In celebration of Women’s Sports Week, meet Miss Lizzie B! A fearless and resilient individual who smashed this year’s Marathon Des Sables.
KitJam — We caught up with Lizzie Bailey, one of our favourite athletes here at KitJam HQ. She smashed the Marathon Des Sables this year, with neon weaved into her hair she dab-daddied (see pic!) across 250km of unforgiving desert terrain. She managed to squeeze us in for a quick chat on the Marathon des Sables and all things kit in between roaming the East End dressed as a leopard. We all want to be Miss Lizzie B here at KitJam. Happy Thursday, happy Women’s Sports Week and happy reading!
My Kit List for the Marathon Des Sables 2017:
I found the compilation of kit and food prep for the MDS 2017 far harder than training for it, however I think that’s because it is such an alien and overwhelming environment and the literature was all too male centric. I realised since I wasn’t a strapping 6”4 ex-Marine nothing appeared to be suited to me. I then faced the challenge by trying almost everything out, focusing most on pack and my feet (which I still consider the most important elements) and if done incorrectly would mean almost certain failure.
Of all the shoes I tried, the Brooks Cascadia where the most suited to the job and they did not fail me. Sturdy yet light and not losing any form in the environment. I went for them half a size up because my feet do swell even when running a marathon in England and I wore two pairs of socks.
Although socks usually appear to be an afterthought, the combination of Injinji Liner socks with an X-Bionic Marathon Sock over the top was perfect, I didn’t get any blisters (also helped by the use of 2Toms Blister Shield) and the socks managed to hold it together to run the London Marathon the week after MDS.
I found the majority of backpacks to be too bulky and square, not designed for humans with hips and curves. I prefer to run in a vest and found the Raidlight 20L Responsiv backpack the most comfortable and the easiest to pack and hold water bottles, especially given the Thermarest mattress can be deflated when inside and becomes the back padding. The bottle holders also don’t penalise anyone with a chest, something which most backpack designers do not appear to have considered. I did go for hard bottles which do work well with the pack, unfortunately they aren’t as comfortable as soft bottles but are hardy enough to survive the elements.
I made a few maverick calls by choosing not to bring poles since I didn’t train with them, a decision I do not regret. I also didn’t bring goggles or camp shoes, also things I don’t think are overly necessary and as a particularly petite person I was very aware of weight.
For food I used a mixture of expedition food and LYO, far preferring the LYO in terms of flavour however they are slightly lower calorie. I spent a lot of time preparing my food, creating individual spice/flavouring kits for each of the suppers and even packing packets of tabasco, earning me the camp nickname of ‘small, mighty & spicy’. The LYO freeze dried fruit packets are also brilliant, and I pimped my morning porridge (which I will never find delicious) with Manuka honey, chia seeds and freeze dried fruit. Taking the extra time when decanting it to add in the seasoning and extras (which don’t impact massively in terms of weight) did make a huge impact, the standout being the Expedition Foods Thai Green Chicken Curry, a meal I still think about when on a long run. I would also like to take a moment to mention Texas Joes Slow & Low Jerky, which I genuinely think deserves some of my medal, food of the gods, light enough to carry in the packets and flavourful enough to cut through the desert dust. Also since you’re just consuming rehydrated soft food it made such a difference to have a change in texture with something with a bit of bite.
Protein shakes are also incredibly important, I relied on the SIS overnight recovery and the SIS rapid recovery to both recover and to drink something that wasn’t lukewarm water that tasted of plastic, the change in flavour being almost as important as the nutritional benefits.
In terms of ‘luxuries’ I was most grateful for an eye mask and ear plugs, which combined with the Western Mountaineering sleeping bag , a silk liner and pillow meant I slept very well and wasn’t woken by the slow creeping of dawn every morning.
I also would consider soap flakes and fabric flakes a wonderful luxury weighing milligrams, however being able to have clean clothes to put on after the long day changed my mind-set when facing the start line again.
Reimann P20 SPF50 sun cream also meant that I was able to get the most impressive non tan of anyone in the desert and avoid sunstroke expertly, which as a very pale and freckly person makes all the difference.
You can access my full food and equipment kit list on KitJam.