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Written by my BFF…. Suse.

12 May

I am going to let you read something Suse emailed me.  I think I have run more kms with her than anyone… including Pete. When I started running with her, she had never had a running partner. I had only two. We spent a few years running around the Palace in Tokyo and they were the best days…. ever. We now catch up at least once a year to run Tokyo marathon with our husbands who also get along famously. We run and we talk. I just love her. We can disagree (not often) but fulfill a couple of important roles in each others lives. If I tell her something that I feel strongly about, she listens…. and hardly ever disagrees. We are there to make each other strong when we need it. Everyone needs a friend like we both have. A bit of a boost when needed and a friend to hug. Thankyou Suse, for sharing the adventure.

“Running Across the Simpson Desert – April 1 to April 10 2012 (written by Susan Griffen on 11/5/12)

One month ago I ended what is undeniably the biggest adventure I have ever embarked upon in my life.  The memories are starting to fade so it’s crucial that I get it all down in words before that happens.

My friend Jane Trumper was destined to be the first woman to run across the Simpson Desert in the Australian Outback.  Jane is a storied ultramarathoner but this would be her biggest challenge to date.  She had already attempted to do this in September of 2011, but she was stopped by bush fires 350 or so kilometers into it.  Jane happened to be in Tokyo visiting to run the Tokyo Marathon when she disclosed that she’d be trying again, this time running alone with support vehicles which she had solicited herself.  My husband piped in with, “Suse, why don’t you go with her? You could run, like, 20K a day.”  I thought, yeah, I can do that, I run alot, I work out alot, how hard could it be? Okay, I signed on.

The first thing that pops out of people’s mouths after hearing this is, “Why?”

My initial journal entry, written while sitting in the lounge of Tokyo’s International airport on March 28th, posed that very same question.  Why am I doing this?  I still wasn’t sure. The answers I wrote there in my journal ranged from, “to help a friend and to get to know that friend better and find out why SHE’S doing it” to, “to get on the Ellen Show”. No kidding.  To this day I am unclear on Why I did it.  All I know is that is was life-changing.

I arrived in Sydney on a Friday and the next day Jane and I flew to Alice Springs, where our adventure would begin as we would be meeting, for the very first time, the couple into whose hands I was truly putting my life.  Janet and Garry Tapper, from York, Western Australia (Where the hell is that? I thought to myself, the American that I am) met us at the airport and Garry loaded up the vehicle (I already had to stand in the shade as my Tokyo winter pasty white skin was clearly not happy about the 38 degree temperature–that’s 100.4 fahrenheit for you American readers). 

We drove the whatever hundred kilometers to Lambert Centre, the geographical center of Australia and the place from which we would begin our run.  When we hopped out of the car Jane realized it was the last time she’d be in a moving vehicle for 10 days.  Wow. Just, wow.

Now, I am not a “camper”, so to speak, so as we pitched our tents that night I already was thinking myself a pain in the ass as I had questions about my self-inflating mat.  Do you have an extra headlamp?  What time are we getting up because I have to go to the bathroom (bathroom? NOT) before we start running?  What kind of animal poo is this and could this animal kill me?  Are there REALLY snakes in the Simpson Desert that are venomous (more on that later)?  I honestly thought to myself, Jane is probably sorry she brought me along, a fear which recurred often, to be honest.

And then, morning came and we started running.  This is what Jane and I do.  We run together.  We have done so much running together that suddenly things felt completely normal. Never mind the wild horses, never mind the extreme heat (113F the first day for Jane’s mid-day), never mind the vultures and the flies and the no toilets and the no showers and the NO WINE (!!!) and the snakes (we did end up seeing an Inland Taipan, the deadliest snake on the planet).  I was once again side by side with one of my favorite people and we were doing our favorite thing.  There were long silences, there were strange statements (“Jane, I’ve gotta poo, you go on, I’ll catch up”), there were more sand dunes than we could count, there was the headwind from hell…it just didn’t matter.  We ran.  When we talked we talked about our families, our parents, our husbands, our children, ourselves.  I did learn alot more about Jane, and I already knew alot.  I just loved the running with Jane, and I know in my heart that she did, too.

Peter and Ellis, the inhabitants of Vehicle Number Two, arrived halfway through our first day of running.   They had taken the back seat out of their car so unfortunately it was not an option for me to hop in with them at any point.  I’m sorry about this as they both seemed to be extremely interesting people. I’d have to get to know them better at camp every night.

I ran between 20 and 31 kilometers every day, averaging 25/day over the 10 days.  Jane and I were the only runners in the group and of course everyone thought what Jane was doing was amazing, and it was, but what I was doing was quite a stretch for me, a person with a history of eating disorders and excessive exercise patterns and trouble with hydration, etc.  When I felt I had had enough, I knew I had to stop myself because it was an honor that Jane trusted me enough to bring me along and I’d be damned if I was gonna be the one to bring this journey to a halt by having to be airlifted out of the desert due to dehydration.  I will not lie, the thought crossed my mind alot.  ALOT!!

