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RacingThePlanet: Iceland 2013 Blogs

ON REFLECTION
17-Aug-2013 02:40:35 AM [(GMT+02:00) Harare, Pretoria]

I sit here now, after nearly a week since completing our 250 km journey around Iceland. It still seems very surreal and I find myself reminiscing in my head and continually looking at the photo’s and video’s. I have to be honest and say that I find myself in a bit of a low right now, but have been told by past competitors that it is completely normal – phew! This journey started in my head a few years ago, when I saw friends going out and tackling a number of these 4 Desert & Racing The Planet events. I always looked on with envy and wished I could do something like that, but never thought I could. The deserts didn’t appeal to me (although in hindsight I think it’s much better being warmer), so when Iceland popped up as a roving race, I was drawn to it and just felt like I needed / wanted to make it happen. We entered a year ago, and since then it has consumed us mentally, physically, emotionally and financially. I suppose that is why there is a slight depression, as there is now a big hole to fill… Looking back on the whole experience is a journey in itself. Just taking the time to think of all we have done leading up to the race – the sacrifices we made, the time spent away from the children, the will to have to get out there nearly every day and train, the weekends away doing races - and then the realisation of having actually completed something that was so foreign to us. The unchartered territory of never having done anything like this before, the anxiety of the unknown and the knowledge that so much was riding on this. There was never an option to quit. The physical side of the race, is obviously, the first and foremost aspect. That is the known factor – we knew how much we had to run each day, we knew how we needed to prepare (mostly) and we knew we had to keep putting it out there day after day. It was hard on my body and there were days when I just didn’t want to get up again and go run yet another marathon. My feet hurt, my shoulders hurt and my body was tired – but you realise how much one’s body can actually endure and it is amazing! My back has always been an issue for me and I was worried how it would hold up for an event like this, with a 9.5kg pack, with sleeping on hard ground etc, but to my amazement, it was absolutely perfect and I didn’t struggle with it at all. So that’s a big thanks to my group of trainers/ physio’s/ chiro’s etc. The elements made the physical side of things that much harder, as my body was being thrown around by the wind, which meant having to compensate in certain areas or on specific sides of my body. This is where my struggle came from. I am pleased to say though, that after doing this event, my body is not really in bad shape – my toes are still sore (and still ugly, but that’s par for the course); the tendonitis in both ankles hurts and needs attention but it’s nothing serious. Probably, the most significant thing is that I am tired – I feel like I need to sleep often! All-in-all I am impressed with how my body handled it. Could I go out and run now – yes; do I want to – yes; am I going to – no, not today, but maybe next week I will give it a go… Oh, the last note on the physical, is that I think I may be the only person in the history of these events to have put ON weight! Yip 2kgs… Perhaps that’s due to the revolting swelling in my feet and ankles, but I will get on the scale next week and see what it says (everyone says the weight falls off within 2 weeks of finishing, so we’ll see – not that I’m looking to lose weight, but it obviously then means that my body is quite efficient). Mentally – well this is the main element of them all!!! To hold it all together when things are just being thrown at you left, right and center – and then to keep on going. There were many occasions when I just wanted to be done, when I wanted to withdraw, when I just didn’t want to face another day out there in those conditions. With no more than 4 hours sleep each night, the will was being tested on a daily basis. I think the hardest part was to get going – once going I just told myself that every flag, every check-point was one step closer to the end. Those small goals helped me get through and I knew I would finish each day – it was just whether or not I could get up and to the start line the next morning. I am a competitive person by nature, not necessarily with others, but with myself, and that also drove me. I don’t give up easily (I have only ever bailed from a race once, and that was because I was injured and I simply couldn’t go on, no matter how hard I tried) and I knew there were friends, family, children etc back home who wanted us to do well and I didn’t want to let anyone down. I said in one of my Blogs that I didn’t really