It’s all happening

In true style, it never rains when it pours. Though we have been getting a few breaks in the weather recently which is really appreciated.

The Catkins are out, so Spring must be just round the corner
The Catkins are out, so Spring must be just round the corner

At least some parts of Coed y Brenin are starting show signs of Spring even though there is still a lot of damage around and about from windblown trees. I’m really conscious of the days getting longer. 5am runs aren’t dark as long and the evening is lengthening too. I know this as I can put the recycling bins out on a Wednesday night, after the girls have eaten, in the light.

As a few niggles have been easing off I’ve been finding time to get out on my feet and on my bike again. Really focussing on good quality cardio, but also sorting good running technique and overall recovery.

I’m pretty confident in my physical condition at the moment – in that I know I am physically capable of finishing the race. But I am slightly worried about my mental preparation. That’ll be tweaked for the next four weeks and I’m sure I’ll get it right.

I spent a very useful couple of hours with an MdS veteran who gave me some valuable top tips, and helped me visualise some of the things that I might face.

As he said, the Marathon des Sables is 60% mental toughness. One foot in front of the other and you’ll get to the end. The other 40% is in your mind. That’ll tell you heaps about the mindset needed to finish the race. Even after having most of his sole removed on day 2, Nigel still finished the race – oh, with his urine being the colour of black coffee. That might have been as a result of popping CoCodamol like they’re Smarties. Whatever the reason, I can’t wait!

It’s useful to know the final shopping list to get. And to relax about some of the things that were set in my mind as problems, that aren’t.

Mock up of my race number
Mock up of my race number

I also got my race number, 542. A few friends on Facebook came up with some of the unique qualities of the number. It’s the totient function of the integer values of numbers to 41 (!) it’s the number of a very good threadlock, and it’s the number printed on 1mg Rohypnol. It’s nice to have the number early; from outside the race there is a lot of information – stage times, CP positions, but also webcam footage and stage finish camera’s. I’ll write more about all this in the days to come.

 

29 days to go – it really is the final countdown now!

Starting to sweat the small stuff – but now with good help

Just recently a friend who I’ve had some amazing adventures with wrote to me and said

I’m pretty sure you must be getting excited/apprehensive by now.  Think the small details will probably matter more to you than me, and I bet a lot hinges on getting those tiny details just right.  You were always good at that though; more of a fine brush artist compared to my broad strokes!

Funnily, I’d be looking at everything in massive strokes, and am really only just getting down to the detail.

Fortunately I’ve been looking after a good few things as part of my, that are the detail so my list is pretty short and seems surmountable. Even though someone helpfully posted that it’s less than 1000 hours now before we jump on the plane. Ooof.

One of those detailed items is nutrition – fuelling the body. Because I have to carry my food for the event, calorie to weight is an essential consideration. I’m lucky that I’ve been looking at this for a while, tested items in events and training and am now pretty confident that my final details are getting sorted. A more detailed blog to follow.

Trail food is a real pick me up, and having something that picks you up psychologically is as important as the nutritional value. Having considered and tested fat and nuts for a long distance rowing project and woofed down chicken curry with Mars bars melted in I can definitely testify to food fuelling a campaign like this.

I was introduced to Bounce Balls about 7 months ago, and was initially hesitant. However, feeding my body with good quality, balanced natural food is essential. When pushing the body hard recovery is an essential part of training. I’ve found for the last 6 months. Bounce natural energy balls are a really convenient way to fit quality calories into a 5 meal a day eating plan. This has become really important whilst looking at weight management. The balance of protein, fat and carbohydrate is perfect and the various tastes are delicious. They are absolutely perfect when I want a treat and are really filling. I’ve also found that they are well packaged for training food. I choose to eat them through rest cycles, and they immediately stop rumbling stomachs.

As well as using them day to day for training, I will be using Bounce Balls for breakfast during the event.

You’ll spot Bounce products in a number of high street retailers or you can but them online. I really recommend giving them a go. Look out for the logo!

Bounce Natural Energy Balls
Bounce Natural Energy Balls

My first corporate sponsor

Raising funds for charity is really hard work, on top of putting in lots of hours running around in the dark, I’ve been trying to get donations in for Myfanwy Townsend . There is great support from Michelle at the charity, but as a small charity there are lots of things that need doing and not a huge amount of resource to do it. It always amazes me when the statistics around Melanoma are spelt out 

“Today, melanoma is one of the most rapidly increasing forms of cancer in the world.  The incidence in the UK has risen by 143% in 18 years, and there is a comparable increase throughout the world, yet still, far too little is known about the disease.  In the 1930′s melanoma affected 1 in 1,500: now it affects 1 in 50.”

