Monday, December 02, 2013

I've got the runs....

While I was travelling I got an email telling me that my registration for the Marathon de Sables 2015 had been brought forward and I could run the 2014 race instead. It was at that point I remembered I had entered. Much like the fatty on New Years Eve promising themselves a strict year of exercise for the coming year while smashing fired chicken after a night on the tiles - it was something I thought I would try during my weaker moments.

Now the run itself is a grueling multi-stage foot race through the Sahara desert. With the temperature over 50 degrees centigrade you have to run the equivalent of five and a half marathons in five or six days, a total distance of some 251 km – 156 miles. The rules require you to be self-sufficient, to carry with you on your back everything except water that you need. You are given a place in a tent to sleep at night, but any other equipment and food must be carried. It's a little bit of a toddle in the sand, really.

So why the hell would one sign up to this - I guess it's because after doing this one I can say that I'm pretty much done with the lot. But why don't you just stop in general? Well, I don't really know, but I think it comes down to the fact that I don't really like to run. Yep - really dislike it. Strange, I know. My logic is if I don't have something to train for I simply won't do it. However, while that worked for my first one, the most recent endeavor I decided to see how far I could push it without actually training - 85th out of 1,900.

This is probably less so about my ability than that of those around me.

Now, when writing this I really had no idea about what to put down. I usually try to make these blogs entertaining, educational and fulfilling. Failing regularly, I'm just going to use this as a way to answer certain questions that I regularly get asked when I mention that I use my spare time to run a distance that is more sensible covered by vehicle. Or in the UK by train - as any spare time not used to drink is clearly wasted.

What do you think about?

Nothing and everything. As bizarre as it sounds I can barely remember much of a race. Your thoughts range from how your body is feeling, to your next holiday, to trying to figure out distance and speed. I often think about recipes and cooking; tends to relax me for some reason. But it really is what is happening at that present time that occupies your thoughts. For example, for my first Ultra I had recently started seeing someone, so I thought about her a lot. The second one I was single and looking to leave my job, so thought about travel and what to do next a fair bit.

Don't you get bored?
Yes. Just a matter of turning off and trying to blank things out. Not only does it help during the run but you can apply it to many every day situations: the tube, significant others, this blog, etc. However, sometimes you get distracted. My second race there was also a person in front of me the whole time, which is where I realized the power of having a pacer (particularly when they having a cracking caboose - ladies of course).

Basically, right from the start the same girl was always about 100 metres in front of me. No matter how much I pushed, not stopping at rest areas, ignored water stops - she was always in front. It came to a head when I stopped at the halfway mark to fill up my water and she was three people in front of me in the line!!

Finally, coming down in to Brighton there was a few hundred metres left and I had a little left in the tank, so I sprinted. Passing her with about 50 metres left to go I got a surge of satisfaction and relief. Once I crossed the line I turned around and - beaming - and gloated that I'd finally passed her and won our little 'duel'. It took her confused face to make me realise that she had never seen me the entire race due to me being behind so had no idea what I was talking about.

I was happy though. But that's not uncommon... I get giggly - laugh at anything really - when I'm exhausted. The last run I did I hurt my foot about five hours in. By seven hours I was really feeling it so started hitting up the nurofen mixed with energy drinks which I named in my head 'Bart's Happy Meal'. For some reason this little title had me laughing to myself for at least an hour.
Happy Bart

Although going through 21 pain killers and seven Powerades in five hours to not feel my foot made me feel like this...

No Happy Bart

...and pissed blood for three days. Leading me to the final often asked question...

Where do you go to the bathroom?
Seriously - that's the one most people ask. And for some reason you don't. You barely eat a thing and sweat profusely so it just doesn't seem to be an issue. Unless of course I've told you the Newcastle hotel story, but let's just leave it there for now.