Mark Gillett

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Archive for March 2010

In Memory of Anton Turner

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Anton Turner in Rajeshtan 2008

Today is the memorial of Anton Tuner, a friend from many years ago and a true conservationist, explorer and human being.

Anton’s website is at http://bit.ly/aFxI76

If you google his name you can learn a lot about him. His death was a tragic accident whilst filming a BBC Serious Explorers series. He was trampled by an elephant that was charging the group and he put himself between the youths and the elephant.

Tricia, Tim and Georgie, my thoughts are with you today but I know you will be celebrating his life which was so colourful in true Turner fashion.

Mark

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March 27, 2010 at 11:15 am

Posted in Life

Marathon des Sables 2008 & 9 Images

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Last year was a little exceptional and as its so close to departure I thought I would post a few images of the last two races during the first day in bivouac.

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March 25, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Building a Team

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I look at building a team in much the same way as I approach any assignment. Or even something as simple as photographing a subject.

When I build a team I look at the task that needs to be completed, assess my own skill sets, look at what I can feasibly do alone and then look for those to help get the job done and equipment needed. I look for people I trust, have greater knowledge in their field with relevant skill sets, can accomplish tasks and importantly, I like and respect. But I also look around me.  I search for the best possible and I do not stop at the first right answer as there maybe a better one for me.

It is also important that team members work together well and this is often the unknown and where my role would plays its part.

When I am on assignment I will look at the subject from many different angles.  I will not stop at the first good shot but keep going, looking for the shot that is extraordinary.  In the same way as I want the extraordinary team, not just a team.  I will also look around me to make sure I am not missing anything.  If I need other skill sets like lighting or set design I will look elsewhere as my skills are not best spent on this.

In some situations I  believe that team roles evolve rather than being set from the beginning and this is from experience.  A good example was on one of my youth expeditions and I approached an ex Marine who I knew had great qualities and skills, however I have not got a role in mind. I needed more support and he was truly solid. His first question to me was (typically ex military) “what is my role?” My reply was “I am sorry, I don’t know yet.” Which surprised him.  I then said that he would find his role in the next few weeks which I was confident of but he was still uncomfortable.  We continued to work together on stuff and the question came up again followed by “I really need a role.” My reply was the same and I encouraged his involvement in everything from the outset but assured him he would find a role.  Finally we established that we needed the youths to undergo a fair amount of training and suddenly here was his role. One he created, took ownership of and had has executed with excellence ever since. I had much the same experience with a psychologist who I asked to join the same expedition. I knew why I wanted one there but she did not.  I gave her a brief but really wanted her to find her place on the expedition. Again she did and was invaluable.  She had complete ownership of her role on the team.

Once my team is complete this leaves me to do to what I do best and get the job accomplished.

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March 24, 2010 at 12:29 pm

New Expedition…New Challenge

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Planning has started in earnest and my new expedition is set to depart in November.  It will be the biggest I have undertaken in terms of time but I still wonder in terms of logistics and certainly responsibility.

Logistically I am not sure that taking 11 youths across the Sinai desert was not the most difficult and in terms of responsibility it was surely the biggest. The safe guards one needs to put in place have to be so tight when taking other peoples children on such a journey. The temperatures were in excess of 50 degrees each day and dehydration and exhaustion were a real daily threat.

November will be very different. Safeguards will be in place, training will be intense and obviously there is a huge responsibility to what I am embarking on, not least to my partner who will venturing into the real expedition world for the first time.

Our journey will be a first for him and his nation and a political one for me as well as the self challenge of course.  We will also represent a fledgling company who are about encouraging change in attitudes.

I will update you more when I have finalised certain details but until then, keep thinking…

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March 24, 2010 at 11:03 am

Hot mds

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For all those of you running the MdS, I am in Morocco now and its HOT! Good luck. Mark.

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March 19, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Posted in Travel

Change or dont change….. But not half way.

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I read with interest the press on Britain latest Davis Cup mess and having spent so many years in an industry that us rife with politics, committees and general unwillingness to change it really leaves me wondering why there is so much surprise.

I work with change. How to make it, when to make it, what sort of change and and how to get where you want to be. However, there has to be a deep seated want if change is really going to happen. The whole reason one goes to a coach at the outset is to initiate change. If they go for any other reason e.g. its fashionable, then they are in the wrong place.

Back to the LTA and British tennis. I don’t believe there to be any real desire to change. Gradually over the last 25 years maybe longer there has been a steady decline in our depth of good players. Our system is just not adequate and I know because I have been part of it. Other bodies laugh at us. Nick Bolletieri says we have no chance. And I agree with them wholeheartedly.

