Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Namib Desert Challenge: Stage 3

Third stage, done. We’re over halfway now, which is a nice thought.

Let’s see... The start of today’s stage was different to that of four years ago. I remember starting at the top of a valley... today we were on a jeep track heading into a valley. At first glace the track looked all cool with decent terrain underfoot most of the way. Except that it was slightly up; so slight that most of you wouldn’t term it up, but we feel it now. I probably ran for about 25 minutes before my first walk... yesterday it was an hour-odd, as was the day before.

I hooked up with Joe, my companion from the last stretch yesterday, and we did the run-walk thing together. With many bushes around we’d run from bush to bush. Joe got into the groove too, calling “Bush to bush” or “Bush to tree”. It’s quite fun and we make steady progress.

And then, up ahead, we saw our Greek Champion, Argi, running towards us! He said he’d run all the way to the buildings at the end of the road (and top of the valley) and hadn’t seen any signs. He’d turned around but on his way back to us he didn’t see the following trio of Marius, Stephan and Asa so he knew they must have turned off somewhere.

Within a few minutes a bunch of us had collected. Out came the phones to get hold of Terry. By this time we were moving forward again as none of us had noticed a track leading off. Terry said that about 500m before the buildings there was a sign pointing to a track on our right. Within a short distance we noticed some stones across the road. Argi had just left our group and was about 50m ahead. I looked to the side and found the pink direction arrow face down, the stick to which it was attached broken in half. We whistled for Argi and brought him back to us and the track we were to take.

I thought the stick looked a bit gnawed buy discounted it, thinking instead that maybe a car had driven over the sign, breaking the stick. Terry and Nel went to check it out and seems the consensus is that something like a h.y.a.e.n.a. gave the arrow a gnaw. Nel said he found another arrow ahead of the runners that was AWOL. Perhaps hyaenas like pink?

The track we turned on to I enjoyed, because it was gently downhill. And, Argi was running with us for a bit. I’d said to him last night that he should start three hours after us so that he can not only enjoy the heat of the day but also so that we can see him in action. He just laughed.

We hit waterpoint 1 after about 15km and I downed some Leopard Piss and iced tea. I’d been feeling hungry so I also munched some salted crackers from my backpack and a plum and two cookies from the waterpoint. Needless to say, I waddled off and had to walk for a bit to let all the liquid and munchies descent. I’d taken a bit too much onboard. Joe and Dave left the waterpoint just ahead and they were gaining ground quickly as I was walking and they were running. The other Dave (English one) was just ahead of them.

The one thing about knowing people are just ahead of you is that it becomes a game and focus to catch them. I started to feel human again after about 4km and so I started the chase.

I first caught English Dave. He’d been walking for a while and I overtook him. Behind me I think he hopped on to my run-walk game because he got to the waterpoint no more than a minute after. 

English Dave with stone arrow
We’d gained ground on Dave and Joe – they were leaving waterpoint 2 as we approached. This section had been on a fairly decent track – some sand but mostly rocky. Small rocks. You’ve got to watch every foot step but it is way nicer than thick, energy-sapping sand.

English Dave and I stuck together after waterpoint 2. He liked my run-walk game and he was good company.

The route gets interesting from waterpoint 2 as it winds first on a track and then across a riverbed (one big and a few smaller) and into some interesting rocky features. Here Dave and I caught Charles, who said that he’d run the first 25km and now was most definitely walking through to the finish. He’s dealing with some blisters, which were obviously giving him trouble. And then we caught Joe, just before the section where we head cross-country, as-the-crow-flies, to the third and final waterpoint, which we could see about 4.5km away in the distance.

Photo opportunity just before we caught Charles and Joe.
Most of the morning had been relatively mild. And by mild I’m talking about 32C. It’s mild compared to 42C, which we’ve been experiencing. Asking around the table this evening most reckon that they probably drank about 6 litres today vs 8 litres yesterday.

The three of us trekked over dry, grassy tussocks and rocky ground to the waterpoint just in time to see Dave (from yesterday) leaving. 

Grassy, rocky ground. More grassy and rocky in most sections except where I took this photo...
More Leopard’s Piss and iced tea and we were off, knowing we only had 6km to the finish.

Leaving WP3. Only 6km to go... (turned out to be about 4.5km). Yay!
Run, walk, run, walk, run, walk and we were there! We really did well over this last section. Great feeling. I forgot to stop my timer but I think we covered the 44km distance in about 6h30.

