Mercy Corps team member Vimbayi Mazhani was one of the first on the scene following the recent Cyclone Idai. Michael is motivated by his first-hand experience of the work Mercy Corps undertakes in humanitarian crises.
In the latest installation of the Quad blog series Michael McKean - second-time Quad participant and Senior Director at Mercy Corps – shares why he’s back and how he’s preparing for this time around. Read on to learn the inside tips from someone who’s done it before!
“I first did the Quad in 2007 and now, perhaps because I’m twelve years older, I feel the need to be better prepared this year,” Michael says. “It certainly feels like I’m doing more training than before.
I’m excited, I have very fond memories of participating in 2007 and I’d always hoped to do it again. Every year, the Quad raises an incredible amount of money to support our work at Mercy Corps. Being a part of this exceptional fundraising effort reminds me of the lengths our fantastic supporters go to in order to raise funds and help reach families and communities around the world. I have worked for Mercy Corps for 18 years and so many times now, I’ve seen first-hand the important work we undertake in humanitarian crises. After all these years, I am still inspired to raise funds for such a worthy cause.
Since taking part in the Artemis Great Kindrochit Quadrathlon the first time, much has changed for me. I moved abroad with Mercy Corps and spent three years in Afghanistan and, on my return to Scotland, became a parent to two boys which doesn’t leave too much free time for training. Although I’m still a busy guy, I have managed to squeeze in some solid time for training, which is key to making the event enjoyable.
Training for a quadrathlon is a big commitment so it takes a bit of planning to fit it around work and family life too. My advice for sticking to your training is to timetable everything – if it’s in your calendar then you’re more likely to do it.
Generally I train alone so that it suits my schedule. Cameron, my Quad team-mate, is based in London so we haven’t had an opportunity to train together yet. We’re in the Hague for work this week though, so we might manage a run or two which could be our only time before the big event!
Through the normal working week I try to keep on top of training with one hour sessions four days a week, giving myself one ‘rest day’ as well. At the weekends, I am doing bigger blocks of running/hill walking and cycling – maybe up to 4 hours on a Saturday and 2 hours on Sunday. This past weekend I’m really pleased to have managed a 50-mile bike ride. As I have a young family, it usually works best for me to get up early and get the training out of the way so that I can participate in the usual family weekend activities as well.
I’m lucky in that I live in a rural area with good cycling routes and lots of hills nearby. My local swimming pool is also only a 10 minute walk from my house so it’s very easy for me to practice each element. My challenge is that I too often focus on the disciplines I prefer - such as cycling - and keep putting off swim training!
As a repeat participant, my final piece of advice – to Cameron and any other first time quadrathletes - would be to not underestimate the hills section. It can be a long, tough day up on the ridge so make sure your legs are up for the challenge. I’m certainly hoping mine will be!
Are you coming coming to Kindrochit in July to support a Quadrathlete? Bringing the family and making a weekend of it?
We have just set up the Artemis Great Kindrochit Mini Challenge - a fun event for children between 5 and 12 years of age (inclusive) involving walking or running, a cycle ride and a creative challenge.
Why not enter your children? The Mini Challenge will take place while the Quadrathletes are away on the hill/kayak sections, so if you are at Kindrochit for the weekend supporting someone doing the Quadrathlon, the Mini Challenge gives you something to do with the family while you wait. The Mini Challenge course will be centred around the Event Hub and the tiny village of Ardtalnaig, on the south shore of Loch Tay. For the final creative challenge the children will use the points they’ve scored on the other challenges to “buy” rudimentary equipment and erect a makeshift flagpole to welcome home the Quadrathletes. They may only use the supplied equipment so don’t bring anything from home! The children’s final position will be decided by the height of your flagpole from its base to highest point.
This month we wanted to find out how the post-Christmas slump might be affecting training and what keeps our guys going. Michael, Mercy Corps’ Senior Director for Programmes, Funding and Operations, tells us how his January went and shares some of the struggles of balancing training with a busy job.
“When I signed up for the Quad in late 2018 I always thought that January would be the time to seriously start training. Christmas would be over and all the excess food and drink would make way for a month of exercise and energy. It hasn’t quite worked that way!
My first day back at work in the New Year involved a 24-hour journey to Oregon where Mercy Corps’ global HQ is located. The long travel and 8 hour time difference made for a tiring week, already packed with meetings. I did manage three gym sessions and used a Peloton indoor cycle for the first time. I’ve never really been a gym guy - I much prefer training outdoors - but I must admit I thoroughly enjoyed the interactive session on the bike.
On returning home via another 20-hour journey during which I picked up a cold, a few days of serious jetlag ensued which didn’t give me the energy I needed to kick start the training. Towards the end of that week I received a call from the NHS letting me know that a cancellation had freed up a slot for me to have a minor, planned surgical procedure. Ten days later I still have some discomfort and have yet to do any serious exercise…
I am writing this on a flight to the Netherlands where Mercy Corps has set up a new office to strengthen our partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which funds our work in Lebanon, Jordan, DR Congo, Tunisia and Myanmar. My job is to keep our donors informed of our progress in these challenging contexts and ensure we are well-positioned to continue to receive funding for important work such as supporting farmers to increase income and productivity amidst conflict or an Ebola outbreak in DRC or access to employment for refugees in the Middle East. It is programmes like these which inspire me to fundraise and push on with getting fit enough for the Quad.
