Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Packing for Nam.

I'm off to Namibia on Saturday for the 5th Namib Desert Challenge, a 230-kilometre, five-day staged foot race.

I fly into Windhoek on Sat and I'm staying at a B&B near the hotel from where the race bus departs on Sunday. We drive to Soussusvlei -  a long, long drive - and we start running on Monday.

Daily distances
Monday: 42km
Tuesday: 46km
Wednesday: 44km
Thursday: 56km
Friday: 28km

What I most remember from then I ran the inaugural edition of this race in 2009 was the incredible variety in terrain. Rocky hills, open plains and, of course, the desert dunes. I really loved seeing gemsbok out there. There's a nice description of the terrain of each stage on the race website.

As always I haven't done any specific training for this run. I just jump in and do it. My training through Dec, Jan and into mid-Feb was solid and I've been running steady and well with nice mileage weeks. In the week of tagging the routes for Forest Run (two weeks ago) I spent about 26 hours on my feet over three days - and about 80km. That was good for my feet. This week I'm just ticking over with 6-8km local runs.

With races like this I find the first day to be the hardest and I usually enjoy the longest day the most.

I've been short on sleep for a couple of weeks and on the go non-stop so this week I'm taking care to chill out and to sleep good, full nights. Luckily I have a low-intensity week on the work front, which helps.

We sleep in tents provided by race organisation and they will also hang on to our sleeping rolls and sleeping bags - fortunately we don't have to carry these with us.

We do have to carry any and all clothing with us throughout the race. I've decided to go with 3/4 tights, a short-sleeved top and armies for my race attire - topped off by my wide-brimmed hat. The more skin that can be covered up, the better. Plus, of course, sunblock and shades. My mom has made me quite a funky pair of desert gaiters, which will easily deal with the sand.

For post-run I've packed a pair of shorts (light weight) and a tee for sitting around in. I'll sleep in these too. I've also got a long-sleeved thermal as it can get chilly in the wee hours of morning - especially when your body's thermostat goes a bit wonky after a long day of running and high temperatures.

I love having fresh socks each day but this time I'll only pack in three pairs... I'll wash used socks each day. Same goes with undies and only two crop tops.

There's the usual stuff to pack like space blanket, knife, whistle, headlamp, compass etc. In addition I'll take a trekking pole. While two are nice I've usually got something in a hand - map / route instructions / food.

I've got my small race camera packed too. That's probably it for gadgets...

And then there's the question of two-litre water reservoirs...

My old faithful Camelbak bladder, which I've had for about eight years, has a little hole. I'm going to try to patch it and will test it over the next few days. What concerns me is that the Camelbak bladder is old nowThis bladder weighs only 127g. The newer Nalgene bladder, from an Osprey backpack, clocks in at 328g - that's 200g more just for a water container!

My mom has my three-litre reservoir stashed somewhere. I'll weigh it when I get my hands of it. This one will definitely be lighter than the Nalgene-Osprey so it could be worth taking it but then only filling to the volume that I need...

I haven't decided on which backpack to use but I'm sure it will be my faithful Salomon backpack, which has been everywhere with me since 2006 (and I had exactly the same model in a different colour previously - ordered from the US in 2002). My other old 'n faithful 15l-expandable Salomon pack is probably going to be too small. I'll test once all my goodies are together.

We're being spoilt this year as dinner is provided. So we only have to pack in breakfast, during-the-run munchies and lunch. We only have to carry each day's food; not everything for the five days. This really lightens our loads. I haven't been strict on the weight of my foods; I'm on around 760g/day.

I've gone with an add-water cereal (with protein powder) for breakfast and two-minute noodles for lunch (one packet is too little, two is too much so I've got 1.5 packets/lunch). Snacks include my usual salty favourites like cornnuts, salticrax crackers and nuts with dried fruit (mango and home-dried banana) and a scattering of sweeties. I always pack sweeties but I rarely eat them; so there are just a few for each day.

I do like gels so there are some of these packed too. Howz this... I go shopping yesterday and I usually go for the Vooma gels. I like the taste of the peach one and they're usually around R11 each. I'm not into gels that are chocolate, strawberry, mocha and other such flavours. Anyway, there was not one of my Vooma usuals to be found; only what looks like their new extra boosted one (more fancy and expensive too) in the revolting flavours of chocolate something and mocha something. *retch*

To my surprise I found the PVM Octane gels, which I used to love but could never get my hands on. At R18.95 they're pricey, especially considering that the imported gels are the same price! I treated myself to two of the citrus (green) flavoured ones.

I then moved over to the Gu offering. Same-same there; also at R18.95/gel. Then, to my delight, I found the Gu Chomps, which I first tasted at the TransRockies Run in Colorado in August 2009. I wouldn't have bought them before because they're also pricey but at R35 for a sachet, which contains two servings of Chomps, it works out a little cheaper than gels. The texture of this gummy sweet is good and the flavours are not too sweet.

It is expected to be hot. Hotter than it was in 2009 when we were blessed with unseasonably mild conditions. It's 32C at Soussousvlei as I type this and expected to hit 36C on Friday and then cooling down into the high 20s during next week.

At the moment sunrise is only just after 7am and sunset just after 7pm. We'll have full moon on Wed, 27th. That's going to be amazing.

I will be writing from the race daily and posting pics. I'm sure I'll get some fabulous photos. Can't help but get great photos in this part of the world.

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