Tuesday, 30 January 2018

I Run For Chocolate.....

The Cadbury marathon was a race I'd always fancied running.....I love Hobart, I love running and I love chocolate. My Australian relatives and I were going to be on holiday in Tasmania at the time of the race and so I had a difficult decision to make....to run or not to run?

If you don't enter in time, you can't
expect to be at the right end of the alphabet
I couldn't really work it what was going on with my shin.....I'd rested it for about 7 weeks but there was still a significant lump there.....but then again I done many miles of running and racing on it before it was finally diagnosed as a stress fracture. I did the Hobart parkrun (which is not exactly in Hobart) with my cousins on the Saturday, and though I could feel it, it didn't seem to make things worse.....though I did feel very lumbering and unfit.

The race route
The marathon route appeared to be two big laps, with a few initial loops around the factory, so I decided to give it a go, knowing I could pull out after the first few little loops, or even at the halfway point without having a long walk of shame! Still, I wasn't overly impressed with the 4:30am bus to the start....but at least it meant that I could have some coffee and extra cereal right by the line before day broke.

Luckily it was light by the time that we actually started running, though it still didn't help stop the front runners going the wrong way. The "laps of the factory" were actually around the housing estate there so there was rather a lot of up and down  cornering. The lead men then started to run down a steep hill towards the main course for a few metres before realising they'd missed the 90 degree right hand turn for the next lap of the houses.

By the time we finally headed down the hill to the "main course" people had settled into their positions within the field. I was actually running in second place which quite surprised me, but I figured that I should just relax and enjoy the first half, neither trying to chase down the lady in front, nor worrying about the second half. I knew that even if my shin didn't feel sore, the was no way that I had the fitness to run a whole marathon at anything like my usual pace. I decided to run the first half and then either stop or pull back for the second half.

Smiling at the thought of chocolate,
cake and waffles :-) 
This decision notwithstanding, I did have several moments on that first "lap" of questioning what exactly I was doing....why I was running at all if I wasn't going to run a decent time.....and debating how to pull out without looking like a total idiot. We turned off the main road and did a random lap of a school carpark and I waved at my friend Rachel who wasn't far behind me. That spurred me to keep going as there was a chance that I would drag another lady along with me too fast (Rachel knew that I was only running the first half at a decent pace) and so enable my friend to pass her later on if she faded.

The route was far from flat, which actually helped relieved the boredom of basically running along the side of a road. We were heading in towards Hobart for a long stretch but then turned and climbed up onto a bridge over the river. The furthest point of the course was at the far end of the bridge so I got to see the leading men coming back towards me as I crossed over. In fact, the turnaround wasn't quite where I thought it would be as we had to run up a hill on the highway away from the bridge before we could come back, but the leading lady looked strong as she powered back down it towards me. I had a decent gap on the 3rd and 4th ladies but they were actually working together quite well as I waved at them. 

Don't worry, I wasn't "racing"
the buggy!
On the way back towards Cadburys I could feel myself coming to the limit of my fitness, but I really wanted to get past the halfway point before I was overtaken by the leading half marathoner (who'd started 30 minutes after us). As it turned out, I was past my 23k marker before he flew by me going into his last km of race (a "training run" after a spell at altitude in preparation for the Commonwealth Games marathon).

I seemed to be getting closer and closer to the steep hill back up to the factory which didn't bode well, but luckily the turnaround came just before the road ramped up. Surprisingly I wasn't that far behind the leading lady, and was further ahead of the other two than I'd thought I would be, but I knew that there would be no heroics. I slowed my pace down and even took walking breaks on that lap, though the last stretch back to Cadburys again still seemed interminable.

The goodies were so worth it!
When the two ladies finally overtook me, I moved over for them and gave them a shout and a cheer. I was now in the midst of people doing the 1-lap half marathon and guys coming past me to complete the marathon. I knew that my family would all be waiting for me, so I made sure that I ran strongly up the final hill and crossed the line in 4th place in just under 3:06. I think my two halves differed by more than 20minutes, but I was actually quite pleased that I'd stuck to my plan of running harder at first and then consciously backing off. I'd certainly earned that chocolate, cake and waffles at the finish line, and even got a sneaky massage in before cheering my cousins in from their 10k and their 4 daughters in from their 1k. 
On a side note, the (British) physio that gave me the massage noted a swelling and imbalance in my hips.....I really had give myself a bursitis from the cycling accident the day before flying out.....between that and my shin, I was definitely going to rest up again (while eating all my hard-earned chocolate) 😊😊😊

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

My Nightmare.....

