Monday, May 31, 2010
31st March 2010
Left Dubai at 3pm today and is on my way to Paris.Tomorrow I`ll have a free day in Paris to walk around and visit all my favorite spots. Helen Barrett is in my thoughts today for cancelling her holiday to France and donating the cost of the flight to me. I have used to money for kit and donated $1000 to the Els for Autism foundation on Helen`s name. Freezing in Paris, only 5 degrees, but that will all change in a couple of days when we arrive at Bivouac 1. Bring on the MDS!
1 April 2010
After months of preparation I am now finally on my way to Morocco. What a roller coaster year! Never thought I would be doing this kind of running race! Not sure how I got myself into this, but all I know for sure, everyone one out there
thinking I will not finish the 250km, go take a dump! This is not supposed to be easy, if I wanted easy I`ll run a 42k! This race is for me, my family and every single child and family affected by Autism.
2 April 2010
I woke up at 3:15am today and I really battled to get up. I managed 4 hours of sleep as I woke up at 1am with a massive calf cramp. Need to up my salt intake over the next couple of days. Arrived at Orly Sud at 4am and bumped into another Dubai resident, Jim McIntosh who arrived at midnight from Dubai. He looks shattered, glad I took an extra day to get here. Our flight is at 8am and we got our tickets and proceeded to the departure gate. Bumped into Veronica from Dubai and also met a guy called Simon Saunders who I met on Facebook. Simon recognized me by my 5 finger shoes that he saw on Facebook!
8h20pm - After what can only be described as bus journey from hell we finally arrived at the bivouac. It was such a long day all ready when we landed in Morocco we qued for an hour to get through passport control. Then straight on the bus where we got handed a lunch pack, 1,5l water and our roadbook. Everyone immediately went to see how long the 4th stage would be and it will be 82km!
The distances are: day 1 - 29km ;day 2 - 34km; day 3 - 40km; day 4/5 - 82km; day 6 - 42km; day7 - 21km
We arrived near the camp at sunset and got transferred on the back of old army trucks for the last mile of so to the Bivouac. When the camp came into site I was amazed by it size and credit must go to the organization for putting this all together. Moving about 1500 people and equipment around daily for a week is very impressive. It really feels like I am in the race now. We found a tent with a lone Irishman inside and made ourselves at home in Tent 124B. This would be home for the next 9 days.
The residents of 124B are :Adam du Plooy - South Africa/Dubai ; Jim McIntosh - Britain/Dubai ; Simon Saunders -Britain/Hungary ; Harry Harron - Norhtern Ireland/Hungary ; Dennis Conroy - Ireland/France ; Jaikes- South Africa/ Finland.
We got 1,5l of water for the night and headed out for dinner in the camp. We had lamb tagine with coleslaw and a small bottle of red wine. Touch of class by the French! Mild night tonight, no need for the sleeping bag.
3rd April 2010
Last night was the first night on the floor and the sleeping mat worked really well. Woke up at 6am and had to walk miles to find a suitable place to convert into a loo, I am not using the Turkish style loo`s, they are horrible. Most people head into the distance to answer natures call! Thank God for the invention of wet wipes! I am now settled in and look forward to the run.
Today is admin day.Each competitor needs to gave 2000 cals minimum per day and I am averaging 2500cals. You also need to submit the compulsory ECG report and at 10am we moved across to the inspection tent. We had no issues checking in and got handed a water card, medical card and your race number and salt tabs. They also give you a massive flare that would drive the weight watchers mad, adding more weight to the backpack. There are guys out there with 6kg backpacks, mine is 13kg`s, but I am not too worried as my back is use the the weight.We now just hanging around, reading, going for wee`s and making fun of Jaikes`s shoes he bought of a berber. Briefing at 5pm and then the start of the MDS tomorrow with a gentle 29 km!
6h20pm - this evening we had our first briefing with Monsieur Parrick Bauer. This guy is very inspiring with his youth full approach to life! Today we celebrate the 25th Edition of the Marathon Des Sables with 1013 runners from 43 countries, a new record. Patrick went over safety and a flare was set off to show everyone how to use it. Hope no one has to use one this week. When Patrick went through the nationalities, South Africa was first on the list, good omen! Tonight will be the last dinner by the organizers and from tomorrow morning we are self sufficient for the duration of the race. There will be a French band at dinner tonight and then the 29km first leg start at 9am tomorrow morning. I will set out nice and steady tomorrow and get a good feel for the back pack. Should be able to run the distance in 5 hours depending on the terrain. Looks like we cross a Jebel early on then flat for most of the way.8pm The desert is
unpredictable. Had a great couple of days and all of a sudden a wind kick up and caused a bit of a sandstorm. At dinner everyone was wearing buffs and sunglasses to keep the sand out, must have looked like a bank robbers convention! Hope this wind stops, I am on the wrong side of the tent, keep getting smacked in the face by the tent,
hope I get enough sleep before the race tomorrow. Will have to get up at 6am before the tent taliban comes to dismantle the camp! I am in very good spirit and look forward to the race, get stage 1 under the belt and work it up steady to the long day. I must remember to take it one day at a time and not get ahead of myself. This is a long week
with many miles to cover. Thank you to everyone who believes I'll wax it!