As I return to good health, I still remain positive about my training regime (or lack of!) and I am convinced that I will pick up the pace. Two books are keeping me going: Finding Ultra by Rich Roll - a great book with a focus on plant-based nutrition and Iron Fit by Don and Melanie Fink, both of which inspired me to return to the Quad this year as a stepping stone to completing a half (or full?) Iron Man in 2020.
I’m enjoying connecting with the other quadrathletes in the dedicated Facebook group too and getting tips from everyone. I’ve even found some potential training buddies! It’s great to have that space and I am hoping to be much more engaged as my training picks up (or perhaps when I need some motivation!)”
If you have already signed up please make sure to join the 2019 Quadrathletes Facebook Group where you will get extra tips, inspiration and get to know the Quad community!
If you’re looking to challenge yourself in 2019, while helping some of the world’s poorest children, then the Artemis Great Kindrochit Quadrathlon could be for you. The Quad, organised by Wild Fox Events, starts on the south side of Loch Tay in Scotland on Saturday, 6 July – with funds raised from the endurance test going to Mary’s Meals and Mercy Corps.
Joe Black, 29, took part in the 2017 event and is now set to take on the 2019 Quad, which includes a 0.8-mile swim, a 15-mile walk over seven hills, a 34-mile cycle and a seven-mile kayak across Loch Tay. While the event may sound daunting, Joe encourages anyone interested to give it a go as he surprised himself two years ago.
“I think you read about the Quad and can feel intimidated by it, but as someone who has completed it, I’m telling you that you can do it. Knowing you are taking part to support the important work of Mary’s Meals also helps to keep you going,” Joe says.
He adds: “The swim was the scariest part for me because I have never swam that far before and in those conditions. When I got into the water in the morning, I remember thinking ‘I don’t know if I can do this’. But as soon as I finished the swim I knew the rest would be okay. The adrenaline really helps too, you look around and know that everyone is in it together.
“I’ll never forget the experience, getting into the water at 6am for the first part of the quad, the mist rising above Loch Tay, the pipes playing. It was incredible. It’s also a great way to take in the Scottish Highlands.”
Registration for the 2019 Quad is currently open, with places available on the bronze, silver and gold routes. And Joe has some helpful tips for anyone taking part this year. He says: “I would say that the hills are pretty tough, make sure you have experience of hill walking before. We actually had a training day on the hills that make up the Quad, so that really helped, I would recommend doing that if you are able to.
“Taking part in the Quad is an unforgettable experience.”
Michael and Cameron’s Blog - Quad 2019 - Why We Signed Up
Mercy Corps are not only one of the fantastic beneficiary charities of the Quad, but each year we try to make sure that we have staff members taking part in the challenge as participants. It helps us to remember the importance of what all our amazing quad supporters are going through in order to help us change lives around the world.
Two of our staff members have taken on the challenge this year and we are going to be joining them on their journey as they train for the Gold route. They’ll be hopping in here every month to chat about their progress (at least we hope that’s what they’ll be making) and you’ll also see them in the dedicated Quadrathlete Facebook group - so please say hi!
For now, we wanted to get to know these guys a little better, find out more about them and the reasons they signed up. So grab a snack (or a protein shake) and join us as we put Cameron Hall and Michael McKean in the hot-seat.
Q: What is your role with Mercy Corps?
Cameron: I’m the HR Director for Mercy Corps Europe. I essentially see it as my job to make sure Mercy Corps team members have the support they need to be successful in their roles ... which hopefully contributes to successful programming in the field!
Michael: I’m the Senior Director for Programmes, Funding and Operations which means I am responsible for the teams which bring in funds to Mercy Corps from a wide range of donors, and then coordinate support to our humanitarian and development programmes in 40 countries around the world.
Q: How are you feeling about taking on this challenge in 2019?
Cameron: I’m anxious. I’ve always been physically active, but it has easily been 15 years since I have done anything this demanding.
Michael: I’m really looking forward to it! I have been thinking about taking part in a major event for some time now, and this feel like the right one to kick-start my fitness journey.
Q: Have you done anything like this before?
Cameron: Not exactly. I used to be a long distance runner and endurance events have always been something I found interesting. I also spent several years in the US Army, so have some experience challenging myself out in the elements…
Michael: I have done the Quad once before, way back in 2007, when I was much younger and fitter!
Q: Which part are you most confident about?
Michael: I do quite a bit of kayaking and enjoyed that discipline the most in 2007, so I’m looking forward to doing it again! It is a well-earned seat for a few miles after the long hill trek.
Cameron: The trekking portion… if that is what you call it. I do need to get in better shape, but I am really excited to attack the trail.
Q: Which part are you most nervous about?
