Sunday 31 March 2013

Ready or not here I come!

The 2013 MdS starts just one week from now on Sunday 7 April and this is my final post before the race. Au revoir!

Last minute preparations

I have a lot to do still before flying to Morocco on Thursday 4 April. I'll feel more relaxed when I've done these various tasks, my bags are packed and are ready to go:
  • Preparing my food bags for each of the race days (detailing calories etc. per race regulations) - this is probably the thing that will take longest to ensure that my calorie intake for each day is broadly in proportion to the expected stage length;
  • Finalising my kit list as I am still undecided as to whether to take certain items;
  • Packing my rucksack to see if all my kit and food will actually fit (nothing like leaving this critical task to the last minute!);
  • Streamlined, aerodynamic race haircut;
  • Last heat chamber session;
  • Last sport massage; and
  • Washing my race and tent kit after my last heat chamber session!
This may not seem like much but it's enough to be causing me a bit of stress! If I forget something I will have to make do without it in the race. Organisation is therefore important and, unfortunately, not my greatest strength!

A big thank you to...

I am extremely grateful, and would like to give a massive thanks, to a various people without whom my preparations would have undoubtedly been even more arduous!
  • Family - without your support this would not have been possible. Thank you Aoife for looking after the kids on all those Sunday mornings when I was doing my long run and on several weekends when I was away racing;
  • Friends and colleagues - who have listened patiently over the last year as I have bored them with details of my training, injuries, etc;
  • MdS 2013 Richmond Park runners - all those with whom I have run endless laps of Richmond park over a year or so including my fantastic MdS tentmates;
  • Ioan Jones (orthopaedic surgeon specialising in foot and ankle problems) - diagnosed my ankle injury and advised on its management in order that I would be on the MdS start line.
  • Natasha Fernandes (physiotherapist) - assisted my rehabilitation. Natasha treated me intensively over several months, including ultrasound and acupuncture, and advised me on my training regime;
  • Colin Towey (physiologist - St. Mary's University College, Twickenham) - monitored and assisted me during my 8 heat acclimitisation sessions in the heat chamber at the Centre for Health, Applied Sport and Exercise Science (CHASES) at St. Mary's;
  • Katriona Macklin (podiatrist - Podiatric Management) - facilitated the urgent order of running orthotics to replace my previous ones which were old, on borrowed time and, due to the reduced arch support, possibly contributed to my ankle injury;
  • Simon Lamb (sports masseur - Six Seconds High) - provided much needed body management to keep my weary limbs fresh and strong;
  • Pools on the Park (Spring Health Leisure Club) - kindly offered free membership of the Leisure Club facilities to assist my MdS training; and
  • Philanthropists - everyone who has donated, or will donate, to Alzheimer's Research UK. Donations can be made at VirginMoneyGiving.

Follow my progress 'live' during the race

I am competitor number 754.

During the race it will be possible to track my progress in a couple of different ways:
  • Track me on the Internet in near real time from Sunday 7 April - click on the tab towards the top, right hand side of the screen marked "satellite"; and
  • Check my race position each day during the race.

Send me an e-mail please!

From 6-12 April inclusive competitors can receive emails from friends and family. I would really appreciate emails of moral support please to help me through the tough moments during the race. Many thanks.

To send an email please go to the MdS website to the section "write to competitors" or "√©crire aux concurrents". When writing an email you will need to detail my surname, first name and race ID/competitor number: 754. Please do not send attachments as emails containing attachments will not be delivered.

Au revoir!

I will be keeping a diary during the race so that on my return I can write a post sharing the highs and lows of the race as I experienced it. I will also post photos of the race including life in camp, scenery and me too!

Friday 22 March 2013

2 weeks and counting!

Only two weeks or so now until the start of the 2013 MdS on 7 April. Over recent weeks the reality has really hit home that I'll soon be in the Sahara. Training has been going well and I think I'm more or less ready although I've got serious butterflies!

Injury rehab - progressing nicely

I have continued to have a couple of sessions of physio each week. Some combination of the physio (including ultrasound and acupuncture), specific ankle strengthening exercises, new running orthotics and a significantly reduced running volume (down from about 80k per week in early January to a meagre 10k for a few weeks) has been paying dividends.

Over the past few weeks the tendon swelling and tenderness appear to have improved substantially. This is great news as it has meant that I've been able to increase the number runs each week and also do a proper long run again on Sundays with my Richmond Park MdS tentmates.

What state will my body be in after the race?

The short answer is "Who knows"!

I'm of course hoping to return from the MdS injury free but I honestly don't know how I'll hold up. There are many unknowns including the impact the race will have on my recent ankle tendon injury. As a purely precautionary measure (!) I have booked several physio sessions and also a sports massage for my return.

