Saturday, 7 March 2009

Moving On...

The blog has now found a new home:

You should be automatically redirected to it, but just in case you're not, please update your link. Look forward to you visiting our new home. ;)

Friday, 19 September 2008

TransRockies Run/Walk/Crawl...

OK - I've finally recovered from by cold. Now I'm ready to tackle this epic blog posting...

Yes, sorry, it's a bit of a long go put your kettle on or go grab a'll be here a while! :o

Pre-race build-up

We arrived in Denver on Friday 22nd August at around 7pm - the flight was pretty smooth, especially since (thanks to Parm) we flew business class. We picked up a shuttle to Buena Vista - sharing with Juliet and Howard who also happened to be doing the TransRockies Run. They were great to chat to - such nice and positive people, forming one of the two Herbal Life teams.

Anyway, got to the hotel (Best Western Inn) at around 10:30pm. Woke up the next day to find the breakfast room full of other TransRockies Runners. Spotted George (of Team Knuckleheads) having breakfast on his own. After warm introductions we joined him for breakfast. Fred (George's running partner) eventually joined us for breakfast too. Fred and George were the two runners we were most looking forward to meeting (having been in communicado with them via blogs for the past six months) - we weren't to be disappointed...they turned out to be really great guys.

We also met Sjohn and Mimi (Team Cheetah) - two lovely ladies from Seattle and Los Angeles, respectively. They formed an 80+ ladies team - which surprised me as neither of them looked over 40 years old. It was to be a common factor all week - meeting runners who looked much younger than their age. Running does indeed help fight the ultimate battle - the battle against Father Time.

Later on in the day we were to meet Kendra and Christine, two smiling and laughing lovelies from Toronto (Team Achilles Heal). They turned out to be incredibly strong and determined - as you'll soon discover.

Anyway - these three teams formed a close bond with us over the duration of the run...which just added to the enjoyment of the entire week. We went for a short 5km run with Fred and George just to stretch our legs. Nice slow pace - but it was worrying that my heart rate was 15 bpm higher than normal...don't know whether it was the altitude (the air did indeed feel thin) or whether it was the effects of the flight (jet-lag and dehydration) but it was a worry.

Tried to unwind by going out for a meal with several teams - needless to say George fell in love with the waitress, Jennifer, at Buffalo Bar & Grill ;)

The Gang

Moving on (yes I know you want me to get to the nitty gritty...but you'll just have to be patient)...Sunday morning we registered. This also meant we were given the bags that we were to use for all our gear for the next six days (any other bags would be put into storage and returned at the end of the race in Beaver Creek); the camp bags turned out to be much smaller than the organisers had intended (about 18 inches in length instead of 36 inches). To make amends the organisers gave three bags per team instead of two. Not ideal, but nothing that was going to make a massive difference. We also received the trail maps for the six days so finally we were able to see exactly what we had let ourselves in for....there were no surprises. Also, we received lots of nice promotional goodies - favourite of which was no doubt the Timex watch :)

All runners gathered on Sunday evening for the briefing and introductions. It was great being in a roomful of so many like minded, positive people. Most of the other runners looked mega fit and lean - that was a worry, I had hoped for more bigger builds like me! I was feeling pretty nervous (not my usual laid-back self) - Jo on the other hand was very relaxed and happy.

I was, however, very pleasantly surprised to discover that many of the runners and organisers had been reading this blog. It was like they already knew us - it's nice to know I haven't been yapping away on this blog for nothing. ;) It was great hearing complete strangers saying "Oh, you're Team Can Do Sandhu" - Jo picked the team name and it actually sounds better when it's said with an American accent. :)

After the briefing and (rain interrupted) barbeque, we (including Team Knuckleheads, Cheetahs and Achilles Heals) headed back to the hotel early to try and get an early night (and to try and get back before it rained again). On our way back the heavens opened us...the rain was cold and heavy. By the time we got back to the hotel we were soaked and gasping for air (having "tried" to run back).

Fred, George, Sjohn, Mimi, Jo and drowned Rat/Sat

I didn't sleep well on Sunday night - as I was worried about how out of breath I was after such a short run and I was stressing about how cold that rain was...if it rained like that when we ran then it would become a big mental challenge. It also didn't help that I had to get up and use the toilet every 90 minutes as we were making sure we stayed hydrated. All my dreams were plagued with images of running, freezing and bears. I shouldn't have worried - over the week we saw no bears and it was anything but cold.

Day One - Buena Vista to Numbers

It was a nice leisurely start to the day - the race didn't start until 10am, so plenty of time for breakfast and meeting more teams. At breakfast we met two guys from Britain, Mark and Duncan from team Heathens. Mark (I think) was from Tumbridge Wells whereas Duncan had married a Canadian and made the smart decision in moving to Canada (lucky git)...I married Jo from Wigan but have never entertained the thought of moving there!!! :o Anyway they turned out to be great guys, always smiling, running for pleasure of it and always having time to chat even though they turned out to be pretty elite runners; they would go on to finish 3rd overall in the Open Mens category - brilliant.

Team Can Do Sandhu

This was supposed to be an "easy" 12 mile run, up a gradual incline. It turned out to be anything but easy. It was very hot and monotonous, and the air felt really thin (and we were only at around 10,000 feet). A real mentally tough run. We were doing pretty well until the (only) checkpoint (at about half way), but then we really started flagging and had to walk...I think the checkpoint actually spoiled our rhythm. Once we started to walk it was difficult to get going again...and when we did it was a very slow plodding run. We were only marginally slower if we we decided to walk most of the last 5 miles - managing a brisk almost 8kph pace (with Jo clinging onto my rucksack to ensure she "stayed" with me).

We yo-yo'ed with a group of other teams (mainly because they altered between running and walking - whereas we just maintained a consistent fast paced walk).