4th April 2010
What a rude awaking. This is what today was for every member of tent 124B. I woke up at 5h30am and most of the morning was spend faffing around sorting kit out. Tent taliban pulled in at 7am and within an hour the whole camp was down and packed away! Amazing. At 8h30 we had race briefing and Patrick warned that the day was going to be long and each runner must ensure that take enough salt throughout the day. As the race started I had a tear in my eyes as I could not believe the race was finally on! I walked for the first 2km`s and started to run the rest of the way. Plan is simple, walk up hill, run down hill and steady running over the flats.
First part of the run had some serious hills and wadi`s with great scenery. Worked towards checkpoint 1 and caught up with Jim. After checkpoint 1 we encountered the first set of small dunes which was very manageable, and at around my shoulders started to feel the pressure of the 13kg bag. I left Jim and pushed on to check point 2 and more dunes. My gaiters are working really well I am happy with my home made job! Crossed the dunes, however, this time around they were much softer and harder to cross. I bumped into Harry and Simon and Simon looked F*cked and dazed. I left them and pushed on to the end and arrived first at the tent. When I arrived I received 4,5l water that should last till breakfast the next day. Shoulders hurt like hell, and I cleaned myself with wet wipes, amazed how much salt is on my running kit from all the sweating.
I hit the mattress for 30 min which helped a lot. I also have a fat blister on my right foot, second toe. Popped it and will dry it out before tomorrow, should be ok. My time was 5hrs11min and I am placed at 633. So far so good!
5th April 2010
What a fu*king nightmare! Road book said 34,2km and the race started of very well. Early in the day we hit a Jebel and it was a straight forward walk to the top. When I reached the top I could feel a blister developing and had it sorted out at one of the mobile clinic`s. Moved on to CP 1 and felt ok, just very hot, in the 40`s. After getting through CP 2 we crossed this lava rock field and this is where the shit started hitting the fan from all directions. This was a tough area as it feels like you going nowhere and when I saw CP 3 I had it in my mind that was the end of the day but how wrong was I ! I was a little but down for a while but sat down at the CP and took some water and had some snack food. I rested for 15minutes and started the slow climb up and over a proper mountain, 8km till we home. felt very low at this stage, going very slowly up the mountain with a heavy backpack. It was very dangerous going up with people kicking rocks down as they climb. At one stage I passed a blind runner and his guide and it looked like they were not going to make it as some areas are 2 meter vertical climbs with limited holding spaces. I took me over 2 hours to complete the 8k`s home. Last stretch over an area called the killing fields, 2km of serious dunes before you arrive at the biviouac. Arrived at camp completely fucked, got two more blisters from the climbing and my toe is even more busted than the day before. Spoke to fi and I felt pretty tired and emotional. Up side was Fi, Steve and Kathrine saw me come in to the biviouac with my South African Flag on the webcam. Got some mail from friends from around the world and this is a good morale boost for tomorrow. I got a 30min time penalty for asking more water after the stage, not too worried as I would rather rehydrate after the stage than get more dehydrated as the days go on. Not here to set a time record, just need to finish.Simon even took a penalty and the overall feeling is that we should all get 1,5l more at night. Dennis pulled out today due to dehydration. I can see he is very disappointed but that is life. He decided to stay on and travel with the biviouac, so he is now our official tent bitch!
6th April 2010
Today we upped the distance again, 40km. I must say it is very hard getting up in the morning, putting shoes on your feet and do it all over again, day after day! The day was extremely hot I am not sure I the guys from Europe manage coming out of a freezing winter straight into the desert heat. Patrick promised that today will be flat after yesterdays hills and mountains. He warned us that it will be hot and to conserve energy for the long stage.I had a fairly good day till I got to about 2km from the last checkpoint. The blister on my left heel has developed into the size of a golfball and all of a sudden it popped. It was such a horrible feeling and I decided to stop and have a look. The blister was a blood blister and to add to my agony a nice big blister also formed on my right heel. the medic van did not want to stop and told me to press on to the last CP and they would sort me out.
