Sunday, 26 April 2009

Namibian Ultra-Marathon 2009 race report

Well its been two weeks since I finished the race and I've eventually got round to writing the race report. Like everything in the organization of this trip I'm doing it because my wife wont let me not anymore. Incidentally, without my wifes effort and support, this adventure would would have gone no further than pub talk.

The most important thing I have to say about the run was that it was a real adventure and totally worthwhile. I've got the bug and there will be another adventure not too far in the future.

I started this run a with a friend of mine, James. Unfortunately, James didn't complete the run and was pulled after about 30 miles. James has his own comments to make and its not for me to tell you what he felt. I do feel confident in saying that he may well have felt a fair bit of pain. The sand/gravel and the heat did something unspeakable to the guys feet. I have seen some pretty horrible blisters in my time but this was on another level. Just before checkpoint three we were moving very slowly and he was in a lot of pain. When we stopped by the side of the road and we saw his entire right sock was brown with blood stains we knew it was game over. James pulled himself out earlier rather than later to give me a chance to go on in time to stay in the race. We waited for the medics and I left him by a Quad. I naturally prefer running alone, but James and I had trained together and we'd come along way to do this as a team. I must confess I ran off with a bit of a lump in my throat. I thought he'd take it really badly given the work that we'd put in, but I was slightly taken aback by his utter selflessness. As I arrived at check point three he was there and immediately did everything he could to help me out. I left for the next half Marathon bandaged, fed, re hydrated and encouraged, alone but but still moving because I was in a team. This year half the competitors were pulled from the race, you should be aware that there is a degree of fortune required to finish.

Over the course of 24 hours of running (most of it walking actually) you will naturally feel like some things could have been done better. I feel quite a deep sense of disappointment in myself for my time. I think I have become quite emotionally attached to my memory of the run. Especially the dark hours were I ran alone and worked pretty hard to hit check points on time. I managed to chalk up the miles and get to check point 5 on time. I had 2hrs and 40 mins to do the last half marathon and started well. However, I thought someone was signaling me for help I ran back and on realizing that they were fine I turned and couldn't run again. In a matter of seconds my legs had seized and I just couldn't free them up again. I watched the time tick by and it seemed all that I'd invested over the last 6 hrs was lost. I did what I could and pressed on with a strong walking pace and got in at 25hrs and 7 mins.

For the most part I'm really proud of myself. I did have a few moments were things looked pretty bleak but never considered giving up. I really advise putting the training in. Of course a good training program makes you fitter and the job in Namibia easier but there is more to it than that. I invested a lot in this race, my name, my time and a lot of suffering running up and down hills. When its tough at around 4am, you have so much training behind you and so much of yourself invested that giving up is just unimaginable.

I finished with three other runners Kate, Stuart and Mike. These guys had a plan and had stuck to it. They had grouped together only for the dark hours but seemed to be supporting each other with a great sense of spirit over these last miles. I suppose I learned that I really am no team player when it comes to running! I had fought a real fight all night on my own and had relied on nothing but my will. I really didn't feel like holding hands as we lept across the line. I actually think these three guys each got themselves through the race, none of them really needed each other. Each had everything they needed to finish but helped each other just the same. I cant say I know any of these runners but they were all excellent characters who earned their great achievement. I hope Stuart forgives me for not holding his hand for the Photo finish, I wanted to cross alone, anyway it didn't seem very British. Mike, I forgive you for making me hold your hand in your moment of need. What happens in the desert stays in the desert.

Well, each runner will rock up at the start line and go on to have his or her own experience. There are those who will jog along without any drama at all. For the rest of us there will be ups and downs, you know yourself and bar any show stopping injury you'll get to the end if you want it enough. That's all there is to it. If you're prepping now make sure you do the training you need to. In terms of equipment don't get bogged down in these blogs that advise this and that. Runners are like old women in little sowing circles. Some will tell you this sun cream, for example, is not only the best sun cream mankind has ever known but quite possibly the greatest break-through in science in the last 500 years, another will tell you a story about a time he applied it to his leg in a darkend room and suffered 3rd degree burns. Its all about trying it out yourself and coming to your own conclusions. For those of you who are looking for some practical tips here are a few.

People talk about whether you need gaiters or not. In fact even as we were walking to the start line people were unsure. To my mind its a total no brainer, YES YOU DO. The course starts with 10km of ground covered in high grass, this causes a lot of grass seeds to get into your shoes. In the early stages you can't mess about emptying your shoes just to get them filled again. In the later stages THERE IS a fair bit of sand and grit from dried river beds and dirt tracks. This sand and grit DOES cause problems, in my view people got hellish blisters largely because of this. Sweat and sand turns your socks into sandpaper, the result is obvious. Anything that stops this is obviously a good thing. That said the gaiters would have to be fairly light, close to the heal for easy movement and easily removable so you can treat your feet and change your socks.

DON'T TRY ANYTHING FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THE DESERT. Really obvious advice, but people do make the mistake.

Ipods or such like are a must for me. I did get busted singing my heart out a couple of times but then cringe is also a powerful impetus to run.

