How do you do it?

When I found out that I couldn’t do the marathon I had prepared for this year in Nepal I could have decided to give up. I could have decided to stop training and simply throw in the towel – but after a brief period of disbelief I picked myself up and recognised that despite the horrible circumstances under which it occurred – I had been given another year to fine tune my training for this monumental event.

Every day people are out there redesigning their lives and setting new and exciting goals. It could be a 10km fun run or perhaps a half marathon or marathon. Irrespective of how big or small the mission may seem I wholeheartedly believe that the act of creating a goal and setting out in search of achieving it is hugely important to anyone who wishes to grow and develop both physically and mentally/emotionally. No matter what you set out to do, if it stretches your capabilities even a little it is worth the journey. I see people setting out on personal journeys all around me and at times I know they are hesitant to express their enthusiasm, as though my Everest challenge casts a dark shadow over their personal challenges. Honestly – I believe every event along the way to achieving one’s individual goal is its own Everest. Those who achieve their goals constantly inspire me, regardless of how big or small the goal may appear.

It’s quite normal for most people undergoing training to need a support mechanism to make sure they function to the best of their ability. I started to notice at the beginning of my training that there was only so much that I could fit in. The balance between kids, training, work and family at times made me feel like a one arm circus juggler! My natural personality is to be the ’energiser bunny’ but that type of persona is very hard to maintain when so much energy is put in to all of those areas in life. Not only parenting but teaching is something I like to put 100% into at all times. So I thought I would share a few things that have made this all easier. I always get asked ‘how do you do it?’ Well here is a little of how.

Working#Parenting#Training

Working#Parenting#Training

I made the decision when I began my training at Spec Force Fitness in 2013 to quit caffeine. This was upon the advice of someone I’ve grown to really respect & look up to – the CEO at the time Scott Cottier. Giving up coffee was something I thought would be very easy. I was wrong. The strangest thing when your body relies on this temporary pick me up is that you eventually have to go down the other side of the slippery slope if you decide to cut it off. Initially I had headaches and found it very difficult to find the energy to continue training however after day four I started to feel better and now, months on – I’ll never look back.

Next on the hit list were sugar and starch. These two things are what I’ve removed more recently from my diet. The first few weeks involved a lot of reading packets for hidden ingredients (and you won’t believe how many things contain sugar). It was interesting learning how to make my own version of a chocolate treat whilst respecting my new eating regime. Everyone is human and I have always had the NEED for a chocolate fix so I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t have to cut this out to reform my diet. Along the way one thing really stood out – It’s amazing how much sugar and starch is hidden in the products I used to think were a healthy treat!

Tasty sugar and starch free treats that even the kids love!

Tasty sugar and starch free treats that even the kids love!

Four weeks of eating like this and my body was changing. I felt lighter and even the strength in my training increased. The social events and nights out with friends will arise and yes I will be able to enjoy a drink or two but definitely feel the difference the next day. Treat your body as you would like it to treat you. I’ve come to understand this more now that I’ve needed the best out of my body to achieve the Everest Marathon next year.

Next on the list is to listen to your body. I have had knee issues for some time, which started around the time of my very first Rotorua Marathon. After seeing a knee surgeon I was referred to a Physiotherapist. My trainer (Walter) from the Altitude Training Centre referred me to Trevor Montgomery from Golf Works. I have to say that I had never gone to a physio before nor had I experienced acupuncture and I can highly recommend Trevor! There were muscles being worked that I didn’t even know existed. I was also given exercises to complete and my advice to anyone who gets given these after treatment is to DO THEM! I didn’t consistently complete my exercises, which caused a relapse of the same issue only this time the condition was worse as my training intensity had increased. Whilst my speed had increased at altitude my knee still wasn’t coping. The hardest thing in an athletes mind is that you know you can do better, push harder and be stronger but your injury won’t let you. Frustrating to say the least.

I went back for a visit to get it corrected to find my pelvis was twisted (again). My left leg is actually a whole inch shorter than the right causing knee irritation. After over a dozen needles I had never felt so much pain. I knew it was for the better and to be honest my knee has been incredible ever since and yes – I have kept up with my exercises this time. One of the most important things about any personal journey is not to avoid making mistakes but to avoid repeating them! I hoped no one else was in the waiting room that day as the number of four letter words exiting me was almost unforgivable. I even apologised to Trevor in advance as I was convinced that my leg might accidentally swing up and collect him. Safe to say that driving a manual vehicle was an error in judgment that day.

