Saturday, 20 January 2018

How are those resolutions going?

Today is well over half way through January. I am just checking in with how my resolutions are doing, and wondering how everyone else is doing in 2018? Did you set some resolutions, intentions, goals, a word for this year? Are you sticking with it? Or has it fallen by the wayside? It is January 20th, and I remember some statistic being said that it takes 3 weeks to form a habit. So if you are still sticking to your resolutions, we're at at the threshold of three weeks, so hopefully that means the good habits we we're trying to introduce are sticking.

Running and working the coach:

I just have to say I am LOVING working with a coach! I had wanted to do this for a few years, but hesitated spending the money on myself and was skeptical someone could work with me with my shift work, and I never really liked following a set plan etc. I was so wrong!  I thought I was a pretty self disciplined person, and didn't need more accountability. Again I was wrong.  My coach is really flexible, he looks at my schedule for work and how I did the week before with training before he gives me my next week of workouts. I love how much the training is individualized.  Also I found that I am working harder especially on quality days, because I know someone is looking at and analyzing my data.  It is also getting me out of my comfort zone, I tried training with a tire this week "fred" and can't wait to see how that type of training is going to help me with my climbing this year. This is one resolution that has been easy to stick to, I love getting my workouts on Sunday, and seeing what challenges I have for the week. For almost 10 years I have been making this up running training thing as I go along, it's really been a nice treat to myself to work with somebody that cares about my goals and is going to help me challenge myself.

Sober January!

I was really hesitating making this goal public, because I was truly worried I wouldn't make it past a few days. I am at 20 days now, and  I am surprised at how easy it has been. Last night was the first night I was craving a glass of wine after work. But  I fought the urge and made a cup of herbal tea, and gave myself a generous spoon of honey in it, and the craving went away. January was a good time to try this challenge, with the exception of running and work, I am in full on hibernation mode, there is minimal socializing going, so it makes it easier to avoid situations with alcohol. I feel great, I think my sleep is better, and I am consuming less calories at night. All big wins. Before this challenge I was listening to podcasts about women and alcohol, my favorite is HOME podcast.  Even if you're not into sobriety, these are two friends in there late 30's talking so honestly about sobriety, money, men, and life in general.  I am still reflecting about my relationship with alcohol and if/how I want it in my life.  I probably have more to say on the matter, but it is still percolating in my brain.  We are going to Colombia in 10 days, and I am sure I will have some drinks when I am down there celebrating carnival.  But taking this break, as made me reflect a bit on alcohol and my relationship to it, and question if/how it is going to be in my life moving forward.  I am going to take this resolution, as a big win. I was able to stick to it, and it wasn't has painful/awful as I thought.


I am only 20 days out of 365. But as I said in the beginning, I am really close to that 21 day mark, so hopefully this is becoming closer to a habit. I invested about $75 in the headspace app for the year. It is well worth it. I have used this app before and I love it. It is easy to use, down to earth, and they have meditations from 1 minute to 30 minutes.  They also have theme packs based on what you want to work on, like, creativity, anger, relationships, anxiety etc. I used to leave meditation as the last thing I'd do before work, but then my morning would get away from me, and sometimes I'd miss it. I changed my routine, and I do it before my shower now.  I haven't had to yet, but if I have a crazy morning, its on my phone, so I can do it anywhere, a parking lot, the breakroom at work etc. My longest streak previously was 75 days. So I know I need to be diligent about making this a priority. If anyone else is interested the other resources I found helpful were Dan Harris' 10 % happier Book and Podcast and I signed up for Sharon Salzberg meditation challenge in February (its free).


I am writing daily in my gratitude journal. I list three things every morning while eating breakfast.  I am currently on Day 60 of this habit, so I am hoping it sticks. It is a nice way to start the day. I am also writing in another daily blog. I bought Marianne Williamson " A year in miracles" . Each day is a new lesson based on the "Course in Miracles" . So every morning while I am eating breakfast, I read the lesson, and then write out my thoughts on the lesson. These two practices allow me to get about 20 minutes of writing in everyday. Otherwise, I have had lots of ideas floating around my head but I haven't really sat down to start writing them. Hoping I might be able to get some writing done when we go on vacation. Any other writers out there? What are your practices?


This again is the neglected resolution, the red headed step child of the group. Other than becoming obsessed with Jane the Virgin recently I have spent zero time on this resolution. We do leave in 10 days for Colombia, so I will have a 20 day immersion into the culture and be living with people whose English is equivalent with my Spanish, so I hope I learn something and maybe it will motivate me to make this a priority when I get home.

Most of these goals are yearlong pursuits, but I think I will throw one or two monthly challenges in there. So starting February fist my goal is to refrain from GOSSIP.  I think this will prove to be a harder challenge than it sounds (although lets be honest, I am giving myself a HUGE advantage being away in Colombia for 20 days where the language barrier will be advantage for this goal).

I'd love to hear how everyone else's 2018 is going. Also if you are struggling to stick with your goals check out 4 tendencies Quiz by Gretchen Rubin.  I've heard her recently interviewed on a few podcasts. She explains how different techniques work for different tendencies in terms of sticking to your goals.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Winter Running

It's the time of year where there are an abundance of articles about winter running gear, tips for running in the winter, and couch to 5 k programs for those people that made running a resolution.  The other day as a was running on New Year's Eve and I think it was -30 something with the windchill and I was doing my long run mostly solo because I couldn't recruit anyone other than my loving boyfriend to share some cold miles with me. It was so cold my phone froze, so I was running solo silent miles and  I started pondering what could I share about winter running/training?  The following are a few random tips/thoughts that popped in my head.

  1. There is no inappropriate weather. Just inappropriate clothing choices. So layer, layer, and layer. Once it gets to -20 and beyond I like two layers on bottom and three on top and some kind of balaclava for my face. A good pair of wool socks and a warm pair of mitts, my hands and feet were fine. 
  2. Just get outside. I have never been officially diagnosed with SAD (seasonal affective disorder), but my mood is definitely lower in the winter. It is easy to get into hibernation mode. Getting outside in the fresh air and being out in the sun (when it's there) helps so much with my energy.
  3. Find some friends! It's easier to get through tough cold days, when you're laughing and suffering together with some friends. Probably is also a good safety feature when you're venturing out on trails for hours on end.  Two winters ago I had one of my toughest trail "runs".  Really it was a giant ridiculous slog.  It was supposed to be a 30 something km run end to end on a section of the Bruce Trail. It turned out to be post holing slog fest and took us almost 8 hours to complete. It was cold, hard and I ran out of snacks (not a good combination). What saved me was sharing this experience with friends. My friend Lori was laughing the whole time and embracing the adventure. So was my friend Agnes and she also had brought way more snacks than me and generously shared some cold grilled cheese with me, when I was ready to have a complete hangry meltdown. Later that year when I was competing in a 100 miler, I would recall that day and remember that I can do hard things. 
  4. Sometimes it makes you feel like a bad ass.  At least in my head anyways. Sometimes I think, 'wow I must look really tough' running out when its -30. Then I think what I must really look like, with all my layers on that don't match, some kind of ridiculous hat, my frozen face, and snot pouring out of my nose. It's not really the image of women winter running that I see advertised or on some trail runners Instagram account. But getting through workouts in the winter, usually toughens me up for spring training and racing. 
  5. It can be really freaking pretty! Some winter runs when the snow is fresh, and it's cold so you hear every crunching footstep, and all the trees are snow covered, and you are alone in the forest, it can feel pretty magical.  It is a way better experience than a treadmill.

