March 27, 2015 · 5:00 pm
In a weeks time the adventure which has taken over my life for the last year will begin!! Time has passed so quickly since I pressed the enter button last May. The training is mostly done – only two more training sessions in the heat chamber and a few saunas left!
Last Friday was the first session in the heat chamber. There are two treadmills in the chamber so we ran in pairs. John and I first with Fiona and Simon following straight afterwards. John and I have followed the suggested sessions from Mark Hetherington at the University f Leeds and so far so good.
1st session. 40 degrees centigrade. 20% humidity. Basic running gear only (no desert kit). 20 minutes steady run 1% gradient. 10 minutes walk 6% gradient and repeat. The third rep we cut short to 15 and 5 in the interest of time. It had taken us a while to get set up. We had a thermometer in one ear and a pulse monitor on the other and retro sweat band to hold it all in place. We were weighed before and after, as were our drinks. Our temperature, heart rate and speed/gradient were recorded every 5 minutes. I felt in safe hands. Total time on feet 80 minutes. No ill effects and feeling confident. To pass the time running in the big white box we watched the clock and our core temperatures like it was a competition to see who could stay coolest longest. I think JB won by 0.3 degrees!
Saturday we did 2 hours outdoors with 8kg back packs with 1 hour of that as hill reps over the trig point on Baildon moor. Sunday was my last run outside and it was a stunning morning. Emma joined us for a Baildon Boundary Way recce for me to point out all the marshal spots (I usually organise the marshals for this fab race but it clashes with this running in the desert – Emma has kindly taken over!!).
Tuesday brought session 2 in the heat chamber. This time I wore my legionaries hat, race shoes and gaiters and a pack with 1kg and water. Same session – 40 degrees centigrade. 20% humidity. 20 minutes steady run 1% gradient. 10 minutes walk 6% gradient and repeat – this time 3 times. A full 90 minute session. At the end of the second walk I felt really hot! (even though my temp was lower than JB’s today!). Wearing the back pack was like having a little coat on! Slightly concerned I cautiously started the final run. Within minutes I felt fine again. 30 minutes later the session was done and confidence rising. Studying the results with interest I learned that my sweat rate (with a pack on) is 1.3 litres/hour. My heart rate settles about 166 after an hour in the heat. The walk breaks bring it back down slightly. Returning home I checked my garmin stats regarding my heart rate on training runs (I have been more interested in miles and time than heart rate in training). Average heart rate for my runs in the last 6 months 163bpm. So in conclusion my body isn’t stressing that much in the heat chamber (good news!)
Heat chamber session 3. Same set up but this time with 5kg in the backpack. We actually walked 1km/hr slower on the uphill walks this time. This worked really well, with my heart rate dropping 25 bpm during this time. By the end of the session I felt even better than the last one. I am again looking forward to the next session which will be with more weight in my pack and for 2 hours……
The last couple of weeks have seen a reduction in my training volume. The upside of this (aside from more recovery time) is that I have been able to catch up with some of my wonderful friends. Without the support of so many of my friends and my family, my preparation for marathon des sables would have been very different. I even have some mementos to take to the desert with me (weighing less that 1g each they are allowed in the bag and will no doubt make me smile!)
Friends, colleagues and family have all helped with fundraising too. We raised £240 in 2 hours at a cake bake last week. Incredible and the cakes donated to were so delicious! (no wonder I haven’t quite reached the race weight I might have liked!). Easter bunnies and lots of chocolate donated by my mum in law are being raffled (draw next week) and they have been so popular. Thank you to Nuffield Health at Shipley for the membership to help me in the final stages of acclimatisation by using the sauna. Beta Climbing designs have been super helpful this week in handling a mini MDS emergency when the buckle on my pack got broken. My mum was a star as always taking a day out to collect the bag from me and take it to Sheffield to get it sorted…..I await its safe return as I type.
I continue to be overwhelmed by sponsorship donations from so many different people. The messages I have received in cards, emails and on just giving are all really special to me. Thank you all. I have had a few little cries too! When I have said bye to friends who I won’t see till I am back, hugs have been a bit longer and stronger than usual, reminding me of just how epic this adventure is going to be!
March 15, 2015 · 9:24 pm
Less than three weeks to go now! Excited is an understatement….but there are plenty of other emotions I am going through too.
This week was the 7 year anniversary of losing my Dad and also what would have been his 63rd birthday. I’ve let myself think about what he would make of me doing the MDS. It’s hard to know what he’d think of the actual challenge but he would have been super supportive for sure. He would have been happy using his scout leader discount at some outdoor shops for all the food and kit I have been buying too!
I have actually quite enjoyed planning my desert menu! Tasting the foods wasn’t always as pleasurable as I would have liked, but now I have found what I like I’m quite looking forward to it! This is the plan so far:
Typically, a days food consists of granola and milk powder and a cup of tea for breakfast. 2x yummy 9bars, pepperami and some cashews or jelly sweets during the day and then either a freeze dried meal or double pot noodle in the evening. I have desert survival formula, nuun and goodness shake procovery to supplement the real food. It sounds incredibly civilised eh! the only problem is it is really heavy….I might need to sacrifice some calories to save my shoulders.
