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The Race To The Finish Line

23rd March 2010 12:15 PM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

We woke up on 6th day knowing the Win had been bagged. We didn’t exactly know by how much, but were confident we weren’t going to be caught. It would turn out to be by 8 hours on the second team, a decorated group of world class endurance runners who had their troubles, and a group from . Two teams didn’t finish as a team, both from the .


My body was already acting up; it sensed the end and wanted to go through its finishing ritual; get sick, cold sores, or just plain apathy; a suitable finish to neither the end of a 10km, nor a 250km race; but rather the end of a monster 7 month project. I was a bit lost; “try to be in the moment” I thought. Enjoy it. Savor it.


The race started with some tent drama. Our mate Clancy Johanssen had been pulled from the race a day earlier. Possibly witnessing us getting close to the finish released some emotions for her.  She had spent herself on the course, and once pulled out of the race had selflessly given us her time, energy, and care. She was part of our team, a key player in our team’s success; not on the course but off the course. She wanted to run the finishing leg and experience her own closure but the race organization had denied her permission. I was encouraging her to do it for herself, and hoping we could run it with her. “Let’s finish together” I said to add to her confusion, “You are part of our team!” In the end, she chose the path of benevolence and again put others’ interests ahead of her own and decided to help our other tent mate Charlotte Valentine to her hotel; she was in visible pain with a strained knee.


The last Stage started and we all found our familiar roles; Ernie Votis in front pulling, Louie Santaguida in the middle grimacing in pain, and me at the back to keep him company. We weren’t moving fast but ran the whole way, needlessly. I wanted to re-enact a Tour De France last stage where the leaders drink champagne, take it in, laugh and smile, and let the guys willing to win the stage fight it out amongst themselves. But team and compromises go hand in hand; we were going to honorably push ourselves, beat all other teams on that stage again, and try to move up in the standing, which we did. It meant a delay to drinking, reflecting, laughing, and smiling until after. I felt robbed of “a moment” but got over it, trying to focus on the big picture and not sweat the smaller stuff on which I can get hooked so easily.


The Finish line should have magnetically pulled us in but in this case, it was just… painful.  2km from the finish, we came upon the amazing staff of the Tierra Atacama hotel where we had stayed prior to the race. They had come out to cheer us and lift our spirits to the finish. Upon seeing them our pace increased magically, soon followed by the hugs and high fives. A week before, they had massaged us, ran yoga practices for us, helped us summit Toco (18,500 foot volcano as a team bonding exercise), shared a couple of earthquakes with us, and even took us sand-boarding on huge Desert sand dunes. We had had unprecedented service and established strong relationships; we were essentially the only guests at the hotel in light of the earthquake.


As we neared the finish line we discussed how it was going to go and settled on holding hands. I held hands but closed my eyes at the crossing. With the “finish” medal around our necks we witnessed 70 others finishing behind us, each attaching their own meaning to crossing the line, and another 35 at the finish line to cheer us on despite having either abandoned or been pulled out. About two third of competitors also had the satisfaction of having raised money for a charity, in addition to a program by the race org to donate some funds to the earthquake relief efforts.


Simple things you take for granted then got really amplified. I had the best pizza and beer, sat on the cushiest couch, lied in the fluffiest pillow, and had the long out of body type shower experience. I placed the two key calls I had been meaning to make for a week, to my family and my mother. I resisted turning the Blackberry on for the rest of the day, floating in a rare state of disconnectedness. Damage assessment followed, and I had my own screaming moment de-taping my upper body, covered with Leukotape (medical duck tape) to prevent chafing from the back pack.


The Award ceremony followed and my feet had regained two sizes and I had to be carried back to my room after the acceptance speech. My comments were simple, I thanked the organizer for putting out an event allowing you to go back home more alive, more grateful for who you have in your life and to quote Mehmet Danis “for extracting you from your comforts to awaken you”. For a few moments I carried achievement and pride as opposed to a latte and a cell phone.


Building on what I learnt in the Gobi Desert, I avoided returning home right away. I recalled decompressing then at home, needing space when I should have been elated to see everyone. I chose to stay there an extra couple of days. We had a celebratory dinner at the W Hotel in Santiago. Suitably, during dinner a 6.4 earthquake shook, adding to the already visible stress fractures on the hotel, its closed elevators. The roofed pool, closed, oscillated two meters. It was a signal to get out of town. I visited the beautiful wine valley and saw the ocean in Valparaiso before returning to a re-opening make shift airport.


I landed last Thursday on the red eye and to my surprise, my family had joined other friends at the airport. They had managed to misinform me and pretend they were in Florida, reunited at last. Later I went to work, and today, for the first time, I traded in my sandaled bare feet for socks and shoes.


While it has been a great 7 month journey, the bigger the project I take on, the more confusing it is to cross the finish line; the euphoria of finishing soon to be followed by post partum, and the inevitable question “So what’s next?”


I had no answers then, and none as of yet.


“You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can't know what's coming.”


Frank Shorter     


Olympic Marathon Winner



I am trying to raise money for Nabs to help distressed and unemployed executives. If any of the above speaks to you, please visit www.running4nabs.com and make a small pledge.


