I am blogging along with my team mates from Polar Race Team.

 
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After Stage 5 and beyond

When I got back to my tent after writing the last post, I could see on everyones faces they knew I had just concluded my last stage. My walk to our desert home was in full view of all the competitors and each agonizing step was met with ” good luck mate” or “keep it up”. The pain killers started to kick in at about the same time as reality, it was over and I was going to fail. I bit down but I was struggling to check the emotions. It had been amongst the hardest 4 days of my life and only 1 day separated me from success or failure. I consoled myself, thinking that the next 12 hrs of rest before the start would give me a chance to heal and left it at that. The tent was full of humour as always, though it had become coarser as the days went on. We were down to seven from the original 10 and everyone was getting ready for the final push. The talk was all about what food we would eat at the finish and what drinks we would have. We were filthy dirty, smelly and all desperate to cling to what life would return to.

By 7pm we were all starting to sleep. I was positioned at the entrance to the tent so that I didn’t stumble on anyone if I got up. Vanessa had left me her sticks to help and I was limiting my water so as not to have to go anywhere and let my feet rest. I lay awake reflecting on the 150kms covered and willing my body to repair. I don’t do excuses, I had to take some of the blame for pushing harder than was needed and not working on the injuries when they happened. At about midnight I had to go to the toilet but I couldn’t get up. I struggled for 5 mins and eventually got to my feet but I knew I had no way to get my shoes on, they wouldn’t fit. I took a few painful steps outside with the sand grinding my open blisters and edged towards the toilets which were about 75m away. I got to 10 metres and I just wanted to crawl to stop the sand making it so painful but I knew if I did it would most probably be through the urine of those who had been too lazy to make the journey at night. It was this ridiculous moment when I realized I was kidding nobody and wouldn’t be completing my race.

We all awoke around 4.30am and whilst the others packed for their penultimate leg, I got my stuff together. This had been a great tent with great people. Rebecca, a kiwi living in Northern Ireland, Rod from Gloucester, Brett a Canadian, David from Ireland as well as Vanessa and Trish from Singapore. Everyone understood the challenges and for the time we had been together we had done our best to support each other. We divided up my remaining food amongst anyone who needed it and Brett helped me up and got my shoes on for me. We said goodbye and I quickly headed to a waiting jeep behind the tent as I was starting to struggle my emotions again. I was silent throughout the 30 odd minutes it took as we whizzed over the Sahara hills, I had little interest in talking.

We were dropped on the edge of the desert where a man looked after the camels. He lived in a camel dung hut and on our arrival he laid out a mat in a shade and made us Tea. He sat on the mat with myself and Matt, another competitor and stared at us for four hours. A van eventually turned up and 3hrs later we reached the hotel. I could barely walk and looking at my feet I could see they were now bleeding and swelling fast. I called Sandy, who after 22 years is not someone i need to explain how I am feeling and she promised me I would be home as soon as she could arrange. I crawled to the shower and took off the smelly, sand filled dressings on my feet and washed them. I got into to bed, elevated my feet and went to sleep until I was awoken at 4.30am by Sandy to tell me I would be leaving that morning. I am writing this from the plane.

So, was this a good experience? Absolutely! It is indescribable the challenges of covering that amount of distance in one of the most inhospitable places on the planet. Everyday required 100% commitment and anyone who did not give it got found out. The camaraderie of my tent mates and my fellow competitors was very special, you so rarely interact with a group of people in such an intense way as you do on an event like this. I would not have missed that for anything. The desert itself is breathtaking, sure, there are moments when you are gasping for air or just concentrating on keeping one foot in front of the other but when you take a moment to look around you cannot but amazed at the majestic beauty of what surrounds you. I vividly recollect between cp 2 and cp 3 on stage 2, smiling as I ran and telling myself that I was very lucky to be doing this. In summary, not only would I recommend this experience but I have already signed up for Sahara 2011 as the desert and myself have some unfinished business and I assure you I intend to make the outcome very different.

As any of you who know me will know, I love Singapore and I am proud to call it my home. My tent mates will tell you that I should be Chief Promotions Officer as I doubt any of them were not bored with me telling them what a great place it is. But on this race it was the people of Singapore that made me proud. Sean for his very best efforts to continue when he knew the easier option could be taken. Vanessa, the gentle one in the tent with a fierce determination. I pushed hard in Stage 3, and in the final 10km passed an American competitor. As I came into the final 2km I spotted a silhouette on the horizon and thought they looked close and were trying to retake. 1km from the line and they were gaining fast which had me turning my head every 100m to see whether I had done enough. With 300m to go i stretched my legs and gave everything to get over the line. I turned to see Vanessa come up in 38th place, a fantastic performance from someone who had told me on the first day that Macritchie was too hard! Then there was Trish, we often passed each other but on Stage 4, with two check points to go, I was in trouble. Trish spotted this and selflessly stayed with me, at far less than her usual pace, to encourage and keep me company in what were dark hours. We crossed the line together and I will not forget the gesture, ever. Singapore, your competitors did you proud, now all we need to do is convince race winner Anders who lives in Singapore to convert!

Finally, a huge thank you to all those who sent their emails and good wishes, you have no idea how important they are to a competitor experiencing the highs and lows of an event like the Sahara. You get in, sweaty, tired, de-hydrated, hungry and questioning your sanity. Then, 5mins later, when you see the competitors email list they download each day, you get your mojo back. I am prone to consistent stupidity, the North Pole is but 6 months away, so I hope that I can count on the tremendous support again.

Darling wife, it is not the first and it won’t be the last time I will rely on your unwaivering support. Thank you, for everything.

 
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Sahara Race – Stage 4

I guess many of you will have seen the vast deterioration in my performance today. I don’t know where I came and I don’t care. The docs worked on my feet for an hour last night and they have gone from red mush to an Egyptian Mummy’s feet. I went to bed but was up in the early hours to be sick (not the first time and a lot of us have been so) which wasn’t so bad as the cool desert sand and cloudless star filled sky replace the normal tiled floor of a bathroom.

I had been warned to take it easier today as my knee would not take it and I would be out for Thursday. They needn’t have worried, I could hardly get my feet in my shoes so i moved as fast as I could. By CP1 I was convincing the medical staff that someone who had finished every day in the Top 40 was still ok even if he was 90th. Downhill was very painful (consistent with patella I am told Jim?) and the knee started to lock. I sneaked in some Voltaren even though they don’t like us taking it on the course and it helped. By CP2 and with 20km covered I was in trouble with my feet though and in particular 2 large blisters on the soles. I didn’t want to take my shoes off as I had struggled to get them on in the first place.Trish, a fellow competitor from Singapore offered to stay with me and we managed to make some progress but painfully slow I don’t know what we did the last 13km in but I think it was more than 4hrs 30. and mainly due to Trish driving the press. On arrival at camp it was clear I was in trouble and now I await the news whether I will be shipped out tomorrow. Frankly, I am speechless and will need a little time to compose myself if that is the case. I have ran 150km in 4 days with a pack and despite today, I have been in the top 30% throughout. It is one more day! admittedly the long one but surely I could take my time. ‘sure’ they say but if you cant get your feet in your shoes and your knee continues to deteriorate.

Not happy, very upset.

 
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Sahara Race – Stage 3

I need to keep this short guys so I can go get some food.

Three of our tent have now withdrawn with the Singaporean Doctor falling to heatstroke on Stage 2 and Dave from Ireland deciding it was not for him. last night we had a sandstorm which came through the tents. All our kit and ourselves got covered by the fine Sahara sand and it is uncomfortable. We get 4.5 litres of water to last from when we finish (around 1pm) until when we finish the first CP on the following day stage. Nobody wastes water on anything but drinking!

Stage 3 was to be the second most difficult with 41km of sand dunes. The start to CP 1 saw the now normal dash but my knee can’t keep the pace so I have to let them move on until it warms up. My feet were getting worse but I had popped, taped and cleaned before I set off. At CP 1 I was 62nd but knew my steady Eddy would keep me in the game. The next 2 CP’s were hardcore dunes and I had to dig deeper than ever to keep going and keep my pace. At CP 4 my feet were a mess but I decided with no medical there I would push on. I knew I was around 40th place and I am now seeing the chance of the Top 50 so I keep pushing along. The scenery is stunning, absolutely breathtaking and I hope they are they putting pictures up. However, the heat is intense and constant and we are always out at midday in the full desert heat. The last leg never seemed to end and I could see I was being caught up. It hurt to step and I willed my self long with my natural competitive instinct and reached the end in 7hrs 30 mins or so and 37th for the stage which still amazes me.

I have blisters on both heals, the sole of my left foot and other places. I am now going to let them dry out and the see the medical team. I have to get my feet ready for Thursday. I think they are going to be my biggest issue

Sandy, every time I feel sorry for myself, I think of the challenges Z faces every day. Thanks for all the emails and updates. Please call Mum and Dad and tell them all is ok. Love you

Thanks to everyone else who emails. It is a massive lift to read the support.

 
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Sahara Race – Stage 2

As I was falling asleep at 7.30 last night, there were some runners still heading in. Stuart had not managed to recover from his run and was in the medical tent with an iv drip in his arm. That combined with a sprained ankle means he will play no part.

I woke this morning at 4.30am, packed, ate and fixed my feet. The start was 6.30 and the stage was described as difficult with a flat 10km and the 25km on sand in the dunes. 2km into stage 1 and I knew my knee was a mess. I was struggling to keep going and cruised until CP1 in around 64th place. Once there I popped the pills and got on with it as others took more time. A sand hill was ahead and as Michelle will tell you, I love the hills and I started gaining as soon as we hit them. Into CP2 and I was 55th for the stage but a quick transition and I was off again into some of the most breath taking scenery I have ever seen. All I could see was sand for 50 km in each way, with no living thing in site, no plants, no birds.

A killer hill had e catch another 2 places and I was on the plateau with a smile on my face. The pills had kicked in and my knee was ok. I could feel I had issues building on my feet but I felt good and I could see I was going to finish. I got to CP3 and once again, with little time taken i got a jump on a number though I did not know my position. The final 5km was all hills and dunes and absolutely brutal. I set two guys about a km in front as my final targets. My feet were stinging but I was feeling like much better than the day before. My steady strategy combined with a better use of electrolytes has me in a better place. Up a huge sand bank to the finish I passed my last target and with the drums of the tribesman in my ears, I crossed with a smile. Position for the day 40 again! What are the odds! That leaves me 39th for the race so far. I spent an hour on my feet and have now eaten. I will rest some more and then have some more food.

Sandy, thank god I have those photos. They inspire me and I get to bore my tent. Tell the kids I miss them and love them.Show them Valley of the Whales on Google Maps.I miss you very much and have had plenty of time to work out where we can go on that trip in 3 weeks.

Michi, the hills paid off but they are brutal. They go on for miles but digging in and getting done seems the only sensible thing

Aaron, good effort for a middle age bloke, Sahara next for you.

Rachael, well done. great performance.

Tomorrow is a 41km and in the dunes again. I am getting myself ready for a hard day but I feel more confident I can get through. That is in no small part to all the fantastic emails I have received.

 
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Sahara Race – Stage 1

Stage 1 done and I am unbelievably sitting in 40th place out of 156 Let’s not excited though, I think I pushed too hard but let me get to that.

Saturday we spent all morning on race check in before we finally got on to the buses to take the 3 hr drive to the start line. sat up front which was a big mistake as despite having been to countries all over the world, driving in Cairo is absolutely mad! We did drive past the Giza pyramids though and I look at them in all their splendour, imagining what it will be like to see them at the finish.

On arrival sun had gone down but the site looked fantastic with 20 tents arranged in an arc around a fire. The stars were out and their was a light breeze. Tent 10 is home to Stuart, myself, 2 Singaporeans, 1 brit, 1 Irishman and 1 Canadian. All are a good crowd and we settled around the fire for dinner, in my case freeze dried spaghetti bolognaise. As soon as we were done, I headed to bed at 7.30pm to the sounds of the desert drums. All I could I think of was the Rowan Atkinson Barclaycard advert, where he lights the rug on the Twrag (sic) bonfire.

I slept well, I was up at 4.30am and it was beautiful. I hadn’t even got my bag out, electing to sleep on the top of my mat. By 5am we were all getting ready, grabbing breakfast and packing kit. After a quick briefing,we headed to the start and with a roar, 156 people set off on a a journey they will never forget. The first 10km was all soft stand and it was tough, by the time we came to the first sand dune we were al getting split up. I got to CP 1 and felt ok. My knee is buggered, I know that with help from physician, Chris White (he who believes that Heineken is a valid isotonic) I am taking some decent stuff that should get me through. Heading to CP2 and I pushed it up a level and spent the time tagging with Trish, a Singaporean who clearly is a tough competitor. The heat was rising and I was feeling it. We were well over 42 degrees and there was not a whisper to keep it down. I drank sensibly and kept to my program of ensuring I had drank 1.5 litres with electrolytes and food on the hour. I got to CP2, loaded with water and headed straight out. Many were taking a break but I chose to drive on and headed into the midday sun. I got hammered! The sun cooked me (yes Sandy, I am wearing and my desert hat. I struggled along the endless sand, with nothing but the horizon in front of me. I thought of family, I thought of Everton (loving the performance from my boys) and anything that would get me away from listening to my footsteps. CP 3 was in a gully and I could see I was clear by 500m of my next competitor. I arrived and requested additional water and put 1.5litre inside me immediately. I filled my bottles and headed straight out with 31km done and 7.5km to complete. Heat wa at 45 degrees on my watch and I started to struggle come 34kms. I saw a hill we had to climb and when I got up I ran along the ridge looking out on miles and miles of desert. I could see a depression as could the US guy ahead of me and we both (as it turned out) assumed it would be after that. I felt crap, I knew the signs and my lack of balance made me make errors and my knee was paying the price. As we crested the depression we did indeed see the camp but many km’s away on the horizon. It was too much for the US guy, he collapsed to the floor and vomited. I pressed on but in 1km time I went the same way and was sick. The water is boiling that you drink and not easy to get down. I looked to the finish and chose to press and for the next 45 mins I made my way slowly but still with one eye behind me.

The tribesman were playing drums as I crossed but I didn’t care. I needed rest and water which I got immediately. One blister which I will deal with tonight, a nights rest and a few kit changes will see me good. I am well ahead of were I expected to be but I think my pace today was less than sensible so I will knock it down a level and save myself for the long run where time can be made up. We have another tough 40km tomorrow on the dunes so I will be in bed by 7.30pm again though tonight I am sleeping under the stars, no need for tents!

Sandy, Zara, Conor, I love you and miss you very much. You are in my thoughts and power me on.

Michi, it is hotter than hell but we did the preparation. We should have done it in A SAUNA.

John M, you cheered me with the Everton news

Jackie, I was dreaming of stella all day

John W, tell me it get better

To everyone who sends me mails, thanks so much. When you arrive back in camp broken, they make you smile and lift your spirits.

 
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Planes, room mates and Egyptian weddings

It is 3-35am and I am wide awake due to a mix of jet lag and the noise from the extravagant Egyptian wedding taking place in the function room opposite. This is the last night I will sleep in a bed until 9th October so I had hoped it would be a more comprehensive sleep.

I arrived at Singapore airport last night and checked all my luggage in apart from a small hand carry. I summised the risk of a luggage loss was low, though I was consciously aware that if I was wrong then my race was over. After a brief lounge visit I headed to the gate to find a number of competitors were on the same flight, easily identifiable due to the patches on our shirts. However, these guys were all in compression tights, running shoes, drinking their isotonic drinks and nursing their back packs. I was carrying my ipad, nursing an isotonic Heineken (Chris White training tip) and wearing my A&F board shorts with hiking boots. I could be safe they would not think I was one of them!