have much time to think, not nearly as much as I thought I would or perhaps would have wanted to. I didn’t get to listen to music much either, only on day 3 – and I did need it to kick start my day. For me, I just had to survive out there – plain and simple! The weather pushed me beyond my limitations, but my mind ensured that I just continued on as best as I could. The last stage was a big mental day and one that had to be condensed into less than 10kms – I wanted to push for 3rd place. This is where the mental really had to over-ride the physical and just carry me to the end. John and I ran our hearts out to make up the 5 minutes between 3rd and 4th, but my body was saying ‘why’. I just had to think about my girls back home and show them that Mommy gave it everything she had – I didn’t give up and that’s a trait I always expect of them. This experience was an emotional roller coaster for me and when I say I cried every day, I am not joking! I cried after each day; I cried when I woke up each morning; sometimes when I went to sleep; I cried during the race, especially when taking video for my girls and chatting to them; I had tears in my eyes when the doctor was trying to sort out my feet; my eyes welled up when I thought my gaiters had cut deep gashes into my ankles (only to realise later that it was the tendonitis and not the gaiters at all). I was a blubbering idiot on many occasions, but that’s no different to how I am normally – it doesn’t take too much to make me cry. Leaving my girls was so hard for me and to know how brave they were being just made my heart so sore. They had also given up so much for us to be there, for us to be following our dreams and their encouragement and support was just totally overwhelming for me. It’s also emotional being proud of oneself. That doesn’t happen too often, and I was / am truly proud of what John and I achieved out there. It’s not an arrogant thing, it’s being aware of what we accomplished and that only around 5 500 people in the World have done these races in the last 10 years – we are in that handful! It has also been a financial commitment of note! It’s not cheap entering these races, let alone, getting there, spending time there, as well as all the equipment and food one needs. I don’t think either of us believe it to have been a waste of money, or could even really put a value on the experience – it was an priceless. The people we met along the way MADE this experience! From the organisers, to the volunteers, camp crew, doctors and competitors – wow, what an incredible bunch of people! It is so refreshing to meet people from all over the world who share the same passion. I’m sure that we will all keep in touch and hopefully our paths will meet again. The best part about this journey is that it doesn’t stop with us having finished the race – it is now just the beginning for those children whose lives we get to change. I think to date, we have enough money for 12 operations for Miles For Smiles. Those 12 children who get to have operations to change their faces and give them a beautiful smile, makes it all so worthwhile. We all know what a smile can do and we all know how it will translate into self-confidence and self-worth. We are exceptionally grateful for all the generosity shown, and that too contributed to the driving force of having to finish this race and do what we could to ‘deserve’ your donations. Miles For Smiles is doing an operation drive in Nelspruit in the next few months and hopefully John and I will get to go there and be a part of the process – that would just be the cherry on the top. To have ended the race in 25th overall; 4th in the ladies and 1st in my age group – is so much more than I could have ever imagined! My initial desire was to finish; then secretly I wanted to come in the top 50 – so this end result is just such a pleasing result for me. John was exceptionally strong throughout the race and I’m so pleased that he gave it a good go and that we made the decision not to run together. To come 15th overall is just phenomenal – I am incredibly proud of him and he was so upbeat all the time. The only complaint I have is that he didn’t spoon me enough at night… J. We never had a moment of grumpiness with each other and I am so overjoyed that we were able to share this journey together. Very special indeed! Thank you to each and every one of you who sent a message or followed our progress with such interest. It has been so wonderful talking to you all and hearing how excited you were to follow us along the way. Thanks too for putting up with us over the past year – perhaps we seemed one-dimensional, a bit anti-social or whatever, but the truth is we couldn’t have done it without you and your encouragement. Will I do this again………………………………………………………………………..HELL YES!!!!!!!
THE FINAL STAGE
11-Aug-2013 11:10:52 AM [(GMT+02:00) Harare, Pretoria]

