|Pic by Ian Corless - Packed by RC|
Lyric:- 'Clean shirt, new shoes, and I don't know where I am goin' to' - Beard, Hill & Gibbons
Song Choice:- Well you can't beat a bit of ZZ Top out there in the desert to brighten up your day and the song is a perfect refection for today's blog. If you've forgotten just how good the Rockers from Houston were btw well check them out here.
Over the last couple of days, I've been asked lots of times about how to get the most out of the six weeks leading up to this year's Marathon des Sables which starts on Sunday, April 10th, as folk are getting nervous with just 45 days to go.
The easy answer is to say 'Well, all the training should already be in the bank and all you need to do is to stay healthy and keep on running as you have been, tapering down slightly to race day'. T
Then again, it's not that simple as there are still some folk that are still coming to terms with what they've let themselves in for and they will be taking there heads out of the sand just before they step over the start line...Of course that's their prerogative and everyone gets to the start line in their own individual way. I bet everyone though will say that they could have done more and that's only a natural thing to say but here's what I think about the next 45 days approach...
I always ask folk how much in % they think they will improve before the race and the how much in % they believe they can cock it up. The answers are usually less than 10% and 100% respectively, which is about right as it's dead easy to train in a mad panic and get to the start line feeling tired or carrying a nasty niggle. The race is hard enough without having to be on a go-slow due to some last minute MdS madness.
You see, back in the 50's coaching was all about building up the base miles followed by a period of sharpening up prior to race day, it still works today of course and I'm a great fan of this for my performance athletes for whom it works perfectly. For the MdS though, people have constraints of time and ambition and there's a spectral dichotomy of competitors but what they all can do, me included I believe, is to sharpen their approach and put in some weekly hill runs and run in the sand dunes in the UK so the Saharan Sand doesn't come so much as a shock on the first day. I can't believe that folk run their first steps in sand on Day 1.
The other sharpening is down to pack weight and bodyweight management as both again .can make a massive difference on how your race goes. One lady I knew of at the Grand2Grand last year weighing in at 45kgs took an 11kgs pack and not surprisingly lasted just a day by getting massive blisters from the pack overload. Yesterday, one of my clients looking for the top 10 at the MdS this year turned up yesterday with an 8kgs pack full of 'Just-in-Cases'. Yikes! Stripping out the extra 2kgs was easy though as the huge roll of Gaffa-Tape and Tube of 500 Handy Cable-Ties certainly aren't essential race gear if you ask me. Pack-Cullingat this time of year is now a regular part of my job leading up to the race and there's no reason for anyone to be much over the 6.5kgs limit whether you are running or walking in my opinion. Those extra kgs just mean you are out in the sun longer, rather than in your tent enjoying the 'crack' and recovering for the next day. If you aren't sure whether you need something or not, just ask me and I'll tell you.
Add to this some sharpening of your diet in the last few weeks and you are onto a bit of a preparation winner. There's no point in shaving off the head of a toothbrush if you are still whacking down the quarter-pounders and copious amounts of wine worrying about the race. I'm looking to knock a couple more kgs off my waistline as I know a sub 80kgs Coleman runs a lot further than one weighing 82kgs, just cleaning up your diet can do this.
Feeling lean, with a light pack having sharpened up your diet and your running will give you a massive psychological boost on the start-line and you'll be able to enjoy your 'Running Holiday' rather than it being a week long slog in the sand. I've done that and it's a lot tougher being 1100th than 150th I can tell you...
And lastly, whatever you do in these last few weeks, make sure you enjoy it as it could be the fittest you've been for years and enjoy being a 'Sharp Dressed Man' or 'Sharp Dressed Woman' as everyone will love you.
965 Marathons - 240 Ultras - 12 Marathon des Sables - 9 Guinness World Records - 8085 Days Dry