Friday, December 31, 2010
Autism obviously was at the forefront of everything I did over the past twelve months, I can't even begin to summarise here the impact this handicap has had on my life. And that's just my life. My perspective is exactly that, mine. There are hundreds of thousands of parents, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and so on affected by Autism all over the world and through the site and this blog they came out of the woodwork to contact me and share their stories. From Australia to America, Poland to Scotland (and most places in between) it was evident that many had, just like us, to overcome the grief that is part of discovering your child may never be the same as others. And even once you have reached acceptance you have to then knuckle down and do the work, the long road of finding professionals to advise you and treat your child, the endless paperwork for financial assistance, the tensions in the family unit when all you want to do is have a break from it all. But sometimes you just don't get to have that break. Pearl is lucky to have her team and they must be named and thanked, so to Gregory, Virginie and Celine I am beyond grateful for your smiling faces and enthusiastic demeanor, without fail you guys put your all into helping my little P. You are more than hired help, you are like family.
Some of Pearls milestones have included her continued developments in language, she may not be able to string a sentence together but her repetition and counting abilities are a world apart from the beginning of the year. She has adapted to school with neurotypical kids of her own age and even though her assistant decided to quit three days before the Christmas holidays (thanks lady for leaving us in the lurch) I know that its only a stumbling block that has a solution waiting to be found. She has also become more cuddly and will respond better to commands (when it suits her I must add) when it comes to crossing the road and little things that I took for granted with Dylan. I love my daughter dearly and even though sometimes it can feel like one step forward and two back I spare a thought for others who are far, far worse off than us. For me, dealing with Autism is all about perspective and patience. Sometimes I have both of those attributes in spades, other times I feel like I am backpedalling. But I know that all I can do is my best and once the fire to continue to help Pearl and as many families as I can along the way is still burning, then I know I can always go further than I imagine.
The same can also be said of my great passion for Running as this past year I found myself in the deep end, reaching for goals I thought were not within my grasp, mixing it with some amazing athletes being the great honour of each competition. I have made so many friends both through racing and the Internet and the camaraderie is just astonishing. The one thing that struck me the more I became immersed in this running world was the openness. Regardless of ones ability, age, creed, origins etc everyone is welcome to the party. That may not seem like that big a deal to some but to me, looking at a world that can at times be quite intolerant, it is everything. We have been runners since the beginning of time so getting back to that primal feeling exhilarates me beyond words. I managed to finish my first 100km race in May and as the last 15 km's approached I wanted to pack it in. The emotional journey of those last 15km's will never leave me because I had to draw on all I had mentally to make it to the finish. I had great results (for me that is) in some other tough races ranging from 30-50km's and tackled my debut 24hr race also. It's been said (by whom I don't know;) that when you are facing down a challenge like this its just you and yourself out there. The battle for me is never against anyone but myself. I have to prove nothing to no one, I am my own pilot. It's not about how long it takes me to get across the line, its about the preparation it took to get to the start line in the first place. It's about getting up at four a.m. on a winters morning and putting in the distance, or heading out late at night with a head torch as the sofa whipers "Mally, come over here, sit down and watch some TV". Its doing it out of love for the outdoors and not taking the easy option. Its about doing something with passion and never quitting.
I will leave you with some photo highlights of the year gone by and I wish you all a truly safe and fulfilling 2011. I know that the word "limits" will not be part of my vocabulary next year or any other year.
See you round the bend.
Monday, December 20, 2010
It is always a joy to post an article or a video involving Tony Krupicka. Whether it's watching his effortless ascending of the alpine or his unique style (his heels never seem to touch the ground) he is symbolic of the true meaning of what it is to be a natural athlete. He is also a darn good writer and if you are a running blog reader then I think you will not find better than his, his race reports are always in depth and revealing. You can read his own blog which weekly documents the incredible mileage he accumulates or check out his musings over at Running Times.
I really enjoyed this particular video as Joel Wolpert captured the atmosphere beautifully and provided a really pertinent understanding of the Colorado winter. All in all a nice piece of impetus to get one out on the snowy trail, not that I need much convincing today, now, where did I put that head torch.
Friday, December 17, 2010
But, alluding to the title, I now know that its not about wishing for things or for circumstances to change whenever the road becomes rocky. Its about pausing and really taking stock of all that you have, sure there may be some who can count more blessings than others but it still about looking for the positive. Knowing too that what we see in other peoples appearance never truly reveals whats going on below the surface, call me twisted but I take comfort in that. I take comfort in it because it shows me that everyone is the same deep down.
See you round the bend.
Monday, December 6, 2010
Friday, December 3, 2010
Well, well, well its been quite some time since we posted some news and that has been because of many factors. The number one being how busy we have been since the end of our holiday season. On our return from the south of France we hit the ground running, please read on and check out what we have been up to.......
The kids schooling was the number one priority after a few weeks spent basking in the sun and savouring some much needed downtime in Carnon. Alicia's cousin Johann came with us and kindly looked after the kids whilst she kicked my butt every morning on the tennis court. John McEnroe I am not. It was very enjoyable and after Pearl had settled in to her new surroundings (it took about 3-4 days) all went swimmingly, sorry for the pun.
