Thursday, 29 March 2012

Thank you Donors

A massive thank you to everyone who has shown support through your donations. As of this evening, you have contributed just shy of $6,000! I've been bowled over by your generosity, very admirable. Thank you! This means we've already raised enough to build our first well. Very exciting!

Thank you Endura

I'm planning to do update the blog properly at the weekend, just wanted to say a couple of quick thank yous. Firstly, a huge Thank You to Jason Stephenson, National Sales Manager at Endura. When I contacted Jason and told him what I was up to, he sent me through a big box full of goodies - see below!

The Endura Rehydration formula was something that Nick Thomson had tipped me off about so I knew that this was a 'must have'. I'm planning to try it out on Saturday so I feel a bit more confident taking it with me. I'm also planning to try 'Endura Optimiser'. With this stuff I've got a much better chance of getting through the event without cramping or dehydration - happy days! Thank you to Jason and all at Endura for their support.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Australian Fitness Network

Just a note to thank Oli Kitchingman, editor at Australian Fitness Network, for running my story about the MDS on his site - you can read it here.

Thanks Oli!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Sunday long run

I got out at 6 this morning and ran up to work and then back to North Sydney Olympic Pool - about a 30km round trip. I had very little weight in my pack so the run was fairly easy.

Though I'm not a strong swimmer (I am in fact useless, can barely paddle and get overtaken by people twice my age) I know that cross-training is important, especially for the last month, so I laboured through 20 lengths. It felt good to cool my legs in the water after the run.

What really kept me moving was a Peanut Protein Bounce Ball from Bounce Foods. They weigh 42g and contain 209 kcal and 14g protein. Due to the high protein and calorie-to-weight ratio, they're great fuel for long runs and will form a key part of my nutrition plan in the desert. They also taste great and go down easily.
I wrote to the guys at Bounce Foods this week to let them know what I was doing and why I was doing it and to see if they would be willing to get involved. Within about 10 minutes of hitting 'send' on my email, one of Bounce's founders, Andy Hannagan mailed me back to pledge his support!

A couple of emails later and Bounce have agreed to send me a load of their products for free. How good is that? I'm afraid to add up all the costs I've incurred undertaking this event and as I'm a long way from being a professional athlete, getting sponsorship from a company like Bounce is awesome. Aside from the financial aspect, it's also really encouraging to feel that other people get what you're doing and are happy to support you.

Thank you Andy and all at Bounce Foods!  

Heat Acclimatisation

Exercising in 25°C is very different from exercising in 50°C. So unless you live in a very hot climate, heat acclimatisation is an absolutely fundamental part of training for the MDS or in fact any other desert endurance event.

After reading Dr. Mike Stroud’s “Survival Of The Fittest: The Anatomy of Peak Physical Performance”, a few key facts that jumped out about how the human body acclimatises to heat. (Mike Stroud is a pretty amazing character; with Ranulph Fiennes he made the first unsupported crossing of the Antarctic continent, he’s an expert in human endurance and also a previous MDS runner.)

Based on reading, my main takeaways were:
  1. The human body can acclimatise in as little as 10 days. By spending an hour per day for 10 days in high heat, capacity to sweat is nearly doubled and sweat is more diluted, contains less sodium.
  2. Excess body fat is a liability because the specific heat of fat is greater than muscles. Further the insulatory property of fat retards the conduction of heat to the periphery. Finally the fat person has a smaller body surface area to mass ratio for the evaporation of sweat compared to a smaller person.

With this in mind, I decided that there a few things I need to do to make sure I’m in good shape for the MDS.
  1. Bikram yoga. I got up at 04:30 on Friday to attend my first Bikram yoga class at Northside at Lane Cove. The class is 90 minutes long and involves stretching and strengthening exercises at a temperature of about 40°. It was an excellent workout and great heat training. I’ve signed up for a one month membership and am planning to go before or after work at least 4 times per week. It’s actually on the route I run to work so provided I’m not travelling interstate; I should be able to fit it in fairly easily with my schedule.
  2. Sauna. We have a sauna in our building, for the last 10 days before I leave, I plan to have a sauna for approx. 60 minutes each day.
  3. Lose some body fat. Due to the detrimental effect it has on keeping cool, I need to shed a few kilos of fat. I’ve been telling myself that keeping some fat on my stomach will be a useful reserve in the desert but I think the truth is that I enjoy pizza and am looking for excuses to keep eating it. This next month I need to a bit more disciplined with diet.

New Life

While I was playing in the sand, Melon, my sister-in-law was coming to the end of an epic labour; she finally gave birth to a beautiful girl weighing 3.4kg. Blain went to Canberra after work on Friday and was there with the family for most of it and for the birth. She picked me up with mum on Sunday morning and when I asked her if she was still keen to be a mum, she suggested that we adopt... I'm not sure if she was kidding... 

Sand Dune Training

It seems like a while ago, but it was just last Saturday (25th Feb) that we did our dune training day. Unfortunately Owen couldn’t make it, so it was me and Nick driving up from Sydney, meeting Gary there.
As we all had other commitments over the weekend, we decided to go up just for the day, it meant an early start. I was up just after 4 to get the 5am train to Hornsby, Nick was chauffeur for the day and picked me up from the station for the two and a half hour drive up to Stockton. We left the car at Des and Rachel’s and were greeted by Gary on the sand at 9.

Wanting to make the weight a bit more realistic than before, I’d copied Nick and loaded my pack up with about 15kg. A whole new ball game! I actually found it pretty hard just standing up with a 15kg pack, never mind running. We had big ideas about bounding through the dunes, but it didn’t really happen. We managed a rather pathetic shuffle for a while but the combination of the weight on our backs, the soft sand and the steep inclines meant that walking was the best we could do for most of the day.

On the uphill stretches, depending on how loose the sand was, I often had to use my hands to scrabble up and over the crest of each dune. Downhill was a lot more fun. While it wasn’t too warm (less than 30°C), the wind was pretty fierce and whipped sand into our faces – that was tough. In the Sahara, it’s very possible that we’ll get caught in a sandstorm or two. On my optional kit list, is an all-in-one painter suit; made of light fabric, which keeps you from getting sandblasted. After some consideration, I’ve decided not to take one. Aside from the extra cost (they’re not expensive but all the small things add up), there’s also the extra weight and packing space required. I think they’re a luxury item…I can tell you next month whether this was a wise decision!

As we were travelling back the same day, we were off the sand by a very civilized 5pm. After grabbing a quick cold shower on the beach, we limped back for a beer with Des and Rachel before heading back to Sydney.
Des and Rachel are hospitality personified! Greeted with 3 sour-smelling chaps who’d spent the day playing in the sand and eating walnuts, they invited us to cool down in their pool, freshen-up in their shower and then proceeded to cook us steaks! Rachel had prepared made a couple of side salads and also baked a cake. All delicious and much needed. How lucky were we? I must have done some good stuff in a past life…

We hit the road again just as the sun was going down. Nick had borrowed his mum-in-law’s car, a flashy convertible, so we camped it up with the roof down for an hour or so until we hit the freeway. I got to Hornsby a little after 9 and was home before 10:30.

While it was a long day, it was certainly worth it to build some confidence in how to handle the dunes. If I could sum up the best approach in three words, ‘slow and steady’. It’s very easy to lose gear in the dunes, especially when the wind is up. Even worse, you can lose your footing and maybe turn an ankle; as ‘Dune Day’ is normally near the beginning of the MDS, you’d be suffering badly all week for any mistakes made on that day. While you could crawl the last few kilometres to the finish, I reckon the sharp rocks mean that you crawling for much more than that would be out of the question. Take it easy!