Roger Draper has now been at the helm for 5 years, I think its now CEO, lovely! He made sweeping changes that made everyone think that ‘change’ was about to happen. But these were merely cosmetic. He changed one group of individuals with another. All competent people; those going out as well as those coming in, but it does not matter the level of competence if the core system is broken. A bit like getting a new train driver to drive the same broken steam engine.

The LTA has to change completely. One way would be to start from zero. Currently it is the wealthiest sporting body in the country and one of the wealthiest in the world. But you cannot buy standards in any performance sport. The Argentinians have no money and hundreds of players….

Starting from zero would be to get rid of all the committees or at least have them all agree to dissolve themselves, but of course this takes courage and a real willingness to change! Take away all the funding from players who are propped up artificially and would probably not be there if it was not for the funding.  Then disassociate from all of the traditional British tennis clubs.  This is probably the biggest area and most difficult decision but has to be made. They are the achilles heel of British Tennis and stuck in the dark ages. Of the 2500, around 2000 still do not open their doors. Then let passion drive the sport and find out who really wants to play tennis for the right reasons and which clubs want to open their doors to public players as in other successful tennis nations. There is a role for the LTA to organise a tournament structure that allows competition but right now that is about it.

The LTA is a great place to build careers and move on but it is not a place to build tennis players. It never will be until they initiate real change and that has to come from the top. Perhaps the real top at government level where it is decided who the governing body is.

We need to let players find themselves instead of thinking that the LTA can find players. It does not work like that and never will. Andy Murray and TIm Henman were nothing to do with the LTA in their development years. They did it alone.  It has to come from the person.

One day I am sure The LTA will have a leader strong enough to break the company up and let people go. Let the sport find itself again… But until then I am sure we are in for another change of make up fairly soon…

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March 18, 2010 at 10:56 am

Teams

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Schroders - One of the most successful teams I have seen in sport and in the office. Strengths were leadership and respect.

I often questioned myself as a team player. In sport I was a tennis player which many see as an individual sport but throughout my career I have played probably more team tennis than tournaments and when in tournaments I still travelled with other players that sort of formed a team of support.

Over time and with expeditions I began to question less and see how I am a team player. I see the necessity of teams and their function.

Back to tennis, the teams I played on were strong and depended on each other in many ways. To know your position in the team was essential and to understand the role. Knowing that you might lose to number 1 & 2 but your matches again 3 & 4 were vital. Respect for the team captain (leader) was essential but also needed to be earned by him. For latter years it was me but I learned a lot from team leaders in earlier years. I have also seen many bad leaders. Support was also a vital role in all my teams, tennis or expeditions and business too.

I am currently putting together a team of people to help with my next venture. I had forgotten how much I enjoy this at it was not that long ago I was doing the same.

Its important to pull a team together with the necessary joint skills to accomplish the task. Members you respect, have greater knowledge than yourself and that respect you. Members who become as important to the task as you in the leader role but also know that the final decision or responsibility is yours.

When I captained tennis teams I was often not the number 1 player. Too often for my liking but I had to respect that I was getting older and they were getting stronger. However, I new my place, my strengths and weaknesses and my number in the team. And that I was the captain!

My expeditions have been much the same. I have not always been the most experienced or knowledgeable. Often by a long way. But I know what I need to get the task done and achieve my goal.  And I know I can achieve it with a great team around me. That benefits everyone as all are equal in the success.

Well, thats it for this morning, I am off to see some more possible team members to help me in may latest venture……

Oh, and families are teams too…

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March 17, 2010 at 8:44 am

Posted in Travel

Toughest Footrace in The World

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I have been fortunate enough to see some great races around the world from the Sahara to Jungle and Arctic.  The MdS has the reputation of being the toughest foot race and even though the title was earned when there were few others, it still rates as one of the toughest. I read recently that it was listed as 3rd, but I can’t for the life of me think what came ahead of it. One of the American races for sure….If you need to know, google but I am too tired.

But one race never got a mention and I have seen this first hand. I now believe it to be the toughest endurance event if not foot race. Its the Yukon Quest. There is another race in the same region called the Iditarod but I have not seen this so can’t comment.

The Yukon Quest is 1000 miles of solo sledging with 10-12 dogs. So that is a maximum of 13 in the team and all need to be fed, looked after and driven by one human. They need to be checked by vets, poos picked up, dogs cared for and the whole team have to travel over some of the roughest trail you can imagine. The temperatures go down to the -30-40′s and there is only one compulsory rest stage so mushers sleep out with their dogs.

