|Gobi March||China||2 Jun 2013|
|RacingThePlanet: Iceland||Iceland||4 Aug 2013|
|Sahara Race||Egypt||16 Feb 2014|
|Gobi March||China||1 June 2014|
|RacingThePlanet: Madagascar||Madagascar||31 Aug 2014|
|Atacama Crossing||Chile||5 Oct 2014|
|The Last Desert||Antarctica||16 Nov 2014|
|Sahara Race||Egypt||15 Feb 2015|
|Gobi March||China||31 May 2015|
|Atacama Crossing||Chile||4 Oct 2015|
If you get to this stage, you usually finish...that doesn't mean its nothing short of a journey of a lifetime. Its really hard to put into words yet. All I knew is going into this one I had the support of my friends and family back home, my new friends here and all the blood sweat and tears I have put over the last 8 months and year before that for the previous race. My friend Tristan from Sweden (The Big Swede) was an inspirational leader on Day 4 and he dragged my ass to the finish and on this day I had a feeling we would finish together. He was slower off the start with a sore ankle and I was gauging my health so I decided I would move slowly with him from the first up the slow incline and see how we both felt at the first checkpoint. We were both hurting in some form and decided we would slog together. We would end up covering 120km in two days together and when you spend that much time with someone you get to see a mans character. A guy I would have lead and push with up any adventure. We pushed through checkpoint to checkpoint (this was our only focus), rocky riverbeds, farmers fields (battling the desert heat, unexpected dust storms, rain storms, which jepordized our finish) and by 10pm we made camp 5 and 48km in. We had already been moving for 12 hours and after a 45 min break and eat, I knew it would take us another 8-9 hours through the night to get home. We had come so far and I knew there was no way we would stop, and it was such a mental battle to know we wouldhave to fight the elements to make it home. There were times of absolute dispair, pure joy, friendship, unimaginable pain in my feet, legs, back and the battle in my brain...but shortly before 6am and 20 hours of Marching we made the finish line absolutely destroyed! The body was battered and beaten but the spirit was "Unbroken" (from those who have read the book about Louis Zamperini).
On my left arm I had written:
"Don't ask for the course to be easier, ask to be stronger"
Warrior - Don't Tap Nanka!
On my right:
I used all of these throughout the day and race and many of you on my mind to get through this epic adventure. More thoughts to come as download exactly what I went through this past week. Talk to all soon.
ps. I just caught up on a lot of your well wishes, emails, blogs today. They were SO AWESOME and almost brings me to tears, as I have now completed the long day and we just a short 15km into Kashgar and the official finish line.
Day 4 was an epic struggle. Beginning in the morning feelink ok and the stomach still dodgy, we started the long slow hike to Heavans Gate. This was an amazing site to see (and Mehmet I stood up there 10 min and fully soaked it in). The first stage was a slow grind up then down from Heavans gate. Worth the wait absolutely. Stage two was a full 8 km up and down mountain passes (literally scampering up and down scree and run along the tops of mountain ranges), exhilerating and pretty technical. Very rewarding and on a na'uscioius stomach, I could only slog along and focus on each 15 min interval of climbing. Getting to the next checkpoint was my only focus and together Tristan (Sweden), Hayley and James (UK) would grind it out together. I had the Warrior with me written on my forearm Kinchie, and I would "Not Tap" on this day. We left at 8am this morning and would get to final checkpoint at 9pm at night! After 13 hours of gut wrenchng climbing (The views from the top of the Mountain ranges were unbelievable), marching, sliding, and grinding it out as a team, we made it, never more proud of a day. I was dissapointed to not be able to run after I had made good results on day one and day two, this is all I could do to survive and make sure I got tot the start line for Day 5. Alison, I had you on my mind from Sahara Day 4/5 and the way you gutted it out, I just wanted to get my chance at the long March like you did last year...and I did it. I really focused on hydrating and keeping myself in a position to get food down at camp so I could start the next day. By the the time we ate, checked blisters with Doctors (now two blood blisters under each big toe nail) and were able to calm the body down, we were in the tent after midnight. Wake up was 5-6am to get up for the ride to the long March and I tried to get in as much sleep as possible.
