Marathon des Sables 2013

Marathon des Sables 2013

Sunday, 20 August 2017

When the cats away.........

So the boss and mini boss (wife and daughter) were away in Palma for 4 days so it was decided this would be a good time to get 4 consequitive days on the hills - quad crunching!  Thursday I couldn't get any accommodation so took a tent.  More of that later but the weather was fowl.  As I was on my own and decide to play it safe having been given a route by an experienced friend which avoided the summits.  After an hour in clouds with the rain pissing down and the trail getting worse I decided to cut my losses and headed back.  Off to the campsite.  I chose a spot under a tree thinking it would offer some shelter.  The instructions said the tent would be set up in 15 mins - try 45 mins.  Then I discovered a big rock in the centre of the ground - rookie error.  The ground was saturated so I got a rubber liner out the boot of my car.  Checked the weather forecast for the following day, and packed up and went home.  I think I'd have been under a foot of water by the morning.
On Friday I ran three laps of Chatelherault- can't remember the last time I did that. It felt good and my legs knew they had been through a work out but at the cost of two big blisters on the inside of my big toes.  This is not good news but at least I'll get to practice my repair skills on them.  But as I had just visited my friend Davy Arthur who was recovering from a bad bike accident with a broken back, broken neck and many other life threatening injuries, I decided to man up - he's an inspiration.
As a novice on the hills I was delighted that Michael Martin was taking me up two munro's at Bridge of Orkey.  We were soaked before we left the car park. 400m up and we were at cloud base.  Then the hailstones came crashing in on a gale force wind.  At the summit the conditions were brutal.  We had to skirt round the summit with a big drop while trying not to be blow off.  My hands were numb and I put them through the loops of my poles in case they fell out my hands.  On the descent we ran down the stream rather than go through the bog and I ended up doing a somersault bruising my hip.  We had to wade through the bog and twice was up to my knees - summer in Scotland!  We went for lunch at a hotel in the middle of nowhere as I had a room for the night.  After lunch I binned that and headed home for a good nights sleeep and I wasn't convinced the forecast of good weather would come true.  It did!
Another experienced hill / ultra runner friend, Derek Fish, had invited me up to Comrie near Crieff to climb Ben Chonzie with his pals.  What he didn't tell me was there was a 8 mile warm up run with 1,000 ft of climbing!  Then we tackled Ben Chozie (3,000 ft) and these guys were keen to run up it!  There is a dry (for a change) 3 mile track before you get into a small amount of bog then running across rocks and grass.  I was tired but did my best to keep up and was delighted with the views at the top.  We ran all the way down but the blisters didn't appreciate it.
Mission accomplished - quads were well bashed.  I've done more running in the last 4 days than I have in the last 9 months.  Running on tired legs is all part of the training and although the weather reduced the number of hours I was supposed to be out, it's building nicely.  In 34 days time I will be running/ walking with 12kg on my back, in heat, sand and at altitude.  It may be 6-8 hours a day with the exception of the double marathon stage.  It's certainly a challenge and I can't wait for it to start - although another month of training would help.
The cat was away so this mouse did play but it will definitely be an early night tonight.  I'm bust!

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Spend spend spend!

