The preparation and the anticipation is about to come to fruition.. This is the last 9 days or so before I finally step on to the start line for the Marathon des Sable – the focus of my life it seems for the last 2 years and the end result to which I have been training for, talking about, and obsessing about!
I cant actually believe that in just over a week I will be lining up on the start line in the Moroccan Sahara contemplating the 150 miles ahead of me, AC/DC‘s “Highway to Hell” blaring out over loudspeakers, helicopters circling above and the sand underfoot. I feel prepared mainly; I know I have trained well for this, perhaps more than for any other race or indeed anything I have ever done! Over the last few weeks a lot more people locally are aware that I am doing the race, I have been in local magazines and on local radio which has had a positive knock on to the fundraising I have been doing for Jersey Hospice Care. I guess I am concerned now about things that I have no direct control over: What if the heat is too much? What if I get injured? What if I am not tough enough to get through the inevitable hard times? What if I can’t manage to carry my pack on the long day? What if I get too many blisters and have to quit? I think these are quite a lot of my main concerns as I don’t want to go out there and not succeed. I hope the training and racing I have done over the last 2 years has given me the strength and reserves of courage to carry me through when it gets hard going. I know for sure that a lot of my fellow MDS competitors will have very similar thoughts as we have all invested alot of time, energy and money at great personal expense; deferring nights out, time with friends, time with family and using up valuable holiday through the year to do crazy races just to get used to the type of hardship we will encounter in the desert. I have faced a number of challenges over the last couple of years particularly and have always been nervous about whether I will pass the test, and each time I have come through; my first marathon, my first ultra marathon, my first multi day ultra marathon and a lot more challenges on the way, so I would hope that by now I could draw that confidence and be assured of success.. But the doubt is still there J
I am sure though that once on the start line and in the groove the game of ticking off the miles and bargaining with ones psyche will start and all will fall into place mile by mile..
The Achilles heel that I possess (as some of my fellow running friends will attest to) is that I often in races go out far too fast and peak far too soon and go down in a blaze of glory, whilst the people I passed at the beginning tread my limp body into the trail and use me as a point of reference for the “slow and steady wins the day” saying.. I also tend to set time or position goals in races and these often become a stick to beat myself with, as I heard it so eloquently described in an article the other day. My big challenge in the MDS is to ensure that I go out consistently and try to maintain a good average pace without redlining it, particularly in the first few days. I hope this is something that I can achieve as I believe this is the key to a good performance over a multi day race.
In the last week or so I have been taking it a little easier, favouring the longer taper for this race, which should see me get to Morocco rested, injury and niggle free, and more importantly psychologically rested to give the race my best. I think that the training over the last few months has been necessary and had definitely made me feel well prepared for the MDS, but as alluded to in my previous post I have found going out in the cold and wind progressively harder both mentally and physically the closer I have got to the race. I accept this as a natural side effect of training to high levels to achieve the goals I set myself and also trust in the fact that “rest is best” and within the next 9 days my body should spring back to life!
After the fundraiser on Saturday where Nicola Gott and I ran 21 miles on a treadmill each and raised £1,248 between us for Jersey Hospice I haven’t actually run due to other things getting in the way.. My body is in shock a little I think at the moment and doesn’t quite know what to do with this sudden period of inactivity. I am eating a similar amount to when I was in peak training and feeling sluggish and a little like a fish out of water currently.. I plan to do a few runs over the weekend as well as 4 or 5 days of intensive Bikram Yoga to try and get all the heat acclimatisation I can in before the off on Weds..
One of the things now I am most concerned about is the bugs that seem to be flying around everyone I know.. As anyone who has ever done an endurance event of any length will attest, as soon as you start to taper after all the training you do inevitably some kind of bug strikes, be it a cold, cough or flu.. I have been stocking up on veggies, fruit, and vitamins and being mindful of people with colds and bugs around me, which so far has been doing the trick.
I sat down last night and started to pack the things into my rucksack that I will be taking with me. I have been compiling a spreadsheet of all the items I intend to take with weights so that I have a rough estimate of how heavy the pack will be that I will run with. Bearing in mind that I have to carry my food and anything else I need for the week, I have had to be quite ruthless. I am trying to strike the balance between comfort and lightweight which has meant that the a few decisions have to be made and I think as is natural for us humans we tend to err on the side of caution, particularly as far as how much food to take to a situation we have no real reference points to and situations like that.. I am planning to take flapjack bars for breakfast and the dehydrated astronaut foods for dinner, with various in race nutrition planned also. This works out at around the 2,300 calorie per day mark which is possibly a little on the low side, but I have been reliably informed that you don’t get hungry in the desert and so i am going to trust in this advice and try and travel as light as possible to promote a quicker running pace. I spent a couple of hours the other night unpacking the meals out of their foil bagging and decanting them into freezer bags, thereby saving a whopping 70grams of weight once I was done! It has really got down to the point where 20 grams here and there makes a collective difference and can mean the difference between me galloping through the desert like a Gazelle or lurching through the desert like a drunken fool..
This long weekend will see me finishing up packing the rucksack, minimising the weight in any conceivable way that I can. Rock n roll eh? Easter break with a pair of weighing scales and dehydrated foods!!
Fundraising has gone through the roof with the new total equalling £9364 so I have reset my target to £12,000.00 for Jersey Hospice Care. To donate please visit here.
Happy Easter All!