I wrote this after the long day as I was just too gassed after Day 4!
I felt well waking up this morning and recovered from dehydration yesterday. The first stage was a flat run but by checkpoint one I new things were not right. I was feeling a little nauscious and feared I would uproute my breakfast shortly. I had to focus on the long term race now being into Stage 3, and as I said I pulledway back and started a walk/run going on route to checkpoint two. I became a walker (faster than Sahara AMT/Alison/Sandy, but still slower than some people out here. The next 10 km was keeping the fluids down and the breakfast and marching as quickly as possible. I was with some of my mates from the week, but fell off the pace early and made some new friends. Nicky, your playlist helped get me through the day and focused I'll be honest, lots of doubts if I would make the day, I suffered out there today, as did everyone else, but focused check point to checkpoint and working in teams to make it happen.
After hittng another mindfield of rocks (I felt like saying this is rediculous), I embraced them as my obstacles to over come (hammering the feet) and new they were my path to complete at least half of this race. At checkpoint three a bunch of us piled in...including Jeff from South Africa (AMT and Sandy, he says to say hi to his two favorite Canadian girls!) and with Nigel from NY (via London...for SF people he knows Joe Williams from our NY office from Deutsche Bank) and we all marched our 7 years to Tibet or 8km+ on a steady incline all the way to the finish. It was grinding, and between the three of us, we motivated each other to the finish. Stefan, I pulled out Heaven's Gate chapter of your book and read to the guys to keep the spirits up They really appreciated it, it passed the time and gave them concern for the morning.
It took me over 8 hours today! A full work day. I knew if I could finish today I could do tomorrow (even though its supposed to be epically challenging and the biggest yet) and get to the start of the long day. We are breaking it up into two races (first four days, then long day seperate) to keep our spirits up. All our tent mates made it in today, some our rough, but will all start tomorrow and should all get to Shipmans arch. I came in pretty exhausted but did what I need to do to stay in the race. I am drinking fluids and eating well and with only one blood blister that has been drilled through my big toe noel (not as bad as it sounds), the feet are doing ok. Rocks have been hammering the heals and legs, but when you feel like crap and your back hurts like mad, your legs don't seem to come up as much. I found another gear today, and I will need to find another one to make stage 4 happen. I am confident I can do it based on the training, what I have accomplished so far and your words will give me wings...Thank you!!!!
See you on the other side of Shipmans Arch (largest free standing arch in the world) and the end of day 4!
After waking up in the village and being served hot water in my little room by the mother of the village (will be a much different experience than any other stage) I made the course briefing on time and was to the start line early with no stress! Today I ran 90% of the best run of my life. Stefan I brought your book with me and ceremonially burned in the campfired pre night one J and pulled out the pages for race days. I have been reading them the night before and they have been giving me comfort. In addition, I wrote down your and Mehmet’s last email and for the most part have been using the advice.
I felt great this morning and decided to go quickly in the morning cool air and was probably ahead of where I should have been. However, I was feeling great, pack was light and I was racing the hot sun that would come later. I went ala David Gibb and ran by myself for the first two stages and thoroughly enjoyed the Red Mars stage although it was very very challenging + exhilarating. Up and down 3-10m hills, scrambling up scree and rock, like I climbed in Kilimanjaro. We were literally running through valleys and marching up steep mountain ranges. There were a few downhills that were a little dodgy but we banded together as we queued up and went safely together.
