Sedbergh Staff Take on ‘The Quad’ to Raise Money for Siobhan’s Trust

Sport is a dominant part of Sedbergh School’s DNA; we have a justifiably strong reputation for sporting excellence that derives from our comprehensive sports program, but pupils also learn from the examples that are set by our staff. In July, eighteen staff (including some spouses) competed in the Great Kindrochit Quadrathlon (The Quad) – “an exhilarating test of stamina, strength and fitness through some of the most spectacular and historic areas of the Scottish Highlands”. The terrain was a smorgasboard of rocky paths, grassy verges, ridges, scrambles… everything. Katy pipes up to tell me that there were even some good bogs (she disappeared up to her knees in one)!

Competitors enter and participate in Teams of Two, completing all sections together. All up 52 pairs undertook the challenge, including 9 pairs from Sedbergh. There are different levels of competition and the challenge is slightly different for each, but it consists roughly of:

  • Swim 1.2k
  • Run and hike 24k across 5-7 Munros
  • Kayak 11.5k
  • Bike- 50km

We hear of so many people taking on challenges – and even though a challenge is definitely a matter of perspective, it’s possible that the word has been over-used. Speaking with a few of the Sedbergh staff after the event – a picture emerges of how tough this event really was and what physical and mental strength was required to finish. Competitors pushed themselves past exhaustion for fifteen hours in weather that was at best difficult, at worst, scary. It’s clear that this was a challenge worthy of support.

The team competed to raise money to support the ongoing work of Siobhan’s Trust in the Ukraine. If you are interested in donating their Just Giving page is still available.

Thoughts from Jordan, Katy, Saoirse and Flor the week after completing the Quad

How important is raising funds for Siobhan’s Trust to the team?

Sedbergh School has a deep relationship with Siobhan’s Trust and we’re acutely aware of the impact of their work in the Ukraine. David [Fox-Pitt, founder of Siobhan’s Trust], gave an address at Speech Day which was really helpful because it meant that Siobhan’s Trust was in the forefront of our minds whilst racing. Having him personally talk about why it’s so important and what Siobhan’s Trust do that is so different to other charities working on the ground in the Ukraine; how mobile and reactive they can be to the situation. You understand how incredibly brave they are because they’re just ordinary people who’ve decided they want to make a difference and this is how they’re going to do it. During the safety briefing the night before the event, David [also the organiser of the Quad] wove-in information about Siobhan’s Trust and why we were all there to do the challenge, into our preparation for the event. It set the tone.


What really stuck with me was when David said that the biggest fear that the Ukrainians have is that the west will forget about them.


Do you feel, in any way, that you’re role-modeling behaviour for our pupils?

I do feel that pupils at the senior School see us doing exercise all the time, so this isn’t very different, however, there was a cool moment when Clare and Cath were coming in from the kayak section and they had 90 seconds to make the changeover or they would be cut-off. Clare and Cath are teachers at the Prep School and they teach the children of Nils, my partner in the challenge. The weather was coming in and it was bad so we were all sure Clare and Cath wouldn’t want to go on… but they were adamant they were going to make it. The children were cheering them on, that was really cool. Nils said it was amazing that his daughters were getting to grow up seeing their teachers doing something like this – this is perfect.

Then there was Alexander, a piper [bagpipes] and new School prefect in Hart House, who travelled to the event village in Scotland for the weekend. He asked us personally after Speech Day if he could come and play the bagpipes. He piped us out at the race start. It was so uplifting!


How was it? What did you find the most challenging part?

For me, coming off the last Munro [Scottish mountain with an elevation over 3000ft], we got to the top and we said to ourselves, ‘Yes! We’ve done it – that’s it!’ And then we got completely lost on the way down. I’d say it probably took us another 1 1/2 to 2 hours to get off the last mountain. We were on a high coming into the last mountain and that really made us dip. So, we went into the kayak really feeling like, ‘Oh my gosh, that was so hard!’ and that made the kayak part really difficult.


For me it was the swim because on that day it was very windy and the lake was choppy. It was like you were swimming in the sea. The day after, the lake was calm! But that day, it was just freak weather.