I run because I love running.....not because I "have to" or because I "should"....and it seems strange to think of a life these days that doesn't involve me running fairly regularly.

If you bear this in mind, you can guess how upset I was to return from Oman to several voicemails from my GP, telling me that I had a significant stress fracture of my anterior tibia. I had had a lump to my shin from April-May time, but it hadn't been behaving as a stress fracture "typically" does. It would be sore when I started running, but then ease off, though the lump would swell slightly and hence be a bit larger and tender when I finished. It hurt to land in certain positions, eg when trying to do drills, and occasionally when running downhill especially on rough ground. I'd queried a stress fracture in the spring but had been reassured that this wasn't the case and so after a short period of rest I was given the OK to continue running.
The lump, however, just didn't go away, and neither did the random incidences of pain. Eventually I asked my GP to refer me for an X-ray and and ultrasound as we thought it could possibly be a herniation of soft tissue through a fascial plane. While awaiting these tests I ran the 100k in China and the York marathon, but they were finally done just before I went to Oman, though no results were available.

As it turns out, the ultrasound was normal but the xray showed a thickening of the outer surface of the bone, with a large lucent (black) line across the front surface of my shin. This is the classical appearance of a stress fracture - and of one that had been there for a significant amount of time as it takes a few months for them to show up on an X-ray. I couldn't really understand how I'd managed the races I'd done, but there was now noting for it but a period of rest.

I did a bit of this.....
And some of this.....
I'm not good with rest.....well, actually I am, as I am innately lazy.....but it did make me feel rather guilty. Not only had I lost my fun activity, but I'd also lost my stress-relief. I knew I was becoming rather unfit and deconditioned, so I managed the occasional bike ride.....but I think more cakes were consumed than miles covered. 

The "normal" thinking with a stress fracture is that when you no longer get "pain with everyday activities" you can start a slow return to running. Unfortunately I didn't have this pain to guide me, so all I could do was get a repeat xray 4 weeks later.....no change, so more rest! :-( 

And then some of this....
Being "youthed" at park run?
I confess that New Year's Day was a slight blip in me "behaving" as I accompanied friends to do something that I've never done before......a double parkrun. We ran Sedgefield first (well, when I say "ran".....there was a sheet ice section of each lap that had to be tiptoed across) and then 90 minutes later, ran at Albert Park. Neither run was especially fast....I could blame the dogs that had to be negotiated at Albert Park, or the ice at Sedgefield....or I could claim that I was trying to be sensible, but actually I just wasn't very fit anymore. 
The results of my cycling incident!

Anyway, after this I went back to being "good" for a couple of weeks......though the weather wasn't exactly conducive to cycling either.....a sheet ice incident saw me totally snap the hangar and derailleur off my bike and render myself unable to sit down due to hip bursitis! Calamity Jane has nothing on me.......running is so much safer (and easier) than cycling!

Friday, 22 December 2017

The Final Push....

Tent 4 checking out the rankings
before the final stage
Waking up on the last day my first thought was "I'm glad that I didn't quit yesterday"....that may sound like an odd thought for me to have had, but I've never been a fan of running in the dark. The dark does scare me somewhat, and I tend to be rather clumsy, fall over and injure myself in the daylight never mind at night-time. At one point I actually had to give myself a stern talking to, just to make me carry on to the finish, as this little voice in my head was saying "This is meant to be fun....it's not fun, so why not just stop?" Hence the reason I nearly kissed the man who told me I only had 1 more kilometre to go...

My poor little neglected toes!

By the last morning, we were all but finished...surely it was just a formality to get to the line?...or so I thought!!! It was a slightly shorter stage and we were starting a bit later so that those who'd finished in the middle of the night got to have more of a rest. I hadn't been able to locate the podiatry girls the night before, as I knew I was developing some infection in the blisters round my toenails from the shoes/sand combo...but they were still not to be found. Oh well, at least it was the final stage.

Over the scrubland to the "road"
That lovely "road"
Everyone started together again for this final effort....across a few small dunes and bits of scrubland, back onto the "desert road" we'd spent most of the long stage on. The speedsters disappeared off as quickly as ever, but I caught up with Aziza relatively soon and we ran together for a while chatting a bit (in my broken French) and waving at Morag as her vehicle drove past us. I really noticed the later start and the fact that there seemed to be no breeze at all....as I found myself feeling the heat a lot more, and the first checkpoint (officially near the 10K mark) took forever to reach. By this point, I was running alone again as Aziza had dropped back, so although it wasn't nearly as enjoyable as the early morning running of the previous days, I just kept pushing on.