I was obviously pissed off as my heel was very tender, so I put on a pair of flip flops and walked across 2km of dunes to the CP. The medic there cleaned the blister and made a temporary strapping and instructed me to report to Doc Trotters at the bivouac. I managed to finish the last 5 km to the Biviouac in flip flops and got to camp 30 minutes before the cut off as I used up a lot of time after the blister
popped. Went to the medical tent and had the blisters cleaned and pumped full of Iodene, really really painful. Starting to worry about the state of my feet, still 3 hard stages left and I am facing serious blister problems.Got mail again which is helping me a lot. Will not let anyone down!
7th April 2010
82km today. I have been wondering how it will feel to stand on a starting line knowing you have 36 hours to finish 82km. Today I battled to put shoes on, my left ankle is badly swollen and I am afraid that i have picked up an infection. Will not report it in the morning as I need to get moving and cannot risk being pulled off the race by the medics. Will keep an eye on it in each of the check points. If only I knew how mentally and emotionally tough this day would have been I dont think I would have stood on that starting line. The Chris Rea song road to hell should have been a good indication of what was lying ahead of us all. The stage started with a deceptively flat uphill for about 12,8km, I could not believe how hard this first section was. Feet was throbbing in my shoes but my spirits where high to make it through this day. Spend the first half of the day with Jim, we made it to CP 1 and had some food and water. Cracked on to CP 2 and this is where the MDS started to get hard on me. At about 3 km from CP 2 I told Jim to keep his pace as I was slowing down and starting to run out of water. At about 1km from the CP Jaikes found me sitting on top of a Jebel, and I told Jaikes that I thought my race is over. Another big blister developed on my right foot between my big toe and second toe, which looked like a 6th toe,full of blood! Jaikes encouraged me to get to CP 2 and let the medics check my feet.
I pressed on and just made it to CP 2. At this stage I felt my race is over. Feet where taking strain and left ankle heavily swollen. Medics sorted out my new blister and also put me on antibiotics for the inflammation and swelling in my heel and ankle. I found Jaikes under a tent and saw his race number was off. Jaikes was out with severe dehydration. His words, Boet, dont give up now restored the power to my legs but I knew I had to make a plan with my shoes. I cut a big section out of the toe area of the left shoe to relieve some pressure of my toes and heel. I force the shoe on and cracked on to CP 3. I have to get to CP 4 before 1pm to be able to carry on the next day.From CP 3 to CP was very hard emotionally as I was feeling very sorry for Jaikes and Dennis. A lot of hard work goes into getting here. I was battling with myself thinking what the use is of pressing on as my feet are so fucked, that even if I make it through 82km, I still have to get back on the start line a walk another 42,2km followed by 21km.....I was on an emotional roller coaster, singing the one moment and then almost giving up the next. I went through and desert oasis and there were two kids sitting with small bottle of Coke. They offered it to me for 20 Euros. I told them to buzz off! Not in a good place at the moment.
Made it to CP 3 after sunset and parked off and took my shoes off. After an hour I tried to put my shoes back on, but by now both feet were so badly swollen I could not get the shoes back on. Keep in mind that my shoes were also a size and a half bigger.... I then made the decision to quite. I took my race tag off and went to the admin tent. There was another runner who was trying to quite but the race director Patrick kept on going why,why, you can do it, don`t give up. I decided to sit down for a while and sat against the Landy and started reading the black book Fi got me with messages from my mates. The firs tmessage from Haydn was my salvation ; No matter what happens, finish......On your toughest day, on your worst hour, stop, recover, cry and start again. That is exactly what I did.I taped up my feet further, took the Ipod out for the first time, put on my flip flops and took off like a rocket heading into the darkness for CP 4.
13km over sand and wadi`s with flip flops, but I was not too worried as I was moving again. It was great going in the complete darkness with millions of stars above me. Only down side was the camel spiders, must have been the size of small dogs, because I would have a fit every time I see one coming for my feet! I would sprint ahead and focus again on reaching CP 4. Near CP 4 i got lost in a Wadi as I missed a marker running away from spiders. I pulled out the compass and soon I was back on track. I reached CP at 12h30am and felt a massive sense of relieve that I pressed on and did not drop out. I pulled out the sleeping bag and crashed next to two camels preparing my mind to get ready for more in a couple of hours.
