About hob_nob_rob

Training for the biggest challenge of my life...

Things to do before I’m 30

The last time I committed to stuff on here I got on and did it… so here’s an attempt of getting some things done in the next 12 months. I’m not entirely sure how realistic they are, but the MdS wasn’t realistic 2 years ago. So here they are. Some chosen by me, some by Lucy and some we picked together. I’ve grouped them, but I’m pretty sure you’d have guessed without my help!

 

Chosen by me (feel rather optimistic):

  • 19min 5k
  • 40min 10k
  • Sub-3:20 Marathon
  • Learn to front crawl properly
  • Complete my first Triathlon

 

Chosen with Lucy:

  • Eat at a Michelin starred restaurant (I’m thinking Tom Kerridge’s Pub!)
  • Take Lucy for skiing lessons (in the UK… ready for the Alps)
  • Babysit my niece/nephew
  • Weekend away in a random Eastern European country
  • Go to a local comedy night

 

Chosen by Lucy (can you tell?!)

  • Learn to play the guitar or the drums
  • Tell Lucy how beautiful she is every day (even when she has a cold and a red nose)….
  • To stay in a cosy cabin in the middle of nowhere
  • Husky ride in the snow
  • Sort the photos from the Isles of Scilly (the holiday we went on in 2013)

 

Hmm… I had best get cracking….

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Marathon des Sables; The Final Update!

A week on from completing the 2014 Marathon de Sables I’m still not quite sure how to describe or explain the experience. It was everything I imagined and more. And in some cases less (but not many cases of that!). Here is an attempt of describing how it felt on the final day.

The Finish

After 18 months of training I was stood at the start line of the most exciting marathon I have been involved in. It doesn’t take much, considering I’ve only run 2 marathons before (if I exclude the ultras). Nevertheless it was promising to be an interesting day. The top 200 were being held back by 90 minutes. Disappointingly I was position 201 going into the final day. To say I was gutted is an understatement! I wanted to be with all the quick guys chasing the rest of the pack down! However, that all changed as we were milling around at the start line and one of the guys from tent 110 announced to me that I was the fastest guy on the start line. The fastest guy out of 800 people! Oh shit… I’ve never been the fastest guys at the start line before. And most likely I’ll never experience that again! For a very brief second it was excited, then I had an “oh shit” moment at the prospect of navigating (well following the pink rocks) with with lots of people following! The reality is there were plenty of people around me who are quicker at marathons, it’s just my cumulative time over the first 4 days was a few minutes quicker – I think my double marathon nudges me ahead of some guys who are quick at the “short” stuff. I had no doubt there would be faster runners who would be keen to lead the group off and set the direction. Just like the other 4 days, I planned to let them shoot off and then chase them down as the day went on. I wanted to run a 5 hour marathon and hoped to beat the front of the elite group home. I was assuming they would run 3:00-3:30 marathons so it would be pretty tight (almost impossible) with a 1hr30 lead – but figured it would be exciting to try!

Before we knew it music was blaring over the speakers, helicopters swooping over our heads and we were off. The final marathon was under-way! The chase was on! Run! At the first check point I was still feeling fresh and the temperature was still cool so I pressed on. A  number of runners were stood refilling water bottles, so I continued with my week-long tactic of always moving. Even though it means carrying the empty bottle in my bag, I wanted to save that precious minute in my attempt to stay clear of the elites. Over the next 11km we ran on some awesome trails and flat stony plains. Having taken 80 mins to get to the first CP I spent the whole of the next leg thinking of the elites that would now be chasing me down. Not that they knew they were chasing me but it certainly helped keep the legs turning. As I checked in at CP2, I noticed that there were very few foot prints in the sand and not too many bottles in the waste bin; I seemed to be doing OK. I grabbed my 1.5L bottle of water and poured half on my head (much to the amusement of some cameramen and the check point officials) and half into my drinking bottles. In all the excitement of running I hadn’t been drinking as much as I should have done. it also meant I hadn’t been taking much salt on. So I swigged down a belly full of water and 3 salt tablets. All of these checkpoint shenanigans lasted no more than 20-30 seconds and I was on my way again.

Early morning miles

 

With my legs starting to burn and my hands throbbing (a sign of dehydration) I set off for the final CP whilst slurping on my carb drink. This was may favourite leg of the whole race. Perhaps in my life. Bold claim, I know! But it was truly epic, the route, the company, the solace, the views, the climb up to a jebel pass and then a few km up high before a fast decent into a lush green check point I ran hard. I was still ahead of most of the 800 in the early start and none of the elites were in site. In fact, I could barley see anyone in front of me. As I arrived at CP3, I received a huge applause from some families that were in Morocco to see their friends/family finish. The CP staff were also extremely attentive and rushed… I got the impression I was near the front and they did everything they could to get me in and out as quick ad possible. I declined half of my water ration in an attempt to save time and repeated my speedwalk and water admin departure from the CP. This was going better than I had planned and I could sense the finish.

