Posted by: Richard Bray | October 8, 2010

Day 5 – Long Day. Done and Very Dusted / Dusty!!

Wow – all over and what a race. What a long day!

It started badly with more freeze-dried porridge and strawberries! The worst meal yet. Not the best way to wake yourself up at 4:30am and prepare for a big race. I have 160km of  soft sand racing  in my  legs and the final day of pain is going to be unbearable! My legs were tired but functioning which is the main thing.

My tent mates.

We kicked off at 6:30am with no staggered start. I held pace with competitors I had finished with  on the previous days. It was a steady run through the sand trying  to chew through km’s before the sun rose. We breezed through checkpoint 1 grabbing water and trying to force down food. The next stage was flat and sandy making the pace only just bearable. We hit the 2nd checkpoint with our group in tact and then headed into the hills. The sun was rising but my spirits were high. Your spirits go down and everything goes down hill. You do anything you can to stay positive… chat, count slowly to 100, listen to a track or two on an ipod or simply dream you’re in a different place.

We kept  pushing to  checkpoint 3 when the sun started to rise. I tried to stay close to my running mates but it was tough. These guys are 2:45hr marathon pace runners or very  experienced desert ultra runners so the unknown element of what’s to come was playing on my  mind. I just kept my fluids and electrolytes high and forced as much food down my throat as possible. Enduralite tablets, salt caps and hammer bars were my friend for the first part of the race.

Checkpoint 4 saw us climb one of the biggest dunes I have ever seen. It was hundreds of feet high and very tough to conquer with almost 40kms in the legs. Of course the checkpoint was on top of the dune… how the 4wd got up there is a mystery.

View from the top:

Heading to  checkpoint  5 the temperature quickly rose to above 40 degrees. The heart rate was way too high and the body was chewing through calories and water like you wouldn’t believe. This is the danger time. Glycogen levels  are low – if you cramp, your confined to walking. Luckily the experienced desert racers I was with helped me manage electrolyte and food intake which got me through. Heading to checkpoint 6 was much of  the same. We were in the top 20 and to maintain the pace, everything had to be managed correctly. One bad decision could end everything as your body is on the edge of breaking down. We stopped at checkpoint 6 for a slightly longer break of approx 20mins to get more calories down. They had hot water so I dissected a water bottle and threw in half a chicken korma freeze-dried meal. Man that is tough to keep down – try running with  it in your belly being mixed up with sweet electrolyte gel!

A Welcome sight – one of the checkpoints.

After checkpoint 6 the group split apart even more so it was a good time to  throw on the ipod and have a bit of Richard time. Head down and singing away I got through to the 7th checkpoint at which point the sun died down a little. Time to pick up the pace again! I was amazed i was still in the top 15 but with over 25km to go and 70km in the legs, I was still wide open for  failure. My body was really struggling now. My legs and toes were swollen and my  hands were almost twice the size they should be from so much swelling. I felt  like a marshmallow being but  in the fire. I put the pain aside and concentrated on my food and  water intake.

I hobbled  into checkpoint 8 sick of  soft sand and ready for a proper meal. No such luck. It was time to put the head torch on though as the sun was going  down. 10+hrs of soft sand running by now – you can imagine what the next stage was like. You are so pleased to have gotten through the most of it but you are so drained physically, mentally and emotionally all you can do is keep focused on moving  one foot in front  of the other. I was back with my running mates placed 10th and 11th and it was great to run as threesome through the night. At checkpoint 9 (the last checkpoint) they dropped me again so I was again out on my own. The last stage was tough. Sand up to your calves – ankle breaking stuff. I tentatively pushed on knowing the headlights of other competitors were baring down on me. I came down the hill and tried to follow the little glow sticks cursing every time I slipped. My legs were gone – they weren’t responding to any requests from my brain – they were now on auto pilot! I saw the flicker of lights from the campsite in the distance and kept my head down only looking occasionally. Slowly but surely I drew nearer. Then I heard the welcoming drum beat and I knew I was home. I crossed the finish line and collapsed in a heap. The toughest day I have ever lived. I ended up with a time of just  under 14 hours for the long  day and came in approx 12th position. Not bad for my  first desert ultra! As I write this 12 hours after I finished later there are still competitors coming through the finish line. Now that’s mental strength.

Crazy eyes – Approx 90km in and 5km till the finish. On my own focused on the finish!

I headed straight back to the tent to get set up before my legs seized. 10mins later I was in the most excruciating pain you can ever imagine. This went on for hours and meant I had very little sleep. My poor body was in shut down mode. How to describe the pain – you know the sharp pain you get when someone gives you a dead leg and then it slowly goes away. Imagine that pain all over your legs and it doesn’t go away. It’.s literally unbearable. You can’t walk without almost falling over because your muscles are so fatigued. You can’t lie still because it hurts even more. Your joints ache and tingle from the impact. It  is the most pain I have ever been in. It literally moves you to tears. Your toes are so swollen, sore and sensitive you can’t touch them. Your back is red raw from carrying your food and sleeping gear around all week. So, anyone interested in doing one now? I think I have ticked my desert running box…. for now!

A day of rest and then on to see the pyramids, the finish line and of course my beautiful girlfriend. I’m not  sure on my final place but I think I am top 20 and the first kiwi home. Very proud but beaten up!

Bray’s top desert tip – Enduralite tablets and wet wipes. Nothing like a wipe down at  the end of the day to remove some of  the salt crust!

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Responses

  1. That is a sensational acheivement. And youR writing is really spot on. Though only for the five minutes it took me to read the report, I felt I was right there with you. Well done and good luck with the pains.

    • Thanks Billy. Really appreciate the message. A truly amazing event… I can’t believe it’s over now. Back to normality and drinking!

  2. Lots of firsts in this successful day. Looks like the body was pushed to the limit mentally and physically. This is incredible and you should be very proud of yourself.
    Never ceases to amaze us what the human body is capable of. The majority of us only use a minor percent of what’s possible.
    Enjoy the Pyramids and one big cuddle with Emma. Love Rich and Babz

    • Thank you Rich and Barb for your kind and supportive messages. They kept me going through the long tough days. Your support throughout my training, fund raising and the race has truly meant a lot to me. I can’t thank you enough. Almost £3000 raised and one epic challenge has been crossed off my bucket list… not sure what will be next on the list!

  3. Wow Bray ,
    It was really great to get a honest look at the race , thanks for that . A big Respect on how well you did on finishing the race .

    • Thanks Virginia… I hope there is enough in there to get you excited to do one. One of the best experiences of my life. Well worth doing it. You won’t regret it.

  4. Richy,

    Truly inspirational stuff….CONGRATULATIONS on completing one tough endurance race!!

    Looking forward to checking out your pics and hearing some war stories when you’re back in town…


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