41 days till I line up at the startline in the Grand Cayon but in 35 days time I get on the plane!  Therefore I have to have all my gear and food purchased and tested.  Yes tested.  I can't turn up without having tested my equipment.  So a few major purchases were made during the week.  A sleeping bag that can take minus temperatures (I'll be sleeping at altitude), a down jacket and a set of graphite foldaway poles.  The poles failed on their first outing and will be going back to the shop tomorrow - very disappointed as they are so light.  Minimising the weigh of everything is essential and every item I am carrying is on a spreadsheet and will be weighed.
This was a busy week and I would normally have a day off on Monday but it was switched to Thursday as I would be in London that day.  Therefore it was an extended weeks training and while I felt tired, I managed two walk runs without any issues and then a 90 minute run at Chatelherault- I loved it!
On Saturday I climbed The Cobbler 884m, Beinn Narnian 926m and Beinn Ime 1,011m.  My friend Graham Harvey had sent me a map with instructions and I headed off on my own (I can get lost in a car park).  The Cobbler was a bit scary as it was windy and clouds were covering part of the summit.  I don't know if this helped me manage a very narrow ledge as I couldn't see the drop but at the very top I couldn't stand up.  Beinn Narnian had amazing views but I came off the summit at the wrong point and had to scramble up and down rocks to make my way round to the path - eventually got there.  The last summit had incredible views but my foot was protesting on the way down with the terrain.
When I got off the mountain I decided to run down the path to the car and I managed that without too much pain.  I feel as though I am actually training my head to cope with the pain which I know will be the case in the Canyon as it was in MdS.  In total I was out for 5 hours and when I got back I headed out for a meal and then the Edinburgh Tattoo - got back at 2am - a long day which had started 21 hours earlier.
Today was swimming and for a change it was an evening session.  I'm feeling great and tomorrow is a day off training although I'll be at the chiropractor followed by the physio the following day.
I have 4 days of hill walking / running coming up so I hope I have more exciting tales to tell you next week.  These injuries have meant my training schedule has required to be adapted and I think it's working in my favour.  Back to spending more money this week as I buy the last of the items I need and then to decide on the food I'm going to be carrying with me.  This approach underlines my mantra of the 7Ps; piss poor preparation precipitates piss poor performance!  Once I step on that plane I will need to have everything with me to succeed and it will need to have been tested. So preparation is essential and it's not just about running.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Munro bagging

Another week with no running and further treatment for the hip/hammy problem.  Pleased to report that the hip & hammy are brand new thanks to the amazing chiropractor Gill Fraser (Strathkelvin Chiropractic Clinic).  However my coach wanted to work my legs so a long walk was planned for Friday, hill walking on Saturday & Sunday.  This is ideal training as there will be hill walking in the Grand Canyon and you need to practice power walking as it puts different pressure on your feet.
On Saturday I went out with experience climber Alan Stirling, another Ironman.  We tackled 3 Munro's (mountains over 3,000 feet).  Beinn Ghlas is 1,103 metres and I'm sure it would have been a nice view but it was in the clouds.  We headed onto Ben Lawyers at 968m and guest what, it was in the clouds.  We then pressed onto An Stuc at 1,118m and the clouds dispersed and we got our reward.  We also watched in amazement as shepherds were rounding up their herd of sheep with their border collies - whistling and shouting instructions to the dogs.  It is so removed from life 1,000m below and I could have stayed there for a few hours.  But this was a work out and I had to press on.  In addition rain was forecast so we headed back down and I was able to run (carefully and slowly) the bottom half of the mountain.  The rain arrived so the last 30 minutes were very wet.  It took us 4 hours in total so this was a good work out for me.
Today my target was 3 hours of hill walking so I headed to another "Munro" Ben Lomond (again).  The weather forecast was for rain at lunchtime so I made sure I got their early, only to be met by torrential rain - what happen to Summer in Scotland?  It didn't last long and the climb was in humid conditions which had the sweat poring off me (I lost 2 pounds on this climb).  But the higher I went the more the clouds came in and the wind picked up.  So for the fifth time in a row, I haven't had the reward of a clear view from this summit.  The descent was sore on my foot but hopefully tomorrow I'll get my leg taped and this will help the stability.
I'm planning a 4 day trip into the Glencoe mountain range to increase the time to 6-8 hours a day as this will be good preparation for the Canyon.  I can't replicate the heat or the altitude but I can get my legs used to being punished every day.  I'll also be "braking the bank" when I buy the equipment I need for the event.  I've now got a much better idea as to what I'll be taking and I'll soon be testing the expedition food.  Sadly the company that supplied my food for MdS went out of business which was a shame as it was tasty and food is critical when you're burning carlories at the rate I will be.  It really is beginning to get exciting as I get close to my departure for the Canyon but there is a lot of hard work to be done between now and then.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Head in the clouds

