|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|
It's been 48hrs since the race formally ended and although mentally I still find my thoughts and insights blurry I want to close out a final blog.
I want to thank everyone for the amazing messages through the race. I just found out my 1st two days blogs did not get posted until day 3 - I'm sorry you were left in the dark on what was happening. The message from family, friends, colleagues, friends of friends and people I have never met were a real source of fuel each night when in camp. I apologize for poor spelling and often inconsistent thoughts, but I was glad to share each day with you.
I want to thank Sam, Ross and the event organizers, all the volunteers (giving their time for free) especially Tony Brammer (you are a gentleman), and the AWESOME medical crew - you guys kept my feet and often mind feeling like they were in a safer place - your efforts are appreciated more than you might realize.
I have to thank people I walked and shuffled with through the event, though there were many a few stand out that got me through some hard slogs. Deyl Kearin, though we never walked together you greeted me at every start and finish with a high 5 and generous man hug, you are a fantastic friend to have made. Colin Jack and Tara Gaston on Day 3 and day 4 (day 4 I set my fastest time thanks to you guys), Day 5 I spent about 18hrs with Ken Wee (Ken i never met someone who simply loved being on the course more than you - time and pace not relevant - you were there for the journey - respect) and of course Brian Townsend who like a mirage in the desert appeared out of the dark, pulled me out of my lowest point in the race (and one of my life) and drove me to the finish line. Those last 18kms were such a roller coaster of emotions - irreplaceable.
To tent 14 Selkat - I could not have landed a better crew of people to experience this with. Some friendships made which will continue to grow and so many laughs (mostly at inappropriate things)! a shout out to you all and nicknames I will never forget; Colin Jack (aka Hollywood), Steven Brydon (aka Bollywood), Steven Sleuyter (aka Steve McQueen), Doris Matlock (aka Smelter), Shannon Hanson (aka Cinderella), Gibeum Lee (aka Flip Flop), Etsuji Otsuka (aka Mystery), Taro Mitsujima (aka Rustle) and myself (aka Wet Wipe)
So is this race hard?
Publicly it is coined as one of the hardest ultra events on the planet - though what makes it hard is like shifting sand itself - very difficult to describe. I personally believe the term hard only captures a small portion of this race! I also think hard is probably too simple a way of describing this event. For myself this race represented the single biggest challenge in life I had willingly attempted. 70% of the challenge was to make it to the starting line - through the 9 months of training I honestly thought, damn this is hard, what have a committed too. Now without that training I cannot imagine where my race would have ended, though I suspect probably not with a shiny medal - that is if I discount the power of the mind to overcome adversity. Lets just say I am happy I did the prep work and if, or when, I do this again I would double/triple the prep work for the next one. It goes to show that change in life, work or any aspect is always harder than expected. It also goes to show that no matter how hard you think you are doing something there are others doing it 1%, 10% 80%, 100% harder than you are - again it is all relative. So in simple terms was this race hard for me - hell yes, but I find I loved every second of the journey, adventure and pain.
Did I enjoy the race?
More than me typing some words on a blog could ever describe. This race and the process prior to and after it has without doubt changed my life forever. That change is not just limited to the physical, but spiritual, mental and conceptual elements that make up who we are and the list goes on. Writing this now, I have so many emotions flying though my brian it is hard to be concise. I have a sense of euphoria that i know will not simply abate now that the race is over the way a nice fat steak eaten the night before is quickly forgotten.
What did I learn from the race?
More than I can ever describe publicly. I can say not all lessons that we learn about ourselves during intense adversity leaves us with a glowing feeling. If this race only left me with that happy glow then i would probably be disappointed right now.
Would I recommend this race to other people?
I would definitely do so - but with one massive caveat... Understand why you want to do the race and what you hope to get from it. Do not underestimate either yourself or the race, you cannot over prepare (physically, mentally, technically) for an event like this. As witnessed through this race in 2012, being an ultra fit athlete does not automatically translate to "I will be able to finish this easily" - as there were many ultra fit athletes who both dropped out of the race and or finished with times which before the race they would have laughed at. Prepare for the unexpected and be open to what comes and you will probably have a great time. You might end up thinking it was a waste of time or not enjoy it, but like I said earlier it is all relative.
Through the 7 days I lived off 2-3hrs broken sleep a night (I had a collective 3 hrs sleep the 2 nights prior to the racing starting due to energy, anxiety or whatever). I ate freeze dried food, noodles and energy bars consuming about 2000 calories a day - I believe I was burning about 6-8000 calories a day). My avg time was about 8 hrs of forward progress each day. On the long day (5th day) I was on the course for 25.5 hrs, of that 25.5 I was moving in a forward motion for 23hrs, I had no sleep on the course. I believe the highest temp reached was 118F and I believe the avg most days was 100F from 10am to 4pm - right through my time on the course. Due to my broken toe I was in pain from day one of the race. By day two my blisters were so bad I no longer really registered the pain in the broken toe. Having had 48hrs rest since the race my blisters have calmed and my toe pain has re-surfaced. The pain felt during the last 12hrs of the long stage (day 5) can probably be best be describe as such - each step for the next 8-12hrs felt like I was punching myself in the genitals whilst walking on glass, the pain was simply bone deep. I am big enough to admit tears were shed - but nothing an extra salt tablet could not replace ;-). Despite all this I do not recall laughing so much and feeling so alive in a long time. I really loved the experience.
Well that's it for me. Life changed, lessons learned and one big sexy medal to go on my wall. Memories and friendships made, demons faced, dreams realized and weaknesses overcome. I can now call myself a marathon runner, an ultra marathon runner, a stage race runner and a desert crawler.
When I look at the photos of me crossing the finishing line on day 5 I think it sums it all up. Despite the pain of the previous 25.5 hrs (and 5 days of racing) I don't recall (aside from my wedding day) looking so absolutely and unreservedly happy and filled with joy and life. Wow what a week.
Folks I will have to keep this short as time is limited today, but I will write more tomorrow when back in Cairo. I made it! I came here slightly broken and leave very broken, but stronger for the experience. I was doing ok through the day until check point 2 when I had 3 new blisters on the little toe. From there it became a struggle. By the 50km mark my feet (11 blisters in all) and broken toe were in total wreckage mode. By km 62 my right ankle had blown out from all the extra pressure being put on it by trying to stay off by left toe. I was a broken man. I was looking at 24km and I could barely move. Somehow I got through the next 6km and then it really was goodnight. I simply could not make 18km in the time remaining as I was crawling at 1km hr. Thanks to Brian who repaid a similar gesture from an earlier stage he pulled me through the hard moment. The pain was causing me to heat up so I actually had to finish the last 18km wearing nothing but shorts, no underwear, not shirt, I sight to be seen in a cool desert at 3am. We did crawl and somehow over the next 6.5hrs managed to finish. I’ve not slept since yesterday and can’t wait to get to a clean shower.
Your messages and blogs today make it all worthwhile. I loved reading them. I have 2km tomorrow and a number of people have offered to help carry me over the line if it comes to that. Pretty excited about getting that damn medal. Amazed at what a body broken can still achieve when the mind gives it a chance.
Currently living in Manhattan
IT Risk - Banking
Currently living in Manhattan
IT Risk - Banking
Why are you competing?
I've not ran more than 1km in the last 20 years.
In need of some motivation for a lifestyle change
I figured an Ultra in the Sahara would be fun....
5 months into the 9 months training, I wish i had
9 more years ;-)