From the UK to the end of Day 1

Marathon des Sables 2014

UK to the end of Stage 1

Thursday, 3rd April

Leaving home in Wales at 0830, its a very smooth drive down to Sussex. A quick errand to run before getting to Gatwick. I head to Tillington to drop off a chop saw bought on eBay by a friend in N Wales. Also a good chance to look at his trials bike.

I’d arranged via the MdS community on Facebook to share a room with a chap from South Wales. I drop my kit off with Andrew Geeson. Then I meet up with Phillip Waters who had shared a lift from Crickhowell with Andrew. We have a cuppa together and talk about all things MdS. It was time then to drop the car nearby with a friend and then get back to the North Terminal.

A Premier Inn dinner with Phil and Andrew – talking of expectations for the event, Having a good chuckle comparing notes on what we were doing for food during the event – Phil’s Raspberry and Granola 14 times sounded very ambitious, but he was sure of his approach, in contrast Andrews wife had organised his food and he had a lot of variety.

After food the evening was spent by Velcro spotting on trainers. This was a fairly good sign people would be running across the Sahara. We quickly had a group of 14 ish runners all talking about various things, people, and stories to while away the time.

Not a super early night, but it was back to the room to organise the essential kit into things that could be lost on the flight without mucking up the race. Getting the mandatory items, and specific personal items into hand luggage was seen as important. Things that might be able to scrounge could go in the hold luggage.

Friday, 4th April

All you can eat breakfast was taken full advantage of, I felt sorry for Phil, there was Granola available, and some Raspberry jam. It was nearly too good an opportunity to miss. We all settled for a big brekkie though. It was going to be a long journey to the first bivouac.

Onto the monorail to the South Terminal. Straight away in the check in area there were obviously a lot of MdSers around. Having water bottles on your hand luggage is a good sign, and it helped Sarah from Running Sahara identify us and send us to the right area. At the right desk, Steve also from Running Sahara met us. Handing out silicon bracelets and luggage tags all custom made from MdS. Hold luggage was easily within the 20kg limit and whilst hand luggage was un-weighed I’m pretty sure there were a few of us that stretched the 5 kg limit.

I stop off to pick up the 200 euro mandatory cash that we have to carry on the race, and Phil picked up some Immodium, just in case. The three of us decided to head through passport control; Phil and I fly through, and immediately spot Rebecca a runner who we knew from Facebook is also a photographer. She had a heavy race bag at 15kgs and we chatted about the task she was to be taking on. Andrew was taking a while and it was soon obvious that he was having his hand luggage taken to pieces. Whether it was the powders, tablets, lighter or all the other bits and bobs wasn’t clear, it was something that wasn’t needed though.

We all ended sitting up in roughly the same area, some from the Premier Inn the night before, but also being a really friendly bunch we soon ended up with a load of people sat around. Some on the first charter flight, but more seemingly on the second flight an hour later. As you’d expect everyone was in a really good mood.

Whilst picking up some water I bumped into Neal Edmonson who I had first met on the Brecon Beacons Ultra. Nice to see him again, and was sure that we’d see each other again over the coming week or so.

Everything boarded on time and I was sat next to John Colquhuon. A sharp humoured Glaswegian forensic scientist. This guy was going to be fuelled by some very good looking home made Paleo balls, I’m going to have a go at these some time as the recipe is easy to find. I spot another familiar face from the Brecon Ultra, Andy and he’s running as part of Team Hope with a couple of MdS veterans on their team.

The hostesses on board were keen to talk about the run, being a charter flight everyone on board was on the event. We ate our food, and overall it was a very smooth flight. The captain informed us that air traffic control had given a shorter route into the airport so we crossed the Atlas mountains and were given a great view of snow on the higher ground. Landing at Errachidia is like any small airport in the world. Its, fairly basic, with only a few small buildings and no perimeter fence. We pulled up close to the earlier flight that was sat on the tarmac.