No more CPs left in the MdS 😦 no more “beep” as I cross the CP entry gates, no more practising my pronunciation of  “Bonjour, six deux six”. The next “beep” would be as I crossed the finish line! Best a get move on. For about 3-4 km we were running along a dried up river bed… I say running…. it was a jog! My shuffle was still reeling in one or two of the front runners of the early start. I could see them in the distance in the river bed. As we neared the end of the river bed I was overtaken by a camera crew in a Jeep who jumped about 400m ahead and set-up their tripod. Surely not for me…. nope, just the winner of the day, Abdelkader el Mouaziz! His PB for a marathon is 2hr06min! I could see him in the distance behind me. Minutes later was I running alongside him, albeit for a matter of moments… what an phenomenal athlete! His exit from the river bed was effortless, he dashed up the side of the rocks to climb onto the plateau.  I clearly looked bemused as the Camera crew pointed me towards the trail of footprint I should be following… there were 5 maybe 6 sets of foot prints in the sand.

With 5km to go I crossed the “stony plateau” described in the road book. I could smell the finish. I could also sense a couple of elites not too for behind me. One of the marshals gave me a great a cheer and  said “they’re about a half a km behind you. you’ve got 5km to go!!”. As I started the descent down the rocky hill I kicked a rock so hard I screamed. And swore. I swore lots! but F#@K it.. I had lasted all week… there was only 4km to go I wasn’t going to stop and check it now! From a quick glance over my shoulder and I could see Danny Kendall and Carlos Sa – the fastest two Europeans in the MdS (British and Portuguese respectively). 300m behind.. and they seemed to be speeding up. As we hit the final descent onto the last 2.5 km of dunes Danny flew past me. Shortly followed by Carlos. I felt like I was stood still – I think they were locked in a head to head race for the marathon stage (if I remember rightly Danny needed to beat him by 5 mins to over take him on the overall GC). As I crested the first dune and I could see the finish… I overtook one last person and then ran as hard as my legs will let me for the last 2 km of dunes.

250km later!

Choked with tears, excitement and some dehydration I collected my medal, tried to smile for the camera and gave Patrick a big sweaty hug! I then hobbled to the water tent to collect my 4.5L ration of water before slumping in a heap to recover. I had a brief cry (not sure if that was pain from the marathon, the relief of finishing the MdS or disappointment that the best 18months were about to be over). A few harsh words with myself and I soon realised I should gather my shit together and cheer in the rest of tent 110! We had been together all week and the best part for the others was just about to happen. By the time I dropped my kit at 110, Andy was also home and dry. We wandered up and cheered in the rest of the troops. First Chris, then Gerrit… a short while later Tom, Matt and Adrian made it over the finish line of the 250km hammering.

So that was it… the last day in the MdS. How did we get there? Well, I had intended to write a detailed review of  each day when I got home. But in all honesty I have been pretty tired and still trying to get my head around what happened over those 10 days. When I finished the race and for the first few days after the run I didn’t feel like I had been running at all. Let alone 250km in the desert. By Tuesday I was tired, the adrenaline and endorphins had all died away and I was left genuinely exhausted. I’ve been napping most days and having lots of sleep every night. Recovering is the easy bit: eat, sleep, stretch, eat, sleep! So, there’s my excuse for not writing a full report of the week. Also, I kind of like the short summary that I sent from the desert. It captures it as it happened…. so there you have it. the MdS 2014.

Thank you

There are countless people I want to thank. so in no particular order… here goes.

The office – thank you to everyone in the office. You have put up with a lot of running chat (sorry, but that will likely continue). The support has been phenomenal!

Mum and Dad – I know you didn’t really want me to do this when I first signed up. I blame dad! He did Kilimanjaro – that got me hooked!

BMHAC – great club, great coach and great Sunday morning runs!

Ruth & Luc – The endless lunchtime running chat, the company on the treadmill, stretching, Wednesday runs to work, kit chat, all the stuff that non-runners hate. Awesome work at London by both of you! Ruth posting a “good for age” time and I think Luc securing a “Championship Start”! Both huge achievements!

Mike – Epic training partner. Enough said!

My mates – all of the guys I should have been out drinking with for the past few months… it’s time to catch up on those nights out!

Tent 110 – you know how much fun and pain the week involved. Awesome tent mates.. looking forward to a catch up beer soon!

Lucy – a HUGE thank you to you. I know I have been obsessed with the MdS for the past 18 months. Thank you for being so patient (most of the time ;)) and putting up with all my stinking kit, washing and early mornings. I’m looking forward to a few normal weekends just as much as you are 😀 xx

What next?

No idea. I haven’t planned anything yet. I’ll perhaps run a few road races and work on my speed over the summer.. I popped to ParkRun this weekend and found it hard going, so need to get back down to BMHAC soon.  I’d like to run a sub 1:30 half and maybe a quick marathon. who knows. In the meantime, lots of food, sleep and rest is needed.