When I was done running for the day I hopped into Janet and Garry’s car and began enjoying the other favorite part of my adventure.  We had lots of time to just sit and wait for Jane at each check point.  Our car and Peter’s car would leapfrog every 5 K to feed Jane, make sure she didn’t need anything, and HAND OVER THE RED BAG (this held all of Jane’s essential things like blister care stuff, i-Pod charger, etc.).  The Red Bag had a starring role in this production!   Janet and Garry and I had lots of time to talk, and thankfully we got along famously (I hope they agree).  I ended up absolutely loving them both.  Garry reminded me of my two brothers-in-law, a couple of  guys that I trust as much as I do my own husband.  Garry and Janet made me feel safe and, shall we say, interesting. I will consider them lifelong friends, the time we shared cannot be described.    I felt like I truly deserved to be here in every way, and as the days wore on that feeling grew stronger and stronger.  I began to feel more a part of the group as we set up camp at night, I felt more comfortable being so out of my element, and I thoroughly enjoyed our time sitting around eating dinner and chatting about our lives.

The Australian Outback is amazing.  We were blessed with clear skies and the most beautiful moon every night.  Although the heat was oppressive for Jane and made her ordeal that much harder, I admit I was thankful that it didn’t rain (except for one scary thunderstorm on Day 2 at Mt. Dare when I thought my tent would blow away with me in it). I felt so blessed to be included in Jane’s mission, we took so many pictures together, goofy ones with salt pans in the background, pictures of Jane’s Garmin at every notable distance, the beautiful sunrises, the awesome animals.  Not many people get to see this part of the world, certainly not many Americans, and I was grateful every moment.

I never for one second thought that Jane would not accomplish her goal.  That is the absolute truth…NEVER!!  Jane is determined, Jane is strong, Jane is an UNBELIEVABLE role model for healthy running, she taught me so much on this trip about how to take care of yourself and it was an honor to be by her side for 252 kilometers of her 664 kilometer journey.  It is a rare blessing to find a friend like Jane and I really can’t put into words what she means to me, and what this trip meant to me.  I am incredibly proud that she put her faith in me and included me in her dream.”

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A crew’s perspective. Notes from Janet and Garry :)

7 May

This post was written by Janet after reading a day or two of my blog and thinking I had it all wrong…..  enjoy the humour and the different perspective…. I can’t tell you how lucky I was to find these people to crew for me.

March 31st……  After picking Jane and Suse up at the airport we headed out to the vehicle where Jane  tried to tell Garry how to pack the car. He said you do your job and I’ll do mine and then the fun began. Heading on to Kulgera, Jane, after having an ice cream  and the last comfort stop for 10 days, directed us out to Lambert’s centre. She had put us back on the main highway and heading to Adelaide ……….Jane had told us she had been there before no wonder Garry and Janet got worried.

Day 1……..After getting Jane and Suse off running, Garry packed up the camp all our stuff was packed up no problem, then came the time to pack up Suse and Jane’s 3 second tents..  20 minutes later and after a few choice swearwords from Garry he finally squeeeeeeezed the tents into their bags as Janet stood watching and trying not to laugh too loud.!!!

Day 2……. Headed out to Mt. Dare after taking 15 minutes to pack those bloody 3 second tents…. Arrived at Mt. Dare and Suse went off for a shower, Janet was busting for the loo and after flushing couldn’t believe all the “things” coming out of the lip of the toilet as she flushed…It was only 10 frogs climbing all over the inside of the toilet and not letting go YUKK !! So then she wasn’t prepared to go into the shower for fear of what was in there ! Garry decided after getting water and refuelling he would go ferral (his words) and not shower either . Carried on further down the road until we came to a great camping site or so we thought !!!…. well what a night we were all in for…. Not only were the mozzies having a feast on our lovely skin but the flies were carrying us away. Eventually we all retired to bed a little pale from loss of blood and a little more iron deficient. After getting settled chaos erupted with Cyclone Dare arriving. Garry flew out of the tent with Janet hot on his heels to pack away all the camping gear before it got blown away. Suse called out “do you need a hand?” to which Garry replied ” NO stay in you tent so it won’t blow away ” 1/2 an hour later with everything packed away calm was once again restored .

Day 3….. Packed up once again Garry down to 10 minutes on the 3 second tents of the girls… He felt concerned so did a  head count and  camp search looking for a dead body to explain the amount of blood left on the fly screen of the girls tent. Once everyone was accounted for we headed for Dalhousie Springs .

Day 5………….. Great camping spot found by Garry …………. Ellis telling funny stories…. like the one about Peters sheep are so old they are old enough to vote!!!!.  The search for the elusive camel for Suse to see continues…

Day 8……….. Garry and Janet were seeing the mental focus now needed for Jane to finish the job… she was getting a little despondent towards the end of the day regarding eating. She was even refusing her BANANA CAKE… so after a think tank in the car between Garry, Janet and Suse we came up with some nice tasty noodles to offer her in the hope she would eat some.. The dilemma now was how to entice her to want them .. Garry to the rescue… So over the 2 way radio he said, ” Haawhoa Miss Jane, you come my howse ….. you have happy noodle….. make you feel goowd.”….  Jane appeared over a dune laughing and had some noodles which kept her going….