Big Red Run 2016 – The Interviews, Part Three

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Niandi Carmont brings us her final two interviews from the 2016 Big Red Run, Alistair Nicol: A Lease on Life and The Tansley Tandem: Carlie and Jade Tansely.

Alistair NICOL: A Second Lease on Life

“To have your childhood dream realized is a really big deal.” – Maya Rudolph

It’s a bit of a process. Three years ago I had some heart problems, mainly due to the extreme stress of building a 3-storey functioning windmill in The Rocks down in Sydney. I found myself in hospital having my heart shocked back into rhythm. My cardiologist suggested I do some exercise and from there a little bit of running led to more focussed training and setting challenges. I’m also interested in the beautiful locations where you can do these challenges. My Dad was a photographer and travel writer for the Automobile Association and when I was a kid he’d come back from his trips and show me these stunning images of magnificent landscapes, remote regions and the outback. He’d interview local personalities and all of that made me dream – I knew then I wanted to visit those places. I got caught up in the stress of life and it’s only when I had my health issues the I took a step back and realised that I’d let go of my legacy.

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It is surprising when you look at Alistair as he doesn’t look like a candidate for heart problems. He’s  young, lean and lanky and looks athletic.

I was working with site managers and production directors at festivals and events. You end up taking other people’s stress,people who are just not pulling their weight. My tendency is just to make a job happen. After a few years of that, it started catching up. I probably could have been exercising more and I could have been eating a slightly different diet.

For Alistair the Big Red Run is a real challenge and an opportunity to reunite with his father’s legacy.

The first day was the my first marathon too! It’s not always easy to find training time although I have put in a lot of training the last 9 months. My legs are feeling pretty good. I’ve taken a producer, managerial approach to running in that I’ve been working with so many physics and chirps and other sports people. I’m actually not feeling too bad today – I might feel differently in 3 days time. (lLaughs).

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I ask him if he’s happy with his preparation.

On account of the rain, I think I should have taken half a dozen pegs to hang up and dry out my kit! Seriously, I think i might have over-catered on the food. I definitely took more than I needed. Also I had planned to do the Big Red Run but with the soft tissue issues I’ve had with my knee, I’ve had to switch back to the shorter version the Little Red Run. 

And his impressions of the ambiance, camp life?

It’s funny how there are people from all walks of life. They are all completely different in their personalities. I suppose it’s natural for an event like this in such a remote area that brings people together, people you’d otherwise probably not get to meet. There’s a sense of looking after everyone’s well-being.

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The Tansley Tandem: Carlie and Jade Tansely

Endurance and passion for the outdoors definitely run in the Tansely family. In 2015 father Shawn Tansely ran the Big Red Run and his wife Carlie and 2 daughters volunteered. This year Shawn is back running the BRR, accompanied by his wife and daughter, 18-year old Jade. Their youngest daughter is volunteering. Jade is also the youngest participant in the BRR. I caught up with them just after stage 4.

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I ask Jade about her impressions so far:

Pretty sore but I’m still OK. The hardest so far is knowing you have to get up every morning and go again. It’s amazing out there – I was struck by the size of the sand dunes, they are massive. This is my first multi-day – I’ve never done anything as weird and wacky. My friends at uni think I’m insane.

Do they train together?

Carlie: We stuck together the first 2 days and then Jade decided to do today by herself, just to find out if she could.

Jade: I needed to know if I could get myself from start to finish without Mum’s help and obviously I could, cos I finished today. It was bit of a confidence boost. I definitely needed to prove to myself that I could be autonomous and independent.

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We move on to the topic of race preparation and training.

Carlie: We didn’t always train together because of our different schedules, juggling with uni and work. Endurance and the love for the outdoors is something the girls have grown up with. They have been camping and hiking since they could walk. It’s just part and parcel really.

I wonder if Jade is mature enough to step back and analyse her performance. I ask her if she would do things differently next time.

A whole lot more training. I’d probably try to do some events and longer distances beforehand to be better prepared mentally. 

I ask Carlie about her takeaways on doing this event with her daughter.

I think it has bonded us. I get to see how Jade has developed as an adult and how she can stand on her own two feet and achieve. I’m very proud of her. Today was very tough, knowing I wasn’t with her. I was a bit stressed but she made it and it’s fantastic. Tomorrow for the long day we will stick together at Jade’s pace, walking, running, whatever!

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Big Red Run 2016 – Stage 4 ‘Sprigg Sprint’ 31km (revised route)

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Day 3 of the Big Red Run unfortunately had no racing due to freak weather conditions during night 1 and throughout the day on race day 2. It left the Simpson Desert a mud bath of sticky clay. However, the runners embraced the day and used it for personal admin a real sense of group spirit came together where everyone helped each other to make uncomfortable camp conditions considerably better. The sun shone all day it is quite remarkable how the earth dried out. Overnight the temperatures really dropped (2 deg) leaving one or two runners with an uncomfortable night. Braddon DB Johnson whilst holding a hot mug of steaming coffee said. “It was in interesting night… I had every item of clothing on and was still a little chilly!”

