Oman Desert 2017

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Author at the start of stage 4 as the sun rises in the Oman Desert

I’d started the stage at 2pm, by 6pm it was pitch black. My head torch was my only source of light guiding me across the dunes. I was on day five of the 165km self sustained Oman Desert Marathon, 26km into the 42km night stage. I had been passed by every other runner, my feet were in excruciating pain, I stopped, slumped down on a small sand dune and started thinking of excuses to quit the race. A way of telling my friends, wife and children that I’d done my best but come up short….

Six days earlier I had left Hong Kong with my friend and running partner Steve on CX 701 to Bangkok and then switched planes to Oman Air 816 to Muscat. The trip was uneventful but for a 2 hour delay in Bangkok and an annoyingly constant knot of apprehension in my stomach. On paper I knew what lay ahead, however, I also knew the reality is always a little different. I’d packed and repacked my RaidLight 20L backpack ten times the night before. It was bursting at the seams, this was my first multi stage endurance race, I knew none of the tricks of the trade when it comes to packing.

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6 days food, sleeping bag, mat, salt, energy bars, cooker, survival kit and 3 packs Marlboro Lights

The race started 45 mins south of Nizwa with rather a lot of pomp and ceremony as stage one coincided with Oman National Day which recognised Oman independence from Portugal in 1650. After this relatively easy stage we were transferred by coach and then 4 wheel drive into the desert, a drive of 200km, to our first camp. From this day forward we camped where we finished the day’s run as we made a beeline to the coast and the Arabian sea.
We quickly settled into the life of a multistage race. Eat, sleep, run with the occasional wash where we could. Talk became very much about calorie intake, how horrible the food was, blisters and the varying consistencies of sand.

One thing that became immediately obvious to me was that there were some VERY good runners in the race. There were 101 total participants including Mohammed Almorabity from Morocco and Natalia Sedykh running out of Dubai for Adidas Running Moscow and female winner of MDS 2016. It took me very little time to work out that the race I was running would be against myself, the leaderboard didn’t matter and finishing the challenge was going to be my own personal battle.

Things started to hot up on day four. The stage was entitled “The Virgin Dunes” and it certainly delivered. It was 28km of beautiful dunes that punished my legs on an incredibly hot day.

I experienced a feeling for the first time whereby I felt incredibly nauseous to the extent I couldn’t drink water whilst been acutely aware I was dehydrated and needed to take on water. This feeling accompanied me for the last 5km of the stage and made crossing the finish line and dousing myself in water in the shade of a truck welcome relief (photo above).

On the positive side stage five didn’t start until 2pm the next day giving me 24 hours to rest up and recover as best I could. Speaking to the Doctor during some down time that evening she advised that if I ever felt that way again I would need intravenous fluids and to potentially withdraw from the race.

Whilst sleep was always a little disturbed – to be expected when you’re sharing an open fronted tent in the middle of the desert with 9 other people – the next morning was relatively relaxing. The slowest runners were to start at 2pm, the next group at 3pm and the elite runners at 4pm. I’d never covered the distance of a marathon before so I was apprehensive –  other mitigating factors included that the desert went pitch black at 6pm and the race was starting to take its toll on my body which all meant I knew I was in for a tough day/night.

On the other stages we had all started together and I saw all the runners ahead of me until they disappeared into the distance. With these start times it was amazing as the faster runners caught up with and overtook me. For a brief moment I was along side them and I could see and feel their speed and power first hand.

As darkness fell I enjoyed a brief moment of the novelty of running along with my head torch on but soon a combination of factors caused me to stop, sit down and work out how to exit the race in the most graceful way possible. Whilst the leaderboard shouldn’t matter, the two runners I was ahead of on the leaderboard to date we’re ahead of me, the pain on the sole of my right foot was equivalent to driving a rusty nail in with every step, I was hungry and tired – I was really suffering.

It was at that moment, sitting on my own in the the darkness of the Oman desert that I had an epiphany of sorts. Not a grand one to do with my place in the universe, what it takes to overcome adversity or anything like it. What I realised was that sitting there feeling sorry for myself was getting me nowhere (literally). If I stood up and started moving every painful step would move me closer to my destination. Whilst it seems pretty obvious I was in a bit of a state so do cut me a little slack.

I got up and started moving. I made it to the finish line at 1:45am and actually overtook a few other runners getting there. I was too tired to find my tent. I slept on the floor of the blister treatment tent situated in the middle of the camp. I made a cold “hot” chocolate in order to try and get some calories in my body. I feel asleep around 2:30am having had two sips of the ghastly drink. With the final stage starting at 7am the next morning I got up 3:30hrs later and went again.

Even as I write this a week after I finished I’m not totally sure how I got through stage 6 which comprised 23km of high, soft sand dunes. I crossed the finish line 95th out of the 101 starters (5 did not finish). One active runner finished behind me. I had accumulated a time of 45 hours and 27 mins during the 6 stages. Putting that in some sort of context the winner clocked 13 hours 56 mins. Steve finished in 52nd place with an amazing time of 26hours 54 mins.

