With only two full months left to train for this year’s quad, our training is underway.
My teammate Joe has a big advantage in one of the disciplines and thinks he is quite the Bradley Wiggins… Joe has been steadily training for the gruelling 34-mile cycle since signing up for the quad
last September. Joe has said, ‘I am really looking forward to the cycling element of the quad. Cycling to work every day has not only been a great way to fit more training into my schedule but has also helped me to find a new lovefor the sport.’
I, on the other hand, have had to relearn how to ride a bike! After some failed attempts, scuffed knees and tantrums I am finally on the bike and training.
During this challenge, I was reminded of Dyson Chitdowe from our film Generation Hope. Dyson is our school feeding monitor in Malawi and uses a motorbike to visit the schools. Dyson is an orphan who once ate our meals at school. He is now employed by Mary’s Meals as a motorbike monitor, roaming the district to perform spot checks on the schools. Dyson says that it was Mary’s Meals that made him go to school.
“I am the only member of my family that has done well in life” he says, serious and articulate. “And now I am supportingthe rest of them. My brother is 17 and just starting Year Two; I also support
my sister and her two children. It’s a challenge for me but I love doing it.”
When children asked Dyson about his job he told them how they too must work hard so that they can have a job and ride around on a motorbike. “I’m a role model and I take it very seriously,” he
says. “It’s one of my favourite things about my job. This is our new generation of leaders. They are bound to make things better.”
Dyson has helped me to remember that the challenges I face in preparation for the quadrathlon this July are small incomparison to those faced by many in the countries where we work. Our struggles
in the next few months will not go unnoticed as we help to give 1,230,171 children a route out of poverty.
The last leg of the Quad is when you rely on you bike to get you over that finish line. Other people around the world rely on their bikes as well, but for different kinds of challenges.
Meet Yousef, a Syrian teenager living in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. Zaatari is more than a camp; it’s a small city home to 80,000 refugees and spans two square miles. Where few own cars, buses are limited, taxis are too expensive and walking at length in the desert heat is dangerous, having a bike is a lifeline in the camp.
Bikes connect friends and families. People use bikes to commute to work and bikes themselves provide jobs through repair shops. In the Zaatari refugee camp, bikes allow movement and give people a sense of freedom, which can mean so much for those who are far from home and feel trapped in the camp.
Yousef uses his bike - amongst many things - to attend one of Mercy Corps’ youth centres, which serves as an informal school, gym and social centre for the camp’s young residents. Through the sports provided, such as football, weightlifting, wrestling, gymnastics, and aerobics, he has made friends, released stress and learned the value of positive thinking. For Yousef, these sports activities have given him a sense of hope he had all but lost: he has been inspired to become a sports coach when he grows up.
Your fundraising efforts can support activities such as these, which help young refugees cope with trauma, learn life skills and build healthy relationships. 34 miles on your bike may seem like a lifetime, but your determination can support individuals living in crisis with help that will have a lasting impact.
Make sure you focus on these few things and the last 34 miles of the Quad will be a breeze….
1. Train the distance - Obvious one, but make sure you can cycle 34 miles. Training the distance and maybe longer will give you the mental strength of knowing you can do it and keep going to the end of the event.
2. Brick training - In the Quad you transition from kayaking to cycling. If you are in the fortunate position to be able to practice this then do it once a week. If not then try going from a rowing machine to cycling at the gym or from a hill walk into a cycle. You will be cycling on tired legs in the race so practice with 2 activities combined together to replicate this as best you can.
3. Hit the hills - Build that all important leg strength by riding hill repeats. These are tough to do by yourself so team up with your partner for this session. As part of a long cycle ride, find a hill that takes 3-5min to cycle up. Cycle hard uphill and slowly roll back down to recover, repeat 4 times the first time and add on an extra climb each session.
4. Bike fit - Make sure your bike is the right size for you, the saddle and handlebars are adjusted correctly and the seat is comfortable. Bikes are not one-size-fits-all! Take yours along to an expert to get fitted to your body shape and you’ll find training and racing much more enjoyable.