Comments: Total (0) comments

The Long Brutal Rewarding 73.4km Day

13th March 2010 08:52 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

I just finished reading some emails and looked at my cyber neighbour Erica Terreblanche, a South African second in the women's category. We both had the experience simultaneously of getting an intravenous dose of energy, love, and support. Never dismiss giving your support to a friend; you have no idea the impact it has. Thanks for taking some of your time to write a note.
At the end of 73.4km we ran into camp after I don't know how many hours. Attrition was taking its toll; we lost half, 4 in our tent alone; only Rod from CA stumbled in 4 hours later. Lorrie Brophy, the amazing 78 year old was pulled out by the medical team, so was Charlotte Valentine.  Clancy Johanssen, another tent mate, had been waiting and she doted on us as we arrived, nursing us, helping on each of our damaged toes, like a mother with her children. Both my hands seized up. I was looking at them like they didn't belong to me and Clancy massaged my arms to bring life back to them. All week I had been working actively to focus on others (the girls had showed me how by their actions) to cultivate a different experience here. When Charlotte arrived I didn't have anything in me to offer her. I looked at her from my corner of the tent, my eye got watery she was in so much pain, and I turned my head away to block the image. I did nothing. We all have our limits and I had reached mine.
The day started early at 730am to allow us to put as much mileage in as possible before the high sun. The first stage was in pure white salt hard flats, we were hopping from salt island to the next in a very irregular pace. The white, the puddles made me think it might look like Antarctica in the spring. It was spectacular; never seen anything like it. Ernie Votis took on the pacing while I got distracted and taking memorable pictures with a reborn camera; soaked the day before but willing to work on the long day. Our category has turned out to that of the Invalids. We had discussed playing D and protecting our lead; that outcome felt hollow. We chose to suffer, leave it out on the course and suffer, with pride to make the whole journey memorable. It worked.
The interesting about leadership is that you need followers to lead. We intermittently changed the pacer and everyone got a chance to pull from the front. Louie Santaguida found another gear and Ernie and I were grinning flocked behind him as he ran 2 meters in front of us for 90 minutes. Deep down, all of us needed to lead and it happened seamlessly.
After 30km or so we started climbing steadily and on the horizon, a massive sand dune was coming into view. I started wondering if we were going to have to climb. Asa we got closer, ant hills were on it and I started preparing mentally for the climb, knowing I would have to pull Louie up who had spent himself. We got to the bottom. Ernie looked back and needed the reward to run it up as he has endless gas in the tank. He went up; running the whole thing and in may ways having a personally defining moment. Louie and I zigzagged up, each turn I would stop and give him the water bottle. We would then lock hands, and I would help get him to the next turn. We got to the top and realized there was another one. Ernie and I changed roles and I ran up the last mound with my own "Rocky" moment at the top hyperventilating. It's all I needed to replenish prior to a re-focus on the team. The terrain at the top of the hill was extraordinary, hard crusts of mud and clay, dramatic rock formations; again running on another planet. a km later was the reverse of the climb a 500ft drop, with a Check Point 3 at the bottom - the 42km mark. I got selfish and asked Ernie to go down and filmed me running all out at 60 degrees. Louie was in very bad shape by then, not holding his food, in acute pain.
We carried on for another 15km and found ways to amuse ourselves to pass the time. We decided to each do a lifeline telling each other our life story. After an hour of a detailed account of my life high and low points to my mates, Ernie put his iPod on. I felt cheated; I was only in 2001 at the time. I took the cue and changed the subject. Spent hearing me; they never did their lifelines.
About two hours later, as we carried on, we came upon needing to bring share how we felt about our respective experience on the race. We had a no holds barred conversation and stuff was said that can only happen when you no longer have inhibitions. It all came out. We realized we had somehow come together, but that our emotional suffering during the race was due to the fact we had unaligned expectations; one was here to win, one to finish, one out of guilt. It took us 5 days to reconcile our differences, make true peace with it. When you invest 6 months of time preparing and realize not all team members put the same priority on the event, it makes for a messy run in the Desert. That's why many teams here imploded as is usually the case. Kudos to guys; we kept it together while working through our issues. Cleansing done, I was able to truly enjoy the last two hours of the race like they were the most glorious. We got to the last Check Point, breeze above 50km/hour tent blown off. Louie got the right foods and meds in him and found another gear to see us home. Sun was setting, we put our lights on and we canyoned down for 6km, in a sandy bottom. Stars came out, glow sticks led us in and every turned in the endless bottom was beautiful. I wished my family was here with me to walk it down.
We were fed out on a road leading to the camp. Mehmet Danis, who won the race here last year, had mentioned he had never seen such shiny stars low on the horizon; so much so it was hard to get your balance as the sky appears to go all the way down to your feet. We ran in the balance of the never ending stage and crossed together knowing we were the better team (this week), despite being handicapped to fourth based on the experience of the others. 
The race turned out to be emotionally as opposed to physically draining for Ernie and I. For Louie, he suffered immensely physically and gifted us his best. He put his mid term health at risk - he will require surgery when he returns.
I leave the cyber tent now and will go put my dusty, disgusting running clothes on. I won “the worst toe in the tent” and I am not sure how my feet will get in the shoes. The camp looks like an infirmary. People hobbling, crying hugging... We have 10km to go as a community for a ceremonial finish. Real food is waiting for us. We could crawl and still win. We worked hard to put ourselves in this position; but I get a sense Ernie will want to run hard for honor's sake. Run, walk, crawl, it will turn out to be a life defining week where the adversity quotient grew; thanks to sun, sand, wind, and friendship.
Epilogue to follow some time in the future.
I am raising much needed funds for Nabs, which helps individuals in distress. Consider a pledge at www.running4nabs.com 


Comments: Total (17) comments


Posted On: 13 Mar 2010 20:42 PM

Congratulations Stefan and the rest of your team. Loved reading about your journey. Wishing you all a safe journey home. Peace, Peter

Tom Fuller

Posted On: 13 Mar 2010 22:45 PM

Congrats, Stefan, to you and your mates on a fine finish. Knowing you are suffering, crying, laughing, and feeling the joy of the moment, and I am sending you my heartfelt spirit. Have a safe trip back and see you in Amsterdam! TF


Posted On: 13 Mar 2010 23:31 PM

Amazing, Stupendous, Unbelievable, Incredible, Astonishing, Remarkable !!!!!!!! You guys rock.


Posted On: 14 Mar 2010 01:49 AM

Well done! Would like to echo Pete's words - Congrats to you and the rest of your team. Should be very proud. Looking forward to hearing all about it. Lets go for a run when you get back!

Jason Gilbert

Posted On: 14 Mar 2010 02:46 AM

Unbelievable. Nearly there buddy. Bring it home.


Posted On: 14 Mar 2010 14:35 PM

Well done, Stefan! Incredible journey, and truly inspirational. Will be thinking of your little stories when I do the Gobi later this year. xx

John Myers

Posted On: 14 Mar 2010 14:36 PM

Fantastic effort! Amazing to hold it all together in the face of all that adversity. To meld 3 personalities into one team under such conditions is unbelieveable. Funny how sometimes walking 18 holes of golf seems like a tiring outing.... I suspect you'll never feel like that again. Hope you're enjoying a hot tub and cold beer at this point... John

Andrew Day

Posted On: 14 Mar 2010 20:59 PM

Raw, intense, extreme... smile my friend success and achievement .... smile wide and never ending :)


Posted On: 15 Mar 2010 00:01 AM

Never any doubt that you and your team would find a way to finish and win. You carried the flag of the Nation well. Congratulations


Posted On: 15 Mar 2010 20:17 PM

Congratulations Stefan. Most impressively, you have learned so much from this experience and I truly appreciate the openness and honesty with which you have shared it. Bravo!

Mark Weisbarth

Posted On: 15 Mar 2010 22:25 PM

Stefan, Wow! Amazing result. Congratulations, and I can't wait to hear all about it when you get back. Mark


Posted On: 16 Mar 2010 04:00 AM

Everytime i think you have reached the pinnacle, you blow through the barrier like it was just another inconvinience in your path. On your first trek, i thought it couldnt be done. This time i thought that you couldnt outdo the last one. What could possibly be next?


Posted On: 16 Mar 2010 14:46 PM

Very proud of all three of you. Congratulations on a great victory and a momentous journey of discovery. I hope your last 10km was as celebratory as it could be. Now time to focus on your recovery!


Posted On: 16 Mar 2010 15:29 PM

Your ability to set goals and then your determination, focus and drive, to overachieve them is inspiring. Congratulations to you and your team. I'm sure there are many of us who look forward to hearing the Lessons you've learned! Safe trip back. Daphne

Greg Hogarth

Posted On: 16 Mar 2010 16:12 PM

Hey Stefan; We are very proud of you and your team! I especially liked some of the \\\"Leadership\\\" lessons I have learned through you. Some notables include; 1. Align goals and expectations 2. Become emotionally involved 3. Share the lead. 4. Share resources. 5. Do whatever it takes. 6. Everyone has a different style. 7. Be humble and ask for advice/help 8. Celbrate Thanks for being so inspiring! Well done old dude!


Posted On: 17 Mar 2010 17:38 PM

Read the manuscript, followed the race- supremely impressed. Looking forward to some coaching in April.


Posted On: 19 Mar 2010 21:00 PM

You and the guys were the best tentmates ever. I am so happy "My Guys" won. I am going back to Atacama next year to finish what I started. Hugs, Clancy
Sweet Day In The Salt Flats

