Doin’ the Dodo

Posted on July 9, 2013

5


Apologies in advance … a long post!

Every runner would agree that you learn most from the events that were the most challenging. Our takeaways are greatest when we’re tested … and I guess this refers as much to our running as it does our lives in general.

And so it was, this past weekend, when I ran the Dodo Trail in Mauritius. I won’t recount some dull as dishwater race report … not my style as you know, but instead a recap plus my greatest takeaways … of which, there were a few …

The Dodo Trail is the race on the Mauritius running calendar … three distances and some serious trail to contend with, albeit softened a little by the magnificent mountain landscapes and sublime sea views to be had in every direction. 

We set off from the effortlessly gorgeous Le Telfair at the crack of dawn. Me, along with Claire, my new trail running buddy, Stefan, an utterly charming German running machine and the lovely Jerome, who I ran with last year in Borneo’s TMBT.

The race started without a hiccup. The entire event was organised to perfection. It was pitch black and there was an excitement in the air … nerves and anticipation sky-high … and then we were off, 0530 on Sunday the 7th July, to the bright and beautiful sparkles of fireworks overhead. Stunning.

My training runs had been short of late, what with Dubai’s unrelenting summer heat and my equally unrelenting work schedule but still, I thought, it’s only 50k. 3,500m is a decent elevation but not new for me …

How little I knew!

There are trails & there are trails …

I have never seen technical trails of this degree. In fact, every moment I lapsed into Tori-world resulted with a face plant. Luckily, my lovely nails remained intact … thank heavens for small mercies. Think huge boulders, giant bulging tree roots, dense forest, winding tree-lined trails … if you can even call them trails!

Many of the ascents / descents were so steep that weathered ropes and thick chains were clung onto for dear life when not trying to monkey swing between trees to keep up some momentum. I certainly understand why I was recommended to bring gloves, as much of the race is spent on all fours. The switchbacks of Nepal, SE Asia and Europe simply didn’t exist. In fact, the next time I enter a race outside of Mauritius that claims to be technical, I shall probably laugh …

Sweat Betty …

I was drinking a lot, much more than my usual Camel-like tendencies dictate. I think I drank perhaps 15 litres of water in total yet I didn’t pee once. And I wasn’t taking electrolytes. Clearly, they were doing an awful lot of good sitting in my decadent bathroom back at Le Telfair! Being well accustomed to training in the heat, I simply didn’t think they were required. Wrong, wrong, wrong …

Around 40k in, I suffered the most dreadful cramping … unbearable spasms up both legs, but high up on rocky terrain, with no help in sight there was little I could do other than wimper (a lot), swear (a lot) and wish desperately that my mum was there to look after me (what she would have been able to do, I don’t know!) These cramps were clearly induced by too little sodium in my body v. the amount of water I was taking in. When eventually I peed later that night, it was the colour of dark rust. Not good!

Angels to the rescue …

I had met Deon the day before when we sat poolside at Le Telfair, being interviewed for a race movie and chatting about our lives and loves of the trails. We were together for the first few hours of the race and then split for a few. During my abovementioned dark hour though, there he was, coming up from the rear, ready to rescue me. What a rock star. He restored my faith, he fed me, watered me, encouraged me, motivated me and kept me moving forward …

When things go wrong …

My sunglasses broke early on. I smashed a lens on a rock and suffered a little thereafter. Luckily, much of the route was sheltered from the sun but still, I made a mental note to carry a spare next time. They weigh so little after all …

Both my shuffles died on me too. I had charged them the night before but when they get wet, the charge just disappears.  I had been saving music for when I most needed it … when my legs felt fatigued, my spirits needed a lift and my soul a little rescue. Only when that time came, did I realise that I’d been sweating so much that my belt was soaked through and the shuffles depleted of life. Aaahhhhhhh …. nothing that a little ziplock would have avoided.

Going down …

Something I’m aware of at every race is my phenomenal poor performance on steep down hill. I guess that you can only improve on the downs, get the confidence to sashay down without fear or hesitation, with real life practice.  Uphill, I have the 40 floors of my apartment building to play in but there’s no substitute for proper downhill trails. When my time comes to leave Dubai, I shall bear this in mind when choosing my next playground

Mind over matter …

My greatest lesson has to be the importance of mindset. Success in races depends on the strategy / training / practical elements of the challenge … the pacing, the preparation, the fuelling, the hydration and so on … and then, equally if not more importantly, our mindset. The attitude that whatever challenges you face, you will rise to them and conquer them. Ride the storm because calm seas will always follow. ‘Relentless forward motion’ as I hear myself saying often. Thankfully kind souls on the trail sometimes help us through the challenges … as was the case this time … but sometimes we just need rely on ourselves. We need to remember how privileged we are to have these opportunities full stop. And to not, therefore, give our absolute all and shake off a bad attitude, makes a mockery of our good fortune.

All in all, it was a magical day despite a few things going wrong. I learnt a lot but I also laughed a lot and I wouldn’t change a thing. Deon and I crossed the finish line and despite the initial euphoria, I secretly wished we hadn’t finished so we could have enjoyed just a little bit more time on the trails … Mautitius is a truly magical island and I already look forward to returning …

Over and out … and thanks again DB … my rock …

x

PS. A GIANT thank you to Heritage Resorts / Le Telfair for having made this trip possible.  If ever you find yourself dreaming and scheming re a visit to the beautiful island of Mauritius, I cannot recommend anywhere more highly. Imagine beautiful grounds, the warmest hospitality, gorgeous decor, amazing restaurants, service second to none, pristine beaches, perfect pools and then? Double it and then some … and even then you won’t arrive close. I heart Le Telfair and I would struggle to offer a single fault. Till the next time … x

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