Even more uncertain at this point is when I'll be able to run again regularly after the race. Anyone fancy running a book?! My best guess, assuming no serious injuries, is that I'll be able to train lightly a few to several weeks later. Watch this space...

What will I eat during the race?

I have given a lot of thought to what I should eat, and also how much, on each day. As I must carry all my food for the race and I will be using a resaonable amount of calories per day, the food needs to have a high calorie to weight ratio.

Nevertheless I expect that I will likely lose weight during the race as I will have a relatively significant calorie deficit. I have a cunning plan though - replace calories lost with post race celebratory beers!

In addition to the food detailed each day when I arrive in camp I will have a Power Bar Protein Plus 80% coconut drink. Very tasty!

My daily treat is Kettle Chips - alternating Sweet Chilli and Smoky Barbeque flavours. I absolutely love crisps and this will be something that I can look forward to when the going get tough!

Follow my progress 'live' during the race

How exciting is that?! In my next post I will include details of how to:
  • Track me on the internet in near real time;
  • Check my race position each day during the race; and
  • Send me emails of greatly appreciated moral support during the race (between 7-12 April).

What else?

In my next post I will also list the people without whom my preparations would have undoubtedly been even more arduous! Until next time...

Friday 22 February 2013

Only 6 weeks to go...

The 2013 MdS is just around the corner. I'm enormously excited but somewhat apprehensive. I'll post further updates over the coming weeks. For now though I've jotted down details of my preparations since the start of 2013 and other miscellany. Enjoy!

Raising money for Alzheimer's Research

  • I am raising money for Alzheimer's Research UK - the UK’s leading dementia research charity.
  • I am covering all the costs of the trip, so every penny raised will go directly to Alzheimer’s Research UK.
  • Every £20 raised funds an hour of pioneering research, bringing new treatments, preventions and improved diagnosis for dementia ever closer. Please give generously. Many thanks, Simon
  • Donations can be made at

Heat acclimatisation

  • On Friday 15 February I did the first of 8 heat chambers sessions at the Centre for Health, Applied Sport and Exercise Science (CHASES) at St. Mary's University College, Twickenham -
  • I had been extremely excited about training in a heat chamber and the reality was not disappointing. I ran at 11kph with a 6kg pack in 30 degrees and 50% humidity. The session got noticeably tougher but I really enjoyed the experience.
  • In reality the temperature in the Sahara will be far higher, the humidity much lower and I certainly do not expect to be running at 11kph but the session gives an idea of what the body will have to cope with during the MdS. Over the remaining heat chamber sessions I hope to increase the time on the treadmill.
  • Colin Towey, a physiologist, was monitoring me during the session. In addition to monitoring my heart rate, every 15 minutes Colin took body temperature, glucose and lactate readings. It confirmed that I can exercise in stressed conditions at a relatively high heart rate.
  • My weight was taken before and after the session. It transpired that while I had sweated about 1.3 litres I had only drunk about 1.0 litre while running. This rooky error of not drinking enough had no consequences in a short heat chamber session but could well do if compounded hour after hour in the Sahara.
  • The benefit of acclimatisation is that your sweat rate increases and so heat is dissipated more efficiently from the body. Over the course of the 8 heat chamber sessions I therefore hope to see an increase in my hourly sweat rate.
  • A cooler core body temperature should enhance performance but, conversely, an increased sweat rate requires greater water intake to compensate. During the MdS maintaining appropriate hydration will be critical although arguably tricky since water is rationed!
Photos (courtesy of St. Mary's University College) 


    What's up doc?

    • In early January I developed a pain above the inside left ankle after a long run. I sensibly sought medical advice promptly. The surgeon, Ioan Jones, was concerned that the problem could be a stress fracture but more likely a problem with the tendon. An MRI confirmed the injury to be tibialis posterior tenosynovitis. In plain English this appears to be a frayed tendon.
    • In view of the significant swelling, and recognising the importance to me of being on the MdS start line on Sunday 7 April, the surgeon advised me to reduce my running, both distance and sessions, to one run a week of only 10k. A sensible suggestion but clearly not ideal preparation unfortunately for the MdS at the time when I should have been reaching the peak of my training and doing lots of back to back runs.
    • I have since been having two physio sessions a week and this will likely continue until the MdS and quite possibly afterwards too!
    • On a positive note, the tendon is slowly responding to the rest and physio.