Baggage claim was really easy, the trolleys were rolled by hand from the aircraft about 50m onto the apron where we just picked ours up and wandered over to immigration. I’m always dubious about handing over my passport, but all 200 odd of us did this and were through immigration in under 5 minutes. Amazing. During this 5 minutes, the Race Director, Patrick Bauer met and shook hands with us all, a great welcome to MdS. The only down side of a small airport was that there were only 2 toilets, they seemed to take a bit of a hammering- a theme that seemed to stick through the whole event.

As we filed on to the waiting coaches, we hoped we’d soon be on the road and into the bivouac during daylight. I sat next to a Kiwi, Nick Ashill who lectures in Dubai. It was becoming obvious that meeting new people and sharing this experience was going to be a major part of the event. We then had a packed lunch handed out. All pre-packaged food so this was good for avoiding the fairly likely tummy upsets. We received a tent form, and our mandatory kit check form. Then, the piece of information I’d been keen to see, the roadbook. This is the first sight of what is to come, and as every edition of the race changes, we’d be able to see the distances and checkpoint placements from here. We dipped in and out, and I was slightly amazed to see the first three days being a little longer than I had planned for. Nothing I can do about it now though.

As we sat on the coach for a three hours, other nations came in and eventually all the coaches were full and we were finally under way, out through Erfoud heading south as the sun was setting. After about 1hr45 transfer the bivouac comes into view, lights shining in an otherwise dark piece of desert. The coach pulls off the highway and heads down a heavily corrugated dirt track. We all disembark and start the process of trying to find a tent. There were a few of us that had planned to tent together, but during the first wander round, the 6 of us get split up. Phil and I walk round the circle of tents without much joy in finding anything empty-most tents are already full. We bump into Andrew who has buddied up with David Baxter. All quite tired. We ask in a few tents, only to find that places are being held for tent mates already formed in the UK.

Finally the four of us spotted tent 96, two sleeping bags unmoving, but not snoring just yet, and out of one sleeping bag in the darkness a voice tells us that there are 5 spaces. Gratefully we dump our kit, sort out our sleeping gear, and then head over to the catering tent by headtorch for some food. Low Berber tables laid out and some nice Chicken cous cous and a nice flat bread. Beer, wine and Coke available – this is slumming it in the desert French style! I made the mistake of eating a seriously rich chocolate mousse and coca cola. I remember to grab a bottle of water and We all crawl into our sleeping bag and try and get our head down for the evening. I spent the first part of the night with a banging heart due to the caffeine. Sleep finally grabbed me and the night passes quickly. The temperature definitely dropping during the night, but not unbearably so. That night I learnt that whichever the wind is going, its much better to have your feet into the wind. The wind finds its way into any gap and that definitely drops the temperature beneath comfort in the lightweight kit that we’re using.

Saturday, 5th April

Tent 96 after the kit drop
Tent 96 after the kit drop

We wake up with the sun in the morning. An Irish flag obvious pinned to the tent, Phil and I quickly add our Welsh flags. The sleeping bags come to life. The two at one end are Irish ladies Rachel Nolan and Linda O’Connor and at the other end, the one that had spoken to us was Artur Jozefowski a Pole from London.

Breakfast passed in a blur, an egg, some flat bread more water and some tea. Chatting to more people at the low tables and relaxing into desert life as far as we could with a big run coming the next day.

In blocks of 200 race numbers we start going through the technical checks at prescribed times.

We have to get rid of the kit that we won’t see until we finish, so this is the first go through the race kit and define what weight that we will be running with. The tent becomes a mess of kit. A few things don’t make the cut for me –a multitool, spare tights and flip flops. I choose to lose my warmest layer, I think I can get away with a long sleeve merino base layer and a lightweight pertex gilet over my race shirt. Pack up our sleeping kit. Get into our racing kit…gaiters and race shoes on. This is how we’ll be for the next week.