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I will forever be grateful to my partner in crime, Steve Williamson, who went above and beyond helping me through this experience. We enjoyed one of the greatest beers in history at the end of our week in the desert.

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Beers poolside at the Grand Hyatt, Muscat

If I learnt anything it was probably the simple affirmation that you can overcome adversity and achieve things that you and others might not have thought possible. Believe in yourself and surround yourself with positive people. As the author John Bingham said

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”

Whether in your professional or personal life, the important thing is to start. See you on the next one x

3 reasons why I’m running across a desert

If you follow me on instagram you may well have noticed that I started doing a bit of running a few months ago. The runs are, unfortunately, few and far between but they have been with a singular goal in mind. To get my body in some sort of shape to take on the Oman Desert Marathon on the 20th November 2017. Incidentally, I am unclear why the race is called a marathon – at 165km over 6 days and carrying all your food and kit, it feels like a little more than a marathon.

When I tell people I’m doing the race their eyes tend to flick over my body, taking in the 120kg mass before them. Then with what can only be described as a tone of sympathy mixed with genuine interest they say “really, why?”. Well here are the 3 reasons I’m getting on a plane next week to try and do something I have no idea whether I’ll return from in one piece, let alone finish.

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From top left: Finishing 26k in HK MSIG , running in London early morning, fitness test ECG, Barcelona running, Tokyo jog around the palace, 15km Pottinger Hong Kong

1. The Challenge 

I cycled from London to Monte Carlo – twice – in 2013 and 2014. I and 22 other men and women took on 1,400 grueling kilometers , over the alps (Mont Ventoux et al) with total climbing of 36,000 feet over 9 days.

The Oman run is a self-sufficient 6 stage race from the Oasis at Bidya to the Arabian sea. You sleep out in the desert and have to carry everything except water (sleeping bag, mat, food, stove, venom extractor kit!). There are large soft sand dunes, high temperatures and pesky little scorpions to name a few of the challenges that lie ahead.

It’s not just that I like a challenge. I think it’s that I like a challenge that I’m not naturally predisposed to being good at. At nearly 19 stone in weight I am built for short, sharp bursts of activity. Breaking the line in rugby for instance. I am not built to run or cycle and certainly not over prolonged periods.

It is therefore more about leaving my comfort zone. It is not only humbling but also inspiring. It gives me a great sense of perspective and enhances my interactions with people in my everyday life.

2. Going off the grid

It is good to take a break and one of the best breaks you can take is from your phone. We’re all guilty of it – getting a daily update from work or convincing yourself that checking emails once in the morning and once in the evening on holiday is OK. Well it may be OK and communication with work and colleagues whilst on “holiday” may be inevitable. However running across a desert with no phone signal takes the decision out of your hands and the “off line” time is invaluable in my opinion. All you have to think about is getting from A to B, eating and sleeping. In my experience everyone manages just fine without you for a week.

3. Shared experience

I have nothing against doing things on my own. Indeed much of the training for these challenges can be solitary. I do however enjoy the shared experience with any great adventure like this. For Oman it’s me and Steve. A man (with a lovely family) who lived 6 doors away from me 7 years ago in London, went to India for 5 years for work and then in a fantastic “isn’t it a small world” moment moved in to the house two doors away from me in Hong Kong about a year ago.

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Steve left, author right during a training run at the top of section 4 Maclehose Trail, Hong Kong

 

I like Steve already – he’s Scottish, mixes a great cocktail – enough said. However the training, tears, laughter and shopping trips to buy endless kit involved in undertaking something like this – let alone actually doing the race – is a fantastic experience to share. Hong Kong is an amazing, but sometimes temporary, port during a global career. Whilst that may or may not be the case for Steve and I, wherever our paths lead we’ll always be able to meet for a pint somewhere in the world and talk about that time we ran across the Oman Desert – and that for me is very special.

Next stop Muscat – I plan to take some photos/vids of the run so follow the blog or my instagram if you’d like to see how it all goes.

Also if you have any interest in cycling around the island of Taiwan next year drop me a note. We are working though the logistics soon but current thinking is it’s a 6 day challenge.

 

 

MicroAdventures Asia Challange.

MicroAdventures Asia Challenge. 

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HOT, COLD, WET, DRY, HIGH and LOW.

If we’ve spoken in the last few months you’ve probably heard me prattle on about a series of mini adventures I’d like to undertake in Asia. The concept is pretty simple and the reasons easy to explain.

I moved to Hong Kong in August of 2015 and I am determined to experience this wonderful part of the world. It’s sometimes difficult to recall what your perceptions of something were once you’re in the midst of it but I think I thought of Asia as a single entity. I appreciated the size, number of countries etc but it somehow didn’t register. It was only when I got here and started traveling for work that the smorgasbord of culture, topography and pure diversity becomes so obvious and you feel compelled to explore. That’s reason one.

