What an absolutely amazing yet physically and mentally challenging MDS I have had. I really don’t know where to start so I thought I’d break it up into two blogs. This one will cover the journey into the desert and the day and a half of admin and kit checks before I toe the start line.
First up anyone who knows me knows I am like Guinness. I don’t travel well. A overnight stop in Gatwick in the Bloc hotel and a meet up with a few of the other Irish lads over dinner was a good chance to catch up and have a yarn. Bed and an early alarm for a 06.30 meet up in the South terminal with about 400 other GB competitors. I bumped into Chris my Scottish pal and we had a touch of breakfast together. He is a great guy and like me just says it how it is.
Arrival in Quaratazate airport and transport in a convoy of buses into the desert. I didn’t manage to get a seat near the front but sat down next to a guy Dave who turned out to be my tent mate. After some serious nausea and dry boking I had to ask to sit near the front. I was green by the time we arrived at the Bivoiac 7 hours later. We had been randomly placed into a tent of eight and off we trudged in the dark to find tent 145. Once daylight popped up introductions began and a bond was formed.
It’s really well organized and food was provided all day Saturday with instructions of where to go to get your medical and ECG form checked along with your kit. Lots of last minute ‘will I won’t I’ put it in but I was pretty settled on what I had packed. My weight was 7.5kg before water.
I had all my kit handed over and sorted by early afternoon so just went a dander with tent mates Carrie and Tom to stretch the legs. Huge huge dunes were in the distance and these were the first obstacle facing us for 9km in the morning. It was going to be a sandy and very brutal day one. My game plan was to take it easy on day 1-3 and hopefully be able to have all my functions still working with no injuries. That was the plan anyway. I had promised myself I was going to be totally on the ball with my fluid/salt and food intake. All these had to be perfect or my body wouldn’t react well.
My tent mates were a great bunch of guys and girl. We only had seven in our tent. Bret, an ex rugby player living in Singapore. Derek, an ex polish policeman who lives in Ireland who also wears size 16 trainers. Nick, a Yorkshireman who is a builder and had done the MDS four years ago. Dave, I was sat next to him on the bus and he is an ex Squaddie who works in IT. Tom, an ex marine who is a PT and has rowed the Atlantic. Carrie, a Scottish lass who is the strongest person I have ever met. She has climbed Everest and then there was me. We had a really good mix of personalities and I knew it was a real good tent to have been lucky enough to fall into.
Everyone was nervous and tents next to us were full of guys taping up their shoulders ready for their packs the following morning. We settled down to our last supper before self sufficiency and race start the following morning.
Sunset came and these are always spectacular. I got my head down on my stony bed before what was going to be the toughest physical and mental challenge I was ever going to undertake. I was nervous, very nervous but I was determined. I had never been so determined in my life before and I am stubborn. I was a woman on a mission. To complete Le Marathon Des Sables.