An uneventful flight, on which I slept throughout, ended at 5am in Cairo. As soon as the doors were opened I was off like a hare to get through passport control and customs. Years on the road told me that there would be limited rooms available for early check in and there were at least 10 people looking to get one. On arrival at the hotel I was greeted with the news it was full but a few well placed smiles and I got one. My theory proved correct as when I came down 30 mins later, my fellow competitors were having fruitless conversations with the receptionists.

There are over 150 competitors so it isn’t hard to find yourself sharing the lift or walking past one. Everyone is very nice and cheerful, all aware that Saturday night we will be in the desert under canvas together. I spent my day going through my kit again, checking everything was secure, squeezing air out of bags and establishing the best position for each item. We have a manadatory list of kit which includes headlights (x2) compass, first aid, 14000 calories of food, clothing etc and it needs to all get in the equivalent of a day pack. I have found this a challege but I do now believe I have got pretty good at it and will make a good quartermaster/packer for the pole team.

Saturday we have a competitor briefing followed by a gear check. We then board the buses for the 2-3 hour journey to our first camp site before the start which is 8am Sunday morning. With all this in mind, I did not fight jet lag at 7-30pm and fell asleep. At 1-30am I could hear a loud banging on the door and found I had a room mate. I had assumed that would not be the case as I had one double bed but they wheeled in a single bed and it was done.

Stuart is a Brit who has spent the last 22 years in HK. He has two of these races under his belt already so is very relaxed at what is ahead. Clearly someone who will be at the front of the pack, he has a top 20 finish to his name from Gobi earlier this year. Stuart will also be in my tent so we enjoyed an hour or so introductions upon which he went to sleep and I find myself wide awake writing this. I have just had a message from wife Sandy who has just finished a 5km road race in 25 mins. That is pretty excellent when she has not ran in 3 months and has not been 100% for a few weeks now. Well done honey!!!!!

Right, let’s see if I can get a few more hours. If any body would like to send me an email of support you can through the organisers web site HERE.

 
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Heading to the Sahara

I worked hard in training for Sahara, I even grew to enjoy it, well as much as you can enjoy lugging your pack for 10hrs each weekend but with Michelle’s company it was bearable. It was as much about getting used to it mentally as it was the physical side. I was looking to finish in the top 75 but harboured ambitions of finishing in the top 50. Both of these aims were reaching when you consider I have never ran a marathon and I am clearly built for power rather than endurance.

Nearly three weeks ago I fell and damaged my right knee and despite some initial efforts to continue training, I have not been able to and I have managed a mere 20km in my final weeks. On Friday, I ventured out for a nifty 10km but I could feel there were issues and I could feel I was doing more harm than good. A period of deliberation took place and I have decided I will continue rest this week as I would have been in taper anyway and I can’t do any good by continuing. I know some will ask should I be racing at all but I am afraid that was never open to doubt, I am going to Egypt, end of story.

The way I look at these races, they are very much a mental challenge. Marcel, my fitness guru and an advisor on this challenge, makes it very clear, we are more than physically capable once we get to a certain stage of fitness. The limit is the mind. Indeed my buddy Aaron reminded me with this quote from Vince Lombardi a few weeks back “The good lord gave you a body that can stand most anything. It is your mind you have to convince”

So, the countdown continues to when I will leave for Cairo on Thursday. I will land on Friday. then on Saturday, following the medicals and the checks made on our kit to make sure we have everything, we will then get transported to the start line. A night under canvas punctuated by final kit checks and we will then start at 8am the following day. This will be the start, on what I expect will be amongst the toughest 6 days of my life. We have been informed that the race will take the following form.

Stage 1

38.0 kilometers / 23.2 miles

Stage 2

35.7 kilometers / 22.2 miles

Stage 3

41.4 kilometers / 25.7 miles

Stage 4

38.4 kilometers / 23.9 miles

Stage 5

94.5 kilometers / 58.7 miles

Stage 6

Approximately 2 kilometers / 1.3 miles

The course for the Sahara Race 2010 passes through the Valley of the Whales (locally known as Wadi El-Hitan).  It is a UNESCO world heritage site which means that it is protected and not many people are permitted the opportunity to visit.  We will literally be running past whale fossils and other sea life remains from more than 8,000 years ago. The race finishes at the Pyramids at Giza which will be quite fantastic and I have every intention of ensuring I am there unless they have carried me off in a stretcher!

