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Page last updated at 15:44 GMT, Thursday, 22 October 2009 16:44 UK
Watson takes on the extreme world
Gill Watson
The XPD challenge will take Gill to the summit of Portugal's highest mountain

Derby's Gill Watson is aiming to become one of her sport's elite, competing at the highest international level.

The 44-year-old is about to take a shot at November's Adventure Race World Championship in Portugal.

She'll be part of a team of four in the gruelling 900-kilometre event combining cycling, rollerblading, kayaking, orienteering, running and more.

The race, through some of Portugal's most spectacular landscape, will take around 110 hours to complete.

Gill's previous attempt at becoming a world champion ended in disappointment after one of her team mates picked up a knee injury, though in the 2007 event her team finished a very respectable fifth.

This year, Gill, from Chellaston, is in a team that includes fellow Brit Russell Ladkin, Switzerland's Bernhard Hug and Portuguese adventure racer Antonio Figuerido.

The 900 kilometres will be the longest event she has taken part in and includes an ascent of Portugal's highest mountain. But she remains undaunted at the prospect: "It's about endurance and tactical know-how.

"We'll take it stage by stage, break it down into manageable sections and see how strong we are at the end. It'll soon pass!"

So do you train and prepare for such an event? Gill, a fitness instructor, says: "You can't really train for it - you've just got to be strong.

Gill takes us behind the scenes as she prepared for the 2008 race

"I've upped my training in the gym recently and put in a few long races, including a 20-mile fell race.

"And you can't plan too much. The schedule says we're starting with multi-activities - and that can be either climbing, swimming, kayaking or surfing... but we don't really know what's coming until we get there.

"Sleep? Not really, not during the race. You grab power-naps as and when you can - a few minutes here, a few minutes there. You live on adrenaline."

But fighting aches, pains and fatigue is only half the battle.

The costs involved are considerable and Gill has to regularly sell possessions on Ebay to make ends meet.

She has to find the funds to compete and persuading others to help her out has not been easy in the current economic climate: "I have to beg for sponsorship, equipment, repairs, accommodation and funds for the support crew - and, being self-employed, I have to raise enough to cover what I lose for time off work.

Gill Watson
Gill has competed in several endurance races to prepare for the XPD

"And I'm desperate for a new bike at the moment - though, somehow, I'll manage."

"Is it worth it? Definitely! I love it! It's fantastic taking part and meeting so many people from all over the world. It's a great atmosphere.

"And this year we'll be wearing GPS trackers so people can follow our progress."

But at the end of it all there's still no rest: "You have to pack up and get out... so I guess my next proper sleep will be on the plane home."

After Portugal, Gill's next racing adventures will take her to Abu Dhabi in December and Patagonia in February 2010.


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