The One With the Desert Running Seminar

Okay everyone, fingers crossed my internet can survive for as long as it takes to write one short post.  Seriously – BT has ONE JOB.  One.  To supply my internet.  Guess what it doesn’t do … on the upside I now have a name and a phone number and poor old Chris in Lincolnshire has the joy of looking after my account now (that’s his punishment for being actually very efficient, poor sucker).

Anyway, I had the most fun day yesterday!  George and I trained in the morning and then I headed off to my MRI scans (more about that when I’ve got the results, since I don’t know what they showed yet).  I mentioned to George in passing that I wasn’t working because of the MRIs, and he said he had a spare ticket to this elite sports expo thing he was going to the Excel if I fancied tagging along.  I ALWAYS fancy tagging along, so we headed over about 15:00.  My only regret is that we weren’t there longer, it was the most fun ever.  Amongst other things we got electroshock therapy (to be honest, just like TENS only apparently it went deeper, and we can certainly believe that as we were stiff as boards today), we got thermal imaged for injuries and – importantly – we got CRYOGENICALLY FROZEN!  Yuh-huh!  Shagalicious baby.  Mostly, this was exciting because you can do it at Harrods and it costs £900 for three minutes.  We got it for the price of our free tickets to the expo! It was pretty fun – and it wasn’t even that cold because it was so dry that it didn’t feel anything like -68*C.  I will let you know if I accidentally develop an Austin Powers pelt of chest hair and buck teeth.  It’s unlikely but who knows?

Anyway, after the expo I headed off to a desert running forum with a panel including Elisabet Barnes and Captain Tom Evans.  It was aimed at those doing the Marathon des Sables for the first time, ranging from walkers to those looking to get a really good time.  Although it was very much about the MdS, it was soooo relevant!  The speakers were all so good, and so encouraging.  First we had a talk from Jane Harries, who spoke about her experience as a walker, since she walked the entire event.  We then heard from Susie Chan who was my favourite – she’d done it three times, the first being a fairly normal mid-pack runner, the second as someone who was bumped up to elite because her time was so good, and the third a race which went very badly for her.  Apart from the fact that she was hilarious, it was amazing to hear how one person could do the same race three times and yet have such different experiences each time.  Elisabet, who’s won the MdS twice (including this year) then spoken about training plans, the various nutrition considerations and mistakes that people make.  Given that she’s won it more than once, she was incredibly down to earth and practical!  Finally we heard from Captain Tom Evans, who entered on a whim this year and managed to come top Brit and third overall.  His talk was more about his experience, and to be honest wasn’t as relevant for me because I have no intention of running Wadi Rum to win it, and I’m not a Welsh Guard with an insane capacity for running!  He was super-interesting though and I’m so glad he spoke.

Although the topics were varied and covered all aspects of the race (kit, nutrition, training, hydration, shoes, terrain etc), all four of them basically had the same message – it’s all in your head.  Obviously your training will also help you (a fair amount really, on balance!) but really, it’s a question of getting your head right because whether you think you will or won’t succeed, you’re right.  They also spoke about coping strategies for when things go wrong, both psychologically and physiologically and what they’d done to alleviate it.  I think my next batch of reading material is going to have to focus heavily on mental training!  I’m also going to look into the other top tip that all four gave, which was to get involved in heat training in the couple of weeks before the race – not only in heat chambers (since they can be so expensive) but also in saunas, Bikram yoga and any other source of extreme heat that you can possibly find.  I can picture myself now, doing endless step-ups in the sauna at Virgin … they’re just gonna love me.  But what has to be done has to be done!  I actually like Bikram, so I might try and get some sessions in fairly soon … and closer to the race I might try and find one of those “all-you-can-do-in-30-days-for-£20” deals … hehehehe.  Tactical.

Sorry this isn’t a more interesting post but I wanted to make a note the seminar since I’d definitely recommend it to anyone doing the MdS or any other desert running race.  It’s organised by My Race Kit so they really know what they’re talking about and it was brilliantly organised.   If you’re doing a desert ultra and you see one of their seminars advertised, go go go!


PS – I have no pictures of this, so the cover is yet another of Morocco.  Lucky I took plenty!

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