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MdS 2011 – Gallery

MdS 2011 – Gallery

 

Posted by on April 15, 2011 in Running

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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 11 – Presentation

MdS 2011 – Day 11 – Presentation

I went to the presentation earlier, where I caught up with my friends again.

Here is Zed, me, Mustapha and Brahim. Note THEIR trophy which they insisted I hold. The Marathon des Sables 2011 has been absolutely amazing :-)

Team Rahal

I have been out buying gifts for the family since then and have had a quiet lunch, but tomorrow we are on our way home. All too soon the adventure is over.

I just want to be home now.

 

Posted by on April 10, 2011 in Running

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MdS 2011 – Day 10, Stage 6 – At the Start Line

MdS 2011 – Day 10, Stage 6 – At the Start Line

I will not try to over-dramatise what should be the mere formality of 11 miles after the previous 6 days, during which over 144 miles have already been covered.

Nevertheless, for the record, here is what the last day has in store for Liz.

They will start out by running ‘through’ the middle of the bivouac, on the only day on which it will have been left standing, and then after what should now be a familiar few hills and dunes and only one checkpoint, the landscape will turn into an ‘urban’ environment as they make their way through the suburbs of Tazzarine to the finish line. Patrick Bauer, the race director, will be waiting to welcome each and every competitor there, and the emotion at the finish will, predictably, be palpable.

09/04/2011 – STAGE N°6 :
TAKKOURT N’TAKOUIT / TAZZARINE – 17,5 Km

MdS 26 - Stage 6

Km 0 : Go West (course 278°) up to the foot of Saredrar djebel, Km 5.1. Small pebbles.
Km 1,6 : Cross the oued. Sand and camel grass.
Km 2,8 : End of oued. Small pebbles.
Km 4,3 : Middle of pass between hills. Cross the oued, fairly rugged terrain.
Km 5,1 : Follow small track to go round crops to the right.
Km 5,8 : Go down into oued and turn left. Sandy and stony.
Km 6,3 : Sandy passage with deceptive slope. Fossilised marble mine to the right.
Km 9 : CP1 on stony plateau. Go W/NW (course 286°) until Km 12.4.
Km 10 : Cross a large track.
Km 11 : Stony plateau ends.
Km 12,4 : Cross track just before Tazzarine ruins. Slightly stony.
Km 13,6 : Go left on the track at the foot of the hill. Small ruin on the hill.
Km 14,5 : First houses of Tazzarine. Cross the village.
Km 15,9 : Tarmac road. Go left.
Km 17,5 : FINISH LINE.

 

Posted by on April 9, 2011 in Running

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MdS 2011 – Day 4, Stage 1 – At the start line

MdS 2011 – Day 4, Stage 1 – At the start line

All ready.

Breakfast done – some sort of porridge, mmmm! Pack now weighs 9.45 kg after 1 pack of freeze dried food consumed though – bonus :-)

Spoken to my lovely and wonderful family. What it is to hear my husband’s voice and all my children, Joshua then Savannah, Morgan and then Luke, all wishing me well. I must be the most blessed woman on this planet.

I am waiting in the ’26’ – All 900 or so competitors assemble in a cordoned off area in the shape of the number of years the race has been running – this year is the 26th Edition – it make a spectacular sight from the helicopters, but for the participants it is merely a welcome distraction.

Almost ready to go now and I’m feeling somewhat, but understandably, tense. Somewhat excited as well, but there is no turning back now. Come to think of it, I passed that point long ago 😆

26 MdS - Stage 1

More after 33km…

03/04/2011 – STAGE N°1 :
DAR KAOUA / KOURCI DIAL ZAID – 33 Km

Km 0 : Prendre direction S/E (cap 140°) jusqu’au CP1.
Go SE (course 140°) until CP1.
Km 0,2 : Cross small dunes then cross En Neijakh oued.
Km 0,9 : Slightly uphill for around 100 metres. Plateau with small pebbles.
Km 8,3 : Moderately hilly terrain.
Km 13 : CPI at the foot of Chebbi erg. Go S/SE (course 157°) to cross the dunes.
Km 26 : CP2 as you exit the dunes. Follow markings until you reach the cairn at Km 26.7.
Cross rugged oued. (Tamarix and camel grass).
Km 26,7 : From cairn, go S/SE (course 151°) until bivouac. Variable stony plateau, mostly flat.
Km 33 : Arrive at B2

 

Posted by on April 3, 2011 in Running

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MdS 2011 – Day 3 – Technical Checks

MdS 2011 – Day 3 – Technical Checks

34°C today, cool by African standards but we have no doubt the dunes will show us their true furnace nature soon.

Our bags, which will be taking a leisurely stroll to meet us in the hotel in 7 days time, are now long gone and the truth of what lies ahead looms large.

Erg Chebbi

I have picked up my water card, the fuel tablets for my stove, an emergency flare and 120 salt tablets. We apparently will need to eat 20 per day and they are supposedly ‘divine’ – I’m not surprised 😡

My backpack at the start will weigh 9.5 kg without water, which is  somewhat heavier than I had planned but feels lighter than the 8 kg of rocks I’ve been training with over the last few months. Must be the even distribution. Hooray 😎

My Moroccan Rahal friends say ‘chuck’ as much as possible to get to 6.5 kg but I just can’t. I have wonderful presents from my family, cards with incredible words which will be vital to get me through the rough times. I am happy with my load.

I’m finally all kitted out with gaiters and some local headgear; best for the dunes, “when in Rome” my arms dealers tell me :-)

Dinner is done and everyone is quiet.

Focussed.

Let’s get a little lost in the stars again..

