Whooop! The public holiday for Eid here in Dubai meant both the Thursday and Sunday off work. Perfect I thought – 4 straight days of doing what I love, camping and climbing, with a 10km run thrown into the mix for extra fun. I was psyched. After work on Wednesday, 4 of us plus the dog headed out to Ras Al Khaimah. For 1 of the girls – Charlotte who was visiting us from the UK, it was to be her first time climbing on real rock and her first time camping in the UAE.
The traffic was awful, it took us ages to get out of the city, but we got there eventually, although finding the campsite (a.k.a – a lesser rockier patch than normal) that was secluded behind one of the many mountains, and that we’d only visited once or twice before in the pitch black, wasn’t as easy as we’d hoped. After a few u-turns and reverses, we found it, set up camp, lit the fire, cooked some food and chilled our boots! Well, 3 of us did – to say that Charlotte was a little freaked out by the deadly silence, the harsh terrain and the lack of civilization was an understatement!
It was time to crash out and we crawled into our tents, the dog included. Timmy is a self-proclaimed mountain dog. He spends each weekend out there with us all in the open, and off the lead – free to do as he choses. He’s usually knackered by the time he crawls into the tent and sleeps like a baby till the morning. Well…. NOT TONIGHT! I think he was excited as this was his first trip of the season, plus as we’d driven there straight from home he was still fresh. Timmy kept us all up AAAAALLLLLLL night. Whimpering, scratching at the camping mats, nudging our pillows, desperate to get out of the tent to see what he could find. He’d scamper off into the darkness and then he’d come back (we know from past experiences that he never, ever catches them so we weren’t concerned for the goats.) This cycle continued to repeat itself all night. I was exhausted by the morning! Hardly ideal prep for a day of climbing!
© Eileen Muir
In spite of that, we had a really nice morning climbing; we visited an area that we’d not been to for 2 years or so. Charlotte and Eileen crushed it as non-climbers! They both climbed a F5 and an F5+ clean and then even had a bash of a F6a which Eileen got to the top of – girl power!
© Eileen Muir – Charlotte also ‘crushing it’ on the 5+
This particular F6a had spanked my ass 2 years ago when I’d just started climbing, so I was nervous about trying it again as I had such negative memories attached to it. As I approached the crux, there was a ledge beneath it to get a good rest to prepare. It looked so steep – to go from the comfort of the ledge to the overhanging and sustained next phase of the climb was daunting for me. I knew that it looked worse than it was – it was a F6a after all, but my memory seems to be really good at recalling previous experiences and it temporarily took me back to how I felt those 2 years ago.
© Eileen Muir – procrastinating before the crux!
I took a deep breath and moved out from the ledge. It was a stretch to the obvious left handhold, one of those moves you need momentum for. I surprised myself with how efficiently my feet moved in order to support me, they seemed to do a little dance beneath me, all of which helped me to do a sequence of 2 or 3 lay back moves before I took a bit of a risk and blindly reached up with my right in the hope of finding something good. Phew, found something and I pulled through the crux to sent it – it felt good to see the progress. Done.
© Eileen Muir – through the crux
After a good 3 or 4 hours we hopped back into the car and back to Dubai – Eileen and Charlotte were leaving for the UK later that evening plus I had a 10km run at 7am the next morning.
This was to be my second 10km run in October. This time it was at The Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina, a race organized by ABRaS Running Club. I had set myself a goal of completing the race in under an hour. Part of me thought this would be easy to achieve, since I felt I didn’t particularly push myself on the last one and finished with a time of 1:03. But part of me doubted whether I had been over-ambitious in my goal – to shave at least 3 minutes off my time without having really trained any differently. In fact, I was feeling a lot less fit than some 20 days previous when I did the last 10km – I’d had guests in town so had been eating out a lot and not exercising as much. I was going to have to enhance my performance by mentally pushing myself to run faster as that’s all I really had to rely on.
This race had a different look and feel to it. Everyone looked a lot more professional, there didn’t seem to be the same amount of fun runners as we gathered near the start line – this one seemed serious! It was a race of 3 laps. Lap 1 and 2 didn’t go too badly, I definitely upped the pace on lap 2, but my lack of pace setting experience led to me being totally unsure at any point if my goal was achievable. The 3rd lap as ok until about half way round, as I’d pushed myself harder than last time, I felt a lot more tired, I started to get a stitch then my hands went onto my hips – they do that automatically when I am tired. NOOO, I dragged them away and pushed on. Again, a couple of hundred meters later, my hands were creeping back to my hips, which meant the next thing my body wanted to do was to start slowing down and to perhaps bend over to recover. Again, I stopped myself and pushed through I had 6 minutes left to get to the finish line if I wanted to get in under the hour mark. At this point, I knew it was within reach. The last part of the run consisted of 2 straights, which was good as it allowed me to extend my stride with just one corner to contend with.