But as I mentioned schooling was tackled with gusto after our break. Dylan was changing school and was going to be swimming with the big fish, no more free ride at little school no, no, no. Big time changes for him and for us too. He handled it well apart from the fact that he now had a satchel to carry with all his new books and stationery, the fact that homework was now part of the equation didn't sit well either. But as with all things new a period of adjustment is essential and he, as usual, has astounded us with his ability to fit in and knuckle down. As I write this he is eight days away from his 6th birthday and he is also busy compiling his Santa list. The new craze of "BeyBlade" being the current obsession, boys will be boys eh?
The change for Pearl proved a little more difficult but the rewards are beginning to show. Pearls A.V.S. (schooling assistant) could not start at the beginning of the term as she was committed to finishing her previous contract. So we put her in the creche that she previously attended for the month of September and the timing was quite serendipitous in the grander scheme of things. She really benefited by starting the school year at a place she knew and with people who treat her so well and understand her ways. She dealt with it OK and as is always the way with Pearl routine and time to settle in are key. Come the end of her four weeks it was time to leave the creche and head to "La Martenelle" which is beginners school for infants. I can tell you that for her first day chez nous was a a hub of nerves. How would she adapt, would it be a success? All of these questions running through our minds and the only answer was to just get stuck in. The idea was to wade in slowly. The first week would see her spend fifteen minutes on Monday and then increase her time daily in fifteen minute increments. She would not settle at all the first week and the crying and screaming each morning was just so hard to bear. But it did improve little by little and once she became familiar with the staff and the noise, lots of noise, it started to take shape nicely. That was until she started to regress and the sight of a photo of her teacher (from her visual timetable) would start her grunting and shouting her disapproval. This over course kicked in once she was attending her requisite three hour mornings, four days a week. As Alicia said "the novelty has worn off and she realises this is the way its going to be" But in fairness to the little mite she seriously turned a corner in November. The staff seriously upped their game regarding their knowledge of all things Autism and Pearl found her rhythm. Now dropping her off is a delight, she shouted "Ah Yeaaaahhhh" this morning and it brings a smile to my face as well as the amazing crew at her school. It has been a new challenge for them too and the school directrece Marie-Clarie, her AVS Marie-Blanche and her Monday teacher Caroline have excelled in making her feel part of her new class.
In other news we have been seriously on the backs of the local council to do something about our living situation, we continue to live in a box of a flat and even though they promise they are helping I just don't see it. We have already submitted the paperwork for a possible new apartment, hell, we have even been to the site where said flats are currently under construction. We have been told its a "sure thing" but until the last piece of furniture from our current place is moved out I remain sceptical. Still, I continue to visit the offices of the housing department on a weekly basis just to remind them that with a handicapped child we should not have to live in these circumstances. It's a battle yes but I just can't give up so we will push on.
On the running front there is not much to report other than my first 24Hr race was a disaster. I won't re-hash it here but if you do want to know how it went here is the blog LINK. I am currently getting in a many kilometres as I can in the snow to help out my mate Andrew who is running through France pretty soon on his way from Scotland2Sahara.
Alicia is crazy busy with work, since her last pre-holiday post she has been to London a handful of times, is off to Dubai a week from today for 8 days and has a few more London trips in the New Year. She is great at what she does though and I know she loves the rush of planning and being involved with these great events.
Pearl's sessions with her therapists continue to move in a positive direction and even though she is not stringing sentences together just yet she definitely has a jargon of her own. All it needs is the words and a bit more construction and it will happen I believe. Most of the people I know, whether they are Autism specialists or just some of my lovely neighbours, all believe and see that she has a great chance to lead an OK life. That is nice to hear and even as a parent where you think towards the future and worry about bullying and if she will end up as an outcast, I tend to look at the progress and how difficult it is for her. What I do know is that I adore my family and would do whatever it took to make sure that they are always safe and cared for. I know there is a bunch of news I have skipped or forgotten about but if I were do do a retake of over three months of our lives I would be here all day, and trust me, time is not on my side.
To all the people who visit this site and there has been plenty, Alicia has been inundated with calls and emails asking her for help/direction in dealing with Autism. This tells us that the site means something to people and that it gives us the incentive to keep the momentum going. Our facebook group continues to also gain momentum and through this and our blogs we try our best keep on top of things. A sincere Happy Festive season to you. We have friends from many parts of the world with many different beliefs and as the year sludges towards its end our message is simple. Take care of yourselves and sorry if I do not have time to thank everyone who has made an impact on our lives this year, the reason is because so many of you have been there. You guys know who you are.
All our love and gratitude to y'all and we will raise a toast to you and the well being of your families for many years to come.
Your deputy news man.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
This is a fantastic article by Justin Mock ahead of the race. It weighs the favourites in great detail and I really enjoyed reading it.
Anton Krupicka though is my favourite for the win. He is just on fire at the moment and after reading his blogs and the magnitude of the miles/altitude he logs on a weekly basis, including a recent 68 mile solo run, it would be foolish to bet against him. Anton, or Tony as he is known to his friends, is a pretty much the living embodiment of the runner most of us would love to be. Below is one of my favourite interviews with the man.
His CR at the 2010 White River 50 this year can only further bolster his chances at this race.
But anything can happen on race day and for (spectacularly average) runners like myself it is quite a joy to be able to follow the greats and live these races vicariously through them. Do not discount Uli Steidl either, a tremendous runner with a Marathon pb of 2;13 and an exceptional human being too.
