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!

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