It didn't help that the marshals falsely kept raising our expectations. At one point a marshal said "Only two more miles". After two miles another marshal said "Only one more mile". After another mile we kept expecting to see the finish around every finally came after a further half a mile. We passed Kendra and Christine just before we finished....actually they had already finished and were in the transit van on their way to camp. ;)

It was encouraging to know that there were still quite a few teams behind us after we had finished and that other finishers said that they too had found the stage difficult.

I felt terrible when we finished. Dizzy and sick. I had to eat, drink and sit for about 15 minutes before I felt semi-human again. With hindsight it is obvious that I was pretty dehydrated, even though it was only a three hour run and I had drunk a couple of litres at least along the run; I would begin to pay the price for it the next day.

Fred and George (who had already finished and cheered us in as we came to finish) were concerned about Jo...they thought she didn't look well (she looked fine to me). That was the great thing about our group - we looked out for each other. I had said to Jo the night before that finishing the TransRockies Run would be hollow if others in our gang, especially Fred or George failed to complete it. Anyway, they needn't have worried about Jo, she was fine. If it wasn't for my dark skin I think they would have been more worried about me...the dark skin hides my true state, under the skin I think I was probably white as a ghost....I really didn't feel well.

We didn't help ourselves by being pretty disorganised on the finish. We stood around in the sun waiting for the van that would take us to the camp...there was no shade. Then we realised the volunteers in the medical van were giving free stretches so we went and got stretched out...that really really helped. We were too lazy to go and soak our legs in the nearby river, which really would have been the most prudent thing to do, so instead we stood in the sun for a bit longer and then eventually got a lift to the campsite (which was about 20-30 minutes back the way we had come).

The campsite too was bloody hot. At least there were a few trees around for shade, but the tents were saunas (pretty much the theme for the whole week). The tents would remain uncomfortable until the sun dipped behind the mountains.

We collected our bags, found suitable available tents. Dumped our stuff. Went down the hill to use the showers. I made a point of having a burst of cold shower to cool the legs down. After the shower I was absolutely it was a trek back up the bloody hill to the campsite to collect wallet from tent. Then trek back down to burger burger, hot dog and coke later I was feeling human again.

Switched on Knuckleheads!

Then it was back up the hill for a nap. Then back down the hill for dinner. Then back up the hill to get ready for bed. The winners ceremony was back down the hill in the main tent - I couldn't be bothered, I had had enough of that bloody was tedious - pretty much how the whole day had been for me. Jo went down without me, along with the ladies in the "gang", whereas the men had more sense and decided to get an early night. Kendra and Christine had finished on the podium - so it was good that some of our gang went down to cheer them on.

Apart from the hassle of having to get up and use the toilet every hour or so in the night we slept pretty well - it was Jo's first time EVER in a tent and sleeping bag...she took to it very well, so we may save lots of money in future as there's no need for those five-star hotels anymore, right!?

Day Two - Vicksburg to Twin Lakes

This was to be a short 10 mile stage, but it involved a massive and steep climb, taking us to close to 13,000 feet (our highest elevation for the week). This stage, therefore, was the real elevation tester - if anyone was going to suffer due to altitude then this day would be it.

Calm before the (second) storm

I knew that only elevation and injury could stop us completing the TransRockies Run. Today was the altitude test - get through this day and then you can stop worrying about elevation.

The day started off as a rush. We rushed to get our gear packed and hand our bags in. We rushed to have breakfast. We rushed to catch the bus that took us to the start (a 40 minute journey). We rushed to strip off our warm layers (it was freezing in the morning, but warmed up pretty quickly once the sun came out). We rushed to use the toilet before the start. We rushed to get into the start area...Jo was still taking off layers when they said "One minute to go" :(

As such, we weren't in a good mental state when we started. The first mile or so was pretty flat to the first checkpoint and then it was straight up the mountain. We arrived at the first checkpoint with plenty of other teams around us. We took quite a while at the checkpoint as we now took the opportunity to do the things we didn't get a chance to do at the rushed start, like putting sun cream on and getting our trekking poles out. For us the stage really started here.

As we were getting ready Fred, George, Mimi and Sjohn arrived at the checkpoint. So we all departed together. I led (up a narrow steep uphill track), as I was all up for leading a strong fast march up the mountain. Jo wanted a slower pace...she realised that the rest of our gang could benefit from a slower steady pace. The TransRockies was no longer about just Jo and I completing the challenge - it was about the whole team and that included the Cheetahs and Knuckleheads. So I gave up the lead to Jo and allowed her to set a pace that allowed us all to get to the summit meant we stayed with our friends and the stage turned into our most enjoyable and meaningful of the week.

The six of us make slow but steady progress up the mountain. The air was thin but no-one suffered any altitude sickness. We overtook the (mixed) French Gore-Tex team - they were struggling with some real "issues"...I think their team harmony was under severe stress as the girl (Manon) was having problems but they kept stopping and then pretty much sprinting up the mountain. We persuaded them to slow down and take it easy - their current approach was likely to result in complete failure. We also caught up with Ryan and Amy...they were a lovely couple who were due to get married at the end of the race at the finish line. They joined our merry band of trekkers and the eight of us made the summit after around 2.5 hours into the stage. Getting to the summit was rewarding, emotionally and visually.

Aint no mountain high enough :)

The rest of the stage was pretty easy; a steep downhill, the second checkpoint, a gradual downhill, a fun thigh-high river crossing, a few other small "splash about like a kid" stream crossings and a final flat one mile to the finish. I did have a slight worry, however, half-way down the mountain I started to get bad stomach cramps...I think this was the dehydration catching up on me from the day before. How bad did it get? Well - let's just say once we finished I got to the toilet just in time!!

The finish itself was very special - all eight of us crossed the line hand in hand. It was I think the emotional highlight of our entire week, something we will always remember. It's a shame the camera crews had packed up for the day as this I think demonstated the real spirit of the TransRockies Run.

There's no "I" in "Team" :)

Once again it was another transit to the campsite (Leadville) from the finish (Twin Lakes). It was another hot day but we were more organised this time and managed get settled down and showered up quickly. We walked into town with Fred, George, Sjohn and Mimi but struggled to find an open restaurant - it was 2pm, go figure! Eventually we found a great restaurant, not sure what it was called but I think it might have been "Doc Holliday". The food was great - I was happy as a pig in shit (with or without lipstick) ;)

As to that French couple that were struggling - they too made it, although Manon didn't look too happy when I saw her at the campsite later. One of them was later spotted having a smoke outside their tent - no doubt that helped with the breathing at altitude!! :o You gotta love the French! ;)

I spent the rest of the day ensuring I was rehydrated. I also had to take a couple of Imodium as I didn't want an "accident" in the night! Incidentally, during the entire week, the trips to the toilets in the night were rewarded with one of the most awesome night skies I was ever seen. The stars were amazing - if it was wasn't for the cold and tiredness I would have been tempted to get the camera out and take some pictures...I am a bit of a closet astronomy fan, but it's not an interest one can pursue in light polluted and cloudy London :(

Day Three - Leadville to Camp Hale

This was to be our first big distance day, over 24 miles. I felt good - no sign of any stomach problem, which was a relief. I think, judging by our strong start, Jo too felt good. We were getting better at our morning routine, hence were better prepared mentally for this stage. The stage started with a relatively flat road section leading to long uphill. Fred and George went off well too - leaving us behind...I thought they were long gone until I heard their voices from the surrounding shrubs. They had got lost when they tried to avoid a little puddle on the route...knuckleheads ;)

We left them behind as we pushed up the slope, but I could still hear George every now and then shouting "I AM TECHNICAL" whenever he came to a technical bit of the I knew they were still pretty much with us. George was like that - constantly making us laugh on the run, seriously adding to the fun-factor.


At the checkpoint before the big downhill we were pretty much with the Old Goats and the Knuckleheads; the Old Goats are strong, so being alongside them half-way through a big stage was encouraging. The Old Goats pretty much left us behind soon after the checkpoint even through Jo and I were flying on the downhill - we managed to overtake a few teams on the downhill but couldn't catch them goats. :( Jo was really motoring...I was absolutely loving it - we were heading for a really good time, sub-6 hours, which would have been amazing (considering our first race ever was the London Marathon in 2006, which we did in 5 hours and 38 minutes).

Unfortunately the fast pace couldn't last. The day was pretty hot even though most of our running was in the shade, so I think the dehydration became an issue. Jo was feeling dizzy, so we had to slow down on the downhill...either that or risk injury. So, for the last few miles of the downhill, we switched to a fast walk instead.

Eventually the downhill finished and we had a few miles of flat wide gravel track into Camp Hale. I'm not so confident about the organiser's ability to measure their course distances - my GPS and Polar RS800 both had our distance at 24 miles and yet we still had a couple more miles to go. :( That final run into Camp Hale become extremely difficult. Mentally difficult because we expected it to end around 24 miles and yet it just went on and on, and the remaining four miles or so were just so monotonous - it didn't help that for the last mile or two you could see the finish in the distance. It was also physically difficult because it was extremely hot and there was absolutely no shade. In a way though I still enjoyed this part of the course, physical and mental challenge was what we had come to the Rockies for. ;)

Where's that bloody camp!?

We were getting slower and slower...I could tell that Jo was suffer from dehydration and blisters even though she never complained. I could see Fred and George slowly catching us up and eventually, about a mile or two from the finish, they overtook us while shouting "USA, USA" - cheeky sods. :(

We eventually finished at a time of about 6 hrs 30 minutes. I told Jo that we should be pretty impressed with that - to run at altitude, over mountains, in searing heat and to come in only 50 minutes behind our London Marathon time was, in my book, awesome.

Camp Hale was a beautiful location, with a nice cold river nearby (which we soaked our legs in for half an hour). Jo was suffering badly from dehydration and had a case of sun stroke, but to make matters worse we waited at the medical tent to get our blisters seen too and to check whether they had anything to speed up her rehydration. The problem was that there was no shade whatsoever near the medical tent while we waited in line to be seen - and standing in the baking sun for 30 minutes just added to our problems.

The great thing about Camp Hale was that the finish line was part of the main camp, so when the last placed team (Team Perky) approached the finish line, at around nine hours after the start, most of the camp rushed to the finish line to cheer them in. There's something special about Team Perky (Alex and Susan) - neither of them are your typical endurance runner builds. Alex especially carries quite a bit of upper body muscle, which just becomes excess baggage when you run long distance. The longer it takes to finish a stage, especially if you are at the back, the harder it is mentally. I have utter respect for these two - they kept pushing every day even though they were last across the finish line. It takes guts and determination to put one foot in front of the other five hours or more after the leaders have crossed the finish line - these two were the real inspiration and, for me, the true winners of this race.

According to the final results Team Perky did not finish (DNF) the final stage - if anyone knows what happened then please let us know. Either way I think Alex and Susan can hold their heads up high and I hope they continue to push themselves and inspire others.

After dinner we headed for a very early night (7pm) - to give Jo a chance of recovering for the next day. I wasn't too worried since the next stage was just a 14 miler. Fred and George were worried enough to suggest that I could join them if Jo dropped out - it was a moving gesture, but I assured them that she'd be fine. I knew that whatever Jo's state was in the morning that she'd be strong enough to do the stage - she's a tough (not so) old cookie. ;)

Day Four - Camp Hale to Red Cliff

Woke to a freezing morning - with ice on our tents. I hate the cold and this morning was really cold, so I wasn't in a good mood (until the sun came over the mountains). Jo on the other hand was feeling much better so had perked up considerably - the early night definitely helped.

Body heat welcome :)

This was a great 14 mile course. Flat (ish) for two miles, then steep uphill for four miles, flat again for one mile and then a great seven mile downhill. Brilliant - I was really looking forward to it. We tackled the uphill as a group (with the Knuckleheads and Cheetahs) - it was a good laugh.

Do they never stop smiling? ;)

What a view!

Once the uphill was over Jo and I went hell for leather on the downhill. We passed so many teams on the downhill (especially on the initial steep downhill) - I think Jo's definitely in her element when she's running down a mountain.

Don't look back!

You'll recall we had a very early night the previous day - hence we missed the course briefing. If we had gone to the course briefing we would have known that there was NO WAY of avoiding wet feet on this stage. But since we didn't know - when we came to our first river crossing we tried to "tip-toe" around the side to avoid the ankle deep section....I then slipped and fell in!!! I only hurt my pride but had a good laugh....until I realised I had lost my Oakley sunglasses - goodbye £70. :( Anyway, like I said, it wasn't a day for dry feet...after the first river crossing there was another, and another, and then the course actually entered the river....we ran in the river, downstream for a few hundred metres. It was crazy and mega fun...that is exactly what we wanted from the TransRockies Run.

I like doing things that "normal" people consider to be a little crazy...I like doing something and thinking "if only they could see me now". I've had few moments like that in my life, like crawling under my floorboards in my first house, feeding a new electric cable...crazy because I'm petrified of spiders and there I was crawling in their neighbourhood, or like when I went for a 20km run and decided to just carry on and ended up doing a full marathon. I think by doing some of these daft things you reinforce that you are alive in more ways than one. This running in a river was one of those "if they could see me now" moments - it's the most fun I've had with my trainers on. ;)

Unfortunately the river also slowed us down - we didn't have the experience or confidence of running over the slippery rocks, so we slowed to a walk, but we picked up the pace again after the river section. We met John DiMeo at the final checkpoint which was a nice surprise. John's blog is linked on the right - he did the TransRockies Run last year and his blog entry helped persuade us to enter this years TransRockies Run. This year he wasn't running - instead he was a volunteer. The volunteers over the week have been amazing - really great, encouraging, people...we honestly couldn't have done it without them.

Anyway we finished the stage strongly, only a short period behind the Old Goats and for once well ahead of the Knuckleheads - yippeee!! We were definitely getting stronger as the week went on.

Still smiling? Knuckleheads!

Red Cliff campsite wasn't great (the site itself was a bad patch of grass with lots of broken glass strewn about the place and the shower truck couldn't make it up the dirt road to the actual camp, hence was located by the finish - about a 10 minute transit from the campsite itself), but it didn't really make any difference. The massages were fully booked, so Jo and I showered and went to Mangos to, the food was great...I was so hungry but even I couldn't finish the 18" pizza all by myself, so I shared it - half of it went to the gang manning the finish line.

So that's what proper runners look like - go team Heathens

Jo spent quite a considerable amount of time doing self-maintenance of her feet. She had a blister on every two...and some of her blisters had blisters. It wasn't a pretty site - did I mention that she's a tough cookie?

Day Five - Red Cliff to Vail

I'd been looking forward to this stage because I knew we could "push" ourselves. Up until this stage we had been running within ourselves, mainly because we didn't know what to expect and did not want to overdo it and find we no longer had anything left to complete the race. On this stage I knew we could really go for it because there was only one day left and if push comes to shove we could crawl that final stage.

Unfortunately I didn't actually discuss this "push ourselves" approach with Jo...I just set a hard pace from the off (we pretty much went up the mountain from the start - so no flat warm-up phase). Needless to say Jo and I had a little "falling out" about one mile into the race. I explained to Jo that we were capable of going much faster - that I hadn't actually felt any real pain or hardship over the previous stages and that no pain really did sometimes mean no gain. Well I was looking for some gain...and therefore needed to push in order for us to feel some pain. After we had a little "discussion" and Jo had thrown her hiking poles to the ground in disgust we kind of made up - I think we were on talking terms again by mile three. I held Jo's hiking poles and she held their ends and allowed me to pull her up the mountain - I wasn't really pulling, but I think it helped Jo and I psychologically.

We made good progress up the mountain - even passing (and staying ahead) of them Old Goats. :) Once we got to the top of the first climb we made a very quick stop at the checkpoint and charged on. Over the week we had progressively been getting quicker at the checkpoints - it's very easy to allow yourself to linger too long at checkpoints and lose quite a bit of time...I think the first two days we must have spent almost an hour in total at the three checkpoints (doh!).

Hot and bothered!

Anyway we had a great little downhill run, followed by a powerful charge up to the second peak - that second climb did just seem to keep going on and on though.

Is there no end to this madness?

Then we had a great final downhill. This final downhill was an amazing almost 10 miles runnable downhill - but again it seemed to go on for a little longer than GPS disagreed with the official distance yet again! Jo was strong on this stage, finishing stronger than me...pretty impressive for someone who had a blister on every toe.