The admin tent on the right and food on the left, just on the edge of the black bivouac tents
The admin tent on the right and food on the left, just on the edge of the black bivouac tents

We experience the first of a few queues in the sun, shuffling forwards as the commissaires and Doc Trotters so they can process us.

Hand in the big bag, it’s tagged and put in a big pile for transfer.

Into the tent. It’s long, perhaps 75m made of lots of smaller units. It’s definitely a production line, but pretty efficient.

We’re handed a medical envelope, our water punch card on a retracting cord and our Doc Trotters card.

A discussion takes place with an official about total kit weight, weight of the food. We’ve all done this between ourselves, and I was expecting a bit more of a thorough check through. The elites have all the bags out, minimum calories checked, total bag weight checked to be between the 6.5kg and 15kg limit. For the non elite runners there seem to be random spot checks on the list of mandatory kit. I get no checks.

Next to be dished out is our race transponder, a neoprene cuff with a blue chip that looks quite military. A quick check on the mat to see the right race number come up.

Then the parachute flare, or for some people an emergency, is handed out. This immediately adds a good few hundred grams to the pack weight. The last gift is a pack of 120 salt tablets.

On through the tent, heading over to the right side to hand in the ECG and Medical Certificate. The ECG and any notes are placed into the envelope, we’re tested to see whether we know how to take the salt tablets. 2 an hour for the first 3 hours, then 4 an hour thereafter. When the doc is happy, he signs my form and finally I line up to receive two race numbers. One for our rucsac and one that has to be placed on the upper chest. Something I’d been thinking about a lot due to the way that my chest strap works, but I think pinning it to my straps would be best.

The last thing in the tent is a quick photo with our new race numbers and then back out in to the daylight. This is the first time I realise the scale of the logistics. Supporting 1000 runners and 500 staff in the Sahara is an epic feat. There are plenty of military trucks, 4×4’s little buggies, two helicopters a small Cessna plane. It is quite simply awesome to see, and be a part of.

I drop my stuff back to the tent. Wander over to the food area again. This time sitting inside the tent to stay out of the sun. Again the food is good, but I’m definitely thinking that the number of cooked meals is becoming pretty limited.

Lazing in the tent after kit checks
Lazing in the tent after kit checks

Back to lazing in the tent; chatting, finding out about one another, seeing where the sense of humour limits are.

Then we have a “welcome” talk from Patrick and his team. A welcome from some Berbers, banging drums, dancing in long coats. Then, the coats get stripped off and there is the Sand Rugby team, a modified Haka, constantly being overflown by a small quadcopter. We then have a demonstration of how to use a parachute flare and perhaps slightly more importantly how to use the ‘bag caca’. It’s a brown bag that stretches over a small stool that is within a small open topped canvas enclosure. The top tip is to place a small stone in the bag to stop the wind blowing the bag up against a bare bottom. Once the business is done in the bag, a quick twist and tie up the bag is placed in a larger bin that is collected regularly.

We hear about some of the paritcipants, a 16 year old running with her family, some high profile marathon runners like  Abdelkader El Mouaziz (winner of New York and London Marathon), previous MdS winner five times Mohamad Ahansal and three times ladies winner Laurence Klein. Then there are the true veterans Christian Ginter (number 27) running in his 27th edition. I’m keen to hear more about Danny Kendal(GBR) and Nikki Kimble(US), but the race is a long time and all this will come.

A lot of information coming fast in French, with some slightly edited English translation. We hear that this year the bivouac and its infrastructure is 50% powered by solar, but this will extend to 100% in the next 2 years. The group breaks up and we head back to the tent.

The dynamics are definitely forming within the tent. Humour is a big part of how we’re all happy to operate. Gentle teasing, and some fairly robust observations about our bodily functions…we agree to stop apologising for them. We’re putting our body through a tough time, and we’re living in a small space. Dignity is something that just isn’t going to be maintained.