12th March 2010 07:52 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

I stayed up as late as I could to cheer my tent mates. Charlotte Valentine, an ER nurse from Charleston came in and was bruised beyond repair, yet she took the start this morning. She, Clancy Johannsen from SF and Rod Bovee all made it in; in various states of agony. We looked after them the best we could to comfort them. I waited for Lorrie Brophy, the 78 year old Brit, but got selfish and drugged myself to sleep. I had the best sleep ever in a tent set on a hill. We all moved our sleeping bags at an angle to prevent everyone rolling down to me, the far right side.
I lost two toe nails thus far and second skinned them, performing amateurish surgery, and made the start, just in time. Similar refrain; push Louie Santaguida as hard as possible early and then give him the lead once he is spent, encouraging him along. Unbeknownst to him, we took stuff from his pack and loaded it in Ernie Votis'. Louie would be too proud to allow it to happen but you do what you have to do to bring the hardware home.
We had a surprisingly strong start in sloppy sand, steadily climbing. We were running hard, wanting the impact of our fast time at Checkpoint 1 to deflate the competitors. Air was cool, shaded and the idea was to get as far as we could before the 45 degree temperature would fry us. The top of the ridge fed into another 50 degree glorious sand dune, a 300 footer. I snapped a couple of pictures from the top and leaped in, told a couple of slower guys I was passing left going mad speed, uninhibited screaming down. Ernie was having a similar experience and went all the way to the bottom, unable to stop tasting the descent. The three of us did. There were no flags down there. We had overshot the 90 degree right turn by 50 feet and needed to get back up. From dream to nightmare in 5 seconds. We finally saw ourselves back up, two steps up, one sliding backward. Then ran side hill causing more pain for Louie's fragile ankles. We then arrived to the bottom where thick brush awaited us, jungle running with a snaking river to cross or hop. At the last crossing, Ernie fell in the water, chest high. Thinking he had slipped, Louie ventured in and disappeared. I jumped in, pushed him out and started sinking in a 5 foot deep mud hole in the middle of the river. They pulled me out. We shook ourselves out and noticed our iPods and iTouches stopped working, permanently. We weren't happy. We flagged it to the organizers who redirected the folks behind us, but at camp tonight, the "hole" could claim its share of victims. We pitted and cleaned our muddy shoes and ran into a small village.
Temperatures were rising and I ran under the trees to find shade until I sloppily hit my head on a large branch. The guys helped me back up; and I now sport a clean Atacama tree cut on the top of my head. We made it to Check Point 2 and learnt that the team from the had imploded. They have two top 10 individual previous Desert finishers in their team.
We rolled into the dreaded salt flats knowing this race is now ours to lose. Louie was spent so we walked. And walked. The flats are made of the sharp dry corral that shreds your shoes. By the time we were there in 25th position, a path had been created. I can't believe how Ryan Sands who won the event could have gone in first, hopping around, foot at times puncturing the surface, for 10km. But that's his problem; ours became dehydration. We stayed together all the way. I followed Louie to assess his foot planting and as soon as he was getting sloppy I'd ask him to move his right hand backward, sometimes twice as he was nauseous and haggard and would feed it electrolytes, pepperoni, gel to give him a surge.
We got caught by a few people but made it to camp under 8 hours. We did what we had to get it done, working as a team, everyone with a role, Ernie pacing, me pushing from the back; then alternating. We put 90 minutes on our closest competitors today; padding up the lead to over 3 hours we believe.
Camp is next to a pure white salt flat lake, with a dozen volcanoes in the background. Two of our tent mates are now out of the race, pulled out by the medical crew, and they are staying on to cheer us and the others for tomorrow - a complete act of generosity (I'd be heading for the spa).
Tomorrow will be the most physically demanding day of my life. We are moving slowly as a team and expect to be run-walking for about 16 hours. I can run, but I can't walk. When we make it through, we will have won the team competition of the Atacama Crossing.
Due to the earthquake of 10 days ago, the long day race will start at 730am tomorrow for 74km. We will hopefully make it by 1AM, but most of the field will come in the morning having moved along as fast as they can. They are the champions here; it is incomprehensible how they can continue to move along, one step at a time overcoming adversity I can't even understand. The final ceremonial 17km would have otherwise started on Sunday but it will now happen around 4pm Saturday. Some folks will roll in around 1 or 2pm, eat, and start again. We will hopefully have had a chance to sleep.
Looking at the medical tent, I can't help but to pinch myself and reflect how lucky I am. The experience thus far has had ups and downs, slowly learning to work as a team being. I finished the stage today, sat down, was told there was another earthquake in Santiago today - a 7.2. This may affect our flight back. I walked to the tent and started weeping - don't know why. Sometimes you need to step outside of your comfortable environment and suffer on the salt flats to re-learn to be grateful for the ones you have.
Good night
Thanks for the email support. It is extraordinarily uplifting. Sometimes I hold on to the terminal and read them twice even if there is a line up.
I'm running to win but also to help raise money for Nabs. Consider visiting www.running4nabs.com and make a small pledge.


Comments: Total (30) comments


Posted On: 12 Mar 2010 03:41 AM

Hold on Stefan, you guys are doing great, no, absolutely FANTASTIC!!! You can beat all the odds and conquer this desert! Cheers to all of you!

John M

Posted On: 12 Mar 2010 03:42 AM

Great to hear that day 3 went so well (all things considered). You guys are really grinding it out. Relentless! Stef I loved the part in your blog about "sometimes you have to step outside your comfortable environment..." Sounds like the understatement of the year! Mash 'em tomorrow!


Posted On: 12 Mar 2010 05:06 AM

Your blog entry today made me cry (in the office). You're doing so well, Stefan, so keep up the good work. It is going to get harder but YOU are already harder than that, you're tough as nails, and I'm sure you will come out of this a winner. Best of luck for Stage 5 - my thoughts are with you. I will leave a quote from Lance Armstrong: "Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever. "

Tom D

Posted On: 12 Mar 2010 11:38 AM

Stef you continue to amaze me. Keep going. You have a big lead run safe. Your goal now is to finish is one piece. We are pulling for you.


Posted On: 12 Mar 2010 12:44 PM

You can do this, Stefan, you know you can. The Old Guys Rule team is conquering the Atacama. Best wishes for stage 5. Jane


Posted On: 12 Mar 2010 13:18 PM

I miss you. xoxoxo I love you, Hi to elephant and pokerman!!! Congratulations that you are 1st!!! I can't believ you old guys are doing it! xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo


Posted On: 12 Mar 2010 13:21 PM

miss you daddy. You too elephant and pokerman You old guys are in first place? Old guys rule!!! xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox


Posted On: 12 Mar 2010 13:34 PM

OK.... you guys are at 26.53, the next team is split - 2 memebers of the chilis are at 30.28 and 2 are at 33.41. Next team is 31.14 and then 34.08. You have a great lead. Try to remember Bono "it's a beautiful day" Although I'm sure you're at the point where you are singing "I need something else to get me through this semi charmed kind of life" instead. :) I can't imagine what it's like to not only run a marathon, but add the heat, the terrain, and then on top of all that having to use your legendary motivating skills to push and pull Louie, and manage Ernie. wow. There's another book here!!! I see mental exhaustion more than physical exhaution in the next 24 hours. We'll take care of you don't worry!! Call when you can talk. Love you tons, very proud, and to be honest - in complete awe and amazement. xoxoxoxox

Mehmet Danis

Posted On: 12 Mar 2010 13:56 PM

My hats of to you Stefan and to your Band of Brothers... May you all suffer well and celebrate the sweetest victory, a well deserved one at that. I am glued to the monitor every day, amazed at how you guys have kept it together while more experienced teams have broken down. My utmost respect!!! Mehmet


Posted On: 12 Mar 2010 15:14 PM

In awe. Awe is an emotion comparable to wonder but less joyous, and more fearful or respectful. In general awe is directed at objects considered to be more powerful than the subject. You and the team are more powerful than the desert and your competition. Outstanding achievement - hold it together and celebrate in the sunshine of your victory. The Montreal Peakes.


Posted On: 12 Mar 2010 16:22 PM

What an incredible run! I'm most impressed by the team pulling together. It is such a personal experience to share with others. You are better together. Best of luck on the home stretch.


Posted On: 12 Mar 2010 16:30 PM

Hey Stef Hope you still have a few nails on your toes. Guess a pedicure will be welcome. Why do you call yourself old guys. You are young because your hart is young. Age is a number. Hang in there you help me with your focus and determination or, may be, your courage. Fait tout de meme attention a toi.


Posted On: 12 Mar 2010 17:24 PM

It a girl thing.....Sitting across from your office; a little tear rolling down my cheek after reading your blog. But then I did the stupid thing and read the messages from your family and that's it, now I'm a wreck and the eye make-up is toast for the rest of today. Damn and I have clients in too. Totally in awe, so, so, so impressed with you three working so well together as a team. Beat accomplishment of all. Look after each other !!! Keep well the road.


