Now that we have entered January, the Namibian race suddenly feels very close rather than a distant goal. Before Christmas I managed to get some consistency into my running and set a good base for getting my teeth into training this year. A month of school holidays and many family birthdays meant that December was a low mileage month which I’d planned on anyway so that was fine.
What I didn’t anticipate though was a random knee problem, which stemmed, I think, from a one off bike ride. My knee felt odd on the ride, as if my cleats were set incorrectly, but I made the silly mistake of keeping on going, my pride not wanting to let me get dropped by my husband! Since then a patella pain has been grumbling and after a 17 mile run last weekend I could hardly put weight on it for a few days. I’ve been swimming for the past week and felt the pain had much reduced, but a 4 mile run today made me realise the problem is still there as acute as before. To pretend I’m not really worried would be wrong – in fact I’m in a complete panic as this was supposed to be the start of building miles and starting to run with my pack.
I’m seeing a really good physio next Thursday so I’m hoping for a miraculous unveiling of what is wrong and a quick resolution. We’ll see. In the meantime I’ll have to keep swimming as that seems to be the only thing that doesn’t irritate in.
SO that’s my woes for the new year!
On a positive, to keep my mind off lack of training I’ve been using the time to focus on getting kit together. Buying a whole heap of new gear would have been wonderful but isn’t an option for me, so I’ve delved into the loft and dug out my kit from 10 years ago. Whilst not being the lightest on the market any longer, much of it is in surprisingly good nick – even Expedition Meals 10 years out of date look good as new, though I’m not sure I’ll risk using them!
So from my ancient treasure box, what I’ll be using are:
Pack – OMM 25l complete with the additional shoulder foam I added for the Namibian race in 2009. I’ve always found this pack the most comfortable and to fit me the best. Being petite, I struggle to find packs that are short enough in the back and tight enough at the waist. Even with the OMM I’ve had to doctor it a little. It has no water bottle holders, so I stitched some Innov8 ones on – I’m not sure they make them any more but I’ll use the ones I had before.
Gaiters– I’ve always used some fairly basic Raidlight gaiters. I’ve never got on well with Velcro, so whilst mine might let some sand in, I find not having the added worry of peeling Velcro offsets the inconvenience. However I’m sure the Velcro ones are much improved since 10 years ago so are probably worth investing in.
Sunglasses – I’ve always run in Sunwise; they’re not super expensive which makes sense with the number of pairs I lose or break.
Socks– I’ve usually run in x-socks but over the past couple of years I’ve got used to running in thinner socks, so the jury is still out.
Headlamp - I was lucky enough to be given a Silva headlamp and I have to say its really great, light and super bright so that’s what I’ll be taking in place of my old petzl light (which was also really great and would have done if I’d not been given a new one).
Mat – in my past 2 races I’ve used a kidney shaped mat - I loved this mat because its not any bigger than I need for comfort and fits nicely at the bottom of my pack. But this is one item that doesn’t seem to have survived the decade, it will not longer stay inflated,; I think its probably perished with time. Sadly they don’t seem to be available any more. So after some research I’ve decided to go for the Thermarest X-lite. I’ve not tried it yet but will test it out when its less cold outside!
Waterproof coat– I have an OMM waterproof jacket but its rather heavy, my dream would be to have Montane Minimus 777, so I need to start looking for potential sponsors!
So – that’s as far as I’ve got. I need to look into hydration and nutrition now. I’ve always used Expedition Foods meals so will continue to do so, there are more flavours available now so I need to do some tasting!
Hydration – I’ve used High5 in the past but I’m not sure whether I’ll stick with that or make some changes. As soon as I can run again I’ll start experimenting and seeing what works.
For the moment – I’m crossing all fingers and toes that training can commence again asap.
It has been ten years since my last RacingThePlanet race. That was the RacingThePlanet Ultramarathon in Namibia in 2009. In that race I was the 1st lady and 4th overall - I was privileged to finish behind Ryan Sandes and Marco Olmo, both ultra running icons. I also completed the Gobi March in 2007 where I finished joint 2nd overall with my husband Steve. These races were my first desert ultras, so the results were as much of a shock to me as anyone!
Much time and little running has passed since those days! Our son, George arrived in 2011 and since that time I've only run short distances. When RacingThePlanet asked if I was interested in running in Namibia in 2019 I initially dismissed the idea. No time to train, no way to scrape together the kit I'll need, no miles or speed left .........but then, as someone (un)helpfully pointed out to me, I reach a rather scary age milestone next year and I'd always said that in order to avoid an awful surprise party or similar, I'd far rather do a big challenge of some kind. It will also be 10 years since my last long race so the numbers seemed to stack up and I thought - ok lets do it!
So, here I find myself, trembling in my shoes but very excited, and signed up to return to Namibia for another RacingThePlanet Race .
As I mentioned above, over the past ten years I have have had George, who is now 6.5 years old, focused on my family, continued my career....and of course, gained a decade in age.I have also hardly run more than 10km at a time - so this really will be a huge and daunting challenge. My husband travels a lot so juggling domestics and work makes finding time to train really tricky.
For this reason, my goal this time is simply to get myself to the finish line in one piece - to finish and enjoy myself. For me, at this point in time, that will be as much of, if not more than, the achievement of winning was in the past. Whilst not being able to train to be competitive will feel sad and hard, I'm also really looking forward to being able to have a more relaxed approach to the run, to running as part of the pack, meeting more people along the way and having the time to soak up the beautiful country (I will be taking a small camera, where worrying about pack weight in the past, I'd never have allowed myself that luxury!).
I will have to re-learn all the details of preparing for a 250km Stage Race in the Desert. How to train, how to find the time to train, what to eat, what equipment to choose, how to ensure that everything is taken of at home while I am away, etc. I'm really intrigued, if not a little anxious, to see whether zero to desert, with less than desirable training, is possible for me.
In this blog I'll take those who wish to come on that journey with me.
For the next couple of months I plan to spend time getting back in to running more regularly; with the long school summer holidays looming and no outside child care, runs will remain short and will be accompanied by a 6 year old on his bike and a dog! Hopefully at weekends I can build up some distance but I'm not planning to go more than 16'ish miles until after the holidays. I'm prone to stress fractures in my metatarsals, so whilst the temptation is there to ramp up miles and see whether I can still run far, I need to be disciplined and build up slowly.
In my next blog I'll talk a bit about my experiences on the previous two RacingThePlanet races. For now, I had better put my money where my mouth it, put on my running shoes and get out there!