Running with The Machine

“Fatigue is inevitable. Managing fatigue is a skill that may take years to learn, but it’s what makes the difference between a good runner and a great runner, whatever your speed.” Lindsay Weight

It’s a question I’ve often been asked – both in the preparation for and since completing the Trans-Alpine Run: what’s it like running with Ryan Sandes. So I thought I’d leave it until after our event to put the answer into a blog post.

Ryan (aka Sandman, as many like to call him, although clearly that name wasn’t appropriate for this race so I prefer to call him Mach1, as in with reference to speed and to Machine) was, every minute of every one of the eight days of the race, an incredible team partner.

As many of you will know, racing – whether running or cycling – in a two-person team requires tremendous buy-in by each partner. It calls for 100% commitment and constant communication, otherwise the partnership simply won’t work. If either team mate isn’t on the same page as the other at any time, things fall apart.

And, usually, both members of a two-person team are of similar running ability. Usually, that is...

Before the Trans-Alpine Run, I’d done four stage races, three of which were two-person team events: two Cape Odysseys (the first with Sylvie Mazurkiwitz [nee Harris] and the second with Karoline Hanks) and one African-X (with Tatum Prins). All three of those partners are not only great runners but were superb team partners, and the result for each of those races was a ladies category win. Each time we were well matched in all the essential ingredients for a good team – ability, temperament and goals.

With Ryan and I, there was no doubt we were well matched in terms of our hopes and goals for this race, and the same goes for temperament. We’re both consistent in temperament and know the importance of constant consideration for team work. But whoooa, when it comes to running capability, everyone knows that without a shadow of a doubt that no one matches Mach1. This man is a phenomenon. Now, I know that’s stating the obvious: his racing history shows that. But running this race with Ryan gave me a front row opportunity to watch this man in action. And sheeez, can he run!

But it wasn’t his running capability that startled me the most. It was his patience, his tolerance and his constant unselfish approach to us as a team that impressed me. Never once in the eight days of our race did Ryan show any sign of frustration or exasperation when I wasn’t able to maintain his pace or push harder than I was already. Instead, he gave me constant positivity and encouragement to keep me going, keep me digging deep.

And while it was obvious that I found the degree of difficulty of alpine running harder than Ryan did, this race was by no means easy for him. After all, as the far stronger partner, his role of packhorse and engine room put much physical pressure on him – I just had to put my head down and trot behind! I was responsible for gauging of pace (ie. telling the said engine room that we were going too fast) and, inevitably, the heavy breathing for both of us.

Not once did Ryan whinge – not even when he jolted his back on Day 2 jumping from a steep forest path over a ditch onto a tar road. I could tell he was sore, and every morning he would stretch it carefully before the start, but still he never hesitated to throw me the tow rope when the next huge hill came.

Running this race with The Machine has shown me a glimpse of the guts and determination that a winner has to have. To push through fatigue, face harsh conditions (like extreme heat or cold, as is often the case in Ryan’s races) and still have the determination to push the pace takes tremendous guts and determination.

It was a privilege to run with Mach1.

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