Monday, February 25, 2013

Start - CP3 - and more pictures :)

....... approx 1 hour and an impromptu side of the road toilet stop later we pulled up at what was to be the start of the Ocean Floor race 2013. 
There was a lot of checking of Garmins, making sure everyones was pointing the same way (incidentally some weren't so it was a good job this was checked) and time for a few photos before Keith pulled us all in to a huddle and wished us all luck on what was sure to be an incredible adventure - not only for us but also for the support crew - for whom it would also be the first time helping out on a race like this. 
And that was it - we were off.

At the start line

It felt very odd to finally have started running this race - one which myself and Sarah and all the others had been planning for for so long and we were finally on our way. I watched as many of the other runners raced off ahead - it was very hard to stick to the plan and stay at a steady pace but we did and fell in to step with Matt and Jamie whom we would spend the entire first leg with.

We had decided to go way point to way point not only to make sure we didn't get lost but to help us break down the race in to smaller sections. We knew from the start that this race wasn't going to be finished only because of how much training we had done, it was going to get to a point where we would have to run with our minds and our hearts and somehow doing it this way we figured we could trick our brains in to thinking we had less to do than we actually did and therefore make it easier.

We spent much of this section running along getting to know each other, chatting about races we had run, what training we had put in, where we worked etc etc. We took loads of pictures and found some particularly lovely mounds that looked like nipples :)

Me, Sarah and Jamie pointing out the nipple

The beginning of the race

doing our Jazz hands
Any thoughts of it being slightly cold (as it had been raining the days before) had been completely wiped from our mind. It wasn't un bearable as it had been on a training run in Dubai recently but it was certainly warm enough to notice it.
We safely navigated our way to check point one without too much fuss. On arrival I was feeling a bit sick - I think this was a mix of the heat, carrying the backpack (I had only run with it twice in training so would suggest anyone else doing this race in October does alot more training with their backpack with it's full weight before going out) and just generally getting used to it all.

I saw a little concern on the faces of the support crew at this point - they were obviously worried because we were only 15 miles in and I was already struggling but I wasn't going to let myself worry.
I sat down and had my Chocolate for Goodness Shake (my favourite flavour) and ate a but of pasta which was cooked for us by the Egyptian guys manning the tents.
As we knew it was going to start getting colder soon we chose to put on our longer bottoms at this point rather than having to stop and do it in the dark, and we also put on one of our base layers (when I say we - I mean me as Sarah had forgotten to put her bottoms in her back pack more about this later). 
Once we were all ready we set off again. after a little discussion Sarah and I decided to let Jamie and Matt go on as I was still struggling with feeling a little queasy and didn't want to push myself so early on and regret it later. This was quite a big decision however as anyone who knows me or has read my blog before knows that I hate the dark with a passion and the night time sections were the ones I was most worried about.
We managed to keep the guys in site for quite a while but just as it started to get dark we lost site of them. We hadn't seen them for about 20 - 30 minutes when all of a sudden in the distance we saw two lights bouncing around in the distance. We were quite a way off but by this point I was really beginning to panic at being out in the middle of the desert, just the two of us and no one to turn to for help should we need it. My mind was beginning to imagine all sorts of horrible things happening and I wanted nothing more than to catch the guys up ahead. So of course in our completely rational decision making we decided it would be an excellent idea to run as fast as we could until we caught the guys up. I was running at the sort of pace I would for a 10k event whilst carrying a very heavy backpack, trying not to fall over the rocks and ignoring the voice in the back of my head that told me that I was being absolutely ridiculous.
We were getting closer and we figured the guys had spotted us but they kept running and I swear they were getting faster - little sods - eventually we caught them and I was so pleased I forgot that I needed to breathe.
It was only about 10k to the next checkpoint (2) and we kept pace with the guys for this section. when we got to about 3k away from the checkpoint we saw a group of runners coming back towards us - it was Tom, Bryan, Tony and I believe George was also with them at this point. It was great to see them and hear that there was some nice food at the next checkpoint :) after a quick hug and a few wishes of good luck we carried on and the boys made their way on to check point 3.

At the checkpoint we sat down and had some food, another Goodness shake and some pepsi and a coffee.