Posted On: 12 Mar 2010 17:54 PM

You can do it Stef....what an incredible feat! Love your blogs and you are all so inspiring. We're so proud of you. All our love, xox

Oncle Keith

Posted On: 12 Mar 2010 18:05 PM

Stef, Nicole and I have been entertained daily by your superb storytelling prose and agonize with you at every challenge, and are amazed by your drive and the obstacles you and your team have overcome. Wow, what a guy our nephew is. We are really proud. Well done.


Posted On: 12 Mar 2010 18:11 PM

You three are on fire! You must feel like a sack of bones today, the long day done by the time you are reading this, but I am sure there is a big smile on your face since you know you have DONE IT and DONE IT WELL! Congratulations you three, you did the impossible. We mere humans bow in awe.

Sandra Hokansson

Posted On: 12 Mar 2010 18:23 PM

Go Stefan Go. Absolutely Amazing!!!!

Peter Shier

Posted On: 12 Mar 2010 18:30 PM

Completely unfathomable and absolutely inspiring at the same time. (FWIW- *Anyone* can score an OT goal to win Olympic gold; what you're doing goes waaaaaay beyond that.) 'Congrats' seems woefully inadequate but will have to do for now...Awesome job Stefan

Pat Sullivan

Posted On: 12 Mar 2010 18:31 PM

Stef, I can't express enough my admiration for you and your teammates resolution and determination! You are all amazing and inspiring! I am running 30km's this Sunday and as I do and suffer through my insignificant pain, I will think about the work, the effort and the great teamwork your team has shown this week. You will probably see this after the 72km trek, so congratulations on completing that and have a great final day! Pat

Jeff Ginsberg

Posted On: 12 Mar 2010 18:44 PM

Haven't had a chance to read the blog. Haven't had a change to leave a comment. Been thinking about you everyday. Kick ass...and see you at the finish line.

Robin Heisey

Posted On: 12 Mar 2010 18:49 PM

Pushing yourself past just about any limit, peering across salt flats at distant volcanoes, getting swallowed up in muddy quicksand, sharing an adventure with people from faraway places - that's a lot to process, let alone the tragedy of a major earthquake just over your horizon. Wow. Get home safe, everyone is endlessly impressed with what you're doing!


Posted On: 12 Mar 2010 18:56 PM

I was in a whiney mood today typing feversih responses to my suppliers' challenging issues and dissatisfied with the fact that my fireplace doesn't seem to be heating my office enough to sooth on this rainy day. Are you laughing yet?? Yes, Stef, reading your blog was surely the reality check of the day!! You continue to plow through unprecedented boundaries and rack up enormous wins. Keep being amazing and feel the wind ...that'll be all of us lifting you up for that last trek. PS - thanks for keeping us close with all you're sharing.

Daniel Hageman

Posted On: 12 Mar 2010 19:01 PM

Amazing + Insane = Stefan! Way to go man. Push through. You've done the impossible...again. Safe return!


Posted On: 12 Mar 2010 19:11 PM

Great story telling!


Posted On: 12 Mar 2010 19:28 PM

You constantly amaze me -- drat and now I have to go and make a pledge to support you again -- seriously, keep your head clear and your eyes on the horizon -- hang in there Stef -- we are cheering for you! Kerry


Posted On: 12 Mar 2010 22:19 PM

I'm training for a marathon and suddenly after reading your blog I feel like a wimp. You amaze me, Stefan, but more importantly you inspire me.

Martha Reeve

Posted On: 13 Mar 2010 01:03 AM

Stefan, what an incredible story and race. You and your team are doing fantastically. To me, you are super human. Congratulations, good luck in the next stage and watch out for the trees!

Todd Handcock

Posted On: 13 Mar 2010 02:44 AM

Stefan, As always a very entertaining read of your blog. You guys are going great even in the face of adversity. Almost there - savour the success. Wish I was there with you again. Todd


Posted On: 13 Mar 2010 13:37 PM

Felicitation les boys! way to go on finishing the double in stage 5. cannot imagine how gruelling it must have been. but you're done! whoohoo. soak up your success, and enjoy the vivid memories. look forward to seeing you back home. PS....the #1 guy...just looking at his time...is he human?


Posted On: 13 Mar 2010 13:54 PM

It was such a relief when I awoke this morning to your results and you guys finishing your double day. I was getting worried last night. Way to go!! You three are truly amazing. Hang in there for the last stage. Dont' undo the tape or take a shower!!! love you xoxox
Learning What Works As A Team

10th March 2010 06:35 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

On the second day, our tent mates came in after 12 hours on the course. Rod threw his walking poles out, Charlotte badly banged up her knee, Clancy decided to stay with her to help her in and suffered equally from the different pace, and Kent separated from Rod with a severe waist problem. Lorrie Brophy who learnt to run in his 60's came in just before them. He was happy with finishing the day as he had been pulled out the year before on the second Atacama day. Whereas it makes you feel like you are helping when supporting the others, Lorrie prefers to have no help.
This morning started as usual, grumpy. The only difference was that I needed to sanitize my blisters, cut them, squeeze, and tape them. These decisions involve the whole tent, whoever seems most persuasive on the technique for the blisters is what I went with - Kent in this case who spoke with authority.
Race started in crusty muddy field with tall grass, most foot plants blind, running through the brush. I'm sure footed and wanted to go fast. Louie further damaged his ankles and he was visibly in pain. Before checkpoint one, I made the call that we had pushed him enough and told him to take over. Put a new goose in front and honk from behind. All day, until we personally break down. Ernie needs to run fast, he is unable to jog. For me, I'm not a fast walker and I don't handle the heat well. I thought only he knew the pace he could handle and I was fearful to break him; have him decide where we end up as a team today and trust he will push himself and give it his everything, which of course he did. I learnt in the Gobi that you always have a little more gas in the tank than you know you have; today we chose not to test it. Louie took on the role and we all adjusted to a different role, very difficult. It worked, we finished first amongst teams, but did it at a pace foreign to Ernie and I. The day was brutal overall. We were out for 7 hours in searing heat. I dry heaved twice baking in the sun; longer than I can handle. I did my business and caught up to the guys. The last 2 stages were uphill in red slate rocks with sand around them. Sand is loose and moving fast is nearly impossible unless you have been serving in Afghanistan.
As Mehmet Danis, Atacama previous winner, said to me, the finish line is the gravity you need. We saw it in the distance, but had to go down 3 steep soft sandy canyons, each time putting a dagger in. We pulled or pushed Louie up each hill - working as a team - he in so much pain he had nothing more to give. Being on the course longer than expected introduced other issues we have to learn from; water rationing and food intake. We all ran out thinking we would have been done in 6 hours as opposed to 7.
We debriefed after the race and the day occurred completely differently to the 3 of us. In the heat of exhaustion, it gets confusing out there. Good news is we are now very clear on how we want to proceed. My secret plan is to make Ernie suffer and take some of Louie's gear and put it in his back pack to equalize us as Ernie is the strongest - I need to slow him down for our collective benefit.
Tomorrow we sprint out to the infamous Salt Flats - a corral sharp crusty surface which brakes under the impact of your weight; ankle or knee deep in salt water of course. This is rated the "killer" stage. At least we know!
We believe we have about a 2 hour lead on the good guys. Now it's up to us to bring it home. We do not have results here so these are loose estimates. If anyone cares to send in the time difference, it would help us on the long double marathon day where we will want to mark them. Winning the stage, we went through mandatory testing. This involves going through a detailed inspection of your gear to ensure you are carrying all the necessary equipment and are therefore safe and unaided. When the race was in its earlier days; people would chuck third stuff in the desert to lighten up the load or have it carried by a "mule" at the back.
Good evening to everyone and thanks for the emails. Emotions are amplified here. People reading well wishes from home break down at the cyber station.
Sorry for typos - the terminal is half the regular size and there's a line up of bloggers so i have to move fast.
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Comments: Total (11) comments

Tom D

Posted On: 11 Mar 2010 11:09 AM

Stef I dont know if you can read these here but you have 2:48 lead. Keep slugging just get through today. A finish today may assure you of the win regardless how long it takes.