Lastly food is good but unfortunately unless you have access to the best organic fruit and vegetables then you need something else to support your body. I use EFS (Electrolyte Fuel System) pre and post training along with an amazing Multivitamin from Walter at the Altitude Training Centre and have noticed a massive difference. If I accidentally miss a dose (or worse – run out) I feel a huge difference in the way I function. I will be using USANA probiotics when I’m getting close to going to Nepal. Mike Allsop the expert on the products is what inspired me to take this.

1st Endurance suppliments

1st Endurance suppliments

My advice through all of this is that I am giving my body every opportunity to work and function to the best of its ability by investing in it. Invest in your body, treat it with respect and believe me the mental and physical rewards you get are well and truly worth it. That sure is better than anything the doctor might prescribe you for feeling down in the dumps or anxious. I’ve always wished the prescription pad at the doctors had more than just pharmaceutical drugs written on it.

For what ever you are looking to achieve I think it’s awesome. Go climb your own Everest I say. Get out there and try something. Give back to your body so it can give you it’s all and live the gift of life the best you can.

There is a smile behind this mask. Determination and ultimate mind over matter.

There is a smile behind this mask. Determination and ultimate mind over matter.

Advertisements

Money VS happiness

What does $130 mean to me? Maybe half of a winter power bill? Perhaps the weekly food shop (on a really good week!) Definitely less than a week of day care. What does it mean to you? A new pair of dress shoes, dinner out somewhere nice or your monthly gym membership fee? We all value money differently but rarely do we look to those less fortunate and consider the impact that money would have on their lives.

To a Pangboche Widow who has potentially lost her spouse and children to the dangerous job of being a Shepard (or ‘Sherpa’) $130 means one more year alive.

A Widows prayer

A Widows prayer

Each of us is born into the life that has been handed down to us. I know that. I also now that you and I cannot go out and save the world on our own. That said I also realise perhaps now more than ever that if each of us find the courage & selflessness to put our own lives aside for just a moment that together we will make a world of difference.

My journey next year to make a difference in someone’s life will begin the day after I run the worlds highest marathon from Everest Base Camp to Namche Bazar. Where the other competitors have been given a half a day of rest, I will be spending this time trekking back over the marathon course to Pangboche Village. On my arrival at the village I will hand deliver all of the money raised to each of the nine women who live there. I will then return to my group and will need to start moving with them straight away to trek another large part of the day on our return to Lukla Airport.

Namche Bazar to Pangboche Village

Namche Bazar to Pangboche Village

I hear stories all the time of random acts of kindness and just love watching the images of people capturing these moments on camera. Each of us has this motivation inside us, driving us to be the best we can be. Some need to awaken this and what better way than to support what you truly believe in and are inspired by.

I’m inspired by the people of Nepal because no matter how poor or underprivileged they may be, they still are some of the happiest people alive! What does this prove to the rest of us? To all of those out there working day in day out in search of the big bucks? Once we reach the end of the rainbow and can finally say that we have the latest and greatest of everything do we find true happiness?

A Nepalese women rich with happiness

A Nepalese women rich with happiness

I know this much – I’m certainly not rich and in my own life I do struggle from time to time but from the good that I do for others, like supporting Pangboche Village or helping the Himalayan Trust raise money for Nepal – my life is enriched in the knowledge that my actions (big & small) are helping those less fortunate.

Before I depart next year to conquer the event of a lifetime one of my primary goals is to raise both awareness and money to assist the Nepalese. If you wish to awaken that motivation to help another by taking part in these events then please see the details below. Spread the word and lets make a difference together!

Nepal Rebuild Fundraiser Dinner – Everest Dine Restaurant, Parnell

Tuesday 8th September at 6:30pm for $45 pp which includes a drink, entrees, mains and dessert platter.

Please email millzvnz@gmail.com for payment instructions.

(All profits go to the Himalayan Trust who are helping rebuild Nepal)

Pangboche Widow Movie Fundraiser – Private screening of the new movie ‘Everest’

Monday 5th October at 6pm (movie commences at 6:30pm) for $25pp which includes the chance to win some amazing prizes.

Please email millzvnz@gmail.com for payment instructions.

