Strava Update

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Date With Destiny..

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!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Getting The Hay In The Barn...

The last month has been a case of getting the miles done. 

I think so far this year I have run 580 miles which is well beyond my corresponding mileage of this time last year. It has been tough, both mentally dealing with the cold and the routine of training in some capacity every day of the week and also physically. The demands that such a regime places on the body and mind are not really something that is immediately obvious (at least in my case) however I have found that over the last 2 months I have had little time for little else than anything MDS related. The effects of these demands definitely came to a head for me the last weekend, I did my 2 back to back long days of 20 miles and 14 miles and by the end had had enough of running full stop! I think mentally I was tired of running in the cold and into headwinds, physically the niggles I had in my body seemed numerous and I was generally quite fed up. I also think that the lifestyle changes that I have made gradually over the last 6 months or so to the point that I no longer go out on a Sat night, am mindful of the next training session, no longer see much of my very understanding and awesome friends and the general tiredness of hard training weeks have meant that I just wanted time out from it all. Luckily it snowed here in Jersey on Monday just gone which mean that running was not really on the agenda, which further meant that I had 3 guilt free days without running. I attended a Bikram Yoga class towards the middle of the week and then decided to run again on the Thursday with full pack weight and for the first time in a few weeks felt really up for the run having taken time out.. Which kind of proves the whole “rest is best” theory and has given me a new lease of life mentally leading into the last big mileage weekend of my MDS regime. I now feel back on track after a little hiccup and ready for the next week or so of tough training before the taper..

I went to visit my GP for the obligatory ECG which we need to present upon the start of the race, along with a signed medical form to say you are fit to race. I had a ver low resting heart rate, perfect blood pressure, but the ECG did throw up some irregularities which meant I have been referred to a Cardiologist this coming week for a cursory check of my readings. I have read a little about this and it seems alot of the UK competitors are getting the same irregularities as it is a by product of endurance sports such as ultra running, so I hope to get the all clear in the next few days!! 

So this weekend see a few of us running 27 miles on Saturday and then I will be doing another long one with a pack on Sunday.. After this I will then be switching my focus to more frequent runs with weight as well as interspersing these session with lots of Bikram yoga to hopefully acclimate to the heat.

With just under 3 weeks to go the massive list of equipment I have had to gather for this race has all but come together. I took the snow nights as an opportunity to sit down and weigh the stuff I will be taking and to put a handle on what is essential and what is a luxury to take with me. This was pretty eye opening and led to a few tough decisions, so it looks like a lot of compromises on photographic/video equipment, MP3 players, spare T shirts, sleeping pads and other items I had initially factored into taking.. The jury is still out on these choices, but I am currently erring on the ruthless side with minimalism winning the day. I imagine when faced with the reality of lasting in the desert for a week with only one t-shirt, one spare pair of pants and other delightful dilemmas some of these decisions might be revisited!

I was lucky enough to be featured in this months Gallery Magazine which is a local lifestyle magazine here in Jersey. I had a photography shoot with local photographer Danny Evans and I was really pleased with the results. It was slightly surreal and lots of attempts were taken to get the pic of me running towards the camera but Danny was great, really made me feel at ease in such an alien environment for me, and the article has really raised the profile of the fundraising I am doing for local charity Jersey Hospice Care.

I had set the initial target of £5000 for Hospice which I hit back in December. I then re-evaluated this and re set the target to £8000. I am currently on just over £7000 with a couple of event to go before I head off. Next week end should you be venturing past Marks and Spencers in St Helier you will encounter me running on a treadmill with my colleague Nicola Gott who is doing the London Marathon and also raising money for Jersey Hospice Care. We plan to run for 8 hours between us whilst also trying to collect funds in buckets, so please be sure to pop by and say hi!

As mentioned I am raising funds for Jersey Hospice Care and am running the Marathon des Sables in memory of Natalie Moss a friend of mine who sadly passed away just over a year ago and was in the care of Jersey Hospice during the last 6 weeks of her illness. They are amazing its as simple as that. If you can see your way to donating please hop over to

Many thanks – More to follow soon!

