Saturday 28 April 2012

Stage 6: 15.5km (9.6 miles)

I'm swearing inside - where's the finish?!

A measly 9 1/2 miles. Piece of cake.

So the organisers gave us the big dunes today.


The last day was an actual race up to the first checkpoint. 6.5km of flat, stony ground. We all sped up to the start of the dunes. I felt like I was running a pb time, though it was probably still painfully slow.

Hit the dunes. And return to shuffle/walk.

And on. And on. And on.

It was deliciously awful and wonderful at the same time. You are so, so close but you aren't. You know there is only a few kilometres left from near 300km at the start, but you can't see the finish line.

I didn't think I'd be so relieved today, as it was only 91/2 miles, but I was. It felt so, so good to come in. People cheer you in. Some, having just finished around you giving you hugs. Others just staring vacantly in sheer exhaustion, can't believe what they've just done.


Stage 5: 42.2km (26.2 miles)

The beauty of the desert. Today was a good day

Slightly apprehensive now about this stage, given the state of my rapidly-ballooning painful leg. Nothing to do though except shuffle off. Luckily the odds are in my favour today as the course terrain is pretty forgiving and I end the day completely, completely exhausted but strangely satisfied by my new-found ability to keep calm and carry on.

The day's environment varied widely from stony ground, to sandy, to dunes, to valley beds. I strangely found it easier to shuffle very slowly rather than walk, so the better half and I played a game of catch up. I would shuffle off. Then he would run to catch up with me and go back to a fast march. I would then catch up, overtake and repeat.

I also treated myself to some tunes today which made a world of difference. Nothing like a bit of Michael Jackson!

Today was quite an emotional day, but this time for a good reason - I was fairly staggered by how beautiful the dunes were. How lucky was I to be doing this and having this experience. I knew I wouldn't remember the pain of my leg once it was over, but I would remember the good parts.

The environment. The banter with other people about feet. Laughing out loud with the better half over some funny joke. The relief of crossing the finish line each day and being welcomed in with a clap, a smile and a cup of steaming hot mint tea. Even the freeze-dried food.

In a way what I found most refreshing was the race empties your mind of anything other than a) when was the last time you drank b) when was the last time you had a salt tablet c) when was the last time you ate (with a little bit of foot anxiety in between). Worries about daily life, work, or relationships disappear. It is a bit like finally being able to meditate, but in a non-happy clappy way.

Regardless of enjoying today's race, my body is starting to moan. At the finish I collapse completely and utterly exhausted. I can't move. I can't eat. I can't talk. My body is beginning to give up on me. It doesn't want anything in it though I force down a few dates, some salt tablets and another litre of water as I'm quite dehydrated.

I fall into a dark dreamless sleep, apprehensive and eager for tomorrow to come and go.

The rest day: marathon des sables

rest day
Can of coke? On a carpet? In a sleeping bag? In the Sahara? Don't mind if I do

Oh the relief. A day off. Our plan of stopping at checkpoint 5 to sleep worked well as we got in just after 9am on the rest day, but having had a good nights sleep as well.

Unfortunately this meant our placing was now towards the bottom, but I didn't care. I was so close to giving up yesterday because of my painful leg but I hadn't.

The long day was behind me. Only a marathon and 10 miles to go. Easy!

And a day of rest. Oh it was divine.

There has not been a day where I not wanted to do anything more than sit in the desert in a sleeping bag on a carpet drinking coke. So I did. And it was great.

Never mind that about an hour before the above photo was taken it was hailing. Yes hailing. In the Sahara. With a vicious sandstorm to boot. Some poor soles (ho ho) were still shuffling it in from the day before (not so ho ho)

Friday 20 April 2012

Stage 4: 81.5km (50 1/2 miles)

About half way down the HUGE dune

And it arrives! The day of doom.

Tried to think positively (see my PMA training has paid off!) by thinking of those poor people whose feet are much worse than mine.

I've been religiously getting my blisters cleaned and taped by Doc Trotters each evening and am starting to see the evidence of some severely wounded feet. Mincemeat comes to mind.

So with that positive thought tucked safely in I set off.

As usual we started to jog to the first checkpoint but hat the stop as got too hot. I see a theme occurring here...

Pre checkpoint 1 we had to climb a long, steep rocky ascent, followed by the most fun I've had out here - a technical descent down the biggest sand dune I've ever seen. The organisers had to add a rope to hold onto to descend, but many people just ran down. I'm sure some of them would have lost their footing and rolled down. Faster I guess at least.

Trotted through some flat rocky plains to reach checkpoint 2. I had noticed my left ankle had started twinging. I tried to ignore it. Mind over matter. But unfortunately it got progressively worse.

I stopped halfway through checkpoint 2 to try and tape it up. Then at checkpoint 3 I had to ask them to tape it some more and supply me with some strong painkillers.

So frustrating.

This is the thing I've found about Marathon des Sables. It's not really all about fitness. It is a bit about luck. You may get blisters. You may not. You may get dehydrated. You may not. You may develop shin splints when you've never had a problem with them before. Or you may not. It's a bit of a gamble.

You can either go for it and be a competitor, and risk not finishing. Or you can err on the side of caution and be a completer - hobbling through it all come what may. There were a lot of teeth gritted out there let's say!

One of the high points of being a completer rather than a competitor was on day 4 the elites set off three hours after the rest of the field, so at around 1-2pm you see them all overtaking you.

Pretty incredible to watch them. My favourite, other than the legend that is Ahansal, was our incredibly talented Jen Salter. Women do tend to do better the further they run, and Jen is outstanding. Felt very proud to be British and a woman as she raced past.

And then I went back to my comical hobble/shuffle.

As the sun started to go down, we all entered the twilight zone. And dunes. Bastards.

I started to fantasise about sleeping while hobbling again, and begun to see motorway bridges. Not quite sure why. I kept thinking I was running underneath the M25.

More painkillers at checkpoint 4. And on. If it wasn't for the better half I think there is a chance I may have given up here. I was in pain, tired and tearful. My leg had ballooned.

We trekked on as we entered the dark phase (in more ways than one). The headtorches came on. The glowsticks attached to our bags. We past people kipping in their sleeping bags.

Along the way we gained a friend. A Korean man tagged onto the back of our train. I think he was feeling a bit low as well and wanted some company. Was quite touched on reaching checkpoint 5 that he wanted a photo with us. The most I could muster through those kilometres was a few grunts and shouts of pain.

I think the better half secretly enjoyed this phase as at one point we had a train of around 15 people with him leading the way. I heard the word "marines" mentioned a few times.

We made the not-difficult decision to get our heads down at checkpoint 5. I was really upset by this as I wanted to get it finished, but my leg was having non of it. We ended up sleeping for 7 hours which became a bit of a joke among our friends. And probably for those at home who know how much my better half and I love our sleep!

5am we carried on. Some malt loaf, salt tablets, immodium and painkillers were order of the day! The morning was a different story. It was light. We felt refreshed. It was cool. So we managed the last two checkpoints in record time and got in before 10am, giving us a full rest day, and having had some kip.

Seeing and finally crossing that finish line was stupidly emotional. The race wasn't over, but I was in bits. I was so relieved I hadn't given up. I was so grateful to the better half and I was so bloody relieved to stop moving!

Stage 3: 35km (21 3/4 miles)

Pretty happy chappy here

The nerves at the start line have been replaced by mild excitement and mild dread in equal doses. The days are starting to fall into a bit of a routine now.

All you think about is the next checkpoint. Do anything else and you will die. Your head cannot stray further than the next checkpoint, the next step even. Thinking too far ahead will mess with your mind. I refused to think about the dreaded day 4.

Most days start at 8:30am which gives enough time to jog up to the first checkpoint, before it gets too hot. It then turns into a fast march/hobble the rest of the way, with the sparse flat, not too hot sections jogged.

