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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.”


Day 9… to BIG RED WOOO HOOO!!!

28 Apr

So, for the last few days the lecture had gone out… I don’t need any surprises in the last few days.

Today was SUPPOSED to be a 56km day. Some fun up on Big Red, a swim in the water off the Eastern side of the dune and a peaceful night’s sleep before my run into Birdsville…..

I had a headwind all day that was like dragging a tyre. We had dunes. I was running well considering the wind, probably because the temp was a mere 37C and the coolest day we’d had.

I was doing really well until I had a meeting with Garry 10 kms from the end of the day… he had been looking at the maps and realised that they were measuring short compared to his GPS longitude and latitude… so what did that mean?? Just do another 18kms instead of 10kms and you’ll hit Big Red.

Shit. OK, I can handle that… 56kms is too easy. 64kms pffttt. Getting perspective was easy… my health, my family, my happiness, my crew that were all there to the bitter end… life is good. Off I went……….. first obstacle was Mr oxyuranusInland Taipan…. pretty much the most dangerous snake in the world….. Thanks to Garry for seeing it first and keeping me safe. xox

So my plan of a swim went out the window and I told Peter and Ellis to join Garry, Janet and Suse for 4WD fun on Big Red while I did the extra kms. Seeing Big Red up ahead was pretty obvious because of the activity with people and cars up on top. Looked like a sand ski slope. (Yes, that’s cars and people on the top… not trees.)

We had to camp on the western side of Big Red as there is no camping on the Birdsville side (Private property)  I ran up the bugger anyway. I couldn’t stand the thought of getting back to Sydney and having anyone ask.

The next few hours were the most confusing and yes… there were a few surprises I would rather have not had………….

So, up the top of Big Red I met Jimmy, an Aboriginal elder. He said he had never seen water on the eastern side of Big Red like that. We were less than 40kms from Birdsville as the crow flies. The track was under water. Could I swim?

Ideas were thrown around… go to Little Red, wade through water … how deep? How cold will the water  be at the start of my last day? Just because it was over 30C at 9am didn’t mean it was warm at 6.30am… do I risk it? Does it cut many Kms off the detour ? Do I run an extra 20kms on my last day.. how far was the detour? It was all a bit wishy washy. No surprises??? Really?

Let’s get to camp and work out what the most reliable route is to get me to Birdsville without taking too many chances.

So the cars drive off Big Red and I run down following them to where we are going to camp. Garry is setting up and I see Peter’s car drive off (hopefully to work out the best track out of there in the morning)

THE RED BAG! My red bag had everything important in it. My garmin/ipod recharger, fleecy to wear at night, toothbrush/toothpaste/ baby wipes (I mean my shower!), head torch/batteries, blister repair kit, you name it, if it was important, it was in my red bag. Well……. it took off with Peter’s car. No worries, he’ll be back soon…. NOT.

For some reason he wasn’t contactable on the VKS radio. Camp was set up and we were throwing ideas around on the plan for the last day. I thought the safest option was to run the extra kms and stay dry.

It turned cold, Garry had given me his jumper. I sat around wondering why Peter had driven into Birdsville. The talk of getting petrol for Garry’s car didn’t ring true. These guys were conservative and there is no way they didn’t have enough petrol for the last 60 kms or so. What’s going on??

The 4 of us had dinner, listened to Janet’s Camp Kitchen Cooking show and watched a slideshow of some of Garry’s photos.

I really needed that bag. I had 608kms on my garmin and I was sure as hell I wasn’t going to lose my total distance on the last day because I was unable to recharge. I needed to get clean, dry, fix my feet, clean my teeth and get my head torch. I was pretty frustrated. You know how great a friend is when she offers to let me use her toothbrush….. (I declined for her sake)

It must have been close to 10 pm when I decided I needed to get some sleep. We had tried numerous times to get Peter on the radio and he finally answered. He and Ellis were on the other side of Big Red and didn’t want to risk getting lost in the dark.  They were staying there the night! Dammit!!! Their suggestion for the morning was for me to run over Little Red to the water and wade across. Just after we’d decided to run the added kms…

So, scramble to find dirty clothes, old shoes, space blanket, jacket… anything else I’d need to get through water and then get WARM. I needed a water tight zip lock bag with dry gear and shoes to wear for the rest of the day…. Garry, Suse and Janet would have to drive the added 20 km(?)detour to where Peter and Ellis were, so I needed to carry everything I needed across the water… what do I do if I have to swim? The NO SURPRISES was not working. I should have been in a happy serene state knowing that I was going to get to Birdsville tomorrow, but this confusion was doing my head in.

