The Smells of the Sahara

Disclaimer:  This will probably be the grossest post I write

At least once a week, I get this question: “Dude, so what’s the bathroom situation over there?”  I don’t know why everyone is so curious about this.  I guess subconsciously wherever people go they need to be assured that there will be clean bathrooms close by in order to relieve themselves if necessary.  I have one friend who takes it to such extremes that many of our pals have suggested he write a book about the best bars to “drop the kids off”, as he always seems to have to when we are out. 

The bathroom situation has been one of the furthest things from the front of my mind.  Running 50 miles a weekend while trying to have something that resembles a social life has been challenging enough, so using the loo has not been on the top of the list.  But with so many people asking, I needed to go to the source.  I asked my new buddy from across the pond Sam Wilson about this.  Sam recently completed the Gobi March a few months ago which is a similar race to the Sahara but across the Gobi Desert in China.  He is also competing in the Sahara Race and will be a tent mate of mine (check out his blog to learn more about him – http://www.4deserts.com/blogs/comptetior_blog_new.php?pid=OTUy&blog=18)  He has been a HUGE help in giving me advice on what to expect out there so I had to ask him the following questions:

A.)   “Am I going to be digging holes like a dog to go to the bathroom?”

                                                 And

B.)    “What does a human smell like after running 100 miles and not showering?”

Sam was kind enough to give me the following details:

A.)   “Toilets are 2 holes in the ground with a bit of plastic surrounding them and there are 2 tents with budget frames to sit down like we are more accustomed to”. 

That… sounds…. AWESOME.  I guess it could be worse (watch this clip from Kevin Rose, founder of Digg, and Tim Ferris, author of The 4 Hour Workweek, from the 4 – 6 minute mark – http://vimeo.com/6294135).  After running for 25 miles and eating freeze dried food to get some calories in me, it will only be fitting to squat over a hole. 

The second question he answered as such:

B.)    “Everyone stinks but no one can smell it because we are all in the same boat.”

Someone who was very close to me used to say that my face smelled like that of a sanitation worker….all the time.  While she said it endearingly and not to demean sanitation workers, I took this to assume that I didn’t smell like roses.  So I was a little worried when I realized that I would not be able to shower for an entire week while running such a long distance.  But with everyone else in the same position, it should be a little easier.  I have heard from many past participants that the important thing is to lay out your clothes in the sun so the sun’s rays can heat the sweat, dirt and odor out of them.

I plan on wearing the same shirt and shorts to run each day in order to cut down on the weight of my pack, so I need to make sure to lay my clothes in the sun so I don’t make myself sick smelling myself  during the race. 

To be honest, one of the things that surprised me the most was how many women had the guts to say farewell to all of their makeup and the comforts of a blow-dryer and a hot shower to run across the desert like women from civilizations past.  This goes against everything a woman is “supposed to be” in this day and age: all done up in fancy brand name clothes, with makeup and a perfect body of 8 percent body fat and C cup boobs.  Now don’t get me wrong:  usually when girls dress and look like this, they look damn good… but there is definitely something admirable and sexy about taking chances and not giving a damn about what you look, or smell, like. 

So there you have it:  No showering for a week, going to the bathroom in holes and eating dried food out of bags.  I could try to start practicing this at home but I might get fired for lack of personal hygiene and I doubt my roommates would be happy with me digging up the backyard to practice my squatting posture.  All in all, it will definitely be one interesting adventure.  But I know that what will keep me going throughout the week is the thought of sitting on a beautiful porcelain toilet upon completion of the race and soaking in a deep hotel bathtub.  If that isn’t motivation in its simplest form, I don’t know what is.

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