MDS2015 for me was about the most mystical day in my life – stage 4, 91.7k run. There were a few things that made that day so... Mystical strong infernal wind especially at race start and finish. A few times wind razed cap off my head. Was thinking about Oleg who kindly gave me his sun-sand-glasses (I’ve lost mine) and he left without the one. Thanked him many times while running. When I saw small sandstorm approaching it took me less than a second to put eye protection on. It allowed to continue without stops... Mystical things with my performance on that day. I have started very slowly, everyone was passing me, and I was slow until 25k. Then I felt hungry and made carb-drink. Felt very strong from 25k to 60k and was fast. From 60k to 75k was very slow again and tired. Had caffeine drink just before last check point. It woke me up quickly and I started to run like a cheetah. I was flying as long as I could see the road track (it was dark already). Then there comes a sand. I had a torch but light was very poor. Spare batteries were with me but it didn’t come to my mind to stop and change them — 87k moving in the desert... I walked last 5k and it reminded me of a very drunk man coming back to his home. Saw many people overtaking me from right and left. My finish time was 13h20m but I have feeling that half of that time took for those last 5k in the darkness... Remember mystical things at the finish line. Finish gate were moving by very strong wind. I looked at Garmin, was surprised to see it was still on – after 13.5 hours. Was happy to see 92k on my watch. I felt cold. Sand was everywhere – all over body, face, eyes, ears, hair. Met Alexey in front of web camera, only a few seconds were between us after 92k moving – unbelievable! We hugged each other. Sent good night kiss to family and friends thro webcam and went towards our tent... It was mystical how long it took me to find our tent in the darkness. They were a lot of empty tents by that time – people who lived there were fighting that time. Finally I found tent 21 and there were quite a few guys in the tent already. And then I reached our home – tent 22. Finally!.. Natalya’s bag was there but not Natalya. Wind with sand was stitching through our tent and sand was everywhere on the carpet. The only thing I could do that time is to find my sleeping bag and get inside... Mystical how tent mates came throughout the night. Words of greetings and happiness for a mate reached in one piece. And every new person felt down to sleep... Remember my mystical trip to medical tent in the middle of night. I saw a few guys covered by survival sheet there and with droppers in their hand... Body was mystically screaming... What a mystical 30th Marathon Des Sables!
I will remember that day and night all my life!
MDS2015 was about perception about pain. It was about 25km of stage 3 completed when I felt strong pain at my lower back. I switched from jogging to very easy jogging trying to feel the pain and move it out of my body (I’ve had good teachers). I have partially succeeded when very very strong pain has appeared at little finger of right foot (one of the last of Mohican among my fingers). It was much stronger than back pain and it has forced me to start walk limping. Walked probably 5-6 k of that stage and magically switched to running when saw finish gate. First question after finish line was – how am I going to run 36 k tomorrow?? Went to medical, had a few painful injections inside blisters and limped to our tent No 22. Ironically medical tent at MDS is probably the only place where I could feel care (apart from friends’ care at our tent). I want to say big thanks to medical staff. Obviously blisters are the most common and the smallest issue which people can only have at MDS. When you see guys lying with dropper at the hospital you realize you are not too bad. Together with sadness to those guys it gave some power to go on. Felt that pain on finger all day and all night... In the morning, surprisingly, nothing has bothered me anymore. No drugs, no pills – just mind games. Interestingly that when I touched that finger severe pain was still there. But when foot was inside trainer ready to run — all was OK. What I want to tell? Pain is obviously reaction of our body and mind to some external irritant. And there’s always a choice – I could allow pain to get control over me and to force me to stop or I could set my mind higher than that pain and to go on adventure. That time seems I’ve chosen the second because I have never during the race considered that I will not finish and that is probably why pain has disappeared.
You can always choose mindset so it become not interesting for pain to stay with you!
MDS2015 was about mutual assistance. Oleg and I were leaving Dubai when it was strongest sand storm I have ever seen here. At the end it’s appeared to happen a good sign for us but not for our bag in the beginning. Because of delay in Dubai our connection time was very critical. We started our MDS running at Casablanca airport and luckily caught the flight. Our bag’s appeared to miss it. What a surprise to not see your bag full of food, bottles and other stuff so much needed to run in Sahara desert! Patrick has met everyone at Ouarzazate airport with big smile. We didn’t know that time he’s race director! He has kindly offered us to take care of missing bag and we gave him our claim form. We were in the bus on the way to our first bivouac and constantly thinking about bag. I was ready to give everything to have it with us! And we didn’t have our bag in the morning of check-in day. Everyone had to check-in before 1600 and get their bib, timing chip, gps, medical card etc. Organizers told us that our bag should be in the camp today but nobody told when exactly. There was a big desire to start running but absence of compulsory items has pulled me down. Took race sheet and have started to fill it in. Appeared I had only 3-4 items with me out of 10-15 compulsory equipment. The rest were in the baggage. Oleg had wisely put majority of items into backpack... And this is when one of our tent mates (Anatoliy) has kindly offered a mirror to me (one of compulsory items), then Alexey gave me tooth brush and paste and gel, then Dmitriy asked if I need spoon, then guys from another Russian tent has kindly offered food... It was very kind and absolutely supportive of them! This is when I rose and realized that there are people around me and that I can ask for their help and that I have to act and not just waiting. Then organizers came and offered a lot of missing items from their small stock including food – how generous it was of other runners to share food with us...