It's a deep field and and promises to be a tremendous end of year race in what has been one of the greatest ultra running years ever. Thanks to all who continue to follow this great sport and the folks who keep it alive everyday.
See y'all round the bend.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
But this little jaunt favoured me quite positively and definitely trended towards NEVER having such an extensive trail sabbatical ever again. I decided to take a westward bound trail towards Versailles as the climbs there are meandering and sheltered to begin with. The first thing I noticed once hopping from road to trail (roughly 5 minutes) was how utterly compacted the forest floor was. After months of the trees scattering their leaves this multi coloured carpet, an Autumn-Winter jigsaw of iridescence, coerced me unhurriedly up through a winding and foggy track. The ascent itself was remarkable in its quietness as usually this part of the trail is a hikers paradise.
My confidence in scrambling up inclines and hammering downhill has been bolstered by educating myself in the ways of the trail and this run underlined the importance of not only having confidence in ones own ability, but also the assurance of using the right gear to optimise the experience.
I am looking forward to leaving many foot prints on the snow this winter and embracing the chilly mornings. The hours spent meandering through the hills may seem harsh when the alarm goes off at a ridiculous hour, but returning home caked in mud from head to to far outweighs it.
See you round the bend,
(Stats: 1:17, 14km, elevation gain.... no idea)
Thursday, November 18, 2010
I posted this on our site last June and it feels to me like a lifetime ago, so many emotions and events have transpired since then and I feel lucky to have come out the other side. The reason I have repeated it here is to basically tell myself that I have become lazy and complacent. I need to find that fire in my belly again and starting tomorrow morning that is exactly what I intend to do. Thanks to all of you who have stuck it out with me, the road will rise and meet us.
See you round the bend,
Running is a state of mind.
I never could figure out people who ran and its not because I am not a sporty person. I was an avid cyclist in my youth and enjoyed the camaraderie of being part of a club. But running? Nah, I mean I ran as part of the cross country team as a young boy in school but that was only to feel like I was part of something and, since I was rubbish at football I thought to myself "Hey, its just one foot in front of the other right? But I never thought my approach to life would be changed or emboldened so much by the sheer simplicity of going for a run.
The reason I started running was to occupy my Sunday mornings with my wife's uncle. A drunken Saturday night chat ended up something like this: Me-"Sure I'll go running with you, hey while we are at it lets do a Marathon together". Trust me when I tell you that the following day I suffered 25 minutes, in a world of pain to which I was not familiar, and all the following week. I was walking on wooden legs for a while before I went back for more. It was a case of punishment, recover, repeat. But in time I began to relish it, seeing the distances increase and my endurance levels rise brought a sense of pride and accomplishment. I began training more on my own, figuring out what I was made of and how far I could push myself. Two years later and the answer is.... I can push myself farther than I (or most of my friend's and family) ever imagined. For example I have run dozens of races ranging from 10km's to 35km's, I have run a sub four hour Paris Marathon. I ran a 100km non stop race in Western France in May of this year and as I write this am two weeks away from a 50km 'Ultra Marathon' in Paris. I am no longer a drinker or a smoker and am dedicated to Running for Pearl and raising Autism Awareness. On July 4th 2011 I will start running from Mizen Head (Co.Cork) to Malin Head (Co. Donegal) in Ireland. Its 587 km's and I will do it in the name of Autism. This event will be epic so I will need your help, whether its a donation, a message of support or informing a friend as to what I am doing, it all helps.
Your support and donations/sponsorship will help Pearl every step of the way. It will afford her the proper therapies that could give her the best chances of living a "normal" life.
If anyone would like to pledge to either cycle or run part of the way with me, you are more than welcome. It is as much about Autism awareness as it is about putting down the remote, getting off the sofa and going beyond what, yesterday, may have seemed impossible.
My goal is to never stop. To always seek out new endurance challenges and defy what is expected of my body and my mind. I have seen myself change as a human being and I have been inspired by many along the way and if I inspire someone also.... that makes it even more worth while. The courage is within us all to make that first step. Take it.
Monday, November 8, 2010
My good friend Andrew Murray kicked off this challenge today and looking forward to meeting him in Paris in a few weeks time to run a bit together. He is an incredible man and one of a kind. With you all the way brother. You can help him out by visiting www.scotland2sahara.com.Mally
Scotland 2 Sahara: Dr Andrew Murray’s 3000 mile, record breaking challenge.
Dedicated to reducing poverty in the South Gobi region of Mongolia, Dr Andrew Murray is undertaking a massive, record breaking challenge to raise £100,000 for the Yamaa Trust charity.
We will be updating Andrew’s progress on the map below as often as possible, so you can share in his experience on this epic journey!
Andrew will be running from the snow in Scotland to the sand dunes of the Sahara, covering just short of 3000 miles, in 85 consecutive days (that's over 100 marathons!)
EVERY penny raised by Andrew will go to the Yamaa Trust. This year, the charity aims to build a school for the deaf in the South Gobi desert as well as providing funding for medical care in rural areas, and accommodation and services for mentally ill people. Completed projects include building felt huts for orphanages, distributing medical equipment and essential supplies. All of your support is hugely appreciated, please visit our donate page to see how you can contribute to the appeal.