5. Nutrition - Being the last of the 4 Quad disciplines everyone will be running out of steam! Don’t forget to stay hydrated and keep eating your snacks or energy bars and gels. In training, be sure to practice what and how often you will eat on the bike and throughout the race. This will make the difference between enjoying the last few miles or hating every minute!
This month, the Mary’s Meals Quad team decided that instead of doing monotonous work outs at the gym we would find a way of training whilst also doing something worthwhile. This way we would not only be working hard but also doing good in the process.
Along with some enthusiastic volunteers, Joe and I both headed to the Mary’s Meals warehouse in Glasgow to load thousands of backpacks onto the Mary’s Meals container destined for Malawi. It was hard work but it was definitely worth it!
While loading the backpacks I thought about some of the children receiving Mary’s Meals and how they would enjoy their backpacks when they arrived. Some of the schools Mary’s Meals reaches are very remote and difficult to get to. St Peter’s Primary School is situated on Likoma Island which means that receiving their likuni phala (porridge) isn’t always as easy as it sounds.
Due to poor soil, Likoma Island has to import most of its food but the large ships cannot quite reach the mainland due to poor infrastructure. Large ships delivering food must be docked in a deeper part of the lake, further from the mainland, and small boats are then used to ferry the goods to land.
However, this doesn’t stop our incredible volunteers and parents on the island. They are always excited to see the ship arrive and they jump at the chance to be ferried to the bigger ship to collect the 20kg bags of likuni phala to deliver to St Peter’s Primary School where the children will receive a daily meal in their place of education.
Training for the Quad can be difficult, but knowing that our efforts are going to help children in the world’s poorest communities makes it so much easier!
The kayak up Loch Tay will seem tough after the mountain phase. You will be tired, but you will be safe. The journey made by many refugees is long and risky and includes crossing the Mediterranean Sea. This is a journey that Walaa and her family had to undergo in 2015. Walaa and her family were lucky enough to all survive the journey and when they arrived in Europe Mercy Corps were there to support them.
At 8 months old, Fatima was sleeping in her bed when a rocket fell on her house and sparked a fire. Walaa, Fatima’s mother ran into the wreckage to find her daughter on fire.
Fatima has had a dozen operations to treat her burns, but she can’t walk, hear or speak. As the Syrian conflict dragged on, it became increasingly difficult for Walaa to access medical care for Fatima. Walaa and her husband decided their only choice was to try to get to Europe.
Walaa’s husband left Syria first in July 2015. Six months later, Walaa and her children - 4-year-old Sami, 3-year-old Fatima and 2-year-old Salma - left too. They walked the desert for two days to Turkey’s border, where smugglers took them across the country and across the Aegean Sea. Walaa and her children were forced to get into a flimsy rubber dinghy; the journey across the water was both dangerous and terrifying.
On the Greek island of Lesvos, waiting to find out if her family’s asylum would be granted and their family could be reunited in Germany, Walaa told us of her fears. “We do not know what will happen to us. We are trapped in the middle, far from our family and far from my husband. We are alone, and it’s tough.”
To ease that burden, Mercy Corps provided Walaa with a prepaid card to purchase food and clothes for her family and pay for transportation costs. In a life of unknowns, cash has given Walaa a feeling of freedom and dignity; the ability to choose how to provide for, and meet the basic needs of her children. Walaa uses the cash to create little moments of joy for the children, such as purchasing a treat of peanuts and soda for Sami and Salma. “So they can forget the hunger and the horrible days they’ve lived. So they can be happy.”
As you’re training for that 7 mile stretch of Loch Tay in your kayak, remember that your journey is enabling Mercy Corps to help those who have been forced to flee conflict. Push through the paddling pain and think that together, we can make a difference.
Want to get an independent insight into the Quadrathlon? James Bingham completed the event in 2016 and produced a fantastic blog which can be found here.
If you have not tried Kayaking before you need to make sure you gather some experience prior to the event. All participants will use 2 seater Malibu 2 kayaks (issued by the event). They sit low in the water so you are guaranteed to get a bit wet but its ideal to cool you down after completing the mountain phase of the run! For inexperienced kayakers, here are our top tips to get you started:
Joe, one half of Team Quadrophenia from Mary’s Meals, has been hill training to ensure he’s ready to tackle the seven Munros he will face on the 8th of July. He reflects on this challenge and the challenge facing those Mary’s Meals strives to reach.