With Aziza on the desert "road"
Looking ahead....more dunes...
I had been warned about the "sting in the tail" of the final day, but it was still a bit gutting to see the sea and then realise that we were turning away from it and heading down parallel to the coast, over some incredibly high dunes. My heart sank as I saw the height of some of them and they seemed neverending. I was feeling more and more unwell with the heat, the sun, the sand and the lack of wind. I struggled up another dune using my hands as well as my feet....practically crawling (though that's probably disrespectful to the term crawling) and jamming each hand (and arm) in as far as possible to try to gain some purchase - in fact I would reach so far "into" the dune that the sand would feel cool and damp. It was rather entertaining to see the 4WD vehicles try to rev their way up the dunes only to end up sliding backwards down them again.

And yet more...with no CP2 insight as it was
somewhere over the top....of a few more dunes!
I thought that at least I would be able to run along the crest and down the side of the dunes, but I was becoming really nauseated. Aziza caught me as I despaired of ever making the second checkpoint and then Flash tried to encourage me when he came past. By that point, I was just trying to keep moving forwards as best I could with the minimum of effort, as I felt that if I raised my heartrate at all then I would be sick. After an eternity I reached CP2....and sat down on a camp chair there, and poured several bottles of water over my head. I was very tempted to just pull out there and then as I felt so awful.

The cool water brought a bit of clarity to my thinking. They told me that to was 3k to the finish (5K in reality) and I knew that I'd started the day with a 48minute (or so) advantage over Aziza. Even if I had to walk (or crawl) 3K, I'd hope to do it within 48 minutes so I shouldn't lose my second place in the rankings, so off I went. I actually managed to run most of that final section, though I wouldn't suggest any imitate my running style!!! I sensibly let myself relax and walk up the final few dunes, and realised that as I descended to the coast road, I could still see Flash and Aziza ahead of me (he having overtaken her in that last section). Having crossed the road, there was a steep descent in which I worried I would lose control of my quads as they were distinctly wobbly, but a final wee rise later and the finish gantry came into sight.

"Please can I just sit down in the shade?"
I put in a final effort to actually run across the line but was too happy to have actually made it to notice that someone was filming it. As it turns out it looked rather funny - everyone else bent down to be awarded their medal and then straightened up again.....everyone except me, as I just stayed bent over. They wanted to take finish photos, but all I wanted was to sit down on a chair in the shade and find some way of cooling down. Nobody seemed to be hearing what I was saying but luckily Greg came to my aid, having already finished and recovered a bit himself. As I sat on my lovely shady plastic chair pouring water over my head, he rubbed ice cubes onto the insides of my wrists. I've never heard of this technique before but it was wonderful.....and will definitely be tucked away into the armoury for future use if working on such an event!

Greg to the rescue...
The ladies' podium :-) 
This revived me enough to realise I'd managed to hold my position as I'd actually only been 1 minute slower than Aziza that day, and so then we could pose for some photos of the top 3 ladies. I waited until Rosemary finished so we could have some more tent congrats and then she, Greg and I jumped into the sea for a swim (well, it was an excuse to wash the clothes that I'd worn all week!!). I managed to return the favour of Greg looking after me, as he suddenly felt unwell. Although we'd finished relatively early in the morning, we were not going to be given our welcome meal until the last runner was in, so he almost collapsed. He was lying on the tent floor talking jibberish and becoming very agitated. We all rallied round him with fans, riased his feet and I got the local medic for a drip. He wanted to try to put the venflon in the back of his hand but I found a great vein in his antecubital fossa (crook of the elbow). He really didn't want the trip (dextrose saline) but Rosemary talked him into it, and we reassured him that he'd finished the race so wouldn't get penalised. I had been warned about the lack of food at the finish so had prepacked a large bag of skittles, which Rosemary then fed to him (though we all had a few). He recovered almost as quickly as he'd deteriorated and was soon sitting up chatting again and joining in the general moans about the lack of food.
A rather isolated finish gantry
A hard-won medal!