As the early morning mist burnt off, a glorious day welcomed the runners for a revised stage 4 that left camp via Big Red dunes. A clockwise loop with a couple of dog legs thrown in then re-navigated the runners back to Big Red and the finish line from which they had started.

James Kohler has been trying all week for victory, often leading the stages in the early kilometres only to find in the latter stages. Today though, the 30km racing distance and a days rest played into his hands and from the off he opened just a slight gap from the usual protagonists of Elisabet Barnes, Andy Dubois, Jamie Hildage and Braddan DB Johnson.

As the run progressed, James slowly pulled away but it was a very slender margin and Elisabet made sure she kept him in sight throughout the day, she had said early in the morning, ‘Today is all about being sensible and making sure I don’t extend too much energy ahead of tomorrow’s 80km+ long stage!’

No doubt Andy, Jamie and Braddan had similar thoughts. James though seized his opportunity and ran a great stage 4 to take 1st place in 2:56:03. Elisabet crossed the line 2nd in 2:59:45 and Andy Dubois placed 3rd in 3:01:04.

It was a close day with the top 3 men and ladies all finishing within a 30-minute window. Jamie Hildage placed 4th and Braddan DB Johnson 5th, their respective time of 3:04:06 and 3:08:58. Helen Durand was the 2nd lady 3:20:03, she has performed consistently throughout the race and Anne Bennet seized the 3rd place in 3:33:27.

Tomorrow is the long day and runners will be resting up in camp and preparing for a long day ahead. Weather and ground conditions have improved dramatically over the last 24-hours and although a new route has been planned, hopefully it will include much of the terrain of the original proposed route. Camp will be moved tomorrow and although it may not be located in the original camp 5 location, it will be placed close leaving the final stage 6 ‘fun run’ as close to 8km as possible. After all, there is a very serious barbecue, cold beers, showers and some entertainment planned for post race recovery.

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Big Red Run 2016 – The Interviews, Part One

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Niandi Carmont has joined me at Big Red Run (pictured above), she was originally going to run the main event but a foot fracture after The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica relegated her to the sidelines and recovery. However, injury progressed well and although not up to full speed or endurance, Niandi decided to run the Little Red Run (150km) which is the sister event to the the bigger, 250km main event.

It was always planned that Niandi would accompany my photography with a selection of interviews for web and Talk Ultra podcast. Here are the first two.

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The Turner Threesome: Dennis Turner, Megan Turner and Vicki Turner

Now what a nice day to spend a family holiday! Running 250km in the Australian outback is what I would call an off-the-beaten track holiday if ever there was one. I look at the three tired, dusty, smiling faces in front of me and I think it’s probably not such a bad idea. A father and 2 daughters taking time out to do something different, something that probably tightens and strengthens family bonds in the name of a common cause: type 1 diabetes.

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Vicki’s 9-year old daughter Ella has type 1 diabetes.

Dennis explains: Vicki was the instigator behind all this. She asked me if I wanted to go for a walk. I said yes and here we are. I also spent a lot of time out in the desert in the 70’s with the oil exploration crew and I’ve travelled across the desert 4 or 5 times since then. It’s a beautiful country. It’s very green at the moment and a bit wet compared with what it normally is. Usually it is very  dry and desolate with not much covering the dunes.

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Vicki: Dad loves walking. He walked from one side of England to the other last year. As for myself I’ve never experienced the outback like this.We’re from South Australia.

Younger sister Megan chips in excitedly: I’m here for the fun of it. It’s all an adventure really. Once my father was convinced, he got me into doing this. He phoned me up, told me we were going to go on a trip across the desert but he failed to mention it involved walking 150km. We’ve stuck together so far as he likes to keep an eye on me (giggles).

But then her father goes on to explain that they’ve not taken the event light-heartedly and spend most weekends getting in mileage on the beaches and in the dunes as well as training a couple of times during the week. We get on pretty well. The desert brings out who you are, your character and your stamina. We love the outback all 3 of us, we’ve done a lot of travelling in it over the years.  But it is a real challenge mentally and physically to do it at my age.

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I ask him if he’s proud of his daughters and there’s no hesitation in his reply: Absolutely. I’m very proud of them. 

I can see on their faces that they are touched by the compliments and as I leave then I cannot help but think that the three of them will look back on this privileged time spent together in a remote part of their beautiful country with the conviction that they had chosen the right time in their lives to take up the challenge together.

***END***

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Sabrina Paxton: Thelma & Louise Oz-style.

