Thursday 16 April 2015

MdS 2015 30th anniversary

Just one blog about the event and the journey. I am not going into detail of my training, just high level.
So what was my training:
11 sessions in Kingston University Heatchamber of which one with the famous Danny who not only runs fast but talks a lot ;-) as well during that, at about 12k per hour in 39 degrees. Guess is part why he is so good. 
Running (with and without 10kg pack or vest). I was lucky that I still lived in Zurich so I had Uetliberg, Zurich Berg and Zollikon Berg at my doorstep.
Healthy food (95% of the time)

In the Heatchamber the later Queen of the Desert, Elisabeth did a good number of sessions after me. Always nice to meet friends at 0700 in the morning.
It is also where I met Gemma, who if not first then for sure 2nd or 3rd to the throne. Later she and I spend 6 hours or so in a bus to the first bivouac, chatting. Hope I didn't bore her too much, but as she accepted my friend request, I guess not too much.
A new friend Farah, joined me for 2 sessions, but unfortunately she had to drop out of the MdS later with a bit of a problem. Not for this blog, but need to give her a call to check up.

This was my 2nd MdS, the first one was 2013. 2014 was a bit too many DNF's, so I had to fix that.

In Zurich I met through the FB page Leigh and we met up a number of times. And been friends since, I would like to add.

Met up with Leigh at Hilton LGW and many others the evening before the flight. We bumped into this gentleman who was there with wife and kids and I asked if he was doing the MdS. He said he was sorry he was not, would love to  but with 3 kids not that easy. We chatted a bit with him and his wife, introductions done. It wasn't till later when talking with Ian Corless who seemed a mutual friend, that I realised the lady was nobody else than Liz Yelling. Let's not go into what I said, but Leigh may remember.

Day 1:
Flight to Ouarzazate, not very full, so my own row. Hooray. Arrival, took a while as there are only 2 immigration desks, and about 500 people is pushing the limit. But the sun was out, so who cares.
Into the bus, to the bivouac 300km or so down the road.
This is where Gemma and I chatted, and she told me she was just going to finish. Well she did. As 5th lady or so (or maybe better, sorry Gemma if I am wrong :-))
Arrival in camp, typical MdS, French, Moroccan, full good intentions, not so well thought through. It was the intention you ended up in a tent with people from the country you live in. In my case that would be UK. As Leigh and I agreed to share a tent, we decided to high jack a AU, SA, NZ tent. So I ended up in a tent with:
Abdelhay - Moroccan living in Australia 
Leigh - South African living in Switzerland
Terri - New Zealand, with a dual NZ/USA passport
Genis and Tanya  - South Africa. Genis and I know eachother from the 2013 edition.
Sean - Irish living in Northern Ireland
James - Australian
Michiel - Dutch living in the UK. I made a point that all above countries one way or the other have enjoyed the dutch ruling the world (Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Northern Ireland) but maybe not always so positive, but I leave it to your history knowledge to work out how the Dutch are connected to all these countries and their legacy. So probably the most multi-national tent. 

Day 2:
We get to know eachother, and have to get used to eachother but it seems to go rather well. We learn that James and Terri work in the medical profession, Genis is a consultant, Tanya a mother and wife (apologies if you have a job Tanya), Sean is a police officer, Leigh is in IT in a bank, Abdelhay works in the navy and does some running (like a 2:12 marathon), and I am self employed.
So it is admin day. Which means standing in line. That is fine at least food is provided. Lucky me gets his ECG re-evaluated. Not so bad as the guy who forgot his, pays €200, 2 hour penalty to come back in his tent to find his. So admin done, bag handed in and wait and chat and walk and piss where you like.

Day 3:
36km and a bit. I walk more than I wanted. But such is life. I arrive back after about 7 hours and stage  is done. No blisters, feel good and look forward to stage 2. As the route is very similar to 2013 there is a lot I remember and recognize. Which is both good and bad. You sort of know what to expect and know when there is a CP or even the bivouac.

Day 4:
31km and a bit. Jebels and dunes and the rope. The rope helps you the last 10 or so meters to get to the top and you will see the bivouac. This bivouac is still about 5km away, but as I know it's a long descent over black rocks than some more rocks than some dunes then 500m or so to the end, it's not as torturous as the first time. 6 hours or so or a bit more. You can look that up if  you are interested. And stage 2 is done.

Day 5:
37km which takes me again somewhere between 7 and 8 hours. The mails in the evening are always welcome. I still feel good. No real issues with blisters or feet. But in the back of your mind is that Day 6 is the start of the long stage, 91.7 km. But so be it. Overall the nights are a lot colder and the days are fresher due to a nice wind. Without the wind it is equally hot as in 2013 but as the wind is mostly there it is helpful. We had a sandstorm in the camp, not sure what day, but at least I had one of those as well.