‘Everyone at Mary’s Meals has been really supportive of us taking on the Great Quad. Not only have our colleagues helped us with our fundraising efforts, but some have taken it a step further and joined us on our training.
Along with some friends at Mary’s Meals we decided to climb Ben Vrackie (2,757ft) near Pitlochry very early on a brisk Saturday morning, which seemed like a great idea at the time. We didn’t feel all that fresh when we first started the climb but a few hours breathing in the clear Scottish air certainly changed that.
We finally reached the top and, while spirits were high, we were exhausted.
It made me think back to a story from Mary’s Meals’ new award winning film Generation Hope.
A few years ago, we were asked to begin feeding at a school in a remote village in Southern Malawi situated at the top of Chaone Mountain, standing more than 1000 metres above sea level. There was no road up the mountainside, and therefore Mary’s Meals would be unable to transport the food to the school. The villagers were undeterred: they would carry the food to the summit.
In the film a woman named Elby grins into the camera as she hauls three bags of likuni phala – a collective weight of 60kg – onto her head. She balances the load as she joins a chain of women beginning the difficult ascent to the peak. As the women arrive at the school, teachers lead their pupils in celebration; a welcoming song and dance for Mary’s Meals and the news that the children of Chaone will now receive a daily mug of likuni phala (a vitamin-enriched maize porridge) in school.
By taking part in the Artemis Great Kindrochit Quadrathlon and fundraising for Mary’s Meals you truly are transforming lives.
The women of Chaone Mountain stop halfway through their hard climb for a well-earned break but they still continue to smile and dance… and they look a lot better than we did halfway through our climb! One of the ladies explains their cheerful approach to the task ahead, she says: “Walking this path is indeed rough. But we are motivated knowing that each long journey begins with a single step.”
Team Quadrophenia, Mary’s Meals
Many say the mountain phase is the toughest and most vital section of the Quad. Whether you run or walk, it will be both a mental and physical challenge.
Imagine having to climb up mountain terrain everyday just to go to work.
This is the life of Carlos Vicente – a snow pea farmer in Guatemala. Carlos’ fields perch precariously on the side of a steep hill, an hour’s hike up a dusty trail.
About 80 percent of the snow peas consumed in the United States are grown in Guatemala. Small farmers like Carlos tend to grow maize and beans to feed their families for part of the year, and then plant a crop like snow peas to sell for extra income.
But new regulations going into effect soon could keep Carlos and other small farmers out of the valuable US market. When the new rules take effect, any produce imported to the US, including Carlos’ snow peas, must be traceable back to the field where it was grown – regardless of whether it is on the side of a mountain.
Farmers like Carlos are often poor, and many can’t read – because of these challenges, it would be nearly impossible for them to comply with the new regulations on their own. To be shut out of selling their peas in the US would be disastrous for these families.
In order to help these farming communities thrive, Mercy Corps has partnered with an exporter to introduce new tracking software, called Farmforce, to the growers. After farming the peas, a guide from Carlos’ farming cooperative group arrives and puts all the information about the work he’s just done into Carlos’ Farmforce profile on a smartphone. He records what was planted and marks the GPS coordinates. As the peas grow, the software also tracks information about fertilizers and pesticides used.
Farmers then deliver their crop to be weighed and inspected closely to make sure it meets the exporter’s quality requirements. Each harvest is entered into the Farmforce software, and then each farmer’s snow peas are sent to the exporter to be shipped to the US.
Because of the Farmforce software, Carlos knows that he can keep growing snow peas, earning enough income to give his family a better future.
He’s proud of the way his community and the farming cooperative have risen to the challenge of new technology. “As an organisation, we’re doing things together. Whenever we do these things together, we succeed.”
As you take on the Munros of the Quad, know your fundraising is helping Mercy Corps partner with local communities to implement innovative projects that support people like Carlos.
15 miles, easy you might think, just a little more than half marathon? Throw in 7 Munro summits with a total of 7500 feet of ascent and it makes things a little more challenging! This makes it the toughest and longest section of the Quadrathlon. We have put together a few tips to assist your comfort and fitness on the hills: