RACE COVERAGE

NAMIB RACE BLOG – Written as it happened from each Camp in the Desert

POST RACE REFLECTIONS

9th May 2018 08:15

I love my medal and I loved the week. It has been wonderful. I can safely say I enjoyed (almost) every step of the way.  Some of my highlights from the week are running along the Atlantic Coast listening to the waves crash, the evenings and the mornings (yes even the mornings for a non-morning person like myself) by the campfires chatting about everything and nothing, being able to walk / crawl / trot the second half of the Long March with Jim and cross that finish line together, the green in the Namib desert, watching 3 stars shoot across the night sky, the sunrises and the sunsets.  My tentmates were wonderful, and I had such a great time getting to know them over the week - Marisa, Ruth, Chris, Dylan, Scott and Jim are the best and we all smashed it in our own ways.

I did learn a few lessons along the way and look forward to applying them to my next race. 

Food - I had enough calories but next time I will lower the calories of my main meals and up the calories of my snacks

Pack weight - a lighter pack is a good thing. I got mine down to about 7.5 without water and I had everything I needed and all the mandatory equipment items. I don’t think I could make it any lighter

Sleeping Mat - I ended up taking my mat but I am still not convinced I really needed it. For colder races it would be better.

Shoes - the least blisters I have ever had (only 3 on my right foot) but I will be losing a few toenails. I should have probably gone up another 1/2 size.

And that’s it - post race blues are a real thing and they will set in over the next couple of day, but for now I am still reveling in my post-race high and am looking forward to the next couple weeks of no running schedule and getting back into a normal routine until the next adventure bug hits. And FYI - the best cure for post-race blues? Sign up for another race!

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THE COUNTDOWN HAS OFFICIALLY STARTED – 102 days until the start, 15 weeks of training

17th January 2018 09:49 AM

The last few weeks have been spent building up my distance and having a major reality check on where I am with my fitness.  Running in Singapore is hard work with the humidity, but great training when you can eventually stomach it. Having the support of people around who will go for a training run, and keep me going, even when I feel like poop on stick, is very important.  When Allen, 4 Desert Grand Slam alumni 2016, is in town, we used to go for beers, now we go for runs, and the last few we have been on were a shameful display of my lack of fitness and would have been cut short if he didn’t keep me going!! I hope the next time we hit the trails I can redeem myself.

Finally this last weekend, I felt somewhat OK and accomplished just under 30km. No need to stop and spew.  I followed that up with a walk / run / trot on Sunday of about 13km.  This means I have now entered the ‘targeted’ training before the race. 

My Plan – training wise

One of my training buddies and 4 Deserts Alumni, the beautiful Shri, advised so eloquently, the best training plan for you is the one you can stick to.  What I have cobbled together below is ambitious and I will do my best to stick with my plan, keeping in mind, that life happens, and I will need to work around it.

  • Monday - REST
  • Tuesday - Speed Work - This has been on the treadmill to keep a steady pace
  • Wednesday - Hill Work (stair repeats, Bukit Timah hill repeats) - Hills are challenging to find in Singapore, however my buddy Azlan has introduced me to a great loop at Bukit Timah which does not make me want to poke my eyes out.
  • Thursday - Plain old easy run / jog - Somewhere between 40 - 90 min depending on where I am in the training
  • Friday – Cross Training - 60 min outdoor Bootcamp
  • Saturday - Long Run -Holding at 30km for the next 3 weeks
  • Sunday - Back to back run - somewhere between 14-30km, depending on where I am in the training.

In addition to what I have listed above, I need to make sure I keep my supporting muscles strong to try and avoid any additional pain to my knee.  As with most runners, it is important to focus on core, glutes, hamstrings and quads.  I have a set of exercises that take me about 30 minutes to complete and try to get these done every other day.

So there you have it, my training goals for the next chunk of time. It will be challenging and has been challenging, but I just remind myself that I have been granted this amazing opportunity to be able to push my body, travel to some of the most STUNNING and REMOTE places in the world, and the excitement that in just a few months I will be back in AFRICA – the most AMAZING continent in the world.  Sahara Race (Namibia) 2018 – here I come!!

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9 WEEKS TO GO

27th February 2018 05:04

After spending a blissful 3 weeks running around in the humidity free Washington State with my sister, brother in law and their very cute American fox hound Willy Boy to motivate me, getting back into the hot and humid training in Singapore was like a slap in the face and a punch in the stomach….

But as I always say, if you can survive the humidity in Singapore you will be gold in the desert, dry heat (well, here is hoping anyways).  Things are starting to ramp up with the long runs taking up most of my weekends.  Try as I might, for some odd reason, I cannot get my husband to join me on my long runs, but he has been joining me on the second run of the weekend, when I am well and truly knackered after hauling my back pack up and down the beach of the East Coast!!!

While the running / walking / crawling / stumbling is taking over my weekends, I am also starting to trial out different nutrition and hydration options.  I think this is probably the most fun of the planning, figuring out what I’m going to eat and drink for a week in the desert.  Here is my plan and I will be trialing over the next few weeks.

Nutrition –I am a firm believer of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  My nutrition plan has worked well for me the last few long races.  The main rules I live by are variety is the spice of life, and I am a savory person when I am forcing down the calories, sweet gels don’t do it for me.  Here is a sample day of how I allocate my 2000 calories

Breakfast at Camp
1 Instant Starbucks Coffee stick
450 calorie savory Expedition Meal – my favorite for breakfast is Macaroni and Cheese

CP 1 – mix up 1x 260 calorie packet of Hammer Perpetuem in one 750 ml bottle and sip this throughout the day, finishing it before I arrive to Camp

From CP 2 onwards, munch on my allocated snacks for the day which will be some combination of salted nuts (almonds, cashews and / or macadamia), beef jerky, dried mango, or sour worms – approx. 300 calories worth of snacks.

As soon as I arrive at Camp, I mix up my 170 calories Recoverite drink and shoot it back right away, as soon as I step into Camp.

For my first course I will enjoy some sort of soup, usually 32 calorie Miso, followed by an 800 calorie Expedition Meal – another favorite is Spaghetti Carbonara or Thai Green Curry  

Electrolytes (very very important in the desert….) - Recently my training in Singapore has been followed by a very nauseous stomach which I was not experiencing when I was training in the nice, cool weather of the USA.  My normal consumption of Salt Sticks does not seem to be doing the trick.  Therefore I am now trialing “Tailwind”, which I have heard many positive things about.  This will add to the overall weight of my pack, as it is heavier than Salt Sticks, but if it works, this will become my electrolyte plan.  Nuun’s and other fizzy tablets don’t do it for me, and after a few hours just make my tummy hurt.  However, I do carry 5 Nuun Cola tablets with caffeine as a ‘treat’, but not part of my plan.

Treats - Provide great mental motivation to get you through to the next Check Point! Just make sure your treats don’t take up too much space and weigh in your pack.  Some of my treats are:

Salami balls
My Ipod
Nuun Cola tabs

Equipment

Another important part of the planning is making sure your key equipment items are tested our well ahead of you stepping up to the start line.  The main items to focus on are your shoes and your back pack.  You will need to very close, familiar and comfortable with these items.

Shoes - I hate figuring out shoes, I have flat feet, weird knees, bad hips, one leg longer than the other, anything and everything that is a physio’s nightmare or dream come true – I can’t decide yet if the physio’s I’ve gone to love or hate me….

I’ve tried Brooks and really wanted them to work for me so I could represent Seattle.  But they didn’t. I tried Salmon because they are good for most feet – except mine.  I tried Hokas because all the cool kids are wearing Hokas, they did not work for me.  I am now going off of a podiatrist tip and back to basics Asics.  I am still getting a bit of pain in one of my arches, so they are not perfect, and I had my first blister after my long, sandy run.  Sigh…..

Backpack - I am using the Ultimate Direction Fast Pack 30, and I like it.  It’s a long enough frame for me and doesn’t wiggle too much.  The bottle holders are a little wonky, but I can work with that.  It worked for me in a previous race and I will stick with it for this race.

That's it' for now

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TIRED & HUNGRY – 3 weeks to go

8th April 2018 04:34

Those are the 2 words that describe me at the moment.  Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT complaining, not one bit.  Part of the reason I love training for these challenges are these 2 feelings. Tired is the simple word to explain how I feel, but I think Kristen Armstrong explained it best with these words: “I think I get addicted to the feeling associated with the end of a long run. I love feeling empty, clean, worn out, and sweat-purged. I love that good ache of muscles that have done me proud” And for me, the deep, dreamless sleep that only comes to me after many months of long runs in a row.

Hungry. At the moment I am pretty much eating anything that isn’t actually bolted down. This morning I ate a bowl of cold, plain pasta. I am allowing ruffles into the house, and I am the one eating the entire bag. I have a pretty big appetite when I am not running / hiking / walking / crawling somewhere close to 100km a week, so when I can consume guilt-free I am quite happy with it.  And it is a pretty good feeling to re-fuel after a long run.

Sahara Race (Namibia) is just around the corner, 21 days to go.  This is about the time in my training when I start to doubt everything from my training over the last 4 + months, to my equipment choices and my nutrition plan.  Everything!  The last couple of training runs have been very difficult to get through, and as hard as it is, I need to listen to my body and start tapering.  As my wise ultra-running buddy Allen Kerton reminded me of yesterday on our run – at this point there is nothing more I can do that will make stronger for the race, other than tapering.  Squeezing in last minute long runs may help me mentally, but in the end will probably cause more damage than good, so time to lay off and trust that what I have done so far is going to carry me through 250 kilometers the week starting April 29!

