What did previous runners say???

Well it is now only 4 days, 22 hours, 11 minutes, ? seconds and counting – oh god its drawing closer and I am scarily calm.  Is it the calm before the storm?  Well we’ll soon see.

I thought you guys would find it interesting yo see what previous MDS runners to say about the race . . .

Name: Gordon Barrie12510725_10153207786621861_1501170662_o

When did you complete the Marathon des Sables? 2005

What was your background in running?     I started running in 1st year at school (Madras College in St Andrews) and joined Fife AC. I now run for Dundee Hawkhill Harriers (since 1991). I have competed over various
distances on the track, cross country and road.
What made you sign up?   I was in danger of drifting away from the sport
and wanted a fresh challenge. Plus, I had seen the MdS on the TV and in
Runner’s World and thought it looked amazing (and it was!).
What was/ is your best memory of being out in the Sahara?    Running
through the desert on the long stage in the middle of the night was
fantastic. There was nobody else around, it was nice and cool and the
stars in the night sky were amazing!
What was/ is your worst memory of the race?     Waking up on the morning of
the long stage (about 50 miles!) and being sick with nerves. I honestly
though I was going to quit at the first checkpoint that day. Then I
looked at the guy lying next to me in the tent, who looked worse than I
felt! He kept going and I was immediately motivated again. I never
looked back after that. In a race like the MdS, everybody has highs and
lows, you just have to keep focussed on the goal. Plus, everybody
encourages one another. There’s a real bond between the runners.
How long did you have or take to train for the race?     I was running
anyway but specific training for the MdS was probably 5 or 6 months,
with the bulk of it in the last 12 weeks. Back to back 20+ milers at the
weekends!
What is the one thing you would have changed about your training?   I
would have done some upper body strengthening and carried a pack more
often in training.
What is the one piece of knowledge or recommendation you wished you had
had going out there?   Make sure you like all the food that you’re
carrying. I discovered that I should have taken more savoury stuff. I
found the sweet food unpalatable in the heat!

Name: Keith Anderson

 When did you completethe Marathon des Sables? 2009

What was yourbackground in running?   No background prior to entering the event
in 2007. Was formerly a rugby player.

What made you signup?   Had seen Ben Fogles documentary a few years before which
was the first awareness of the event. I was looking for a challenge and wanted
to prove that the ordinary person can achieve anything.

What was/ is your best memory of being out in the Sahara?
Difficult. In short the camaraderie and “journey” everyone shared. Personally,
on the long day I suffered sickness bug and almost retired at the first
checkpoint. I got medical assistance for extreme dehydration 7 x 1/2 litre bags
of saline and glucose via a drip, after which I got up and walked the next 66
miles non stop. That episode was “my mds”.

What was/ is yourworst memory of the race?    Sickness bug which swept the
campsite on day 2.

How long did you have or take to train for the race?   2 years building from 10
km up to ultra distance races as long as 64 miles.

 What is the one thing you would have changed about your training?
You don’t need to train for 2 years. 6 months should be long enough. However my
experience was in 2 stages. The journey to the start line which comprised of 2
years of fundraising and training which was an amazing time, and then there was
the race itself. The more training you do the more you get to know your body’s
limitations.

What is the one piece of knowledge or recommendation you wished you had had
 going out there?
I researched every element of the race to an extreme level and so I had all the
info I needed and there was no real surprises which gave me confidence in my
abilities. The best piece of advice that I had was to never withdraw yourself
from the race, get a medical assessment and let them withdraw you. You’ll be
surprised how much you can achieve even when you think you are done.
Also, never share anything with fellow participants, that’s not being selfish
it’s self preservation as bugs transmit very very easily so no sharing
water/food/cutlery/etc.

 

Name:  Lucja Leonard1902795_10152441613959924_4052712739759365014_n

When did you complete the MDS?    I did my first one in 2014, now up for my 2nd.

What was your background in running?   I took up running to lose weight about 8 years ago, hated running or any sport growing up, I was a size 18, weighing 98kg when I started with a walk/jog routine and next thing you know…..I’m running MdS (ha ha not quite, it did take quite some time but it was pretty quick considering my history) First marathon in 2011, first ultra 2013.