Here are just a few of the fantastic words of support that Andrew’s challenge has received:
This is a truly magnificent challenge (“the textbooks say this should not be physically possible. However Andrew has proved me wrong before.” Dr Duncan Goodall, Marathon Medical Services), for a great, great cause, and on completion will almost double the current world record:
Show your support, DONATE NOW!
Thursday, October 28, 2010
I have seen some great endurance feats by some incredibly talented and gutsy runners and Karl Meltzers Human Express is no exception. Below is the the story from Red Bull USA. Congratulations Karl, stunning achievement.
On the morning of Monday, October 25th, ultra-marathon runner Karl Meltzer crossed the finish line in downtown St. Joseph, Missouri after completing a 40 day, 2,064-mile trek along the actual Pony Express National Historic Trail, a feat no one has ever achieved before.
The project, dubbed Red Bull Human Express, began on September 15th in Sacramento, California. You read that right…That’s more than 50 miles a day, or the equivalent of two marathons daily - crossing both the Sierra and Rocky Mountains, deserts and the Great Plains all on foot.
Completing his journey a full week ahead of schedule, Meltzer accomplished what 99.99% of humans would never even attempt. On his final day, he ran more than 100 miles (four complete marathons!), and as an homage to the postal carriers before him, Karl personally hand-delivered a letter from the Mayor of Sacramento to the Deputy Mayor of St. Joseph.
Why did he do it, you ask?
“I’ve run a lot of 100-mile marathons, and this was an opportunity to challenge myself personally and professionally to do something no one else has ever done,” said Meltzer.
How did he do it?
“It took a lot of preparation, including about 5-7,000 calories of food each day, and half a can of Red Bull every 5 miles to keep Karl at his pace,” said Meltzer’s trainer Ted Meyer.
Red Bull Human Express came to life from Meltzer’s idea to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Pony Express Trail. In return, Meltzer was inducted into the Pony Express Museum on Monday, memorializing his journey. The City of St. Joseph officially declared October 25th “Karl Meltzer Recognition Day”.
By The Numbers
Total miles run: 2,064
Total calories burned: approx. 247,000 (equal to 281 pounds of food or 532 Big Macs)
Pairs of shoes worn: 7
Gallons of water consumed: 60
Cans of Red Bull consumed: 143
Number of pounds of bacon consumed: 14
Number of hours of music listened to: 440
Number of pounds Karl lost on his first day of running: 8
Highest temperature: 98°F
Lowest temperature: 30°F
Highest elevation: 11,138 ft.
Lowest elevation: 1,286 ft.
Total elevation ascended: 91,068 ft.
Total elevation descended: 98,567 ft.
Number of wrong turns: too many to count!
A Day On The Trail
4:50 a.m. – Wake up
5:15 a.m. – Blood test
6:00 a.m. – Breakfast, consisting of Karl’s personal crepe recipe and bacon
7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. – Run
5:30 p.m. – Heart monitor upload
6:00 p.m. – Ice bath
7:00 p.m. – Dinner, consisting of your typical red-blooded American diet - either fried chicken and potatoes or cheeseburgers and fries
8:00 p.m. – Review next day’s route
9:00 p.m. – Bed
Only one man holds claim to the record for the most 100-mile ultrarunning race wins (29), the world record for 100-mile single season victories (six), and course records at some the country’s most grueling enduro-running races. Karl Meltzer is that man. Meltzer is one of the world’s best in endurance mountain running – an extreme form of racing that makes a marathon look like a short sprint. The sure-footed, indefatigable athlete known as “Speedgoat Karl” now adds Red Bull Human Express to his list of accomplishments.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Monday, October 4, 2010
But what the hey? I signed up for it so it was all or nothing. Upon arrival at the stadium I was very pleased to meet Mireille and Phillipe who were the organisers of the event and finally putting faces to the names was like meeting old friends. The total number of runners was to be 40 and tents were erected in rows to fit between 4-6 runners in each one, basically a space with a table and chair where we could store the mountain of energy gels, food, drinks and spare clothing necessary for an event of this magnitude. I just sat around with Johann chilling and sipping water whilst speaking to some of the athletes in the neighbouring tents. It struck me immediately that there were some novices (me for one) and some well-weathered hardcore 24hr racers. Holy guacamole, I had never felt as out of my depth in my life. The final half hour passed before I had time to realise that the start beckoned, it was time to face the clock.
The banter and jovial atmosphere at the start line was very different to the calm concentration I have witnessed at other events. It was almost like a self congratulatory ambiance of having made it to the start of a 24hr race, I felt privileged to be amongst these people and their encouragement over the next 1440 minutes would define my weekend.
(at 50km's and feeling strong)
It started predictably cautious and slow paced, who wants to burn themselves out early on anyway? I did not have a watch as my Garmin died a week before and I was only listening to my body clock. The first thing that struck me was the fact that the monotony of it was way beyond anything I had perceived, in one sense I was wishing the clock at the finish to tick faster so I would have less time on this human hamster-wheel, but in other ways I was covering ground whilst time moved slowly. Oh boy, this was my thinking after only two hours. I kept my pace the same and by averaging 9km's per hour was pretty happy that my goal could be achieved. It was clear even at this early stage who the major contenders were and I could only marvel at their rhythmic leg turnover and they lapped me as if I were going forward in reverse. Still, patience is the one thing you need and I was prepared to wait it out.
