Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Dar to Moshi

What can one say about 12 hours on a bus?

We left our hostel at 7am to make our way to the bus station to catch the Dar Express,  after our minibus driver took us to the wrong bus station we eventually made it to the right one with seconds to spare.  There are only 2 busses a day so missing the 8.15 would have caused major problems.  

Dar is huge and sprawling. It took ages to get out of the city, but the coach was comfortable and the Christian African pop music that was blaring out at full volume couldn't last for ever could it?  

Mr Bones 2
Well, no it couldn't.  It was followed by three B (possibly C,D or E) movies.  The first was hugely violent and involved more swearing than I have heard in a film for a very long time, the second was some sort of time travel thing that at one point involved a man putting a purple metallic vibrator in his ear while shouting 'I'm coming' to someone in the next room, and the third was called 'Prey' and involved a family on safari being mauled by lions.  Not suitable viewing for our older teens, but definitely an odd choice on a bus that also had lots of very young children on it.

As if this wasn't enough, we were then treated to very loud African rap music videos.  Frankly they all sounded the same - or my eardrums have been permanently damaged.

The scenery was stunning - but we spent much of our time sleeping, recovering from our 'white lunch' - cheese spread triangles and a bread roll!  The food team had decided that, because I turned down a donut the previous day, I obviously wouldn't want one today, but thought that my allergy to apples would have vanished overnight!

We arrived at Weruweru Lodge much later than anticipated and pitched our tents in the dark.  A quick dinner complete with vegetables (I've been fantasising about a plate of vegetables for a couple of days now) was very welcome.  

So it seems you can say quite a bit about 12 hours on a bus!

Tomorrow we'll see Kilimanjaro for the first time... 

Shoe shopping is quite different here.

Not sure how well the boys slept, but I got loads of sleep - despite being convinced that the rattle of the fan would keep me up all night!  

I was worried that today would feel like a wasted day, but I had forgotten just how long it sometimes takes to complete even the smallest tasks when one is out of ones comfort zone.  The aim of a World Challenge expedition is that the challengers make their own decisions with the adults there as back up and support.  This is a huge learning curve for any middle class child from Surrey when they find themselves in Tanzania, it is even more challenging for our boys who all have specific learning difficulties.  They are doing really well - although timekeeping is something of a challenge! 

We had various things we needed to do, get a SIM card for the group phone, discuss the budget, organise food for our journey to Moshi, work out which safari everyone wanted to go on and discuss how we could afford it.  This, and lunch, kept us busy until mid afternoon.  We had lunch at 'A.Tearoom'. That's what it was called - although unlike any English tearoom.  They boys are all bravely trying new things, which is great to see!  I'm struggling to find anywhere that serves diet soda - I'll be the size of a house by the time I come home!

In the afternoon, with time to occupy, we walked to the  Botanic Garden.  Kew Gardens it was not!  Some interesting trees and wildlife, but we had to leave quite quickly as we were pestered by some locals who said we needed to bribe them if we wanted to be there.  Aparently the debate got quite heated - I had moved the boys away and was allowing the other two to deal with the situation!

Still, we had a lovely wander through the city, noting the changes from the busy centre to the quieter parts where all the government ministries are located,  It is bizarre to see shoes being sold in the turning circle outside an office block!

Due to economising at lunch time we had a budget of 20,000 Tanzanian Shillings a head for dinner.  That's a bit less than £10 each.  After finding a restaurant that could seat 14 (not easy!) we were able to order huge amounts of food and still have just under100,000 shillings left over!

The planned early night didn't happen! Hopefully the boys will all be up bright and early as we have a bus to catch....
I used to work for these guys.


Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Frenshan to Dar Es Salaam

I think the title says it all! 

Arrived at school at 10am on Sunday for a full on day of kit checks and some outline planning.  My family seemed glad to see the back of me for a few weeks, my younger daughter shed tears of joy the previous evening but managed to hold it together in the morning.  

The boys veered between excitement and anxiety, but much of their anxiety was allayed by our World Challenge group leader, Big Al, calm, quiet, caring and profoundly unflappable. 

Our flight was at 8.45pm, and we managed to get to the gate without losing anyone en route, seats were swapped on board to ensure that I ended up with more leg room than is strictly necessary for a person of reduced stature! 
We still hadn't managed to lose anyone when we got to Abu Dhabi - one of the nicer airports with some excellent signage!
We grown ups (!) decided we needed a coffee.  Al was dispatched to get 2 white and 1 black coffee.  'There is only white coffee - it comes from the machine' was the response. So I switched to Pepsi and giggled when the others  received their black coffees!