What made you sign-up?   I’d watched a documentary about it on TV and was gob smacked by the sheer challenge.

and then return again . . . and again?    My first MdS was a real eye opener, a real kick in the guts every day I was out there to say you are not as fit as you thought you were and I found it brutally difficult and although I finished I was personally disappointed with my result so even though on the finish line I vowed I would not be back….whilst I was watching my husband compete in it again last year (2015) and he did super amazing (32nd overall!) I just got so excited I had signed up before he had even finished the last stage!  I am really keen to go back and run it better and stronger.  I am fitter, lighter, stronger and wiser than last time so that has to help right?

What was/is the best memory of being out in the Sahara desert?    The total isolation, I love that feeling of being away from everything that is routine to my normal daily life in a stunningly beautiful place whilst pushing my body and mind to the limit.  It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

What was/ is your worst memory of being in the Sahara?    The heat & the sand!

How long did you have to or take to train for the race the first time round and then thereafter or have you been keeping fit doing other races in between?   I was marathon/ultra fit, or at least I thought I was (it’s all relevant) already so my training kicked off in the December of 2013 so a good 4 months of solid training with a mixture of training and a few races in between to keep me focussed.  Christmas is always a hard time though so that was a blip in the schedule.  In hindsight I can see now that I overtrained, I was so focussed on my weekly mileage rather than the quality of my training, and spent too many hours running ‘junk’ mileage and too much running with my bag instead of focussing on quality sessions and including strength work into it.  After MdS I remember it took at least a month for my body to recover, I recall feeling like I wanted to run about a week after and about 1/2mile in I just stopped and was totally exhausted, the mind wanted but the body couldn’t.  It really takes a lot out of you.

10153771_10152441614489924_1331766896319222961_nThis time around my training has been all about quality sessions, getting in my key sessions each week – strength, flexibility, speed, hills, tempo, long back to back runs and most importantly – rest!  I have only just had a run with my bag and only plan on about 4 runs with my bag fully weighted, and I will start heat chamber sessions and Bikram yoga 2 weeks out from the race.

What is the one thing you would have changed about your training?   Sometimes less is more.

What is the one piece of knowledge or recommendation you wished you had had before going out there the first time (if you can remember)?    It is probably really obvious and it does sound stupid but I wish I had realised how damn hot and sandy it was going to be, nothing prepares you for the furnace that is the Sahara and no one can explain it to you.

Did you change things massively year on year?    More in my training approach, a few tweaks to nutrition, especially for during the race, the first year I took lots of nuts and bars to eat whilst ‘running’ and found them impossible to stomach, so this time I am going for gels and liquid energy (like Hammer Perpeteum and Torq energy sachets to add to my water) and save the chewable stuff for back in camp.

Here are Lucja’s own blogs: MDS Preparation 2014 and Post-event – please do check them out.

 

Thank you for reading folks, I really do appreciate everyones support and words of motivation.  Big thank you to Gordon, Keith and Lucja for answering these questions for my blog but also for answering my incessant questions and fielding my worries.

 

I am raising money for a small local mental health charity – Dundee Association for Mental Health – DAMH – they are a wonderful Dundee based charity who do fantastic work to help local people.  As someone who understands the need for this kind of invaluable suppo12687943_10205375836827795_8892240053623715467_nrt, both personally and professionally, I aim to do my very best out there in Morroco.

I will be taking on my biggest challenge to date,
if you would like to donate to the charity and sponsor myself you can do so here – Sponsor Page – Thank you

Follow me from your comfortable seat 😉 – Here is a link you can go to to follow me on a ‘live’ basis but if you wish you can also send good luck messages to keep my spirits raised during the event!    I am runner number . . .  1013 (#scary)

Sponsor Profile: The Art of Communication

I feel incredibly honored to be sponsored by Cathy from  The Art of Communication  Cathy was in fact my first sponsor for this event – The Marathon des Sables – please do click on the link and visit/ catch up with her news on facebook.

 

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Here is Cathy’s take on the whole situation (with some pics I’d forgotten about) :

 

THE ART OF COMMUNICATION PROUDLY SUPPORTS LOUISE

 

‘My name is Cathy MacDonald and The Art of Communication is my business – a young, fresh and slightly unusual business I guess which helps people to improve their communication skills, understand human behaviour and positively influence those around them.  It is a light hearted but truly effective approach if good communication is important to the success or wellbeing of what you do.

 

While I would like to boast that the young and fresh description is just like me, that is probably stretching the truth in terms of years but when it comes to attitude, values and my frame of mind, it reflects my approach perfectly.  I have built my business on ethics and values so when you ask the question as to why am I am proudly supporting Louise my explanation sits so much with what I have just written.