Troy Sedgwick

Posted On: 11 Mar 2010 05:53 AM

Stefan... Great, great reads... Blessings friend and safe travels. Say hello to Ernie... PS - hope you got my other email/blog comment. Check a few days back.

Olga Grimes

Posted On: 11 Mar 2010 06:26 AM

Stefan, I can't tell you how much my girls and I appreciate the time and effort you invested in creating these daily reports. Ernie is a friend of ours and your notes help us inderstand what you guys are going through. We are very proud of all of you and looking forward to more news fom the last three stages. Old Guys Rule but mostly ROCK!!! :) Thank you again and all the best to all of you!!!!

Norman Melamed

Posted On: 11 Mar 2010 13:44 PM

Hi Stefan, Just catching up with your race. Congratulations on taking on this extreme challenge yet again. Your writing should be captured in a book. It is very inspirational. Best wishes. Norm


Posted On: 11 Mar 2010 16:54 PM

You guys are amazing - keep it up! I have to say you are smiling in all the photos so this team thing was obviously a brilliant idea. We are all thinking of you and are incredibly proud! Thank you for making us believe that anything is possible!

Richard Peake

Posted On: 11 Mar 2010 16:56 PM

Stef - Team Help For Heroes from the UK are your closest team competition. After stage 3 you are at 19:01:49 and they have recorded 21:48:53 Keep going mate, remember mateship conquers all adversity.

Richard Peake

Posted On: 11 Mar 2010 18:25 PM

Further to my comment on time difference with closest team "team help for heroes", they fell behind an additional 13 minutes on stage two, but they made up almost 6 minutes on stage 3. 2 of their 3 members are retired or active military - all have significant multi-day endurance event experience. Let me know if this is what you are looking for.

Nancy Vamvakas

Posted On: 11 Mar 2010 18:48 PM

Hey Stef; Keep up the great teamwork! We are praying for you every night (when I prayed for wisdom for you, Megs said "no late!"). We look forward to celebrating a strong finish with you!! Say hi to Ernie!


Posted On: 11 Mar 2010 19:20 PM

Bravo Stefan (and say hi to Ernie!). what a treat following the race 'virtually' here at the office. Love reading about the challenges, etc. Pictures are awesome too. You boys are nuts...but you know that! can't imagine the pain you are all going through, and don't know how you start over each day. But way to go...and good luck with the "double".

Jason Gilbert

Posted On: 11 Mar 2010 19:52 PM

Finally when I brag about my friend who ran a race accross the salt flats I'll be talking about the right race... and the right guy. You guys are way ahead of the next closest team (2 and half hours) +. Now it's a race for the top 20 overall. Position 20 is 40 minutes ahead of you. Go old guys!


Posted On: 11 Mar 2010 20:45 PM

Toes without nails, and every other type of pull and pain imaginable! I think you should have included a triage nurse on your team! Really enjoying the blog, Stefan, and I am continually WOWED by your dedication and perseverance. Loved the pic of you skiing down the dunes. And hey...congrats to the team on being number one. Toronto (and Canada) is proud to call you our own!
Opportunity Knocks

9th March 2010 06:02 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Laurie Brophy came in last night and he wasn't last on the course. It was humbling to see him come in. I laid out my mat down for him to help him rest - he sleeps right on the ground to take weight off his backpack. I walked him to the Medical tent, his hands were burnt with numerous bubbles.
And yes, we uncorked champagne in our tent last night and drank warm fizzy liquid. The perfect way to capture a special moment. We invited Ash in, another CDN who is running fast here, to join us; he is an experienced runner who is a close friend of Mehmet Danis who won here last year. It was a good thing we had it as I would have hurled it in the sandy desert today. My shoulders are so sore, I wept in the tent as Louie tried to untie my knots.
As I write this, Laurie and Kent, Rod, Charlotte (an ER nurse and everyone's soon to be mother here), and Clancy in our tent are not in yet. We are concerned, they have been out for 11 hours in 40 degree heat. I was feverish on the last section; and that was more than 5 hours ago. Not sure how they take the suffering. My friend Bez came in an hour ago and she was very emotional. It was good to hold her; she is here on her own, her travel mate unable to make the trek. She switched to running with crocs out of frustration with the amount of sand getting in her shoes. It was a brutal day for all of us.
I woke up cranky; second night without sleeping. I try to work on my breathing but simply can't fall asleep. I was out for an hour around 2AM doing stretches outside - temperature is decent at lower altitude (8600ft).
The plan today was to stay back, observe and play D with the strong guys. We started in the middle and within 3 minutes, Ernie had basically parked himself with the fast guys. It was a bit odd but his body language suggested they may still have a guy suffering. We all tapped Andy on the back and wished him well and we threw the plan out the door and intuitively decided to lay down our cards instead and go for broke. We went as hard as we could as long as we could. We ended up in a slot canyon crossing the same river 10 times and running in it for 500 yards. Depth varied from ankle to thigh high. Ernie rolled an ankle and I took over, each time putting my hat in the river to freshen up when crossing. It was a pure adrenaline rush to run in water, cross the river, but for the wet feet with overactive sock movement. Louie could smell opportunity and was going hard. For Louie and I not being the best runners, difficult terrain is a great equalizer. The canyon was spectacular and I ran ahead and would pull my camera out to capture the guys on film.
When we hit the first checkpoint we were greeted as the “bad guys rule” as opposed to the “old guys rule” given that we had a drink and carry cigars. We then ascended a long steep old mining road where all you could do was to walk. We all kept up and disappeared in a 200m long tight tunnel, and were spat out on the other side. There we climbed some more, so steep we were at times moving on all fours. The reward at the top is possibly the best view I've had of this type - suitable to climb for 90 minutes. We were perched on a plateau, next to a cliff overlooking the jagged, clay mountains reminiscent of a few hundred Canada's Wonderland showpiece mountain all intertwined. We also could observe where the other teams were. Nowhere. We ran the ridge for another hour or so and then, sharp left we jumped in a 700 foot 50 degree sand dune and ran downhill. We were leaping gazelles, more airborne than on sand, each foot landing powder soft - running meets powder skiing. 90 minutes of climbing, down-hilled in 90 seconds. I flew down and parked myself halfway and made a video of Louie, himself  flying  down with a million dollar smile on. Many people weren't running as it looked intimidating, but if sure footed, it was a priceless moment.
We reached the half way point and then things turned. As exquisite a moment as we had earlier, now the 40 degree oven was frying us. I started melting down, tempers flared over our tactics, and the noise of my argument with Ernie got the attention of the local lamas. Louie had to interject. 2 minutes later we high fived and were back on track. We were in soft beach type sand, with nothing to pull us forward. Playing with the lead is far more challenging than chasing for us. We had to resort to playing imaginary games to challenge ourselves and construct a logical argument to push. At first we would run 3 flags and then walk in the sloppy sand. Within an hour we were walking one flag and running the next, exhausted. Negotiations ran through Louie who is banged up. Our job is to push him and keep him healthy to fight again tomorrow - a delicate balancing act. I got feverish and thanks to various sugar cocktails, I managed. We were baking and passed a guy who was stumbling around haggardly.
We did our best today, just under 7 hours, good enough for mid 20's. A good team day and lots of lessons learned about how to manage each other. We finished 80 minutes in front of the good guys. We now have to choose how to proceed. Key is to remain healthy and continue to evolve how we work together as a team. We are in various stages of  pain and are on a first name basis with the medical crew.
Our camp site is next to the salt flats. 3 gorgeous ponds surround us. No bathing though - they are salt ponds and you float in them. With no way to wash, it would be unbearable. The drums are being played right now meaning someone is coming in. It has now been 11 hours. I will go cheer them in.
FYI - Thanks Mehmet  for the email. I will put the strategy to good use on the Salt Flats.
Jason, need you to forward me the Intel we discussed...
Thanks to all the well wishers, it is a real pick me up.
Until tomorrow; rated as the toughest day due to loose sand.
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Comments: Total (12) comments