I decided after five hours on the run around to pull out the Ipod and get some tunes going, in retrospect it was a bad idea as my friend Graeme had advised me to save the tunes for times of struggle. Also the tempo of the rock music I had picked (Muse, Pearl Jam, Tool, Deftones etc) was pretty high beat and once I got it cranked up I could feel my step come alive, I was starting to cruise at the 50km mark and knew in the back of my mind I had too far to go before upping my lap speed. But continue to run with abandon I did for the next few hours and once I hit the 80km mark after about nine hours on the trot it all started to come undone.
Now just to tangentially sideline here its vital to let you know one fact. If you want to cover 100 miles one must have all nutritional needs completely dialed, locked in, set in stone and nailed to the f**cking wall an so on. This means ingesting a few hundred calories an hour.There are amazing gels and bars and drinks that will give you all you need but there is no real substitute for wholesome and natural fodder. And here in lay the start of my biggest problem, my lack of caloric intake was bankrupting my body and quickly consigned my effort to a quarter of what it had previously been operating at. I had hit the wall in spectacular fashion and any attempt to pass anything by my lips was met with doubled-over retching. Water became impossible to hold down, every gulp erupting back up like some Vesuvius-type-geyser. And so, hunched over the edge of the track spewing and gagging until I could feel the colour drain from my face, I resigned myself to the fact that my race was pretty much over.
I spent the next two hours trying to make it to the 100km mark, I have previously covered 100km in twelve hours but when I limped, crawled and wobbled, (stinking of vomit) past the start/finish at two am and after fifteen hours on the move, I wanted to die. I cursed myself for the mistakes I had made, for going ahead with this foolish endeavour knowing deep down I was not ready for it, my mind was a powder keg of raw emotion and I went straight to my lap counter and said "Je suis finis". Done and dusted at two in the morning, my body broken. This searing, punishing feeling of defeat permeating every fibre of me. I pulled out my sleeping bag beside the track and wrapped up warm as the other brave souls ploughed on. My plan? get up and get the hell out of there at first light.
What transpired after six hours of sleep over rode any negativity and it showed me why quitting is a concept I have no desire to become acquainted with.
And so, after twitching, shivering and continuing to be sick inside my sleeping bag I emerged from my cocoon at eight am feeling slightly stiff and guilty. The guilt coming from that fact that as I lay passed out the majority of the runners braved the night and steadily added distance to their tally. In my pub crawling days I was always the first one to say to my friends "sleeping is cheating". The need to atone for my rest fired me up and I still had two and a half hours left (after drinking some water, changing my clothes and eating a few slices of ham) and thought I might as well give it lash. The next two hours were so joyous and pure that the runners high took on new meaning. I found my legs on auto-pilot for about and hour and realistically thought that if I can't make four marathons I might just scrape three! I saw my buddy Sandy hobbling along and was in awe of the fact that he was not quitting and had not slept at all, his resilience gave me a boost and in him I knew I had found a kindred spirit. We chatted briefly and decided that with a half an hour to go we would team up and relentlessly push ourselves to the edge. And that's exactly what we did. A voice came over the loudhailer and proclaimed that ten minutes remained, Sandy blew past me so fast I wasn't sure my voice could travel fast enough to catch him and ask him to wait up. But he was teasing me and when I did catch him we banded together and stride for stride started belting the shit out of our lap times. I think that we probably knocked 5-7 seconds off each lap until we were cruising 1:50 a lap. When I asked Sandy how he was doing it his response was "It's automatic at this stage". The gun was fired for the last minute and I was galloping so hard that I could feel my insides getting ready for an encore. Luckily I held it down long enough to cross the line with Sandy's hand in mine (video:Sandy Simoneau)
I think it would have been easy for me to look at the negatives and where I went wrong but I finished faster than I ever imagined and covered 125.6 km's. It may have been well below my projected goal but for a first pop at this discipline I am happy enough. I am happy because I had to rethink my attitude and re-wire my thought process in order to climb a wall that there seemed to be no way over. No amount of quotes or inspiring anecdotes can get you over that slump, you just have to bite the bit and push through the pain until it becomes a familiar agony. I still aim to break a hundred miles but I am just not sure that on a 400 metre track is the way to do it. I salute Michael who was a deserved winner and it must be noted that when I was at my lowest he actually stopped at midnight (in second place, seven km's behind the leader) and placed a hand on my back to see if I needed help. He could have chased down the front runner but instead was there to help a fellow competitor. Chapeau. To the organisers I thank you profusely for the atmosphere of kindness that made it more than just a race. I am hoping I will see you all again before too long. Congratulations to Michael BIARD for the win with 203.2 km's and the female winner Samia TIFEST for her amazing race of 181.8 km's. The weather on Saturday was extremely wet and windy and kudos to all who gave it their best.
The words "See you round the bend" don't quite cover it this time ;)
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
So last May we filmed a segment that started at 7.30am and wrapped at 16.30 the evening in question. Magalie was directing and Fred was behind the camera. They were both utterly fantastic and are the type of people it would be easy to become friends with. We filmed and re-shot various bits for our piece which was a look had how Autistic kids adapt to a 'normal' schooling. The first segment concentrates on Matthieu who is already at school with an assistant and then on to Pearl who is at creche and preparing to go to school.