The next 2 weekends (OMG) I have left will be focused on shorter runs and putting the finishing touches on my equipment.

  • Getting Velcro sewed onto my shoes for gaiters
  • Put together the final version of my calorie spreadsheet, and divvy them up with a proper daily plan
  • Go through the equipment list and make sure I am not missing any of the items (Antibac hand gel, the full blister kit, flashing red light, poncho, etc.…)
  • Getting patches sewn on or silkscreened on the necessary tops
  • Enjoy the taper!!

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CAMP 1

28th April 2018 11:50

Wowee! Can’t believe it. Time is here. Thank you

We have arrived at camp 1. It’s windy but beautiful clear skies. My bag weighed in at 7.2 kg, I was quite pleased, and so I added my sleeping mat.  Am really looking forward to getting started because it seems that all I have been doing is eating and drinking!! Already known as the person who always has food in their mouth …. Better get running!!  Tomorrow starts Stage 1 with a little 43km trek with cool weather around 24C – nice running weather. Can’t wait to see the course and be out on this beautiful coast!

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DAY 1 DONE

29th April 2018 09:52

The checkpoints are always a welcome sight! It was a long 43km but filled with amazing scenery.  Truly in the middle of nowhere! Just before Sam counted us down the lovely camp team sang us the Namibian National anthem.  We are also very fortunate to have the local Himba tribe be there to see us off in their beautiful traditional clothes.  We were lucky that the course took us through the main gates of the Skeleton Park and offered a few sneaky views of the Atlantic. The views were great at pushing me through and the last section I finished with YG who made me run faster!  Unfortunately in the first 4 km I hurt my ankle.  It is quite sore and swollen, so will try and make it better for another 40km tomorrow!!

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STAGE 2

30th April 2018 11:33

Day 2 done!! Today was really great and so so much better than yesterday!! The sun was out early as we crossed a bridge with lots of greenery around because of the recent rain. As we made our way towards CP 1 we were in a valley with reddish dunes on either side, as we reached CP2 we got to climb up few dunes which offered amazing views of the desert around us. After CP3 we were able to run along the Atlantic with the waves crashing alongside. Camp is just off the coast and we have the beautiful Himba tribe here to welcome us. It was also great to have familiar faces at every checkpoint; I am appreciating that motivation so much. So far no blisters but tomorrow is our lovely beach day which will be 43km and I have a feeling the blisters will start from there!!  My ankle did OK today and I’m hoping for the same tomorrow.

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STAGE 3

1st May 2018 11:33

THANK YOU EVERYONE for the messages – they mean so much to keep me going –making me have a huge goofy smile in the cybertent.

Today was amazing, I absolutely loved it. We started out going through a rocky valley, climbing up some rocky hills (it was so much more beautiful than I am making it sound) with sweeping views of the Namib landscape. We then got to go done a fun dune and trot across the valley to meet up with the Atlantic coast line. I felt like I had arrived “home” (not my current home which is in Singapore where my Andrew is waiting to feed me millions of dumplings) But listening to the crash of the huge surf on the coast and taking a moment just to watch the magnitude of the waves, brought me back to when I was a little girl and my family would spend the weekend at the beach, along this same coastline just many, many miles north.  Today was a bit lonely and I did turn on some music towards the end with a bit of Paul Kelly to get me through, adding an extra kick in my step.  I spent most of the day trying to catch-up with the lovely Ruth (one of my tent mates) and only managed to get to her the last ½ kilometer.  She is super strong and we might try and stick together tomorrow. My tent mates are wonderful – Ruth mentioned above is keeping me moving forward, the lovely Marisa is super strong and offering much me a lot of advice on how to get through this in one piece – with or without my contact lens’. Scott is busy trying to convince me that Texas is a country and all the Texan things I need to try – tailgating, honky tonks, and BBQ (YUUUUMMMM) Chris is my official food timer, making me wait until a reasonable hour to inhale my dinner (tonight I am very excited for my 1000 calories of Spaghetti Carbonara) Dyllan is an inspirational and hilarious young man living in Ethiopia but originally from Korea, he invited me to join him and his friend in a team they have started where they take turns coming in last _ I said I might be joining them.  And of course there is Jim, who is the king of tent (coming in ahead of us every day), keeping me entertained and always waiting to have dinner with me. I love my tent!!!

Yesterday, I didn’t mention that along   the way I met and chatted with some great people.  I met Tim from the UK we talked about how much we Love Africa, I found out he ran the marathon in Sierra Leone. I then met up with the lovely Flo who lives in Namibia and told me all the best places to visit and also pointed out hyena tracks and jackal tracks. I then met with Leon from the UK and we ended up discussing something about the meaning of life. It’s been a great couple of days and I am ready for tomorrow – the big one!! I may crash and burn but have had an epic time up until now, so taking it by the moment and enjoying how so very fortunate I am to be here.