Until next time…. no, not the next MdS, just the next adventure….

Rob

p.s I’m still counting up the cash donations… looks like we’ve smashed £6k… will update tomorrow!

MdS 2014; Day 6

I did it! Today was the marathon stage and after dropping out of the top 200, I was determined to smash this one. With a few shot bloks saved & my favourite flavour carb drink, I took to the start line. The first leg went well; the speed demons shot off and i hung out just behind…waiting for them to blow up. Through CP1 I jumped about 20runners and decided it was time to press on. I got some music on an opened up the taps…. edging past a runner every km or so. CP2 I was in such a hurry I declined half my water ration to save weight. Looking at the empty bottle bin I was well placed (for me)…so pushed harder. In the 3rd section there was an EPIC singletrack…. after all my trail running and descent work I made good time here. Into CP3 I was gagging for water. Restocked I was ready to smash the last 10km….I think I did-I was ruined as i finished; couldn’t have given more today. Felt amazing to finish and the collect medal (2mo is the charity 8km(not timed)). THANK YOU EVERYONE!x

MdS 2014; Day 4-5

That was a tough days running! I think my first 3days of running have caught up with me. I set off well to make the most of the cooler part of the day. Felt great up to CP3; ran enitre first sector and steady run/walk for the next 2. From CP3->CP4 I had the biggest low of the week. 3.5km from the CP I hit the wall- people streaming past me. If you run, you’ll know the feeling… add to that 40degrees, a headache, feeling sick, no energy gel and climbing 2 jebels that felt like PenYFan. Oh and down to my last 200ml of water for 4.5km. Boardline tears. As I plodded into CP I got myseld sorted:carb drink, scoffed some salty mini cheddars and 2 shot bloks… HEAVEN! I plodded on. Within 10 mins I was back to normal:) Got music for a big power walk-I ended up marching the last 3 sectors with Andy. Placing wasn’t as good today…now 201 overall. Pretty gutted as this year they are setting the top 200 off 1.5hr later for the final marathon 😦 missed by 30s…nevermind, still loving it! 😀 x
xx

MdS 2014; Day 3

3 stages down, 3 to go. Today was a good one, I seem to have acclimated and can get moving reasonably well in the midday heat. I start steady and pick up the pace as the day goes by. Finished the last ~8km quite strongly- made up a handful of places. Even had a friendly race over the last K with a French guy running for team WAA. He splashed me with his water as I overtook :D. Not sure where I came – perhaps top 250, hard to say. Legs feel great. One blister on little toe – not an issue though. Some chaffing on my hips from the bag – all of the sweat/salt has mad the bag go hard and scratchy. Some big strips of tape will sort that ready for the 80km stage. Todays run was a corker – beautiful scenery, long flat river beds and some occasional dunes. A nice mixture to keep me entertained. Could have pushed harder today (maybe should have done?) but want to make sure I clear the 80km in a good time.

This is EPIC!

Right, time for freeze dried lasagne! 😀 miss u all (& my bed) lots!xxx

MdS 2014…here I come!

Here it is. The final pre-race update.

Tomorrow I will be flying to Errachidia, Morocco. From there I’ll be heading a few hours by coach into the Sahara desert to the first bivouac camp of the Marathon des Sables. The race doesn’t start until Sunday so I have Saturday to settle in to desert life and run through some admin checks before settling down for a nervous night’s sleep (and there have been plenty of those this week!). I will be self-sufficient from the moment I get up on the Sunday morning.

A few of you have been asking how to track my progress. Whilst I am away you can follow me here http://www.marathondessables.com/en/ . When the race starts a link will become available to “track a competitor” – you can find me using my name or my race number, 626. The page should give you my timings as I cross each check point and my overall position. On that website you should also find a link to “write to a competitor”. This will enable you to send a message to me during the race (text only) – I will get a  print out of the messages each evening! Mildly offensive, motivational emails are just as welcome as the pleasant, emotional ones! SdW – no work emails!

I will also have the opportunity to send one email to one recipient per day which is limited in words/characters. I have arranged for Lucy to post it here.

Finally, a word on the fundraising . Earlier in the week I hit my £5,000 target and the donations continue to come in! Thank you so much!  I’m utterly amazed that I hit the target before leaving; great motivation for the inevitable low moments!

See you on the other side,

Rob

MdS 2014; Day 2

Hello,

I haven’t heard from Rob since the completion of his first run…!

However, it is evident from the tracking system on the MdS website that Rob finished the second stage with another good time of 5hrs, 51mins.

I will hopefully hear from Rob regarding his 3rd stage later this evening…however, as a sneaky update…it looks like he’s already finished that stage as well, in 5 hrs and 27mins….

His general position at the moment is 182…out of just over 1000 competitors. He’s doing himself and others proud I think!