(All profits go direct to the nine widows whom live in Pangboche Village)

The journey of life

In just a moment’s notice – life can change. In just one act of Mother Nature a whole nation can suffer. With one quick decision it can change the direction of your entire life.

Decisions are made not only by choice but also by influence. I’ve recently had to make a big decision that has definitely changed my life’s direction. This decision has been influenced heavily by the 7.8 Magnitude Earthquake that struck Nepal on the 25th April 2015.

Thousands have lost their lives to this destructive act of Mother Nature and the continuous after shocks.  An Avalanche and landslides at the Everest Base Camp and surrounding villages have been just part of the aftermath of this powerful and shallow Earthquake. It really brings to light how this home of ours we call Earth can both cradle and destroy the lives that we build upon it.

Nepal photo

Hundreds of thousands of people have now been left homeless and without food and continuous efforts from organisations all around the world are coming together to provide aid for those in need. So many have yet to be reached causing even further losses of life.

Even while there is such devastating chaos at this place that has found a special place in my heart I am left with my own personal struggle. It’s hard to believe that in just two short weeks I was actually destined to be in the very place that this occurred and that very fact has put a heartbreaking decision in my path. My instant reaction when seeing this on the news was to still go but all the while I’ve never felt so mortal.

My kit all organised for the Everest Marathon 2015

My kit all organised for the Everest Marathon 2015

Thoughts and feelings erupt in the form of an emotional roller coaster and begin to question ones reasons for the decision to want to continue. The balancing act of self-assessment has once again begun.

The biggest question was, “what if I become injured?” Will this only bring a greater burden to a place with already so much devastation? It was when my six-year-old daughter asked her mummy not to go at the same time as reading another competitors message to the world that the final stages of my decision were made. After a tumultuous period of indecision my heart finally settled & my inner voice was saying to let the people of Nepal grieve and have the time they need to get back to some form of normality before such a big event.

Instead my choice will be to direct all of my energy and passion to the people of Nepal by supporting those in need and continuing in my efforts to raise money for those who have been widowed as well as to the Himalayan Trust to assist with the rebuild.

Aria at her school mufti day to support Nepal over $500 raised.

Aria (left) and friend at her school mufti day to support Nepal over $500 raised.

My decision to raise money for the Widow’s came to mind when talking with a friend Mike Allsop, an Air New Zealand commercial airline pilot & adventurer who has conquered Everest all whilst raising three children with his wife Wendy. Mike informed me of a village one hour from Pangboche, which has many Widows who have lost not only their husbands but also their children and parents.

When I travel to complete the Everest Marathon in 2016 I will personally be able to deliver this money to the village. It’s amazing to consider that only $130NZD would help keep just one widow alive for roughly a year. As we all know, in our modern society that is barley half a power bill or a pair of shoes. It’s certainly puts things into perspective and may come to mind the next time you turn on the heater or try on those new heels!

Instead of throwing in the towel and giving up I chose to keep my head held high, cherish every moment I have with my daughters and my family, to be grateful for everything good I have in my life and to do all I can for those in need in Nepal. This has given me an ever-stronger resolve to continue my training & take on the Everest Marathon in 2016.

The face of determination to train another year.

The face of determination to train another year.

I could not of come to this conclusion without the support from my friends, family and colleagues. This is certainly not over – in fact; I’ve only just begun. I encourage everyone who reads this to look at filling life with the things that make you feel alive and happy. Fulfill your dreams and give of yourself to others.

I invite you to join in this journey with me.

To donate to assist with the rebuild in Nepal click the below link:

https://givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser/everestmarathonrebuild

To donate to assist with supporting the Sherpa widows click the below link:

https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/sherpafamilyfund

Success Breeds Success

After my first 6min on 11% oxygen session.

After my first 6min on 11% oxygen session.

I increased and maximised my training by attending the New Zealand Altitude Training Centre with a free 45min session. In this time I received information about how to better my training with less impact on my body all whilst saving time. I’m sure I speak for most who have young children and who balance with work and training – time is always greatly received when someone shows you how to take more of it!

You really do gain a level of trust in those with whom you train. I immediately saw the passion and commitment Walter Thorburn at the New Zealand Altitude Training Centre has with his clients. Walter is a true believer in supporting one’s strengths, whilst encouraging you to push through any areas in need of development – a great approach to push you to the limits and achieve big things.