Day 6 and 7:
91.7 km start. Leigh and I decided to do this together. So we jog a bit, run a bit, walk a lot. We agree we will have to go to the 63.3 km CP and would like to arrive around 01:00 on the Thursday. Which we sort of make. Feet needed some TLC so that was done at the first CP. The stretch from CP3 to CP5 sort of 40-63 km is torture. Dunes, dunes and more dunes and wind. Feels like I am near the beach but no sea. I've really had it with the f***ing dunes and sand and want them to go away. However it is called Marathon des Sables, so clearly sand plays a big part. Upon arrival in CP5 there is hot tea as much as you like. Leigh and I sleep for about 3 hours. Well I sleep about 30 minutes as I couldn't sleep until I worked out it was due to my feet being bandaged up to tight. When I remove that I fall asleep to wake up 30 minutes later. To get my feet re-bandaged. We leave again at 05:15 for the last 28k. In the dunes we meet Paddy, who I keep on calling Gary. These dunes lead to CP6 which was the CP I slept in 2013. After that CP it is another 18k or so to the bivouac. Paddy, Leigh and I stay together and around 13:30 we arrive back in the bivouac. 
During the day from CP2 I believe I walk up with Abdelhay, who clearly knows how to do this. Short cut, means a direct line. And we end up at the jebel where I bump into the French firemen and the disabled kids, which is always a beautiful experience. Abdelhay climbs that jebel as if it is flat, it takes me a bit (not much tho) more effort. At the top, there is the rope and Leigh again and the rope is to help us down.
Of course the cold coke at the end of the day is pretty cool
So as I said, back in the camp and between us and the medal is only 42.2k for Day 8.
It must be said, that everytime we worry about Tanya, but the chick is tough as old leather and she keeps on pulling, pushing through and is still with us. Respect.

Day 8:
42.2k - marathon stage and at the end there is a medal. We all decide to do this the way the individual wants it. Too  my surprise I run about 30km and then get lazy for the last 12k. I keep on staring in the distance to see the bivouac but see nothing. Because it is on my right not in front of me.
So I arrive back, and there is the me, finished, 2nd medal.
I need some feet TLC so go to the Doc Trotter tent. When I lay there and keep on falling asleep while the lady doctor does my feet. She asks if I washed them, which I did, but they were still pretty dirty. Until she realises the sand is actually inside the blister. So that is skin cutting. Well cutting skin, cleaning and industrial strength iodine into it. About 90 minutes later, operation successful, patient alive.
I walk outside and as I hadn't smoked, I really want a smoke. I see these 3 people, two ladies and a man having drinks and smoke. So I walk over, ask if I can have a cigarette. They ask me about the event and have to laugh that after 260km through a desert I am asking for a smoke. They also offer me some Pernod, which I actually accept, but clearly just a little. We chat for about an hour, and they say they flew down to listen to the concert. I didn't see the concert, too tired but I actually think they were the artists.
To our surprise at least there are cold drinks and snacks. Later in the evening there are the prices. So Mds finished, just a charity stage to go. The medal was in honor of my father who passed away last year April and was so excited when I did the MdS the first time.

Day 9:
Charity stage 11.5km. We decide with James, Sean, Abdelhay and Leigh to get it over asap so we can get in the bus to the hotel. About 1:45 later we are done. Get in the back of the bus and I fall asleep on the last row that is empty.
So we arrive back in Ouarzazate 7 hours later. Mainly as I think the lead car was holding us back as there as it showed later was an issue with hotels. Not for us but most others. 
We check in, we change the 2 people room to a 3 people room and Leigh, Sean and I share a room. I am given as a veteran of 1 more MdS a room alone. We have some very interesting and personal talks. Which bonds us even more. But we are back in the hotel, food and drinks. Shame that everything I eat wants to get out immediately. No pain, just wants out.

Day 10:
Free day. The guys go to the film studios after we picked up the finisher t shirts (which seem and are very small) and I stay in the hotel. Still not able to eat. Pottering around.

Day 11:
Departure day. Sean, James and Leigh leave early morning. My flight is not till 18:00. So Abdelhay and I go into town, walk around, buy some stuff. I am then dropped of at the hotel as my stomach is still not a happy bunny. I take a taxi with Ian and Michelle to be ahead of the bus, and we check in without queues. Again, plane not very full, so a row to myself. Arrival at LGW, where the incompetence of the UK airport industry strikes. Nobody to open the door and the door doesn't want to open when the person finally arrives. But am home by train and taxi around 23:30 on Monday evening.
And I haven't really slept since Monday evening. 

Notable things:
The bonding between total strangers
Elisabeth's domination of all stages
Shaun asking Susie to marry him
Sir Ranulph Fiennes
The strength of Tanya
The couples argument as one of them wanted and dropped out
Friends for life
Danny being his consistent self in a very strong male field
Hate of the 91.7km to ask the question why not 100km two days after. Am sure tho that if somebody would have said during the long stage it is actually 100 rather than nearly 92 that person would not be with us
The beauty of climbing and descending dunes and jebels. 

So this is basically my story of the 2015 MdS. I will not be back until 2023 which is 10 years after my first MdS. However, I have already been looking at 2017. But actually want an even year to do it the other way around.

That's all folks.