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Namibia 2009 - Team GOOD SPORT

Annabelle's Blog :

Febuary 18th 2009

A lot has happened since i last wrote on my site, not so much on the physical and adventure side but on the personal side. Im a very proud single mother to a beautiful baby girl called isabella whose now 18 months old. Having selfishly in the past spent a lot of time in the mountains and on remote terrain persuing my various quests for adventure and challenge i never had to think of anyone except myself until now. Having Isabella has really put my life in perspective and everything revolves around her hence the reason i havent done anything on the physical side for more than two years now.  As a single mother its very important that you dont lose your sense of identity, you can still be fully involved in your childs life yet fulfill your own obligations and challenges without depriving your child in anyway. When my sister lucy told me she was going to compete in the race across Namibia i thought it would be a great way to spend some time with her and try to see if i still have any of that endurance ability left in me. Most importantly it is an intense challenge that means only seven days of leaving isabella which is relatively quick compared to what im used to from my climbing days, and my mother always loves to have isabella to herself every now and then. 

I had always wanted to run in one of my friend Mary Gadams desert races. She expertly organises the Racing the Planet series of races across the deserts of the world and describes competing in one of her events as "life changing" which i completely believe is true. My other great friend Simmy is organising everything in Africa. We met at a dinner party in 2005 when i was in Johannesburg and after a few glasses of wine our conversation turned to climbing and endurance feats. Post this wine induced conversation, Simmy has gone onto complete 3 of these desert races and is about to go and do the Gobi. Her husband Mark is about to be the first South African man to complete all of these extreme desert races i believe in a year. Just extraordinary what people can achieve if they want it badly enough and i am so proud of them both. Im so looking forward to spending some time with her although ill probably be in too much pain to be catching up once in camp!
I originally wanted to get our team from the Atacama together, that comprised of my sister Lucy and Sissel Smaller whom ended up winning the fastest time for the girls. I failed to even start in the Atacama as the day of the race i came down with gastric flu and couldnt run which was such a huge dissapointment after all the training. When i suggested our Atacama team to my sister she told me she wanted to run as an individual so effectively she will be running against us!! The Bond girls can be quite competative sometimes.

Which leads me to our third team member Lady Tang or Lucy as we all know her. Lucy Tang has always had athletic capability but never chosen to apply it to something as mentally and physically challenging as the race we are going to do in Namibia. She told me she could never do something like this anyway. I hate the words " i cant do that or i could never do something like that." although i am also guilty of uttering them. We have to remember that physically we are all capable of doing a race like Namibia we all just have to really want to do it and believe we can do it. Dont forget, Im the girl that is scared of heights and hates the cold and i managed to climb Mount Everest so we can all really push ourselves out of our comfort zones to complete these challenges IF we really want to.  We have voted Sissel as the most responsible person in our team to see it as her goal for all of us to finish this race which i really hope we can do. Lucy who has been training really hard and is the fittest of all of us at this stage has been spotted around the trails of hongkong wearing a jacket layden down with 20llbs of weights! She has been completely devoted to turning her life around to enable her to push herself to her physical limits in order to try and finish this race in Namibia. For me, my goal is also to finish as a team and its an opportunity to try something i have never done before, to get back into the shape i used to be in, and to continue to raise money for The Eve Appeal which specialises in the prevention of Ovarian Cancer a cause very personal to me. For Sissel its her second of the Racing the Planet series and it will enable her to keep her fitness levels up before going on to climb Denali in Alaska her remaining mountian in her quest to climb all the Seven Summits.

The race for our team, Team Good Sport is all about women empowerment, teamwork and believing in yourself and its all for a good cause that can save the lives of many women. We all have to carry all our gear, clothes, sleeping bags, sleeping pads all our food and anything that we need with us for the 6 days which makes for a backpack weight of anywhere between 30 to 35llbs each at the start of the race thats if we are lucky. The course will take us up and down some very high sandunes, i also hear some pretty rough river crossings will have to be navigated across throughout the course. I think in the end it will boil down to how much pain will we be able to take in our feet given that its sand and water our pain threshold needs to be high. Im hearing rumours of people pulling the whole bottom layer of their feet off in one of these past races and i dont know quite how to prepare for the pain of that! Im considering doing what i did when i ran the Machlehose Trail, a 103km race in hong kong when i had my two big toe nails removed prior to the race to avoid the pain caused by them rubbing against the top of my shoes, although i was much more hardcore back then so ill see how i get on in my training first before doing it!  Sounds gross but it definately relieved the pain and enabled me to finish without passing out.