Marty Fritz

Posted On: 10 Mar 2010 03:04 AM

# 1 two days running. Way to go guys. Take care of each other. Marty


Posted On: 10 Mar 2010 12:33 PM

A day in the sand? You spend alot of time there when you"re golfing, this should be easy in comparison. No club to swing, no ball to hit, no hle to manage. Just straight running. :)


Posted On: 10 Mar 2010 12:55 PM

It is great to here you and your team are doing so well,it dose not suprise me.Your compeditive qualities make you a winner.Keep it going thru thick or thin,iwill look forward to the next update

T Fuller

Posted On: 10 Mar 2010 15:35 PM

Wonderful to read your blog...keeping up daily on the event and am getting regular emails from them...good luck as they say today is the hardest...stay calm, and remember to finish...just like Sid the Kid!!! Best, TF


Posted On: 10 Mar 2010 15:59 PM

K. Stef... it seems old guys really do rule... crazy good stats!! So impressive I had to triple check them. Team Stats: You guys are the first team: Total team time: 35h 38m Next best team is(Feelfit Weasels): 39h 49m Team Help for Herores: 42h 9m Team Andesgear: 46h 12m red Hot Chile Runners: 61h 20m Individual Time stats: I note you guys are crossing finish line together (not all teams are teams doing that)... Consider that you are running at the slowest team members pace (or the fastest) you are doing amazingly well. Total 2 stage time for you: 11h 53m Individual 2 stage time: is the second best indivdiual time for all runners in the teams (the best is Crispin Stuart of the Feelfit Weasles: 10h 25m The closest individual in the teams is Peter Lee 13h 23m of the Team Help for Heroes Your overall time is 11.88 hours puts your individaul time at 23th overall There is only 1 Canadian ahead of you: Mokhtari Ashkan and he is at 11h 15m Individual time is 9th overall in the over 40 category Inteividual time is 3rd overall in the over 42 category

Sandra Hokansson

Posted On: 10 Mar 2010 18:11 PM

Hi Stefan glad you have a team this time, sounds like you all have a role to play in your success. stay healthy. were glued to your blog back home! Sandi

Louise Daigneault

Posted On: 10 Mar 2010 18:51 PM

You redefine pain. I am in pain all over and I am not even taking the stairs down the office, just reading your journey. Way to go Stef. You rock


Posted On: 10 Mar 2010 19:15 PM

The good news about your vivid writing is that I can feel every sense of pain and emotion with you! The bad news about your vivid writing is that I can feel every sense of pain and emotion with you!!!!!!! Honestly, I can only imagine ...and do thank you for pressing on. You're breaking through so many barriers by being your amazing selves. As Les teases, you'll be in great shape for the golf course! We're all bursting with pride, support and enthusiasm. Live in the moment. Jae


Posted On: 10 Mar 2010 19:33 PM

You are my Hero! Looking forward to the video on the dock with a mojito. By the way I dont care how hard you make this sound, i am not giving you any more strokes :-)

Daniel Hageman

Posted On: 10 Mar 2010 20:26 PM

The moon landing was a hoax! They sent pictures back from Atacama didn't they? Way to go man. Taking many big steps for mankind! Run Buzz Run! Bring back a moon rock ;)

Greg Hogarth

Posted On: 10 Mar 2010 20:31 PM

Hi Stefan: Just found out you were actually crazy enough to do another extreme event! I am proud to know someone as crazy as you. Really enjoy your posts. You are creative as hell, have the heart of a lion and the compassion of a saint. I am in awe. Way to go Stefan!


Posted On: 11 Mar 2010 00:02 AM

Another win, wow you guys are unbelievable. who would have thought. This is so exciting for all of us at home, I can't imagine what it's like for you. Keep it up!!!! xoxoxo
We Come In First As A Team! Who Would Have Thought

9th March 2010 05:39 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

We chased all day. Now we are the target.
Around 7PM last night, it seemed like the team mates weren't up to drinking the bottle of champagne I had been carrying around. So as the good mule, I put it next to the cigars and took in the extra 3 pounds. Am I ever glad I did! Out of nowhere we took the W as a team. For Louie Santaguida, Ernie Votis and I, this was our best personal athletic moment since being teenagers. IT explains why the race organizers came over and candidly said they never saw it coming. Here's how it unfolded: The night was brutal, wind and temperatures descended too low for my sleeping gear. Ironically, I had shopped for a couple of hours in Buenos Aires looking for a liner, and I bought a fleece too. Full pop retail, like a marked man. I was upset to have to buy gear I have at home. When I had my last look at the backpack, it was full to the brim, weighed too much, and I left the 2 items at the hotel after reading the weather reports. I didn't have a wink and was trembling all night - my own this time - no earthquake. Being slow in the morning, I almost missed the start and was grumpy. Louie didn't sleep either, thanks to Ernie's snoring and the cold.
Race started and we bolted. Louie was nauseous from the altitude and within 500m we were trying to understand how to pace ourselves. I recognized a few faces from the Gobi and knew intuitively where I should be relatively speaking. But this is a team event. It was clear the focus was going to be on managing ourselves and trying to move Louie along. We got lost with 15 people and incurred a 5 minute penalty and managing our upsets was our second issue. We figured the folks ahead of us now would have to be reeled in. Louie was in trouble and negotiations started; can you give more, how much can you give, how do we support you, etc. Tough stage and we rolled by in 33rd or so. Ernie who is a well oiled running machine, with the patience of a Nat, would sprint out to the limits of our required distance range and would wait with the occasional yell/encouragement. I did the same, blowing up a stack in the process. Team work is hard! That stuff works with CEOs, or so we think. Both of us took on the role of dad...
We made no progress and I decided to drop by and speak Louie through and constantly pace him. Let's try the role of mom... The challenge we had was none of the rules of engagement were discussed - how does each of us want to be supported when slowing down the other two? We were finding out live; Ernie is impatient and I chose the other role.
I was in constant negotiation with Louie, and Ernie paced hard. Possibly too hard - he rolled his ankle and injured his Achilles. My new mantra being "suck it up" I asked him not to talk about it and give a bit more. Then on the horizon three perfectly choreographed white shirts appeared; the race favorites. Clearly they were having a rough day as well; they are elite runners who have placed top 3 as individuals. Ernie came over and asked if today was going to be our day. He increased our pace and I kept on sharing with Louie it was possible. We got to the bottom of an interminable 10km climb. We were 25m behind the studs we have read about and handicapped what would happen if we pass. When you buzz around too much, you can swatted. Ernie had plenty of gasoline, Louie not. A little whisper and we walked by them anticipating a reaction. We were all walking uphill. No word was spoken, no reaction. 25m passed, we needed to capitalize and I asked Louie to run for a minute just to put some distance. Ernie pulled form the front, I grabbed Louie's bag from the back and pushed him uphill for 5km. We sped up at the checkpoint and it was essentially downhill from there. We chose to misinform Louie and have him believe they were right behind us. They weren't and he never looked back. We crossed the line first with a 5 or so minute lead, and under 5 hours of agony in the heat and mountains.
The embrace, the laughter! I fessed up I lied to him and Louie confirmed it was the right call. I spent my currency, I won't be able to do it again!
We all ended up in the medical tent, blistered up. Louie is in bad shape; Ernie and I probably would have quit. He has a broken toe and Achilles issues. We spent time with the guys from Hong Kong and one guy was having altitude issues. We laughed. It is all communal and we empathize. As soon as he is adjusted, we will never see them again. Today was the day, and augmenting our pace moved us from low mid 30's to low 20's. Ernie and I have issues and our healing words go to Louie. We are sitting here on top of the world and it's time to uncork the champagne. We are teenagers again. Priceless.
Also, my thanks to a bunch of former Gobi racers and others who are sending their well wishes.
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Comments: Total (11) comments


Posted On: 09 Mar 2010 02:26 AM

Wow - what a moment for you guys. Very inspiring story. Savour every step of the journey. Peace, Peter

Cathy Whelan Molloy

Posted On: 09 Mar 2010 02:32 AM

Stephan, You continue to inspire. We are all thinking of you and pulling for you...what a great journey - AGAIN! Cathy

Tom D

Posted On: 09 Mar 2010 08:53 AM

OK I used to be unsure if you were crazy, It is now fully confirmed! You must have eaten too much of that French Cheese as a kid or something. Stef, keep it up you are impressive. I would say you inspire me but that would mean that I have some intention of doing something like this. NOT On second thought. I will have some champagne and a cigar.

