Malawi Diaries Part 2: Cycle Challenge & YODEP

The second part of my Malawi Diaries will cover our visit to YODEP Village Community Project and our next challenge – the 55k Zomba Plateau Ride (climbing over 6000ft!)

I am a (very) nervous cyclist, therefore I anticipated that this would be my biggest challenge of the three. However, this brutal mountain bike was tougher than I ever could have anticipated, both physically and mentally.

Much like the Mulanje Mountain run, the route was very technical and therefore tricky to navigate. There were two options for the cycle, 35k or 55k, and in my head I was always going to complete the shorter ride (which was still an ABSOLUTE beast.) However, upon approaching the 35k split (whilst gripping onto my handlebars so tightly that I was beginning to lose sensation in my fingers), I was encouraged by my wonderful teammates to go for the 55k.

My biggest cycling fear is riding downhill, and this was downhill like I had never seen it before; steep, rough terrain with large rocks, holes and various other obstacles. We cycled through forests, streams and picturesque waterfalls – the views were INCREDIBLE.

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Although I wish I could say that I began to relax as the ride progressed, my honest feedback is that I felt anxious for approximately 90% of the Zomba Plateau challenge. Anxious is probably an understatement – I was sweating like a pregnant warthog.

However, it was an incredible experience, and I am very proud of everyone that completed it and so thankful for all the encouragement and words of wisdom from our fantastic guides. Despite my fear of the bike, this will not be the end of my cycling ‘career’ as I am far too stubborn/motivated/crazy to give up – plus, I’ve committed to take on my first triathlon next year!

Another highlight from my time in Malawi was our visit to YODEP Village Community Project.

YODEP (Youth for Development and Productivity) is a nonprofit community based organisation, established to help address socio-economic issues encountered by orphaned children, women and youth.

We received a very warm welcome upon our arrival at YODEP including allllll the singing, dancing, smiles and laughter.

A 5k run around the village really highlighted the strength and resilience of these amazing children – some ran in flip flops, some ran in odd shoes, and some ran in no shoes, but this most definitely did not stop them! These kids are SO fast and so talented, and with the right support and opportunities, could potentially go on to become world-class athletes.

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This was another eye-opening experience, and one that I will never forget. It was a pleasure meeting the kids at YODEP, who not only displayed exceptional sporting talent, but were also so welcoming, curious and kind-hearted.

If you are interested in helping YODEP, please let me know and I can provide further info!

Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge

A couple of days ago I completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge* alongside a group of wonderful ladies, and as per my previous post on Richmond 10K, DO NOT PANIC – this is not a dull step-by-step account of the event. In fact, the inspiration behind this post was a fellow runner informing me that as someone who runs regularly, the Three Peaks would be “incredibly easy and barely a challenge.” I can confirm that this was not the case (I never thought it would be the case because I’m not an absolute moron) and would like to point out that arrogance is never an attractive trait.

The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge covers almost the same distance as a marathon. However, I would like to highlight below why hiking this distance is not necessarily ‘easier’ than running a marathon**:

  1. Although hiking and running have many similarities, the difference in speed and gradient between the two activities alters the way in which the muscles are used. Tackling the Three Peaks has resulted in some unexpected hip abductor pain, which I have never experienced with running!
  1. I was carrying a backpack, which of course had an impact on my back muscles. I also packed the backpack with copious unnecessary items, such as a wooly hat and thermal trousers (it was one of the hottest days of the year, yet I was convinced there would be snow at the top of each peak.)
  1. I found this a lot more difficult than marathon/long run nutrition! In order to keep my backpack as light as possible, I packed multiple energy/protein bars and (unlike the others in my team) did not include any ‘real food.’ Unsurprisingly, by the time I had consumed my 9th energy bar, I felt pretty vile. It was verging on dangerous, and nobody wants to do a Paula Radcliffe.
  1. I was incredibly lucky as I completed the Three Peaks with a team of ladies who were familiar with the route. This may have resulted in me being slightly lazy, as I didn’t even need to consider things such as navigation and travel arrangements – if I were in charge of navigation, we would have all been doomed.

All in all, the Yorkshire Three Peak Challenge was a fantastic experience, and I am now SO keen to take on the National Three Peaks Challenge. Have you taken part in any of the Three Peaks challenges? Do you have any tips on the National Three Peaks Challenge – when is the best time of year to complete this etc.?

*The Yorkshire Three Peaks is a hiking challenge, taking on the following peaks: Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough.

**I understand that some of these points may still be relevant for ultra marathons/trail marathons etc. However, I am comparing hiking the Three Peaks to my own marathon experiences thus far.