Playground of the rich and...richer

The finish was extra special because my brother, Satpal, and his wife, Parm, had flown in from the UK especially to cheer us on. We spotted them in as we approached the finish and it gave us a massive lift. It was strange to be in Vail - the campsite was on a beautiful was so lush and green that I wouldn't have been surprised to find that someone had sprayed it green (akin to what the Soviet soldiers used to do when they had a army general visit them). We were surrounded by the ultra wealthy, in a pristine just didn't seem real. I've been to Vail before, but this time, after spending a week around great people and without a care for the comforts in life, Vail felt a little sterile. It also didn't help our perception of Vail when a reporter from the Vail newspaper interviewed my brother and his wife near the finish line and asked them "what's going on here, is it some kind of race?". The stage may have finished in Vail but no way can anyone really say that Vail was part of the race. :(

Five-star campsite

Anyway, so did I encounter any of that "pain" that I was seeking? Er, well, not really! It was quite a straightforward stage for us, we powered up the uphills (with me towing Jo via the trekking poles) and we charged down the downhills (with Jo leading the charge). I was very tired by the end - my legs felt pretty spent but I wasn't suffering any aches or pains and I knew that by morning I would be as fit and energised as if I had not run the day before. Jo on the other hand had added to her impressive collection of blisters...we knew that the final stage would involve some considerable pain for her - but she's tough, with a high pain threshold, so I knew we'd be fine.

We got to meet Fred's wife and kids - it was touching to see him surrounded by the his loving family. They were obviously (and rightly) proud of what he had achieved, although Helen (his wife) did say she would kill him if he did it again! I can't begin to imagine how hard it must be fitting in training for something like the TransRockies Run and at the same time having time for a family - hats off to Fred's family for helping him through the process.

Oh, and I almost forgot to say, we FINALLY beat the Old Goats. :) (It is sad that I am competing with two guys who are around the same age as my dad but, man, those old goats are tough!!)

Day Six - Vail to Beaver Creek

There was a jovial relaxed atmosphere at the start of this final stage - I think everyone felt that the worst was over and that one way or another we would finish this final stage. Just like we all underestimated the difficulty of the first ("easy") stage I think we all underestimated this final stage.

The Knuckleheads clashing with the Cheetah's outfits!

We started by running through Vail - personally I think it would have been better to run through the town at the end of the previous stage (so that family and locals could have cheered us on, whereas not many were awake for the 8am start to see us off). The Knuckleheads went off quick - they were on a mission, it was their final chance to beat the Old Goats in a much for an easy "photo" day!!! ;)

I thought this stage would be a repeat of the previous days stage. It started along our usual formula; Jo and I having an argument after the first mile, then me towing Jo up the mountain (for almost 10 miles), followed by Jo charging down the downhill. We were daft enough to think the worst was over once we had finished the first and larger of the two climbs for the stage.

Too early to rejoice!

The downhill, however, which we were looking forward to turned into a bit of a nightmare. After the first mile of the downhill...we turned off a nice wide downhill onto an overgrown, rooty and rocky, steep downhill.

Avon calling

After tripping over roots and rocks we realised we couldn't risk running this single-track, so we slowed down to a walk. As we progressed we got slower and slower and Jo's blisters just got worse. It was also getting pretty damn hot again - especially as we ran through Avon to the final checkpoint. We then began the seconds, much smaller, climb of the day.

It's not funny anymore!

What looked on paper to be an easy 1500 foot climb turned into a nightmare. It was just so steep, and just when you thought you were at the top, you spot an even steeper section - it was torture.

WHAT!? Another bloody hill - can't we go around?

Jo was in considerable pain due to her blisters - I asked her how painful (out of ten)...she replied "twelve"...even when she was suffering severe tooth problems and leg injuries during training she would always say "nine", so I knew "twelve" really was off the scale and unchartered territory for her. It was a good thing that this was the final stage - now sure how we would have handled it otherwise. I think I was finally experiencing the "pain" that I, where's that "gain"?

To say that we had a few disagreements and "discussions" on that final uphill would be a bit of an understatement - we were both a little cranky from being tired and in pain, but we made up on the downhill. We could hear the finish long before we saw it, so we told each other how proud we were of one another, had a kiss and a cuddle and flew into the finish. Satpal and Parm were there to cheer us on - Parm even had a Union Jack (that's the British flag, in case you don't know) for us...which we both held as we crossed the finish line.

The finish itself was a bit of an anti-climax...the (very) cheap medal, the quick finish (out of the trees and there's the finish) and the general "now what" feeling, but Satpal and Parm helped push the sense of achievement with the champagne and chocolates. :)

We congratulated the Knuckleheads and the Old Goats...and yes, the Knuckleheads did finally beat the Old Goats to the finish line. I told Fred's kids that they should be very proud of their father - they rushed over to him and gave him a hug...I think Fred was a little moved by it all but he is such a nice guy that I think he deserves all the joy he can get so I make no apologies for bringing a tear to his eye. :) Kendra and Christine cemented their podium place by finishing second again - they actually ran fast down that single-track that we were forced to walk on...nutters. We were at the finish line to welcome Sjohn and Mimi - who finished with their usual glowing smiles...these two ladies always looked pristine, as if they'd just been out for a light stroll round the park...damn, what's your secret? It was a great day made even better when Amy and Ryan crossed the finish line to the "Here comes the bride" wedding music - they proceeded to saying their wedding vows surrounded by friends, family and fellow (sweaty, smelly and smiling) runners next to the finishing area. Now their real endurance event starts. ;)

Jo and I had got stronger as the week had gone on - another week and we might have found ourselves on the podium. ;) I wasn't too surprised to be honest; I know how strong Jo is...stronger than she thinks, and I've always had faith in my abilities. The Knuckleheads too I think had plenty left in the tank - especially George. Fred is a faster runner (on the flat) and so, initially, I was more worried about George than Fred but I needn't have worried - George is damn strong. I think he can go much further and he too is a great guy, who spends more energy worrying and caring about the people around him rather than himself. Although George is a pretty private person it is obvious from the little he discloses that he's had a very tough year - I hope the lasting memory he has of this year is one of success and happiness.