Arriving in Dar es Salam was a culture shock for the boys.  I was amazed at how much more developed Dar is than Nairobi was 20 years ago.   

We are staying in a hostel that has en suite showers, basic and clean, and spent yesterday organising our bus for tomorrow, changing money and find somewhere for supper.

An early night was welcome - especially to the mosquitos who feasted on my legs, despite liberal applications of Deet and a mosquito net! 

More later - and sporadically as and when I have an internet connection.

Photos to follow when I get home as I can't upload them from here.

A question.

As a lot of you know, I'm in Tanzania right now.  Last night I started writing a diary of the trip and it occurred to me that a blog would work too, when I can get internet access.

Would it be acceptable to blog here? There probably won't be much running involved.  Let me know in comments or on FB.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Sydling Hill Race aka Not the Giants Head Marathon.

The Giants Head Marathon is, without doubt, my favourite marathon.  I booked my spot in this year's race as soon as White Star Running announced the date, having already booked a room at The Greyhound Inn.  To say that I was looking forward to it would be something of an understatement.  At around 28 miles long with 3000ft of elevation gain it is not exactly a walk in the park, but it is so much fun!  Aid stations every 3 miles, with some of the best volunteers and a fabulous selection go cakes and of course the famous 'Lovestation' make White Star races very special, as do the wonderful people who take part.  You are never alone for long during a race and conversations are interesting and varied.

On Friday evening Husbando and I travelled down to Sydling St Nicholas, a village in Dorset with no mobile reception at all, having both switched from the marathon to the shorter, 10k-ish (actually 11k) Sydling Hill Run.  We had also cancelled our second night at the Greyhound.  This made us both a bit sad.  Husbando had switched due to the injury from the Casterbridge Half and I was, for the first time in my life, being sensible.  On Sunday I am flying to Tanzania for a month, to trek with boys from school and climb Kilimanjaro.  To run a marathon the day before a long haul flight might be just about manageable, but the risks involved in running so far off road before a long flight and a month of trekking were just a little too high for me to contemplate.

We met up with friends when we arrived at the village hall.  Once again the Women's Institute had put on a fantastic meal for us, and there was a bar!  After a couple of willy themed lagers we retired to the Greyhound for race prep gins and tonic!  Our friends were running the marathon and I was already beginning to regret being so sensible!

After a sleepless night (too hot and humid) we woke up fairly early and all had breakfast together before Husbando and I cheered C & M off as they started the marathon.  I saw lots of my running friends at the start and my regrets grew.  We went back to our room and occupied ourselves until it was time for us to head to the start.

The Sydling Hill race has fewer runners than the marathon, and starts out along the same route as the big race, with the same, killer, concrete hill within the first mile.  Husbando and I started out together, but about halfway up that hill, when he had pulled a little way ahead, I decided to part company with my breakfast.  That slowed me down a bit!  This was never going to be a PB race, but I was hoping not to disgrace myself too badly, so this wasn't the start I was looking for.

I ploughed on...up hills, down hills, across fields with much longer grass than I remember (long grass that came in useful when I tried to turn my stomach inside out - my body seemed to think I still had breakfast to throw up!) and chalk paths that were going out of their way to try to twist ankles.   I wasn't going to let that happen!  Pretty soon we got to the final aid station - which is also the final aid station in the marathon.  I knew that the rest of the way was predominantly down hill - just one small hill to negotiate!  It was refreshing to run down the hills on legs that weren't screaming at me and before long I was running across the village green to the finish.  1 hour 13 minutes is not fast for an 11k run, but I was the 18th woman to finish, 2nd in my age category and 40th overall.  Husbando had finished 6 minutes and 20 places ahead of me.

After a quick shower and change of clothes we came back to the green, armed with cakes, tea and coffee and camping chairs to sit and cheer the other runners in!  It was great to see friends finish their marathons and there were some fast times recorded on such a tricky course.  As always the organisation was superb, the atmosphere warm and welcoming, the bling is awesome (who doesn't love a spinning willy?) and the t-shirt is pure genius - even if I can't wear it to school!

We are back home now, and I have a humungous ruck sack packed and am quite excited and nervous about my trip.  I am also just a wee bit jealous of everyone still in Sydling St Nicholas, no doubt drinking and dancing the night away and looking forward to the madness that is the Sydling Bell Race tomorrow morning!  Have fun, run well and I hope that the bells don't irritate hungover heads too much!

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Return to Wasing Park

I'd been obsessively checking the weather forecast for over a week.  I knew where my tent was, what food I was going to take with me and which clothing I would pack.  In other words, apart from a lack of adequate training and niggling injuries, I was as ready as I could be for another Solo Endure 24!

