…..One week from today I’ll have finished my second desert marathon for the week….That’s around 84km done of the 250km total for the week. It seems very close considering I haven’t finished packing, I’ve attached velcro to only 1 & 1/2 pairs of shoes for my gaiters (harder than running), I’m still over my 14kg weight allowance in kit which means cutting down some of my food for each day :o( and I’ve got a 3 day drive to get there (or longer if the Windorah-Bridsville Road stays closed after the rain)….getting very real!!
I’ve spent a lot of time this week collecting together my kit, packing, weighing, repacking and preparing my shoes and food. There’s a list of mandatory kit that needs to be carried or available to carry as directed throughout the event for safety reasons. This kit is reasonably straight forward for me now as there’s always quite a bit of overlap in what’s needed in each event. The time consuming pieces for me have been 1. Sticking velcro to my running shoes so that I can attach gaiters to stop sand from getting in. and 2. Getting enough food together that will be tasty, filling and stays under the weight allowance.
Last year I used trainers with a virtually sealed upper so very little sand could get through. I used a small pair of gaiters with these to stop sand going in around my foot/ankle. They took almost no preparation and worked perfectly however, my feet didn’t like being that hot for that long in shoes with a sealed upper so I had some toe problems…I promised no foot pictures this year…sorry! After much trial and error, I’m using my road shoes this year which have a mesh upper so I’m putting these together with a full-foot gaiter. This covers the entire upper of the shoe and zips closed at my ankle. The only thing is they need to be attached to the shoe with velcro. I’ve chosen to glue my velcro on to the shoes but it’s taken forever. (some people sew or even staple and glue and take them to the cobbler to have it done!)
Food and nutrition can take a lot of time and effort to organise for these events. Between this one and the last, I have tried all sorts of packaged food. The hard bit for me has been getting enough food without breaking my weight allowance. We have access to hot and cold water in the camps each day but nothing to cook with unless you carry your own stove. I’ve decided this year to take mainly packets of pasta, rice and cous cous as they are easy to make in their own packaging by just adding hot water. They don’t taste great made like this and not what I usually eat but they’ll do the trick for the week. I make a food pack for each day that has breakfast, lunch and dinner all in 1 bag plus my protein shake for before and after I run. This way I don’t have to think about anything while i’m tired, just grab something from the bag, add water and eat. Inside each of my daily food bags is also a smaller bag with the food to go in my running pack for the day. This has about 1,200cals including Tailwind Nutrition to go in my water bottles, a couple of protein bars and some jelly snakes.
OK…I ate the chocolate bar so that’s not coming. I had to remove the Uncle Bens rice and the tuna to reduce weight and I added 3 Torq gels to each of the day packs to boost the calories a little.
So despite the stresses of preparing to drive out to Birdsville, I do feel a lot more ready this year than last. I’ve ran a lot more, I’ve done more events and this is my second visit to Big Red. When I finished last year, I had about 6 weeks of rest and gentle recovery and in late August ran the Southern Highlands Challenge 50km followed by the Sydney trail series 20km in September and the Hume & Hovell 50km in October. From then I followed a sensible maintenance program until the Two Bays Trail Run (28km) on the beautiful Mornington Peninsular in January with a group of big red runner friends from last year. Since then I trained hard for the Ultra-Trail Australia 50km in the Blue Mountains in May and went too hard and blew up. I did finish, cost me an extra week in recovery but I learnt a couple of valuable lessons about pace and how painful cramp can be!
I’m now looking forward to setting off, seeing some familiar faces, meeting some new people and getting the first couple of days out of the way and settling back into camp fires and desert life.