As mentioned in a previous blog my levels of oxygen were set to 14%, which would equate to approximately 3000 meters above sea level. Within just six sessions I was fit enough to run at 12.3% oxygen, which would equate to approximately 4000 meters. Now, with just six weeks to go before I depart – I have achieved running with just 11% oxygen at a positive 8.0 gradient at speed 8.0. I began running 4 minutes on and 1 min off. Now 6 minutes on and 1 min off I can honestly say that it’s the most rewarding workout however at times I have had to dig very deep to push beyond my personal walls. The last two minutes before a rest feels like eternity! To push through the tough times I have a few mantras that I mentally repeat, “It’s only two minutes Mel” and “Wait until you feel the achievement of completing this”.

Doing this intense training has brought my running speed and endurance up so quickly that I’ve even noticed incredible improvements to the strength in my long distance Sunday run. My usual time for this 22km run was around 2hrs10min. I can now complete it in 1-hour 45min, reaching under 5min/Km.

The honest truth is that deep down I was once very nervous about participating in the Everest Marathon.  I can absolutely 100% say that those nerves have now left me and have been replaced with absolute faith that I will achieve what I have set out to achieve. The greatest motivator for success – is success itself.

The lovely Lesley Turner Hall AKA LTH after her Iron Man 2015

The lovely Lesley Turner Hall AKA LTH after her Iron Man 2015

We are all influenced by those around us. I’ve received some very heart warming messages from those who’ve read my blog and through that I’ve also been able to follow some wonderful athletes on their own personal journeys to success. Their sheer dedication and strength gives me fuels to carry on and the inspirational stories of those around me continue to affirm my strong belief that we are all capable of achieving greatness if that is the path we choose to follow. Lesley Turner (who is a beautiful athlete) is one of these people. She has that sheer determination I have referred to and is an absolute machine on foot, in water and on bike. I will be lucky enough to be on this Everest Journey with this amazing woman.

I cannot wait to meet the others who have also embarked on this journey and find out their personal stories of success, as well as sharing in the experience of conquering this awesome feat. I also can’t wait to share this inspiration with others in the hope that it may help someone out to take the first big step towards achieving their own personal greatness. Believe me – I’m doing it now and it feels incredible.

Universe on my side

In Nan's last days with us.

Nan & I

My brother and I lost our Nan 18 months ago and she was very much like a second mother to us. As my brother and I grew up Nan would always welcome us with loving hugs, tea, Plasticine, the movie Jaws and Jam toast at 9pm at night dripping in butter.

Nan was always an inspiration, not only to me but also to all those around her. On reflection this was mostly due to her determination and stress free caring nature. She taught me to be compassionate and above all else never give up on myself.

My brother & I visiting Nan at her home.

Nan, JP & I

When I originally looked at my itinerary for the Everest Marathon I never did pick up on the dates along the way – just when I was to arrive and depart. It didn’t even dawn on me that the very date I run the event of a lifetime – The Everest Marathon – would be on my Nan’s birthday. I do believe everything happens for a reason in your life and this is no exception.

It’s amazing where one can find inspiration in life and unfortunately it can come off the back of bad news. Once such example was when I recently found out that a very dear friend (who was once very close to my heart) had been diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of 30.

My friend Rick and I

One of my inspirations

His amazing story has really given me inspiration to make the very most of this life. He lives to send a message to all he knows and meets about the incredible journey he has embarked on since he has found out his cancer was terminal, in the hope that they may learn from his experience and avoid the need to travel the same difficult path.

He had originally only been given until May 2015, a month for me, which above all other months this year was looking to be the hardest.

May – a month where two special people from two very important parts of my life have something in common. They’ve inspired a girl. A 31-year-old, full time working mother of two who will needs more than physical strength to conquer the event of a life time. They’ve inspired me!

Be empowered by those around you. Notice the struggles that they endure and embrace the life and the time that you have. Take it in your grasp and make something of it. Don’t watch life pass you by and wonder “what if?”  Live it and wonder “what next?”

Deja Vu

As I hear that familiar sound of my alarm go off and it’s still dark, there lies the true daily battle.  The internal debate even! Then the song starts playing in my head… ”Should I stay or should I go now, if I go there will be trouble – and if I stay it will be double”. These lyrics couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s usually a challenge to train and get through the session and it’s an even bigger struggle missing a session only to blame yourself all day for being lazy. So I choose to get up and face it.

