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MdS 2011 – Epilogue

MdS 2011 – Epilogue

Home again…

What a welcome. What happiness to see the faces of my very own family, smiling, jumping up and down with the most beautiful cards, self made, in their hands urging me to read and look and see what they have drawn, why they’ve drawn it and what do I think..

My patient, cool, calm and the ever-present extraordinary immense strength of my husband, Richard Thomas, quietly waiting alongside, until our four little ones he has tendered, cared for and loved so well, are all done with the words they simply have to express like little babbling brooks and the physical expression of love they simply have to shower all over me – what it is to have them in my arms again and what it is to finally be in his.

It is done.

I am home.

And I feel like a new person.

I find a rare and incredibly valuable form of self-respect when I complete goals I have set myself and the Marathon des Sables is probably the biggest yet – the biggest I have ever undertaken on my own. Saying that though, ‘on my own’ makes me feel it’s somewhat of a cheat because the ever present spirit of my God, husband, children and other family members and friends meant I was never alone, but I guess in the true physical sense, yes, on my own. Richard and myself deciding we’d like four children close together has without a doubt been the greatest goal I have ever been driven to achieve but I have done it with this great man I love and had constant strength, love, care, support and rock and glue from this out-of-this-world-definitely-from-another-planet husband to sustain me all along and so this is clearly a shared goal, one we have attained together, in the names of love and commitment. Our extraordinary and special four children will always stand out way above anything else I have ever done or will do but as this is a shared goal I cannot, and will not, compare it to anything I achieve ‘on my own’.

My Marathon des Sables is over and I feel good. I feel renewed and refreshed with a lovely dose of new and improved self-respect. 3 years since managing to obtain a place for 2011, 3 years of planning, changing training schedules, nursing injuries, mind sets, working on flexibility, upper body strength; like pushing Luke and Savannah in their pram (3 years ago, Luke was 3 and Savannah 2) uphill to school, core strength, upper arm weights, training with a backpack complete with rocks and full water bottles, revising final strategies due to our ever changing situation, and negotiating the obstacles and challenges that crop up and alter the course of our daily lives. The unbelievable mental and emotional turmoil of stark realisation, month by month since August 2010, on that fateful day at the 75 mile mark during the Leadville 100 Miler when Richard was forced to stop, that he was not going to be able to join me as we had planned for so long. Tears, frustration, sadness…do I defer… do I go on? What is best? What is best for both of us, for our children? The questions that plagued took months to answer and the support and patient responses and endless discussions my husband held with me will forever be fondly remembered. Such love. Such stamina to have to deal with this complex mind that finally decided to go and take that intimidating bull by the horns and fight it, despite all the different demons under the name of fear trying to stop me.

As it is well known, to conquer fear it must be confronted. To ensure a fulfilling, peaceful existence and life abundant in enthusiasm and happiness, doubt and fear can have no place in our hearts or mind, and so there I found myself in the desert, moving closer and closer to a starting line that demanded not only 156 miles of running in harsh, hostile and alien surroundings, albeit it all stunning, but one that was also intensely personal and condensed with varying doubts and fears, manifested mentally over the years, that needed crushing one by one.

And then somewhere within this grey haze of attempted focus, I find a new and unexpected light and I am humbled and enriched. My fabulous local Moroccan ‘arms dealers’, Lasson and Ahmed name me, after sharing conversation and tea, ‘Raining Camel’ – the saddle they use for camels, which is stronger than normal – for when it rains. A touch of magic; the magic of a new culture, new people, all of whom, I discovered during lengthy talks over strong sweet tea, are all of the same ilk, pursuing only health and happiness in this sometimes confusing, insane and frightening world. These parents no different from me or any other throughout the world, simply wanting the best for their children, living a basic life to take home food to keep the cycle of life ticking over day by day. This experience was never going to be ‘just about running’ was it! There was always the added potential aspect of taking the time to savour the local life and learning something new. I did the latter in earnest and interest and so imagine my surprise when I was generously presented with gifts after crossing the final finish line; caramel-like and very tasty local dates, henna for decorating my feet and hands, ‘coal’ for my eyes, beautiful smelling Moroccan incense and kind ongoing congratulations and thanks for buying some of their goods. Here I thought only a few moments before, that Patrick Bauer placing my medal round my neck was the ultimate.. how wrong I was.