The second reason for kicking this off was my brother introduced me to a book a fellow Edinburgh Alumni of his had written called Micro Adventures.

http://www.alastairhumphreys.com/books/microadventures/

Great read and I loved the idea that you don’t need to plan a 3 month expedition to have an adventure. It got me thinking…so many thanks for that Mr Humphreys.

The third reason is I’m missing the challenge of the London to Monte Carlo bike ride. Scrolling through thenovicecyclist.com and looking back at the 2013 and 2014 challenges it’s amazing how the blood, sweat, tears and hassle of organising it fade to the back ground and the memories of the fun bits come to the fore. Ultimately it is undoubtedly the combination of the two that made it such a fantastic experience. I’m getting itchy feet – reason 3.

So here’s the challenge. Over the next 12 months I will set out on 6 mini adventures in Asia. Most will be short little forays into new places involving new activities. They will cover 6 themes; HOT, COLD, WET, DRY, HIGH and LOW. I have a GoPro, an iphone and a drone (that I don’t know how to fly) and with these tools I will do my best to document MicroAdventures Asia on thenovicecyclist.com.

I get it, I get it. The site is called The Novice Cyclist, we’ll just have to work our way through that.

So kicking off the series in HIGH. We are taking on East Asia’s highest peak (allegedly). Jade Mountain in Taiwan. Its just under 13,000 feet, 5 hours from Taipei, voted on the shortlist of New Seven Wonders of the World in 2009 and here’s the obligatory wikipedia link….what could go wrong..? Not too sure I like the headline of this article Perilous Jade Mountain.

Follow me on twitter @jcdwright, Instagram @jonnycdwright, follow this blog or look out for #microadventuresasia if you want to be kept abreast of the preparation and undertaking of the first #microadventuresasia as we head for the summit of Jade Mountain March 3rd – March 5th 2016.

I’m also keen to hear from anyone who has any ideas for MicroAdventures Asia or indeed wants to get involved in one. If it’s in Asia and can be categorized as LOW, HOT, COLD, WET or DRY then I’m interested.

Jonny

L2MC2 Redux

So it turns out I forgot to cancel the WordPress subscription. That coupled with the fact that for the first time in 3 years I’m not setting off on a massive ride to Monte Carlo this weekend compelled me to write a post. This post is slightly different as probably only of interest to the 20 or so brave souls who took part in L2MC2. I was looking thorough some of the video we picked up on the trusty GoPro and wanted to take a slice of it to remind you all of the great adventure we set out on a year ago today. There’s some banter, some cycling and hopefully some fond memories. We have ALOT of video so more to come perhaps but for now happy viewing… see you for beers soon I hope. Jonny

Farewell from the Novice Cyclist

The time has come for the Novice Cyclist to mount up and move on. The blog will come down within the month.

It was almost three years ago that the idea of cycling from London to Monte Carlo entered my head. Working for Financial News and Dow Jones, Fund Forum was always a highlight of the calendar as it brought together so many of our asset management readers for the industries biggest European conference run by Informa. We distribute the paper and coincide the publishing of our CEO survey. Exactly why we decided to cycle there with staff, friends, clients and colleagues remains a bit of a mystery.

I have looked back over the blog and memories of the 2013 and 2014 adventures came flooding back. From getting the ridiculous idea of cycling to Monte Carlo off the ground, organizing the support crews and routes, bringing on board sponsors, recruiting riders, selecting and raising money for the designated charities (wooden spoon, the soup kitchen and haven house), training, the ride itself and celebrations in Monte Carlo on arrival.

I meet some amazing people that I didn’t know before and I forged even stronger bonds with those I did know. I just want to thank everyone who was involved, supported and joined these epic rides. It is not possible to communicate how much goes into organizing and executing rides like this and how many people the success of the ride is dependent on. You know who you are and you will always have my gratitude. Not only was the experience for those involved special but we also raised over $100,000 for disadvantaged and sick children and adults. We will not be undertaking the ride in 2015 but I hope the impact of the ride on the people it helped lasts into the future and the groups of friends who met on the ride continue to ride together and reminisce about L2MC (1and2)

So take a last look back over the blog and thank you again.

One door closes and another opens so keep an eye out, I have a few ideas of other adventures ahead….

Jonny “the novice cyclist” Wright

The Big Red, tickets going fast

So you’ve followed the blog, watched the videos and sponsored the riders. Now, for one night only, watch one of the intrepid riders perform some classic rhythm and blues. No doubt there will also be a strong attendance from other L2MC2 riders so there will be lots of Mont Ventoux chat in the mosh pit. All funds going to our charities; Haven House and The Soap Kitchen.

Fareed

 

Get you tickets here http://www.etickets.to/buy/?e=11740