Eventually some food was served and people rushed over to it.....though i wasn't one of them. I was back at the finishline as I wanted to cheer each and every runner in, as they deserved the applause just as much as the first runners. Having felt so unwell with the heat and sun (and reflection of it off the sand) that day, I thought they probably deserved more credit...especially as some of them did not have the racing whippet physiques of the leaders. However, everybody made it that day and sat around the camp that afternon (or went for a dip in the sea) wearing their well-earned medals and chatting away, consolidating new friendships. Yes, I'd struggled  that day, but I wouldn't have missed out on the week for anything...I'd absolutely loved it, and if it hadn't been hard at times, there would have been less satisfaction in completing it! Massive congratulations to everyone who took part!!

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

The "Night Marathon"

My foil blanket idea seemed to have both positives and negatives. I think the extra layer reflected my body warmth back at me and so kept me warmer, but I could no longer rub my legs etc to warm myself up, as the foil made so much noise and I didn't want to disturb my tentmates. It did seem, however, that they were all quite taken with my idea, as by the next night, out tent was a sea of different coloured foil blankets spread over bodies.

I hope to be running and looking
 at a beautiful sunset
The morning of day 5 was very odd.....there was no need to get up in the dark.....or even get up at all, except for the fact that everyone had been in "bed" for about 12 hours and hunger started to strike. The morning was spent wandering around between tents, chatting and discussing when to eat our meals for the day.....decisions, decisions. I even got out my cross-stitch and did some of that.

We all agreed that we would rather just get up and run, than hang around for most of the day waiting to run. The route was meant to be about a "marathon distance" but by now, we knew to rely on neither the advertised distance nor the placement of water stations. Start times and start groups kept changing, but by the afternoon it had been decided that all but the top 15 could start at 2, and they would like the top 10 to start at 4. As I was lying 15th, that meant a 3pm start for me.
I was very envious as I watched most of the field start an hour before me, including Aziza. There was a bit of a breeze so it wasn't too hot and they had the advantage of more than three hours of daylight in which to run. This helped them with foot placement and route choice as, although we were meant to be travelling along a sandy desert "road", I discovered soon after starting, that it was much easier to run away from (but following the line of) the road as the sand was much firmer.

The sun started to set when I was only halfway
 between CPs 1 and 2
Greg led my group off and soon disappeared out of sight but Flash was not far behind me until about halfway between the first two checkpoints. I'd passed some of the back markers before the first checkpoints and realised just how long a day (or rather night) they were going to have. It was nice to see all of my early-starting tentmates along the route between the first and second checkpoints as there was still plenty of light for us to recognise and encourage each other.

I had hoped to have been able to get to about halfway well before the sun set, but it was already almost dark by the time I got to the second checkpoint which was officially at 20km. Morag was manning this water station and had been instructed that we were not allowed to continue further without having our headtorches on. I was rather disappointed at this as I'd hoped to be able to continue without mine for a period, letting my eyes adjust to the fading light and actually appreciating running at night in the desert with the stars above me. I'm rather afraid of running in the dark, so I didn't like the way my head torch narrowed my world to a tiny circle of light in front of me, and made everything else seem much darker. I was slightly alarmed every time I heard a noise off to the side of me, though I'm sure that it was just wind in any small vegetation that there was.

I wasn't quite sure of distances but when I caught up with my Balearic tentmates (who had now decided to run together and support each other), they assured me that it was only about 3k to the next checkpoint. There were flags and lights marking the route every so often (I will not say every 500m) so it was impossible to get lost, but as with the others, that water station wasn't actually at the advertised place and so it really did take ages until its lights came into view.

Whenever a support vehicle came along the road, I would try to enjoy the extra light of having the headlights behind me as much as possible and then try to also use the taillights to help me with my footing before my world shrank back into that little pool of headtorch light again. I couldn't help but notice that when the race leaders caught and sped past me (looking like it was no bother for them to run on that surface in the dark), they did seem to have vehicles following quite closely behind them, which must have helped with their lighting somewhat.

Finally making that finish gantry,
ready to have my number scanned
I found that section slightly tougher as the sand had softened again and sometimes it was hard to work out if you were going up or down as the darkness was so disorientating, so occasionally your foot would hit the ground before you expected it to, or else you'd shoot forwards much further than you expected. When I finally got to the flag and light marking the point where we turned off the "road", I nearly missed the man sitting there who let me know that it was just 1km further to the finish.

Cheering others in...
I think it shows that it was the terrain and the darkness that had slowed me down rather than tiredness or the temperature, as I managed to pick up my pace and passed a good 6 people in the last km. I decided to ignore other people's tracks and cut across through some bushes and small dunes when I spotted the final flags and gantry nicely lit up. If it was a marathon distance, I'd definitely recorded a PW of just over 5 hours, but I was only a couple of minutes slower than Aziza who'd had the advantage of more light, and Natalia had also had a good run to finish in a similar time to me (though an hour later due to her later start.....in fact, only the 3 leaders had made up the full hour's deficit and overtaken me).