A bit of taping goes on in the tent, shoulders and backs. I’ve not trained with this and I’m confident that I don’t need anything on my back, and my feet normally hold out pretty well.

Tent #96 on the start line
Tent #96 on the start line

We wander over to the start line, grab a photo as a tent. Off between the inflatable arches the dunes rise up and really grab the eye. A fair few people are running back from the dunes, fully kitted up. I can’t really get excited about this. I’m starting to feel like that I need to hold onto any energy that I have.

I pick up my hexamine fuel tablets from the ’boutique’ (a table) in the middle of the bivouac. A lot of people seem to have ordered way more hexamine than me, but I’m still confident that I’ll need no more than 3 tablets for my cooking, so a packet of 24, though tight should be perfect.

Juliette, our French Commissaire comes round. She is our information point for the week. Checking we know where we need to be and when it needs to happen. We soon learn that Bivouac time is not the same as time in the outside world.

We head over for more food, our last dinner before we go self sufficient in the morning. Water is the name of the game for us, but there is still coke, beer and wine on offer. I’m trying to stay as hydrated as possible, and alcohol has had no part in my preparation in the last 3 months. We all head to bed, knowing that at 0830 we’re going to get our first taste of the desert.

A slightly better nights sleep, not a great sleep. We’re all up and down for a wee during the night. There is plenty of light for wandering around without a head torch. And the wee stop is only 20m outside the bivouac into the desert. The stars are so beautiful. I spend a lot of time star gazing whilst having a wee.

People wandering around with headtorches and very bright moon wake me occasionally. There’s definitely an increase in excitement and anticipation. I wear a buff on my head and put my feet into the breeze. I’m definitely warmer!

Sunday, 6th April

Link to Stage 1 Roadbook

We all wake with the sun, the chatter around the bivouac is excited, I eat my two cereal bars and a bounce ball and finish 750 ml of water left over from the night before. At 0630 the water station opens, I grab my punch card and head over to the truck. We get our bottles, the main bottle and its top marked with our race number. If this isn’t disposed of properly then there are time penalties. The queue disappears quickly and the water is in my hands.

The tent is taken away whilst we get ready
The tent is taken away whilst we get ready

Back to the tent and immediately decant one bottle into my running bottles. 700ml in each, a little left over. Into the bottle on  my right side I add my TORQ energy. The neutral flavour really doesn’t alter the flavour at all. The other bottle is staying plain. As I continue organising my stuff the Berbers come through the bivouac removing the tent over our heads. Lifting one of the a poles and walking it over the top so that the tent ends lying in the gap between the tents. We’re left sat on the rug on the desert floor. Whilst we’re packing bits away the chat is buoyant, a lot of talk about pack weight and various bits of organisation. I take the opportunity of a small queue at the toilets. I break out one of my seven four sheets a day toilet roll and feel much better for it.

I organise my running food into one of my chest pouches. One gel, one packet of shot bloks and one packet of jelly beans. Should be good for 4-5 hours of running. This is how long I’m expecting to be out on the course for all the days that are less than marathon distance.

Juliette calls in at the rug and says it is a 0745 briefing/photo before an 0830 start. We’re all chatting away, but slowly people drop in to their own thoughts, anticipation and excitement and a sensible bit of nerves. We try and co-ordinate a tent photo, all with our equipment and race numbers on. It doesn’t quite work, we all have slightly different priorities at this stage. The “zone” is descending on all of us in slightly different ways. I get all my kit on, get the transponder on underneath my gaiters, spend a bit of time making sure the Velcro all lines up. Get a bit of Brave Soldier lubricant onto my thighs where I think they may rub. Smother every bit of bare skin in sun tan lotion and generally try and focus on the game plan. Steady.

