It’s been about 18 months since I ran on the beach, and I have never had or felt the need to tackle sand dunes whilst there. Indeed they were things to be avoided.
With the Namibian Sand Marathon looming it is time to hit the beach again, and my first foray was off down to Irvine on a grey, windy Saturday and in a balmy 12 degrees. As I stood at the end of the beach surveying the dunes my first impression was one of vague disappointment. I was underwhelmed by their lack of scale: but better than no dunes and only a 30 minute drive from home.
I decided to zig-zag my way down the beach running up and back down the dunes and if I found a particularly good one doing a series of intervals on it. The first few were relatively easy and lulled me into a false sense of security. I soon hit the first serious incline and quickly ground to a halt and having to scramble up the unstable sand using my hands as well as my feet: not exactly elegant or dignified. Coming back down was a lot more fun but pitching over and somersaulting down is definitely to be avoided, and I need to avoid the whole arms, windmill thing; a bit lacking in running economy and again a bit lacking in grace and dignity. Somehow, I don’t think that the latter two characteristics will be of any importance in the desert which is just as well as I am not one of the world’s graceful people.
Lesson learned; do not underestimate the dunes. Even the smallest of dunes has a sting in the tail. Herein lays the challenge. These dunes were mere blemishes, pimples, on the landscape compared to what we will tackle. Namibia boasts the highest dunes in the world, and we will be scaling them. Scaling them in a temperature at least three times the 12 degrees in which my training effort induced a fair sweat. I have seen a video clip from Namibia of a runner approaching the dune, slowing, slowing and finally clambering with their hands and feet creating a stereotypical image of someone traversing desert dunes. A bit like the woman who headed to Antarctica when she did not do cold, camping and not washing, the woman who does not do sand is heading to the desert, so hitting the dunes is a must.
But back to the beach: huffing and puffing way up and down the dunes I breathlessly asked Alasdair when I could stop. I got a non-committal answer. Personally I think he was just looking for ammunition by way of embarrassing pictures of my backside taken from a particularly unflattering angle. I soon found out when it was time to stop. It was when I got two thirds of the way up and dune and my legs refused to move. I am blaming the extra weight of all the sand in my shoes.
I think the school report would read ‘could do better’. As I posted on Facebook it was less me ‘beasting’ the dunes and more a case of them ‘beasting’ me: Audrey zero, dunes one.
It is early days and I have time to practice and channel my inner springbok, antelope, ostrich, leopard, cheetah: I'm not fussy, just anything that runs fast in the desert. Alasdair tells me that I also need to develop that 'march or die' attitude. As for the descents, well, my fall back plan is to use my well-honed skill for tobogganing down slopes on my backside. Note to self: pack a plastic tray.
By the way, what is with the humungous jelly fish on Irvine beach? I have never seen jelly fish that big on British shores! Are they jelly fish or has the alien invasion started on Irvine beach? Or maybe they are strange mutations of chimera from Hunterston B.