stereotypes. And you devotedly keep turning the page.

First and foremost, McDougall takes us on a journey to our own running past; to how we got here, standing in our Nike running gear; and leaves us alone to kick off our shoes and take our first barefoot steps for ourselves. Science, opinion and experience interweave and you are left, not with a chanting chorus and drum beating for barefoot running, but with the simple question to ask of yourself; Why not?

McDougall doesn’t preach. He’s almost as excited and incredulous about what he finds out as you are. This is because of the most important part of this book: the writer is not merely an observer in this world. He might start out as so, but very soon he becomes a fully fledged pilgrim. And he doesn’t take it half-heartedly, he dives right in. Where once he was a reader, writer and admirer of ultra marathonistas, then he becomes one. And that leaves you room to marvel and admire all that he is learning on his journey to the greatest race the world has never seen.

The best parts of the book are, without a doubt, the stories and personalities of the Tarahumara. Delights such as: “They like to be visible only when they decide to be” and the description of Arnulfo, the most feared of Tarahumara runners: “It’s hard to keep your eyes off a guy as good-looking as Arnulfo. He was brown as polished leather… whimsical dark eyes that glinted with bemused self-confidence… he reminded me of all the early Beatles… shrewd, amused, quietly handsome composite of raw strength.”

The last gem in this book is the thriller finish. You’ve travelled to Africa; you’ve talked with the scientists; you’ve learnt the names of more than a handful of wonderful and surprising ultra athletes. And then, he brings you back to the start of his quest; the only place he can finish it off. He joins the Tarahumara and some of the best ultra-runners in a 50-mile race through the Copper Canyon Mountains, a hostile terrain and often dangerous place. Who will win? Who will even finish? Will one personality outshine another and suffer the consequences?

The home straight has got it all: guts, love, strength, revenge, hope, despair, pain. And then, glory. McDougall proves the saying right. Runners just do it. They go for the finishing line even though someone else has reached it first. And he proves that it is just as important for the super human athletes as it is for the normal runner who is just doing something not that normal.

But then that’s the point. It can be. Normal, that is. Old or young, experienced or not, fat or thin: Born to Run teaches you that no matter what and where you are now, you came from a place where you were born to run.

And: it’s not that hard.

Pure inspiration

It is impossible not to be inspired by Kyle Maynard, a congenital amputee athlete and speaker. Watch this video about his life and how he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Your problems and worries will shrink and you will be thankful for all that you do have. A must share. Click on the image to be taken to the video link.

Faces of our Cruce Family