Those are just a few of my thoughts about Winter Running. What tips/tricks help you get your training done in the winter?

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Looking forward to 2018

It is that time of year again, New Year's Resolutions, finding and planning races, and making big goals for 2018. I have been contemplating what kind of goals I want to work towards in 2018.  Even though it's December 27th I don't think I have entirely fleshed out all the things  I want to work on, nor have been able to articulate the reasons why.  But it is just four days away to the New Year, so now is as good as time as any to put thoughts and goals on paper.  This may a living breathing document throughout the year as I get inspired a race or a new project. Even though it may not be totally complete, I need something to anchor myself a bit, and a concrete goal to work towards.  So here we go!

Running Goals

Work with a Coach:

I can check this one of my list.  I have wanted to work with a coach for a few years.  I wanted to see what it would be like to stick to an actual plan.  To have someone give me an individualized plan. To have someone push me. To have someone to bounce ideas off and give me feedback on my training.  Although this is something I have wanted for awhile, I could never justify the cost to myself. This year I wanted to make it work and to make it a priority.  I have made the commitment on cutting back on buying take out coffee and buying lunches at work ( I really could probably have got a coach, without these sacrifices, but it's how my weird little mind works with money, and less take out will be better for my wallet, waistline, and the environment, it's a win/win situation).

I am happy to say that in December I started working with Derrick Spafford.  He has tons of experience as a running coach. I have had some really good friends work with him, and he came highly recommended. I was worried my crazy schedule wouldn't work for a coach, but Derrick has worked with shift workers before and is really open to working with my schedule. It's only been three weeks, but I am loving it so far.  It's so nice not to have to plan out my week and think about what workouts I want to do.  It's also nice for each workout to have a purpose. I am loving the accountability and having someone to give me feedback and adapt my training based on how I am performing.  This first goal, is a big piece of some of my other goals for 2018 and beyond.

Ultra Asia Race: Vietnam (March 2018)

I came back from the Ultra Africa Race so pumped and inspired.  The stage racing experience was everything I had hoped it would be. It was a serious challenge, made some awesome friends, and had some amazing experiences.

I had been looking at Canal Aventures Road Sign Continental Challenge for a few years.  I always thought it would be so cool. But I would quickly dismiss the idea, as I didn't have the time or the money to do such a challenge.  Having completed one of the races in Africa, made me more confident to keep going with the challenge. Also, yes it does take time and money, but so do lots of other things, and when a time comes where I have more time and money, I may not have the health and physical ability to do the challenge. So when I saw my friend Andrea was going to go Vietnam, I started seriously looking at the race.  Again I was fortunate with awesome co-workers who helped switch some shifts, my partner Frank is supportive of my adventures, I found a cheap flight, and I messaged Jerome the race director, and voila, I am going to Vietnam for a four day stage race at the end of March.  I will probably write a post closer to the leaving about how my training is going and what is involved for this event. This will be my big running goal for the first half of 2018.

I like to do A, B, and C goals for races.

A: Finish in the top 3 women

B: Finish in top 5 women

C: Finish the event.

I have a long term goal of going to The Track in Australia in 2019 (more on that later). As of right now I am still trying to decide what other goals/races I want to tackle in 2018.  Some thoughts I have are....

  1. Go for a sub 24 hour 100 mile
  2. 50 miles at La Cloche race in October
  3. Find another longish trail in Ontario or nearby and do an end to end
  4. Ultra Bolivia Race Fall 2018 (anyone want to start a gofundme page lol and convince Frank and my family :) 
I would love to know what other people of working towards in 2018, and any ideas for me to consider, as I can't seem to commit to anything past March.

Non-running related goals

Sober January

I have never done an intentional sober anything.  I have heard other people doing these challenges. I would think, ugh that sounds awful.  The fact that I perceive this as a challenge, tells maybe I need to do it.  Also it gives my liver a much needed break before we go to Colombia for Carnival and all the festivities we will be partaking in there.  So there you go, I have said it publicly, I am going to have a sober January.


I have been doing some writing daily for the last month.  This is a practice I want to continue in 2018, so I find if I say things publicly, I am more likely to make myself accountable. Kind of how a race gets my butt out the door when its -25 out.  

Part of this goal includes keeping a daily gratitude journal. I have heard this practice suggested from Oprah, to so many other self-help, happiness project type books and gurus, and always dismissed it, or would try it for a day and forget about it.  I have been doing the practice for 37 days and counting now, and it is surprisingly easy, and I enjoy the practice of pausing for a few moments at the beginning of the day to think about what I am truly grateful for at that moment.  

I have chatted to one of my friends who also writes, about meeting up to share our writing, and talk about writing. Having a group to share this activity with would help with accountability, learning and sharing the experience with others.  If there is anyone else that would be interested in this, let me know! I by no means think I am a writer, but I think it would be nice to have a creative outlet to compliment my physical pursuits and the busy work environment I have. 


Ah meditation.... out of all my goals for 2018. This should be the easiest, right!? All I have to do is for a few minutes a day, is sit still and pay attention to my breath.  How hard can that be to do every day??? Well this will be my third year trying to incorporate meditation daily, so I am going to say, it's pretty fuc&%$g hard! I am persistent though, and I know how much it helps when I do it consistently. So here we go again for 2018. Go big or go home, 
I am going to mediate every damn day!

For any of my other friends out there that practice mediation. Any tips, apps, etc that can help? I would love to know!

Learn more than three lines of Spanish.

I have been dating a Spanish speaker for more than a year, and I have learned no more Spanish, than a knew a year ago (except for some swear words). I know this is pathetic. The reality of this is hitting me like a ton of bricks, as we are leaving for Colombia in a few weeks time and I am going to have a really hard time communicating with Frank's family.  I bought an app almost a year ago and never use it.  

This is a goal I really need to flesh out. 

I am I going to practice daily?
I am going to sign up for lessons?
A different app?
Buy Rosetta Stone?
Have Frank and the kids only speak Spanish to me from now on?
Some kind of Audio material, that I can listen to on runs and in the car?