As March rolled on I’ve now started training two days a week at The New Zealand Altitude Training Centre. Walter Thorburn, an inspirational athlete and influence in training and nutrition, runs this facility to help support and better sporting greats, enabling them to perform beyond their limits.

First training session at The New Zealand Altitude Training Centre

First training session at The New Zealand Altitude Training Centre

Its mid March and I’m completing two sessions of altitude training per week, eight sessions down and I can honestly feel a positive change in the stamina and endurance of my running. The great thing for me with my recent knee problems is I can train for an hour with minimum pressure on my knees but maximum cardiovascular loading.

Altitude Training is training while being exposed to Hypoxia (a physical condition resulting from oxygen deprivation). The body reacts to the relative lack of oxygen by increasing the mass of red blood cells as well as altering the muscle metabolism.

I do active altitude training, which consists of an hour session running at a medium pace whilst at 14% oxygen which is roughly 3000 meters when speaking in terms of altitude. You might be surprised to hear that the best way to explain the feeling of hypoxia is that you feel a rather euphoric sensation through your body after the hour. During it takes a bit of concentration, as you have to make sure you exhale rapidly to get the full benefits. This makes for a rather entertaining sound for you and anyone else nearby!

Sunday runs have slowly increased in distance and I now run a half marathon every Sunday in the very beautiful suburb of Clevedon. It is the ‘roads that never end’ kind of run! I am proud to say that I managed to achieve a great time of 1hour 50min, which was the same at the 21km mark in the Rotorua Marathon and also my personal best. A few weeks to go and I will be doing two of these per week including the Altitude training mixed with swimming.

We all have ‘moments’ when chasing a big goal with strong determination to reach it. Even the strongest reach a point of question. I do occasionally grow tired in the week, work is very hectic, I miss the kids if it’s not my week with them, and the occasional struggle does take its toll. It creates those moments when you either need to have a good cry, become very quiet or just have a moment. I must admit as much as I hate having those days, I do appreciate them. Embrace the Deja Vu ‘Ground Hog Day’ feeling and push beyond it. Remember that from every moment of temporary weakness comes even greater strength!

All of this hard work pays off for me but also my kids, especially when your four year old is having a pretend play moment and put’s your shoes on, tells her baby she’s going out for a run and then starts stretching! Presenting a positive Influence on my two precious girls is what makes all of the pain, sweat and tears worth it. Only eight weeks to go!

Mum’s the word!

Out I went for my first long distance run since my most recent Marathon, which was in part for training but also largely because I wanted to put my body to the test having worked so hard on strengthening areas critical for knee support. My body answered the call as the pain for a few days following was almost too much to continue training. Finally I gave in (before my knees did) and went to a great knee specialist Dr Gary French, who examined each knee only to find that I had developed what he called “Runners Knees”. As a result of the body’s need for repair I had developed a build up of cartilage on the knee, which would sometimes cause discomfort, and the rest of the pain was due to the weakness in my stomach from carrying children.

Long distance course in beautiful Clevedon

Long distance course in beautiful Clevedon

Being such a small unit, during pregnancy I would develop up to a four-finger width separation in my abdominal wall (Diastasis Recti), which resulted in the need for allot of training and strengthening after child birth. With a weakened stomach it also meant that my Tibia Band wasn’t functioning properly – with each thigh pulling on the knee and causing a great deal of discomfort. Despite these roadblocks I wasn’t about to be stopped and with a balance of stretching and swimming in between training I have seen a huge difference in both my strength and comfort levels. An amazing sports tape called Titanium Phiten has also dramatically decreased the pain. The long and short of it is that I just need to manage injury, accept the pain and break through it. As the cliché goes, no pain – no gain!

Four months to go and I’m training five days a week, which between work & family requires my balancing act to be spot on. During weeks where I have my children I wake up at 6:30am to do the morning breakfast, school lunches and school drop off then it’s straight to work. I usually work until 4pm to leave and pick up the kids by 5pm, although with the joys of traffic I would be lucky to make it by 5:30pm. Then it’s home, dinner, homework, bath time, playtime and story time before both are off to sleep (usually by around 7:30pm).

