"You see Jeff, I'm taking 17,280 calories in total. I'm starting with 2,118 calories on day 1, but 1,281 of those calories will come from my freeze-dried Beef Stroganoff dinner, which of course has the highest weight to calorie ratio. I'm also carrying progressively more Macadamia nuts per day -- starting with 3 on day 1."
These conversations send you back to your room to unpack all of your carefully-organized food bags and assess for hours on end the pros and cons of carrying a 177 calorie mini portion of beef jerky on day 3 and four chocolate covered espresso beans (totaling 63 calories) on day 5. In no time you discover that if you take some food out of its original packaging, you can save enough weight to add four more pretzels (28 calories) on Day 6. You view this as a huge achievement, thank goodness since it took an hour to make the decision and two hours to unpack and repack again!
Everyone seems to know their exact calorie count by day, the total for the week, and their backpack's weight. You also hear endless stories about the heat two years ago, the sandstorm last year, and the guy who's feet were so blistered in the race three years ago that they had to amputate his toes forcing him to crawl the final 90 miles of the race, where he got blisters on his kneecaps before being forced to slide on his stomach the final 20 miles. "Oh, you should have seen his stomach blisters - a dreadful sight. They had to airlift him from the Finish Line to a British Aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean where specialists saved his life -- I think he's doing the race again this year though, but he has artificial toes and kneecaps and the only way he can eat now is through a straw."
Ok, perhaps a slight exaggeration, but that's how the stories come across, leaving you to return to your room, unpack and repack, toss out a tiny bag of crushed potato chips (114 calories), 3 of the extra pretzels you added a few hours ago (21 calories), and cut a few more bristles off of your toothbrush to save weight. "I don't want to end up like crawling, stomach-blister guy -- forget that, I'm throwing out two Bandaids and cutting a zipper off of my backpack as well. I'll keep the tape though -- just in case I need to use it to prevent a bad case of belly blisters."
"Hurry up and wait" becomes your new mantra starting with the day of departure from Ouarzazate for the desert. We are instructed to meet outside of our hotel at 9:00 -- the buses finally arrive at 9:30. We board them and proceed to spend two hours parked in front of the hotel. Calorie count and foot taping discussions are soon replaced by quietness as the race organizers distribute the official "Road Book". The race course has been secret until this point - now we're getting our first look at the distance and terrain per stage. It's quiet for an hour as everyone ponders the book. "Day 1 looks tough -- 8 miles of dunes!" "Huge climbs on the long day." "How do you convert from kilometers to miles" "Aren't these maps great -- but ouch, look how many sections of dunes there are."
For the medical check, you hand over your mandatory ECG printout and medical clearance forms. A team of three medical personnel review your paperwork and walk you through a little Q&A to ensure that you are properly trained and have some sense of what you're getting yourself into. Again, my intervi