    Training so far this year

    • Needless to say this has unfortunately been severely impacted by my ankle injury. Although exceptionally frustrating, I take some comfort in the level of fitness and endurance that I had built over many months and my performance in the couple of ultras that I ran last year.
    • On a positive note, in January and February I have been cycling a lot instead of running. It's just not the same but at least it is exercise and will prevent excessive loss of fitness. I am cycling to and from work about 3 times a week on a heavish hybrid. It's certainly not the quickest bike on the road but its extra weight adds to the exercise benefit.
    • I am now doing 3 runs each week of about 10k, 16k and 20k with a pack weighing about 6kg. One of the 2 shorter runs

    Richmond Park 2013 MdS runners' bespoke flag

    • Many thanks to my cousin Adrian Elton, graphic designer extraordinaire, who very kindly designed a bespoke flag for me and my 7 amazing MdS tentmates (Colin Brett, John Skinner, Michiel Hoefsmit, Robert Jones, Simon Triscott, Wayde Edwards and Zoe Salt) who I train with in Richmond Park.
    • We will have small flags of 15cm * 21cm attached to the back of our packs and a larger 1.5ft * 3 ft version for our tent. We'll be the talk of the desert! 

    My MdS kit list

    • Watch this space for my next post - "My MdS kit list".
    • Some of the kit is necessarily quite specialised given the extreme conditions and demands of this gruelling event.
    • I will share details of everything including the food and even the little luxuries that I'll be taking with me. We all need the occasional treat to motivate us!

    Friday 4 January 2013

    How far did I go in 2012? What are my plans for 2013 & 2014?

    What happened in 2012? 

      Total distance  2,857 km / 1,785 miles
      Total number of runs  170
      Average distance per month  238 km / 149 miles
      Average distance per week  55.0 km / 34.3 miles
      Average distance per run  16.8 km / 10.5 miles





    What's planned for 2013?

    1. Complete the MdS. This is my main objective for 2013. Nothing is going to top this!
    2. A sub 1.30 half marathon. This would be a "nice to have" in 2013. Current PB is 1.32
    3. A sub 3.10 marathon. This too would be a "nice to have" in 2013. I hope to do this in Berlin at the end of September and would then get a "good for age" place for the 2015 London marathon. Current PB is 3.16

    What's planned for 2014?

    1. 100 kilometres in under 12 hours. This will not be a walk in the park but seems very achievable
    2. 100 miles in under 24 hours. This on the other hand will be a tough ask! I am currently thinking of doing the Thames Path 100 from Richmond to Oxford in March 2014 -

    Wednesday 2 January 2013

    Beacon Beacons ultra (17 Nov. 2012) - race report

    A tough race...
    154 individuals of questionable sanity, including me and my Ranelagh club mate, Colin Brett, started the Brecon Beacons ultra on Saturday 17 November. Thankfully the weather was generally quite reasonable. That's where the good news stops!

    The course profile and terrain were absolutely brutal and the race took its toll with 29 DNFs. The total ascent and descent was about 2,000 metres over the 46 mile course (2*23 mile loops). It was very steep in parts and the ground underfoot was often difficult to negotiate - including scree, large stones or rocks. Quite often these hazards were hidden by mud, leaves and what comes out of the rear end of sheep and cows.

    I suffered some discomfort throughout the race after turning my ankle only 500 metres after the start. Colin had problems of his own a few miles later. When we went up the first hill (3k with an average incline of 15%) the weather suddenly deteriorated. It became wet and foggy so I layered up. Going up that hill I had an inkling all was not well with Colin. Although he was wearing fewer layers than me but was sweating even more profusely than usual and looked fairly rough!

    Colin successfully navigated the remainder of the first loop before sensibly retiring (for some R&R with the local wildlife it is rumoured!). The exertion of such a tough race was too much just a couple of weeks after Colin had had a virus.

    Although the race distance was theoretically about 46 miles (74k), I managed to sneak in an extra few kilometres due to my navigational incompetency! I was delighted to finish as it was a tough race for the various reasons I described.

    Back in Richmond later that evening nursing my second gin and tonic, I thought briefly about the unfortunate, but hardy, runners who were still on the course and yet to finish... Cheers to them! I found it hard enough running the course in daylight.

    Race nutrition 
    Calories (kcal)
    Carbs (g)
    Weight (g)
    Total Weight
    Total Calories
    Total Carbs
    Calories per gram
    Carbs per gram
    Cliff Citrus Gel
    Bread With Peanut Butter
    Snickers Flapjack
    Twix Caramel Slice
    Nakd Apple Pie
    Waitrose Love Life Bar
    Jelly Babies


    Electrolyte tablet (per 500ml of water)
    Sodium (mg)
    Potassium (mg)
    Calcium (mg)
    Magnesium (mg)
    Litres of water
    Water per hour
    Calories per hour
    H2Pro Hydrate 1000




    2012 race results
    Here's a link to the race results.

    Photos (courtesy of Mark Reed)