In checkpoint 2 with one of our Egyptian helpers
  At this checkpoint Sarah and I decided to have a little sleep and wait until the moon came out in the hope that there would be a little extra light and that would help me with my fear of the dark. We let the guys at the tent know and they sprung in to action to erect a tent for us and got out some sleeping mats and bags for us. This was excellent as it meant we didn't have to worry about sorting ours. We actually only slept for 50 minutes but did spend a deal longer at the checkpoint when we add in all of the time spent checking our feet, eating, drinking and getting our bits from the drop bags ready for the next section (this is something I would perhaps look at revising next year).

We awoke to the sound of Dhiaa arriving at the camp with the news that Kennwynne would be arriving at the checkpoint soon - so we got out of the tent and got ready so we could see her before we left.
After some well wishes to Kennwyne we set off again in to the night. Strangely this time I felt a lot calmer, I am not sure if it is because I had settled in to the fact that if I was to complete the race I would have to bite the bullet and go out in the dark or if it was because we were going out in to the dark when it was already dark as opposed to it slowly getting darker as we were going along. Either way I felt better and we proceeded to run walk the next section at a steady pace and feeling very comfortable.
Whilst running along we noticed some trees that looked a little like bonsai trees. We decided that we wanted to try and get a picture of these so we focused our hope headtorches on to one of the trees and turned the flash off on the camera (AKA Iphone) and this was the resulting image - one we were very pleased with :)

Our masterpiece

This section was probably one of our better ones, running through the sunrise was truly incredible and something I am so happy to have witnessed, it was truly magnificent and I felt so lucky to be there in that moment even if it did mean I had to face my fears. We arrived at checkpoint 3 in the early hours of the morning and were greeted by the site of Jamie and Matt who had stopped here to have a sleep and were just about to head off towards checkpoint 4.

I had a bit of a headache :(
 The boys set off and myself and Sarah went in to the checkpoint had our shakes (made up in our 2 litre water bottles) and had our feet tended to by the wonderful Keith and his ladies Pippa and Sarah (you can see Pippa and Sarah in the back of this photo). Will was also at the checkpoint which was great as my right hip had started causing me some issues. I had taped it with Rock tape but took the opportunity to have it massaged before we headed off to the next checkpoint.
We had a change of clothes at checkpoint 3 which was wonderful - there is nothing better than the feeling of clean kit. Sarah however having forgotten to put her long bottoms in her backpack had hoped she would have  a pair at this checkpoint so she could give the ones she had borrowed off Jamie back to him but it seems that for some reason she had missed them out of this one as well so Jamie's trousers were to prove to be a life saver as I am sure Sarah would have frozen otherwise.

We were soon set and ready to go, clothes changed muscles massaged and feet taped. Off we went to check point 4 on what was to be the hottest day of the race .................

To be continued

Friday, February 22, 2013

OFR Part 1

The day was almost here. Sarah arrived at my house on the 30th January and we spent most of the evening packing and re packing our kit bags and checking the food we were taking, adding and removing items and generally faffing.
We finally went to bed at about 1am and after a restless sleep headed off to the airport. It was here that we met up with Mathew Neal who was to become a life saver later on in the week and Kenwynne Barber a wonderdul and inspiring lady.
Our flight was delayed so we passed the time chatting about previous races and getting to know each other - it was nice to be around such like minded people and all of us so excited and nervous about the prospect running 160 miles.
Eventually it was time to board - it was finally beginning to hit me what we were about to do

We were flying with Egypt air and Sarah and I had managed to secure some extra leg room seats which was great because I hate being cramped up.
The flight passed quite quickly - I hate take off but once we were up I put a film on to my Ipad and watched that for most of the flight.
On arrival in to Egypt we were greeted by a gentleman from the Cairo Novotel Hotel and were swiftly taken to collect our baggage whilst he sorted our visas. I have been to Egypt before so the fact that he ran off with our passports didn't really phase me - the others however were a little uncertain. Thankfully he did come back passports and all and took us to the hotel :) I can still hear Matts sigh of relief

