The day started badly.
There were sandstorms overnight and we had fun with the bivuoac. The wind was coming from all directions so first one flap was closed then later the other. At about 2am the wind changed again, picked up the tent, releasing the poles and the whole thing collapsed on top of all of us. Unfortunately, due to a combination of earplugs and iPod headphones, and everyone being completely shattered, no-one did anything about it assuming everyone else had decided to leave it. So what with sand everywhere, catnapping on and off all night and being claustrophobic both because I’d all but closed the sleeping bag over my head and the tent was on my face, I was not in the best of moods for the start of the most difficult day.
The start was more or less the usual, except that the top 50 runners were set off after the rest in a staggered start, 9:00am / 12:00am respectively.
The only other difference was that significantly more people were walking from the start with the prospect of 74km ahead.
The first run to a climb seemed to take a long time – this was a portent for things to come.
Up side of pass across rocks and dunes then 1000m up over dune on side of mountain – rope on wall here to stop you falling down dune while traversing close to top. On the way up people were split into a group going up the mountain side and up the dune nearby. I went up the middle at edge of the dune and cliff side as queue for the more stable rockface was ridiculous.
Down other side rocky mountain boulders – took steadily. Then across some small dunes into CP1.
The terrain from CP1-2 was obviously an ancient seabed with the occasional shells evident.
Front runners passed us here after they had been running for about 1:40 across Wadi(dry river bed) into CP2 in a village. My blisters were bad by this stage despite taking my shoes off here – which was a bad move. Everytime I stopped from now on the pain would be phenomenal until I got well into a rythmn. The wadi after CP2 was so large it took forever to traverse it, but it was relatively flat solid ground of cracked mud. Up and over another 2 hills and reached CP3 at sunset.
CP4 cut-off was 1am. Just managed to get up hill by end of dusk but lights (head-torches) required for the rest of this stage. Hard going down soft sand after traversing hill top.
Saw ‘laser’ pointing at us / into sky, which we only found out later was from from CP5.
Went with Tim & John most of way.
Hard work along wadi in dark and taking 2.5hrs /12km between checkpoints.
Caught up with Tom on last stage.
Arrived just ahead of others in 19:38 as I just could not face the thought of stopping for any length of time, due to the agony.
Got back to tent and only Greg back although some others (Irish guys from tent 96) also Kipping as they didn’t have enough tents with the few they were using at CP4, 5 & 6 to go round! Settling in to tent the others arrived and Greg awoke and kindly prepared our food as the sun came up.
Time to get brief kip although didn’t sleep well, if at all so I busied myself for the rest of day by
sending email and visiting Doc Trotters.
I had to wash my feet in some sort of antiseptic and then wait outside – big queue 12 people sheltering in shade of bivuoac, but eventually after we’d figured out the queuing system consisted of knowing who arrived after you, I was invited in.
My nurse invited me in her best English to lay down on the raffia carpet in a similar manner to everyone else in the tent, with the soles of my feet facing her. She then proceeded to clean, cut off skin and after applying iodine, dressed the many blisters around my feet. The whole thing was a very military operation and after my visit and a hobble back to our bivouac I had a good rest.
The whole camp looked like a MASH hospital.
Latest blister count is
Big toe – 3
Little toe – 1 but covering side, base and half way round toenail
Sole – 1 big at forefoot just behind toes
Heel – 3 small on right side, 1 on left side
Big toe – 2 on side
Little toe – again 1 all over
Sole – 1 big one at forefoot
Heel – 2 on right, 1 on left
As I write this (3pm) the last competitor has just come in after 36hrs.