Clearly this still isn't a priority for me.  But again, maybe if I say the goal out loud and publicly maybe it will get me set on actually doing some practices towards achieving it.

As I said at the beginning, this is more of a living breathing document and not a totally concrete set of plans for 2018. At least it gives me some guideposts of where I want to go in 2018. Hope everyone has a great New Year! 

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Reflections 2017

It's that time of year, to start looking back over the past season, before looking ahead to 2018.
This year I didn't run as many miles as I have in the past couple of years. I didn't have any injuries, but I focused on some more quality than quantity.

The Numbers

Total km as of Dec 14:  2 541 km. (500 km less than last year)

Elevation Gain  29 143 meters

Time 300 hours

Days running 243

Highlights as best as I can remember in chronological order

January: Road to Alabama with my bestie Kendra Olson.  She thankfully said yes to my ridiculous idea of driving 13 hours to Alabama and running a 50 km and then turning around and driving 13 hours home.  We always have lots of laughs being trapped in a car 26 + hours you really get some great /silly conversations. We did our requisite making fun of Trump supporters and humongous portions at restaurants. As for the race, it was the Mountain Mist 50 km.  I was coming off 2 + months of barely running. It went well for me, my energy was good, I enjoyed the course and finished under 7 hours.  Typical of any races I have experienced in the USA and especially the south, the RD, volunteers and other runners were all super friendly and welcoming.

February: My fifth attempt at the February Challenge

This was my fifth attempt and third completion of the February Challenge, the brilliant idea of my friend Ken.  The concept is you run outside everyday in February, you set the distance and time for your own goal. I keep my goal to 20 minutes. But it is a great boost to training to make it outside every DAMN day in February.

March: Frank completing the Hockley Loop and running the Grand Valley Trail

One of the big changes this year was starting a relationship with Frank just before the New Year. I always said I didn't want to date another runner, because I liked running to be my thing. I was wrong. I really like having a partner that likes to go out for runs and explore new trails. Frank is a really new trail runner. When we met it was his third trail run ever I think.  His first was the Hockley Loop in the Fall (which is ridiculous) it's one of the most challenging loops around in my opinion. His first experience wasn't great, my friend Steve had to help him and our friend Mariana leave the loop early.  Fast forward a few months later and we were tackling it again. It was great to catch up with my friend Steve, and Frank finished the loop feeling strong and giving him confidence for upcoming race in the Vipava Valley in Slovenia.

Frank also had a another first in March, we went out with my friend Rhonda ( a known bully ;).) Rhonda had been working on finishing the Grand Valley Trail. We did about 35 km that day. It was a cold and windy day in March. This was his longest run.  It was great this year to see trail running from a newer runners perspective.

April: Running my fastest 10 km since 2010 and Vipava Valley 50 km

Early in the year I started hanging out in Barrie and Frank introduced me to the Run Ninja Group. I was reluctant at first, because I don't like running on the road. Again I was proven wrong.  I have met some great friends because of this group and love the positive and welcoming energy from everyone. They are also a FAST group, for this stubborn trail runner that never does "workouts" it was a much needed change. After training with them during the winter, my speed had started coming back and I went out and did my first road run in 7 years and got a sub 50 minute 10 km. Still a far cry from my sub 45 minute PR, but I will take it.

At the end of April Frank and I traveled to Slovenia. I became interested in Slovenia after meeting Bojan on a run in Tanzania and he told me about his country. In late 2016 when  I was looking for a new race to inspire me, my friend Agnes posted about this race she was doing. I saw the videos and pictures and had found my destination race for the year.   It was originally going to be a solo trip and I would meet up with Agnes and her husband at the race, but I would be spending the majority of the trip solo.  This changed when I met Frank, he had never been to Europe and was able to take the time off. He had done one 10 km race, but bravely signed up for the 25 km, with serious elevation gain. I had signed up originally for the 110 km, but I was under trained and wanted to enjoy the race, so I opted for the 52 km.  I really didn't know much about the race of the country of Slovenia. I was pleasantly surprised by both. Frank and I also had never traveled with each other and had only been dating less than 5 months when we left. But we ended up traveling well together and the entire trip ended up being magical. Slovenia, is truly beautiful, with not a lot of tourists, friendly people, super safe and easy to travel, and not that expensive by European standards. The race didn't disappoint, it had a true European flair, lots of trekking poles and spandex, meat and cheese, and wine at one of the aid stations. I felt like I was in the Sound of Music all day. The climbs were hard, but I put a strong effort in and finished feeling good in around 8:20.  Frank had a great day, he finished the 25 km under 4 hours and felt great and he loved the experience too.

May: Eating and drinking our way through Slovenia and Italy

After finishing the race, I did a few short runs in Slovenia and Italy, but my main focus was eating, drinking, relaxing and taking in the sites. We came home the second week of May and we ran the Mec 15 km Trail Race.  I ran the race hard with a tempo like effort, I finished fourth female and Frank beat me by seconds.

June: Barrie Half Marathon

I have not run a half marathon, since I helped a friend in 2011. My last great half marathon was 2009 where I ran a 1:38 at Angus Glen. Frank gets a free entry into the Barrie Half through work, and it was his first half, so I reluctantly agreed to go.  I woke up and it was rainy and miserable out, it was perfect, because it fit my attitude. I had in my head that I would like to break 2 hours and if it was a great day break 1: 50. I started out conservatively and kept building, the cool weather and rain helped. I had forgot to charge my watch, so after 10 k I had no idea of my pacing and had to run by feel. I pushed pretty hard, the last few kilometers were hard as expected and I came through in 1:49 and change, a far cry from my PR but I was happy with my effort. Frank finished and made his goal of breaking two hours. I guess it wasn't so horrible after all to run a half-marathon.

July: Enjoying the summer

I opted not to do Limberlost, and stay up at the cottage and enjoy some summer sun.   I took Frank and Franco to my cousins cottage for the first time on Lake Naraka.  They loved it, we enjoyed the peace and quiet and I got some easy runs in the morning around the area always followed by a dip in Naraka (my fav). We did a nice mini trip to Lions Head and got some miles in on the Bruce Trail (one of my favorite parts of the Bruce).  It was sometime in late July or early August, that I decided to register for the stage race in Mozambique.  So I tried to stick to a training plan, but it didn't always go as planned.

August: Fam Jam and Portaging

In July I managed to keep my mileage at decent number, but August I dropped off, because I had two non running vacations planned. A four day portage trip, meant no running at all, but I looked at it as great crossing training, and a great time to test my gear for Mozambique. Both trips I got to spend time with my son, our second trip was to Nova Scotia to spend time with my high school friends. I got a lot of hungover runs in, but no quality work and no high mileage runs. I really didn't care because I loved both these trips, it was great to spend time with family and friends.

