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!