I knew that the awesome lady that actually inspired me to give running a bash was marshalling at the finish line, she knew my goal and that drove me on. I pushed through the finish line with a time of 58:34. I was happy with that, having shaved 4 and a half minutes off my last time. That will do I thought. I grabbed my finisher’s medal, walked a couple of laps of a grassy area to recover and darted back to the car. I was leaving for the mountains in just a couple of hours for 3 full days of climbing. Yes!
We headed out to Al Ain. We unloaded the car, pitched the tent in our favorite spot where the sand dunes meet the mountains and had hiked up to our selected part of the crag. We firstly climbed a short but testing F6a+. It looked EEEASY from the ground but the moves between the 2nd and 3rd bolt were incredibly balancey – incredibly. For the rest of the climb there was hardly any hand holds until you found that ‘thank god hold’, before topping out to the chains. I actually walked off the route instead of descending.
Maddie then fancied attempting Exile Lite, a 30m F7a. She was at the 3rd bolt when everything suddenly changed. Timmy (the little monkey) had eaten a barb, which had proceeded to get stuck in his throat; he was coughing, spluttering and basically choking. He started running around in a panic eating sticks and stones on the ground. I was powerless to do anything but shout as I was roped up to Maddie. As she cottoned on to what was happening she put her safety into the bolt, I kept her on belay whilst trying to sort my little man out. Maddie came down and we sat on this ledge whilst he repeatedly retched and puked up his lunch/stones/all the water he had taken down. He was trembling all over and trying to nuzzle into us for comfort. He was in a bad way. We thought whatever it was would dislodge, but after about 40mins and no progress we hiked back down in slow stages, dismantled the tent and packed up the car.
We headed into Al Ain in search of an emergency vet. Timmy was getting more and more worked up as time went on and naturally his distress was getting to us. We couldn’t locate a vet either on or offline, so we made the decision to head back to Dubai – a good 2 hours drive away. It made me think how vulnerable we are out in the mountains, so far from any form of medical help. The journey back was torturous; Timmy was all over the place fretting, he got so wound up he did 2 wee’s on me! Groce. Now on top of all else I was covered in dog wee!
Then Maddie looks at me and says “Rach, we are going to run out of petrol”… in our panic with Timmy we’d not checked the petrol guage and we were on nothing but fumes on the Al Ain Highway! 10 slow and painful minutes passed. What were we going to do? Hitch a ride? Who’s going to take in 2 dirty climbers and a dog that smells of wee? Call a taxi..? We held our breath. All we could see ahead of us was streetlights, car lights and darkness.
We needed lady luck. Maddie spotted something that half resembled a petrol station, there was no official road sign but she gambled and veered off onto the slip road. Result! A tiny petrol station! We filled up and pushed on, we still had an hour to go.
We’d called the vet in Dubai, she made her way to the clinic in time for us to pull up and literally fall into the waiting room. And then, only then of course does Timmy make a miraculous recovery! Typical! The vet x-rayed a much calmer, stable Timmy and prescribed some drugs to help to soothe his throat and help him pass all the stones that were settled in his tummy.
180 quid later, (let alone the 120 quid I’d spent on food for camping) we were back at home. Again, that night he kept me up retching and restless. By the morning he was ok so we thought we’d do a day trip to Tawayan. 25 mins into the journey and he starts trying to eat anything he can find in the car to be sick, coughing and sneezing, if we took him to the crag he was just going to make things worse so I turned the car round AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!
Have written off climbing for the day, I have resorted to blogging on the sofa with a beverage or two whilst a spluttering and sneezing dog lies beside me!
Not the way I’d planned to spend this long weekend off work – far from it! But I wouldn’t change the little runt for anything, he’s always been a sickly dog, that’s nothing new. But what he lacks in health, he makes up for with the cutest little personality. And the rock isn’t going anywhere, well at least for another million years or so, there’s always next weekend to get out there and crush it! Rock on!