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 posting...so go put your kettle on or go grab a beer...you'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 walked...so 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 bend...it 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 starving...so it was a trek back up the bloody hill to the campsite to collect wallet from tent. Then trek back down to burger van...one 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 hill...it 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 together...it 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 route...so 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.

Taxi!

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 eat...wow, 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 expected...my 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 field...it 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 town...it 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 stage...so 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 sought...now, 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 amazing...it 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 goal...to 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 - http://satsumo.myphotoalbum.com/view_album.php?set_albumName=album17 - if you're not already fed up! ;)

3 Comments:

Blogger Sunshine Girl said...

Hiya Sat and Jo,
Great report Sat! A bit of an epic posting - mine was as well, it was starting to feel like "work" by the time I finished it!!

Jo - you are a tough cookie. Running on blisters like that is debillitating and painfull, I'm feeling your pain sister. That's impressive!

Sounds like you had a fine adventure and have been inspired for more?? We also hooked up with some fantastic people during the race and this is what made the whole experience for me that much more enjoyable. I really enjoyed pushing the pace on Day 5 just for the helluva' it and yes, I will concede, there was a little sufferage on Day 6.

Hope you are recovering well!

26 September 2008 at 03:45  
Blogger Georgie B said...

Sat,

I will chronicle this blog for many years...... I can't tell you how much that I enjoyed meeting and yes, bonding with you and Jo.

You are classy, classy folks both as individuals and as a couple, the type of people that you just want to be around.

I had the pleasure of meeting up with Sjohn for a run this week while she was doing a bit of unpleasant work in Dallas in her HR role at Microsoft, really great to reconnect.

I will cherish the time together for a long, long time.... the memory hasn't faded even a bit.

Oh here's a knucklehead behaviour.... I refuse to wash or wear my brand new trail shoes that I wore during the race.... I like the photos, the tee shirts and other small chochki's, but owning the dirt on my shoes is the best memory of all.

I am glad you both transcended the plague.... Fred and I had it as well, it was nasty stuff and I am convinced that it came from the radioactive dust storm at our campsite on Thursday.... I'm still a little cranky about that.

Question: when we email you from here in the states is that a delayed transmission or do you get it in a quick transmission time ?

Comment: I am running a marathon on October 11.... your encouraging spirit witll be with me starting at mile 20, when the going gets tough.

Cheers, forever.

George

28 September 2008 at 00:05  
Blogger Freddi14 said...

Jo and Sat

I have been meaning to drop you guys a line for sometime now. I loved reading your post you did a great job of recounting each day. Thank you for the kind words expressed in your post about this knucklehead.

I have been in a funk ever since getting back. Besides getting sick I had a colononscopy two weeks after being back. That is a lot fun !!!

I have tried to comment on the last three stages of the race but no motivation. I did write an article for the YMCA that is where I work-out. But I really had to force myself. By the way I have hard time running more the 5 miles now.

I did fill out the TR survey. Told them how disappointed I was that there was no one there at the end of Stage 2 to get a photo of all of us finishing that day. That will always be a great memory for me and it would have been nice to share that memory with some of my friend back here. It really was a special day. If you think about only two days earlier we were all strangers. The fact that 8 people came together to help each other accompolish the goal of climbing to 12,500 was pretty special. Jo, I tell all my friends about how you got me through that day. Thanks again.

Sat,great photos as well. I hope to put together that DVD I was talking about. As soon as I shake off the let down. Kendra, was giving me grief about the let down...I will rally soon. It sounds like Christine and Kendra have picked up where they left off.

George wants to run in the Hartford marathon next weekend. He is trying to get me to go up and join him. But I coach Katie's soccer team on the weekends so it is difficult to get a free weekend.

Keep me up to date on what is going on with you guys. Once I figure out how to upload my photos I will drop you line so you can look at them.

Miss you guys, stay well...

5 October 2008 at 00:53  

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