The first two days this week hurt.  I had DOMS from running down Ben Ledi on Sunday which led my coach to saying that in the remaining 55 days my legs are going to get "battered.  I've run out of time to put in the big running miles but I'll be doing a lot of hill walking to prepare my legs for the ascending and descending in the Canyon.  From experience I know you can't hammer down the hills if you want to finish the race, especially one over 7 days.  If you've run a marathon before you know how your legs feel the next day.  Add to that carrying 12kg on your back, 35 degrees of heat, freeze dried food, sleeping under canvas, no morning showers and you'll begin to understand how I will need to manage my legs (and my head) during the race.
It looks like we may have established the cause of the hamstring problem which is linked to my hip.  So more intense treatment is required including shockwave treatment to try and reset the muscles that are misbehaving.  I also had a wonderful Thai massage from Mark Russell (yogi Mark). It was like having yoga "done to you" and I managed some positions I would never have got into myself.  It was quite relaxing and really strenches off my tired muscles - you should try it out.
Running is out for me at the moment until we get the hammy/hip sorted but it gives me the opportunity to climb some hills.  This weekend I headed out with ultra ironchick Dawn Williamson to be shown a different route up Ben Lomond (974 metres).  I power walked up but before getting to the top I was in cloud base - again!  Such a shame as the scenery is stunning, so I'm told!  The rain came on heavily so the walk down was more about staying upright and not jarring my hammy.  It doesn't surprise me that mountain rescue get regular call outs; on the way down I passed 3 people walking with umbrellas up.  Seen as I almost got blown off the top I couldn't see them lasting too long.  Others were going up in tee-shirts and jeans not realising the weather at the bottom of the hill was pleasant compared to being in the clouds at the top.
When I got up this morning the sky was blue so I headed out early to repeat the climb but on my own.  The conditions were worse and with cloud base much lower.  At stage I got lost and doubled back till I recognised where I was.  If you know Ben Lomond I know you'll think that's daft because you just stick to the path, but when you've been walking in clouds for 20 minutes and didn't recognise where you are then your mind plays tricks.  The last section before the summit is a bit tricky especially as visibility was limited and the wind had got up.  I felt like I was "bonking" so played safe and took some shelter and got some jelly babies and a pork pie into me - that sorted me. The summit was the same as the day before so I wasted no time in taking the tourist route down.  The path can be tricky especially with my right foot so I used my poles to support my descent and only went over on my ankle a few times.  But it only takes I misplaced step to end the journey.
Next week I've got more shockwave treatment lined up and hopefully I'll be fit for a 6 hour climb, with a real climber, on Saturday.  These legs are going to be battered into shape.  I just hope to summit one mountain and get a view - Summer in Scotland!

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Inspired by strangers

It's been a week of highs, lows and highs but you'd expect that in any journey in life.  But before we get into that I was inspired by strangers this week.  Strangers who swim with me but we don't often get the chance to talk while doing sets.  On Friday an elderly gentleman (late 60s?) asked me how far I was swimming.  He then went on to explain he used to do two miles but through health issues he'd cut it down to one - in his late 60s this guy is swimming a mile 4 times a week!  Amazing and he's hoping once he gets "sorted" to get the mileage up.  I was also chatting to a lady who it turns out won an ironman event 15 years ago in the UK - not an age grouper, but the whole race.  Another girl has just swam the north channel and all of these people are in the same pool as me.  It just shows that everyone has a story and goals they are still pushing for so never judge a book by its cover as they say.
On Tuesday the physio was pleased with my hammy which was great news.  On Wednesday I went for a short run - pulled up after 3 minutes. Back to physio on Thursday and it turns out to be a different part of the hammy and that my glute is in need of some pounding!  The secret is knowing how far you can push a muscle that is sending out distress signals because it still needs to be worked. Inactivity could set it back.
The first test was on Saturday - a walk up Tinto hill, 711 metres high using walking poles for the first time.  The poles were like having a 4 wheel drive.  I power walked to the top which was in cloud base so no views to be seen.  The rain was heavy on the way down but I tested my hammy and glute with a couple of runs over 200m - I could feel the hammy but it was ok.
Rather than go out running today, with only 62 days to go I need to spend more time on the hills as there is 18,000 ft of climbing and 14,500 ft of descending in G2G.  So I headed off early morning with my coach Genevieve to go up Ben Ledi which is 879 metres high.  We started off by going the wrong way which added 50 minutes to our time.  But it warmed up my hammy and glute which was just as well as it's a steep start.  My hammy was fine on the way up and when we got to the top, yes you guessed it, we were in cloud base!  I chose to really test the hammy and glute by running down the mountain and managed this with no adverse affect.  That's a real confidence booster but I'm not getting carried away as it's still work in progress.  This week I've got the physio, a massage and yoga exercises and the chiropractor!  I've got to make it to that startline uninjured so a lot of time will be spent "nursing" my injuries.  I'm going to be spending a lot of time up mountains before heading to the Caynon.  I just hope there will be a view from some of them!

