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For anyone looking to see the contents of a race bag, i thought i'd put below what i took with me (with some comments on the utility of various things).
OMM 25l rucksack (I actually bought the 32l just in case, but ended up squeezing everything in the 25l – flipflops and poles were on the outside)
Innov8 295 trainers
Running socks (I wore two pairs each day to reduce risk of blisters – this worked)
Raidlight short sleeve top
Cap (with neck cover thing)
2 x raidlight bottles (the new ones – they’re see through so you know how much is left, and easier to drink from than the old bottles)
Rain jacket (goretex paclite). Some people just took a lighter windbreaker – I’d recommend against that as they weren’t laughing when it chucked it down.
2x injiji socks
1x running socks (I did day one and two wearing what I started with. On day 3 I changed injiji socks and binned the old pair. On the long day I had fresh injiji and fresh oversocks)
Thin beanie hat
Thin gloves (never used, but a mandatory item)
2x long sleeve tops (my theory was that if I ran in one and got it sweaty, I wanted a clean one to sleep in. I never used the second one).
1 x spare race top (I’d change into this after the race to let my actual race top dry).
Spare shorts (I never used these. One pair of shorts to race in plus compression tights was enough)
Racing the Planet Buff (used either on wrist as a sweatband or on head when I was cold)
Atmos sleeping bag
Z-lite mattress (definitely recommended – though sleeping on the floor is an option to save 400g or so, it is cold, the tents are just plonked on any surface and can be rocky, prickly and wet)
Food……(everyone else will have their own opinion here. My bag was 9.9kg, mainly as I had a few extra food items. I am so glad I did as I pretty much ate everything I took. Some people would just have one gel bar for the 6 hours they were out running. I didn’t fancy that.)
You need to take something for the first Saturday night – make it nice – eg. pasta, chicken, pesto, sundried tomatos etc. The novices turn up with another orange bag of cement to eat. No fun.
Also remember that you won’t need to carry Sunday morning’s breakfast, so it doesn’t have to be the lightest thing in the world.
I didn't take the following, but I would really recommend to take a mix of hot chocolate, tea bags, chicken stock (vital for salts etc).
I pretty much planned to do the same thing on every day
Breakfast (orange bag of porridge with strawberries, sachet of coffee)
During race (gel bar, perpetuem, 75g pili nuts, beef jerky, 4x salt tablets, 6x NUUN tablets). I doubled up on this for the long day.
Lunch (recoverite + cup noodles – crushed up to reduce bulk). This was my favourite meal every day. Make sure it is spicy / tasty.
Evening (orange 800 kcal bag). I tried them all before I went. Don’t risk something you haven’t tried. Chili Con Carne, Savoury Beef + Rice and the curry ones were best for me.
[you are really only planning for FIVE days. The rest day doesn’t require the same amount of calories etc, and the last day only needs breakfast. I lost my hunger on the last two days, and only needed a gel bar and a coffee in the morning on the last day]
Tip – if you don’t mind the consistency, put the porridge / oats into a blender. Makes it small and is a big space saver.
By day 5, my body started making me want to feel sick. This was the first point that I wasn’t gulping down my food. I had been eating the whole orange bag of porridge for breakfast, but by day 4 I only ate half of it each morning (not a problem, but if I’d known, I’d have cut out a couple of bags to save weight). All I would have done better is to have had a small variety of treats to choose from when my body wasn’t sure what it wanted (eg. handful of jelly beans, crushed salt and vinegar crisps, chicken stock cubes, etc)
I also went to macdonalds to get some salt and pepper, and to tsui wah to get some chilli oil. This made some of the duller dishes much better. The gloopy orange bags of stuff had the effect of stopping me going to the toilet. Chilli oil a helping hand in that regard!!)
Voltaren gel (anti-inflammatory)
Deep Heat (a bit of a heavy luxury, but very useful and I’d take it again – Mannings do a small tube)
2x30g sun cream
20 x safety pins
Blister Kit (you need a certain amount of stuff here inc 2x needles, alcohol wipes, tape etc. I bought the tape, then cut off about half of it to save weight)
6x melatonin sleep tablets (Fanda)
3x 10 toilet tissues
12x tablet towels (the best thing in the world)
Toothbrush and small toothpaste
Camera + spare battery
2 x ipod shuffles + headphones
Back up head torch
Red flashing light
Extra 1 litre water bladder (required to have ability to carry 2.5l of water at any one time)
Poles (I never used these before, and was skeptical, but previous participants swear by them. I know agree. They were vital)
Flip flops (get a light pair. Some people just use hotel slippers, but these are rubbish on rocks, thistles, or when wet).