Interviewed like a "rabbit in the headlights"
As soon as I'd crossed the line, I was asked to do a random tv interview, and then I had the big the challenge of finding the right tent in the pitch dark. Luckily I spotted Greg heating water up on a small fire (the promised hot water at the finish wasn't there.....quelle surprise) and he pointed me in the right direction. I had my "beer", a lukewarm rehydrated meal, and then welcomed my other tentmates back as they appeared. It was interesting to see how people had fared on that long stage.....some were chatty, some were starving, while others just threw themselves down on their sleeping mats and went to sleep. I confess to not staying up until the last "runners" arrived (at 2am) but luckily all my tent were home and asleep long before then.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Day 4 in the Big Brother Tent....

Early morning light
By day 4 a routine was setting in for me....I would go to bed relatively warm and wishfully hope I'd stay that way all night, then wake up when it cooled down and try to rub whichever hip/leg is uppermost, but do it quietly so the rustling didn't disturb my tentmates. Lie there awake for what seems like hours, waiting to hear the "call to prayer" being passed round some of the support tents, then celebrate that it's finally (almost time) to eat some more food and won't be long before the sun (and hence temperature) rises.

Going solo again
Breaking through the dunes
I started the (running) day with a smile as the light was beautiful, the temperature was perfect and I could pick out some more runnable areas of sand almost the whole way to the first checkpoint. Aziza seemed to have also noticed the pattern of our relative positions over the past few days, as although she started out faster than me, I caught her more quickly and she then ran along with me for a bit.
More dunes....
....and yet more sand
After CP 2 there seemed to be rather a lot of soft sand nicely arranged in energy-zapping dunes and I found myself falling back off the pace. Even though I felt that I was struggling significantly, the same must have been happening to others as I found myself closing the gap back to Aziza. When I caught her up, we exchanged a few words of French and she suggested we run together. I thought this was a great idea as up until then, every day had been a rather lonely run and I hoped to be able to learn a bit more "sand-running" technique from her, but suddenly I noticed that she was falling back on all the climbs and not getting back onto the pace. I tried to match her but then decided that it would be easier for me to just carry on at my own pace, as I really didn't want to be out there longer than I had to (and I was feeling the heat).
No....the gantry has disappeared again!!
Spying the gantry....am I nearly there?
The last few kms seemed to go on forever, as the finish gantry was at the end of a ridge of dunes, so you could see it from a long way away, and it didn't seem to get much closer. I knew people had been penalised for avoiding dunes on previous days so I made sure I climbed all of them, even though other footprints seemed to go around some of them. Finally I made the elusive gantry, poured more water over my head, drank another nonalcoholic beer (?strawberry this time) and waited for Aziza to congratulate her as she crossed the line 3.5mins later.

Natalya, Aziza and myself at the finish
Water over my head and a cold can in my hand.....bliss!!!
As usual, Greg had been first back from our tent, though I was getting closer to the Balearic Boys, and then Flash wasn't too far behind me. The performance of the day (well for our tent anyway) came from Rosemary as she got stronger and stronger over the course of the run, gradually picking people off to finish as joint 4th lady and so we waited for her to have a finish line celebration/hug. We did decided that the secret to her success was the extra food we'd had the day before. A lady in our tent had decided that she'd brought too much food so was going to throw away 2x 1000calorie dehydrated meals. Flash, Greg, Rosemary and I had "helped her out" by eating them for her (a great afternoon spent sitting in a circle taking a spoonful of pasta and passing the bag on to the next person).
A well-earned hug for Rosemary

Me, Flash, Greg & Rosemary done
and dusted for the day!
When we found our tent that afternoon, we realised that it was set up in an ideal location. On the previous day, our open side had faced a tent full of Italians (who liked to parade around camp in just their underpants.....so we developed a few nicknames for them), but this time, we had a view right across to the finish gantry, so we could watch fellow runners as they made their way up the last few dunes and into the finish. I think I did more "active recovery" on that day than on any other one, as every time that I saw someone I recognised I'd get up, cheer them on and try to get over to the finish line in time to see them in. It made for a very friendly atmosphere......and led me to suggest a possible modification for the next year's event to the race organisers. I thought it would be fabulous if the finish gantry was at the end of the avenue of tents, as that way there would always be people watching runners finish and we'd be able to cheer each other one, while still getting some well earned rest and being able to eat our food. I "think" the suggestion went down well......
I do a good impression of a tramp!!!

