You can just make out the colour and texture of the heat rash Sarah endured. This photo does not do it justice. Read on….
Sarah, an experienced multi-day stage racer takes on MdS for the second time. But how does it feel, knowing that you already have a finishers medal, when the going gets particuarly tough?
Sarah’s post should be read with an understanding of what she really endured: ‘heat rash’ sounds so innocuous. However, this wasn’t ordinary heat rash. This was so severe it was impossible to wear calf guards, despite the heat aggravating it. At times it was so bad, doctors made her remove her gaiters, forcing Sarah to stop every few hundred meters to empty her shoes. Her medal was extremely hard fought, and incredibly well deserved. Watching her race was hard. Watching her finish was inspiring.
There are some very sage words here. Read through to the end for some wisdom. Thanks Sarah.
Sarah Munday, 38
Reason for signing up/ how long have you wanted to do it? Second time at MdS – “persuaded” back by friends. Had wanted to do it for 5 years when I went first time round.
Finishing position Near the back enjoying the scenery and making new friends
Previous biggest endurance achievement? MdS 2015
Longest or toughest training walk/run/event? 26 miles / Everest Trail race 2016
Sum up the experience in 5 words brutal but brilliant
What was your most treasured piece of kit? Shemagh (scarf) – although it wasn’t mine and I had to trade for my buff. [Sarah used this as a sarong to protect her legs from sun and sand – invaluable given the heat rash]
What item of kit would you change if you did it again? Would take a sarong/scarf to cover legs – probably not a requirement for most people. I would also probably try the sandbagger gaiters.
Did you sign up alone or with anyone? With friends but went alone first time round and each option has pros/cons.
Hardest stage and why? Stage 2 – I suffer from heat rash that is exacerbated by the restriction of gaiters around the lower leg. Having to remove my gaiters on medical advice during a sandy section made for slow progress with regular emptying of shoes.
The psychological aspect of the second time around and knowing how that rash would worsen and become painful for the remainder of the week was also hard.
Top tip for preparation? Don’t judge yourselves on others and therefore overtrain as you think others are doing more.
Take facebook oversharers with a pinch of salt.
What shoes did you wear? Were you happy with them? Brooks Cascadia 11 – very happy with them. I also wore customised insoles which I would recommend highly.
How much did you ‘size up’ if at all? By one to accommodate 2nd pair of socks
Backpack start weight? c7kg dry
What backpack and were you happy with it? WAA pack – happy with it, did not use the large front pouch – just the 2 smaller side pouches. It is then quite tight for space.
What personal quality is most important to succeed at MdS? In this order of importance:
Resilience, patience and a sense of humour.
How many toenails have you lost to date? Do you have a picture? None. I had a pedicure the day after I flew back as my feet were in good enough shape.
Any advice foot preservation advice? I would recommend using foot lube – gurney goo is my personal choice as it has antiseptic qualities, tape any hot spots and I wore two pairs of socks – injinji toe liner socks with xbionic speed metal over the top and a larger shoe size to accommodate. Also recommend customised insoles. Learn/practice taping before you go – I am an advocate of self care for small blisters and didn’t visit Doc Trotters for my feet during the race as I only had a couple of small blisters. Be meticulous in your preparation every day.
Meal or food you most appreciated? Pepperami and chedders – I lose my sweet tooth in the heat
Did you take a ‘luxury item? What was it and weight – Mirror, not sure how much it weighed – it would have been binned if I knew!
What did you learn about yourself?
I am difficult to break
Did you do hot yoga/heat chamber sessions? 3 heat chamber sessions – it is difficult to assess the usefulness, what I would say is that it is difficult to replicate dry heat as heat chambers are humid and don’t “feel” that similar. I did not go to a heat chamber in 2015 and I couldn’t really recall a difference.
Lots of temperatures in excess of 50 degrees recorded – did it feel that hot? Yes, especially when there is no wind in the basins.
Approx calories per day? Minimum – 2000 cals which I didn’t manage to eat each day – probably averaged eating 1500 a day as little appetite in the heat.
Advice for the long stage and for what type of person? I am a walker – pace yourself in the heat of the afternoon so you can use your energy as soon as the heat comes out of the day. Get to the long stage in decent nick, don’t be afraid of the distance as the cooler part of the day/night is a game changer. Adapt your strategy of sleeping/not sleeping depending on how you feel. Don’t take food you need to cook.
Buddy up with someone else through the night for motivation.
What do you wish you had known before, that you know now?
How much harder psychologically the race is second time round:
I discussed this with a number of people in the same boat and the drive for the medal is greatly diminished as you have already proved you can do it.
Any difference between dark and light clothing? No – I have worn both and couldn’t feel a difference. I think the choice is more around tight/loose and long/short sleeved and also how dirty you look….light clothing it probably assigned to the bin after the race as you will never get it clean.
Have you made friends for life? Yes
Would you do it again if someone else paid?! No. There are other places to see in the world and I prefer smaller more intimate races. I don’t need to prove anything more to myself with regards to this race. I would however recommend it.
What would your tent mates say was your most annoying habit? Internalising and being quiet perhaps. Or being a social butterfly depending on how things were going. Plus being one of two in the tent that had done it before – I tried my hardest not to be that “last time round….” person but I am sure it came out a few times.
When was your lowest point and what was it/how did you overcome it? Stage 2 check point 2 – when my heat rash first kicked in.
I went to a dark place and had a word with myself, and as often happens in this race and particularly at the back of the field someone comes alongside you and asks if you are ok and you do a section together.
There is a reason they are near the back too. My turn to help others came later in the week – that is how it works.
Did you find the pre departure admin stressful ? Any tips on keeping it stress free? Not second time round but keep it as simple as possible, don’t over complicate, only you know what is right for you so don’t get too hung up on others’ views particularly coming from facebook oversharers. Trust your intuition. Remember you have lots more hours in your week whilst you taper to use for admin so plan that in. I was most stressed about getting sick – anti bac gel is your friend/avoid small children/crowded places –and tell people why, they won’t mind.
Any last words?!
Be patient from the point at which you arrive in Morroco – it is French organisation in Africa, not sure anything else needs to be said. The duration of the race is superbly organised – the parts either end can be frustrating. Learn to say the basics in French – it goes a long way.
You will have a problem at some point during your race – it is how you face it that will make or break you. Your tent becomes your support mechanism so embrace it.
If, like me, you are at the back of the field trust in your fellow human being – if you give when you are able they will give back to you.
The camaraderie is immense and it becomes a team effort to get everyone “home” each day.
The environment is brutal – if you think you are making progress something will come out of nowhere to put you back in your box, but the people are kind and hugely inspiring and won’t let you down as long as you let them help.