There is a steady migration from the bivouac to the start line about 200m away. We’re all stewarded into the now iconic “edition” number. This being the 29th Edition Phil and I sneak into the tail of the 9. The helicopter is up and flying over and around the number. To being with everyone is waving, but quickly we’re all ignoring the bright red chopper. And then we’re finished, the tape is broken between the stakes and a line of boys and girls having a final wee appears.

We assemble by the start gantry, Pharell Williams “Happy” is playing. I’m not feeling the normal start line anxiety I get. I’m feeling confident, despite a few aches and grumbles in the last 8 weeks I’m feeling pretty strong. I have a quick glance up to the sky, all blue, no clouds at all. I think about the heat that is coming later in the day. That I am worried about, I normally suffer in the heat. This, I think, is going to be my big challenge. I shake hands with Phil. Wish him a good race.

Day 1 start
Day 1 start

Patrick Bauer is then stood on a big iLand solar truck talking, telling us about the checkpoints, and how much water we can take at each stage and how far in they are. CP1 is at 15km, CP2 at 25.8km and then the finish at 34km. Today is 3 litres at CP1, I haven’t quite figured out how I’m going to manage the extra bottle of water. We have 10hrs to complete the course. We then hear about those with birthdays that day and we all sing Happy Birthday. There are 1029 people on the start line.

The music changes to Highway to Hell, Patrick tells us the race will start in 30 seconds, there is a countdown Dix, Neuf, Huit…. I turn my GPS pod on, Cinque, Quatre…I’m patting down the straps, zips and cords on my rucksack. Then we’re moving, shuffling to begin with. The chopper buzzing back and forward over the runners, cameraman hanging out the door. Sweeping up and down the line. The shuffle starts to turn into a jog and I move hard left so I’ve a bit of free space. Everything feels good. I know I’ve about 3km to run before the dunes start. This surface is great, just like a fire road in Coed y Brenin, smaller stones, more sand and a little drier, but easy running. There are few areas of soft sand but this is all ok. I move even further left and stop for a wee. There are a few of us doing this, but pretty soon everyone is moving at a speed that suits them.

The 3km passes quite quickly, I’m trying to find out when to drink, and decide that for this stage I’ll drink when my mouth dries, but be sure to take on about 500ml an hour.

Erg Chebbi dunes...soft, soft sand!
Erg Chebbi dunes…soft, soft sand!

Then we’re at the base of Erg Chebbi, a marker board shows the bearing 127 degrees we need to take. I look quickly at the compass on my watch and take a reference point on the horizon. As we hit the dunes there is a real scatter of people, all with their own strategies. I want to know I’m running down the right line and this seems to work for me. A journalists Land Cruiser is already on its belly pan with the wheels spinning, no more than 50m in to the soft sand. We climb, the sand just moves, no great foot placement. I tag onto the back of a smallish guy and try walking in his footsteps, this is no great improvement. I decide to just pump it out. I overtake and then find a big guy wearing Hoka’s. He is leaving quite firm footprints and though it doesn’t make it easy the going is far less energy consuming. In most places we’re down to single file, occasionally topping out on a dune there seems to be a firm crust and then walking on fresh, un marked sand definitely gives better, easier traction.

Crocodile file across the dunes
Crocodile file across the dunes

I glance at my watch, nearly an hour after the start and on the next slightly less steep descent of a dune and into a short valley I pop in 2 salt tablets. Because the heat is coming on and the low humidity I don’t feel wet from sweat, but I know that I have to keep my salt levels up to prevent cramps and dehydration. I’m about half way down my bottle with TORQ in it and feeling pretty good. On a big dune the view around is spectacular. Seeing Jebels in the distance and also the end of the dunes ahead lined by some greenery.

Some motorbikes and quads come through, roughly on our transit line. I geek out on Yamaha, KTM and Honda. Momentarily I’m jealous, really wanting to be riding, but then really aware of the noise that these 6 bikes are making, compared to 1000 odd runners. It’s hard to reconcile.