September: Solo camping and group running

The long weekend, I did one solo night of camping at Cape Croker up on the Bruce Peninsula to again test my gear and my skills of starting a fire and generally not dying lol. The next morning I met up with my friends for the last organized group run on the Bruce Trail for the year. I had organized 5 group runs throughout the season at different points on the Bruce Trail, they were fun fat ass runs with friends.  I hope to do more next year, it was a great way to connect friends from different running communities. Also in September it stayed HOT, we really didn't get a hot August or July, but I was grateful for the heat training in September, and for my friend Christina.  She was training for a marathon in October, so we shared many hot long runs around Barrie and it helped get my mileage up.

October: Vulture Bait and Bertha

Bertha, was what I decided to nickname my pack for Mozambique, because she was big and heavy despite my efforts to keep her lean and light. Through the end of September and October I started taking her out on runs (not enough though).  I had also registered for the 50 k at  Vulture Bait before signing up for Mozambique, it was only 2 weeks before I was flying to Mozambique, so I decided to be conservative and run the 25 k but with Bertha.  I went down to London with the two Kelly's and it was a great mini girls weekend away. I loved the course at Vulture Bait, one big loop, pretty flat and fast and a lot of single track. I think Bertha weighed in a 10 kg. I thought it would be a long day with Bertha, but of course, I got into race mode and was feeling good. Soon I was passing people and ended up running 2:50 or so and felt pretty good, except my collar bones were killing me. I got in two more solid efforts with Bertha in Hockley Valley with friends and then Oct 30 I was heading to Pearson for the start of a 40 + hour journey to Mozambique.

November: Ultra Africa Race

I wrote a whole blog about this race. So I will just say it was one the highlights of my year and a dream come true to go back to Africa. I loved the whole experience, the course, the people and I was very proud of my performance. The race was 220 km in 5 days with 3600 meter elevation gain, I was second female and 8th overall.

December: Rest and Reset

I took a few weeks off after returning home from Mozambique and focused on doing some strength training and my nutrition. This year I am trying to avoid gaining weight over the holidays where I inevitably eat more and run less. So far its going well, but its only Dec 15th.  This week I have started to train again, because after such an amazing experience in Mozambique I have decided I want to do another Canal-Aventure race, it will be their Ultra Asia Race in Vietnam in March 2018, 4 days 160 km and 6000 meter elevation. It will be my first time to Asia, and it will push me to work more on my hill running and climbing ability.

This year has been one big blessing with having Frank in my life, selling my house, meeting new friends, reconnecting with lifelong friends, seeing my son travel all over the country and turning 16 and doing a great job in his first year of plumbing co-op. I have longed and dreamed about travel for so many years, so it was amazing to be able to run in both Europe and Africa this year and be planning a run in Asia and I will be going to South America for the first time this year to in February to celebrate Carnaval and meet Frank's family for the first time.  If 2018 is half as good as 2017, it will be an awesome year.

Do you reflect at this time of year? What were some of your highlights? Have you started goal setting for 2018? What are your dreams and goals for 2018 and beyond?

Friday, 17 November 2017

Ultra Africa Run 2017

I always find it amazing how sometimes a few short days, hours or even minutes can imprint in your memory so intensely and other days and weeks go by and it feels like nothing has changed.  Time is so relative.  These past few weeks I know will stay with me for a lifetime.

The adventure I signed up for was my first self-supported race and my first time in Mozambique. It was the creation of canal aventure. Five days, 220 km, 3600 meters of positive elevation gain and self-supported, through the beautiful beaches and tracks of Mozambique.

The week leading up to leaving for Mozambique I had this persistent low grade nausea and restless nervousness. The floodgates of self-doubt had opened and I was overwhelmed by all the last minute anxious thoughts, I haven't trained enough, I don't want to leave home for so long, why did I spend all this money, what if I get lost, what if I get attacked, what if I suffer every day, what if I can't my gear through customs, what if they decline my entry visa, and so on. 

"It takes courage to endure the sharp pains of self-discovery rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives" Marianne Williamson

Despite all the self doubt, I said my goodbyes and I left home the afternoon of Oct 30 and arrived at my final destination of Maputo, Mozambique Nov 1 in the afternoon. It was a 40+ hour journey.  In the last few months I have been really have been focused on trying to stay in the present, meditating more and assuming the best case scenario in every situation. It's amazing how much these practices help with my anxiety. Although it was a long journey, everything was seamless and I arrived in good spirits at the hotel.

The hotel was listed $$$ place to stay in my Mozambique: Lonely Planet Guide. If you know me I only stay at $ accommodations.  It was recommended by the race and the crew and other competitors would be staying there as well.  To simplify logistics I decided to stay there too, and after such a long journey I was happy to have the comforts of a western style hotel. The first night I just had a shower and dinner and went to bed early.

The next morning after breakfast I was going to set out to do some sightseeing and then Rafael, a fellow competitor from Germany spotted me in the hotel lobby. I guess a white girl in running shorts was easy to assume I was part of the race. He offered to go for a walk with me and I was happy to have the company.  We went for a 2 hour walk around Maputo. It is quite a modern city and I found it less chaotic then Moshi. It is the capital, so most people seemed well dressed and stylish.  There were the typical street vendors, but no one was very aggressive and there wasn't anybody begging in the streets. Of course we talked running and the race.  This is when I started to learn how experienced and accomplished some of the other competitors were. Former UTMB  winner Marco Olmo, four of the competitors had published books (including Rafael) about their adventures in running, one of the female competitors had done TDS, Tor de Geants and 4 deserts, Atacama crossing, all this year!! One of the other female competitors had run across America, Europe and Siberia!!  Oh and Takeo a runner from Japan, had a whole film crew following him. Usually my anxiety dissipates when I actually get to the race, but learning all of this, it just got worse! Serious imposter syndrome!

Then we started talking gear and pack weight and I became even more anxious that I had made the wrong choices and my pack was too heavy etc.  Rafael was very positive and encouraging and he even commented on my walking style and said he could see how strong of a walker I was.  I agreed and told him I hoped this would help me because I couldn't see running a lot of the miles and hoped my walking would save my race.  We parted ways and I went about distracting myself with pool and free WiFi.

That afternoon I met Brian who is from South Africa and was helping out with the race. This was great because he was fluent in English and beer drinking and didn't want to talk about running. So I finally started to relax as we joked and talked about travel, politics, family and his love of Celene Dion.  Later I met Andrea and went for dinner with her and Rafael. This was her second self-supported race, she had completed the 4 deserts Namibia race earlier this year (this made her infinetly more qualified than myself) .  She was a part of Rafael's Little Desert Runners Club, an online club that helps runners new to multi-day self supported races. I wished I had found something like that before the race.  We made fast friends and I took in any advice she and  Rafael offered.

