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RacingThePlanet: Madagascar 2014 Blogs

Decompressing physically from work…. and gearing up mentally for the race
29-Aug-2014 01:39:25 AM [(GMT+02:00) Harare, Pretoria]

August 28th ….. Flew up to Diego (Antsiranana) yesterday. In the Tana airport I met a bunch of volunteers and runners waiting for the same flight – pretty easy to spot as most of us were carrying one of three packpacks – the OMM, the Raidlight, or the WAA (mine). There was also a Japanese film crew. Everyone seems very nice – a vast mix of ages and experience in multiday ultras: From newbies like me to those who’ve run 11+ of these races before; and from a few in their early 20’s to some in the mid-60’s…. But the camaraderie is immediate; probably because we all have the same tough 7 days to get through ahead of us. The flight to Diego was nice and smooth, but during descent, the closer we got closer to the ground, the bumpier it became and the more the pilot seemed to increase the speed of the plane. We landed in heavy wind and rain blowing horizontally – more than a little unexpected in the dry season! About 3,000 feet up I decided to stop fretting – either way the plane was coming down, and all I could do was pray that it would be more of a controlled than an uncontrolled landing. It was a fast and very bumpy landing, and everybody cheered when we landed safely and screeched to a halt at the very end of the runway. I’m staying at a little place called Sakalava Lodge, in the Baie de Sakalave – just north east of Diego. It didn’t make sense to stay in a little town for the two extra days I have here when I could stay in a little hut on the beach for a fraction of the cost and exponentially more enjoyment ☺. It’s lovely here – a kitesurfing paradise. I can count 16 kites in the bay this morning. The temperature is perfect – maybe 80 degrees with a strong breeze – but the humidity is incredibly high – it’s quite something coming from winter in Malawi, where it’s so dry your skin cracks, to this humidity where you feel like you’re inhaling water and everything stays damp. I’ve not had any opportunity to train in really humid conditions, so I’m glad I’ve brought extra electrolyte tabs with me. I think I’ll need them in the race. I’m also glad for the few extra days to acclimatize and get used to sweating just while sitting in the shade. Anyhow, this place is gorgeous. The food is amazing – such a strange mix of African and French…. Grilled whole fish stuffed with garlic for dinner…. A chocolate-filled Mandazi (African doughnut) and fresh pawpaw with half a lime for breakfast. And the most incredible coffee. The only downside is that there’s no diet coke… all the drinks are sugary, and even the fresh squeezed juice has tons of sugar added. Yuck. The good news is that I’m finally starting to unwind. I can literally feel my mind slowing down. I’m sleeping very soundly with less crazy dreams – although last night I dreamed I was in DC with my colleagues and under immense pressure helping them rewrite our annual plan… must be residual guilt I guess from insisting I do this race and not go with them. I woke up with a headache at midnight after that dream, but after taking some brufen I went back so sleep and don’t remember dreaming any more…. I also don’t have any ‘to-do’ lists racing through my head today, which is a nice change. The only decision I need to make in the next two days is whether to reduce my food for the race so that I have less weight to carry, or whether the extra weight is worth feeling a little less hungry. What I don’t know is whether I’ll actually physically need those extra calories to make it through all seven days, so I’m working on a compromise… In this humidity I’m guessing I’ll crave salt far more than sugar. And since I have all the sweetness I could possibly want in the energy gels, I think I’m going to ditch my sweet snacks (jelly babies and nutella). But I’ll keep the biltong and potato chips – I get a lot of protein in the biltong, which I’ll need to prevent muscle catabolization as much as possible. And in the chips I get a lot of carbs for refueling, as well as the fat, which will help prevent hunger pangs at night. And as well as being practical, both options are lightweight and yummy – not a bad deal overall. Since I’m only taking a small packet of instant noodles for dinner each night, and nothing for lunch, I think the snacks will be important. Breakfast will be a cup of coffee with powdered milk, and half a cup (dry) of Pronutro with 2tbs powdered milk. And yes, I’ll be loading up on meat, fresh veggies and fruit after a week of eating all this processed rubbish!! Anyhow, if I go with those choices of snacks, it brings my pack total to right at 11kg, before adding 2.5 liters of water (another 2.5kg weight). I know from reading the other race blogs and updates that people’s packs range in weight from 6kg to 16kg. I will be carrying 5.8kg in just food and fuel – yes, I was a little obsessive about thinking this through – I made a spreadsheet which auto-calculates everything for me depending on what I food options I go with. It seems to me that the lighter and faster a runner you are, the less fuel you need on the course since you’re out there less time, and so the less your pack weighs… the more you weigh and the slower you are (in case there was any doubt, yes, that would be me), the more fuel you need on the course because you’re out there twice as long… and the more your pack ends up weighing. The more the pack weighs, the slower you’ll go…. And the more fuel you’ll need…. Hmmm… not really fair, is it? Unfortunately for me, crash dieting when you’re training for an ultra just isn’t an option…. However, all those glasses of wine in the last year were definitely a choice I now regret! I could have been at least ten pounds lighter with a little more self-discipline… although to be honest, I seem to only have a finite amount of self-discipline to spread across my life, and mine ended up all being needed to put in my training hours (and even then it probably wasn’t enough!), do the grocery shopping, and cook dinner for the family each night when I get home. I’m sitting here chuckling to myself – just writing all this down makes me already think through “next time” scenarios…. And Jeremy has told me unequivocally that this race is it (at least for a long time). The training is really rough on the family – too many hours away from them on weekends – and I do have to agree with that. The last three months especially haven’t been fabulous – I’ve been gone from 5-12 hours every Saturday and Sunday, and along with working full-time and trying to keep up with my online schoolwork, it’s all a bit much for them and for me. So I think I’ll have to respect Jeremy’s wishes and wait a few years for the “next time” – and there will be a “next time”, of that I’m sure – I can already feel the call of it…. And maybe “next time” I’ll have talked him into joining me ☺ Although there’s a one-in-a-million chance of that happening unless I’m allowed to have a motorcycle support rider… in which case I’m sure he’d happily volunteer!! Well, I think there’s just enough time for a nap before lunch… I could definitely get used to this life!

Bethany Tapp

Posted: 29-Aug-2014 02:41:41 PM

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RacingThePlanet: Madagascar 2014 competitor


Lived in Malawi, Kenya, Botswana, US and UK.
Education in Public Health: Behavioral Sciences and Epidemiology

Lilongwe, Malawi

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Why are you competing?
I'm always up for a new challenge and this fits!

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