I am not normally one to obsess over my weight, but recently it has been foremost in my mind.
It is not my weight I have been overly concerned about, although this has not totally escaped my attention, but rather the weight of my backpack and the supplies I ‘might’ be taking for my week in the desert in under 5 weeks time.
Last time I was in the desert, I must’ve arrived with at least 11-12kg in my pack, much of which was carried along for the ride in a fundamental, but common first-time MdS participant error related to the terror of being self-sufficient for a week. My pack in 2008 included cameras, chargers, spare batteries, food, snacks, extra food, extra snacks, changes of clothes, extra clothes, trekking poles, flags, hydration tablets, isotonic powders, plus all the normal compulsory kit. With a backpack resembling a Rio Carnival float which was stuffed tighter than a haggis on Burns night, I still had to add the organiser supplied mandatory equipment, in the shape of a rather large emergency flare to pack, to which access was required at all times, so no squirrelling away inside the pack.
I can look back and laugh 😆 about my error now, but as a result have paid my debt to the Gods of experience and will therefore be returning to the desert with more knowledge of the appropriate levels of equipment and food required.
Nevertheless, I am still obsessing over weight, pouring over the smallest details, agonising over the merest grams of mass that I can shave out of my pack. Do I need that knife with ALL those blades? Can I manage without all that hydration fluid in the Sahara? Do I really need toilet roll, or will sand (which gets everywhere anyway) suffice? Surely, when the organisers say self-sufficient, they don’t really mean it? Surely!
The bulk of the changing weight clearly goes into food, although the organisers insist on a strict bare minimum of 2000kcal per day, remaining at the end of the day’s stage, i.e. 14,000 at technical checks, 12,000 at end of first stage, etc. Needless to say, 2000 calories for an adult male, using (conservatively) 2,500 kcal per marathon, of which there will be about 6, on top of a normal day’s energy expenditure, will leave a fairly substantial and hungry deficit by the end of the week. So here is where the compromises start, but each little extra food on a daily basis adds to the weight to be carried and since my experience is of having too much food, I don’t think this is going to be too much of a compromise.
Interestingly, post-race reviews have indicated that the Brits take excessive food and equipment while the French (the largest contingent) are prepared to accept a lot less in the way of what might be considered ‘luxury’ items.
Anyway, my daily pack weight currently looks like this, including the anticipated organiser supplied flare, etc.
StageFood (g)Stage weight (kg)
– this is based on the fact that my ‘static’ equipment weight is 4.3kg (including backpack, sleeping bag, Thermarest, headlamp, compass and the rest of the paraphernalia, but excluding water)
I will be trying to reduce my body fat content (BMI) from its current comfortably quiesent state of 11% down to a more functional 9-10%, which won’t leave me much contingency by the last day, but then as Marshall Ulrich said in “Running on Empty”, the story of his run across America, most people have enough body fat to get them most of the way across the continent! Given that he was eating enough for 4 people on his average 58 miles per day run across the States, I am a little dubious about his comment 🙂 but then he is a legend!
So, after a little more tweaking I’ll be ready, and at the end of the day, a few grams here or there won’t make that much difference.
Or will it? 🙂
Okay, I’m off to my spreadsheet….