Marathon des Sables 2021 - Day 6 (42.2k)

Day 5 I don't remember too much about.  It was just a day of lazing around and recovering as much as humanly possible.  I got through the long stage relatively unscathed but my toes were given a right bashing so had blistered quite badly.  It was caused by the shuffling during the middle of the stage leading to greater lateral impact than normal in the toe box, but was then exacerbated by the rocky descent off the jebel.  The net result was my big toe on both feet had a big blister from the tip of the toe, under the toenail itself and through to the other side.  I sorted it out myself and didn't see the need to seek medical support.

The highlight of Day 5 was a cold can of coca-cola the race organisers gave out!  It was at this point that I realised I only had a little over 3 minutes to gain to 10th place overall.  If I could come in the top 10 it would also mean a small trophy.  In a slightly bizarre way, I kind of wished I wasn't in this position as for most people the time gaps were often 30 mins+.  For me it meant I had to go all out on the final day!

I ran through a number of scenarios of how to play it tactically.  The only sensible conclusion was to hang on to the Italian competitor like a limpet for at least 10 miles, if not to the half way point and beyond and try and turn it into a burnout to the finish.

The start of Day 6 went well early on and to be honest I felt really good, bashing out 5.30mins / km with ease and it felt like I was jogging.  There was a significant headwind and in normal circumstances I would be cursing it, but it took the sting out of the sun.  We were both part of a far larger group in the first 10km and gradually over time it thinned out.  Eventually there were just three of us, including a second Italian runner and we just chatted, despite the language barrier.  Embarrassingly, the conversation was entirely in English rather than Italian.  Whatever happened I thought that despite racing for 10th, he was a nice guy and in fairness whenever I saw him on the other stages he was always trying to motivate.

Going at a good lick early on.

Between CP1 and CP2 there was a moderate amount of dunes and as soon as we entered them it was like someone had turned off the wind and turned up the temperature.  I quickly went from feeling great to struggling to keep my pace.  It was like a carbon copy of earlier stages where in the middle of the day, if it went beyond a certain temperature it just became too much for me.  I quickly went from feeling fine, to those tell tale signs of having to make a conscious effort to hold on, to a few metre gap to eventually the elastic band snapping.  At this point I knew any chance of 10th was over.

As I knew overall 12th was some distance behind me, I just concentrated on getting to the finish in a sort of cross between a run and a shuffle.  With a couple of km to go I lost a position, but at this point I wasn't bothered as it wasn't worth fighting for.  I finished 14th overall on the day, remaining 11th overall.  In the end the gap between myself and 10th went from about 3 minutes to 20 minutes.  With a bit of effort this could have been reduced to 10-15 minutes but wouldn't have made any difference.  I was beaten fair and square so had no cause for complaint.  In some ways it made it easier to reconcile as if the gap had closed to say 30 seconds overall, then I would have been hacked off, but as it was I knew what had to be done and the gap between us got wider and not shorter.

Crossing the line

It was then just a case of getting my medal and then the fairly odd sensation of sitting out the rest of the day, having finished the MdS but not quite as we still had the charity walk the following day.


Popular posts from this blog

Spine Race - Some Stats (2012-2024) - Updated following 2024 race.

Ranger Ultras - High Peak 100k

Ranger Ultras Pennine Bridleway 270km