Tag Archives: Morocco
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.
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..
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
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.
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
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.
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 😆
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
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.
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.
Let’s get a little lost in the stars again..
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
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).
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?
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 😆
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
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..
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…