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RacingThePlanet: Madagascar 2014 Blogs

And it's done...
11-Sep-2014 08:31:40 AM [(GMT) Greenwich Mean Time: Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London]

So it's finally done... 250km across Madagascar... self-supported with a 10.5kg pack (I swear that did not get any lighter until at least Day 4!) through rough but amazing terrain, daylight, nighttime and twilight... through good times and bad... What an absolutely amazing experience!! A brief summation: Stage 6 was a 10km, and I decided to shuffle most of the way through it... figuring I have two weeks for the feet to heal so how much worse would they really be! I was part of the 8am staggered start which was a blessing, so I had some extra time to tape up the feet. I lost my water pouch 3/4 of the way there, not a bad thing as it had been bugging me for days, and I couldn't ditch it due to having had one water bottle go missing (note to self: never leave a bottle outside the tent all night!). We ended up running through the town and as it became more urban, there were more and more local villagers lining up, watching and cheering us on, even though they must have thought we were crazy! And suddenly the end was in sight... 300m from it our chips were swiped through, leaving us clear to run through that finish line... an amazing moment, especially when greeted and hugged by two of my friends, Alex and Luba. That I think I will remember more than actually crossing the line, that had more meaning to me. No tears, no overwhelming surging of emotion crossing a finish line, but friends... that's a different matter :) ... I also figure that's because it's Part 1 done... and I have the second part of my challenge still to do. I'll probably be a blubbering mess at the end of the next one :D Then it was time to grab a few photos with whoever was around and not busy chatting in groups, before piling onto the buses to make a dash back to the hotels and get changed. Two showers later and onto the awards party... so many inspirational people... two particular ladies that I thought amazing: one fell early in the race, dislocated her shoulder/arm, continued the day's stage, and then continued to finish all 250km despite being in daily pain. Another, who lost her shoes and walked at least half (I believe) of the long stage barefoot. Some of us even made a local bar for a few drinks before being somewhat sensible (shocking to those who know me ;) I was so tempted to party until dawn but was a good girl LOL) and getting back indoors by 1am... well I did have a flight to catch. About 30 hours to get home, 4 flights... then one day off work with appointments throughout that day... and now to sort things out for g2g amid a kitchen refurbishment. Life is not quiet right now. Ultimately, this has been an absolutely amazing experience and one I not only wouldn't hesitate to recommend to anyone, but am intending to do more. I already have two booked up... but after that's done, which to choose next? What people say about these events is true: you meet the most amazing people, you make friends for life, you challenge yourself, you can help others... I'm hooked... hope to catch you all on some future trails! Peace out x Michelle
Stage 5
05-Sep-2014 07:54:18 AM [(GMT) Greenwich Mean Time: Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London]

Well folks, me again. Where do I start?

Went and read my blog comments and emails just now… you have no idea how much they have helped me today… and brought a few tears! The long stage is done *woop woop*! After shuffling through Stage 4 I decided to walk Stage 5 with my walking companion Alex from Days 2 and 3 rather than try and run… gotta keep the next race in mind right and not push too much! There was also the added bonus that Alex carries a jambox so music on the go… apparently my musical taste is questionable in parts… I still maintain 5star were brilliant when they had their moment :D

So for walking, a 17 hour time for that distance wasn’t too bad, and we were also joined at a latter stage by Leana and Pushbar and we were able to keep each other going through the night. For the most part I found it relatively easy once the feet and blisters had numbed up, but of course over that period of time your feet are taking a constant pounding… Pushbar likened it to tenderising meat… and I have to say I think that’s a perfect analogy! Walking through the night and star gazing was amazing… seeing the sun go down at checkpoint 5 a highlight. The river crossings were not fun… after the days of exfoliation by sand, we had the dusty trails and wading through muddy water. The last water crossing just before checkpoint 5 was vile… slippy slidey mud with water that you couldn’t see anything through, hidden rocks and branches. Due to the state of the blisters, I figured best to go through in flip flops… not happening…. So down to one pair of socks which had to be thrown!