Now back home, it all seems surreal, the whole 12 Moroccan Sahara days are but a memory. The jokes and laughter, tears, the challenging experiences and highs and lows of all 7 of us in Tent 107 are but a memory. Greg, Ant and I didn’t know the others, James, Clint, Ben or Scott to begin with and it is amazing how sharing a tent out in the open desert takes everyone, friends or not (at that stage), to a new level. A basic level of survival and what is acceptable under normal circumstances in society changed in almost an instant. Necessity is the mother of invention, without a shadow of a doubt. Your whole life, sustenance and all in a backpack, suddenly changes everything. Our new priority for the next 7 days, to get from starting line A to finishing line B, but there are always obstacles in each and every situation. Blistered feet alter the course of getting to the ‘toilet’ during the night and new and inventive ways are found to avoid having to stand on painful razor-sharp feet other than forced to when running. The near rugby tackle for the spare set of ear-plugs to drive away the all night sawing-sounds of luckily fast asleep people which kept others awake for hours. Sewing, on Day 3, tired backpack straps with dental floss as cotton simply didn’t last the day long for Stage 1 and 2, cutting water bottles open every day to make a drinking glass for the necessary breakfast refreshment, super-thin-light slippers filling up with sand and therefore ending up weighing a ton and having to be cut open to drain the offending weight… and the list goes on.. so much laughter in all of this, and with complete strangers, this is what made much of it all light hearted and possible.

The most hilarious incident and by far the best happened in the departure queue at Ouarzazate Airport. We had to wait in the queue for about half an hour and so I got talking to a fellow competitor, ironically South African and another female competitor from the UK about the race. Now one has to remember here that freeze-dried food is palatable to a point. For some of us, after a few days of the same porridge, for example, it becomes inedible. I for one simply could not stomach the porridge in the last 3 days and ate nuts and dried fruit instead. So what do I do? I go and mention to the two of them the horror and awful memory of not being able to get that freeze dried oat porridge down my throat in the last 3 days. Well, this woman ended up retching alongside us and so badly she was only a couple of inches away from losing her ‘not porridge’ breakfast from the hotel all over her luggage. I honestly didn’t think she would manage to keep it down… as awful as it was for her, it was absolutely hilarious and she enjoyed laughing with us afterwards. And of such are some of the memories..

As I said in a previous blog, after my marathon day, one can always push harder and train more etc. and in retrospect, now I am home, I do wish I had pushed harder finishing with a better time overall but when I sum up no medical assistance, no poles at all (I can’t help but think poles give one an added advantage – I ended up carrying them the whole way in the event I sustained an injury; they would have helped me at least finish), and everything we have been through since August last year, I must focus on the fact I completed the whole event, with a great marathon day.

As for realising only upon my return, my husband cut and pasted in the region of 200 messages to the MdS email engine to ensure I received all your Blog messages every day, and updated my Blog absolutely beautifully, and oh yes, LOOKED AFTER OUR 4 WONDERS AT THE SAME TIME, I am touched again and again. The gallery he has uploaded into my Blog is just another of his golden twists; no matter what he does, it turns to gold. So much done for me to fully enjoy this incredible experience. My love, thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have made this all possible, wonderfully possible and I am forever indebted to you.

The 2011 Marathon des Sables ‘Raining Camel’, signing out for the last time..

 

Posted by on April 15, 2011 in Running

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MdS 2011 – Day 8, Stage 4 – Update from the Desert

MdS 2011 – Day 8, Stage 4 – Update from the Desert

I am totally blown away.

Not by the 82km I completed over the last 36 hours, but because I have just received another FIVE pages of messages from all the incredible people in my life :-)

Stunning but Harsh

I have cried, laughed and been flabbergasted at the emotion. I am touched and moved.

