Sand running and volcano climbing - November 29th, 2013

29th November 2013

Sand running and volcano climbing - November 29th, 2013

Why am I going so slowly? 8kph? Really!? My feet are on fire. There is sand in my shoes. This hurts. There are people staring at me. I am sweating more than I thought was possible. Hmm... This is going to be so painful.

Some holiday. Some run. 

Admittedly, most people go to Mauritius and Reunion to lie on beaches and sip fruity cocktails through little straws. I however, did not. I came to run on sand. Yes, I could have gone back to Namibia which is far better suited for this training, but given I had already done my fair share of dune buggying (that I have already done), Mauritius and Reunion seemed a much better option.

So, I donned my full desert gear and got out on the sands. Yes - I looked a complete twat. I got some of the strangest looks from the folk on the beach, but I didn't really care. Resort after resort I ran past leathery beached whales, barely able to lift their heads to see over their engorged bellies at the bizarre sight of a fully kitted out desert runner, complete with hat, backpack, front mounted bottles, calf guards, glasses and ipod.

Learning the hard way... but still learning

Now, running on sand isn't easy, especially sand at an angle (leading into the water). It might be stating the obvious, but when you put your foot down, it digs into the sand. When you push off, you push sand behind you. Unless the sand is really hard, you grind away and feel like you are going nowhere... getting hotter, sandier and more and more frustrated at the lack of progress. On my first run I did 10km in about 1 hour 15, something that I would normally happily knock out in about 45 minutes. On my second run, I did a half marathon partly on the road, partly on the sand... 2 hours 20. Hot, sweaty, sandy and rather demoralising. I did however learn a few key lessons:

  • Little steps: Tiny floaty steps over sand are far more efficient than striding
  • Foot planting: Similar to the lessons I learned on snow and on ice, it's important to know where to put your feet. Put your foot on the far side of the mini sand hill (so foot is pointing down)
  • Manage your temperature: If you get too hot, you sweat too much, performance drops... at times, you need to cool down and lower the heart rate
  • Avoid hornets: Be wary of clothing colouring in tropical places. I got stung exactly half way into a 15km run by a giant African killer hornet wasp. It was like a small bird and hurt like hell

 

Volcanos and mountains

I am neither a great runner, nor a great climber, but I am however really stubborn. After my beach running, I figured it would be a good change of scenery to head over to Reunion and climb one of the world's most active volcanoes and also the highest mountain in the Indian Ocean. I tried and failed on both occasions to properly run these... I remembered from from past experience that volcanoes = phenomenally uneven and dangerously sharp rocks but figured I would do it anyway. I did however manage to properly pace it up the '2 day' climb of Piton des Nieges (3,070m) in just under 6 hours.

All good experience, additional time on my feet whilst making the most of the Africa experience.

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