So as you can see from the date of my last post it’s been a while since I sat down and wrote about my SUP adventures, but they are definitely still happening and my next post will fill you in on the last 10 months.
But for now I feel blogging about my most recent SUP challenge the 100km Grand Union Challenge (http://www.grandunionchallenge.com/) is the best way to get back on track with my blog.
This challenge was bitter sweet.
I first noticed the Grand Union Challenge 100km for Runners and Walkers back in April and thought, this could be completed on a SUP too and a great fundraising opportunity for Macmillan Cancer Support one of the many charities being supported by the event.
Low and behold a good friend of mine from Active360 – Phil Sayers was already on the same wave length and in the midst of talks with the Canal and River Trust and Action Challenge to have Stand Up Paddleboarders participate in the event.
So the sweet is we got the go ahead to take part in the challenge, the bitter is I found out my mother in law had been diagnosed with Stomach Cancer only 1 day after being given our places in the challenge. Bringing my fundraising for Macmillan to be an even more personal reason than I ever thought it would be. Mary had dedicated her career to caring for others as a nurse and in her later stages of her career as a Macmillan Nurse. She was a very special lady and even wished me luck in the challenge ahead before she passed away only 22 days after we found out about her diagnosis. So one thing was for sure and that the challenge would go ahead no matter what.
Over the following weeks Phil also known as Mr. Logistics for the challenge set about organizing us ready to meet on the morning of Saturday 28th June at Paddington Rec for the start of the 100km.
We had a few extra Stand Up Paddleboarders volunteer to join us over the 1st 50km who also chose to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support and for that I cant thank them enough:
Louise Nolan (1st – 25km)
Kiko Matthews and Rebecca Sales McKay (1st 50km)
Anu and Marcus Niklasson (2nd 25km)
I was fortunate enough to be supported by Tushingham Sails and REDPADDLECO with the loan of a 2014 Redpaddleco 14ft Elite inflatable board. Which made the traveling into London a breeze. The board was great on the water gliding with every stroke. Being an inflatable it meant I could be at ease coming into portages knowing it was super sturdy and wouldn’t get damaged by bumping in to the side of the canal as we got off the water for each of the 65 locks we faced on the route. Thanks GUYS!! Perfect board for city waterway expeditions.
The route was tough, as there is no to little flow on the canal we had to put in the hard work. The first 50km the weather was against us with torrential rain…… many of the challenge walkers asking if we had been for a swim we were that wet! Not only did we have the challenge of the weather, the canal was heavy with weed, thank fully I had decided to purchase a FCS Race Weed Fin which made a huge difference to the boards performance on the water as there was a lot less drag than if i had used a standard fin. So take noted paddlers if you are going long distances and paddling in an area where they can be debris and weeds get yourself a WEED FIN – just ask Phil his thought on this………
Getting past the weeds and rain the first 25km was a nice paddle no locks and a straight run to a late lunch break.
The 2nd 25km saw the start of the 65 locks we would have to portage over the next 75kms. Thankfully the weather and weeds started to clear before we reached the midway point. We stopped to refuel with some dinner and a change of clothes getting ourselves ready for the night section of the challenge.
This section turned out to be the toughest; we had underestimated how much the portages at the locks would take out of us. It was hard to get into a rhythm as it felt as if every time we did another lock would appear before us and was a little demobilizing if I am being honest. By the time we reached the 77km point for our final long break it was hard to get back out on the boards. A few words to ourselves and we headed back out. To only be hit with a lock less than 100mtrs away – a few words of choice were said but we carried on trying not to curse each lock we came across.
Eventually the locks disappeared and we got to paddle out the last few km’s, arriving at the finish to a bridge full of people cheering us in. A tough but very rewarding challenge completed.
What I haven’t mentioned yet it the huge amount of support and encouragement we got from the event organizers Action Challenge, their team of volunteers and all the participants of the dry land part of the challenge. It definitely made a huge difference to our state of mind.
Last and but not least I have to thank Phil Sayers my paddle partner who saw out the full 100km with me. Not many people can say they have a friend who will put themselves through such a tough challenge.