 

Louise and I met around 5 years ago at Good Health and Fitness, an amazing gym with amazing trainers and it wasn’t long before we were discussing events.  I had just embarked on some adventure races and Louise was most definitely an adventure race type of trainer.  Should I say the rest is history? Perhaps.

We did an event together in an all girls team.  It was fun but not quite tough enough so we did another that claimed to be the worlds toughest forming part of a mixed team.  Months of training, months mentally preparing and months of logistical planning ……. Well, it was fun …. but not quite tough enough.

So here we are years later, the adventure races have toughened up and in fairness have left me in their wake but Louise has not only embraced the challenge they hold but faced it head on and has simply excelled.

 

When Louise announced that there was an opportunity for her to compete in Marathon Des Sables, my immediate reaction was of excitement and admiration. This really is a race that is ‘tough enough’ and I respect Louise and all that she will have to endure in preparation, during and after the race.

 

My thoughts of tough centre around the training and preparation while Louise’s thoughts of tough centre around finances, sponsorship and her charity  The personal responsibility to be resilient, strong and well prepared is something that Louise is taking in her stride – that is truly amazing.

 

I am sure The Art of Communication is not the normal type of business that people would expect to sponsor sports people, but in my mind ‘why not’.  Built on positivity, focus and strong ethics it seems a natural thing to do and I hope that Louise will be the first of many sportsmen and women i can support in future years.

 

Louise Johnstone, you are a strong and determined lady and The Art of Communication through me is proud to support you on this mammoth adventure.’

Thank you for your unwaivering support and confidence!  Moving closer and closer to raising much needed funds for local charity Dundee Association for Mental Health is becoming exciting but nevertheless holds much responsibility.  Responsibility I wish to fulfil to the best of my abilities.  If you would like to become a corporate sponsor please do contact me on louisept4u@yahoo.co.uk as soon as possible (early Janaury 2016) or to sponsor myself by donating to the charity please click on this justgiving link:

https://www.justgiving.com/Louise-Johnstone3/

 

Introducing my Sponsors: Stuart Aitken Fitness

I have been blown away by the generosity of Dundee’s small businesses in supporting me to reach the Marathon des Sables in order to raise money for local mental health charity , DAMH (Dundee Assocition for Mental Health).

As these become available to me, I will pop up small blogs where the businesses can highlight who they are and what they do, for example.  Please do pop over to thheir website and/ or facebook page.

First up is Stuart Aitken Fitness,  I have actually known Stuart for some time, we both attended Abertay University. I work alongside Stuart but also asked Stuart to help keep me honest with my own training a little while ago, yep even trainers need trainers, for my OCR (Obstacle Course Racing) so I am thrilled that Stuart has gotten involved in my new venture.

Stuarts take on the matter . . .

”When Louise asked me to be involved with her attempts to run the Marathon Des Sables (from now on this will be referred to as MDS), I could not have been happier. Louise is one of the most inspirational people I’ve encountered in the fitness industry. Through her consistent fundraising events, and community get-togethers she organises, she’s always been someone who I’ve enjoyed working alongside. This however, is a whole other ball game (which I know she knows!) so my reason for writing this is to let you in on some of the things I’ll be advising Louise with throughout her time in training for the MDS.

 

Training

Firstly we have to take into account her training. Now I won’t be involved with the running side, as this isn’t where I specialise or have enough knowledge to be of practical help, but I do have experience in helping athletes become stronger and faster from the weight room.

Louise is going to need a consistent weight-training plan, which may come as a surprise to some of you as she isn’t doing an event that requires lifting weights or being visually strong. This is a common myth with weight training, that it is only used to improve strength and muscle tone, it has so many more benefits to any individual who takes it up, especially endurance athletes who commonly miss it out for fear of getting to muscular.

The weight training Louise will be focussed upon doing will be mainly to ensure we give her current muscles a good reason to stick around. We know from plenty of research that a big muscle is a strong, more robust muscle. This means that doing weight training will help her stay injury free and keep her current muscle at a reasonable level, so she is still strong enough to endure what her body will go through during the MBS.

Although her primary focus will be upon getting the miles in and ensuring her body is ready from an endurance perspective, training in the gym will play a big role in providing her with the best platform to have an amazing race.

 

Nutrition

Nutrition is another thing that is quite often disregarded for endurance events, at least right up until the day before the event (carb-loading for example!).

