Back from the mountains

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Greetings once again.

Prior to Christmas I was asked by Grown Ups to share some of my story of how having lived with a significant physical disability since the age of 16 I found myself 35 odd years later on the start line of the

2017 Kathmandu Coast to Coast Mountain Run.

(You will find previous instalments of the story and how I got there here.)
Having failed to get over the Mountain in the Coast to Coast of February of 2015 I turned my attention to the challenge of completing the New York Marathon in November of that year.
I returned home having achieved that and then set my sights on going back to the mountain in another attempt to cross the Southern Alps in the Mountain Race.
Having learned from my failed attempt, and isn’t it true in life we learn from our failures, not our successes, I started to put together a plan that would see me leave no stone unturned to get over the mountain.
Cigna New Zealand believing I could do it backed me in my campaign to make it happen. That allowed me to fully focus on training.
It started by getting myself a coach, Menno van der Laan, a one day competitor in the Coast and a fierce competitor agreed to help me put together a training and fitness programme to build both strength and endurance.
Menno not only coached me but along with my son in law Camden were the 2 guides who would accompany me in the race providing support and a level of protection in what is a harsh and unforgiving environment.
Believing I could get over the mountain, what I knew I needed to do was get much fitter than I had ever been in my life so in March of 2016 the training started.
Up to 5 times a week I began a regime of gym work, hill walking, fixed bike riding and hours and hours on my feet in the hills and trails in all weathers to prepare my body for its greatest challenge.

I racked up over 1200k on my feet in 300 hours and over 150 training sessions. The “Coast” became central to what I ate, drank when I went out, what time I went to bed and the focus of my life, nothing existed for me beyond February of 2017. I loved it and hated it at the same time. When I found myself in the mist in the hills with only the sound of rain and my own breathing it was a special place but at the end of a 30k 6 hour walk when my legs were hurting and all I wanted to do was stop at 20k but still had 10k to go I was asking myself what the hell was I doing, it wasn’t always fun or enjoyable.

I’m proud of the fact that I never gave up, I never took short cuts literally, I had said as a condition when Menno agreed to train me I will do whatever you tell me to do, and I did, I also reminded myself constantly of the words of my friend Peter Loft from Achilles who when I was training to do the New York marathon told me.
“Discipline is less painful than regret”.
Someone once described discipline as the difference between what you want now and what you want most. What I wanted most was to be a finisher in the Kathmandu Coast to Coast Mountain Run. If I didn’t make it, I sure as anything was going to make sure it wasn’t because I hadn’t trained or done the work.
After having it out in front of me for what seemed like such a long time suddenly race day was here.
All the work and training and sacrifice were now going to be put to the test.
On a cool and overcast morning on February 10th I set off from the start line at 7am with Menno and Camden with a 32k adventure in front of us including multiple river crossings, around a 1000m elevation climb to the summit, cold temperatures, rocks and boulders to get over all with the question hanging of had I done enough to get over the mountain.
It’s an experience hard to put into words but epic is what you encounter on the mountain run it has to be experienced to really appreciate it. There were no surprises, it was as challenging and as tough as what we were expecting.
We always knew that pace was going to be our biggest challenge and to make the compulsory race cut off times particularly Goat Pass by 4 pm.
In my first attempt with my good mate Tim James we had battled for 8 hours and with at least 2k of the hardest part of the climb still ahead of us we were not going to make the cut-off by 4 pm, we were finished.
When this year we made Goat Pass at 2:15 pm I knew we were going to make it, last time not getting to Goat Pass had resulted in being helicoptered out this time strength and endurance had ensured there was no helicopter ride this time. I even shed a tear and allowed myself a moment of celebration. It is far from “all down hill” from there and we still had more challenging terrain to go and a race against the clock to finish.
12 hours and 25 minutes and 32k after starting the race my support crew of Camden and Menno and Tim and Mo who had walked in to meet us, let me walk down the final 100 metres of the race chute at Klondyke corner that is the finish line of the run.
I had told Richard Ussher the race director of the Kathmandu Coast to Coast months prior to the race that I was looking forward to seeing him at the end to collect my finisher’s medal.
medalWhen Richard stepped up and placed that medal around my neck it was a great, great moment, everything I had done to get there was so worth it.
 I also knew that on a personal level I would never be able to look in the mirror again and say the words  “I can’t do that” …
Suddenly at the finish line the mountain wasn’t that big, that far, that hard, don’t get me wrong it was a tough, tough day and it’s a tough race and was, without doubt, the biggest physical and mental challenge I had faced but I had done it, I had got over the mountain.
I have been supported by a large group of family and friends who helped me to believe it was possible I couldn’t have done it without them.
The Facebook page I had started to document my journey in the year leading up to the race I had called
Back to the Mountain
the day following the race it was changed to
Back from the Mountain.
“In the end, it’s not the mountain we conquer, it’s ourselves”
Ed Hilary.
Footnote:
I have been asked,  “So what’s next after the mountain run”?
At this stage I don’t know, I have some mates talking about it and the sentence “we think we can get you in a kayak” has been mentioned, I’m sure there will be another “mountain” or river for me soon.