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Some more MDS flavor

April 23, 2009

teamrw-27It was very special to run with (read: being overtaken by) the legend marco olmo, 61, (2 time winner of UTMB, 06 and 07). He is like a machine, very steady pace, very light footed.

At the beginning (the first 2-3 hrs) of the long stage (91 K) I was running behind a big spanish guy with tattoes everywhere, they even did a documentary about him, so I guess he was kind of famous, and a pretty good runner, but appearently he got airlifted from CP 3. I don’t know what happened to him.

It was quite cold at night, I used all my clothes for sleeping, including arm warmers, buff and windbreaker.

Since we got an extra day before race start there was one day more for stripping weight from the pack, a pair of scissors is a good pre-race tool. Here are a few examples of how some runners cut down on weight:
– making sandals out of insoles (i had flip-flops, very thin ones)
– skipping mattress (not me)
– skipping toothbrush (not me)
– skipping emballages (ex. you don need a tube with sunscreen cream, you just need a squeeze into a small plastic bag – i used this method a lot)
– skipping warm clothes (not me)
– skipping stove (me – each tent always made a small fire for cooking)
– skipping fuel (not me but it would have been a good idea since there was plenty of fire wood)
– skipping gaiters (not me)
– throwing stuff during the race (one guy threw away his solar charger, approx 100 g, before the long stage, in order to get a lighter pack, I picked it up and kept it)

One of the better runners, the slovenian mountain runner Anton, came 4th overall, but he was a novice multiday runner, starting the race with a 12 kilo (!!!) pack.

The course was very rocky, I would definitely recommend trail shoes with protective outsole.

You spend all day long after each stage in the tent or strolling around the camp but in a way it’s very relaxing, lying down in the shade, resting, talking, eating, fixing stuff, repairs, blisters etc.

It’s hard to decide wheather the desert is beautiful or ugly, just a lot of sand and rocks, but after a while you discover another beauty: it’s soo silent, and the landscape is soo vast and open.

During the long stage we were given light sticks to attach on our packs to be easier spotted in the darkness. A kid chased me for a while, he wanted so much to have it. He didn’t listen, I finally had to shout at him “arret!” (stop!).

Being cut off from the outer world all we had were thoughts, pain, conversations, digestion problems, snooring and rumours. One day there was a rumour of a very dangerous snake in one of the Italian tents, and I heard there was also a dangerous spider in another tent. Early on there was the rumour of the 7 Brittish guys who were left behind in the flooded Camp 1, who had to get up on their feet in the middle of the night since there weren’t any dry spots left on the ground for sleeping.

Only 37 withdraw from the race, out of 800 something. Considering how many runners I saw hobbeling aroung with very bad feet after only 2 days, there must have been some serious amounts of suffering in this race.

Many participants walked the whole race, doing it primarly for the adventure. I met a few guys who realized during the race that they actually didn’t like running, and that they would take up another sport when they came back home.

Why the race is difficult?
Heavy packs, loose sand, lots of small and sharp rocks, tired legs, stomach problems, blisters, knee problems, windy, hot, stiff legs.

Why do it?
Because it’s there, just like there are mountains or seas to experience closely. The desert is a special place and this race offer an oportunity to have a “little adventure” in Sahara, and get away from the daily routine, while doing something extraordinary. If you like running, even better.

Photo: Marc Louboutin

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