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RacingThePlanet: Madagascar 2014 Blogs

Final refections....
29-Sep-2014 10:14:30 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

So the race is finally over and its only now, a few weeks later that I am able to sit and finally reflect on what I have just done. As soon as the plane touched back down in London I was thrust back into the world of work and motherhood and have barely had a chance to sit a drink it all in. Life inevitably carries on but I have managed to find a spare few minutes. Work emails are done, the baby is napping in her nursery and I have a cup of tea in hand so here goes…

I feel such an enormous sense of pride in what I have achieved. I think its only now that I am realizing what an incredible feat it was to take on. I am no athlete. In fact I hate running with a passion yet I have just managed to complete my first ever 250km. Its safe to say that my training has been fairly minimal in a year that saw me have a baby, go back to work full time and start up two businesses at the same time as trying to continue being a loving mother, wife, daughter and friend with some level of social life thrown in for good measure. I really have been running on fumes for the last 12 months pretty much.

Its also safe to say the race really wouldn’t have been the same without my little tent 12 family. We had such a fun week together and they were one of the main reasons I woke up feeling that I could face the day. Every morning I would wake up and peel the lovely Steve’s blistered feet out of my hair [because putting the two tallest tent mates on the same side of the tent seemed like a great idea at the time] I would turn and smile at my lovely Susan who had started her daily pre-race rituals and laugh at the never ending amount of expletives coming out of Jimbo’s mouth about the day ahead. I would pack my bag, slip on my shoes [admittedly this part took longer and longer by the day] and stood on that start line ready to see what course setter Piers had in store for us the next stage.

Quite understandably there were a fair few people who were unsure whether or not I would complete this challenge and quite honestly you wouldn’t blame them for thinking it. However there was never a doubt in mind that I would finish the distance. It could have meant me being the last one crawling at the back with the guys in the pink but the only way I would have withdrawn would have been because a RTP staff member had told me to. Knowing the whole rainbow of emotions that I felt when I dropped out of the Jordan race in 2012 there was no chance that I was going to feel that way again. Not only that but in order to take part in this particular race meant leaving my daughter for the first time ever to travel half way across the world to take part in my own personal adventure-if I’d quit half way through then it would have been for nothing. When Lydia-Rose is old enough to comprehend I really want her to know that she can do anything she puts her mind to if she wants it badly enough just like her mummy.

A lot of people have asked me if it was lonely out there on the course on my own but I can honestly say that I wasn’t. I enjoyed every single second of being out on the race. For the most part walking independently gave my usually crowded brain the chance to let go of everything and focus on the task in hand, to enjoy the scenery and to smile at all of the local villagers that I would walk past. I was free from any kind of guilt of holding anyone back moving at my fairly slow pace and never had to inflict any of my internal and external pain onto anyone else. I felt positive throughout every day [with that little exception of my mini mini meltdown on route to check point three of day four!} I would get to have little snippets of conversations with people as we passed each other, say hello and sometimes I would walk small sections between check points with others but really I was more than happy with my own thoughts.

The one exception to this was of course the welcome companion that I had on the long stage. Ahmad. For his company I will be forever in his debt. I am sure that really he probably could have finished faster than me but we stuck together throughout the entire long march side by side in the dark, often in silence but mutually understanding the pain that we were both going through with our ankles. I hope that his two young girls back in South Africa are very proud of their daddy.

I may not have been any kind of competition for the likes of Ryan Sandes [That guy cannot be human!!] but I feel that I won in my own special way. All of my personal goals that I’d set myself were achieved on the race. Not once did I see a pink sweeper, I ran into every single checkpoint without fail and placed a respectable 170. Certainly not last and not bad for a self confessed hater of running. When Avi placed my medal around my neck at the finish line and I was so elated. Then Eric passed me a nice large cold beer and never had a beer tasted SO good! I can finally say that I have run an ultra. AMAZING!

I do need to say a few thank you’s.