It's hard to believe it's all over and that we have completed this epic race!

The last day was so tough - I decided to race it and give it all I had to try and get to third place. I had mixed feelings about it as I didn't want to end it under pressure, but everyone was telling me that it was a race and that I should at least try.  I just had Taylor's words in my head "Mom, you know what you need to do" and Andrew saying "that it's better to fail trying, than not to try at all". John said he would run with me because he didn't think he would be able to improve his position, so I knew he was going to push me and do his best to try and get me to the end as fast as I possibly could.

When the countdown began I was feeling so nervous but I knew it was just under 10kms and that I just had to leave it all out there and do what I could.  We started off so fast - just behind the front men and I was struggling to breathe.  The rain was coming down and it was a bit windy, but I honestly didn't even notice that.  The course was fairly technical which was great for me, as I knew I was a stronger runner over the technical than Verginie was.  We just kept running, John kept talking to me and I just ran my heart out.  We were flying down the technical downs and then I saw the finish line - I couldn't believe it!  We ran hand-in-hand through the finish and I was exhausted!  I came through as first lady and then was just waiting and waiting to see when Verginie came in.  Unfortunately I didn't make it - it was tought to make up just under 5 minutes over that distance - had it been a 1km longer perhaps I would have done it.  The final results aren't up yet and there are also some errors in other timings, but I think we ended up being about 1 minute apart.

I was really happy with the way I ran, glad I gave it a go, because I would have hated to regret not trying.  What was the most special part of the day was running and finishing with John - it was the first time we had run together during this race and was the most appropriate ending. We have shared a lot - the highs, the lows, the smells, the laughs, the tears, the gruelling race and elements - an experience that we will be able to share with each other for years to come.  That has to be the greatest thing to come out of all of this.  It was an emotional ending and I just burst into tears (but that's nothing new for me - I have cried every single day).

We ended at the Blue Lagoon, which was spectacular!  We ate traditional lamb soup and rolls and then went swimming in the lagoon - which is an outside lagoon, but the water temperature is about 35 C.  It felt so good and we were all ecstatic to be finished.  We were drinking beers, laughing and just remembering the week that had passed.  
We were there for about 2.5 hours and then caught the bus to the hotel.  We quickly unpacked and then headed off for something to eat - aaaaahhhhh, a burger and chips and some pizza!  I must say my eyes were bigger than my tummy and just wanted to taste lots of different flavours. We came back to the room and then had a lovely bath, washed hair, shaved and just gave myself a bit of TLC - my feet are tickets and incredibly sore.  I have blisters on almost every toe, my feet and ankles are so huge and swollen that I can't wear any shoes.  My face has been peeling due to the wind burn and I have a cold sore on my lip - so I think my body has now had enough and is shutting down!

We got ready for the Awards Banquet and then went down to share a lovely end to a beautiful journey with loads of super people. I couldn't eat as much as I wanted to, but it was lovely to have a selection to choose from - and I didn't need to make it with hot water or eat it with a spork!!!  I was very suprised to have won my age category, so I got an award, which felt so great and I am really, really chuffed to have won - I could never have imagined that in my wildest dreams.  Linda got an award for coming 2nd, which is totally incredible, and Andy got an invitation to do Antarctica.  We went to be around midnight and I was super exhausted and my feet were killing me.

The physical journey is now over, but it's one that will live within in us for lots of time to come.

I will write a last post - a summary and a reflection in a few days time - I just need to digest it all.

Thank you for all your support, encouragement and love you have shown during this time.  It hasn't always been possible to read your messages but I look forward to going through everything very carefully when I get home. It was such a treat to hear from home, so thank you for sharing this adventure with us every step of the way.
DAY 5 - THE LONG MARCH
09-Aug-2013 08:17:45 AM [(GMT+02:00) Harare, Pretoria]

I know it's a day late but we havent been able to access the cybertent until today.
 
The night before the long stage the weather was so incredibly bad, the wind was howling, the rain was coming down and our tents were just about blowing away.  We had to shift sleeping arrangements so that there was no one sleeping next to the edge of the tent - funnily enough it was a better night for me as I was much warmer - snug between JK and Sigi.  We were all joking in the tent, and secretly hoping that the stage the next day would be cancelled - we just couldnt believe that they would make us run in that.
 
