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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.

Imodium at the ready - because I'm nervous enough to need it now

crawlingkiwiby crawlingkiwiApr 20th 2011
Three days from race day and my list of preparations is now ludicrously long. Reading through it seems to bring on a feeling of exhaustion and I have to go and lie down, so I'm not sure how I'm actually going to cope with the race. We have 4 support teams to coordinate, 2 during the day and when one goes home, another comes along, then when the 1st team finishes at 10pm, our 4th team arrives. Each team has 40 pages of maps of each portage, written drivers' instructions, a spreadsheet with our projected times and a detailed race-plan, with what needs to be at each portage.

On Friday, we'll be packing several crates into my car: 1 will have 20lites of energy drink, already made up, plus another 10 litres of water, to be made up on Saturday evening, with the tubs of powder in the car. Because of the unfeasibly warm weather, we have upped our fluid from 25 lites to 30 - the last thing we want is to run out or to have a support team searching for somewhere to buy water at 4 in the morning! Obviously my K2 partner Helen also needs 30 lites of energy drink and water.

Generally we'll be eating on the move - it is up to our support teams to feed us, as we won't have time to stop. At each portage I have scheduled what needs to be there and as we exit the boat, invert it onto our shoulders and walk round the lock, our supporters will be popping whatever we want into our mouths. We may need to pause if they are filling or replacing our camelbaks, but in general, we don't stop. We have 3 scheduled stops of 10 minutes, which is where we'll have a complete kit change and a 'meal'.

Food: dozens of clif bars have to be cut into small chunks, I have 15 packs of un-made jelly, a cube at a portage is a great help. We will have peanut butter and cheese tiny sandwiches (small enough to pop into our mouths as we portage - no time to stop). We have hundreds of jelly babies. We will also have pasta salad each (Helen is a vegetarian and I like my pasta salad with tuna and sweetcorn). We will also have 2 thermos flasks made up with hot noodles for our night-time stop. I'm thinking of making some salmon pastry puffs, as I can generally eat those at any time and it might help me in the small hours when morale is flagging.

Clothes: the predicted warm weather is throwing a bit of a spanner in the works. I'll start with a short sleeved top, tights, paddle shoes, buoyancy aid, spraydeck and probably a cap, to protect from the sun. I'll have some long sleeved craft tops at the ready in case it is cooler than expected. At around 40 miles in we will have a complete kit change into dry clothes, as it will probably be getting cooler then. At about 10pm we will have another complete kit change and will really be adding many layers to get us through the night. If it is a cloudless night, it could get really cold. I have a final kit change scheduled for 8am on Sunday, just before we start the final trawl along the tideway and into London, but we may not need a change there. We have special 'hands-free' towels to preserve our modesty and at night, each support team will have a coat each for us to put round us if we need to stop. We can't stop for more than 10 minutes on the key meal stops, as we will start to sieze up. We will need pogies (paddling mitten type things) and sprint spraydecks (without a zip) as well as our normal marathon zipped decks, for the final tideway. There can be large standing waves and it is probably the most nerve shattering section of the entire course.

Drugs: obviously I'm not talking steroids here, but we'll be starting with some imodium (if I haven't used it all up in these final nervy days) and a nurofen. We'll need another nurofen 7 hours in and will also have nurofen gel at the ready. We have plasters, tapes - you name it!

Equipment: as well as our paddles and the boat, which has just had a pump fitted, we have a range of tools and spares. Damage to the boat is one thing which could stop us going on, but we have bought a new 2nd-hand boat and have just had someone give it a look over, so fingers crossed it will stay intact and afloat. We have some compulsory kit we have to carry - water, chocolate, long sleeved and legged underwear and a hat. This has to be tied to the inside of the boat and can be checked at any time - strict penalties exist if you're found not to have any of the items. We also have to have night glow-sticks on us, torches and lights for the night sections.

Still to buy: we need another couple of crates to make life easier for our support teams. I need to get some cable-ties to use when securing our compulsory on-board kit and I need some more packets of noodles and still more water. I also have to buy nappy-cream, I shan't go into exactly why, but suffice to say there are no loos on our route (you might not want to be too close to us at the end, we won't be exactly fragrent).

I've had an osteopath's appointment today, which has hopefully solved the aches in my lower back - I'll actually be paddling right past his front door at about 7am on sunday morning, so have suggested if I'm hurting I might get him to come to Molesy lock for a quick bit of manipulation before I do the final 3 - 4 hours. We have another night-time paddle to do tomorrow night - just a gentle jaunt to check the new pump is working and that my fixings for the kit in the boat is working. And then it's Friday.

Friday will be a mixing drinks/cooking and preparing food and packing day. We'll be setting out for Devizes at 6am and should be on the water at 9.56am. Progress can be monitored on the DW website - www.dwrace.org.uk click on the 'follow the race' link on the 1st page. We're doing the 24 hour race and are number 434.

Seventeen weeks of training, illness, food poisoning and racing is about to come to an end. I'm still terrified about stepping into the unknown on Saturday and pushing myself beyond my normal limits. If we don't make it, then I know it will be because of a good reason - we have agreed that tiredness is no excuse. We are both comparative beginners at paddling, having only been paddling for 18-24 months, but where there is a will, there's a way. And we will be giving this race our very best effort. Think of us on Saturday and 25 hours later through to Sunday at 11am!
 
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