This morning's description in the roadbook was a "false, flat ascent". In other words: uphill.

Started jogging. Turned into a powerwalk as started overheating. I thought I'd be quite good in the heat as I generally operate about two degrees cooler than other people. I also did some sweaty yoga in London. Seems laughable here. Though I have heard it does help! I'm not really sure what else UK bods can do to acclimatize other than get a fair few heat chamber sessions in or go live in Morocco.

I was also increasingly worried about the effects of the heat as one of our tentmates had unfortunately been pulled from the race. We found him on the eve of day 2, grey with pulsing calf muscles. He was delirious. Seven drips later he returned and tried stage 1 of today's race, but dehydrated again and had to have another drip. Game over.

So with that thought, I carried steadily, boringly slowly on.

Stage 3, in the end, was really rather enjoyable. Stunning views. Bit of banter with fellow shufflers. Shuffled through a herd of camels who looked on mildly in confusion. More panic over ever-increasing blisters. (Annoyingly the better half got one blister the whole race. ONE. That's it! And on his little toe. It's embarrassing. All that prep for blister taping and nada!).

The best part was the last few kilometres where we managed to actually RUN. The temperature must have cooled slightly and it was nice and flat, so we gunned it. It felt like we were Usain Bolt, though I expect in reality we were going at 12 min mile pace.

No matter, it was great fun and captured the essence of what I wanted from this. Freedom, satisfaction, joy and relief.

Stage 2: 38.5km (24 miles)

Endless, endless valley beds

More Patrick Bauer chat. More ACDC. And....shuffle!

Felt pretty good after stage 1. Kept an eye on the blisters. On reflection I was rather paranoid about them. Been looking at too many gruesome pictures of people's feet. They got worse today, but were still manageable. Thank goodness I wasn't getting any on any weight bearing areas.

Stage 2 was a cool 52 degrees. I couldn't really tell the difference between this and stage 1 to be honest. It was just hot full stop.

Stop press: I managed to shuffle all the way to checkpoint 1 today! Rather pleased with myself. We then hit some small dunes (dunettes - how cute!) followed by another loooooooonnnnggggg valley bed stretch. The valley beds seem to hold the heat in more and are a little like an alternative reality. You move but you don't. You can see the trees in the distance (or can you?) but they don't come any closer.

Until they do.

Pretty tired by the third checkpoint but still had about 10km of dunettes (not so cute now). My overwhelming need at this point was to lay down and sleep. I was even fantasising about working out how to sleep while shuffling and tried it a bit.

Managed to shuffle in the last half kilometre or so.

I was very pleased to reach "home" today. By now our camp was complete luxury to me. A sight for sore eyes. Sultan tea sponsors the Marathon des Sables so you are welcomed over the finish line with a hot cup of sweet Moroccan mint tea. Heavenly.

Stage 1: 33.8km (21 miles)

You won't be smiling in 5 hours time

Oh the nerves! It was rather strange as I knew I wasn't going to all out for a pb, it was going to be more of a shuffle race, but I was so incredibly nervous before we started.

Each day starts with a round up of news from the infamous Patrick Bauer, the founder of the MDS. The briefing includes information about the course du jour, birthday wishes,and the elites and their placement. Excitement is increased with a daily rendition of ACDC's "Highway to Hell". Then we're off! And shuffle!

The first day I found fairly pleasant.

This was probably because I walked all of it.

My better half aka Captain Sensible said "We're come here with two objectives. 1) To finish 2) To enjoy it. So let's not burn out on the first day."


Stage 1 (day 1) was a mild 46 degrees apparently. It felt hot anyway. I endearingly named my hands "sausage fingers" as they were so swollen. Dread to think what my poor feet were looking like. I can only imagine them thinking "wtf! WHY have you stuffed me in two pairs of socks, doused me in talc and decided to shuffle 21 miles in 46 degrees?!"