We waited anxiously the next morning to hear the news, but it was still on - we were just bussed over the river so that we didnt have to start through the water, although it wasnt long before we were soaking wet. The weather was on top form, with wind like you've never known, rain that felt like pebbles hitting my face and we even had sleet. It is soooo difficult running in conditions like that when you're being thrown from side to side or heading directly into the wind - all with a pack!  I wasnt sure how I was going to get through the day but I just thought I would do what I do and run my race because the day is too long to be competitive with anyone else. I started at the back, unfortunately, so wasnt able to keep up with the front ladies or even see them, but I was okay with that - I could only do what I could do. I was 'enjoying' running within myself and ran quite a bit on my own, until I got to this long, dirt road which was directly into this wind that you were moving backwards. I got into a line with about 5 other guys and just tucked in behind them - I felt like I was part of the Old Mutual green worm at the Two Oceans. Once i got past there I was running fairly comfortably and my tendonitis was holding up, although I have it on both ankles now - nothing pills couldnt fix...  We ran a long stretch across a beach and I was quite focused so just kept going.  We then reached these awesome lave cliffs along the edge of the Ocean - the rocks were slippery, the wind was howling, but I felt alive and was springing along and that is where I saw Virginie. She doesnt do the technical well, and I have to say I was excited to see her - to know I had caught up to her all by myself and just done what I had done. I couldnt go past her, I just couldnt, I felt too bad, it just didnt feel right and i'm sure she would have done the same - we have become friends and it's a difficult thing to do. We ran the rest of the way together and I had a good, strong day - I definitely felt I was stronger. I did have issues 10kms from the end where my right knee was in absolute agony from compensating for the tendonitis in my ankle.  The wind was also blowing a gale against that leg so the force I was haing to place on it was immense. Virginie gave my some of her pills and a Gu and we kept storming ahead.  About 6 kms from the end, Steve, who I ran with the other day came to join us, provide us with his 'golden bear' jelly babies and we were all on the pain-train to the finish.  It was an exhilirating end to a super tough day and we were so happy it was done.
 
The treat was that we were transported in a warm car to a school hall where we were able to access our drop bags and get warm - there is no way we could have tented yesterday, so thankfully they secured this place, otherwise the stage would have been cancelled. There are just bodies everywhere in this hall, sprawled all over the floor and it's quite an incredible experience. We are still in race conditions eating our same crappy food, which I cant do any more - I have got rid of all my freeze-dried meals and traded them for mash and noodles. Today we have just been chilling, chatting etc, which has been nice because our social time together has been limited due to the weather. It's nice to be warm and dry for a change too and to get a decent nights sleep (well if you can with 250 people all sleeping together...)
 
Tomorrow we start at 9 - get bussed to the start at 8. It is a 10km stage and it is timed. I'm not sure what I am going to do.... There is % minutes betwwen Virginie and I...  If it is a bit technical I MAY be able to do it, but if not, it will be tough - she is incredibly strong.
 
We are so looking forward to the banquet, eating good food and celebrating this amazing achievement - it has been so, so hard for me and I have cried everyday I think - I havent done anything this hard - the conditions, the course, the everything has been brutal.  I also cant wait to was my hair, clean my nails and not have to worry about putting alcohol gel on my hands every 5 seconds.
 
Love you my darling daughters - you are my inspiration and home cant come soon enough.
 
xxxxxx

Day 4
07-Aug-2013 06:40:17 AM [(GMT+02:00) Harare, Pretoria]

Today did not start well for me because once again I was absolutely freezing last night and got no sleep. I woke up very tearful and seriously considered bailing - the conditions make something tough even tougher. My leg was also sore and I wasnt sure if I was going to be able to make the stage.
 
Anyway, I had to suck it up and remember all that I have sacrificed to be here. At the start of the stage we went through an awesome lava tunnel where we had to offload our packs and go through it for 300m. It was really great and a good start to the day - it was also slower which helped me warm up my leg before running. It was loads of fun, dark, climbing through small spaces and just something different. We then headed onto pony paths which were awesome. The scenery was spectacular today and the terrain was runable for a good part but then we had MANY extreme uphills today - they were absolutely brutal. I ran the entire day with a girl from Belgium, Vergenie - I think she is in 3rd place, and we had such a good day out together. We ran on grassy, mossy, soft boulder sections (if that makes any sense...), we ran on the pony paths, we ran with beautiful views of lakes, geothermal areas which were amazing!
 