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STAGE 4

3rd May 2018 10:16 AM

Long March is done – what a fantastic 17 hours! I started off managing to keep up with Ruth until CP4. It was so beautiful.  We started through a rocky river bed to get to CP 1 and then climbed into the absolutely stunning red valley which had so much green grass with white wisps on top, at several points the grass almost looked like pools of water (maybe a mirage) even walking through them you had the feeling of walking on water – but without the wet feet.  As we came up to the top of one hill, the scenery completely opened up to the vast Namib views which almost made me feel like I was on another planet, the red domes against the clear blue skies and the patches of green grass speckled with yellow and purple flowers.  Ruth and I had a great time imagining we were on another planet; she named herself the desert pirate as we wondered by the Welwitchia’s (1000 year old plants only here!).  We also played an animal poop game where we tried to name the animal that left the poop behind (the things that you do in the desert for entertainment)

When we reached CP4 – Jim had caught up to us from the later start for the fast people. We all stuck together until CP5 and then Ruth went on ahead with a super powerful shuffle.  Jim and I trudged along for the rest of the race; we were taking it easy, one lovely CP at a time.  Jim  was a bit tired (which I think he will explain in his update) Just as we entered CP5 we caught the amazing sunset over the domes, reminding me once again how incredibly special the skies of Africa are. The rest of the journey to camp was not easy, but for the first time ever, Jim and I were able to be on the course together (he is normally a million hours ahead of me and I am sure in his blog he mentions how slow he was, but I was quite happy with the pace!) When we weren’t busy moving one foot in front of the other we would pause, turn off our headlamps and look up the beautiful Namib moon and stars.  The moon rose behind us and started off low, huge and almost orange, but then quickly was above us – almost bright enough to light the path –but not quite bright enough for this klutz to trust the light of the moon, as I am sure that would have meant another sore ankle (which did almost happen a couple times)  As the wind died down it seemed to heat up a little bit again, but then all of a sudden there was a very cool wind that blew in our direction followed by an amazing smell of flowers – to me I immediately smelled gardenia’s bringing back once again to my home from many years ago.  Another runner in camp also noticed this and we discussed it the next day. Not sure what flower scent it was but a totally surreal moment – reminding me that these are the moments during the race that make all the hard work worthwhile.  

Jim & I crossed the finish line at 1am, 17 hours later for me and 15 for him. Today is our rest day and I have 2 blisters (that’s it!) to make my journey a little more challenging tomorrow but I am looking forward to Dune Day!

Again, THANK YOU for the emails and comments, I’ve got some great jokes, lovely quotes about toilets (thanks Ali), and overall inspiration from each of you I have channeled in my dark moments and given me big smiles all along the way.

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STAGE 5

4th May 2018 10:08

Dune Day was amazing!! We started out along a rocky river bed and then made our way over a few dunnettes to get ready for The Big One. The first 20km were quite runnable so I turned on my iPod and did my Singapore shuffle to get me through.  As we moved out of the riverbed, we were greeted with beautiful desert views with dunes on either side.  I had a chat with Tommy who has raised 25,000$ for the charity he is supporting to help children go to school in Calcutta – absolutely amazing and inspirational! CP2 was at the base of the big dune, where we climbed up and started 9km of undulating dune trekking.  The views were amazing – I will try and describe what I saw, but it won’t do it justice. To the left was a kaleidoscope of sand, colors, and textures forming smaller dunes.  It was as though someone had taken a paint brush and brushed the scene into place. To the right is the Atlantic a few kilometers off and you could hear the waves crashing. Since I didn’t use my iPod on the Long March (because I was listening to Jim moan for most of it) I had it turned on for this stage.  Paul Kelly’ Deeper Water came on and a line in it brought me to tears! It was quite unexpected, but the combination of what I’ve been doing (read exhaustion) the time in my thoughts, and the beautiful location just brought everything to the surface and I had a little cry. It was mostly triggered by thinking of my mom and missing her.

After finishing the dunes we ended up at CP3 with 10km to go to get to our lovely camp on the beach.  I met up with Ruth and he pulled me along with hardy any walking to get to camp. I would have walked a lot if she wasn’t there! Thank You Ruth! I am super excited to have this last stage done and will now list all my aches and pains.  I haven’t taken off my shoes to inspect the damage but I am feeling about 3 blisters on my right foot.  My left foot seems blister free – this is the best I have ever done with blisters. I am pretty sure my hips are about to pop out of their sockets (boys and girls, this is what happens when you don’t do proper strength training) my left knee is sore (but that is to be expected) Overall I am quite happy with how my body has held up.

Once again, I love reading all of your notes of inspiration and when I’m back in civilization I will be contacting each of you!!