The Cinderella Dilemma

Posted on November 4, 2011

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 I have never made a secret of the fact that I am the world’s worst packer and now, as I start on sorting my gear for Racing the Planet, I feel just preparing my pack might be one of my greatest challenges to date.  At least in the past, despite going on course for much longer or much higher, I’ve had the option of a nice fat tip for a hard-working Sherpa and a good old generous 30kg Emirates baggage allowance to rely on.

the list …

Not so now.  The mandatory list of equipment alone is 13 pages long.  How on earth I am supposed to fit a -10c sleeping bag, medical supplies, warm clothing, a load of accessories and all my food for a week into a 30lt lightweight running pack is beyond me.

It’s like one of the stepsisters squeezing their feet into Cinderella’s slipper.

I actually cut the handle off my toothbrush this morning (pictured) in order to shave 12 grams.

where there’s a will …

But as countless competitors before me have realised, you find a way eventually and look back and laugh.  I know I will look back and laugh at this morning, when I spent a good hour wondering around various shops in Mall of the Emirates with my little weighing scales (thank god for previously useless / unused gifts from wicked ex mother-in-laws)

what to wear …

On the clothing front, the greatest dilemma is how much cold can I suffer?  Although we climb high, with the total elevation gain and loss across the entire course 29,500ft and 31,800ft respectively, we never sleep higher than 3,000m I don’t think.  But still, this is a fair height and come end November, the temperatures will drop.  All my fancy very cold weather gear is way too bulky to run with so I will need to rely on a lightish-weight fleece and a couple of buffs.

Buffs are the little back dresses of the mountains … so versatile as in an instant they can become  the perfect neck protector, wristband, warm hat, bandana, concealer of several weeks of unwashed hair … you name it, they do it.  I’m bringing one simple and chic black one and another animal print one, my signature print, brought kindly to me by Santa last year. I’m also bringing my Starbucks Via hat… a lucky hat that I wore for some shots at the top of Aconcagua for a potential ad.

I‘ll be wearing pretty much the same kit for the duration although we have to take two tops and much to my distress, I don’t have two that match my shoes so I currently have the great Gio at adidas sports marketing sourcing my request.  adidas … thank you always for being my rock in the colour co-ord department.

what to eat …

Food is also causing me great dilemmas.  Again, the mandatory list is extensive because consumption of too few calories simply won’t result in crossing the finish line.  Add to this my large appetite and I feel I need to go above and beyond the minimum.  I have Mountain House freeze-dried foods for dinner … spag bol, chilli con carne, chicken korma … I have quite a selection although I suspect they all taste the same.  Post my high protein foods research, I will be taking parmesan cheese to sprinkle over EVERYTHING.

Other than that, my staple porridge will do for breakfast and whilst out on the course, an extensive selection of Gu Chomps, Power Bars, Mule Bars, Cliff Shots and all the other usual suspects. I was advised to take some ‘normal’ treats but I know myself too well … they would be eaten before I even reach the start line.

care for the feet …

On the medical front, again the mandatory list is long.  I’ve been told not to have red toenails (aka red polish on skin to hide where toe nails once lay) so I can easily puncture blisters under the skin.  Charming. They say management of the feet is the greatest problem in these races.  You can be physically primed and mentally prepared to finish strong but if unlucky with your feet, you’re doomed. I know of awesome runners who normally lead the pack who have dnf’d over feet problems, much I guess like those who successfully climb Everest five times then get altitude sickness on their sixth attempt.

life’s little luxuries …

As for my luxuries … I shall definitely be taking a few iPod shuffles … this will work out lighter than taking a solar power charger and I do love listening to cheesy tunes, pondering over political podcasts and discovering more about me with my great self-development books. Chicken soup for the soul. I’m also taking a mini L’Occitane moisturiser … a little nourishment for the body never goes amiss and that’s about it really.

Thank god for Brazilian Keratin and eyelash tinting … because even when you’re in the back of beyond, you simply never know who you might meet!

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