Thursday, 21 February 2013

The Ocean Floor Race 2013 A race to remember.

Well where do I start!!!
What a amazing experience & a race that I will never forget.
At the start I was a bit concerned when I was told there were only 12 competitors in the race, but how wrong could I be you really couldn't wish to meet 12 of the nicest friendliest runners around each with their different personality types which really made the group.
The crew which consisted of Keith,Philippa,Sarah,Will & Adrian were second to none & it was a pleasure to have such friendly helpful people around & I thank you all for looking after & taking care of  me & Amanda when we were not at our best throughout the race.

6 months ago I didn't even know that I was doing this race & at this time I had never even met Amanda we had just chatted on Facebook.
I can now honestly say that Amanda is more than just a running friend she is like my little sister/Best friend & we now know everything about each other & Im so pleased that she asked me to do this race with her & Im sure after this adventure we will become friends for life.
When I was asked to run this race I really didn't think that it would turn out to be such a amazing experience & Im writing this on the bus back to the hotel feeling quite emotional.
So after 6 months of training/running & meeting up with Amanda & quite frankly having a good laugh along the way race week / holiday was here.

So where do I begin,
This race was always going to be different to every other race I have ever done as it was a adventure/journey more than a race & everyone seemed to have the same opinion just to get to the finish.
As most people know I am very competitive & some of my friends seemed to think that it may be difficult for me to run with Amanda but I can honestly say we had no issues at all & I couldn't of asked for a better running partner & we worked as a perfect team who helped each other.

The white desert you would expect as the name suggests would be white but the course was a mixture of lovely sand, horrible black iron like rock formations, deep sand & white rock hard patches (which really hurt your feet)

We had 10 checkpoints to reach throughout the 160 mile event & a maximum of 4 days to do it in, with this you also had to carry some mandatory kit with a min 2 litre of water, sleeping bag,first aid etc etc.
The race started at 12.10 on the Sunday afternoon , Yep only us British start a race at the hottest time of the day in the desert.
So GPS units at the ready & waypoints set in them we were off!!
The main thing that scared us both about the race was the navigation & I can honestly say I feel a expert now & was so proud that we didn't get lost once, a massive thanks to my hubby Ben for teaching us how to use the GPS properly.
I have been thinking long & hard how to write this blog & I am finding it really difficult as there are so many things I want to put in it & try not to forget.

Well here goes this is my story.
I honestly have never been so nervous about a race in my life & I could see Amanda was also, We had chatted numerous times in the past about the race saying that we didn't care how long it took us as long as we got to the finish line.We had also decided that we were going to run our own race & to try not to get dragged by other competitors.
We did however run the first couple of stages with Matt & Jamie which was really nice & we had some good banter with them & we got some great photos early on with them too.

We did feel we were maybe going a little to quick with them as its always difficult to run with 4 people so after a little chat with Amanda we decided it best to let the guys go & keep to our own plan.
The first few checkpoints seemed to come around quite quickly & it was lovely to see friendly faces ready to jump into action & help in any way possible from taping feet to cooking us some rice or noodles.
I was loving the peace & quiet of the desert & its really hard to explain how you feel unless you have experienced it, but the amazing scenery & solitude of the place just hits you & I loved it.
What did really surprise me was how cold the desert got at night & as the first day drawer to a end I was looking forward to getting some warmer clothes on for the night section.
So straight into the checkpoint tent to find our drop bags & to grab some warm gear, this you would think would be quite straightforward, but for some reason my long tights were nowhere to be found & I was gutted to say the least as we had been so organised & it was getting freezing yep freezing !!!
Luckily for me Matt & Jamie were both still at the checkpoint & heard what was going on.
Jamie bless him was a savour that night & he quickly dug deep into his backpack & gave me his long tights, Jamie your a star & I owe you big time.
The night sections were always going to be hard for me & Amanda as obviously when your tired you really have to concentrate & when its dark its twice as hard to read GPS & Amanda's fear of the dark was also in the back of my mind & christ does it get dark in the desert. ( luckily for us we both had some amazing Hope head torches) to guide us. I could see Amanda was getting quite nervous of the dark, so what do u do? we decided the best option was to try & catch up with Matt & Jamie so heads down & off we sped, I honestly do not know who was more surprised when we caught up with them.
We then ran with the guys to the next checkpoint where we decided to stop & have a couple of hours power nap, which fitted in perfectly with the moon coming up, Its amazing the difference the moon makes in the desert & this really helped Amanda with not feeling nervous & we both felt quite good the rest of the night & we kept plugging away at the miles, we also kept each other entertained with stories & trying to keep ourselves awake.
Day 2.
Today was a really tough day for both of us in the desert & we were both literally dead on our feet &  after about 40 hours & that with only a couple of hours sleep it was starting to take its toll on us, we literally had 5k to go to the checkpoint & I was falling asleep on my feet & so was Amanda, put this together with it been freezing cold, pitch black & both of us were starving, we both decided the best option was to stop & get out our sleeping bags & have a power nap.
30 mins later my alarm woke us, its amazing how just a little nap can make such a difference & we made our way to the checkpoint, the wind had got up quite bad now & we were so pleased to have our Buffs on as sand was blowing everywhere & it looked like a storm was brewing.
When we finally arrived at the checkpoint it was so nice to see 5 other competitors there & we were told that the race had now been put into lock down & no one could continue until the sandstorms had passed.
So we all had to muck in together now as there we a total of 9 of us inc Phillipa the Doc & Will the physio in a tent made for about 6, but it was cosy & we all kept warm, we also had a good 5 hour sleep and it wasn't till the early hours of the morning before they let anyone continue & the sandstorm had passed its worst.
Im pleased to say the rest had done us the world of good & we both started the day of bright & fresh, this was Amanda's best day & my worst day as the temperature was really hot & I struggle in the heat & we also  nearly ran out of water along the way.
This part of the course was also monotonous & all you could see was sand for miles & miles & which ever way the GPS sent us looked the same, we seemed to be getting nowhere fast!!!
Sometimes fate plays apart in these races & we were starting to panic as we still had about 8k left to the next checkpoint & hardly any water left between us!!
We had seen no one for hours until all of a sudden we saw a 4x4 heading towards us which Amanda decided to flag down & luckily for us there were 2 british tourists inside on a desert tour after enquiring what we were up to they kindly gave us a 2 litre bottle of water & went on there way., Im sure they don't realise how grateful we were , so thank you whoever you are & I'm sure somewhere in England there is a couple telling the story of 2 mad english women flagging there car down during there desert tour.
We found out later at the next checkpoint that quite a few competitors had run out of water & they were trying to get some water out to us but couldn't find us.
I really can't express how good we were looked after by Diaa & the rest of the bedouin crew at the checkpoints & it didn't matter what time of day or night we arrived at the checkpoints they always sprung into action to help us with hot drinks, coke or food.