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Business End Of The Regime..

Well the weeks are ticking down and ticking down, only 5 weeks til we fly to Morocco on the adventure of a lifetime. After almost 2 years of preparation I cant believe it is here to be honest.

The last month or so has been intense. Life has centred mainly around training with my week involving some variation on the theme of running, yoga or strength work interspersed with organising all the finer details to arrive at the start line prepared. My training plan has looked something like this:

Mon - Bikram Yoga
Tues - Run with weight (avg 10 miles with 5-6KG pack)
Wed - Run at Lunch Time (8 miles) Run at Night Time (8 miles)
Thur - Running Club Hill Session (avg 8 miles
Fri - Strength/ Core Session
Sat - Long Run - (avg 20 miles)
Sun - Long Run (avg 14 miles)

This has changed slightly depending on what has been going on, 2 weeks or so ago a few of us did a 45 mile training run around the island of Jersey which was a great day out and fell just on one of the sunniest days so far this winter, which was a great morale booster, and was a great confidence booster for running the long day on the MDS which ranges between 50 and 60 miles.

One of the biggest factors I have found difficult with training has been getting motivated to get out there in the cold. I think I am not alone in this as it seems to be a recurring conversation with other runners at the moment, I am almost looking forward to the 40 deg heat of the Sahara at this point, although I am sure a day under the searing sun will have me begging for snowy cliff paths and boggy trails with windy beach runs that make me want to cry!! I think it is natural to lose motivation as the pure mileage has been high over the last few weeks, with every session being key whether the goal be to acclimatise to the heat (Bikram) build endurance, run with weight or hill work. This weekend sees me hitting my peak in terms of training with a 3 day odyssey planned: 26 miles on Sat, 26 miles on Sun and 26 miles on Monday afternoon. I think once this is done whilst I will still be logging miles I will gradually take the intensity and mileage down as the goal is now to get to the start line healthy and injury free. 

Equipment wise the last few weeks have been active: I received my shoes back from the cobbler with the velcro attached yesterday which means I am able to attach the sand gaiters to them and so form a seal which will prevent sand from getting in to them and prevent chafing and blisters. I also took delivery of my evening meals yesterday: the finest that Expedition Foods has to offer in dehydrated foods... Once you add water and let them stand they do look actually begin to look like food and taste ok (based on the Chicken Tikka one I tried a few weeks ago) if a little bland, but a bit of salt and pepper will solve that I am sure.. My rucksack weight is currently looking like just under 7KG on paper although a real life pack hasnt happened yet and I am sure other items will sneak in and bump the weight up. I have tried to be ruthless using lightweight items where I can, only taking essentials and it looks like I will be wearing the same clothes for the whole week! I just hope my tent mates have decided to do the same otherwise I might be quarantined!

I have decided on most of my clothing with the following T Shirt which is Under Armour Heat Gear and I had printed up to thank the local companies that have supported me in my buildup in some way or another:, Sportsbug Jersey, BNP Paribas Jersey, Fit 2 Function Jersey, Tonic Body & Skin Therapy, Bean Around the World Coffee Shop and Leanne Rive Personal Training.

Fundraising has seen me break the £6000 barrier, which is awesome. I have a goal of reaching £8000 raised for Jersey Hospice Care before I leave in 5 weeks with some events planned to hopefully get me there. I have been canvassing most people I know for donations so am sure people will be glad to see the back of me by the time I get on that plane!! :-) If you are in any doubt as to how to donate please visit: all donations no matter how small are welcome, and to just know that people are supporting me gives me amazing motivation during those long, hard, cold training runs!

This was quite an interesting picture that I came across on the net which gives you an idea of some of the things we have to carry as well as some of the decisions us MDS runners have been faced with over the last few weeks: 

We were given our race numbers a few weeks ago, I am number 624.. Once we are out there the MDS website provides real time updates of how we are doing, photos of the days racing and vitally you are able to send messages to the competitors through the website. It goes without saying how important that will be for morale so if you have a few spare minutes between the 5th and 15th April please drop me a line..

More to follow over the next few weeks..