2 weeks to go

Butterflies in my stomach

Zombie land. That’s where I am living right now. Peak training complete, now on the final straight. I can’t believe after months of thinking about it, that I actually pushed the button in the beginning of July, and now I have arrived. I am both terrified and excited at the same time. This is real. This is happening.

I will be running North to South (so right to left)

I am attempting to set the Fastest Known Time on the Arizona Trail. Me. Is this madness? stupidity? I hope not. 800 miles. I will be on my feet for 16 hours every day for 15 consecutive days. I will have to cover 50 miles a day (approximately two marathons), every day. I will have to climb and descend 110,000 feet (the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest four times). I will wake up in freezing cold temperatures at 3:30am every morning, get myself ready and hit the trail by 4am. Every day, for f-i-f-t-e-e-n days. I will be finishing on the trail when it gets dark and cold in the evening. Every day. It’s going to suck. Big time.

So, this begs the question, why? And why do I have a big grin on my face just writing about it?

Honestly, I find it difficult to put into words. There is this need inside of me to keep pushing myself. To go outside of my comfort zone. To see what I am capable of. Not to settle for average. To always try to live my best life. To constantly try new things. To put myself out there. To better myself. To learn and to grow. To be happy.

This is going to be one of the most incredible journeys that I have ever been on and the biggest challenge I have set myself to date. Physically, I don’t feel I can be any more prepared. Will it be enough? We’ll soon find out! Here is a summary of my 10 weeks of training.

🏃🏻‍♀️805 miles
101,550 feet climbing
💪🏼 30 strength/conditioning workouts @ Paragon Athletics
🧘8 mobility workouts
219 hours training
👣additional 310 commuter miles *

*because I don’t have a car, I have to use my 2 legs to commute everywhere. I personally believe movement is medicine and this is good for active recovery, but the miles certainly add up!

My training has included multiple back-to-back days of training, a 100 mile week, fast-hiking workouts, threshold workouts, incredible scenery, lots of hills, early mornings, big mileage days of 34-44 miles, multiple 10+ hour days, ski runs, 12,600 feet peaks and lots and lots of smiles. You can find all the detail in my Strava account if you want to see more information.

An integral part of my training, keeping me fit, healthy (and sane!) are the classes I attend at Paragon Athletics. The team there have kept me strong throughout my Ultra journey and I often refer to them as magical unicorns with their unique skillset to assess my athletic needs while taking into consideration my mental well-being and keeping workouts fun and challenging. Without them I don’t believe my little body could withstand all of the miles and the hours that I train.

If we put the physical aspect of things to one side, the second biggest challenge has been the logistical planning. This has been all consuming and quite frankly very stressful. Trying to put all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together from trail planning and mapping, to organising support – both in crew and running and gathering intelligence. Some days I feel like I am barely keeping my head above water. On the verge of tears, balancing on a cliff edge doing my best to remain calm, keeping hold of my faith that everything will come together.

When I set the green light back in July, I pulled together a high level plan of how many miles I would need to cover each day to ensure I would achieve my goal of completing the AZT in less than 15 days, 13 hours and 10 minutes. I based this plan largely on where there were vehicle access points and taking into account basic knowledge of how difficult the terrain would be (volume of climbing, technicality) and therefore, ability to cover the necessary mileage in a day.

What I have been working on and no doubt will continue to do so up until the very last minute with the time it is taking me (!), is to now break this plan down into the detail for each day, so that I have a comprehensive understanding of the route ahead of me and what support is needed.