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Lost in London

It's been a hectic week as I have increased my training with double sessions and having a busy work schedule.  Two runs were before 6am and while I was treated to a the birds singing I also had the pleasure on a blue sky with no clouds and an almost full moon while the sun was blazing in the sky.  That's what makes getting up early worthwhile and I feel I have a head start on the world!
On Tuesday the hammy got a good report from my miracle worker Pamela Lock but the calf muscles were re-taped as they were showing signs of being overworked in a way they shouldn't be - this is all connected with my foot instability.
On Friday me and the boss headed off on business in London so Friday was my rest day.  A nice lunch with clients helped me towards my weight target followed by a concert and an after show party.  We got in about 1am but I was up at 6.45 to go for a run in Hyde Park.  It's a big park and it took me a while to navigate my way round it but 1hr and 20 minutes passed with only one person acknowledging me - "hello cock" he said.  I did have a quick check in case there was a wardrobe malfunction but fortunately everything was in order!
This morning I was meant to be running for 1 hr 50 minutes as I build up my mileage.  I was in a different hotel and checked the map before heading out to run in Hyde Park, Green Park and St James Park.  Took a wrong turning and it was about 20 minutes before I reached Green Park.  What a stunning park.  I wish I'd more time and I'd have happily spent the day wandering around and stopping to read a book under the shade of the massive old oak trees.  The same could be said for St James Park and I waved to the Queen a few times as I did my laps - even saw the soldiers practicing for a parade.  I was enjoying the sticky heat when I became aware that my hammy was talking to me. I was 1 hour and 8 mins in and it had tightened up.  I stretched it off but it didn't improve so I walked back to the hotel - more physio on Tuesday.  I'm confident this will be fixed but don't want to risk making it worse.
I've really enjoyed being lost in London and feeling energised by the trees and the beautiful plants and it's hard to believe that such beauty is in the middle of a busy contrete jungle.  Tomorrow's a rest day and we'll start all over again on Tuesday.  Seems the title of my previous blog will apply before as well as during the race.  Failure isn't an option!

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Run, Trek, Walk, Crawl - whatever it takes

I think the title of this blog sums up my mindset and I am sure I will be repeating it to myself over the next 76 days when I'll be standing on the startline of the Grand 2 Grand 170 mile race.  But early on Monday morning, 1am, I was awake wondering if I should postpone the race for a year as I won't be reaching the startline with the mileage in my legs.  This race is going to be tougher than MdS.  It's 35 miles longer, has more ascending and descending, variable weather conditions and let's not forget I'm 4 years older.  I needed to make a decision before booking flights and accommodation so I decided to wait till I'd had my physio on Tuesday and see how my running went this week.  The good news is I have no more hamstring pain and all my running this week has gone well.
As a result today I committed by booking the flights and the accommodation - ouch £££!  In total I'll be away for 3 weeks and once the race is finished my wife will join me on a luxury holiday in the area finishing up in Las Vegas.  Just the thought of that alone should get me through the pain I will undoubtably suffer during the race.  If it's anything like MdS then I'll experience "heaven and hell" on the same day!
Now some serious planning is required.  The training plan is in place and I'm going to be having regular physio to make sure the chance of injury is reduced.  I'm upping my food intake as I could do with a few extra pounds.  I've been researching rucksacks as it is such an important item that could make or break your run as I'll be carrying in the region of 12 kilos. On MdS my rucksac's shoulder straps were too narrow and cut into my shoulders causing a lot of pain.  I need to buy a lot of equipment and also test out my freeze dried food.  Unfortunately the company that I used last time have gone bust which is a shame because their food was good.  So some tasting to be done To be confident that I like the food and that it has the  right calories and mix of carbs, protein and fat.
My focus is definitely beginning to narrow as the time ticks away.  I will be blocking out any negative thoughts or doubts because in the end this will be done whether I need to Run, Trek, Walk or Crawl!