On arrival we were greeted by a very happy Keith - it was nice to finally meet him after pestering him with so many questions on Facebook. We also met Will our physio, Adrian one of the helpers and Jamie who certainly beat me on the red hair stakes. I am sure there was someone else there as well and I feel awful but I can't for the life of me remember who it was - sorry :(

We stayed and had a few drinks with the guys before retiring to bed. We planned on relaxing the next day and using the time to sort our drop bags - I secretly had hoped to do a spot of sunbathing but alas the weather was not on my side it was actually raining the next day when we went down to breakfast so we spent the day inside and went a bit OTT on the drop bag organisation as a result :)

Drop Bags OTT Style

We had a plan for our drop bags, we would have hot food in every other drop bag, snacks and sweets in all of them and a change of clothes in bags 3/5/7/9. We also has several packs of batteries for the head torches, sun lotion, bio freeze and in every single one a goodness shake. We did also make time for a little look around the hotel shops. Tony took a particular liking to this headress

Throughout the day various other people arrived we met with Bryan Rudd, Tony Hugill and Tommaso and George.
Sharon, Pietro and Tom all arrived on a later flight and as we knew the flight Tom was on I managed to organise him a meet and greet at the airport for which he seemed quite thankful :)
 That evening we met the rest of the crew - Pippa who was our doctor and Sarah who was a physio. both lovely ladies whom I will never forget.

The morning of the race we were all up and down for breakfast early. It was great to finally meet everyone and we got our first glimps of the hoodies we were to get after the race as all of the race crew were wearing them. There was such a buzz in the air. The coach arrived on time (unheard of in Egypt) and once we had all checked out we were on our way to the desert for the start of the OFR 2013.

The troups on the bus

Me and Sarah
Me and Jamie

Chatting on the way to the desert
I would love to say that the Journey to the airport went without a hitch .............. but about 30 minutes in to the Journey we realised that our van was having a few issues in that whenever the driver took his foot off the accelerator the van stalled. So of we went to make a quick pitstop and to change buses. It was here that my last photos would be taken - I stupidly managed to leave my phone on the old bus when we transferred over to the new one. I was absoloutly gutted I had planned to do little video diaries and to take hundreds of pictures. Luckily we still had Sarahs phone so all was not lost.
On the plus side our little pitstop gave Tom the time to discover an exciting new aspect to his MDS bag - it has a strap to help releive the pressure from your back to your head - simply wonderful

Tom demonstrating his new toy

About an hour and a half later and we were on our way again. It was a long journey, we stopped for lunch on the way and once we arrived at the meeting point it was very dark. We met with some jeeps and drove for about 15-20 mintes in to the white desert. This was the first time we met Dhiaa who was to be our host for the week he was fascinating to listen too (the official tour guide for the National Geographic). On arrival in to camp we were more than pleasantly surprised to find that rather than one tent with everyone sleeping on the floor (which for some reason is just what I had expected) there were tents that slept up to three and we had real actual beds with matresses and quilts. I couldn't believe it. There was even a toilet and a shower tent, a tent for eating and sitting in and a kitchen tent. It was marvellous and such a luxury which we hadn't expected.

Of course the first order of the evening was to have our race briefing - Keith explained the race plans to us and we decided to start the run slightly earlier the next day given that most people were eager to get going. After this we moved on to the most important part of the evening - the Onesie party :) prior to arriving in Cairo several of us had met on facebook and myself and Sarah had decided it would be a great idea if we all bought a onesie and wore it in the camp - little did we know that poeple would actually agree with us but they did and this was the outcome :)


I am sure that some of the others were looking at us like we were mental (this was before they found out that we actually were mental).
We all took an early night keen to sleep to make the race day come quicker just like we used to do when we were younger on Christmas Eve.
I slept surprisingly well and on race morning woke refreshed and ready to go. We had breakfast and finished packing all of our kit and took our drop bags out to the designated area in camp. We then settled around Dhiaa to listen to some information and guidance on the route and how to work out flares.

Dhiaa drawing the map for the run in the sand
Once the race briefing was over we had time for a few last minute photos and then we were off for the one hour drive to the start line

This is where I am going to leave the blog for now - I haven't even started the run yet but I didn't want to miss anything out :) I will return soon with part two and a lot more photos of this incredible and life changing event.