Ok so here goes my first kit review. I have decided to split the kit reviews up so I can give a better focus to each item. Hopefully this will provide a good insight in to exactly what I used and what I would change for next year.
My first review will be on the clothing I wore for the run.
Those of you who have been following my blog or my facebook will know that Striders Edge very kindly sponsored me my clothing for the run and I can safely say that this is a brand I shall use time and time again. I did take a few other items with me which I will go in to further down this post.
So what did I take with me to the desert
I started the run in the kit above. My shorts were by Nike as Striders edge didn't sell shorts when I left for the desert. I chose these shorts as they were fairly breathable and I run in them all the time so I know they are comfortable. I don't really get along with the tighter running shorts and didn't want to risk it so I decided to stick these. I actually wore these for the entirety of the run, just putting my long bottoms on over the top rather than worrying about changing them all the time - thanks Mimi for this tip - although it did give an incredible VPL it was much easier.
My Calf guards are by skins - these are one thing that I hadn't actually used before so I broke my own rule with these and to be honest I have no idea if they helped or not. I took them off after the 2nd day I think it was (it all blurs) but they were very comfortable and didn't cause me any irritation at all which is always a plus point and if you usually wear calf guards then I don't think you would have any issues with these.
My top is by Striders edge and is the engineered climate map Lite T in sunny lime this was perfect for the temperatures in the desert. I didn't feel uncomfortable and it didn't get sticky at any point. It also helps that it is antibacterial which stops you from smelling like you have just run for hours in the heat (unfortunately it doesn't work miracles and stop you from looking like you have). This is one of my favourite T's from Striders Edge and I am hoping that they still have some on sale when I get paid :)
For the night time section I carried these Peak elements tights in my backpack. We did have the option of leaving our cold weather kit in a well placed drop bag - the only issue being that I had no idea how long each section would take me so by leaving my cold weather gear in a drop bag I left myself open to being out in the cold in my shorts and T-Shirt and I really didn't fancy that. These tights are slightly heavier than my other running bottoms but they were well worth the extra weight for the warmth they provided and the comfort. Again these are the only longer bottoms I took for the race and they were perfect.These are also antibacterial and are wind resistant which in the evenings was actually a bonus (not something I had expected to worry about in the desert).I didn't get any irritation at all from the bottoms and even after not being washed and worn every evening they still didn't smell and kept their shape perfectly. I didn't use the pockets on these for the run as I had plenty of pockets on my backpack but have used them when running in the colder weather in the UK and can vouch for them when they say they are designed to reduce whatever you stow digging into your body - they really do and look good to boot :)
Donning my peak elements tights ready for the colder night time section
Layers, Layers and more layers
core elements Gilet
Core elements Jacket
Soft brush insulated mid layer
I took the above layers from Striders edge interspersed with a top from Nike and one from Skins just to make sure I had some different options when I was out there as I wasn't sure how cold the evenings would be.
I am so pleased I did take all of the above tops as it did get very cold at night (the race organisers have altered the date of the race now to October with one of the reasons being it shouldn't be as cold at night in October)
Obviously what you need in cold weather is down to a persons individual preferences - I know that I get very cold very quickly so it was important for me to have lots of layers and to be able to keep warm because once you get too cold there is no getting warm again.
I chose to leave these tops in different drop bags rather than carry them with me (I carried my jacket instead which I will go on to in a moment) but was very pleased when I got to the checkpoints with these in, especially checkpoint 9 as it was very cold on the last night and for some reason I just couldn't get warm so I actually ended up wearing about 4 layers including 2 of the tops above my jacket and a t shirt.
The tops were comfortable, very soft (brushed on the inside for comfort) and breathable and again antibacterial. They all had the thumb through sports cuff which helped keeping my hands warm and they were all wind resistant as well. You can't really go wrong with these (unless you are a man in which case perhaps not the best option :) )
My Jacket was the Stride-lite run Jacket (again from Striders edge) I bought this in advance of the race and have been using it all through the winter. It has the trademark thumb through cuffs and although not fully waterproof it is shower proof so as long as you aren't going out in torrential rain you are fine. The jacket is very light so I carried it with me for the whole race and it was perfect to just put on whenever I felt a little cold.
With my Stride-Lite Jacket on at the finish of the race
Myself and Sarah were very lucky to have the support of Feetures Socks they are an American company who have the most comfortable running socks. I used the ones below for the whole race - I did take some of their other ones but by the time I got halfway through the race my feet had swollen too much to be able to get them on. These ones were brilliant and very comfortable. Unfortunately they didn't prevent me from getting blisters but then again I don't think that anything would have prevented any of us from getting blisters over this distance. I shall continue to use this brand of sock from now on for all of my running and for the gym as well.
These are made from Marino+ a blend of Rayon from Bamboo and Marino wool. I chose these ones as they are the quarter length so they stop just above the ankle (I thought this would be good to prevent sand getting in).