Yet again, Husbando had a busy weekend (work, school fete, childcare, gardening) so I would be 'on my own' for the first day.  Not that it is possible to be on one's own at Endure.  There are so many familiar faces and the majority of them are bloody lovely!  I set up my tent next to a friend's on Friday evening, went to a Stewart Lee gig and then home to bed.

Saturday was sunny.  After days of looking at a forecast that promised rain we were now apparently assured a dry weekend.  Wet weather gear was swapped for sunscreen and hats.  After faffing around and getting a massage to try to loose up my piriformis and hamstring it was time to go to the start line.  There seemed to be far more people than last year, but as with last year the atmosphere at the start was amazing.  Starting near the back, and feeling quite exhausted (it has been a busy few weeks) it was easy not to go off to fast.  The sun was beating down, we were on our way up the 'Hill of no return.'

When it comes to setting targets, I am my own worst enemy.  I had wanted to defer my entry, but had missed the deadline.  I knew that I was not as fit as I had been last year and that the 24 hours were going to be really hard work. I desperately wanted to equal last year's mileage (70miles), but knew that this would be a tall order.   After three lap I wanted to quit.  Laps are a mental challenge at the best of times and, despite the fact that I was running at a good steady pace, my heart and head weren't in it and I couldn't see the appeal of running 11 more laps.  About this time I bumped into some running buddies and that changed my event.  Several renditions of 'I know a song that will get on your nerves,' (I only shifted that earworm by singing 'Bye Bye Miss American Pie' very loudly) and discussions about all sorts of things (more of this later, maybe!) helped the miles tick by.

My 'runners' Alzheimer's' was in full force.  People kept saying hello to me and calling out my name - and I was wracking my brains to try to match a name to the face.  I was convinced that I must be wearing one of my tops with my name on it - but I wasn't!  I do apologise if I looked a bit vague at times.  Between laps I was the Queen of Faff!  I probably wasted hours trying to decide if I needed to go to the loo or not, whether I wanted to eat or not, change my shoes or not.  I also worried about a friend who was not having a good time.

I wanted to complete 45 miles before bedtime, after 8 laps (40 miles) I was flagging.  I decided to walk the next lap and was joined by a friend who was here to support members of her running club.  We hadn't seen each other for a while and it was great to catch up!  She sets a cracking walking pace and we saw the famous Forest Faries! After that I had a massage and, just after midnight, retired to my tent.  I timed this to coincide with the portaloos in the solo area being serviced - a lovely aroma and noise to act as a lullaby.  I decided to allow myself 3.5hrs sleep with the aim of being back out again in 4 hours.  I may have been lying down, but I didn't get much sleep - the solo area is near the track and all night there are team runners calling out to try to find the next team member.

Then it started raining.  I think that may have lulled me to sleep, but it was still raining when the alarm went off at 3.30am.  This meant that long tights and a waterproof were needed, not shorts, but the condensation inside my single skin tent meant that I was likely to get soaked if I tried to change in the tent.  I retired to my car and contorted myself into long tights while sitting in the driver's seat.  It would have been much easier to do this in the passenger seat - but I didn't realise that until I was half into my tights!  As I got out of the car the bloody rain stopped!

That first lap on Sunday was tough.  I was so tired that I was falling asleep on my feet.  I got back to the car, wiggled out of long tights and back into a pair of shorts, and texted Husbando to say that I was going to have a 20 minute nap before going out again.  He said to wait for him because he would be here in 40.  I was asleep within minutes.

The last four laps were much more walking than running, accompanied by Husbando, we maintained a fairly brisk pace.  My legs were too tired to even attempt to run on some of the more uneven sections.  My feet were burning.  Every footstep was painful.  My brain could barely compute the 5x table.  This lead to great joy when I realised I only had two laps left to do not three!

The last lap seemed to take forever, but as I zig zagged across the field at a shuffle and turned the corner to approach the finish I could see that there was no one between me and the finish arch.  There were loads of people around the finish so I couldn't carry on shuffling - I had to put on a burst of speed.  I felt as though I was sprinting, I probably looked like a three legged donkey, but I heard the commentator name check me and he said that I was sprinting so it must be true!

At last it was over!  I was so happy to be able to stop.  I eased my trainers off, peeled my socks away from my skin and realised why I was in so much pain.  Blisters!  I don't get blisters!  But today, maybe because of the heat I had a life time's supply.  Blisters on the side of my feet, the base of my feel, under my heel and between my toes!  Putting on flip flops was painful!

Thank you to everyone who helped me through the last couple of days!  You are all awesome.