So, off we were on a magical journey to be greeted by heat (of an unknown temp) and sand (of an unknown amount). It was all very exciting.
On the journey over, I sat with Ali Moulin & John Samuelson. Both of whom I had conversed with on the MdS forum but had never met. It was good to finally meet them and catch up, face to face.
Lots of chat had on the, uneventful (thankfully) journey over. The meal was good too. Once I got my hands on a veggie version. I think they said I got the last one! Phew.
We were told to expect a delay on getting in as we had to fill out registration cards and go through security. It did take a while but this was the start of understanding there is a fair bit of queuing in the MdS. Which, is understandable due to the quantity of folks participating. The UK contingent is 400+ and I believe the largest group.
We were welcomed into Ouarzazte like royalty. It was a nice but humbling feeling. For me at least.
However, before I even entered the building, I got a camera thrust into my dazed face and asked (in French) if I was good and I was happy to be there. All I could muster was “yes” and “I was looking forward to it”. I’m glad it didn’t make the local TV channel or the MdS Youtube channel!
So, registration/security done, and I got in. Now we were ushered onto the first waiting bus but before I could sit on the bus, I was apprehended again for interview by an MdS reporter. I answered all the questions with ‘intelligent’ answers. Unsure as to where the interview went but happy with what I had said as I got to mention the reason I was here… War Child!
The bus journey would take 4-5Hrs. Luckily the bus had air-conditioning. We would stop once for a quick ‘picnic’ style lunch by side of the road and a ‘refreshment’ stop. Boys to the left, ladies to the right 😉
During the bus journey we were asked to make sure we had a tent of 8 people, if we hadn’t already done so. Ali was sitting next row across with another lady (Louise), I was sitting with David Cowan and we also got chatting to another Scottish chap (Stuart), a chap who now lives out in the Outer Hebrides (Paul) and a the youngster of the group, Jonny. We would also welcome Rob from another coach into the fold, thus, making 8.
The pic above shows Tent 119 relaxing after reaching camp for the first night. Luckily, the sun was out 😉
Once we got ‘settled’ in tent 119 (which would be our designated tent for the remainder of the days) we sorted out kit and made sure we swapped anything over from suitcase to backpack, or vise-versa as you’re only allowed to carry on 6kg onto the plane. That meant that you couldn’t take everything you would need in your backpack and therefore, you had to split some stuff up and stick in suitcase. It was difficult to know what was essential and what wasn’t. I knew all of mine was so found splitting it up difficult.
The first night gives you a chance to see how you cope with the ‘coldness’ of the desert nights and makes you think about what you would keep it in your running pack. If not, it would be sent back to the hotel to wait for you, along with anything else you didn’t want.
I made a last minute decision not to take the Carbon running poles so sent them packing back to the hotel. Everything else I was happy with. No need for extra clothes for me as I coped with the 10 degree C evening temp. It did get ‘cold’ at 02:00 though, but my OMM Raid 1.0 sleeping bag was awesome and kept me cozy all night.
So, an evening of re-hydrated food, some ‘getting to know you’ chats and as much sleep as one could muster, we awoke, to what would become ‘normal’ at 05:30. Today would see a lot of waiting in queues for registration.
As there were over 1100 people taking part this year, this has to be done in a methodical manner. Or, at least I hope it would be. The board gave us a slot based on your running number and that saw me, and David, register in the middle of the day. This would give us more time to re-organise kit or just lounge around chatting.
Our slot time came and we headed off with backpack and suitcase in hands.
First off, you hand over your suitcase. Say goodbye to anything you might still be deliberating about and then walk over to ‘check-in’. They check your passport and weigh your bag. My bag came in at 7.5kg (without water) as I had decided to take the other snacks I had in my suitcase. Turns out that would be a good choice!
Once bags were weighed, you are ushered over to the next queue where you sit with the medics and they look over your ECG and medical form before handing you a ‘pass’ and a friendly ‘good luck’. There were no warning signs on my ECG but they did question my HR. It was marked down as being ‘low’ and specifically Sinus bradycardic. I have known for a wee while I sit within the bradycardic range but the medics looked at me and said “your first time?”, “Yes”. “You will do well. You very fit.” What does one say to that, other than “Thanks”.
After the medics have signed you off as fit all of the ‘stress’ leaves and you are ushered to another table where you receive your Spot tracker (GPS transponder) and it stays switched on for the duration, your medical card (to be stamped if you get any medical attention) and your water card. The last one being pretty vital. This would be stamped every time you collected water, either at camp or through the checkpoints. NB: Water is rationed through-out the race and although you can request more, you will have a time penalty added if you take more than is allocated.
All of the above done!
Now, another queue to collect your official race numbers. This queue was considerably longer but didn’t take too long.
After a mere 15mins we were then asked to go to the final queue. This queue was the longest of the lot. Some of us did question if we needed to go and join it only because they also knew that they would be standing in it for some time.
Yes, we all had to get our official race photo taken with our shiny race numbers.
I overheard that someone had been given a time, and monetary penalty already. Meaning they were already an hour behind everyone else. Yup, and the race hadn’t even started yet.
All done! Now… go back to the tent and relax, in anticipation for the start the following morning. However, seeing as we still had half a day to waste, some of us went for a wander up a nearby hill to check our route, and view our surroundings.
Sadly, I didn’t take a photo but wish I had.
The next surprise we had, just before dinner was the inflatable MdS corral was erected. Quite a few of the camp went up to get pictures. This was an exciting time. It signified that all of this was very, very real.
Smiles and anxiety all rolled into one at this point.
Dinner for me was another veggie Exped re-hydrated meal. However, I did go and sample the buffet that was laid on for our last night before going self sufficient. I also had a helping of the food and i was very tasty. There was also a choice of beer or a coke. I plumped for a coke.
We sat out in the open, warm air and finished dinner. Quite a nice thing to do before setting off on our adventure. You could hear, and feel the buzz around dinner, and camp now. It was real for all of us!
It was dark by the end of dinner so the only real thing to do was wander back to the tent and go to bed. Bed was at 20:00Hrs.