Woke up at 5 and when i got up I could put no pressure on my left foot. It felt very serious and I panicked a bit. I thought that if I walk around for a couple of minutes it would be ok but it felt like it was getting worse. This time i really thought my race was over. I sat in CP 4 for another 3 hours and decided to call it a day as the pain was just getting worse.I handed in my number, but shortly after this the course director, an old desert fox,came over and stood infront of me. He asked me what was wrong and put his hand on my shoulder. He looked me straight in the eyes and said; You have to finish this race, for your friends and family, and also for yourself. I got tears in my eyes and he escorted me to the medical tent. Sand has gone in between my big toe and 2nd toe and compacted under the sole of my foot, causing the pain. the medic cut it open and washed all the sand out. what a relieve once the sand was taken out as I could put pressure on my foot again.
I put on a pair of toe socks and marched on like a zombie and went through CP 5 and CP6 where I stopped to get out of the sun for an hour. I went for a pee and realized I had a lot of blood in my urine due to urinary tract infection. Doctor gave me something for it and at 3pm I got my shoes back on and pushed through the last 10km listening to my Ipod. In my mind I knew that after after finishing 82km that i would be able to hang in there and make it to the last day! About a mile from the biviouac our tent bitch came over the horizon to take me back in to the camp. Was great seeing Dennis and he lifted my spirits by 500% I got into camp, 33 hours after starting the long stage and I was feeling ecstatic! One of the greatest feelings of my life! My tent mates where so happy to see me making it back, even though they stole my carpet thinking I crashed and burned! All that was now between me and the end - 42,2km and 21,1km. Piece of cake!
9th April 2010
Woke up still feeling high from the day before. Today was a 42,2km and I managed to just cruise through it. Started off slowly as my feet was hurting like hell, but after 9km I felt more comfortable and reached CP 1 with not too much issues. I sat down for 5 minutes and pressed on, one CP at a time and when I reached CP 2 , I saw Jim there. I wanted to press on and not stop so Jim joined me for the rest of the day. It was a hard stage as we crossed a few wadi`s with a lot of up and down climbing. My left knee started hurting because I am cover compensating for my swollen heel and ankle. Nothing to serious and in the end we made it to final Biviouac. Tomorrow we only have 21,1km
left over two dune fields then we home free. MDS in the bag.nothing will stop me now. Everyone in the tent very keen to cross the line tomorrow! it is very cold tonight, but I am not too worried, sleeping in a bed again tomorrow evening! dont even mention the shower, never been this dirty in my life!
10th April 2010
We started at 8am this morning, last 50 runner in yesterday will start an hour ahead and we ran through the middle of the biviouac. All the other runners lined up and cheered us on our way. what a great feeling. During this race I have met amazing people, everybody cheering you on, go bru, lekker my china ect. Everyone running this race is special! I decided to just keep my head down and work towards the finish line. I found the going fairly easy as the dunes were firm under foot and the wadi we crossed was flat with not too many stones. As we entered the final dune fields i started preparing myself for the home strecth and summarizing the week that I have just been through. I think of the guy running with polio on two crutches. The 3 blind runners and their guides. every single person running for various
charities, and my new mates in tent 124B! As I crossed a dune a guy at the top shouted Whooohooo,the finish line and I shouted back, you better not be lying to me otherwise I will mess you up!
When I reached to top of the dune I saw the end, about 3 minutes away and i felt a sense of relieve. As we got closer more spectators where sitting on the dunes encouraging us on and I realized just how little spectator support we have en route. Due the the nature of this race it is almost impossible for spectators to follow the race due to the locations we move through.
I crossed the final dune and hoisted my South African flag and crossed the hallowed MDS finishing line. Few runners have had the privilege to cross this line and I am so happy I managed it. Patrick was there at the end, gave me a massive hug like he does with all the runners and shouted - Afrique du Sud Bravo!
I got my medal and after a quick pack lunch it was back on a bus full of smelly runners for a 7hour bus trip back to Ouzazatte and the hotel!
Would I do it again? My answer is the same as a MDS runner called Tobie from the UK - NEVER! Then he slowly lifts his t -shirt sleeve and shows me his 6 MDS tattoos of each of the years he has done the MDS!He said never again from the first one he did!
Thanks must go out to my sponsors and people who have supported me:
My wife Fiona
The Els Club
Everyone who emailed me while I was in Morocco and following my blogover the last year.
Everyone who has made a donation to the Ernie Els for Autism Foundation.
It does not stop here, I am still encouraging people to make donations to the Els foundation and let me know if you would be interested to get involved with the Dubai Autism Center!