Unfortunately the dodgy tummy I had at the beginning of Days 3 and 4 turned into the so-called traveller’s tummy. Anti-nausea meds taken again… but on the last section of Stage 5 it really hit. So much so that I couldn’t stay in my tent when I got back… wouldn’t have been fair if my tentmates came down with it too. A very, low hard hitting moment as I got my stuff and hobbled over the med tent. However, every cloud and silver lining right… after taking some cipro and spending some time cleaning up, I managed to snag a travel cot so slept in my sleeping bed looking up at the stars… and NO SNORING!!!!!!!! Bliss, absolute bliss. Best night’s sleep I’ve had so far! And Sandy, thank you honey… that bracelet was vital last night!

Today we are chilling out… I’ve had another cipro and have eaten. The blisters are worse. I have no skin between my left big and first toes… and now a huge blood blister in the same place on the right! The feet are trashed and Sam, any help appreciated. One little 10k tomorrow… not sure if I will run or walk… walking seems to blister me more… this has definitely been an experience and I’ve met some lovely lovely people. Looking forward to being home, eating proper cooked food and catching up with everyone!

x Michelle

Stage 4
03-Sep-2014 02:48:54 AM [(GMT) Greenwich Mean Time: Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London]

Hello folks.

Getting on here a bit earlier today and read my messages. Dave, have a coffee for me. I’d kill for my morning costa latte right now. Strangely I’m not missing my daily sugar intake too much! Rich, I counted the exclamation points! There may be more after you’ve read today’s blog :D

So today – the fourth day of getting up early and putting in the work. Luckily we didn’t start until 8am so I used the extra hour to tape my feet up, with some having re-formed overnight. Can we say painful. However, as Rich says, mind over matter and focus on the positive. So I got out my mp3 player and figured if I go for a run today rather than walk, I can always walk the rest of the way for the long stage. After seeing how everyone is coping and tackling this, although I always expected to do the Long Stage non stop, I am now much more likely to stop and sleep mid way through! But that’s tomorrow.

So today – well it hasn’t been without drama. Since I started the last couple of days at the back, I figured second row at the front today, and no, I doubt anyone was quaking in their trainers LOL. The terrain today was much much better, dusty trail roads with some good downhill bits – yes Brett, I did have that saying in my head from London Enduro 12! So I ran… or rather I shuffled, and got passed by lots. And then I stacked it… a complete faceplant with poles getting entangled and scraping my legs. Luckily went down on a slight slant so only hit one cheekbone and mouth… much appreciation to those who helped me up. Thankfully no grazes on cleaning up a bit when I got back to camp. And then when walking I did the same thing as day 2… full foot straight on a tree stump sticking up… straight into the worst blister area I have L

But I kept on going, shuffling, jogging, walking. And I don’t care if I have to walk the rest now… I came in today at position 70 with a time of 6 hours 21 min. That’s 1 minute quicker than Day 1, longer distance, though much much easier terrain. The top third. I just managed to get into the top third. On the fourth day. Damn happy about that. So yes Rich, I pushed too much again, but so pleased with that, especially given the fall, the extra time at checkpoint 2 as a result cleaning up my bottles (well one, the other is still missing), and I took extra time to take my trainers and socks off for the river crossing, using my sandals instead.

Hope everyone is ok back home… and just a reminder that I’m also looking to raise awareness and funds for the charity Refuge. If anyone wouldn’t mind sharing my justgiving link, that would be amazing… it’s www.justgiving.com/michelle-payne4 :)

Speak to you all soon… one life folks… do what makes you happy J

x Michelle
Stage 3
02-Sep-2014 02:56:50 AM [(GMT) Greenwich Mean Time: Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London]

Hello folks J

Well Stage 3 is done!!!! 8 hours 45 min 10 sec I believe. People are still coming in as I type this some hours later.

