Well the day has nearly arrived. For so long it has seemed a long way off but race day has been hurtling towards me for the last couple of weeks. One of the reasons for this is that I have spent every evening for the last two weeks acclimating to the desert heat. I’ve been doing this in a heat chamber at Roehampton University as one of the guinea pigs in a research project. This has been an incredible experience. Altogether there were around 16 of us who are all running Marathon des Sables. The program consisted of a baseline fitness test before the program, followed by a heat stress test on days 1, 7 and 14, and then training sessions on every other day.
A typical session getting various measuring samples taken and devices attached to my skin, and inserted (!) to record skin and core temperatures, heart rate, cortisol levels and weight, before and after training. Training consisted of static bike riding in the heat chamber set to just over 40 degrees with two other MdS guinea pigs for about an hour. On training days the aim was to get the core temperature up to 38.5 degrees and then stop, measuring how long it took to come down again. On heat stress test days we also measured gases we inhaled and exhaled to see what fuels we were burning (fat or sugar).
Because of the blind nature of the research, we didn’t get to see any of the results but it was clear that by the end of the fortnight we were much better adjusted to the heat and much better at sweating. A typical session resulted in the loss of around 1-2 litres (kgs) of sweat – an indication of what sweat rates are going to be like in the desert. This will need to be replenished, both water and salts, regularly, to prevent the body from getting into difficulty.
The research team, including Jodie, Freddie, Freya, Mitch, and my fellow MdSers James and Johnny, were fantastically supportive and motivating and I’ll miss training with them, but I left there last night feeling that they had given me the best possible preparation for running in the desert.
So to food…
I am planning to take around 2800 kCal per day. This will not be enough to replenish all the energy I burn each day, but if I take enough so that I am not in calorific deficit, my backpack will weigh around 20 kgs. So I will be losing weight during the week, burning my fat reserves, and so at times I am probably going to be pretty miserable. Dr Mike Stroud’s advice (the doctor and expert on human health in extreme conditions who has accompanied Sir Ranulph Fiennes on most of his expeditions) is to take food that makes you happy. This is a must-see clip of extreme happiness due to food on an expedition to the South Pole… www.youtube.com/watch?v=vC8gJ0_9o4M.
Because I have to carry everything for the week, the food needs to be calorifically dense, above 3.5 kCal per gramme. A great deal of research has led me to the following diet for the week:
|Strawberry, raspberry and cranberry porridge||258||46.2||4.4||6||67.8||3.81|
|Skimmed Milk powder||127.8||18||0.216||12.96||36||3.55|
|Nutrigrain strawberry bar||120||24||3||2||37||3.24|
|SIS Energy & Immune Gel||90||22||0||0||60||1.5|
|SIS Energy Bar Chocolate Fudge||138||26||1.7||4.7||40||3.45|
Post run recovery drink
|SIS Rego – powder||184||22||1.3||20||50||3.68|
|Super Noodles Chicken||528||68.4||23.6||9.4||100||5.28|
|Parmesan cheese block||401.5||0||29.7||32.4||100||4.02|
Along with all my kit, bagged up and repackaged by day, my food is pictured above. My pack weighs around 8.5kg but by the end of the week it will weigh under 3kg.
So that’s it. I’ve done all I can to prepare. Now I just have to run the damn thing. You can follow my progress during the race at www.marathondessables.com/en/marathon-des-sables-maroc and I am runner 615.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me so far, and thank you to everyone who has sponsored me. If you haven’t sponsored me, and you feel inclined to support the Lord’s Taverners, a fantastic charity that enhances children’s lives, then please do go to www.justgiving.com/damoisrunningMDS.