I knew it would be a very long night, as we had the "night marathon stage" the next day, and so there would be no early start. In order to try to get a slightly comfiest night.....and slightly more sleep.....I added in an extra layer, in that I wrapped my survival blanket around me (over my bivvy bag and under my cardboard box).....

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Definitely in the desert now....

The "desert proper" i.e. cold nights!
Unfortunately it didn't seem as if my cardboard box had helped me much, but as it turns out, that night had been colder than the first as there was a thin coating of ice on some of the water bottles in the morning.

We were getting into a morning routine now of putting headtorches on, trying to make breakfast (I was glad I'd brought packets of muesli and milk powder as well as porridge as hot water was not always forthcoming) and then packing up in the dark, while stripping down to running gear as late as possible.
With company early on in the day

Another briefing (or rather an inaccurate account of the distances to the water stations), some banter (so much so that I was actually facing the wrong way and chatting to Colin, a fellow Scot, when people started running) and we were off. 

No sunglasses in the morning light
Along the ridge of a dune
I found that I really enjoyed the first hour of running each day.....it was a perfect temperature, the light was beautiful and I could run without my sunglasses, and the sand was slightly firmer going (if you avoided the tracks). I'd picked up a few pointers along the way about aiming for the ridges of the dunes (but not right on the edge where it may crumble/slide), heading for darker rather than lighter sand, and looking out for vegetation as that gave me more grip. All seemed to be going well as I caught Aziza earlier this day, and to my surprise, even passed Flash before the first checkpoint (he'd been way ahead of me on both previous days). 

On the 4WD track 
Picking out the firmer sand
There was a sandy 4WD track to the second checkpoint which made the route obvious, but it wasn't the nicest thing when you heard a vehicle come up behind you. I know they were wanting us to get out of their way (as they needed some speed to prevent them from getting bogged) but I decided that they were actually there to "support" the runners so I wasn't about to flounder around in soft sand by moving off the harder spots I was picking out. Most vehicles were happy to take their time in passing, or even veer widely out into the surrounding desert, but some definitely liked to cut back in front of you, so messing up your planned footing.

Another dune? Lovely!!
I think I was filmed by one of the race organisers at the second checkpoint.....not my finest hour....as I poured yet another bottle of water over my head and commented "Another dune? Lovely! Who needs a beach holiday?"

This was because the route from this checkpoint (into the final 7k, which was actually more like 10k, so explaining how I'd apparantly made CP2 so quickly) went straight up a large soft done, which was clearly impossible to run up. As I finally plodged (hands on knees and push) my way to the top, I came across a photographer trying to direct me over the edge of some other dunes to run and jump to create some good pictures. I kindly declined and continued towards the flag I'd spied up ahead. 
Focussed on a flag ahead

After a few kms of soft sand, we popped out onto a surfaced road. Anyone who knows me would have thought that I would have jumped for joy at this, but I think I was too tired for that. The road seemed to last for ever....mainly in a straight line, but winding up and down so that distant runners ahead came into and out of sight. 
Coming out onto the road

Due to the late notice for my participation in the event, I'd had to borrow some shoes (with gaiters attached) from my friend Jo. Although I thought the extra shoes size wouldn't matter too much as my feet would probably swell, there was a gap slightly in front of the gaiter attachment where sand could get in, and so the front of the shoes seemed to take in half of the desert. This meant that my toes would bang against sand every step which wasn't exactly pleasant.....and I even found myself seeking out softer, sandier bits of road rather than the old sealed sections.

Having crossed a rather isolated finish line!
I closed slightly on the guys in front, but not by much, as it was rather hot and soul-destroying with the sun reflecting back up off the pale road surface. As this section was rather longer than anticipated, I was down to my last few drops of water (having only filled up 1 water bottle at the last checkpoint) when I spotted a flag off to the side of the road. From there it was a short "crosscountry" route to the final dune of the day....which had the finish gantry at the top of it.

Camp was down the other side of the dune and so, as we were there ahead of most of the camp being set up, it was again nice to chill in the one communal tent that had been erected, and chat to some of the faster runners who'd been there awhile (including Greg from my tent, and the very speedy Russian lady Natalia, along with Evgenie from the Ukraine.......though we joked about Natalia's temper flashes when the wind blew sand into the tent, or the poles looked like they were about to collapse).