The girls and I doing Yoga

The girls and I doing Yoga

But – no sleep for me! On goes the gas mask for at least 45 mins on the X-Trainer at high level, where I utilise a hill program to partially simulate what is waiting for me on Everest. I manage to smash out at least 11km in this time. I always make sure the level is set high because as my trainer Scottie from Specforce always says, “Everest isn’t flat Mel”. The man must be good at what he does because anytime the voice in my head starts pulling me back, his voice comes in even louder saying, “Come on Mel, faster, push harder, you’ve got this!” Being a part of Specforce Fitness never leaves you, it’s just awesome. Once the mask comes off and the heart rate normalises it’s off for a quick shower, prep for the next day and then logon to work from 9pm-10:30pm in order to make up my afternoon hours. Eventually I slide into bed by about 11pm before Ground Hog Day begins again at 6:30am.

Manic Mel at work

Manic Mel at work

It’s only when you write out what you do each day that you really get a shock at how much you can fit into a day or week! Everyone has their own busy life to lead and even if there are fewer items on your list we can all end up just as tired as each other at the end of the day. No matter how many balls you are juggling, I take my hat off to anyone who manages to balance kids, work and training. As an interesting exercise I decided to break down one of my weeks into its individual parts. It looked a little like this:

  • 28 books read
  • 2 kids birthday parities attended
  • 2 trips to pool with the girls
  • 3 loads of washing
  • 2 open homes (As selling my house)
  • 40 hours of work (7.5 of which are between 9pm&10:30pm)
  • 5 school drop offs/pick ups
  • 8 hours stuck in traffic to get to work
  • 55km on the X-Trainer with a Gas Mask
  • 28km of running
  • 2km of swimming
  • 1 session of yoga at home with the kids

When you really put your mind to it it’s quite incredible what you can achieve in seven days. I also keep in the back of my mind that with each passing month, the number of balls I am juggling is only going to increase – especially as the event draws near. Despite all of the things rotating around the nucleus of my life I do know one thing, the kids are and have always been at the centre and nothing will take away from the time I spend with my angels. My mission (and yes I do chose to accept it) is to succeed in my preparations for Everest but as with any of life’s missions, one must have their priorities in check and family is always number one.

No rest for mummy, even after a long ditance run!

No rest for mummy, even after a long ditance run. Totally worth the cuddle.

As the hour hand creeps slowly on and the days grow shorter & colder I’m nervously excited about what’s coming…

Everest Adventure Looms

If you had said to me five years ago, “Mel you are going to be one of 100 competitors in the Everest Marathon” I would have laughed it off as pure madness, but here I am, deep in training for that very thing. Despite my rigid training regime I’ve always tended to rely more on my mental strength than my physical prowess and let’s be honest – both are important for an event like this! You only have to look at the strength of character in those who complete these events without full use of their limbs to know that mental strength is as (if not more) important than having physical presence. I absolutely feed off and embrace those who strive to master such awesome achievements against such astounding odds.

Before paying the deposit to secure my place in the event I had to search deep within myself to find my reasons for participating. You can’t take on a giant like the Everest Marathon with doubt in your heart or false ambitions and I knew that doing this event was more than just proving something to myself. As a teacher and leader of young people I believe in practicing what I preach, and what better way to inspire success in others than to set out and achieve a mission like Everest. Even more important again is a desire to inspire my kids to grow up knowing that with hard work, determination and self-discipline – even the highest altitude marathon can be conquered.

Bold goals are important but preparation is paramount so the first and most important thing I had to do was to have a ‘down to Earth’ (pardon the pun) discussion with Scott Cottier (CEO of Specforce Fitness) a man with years of experience in training with the SAS. They run military style circuits to help push you both physically and mentally. Thanks to their knowledge, experience and support my fitness levels soared in record time. Giving birth had left me with a very weak stomach but with targeted training and improved core strength I found that my running style improved immensely. Knowing that I had my eyes set on Everest, Scott was even kind enough to lend me his gas mask to help simulate the lack of oxygen that I would experience at altitude.

Scott (left), Api and I at the beginning of my training.

Scott (left), Api and I at the beginning of my training.

Whilst training had commenced towards one of the toughest events of my life, another significant event had unfolded – my husband and I had agreed to separate and my focus now shifted to minimising the emotional impact on our two little girls. It was fortunate for everyone that my ex-husband and I had a very amicable relationship and had both decided to use every ounce of energy we had into supporting our children through this difficult time. This meant for me that I would soon have shared care of my two girls. I can’t put into words how emotionally challenging it was for me not to have my two children with me all the time. I now found myself mentally & emotionally preparing for the week I didn’t have my babies whilst attempting to maintain the strength needed to continue towards Everest. This would be where those who rely on their physical strength over their mental and emotional strength may struggle but for me – it was focus time.