Raising money, and awareness is critical to stem the tide on these statistics. I know only too well that early diagnosis and treatment of any cancer is critical. Both my parents would probably have survived with earlier diagnosis of their cancer, and survival statistics today suggest that the treatment would have been more effected too.

I’ve been very fortunate to have some amazing donations from all round the world, and I’m always grateful for any pennies. But I’m particularly honoured to have received my first corporate sponsorship from my cousin in Canada. His company, Simple Intranet has made such an enormous difference, in context £500 in one donation when in the last 15 years the charity has raised £400,000. It is really significant.

Simple Intranet-my first corporate sponsor for Marathon des Sables 2014
Simple Intranet-my first corporate sponsor for Marathon des Sables 2014

Also Chris has pledged that if any new customers of Simple Intranet who quote Marathon des Sables he will donate 50% of the sale to Myfanwy Townsend. Any one need an intranet?

As you can imagine, I want to give some space to the company that put up the money! It is an IT company with customers like clothing companies Patagonia and Diesel as well as NGBs like British Gymnastics and Banks from around the world.

So a quick explanation from Chris about the company and what they do.

WordPress is now used by over 21% of all websites and is far by the leading content management system.  The Simple Intranet suite of plugins lets non-technical users turn a WordPress installation into a private intranet in minutes. Some call it a private Facebook for businesses.  We offer a detailed employee photo directory, online forms, events calendar, activity feed, drag and drop file management and a slew of other features to manage HR functions and internal communications.  Try our free lite version of our Simple Intranet Directory here: http://wordpress.org/plugins/simple-intranet-directory and visit our site for the full version here: http://www.simpleintranet.org

 

And he was also kind enough to give his point of view on my project

Ashley is a extremely determined and hard working family man.  His close personal experiences with melanoma seem to have galvanized his efforts even further towards his goal of running what is arguably one of the most strenuous races around.  If training and hard work brings luck, then Ashley certainly has got the best possible chance at crossing the desert.  I am honoured to support him for a very worthy cause which will benefit generations to come.

With this donation have come more donations to the JustGiving site https://www.justgiving.com/Ashley-Charlwood

I’m still to get a text donation which is easy to do by texting MTRF74 followed by an amount (£1,£2,£5 or £10) to 70070 but I hope that’ll be useful during the 6 day race.

Myfanwy Townsend Melanoma Research Fund
Myfanwy Townsend Melanoma Research Fund

Towards the light

It was a conscious effort to make this a “half full” title and not the “out of the darkness”.

Training recently has been a tricky place. Little niggling injuries, stresses in life and an almighty man flu. Well ok it was a vicious little snotty nose and head cold.

Net result has been that I eased back a lot and have found it difficult to get going again. But now with 8 weeks to go to the start of Marathon des Sables I feel like my mojo is back with a vengeance.

Coming back to training in January, everything was hard work, even a 40 minute run was hard. But a month on everything is good again. I’m back to half marathons before breakfast, recovering well and also doing 6 days a week of cross training. There is a secret weapon in here, which I’ll blog about soon.

The turning point was a run in Coed y Brenin. I ditched “training” and went out for a run. Just cruising around the East side of the forest and not looking at time. Following my nose and enjoying the journey. I ran through a rattling great thunderstorm that proved less enjoyable for some hillwalkers on the nearby Arans. Although really tiring I had a great 30km and recovered quickly.

The last few mornings that I’ve been able to get out for a longer run I’ve been using the Mawddach Trail-an old railway bed. This has a massive advantage of not having a huge amount of climbing and not being on a road. Steady training is easier and a straight out and back logs about 20km. It really is a great place to run, superb views and a trip home with the wind invariably behind you – what could be better?

Better, was getting home from one run on a Saturday morning, eating breakfast and my eldest daughter, who had earlier in the week got some trail running shoes for her upcoming first season doing fun fell runs saying – “Hey Dad, it’s not raining let’s go run the Torrent Walk”. Watching her skip and jump down a footpath, trying out landing on rocks, sliding on mud before climbing back up the other side couldn’t make me more proud. Running for fun, a great reminder for me!