I come out of the dunes a little to the right of CP1, the sand ends abruptly and there is a hard crust. From what has been a walk/run through the dunes I turn towards the CP and jog it in. I finish the water left in my bottles, ready for taking on more.

First time across the timing mat, I’m alongside 2 other runners, there are three beeps, so we know we’re all crossed in. There are four Land Rovers with entrance barriers, with an overhead sign splitting the race numbers out. I file into the one for my number. The controlleurs are very friendly, using my name from my race number, punching my card and handing me my two bottles, again marked with my race number. Round the back of the Land Rover there is an awning, I duck under, out of the sun. Refill my bottles with water, and there is a bit left over. I split this, some for a quick drink and the rest over my head.

The plateau between CP1 and CP2
The plateau between CP1 and CP2

I head to the one tonne bag staked out after the bottle claim and dump my empty bottle. Then look over to the right, down an Oued and spot the first marker. I check my watch for time, this first CP has taken me a lot longer than I expected. But I mark the time, and try and work out what I should be drinking over the next 10km to the next CP. I’m carrying a bottle in one hand, and I quickly realise this is going to be a total pain. The going is suddenly harder, we’re back to soft sand, and my legs are struggling with energy. My right calf is feeling really tight, so I’m taking it easy, this is a long race! Right now I would like to be driving with both arms, but carrying the bottle means I spend a good few minutes running with only one are working, and then swapping the bottle over to the other hand. I gobble down an energy gel and some water and as it is three hours in snack on some salt tablets too. We pass a camel or two and a quad copter is flying around with a GoPro. Slowly the camel grass gives way to a stony plateau and on the horizon there is an old village M’Fiss, with some mines shortly after it. On the way through a rocky section I kick a large rock and connect quite solidly with the middle toe on my right foot. It’s a sharp pain, but it soon dies down. As we cross over the high point CP2 comes into view. I’ve been drinking well and taking my salt. I collect my water here. I pour the rest of the water I’ve carried from CP1 over my head. Annoyingly getting a lot of salty water on my sun glasses, this quickly dries with a big water mark.

I organise my stuff, 8.2km to go, but I’ve taken 4.5hrs to cover the 26km so far. In my head I had expected to have finished by now, but the conditions underfoot have definitely been much harder going than I expected too.

Even though its feeling hot now, without the humidity I’m able to jog a little more easily. The route takes us into the top of a stony Oued, and this slowly descends, winding back and forwards down the bed of an old river. Briefly I’m alongside Aled Davies. I’m immediately impressed at how fresh he smells. We chat briefly and then he runs on ahead. At the end of this Oued a new set of dunes appear Erg Znaïgui. There is a bearing on a marker board 134 degrees. Again I take a reference point on the horizon and start trying to pick a way through the really soft sand, but at least the dunes aren’t as high. It’s tough going though and I’m picking off people reasonably steadily. I know its only 3km to go, but I can’t even run down these dunes. I’m just bashing my way through them.

The final and hardest dunes with a view to the finish. I didn't much enjoy Erg Znaigui!
The final and hardest dunes with a view to the finish. I didn’t much enjoy Erg Znaigui!

Doc Trotters are on the top of one particularly soft climb, everyone is working hard here, and the Doc is encouraging everyone. I choose to contour left here, staying on the crest of a crescent shaped dune, I just can’t face descending and ascending again. With a slight rise at the end, I look at where my reference point should be, but my eye catches sight of the bivouac. This spurs me on and I start to run the descent back to the harder ground and a short run in. I “beep” over the line, just short of 6 hours.

Through the back of the finish line, there is a web cam, which I ignore, a small cup of sweet Morrocan  mint tea from Sultans and then through to the water tent to collect 4.5 litres of water. I remember to turn my GPS pod off on the way.

The bivouac is set up the same everyday so I wander over to the tent, with absolutely no idea as to who is in ahead of me. Seeing the Welsh Flag means that Phil is home, and as I turn under the material, Rachel, Linda and Artur are in too.