It was a lot about giving at MDS that is why it felt like a big family! And I was proud to be part of that family
MDS2015 was about keeping moving according to race plan. This is the race with too many variables – preparation level, physical condition, heat, wind, sand, hydration and nutrition, weight of backpack, blisters and muscle sore, fatigue and so on and so forth. I did have good fitness condition. I didn’t have enough preparation for MDS (about 120k in March with longest one 21k in Prague together with my wife). Came with a cold which I’ve got in chilly Prague (apologies to my tent mates for bothering them with strong cough at nights). When setting the goals for 2015 at the end of 2014 I wrote in my diary to finish top 100 at MDS and considering the said I have changed that – now my ambition was to run using heart rate and to finish the race. Have decided to run at stage 1 at not higher than 155 bpm average. Switched on my garmin at start line and was shocked to see heart rate at level of 120bpm!! Started to jog and after 2k had 162 bpm. At the same time I could easily talk to Oleg. It felt like I’m running with 135-140. So I decided to proceed with not more than average 165 bpm and I have finished that stage with that figure. It was very challenging to breath during day 1, virus was still inside. Every next day my heart rate was coming down by 5 bpm reaching 142 at stage 4 (92k) which was good. It was a big surprise for me to become 100th after stage 4. And I thought that if despite of all things I have reached top 100, I have to stay there. And I’ve pushed at stage 5 marathon as much as I could but still looking by at heart rate (average was 164)
Quite often well-thought race plan is able to do magic things!
MDS2015 was about beauty and power of Sahara desert and their inhabitants. Haven’t expected that it is so different, so colorful, so interesting to discover and so welcomed. We have met a local guy not very far from the first camp, probably Berber. And he has shown to us his handcrafts made of different stones, one by one, piece by piece. Every item was so precious for him. These things were probably all he had to sell to raise some money... Some kids stood along the route cheering runners, in the middle of nowhere, there were no houses that I could see nearby, nothing... How they could get there??... Remember in the middle of 92k stage I was jogging in the dunes and a local boy and a girl were 100 meters in front of me moving same direction. It lasted probably 20 minutes and still same distance between us and I was all that time jogging and they were walking. And I looked at my legs and legs were jogging indeed. Then I looked to theirs and they easily walked talking to each other. I have started to laugh...
MDS2015 was about highest level of commitment, devotion and heroism of certain persons. I admire to each and every woman who not only finish in that race but decided to take part. I cannot recommend this race to a woman... Though all Russian women have enjoyed MDS and some of them are dreaming of come back... I remember two guys who have partial sight and know for sure that one of them is finished the race... The oldest man of 83 years old... Two people who finished the race with casts on leg... Russian boys who finished at top 100, I saw their feet full of deep, large and red-blue-black blisters... Tent mate Valentin who had half-a-kilo of sugar in his backpack sharing with all tentmates... My Dubai friends Marcus and Tom who made all the way shoulder to shoulder... Each boy and girl who finished close to 8pm after 35ish hours at 92k stage. And they had to wake up at 5am next morning for another marathon!!!!!..........
MDS2015 was about small boy Nikita Gerasimov who lives near Moscow. He is too small to realize that hundreds of people with kind and big hearts from all over the world are aware of his existence and helps him as much as they can. Dear friends, thank you for not staying aside and being giving. Appreciate your generous donations for open heart surgery for Nikita. I do believe that all kind deeds are coming back sooner or later. Thank you for being one great family for him! You can donate using this link http://rusfondusa.org/en/letter/58 About USD30’000 more are needed for his surgery
And finally MDS2015 was about your sweet messages. They were so much waited and they were so much pain relieving. Can compare feelings of getting them with water well which you finally found in the middle of desert. I read them 100 times. We needed those words right there and right then! Do send messages to athletes at MDS or anywhere else!
Thanks to everyone for the greatest support I have ever had! I enjoyed every meter of the adventure called MDS 2015 with each of you in my heart and in my mind! Anything is possible
PS. What a warm welcome we had at home! We could only dream about such a reward...