Day 1 I managed to acquire a couple of blisters on both big toes. Fairly impressed by them really.

The day started fairly flat, and passed through some old ruins. Children came tumbling out to say hello, and steal stuff out of our side pockets. I think Patrick Bauer may have placed them their to get us slower movers going faster.

Our first technical ascent and descent came after the first checkpoint. It was pretty tough but not horrendous. All that hill training definitely paid off as my legs felt good powering up the slopes. The view from the top was just magical.

Our excitement changed rapidly on the downhill as we started to see the first casualties. One Japanese man puking for Japan. Another guy sat convulsing along the first valley bed.

And take salt tablet and drink water.

And drink a bit more just in case.

And now eat because I'm now paranoid I've drunk too much.

And repeat.

A couple of ridiculously hot, hot, hot valleys later, we began the last climb up a sandy ascent, followed by the first glimpse of camp about 3km away.

Oh the agony! It's like a carrot in front of a donkey. Never comes closer.

Until it does. And it did. And we finished. Phew!

I did lie earlier. We did run. We ran about 200m then gave up as it was too hot. But we tried.

Day zero: Camp life on the Marathon des Sables


Marathon des Sables is more than just running. It's a different way of life for a week. Two days before the race starts, we head out to the desert to settle into what will be our home.

After five hours on the road comes a rather amusing cattle lorry ride - with-bags-and-all - for a couple of kilometres. Blinking nervously once the lorry doors open, we all descend down and into the strangely familiar sight of a semi-circle of black canvas tents, peppered with berbers and camels.

Tent 61 is my tent. I am sharing with my two friends, better half, and two laid back Israeli guys. We are lucky to only have six people. The tents do hold up to eight.

The tents are pretty robust. They consist of a large sheet of black canvas nailed down into the ground and supported by wooden poles. The berbers take these tents down and reassemble them on every stage. I thought we'd be sleeping on bare ground but they put down a red-coloured carpet as well - luxury! The tents can be adjusted slightly, which is really useful to know if there is a sandstorm.

Tent 61 ends up being a rather valued tent. We are the first tent on the left as you finish. Those spared metres end up being a godsend after trekking all day! Tent 61 also faces opposite the legend that is Mohamed Ahansel - one of Morocco's finest runners. I found it fairly staggering that little old me could be opposite such an elite runner. What other races offer this opportunity?

Before the race starts, runners are looked after in what I thought was 5-star luxury. Food and drink is provided. And it's good food. Crusty bread, fresh yogurt, spaghetti bolognaise with parmesan cheese, creamy mushroom soup. Even red wine is thoughfully given in the evenings!

The purpose of going out earlier is to go through all the logistics - medical sign offs, kit check, final bag pack. So for the whole of day zero, all 800 plus nervous racers packed, unpacked, repacked, took things out, put them back, then panic bought from the "shop" cleverly engineered.

My bag ended up weighing 9kg pre water, which is fairly reasonable. Bags tend to range between 6.5kg-15kg.

The checks went well for me. My ECG was signed off and no one wanted to see the contents of my bag. Now just the anxious wait till stage 1.

My nutrition for the week: the joys of freeze-dried fish

Below is exactly what I took for the race. You have to carry a minimum of 2000 calories a day. The organisers do carry out random checks. More so for the elites, but I did hear of normal people getting asked to see the contents of their bag, so it it wise to make sure you have enough.

People react differently to the conditions. I was absolutely ravenous till day 5 then just couldn't stomach anything much. I reckon if you are running more than walking, you may find it difficult to eat. If you were more of a plodder like me, you may well be hungry!

From the below I ditched a lot of this on day 3 (pre long day). The nuts were not really doing it for me, particularly the almonds. No idea why. I also hated Geo bars by day 2 (though had to persevere with them). If you are taking cereal bars, I recommend taking a variety! I also ditched some of the malt loaf and dates as they were heavy.