Yesterday, Sandy and I spent some time going through my kit and we made some last minute modifications. Every thing that I will need for the 7 days has to be carried on my back. It makes you very weight sensitive and there are no luxuries I can assure you. A few final tasks remain and we will resume on Tuesday night with the plan being to work on optimal packing strategies to make sure the weight is evenly distributed and that I can fit everything in.

Thanks to the organisers gaining Intel as a sponsor, we will have the ability to blog during the week. I intend to do so as I believe it will help me reflect on what has been accomplished each day and set my mind to what is ahead. I will therefore blog at both Ordinarybloke.com and on the organisers website.

I have been asked by some good people, how do they sponsor me for this challenge. The answer, strangely, is you don’t. In 2011 I will be heading to the North Pole as part of a three person team for one of the hardest endurance races on the planet. I decided that I did not want to detract from the team fund raising which all goes to benefit the same charity, Children’s Surgical Centre. What I do NEED is your support and encouragement because every day I will be getting up to complete massive distances, in sand and 40 degree heat. Competitors can receive emails  in the evening after each race day, so if you have the time, I would be really grateful to receive some to help push me along by sending me one from this LINK

 
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A long post today as I attempt to get you all caught up on Hotham training and the continued Sahara training all at once!

I met Tom coming off his flight from London in Melbourne and we quickly sorted out the car and started loading the kit. Georgie’s flight got in around 90 mins later and after stopping to satisfy (read demand) Georgie’s need for MacDonalds, we started off on the four hour drive. Tom did a sterling job at the wheel considering his jet lag, though alternatives were limited as my licence has ran out and G hadn’t brought hers with her.

We made a stop in Wangaratta to take on supplies. Trail maps, fuel canisters for the stoves, a therma mat for Georgie as well as some food supplies. Spirits were high, we were off to the snow! As we got closer to the mountains the scenery was spectacular, rural Victoria is incredibly beautiful and double so with big blue skies. As we began the ascent to the top of the mountain, the roads became incredibly bendy which made for a nervous Georgie which in turn only encouraged Tom further to increase his speed. It was only when the words “I feel quite sick” were uttered that he slowed to a sensible pace and by that time we were on the mountain with fantastic views of the snow.

When we arrived the lifts were closing, but with X country being our game, we were able to quickly get changed and head out for a quick session. I haven’t been on skis before and only snowboarded once but Tom is a veteran of all disciplines and was very happy to get us started. It was uneventful, no wipe outs  and probably gave me some false confidence for the following day!

The next morning we drove 14km to Dinner Plain to meet our X Country coach. Most definitely the most laid back man on the planet. He confessed he had 2 coffees a day. We wondered what he would be like if he didn’t! It became quickly apparent that Georgie was a natural and I was not. I started my now familiar crashing to the floor style of X Country pretty much from the start. We headed into the forest and I struggled to get any momentum which had the obvious affect on confidence which in turn made things worse. The humour and encouragement never stopped, this is a team that works well together and I was consistently getting support from my team mates. We completed four hours and then decided to have lunch which was needed if for nothing else to give my body a rest from the bashing.

That afternoon we headed out again and for reasons I do not know, it all came together and I started to make progress. Sure, I still had some great wipe outs (yes there are plenty on video) but the confidence was growing. The day ended with 6 hrs of X country bagged and we spent the evening in talking. Quote of the day goes to Georgie “Are you going to be dogging Mr Salami?” Let’s just say it was a reference to Tom and myself when we skiing.

We were up early on Thursday with Tom in the kitchen cooking away as Tom does. It is a great skill of his and G and I were certainly not complaining. Spirits were high though Tom did point out that Day 2 often sees people going backwards. How right he was! We set off with our coach on a 12km trail and I was like a new born giraffe. I think I must have fallen AND HARD maybe 40 times in the five hours. Initially it was really funny but then it started to hurt and hurt bad. By thend of the trail I was broken, in need of Ibuprofen and would have been quite happy to keep warm by burning the skis. At lunch Georgie said that our coach has said to her “have you got any marijuana? I think it may help Ian”

That night we had a few drinks and dinner. Well, let’s say I had a few drinks as my  team mates went out and when I woke this morning I found Tom asleep, fully clothed on the couch and G nowhere to be seen so I presumed alive in her room.

