Saturday, 17 March 2012

I just purchased the Suunto Food Pod Mini so I can know how far I have run during the MDS

Hello again everyone.  I just went out to purchase the Suunto Foot Pod Mini to go along with my Suunto heart rate monitor.  I have been a bit worried about how I was going to pace myself without knowing the distance covered and the distance left each day in the MDS.

The problem with most GPS devices is that they drain the batteries really quickly, so there is no way they would last the duration of the MDS without taking tons of spare batteries or a solar charger (which some people mentioned didn't work that well), and of course that adds extra weight to the pack.

The Suunto Foot Pod Mini on the other hand uses an accelerometer to measure the speed/ distance and hence the batteries last much longer.  The packaging states that they last for 400 hours when the Foot Pod Mini is in use.  I was wondering about the accuracy of such a device, but I read several reviews where people said that the distances are fairly accurate when they compared them with the distances shown on their GPS devices.

Again, the packaging claims that without calibration the device is 95% accurate and with calibration it is 98% accurate.  98% is good enough for me.  It doesn't have to be exact after all, but it would be helpful to know for instance that the finish line is still 10km away when it appears like it is only 2km away.  I know from the Salt flats of Uyuni in Bolivia that distances can sometimes be very deceptive.  Despite the island in the middle of the flats looking like it was only a few kilometres away it was actual over 30km away.  Imagine thinking the finish line is only 2km away and really going for it, only to discover that it is 10km away and you have no energy left and end up walking the last 8km.

I can't really think of any outstanding points that are worrying me now.  In terms of equipment I have managed to:
1) get my pack weight down to something reasonable (around 8.5kg)
2) carry extra calories than the minimum requirement in case I feel I need them for recovery
3) carry sufficient warm clothes in case I get cold at night
4) have a means to measure my heart rate and speed/ distance
5) test out the food and gels during my training

In terms of training I have managed to:
1) consistently run around 100km per week since the beginning of January, and this week I will have covered 160km
2) gain the necessary core strength for carrying the pack through a combination of Pilates and yoga
3) run both on and off road
4) run on snow (to simulate running on sand) and have 2 weeks in Morocco to run on actual sand
5) run a marathon in under 3:30 to prove to myself I can run fairly fast for long distances when need be
6) run 71km continuously without stopping
7) start the process of heat acclimatisation and have 2 weeks in Morocco before the race starts to continue the process
8) run long distances multiple days in a row
9) run with a pack containing the actual gear I will be using in the race for the last month

The remainder now is probably going to come down to mental strength and my ability to push through the pain when I have blisters and my whole body is aching and crying out for me to stop.  This is one aspect that is hard to train in advance without actually experiencing the race conditions.  I am glad at least that I have had some chance to know what it is like to have to fight not to give up, in the Marmotte cyclosportive and during my cycle trip in South America.

Last Marmotte for instance my knee was really sore (and I mean REALLY sore) early on in the race and then my cleats came lose and I didn't have the tools to put them back on.  It would have been so easy to stop right there and then, but I struggled on to the end (10 hours in total) with my feet constantly slipping around on the pedals and aggravating my knee even more.

There was also one day during the Vuelta Sudamerica bike tour when there was a ridiculously strong head wind (so much so in fact that a tent was blown right away with a sleeping bag inside it, and never seen again) and I was out front on my own with no-one to spur me on and no pack to draft from.  That day we climbed to over 4,000m high and the road was often broken and jarring my body and making my butt hurt like hell (to the point where I could barely put my weight on the saddle).  The distance was over one hundred kilometres and there were also sandy sections where it was a struggle to keep moving and where sand was being blow constantly into my face.  Less than half the group finished that stage and it would have been really easy to give up, especially when the truck came alongside me with others in it and they were trying to tempt me to give up and join them (how mean).  But I didn't give up - I was determined to complete that stage, and I did.  I hope I find this same strength of mind when I need it in the MDS in a few weeks time.

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