Enough of the gruesome stuff,  Its always been a dream of mine to go to Namibia, i just never thought i would have to run across it in order to see it. Im sure we will see some breathtaking scenery but im not sure if we will actually appreciate it as im sure we will be hurting if not hallucinating!!  I will try and write a blog if its at all possible depends on how much our packs weigh,  and ill keep you up to date on our training and how thats going.. in the meantime if anyone would like to donate some money to the Eve Appeal please press the icon on my website and thank you to everyone whom has supported this worthwhile cause whilst i was climbing the Seven Summits..ill update you on our training progress via my blog.. wish us luck...

22nd March 2009

Just wanted to give an update on my training and what iv been up to since i last wrote on my site. I dragged myself away from isabella for a few days early march and i went to the middle east. My plan was to spend some time running in the sand and in 35 degree heat to get an idea of what it felt like and to test out our shoes that we will be running in whilst in namibia. We found a shoe by a company called inov-8 and the roclite 282 seemed perfect for what we are going to do. They worked out really well in the sand and i spent my time running into the sea and then back into the sand to see how much went into my shoe and whether i got blisters or not, but so far so good. All i got was a black toenail on my 2nd toe which is now disguised with chanels rouge noir nail varnish so no visible war wounds at this stage. 

What was amazing to me was how slow i was in abu dhabi and to cover about 10km in the sinking sand and heat was taking me close to two hours when it would normally take me less than half that time ( bearing in mind im a bit of a plodder and am much better at longer distances than short!). Thinking forward about the distances we will be running in Namibia really put what we are about to do in perspective. Based on the distance and time of my snails pace time in the middle east puts a 50km run in Namibia at a 10 hour day and the long day north of 16 hours. I refuse to get daunted by those times and am just mentally resigning myself that its going to be 6 days of complete torture whilst seeing some of the most spectacular scenery one can imagine.

Back in london i have been busy trying to organise isabellas nursery schools for september which is a real rat race and everything seems to be full and waitlisted. I have been running around from school to school, taking her to her playgroups, doing my work and then trying to squeeze in a run in hyde park. The weather has been great here in london which is good but hardly the type of heat we need to be getting used to and on top of that i have a real problem of not shutting off my phone when i dont have isabella with me so i tend to spend half my run fielding calls or responding to something or other so there is lots of stopping and starting going on. I would love to be able to combine running and pushing isabella but unfortunately she has the attention span of a gnat and always wants to stop and feed the ducks so i have to take her to the park seperately!

Last week our team met to go through a gear check. We were meant to go for a run in Richmond Park with our packs but Sissel had bronchitus so we met at Lucys house to go through everything. Lucy is the most organised in terms of equipment right now and she was showing everything she had to Sissel who is in charge of helping us get our packs organised so as not to be too heavy. ( she has run the atacama so is more qualified than me about the weight of our packs.. plus im the queen of sneaking in make up etc so i never travel that light!) this will ne a novelty for me too. Sissel told lucy her sleeping bag wasnt warm enough for a desert night and her sleeping pads were too heavy. Sissel wants her and i to share a foam sleeping pad so we both get half each, that means our bums will be on the mat but our legs will be on the tent floor. just miserable! We have to carry so much stuff, we have individual toe socks, one pair a day, and thats our only clothes change otherwise we are in the same clothes for 6 days i guess we wont really care what we smell like as we will all be too tired. Our only meals are breakfast and dinner and during the day we just have snacks and electrolyte drinks. Our water is provided at checkpoints along the way.

