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Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Marathon Des Sables Diary, Stage 2 and 3

Stage 2 (38km)
Lovely morning for a run
Wake up is at 6 again. I had my eyes closed anyway, but the gloomy light tells me what i guessed, that a big sandstorm is ripping through us and me and all my kit is covered in sand. Dammit. It makes for a miserable breakfast and and we cant get a fire lit to make a hot one, so a sickness inducing cold freeze dried food has to do. The start is as before, except with the sand still blowing all around. ‘Highway to Hell’ seems more apt than ever as the run begins. 


The day however was on paper, at least, lot easier than yesterday, with 38km of relatively mixed sand, smaller dunes, rocks, and stones, but no big hills. I paced with a fellow Scot for the first 2 stages, overtaking quite a few people, until i got a bad cramp in my left calf. My muscles had run out of fuel, so probably i’d been overdoing it (and had to bear in mind my stomach issue would drain all the good stuff out of me)  I had to limp the 5km to the next checkpoint and got some electrolytes from the medic, and the cramp largely went away, so i take the rest of the day steadily and eat into the one packet of nuts i had been given by my (experienced veteran) tentmate after he looks at my meagre food supply and laughed heartily, the bastard. 

Anyway, that night I eat my shit and get a good sleep compared to the night before and feel fresh when i wake. 
Better to run the right direction though


Stage 3  (38km)
The breakfast again didn’t go down too well, but I force half of it down at least. My perfect desert Ultramarathon friend, Diarhea was still hanging with me. Today 3 was another 38km, just shy of a marathon, and a day full of the most difficult terrain you could put out there, combining dunes with steep hills, then dunes again, just in case your legs were feeling in any way fresh or you feet felt they hadn’t been beaten to a pulp enough. It was also the day before the looming 82km so it was a day to take a gentle pace and prepare for the big day ahead. I'm now realising how important nutrition is to this race – protein, salt, sugar, electrolytes, calories, carbs..i must admit, being a fish and chip eating slacker hadn’t done me a bit of good here and my nutritional knowledge is still pitifully low. The minimum required for the race was 2000Kcal a day, but i only have 1600 plus a few random (but tasty) snacks donated by other more experience runners feeling sorry for me (thanks Maichael, your snoring is forgiven). That coupled with the ongoing diarhea is eating into me and causeing a real fatigue to set in. I suppose my dwindling body fat is being used for the most part but im already thin as a mountain goat (and smellier) Fortunately i still have a little in me to burn off before it starts eating into me properly.

Late in the day i meet a girl who’d just taken 8 anadin and was high as a kite, to ease the pain, so I helped her through to the next checkpoint. Her freinds consider that she should keep taking them because otherwise she doesnt stop talking. But to be honest a chatterbox is exactly what you need in this race, to keep the boredom from setting in. Either that or a nice female bottom to follow (note to self - marry a chatty girl with a nice bottom)
I’d begun to get a few blisters here, so after the race day i pretend im some kind of Rambo and burn a knife and slice them, and pour iodine in to clean them out. It was pretty sore. There were beginning to be a number of injuries and dropouts as the first 3 days takes its toll.

I think everyone in the race gets a nervous sleep the night before day 4 (we go to sleep at 7.30-8pm here and wake at 6.)

I dreampt that all the healthy racers had decided to eat the injured ones and that i woke up to all these guys tucking into the raw human meat. I think it was connected to the fact that i was myself absolutely starving, but with no alternative but to force down inedible gunge. I took ‘expedition food’ much to the amusement of my Austrian tent mates ‘hehe the Englander has typical British food yah’ they would quip as i grimaced trying to actually eat it. The breakfast looks, smells and tasted like vomit, while the dinner looks smells and tastes like shit. I decide make ‘chicken korma’ with the crazy idea that there may be some chicken or korma resemblance in it. Again i couldn’t force half of it down before retching, and then the next morning i noticed my shit looked identical. So theres the proof. 

The ‘toilets’ consist of 8 brown bgs you are given at the start, to do your stuff in and put into special bins. But the organisers did make little shelters to at least do it behind, although the wind often still made a mockery of that. Hygene is a big issue here and i’ve been obsessively cleaning my hands with this foul smelling cleaning gel i bought, as i’m desperate for my diahrea to go away – it’s been sapping my energy and i’m concerned that considering im already undernourished then my body could have some issues here on the long day.

I wish i could say that im successfully blagging this race but im learning that hard way that you just can’t cut corners in the desert  (unless you dope yourself up with pain killers of course..)

ps my camera broke in the sandstorm so ill wait on some photos from freinds to add here

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