Heading toward stage two I was caught by Joseph from Kuwait (who played on a Canadian team) and Hiro (Japanese 30 year old investment banker living in Shanghai). I was slow at Checkpoint two and they ran ahead. I was trying to catch up (as I knew running with friends would be better in the heat), just as Hiro stopped to get some lost items from his bag. I could have kept running, but was eager for company and waited for him which he appreciated. Btw, two Canadians from Vancouver (first timers just sat down beside me, Charleen and Anoop , great peeps). We banded together like brothers for a six km jaunt as the sun was starting to open up with heat and then hit a 4km stretch of mid sized rocks (I did my best to make friends with them, they hammered our feet and could feel blisters coming) which was a mine field! Super-Hiro (as his friends affectionately call him…andme) was already slightly pulling me and had gps!
We entered the final check point with 11km to go and well placed. I dare not ask as I am trying to keep this out of my mind, although we were getting competitive. The next 9km was on a hiway (we thought good), but it was a lot of slow uphill grinds and turns and was recently paved so it was radiating fierce heat (we heard 37-45 degrees) in a wind so you could not feel the water leaving you. I drank best I could but need to go back to Mehmet and Todds advice of downing a full bottle at check point while standing there. With four km to go I started to feel nascious just as we came on Rob from England and we were running stride for stride happily together. The mountain ranges were epic (multi colored ranges and snow capped peaks in the background). Hiro and I had stopped at the high point to take pictures and had planned to roll downhill home. Downhill was blessing/curse as it was steep and hammered the shins. Back to 4km left and I had a post drinking feeling and hit the ground on all fours (on the side of a hot highway and seering heat in front of new friends…pride swallowing). Don’t
Worry Mom there was a course jeep close by! After I finished my business, Rob went on and Hiro said he would stay to make sure I was good. He is an absolute gentlemen and I owed him big today. We walked, then ran for a stretch as I was feeling better and then walked it in. I was feeling rough. Legs were ok, back was sore and spirit was challenged. I told Super-Hiro he could go as we were losing spots and I thought might be important to him, but he like I was there for the experience and to finish and he lead me home. Over the last four km, we dropped from the low 20’s (I had no idea) to 28 and 29 respectively, finishing together brother in arms. I can’t say
enough about him and am grateful beyond belief.
Having felt like this in the Sahara has served me in two was. Concern for tomo, but also knowing how to recover. I
got in early, shortly after 130pm with an 8am start and with light up till 1030pm, have lots of time to recover. I hammered down to recovery drinks (slowly!) and have been pumping water all afternoon evening. Its 8pm and I feel really good, am eating now and everything feels in order. I went out on a lark today to test my metal and run close to one of the best runs of my life, however tomo and I will be dialing it back and running conservative. I will still move quickly on flats (from my support teams advice…but back farther in the group) so I use the cooler weather and move cautiously uphill tomo. Pole Pole (slowly, slowly…As Wilfred from Tanzania said on Kilimanjaro) and I found myself using that pace up hill and Mehmet’s S curves up the steeps. I will run/climb/walk with the end of the race in mind tomo, I am here to finish (F) and that is going to be top of mind all through the run.
Ps. They are behind on delivering us blogs, I just got responses on “flight to Kashgar” and really appreciate the comments so far! Very motivating
Hi all. Completed stage 1 and back at the cyber tent. The bus rde to our campsite was epic. Riding on buses through steep canyon passes in an Afganistan type setting. We are not far and the people in the local villages are a combination of Kyrgs, Tajeks and have a real turkish influence. Not surprisingly i started at the back of the pack, even though i was fully packed and prepped the night before. It was funny as I am one of the vets in my tent and have been sharing tips like they were shared with me. I almost forgot to get my morning stretch in even though I did some the night before. It stays light till almost 1030pm here so we had lots of prep and downtime when we arrived at 5pm. We got a welcome dance, concert and polo game (with a goat as the package...no sticks) from the local vllage. There were probably a few hundred of them that came out with all the smiling children.