  • Reaching out to my community to find crew chiefs, support and pacers.
  • Organising the team and making sure they are prepared and have all the information they need to be able to support me
  • Reaching out to the AZT stewards with a short questionnaire asking about the conditions of the trail they look after, whether it is runnable, water sources that are available and vehicle access
  • Downloading all available information from the Arizona Trail Association. Including descriptions of each passage, topo maps, vehicle access data/road status, latest news on trail segments and any re-routes
  • Re-writing all available passage information (as the ATA is set up for following the route South to North, whereas I will be going North to South)
  • Meeting with runners and hikers who have covered the AZT to gather as much information as possible
  • Reviewing Youtube videos, blog posts, websites on the AZT
  • Speaking with seasoned veterans such as Mike Wardian and Ray Zahab to gain knowledge on how to tackle multi-day events to be as prepared as I can be
  • Obtaining the Guthook app and downloading the AZT onto it. Creating routes for every section I would be running between seeing my support team, so that I would have elevation profiles for each section (approximately 100 routes!)
  • Reviewing all the latest intel from people’s posts to the Guthook app to gather data on trail conditions and water sources
  • Reviewing any trail changes from fires or maintenance to make sure I am following the correct route
  • Reviewing the topo maps to build confidence on route navigation
  • Obtaining the GPS co-ordinates for each vehicle access point and loading these in Google Maps to get driving directions for each segment, ensuring driving time is less than running time
  • Estimating what my pace might be for each segment taking into account terrain and elevation profile
  • Correlating this to the intel I had gathered about water sources and pulling together a fuel and hydration plan for each day
  • Looking at the satellite images for each planned end of day stop to ensure there appears to be availability for camping
  • Making sure I have all the necessary gear I need and testing everything out
  • Pulling together a checklist for each day for my crew chief to be able to manage my support – including gear requirements, schedule for the day (meeting points, fuelling strategy etc.), tasks (such as checking weather, roadworks, trail changes etc.), team contact information and co-ordination

Phew! Is that it??!

Of course, there is only so much planning I can do and I need to be prepared to be flexible and deal with issues on the fly. This may mean adjusting my planned mileage or possibly running through the night. The most important thing for me though is to have a crew I can trust. One that I can hand over all of the logistics to the day before and rely on to make the necessary day-to-day decisions. As much as I am a control freak (what, me?!), I know that I will not have the mental capacity or energy to be able to make important decisions while out there on the trail, and I need to be able to trust my crew to make the right decisions for me, when I am most vulnerable.

For this, I am so grateful to have such a badass team of support and runners, and I get to share this special experience with my friends, my community, those who have been on this journey with me from the beginning and without whom I wouldn’t be here today. It means so much to have you in my corner and when I think about you all it gives me so much strength and power. Thank you.

Lets get this done. Fun times ahead

Go Fund Me

Arizona Trail Fundraiser

Instagram

Facebook Group

LinkedIn

803.5 miles Arizona Trail Fastest Known Time Attempt

On Thursday October 17th I will be beginning my attempt to set the Supported Fastest Known Time (FKT) on completing the 803.5 miles of the Arizona Trail from the Southern Border of Utah to the Northern Border of Mexico, with over 110,000 feet of vertical gain and 110,000 feet of loss. The current FKT (which was Unsupported) was set by Jeff “Legend” Garmire and stands at 15 days, 13 hours and 10 minutes. Continue reading 803.5 miles Arizona Trail Fastest Known Time Attempt

2 months and counting

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when my coach suggested I fast-hike a 12 hour running race. To say I was not enthused by the idea would be an understatement. I positively rebelled to begin with but then slowly appreciated his wisdom, given that a sizeable chunk of my Fastest Known Time Attempt (FKT) on the Arizona Trail (AZT) is likely to be fast-hiking. Continue reading 2 months and counting

T-3 months

Pushing the button

So, I pushed the button and set the date. There’s no going back now. I am giddy with excitement and nervous with apprehension. I have often found myself in life changing situations, not quite knowing how I have got there.

I have created opportunities, sometimes life events have happened to me and others, I have had the good fortune to be presented with an opportunity that I have then chosen to take. It’s these series of events that have led me to where I am and the person I am today. Continue reading T-3 months

Me vs The Bighorns

My first 100 mile race

Bighorn – (as per their website) a tough contender in the ultra-world boasting its name on the top 10 most difficult ultras in the nation. We met with Mother Nature to custom design a challenging course: full of steep climbs, difficult down hills, shoe sucking mud, and relentless technical terrain leading you to spectacular views with a possible wildlife encounter here or there.  Participants, be prepared to endure extreme ever-changing mountain weather conditions and temperature variations. Mother Nature provides over 20,500 feet of ascent and 20,750 feet of descent testing the most seasoned ultra-runners with 76 miles of technical single-track trail, 16 miles of rugged 2-track jeep trail road, and 8 miles of gravel road. Continue reading Me vs The Bighorns

#greecelightning and 100 miles

After successfully completing my first marathon, the Athens marathon, I set my sights on the next most important thing in my life…my approaching 40thbirthday and the celebrations that would ensue. I travelled around the world from Hong Kong to North America, onwards to Europe and Argentina, celebrating with best friends and adventuring in new parts of the world.  Of course, I continued running, as this was now part of my lifestyle, but with no particular goal in mind.  Once I had safely transitioned into my 40thyear it was time to take some action and decide where I wanted to lay my hat. Greece was still pulling me but this time back to my hometown, my heart, my Crete.  A small business opportunity helped with the transition into my new life and so it began in a small fishing harbor called Chania on the west side of the island.  From the moment I stepped off the plane, a wave of peace and joy swept over me, together with the hot summer air of course.  I was home! After a few weeks of settling in, I started asking around about where to run, and I was soon introduced to the local running community.  Shy at first, I was very nervous about running with actual runners…who was I after all?  Such a newbie, only trained by myself up until now, how would I compare?  Continue reading #greecelightning and 100 miles

How I got into running at the age of 39

I was never into running growing up.  I played football when I was little and then Judo in my teenage years, but really from the ages of 14 onwards sport had very little to do with my lifestyle.  In my mid-30s I was depressed about my weight and my looks and I saw a personal trainer for a couple of years, but then I moved to Hong Kong in 2012 and the demands of my job and the lifestyle there pretty much threw that out the window.  I valiantly tried to go on small jogs, but nothing outweighed the continuous lack of sleep, long work hours, travel, eating out and drinking.  After 22 years in the corporate world, culminating in a position of Chief Financial Officer looking after the Asia region for a global consultancy, I decided to quit to find some balance in my life and pursue a journey of self-discovery. Continue reading How I got into running at the age of 39

My Arizona Trail Adventure – Part 1

Type 2 fun….. possibly type 2.5

Background

I only discovered my passion for running later in life.  I was working in the corporate world for 22 years, at the age of 38 I decided to quit in order to pursue a journey of self discovery, wherein I found running and haven’t looked back since.  In July 2017, I came to Flagstaff, Arizona for Rob Krar’s ‘Trail & Ultra Running Camp’, this was my first experience of running on trails. I fell in love with trail running, Flagstaff and the community and decided to move out here a month later.  Continue reading My Arizona Trail Adventure – Part 1

My Arizona Trail Adventure – Part 2

Type 2 fun….. possibly type 2.5

…… This would have been bad enough in the day time, searching for cairns in amongst the other rocks, sometimes upstream, sometimes ahead of you, sometimes obliterated by fallen trees, but it was downright scary at nighttime.  As you can imagine, these miles were SLOW.  With only a narrow stream of light from my headlamp, I was scanning up and down, left and right, looking for these piles of rocks on top of rocks!  I cursed myself for not bringing my super duper Petzl headlamp and only bringing my lightweight headlamp with me (Lesson no.6 – always carry the super duper headlamp).  Continue reading My Arizona Trail Adventure – Part 2

My Arizona Trail Adventure – Part 3

Type 2 fun….. possibly type 2.5

…I was making progress, albeit slow when I suddenly find myself with a stretch ahead of me where the snow had fallen and completely obliterated the trail and was effectively an ice wall on the side of the mountain.  The trusted footsteps that I was using to keep myself safe were nowhere to be seen until about 10 feet ahead of me.  There was nothing but the sheer drop off and one lonely tree to the right of me.  I willed myself with all my might not to look down as I knew this would finish me off. I had to get across this section somehow.  Continue reading My Arizona Trail Adventure – Part 3