Winners for me were the veggie pepperami, crisps and recovery shakes. The flapjacks and soup were also really nice. Some other good choices include ginger cake and shortbread.

I did also take some tea, salt, sugar, chilli and herbs but ditched these as well in the end as I kept forgetting about them!

I took a few energy gels with me but didn't use them. Again, people do vary. I didn't train with them so did not want them. I think I would have been sick if I tried. So I would go with your gut (no pun intended!). Take what you enjoy eating.

I did not mind the freeze-dried food up until day 5 where I just couldn't eat it. Some people hated it, but I thought it wasn't bad for what it was, even freeze-dried fish. If you are hungry you eat anything! The other options include things like supernoodles and couscous. You just need to make sure you take enough calories.

Day 4 is a bit of an odd one as you are running all day (and all night). I just survived on a few snacks in the day, then a malt loaf early doors on day 5 - which I think saved my bacon as I was feeling pretty rough by this point. We had thought we could stop and eat a meal, but the winds got up so there was no chance, and we couldn't be bothered either.

Day 1
Breakfast Malt loaf and apricots 438
Race Almonds 2XGeo Electrolyte 866
Tea Veggie pasta 800
Snacks Recovery shake Hot choc Malt loaf Pepperami 342 2446

Day 2
Breakfast Muesli 800
Race Mango 2xGeo Electrolyte 691
Tea Vegetable tikka 800
Snacks Recovery shake Soup Crisps Flapjack 653 2944

Day 3
Breakfast Hot cereal with mango 800
Race Peanuts 2XGeo Electrolyte 825
Tea Fish and potatos 800
Snacks Recovery shake Hot choc Malt loaf Pepperami 342 2767

Day 4
Breakfast Muesli 800
Race Cashews 4xGeo Electrolyte 1157
Tea Veggie pasta 800
Snacks Recovery shake 2x Pepperami Crisps Flapjack 693 3447

Day 5
Breakfast Hot cereal with mango 800
Race NA
Tea Vegetable tikka 800
Snacks Soup Malt loaf Pepperami 582 2182

Day 6
Breakfast Porridge 800
Race 2xGeo Electrolyte 274
Tea Fish and potatos 800
Snacks Crisps Flapjack Protein bar 652 2526

Day 7
Breakfast Hot cereal with mango 800
Race 1xGeo 137
Tea NA
Snacks Recovery shake 937

Dates 295
Banana chips 525


Thursday 19 April 2012

Marathon des Sables kit: what worked and what didn't

So here is the final list of kit that I took out to the desert. Be warned. If you decide to do MDS you will face down a week of packing, unpacking, panic packing, panic unpacking, repacking, then ditching half of what you originally packed on day 4!

My bag at the start, without full water bottles and the supplied kit weighed 9kg. I figure the only way to get it down further would be to omit the luxuries - iphone, spare shorts etc, and to go low on food. Don't take a stove, repackage your meals, take the bare minimum of calories.

There is also a definite knack to packing your kit. This is what worked for me:-
Food first - day 7 up to day 1. Pack recovery snacks separately to race food.
Then the rest of your stuff on top.
Pack a bag with your camp kit - then everything you need is in one bag - headtorch, ear plugs, spork etc etc.
Camp clothes in a separate bag.
Pack a separate medical bag. Keep a few essential medical supplies in an easy to get to pocket when on the road.
Pack your passport, cash and card in a separate pocket or right at the bottom.
Pack your hopefully-won't need-but-if-I-do-I'll-need-them-quick in a separate bag in another pocket e.g venom pump.

When on the run I kept loo roll, tape and medical stuff in the side mesh pockets. In my front Raidlight pocket I kept food, salt tablets, tape, zeozorb, bodyglide and lipbalm.

Anyway - all good fun.

Backpack - Raidlight Runner. 32l. The bag itself was brilliant. I didn't have any problems with it at all. I ended up borrowing someone's smaller Raidlight pocket bumbag to add to the front which I would definitely, definitely recommend. It meant I could keep essentials close to hand - lipbalm, salt tablets, food, tape, bodyglide. I also wouldn't buy the 32l again. It was way too big. 20-25l is plenty.