The next morning we took a six hour bus ride to the lodge where we would start the race. I was pretty quiet, the other competitors seem to know each other and there were many different languages being spoken. I was the only competitor whose first language was English. I silently cursed my entitled North American background of being mostly unilingual. When you have limited language it's hard to get past small talk.  We arrived at the Nhambavale Lodge in the afternoon. It is this picturesque place with traditional huts on the shores of a beautiful lake. It was hard to remember we were not just on vacation.

We were assigned roommates and I was assigned Kuzuko from Japan.  There were many blessings on this adventure. But this was truly one of them.  Kuzuko is 64 and is probably half my height and maybe weighs 100lbs.  She has the biggest smile and her spirit is amazing.  I speak zero Japenese but Kuzuko tries really hard with English and we soon figured out a way to communicate with each other.  She has kids the same age as me and has been doing long distance running for over 30 years and has run across continents. She is the most humble, gentle and kind person.  We became fast friends, she made me feel at ease and my anxiety started to lessen.

The next morning after breakfast, Rafael, Andrea and I went for a short 3 k run to shake out our legs and get a look at the terrain.  After that was gear and medical check. Rafael kindly stopped by my hut and helped me get rid of extra weight. I got rid of a ton of gels and all of my medical stuff and half of my fire starter. My pack ended up weighing in a 7.7 kg without water. Far better than the 10kg it was before.  I hoped I wouldn't regret anything I left behind.

Day 1:  Nhambavale Lodge to Kanda 35 km 657 m ascent.

It was a simple breakfast of cereal and coffee, last minute check of my pack, pics with the competitors and last minute bathroom break and we were ready to go at 8 am.  My plan was to go super conservative and make sure I looked after myself.  The first 2.5 km were sandy rolling double track.  I took it easy and walked any climbs and then we were over the sand dunes and on the beach.  I am more of a mountain girl than beach girl, but this beach was breathtaking.  The sky was so blue and the water was turquoise and crystal clear.  To the left were sand dunes.  This section was 19 km and there were no houses or resorts, we would see the occasional fishermen.  Thankfully the tide was out so this section was quite runnable.  I found myself in 11th place.  I ran conservatively and passed three runners before we left the beach. I was feeling good and stuck to my plan of drinking each km, gel every 5 km and salt tab every hour.  There was a breeze on the beach, but once we turned off you could feel the heat and it was getting later in the day.  I stuck with my plan of walking the uphills and if the sandy track was using up too much energy to run then I would walk for a bit.  After check point #2 I caught up to Ita.  She said she was a bit tired ( no wonder, she was the competitor that had done TDS, TDG and Atacama).  She said she was good so I carried on.  Along this section we ran past our first villages and everyone was friendly.  At 30 km I stopped and bought a soda. Jerome the Race Director had said we were allowed to stop and by a cold drink if we wanted as it would give us an opportunity to engage with the locals. The last 5 km were hot with sandy rolling track. I knew I was second female and so I took my time and finished around 4.5 hours. I arrived at camp to find out I was only 5 minutes behind Rafael and Andrea (the first place female).  I felt good, I didn't feel like I pushed too hard.

There were lots of kids to greet us at camp. I got set to make sure I got my recovery drink into me and ate my salted cashews. I then observed the other competitors and followed their example of resting.  I organized my gear and tried to stay off my feet. That afternoon, many locals stopped by to observe us, we sang and danced with the kids.  It was awesome.  This is really why I wanted to come back to Africa, it is amazing to be able to spend time with the local people and see villages and schools where tourists don't usually go.  Even when your hot and tired it is impossible not to have your spirits lifted by the laughter of the kids.

The evenings are short. I cooked my dinner early and choked back the tasteless backpacker meal, drank more water, meditated and went to sleep by 7 pm.  I had survived my first day!!

Day 2:  Kanda-Quissico 39 km 716 m ascent

I woke up early around 4 am. I took the time to meditate and then got ready packing up and cooking breakfast.  I was ready to go by 6 am, but we weren't starting till 7 am.  So I rested, I watched the village come to life, kids walking to school, women going to get water or carry materials to town, young boys taking cattle somewhere, and then we were off at 7 am.  I felt ok, my legs weren't sore at all, my back now that was a different story.  Finishing well the first day, my goals had slightly changed from merely surviving to maybe trying to stay second female or to try and win a stage.  I still knew I had a lot kilometers ahead so I started off conservative again. Today was mostly sandy dirt track and we ran through many villages to start. I passed a few runners and stopped to take a few pics with locals.  After checkpoint # 1 I felt a little low and was worried about how many more kilometers I had to go. I took a gel and decided to use my i-pod. The combination of the sugar and music was amazing, all the sudden I was smiling to myself and the kilometers were clicking by. I caught up to Rafael and Andrea and kept going.  Running faster I was a little worried I would miss a marker. So I stopped a few times to double check. Rafael caught me at the 30 km I tried to keep up to him but he was too fast so I slowed down to my pace again. After 30+ km of similar looking terrain, we were treated to solid dirt road with a crazy view of this beautiful lake and palm trees, like a postcard. I was running well till the last 5 km, the hot sandy track started again, I could feel myself losing motivation, again I stopped and got a Coke from a stand and rolled into camp around 5 hours and 9 minutes. Ita from Italy had taken the lead as first female. My time was good enough again for second female and seventh overall.

Camp was a surprise, we were on the lake! That meant swimming! I went down to the lake with Steven a French competitor and told him in my awful Franglais that if we saw snakes I would be jumping on top of him. But there was nothing scary there. It was pristine, clear water and white sand. I just floated and felt on top of the world. After, was reality check, my feet were getting some blisters and I had lost a flip flop (dammit), now I'd have to wear my running shoes around camp. On the bright side though, it was a few less grams that I would have to carry. Dr Bruno helped me out with my feet.

Dr Bruno became such a good friend to me.  He reminded a bit of a great teacher I had in high school, Mr Fischer. He kind of had that same quiet but encouraging attitude of having higher expectations for you than you do yourself. Once he knew I could speak French, there was no going back to English, he let me struggle to find my words and even if I was speaking Franglais he would answer always in French.  He was accomplished ultra runner in his own right. He competed in the first Marathon des Sables among many other ultra adventures. A cervical fracture while skiing in the mountains prevented him from running competitively anymore.  He has since been the medical director on 34 ultra trail adventures all over the world.  He was so knowledgeable and looked after the competitors so well.
Dr Bruno Thomas 

One of best things about these adventures is the simplicity, there is no distraction of the internet, work, family and other obligations. Routines are simple, recovery, foot care, cook, eat, drink, sort gear, go to sleep. Smile and play with the kids and chat to other runners in between.