In the end, something quite amazing happened. I realised that I had made the decision to commit to this journey and the separation only served to fuel me to be an even stronger role model for my kids. Both their father and I had a great balance of parenting and made sure that we kept as much normality for them as possible. This meant there was a great need for mummy to be brave and carry on with the goal set all those months ago. So the training surged on. My basic training involved gaining more strength throughout my body, especially my core, in order to support the distance I was going to be running at the altitude I would be running it. This consisted of a one-hour circuit followed by 30 mins of mask cardiovascular. The mask was perfect for improving my mental strength at the same time as testing how my body would function physically in an oxygen-deprived environment.

Kids are reading and drawing whilst mummy trains

Kids are reading and drawing whilst mummy trains

I must admit – wearing the mask for the first time wasn’t what I was expecting. Imagine running for 30 minutes at a moderate to fast pace whilst being simultaneously smothered with a feather pillow. I can already hear you all saying, “Milly – you’re mad!” Trust me, the first time I was saying the same thing. I experienced moments where my body would suddenly go into shock and I would have to mentally work my way through it focusing on the consistency of my breathing. The more I pushed on, the more my confidence and mental strength improved. I would see Scottie watch me during circuits and if I tried to pick a lighter weight or drag a lighter boxing bag along the warehouse in circuit training he would quickly pick up the larger heavier weight and give me the look of “come on Mel”. I wouldn’t go very quickly but I would do it all the same. The thing I loved about training at Specforce is that they found strength in me that I never knew I possessed. I cannot thank Scottie and the Specforce team enough for that.

I was progressing well and my confidence was building but when you are staring down Everest you can’t help but to think, “this will never be as hard as what’s coming” and “don’t give up, break through the pain, this is nothing on Everest”. I guess time will tell. Now just to minimise injury along the way.

 

Dreaming of Everest

Facebook…. it’s a magical thing. You see updates from friends and family instantly connecting you what they are getting up to, witnessing memories being made. I recall trolling my feed one day and a friend of mine Dan Maxwell was on his adventure to Everest to complete the Everest Marathon. I quickly became obsessed with the event updates and began looking more closely at what eventually I found out was the highest altitude marathon in the world.

The more I talked about it the more I slipped into the conversation “oh and I was thinking of doing it” to actually emailing my interest to the organisers. Before long, having spoken to almost everyone in my circle (and outside it!) about the event – I had started up a road to Everest.

Two and a half years away? That’s not too bad, that’s plenty of time, I can do this, I’ve got this! One biking event, which consisted of a 100km flyer from Taupo to Rotorua later and heck, only 18months away! Both Kirsten and I had entered into the 50th anniversary Rotorua Marathon, an event I didn’t want to miss. Athletes from all over the world competed. We said to ourselves that this time we knew what to expect out of our bodies but nothing could have prepared me for what was to come. I remember running really strong and hitting the halfway mark 21km at 1hour 50min – 10min faster than my personal best.

Dad and I after 100km Flyer

Dad and I after 100km Flyer

 

I was actually going to reach my goal of 4hours. I also remember thinking, in just 30min time someone is actually going to be winning this bad boy and how I was in awe of such an achievement. I was waiting for that wall that someone had curiously put up in front of me when I was nearing the 30km mark but this time around it wasn’t a wall it was something very different. Almost suddenly I heard an unusual noise in my shoe and questioned what it could be? Could I have just stood on something? Why is my foot feeling warm? Hang on it’s not warm anymore… it’s numb. I then realised that my knee had started to pull so much that it was twisting. I had suffered from a serious Tibia Band issue from the previous Marathon and it was back to haunt me.

30km mark at the Rotorua Marathon

30km mark at the Rotorua Marathon

 

I tried to ignore the signs of my body telling me to slow down and remember trying to tell myself “Mel this is nothing on Everest”, “Suck it up and carry on”, so I did. I definitely ran the second half of the marathon a lot slower. It felt like someone kept moving the signs at each km further away just for shits and giggles. Finally the last km, although this time there was no adrenaline fuelled sprint for the finish line! I felt as though my legs could no longer bend, as though I had unwittingly become Forest Gump’s stunt double from when he was shackled in leg braces. I looked at the time and just cried.