It’s tough you do so much swimming in the pool and you do a couple of open water swims and you think it’s about fitness. It was nothing to do with fitness! It’s about how you can handle the waves. For the first 10 minutes I just couldn’t swim, I just couldn’t catch my breath. The dynamic of the pairs makes it really interesting. I really wanted my partner there checking that I was OK because it was rough. Then when you finish you’ve got to climb over all these rocks to get out.

When we got out of the swim we were middle of the pack. Going into the run my biggest challenge was not getting too excited because we’re very competitive! Nils was good because he was super chill.

With these hills we’re used to elevation and going up and down hills is grand. But after the run I remember thinking that we’ve been out there 5 hours and that we were pretty much about half way. That realisation made me say, ‘Geez, OK, how is this going to last?’ I can run around on adrenalin for only so much. I got into the kayak and after about 10 minutes I thought, ‘my shoulders are done’. I’d done about 600m of 11k. I didn’t want to say anything to Nils [ my partner]. I was behind him and I was thinking that I need a break! But actually it just went away. The kayak was tough.


The night before at the safety briefing they’d warned us all about what to do if the lightening strikes when we’re out on the water – so, the whole time in the kayak, my partner Dan and I are just thinking, ‘Oh my god! Oh my god!’ I was totally freaking out! ‘We’re too far, we’re too far!’ We were having a panic, but we survived!

I found the kayak tough and it was partly because I had rolled my ankle; we had about 5 miles to go in the run after I rolled my ankle on the fells. By the time we got down to the kayak, stopped to refuel, and sat in the kayak, my ankle was starting to swell up and it was going stiff and that was excruciating because those kayaks aren’t comfortable to sit in for anybody! We also had the anxiety about the thunder and lightening coming, we were paddling into the wind… That was one of those moments when you just did deep and get through it rather than enjoy it.


What is the biggest thing you learned by doing the event?

I wish I’d gone harder. Gone faster. I was really worried about pacing myself so I started off really really slow and also my partner, Dan, hadn’t done any training we felt it was more important to go slow and get all the way around [Dan stepped in at the last minute after Katy’s original partner broke her ankle a few weeks before the event]. It took 15 1/2 hours but I’m going to aim for 12 hours next time!


It reminded me that you can do all the zone training and all the stuff you want in the lead up but if you haven’t got cramp and you’re not injured, if you feel you’re alright – you literally can keep going endlessly. I remember thinking that at different points of the race – feeling wrecked on the bike, I just ate more and I felt great again.


In these type of events you realise how powerful your mind is. Your mind can be very strong, but also it can say, ‘No, I can’t do it’. When we went into the swim my partner said she couldn’t do it, if we weren’t together as a pair, I think she’d wouldn’t have gone on.


What does a training schedule look like?

Variable[laughing]! At Christmas, we sent out a training programme that was a run/swim/bike mix. Very similar to how you would train for a triathlon. It’s a really unique event; everyone that went could do a 50k bike with no worries, everyone could do the swim or the run, no worries. But the combination of them is the tough thing. In our training we identified early on that it was going to be less about aerobic capacity – that’s the foundation – and more about strength; how strong can you keep your knees and your hips throughout the event (for example) because if they go you’re knackered. So, we put in a lot of strength work in early in our training.

The biggest thing to get in there is having experiences that keep you out for six or seven hours. That’s the hardest bit and if you’re going into race day and you haven’t been exercising for that long before, that’s a problem. The next thing is fuelling – knowing how often you have to eat and how much water to drink.

With a busy life at School it’s hard to get those long sessions in; often you’re doing that over the holidays.


Sometimes getting the long sessions in means 3am starts! I’ve got two little boys and my husband works away a lot so basically the nights when he’s home – I say, ‘Goodbye! I’m heading out to train!’ Three weeks out from the event, Rachel [another competitor] and I went and did the Yorkshire Three Peaks which was the best thing we could have done because it meant that we had that very long experience and it was a good practical experience of practising fuelling. Both of us would get to a point where we’d say we can’t finish – then we’d eat something, and we’d be fine! So, we learned that when you feel like that, you just eat something! We both felt that on the day, the resilience we’d got from doing such a long training session was really helpful.


So, what’s next?

There isn’t a plan yet but there is talk of maybe a triathlon. Or a 300km cycle around Anglesea. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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