Team "Can Do" (Achilles Heal, Old Goats, Cheetahs, Knuckleheads and Sandhus)

Boots - new addition to the Sandhu family (thanks Christine)

The race was great - the organisation could have been better, but I'll leave that negativity for another day and posting. As to the positives, the country is just inspires you to run. But, best of all, the people (especially the small group that hopefully will be friends for life) were just brilliant - if the country doesn't inspire you then these people surely must. We would happily run with them again - in fact I think we might insist on it. ;)

Inspirational country!

After the dust had settled Jo asked me "At what point in the race did you have to dig really deep to overcome the pain and suffering?". My response was..."I didn't!". Sure, some of it was a challenge and I felt pain but I didn't "suffer". In fact I suffered more in the Helsinki marathon last year - I guess the eight great months of training that Jo and I endured was the real suffering. I think, for both of us, there is more in the tank so when we were congratulated in the final presentation with the words "this will be the toughest thing you will ever do" I had to disagree; there's bigger and possibly better challenges out there...the TransRockies Run for me was about gaining experience for whatever comes next. ;)

Jo has her sights set on the next challenge and she's aiming pretty high - she wants to do the TransAlps Run (almost twice the distance and twice the ascent) next year. I'm hoping she can persuade her sister to do it with her, otherwise her mug of a husband has his next challenge mapped out for him! I'm not sure it can complete with the experience of the TransRockies Run, unless our new (hopefully lifelong) friends were there too.

Regarding my ambitions. Well, I'd quite like to take on the Comrades or one of the Four Deserts - but it depends on costs and dates. Even so, these runs would (just) be a build up to my ultimate run across India from North to South - a 2000+mile TransIndia Run. Anyone fancy joining me - or locking me up in a nut house (George can join me for company). :)

PS: The rest of the photos can be seen on myphotoalbum - - if you're not already fed up! ;)

Monday, 1 September 2008

Quick Update

Well, we did it. Over 106 miles and 19,170 vertical feet of climbing (although we're sure it was more than that - it certainly felt like it!) and we are done. We've got the t-shirts and the blisters to prove we completed the TransRockies Run. We've had a blast the whole way, solely due to the lifelong friendships we forged along the way. We'd like to give particular mention to Team Knuckleheads, Team Cheetah and Team Achilles Heals - not forgetting the Old Goats!

It's been the toughest challenge we've faced so far, but the definite intention is to set our sights on bigger and better challenges in the future - there are many to choose from so watch this space while we figure it out...

In the meantime, we've spent the last day or so with Sat's brother, Satpal and his wife, Parm. We've had a great day making the most of the Labor Day sales and done lots of shopping and eating, followed by more shopping and eating!!!

Sat'll provide a day by day account of our adventure with plenty of photos over the next few days but we just wanted to let all our followers and supporters know that we'd succeeded in our quest and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Fred - hope you're very proud of yourself and we know it's tough having family commitments but we hope you continue to inspire others through your challenges
George - the main man! You've got bags of potential! The strength and support you demonstrated this week was immense - keep up the great work - the world is your lobster! Yum yum!!!
Sjohn - your words of wisdom and mantras were inspiring - "pain is expected, suffering is optional!" - carry that with you throughout life and you'll go far.
Mimi - what a foxy chick! Anyone who can run 107 miles, looking great and still wear 4 inch high heels for the finishers banquet rocks in my book!
Kendra - what can we say?? Your inner strength and self-belief are immense. Dora certainly is an exceptional explorer!
Christine - your drive and determination shone through that beguiling smile!
Old Goats - what inspiration for the younger generation. YOu lead by example and set the standard for us to follow.

Anyway, we've had enough champagne, mojitos and wine for one evening! We just wanted to say thank you to everyone who's supported us before, during and after the event and this is just the start of things to come!


Saturday, 23 August 2008

We're not alone

Well, we've made it to Buena Vista! We've met several other teams, all from the US or Canada so far, and it's been great to share stories and experiences with other crazies like us rather than bore family, friends and colleagues!

The journey to Colorado was pretty uneventful. The flight was a bit delayed and took longer than expected due to a strong headwind for most of the way but we were well fed and watered on British Airways thanks mainly to our sister-in-law, Parm, getting us an upgrade to business class. Thanks Parm! x

There's a big Democratic convention going on in Denver this weekend so it was no surprise to see Lord David Steel on the flight with us - about 3 seats over from where we were.

Our pickup from Denver was shared with another couple, Team Herbalife, Juliet and Howard. They clearly have lots of long-distance running under their belts and it was great to pick up a few tips from them, especially as Juliet had done this race last year too. We checked into the Best Western around 10.30pm. It had been a long day but it was good to climb into bed knowing the adventure was already underway!

This morning we were up by 7am, we didn't have any specific plans for the day but we were hoping to hook up with some of the other guys we've been in contact with over the past few months. We didn't have to wait long. At breakfast we met Fred and George - Team Knuckleheads. Two laidback guys who are very easy to get along with. So much so that we agreed to head out for a little 5km jog within 30 minutes of meeting them! We also met Team Achilles Heals (Christine and Kendra) who had just arrived from Toronto.

It was already 62 degrees when we set off at for our mini-run about 9am and it continued to hot up. It was a good opportunity to see how we felt at 8000ft. Breathing was a little laboured but we stayed well hydrated and felt good afterwards. We found a great place for breakfast where we were joined by Sjohn and Mimi - Team Cheetah.

The 6 of us have hung out for the afternoon, checking out a dog agility competition (my mum would have loved it) and exploring the local area. We've met some of the organisers of TRR and introduced ourselves - quite surprised to hear how many people have been reading this blog. Our reputation definitely precedes us! We've had lunch (the prices here are so cheap compared to the UK) and this will be followed by a little siesta before we regroup and and catch up with Team Survivor (Judy and David) and head off for dinner. Eating, sleeping, running - what more could we want! It's been a great start to our adventure and if these first few hours are anything to go by, then we're going to have a blast!

BTW - if anyone's been trying to contact us, we have no mobile phone signal so we're unable to make/receive calls or texts.

Whip it on!

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

The Challenge Ahead

Since all the information in this posting is on the TransRockies Run website this posting is really for those of you (i.e. my sister Am) who cannot be bothered to check the main TransRockies Run website ;)

I've also included the weather forecast for the start and end locations for each day. Although it's looking good I suspect the weather on the peaks will be totally different - there's been quite a bit of snow and hail around Leadville recently. There's rain shower predicted for the area on Tuesday 26th August and Wednesday 27th August around Leadville :(

[Edit: Trail Goat (Steve Harvey), who was in Leadville last weekend, had posted a more accurate weather forecast - it looks like it'll be rain and snow pretty much every day!! :( ]

There's a little confusion over the length of the 1st two stages - with contradicting information on the TRR website, hence the description doesn't necessarily match the profile. Let's just say the course is fluid and we wont know for sure until we're running it!

Stage 1 (Mon 25th Aug): Buena Vista to Vicksburg

Buena Vista is located south of Leadville on Colorado Route 24. The scenic town is a recreation haven, most popular for spectacular white water rafting. Expect the weather to be wonderfully mild and pleasant. In this first leg of the race, runners will be cover 18 miles and climb 2,700” to Vicksburg.

Buena Vista: Mostly Sunny 79F/23C
Vicksburg: Cloudy, 73F/20C

Stage 2 (Tue 26th Aug): Vicksburg to Twin Lakes (shuttle to Leadville)

At the end of the first stage, runners will find themselves in Vicksburg, an old silver mining town that is regarded as one of Colorado’s legendary ghost towns. After a night’s slumber with spirits of the mining past, runners will travel 16 miles in stage two and climb 4,500’. This stage ends in Twin Lakes with a shuttle to the tent village in Leadville.

Vicksburg: Sunny, 75F/21C
Twin Lakes: Sunny, 74F/21C

Stage 3 (Wed 27th Aug): Leadville to Camp Hale

Once in Leadville, runners will be challenging their altitude acclimation. Leadville is Colorado’s highest incorporated city at 10,430’. Leadville is also a historic silver mining town that was once Colorado’s second largest city. Again, the weather should be fabulous. After a sky-high night’s sleep, runners will travel 25 miles and climb 3,300’ to Camp Hale.

Leadville: Showers, 66F/17C
Camp Hale: Unknown

Stage 4 (Thu 28th Aug): Camp Hale to Red Cliff

A night in Camp Hale is a very historic one. Located in the Eagle River Valley, Camp Hale was a major mountain warfare-training center for the US Armed Forces. Starting in 1942, Camp Hale was a site for training in mountain climbing, skiing, mountain fighting techniques, and cold weather survival. At its peak, Camp Hale’s facilities included mess halls, barracks, a hospital, a chapel, a fire station, a post office, a bank, a stockade, a guardhouse, stables, corrals, 2,700-seat theater, and a giant field house. After years of conventional and secretive military use, Camp Hale was decommissioned, dismantled, and turned over to the US Forest Service in 1965. Runners will leave this historic site and head towards Red Cliff, covering the shortest leg of 14 miles and climbing 3,009.

Camp Hale: Unknown
Red Cliff: Sunny, 65F/16C

Stage 5 (Fri 29th Aug): Red Cliff to Vail

The previous stage’s short leg was a mild preparation for this leg - the longest stage covering 25 miles and 5,000’ of climbing. After the grueling day, runners will find themselves in Vail, home to one of North America’s most popular skiing destinations. The snow may have melted, but the scenery of Vail is still spectacular. Tired runners may find renewal in Vail Village where Alpine-inspired pedestrian streets are lined with shops, markets, restaurants, and bars (just in case a strong cocktail is needed).

Red Cliff: Sunny, 69F/18C
Vail: Sunny, 72F/20C

Stage 6 (Sat 30th Aug): Vail to Beaver Creek

The last stage of the run is by no means an easy one. Runners will travel 21 miles and climb 4,623’. It may be a long final day, but once in Beaver Creek runners will be celebrating their accomplishment, surrounded by the beauty of this classy Colorado ski destination.

Vail: Sunny, 72F/20C
Beaver Creek: Sunny, 71F/19C

Monday, 18 August 2008

Week 28 Summary (11/08/2008 - 17/08/2008)

Weekly Totals:
Exercise Time: 1hrs 47mins
Running: 2x, 16.43km (10.1 miles)
Longest Run: 10.53km (6.5 miles)

Expended: 2491
Consumed: 2256 (Fat 30%, Carbs 52%, Protein 17%, Alcohol 1%)

Weight: 86.0kg
Body Fat(%): 18.0

HRrest: 56
HRmax: 180 (estimated)

This will be my last "Weekly Summary" posting - phew!! ;)
I will try and do a summary of the race week after our return, but then going forward I'll switch to doing monthly summaries instead.

Looks like I didn't manage to get down to the 80kg weight I had hoped to get down to - but dropping down from 103kg to 86kg is pretty good. I am pleased with that (especially the 10% reduction in body fat). I have an off-road marathon to run at the end of October - I'll be aiming to get my weight down to 80kg for that.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Week 27 Summary (04/08/2008 - 10/08/2008)

Weekly Totals:
Exercise Time: 11hrs 25mins
Running: 5x, 100.00km (61.7 miles)
Longest Run: 22.82km (half-marathon+)

Expended: 3463
Consumed: 2769 (Fat 28%, Carbs 54%, Protein 16%, Alcohol 2%)

Weight: 86.0kg
Body Fat(%): 18.0

HRrest: 56
HRmax: 180 (estimated)

Wednesday, 13 August 2008


Over the past few weeks Jo has confirmed just how much character she's got. I'm pretty confident that only a serious injury or illness would stop Jo being able to complete the TransRockies Run - as she's been through quite a baptism of pain recently.