Despite my injury I had made it earlier than the last Rotorua Marathon but didn’t manage the 4 hours I told myself I would achieve. I laid on the grass with my darling girls desperate to see how mummy was as Dad approached to help remove my shoes. I had completely forgotten about the earlier noise by foot made and it wasn’t until dad slowly removed my shoe that I truly knew that something wasn’t right! There it was, my sock covered in blood. At first I wasn’t sure I wanted him to remove the sock, but a big part of me was also curious. What on Earth had I done? Surprise! My toe was facing the wrong way.

Dislocated toe and swollen knee

Dislocated toe and swollen knee

 

It all started making sense. My toe was dislocated to the point that it was facing the other toe and the nail had dug right into the next toe causing it to bleed. Ice on the swollen knee and tape of a rather odd looking toe then a well-deserved hot soak was in order – my favourite post event treat! The sleep that night was hideous and nothing made that post event recovery better.

I knew that I needed to step everything up a notch for Everest. This event served as a well needed wake up call as to the gravity of the challenge that lay ahead, but also as an affirmation that if my physical ability failed me, that my mental strength would prevail.

Catching the event bug

How does a person spill their deepest thoughts and feelings so far away from when they first felt them? An odd question to open with I know but being new to the world of blogging about what I do and feel means I find myself constantly asking this question. So – what is pictured in the kaleidoscope of Mel’s life?

As always it has to begin with family. I am blessed with two beautiful little girls. Instead of surrounded by doctors and machines my angels were brought into the world into the comfort of warm water and the happy tears of their eagerly waiting family. It was an easy decision for me to give birth naturally at home in my very own birthing pool but by no means did I see child birth an easy task and in hindsight was unaware that I was facing my very first athletic event – and one the hardest yet! I was quickly catching onto the fact that I would never do things in halves again!

After my second daughter Maia was born, I completed a Tri Women’s Triathlon. I remember with fondness that my beautiful Maia (at the time only 8 weeks old) was waiting patiently for mum to bring her lunch over the finish line. After the exhilaration of competition and the satisfaction that comes with completing the event it was official – I had contracted the dreaded event bug. I have my two gorgeous little girls to thank for that as they inspired me to do more than what those around me thought I was capable of. They were the sparks that ignited my fire and even if you don’t have kids – you can always find a spark somewhere in life!

Finished my first Triathlon with Aria 2 years and Maia 8 weeks

Finished my first Triathlon with Aria 2 years and Maia 8 weeks

Quite quickly I became what others were describing as a ‘wonder women’ or ‘super mum’ and I suppose that was for a variety of reasons, whether it was randomly popping up on Facebook at an event or chatting with parents at kids parties (often in disbelief of the next event on the calendar).  I do not see myself as an athlete but more of a mother of two striving to be the best I can be for my kids and for myself, which in part involves encouraging others through telling my stories so that they might go out and achieve what they want in life.

Next was the Cathay Pacific Half Marathon with my darling friend and running buddy Kirsten Davis. Kirsten at the time was also a very busy hard working mother with a darling little boy Xavier. This event was a tribute to Xavier and the struggle both his parents and he had to endure from birth. Aside from our personal achievement we were also able to raise a great deal of money for the Heart Foundation and Heart Kids, not to mention finishing in two hours.  At this point I realised that the event bug must be contagious as Kirsten and I went onto completing our first ever full marathon in Rotorua the following year.

Cathay Pacific Half Marathon with Kirsten Davis

Cathay Pacific Half Marathon with Kirsten Davis

 

My first marathon is something I will never forget. One of my clearest memories (aside from the burn and push to carry on) was feeling emotional at the overwhelming support from the local community as we ran by. Oh, and then there was the shock when I hit the wall someone must have put in my way at the 30km mark! It was as though someone had stolen my knees and replaced them with knives. My hips were telling me who was boss as began to seize. The reality of a weakened stomach after two children had finally reared its ugly head.

Kirsten and I after our first full maraton with Xavier

Kirsten and I after our first full maraton with Xavier

The last two km was almost a sprint in the heat of the moment as adrenaline took over and pain faded away… and then the tears began. What an achievement! Hitting under 5 hours was my goal and I managed to reach 4 hours 51. Once the colour faded from my face and the cramps let go I told myself “I’m not sure I need to do that again”.

Who am I kidding – What’s next?