To my Tent 12 [Elephant tree] family- Paula, Susan, Jimbo, Steve, Matt, Luba and Nigel. Thank you for making my week so memorable. Long may poetry corner continue from afar. I miss you already.

My honorary tent mate Ralph- you know!

Toby and Susan for our daily games of cat and mouse on the course…

Sam Fanshawe for always believing that I would finish the distance and to Riita for directing another awesome event.

To every single one of the volunteers and doctors who worked tirelessly throughout the event. But particular thank you to Eric, Avi and Dolfen. Having their familiar faces cheering me on at every check point made up for the fact that Alan wasn’t there shouting “Good Jawb” every two seconds!

But more importantly I would like to thank my husband Alan. After all it was due to Alan’s own challenge that got me involved with Racing the Planet in the first place. He has continually supported me knowing that I had to do this and has been an amazing daddy to Lydia-Rose especially whilst I was on the other side of the world. I love you very much.

So…. Miss Fanshawe stood there on the finish line and turned and asked me would I do another race and I categorically said no. My brief career as an ultra-marathon athlete [!!] was well and truly over. But now as I see all of the hundreds of photos floating about on my Facebook feed and that the post adventure blues have well and truly kicked in I find myself thinking that now I know I can complete the distance what if I bettered my 170 position….

Damn it Racing the Planet, damn it…..

Stage 5
05-Sep-2014 09:35:31 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

The long march… Km covered today= 76.7 Total= I lose track!! Close to 240km Toe nails= dubious how many will survive Blisters= My entire foot seems to be one big blister

Shin splints= More like a stress fracture going across my left ankle……

So now I know what a double marathon feels like. Is it worse than child birth? Well at least in labour you get breaks between the pain!

I started yesterday morning knowing the day ahead was going to be hell. Strangely felt really upbeat about it though. Had a great first 5km striding out but the ankle was already shooting pains up my leg. Luckily I caught up with bib 3, a guy called Ahmed from South Africa who turned out to be my personal saviour for the next 20hrs. Ahmed and I were both suffering from the same injury and although he had mostly run for the week he had no choice but to walk the long stage. We were perfectly paced for each other so worked well to get through each check point.

Todays mission was to take it check point by check point rather than to think about the 76km chunk. It really helped. The good thing about having Ahmed around was that we would walk in silence for some parts and it was perfectly okay but was good to have the company. He was also a doctor so had loads of advice on when to pop pills etc throughout the day!!

I desperately tried to look out for King Julian as we walked through the nature reserve today but saw zero lemurs on the course. I heard them though!!

We reached cp5 [ the hot water/ sleep station] just after dark and after 2 more water crossings [ they clearly liked torturing us!] We ate a hot meal and chose to plough through. We buddied with a South Korean girl to the next check point but she seemed to struggle at our pace [my long legs vs her petite frame] so the next 12km was looooooong…We walked through a sugar cane plantation and it seemed to go on for ever. The course setter was cruel. We winded back and forth through the fields and ever so often would see lights from torches or from what we thought was the check point. When we finally got there I was shattered…Our Korean buddy decided to wait for a slower group and we literally refuelled and carried on.

The last two stages were blurry. Walking on a dusty dark road with limited visibility for 20km or so was disorientating and I pretty much sleep walked the whole way home. We arrived in camp at 3:30am and Eric [Marxmiller] was on the finish line to give me a hug. Susan got up to help me sort myself out and unfortunately we had to sacrifice my gaitors and cut them off my legs. Knowing my body and pain quite well I’m pretty certain it’s a small stress fracture but nothing too serious [mum I can still walk don’t panic!]

I was so shattered I didn’t even make it into the tent to sleep. Instead I grabbed my sleeping bag, a stool for my foot and grabbed a few hours under the stars-BEAUTIFUL!!!!!

This morning we are sitting about camp waiting for the last few competitors to come in. Cut off is Midday so everyone should be home soon. Just seen a Japanese couple cross the finish line together and he has just proposed. Her fingers are so swollen the ring wouldn’t fit!! Lovely though…

Just 10km left to go…That medal around my neck is getting closer…..