Lots of people suffered from chafing around the shoulders and bag. I was very fortunate not too. I'm not sure if this was because I trained a lot with the bag (not necessarily a heavy one), but it probably helped get me used to carrying it. I also taped my back and shoulders and used bodyglide to help.

Hydration - One Raidlight bottle and one For Goodness Shakes bottle. Hated, hated, hated the Raidlight bottle. I knew I would. It leaked randomly and after day 4 the top got stuck so you had to pull the whole straw off to have a drink. I'm sure there is a gap in the market for a well-designed desert bottle!

Sleeping bag - Mammut Ajungilak. Great sleeping bag. Can't fault it. The weather this year was a little unpredictable so I was either way too cold at night or way too hot. Not really much you can do about this other than take a liner, or wrap yourself in your survival sheet.

Sleeping mat - Thermarest Neoair extra lite. This was a rubbish choice really. It punctured on day 1. You can still use it - it is a slow puncture, but I just couldn't be bothered to dig out the repair kit to try to sort it out. If you are lucky and it doesn't puncture it is fairly good. It keeps you away from the cold ground. Otherwise the ground isn't really that bad to kip on. They provide a carpet to sleep on. You are not directly on the sand. I'd take a foam mat if I would do it again.

Trainers - Brookes Cascadia. Great choice though I did get severe shin splints in my leg shin, so not sure if that was partly down to the trainer or to the terrain. I've never had them before. Otherwise the tainers were very comfortable. I was very lucky to only get blisters the first few days, and on my toes, so not too much of a problem to carry on with.

Brookes were also very grippy and not too heavy - great for the long days and traversing up and the down the rocky parts.

Gaiters - Sandbaggers. Could not fault. I think I got a bit of sand in my shoes on the last day (6 miles of dunes) but not much. Would definitely recommend them. I bought the velcro ones and got the velcro sewn into my trainer. I then gaffer taped that also.

I would say they rip easier than the Raidlight gaiters, so be careful when going through the many acacia plants. Take gaffer tape and needle and thread for repair jobs.

Torch - Petzl lite. Great. Essential.

Spare batteries - Did not use.

10 safety pins - Used only for pinning my number.

Compass - Did not use. It is pretty essential that you do know how to use a compass though so worth having a play before you go!

Lighter - Essential if you want hot food!

Whistle - On rucksack already. Did not use.

Knife with metal blade - I took 4 Deserts Jelly Card. I didn't use the knife but I did use the scissors an awful lot to cut tape. Would recommend this.

Tropical Disinfectant - Tea Tree Oil. Did not use.

Anti-Venom pump - Did not use.

Signalling mirror - Did not use. Could not bare to see what state my hair was in!

One aluminium survival sheet - Did not use, but could be useful if you are cold at night!

Road-book - Some light bedtime reading!

Distress flare - Annoyingly heavy.

Salt tablets - Essential! Liked popping my salt tablets. Quite staggering how much you have to take. Each tablet has .5g of salt in it. They recommend up to 20 tablets a day!!

Punch card - Attached to rucksack.

Luminous stick - Given to you on day 4.

1x running top - Under Armour Heatgear pink baggy top. Brilliant. No problems. Kept me as cool as possible.

[2]x running socks - 2x pairs of Injinji toe socks. 1x pair Hilly mono skin. 1x pair Bridgedale Trail. These all worked fine. I started off wearing two pairs but progressed to just wearing the toe socks. In hindsight I wonder whether I should have just gone with the toe socks as my feet were incredibly swollen from day 1. I'd also probably buy the Injinji compression socks as well. Injinji toe socks are really good. I wore the mono skins one morning and felt the difference. I felt like I would get blisters really quickly. The toe socks helped keep each toe separate and doing it's own thing, minding it's own business.

