Wednesday, July 26, 2006

21st Marathon Des Sables - 2006

I started my Blog after I'd completed the MDS so I thought I'd add my daily emails from the race with some photos as a reminder to myself and anyone that still enjoys chuckling at my misery (and stupidity). Also click HERE to link to another website with more photos.

Day 1
Got to be brief only have 1000 letters. Also French keyboard. I am currently in hell and paying for the pleasure. Sandstorm all day yesterday and again this afternoon. Its so unpleasant but also the most amazing thing I have ever done. Today was the easy stage just 28k but the terrain is brutal. I am in so much pain you wouldn’t believe it. Today was the first day I’ve run with a pack OUCH. Did pretty well today first back in my tent by a long way but its all down hill from here. Will have to back off from now on. No toilets or washing, tents keep blowing down. email Q 2 hours long so this may be my last. Wow this will be a life changing experience, just got to work on getting through it in decent shape. Can’t describe the views but why anyone would live here I have no idea it is such an extreme environment. Only the French could organise a race here. Anyway there’s a huge Q behind me better go. I am exhausted and don’t know how I can do another 220k but I’m OK and loving it. Love Simon

Day 2
Will try to be a bit more coherent today. On a similar theme though, I’m in more pain than I thought I could possibly endure, today was 35k with a climb up a mountain right at the start. Ran well for the first 26k but then at checkpoint 2 the gales kicked in and we were going through sand dunes with awful sandstorms. Wheels started falling of but somehow got to the end but literally staggered into camp, it must have been sad or funny to see but I wasn’t laughing, especially when I found our tent flat on the ground again. collapsed on the floor in the sandstorm until the tent was put up. However, I am having an amazing time and just hope I can finish, which is in great doubt at the moment but Ill do my best. 100 people today alone withdrew - this is a brutal event. Moral support would be greatly appreciated so if you get time, log on to the web site and send me an email, I received 2 last night and it gave me a huge boost. All the best for now. Simon. PS don’t worry I’m being sensible.

Day 3
Hi Sweetie, haven’t heard anything from you yet. Got two blank emails from you yesterday and one from Ashley and Jason. Hope the boys are well I’m missing them terribly and you too of course.

Today was a bad day. 38k in furnace like temperatures over terrain that is indescribable, beautiful but brutal. Most people have blisters all over their feet to the point that they all join up. Also few have escaped loosing a toenail or three. I haven’t escaped both of the above but I’ll spare describing the mess my feet are in. Got a stomach upset last night so only managed to eat 6 dried apricots all day which made the trek somewhat challenging, needless to say didn’t run today just trudged. People have been dropping out like flies this year due to the extreme conditions apparently the most brutal first 3 stages ever. Not sure if I will last unless I can start taking on food. 72k tomorrow with much of it the dreaded sand dunes oo ere. Two guys in our tent have already been pulled from the race.

Day 4 and 5
Agggghhhh. Interesting how each day gets harder, longer and with the accumulated fatigue seems impossible, but yet here I am. Half over my stomach upset but my left leg gave out on me yesterday. Luckily one of my tent buddies gave me his ski poles and with copious amounts off extremely strong pain killers I kept going. 72k stage was reduced to 57k after the immense number of dropouts from the first 3 days. One guy is in a coma and a total of 4 almost died on day 3. Scary, but a reflection of the harsh conditions this year. We get extra water every day at least. Managed the long stage OK until the final checkpoint with just 4k left when I seriously bonked [ran out of energy] started shaking uncontrollably and could barely move. Read all of your emails to inspire me to get going again, thanks you were there with me? [keep them coming]. With a sweatshirt some peanuts and sweets and the support of two buddies. Made it after 15 and a bit hours, the time limit was 30 hours so was OK. Love Simon

Day 6
Euphoria! What a fantastic day. Rest day yesterday but woke up this morning knowing that today was the second longest day and anything could happen to put me out of the race; I never want to come here again (wouldn’t have missed it for anything though) but if I fail at this attempt (as many have this year) I will have to try again so I was pretty apprehensive. Started easy and then surprised myself by running after the first set of dunes, kept running and running and felt brilliant. Ended up sprinting the last 5k (with backpack and destroyed feet) and was 2nd in our tent. Over the moon, called Shilpa which was brilliant too. Short day tomorrow but
with what look like 100m high dunes. Nothings going to stop me now, this is awesome; the hardest 7 days of my life; some of the greatest lows and now the highs are here. I’m alive - REALLY ALIVE.

Ready to finish this race now, I miss my boys and can’t wait to see them again.Love to you all, Simon

Day 7
Finished – thank goodness! NEVER AGAIN. Simon

Race director edito : A reflection from the Race Director a couple of months afterwards)
We still remember the five days of non-stop windstorm that shook our caravan during the 17th MARATHON DES SABLES. Some thought we’d never relive such difficult weather conditions again! And yet four years later, runners and organisers endured far worse with the 2006 edition. Day after day, the heat and sandstorms, along with an unusually high hygrometry levels, meant a record number of 146 competitors pulled out! When Mother Nature hands out a warning to humans trying to defy her, you scarcely need a metaphysics manual to understand mankind’s place in the universe.

In such moments, the word “pacing” takes on true significance and importance. We strongly advise people undertake MDS with solid preparation behind them, but knowing your limits is also vital in affronting this kind of exceptional situation in the best possible conditions. I want to congratulate the 585 Marathon Des Sables runners from all over the world ...