Stage 4
03-Sep-2014 01:22:05 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Km today=40km

Total run=164km

Toe nails=9 [however my tent mate just stood on my foot so we’ll see in the morning!]

Blisters= 4

SHIN SPLINTS!!!!!! Excruciating!

So I’ve done it. I have made it to the long stage. 4 days completed and its safe to say I feel a tad bit broken today. The heat and humidity today was hard going. I welcomed some cloud cover this morning and powered through the first 20km. I was even ahead of Paula for the first 15km!!! The plateau was stunning and the rock everywhere was beautiful. I ran through lots of villages and had fun with some of the kids on the side of the road. Between cp2 and cp3 I hit a bit of a wall. Steep incline+water crossing+heat+no shade= a very unhappy Emily. I had myself a little cry, had a little word with myself and manned up pretty damn fast as I knew the only way it was going to get better was to get to the checkpoint. Luckily Dolfen was there to brighten up my day. We hugged it out, I ate a handful of nuts and a gel and then cracked on with the final 10km which took me up hill past the sacred lake and into the main town itself.

I finished before sunset so was so happy before that. I also placed 185 for today. I know that’s a high number but for me it has just made my day. 235 competitors started, lots have dropped and I’m still standing and still well away from those pink jackets. Just got a mere 76km tomorrow to crack before a jog home to the finish. Wish me luck xxxxx

Stage 3
02-Sep-2014 01:49:56 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Stage 3 Km covered today= 42 Total covered= 124 Toe nails= 9.5 New blisters=NONE!!!!!! Shin splints….

Another long and tiring day today but another one ticked off…I’ve made it to day 4 and regardless of what happens I’m proud of myself…. I started the day alone but making good time and reached cp1 with an hour to spare. It was set up on a stunning bit of beach. I was feeling pretty strong but then turned and saw Paula sat there close to tears. A quick pep talk later and we decided to walk together for the day. I pushed us through to cp2 along a dry river bed and then from there Paula pushed me up the side of a canyon to get some awesome views of the national park… We saw some spectacular vistas and I was so glad for the company. Only downside to today was that we finished in the dark and we had to cross a fast moving river with no natural light. Twisted my ankle slipping on a wet rock but nothing bit of R&R tonight won’t fix.

I’ve had my dinner, taped my feet and will be heading to bed imminently. I have no idea of my overall position [neither do I really care] but know there have been a ton of drop outs and there are still lots of people out on the course- I’ve not seen a pink sweeper vest for another day so I’m happy! Just one more day before the long march-bring it on…

I hope Lydia-Rose is being good and if possible can someone give my husband a hug from me? It seems strange not sharing this with him xxxxxxx

Stage 2
01-Sep-2014 01:50:16 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Hi all

Km travelled today=46

Total covered=82

Toe nails=9.5 [little one ominous]

Blisters= a few but manageable

Today was ridiculously long however I still managed to finish an hour before cut off with people behind me. No pink sweeper jackets to be seen.

Started along the beach and scaled the cliffs…a major bottle neck meant I was pushed back somewhat…made good time to check point one even though they had their distance wrong and we’d run1.5 km more than originally stated…

Saw Baobab trees and rice paddies which were amazing and then got slowed once more as I buddied up with a competitor who was needing attention….I got her to shade and flagged the roving vehicle but this slowed my time considerably [ not that I cared]

I finished the race knee high in water in pitch black…shattered, aching but ready for day 3…

Sorry its not a long one but I’m in desperate need of food and bed!!! Roll on the next stage….

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EMILY BRAITHWAITE
RacingThePlanet: Madagascar 2014

Hometown
Southampton

Profession
Civil Servant and owner of Baylily Bell Tents

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EMILY BRAITHWAITE
RacingThePlanet: Madagascar 2014 competitor

Bio

Hometown
Southampton

Profession
Civil Servant and owner of Baylily Bell Tents

Why are you competing?
Due to not completing the Jordan race back in 2012
I have a personal mission to complete the 250km
distance.

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