The last night of the race was a really tough section & we had cliffs & mountains to go over which in the daylight may not of been so tough but when its pitch black you have to be so careful & keep a eye on each other as one wrong step could of ended in disaster.
As this was our last stage & we knew we were going to finish we had a moment where we decided to stop & turn of our head torches & lay on the sand & look at the stars. If you ever get the chance to go to the western desert you so have to do this as the sky & stars are a amazing sight & I even saw a shooting star. We also got to see the scotty dog in the sky (thanks Sarah our sports massage therapist for showing us this before the event started) If you don't know what the scotty dog is you must enter the OFR next year & ask Sarah to show you.

We then made our way to the finish over the hardest terrain ever when you have sore feet, black hard rock which went on forever, don't let anyone tell you that the white desert is just sand because it isn't & after running for 3 days + the terrain was killing my feet.
The last 1k was the longest I have ever run but also one of the most enjoyable as we could see the finish & the camp.

When we got to the finish line I think everyone was there waiting to see us & there were a few tears shed.
After all the planning , organising & literally driving everybody mad about this race we had finally finished & it was all very emotional as it was all coming to a end.
This is where you would think my blog would end but no, 45 mins after the race the heat & everything  seemed to get to me & I was back in our tent not feeling very well sick, dehydrated & generally feeling crap & I was told later that I looked awful.  Luckily the brilliant medical team of Philipa & Will looked after me, checked my blood pressure, gave me ice for my head & tablets for my sickness, generally they were brilliant for the next few hours while I was ill.
Sorry for worrying you Keith @ Fat feet but your medical team were a credit to your event.

I also feel I need to thank Matt for letting me & Amanda raid his drop bags after he retired from the race, Matt you were brilliant to me & Amanda from the moment we saw you at the start & we were both really sad when you said you were retiring from the race.
I have no doubt in my mind that next year you will get to the end & we both look forward to seeing you soon at a race in the UK or back in Egypt next year.

Nearly at the end folks sorry for going on .
Sometimes in life you need these adventures to appreciate the love of your family & friends & how much you really miss them when you are on events, I really wish that my hubby had seen some of the sights & I promise next time to take you with me.
I also feel that everyone in the race has taken something from the experience & I have realised that I can be a team player & I can listen to others instead of just looking after number 1.
Im sure that the friendships made in the desert will be life long ones and I feel honoured to have experienced the event with such lovely people who I can now call my extended family.

I also feel I must thank everyone who has helped me & Amanda with this event & we honestly couldn't of done it without the support of our family's , Friends & sponsors.
Also a massive thank you to everyone who have been good enough to sponsor me & Amanda for Macmillan Cancer Support.
This race was run in memory of some of my good running friends who are no longer with us but I'm sure they were with us in spirit in the desert.

I hope that I get the opportunity to run in this race again next year & hopefully some of my newly found friends will be there too .


  1. Brilliant report Sarah, it wasn't too long! Well done for completing it, the way you write had me there with you and I felt emotional too! :)

  2. Cracking write up on a brilliant event, what a fantastic achievement Sarah!