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Middle-aged, middle-weight, mother of 3 on mad marathon mission
Middle-aged, middle-weight, mother of 3 on mad marathon mission
When I started this blog, it was to track my progress from an occasional kayaker to taking on the Devizes to Westminster non stop 125 race. Little did I know that would start me on a long distance obsession which has resulted in my completing the 30th Marathon des Sables. It has been a strange and sometimes painful ... but always wonderfully challenging journey

This is my occasional account of a middle-age mother's attempt to take on things which are really quite beyond her.

35 mile race done! But can we manage the big one?

crawlingkiwiby crawlingkiwiApr 11th 2011
A few months ago I thought a 10k race was a long way, but yesterday I finished a 35 mile (56k) in 7hours 2min. It was 2mins over our target time, but having had to stop and phone our support team (they missed a stop and we desperately needed a fluid refill), we were pretty much on target. But it was hard and this morning I'm a bit achey, my hands are fairly mashed and I'm worried. In 11 days we are due to repeat the 35 miles, but then to carry on for another 90 miles. Through the night and through the extremely bumpy tidal waters of central London. [The overall winners yesterday, 7 times world marathon canoeing champion Ivan Lawler and current senior men's world champion Ben Brown, completed the course in a record shattering 4hours 11min!!! They are attempting to break the DW 125 miles record this year.]

There were many successes yesterday however, from which we can take heart. Helen's knee, which she dislocated at the end of an earlier race, stood up to the the length of the race and the 21 portages. Her wrist was fine and my wrists both stood up to things really well. The two hours of portaging practice we did on Saturday definitely paid dividends, as we slowed things down, worked more in unison and ultimately sped up a lot. Less panic and attempting to leap out of the boat at every lock really worked, as we were in control. There was just the one very high portage where I ended up dragging Helen up by her buoyancy aid, but the rest went well.

Nutrition was better, as I was able to eat during the race - pineapple jelly cubes were a particular favourite, as was small chunks of clif bar. I had even been able to get some breakfast down before my stomach realised what was going on and shut down. Although my stomach was still suffering ill effects from the severe food poisoning at the start of the week (cue numerous visits to the 'fragrant' port-a-loo at the start), I didn't feel it impacted on the race too much at all.

When we finished the race, we were both shattered and the prospect of carrying on, did not thrill. Until 31 miles in, I had thoroughly enjoyed the race and compared to the 13 mile race we had done on the same course back in February, yesterday's event actually felt easier. But the last 4 miles felt exceptionally long and difficult. On reflection though, so did the last couple of miles of all the races we have done. Last weekend we had a brilliant race until just about 3 miles from the end - at mile 16 it started to feel tough. So I suspect it is psychological - if you are in the mind-set that the end is 'just around the corner', you are constantly waiting for it, a sort of watched kettle syndrome. If you know you have much further, you're ready for it.

I did have a lot of cramping in my hamstrings, particularly after the first 17 miles. It is a straight paddle with no portages - I've never paddled that far before without having to get out of the boat, so when we finally portaged and I tried to get out of the boat, I pulled my feet back ready to get out and both legs cramped. It took 3 goes, but once I was out it was ok. By the end of the race I was definitely struggling to get my feet back far enough to push out of the boat smoothly and I could feel my lower back and hip hurting, but it was nothing which would have stopped me paddling, just slowed me down on getting in and out. My hands are surprisingly blistered in new places, but there's not a lot I can do about that. One is quite spectacular this morning, but I don't want to pop it.

When I had a bit a of a wobble recently about my ability to do the 125 miles, someone on Triblogs reminded me of Jane Tomlinson's tenacity and I'm keeping her example firmly in my mind. And the memory of young Alfie whose shockingly early death (drowned aged 15, a fortnight ago) left so many unfulfilled dreams. Helen and I might not make it to Westminster - one third of starters do not make it to the finish - but we bit the bullet yesterday and handed in our entry.

We now have 2 weeks of tapering. I'll do some short paddles most days and we have a night-time paddle scheduled on Thursday. I'll be trying to stay healthy and uninjured and will need to eat and hydrate properly. We're still trying to find a 3rd support team, as it's impossible to do without help. We have my husband and 14-year old daughter #2 in one car, daughter #1 plus boyfriend in another car and we're trying to coerce a friend and her husband into a 3rd. That way one team can be resting while the other 2 are 'on'. It's like a military operation! We'll need at least 24 litres of energy drink (4:1 carbs to protein) made up for each of us, plus food to take on every 40 minutes. Two complete changes of kit - modesty goes out of the window, we'll be changing at the river-side and I won't even mention the complete lack of toilet facilities!! We should be able to take on 2 larger meals, but are still deciding what we might be able to digest.

I think the next week and a bit is going to fly by disturbingly fast.
See for what we're planning to do.
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