I don’t take too long in getting my sleep mat out, getting my gaiters, shoes and socks off and getting horizontal. Well, the main bit of my body horizontal but my legs elevated against one of the poles holding the tent up. Whilst in this position I get 750ml of water down and some TORQ recovery powder, cookies and cream is a nice flavour to end the day with. I have another 4 salt tablets just to be sure that my sodium levels stay where they need to be. Then I remember I have a Pepperami Wideboy to eat. The simplicity of this is lovely. The taste is just what I need. General chit chat goes on, lots of “much harder than I thought”, “weren’t those last dunettes tough” and a good bit of post stage analysis. My feet are in good shape. Only the old blister from my mountaineering boots suffered a couple of weeks before when marshalling for Ras yr Aran making anything like a blister look obvious. There seems to be some bruising where I kicked the rock but all in all, I’m pretty unscaithed, just a very light bit of chafing on my left thigh. My kit is in good shape, but I have an unusual shape on my gaiters. Where the Velcro is stitched into the base of the material there is a seam, stuffed full of sand, like a sausage round the whole bottom of the gaiter. While I’m lying down I check to see if there is an obvious way in for the sand. There’s not, I think the sand has been working its way in through the seam, and just being bashed up and down has stuffed a few grains in each time. A little bit of surgery with a knife around the back of the gaiter should work. I make a vertical slit, about a third of the width of the Velcro on either side of the vertical seam by the heel. Then holding the gaiter up drains the sand out.

As the afternoon wears on everyone makes it in, all in pretty good spirits. Dave has got pretty sore shoulders, and Artur has had a real problem with his gaiters.

Phil had finished in 5hrs14, Rachel in 5hrs35, Linda in 5hrs37, Artur in 5 hrs38, me in 5hrs57, Andrew in 6hrs30 and Dave in 8hrs02.

Marathon des Sables 2014 – End of Day 1 from Ashley Charlwood on Vimeo.

I’m rapidly changing my expectations on an overall time. I know I can cover the same distance in the UK in around 3hrs30 without too much bother, I had thought I’d take around 4hrs30 in the conditions, but nothing could have prepared me for my first experience of ‘running’ this. Brutal is the only way to describe it. Though we all had our own three words to describe the first day.

I head over to the email tent and queue up. I’ve got 1000 characters in an email to get out. There are two keyboards, one English, one French. The rubber keyboards make it a slow process, but I want to get a message home to all those that have been supporting me.

Back to the tent and I get some water on to boil. I heat 600 ml of water, I need 450 ish for my meal, and then I’m going to top a bit of hot water off for a cup of lemon and ginger tea. The tin foil goes round the small stove, and with two fuel tabs the water is easily hot enough before the fuel tabs burn out. I pour enough hot water into my Sweet and Sour Chicken dehydrated Expedition Foods, seal the bag and wait the 5 minutes for dinner to “cook”. There is enough water left in my mug for a good size cup of tea, and I top this off with plenty of water.

The food goes down really well, I’ve eaten about 2600 kcals over the day from breakfast, and at a rough guess probably burnt around 5000 kcals.

Whilst we’re in the tent, Juliette comes round and hands out the first bunch of emails that have been sent. The tent falls quiet as we all take in the news from home. We all value this, and whilst some of it might not be important news, somehow being connected to home is really important. Smiles and tears are around and everyone has the space to feel what they need to before the chatter returns.

Linda stretching out Dave's poorly shoulders!
Linda stretching out Dave’s poorly shoulders!

Dave needs a bit of help with his shoulders and Linda puts her training into good effect, getting all sorts of ooh’s and arrrrrggghhh’s out of a couple of us.

Everything starts to quiet down around 8pm, though we’re all up and down going to water the desert.

Ignore the time on this recording of Day 1, Strava doesn’t seem to like GPS positions being logged every minute…the route is accurate though.