I could ramble on about it but the video below will do the talking for us, even if it is in French I think non speakers will grasp the underlying message. It's one of hope and spirit and always doing our best even when it can get tough. Alicia was our voice for the day and did an outstanding job in representing our views and aspirations. Thanks to Julie for her help and her wonderful work as Pearls Ortophoniste has helped inexplicably. Dylan of course is THEE man on the TV and cool as mustard. Finally thanks to all the people who saw the clip and got in touch, we were overwhelmed by the response from all over the country and unfortunately not everyone left their email address so I hope if they are reading this they will get in touch again. Its just heart warming to be touched by complete strangers and and we will continue along with our humble group in the hope that it helps those who may not know where to turn. We were there once, and sometimes still are. Only unity can break down the walls and bring us all together.
(Pearl is @4:20)
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
I have chosen this video because it resonates within all of us (I hope), the need for a less cluttered and more organic way of living. A herd of goats on a mountain side would be the life for me but that is not possible, a balance needs to be maintained and running the trails is the best way I can exact that sort of communion. I hope my body can accept the hardship of 24hrs of racing in ten days time, my mind is in combative fettle. I believe that next week will see the swan song of my colds, aches and tiredness and a more prosperous physical shift will emerge.
In the mean time I just finished "Born to Run". A phenomenal book not just for runners but for adventurers at heart. Beautifully told by Christopher McDougall and I would read it again in a heartbeat. Pick up a copy if you can.
See you guys round the bend,
Thursday, September 9, 2010
For me Kilian is a modern day phenomenon! Articulate, insightful and destined to be one of the greatest runners in the history of the sport. He is an ambassador for Salomon and I think his ability and approach will redefine the joy of the simple act itself.
Monday, September 6, 2010
Agrandir le plan
Viroflay is a suburb in western Paris. It is close enough to the capital for sightseeing with visiting friends and family, and far enough away to not feel like you live in a city. I can jump on train and be at the Eiffel Tower in twenty minutes and the opulent Versailles Castle is a stones throw at just under four kilometres away further west. The characteristics of this area and its people really make it home for me, I have lived in many places all over the world but I really feel settled here. The amenities for children are plentiful and the opportunities for an outdoor lifestyle can be seen wherever you go. But I love it because of the trails. The area is very much in a basin and a panoramic scan reveals 360 degrees of tree lines and deep forests. Within these forests is where I spend my time training. An infinite sprawl of meandering and undulating routes that serve as a meditation and retreat from our self obsessed world of disposable clutter. So when the local running club (of which I am not a member) decided to make use of these earth given gifts by hosting an 11km and 20km race, I was pretty excited.
QBRC means Quelques Bonnes Raisons de Courir! Come again you say? The translation literally means Some Good Reasons to Run. Now the name definitely leaves a lot to be desired but the course spoke volumes about the amount of planning that went into it. The route was one 11km loop and back through the start where the 11km race obviously finished and we of the 20km race continued on for more punishment. Below is a map of the route itself.
The atmosphere was already in full swing when I went to pick up my race number at 8am with Dylan and Pearl, considering the start was still two hours away it boded well for what would be a truly great ambiance throughout the event. So after the usual banter and stretches the Mayor was calling us to order, thanks was given (and deserved) to the organising committee and the Police Municipal who would be marshaling the roads. Just before we took off a guy approached me and said "I see you are running for Autism" and wanted to know with which organisation. I told him that it was pretty much a one man band and with the help of some really great people on the Internet and the efforts of myself and my wife we marched to the beat of our own drum. He was really taken aback by this as in his mind it was a unique idea. He told me of the struggles his family have had with their own son who is Autistic and soon to be 14 years old. So Etiene, if you are reading this please send me your e-mail address so we can head out for a run sometime.
At 10am the Mayor counted us down and we took off pretty rapidly. The very start involved a descent on the main road and the quad crunching pace was already starting to burn a bit. Once the group left the village into the first trail section it became apparent that hills were going to be the order of the day. Within the first five km's the ascending was pretty much non stop, winding trails doubling back constantly had strung the four hundred plus participants into one big serpentine like delineation. Curses were muttered under breaths by a few guys beside me but all in jest I must say. From here on in it was every man and woman pitting their will against the rising tracks. I was content to stay at a conservative pace as it was a training run essentially and I am building my distances ahead of the 24 in three weeks time. Having said that I wasn't exactly slouching either. The first aid station at five km's was a welcome relief as by that time the temperature had hit 26 degrees, a quick cup of water and a few hundred metres of flat before winding upwards once more.
Along this first part of the route I was talking to a really nice guy, whose name I didn't catch, about all sorts of things - including Autism awareness. He was running the ten km race and and was pushing along strongly. It was pleasant to have somebody to converse with as I spend most of my time running alone, before I knew it he was running on ahead of me and we were entering the town for the start of the second loop. Passing through the gymnasium car park was uplifting as music was playing and lots of people had gathered. I made a bee line for the tray of sliced oranges on a nearby table and quickly devoured three pieces. My favourite part of the race was coming, my back yard was just ahead of me.