Day 3 (The long day) Quissico to Lac Poelela 51 km 803 ascent

After two days there was only a few minutes separating the top 3 female competitors.  I was hoping to be conservative again and maybe catch the leader Ita later in the day.  This did not work out.  She put a gap of almost 50 minutes on me. Her strength and ability are really amazing.  I started out the same as always, this was probably the worst day for my back, I was getting these sharp stabbing pains in my shoulders and upper back and my feet were starting to hurt.  I caught up to Andrea early and we ran into check point one together.  I took some Aleve, knowing the risk but hoping to only take it the one time.  My back settled down and I continued to run with Andrea.  It was so great to have the company because this was going to be a long day.  We enjoyed the kids and stopped to take some pictures and video at the local school, shortly after that I got a little ahead of Andrea.  I was running by myself and suffering a bit, thinking how hot and tired I was and I still 25 km to go. Then I heard the sound of a giggle.  I turned around and there was this beautiful girl probably in her early twenties named Iza. She was in a blouse, skirt and flip flops and she was running with me.  This instantly lifted my spirits and we ran the next mile or so together.  We shared few words, but running and smiles are universal.  She stopped when we met up with her friends I thanked her and kept going. I rolled in check point # 2 at 30 km in good shape.
Then I saw that Julen the current second place competitor from Spain, sitting on the ground looking hot and exhausted.  I quickly learned he was not injured but maybe just overheated? He had been walking a lot and he didn't want to do the race like that. Andrea came in just behind me.  Andrea, Bruno, Jerome and I convinced him to keep going. I was ready first so I left and he and Andrea left just after me.  There's a saying if you want to feel better or worse in an Ultra just wait 10 minutes. Just minutes after leaving the checkpoint I started feeling hot and tired and lamenting to myself how long these next 21 km were going to take.  Julen quickly caught me on a long hot dusty uphill and I was happy to see he decided to stay in the race.  The next few kilometers were solitary, no smiling villagers, no little kids to run with me and although near by I couldn't see Julen or Andrea. I tried to stay focused on looking after myself in the heat and lost all interest in trying to catch Ita the female leader.  Even after a few kilometers when I came to the next village it was hard to run fast enough to satisfy the kids who wanted to run with me.  I came to a stand and bought a COLD Coke.  (This in itself seemed miraculous) .  In Tanzania I never found anything that was cold.  The sugar rush hit and I was running, I caught up to Julen again and came into check point # 3 just ahead of him.  This checkpoint was on the beach and the water looked so inviting.  I decided to go for a swim, best decision, I could feel my core temperature lower and I was renewed. I left the checkpoint behind Julen and ahead of Andrea. We were warned the next 10 km were hard and they did not disappoint.  It is really hard to run on soft sand, and while the scenery was gorgeous these last 10 km grinded away at me and I hiked most of them.  Finishing hot and exhausted around 7.5 hours second female and eight overall and having no idea how I was going to recover enough to get up and do it all over again tomorrow.

Camping on a beach is kind of like having sex on a beach. It seems kind of romantic but all you do is end up with sand in places you don't want, this meant even in my dinner.  Plus the water was blocked by large vegetation and not the easiest to get to, so most of us didn't swim.  It was later in the day and my feet were getting worse, Dr Bruno helped me again get them sorted. I struggled with starting a fire and thankful Ramon and Raul from Argentina and Chile were able to help me yet again with getting a fire going.  They speak about as much English as I do Spanish but we figured it out.  Hanging out with the South American runners and listening to them speak Spanish made me really homesick and miss Frank even more.  I had drank at least 6 liters of water and hadn't peed since 7 am.  I really wanted to go to sleep so I thought I would try to pee before bed.  I tried and then found I was peeing blood, my heart sank, I remembered the Aleve I had taken earlier (did I take or one or two?), how I still felt overheated and I was nervous this was the start of something ominous.  I went and told Dr. Bruno, and again was thankful for his experience as runner and not just a Dr.  He was unfazed by my revelation and said it had happened to him at MDS and other races and that stress of running can sometimes cause hematuria, he told me it was a common problem and not to worry about it and to stop with damn NSAIDS.  He said my kidneys would be fine and go drink more.  Were only allotted 8 liters a day of water, today because it was the long day we got an extra 1.5 liters.  I went and chugged the rest of my water and waited impatiently for the urge to pee.  It was now 8 pm and I finally I had the urge to pee, by the light of my headlamp I could see it was clear, success!

Day 4 Lac Poelela to Cambula 47 km and 807 m ascent

I didn't know if I could take another day of heat and the universe heard me, I woke up to glorious rain! I can't even say how much joy that gave me.  It's never fun to try and get ready or stand around in the rain but I didn't care! The rain didn't take away my foot pain though, when I put my shoes on they hurt and felt too small. My feet were starting to swell, why didn't I buy shoes a half size bigger!  We started with a few kilometers on tarmac (the only in the race), but I was slow and stayed behind.  Most of the tract was pretty runnable but it took me almost an hour to kind of wake up and find my legs.  I finally caught up to Andrea and we ran and chatted for the next several kilometers.  The track was packed down and it was nice not to fight with the sand.  It was a little frustrating because I could've run a faster pace but it was day 4 and my feet were hurting constantly and so I kept to a pretty conservative pace and the highs were getting more and more spread out.   After checkpoint # 2 I caught up with Giuseppe from Italy. I got a little bit of ahead of him and I had to pee, awesome, I had never had to pee yet during the race, I must be doing a good job of being hydrated, yay me.  Then I look down and blood again, dammit. I tried not to let it bother me and kept focus on drinking. I got to a cross roads and some kids were playing with the marker, I thought no problem, I will pull out my map.... fuck. No map, it must have fallen out when I stopped to pee. I ask the kids which way the marker was they assured me it was pointed to the left and I could see footprints so I headed down the path.  But, I was too unsure, plus I am not in the greatest shape with the sore feet and peeing blood so I don't want to get lost on top of it. I waited for Giusppe and he had also lost his map also but reassured me that all the front runners shoe prints were there so we stuck together until the next marker and then  I kept going at my pace.  These next kilometers were hard mentally. I was kind of over being distracted by the scenery and people.  It was like at the end of a 100 miler, I couldn't think a lot and focused on one foot in front of the other and one kilometer at a time. Four kilometers from the finish Dino (our photographer) and Brian had a surprise checkpoint with Fanta, I took a swig and their encouragement propelled me on to the finish.  I was about 6.5 hours, second female and eighth  overall.