 

Posted by on April 2, 2011 in Running

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MdS 2011 – Day 3 – Under the Stars

MdS 2011 – Day 3 – Under the Stars

The Constellation Scorpio.

I know I’m in Africa when I see this incredible set of stars. Never before have I brushed my teeth so well, for so long or indeed, so out in the darkness :-)

Moroccan Tea anyone?

The wind came up at 7pm last night and as we went off to dinner I was distracted by a fantastic tent which had a floor loaded with Moroccan goods.  They made me most welcome, so I sat down, and was presented with so much from which to choose. I did my bit of bartering and haggling over the price :-) and then, happy with my purchases, I went off to meet up with the guys.

The queue was so long I lost them though. As I waited, I thought that two guys in front looked like the top guys, including the winner in recent years, Mohammed Ahansel.  I asked them but they said not.

We did not have much conversation as their English was not good and my Moroccan / French is worse!  So I got my food, sat down at a table by myself and the next thing I knew they all joined me :-)

This is good I said :-)

I turns out they are Team ‘Groupe Rahal’ – Mustapha Ait Amar (6), Brahim Erragragui (7), Brahim Doul (8) and Abdessadek Zaid (9) and a friend from Team ‘Eurosport’ Faraj Mohammed (21).

Sunrise in the Desert

They invited me to tea and so we went and had sweet clover flavoured hot tea, under the stars, swapping stories via hand signs and facial expressions! It’s good when the top local guys tell you to find them if there are ANY problems! Amazing.

Went to bed and watched the stars for a long time, and saw two shooting starts before I finally succumbed to the excitement of the day. :-)

I woke up at 3am and that was it though. For the next 3 hours I lay wondering how I would be feeling in a few days time. There is excitement in the air, balanced with a sensible dose of nerves.

After  breakfast there was a lot more ‘faffing’ – we had our ‘hotel’ bags in at 2pm and then it’s all go at 6am tomorrow morning.

I need to solar charge my fantastic hubby’s PowerMonkey Explorer. He really has kitted me out well. What would I do without him? :-)

I must be off. My local Moroccan ‘arms dealers’ have invited me for tea again :-) and how civil, don’t we have a great refreshment in common? :-)

 

Posted by on April 2, 2011 in Running

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MdS 2011 – Day 2 – Arrival at the Bivouac

MdS 2011 – Day 2 – Arrival at the Bivouac

Just arrived at the Bivouac, tent no.107. This is our home for the next 8 nights, although the location will be different each night!  Here is what the roadbook has to say about things.

  • Stage 1: Dar Kaoua/Kourci Dial Zaid – 33km. Cross small dunes hilly terrain.
  • Stage 2: Kourci Dial Zaid/Jebel El Mraier -38km mounds of sand and camel grass.
  • Stage 3: Jebel el Mraier/Oued Rheris Est – 38km – 2 low hills, rocky terrain, large dunes :-)
  • Stage 4: Oued Rheris Est/ Rich Merzoug – 82km. Stony terrain sandy hills small mounds. Dunes.
  • Stage 5: Rich Merzoug/Takkourt N’Takouit – 42,2km ruins of old mines small hill valley variable stony plateau
  • Stage 6: Takkourt N’Takouit/Tazzarine – 17,5km sand and camel grass small pebbles fossilized marble mine…

So, quite a few dunes then – who’d’ve thought it 😆

Bivouac Layout

I can’t wait to get some photos up – My husband’s photos of the bivouacs from his exact same MdS race in 2008 are just spot on- he has captured the spirit & atmosphere perfectly. It’s so exciting. The cherry would be to have him here. We are definitely going to be here together 1 day. Maybe our 4 will join us when older…. 😉

I’ve had my Chia seeds and I’m feeling good. Its hot and lovely.

We are all ‘faffing about’ (going to be a lot of that) with food calorie counting. We need to have 2000 calories per day and must prove it, along with the existence of all the compulsory kit, e.g. knife, mirror (for distress signaling), space-blanket, anti-snake-bite venom pump, during the technical checks tomorrow.

I’m getting settled now and the sun is going down, so I’m off to get photos.. I only wish I had my big lens :-)

 

Posted by on April 1, 2011 in Running

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MdS 2011 – Day 2 – Travelling

MdS 2011 – Day 2 – Travelling

Had a restful night and awake by 4:30. Who could possibly oversleep in situations like these?

Bags all sorted out and poles specially packed like Joshua, clever man, (Morgan thought the same), suggested at the airport. “put the loops through the straps Mummy, then they will stay with the bag”…. What fabulous thinking and truly kind, practical and thoughtful of our great 9 and 8 year olds..

Feeling ok considering we’re about to board a bus for 5 hours which heads further and further into the heat. It seems most are nervous so I feel at home. Some suggest the most sensible thing to do is walk the first 2 days then once one has acclimatized and backpack lighter, feet used to the action, then get running. My run 5km -walk 2km then run again is possibly over enthusiastic… let’s take it as it comes.

Different world, different head space and different thinking. This can only be good to shake out the cobwebs and habitual nonsense thinking that creeps in all too sneakily over the weeks, months and years of routine.

I have no idea what the unknowns are at this stage but I am filled with hope and determination this will be successful. Above all, I think I am going to fall in love with the landscape, stars at night and my age-old love, which eludes me in my absolutely fantastic and full happy English life, solitude.

How can I thank my husband and soul mate enough for his generosity and abundant love for me, in making this all possible? Simple answer? I can’t.

More from the desert…

 

Posted by on April 1, 2011 in Running

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MdS 2011 – Moroccan Thoughts

MdS 2011 – Moroccan Thoughts

Here are a few photos that I have taken during the journey and arrival at Morocco. It is a beautiful place!

 

Posted by on April 1, 2011 in Running

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