Take it easy for the first 30 miles. You're going to be working away at this distance for a while so just settle in, but don't mess about either. The sun will hurt you and its effects can be race ending. Keep a reputable time during the day and pick up the pace at night. I wish I'd trained just speed walking a marathon at about a 6 hr per marathon pace and then running 18 odd miles as fast as I could afterward.

Ok, If anyone ever reads this as research for their own race preparations then i hope you got something of value out of it. If you are going to Namibia then good luck and if you've read through ALL the waffle I've written in search of a decent tip then you definitely have enough determination to finish.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Post from the wife of a crazy runner

I could have named this post "they never run alone"... and I don't think it would only apply to Adrian and James.

Training for an ultra-marathon is so demanding, no runner involved in such a race would be able to do it properly without a good support from his/her spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, or familly. In my case, being the wife of a crazy runner is a 24h job! Not only have I learned a lot about sport nutrition, I have taken upon myself to manage our couple life as my dear hubby spends his evenings and week-end at the gym or on the run. I learned about sport kit, got involved in sponsoring and the whole logistic of the run (things like checking his passeport is still valid for example!)... And I must admit I kind of like it!
Anyway, if you plan to enter a mega race and are involved in a relationship, just a few pointer of the things your partner will go through:
  • Eating at stupid hours to match your hectic training schedule OR eating on his/her own
  • Eating more carbohydrate than necessary as she/he will be cooking for an athlete... so very likely to put on few pounds in the process
  • Stoping the booze out of solidarity and missing it greatly on lonely evenings in front of the Telly
  • Knowing more about Powerbar benefits than about the latest movie/fashion/music thanks to your new passionating discussions
  • Worrying (a lot) as to whether or not you will come back home with all you toe-nails and your kidneys still working
  • Feeling slightly worthless when completing his/her sunday jogging knowing you'll be running 30 miles with 10kg on your back as a simple training session
  • Having to manage finance, shopping, cleaning, ironing on his/her own as you'll be either at work, at the gym or in bed.
Knowing is always best... so when one evening your partner is slightly ungrateful because you came back home at 10pm wet and stinky, just remember she/he is also your training partner in more than one way.

It is such a challenge, I am very proud of my boy and I'll do anything to help him for the 24h Namibian run... as long as he does the washing-up when he comes back!

Fanny, the wife of a crazy runner.

Training Phase 1

I haven't written on the blog for a while but have been busy hitting the gym. The first phase of my training is now over. I have been putting on weight in preparation for the run, building my legs and upper body. After a first trainning marathon carrying 10kg on my back, I realised the weight would be an issue. After 8 miles my legs were like lead and my energy level crashed. So lots of prep is still needed to ensure Im robust enough to carry that sort of weight through the desert terrain.

The trainning runs with 10kg backpacks are less of a problem now, but i really think in these last five weeks all runs should simulate as much as possible the conditions on the day. I also prepared for the heat as much as I can during a very cold English winter by wearing crazy amounts of clothing, its a feeble attempt to do some heat training but its cheaper than flying to Africa..

So phase 1 was basically strength building, short but high intensity runs and a couple of marathons. This week-end we are planning our first very long run, around 50km.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

The Children's Trust Tadworth

The Ultra Marathon is a life experience that both James and I are looking forward to. The challenge of running three consecutive Marathons through a desert in a day is something we both take very seriously. That said, we would take great pride in knowing that people who simply havent had the opportunities we enjoy, can benefit from this event. We will run the race, but to make it more than just a hollow sports event, we need your support. Please send what you can to this deserving Charity using the JustGiving link on this page or visiting Thank you.

Please read on for more about The Children's Trust...

The Children’s Trust is a national charity working with children who have multiple disabilities and complex health needs. They are based in Tadworth, Surrey but offer their services to children from across the UK.

The Trust offers a unique combination of skills and experience in meeting the complex needs of children with profound disabilities. Their services comprise of:

  • Short, medium and long term residential care and therapy
  • Residential rehabilitation for children with an acquired brain injury
  • Community-based rehabilitation for children returning to home/school after a brain injury
  • Special education for pupils with profound and multiple learning disabilities at St Margaret’s School
  • Short breaks (either in Tadworth or in the family home)
  • Hospice/ palliative care
One of their most recent fundraising challenges is to raise £7.2 million to build a new national rehabilitation centre for children with aquired brain injuries. This new centre will be a wonderful purpose designed environment where the children can come to receive round the clock medical care and still enjoy space to play and be with their families.

Monday, 17 November 2008

I'm in... but so is James!

So I made this desicion to run the Namibian Marathon and then unfortunately the best man at my wedding made it a matter of public record. Now I ACTUALLY have to do it, as does the best man James.

We are pretty keen and we've done some training. But keeness or none 75 miles across the desert is a hell of a challenge in one day. We're going to run for The Children's Trust charity, someone might as well benefit from our pain! In fact this Charity really helps kids with often multiple disabilities and serious health needs, we're both pretty proud to do something to contribute.

Im going to try and keep writting on this blog. I ll post information on our progress in training and hopefully provide some info for those interested in doing the same.