2x running shorts - Under Armour Heatgear again. 1x baggy. 1x tight. Both were great. I'd probably only take 1 pair - the baggy pair next time.

1x hat with neck guard - Essential!

1x buff - old one. Blue! Another essential. Quadrupled up as a snot rag, hat, sleeping mask and wind shield!

1x bra - I took an extra sports bra in case my one started rubbing. It didn't so I probably didn't need 2 bras, but was nice to have a change half way through!

1x sunglasses - I managed to get a pair of reasonably cheap prescription wraparound sunglasses which was great news. The glasses have a prescription insert attached to them which you then get your optician to add your prescription. The glasses were a little odd to start with as they feel a bit chunky and they also slightly distort the ground when you go downhills, but otherwise they did a great job.

Glasses - for the camp/night stage. I didn't bother with contacts at all, though I took a couple of spare pairs just in case the glasses broke.

1x spare t-shirt - Even when dirty it was nice to change out of your running top into another top so I would take this again.

1x windstopper - Used a little when it was cold in the mornings. Not essential though.

1x lightweight fleece - I bought a lovely red Montane fleece which was lovely to put on in the cold evenings.

1x slippers - I took Trekmate polar slippers. These were great in one sense as they protected your feet from the sand and were really comfortable, but on the other hand, they did make my feet really sweaty so I was paranoid about my feet getting worse! I think I probably would take these again as they were brilliantly comfortable if you had blisters. Otherwise I would probably take sandals with one strap across them, not flip flops.

1x leggings - Old pair of skins.

1x stove - Esbit pocket stove. Great. You can get by without this but you will be eating cold food for the whole week.

1x cooking pan - Esbit titanium pot. Great.

Fuel - Esbit solid fuel tabs. Bit of a pain to light when it gets windy but boil the water fine once they are lit.

1x spoon / fork - Esbit spork. Good.

Wind shelter - tin foil. Didn't bother. Just used bits and bobs from around the tent. The big water bottles you get given as rations generally work fairly well as they are a bit taller as well.

Hand sanitizer - Essential. It's really important to get into a good routine with hand washing. Tummy troubles are the last thing you need out there.

Foot and back tape - Dreamtape and Hapla. I took a couple of different tapes and of different sizes. They both worked well once I'd practiced taping my feet a bit - there is a definite knack to it! I'd probably only take one type of tape again as Doc Trotters have loads of the stuff.

Painkillers - Ibuprofen. I took 2 a day. Don't know if it did anything. I also took more when my shin started causing me problems. Doc Trotters also carry paracetamol and tramadol - both of which I used!

Suncream - P20. This stuff was amazing. It looks like oil but you just need a small amount and it protects you all day. I ended up with a fairly nice yet random light tan!

Body glide - I found this useful. I applied it on my back, shoulders and on my feet.

Engo blister pack - I took these but did not use them. I don't think I'd take them again.

Immodium - Was used. Let's just leave it at that!

Friars Basalm - I took a tiny pot of this with a small brush to help make the tape stick. I did use this quite a lot.

Zeosorb - I took a small pot of this too which I used a lot. It helped keep my feet dry.

Alcohol pads - Really useful. One to clean your feet in general and two to clean blisters pre taping. However Doc Trotters do have these so you can get them from them.

Lip balm - Essential. My lips got really chapped from the wind and sand more than anything.

Compeed - Here's a tip! Compeed melts in the Sahara so do not put these on blisters! Compeed is great for hotspots though so I would take this again.

Anti inflammatory gel - I used this a lot for various aches and pains. Not sure if it did much though.

Water purification tabs - A just-in-case. Don't think I'd take these again though as 1) there is no water about 2) there are more than enough MDS bods about. I would think it's nigh on impossible to get lost for long anymore.

iphone with Speck cover - I used this for music on day 4 and 6 and for taking some pictures. A lot of people's solar chargers did not work so prepare for this! I just left my iphone off until I needed it.