I took the advice of my Sahara team mates by packing lighter (10.2kg), throwing out the niceties and packing to finish. I also took a conservative approach to the start, along with some tent mates I have met and went out slowly. Not surprising, I started at the back of the pack as I almost forgot to stretch and wanted to get some legs swings and hip openers in (Josh - post stretching had both elbows on the ground). I methodically passed those who were shuffling or slower and finally got into a nice pace and met Nick from New Zeland. He had a funny local mongolian hat and New Zeland flag skirt that started our conversation.and we ran together for the first two stages, eventually meeting up with two other Kiwi's Matt and Matt (easy to remember). We all ran through the Canyon and came across the mid sized stones Mehmet and Stefan had warned me about. I embraced them and made the ankle breakers my friend as we zigged in and out of river crossings and the stones. Later, nick wanted to do some walk running and I was feeling strong so I ran with Matt and Matt to the next check point. One Matt was looking to have a seat at the checkpoint and check his knee and John from Singapore (USA ex pat) was just ready to leave so I tagged on with him and carried the rest of the day in. We had a shorter course than planned today as their had been some rain in the region and flooded our start area. I will take the welcome ease into the race as I know the shit storm will be coming later in the week.
I found myself recalling my breathing in some hot tough spots (Nicky) and on my arm and queing breathing in and out deeply. Practice does come out in the race. There were times today I had more energy and felt like I could and wanted to go faster, but I held to plan and focused on getting to end day one closing strong. John and i probably passed 6 people in the last km.
The scenery out here is EPIC. We are surrounded by mountains (and currently at 5k feet...ie a little taller than the top of Lake Louise in Banff), and they are a rainbow of colors from Red, Green, Brown and Orange and the Pamirs and snow capped mountains came into view today.
There are competitors from over 43 countries here and everyone I have met is amazingly friendly as expected Lee and Rich from Shanghai (Aussie expats), John their freind, Emily from the UK and my tentmates Wendy (Hong Kong), Quini and Miguel (Spain), Hayley, James, Arthur (UK) and James and his friend from UK and Francis (Hong Kong).
We are staying in a local village tonight as usual and have small rooms with concrete floors and carpets to sleep on tonight. Its more shaded than the tents so we will enjoy one night of lower heat. Sahara team the tents are way bigger than Egypt! Pat I took your lead and went quaker oatmeal instead of Expedition breakfast and Marc I packed flavored rice crackers (no weight and lots of salt). We have cement walls on the huts so I have made good use and done some normal stretching (probably at least 90 min Janette and snuck in a couple yoga stretches Nicky).
Lastly, the local kids ran us in the last 500m or so. Super cute, big smiles and many with deep blue eyes. They defnitely give you that extra boost when you need it. Feeling good and will be well rested for what I am hearng is a 42km stage tomorrow and tougher terrain. This will be a good test to still run conservatively, while moving quickly when there is less heat It gets much hotter later afternoon, so I am going to stay in the shade, listen to some tunes and chat with new friends. Hi to all my friends at work, including my SMB EST team, my health support team and friends and family back in Toronto and Edmonton...and hi Mom, all is well.
After getting up at 530am and prep for my flight from Beijing, I ordered a couple green juices to re energize the body and get ahead of the power bars and airport and plan food (difficult to find much healthy) and headed out for a much shorter commute to the airport. No traffic, 30 min! So after checking in and finding out they have me on two different airlines that code share but don’t check baggage through to end destination, I triple check this info as I knew it would cause problems down the line...and it did. They all said no I had to grab my bags in Urumqi and I had a 75min layover in between. They said it would be a tight connection and should not have been set up that way (thanks Expedia, especially service rep “Zak” who knows nothing about China flights!). Sounded 50-50 whether I would make it or have to take the 5:50pm flight instead of the 230pm! You know where my focus was.