Jo skimmed over our 6 half-marathons - so I thought I'd elaborate a bit more on the suffering.

We decided to run the six consecutive halves because it would be good experience and it would be good mental training - we didn't really feel there was much to gain physically this late in the training but there was plenty of mental toughness to be gained. I don't think we realised just how much mental toughness Jo was going to have to use in order to do these runs.

On the Friday before we started the six runs (2nd August) Jo went to the dentist, to have yet another root canal drilling session on her troublesome tooth. The tooth's been giving Jo trouble for most of the year - and it has got progressively worse in the past two months.

So she was in pain on Friday night - hence didn't get much sleep, but we still ran the half-marathon on Saturday. Then, on Saturday night, Jo was sick - we think that was down to the after effects of the anesthetics pumped into her by the dentist as well as the anti-biotics she was on. So after not much sleep again, we managed to head out the door for the 2nd half-marathon.

The runs themselves were pretty easy but Jo's leg was giving her considerable pain especially at the start of the run - starting at about a nine (out of ten) in the pain scale, but eventually going down to about a four. The real problem, however, was her tooth - pretty much she didn't sleep all week that we did the six half-marathons. The painkillers only seem to give Jo about a 2 hour respite - and then the next lot would take an hour to only two hours of sleep at a time.

So as you can imagine, getting up at 5am on the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday was pretty difficult. I found it mega hard - and I managed to get some sleep, so not sure how Jo did it. It was good that we did these runs; the runs gave Jo confidence with regards to her leg pain - we know if we start slowly then eventually the pain will subside.

After a week of serious toothache (sometimes up to ten on the pain scale) Jo had had enough - it was time for the tooth to come out. So on the Friday after the runs she was back at the dentist getting the bloody thing removed. Unfortunately that still wasn't the end of the pain...last weekend Jo was still in agony. I ran on Sunday (a fast 10km) but Jo didn't - not a problem really as we were considering starting our taper anyway.

Yesterday Jo was back at the dentist - and he stuffed her empty tooth socket full of some special material laced full of helpful drugs. It's working. Last night was the first time Jo's been pain free for weeks - she's managed to get a full nights sleep and is now smiling again.

I had tooth ache about a month or so ago and after a couple of days I was ready to set to with a pair of pliers, so I'm not sure how Jo's managed to carry on after several weeks of constant pain.

I'm sure Jo wont mind me saying, but I don't think a year or so ago Jo would have been as strong. I remember when we first started running - training for the London Marathon 2006. Jo was racked with self-doubt - which led to quite a few arguments and tantrums while we trained. Even after we completed the marathon Jo was still lacking in confidence in her abilities - she clearly stated she had no desire to run marathon distances again.

There's no way that that Jo would have been looking forward to doing 110miles in the Rockies. The turning point was when Jo went on a Tony Robbins course.

Since that weekend long Life Coaching course, and some subsequent Life Coaching, Jo's been a transformed person - so much more positive. I think these days she reflects the confidence that I always felt she should have - maybe walking on hot coals does that to a person. It's now even got to the stage where she is a Life Coach - she has a passion for wanting other people to reach for their potential and is now slowly building up a client base.

So if you're reading this and feel there's more you want from life, then give Jo a shout. I'm pretty sure she can help you unlock your potential - after all, she's managed to find the key to unlocking hers.

Less than two weeks to go to the TransRockies Run....getting excited and nervous now :)

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Six of the best!

Bit of a misnomer the title of this posting as I don't think they were 6 of our best runs but collectively they were the most challenging. Basically we've just completed 6 half marathons in 6 consecutive days - phew! We started last Saturday so at least the first couple were done at a reasonable time of day. The last 4 had to be squeezed in before work so we've been up by 5am each day. Are we looking forward to a lie-in tomorrow!?! Absolutely.

Each of these runs had it's highs and lows and there's no need for me to go into any real level of detail, the main thing now is the sense of achievement and the fact that it signified the culmination of our training and now the tapering starts - yeehaw! We've got a final 20km scheduled for Saturday but after that the runs become fewer and shorter and although that'll give my leg a chance to heal a bit more, there's also a sense of anticipation building that the time to put all this training to the test is fast approaching.

This was just a short posting to celebrate the 6 in 6 - made even more poignant by Sat seeing the double-Olympic gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes out for a run with a friend this morning. I'd read Kelly's autobiography, "Black, White and Gold", shortly after we'd started our training regime and was inspired by her level of commitment and mental strength especially with all the injuries she suffered and the way she came back even stronger to win Olympic gold. With this in mind, and the Olympics opening ceremony tomorrow, I think it's a sign (in fact, even as I'm typing this, Kelly's on a TV show that we've got on which is obviously why she's in London today). I don't mean we're going to win the TransRockies (although I'm sure my parents would be telling me to aim high!) but I think our preparation and training plan has done the job and got us to where we need to be.

Stay tuned for our last 2 weeks before the big event!

Jog on...

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Week 26 Summary (28/07/2008 - 03/08/2008)

Weekly Totals:
Exercise Time: 13hrs 40mins
Running: 6x, 113.40km (70.0 miles)
Longest Run: 22.11km (half-marathon+)

Expended: 3608
Consumed: 2556 (Fat 24%, Carbs 61%, Protein 15%, Alcohol 0%)

Weight: 84.8kg
Body Fat(%): 18.0

HRrest: 56
HRmax: 180 (estimated)