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Middle-aged, middle-weight, mother of 3 on mad marathon mission
Middle-aged, middle-weight, mother of 3 on mad marathon mission
When I started this blog, it was to track my progress from an occasional kayaker to taking on the Devizes to Westminster non stop 125 race. Little did I know that would start me on a long distance obsession which has resulted in my completing the 30th Marathon des Sables. It has been a strange and sometimes painful ... but always wonderfully challenging journey

This is my occasional account of a middle-age mother's attempt to take on things which are really quite beyond her.

World Quadrathlon Champs - Part one. Don't go to Slapy...

crawlingkiwiby crawlingkiwiAug 25th 2011
It has been a little long in coming - but I've finally had a moment to put some words together about the World Quadrathlon Championships and our trip to the Czech Republic. Marthe, myself and Chris (my sister) were all heading to Sedlcany for the race on August 13.

Day number one began with an obscenely early start and a jaunt to Luton Airport. In the preceding days I had been receiving texts and emails from the unfortunately named 'Wizz Air' recommending that we arrive 3 hours early for our 7.25am flight,due to traffic congestion in the area. How I scoffed at the idea that we should arrive at 4.30am - how many people would really be heading there at that time? Well, apparently several thousand, as we sat in a major traffic jam just outside the airport at 4.55am.Around us, people were climbing out of vehicles to trail their luggage through the lines of traffic - but knowing that we had already checked in online and only needed to visit the luggage drop-off point, I was not concerned. Eventually we made it into the airport and negotiated ourselves through long lines of weary people to find our 'luggage drop-off' point, which looked exactly like a normal check-in. The man behind the desk asked all the same questions, weighed and tagged our luggage and generally appeared to check us in (albeit with boarding cards which we had had to print out at home). Having eventually hauled our bags to the outsize luggage area after the conveyor belt was jammed, we attempted to stroll upstairs to go through passport control.

The queues stretching down the stairs coupled with the desperation of people paying £3 for priority boarding at special machines, really should have alerted me, but this was my first experience of budget airlines. Nothing prepared me for the shock of going through the doors and seeing the hundreds and hundreds of people in a line which snaked 6 or 7 times across the hall. Eventually we made it to the passport and hand-luggage checks and out the other side. I still hadn't clocked that this really was a different experience to the long-haul flights I had taken, so ambled round looking for reading material. Marthe started to look concerned and mumbled something about final calls, at which point we started walking towards our gate. And walked. And walked.Then ran, then sprinted - on and on ... and then much further. Me - who is NEVER late for a flight was among the final 10 people on board and of course this is a flight with no seat numbers! With a slight loss of dignity, beads of sweat on our brows and a very tight Achilles we were finally on board and found seats more or less together. The airline itself - even with its pink and purple livery and dodgy name - touched down on time, with no loss of baggage.We were quickly through passport control and out the other side. A restorative cup of coffee and a baguette later and we were ready to find the hire car and try to find our way to Sedlcany.

While others were having tremendous problems at the car-rental office, our hire was quite straight-forward and we were soon in a small red vehicle on the motor-way. The only problem was that we had no idea which motor-way or in which direction we were heading.I'm never at my best when driving in foreign cities,but with Marthe navigating, we eventually started to make sense of the random numbers and figured out that we were on the correct road,but were still unsure whether we were travelling towards Sedlcany or away from it. I had bought a map of the Czech Republic on Amazon a week earlier and with its help we worked out we were going in the right direction,but our cross country route wasn't clear. In desperation we stopped in the middle of a tiny village and I inanely gestured around us while looking quizzically at the map (my drama skills were in full flow) and the poor man I had accosted looked similarly bemused, but eventually pointed to a blank area of the map. Inside the shop Marthe was having more success. We were able to ascertain that none of the small villages we were driving through was on the 'detailed' map I had bought. One of the villagers spoke English and gave us some directions,which involved repeating 'Don't go to Slapy' many times. We were told not to venture near Slapy so frequently and by different people,we were getting concerned with what might be in Slapy. Was it a man in a balaclava with a chainsaw? We didn't have time to find out, so avoiding Slapy and all signs to Slapy, and after just another couple of wrong turns, we eventually arrived at Sedlcany.

We had a quick look round the central square with its nerve-inducing signs for the World Championships and then, following an aerial map of the city,successfully managed to find our way to the agricultural college which was to be our accommodation for the next few days. the rest of the day was spent having a look at the cycle course and preparing for the sessions the next day. Marthe and I collapsed at around 6pm and slept soundly through to the next morning, leaving my sister to wander around the town, finding short cuts and the best places to eat.

The next day brought a trip to the lake and a paddle. A little later a group of GB competitors did the cycle, which was a smooth slightly undulating course through beautiful countryside. We managed to fit in a bit of time browsing some of the more unusual shops and managed to find a few absolute gems which Chris had located on her evening and early morning walks.

After registering later in the day, we all walked the run course which was largely off-road and included a section which took the runners around the walls of a pink castle. By the time we had finished walking the route, the arrows on the road had been re-painted to make it clear for the racers the following day. A team meal at the restaurant on the corner didn't show too much evidence of nerves, with everyone enjoying the decent portion size. A hastily put-together relay team (consisting of the off-spring of two of the competitors) managed to pull together enough kit and equipment to take part and we finished the day with a final drive over the cycle course.

After Marthe tried on the new GB kit, it was time for a good sleep before the big day. We had survived the mayhem of Luton, had successfully negotiated the motorways around the Prague Airport and had reached Sedlcany using a map with only occasional villages marked on it. And most importantly, we had managed to avoid Slapy.

Part Two - Race Day... to follow
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