When I run it always takes me a good forty five to fifty minutes to really get into the groove. Today was no exception. Once I hit the second loop everything synced, my mind was on the job and my stride was on cruise control. This part of the course was as hilly but with more twists and turns as opposed to the steep assaults of the previous ten km. These factors probably helped in forming a few groups and I found myself with seven other runners. I think the camaraderie was rejuvenating for all and pushed us on that little bit extra. But we did make an error and as the day played out we were not the only ones. We came to a fork in the trail and it was just a split of forty metres but at the end of one fork was a yellow arrow pointing us left, we took the other fork and began rapidly descending. I knew this could not be right as from my knowledge of the area we should have continued climbing for many more hundreds of metres before levelling off. I was towards to the rear of the group and yelled at the guy ahead to stop. Here we were, eight of us looking perplexed and sweaty wondering which way to go. I decided to run back to the top and try and figure it out, the rest of the guys waited for no more than two minutes as I yelled at them to climb back towards me. We had indeed taken a wrong turn and missed the yellow arrow. Back on track and after a collective sigh we decided there was work to be done. This minor mistake had given us an impetus to raise our game.
At the 15km point I met my friend Jean who was manning the aid station and is a member of the club. I called him a masochist (for devising such a course) between gulps of water and bid him adieu. Our group was still intact but I decided that now was my time to stretch it out a bit. I knew that some of the guys had done all they could and were beginning to slow. I asked the strongest looking one if he felt like having a bit of a gallop and he was with me. As I went to the front I was looking around every so often to see if anyone was still with me, suddenly no one. I was thinking this can't be right, I surely could not have dropped all of them. I hadn't, up to my right and just inside my peripheral vision I could see the guys snaking upwards. They had taken another wrong turn. I shouted at them and when they realised their mistake suddenly did a u-turn and bounded back in my direction. Later at the finish line the sign posting on the course would become a bone of contention for many. Once back on route it was time for me to go solo. With three km to go I upped it to top gear and was really happy with having enough left in the tank to sustain the effort I was expending. As I left the beautiful forest I could hear the familiar sound of music in the distance and out of nowhere a voice shouting that I had four hundred metres left. Sprinting down the hill back into the stadium felt awesome with people clapping and other runners cheering, it was a truly wonderful reception.
Afterwards I cheered on those behind me and checked the board for the results. My time was 1:40:51, 55th place overall. I am happy with that as I could have definitely pushed harder but patience is more important at this stage, the race of my life is not far way. I spoke to the Mayor for a bit who asked about Pearl and how things are progressing for her. I told him to find us a killer apartment or else, he laughed and said he's doing all he can. I met some friends and made some new ones. Beers and soft drinks were being served as well as snacks and fruit. Everyone agreed that it was a tremendous day and with the sun shining brightly overhead I left the beer drinkers behind and headed home (400 metres away, yes) to my lovely family and a hot shower. Thanks to all the organisers, volunteers, Police Municipal and locals who made it the inspiring day that it was. Considering it was the first one I think the club did a spectacular job, it was a difficult course but then again the most rewarding ones always are.
See you round the bend.
Friday, September 3, 2010
Now that I am back and counting down the last four weeks before the 24hr race I will be getting down to some serious trail binging starting tonight. The local club is having its inaugural trail race this Sunday and they have picked a really challenging route which I am quite pleased about. Its nice to meet some runners from the town see what everyone has been up to. It also helps to further bolster the great running community here in Viroflay. But most of all its a chance to push myself and get a training race under my belt for the 24. I will be increasing my time on the road on the build up as well as throwing in some speed work sessions and reporting on all of the above. There have also be some developments in the area of sponsorship and will be pleased to announce all once the final few details have been put in place.
The website has also been given a bit of a revamp with some new colours and we will be adding some new photos soon too so keep an eye on it. I have received a lot of e-mails recently from people looking for advice and direction about starting running or going from 5k races to half marathons. This is so heartening as if one person has taken it up through these blogs/sites then it's been worthwhile in my eyes. Everyone has it in themselves so what have you got to lose.
See you round the bend.
Monday, August 9, 2010
There was never any question as to who I would interview first, there are many hero's but it always boils down to one amazing lady. Norma Bastidas. She has blazed a trail and really shown the way for others, myself included especially when it came to 'Running for Pearl'. Her advice and support have been invaluable.
Norma is a mother on mission and when her son Karl, who is now 15 years old, was diagnosed with Cone Rod Dystrophy, she ran. As a single parent he did not run away from the problem. She ran toward a solution and to raise awareness about this little known affliction, and by the sounds of it she is a long way from stopping. What she has achieved along the way is pick-your-jaw-off-the-floor type stuff. See below for last years calendar of events.....
|Brazil 135 Ultra||Brazil||JAN 23-25||217K||Completed|
|Antarctic Ice Marathon||Antarctica||Jan 28||100K||Completed|
|6633 Ultra||Canada||March 13-16||192K||DNF|
|Alpine Skyrun||Australia||March 28-30||120K||Completed|
|Iron Horse Ultra||Canada||May 9-10||160K||Completed|
|Namibia Race||Africa||May 17- 23||250K||Completed|
|Gobi Race||China||June 14-20||250K||Completed|
|Swiss Jura Marathon||Switzerland||July 5-11||175K||Completed|
|Total distance|| || || ||1272|
This year Norma is taking on the 771 Challenge, 7 summits, 7 continents, 1 record. That is climbing the highest summit on each continent for a new record. The current record is two years and sixty eight days but Norma is aiming to do this in one year.