It was still raining at camp, so there was the added challenge of drying out gear and finding dry firewood.  Raul the fire king had no trouble getting a fire going and I was so grateful. I ate my backpacker pasta and it didn't taste half bad.  My feet were super painful and getting swollen and I wasn't sure how well the last day was going to go for me.  Andrea found my missing map, she had also found it day 3 (my map angel).

Day 5 Campula to Jangamo 47 km 507 meters ascent

It was probably my worst night sleep, I couldn't find a comfortable position and were up at 330.  I was done fighting with the fire and skipped my oatmeal and coffee and ate a protien bar (not the best decision). I got rid of anything non mandatory and kept my calories to a minimum. Its the Last Day, just 47 km between me and a swim in the ocean, beer, shower and wifi!! I thought the last day might be like the last miles in an ultra where you get a boost in energy because you can smell the finish line, not so much.  The first hour was miserable although my body was tired I wasn't having any major problems, but my mind was the challenge of day 5. Other runners, kids, music, nothing was getting me out of my funk. I kept moving forward and hoping my mood would change, it did for a bit.  After check point #1 I started moving a bit better and passing a few runners.  I ran through a pretty village and the people were smiling and waving and I looked at all the women in the field with their babies and watched them working hard and reminded myself to be grateful.  I was feeling better once I got to checkpoint # 2 and thought, OK, last 19 km and it is on this beautiful beach and the sand is runnable, let's go! But no, everything was resisting, my mind was kind of miserable, my feet hurt, my knees hurt and my watch died.  The kilometers seemed endless and even though I didn't want to walk I couldn't make it more than 5 or 10 minutes without a walk break.   Andrea was close to me, but I just kept going with my run/walk pace.  Finally I saw our photographer Dino, he snapped a few pics of me and than ran and chatted a bit with me, my mood improved and he said I had 4 km to go.  Then I saw Brian, I was close to tears, I was so tired and done with this run, he tried to cheer me up by saying the first round is on him and promised me it was only 3 km to go.  The beach seemed endless and yet I couldn't see the fucking finish line, where was it!?  I waited for Andrea and I said if the finish line is not around the next corner I am going to cry and walk to the finish, fuck it.  She laughed and reassured me it had to be around the next corner and sure enough we saw some buildings and the race vehicles, and just like that our pace quickened and we were joyous again.  We crossed the finish line together, instant relief and happiness washed over me, celebratory hugs from Bruno, Jerome and Rafael.  Damien had Coke and fresh Coconut water still in the coconut ready for us, amazing. Then I go down to the water, the same water I stared at for the last 19 km, the same water where we started 200 + kilometers ago.  I go in and let the waves crash over me and I laugh and float and go with the flow of the waves.  I just ran 220 km in Mozambique!  How lucky I am I? So grateful for this life! Now where is the beer!?
Dr Bruno, Ramon, Julen, Andrea and Kuzuko

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Contemplating my upcoming journey to Mozambique

I have been contemplating my upcoming journey to Mozambique and been thinking about why I am going.

Why do I want to give up my creature comforts...  Netlflix, my couch, beer, my bed, climate control, the internet, just to name a few.  Also why would I choose to leave my family and a new relationship to go on a solo adventure across the globe. I mean I could just take 5 days here and map out a route and strap a backpack on and see how many miles I could go. So why travel so far, to a county I know little about, to run 220 km in the heat with a 10 kg pack carrying all my essentials on my back with people I don't know?

I don't know if I have a great answer for those questions. But before I leave I thought it would be interesting to try to capture how I am feeling and what is motivating me to go on this adventure and then see how I feel after I am done.  When I was trying to come up with the answers to what motivates me I inevitably kept circling back to why I love to travel and run in the first place.

Since I was little I have wanted to see the world, my idea of a fun Saturday morning, was to pull out my atlas and study the maps and learn all the flags and capitals of the world. I didn't get to do much traveling growing up.  When I was in high school I got to go two school trips, to Paris and Italy.  Those were supposed to be the start of my life as a traveler and not the end. The plan always was to backpack Europe after high school. But as we know life is rarely plays out how we plan it. Instead of making my way through Europe at 19, I was pregnant and moving back to Pefferlaw, my travel plans would take a backseat for awhile.  

A few years later as I watched some of my closest friends go to Europe I tried not to be envious. I was now separated and living in an apartment with my 3 year old son in not the best part of Toronto.  I didn't have a car and we didn't have any money to go anywhere.  Dreams of traveling were replaced with dreams of having enough money to survive on our own. 

 Despite this, I remember writing some goals down in my journal.  I remember writing I wanted to do a marathon, a triathlon, travel to Europe, British Colombia and Australia.  I don't think I even wrote Africa because that seemed to big.  Really all of these goals seemed far off as I struggled to pay bills, look after John and finish nursing school. Although I ran to keep fit at the time, I was still smoking up to a pack a day.

Just as I was graduating from college for Practical Nursing, life threw another curve ball at us and John and I were in a serious car accident and he suffered an Acquired Brain Injury and we lived in the hospital for 3 months.  This changed our plans of moving away for work when I graduated, we stayed closer to our family for support. Soon enough I got a full time nursing job and saved up and bought a house.

I started running again for fitness and saw a friend from high school had completed a half marathon and I was intrigued. By 2008 I had run a decent first half marathon and I was hooked.  As my running increased, so did my confidence and independence. I had grown up playing team sports but I loved that in running I had only myself to rely on and with my shift work I could train when it made sense to me. I had lost myself in an abusive relationship with John's father, I once thought of myself as smart, athletic and strong, but when I first was on my own I was a shell of who had been.  Nursing school helped me find my voice again and remember that I was an intelligent person and capable of many things. But running helped me find that inner strength and independence.  It also help me reconnect to that athletic part of my personality that loves working hard towards a goal. .

 I ran my first marathon in 2009 and I qualified for Boston, and that was my first time traveling for running. The next year I was mostly training on the trails and started competing in a few shorter trail races. That is when I first learned of this crazy sport called ultra running.  Trail running helped me connect to the fun side of running and made me remember how much I loved running as a kid. I love exploring new trails, jumping over rocks and logs and getting lost sometimes.  The seed was planted but nothing is a straight line for me. In 2011 I took another detour and found myself in another abusive relationship and running with everything else took a back seat again.  In 2012 when I was climbing out of that crazy experience running was there for me again and I went back in full force and completed 50 km trail races in Prince Edward Island and Haliburton and found the ultra community and trail friends.

It was such a gift to find other strong and independent women that were training hard and balancing careers and kids just like me. I started to learn how to be by myself for hours on the trail and not to be afraid.  The more time you spend in the ultra community the more big goals don't seem so scary or out of reach. I completed 50 and 100 milers and traveled to other destinations to compete such as; Wyoming, British Colombia, Scotland and Iceland.  Trail running has taught me to value the experience and the journey along the way and it isn't about pace or how far I went. I've learned that my favorite way to see a new place is the power of my own two feet.