So much to say but not much energy. Woke up this morning feeling a bit dodgy. Have been bitten to the high heavens by the mosquitos – thank god I have the malarone tablets. After the hell of yesterday’s water crossings… I don’t want to think about what’s in that water, today had a difficult technical section, elevation through very thorny shrubs, to then climbing up rocks and pulling myself up on hands and knees at one point. I thank god I brought my trekking poles, invaluable!! And my gaiters. They have been necessary every day but they’re really taking the brunt with the landscape, an inordinate amount of soft sinking sand, mud, lots of muds, water crossings and today that ended up up to the knee. Someone went swimming, one guy started washing his face, and I was rinsing my arms and tops of legs… until I saw floating slimy liquidy crap. I kid you not. Got out of there as soon as I could.

The scenery has been amazing, no more beaches now. The heat is unbelievable and today we didn’t have much of a breeze, with the majority in exposed areas. This meant by checkpoint 2 I had slowed down a lot. I walked most and shuffled for a few sections. Unfortunately I got to the point where I felt sick so took a break at checkpoint 3 for anti-nausea meds and to get blisters pierced.

And that’s the main problem I’m now facing. Blisters. Feet are a mess. It hurts just to walk, or should I say stumble/shuffle! All bandaging is off, all are sliced except for deep ones, with the aim of letting them dry tonight. Hopefully it wont be an early start tomorrow, so I can tape up before stage 4 starts.

I believe the number of competitors has dropped. One of the guys from next door (tent) has gone home ill. My concern is just getting through the next day. I have no idea how I am going to heal my feet so I can do the States, at this point in time.

Thanks for all the messages, I really appreciate them, and they’ve really made me smile and i am re-thinking them whilst I’m out shuffling along! As someone said to me today, if it were easy, everyone would do it. It’s not about just running.. it has walking, shuffling, stumbling, hiking, climbing… it has spectacular scenery, camaraderie, happy moments, dark moments and tears. It’s about having no sleep (I’ve had minimal),and being able to get up, put that pack onto bruised shoulders, chafed back… and get the distance done. To do one stage is amazing, to continue day after day, I have no words. I thought Race to the Stones was tough… this makes that feel like a sauntering 5k!!

Right, I need food so am off to put the headtorch on, ignore the dirt caked on that I’ve not managed to get off, eat and then climb into my sleeping bag to not get sleep. We have spiders around tonight *eeeeekkkk* and buggy things…

Be back tomorrow hopefully!

Stage 2
02-Sep-2014 02:37:07 AM [(GMT) Greenwich Mean Time: Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London]

Hi folks.

What a difference a day makes… today was extraordinarily tough and the amount of water… well!

The day started positively but several metres at the beginning along the beach I couldn’t get out of the way of the surf and got drenched to knee height. The result was wet shoes and socks for the whole day. Given I pushed too much yesterday (and thanks for letting me know time, well pleased with that), and that we were pushing through very soft sand much of the time, I decided to err on the side of caution and adopt a fast walking pace today, teaming up with a very kind gentleman who provided much needed and valuable help in getting across the tree trunk “bridge”, sorting out blisters and rescuing a young American lady who had become stuck, knee high, in the awful mud of the rice field we had to cross. I have it on good authority that today was definitely a very tough day that no-one found easy!

So I didn’t get in in daylight… given the colour of some of the water I waded through, that’s probably a good job! The blisters are bad and I am hobbling. 7 minimum, with at least 3 very deep ones and a nasty large blister that decided to arrive between two toes. Am hoping no infection, but keeping an eye on it given the water.

I am hoping I made it in in under 12 hours but not sure. Shoulders badly bruised from pack but mentally am feeling strong again. Medic tent visited, where they were happy with taping I had done. Now off to get food and finish recovery drink. And sleep. I plan on walking tomorrow too as I want to make g2g. End goal rather than speed.

Thanks for all the messages, they really help put a smile on my face at the end of the day J

Will check in tomorrow.

x Michelle

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RacingThePlanet: Madagascar 2014 competitor


London and Essex, UK

Counsellor and Legal PA

Why are you competing?
As well as raising funds and awareness for the UK
charity Refuge, to challenge myself to go from new
runner (Feb 2013) to double multi-day ultra stage
runner (Aug/Sep 2014) in 18 months

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