Once again as the sun rose, so did we. I was pretty comfortable with the routine of camp life and settled into it early on. I ran through a quick audit – I slept pretty well, my legs felt ok, my hips were tight but loosened up after some stretching, I was reasonably hydrated but my feet weren’t great. Another small blister had filled up on my little toe overnight to accompany the one on my heel that I’d treated the night before. I could also feel some hot spots when my feet went into my trainers. Keen to minimise the damage over the course of the week I set about sorting them out and taping them where they needed it. This seemed to help a lot and they weren’t painful inside my trainers.
It was quite fresh early on, the sandstorm the previous evening seemingly having cleared the air a little. However, the race organisers had it on good authority that today was going to be a hot one, so we were informed that the race start would be brought forward by 30 minutes and we would get extra water at CP3 – 29km in. Given how hot it was on stage 1, I started to get nervous. How would my water last if it was hotter? Would my feet hold up? Today was also our first proper foray into the larger dunes.
The start followed the same pattern as the day before, only with people looking less fresh and some definitely not as cheerful. The helicopters and AC/DC track blasting at the start of the day was a constant throughout the week however.
Rich had struggled the previous day in the heat and so we decided to set off together for this stage and, along with James from our tent we marched to CP1 at 12km in about 2 hours. At the check point I checked my foot – the tape from the morning had simply come off in my sock so I spent a few minutes re-taping it. James continued onwards, and Rich and I followed a few minutes later. We crossed some “small dunes” which went on for about 4km. The wind had started to pick up, as had the temperature. There was no sensation of sweating at all however. My brow, my arms, even my back under my pack were bone dry, but it was obvious that the sweat was leaching out all over me as my top was streaked with white rivers of salt and I was again struggling to make my water last between check points.
From CP2 the route headed almost due south for around 10km across a dried up lake bed. We’d been going about 3 and a half hours by now and it was noon. The heat was intolerable, the terrain was unforgiving and the surroundings were pretty boring too. All of this conspired to make it one of the toughest 10kms I’ve ever done. We were told when we finally got back to camp that the temperature had reached around 52 degrees Celcius on that lake bed during the time we were there. My feet paid a heavy price for being asked to trek across such a hostile environment.
Eventually the lake bed came to an end and we arrived at CP3 where we were to be given 2 bottles of water instead of the planned one. Rich and I sat in the shade of one of the tents and I drank the best part of a litre of water there and then. I checked over my feet again, but despite the pain they were in there didn’t appear to be much more I could do with them. I found some discarded water and used it to douse my Buff and hat to act as a cooler and thinking I felt much better we set off, having spent over 10 minutes at the check-point.
Anyone who has taken part in an ultra-marathon or other endurance event will be familiar with the concept of highs and lows during an event. You can be on cloud 9 and feeling invincible one minute and the next can barely move, and vice-versa. These oscillations are part of the events we choose to take part in, but even though I know all that and have had my fair share of lows and highs in races, the final 10km of the day proved to be a pretty big low. My legs felt ok, and not too tired, but the heat had just sapped my energy and the pain from my feet was getting serious. I then started to focus on other areas which hurt – I was getting some rubbing on my inner arm from it swinging against my rucksack pockets, my thumbs felt like they were blistering from the walking poles and I felt a bit burnt on the backs of my arms. None of this did much to raise my mood, and I’m sure Rich had a thoroughly un-enjoyable couple of hours accompanying me home. We were back in the sand dunes before we got back to camp too, which only served to slow us up and cause frustration that we had been out so long. Having said that, they were pretty spectacular and far nicer than the lake bed.
Once over the line I was very relieved, and very beaten up, but I made a special effort to wave to the web cam for everyone at home. I went through the same routine as the day before – recovery shake, re-hydration salts and some food and then looked at my feet. These were a little out of my league today so I headed off to the medical tent. Initially I was given a scalpel, some iodine and some dressings and told to sit in the tent and sort them out. However, I was struggling to reach some of them and concerned that I would do more harm than good, so I opted to go to the much feared Doc Trotters – the medical staff who accompany the race. As it turned out there wasn’t that much to fear – yes the iodine hurt when it went into the cut open blisters, but it’s that odd kind of “it’s doing me good” kind of pain and the lovely Ludevine who tended to my damaged feet was very considerate. I was sent on my way with blue plastic shoe covers like you get at the swimming pool over my feet and a bundle of tape to fix my feet up in the morning once the blisters had had the chance to dry out overnight.
|Ludevine trying not to hurt me with open blisters and iodine.|
Feeling better for having had the medical attention, I returnd to the tent and finished my foodand got to bed. A limited email circulation today, but to be fair I hadn't felt like emailing home either.