Argentina, South America
Ellsworth Range, Antarctica
Nepal/ Tibet, Asia
May 15 2011
Alaska, North America
May 15 2010
Sep 16 2010
July 30 2010
You get the picture regarding her dedication, oh and not forgetting she has just finished and amazing climb of Mt Kiliminjaro. Below is one of the many video diaries and you can the rest of them here
Norma, you are currently based in Calgary AB, tell me little bit about your childhood and where you grew up?
I will hit a cord here with some people. I was born in Maxatlan, Mexico. The last of 5 kids, we were very poor and my dad was an alcoholic so there was never enough money. Growing up was very tough but we loved each other, my dad died very young, his unhealthy lifestyle caught up with him. He did quit drinking before he died and those years are my favourite years. Everyone knows that alcoholism is bad but not a lot of people talk about the negative impact on the families. In a strange way, here is where I learned to get over things quickly. We couldn't spend a lot of time dwelling on things as we needed to to find a solution to problems quickly. We were dealing with major issues such as survival and education. The effects of my dad's drinking were incredibly destructive, unfortunately a few years after my dad died I stared drinking, I was about 13 years old. I was never an alcoholic but I drank heavily since that's all I knew, it was when I married that I realised that I didn't want my kids to se my drinking so I quit. In the past sixteen years I have had maybe ten drinks and I do not miss my drinking days.
When did you start running and did you know from the beginning that it was your true calling or did it take a while to get into your veins?
I remember running when my kids were little, I was already a single mother and didn't have time to go to the gym. I never ran longer than an hour and never more than three times a week. For some reason I bought the whole idea that running was hard on your joints. It was not until my son Karl was diagnosed with Cone Rod Dystrophy four years ago that I started running everyday. I had trouble sleeping so I just got out and ran and felt better when I got back. The moment I fell in love with running was during my first trail run, it was love at first sight! After that running was never a problem, stopping was.
Tell me a little bit about your boys?
My oldest son Karl who is 15 is an amazing human being, he is so sweet, so compassionate and loves animals. He has also been losing his sight and it's been hard on his grades. Karl is the perfect example that its not about ability but about having the right attitude. He is popular, happy and never complains, he is also the most generous person you could ever meet. Since grade 1 he has asked his friends to donate to the SPCA or the Food Bank instead of birthday presents to him. My other son Hans who is 12 is the jock of the family. It doesn't matter what sport he tries he does very well. Right now he swims competitively and does triathlons. He is incredibly focussed and works hard. Hans has found a great balance of winning gracefully, if he does not win he is sometime upset and its not because he is not graceful. He is upset when he knows he could have done better and he lost focus. He knows that its OK to ask more out of yourself sometimes. Both of my boys teach me something, Karl teaches me to not take myself too serously and Hans teaches me to be passionate.
How hard has it been to juggle the adventures with being a mother, are there times when you feel dwarfed by the enormity of it all?
I always say that they should give you the medal when you arrive at the start of the race. The reason there are not a lot of women at endurance sports is because it's so hard to successfully manage a family, a career and training. I have made my living the past two years doing what I love but before that I had to work full time. The best investment I made was buying a treadmill, leaving my kids at home for seven hours so I could go training is not an option. But with the treadmill I could put them to bed a run through the night while they were sleeping. I also used to split my runs, one run in the early morning at 5am and then again late at night. That way I could increase the mileage without it impacting on my kids and work life too much. People always ask me how I do it, I always tell them that if you love running as much as I do then you will find a way to do it all too.
What is your one accomplishment that stands head and shoulders above the rest?
Education. We were so poor and education was a luxury. I speak three languages and I am currently finishing a Bachelor of Management.
I must congratulate you also on your recent engagement to Charlie (Engle, Ultra Running Legend) He must be a huge source of strength and inspiration?
Charlie is a huge part of my life, he makes me feel normal! I have a lot of respect for him; he has overcome incredible challenges and he is always so positive. I love being with somebody who is kind, generous and solid. He is also incredible with my kids and to my pets; to me those are the most attractive attributes in a person.
What are your plans for the next six months?
I am going to continue climbing, I hope to climb as many of the 7 summits as possible. Climbing is not only physically demanding it is also incredibly expensive so I am just going to take the next few months schedule as it comes.
How can people get involved and help your cause?
There are several charities that I support through my trust fund 'Not Afraid of Greatness'. For more information on how to donate just go to my website www.normabastidas.com
I can honestly say that you have helped me in getting out and doing more with Running for Pearl and I am just one of many, any advice to someone who is climbing their own mountain?
Let go of the anger whatever it might be, the best thing that I did for myself was to let go of the anger. We all have thing in our lives that we feel have been unfair or that have made it hard for us to have the life we once dreamed of. Letting it go and starting fresh each day is so freeing. There are no expiry dates on dreams, go hard!
And finally, describe yourself in 5 words.
Stubborn, Focussed, Passionate, Calming, Solid.
I am honoured to have been privy to the sheer honesty of Norma's answers. It's refreshing to hear and I think everyone one can learn something from her attitude. Norma, a sincere thanks for sharing here.
See you round the bend.