When I watched this event I was amazed at the bond between man and dog. I could not get close to the dogs. No one could except the musher or vet. Occasionally a co owner might be able to. The trust is beautiful to whiteness, the endurance is the ultimate and the race to me is surely the toughest there is. I saw a British musher do really well, Mark Sleightholme and there was also a Jamaican who did well. So its a race not just for the hardened canadians or north Americans. Its open. You need to qualify but it can be done…  It is certainly on my radar although for now I have a big enough challenge coming up and just as cold…… Maybe next time.

These are some of the shots from the Quest last year.

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March 16, 2010 at 10:20 pm

Back in Training

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I have not trained with a goal now since pulling out of the London Marathon in 2008 but recently I have embarked on the biggest expedition of my life.  I will go into detail in a short while but in the mean time it is great to be in training again. I woke on Sunday morning with the same feeling that I had for 6 years every Sunday. Long run day!

The difference between running with a goal and running just to keep in shape is huge. I cannot describe the change in a few hours but it just goes to prove that purpose and intent are key factors in all that we do.

Work is no different and although it sometimes becomes a chore it is essential to know your purpose. To know what it is that gets you out of bed every morning to do much the same as the day before.

For many of us our work content does change and if you are lucky enough to have a job that you love its even better but drill down to the facts and we still mostly do the same day in day out. And its this reason that you must know why.

My short term goals have just changed massively with my new undertaking and I will post soon on exactly what that is. It will change my life but hopefully will change the life of others too.

Above are a few images of the beautiful land around where I live and running the canal felt so good again. So did getting out my pack!

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March 15, 2010 at 3:22 pm

To taper or not to taper?

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Not much fat on those pins

This question does sometimes come up but most assume that tapering for the MdS is a must.  I personally think it is a mistake to taper, but this is not based on a lot of research but more on info read and experience.

I have always tapered and carbo loaded for Marathons and 10k races.  These races are completed in one go, require an intense amount of energy and in a relatively short period compared to the MdS. Unless, of course, you race in a deep sea diving suit which has been done in London!

My bible is the Lore of Running by Tim Nokes http://bit.ly/bvGt9Q. a great book with just about everything you need to know about our sport.  And I mean everything. Its certainly worth the money if you want to get training right. In the book it disputes tapering in many cases and gives recent evidence for and against but most definitely where ultras are concerned the evidence shows no benefit and maybe the opposite.

My take is that if you run a Marathon, you need to build up glycogen stores in the liver. The last week of tapering you starve your liver of carbs and in the last 3 days you let it gorge!  This way it takes on more than normal as its so “hungry”. Done effectively the theory is that you have more glycogen and so can get through that wall more easily and run faster right to the end.  This is in simplistic terms of course.

For the MdS, this would prove to be useless unless ou are able to taper and gorge for each day…. Your extra stores will only last for the first day and if not used will turn to heavy fat.  Any extra weight gained through tapering would then be just the same as packing extra in your back pack only spread over your body.

Essentially you will burn what you eat each day and little more unless you have miscalculated your needs. You do not need extra fat to burn and you do not need it to keep you warm as in arctic endurance endeavours.  Most runners will have around 15% + body fat anyway which is way more than enough to eat into should you need to through starvation. This I seriously doubt though. The top runners will run with around 5% body fat and I am sure they do not wish to eat into lean mass either so the way I see it most runners unless anorexic will have enough stores if they have the calorie intake in their packs.

Basically running lighter will be easier. You will be cooler and not need so much energy to keep you moving and keep you cool. Running heavy with too much fat stored takes more effort, keeps you too warm and your body will need to work harder to keep you going and cool you down

I hope your last few weeks are working out ok and keep running!  See you in Ouazazatte…..

Written by markgillett

March 11, 2010 at 8:57 am

Posted in Travel

To speed or not to speed?

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I shot a rally this week and tried a few things out..  After I got my safe shots of course..

The main issue was weather to use a fast shutter to freeze or a slow shutter to give the impression of movement to the shot or atmosphere.  Here are a few shots with a different shutter set. For me I like the extreme blurry one but would be interested to get comments on this.

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March 7, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Kuwait

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I have now been here for two days and the rally is well underway.  I have learnt much about Kuwait in my short time here and realise how little I knew about it even though I spent so many years in the Gulf.  I am intrigued by it and the people I have met so far have been so great.  Here are a few more pics from the rally but you can see the story so far at www.junglemoon.co.uk/KIR2010

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March 5, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Posted in Travel

Kuwait International Rally

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Well, here are my first rally pics…  Am sure I will get better as the week goes on…

Written by markgillett

March 4, 2010 at 7:02 pm

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