Today was my best day out in terms of how I felt and my mental state - which is surprising after how the day started. I was in a lot of pain but just took Panado's at each check-point. Vergenie and I came in together, in 3rd place and I think I came 24th overall. It definitely was a brutal, tough day and ending it with two river crossings just made it all the more tough because of the cold - still havent warmed up...
 
The campsite is beautiful but hells bells it's cold. I am not sure how I am going to survive the night again and with knowing that it's the long stage tomorrow. The forecast is so bad, so it's going to be a tough mental and physical day. It's great to know that we are more than halfway through, but there still seems to be so much to conquer.
 
I have just had the e-mails and blog comments uploaded, so read quickly - thanks soooo much for the messages. My darling daughters I am so proud of you for getting into the inter-schools hockey and netball, that is amazing and i am so proud - just sitting with tears in my eyes knowing how happy you must be. It is really hard being away and it's such a tough emotional battle, but I dont care what people are thinking as I write this now in floods of tears. I am definitely not going to do something like this again, it has been super tough, but I am just taking my strength from all back home.
 
Thinking of you, missing home and am definitely looking forward to a warm shower, comfy bed and good food. I am not enjoying the freeze-dried meals so that is very challenging for me to force it down. Lunch and breakfast is still okay - loving the 2 minute noodles and the smash!
 
JK is such a machine and I am super impressed with his performance - wow! There have been a lot of people pulling out and I think there will be loads more today - quite tempting to head back with them...
 
I hope tomorrow is manageable and that I survive - that is all...
 
Love you babies and hope you're taking care of each other. xxxxxx
Day 3
06-Aug-2013 02:35:29 AM [(GMT+02:00) Harare, Pretoria]

Done and dusted - and dusted would be the operative word. We ran through black lava sand today and lava fields. The scenery changed from grassy to harsh, hard ground and the running was tough today. The weather was lovely and for once I didnt have to run in all my gear - in fact I actually got sun burnt! I didnt enjoy the beginning of the day and I had Eminem to give me a bit of a boost. I met up with another guy,Steve, at checkpoint 2 and we ran/walked the rest of the way together. It was tough out there, the terrain was difficult and I was in a lot of pain today. My shoulders were killing me today,even though the pack should be lighter - I felt it weighing down on me the whole time. I also was in a lot of pain around my ankles, I thought my gaiters were cutting into me. When I finished I went to the medical tent to sort out my blisters and it turns out I have tendonitis. Hopefully it doesnt get any worse. The finish line was in the most spectacular location and i was so relieved to be done - 43kms today, longer than planned. I came in 29th overall and 4th lady, so really surprised and happy. John had another incredible day, he came 12th overall.

The camp is lovely and the weather is good,but not sure how long the wind will stay away. I have been awake since 3am because of the cold and we had to leave a little earlier as we were bused to the start. I really am hoping for a warm night, but if not I will be spooning between Sigi and John - I cant take it any longer.

Otherwise doing okay. I havent managed to read messages from home today, so I cant reply to anything specific. There have been quite a few withdrawals so far, but fortunately our whole tent is still together. I managed to think a bit today and i had lovely thoughts of a lot of you back home. My girls, I keep my watch on SA time so I keep thinking about what you are doing. I hope all is fine at home and know how much I am missing you. I am not as emotional today as yesterday,so that is good.

Not sure how I will manage tomorrow, but I guess just keep plodding on and know that each step made is one closer to the finish.

Thanks for all the support, even though the messaging hasnt worked out as planned, when I do get to read it, it means a lot.

Half way there..
CARYN KENNEDY
RacingThePlanet: Iceland 2013

Hometown
Hout Bay, Cape Town, South Africa

Profession
Guest House Owner and mother of 3 daughters

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CARYN KENNEDY
RacingThePlanet: Iceland 2013 competitor

Bio

Hometown
Hout Bay, Cape Town, South Africa

Profession
Guest House Owner and mother of 3 daughters

Why are you competing?
To challenge myself - To experience something that
very few people get to - To share it with my
husband - To get out of my comfort zone - To see
if I can...

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