The guys in my tent are all so shocked at all my emails – they say I am THE ONLY one EVER to leave the MdS desert with a heavier backpack 😆 thank you everyone. I am relishing in your comments.

I have my out-of-this-world husband to thank. He is the rock and glue in my and our children’s lives and without his love and attention to my journey I just wouldn’t have any of this. How do I thank him enough? Let alone for all his tough and painful journeys trying to sort out blisters. Here I come, slotting straight into his solution and my blisters are beautiful compared to 100’s of others. My love you are my whole billions of galaxies and I love you and our JMLS more than you’ll ever know. Thank you.

I was sad not to have been able to stay with Ant but everything in my body was yelling for me to rest and what a rest it was!

Tough Night

I managed to run in the last 3 Checkpoints which makes me feel like I’ve partly done what I came to do.

The landscapes are stunning, but harsh and it is still 40 deg here.

Having said that, I think I have recovered well and I have washed my socks in preparation for tomorrow, as well as sorting out blisters and so about to have dinner.

There is excitement in the air.

It is the marathon day tomorrow, the classic 42.2 km distance which everyone wants to measure themselves against; then a mere 17.5 km as a final day sprint.

Best I sleep well tonight.. It’s not over yet 😉

 

Posted by on April 7, 2011 in Running

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MdS 2011 – Day 8, Stage 4 – Update

She’s done it.
She’s finished the long day.
82 km of some of the most rugged terrain on the planet.
She finished at 11:30am Moroccan time.

I will update you with more details later.

 

Posted by on April 7, 2011 in Running

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MdS 2011 – Day 8, Stage 4 – The Dawn Refuses To Break

MdS 2011 – Day 8, Stage 4 – The Dawn Refuses To Break

I only wish it would.

The sun is not quite up in Morocco, both physically and metaphorically as there appear to be some inconsistencies in the times displayed on the website; at least I hope this is the case.

The dark of the desert

Last night, Liz and Ant were traveling together and intended to stay together for the duration of the stage, which they had 32km to complete after reaching CP4.

Now, at 5:00am in the morning (Morocco time) Liz is still showing as having progressed no further than CP4 and Ant is showing at CP5 on the position timing page (POSY). This in itself is inconsistent, to my mind at least, as I strongly doubt that they would have split up overnight unless Liz had elected to change the strategy we had discussed and agreed all along, specifically to go all out and get the long day finished as soon as possible.

On the Live Race Tracker, Ant is shown as being about 2/3 of the way between CP5 and CP6 and if this is accurate, I would hope they would get to the final checkpoint before the finish in the next hour or so.

Best case scenario; they are still together and on their way to CP5, and I would expect, with the light of the coming dawn, they could do the final 10km in 2-3 hours.

Worst case scenario; Liz could not go any further after CP4 last night, elected to rest there and will have 33 km to complete on her own before 3pm today (4pm BST)

I pray it is the former.

 

Posted by on April 7, 2011 in Running

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MdS 2011 – Day 6, Stage 3 – Update from the Desert

MdS 2011 – Day 6, Stage 3 – Update from the Desert

It has been so hard today and I am worried

Savage Hills

I have had to take baby steps all the way today. Concentrating solely on the 10 meters ahead of me, putting one foot in front of the other.

A savage day, with exquisite landscapes to lift my spirits, but sometimes it is not enough.

On the long day tomorrow, I will need to find great inner strength.

The update from Liz was brief as the email ‘tent’ was closing only 30 minutes after she arrived, but more importantly, she is unsurprisingly exhausted, however I subsequently received this from Greg Collett (891) her team mate and tent colleague.

Liz came in about 45 minutes ago looking very tired but otherwise in good shape, at least as far as blisters go. she is rather exhausted after today, which has been very tough.

We have our best motivators and chefs working on the case. I am of course hopeful that with careful management she will make it to the end of the long day – she will not send an email as the shop shuts in 30 minutes but she sends her love to you all. Emails have been coming through and have been most welcome.

 

Posted by on April 5, 2011 in Running

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