My companions- Joe (blue) and English Dave (orange).
Later I chatted to Marius who said, “As Argi so kindly missed the turn and ran extra distance, I won the stage”. He ran about 4hrs. It’s a nice one for him regardless as he has run so well each day, coming in second to fleet-footed Argi. “I was looking over my shoulder the whole time,” he says, “just wondering when Argi was going to catch me.”

Second was Asa, then Argi and then Stephan. Argi was obviously frustrated when we met up with him but he chased hard and is in good spirits.

A few thoughts on management and maintenance at this stage of the race, where we’ve covered about 135km in three of the five stages.

Staged racing is very much about taking care of yourself from day 1. If you don’t drink enough, eat enough or take care of your feet and body then you’ll feel it later on. Maybe not that day or the next but it will get you. Simple.
There are blistered feet around and injured toenails. I haven’t really been keeping an eye on people to see what they’re doing. I just hope that they’re doing something. A big mistake is waiting until the end of a stage to deal with blisters that develop before the first waterpoint. Management is within the run as much as at the end of the day’s stage.
I’ve got a couple of management habits, developed over many years.

During the stage I’ll deal with any blisters as best as possible. Yesterday my little piggy toe on the left started to feel a bit off. I haven’t had a blister under it for ages but it usually results when the little toe makes a triangle shape, which it had been doing. So, I drained the small blister and put a bandaid around it, aiming to prevent it getting worse. Also, when it is hot like this I like to powder my feet quickly at the waterpoints. Just baby powder. It acts as an anti-perspirant keeping the skin dry (reducing moisture) and it also acts as a lubricant – providing a smooth barrier for skin to slide easily over skin (preventing friction). I haven’t had to deal with much more than this.

Then, when I get back to camp I shower, being sure to scrub my feet clean – between the toes too, which is where fine sand loves to settle. Then I check out my feet, remove tape, massage them (stimulate circulation) and also massage my legs with arnica oil.

In checking out my feet this afternoon I noticed a slight blister under the big toenail on my left foot. I hadn’t even felt it but this is a nasty that has the potential to be incredibly painful on the long stage tomorrow. I drilled into the base of the toenail using a syringe needle, which is bevelled at the bottom. Before you grimace at the thought of the pain, know that it isn’t sore at all because the needle only goes through the nail (no nerves) and doesn’t touch the nailbed (nerves) because the nail is essentially floating on the fluid-filled blister. Relief is immediate as the fluid empties. There are two types of toenail blisters, this is one of them. I’ll save you from the details of the second – for now. I’ll add some tape in the morning to secure the toenail and limit movement.

While I’m massaging my legs I’m eating my noodles and drinking more electrolyte solution.

Then I spend the rest of the time sitting with my feet on a chair. Prive #1 would be to lie in my tent with my feet elevated but it is too hot.

Before I go to sleep I drain any blisters, massage again – feet and legs, have another glug of electrolyte solution, pop two myprodol and pull on compression socks. Then I sleep with my feet elevated.

Ah, the other thing is chaffing. I often chafe on my back, under my sports bra. On day 1 I taped the spot where it rubs under the closure. Yesterday I added another piece of tape under where the straps criss-cross. Today my backpack was rubbing my lower back. Not quite a chafe. I kept moving my pack so it wasn’t sitting in the same spot. Christine says she had the same today. Certainly a result of salty, gritty clothing and a wiggling dirty, sandy, sweaty backpack.

Tomorrow is the BIG day. 55km. I heard this evening that we’ve got a 15-20km section on the tar road (or just next to the tar road, which will be cooler) leading in to the finish. Arrrggghhh! That sounds long and hot!

Till then...


chris w said...

Well done Lisa! Sounds like you're having an awesome time!

thirtydegree said...

You're doing so well Lisa! I'm catching up on your blog updates regularly during the NDC13. Hope to be doing it myself next year! Taking in all the pointers and gems of information you have to share. Keep it coming.

Jonathan Thompson said...

Ja it looks you are doing well.
All that experience moving you up the field.
Multiple days.
Enjoy and go well

Unknown said...

Just wanted to let you know I am following your Namib Desert Challenge and it is awesome! Thanks for sharing the experience with us!

Lobby said...

Great going L, seems like you're having fun and enjoying the experience. Good luck for big stage!