Not too long ago when I was getting ready to move to Barrie this year I found that old journal and saw those goals I had written down and realized how much I had accomplished in the last 13 years and wondered what that scared and overwhelmed 23 year old girl would think?  I still haven't done a triathlon but I did so much more in running and travelling that I could even dream up with at the time.

Now it is 2017 and I am fortunate enough to be able to go to Africa for a second time.  I started this entry with asking myself why.  Along with contemplating the journey it took for me to get here, these are some of the reasons I came up with:

  • YOLO:  You only live once. I now work full-time as an Emergency Nurse and there is not a truer statement. I am reminded of this on almost daily basis.  Also I am 36 this year and my Uncle Pete was 36 when he died last year. So I know there are no guarantees that I have another 30+ years to get this shit done.
  • SUFFERING:  We are not designed to be comfortable all the time. This is what our brains will tell us, we try to find the easiest ways to do things and to surround ourselves with our creature comforts. But I don't believe this is what our soul needs or what our purpose is. I have found that when I really push myself, I feel the most alive and the most grateful for all that I have.  Its been two years since I've been to Africa but at least once I week I find myself in the shower being thankful for running water.               
  • SIMPLICITY:  The first time I was embarking on a multi-day stage run I was excited about all the uninterrupted time I was going to have to think, contemplate and work through some of the problems I had at the time. I quickly found out that this isn't true and most of the time my thoughts were things like 'one foot in front of the other" "when should I drink?", "when should I eat?", "do I need more sunscreen?", "I hope I sleep tonight".... and more often than not, I wasn't thinking much at all.  Sometimes all that was in my head were the lyrics of Toto's Africa Thanks to my friend Alan Lagon for sending me the You Tube video the day I left!!! I don't know about anyone else but I suffer decision fatigue sometimes, I don't want to decide anything for anyone else, whats for dinner, schedules, looking after patients, what TV show I should watch, what route I should take home, and it goes on. On a solo multi-day trip after a few days I love when the mind gets quiet, its like a mediation. Life is simple, wake up, eat, move, eat, move, eat, move, prepare camp, sleep, repeat. There is so much freedom in that.
  • EXPLORING:  I love exploring new places on foot. I am going to see 220 km of Mozambique for the first time and I really don't have a great idea of the terrain, the landscape or anything. It will be all new.
  • INDEPENDENCE:  The self supported aspect scares me the most, but I know it will give me the most satisfaction when I can get myself so many miles a day on my own and cook and look after my self and everything will be my responsibility.
  • PEOPLE. I love meeting people that have a totally different lived experience than me and all the lessons I learn from that. Also I look forward to meeting the other racers and having the camp experience and hopefully making new friends. 

What motivates you when you take on big new scary experiences!?  I would love to know!

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Getting ready for Mozambique

After completing the Vipava 50 km trail race in Slovenia at the end of April I didn't have much on the horizon in terms of running goals. I was kept busy by, selling my house and moving to Barrie, working, several short trips that didn't revolve around running and getting settled in to my new community. The travel bug was there even with an upcoming trip to Colombia in the works I still was itching for more...
 I follow many different running sites on social media and right about the time I was getting restless,  I received an email from Canal Adventures that there were openings for their upcoming stage run in Mozambique. This piqued my interest and the timing seemed to be right with work. So soon I started researching flights and asking endless questions to the race director and within 2 weeks I had decided to do the race. This was in July so that didn't leave me a ton of time to prepare for a October 30th departure. Thankfully I have put in a solid base of training since January and hadn't had any interruptions or injuries. So I figured I would carry on with my current regime, adding in some B2B runs and training with a heavier pack when time permitted.

The planning and logistics took up a fair bit of time as I only had just over 3 months to get everything in order, including vaccines,  travel visas and gear. This is my first self-supported event. I have an idea of what is involved with a multi-day event in terms of fatigue, recovery and pace. However at my previous multi-day events ( Scotland, Tanzania and the Bruce trail) I had support which included someone else carrying the heavier gear and preparing food for me.  I did some research and decided on the ultimate direction Fast pack and summer weight light western mountaineering sleeping bag. I have tested the sleeping bag out on a canoe trip and one solo camping trip this summer. When temps got down to 2 Celsius  I was quite cold. But the temps shouldn't get below 10 Celsius in Mozambique. My pack is 20 liters and is able to fit all of my gear so far. I raced 25 k at Vulture Bait and it didn't interfere too much with my performance. I managed a 6:40 km pace, my shoulders and collar bone were definitely achy and I ended up with some chafing on my back, but I had forgotten to wear a t shirt and to use a lubricant, so I think the pack will be
OK. The one thing I dont like is that the straps are too high, I feel a waist or hip strap would help balance it out.  When pack was fully loaded minus my sleeping pad and 1 liter of water it weighed in at 19.5 lbs. I think I can do some further tweaking to lower the weight prior to starting the event. As for other gear I am taking a super simple stove with fuel tabs, that I have tested out on a recent camping trip and the required safety gear.

I plan to use just one sports bra, my running skirt, technical t shirt, smart wool socks, and my Hokas. I am still debating about using poles. The elevation profile is not too bad and the terrain isn't supposed to be too technical, I may pack them and decide when I get to Maputo.

The biggest worry aside from the 36 hour journey, travelling solo to a new country, running 220 km in 5 days self supported, not getting lost or injured is of course FOOD. I am still a bit stressed that I am underestimating how hungry I will be. I have tried to keep my plan simple with breakfast of instant oatmeal with PB and hemp seed and coffee. Daytime with gels, chews, bars and nuts, salt tabs and a recovery drink. Dinners with backpacker dehydrated food, tea and chocolate bar and more nuts.  My calories work out to be over the recommend bare minimum of 2000 a day.

The temperature should be hot 20-30 degrees everyday, we are not at elevation, terrain is mix of dirt road, trail, beach. Day 1 is 36 km, Day 2 is 40 km, Day 3 is 47 km, Day 4 is 48 km, and Day 5 is 49 k.
The most elevation change is 800 m up and about the same in descent with some days being less than that.
Each day we have 10 hours to complete the distance.
My plan is  do 5 km increments and than walk for fuel break, and to keep moving forward as much as possible and enjoy the scenery and take it all in.

Environment: I have been to Tanzania before, which borders Mozambique, but I know very little about the country. I know which countries it borders and that it is on the Indian Ocean. I know they speak Portuguese. I know it is known for beautiful beaches and diving. I got my Lonely Planet guide to Mozambique today. So I am hoping to have much more to say on my next entry and not be so ignorant.

I leave in 2 weeks, I hope to do a short update when I get to Maputo.

Here is a pic of me with my bag and my gear