Never underestimate the importance or versatility of a buff. I took 6 buffs with me - yes 6 - I had my Thermal one for the night time sections which proved to be one of the best things I took. And my other buffs were used as Headbands and for protection in the sand storms.
I actually saved Tom by very kindly giving him one of my buffs when he lost his in the checkpoint when we were held because of the sandstorm (I am not sure I will ever get this back) see people may have laughed at the amount of stuff we had for checkpoints but it did come in useful :)
I don't know what I did before I found out about these wonderful items now.
I didn't only have the standard buffs though - we were very kindly sent a Buff desert hat as well which had the neck protection. These were brilliant - light weight and easy to pack away as they rolled up - we also found that as they were quite thin, when it was hot pouring water over them made them an excellent cooling aid.
I will do a separate review later for my other kit including my gaiters, trainers, backpack, and glasses :)
Also as an update since the run I have been struggling with an injury on my hip (if you notice in the picture of me at the finish above I am holding my hip and leaning slightly) it is preventing me from running any great distance at the moment which is more than slightly irritating but not to say I am not doing anything - Insanity - Swimming - Gym - DONE
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
We left fairly early - I think around 10am but this day was one of the hottest we had with temperatures reaching 38 degrees. I had originally thought that the higher temperatures were going to cause me big problems but I was pleasantly surprised that I seemed to be coping with it quite well. There wasn’t any shade at all on this section of the course so we decided to just try and run as much of it as we could and take fewer walking breaks to make sure we got to the next checkpoint before we either ran out of water or burnt. As we neared the end of this section we became increasingly concerned because we couldn’t see any checkpoint even though it was mean to be directly in front of us, with less than 1k to go we still couldn’t see it and began to panic but thankfully a few hundred meters later it appeared and peace and happiness was restored J in the checkpoint we found Matt and Jamie, they had also been struggling with the heat and It was at this checkpoint that Matt decided it was time to stop and he pulled out of the race. We were gutted to see him go but wished him well and he very kindly offered the use of his drop bags at the next checkpoints should we need anything which was simply Marvelous J We rested a little here and had something to eat and another goodness shake. Jamie set off about 30 minutes before us on a mission to get another 30 miles done before the morning.
Once we had sorted our feet and put our tights and base layers on we too headed off in search of checkpoint 5. We started this section full of enthusiasm but were soon struggling – mainly with tiredness as we had only had a short 50 minute sleep, but also because with it being dark we only had a small area we could focus on and as this section was mainly sand it was very difficult. We kept going in to trance like states but we managed to keep going right up until about 5k from the next checkpoint before collapsing on the sand and deciding that enough was enough we were going to get in to our sleeping bags and have 30 minutes shut eye before continuing. Looking back now 5k seems so little but at the time there was nothing on this earth that would have made me go any further until I had rested (unless of course they had told me that there was a cream egg or some other such exciting object waiting for me at the checkpoint).
The catnap seemed to do the trick and we headed off again on a mission to get to CP5. On arrival we were very surprised to see Bryan, Tom and Tony still there and that Jamie was not – he had apparently come in full of beans and decided to head off to the next checkpoint before stopping.
Will and Phillippa woke up (they had been sleeping outside) and came in to the tent to check we were ok and tape feet etc which was wonderful and I can’t thank them enough for this as I was really struggling with my hip at this point so a massage was a welcome relief. We chatted to the guys briefly before trying to get a bit of sleep – the plan was 2 hours and then go before it started to get hot.Tom, Tony and Bryan left about an hour and a half before we did but not before Tom tucked me and Sarah in using the blanket he had been sleeping in as he thought we looked cold - bless :)
When I awoke to the alarm I am not ashamed to admit I had a few tears mainly due to exhaustion but also due to the challenge we still had to face. I was however placated by the fact that the next section was the dunes and the part I was most looking forward to. We headed off and much to our amusement were greeted by some pictures Tom and Bryan had drawn in the sand for us (I really wish I had taken pictures). The dunes were as good as I had expected them to be – pretty painful on the feet as there was a lot of climbing sideways and running full throttle down the other side but such a laugh.
A dune - the actual dunes section was far dunier but I like this picture :)
CP6 was at an oasis which was beautiful to see but not so nice to stay at because of the amount of flies. We didn’t spend very long here before moving on – deciding that we would have a little rest later.
Me and Sarah after the dunes at CP6
This was one of my worst sections of the course. I was both physically and mentally drained we had done 90 miles already and bearing in mind my longest run before this race had only been 47 miles I was well out of my comfort zone. I don’t think it helped that this section of the course was also one of the most barren and you could see for miles where you had to get to. We soldiered on though taking a few rest breaks here and there until eventually the sand storm hit.