I DIDN’T take any gaitors. A bit of a risk, but there was no sand in our race. I am glad I didn’t, as they weren’t necessary.
I will try and put some more eloquent summary comments here as soon as I get a chance. I just wanted to post something to let everyone know that I finished. I ran, walked and hobbled the course in just over 34 hours to finish in 16th place. A great feeling at the finish line, crossing with two of my tent mates who I’d spent a lot of the week running with. Not normally as emotional, I was (almost!) moved to tears in both my own jubilation at finishing, but moreso seeing the joy on others faces as they came over the lines, now removed of the burden of the race and supporting good (and often very personal) causes. This was exacerbated by the incredible lakeside finish, with crystal clear lake waters, blue skies and snow capped mountains in the background (and the medal, cold beer and uyghur equivalent of a cornish pasty that we were given on finishing!!).
The journey home was long and arduous, but I am back in HK with a few extra blisters, a few less kilograms in my bag and on my body, but a big smile on my face. I had a few beers post the race. The coffee and bacon sandwich that I was dreaming of whilst out in the middle of the hills was even more delicious than I imagined this morning, as I sat back at my desk at 7am to the usual routine.
Thank you to all those that posted something in response to this blog. It really did make a big difference as I thought about your words in the lonely hours spent with nothing but camels, sheep and a bit of pain for company.
Thanks also to my tent mates. Alex, Ilya, Pat, Scott, Pippa, Jackie, Yuji and Miyumi kept me going and gave support all week. It was great to be one of the few tents where all members finished the race. Congrats one and all.
Pretty miserable day today. Sadly the hip injury tightened up overnight and meant I’m having to walk now. After a couple of good days ks annowing that I could do relatively well in the rankings, it has now come down to how to manage a hip injury that is stopping me running. The downhill sections are agony. The course today was a lot more stunning. Great mountains, little dry riverbeds, huge wide expanses of open grassland etc. Sadly, stage two, which is a 10km stage almost had me pulling out. My walking pace meant seemingly half of china came past me, on a hard track that I should have been flying along. My mind was not in a happy place at this point as I wondered how I could do much more than just get to the next checkpoint. However, having got to that checkpoint and had two panadol, the pain subsided for a couple of hours and gave me enough energy to push harder on an amazing stage 3, which had a 500m steep climb in it. That put a smile on my face again as I passed a long line of people. That smile then went as we hit a 5km downhill section and everyone then came past me again as I was forced to walk.
Anyway, enough whinging. The great news is that I am still here and managed to complete stage 3. Who knows how tomorrow will go. We’re already roughly half way through. I’ll hae to sit and see how bad the hip is tomorrow, but I’ll definitely be on the start line to see how I can do.
Today’s quick thoughts
1) One of the guys here was overtaken by a cow.
2) Emily is wrong about food. I have stuffed my face with everything I have brought with me and would eat more if I could.I may be the only person here to put on weight this week.
3) Emily is however very right when it comes to poles (an absolute godsend today).
4) Taking two ishuffles is a great idea. Annoyed at yesterdays lack of batteries, today’s 2nd ishuffle worked and gave me a real boost. I love Apple products again (and the people that work there).
5) Stage ones aggressive camel was upped today with stage threes aggressive snake. I saw it about two steps from landing on it. Lucky. It then didn’t seem to like me taking a photo.
It is awesome to finish a day and see everyones emails. A real pick me up, much needed after a long struggle. Thank you. I only get 15mins in the ‘cybertent’ so blogs are as quick a scribble as I can. The 40km each day is more than enough to play over everyones comments in my mind and keep a smile on my face.
Keep your fingers crossed for tomorrow. One day at a time.
Day two finished. It is difficult to know what position you’re in when your head is down and your staring at the floor a few feet in front of you, so it was very nice to cross the finish line to hear that I had come in 13th place. Whilst I don’t care where I finish to anyone else, as I’m really on fighting against me and the finish line, it was nice to hear. Sadly it might have come at the expense of my hip injury. Having got through yesterday with no problems, the uneven ground today took its toll and the hip pain has returned. I hope that a nights rest will help, but at the moment, the happiness at getting round today is tinged with a bit of a concern as to how far my hip will let me go. Fingers crossed.
The course today was pretty flat and pretty boring. Another 42km. I won’t bore you with the details. There were very few opportunities to get the camera out.
Instead, I thought I’d put a couple of other thougths in here.
1)Whilst I missed it, apparently stage one competitors were caught up by an aggressive camel. Thankfully it let me take pictures of it and pass on, but others weren’t so lucky.