Marty Fritz

Posted On: 09 Mar 2010 14:01 PM

STUPENDOUS! Wow you guys are fantastic. What an amazing accomplishment. One question.....champagne and a cigar...are you nuts? Enjoy, have fun and take care of each other. Marty


Posted On: 09 Mar 2010 14:21 PM

Stefan, I read your blogs as if they were international news...a great way to start my day. Thanks for writing, it is inspirational!


Posted On: 09 Mar 2010 16:16 PM

AMAZING!! Such a great read and congrats to the team. Keep it up!


Posted On: 09 Mar 2010 16:49 PM

Good on you for the champagne! I see the logic of leaving the warm clothing behind and lugging a glass bottle around :) You are so French! Hello to all three WINNERS!

The Wife

Posted On: 09 Mar 2010 20:42 PM

I have used this quote with a few clients and friends to help them move forward. Stef, this quote defines you! Proof - day 1. This is the reason I choose you, it is what separates you from all others. You don't need to read it to move forward but to realize this is why you move others forward!! "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Keep up the great team work. I'm so proud of you....you are amazing!!! xoxox


Posted On: 10 Mar 2010 20:45 PM

"Keep up the great work!" - wishes from the Chiefs - who narrowly lost our second playoff game last night (despite me scoring a goal, can you believe it?). We miss you on the ice but know you are taking care of much more important things right now. Best wishes to Ernie (who I know) and Louie (who I don't) as well. You guys are incredible!

Bruce L

Posted On: 14 Mar 2010 22:27 PM

Way to go guys. Great to see teamwork at its best. Congratulations on a great race.

Anne-marie T

Posted On: 15 Mar 2010 20:09 PM

Congratulations to you and your team- very inspiring! AMT
So Close To The Desert – Yet

7th March 2010 09:06 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

I arrived bagged on an overnight cramped flight and woke up in Argentina, home of Tango dancing. Good thing they have some of the best coffee in the world. Buenos Aires has a radiant people and European architecture. Following the Canadian shoot out V, we decided we should celebrate by going for a pre dinner run given restaurants don’t get going until 9PM in Palermo where we are staying, a downtrodden but intriguing area sparkled with intermittent one of kind designer boutiques and dozens of restaurants that open from 10PM to 4AM on almost every corner. We felt completely safe running in darkness but we got lost turning a 10km stretch run into a 20. Close by was the famed Recoleta cemetery, an above ground colonial masterpiece. All the tombs are intricate marble buildings in and of themselves; most have windows and coffins of family members are on display inside for all to see. It is a city of tightly packed monuments, each mausoleum with a story and an architectural statement. My father sold funeral pre-arrangements and he would have been in heaven here; Eva Peron (Evita) is the star character; as Jim Morrison or Balzac are found at the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Another great visit is to the world class contemporary museums who are fantastic with huge collection of contemporary Argentinan artists. BA is huge – 13mm residents, and its Avenida de Mayo is the largest in the world (20 lanes) with a massive obelisk as its centre point; an arch-less Champs Elysee, just bigger. It may have been a perfect avenue for its tanks and convoys to celebrate its military might, way back. Today, Argentineans fight the English over the Falklands, a female president of a poor socio-economic upbringing who is embattled politically, and of course other nations on the soccer pitch. The city has a great vibe, dinners are accompanied with great wine, and its citizens are proud. One day, I will be back with my family to visit the incredible Iguaçu Falls, as well as Patagonia. BA was a gateway to Chile for us and while Chileans were going through a catastrophic earthquake, we were trying to deal with our own small issue – how to get into Chile in time for our race. Scheduled to fly out on March 2nd, we were turned back at the gate and frustratingly returned to the hotel. In these times of emergency, web sites shut down, phone lines aren’t answered, and airline offices have very long lineups. While empathetic to what was going on in Chile, my mood was slowly souring as each hour passed without an airline response. The next day, we parked ourselves at the airport to try to get the attention we needed. Santiago’s international airport was slowly re-opening 15% of its flights. My mate Ernie introduced me to Alfajores, a thin sandwich cookie that is found everywhere. Fresh or branded in boxes they are a tasty delicacy and we used these cookies strategically at the LAN counter to try to stand out from the crowd. It was my first time resorting to bribing and somehow we got on a flight, with the incredible sweetener of an upgrade to First Class! It was a perfect way to see the Andes from the sky. I couldn’t help but think about the movie Alive, wondering from high above where that plane crashed. Santiago was a make shift airport; the modern, state of the art terminals are closed many missing windows, all crushed on the ground. Our luggage was lined up on the tarmac and there our team ran afoul as Ernie’s pack proved to have an irresistible scent; his beef jerky and pepperonis were confiscated, likely by the alert smelling dog. I dodged the bullet somehow – good thing as we can now share mine. That food is essential to us once running as it has high salt concentration and needed proteins. What should have been a routine arrival took two hours; we missed our connection to the Desert and headed for the W Hotel in Santiago. As one would expect, the streets are empty; people at home watching earthquake updates. We settled into the hotel’s mostly empty restaurant for a late night dinner on the 4th floor of the hotel, the table started shaking, plates, cutlery, and the hotel. Ernie and I locked eyes and wondered what to do – run to be below a door frame? The tremors stopped 20 seconds later. The only other table there was occupied by the GM of the hotel, James Hughes and he walked us through what to do – which he termed the triangle of life. It consists of lying down next to a sturdy object such as a bed of sofa and hope to have that object take the bulk of the hit at a 45 degree angle, hence providing some air cover. About 45 minutes later, a second aftershock hit. As James wasn’t lying down anywhere, neither did we. We left, shaken, and he asserted how great the building was stating it had gone unscathed while many edifices in Santiago had severe structural damage. He also warned us it is typical to have 100’s of aftershocks for up to 30 days and told us not to panic of… Great! I was up early the next morning to get in line, pre-opening, outside the building at the LAN air office. Seems to me it would have been an opportunity to have more staff show up earlier to deal with worried and angry customers. Luck was on my side and was confirmed on a flight, meaning we were going back to the make shift camping airport. If anyone was thinking of renting a tent in Santiago for a wedding or an event, tough luck – the airport had them all. For the first time, we saw a few of our race competitors, most of them scrambling on standby to try to get on a flight. As the day unfolded, I heard amazing stories of how people had gotten themselves into Chile. We flew for the Atacama Desert and I was glued to the window, looking from above at the driest place on earth. We were greeted by 100 degree heat and pristine blue skies. I kissed the ground – finally we had arrived – it felt like a long battle to get there, euphoria now overtaking frustration. We headed for San Pedro, a little mud village of 2,000 Atacamans located at the intersection of Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. Initially known as a mining haven which it continues to be for copper especially, it is now developing a reputation as a destination for Desert and outdoor travelers; the Andes and Desert Flats providing endless excursions. One of the ironic stories of the racers who are converging on San Pedro is our third team member Louie Santaguida. We were speaking to him on the phone while at the airport in Buenos Aires and with the knowledge of our struggles, flew to BA, then to Salta Argentina via another airport, and did the last 10 hours by bus. He beat us to the hotel by 5 minutes having left from Toronto! How ironic. Since we have never ran as a team it was time to start bonding to build team chemistry. We are all injured and we headed out for a leg massage to finally relax and soother the Achilles. And then it happened again: Strong quake shakes northern Chile AFP “Chile has been struck by a strong 6.3 earthquake that officials said was not an aftershock from the massive quake that killed more than 800 people last weekend. Carmen Fernandez, head of the Office of National Emergency (ONEMI), said no damage had been reported but "obviously there is fear among the people." The quake struck at 7:39pm on Thursday and its epicentre was 105 kilometres below the Andes mountains northeast of Calama, according to the US Geological Survey, which monitors earthquake activity” With my third one under in 24 hours, I can now say I didn’t have a clue in until 10 seconds. My therapist stepped away thinking I had convulsions; I thought she was moving the chair! Then we both clued in and remained silent and frozen as windows, verticals, the ground shook, an early experience we shared as a team. Individuals continued to struggle to travel into Chile and reports of some dropping off, a dozen or so, unable to make it and the race, caused the delay of racing to Monday. Our friend Blain Davies who had trained hard from Edmonton could not get in on time. Without having been able to sleep at that elevation we decided to create our own tapering down - we rented bikes to do something physical and try to acclimatize to the 10,000 feet elevation. We went into the desert in search of the Laguna Seas found in the famous salt flats of Atacama. The lagoons are surrounded by salt crusts and once you jump in, you float given the high degree of salt concentration. On our first day together; the ride and swim would do as our bonding activity of the day. From the amazing hotel we booked, I all grew hypnotized by the 10 volcanoes just staring at us; Lycancabul, Colorado, Toco, at name a few. We must do one I thought. I am using this race to raise much needed funds for Nabs; please visit www.running4nabs.com