The Laureus foundation which i am an ambassador of, helps underpriviledged children around the world through sport, something im a big believer in, is supporting our team and all our clothes will be covered in their logo. Our wardrobe is pretty small, one pair long pants, one superlightweight longsleeve shirt, one shortsleeve shirt, one fleece and one jacket.We spent all afternoon going through tons of equipment and making sure we all have the same. There was a big debate over whether we could bring a solar panel ipod charger, Sissel said it was too heavy but at which point i volunteered to have it on my pack so at least if we are not feeling too ill at least we can have some music. Funnily enough when you feel really ill music is the last thing you feel like listening to! Havent thought how im going to get all my other extras that i like to bring on my expeditions past sissel - if anyone makes a superlightweight spf lipstick let me know.  Slowly we are getting organised, i did an article in the telegraph the other day and lucy and i got photographed in our Eve Appeal t shirts running in Hyde Park. Not the best photo of us we look like bill and ben the flowerpot men but the article was good and you can tell when an article has been written by someone that understands endurance running.

Tomorrow night isabella and i are off to hongkong for 6 weeks. Im going to train back on my old stomping ground on the trails of hong kong where i used to train for the Machlehose and its great for isabella to spend time with her cousins which she loves. I want isabella to learn Mandarin, i think its one of the languages of the future so she will go a couple of afternoons to a little nursery where the kids learn mandarin whilst we are in hongkong.  I will be in touch from Hongkong to update you on how things are going. Im still not feeling fit but im getting organised slowly so just the most important thing left to work on.. my fitness!!.


since i got to Hongkong i have finally managed to put some hours into my training. Lucy Tang has been with me the whole time and we have been averaging between 2 hours and 4 hours a day. The weather here has been pretty cold so not really a good indicator of what to expect in Namibia. On our last 4 hour run we had a couple of hitches. Firstly, i dont even know how it happened but i tripped and the next thing i knew i was lying flat on my face on the trail with a deep cut in my hand with blood everywhere. It looked worse than it actually was but that is the first time id ever fallen while running and given that iv done the Machlehose 4 times i have put in a lot of hours to have been lucky enough to be unscathed so far! I soldiered on with a bleeding hand and we continued running for a while until lucy feels a popping sound in her right knee. We phoned the physio tim from where we were and lucy got an appointment to see him that afternoon as she felt it was ok to go on for a bit more. She was just understandably anxious to find out what that popping noise was! We then climbed the twin peaks that take you from Parkview out to Stanley and the wind was so strong that we were literally running on the spot which was unbelievable, just a shame it wasnt blowing us the way we wanted to go. The day after the run i took isabella to phuket with my family and of course having been sweating one minute and then freezing at the top of the twin peaks the next i came down with a chronic chest infection as soon as we arrived in thailand.

I struggled through my workouts with a chest infection, unlike hongkong thailand was unbearably hot so i just walked for about 15 km a day and arrived back at the house scarlet in the face from the heat. My cough was bad the whole time i was in thailand and ontop of sounding really attractive,  i also managed to do something to the ligaments in my right foot which was quite worrying. It all sounds really bad, but i am surprisingly much fitter than i was and iv definately put in the hours since iv been in asia. Isabella loved phuket and spent most of the day in the pool with her cousins or playing on the beach with me. We are now back in Hongkong and i did a run with lucy tang this morning and she was feeling tired and run down after the numerous injections we all need to go to Namibia. I know we probably sound like a team of hypochondriacs but despite everything we are all in good spirits and planning to do sections 3, 4, and 5 of the Machlehose on Monday. That should take us about 5 or 6 hours and be about 10,000 ft of vertical so a nice long one for us and a real tester for lucys knee and my foot. Im missing 2 toenails now but they arnt causing me any real problems yet!! 

We have a ton of gear stuff that we are testing out: our packs, single toed socks, different sized shoes and all the different gu flavours to see what we can stomach. There just seems to be an endless list of things that we need and bearing in mind we need to go light so its hard to scale it all down.  lucy has taken us on google earth over our coarse in Namibia and it looks incredible, iv been wanting to go for so long and the scenery looks amazing. We have a huge rocky decent (real toenail losing stuff) our first day into fishriver canyon and then we come out along the skeleton coast so i just hope im not feeling so rough that i cant appreciate our environment.

One more thing, we have changed our team name to GOOD SPORT so that is what we will be running under. Sissel arrives in HongKong on 28th April to train with us and shes bringing all our Laureus clothing so that we can get all the race protocol badges sewn on (theres a lot and sewing is something i cant do!).. thats it from hongkong for the moment, will be in touch soon ...

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