Urumqi City on Facebook
http://www.facebook.com/pages/%C3%9Cr%C3%BCmqi/103102043062761?sk=wiki&rf=111962888822368 (it has a facebook page, better than Wikipedia page)
Thankfully we arrived on time and it seemed as if I would have lots of time when I spoke to the agent and he informed me I had to switch terminals which was “down the road.” The bags came quickly and off I went, walking from Terminal one with my cart, down the highway and a big down ramp to Terminal two. If I could have steered the wobbly cart, I could have hopped on, instead of putting Flintstone feet down as breaks. So I get into the “domestic” terminal with lots of time and as I walk in I start to note whereas the international terminal was in Chinese (not sure Mandarin or Cantonese or other), this had no English. After wondering around and finding someone who spoke wee bits of English I find my lane. Some lady in front of me appears to be sending many boxes of fruit and nuts on her travels and time is a ticking. I get to the front and things look ok with 45 min until my flight leaves, when a couple people start congregating and discussing my ticket (never good) and it appears someone (still unsure) had put down an incorrect passport number. I mean it did not even have the right letters or number pattern. So after being carted over to another desk across the terminal a supervisor changes it and I go back. They then issue the ticket and ask for 360RMB (60 US) for a second bag. I was going to get some more local currency in Beijing airport and I forgot. I knew that would bite me in the ass. So I go back to the other desk mean while bumping people with my cart (I am the only white guy in this terminal and most look like farmers or laborers and are not concerned with me getting my flight...lol) and they tell me they don’t take Visa or Cash other than RMP. I push them on Visa as Beijing gave me the same song and dance and once I demanded they relented. No luck here. They send me to four bank machines that either have no English or don’t take NA cards. Finally they supervisor helps me use my card in Chinese and still no go. We are at a stale mate! I feel like I am in the amazing race and this is a detour that I must get through! This whole episode took 10 min and its now 28 min until my flight leaves. I inform them my flight leaves in 28 min and “I will be on it”. How would they like to make this transaction for US or Canadian $$ (US holds way more weight) for RMP work? I inform them the exchange rate is 6:1, which they know and press $60 US onto the counter and point to my watch at 25 min left. At this point I am concerned and think it highly possible I will be here till 550pm flight or put in Chinese Gulag if I get to pushy, however, I have not trained for 8 months to not make this flight and get there on time!
In case I forgot to say, the reason paying this fee is so important is that they won’t stamp your ticket to pass security or give me my passport back! Uggh! They agree to do the switch, its 22 min till flight and we get the stamp, the agent is running across the airport to get my passport (it seems they have got on board with getting this white guy out of their airport or not wanting to cause an minor international scene), they stamp the ticket and the supervisor asks me to get ready to hustle. I feel this is good. I get all my stuff and I look at the security line and am concerned with now 15 min to flight leaving. She ushers me to a side door that says staff entrance and to a loan agent with no line. I feel I am making this flight...as over the loud speaker I hear some urgency which sounds like final call for my flight to Kashgar. I pull out my laptop, iPad and for the first time on this trip am asked to take off my shoes which are double knotted, uggh and they rush my stuff through security. I stuff all my crap back in bag, run with shoelaces untied and hope not to step on them and fall on my face, and round the corner where I gentlemen says “you going to Kashgar...you must hurry.” He obviously did not notice me running quickly with two back packs, sweating and running at the gate like they were about to close the doors. He takes my ticket and tells me to board. I make my flight...I am pissed at the whole circumstance. I look in front of me and behind me on the flight and see many westerners who somehow made this simpler it appears, I see no crying babies. I know that after the heart rate slows down in 15-20 min, I will live and I will have a good story for you guys. We land in Kashgar, and for the first time I get to speak to some of my fellow competitors and people I have been blogging with for the last couple of months. The world is in order, I have made it to the host city. If nothing else goes right on the way back home, I will have got to the start line and get my chance to run this race.
Regional Manager for Salesforce.com.
Why are you competing?
My first race in the Sahara was an amazing
learning experience. It did not go as well as
planned and after watching some amazing team mates
compete and finish, upping my training regimen...I
am back to finish.