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  • Writer's pictureSusie Chan

Countdown to Marathon des Sables

In two weeks time I will be in the actual Sahara Desert. Actually running. In the the actual Marathon des Sables. I am rather excited, but in a strange way want it to be done too! I have been building up to this race for 18 months now... When I (after a couple of glasses of wine, if the truth be told) signed up to the race waiting list in early 2012 - I had heard the race was very hard to get in to. I parked the idea in the back of my mind, and carried on with my 10K's, half marathon and marathons. Then I decided I should try an Ultra marathon. I chose the excellent Isle of Wight Ultra, if I couldn't run 70 miles round the Isle of Wight in June, I figures I had zero change of running 150+ in the Sahara. When I finished that race - I realised this was what I wanted to do. Yes, sure it hurts, and yes sure sometimes mid race, I can't let myself think about the miles I have left as I feel broken and exhausted... but when you finish an Ultra it feels momentous. And then, you understand that things are not impossible at all if you persevere and believe. It also helps that you can eat all the chips and cake you want!

I found out for certain I had a place in the Marathon des Sables last October - and since then I have covered miles and miles and miles, with a bag weighing between 5kg (11lb) and 8kg (15lb) on my back. At first this was not much fun... and 6 months later it still isn't. I don't fare to well with the weight on my back. Im now comfortably running with it, but after about 17 miles or so its rather hard work up hills, and after 26 miles gentle slopes are a tough going. Long gone are the days of my 6 and 7 minute miles. Still, that is not what ultra running is about.

I have just had my ECG and finally got signed off by a doctor to run (a race requirement) - my ECG showed 'Athletes Heart' a benign enlargement of my left side - a testimony to all the training I have been doing! I'm now tapering. My long back to back three days of marathons are done. There is not a trail in a 10 mile radius of my house I have not covered. I've experimented with varying success with freeze dried food. I've found and purchased the lightest sleeping bag (345g!) and Ive painted my feet daily with "Tuff Foot for Dogs" to get them race fit.

I'm ready.

Well nearly. I am heat training now to ready myself for the conditions in the desert. I have been training everyday in a boiling hot room (40 degrees plus) - courtesy of the fabulous Red Hot Yoga in Guildford. (Great for your running legs guys!) This means getting up at 5.45 every morning.. and going back there every night now too. Right up until the day I fly. Which, did I mention it? Is is less two weeks time... Race number 634 folks! :-) Attached is my spreadsheet/kit list. I think I still may ditch some stuff still to make it lighter. Here, if you want to see what I need to survive for a week in the Sahara! (* items are compulsory) KIT- WEARING TO RUN Trainers - Brooks Adrenaline trails - 1 size bigger than usual Gaiters- stitched on to trainers- Sanbaggers X bionic reflective top 2XU compression shorts Raidlight sun hat Injiji crew liner socks CEP compression socks Sunglasses (Cheapo ones!) Sports Bra --M&S CARRYING- KIT & FOOD Rucksack - MDS Ultra Bag Sleeping mat - NeoAir X lite Sleeping bag* - PHD - Minim Ultra Leatherman mini knife* Wemmi flannel wipes Compass/Silver foil blanket/ lightweight mirror* Anti venon pump* Fleece top - Go Outdoors Tyvek suit (Evening wear!) KT tape/foot tape/ blister plasters - Racekit painkillers and immodium (paracetamol, ibuprofen) Sunblock/Sudocrem/toothpaste/

toothbrush Ear plugs iPhone & Solar charger Metal mug and mini stove, Esbit fuel tabs (Go Outdoors) Topical solution* Lighter* Safety pins x 10* Distress flare* (supplied) Head Torch* - Silva Trail runner (Snow + Rock) Evening footwear (Tesco cheapo slippers) FOOD: Race requirement = 2000 calories a day Fuizion Mountain house Adventure Food Synders Pretzels Nuts & dried fruit Electrolytes (Nuun) Barocca Cheese footballs (I know, but they taste nice, are high calorie and dont weigh much!) Vantage Protein recovery.

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