Michael: It’s a toss-up between the swimming and the hills - both are tough. I’m not a great swimmer so need to train a lot for this section; and one of my abiding memories from the 2007 quad is the ascent of munro 7, which is brutal after the descent from the ridge.
Cameron: The swim. I’m a strong swimmer, but don’t have experience in open water or distance swimming. This is the first leg of the route and sets the tone for the rest of the day, so I want to do it well!
Q: What are you most looking forward to?
Michael: I’m looking forward to challenging myself to complete the event, 12 years after I last did it. I really hope I can get back to an epic level of fitness and maintain that for years to come! I’m also looking forward to a fish supper on the final stage of the cycle - much needed sustenance for the final leg!
Cameron: Clearing the first peak. I have a romantic vision of this in my head… looking out over Scotland from high, full of energy and confidence. In reality, I’ll probably be sucking for air, trying my best not to get a blister or twist my ankle and will completely miss the moment.
Q: Why is taking part in the Quad important to you?
Michael: Taking part in the Quad is important for me on a number of levels - partly because I want to (once more) participate in Scotland’s toughest one day event, and partly because I strongly believe in the work of the recipient charities. As someone who has worked for Mercy Corps for 18 years in a number of overseas locations, I have seen first-hand the positive impact that our work has on families and communities across the globe, particularly those affected by conflict and natural disaster.
Cameron: I guess it is about being a part of a team. I’m new to this role and see participating in this challenge as a way to continue to learn and experience in different ways what it is to be a part of this team. And, doing so helps promote our teams in the field, which makes it all the better!
This year, more than ever, with the number of natural and man-made disasters that we have been responding to, we are so grateful to have the support of events like the quadrathlon, as the funds raised help us to respond quickly and efficiently to the needs of the communities we work with. For example, we have recently been able to help people in hard-hit areas affected by the Indonesian tsunami which happened on the 22nd December. Over 400 people have died and more than 30,000 have had to leave their homes. Mercy Corps responded almost immediately. While assessing damage we brought rice and clean water for distribution to those that needed it. We have worked in Indonesia for over 20 years and have over 120 team members there, many of whom are seasoned experts in disaster response.
If you ever need any info from us about Mercy Corps, or a little bit of motivation as to why events like these and your participation in them is life-changing please just reach out to us on 0131 662 5160.
On 6th July 2019 you can choose the Bronze, Silver or Gold route option.
Bronze is a triathlon with a 10 mile walk or run over 5 Munros, a 7 mile kayak and a 34 mile cycle.
Silver includes a 0.8 mile swim, with a 13 miles run or walk over 6 Munros.
Gold is the toughest challenge with the 0.8 mile swim, a 15 mile walk over 7 Munros, and the 7 mile kayak and 34 mile cycle round Loch Tay.
The Bronze route starts on the north side of Loch Tay, opposite Ardtalnaig. The Silver and Gold routes start at Kindrochit on the south side of Loch Tay at Ardtalnaig. All the walking routes are over the spectacular Ben Lawers mountain range, while the kayak leg starts at Milton of Morenish on the north side of Loch Tay and finishes at Ardtalnaig. The cycle route starts there and circumnavigates Loch Tay in an anti-clockwise direction.
You can register here: https://www.sientries.co.uk/event.php?event_id=4514
If you took part in the 2017 Artemis Great Kindrochit Quadrathlon, you will know that the BBC were there, capturing the action to create an Adventure Show episode featuring the Event. The BBC have confirmed the date of the programme transmission; Sunday 12thNovember at 7pm, on BBC 2 Scotland. You can catch it on the iPlayer too. Check out our Facebook page to see the trailer for the show: Facebook
Ed Smith covered the event again this year and you can now view and purchase his photos. Click here to go to Ed Smith Photography website.
You can also view and download low resolution watermarked versions at the WildFox Events Flickr page.
Mary’s Meals works with communities in some of the world’s most impoverished areas to set up and deliver school feeding programmes that provide one nutritious daily meal in a place of education for hungry children where children so often miss school because of hunger and poverty. 1,230,171 children receive Mary’s Meals around the world, as well as their teachers, families, and wider communities. Thanks to the commitment and fundraising efforts of Quad competitors Mary’s Meals is able to provide vital support to over 7,500 chronically hungry children in Malawi. It costs just £13.90 to feed a child with Mary’s Meals for a whole school year and we are committed to spending at least 93p of every £1 donated directly on our charitable activities.
Fatsileni from Malawi explains, “Sometimes we haven’t eaten in days, so my tummy aches and I feel weak. I couldn’t concentrate in school before and would have to go home,” Earlier this year, we were able to start serving Mary’s Meals in Fatsileni’s primary school for the first time. She tells us joyfully: “Now Mary’s Meals is at school and we can eat in the morning! It is such a big relief for my parents. They know I have had something to eat in the day.” Without a daily meal in their place of education girls like Fatsileni and all of those enrolled in schools supported by the quadrathlon are much less likely to go to school. Mary’s Meals is offering children in Malawi – and all over the world – hope for the future.