Me resting my eyelids NOT sleeping
It was getting dark at this point and we stopped to change in to something warmer and made sure we had our buffs pulled down to our glasses and another pulled up over our mouths to keep out as much sand as possible (if we are honest it was more so that we had an excuse to look like ninjas). The sand of course still managed to get in and when we got to about 1k from the checkpoint I had lost all vision in my right eye as the sand had covered my contact lenses. On arrival we were again surprised to see not only Tom, Bryan and Tony there but also Jamie. Because of the sand storm the race had been put on hold as it was deemed to dangerous to continue and Jamie had also managed to injure his calf muscle which was a really concern.
The sand storm although we wouldn't admit it at the time was a blessing in disguise as it meant we could all take some much needed rest which I doubt we would have done had it not been forced upon us. As there were so many of us at the checkpoint and we were all due to stay the night we had to begin the task of moving everything around so we could all fit in. Jamie was already asleep and completley out of it by this point so we just dragged him sleeping mat and all in to his new spot - he doesn't even remember us doing this. After we had stopped Bryan snoring we all had a restful few hours kip ready to get going again in the morning.
The following morning we were allowed to leave at about 5am but because I am rubbish at getting myself together in the morning Sarah and I didn’t leave until 6am meaning the boys had a head start (read this as the only reason they beat us)
I have to admit though seeing them at the last few checkpoints had really increased my enthusiasm and we set off in good spirits. The sandstorm was still going strong but not as bad as the previous night. We pushed through this longer 30k stage and on to CP8 where we saw a figure running towards us in Orange – at the time it made perfect sense to me that this would be Keith because he had an orange jumper on when we first met him at the hotel so of course he would be the only person to be wearing orange (no idea why I thought that) it turns out it was actually Tom running towards us which I found amusing because surely he should be resting but none the less I was very pleased to see him– When Tom reached us he explained that the race had again been put on hold because the sand storm had gotten worse further down the course and as two runners had gotten lost during the night they didn’t want to risk letting any of us go (the sand interrupts the GPS signals so it would have been hard for us to keep on course and with the sand blowing they wouldn’t have been able to track us)
As you can see we were all in good spirits at this point – I think seeing everyone made it better as we were able to recount our own adventures but at the same time we were all itching to get moving again as we knew we that we only had about a Marathon or just over left to go. We all spent our time doing different thinks – checking kit/taping feet/eating food/sunbathing……. No that was just Tom he decided to sunbathe and also wash his hair – in a completely straight way of course.
At about 17:00 we were given the all clear and headed off for the final few stages of the race. It gets dark about 18:30 at this time of year in Egypt so we knew we would run the final section at night which was a shame as we had been hoping (before the sand storm) to complete this section by 7pm and thus only run the final part in the dark.
The lads soon stormed ahead and we lost sight of them but that was probably a good thing because we were following waypoints where as they were doing CP – CP so we would have gotten ourselves confused anyway. The sunset was incredible and is something I will never forget – I had to take a moment to pinch myself and prove I was actually there.
The next few checkpoints were passed through in a bit of a daze, we rested at each one – I was completely exhausted at this point but I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would finish the race and that alone was enough to make me keep going – or as Sarah would say – put my big girl pants on and get on with it.
On the last checkpoint before the finish we had a little visitor to the tent in the form of one of the desert foxes – it kept coming in, pinching the eggs from the tray at the entrance and then running off again. Such a lovely thing to see and it really lifted my spirits.
We ran the final section as the sun started to rise and were once again astounded by the incredible scenery around us it truly has to be seen to be believed. We were soon able to see the campsite ahead but it didn’t seem to be getting any closer. We kept going until we finally saw people moving around and it finally began to hit us that we were about to finish the Ocean Floor 160 mile race – my emotions completely over took me and I cried my way over the finish line. The sheer euphoria at crossing that line is one that I will never forget and seeing all of my new found friends there to greet us was just the icing on the cake.
The finish of our 160 mile run
That evening the Egyptian team put on a show for us and there was lots of singing and dancing (not by me as I couldn’t walk at this point due to the swelling in my feet) we also had the awards ceremony which was wonderful and really made everyone feel special no matter how long it had taken or if they hadn’t completed the race for whatever reason no one was left out.
I would like to take this opportunity to say a MASSIVE thank you to Keith and his team - There couldn't have been a better team of people. No task was too much and no arrival time to the CP was too late or too early. You were truly wonderful and we look forward to seeing you in October 2014 for our second running of the race (although anyone interested in running it can actually go and do it this October - I just cant fit it in this year)
I have made some life long friends on this race and can honestly say it has been a life changing experience in more ways than one ....
A massive thank you to Sarah Gardenr Hall for running with me - I have made a true best friend in her and she now know everything there is to know about me which I am not sure if it is a good thing or not :)
I will be posting some kit reviews soon and will add a few more photos and if I can figure out how some videos as well :) thankyou for taking the time to read my long drawn out version of events.
Oh and before I forget - we didn't just run on sand these are some of the surfaces we ran on