A long-legged blonde with blue eyes and a self-mocking, bubbly style, Sabrina is a gutsy lady. You can see she’s an outdoorsy girl. Mother of 2 young boys and a passionate yoga teacher, she loves to share her experiences (and food) with others. Here, have some of these pine nuts in your freeze-dried Mexican rice. Good fats. And here’s a bit of mint dark chocolate too.

I warm to this runner who almost didn’t make it to the start. In fact she DIDN’T make it to the start.

I missed my interconnecting flight. My first flight from Sydney into Brisbane was a bit late. I missed check-in cut-off time. The hostess wouldn’t let me on. I sat in the airport for a while panicking. My friends on social media and Quantas pointed me in the direction of Isa, to hire a vehicle to come down here. So I hired a commercial vehicle with big headlights and I drove across the outback through the night. There wasn’t ever really a moment where I thought I was going to give up, I had so much community support. So many people have gotten behind me to enter this race. I knew when things didn’t go according to plan that I had to explore every possible avenue to get here. Admittedly I was a bit scared, I’d never driven through the outback before, never mind 700km alone at night just before a 250km multi-stage.

I ask her what gave her the adrenaline to think straight and react so quickly.

I guess I was in the frame of mind I had put in so much preparation and there was so much expectation. You just need to draw strength and reserves to pull it together. I was so focussed on getting here. I was pretty wired actually. There was only one point where I was quite fatigued so I stopped and got about 40 minutes rest, I set my alarm for 40min. I drove at about 70 to 80km an hour. It was at least 10 hours solid driving. I had the whole day in Brisbane to plan this carefully and did some research on the internet on distances and fuel stops so I took 2 jerrycans of fuel with me. I flew into Brisbane at 6.30, picked up the car, filled up the 2 jerrycans and even then I only just made it with the fuel gauge needle in red the last 80km to go. 

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This lady is not only gutsy but she can think on her feet. A little perplexed I ask her why she hadn’t planned her connecting flights any better.

I am a sole parent to 2 boys who have never spent a day away from me really so I couldn’t orchestrate any different times where my kids could be looked after by a person they trusted. It was my only option to get that flight. There was a 2-hour buffer time. It is just unfortunate hat that flight landed so late.

Sabrina has other qualities too, which are no doubt very important in long-distance endurance events. She turns negatives into positives and manages her expectations.

Looking back, I really enjoyed that ride into Birdsville, with sun up and all the beautiful landscapes. I felt very privileged. I had missed the start but it was no big deal as the organisers dropped me off at check-point one. Once I got out the car I pretty much put my race-kit on and started running. At the finish they had added a 13km section for me to make up for missing the first part. 

So all is well that  ends well. I believe that you can still do what you want to do even if it feels like life has thrown you a bit of a hard situation.

***END***

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Big Red Run 2016 – Stage 1 ‘Birdsville Marathon’ – 42.195km

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The 2016 Big Red Run got underway today, Saturday June 25th from the ‘Outback’ town of Birdsville on the edge of the Simpson Desert.

Located in the ‘Northern Territory,’ the Simpson Desert is a large area of red sand and dunes that currently resembles a green pasture due to excessive rain in recent weeks and months. It’s quite a contrast to the Sahara. The Simpson Desert is an erg described as a broad, flat area of desert covered with wind-swept sand. Erg means ‘dune field’ in Arabic and ironically it should have little or no vegetation… not so currently here in the Simpson.

The first European explorer to visit this region was the explorer Charles Sturt and today, Elisabet Barnes from Sweden (who resides in the UK) followed in the footsteps of Sturt and set a blistering pace over the marathon distance to win the stage outright by over 15-minutes. Elisabet’s finish time of 3:59:59 confirming her as one of the most impressive desert runners currently racing.

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Elisabet pulled away from the group of runners before they had even left the suburbs of Birdsville and she never looked back. Opening a gap slowly but surely, Elisabet extended her lead throughout the day to win by a clear margin.

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“I felt very good today considering the extensive travel, jet lag and only racing the Richtersveld Transfrontier Wildrun in South Africa just last week. But the terrain was very runnable and I was happy to run… maybe too quickly? We shall see tomorrow!”

Andy Dubois had trailed Elisabet with two other runners early on, Braddan DB Johnson and Jamie Hildage but Andy pulled away looking to close the gap on Elisabet. He didn’t make it and over the final 20km from Cp2 Elisabet held or marginally extended her lead.

Jamie Hildage, a previous competitor at the Big Red Run finished 3rd overall on the stage,

“It is so green this year and the ground is firmer making conditions underfoot very good. In addition, we had cool temperature and a constant breeze today; it made for great running conditions.”

Braddan dropped to 5th overall behind a strong run from 2nd lady and 4th overall, Helen Durand.

Completing the ladies top 3 was Amon Sheddon who finished 12th overall.

Official times to follow on completion of the stage.

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Tomorrow’s stage is  the ‘Adria Downs Marathon’ at another classic distance of 42.195km

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