The morning’s routine followed the same pattern as previous days with the marked exception of the taping of my feet – a task not to be underestimated in terms of complexity and time needed to do it. It took best part of an hour, and from here on this was an addition to my admin at the start of each stage.
|The sharp end of the pack.|
After the previous day I was quite nervous about this stage, most notably how my feet would hold up to another day of punishing terrain and temperatures. As it turned out, I really enjoyed the stage and it was a great confidence booster, which was really welcome just before the long stage. I hardly saw my tent-mates all day apart from right at the end of the day when I caught sight of Rich and Andy about 3 or 4 km from the end. Neither of them saw me however, and both set off at a trot to the finish which I couldn’t manage. So I was last in the tent, but only just.
|Enjoying the day - it's a smile, honest!|
The temperatures today were far more manageable than the first two stages. This was probably due to the high winds which blew pretty much all day. I kept a constant pace up all day covering some spectacular and varied terrain. After a flat first 12km to CP1 we headed up to a climb to the top of Jebel Zireg and then over about 5km of sandy hills , through a valley, up over some more hills and steep descents to CP2. We then had a smaller lake bed to cross than yesterday, with the added excitement of a true sandstorm blowing. Visibility was down to a few metres and finding the exit point between two sets of cliffs was nigh on impossible. After that it was about 7km through a valley which offered some shelter from the wind, and across a stony plateau to the bivouac which was again very slow in coming towards me as I continued to tick off the kilometres.
|Visibility drops in a sandstorm.|
Once in the tent the wind really got up and blew a sandstorm from mid afternoon until well into the night. Everything was covered in sand, it was in our eyes, throats, food, sleeping bags and shoes. Despite my enjoyment of the day my feet were still a bit of a mess so I had to brave the elements to get them sorted again. I’d also picked up some kind of rash underneath my gaiters and shoes which was really itchy and blistered. The medics’ diagnosed “sand rash” in what seemed like a bit of a generic definition. Their solution was a cream applied liberally and being told to stay out of the sand, which would have been fine had I not have been in a desert in the middle of a sandstorm. As soon as I stepped outside the sand simply stuck to the cream and remained there until the next morning.
|The race was taking its toll on my feet.|
The sandstorm also prevented many of us from sleeping very much at all ahead of the long stage the following day, hardly ideal preparation.
|Sandstorm blowing all night. Rubbish.|