This is going to be absolutely essential for Louise, as she will need to ensure her body recovers optimally every time she trains. Nutrition plays a huge role in this and ensuring she gets enough calories in to keep up the volume of training she’ll be doing, while also providing enough nutrients to keep her immune system in tact so she can keep on top of illnesses.

We’ll need to ensure she gets a good amount of calories into her body, which will have a large focus on getting plenty of protein (for muscle recovery and building) as well as carbohydrate (for fuel during her training bouts) and fat (so her hormonal profile stays at a high level).

 

Mindset

Lastly, and I think most importantly, we’ll need to ensure her mindset is excellent throughout the whole event, and leading up to it. I don’t think this will be something Louise will struggle with too much as she is already strong-willed, but the MDS is completely new animal, and one that will need preparation from her mind. We’ll need to ensure we’ve ran over possible problems that will arise, as well as getting her head into a position of belief and confidence with everything she does. It will also be important for her to visualise and put herself into positions she didn’t think her body could cope with as this will help through the toughest parts of the race.

Overall I really can’t wait to start seeing how Louise progresses through her training, and ultimately when she actually completes the MDS. I know she’ll set herself up right and raise an incredible amount of money for the Dundee Mental Health Association, and I can’t wait to be part of something as special as this.”

Thank you Stuart!  Here are the links to Stuart’s site:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/StuartAitkenFitness

If you would like to become a corporate sponsor please do get in touch, I am still aiming to raise the final amount by early January.  My contact email is louisept4u@yahoo.co.uk.

Stuart Aitken Fitness

 

My biggest Challenge yet but I need YOUR help!

The last few days has been a whirlwind of activity as soon as I received an email that was giving me the possibility of a cancellation place in the MDS – Marathon des Sables . What a phenomenal opportunity to raise money for the local mental health charity I like to support – Dundee Association for Mental Health (DAMH).

The problem or shall we call it a challenge, is that, as it is a potential cancellation place, everything is all very last minute.  Including securing corporate sponsorship to pay the initial £2175, unbelieveably I am in the position to say all the fantastic businesses, the people driving these companies have gotten us to a place where I only need to raise just under £600 by approximately Tues/ Wed this week.  A big ask, not when you consider we have already raised the amount to get here since Thurs evening – when all hell broke loose hahaha.

I have been truly honoured to be supported and blown away by people wanting to get involved and support this.  I really think it shows the change in attitude toward mental health on a larger scale but also, something I always underestimate, peoples support and I guess faith in me to achieve what I set out to do!

Why is this important?

I am one of those who is not afraid to say I have had mental health issues, it doesn’t define me, it is not all that I am.  I think this is important to remember this, to remember that mental health is not selective, it doesn’t matter whether you are a fitness professional, a high-flying career woman/ man, a child or an elderly person.  The severity that anyone can be affected is variable and the diagnosis can be variable also.  We need to begin moving away from the idea that those who suffer from mental health difficulties are a certain type of person (yes there are risk-factors but this is not  a definitive) or have a specific job/ background.  1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health problem!  A family member, a work colleague, a friend, we all know someone.

I want to help DAMH to help meet the needs of there service users,they use physical activity based groups, greenbuds, relaxation periods.  A variety of support is available for their service users, I volunteer and run a ‘Lifestyle with Louise’ where service users can book in to see me and we discuss what can help improve their health and how to go about this.  This is no longer about me, this is about what i can do to help raise the profile of a fantastic local charity and raising funds to help them do this.

Taking on my biggest challenge to date to raise sponsorship funds for this fantastic charity is something I relish, being driven forward with each step, to keep going with the training and the actual race with the belief and support of others makes the decisions easy.

Sponsors:

Once again a huge thank you to those already invested:

Art of Communication – Catherine MacDonald – She has set up this fantastic new business which is transforming her clients interactions with others.

Stuart Aitken Fitness – Stuart has been fantastic at helping me to stay accountable and focused in my gym based training when I often become distracted!

Lift the Bar – These guys are simply amazing!!  A company/ group run by Chris Burgess, a personal training education and mentoring.  Leading the way in personal trainer development!  If you are in the fitness industry please head over and check them out, you will not regret it.

Sole Body Sole – Bharti runs this company, looking after all your foot problems – I have a feeling I will need alot, alot of care of my feet when I get back from this race next year!  Have you seen the pictures????

Gas Technology Partnership Ltd – This company is run independently by Sarah Bridge!

If you would like to become a corporate sponsor please get in touch as soon as possible – my email address is louisept4u@yahoo.co.uk