I have found out after much trial and error and the help of my neighbour that pot noodles do not want to be vacuum packed and after what I though was initial success the air all leaked back in. A zip lock bag seems a better option and after a trial run of fitting about 70% of my food in my rucksack it seems as though it should all fit without too much bother (we’ll see though!!). Ziplock bags weigh 4g and these still need to be added to my spreadsheet!
This week training volume has been much less. The accumulative effect of the last few months training has caught up and I have enjoyed a much more restful week. With a month membership at Nuffield Health Shipley I have been able to do a bit of conditioning and start some acclimatisation training – sweating in the sauna. An early morning 3 hour run with MDS buddies John and Fiona meant I had all Saturday afternoon to catch up with friends which was lovely.
2 hours on my feet (walking rather than running), including over an hour of hill reps with a 6+kg pack today was a good session – especially with the mixed terrain of the hill – loose rocky stuff combined with steep concrete steps and some grass/mud sections. On my 4th rep of the hill I heard the little voice “this is really hard – do I really have to do 10?” soon after through the switch was flicked and my mind was happily busying itself with other thoughts. I even did an 11th rep just because I could (and it was the quickest one). Despite this brutal session I feel like I have had a really lazy day with only 2 hours of training.
This time in three weeks I will have finished my first day in the desert! My main objective between now and then is to stay well – germ and injury free. I think hand sanitiser will be coming everywhere with me and I might pick up some echinacea and vitamin C from the chemist on my way to work in the morning!
“Like a snail without your house” is what my boyfriend said to me about running without my pack! Rather than take offence at the insult of being so slow at the moment this really made me laugh! The pack and its contents are such a big part of the MDS journey. Yesterday I ran the Trollers trot – 25mile off road run with 8kg weight on my back. No prizes for time but a great run in the bank and another confidence boost.
Yesterday was an exciting day in my MDS world. I met the local MDS celebrity Mark Roe – author of the book ‘Running from the shadows’ which was the first of many books I read when I entered MDS. It gave me such insight into the race and the race preparation. Even more exciting he recognised me from this blog! It’s not just my mum reading this (which is also exciting to learn!). By chance we met one of our future tent mates too. It is getting so real now!
This last week so much seems to have happened. The race organisers have ‘leaked’ some information about the route. This year the long stage will be the longest in MDS history. This means it will be over 92km! The guestimates are that it will be 100km. Wow! 62 miles in one stage. How long will that take me? Will I be able to finish it in a day and still get a rest day? Or will I need to sleep out on the course and take the rest day as a second running day? Who knows? I think I will have to see how it goes?
Rather than this news instilling panic or terror it has made me so so excited. It will soon be here and it is going to be seriously tough! My training is going great and some of the confidence building runs are working a treat. Last weekend I ran the Mary Townley Loop with is a 47 mile bridleway circuit in Yorkshire and Lancashire. It is beautiful scenic and hilly route – although underfoot it is pretty rough. Not sure I’d like to take a horse around some parts of it, nor a mountain bike! http://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/sites/default/files/mary_towneley_loop_leaflet.pdf
On the day garmin said it was only 45 miles but with over 7000ft of climbing on all kinds of terrain it was tough. The guidance from the national trail booklet says 3-4 days on foot! Yeah right! Not when you are training for the toughest footrace on Earth…..
I ran with MDS taining buddy John. My boyfriend James supported us and two other mates came along on their bikes riding part of the route in reverse which meant we had some good targets knowing we’d meet them along the way. The weather was changeable with some sunshine interspersed with sideways rain. The outcome of the day was we did it and felt great. Walking up the hills and running the rest works well, with 4kg in the pack we returned to where we started, guided by the head torch exactly 12 hours after we started. Moving time of around 10hr20. The biggest achievement of running the Mary Townley loop was perhaps the fact that we were still running at the end. We still felt good and in fact a little disappointed that it wasn’t the 47 mile we expected! Sunday I trotted round at the back as sweeper in the West Yorkshire Winter League cross country series. Aside from being very tired this week there have been no ill effects and on learning that the long MDS stage will be 62 miles – at least I know now I can do 3/4 of that and feel ok. Looking forward with childish giddiness now!
In more practical terms all my race food has been tested and purchased!
My race shoes are bought and have been sent off for the velcro so be sewn on. That was a mini drama in itself! Wearing a UK size 8 usually and being prone to swollen feet I opted for a size 9 race shoe. My shoe of choice is the salomon womens speedcross 3. When I went to order some size 9’s online no one stocked them! Not even salomon’s own website had any in stock! Argh! With a list as long as my arm of things to sort out, all of it being squeezed around a full time job and training this was the last thing I needed! To the rescue though, my local running shop was able to order some in for me. Better still this meant I could use my Christmas present voucher from my father in law towards paying for them. This feels pretty special too.
All my acclimatisation sessions in the heat chamber are booked. Eeek! So that will be a taper in the heat. The ECG and medical form sign off is booked for this week. My main aim now is to stay in one piece and get to the start line feeling fit. Yesterday was my last long run. I managed to trip over a tiny tree root and superman dive onto the riverbank but wasn’t hurt! It is all coming together well – my aim was to be 65kg starting the race and at 66kg I am nearly there,
4 weeks today I will be completing my first marathon in the Sahara! Woo!