The plan shifted to get me on downhill skis to see if that would feed my need for momentum. Whilst the first five minutes did not start off promising I progressed pretty quickly and started to enjoy myself. I have never been afraid to try stuff and I was way past caring if I wiped out so with that things started to come together and the day ended up with progress.


Friday we decided I would continue build up experience on the slopes whilst Georgie and Tom would race in a weekly challenge over the 14km X country course. My morning was spent being passed by three year olds on skis whilst I did my best not to wipe them out during one of my regular crashes. The other two did a great job at the race with Tom near his record time and Georgie coming in with a really respectable time which was fantastic considering she had been on skis for three days!

That evening we packed our stuff into the back packs and headed out on the trail to a field in the snow as the sun began to set. It quickly got cold as we set about getting our tent up and the snow melted for the water we would need. We did well, things moved on and we worked well as a team. Tasks completed we dived into the tent with the pitch black surrounding us and threw some water into the foil bags containing our dehydrated meals, which never get any better. I can’t remember when we got to sleep but it was not late as we were tired. I slept fitfully as it was absolutely freezing and my mat was on an uneven patch that left me constantly moving to get comfortable.

We awoke at sunrise and began the morning tasks but these were made absolutely hellish with the freezing boots. We were in a few feet of snow so there was no opportunity to get them warmed up either and after a bit we all started to lose the feeling in our feet. That accelerated us on our tasks and we were on our skis and off as soon as we could which worked a charm as the barrier between our boots and snow provided by the skis was enough.

My X country had not improved so after a few interesting wipe outs we decided it was best for me to return to downhill whilst the other two continued and I headed back to Hotham for some instruction. The day past with some progress on my side and plenty of mileage for the other two and we eventually found ourselves back at the camp for another night under canvas. Lesson learnt from the previous night we put on everything we had and slept a lot better though it was still cold despite having our sub zero bags and mats. Something we will need to consider when it will many multiples colder in the Arctic.

The final day saw me under more instruction and make a lot of progress (from a low base) and the other two head off to do a new track. We ended the day with dinner and a few well earned drinks that in mine and Tom’s case ended in the apartment at 4.30am.

All in all a great trip that brought home to us that fitness is not the challenge here. Technique, preparation, drilling major aspects of the race and kit selection are absolutely critical. We work well as a team, enjoy each others company a great deal and are committed to the same goal but we will be breaking down the race hour by hour and practicing relentlessly.

On arrival back in Singapore, my priority shifted to the Sahara which is now a mere 36 days away. Each weekday now has a 10-15km run in it with one having a morning and evening in the same day. The weekends have got progressively bigger with last weekend seeing me complete a 5hr 30mins on Saturday followed by a 2hrs 50mins on Sunday, complete with pack around Macritchie. I am fortunate to have Michelle with me on each long run which is great for company. I don’t find them tough physically, it is just a challenge to keep the forward momentum for such long periods at a time. This weekend I have a four hour on Saturday and four hour on Sunday to complete with pack before I start a relatively lower training load for a week before the final push to the end. I am also blogging on the Sahara website along with my other competitors so if you have any interest then give it a read.

When not running, I have to spend time on kit selection. I have to carry all my own kit including food, clothes, sleeping bag etc over the 250km course so correct selection to make sure I get the right balance between weight and productivity is critical. I need to get my head around nutrition and work out what will give me the highest calory density without the least weight. This is a big topic and whilst interesting when there are spare hours in the day, there never are so I need to start looking at it properly. Running shoes (Nike) Top (Patagonia), Backpack OMM25L and compression tights (Skins), sleeping bag (marmot) are all selected and tested. I now just need to concentrate on the rest including the long list of mandatory.

Enough for now, I will be be back in the next week or so with another update.

 
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