Sewing kit - Needle and thread in case of emergencies. Did not use.

Toothbrush and paste - My teeth were clean if nothing else!

Toilet roll - Took the roll out of the middle, then took about half a roll. Lasted well. Thank goodness.

Ear plugs - Useful to combat 500 odd snoring folk.

Watch - Breo. I don't usually wear a watch but found this really good to have as you can monitor when you last ate or drank, and when roughly the next checkpoint will come!

Cotton buds - Didn't use.

Pen and paper - Alas! I was going to write along the way but I was so tired each day I didn't.

Gaffer tape for gaiters - Took a tiny bit spare in case of emergencies.

Cord to fix pack - Ditto.

Passport and travel details - I took my passport, bank card and noted down my insurance details.

EUR 200 - You have to take this for emergencies so I'm told. It was also fairly useful for the shop at the end you had to visit to collect your finisher's t-shirt. Cynical - moi?!

Marathon des Sables: I made it!


So I made it. Thank goodness. And part of the reason I did was so that I didn't have to come back and blog about my failed mission!

It was an epic adventure. Equally amazing and awful. As time goes on the horrendousness of it has disappeared and I am left with an overriding sense that I did enjoy it. Parts of it anyway!

I'm going to post updates on each stage over this week and next, followed by some handy hints and tips I learnt along the way, and what worked and what didn't in terms of training and kit. I hope it will be useful and a good read for past and future Marathon des Sablers!

Monday 2 April 2012

MDS equipment - the essentials and desirables

Marathon des Sables has a compulsory list of items you need to carry.....

I've added links to where I got mine from

NEW! Marathon des Sables kit: What worked and what didn't

What I ended up taking

Backpack or equivalent - Raidlight 32l
Sleeping bag - Marmot Atom
Torch with spare batteries - Petzl Tikka Plus with Energizer lithium batteries
10 safety pins
Compass with 1°ree; or 2°ree; precision - Silva expedition
Knife with metal blade - Gerber ultralight or Victorinox Jelly Swiss Card
Tropical Disinfectant - Tea Tree Oil
Anti-Venom pump (insect poison remover)(gah!) - Aspivenin
Signalling mirror - Adventure Medical Kit
One aluminium survival sheet

Distress flare
Salt tablets
Punch card (Punched at checkpoints and water distribution)
Luminous stick (for raving in the desert emergencies) - issued at checkpoint 3 of the non stop stage (oh how I am looking forward to that!)

And this is the rest of what we think we'll need....

Frontsack - TBC
Hydration system - Raidlight bottles and shoulder straps
Shoes - Brooks Cascadia 7

1x running top - Under Armour Woman's Escape
[2]x running socks - Hilly Twin Skin, Bridgedale Trial Light and Injinji Toe Socks
1x running shorts - Under Armour compression shorts and Under Armour Escape loose fit
1x hat with neck guard - old one. White.
1x buff - old one. Blue!
1x gaiters - Sandbaggers
1x sunglasses / anti-sand glasses - TBC

1x wind trousers - old ones. Nike.
1x spare shirt - old one.
1x windstopper - old one used. Montane - very lightweight.
1x lightweight fleece - Montane Chukchi
1x slippers / flip flops - Baffin
1x leggings - old pair of skins.
Sleeping mat - TBC
1x stove - Esbit pocket stove
1x cooking pan - Esbit titanium pot
Fuel - Esbit solid fuel tabs - Ordered for arrival in Morocco
1x spoon / fork - Esbit spork
Wind shelter - tin foil

iphone with Speck cover
Sewing kit
Map holder
Passport and travel docs
1x sleeping mask/earplugs
Toothbrush and paste
Toilet roll

Hand sanitizer
Wet wipes
Foot tape - Kinesio
Antiseptic cream
Insect repellent
Talcum powder
Alcohol pads

I'm also going to look into these items:-
Glacier Gel

See my marathon des sables food post
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