2) The course is marked with pink flags or ribbons every 25m or so. With about 5km to go, I saw a horse with a pink ribbon on its tail! Not helpful….
3) I managed a smile during yesterdays stage, as there were two local kids children by the side of the road cheering us on. I couldn’t see any competitors ahead or behind, so stopped for five mins to chat and play with them. Whilst I was letting them run up the road using my trekking poles, the media cameras popped out and took a quick video. Hope it makes it onto the website!
4) Todays stage was boring. To ease the boredom, I got out the ishuffle, only to find the battery had run out. Stupid Apple products!!
5) Two days, no showers, holes in the floor for toilets (someone should tell them that the sides need to be higher than 3 feet for tall people) mean that it is not the most pleasant of places. Remind me why camping is fun?! (but I’m still smiling)
Anyway, I’m now at camp 2. We’ve just had a big thunderstorm and I’m off back to the tent to rest (with my noodles). The more I eat, the lighter my bag gets…
43km down and I survived to be here to write a blog today. Sadly given the way it is uploaded, you won’t get it til Monday morning, by whicerh point I’ll be back out for another 40km stage. After all the nervous tension going into the race, it was great to finally get running. Before that though, my evening wasn’t much fun and reiterated my hatred of camping. No idea why I signed up for this!! The running is through some great areas. The people I have met are great. The downside is sleeping on a tiny mat in a super-heated tent with 8 others. Thankfully I’ve got a great tent, with a couple from Japan, and the rest a bunch of foreigners all based in HK.
My planned pre-race dinner of pasta, pesto, sun dried tomatoes and parmesan went wrong on the plane when the box it was in burst. Damn. Thankfully tent mat Alex had extra pasta so I didn’t go hungry and it was nice to have some solid food.
6am start for breakfast, then an 8am race kick off. I felt good and ran the first 20km. This section took us through some fairly spectacular rock formations that for a while kept me away from thinking about the distance ahead. That, plus the camels! At the half way mark though, I decided to heed the advice of some race veterans who told me not to kill myself on day one. That thought, coupled with tired legs, then meant I walked / ran the last 23km. I caught up with my tent mate Ili, and we just chatted away and plodded through the last stages together which made it a lot easier. The last stage was the best part, with a steep section on wooden steps up a hill in a national park like thing under government surveillance. We’re so close to the Kazakhstan border here that the government are keeping a close eye. The 43km took just over 6 hours. Tough, but just day one.
I’d love to write more here, but time is short and I just wanted to say I’d survived stage one. Apols for the boring running chat. More to come in terms of banter in coming days.
It’s 3.30pm here and it’s blue skies and 30 degrees (I guess). Time to stretch, eat and chill out. Thinking of everyone keeps me going. Bring on tomorrow……
Everyone has arrived, the dinner tables are full of people pointing at the not overly appealing photos on the menu and hoping that what they think they ordered is what they end up getting. You get almost 16 hours of sunlight at this time of year here in the Gobi, which means the evenings are very long. At 10pm it still feels like 6pm with the sun high in the sky. Thankfully, coming from HK, the temperature is fantastic, and should be great for running in. I'm not sure my new friends from Canada or the UK who have had to slog through the snow over the winter think it's as cool as I do though..... Having struggled yesterday to get everything known to man into a small 25 litre rucksack (Emily - i got it all in!), I then had to unload it all this morning to prove to the organisers i had all the required equipment. The bag weights 9.9kg (oops), without water in the water bottles, so it's going to be a good battle over the first few days until the weight comes down as i eat my way through most of it. I've been very lucky with my room mate; another English guy called Alex from HK. He's done one of these silly things before so has a lot of useful info. He was also able to help make up for the fact that my 'special' meal for tonight ended up outside of its intended box and all over my bag. His extra pasta and pesto will be a real treat this evening. Cheers mate. So, with the bag all checked, it's time to get lunch and chill out til 4pm when we head out on a one hours bus ride to camp 1. We have the course notes. It's 42km on Sunday, then 42km on Monday, 37km on Tuesday, 41km on Wednesday, then a bugger of a 75km on Thursday. The latter bit would be almost palatable if it weren't for the fact that we start the day at 1176m and will be going through 2800m before the 40km mark. It's going to be tough. The final 14km trot to the finish comes next Saturday. Fingers crossed that i am still around to do that. The phone and blackberry are now off. There is no way to contact me. You can leave me a message by going to 'email a competitor' on the main website, and i'll be able to update this blog once a day. Apologies in advance for any expletives.