I lay down and listened to Garry and Janet start packing stuff up in preparation for the hasty exit tomorrow morning. With only one support car and no idea what route to take, Garry was only going to be happy if he and Janet were right with me as I left camp and got to the water. The plan was for Ellis to check depth and meet me my side of the water at Little Red (sand dune)…..

Too many surprises for one day…. no sleep tonight…. That’s a lot of water.

Total distance 608kms

About Jane Trumper

13 Apr

Mild mannered anaesthetics supervisor and ICU nurse by day and by night, unstoppable ultramarathon runner by every other waking and sleepwalking hour. The first woman to complete the Aussie Grand Slam of Ultra Running with 4 races of 100-150 miles within a single 3-month period, Jane is now the first woman to ever run across the Simpson Desert.

Her latest exploit began on April 1. Ably supported from 2 vehicles by a roughly assembled crew of 5 from Tokyo, York in W.A, and Adelaide in South Australia, Jane reached her goal in Birdsville on Tuesday April 10 – but only after a flood-threatened journey of more than 660km in temperatures of up to 45 degrees Celsius.

She is yet to reach her fundraising goal for charity of choice Bear Cottage, but if you’re reading this right now you can help by clicking on this link.

Jane ran across the desert in a single pair of Bondi B running shoes from Hoka OneOne Australia. She is also proud to be a brand ambassador for Skirt Sports and Injinji, and appreciates the support of her local running shop, Northside Runners, in Manly.

Her ongoing challenge, soon to be met, is to complete her hundredth ‘standard’ marathon this year.

O yeah, she’s only little…

Better safe than sober?

24 Sep

Race abandoned after Day 8 due to fires in the desert.

Simpson Desert closed to all vehicles until at least Tuesday. Had to abandon lots of gear after 352 km to get back to Purni Bore. Spent Thursday night tentless there sleeping with rats under the stars – highlight was pair of beady eyes staring up from the bottom of honeypot. Race organisers staying out there to recover gear some time next week – tents/food/chairs/table – all sitting out in the desert until at least Tuesday. The rest of us spent last night at Mt Dare drinking our sorrows at the bar.

All runners devastated as we were all running as a team for the next 300km. No injuries, feeling fresh as a daisy.

Last thing we expected when we started was to see so much vegetation in the desert from so much rain beforehand. These fires will probably turn it back into the Red Centre. Won day 8 for SIDS in 7:19 – slow across the dunes from the massive heat, over 40 degrees. My drink bladder was nasty like hot bathwater.

Absolutely gutted, we were all so prepared to just finish. There was no way any of us wouldn’t just finish. We’d already all decided that when we got to Birdsville we’d all go have just one drink before showering. Fantastic thing to find 4 awesome new running mates. One of them reckons I’m a bloke dressed up as a girl  : )

All of us wanto to come back and do this again. All the support guys and the 4WD Club drivers have just been magic, and even the St. John’s ambos want another go.

Still, gutted.

Thanks for everyone’s support throughout. Sorry for communications not being 100% from the desert, but our 18-year-old communications guy Alex Turner has been setting up satellite dish every night and doing a great job when he’s not busy defacing my Facebook ; )

More soon – back in Sydney Tuesday and will share a bunch of pics and videos then.

Day of Doon

21 Sep

Day 7 was full of head winds and dunes. Ran with the other 4 guys and kept the pace in the last 11kms to an easy pace to conserve our quads. Time 6:31
The first week over, we are now settling into a steady pace with dunes for the next week. No civilisation to speak of. Water and fuel scarce, so conserving what we can. The head games have started with Rowdy reckoning we only have 5 days to go as nobody would pull the pin on day 13, 14 or 15….
308 kms done and feeling fresh (unlike the bush toilet set up in the heat) Talking of toilets, when we finished there tumble weeds flying high in the sky and picked up the toilet tent and moved it 50 metres… shame Merryl wasn’t on it.
Will know more in the morning if my quads are good when I try to get dressed and pack up my kit in my tent. Thanks to everyone who have sent me messages of support. Love hearing from you.