Comments: Total (5) comments

Michael Gates

Posted On: 07 Mar 2010 22:52 PM

Glad you made it there. Say hi to Ernie. Good luck with the Race.


Posted On: 08 Mar 2010 10:57 AM

Stefan, always enjoy reading about your adventures. Have a great time. Bonne Chance. Say hi to Louie for me. Peace. Peter

Normand Lebeau

Posted On: 12 Mar 2010 16:22 PM

Stefan, Je ne sais pas comment tu fais pour réussir à écrire tout ça à tous les soirs. Vraiment impressionnant. La course semble brutale mais je sens que tu puises ton énergie aux bons endroits. Tu peux être fier de toi mon cher. Tiens bon et continue de nous enrichir de toute cette information. Tu es et seras toujours une source d'inspiration pour moi... Salutations!

Lynn Doyle

Posted On: 12 Mar 2010 16:30 PM

I've heard that rubbing salt into your wounds is therapeutic! Keep pressing on. Your team is being tested to the max, keep up your spirits and remember you are one determined crazy guy that has set what to some of us is almost unachievable goal! You Rock (no salt pun intended!) Best, Lynn

Deb Mckenzie

Posted On: 12 Mar 2010 20:15 PM

Well done, Stefan! I'm glad they went ahead with the race and that your team did so well!
Coming Together As A Team At 18500 Feet

7th March 2010 06:23 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]


The three of us together for the first time, we are trying our best to do accelerated bonding. Chilean wine was helpful on the first night, now it was time to pick a more challenging project to test the integrity of our team and get a feel for how we would work together.



We also were concerned with high altitude; I was unable to sleep at all on the first night. Waking up Saturday morning and looking at 10 volcanoes was again awe inspiring. The Licancabur is a perfect cone, rising to 18800 feet. I was hypnotized and decided we might as well try to summit one and see how we react to high altitude. Off we went, trying summit Toco, an 18,500 peak that novices like us can attempt. A little risky, we had been at high altitude for 34 hours only, and of course we have to run a marathon on Monday. But “Once in Rome, do as Romans do” and we disregarded best practices.  Rollie Aird, at 33 already a veteran of 3 Deserts (Namibia 09, Sahara 08, and Gobi 07), also joined us – young, fit he was 12th in Namibia. The organizers of the race looked at us puzzled as we departed.




A 50km drive away, we drove as high as we could. We loaded on coca leaves which we kept in our mouths and started walking uphill with Cristobal, our guide. As we reached about 17000 feet, Ernie started to struggle and I stayed with him to pace him up. He has trained heavily for the race and was shocked to be struggling. He felt having lived in Aspen at 9000 feet and trained in Edmonton would have been enough. But high altitude sickness attacks randomly. We all had searing headaches, heart rates well above 100 but had the most beautiful views one could hope for. “My stomach is tight – I feel like I’m going to black out. My legs weigh a 1000 pounds.” A little panicked, he related the results of his last EKG. I shared mine and laughed. I let him walk up at his pace and took pictures and then ran uphill little legs of 50 to 100m to catch up and see the impact on my heart rate. It was frightening, getting in my red zone. “I have a splitting headache – I can’t keep my head up – it weighs 100 pounds” said Louie. My head was about to explode but seemed we all had it. As we were spreading out on the mountain, we passed the 18000 feet I started yelling to the guys to summit together as everyone was getting a burst of energy being pulled by seeing the top. People become a bit incoherent at that altitude and before long I was yelling to get the attention of my type A mates. We agreed to stay together, all for one, one for all. We sent Rollie up first to take pictures of us reaching the top together. To be expected, the guys started running up our own little “Hillary Steps”– it was a race.



We couldn’t have asked for a better day. Sun shining, no wind and warm temperature, with pristine views of Bolivia, Argentina, and the Chilean Desert. The Andes are jagged and beautiful and their white peaks are in perfect harmony with the white salt flats which can be seen mineral sparkling on the ground. We were sitting on a 200 square foot flat top and pinched myself, not only had we all made it, conditions made it enjoyable to stay up there. This compared to my wife’s 6 day climb to Kili where she may have spent 5 minutes top at the top with countless others, in 60km wind and freezing cold. And we were almost as high! I got a wireless signal and took a picture in the direction of Aconcagua, South America’s highest peak, next on my wife’s list of summits and emailed it to her and I spoke to my mom. It was emotional.



Our spiritual guide took us through the Atacaman ritual of facing thanking our blessings. Out loud he thanked the other volcanoes who guard the area, the sun, the desert, his family and spoke about his Chilean compadres to the South affected by the earthquake all the while holding 3 coca leaves in each of the direction where he sent his blessings. He then blew the leaves towards his home. We did the same, silently, a perfect way to thank the mountain. We had also asked permission at the bottom of it, prior to climbing.



We thanked Cristobal for the experience and I wanted to reciprocate by sharing a Canadian custom. I pulled out Cuban cigars and a bottle of champagne! Rollie was rolling himself on the floor, Cristobal confirmed this was his first time drinking and smoking atop a volcano. Neglecting the effect of the high pressure, as I started unwrapping its top the cork exploded and flew to 19000 feet. We were doused with the bubbly laughing. We all drank from the bottle; another best practice at high altitude, and shared a cigar. Louie was upset to have forgotten his prosciutto. It was one these moments where you had to be there…



It was now time to descend after 45 minutes up there.



Poetically, we found the cork! There, all of us started struggling as the pressure change can affect you even more as you descend. Sprinkle a bit of champagne and it made for a sloppy walk down. Louie had to hold me part of the way – all of us had issues. Splitting headaches, Rollie was green, his eyes bloodshot. “I’m unfocussed, I am nausious” he said.



We stopped in town to by Coca leaves. The idea is to keep them in your mouth while running as we did while we climbed. We trust it is a good idea…



Over the next few hours, the headaches all became bearable. It was a memorable day which we will never forget. And hopefully it doesn’t mess up our run. My next blog will be sent be satellite from somewhere in the desert at Camp 1.







For more info on the fundraising campaign for Nabs, please visit www.running4nabs.com

Comments: Total (1) comments

Sean Shannon

Posted On: 08 Mar 2010 17:30 PM

Run Stefan Run! Good luck my friend. Did you buy new shoes for this one?
Pre Race

7th March 2010 06:01 AM[(GMT-04:00) Santiago]

Race day panic starts when you begin comparing the size of your bag to others. I weighed in at 12.2kg, well above my teammates but for the fact I am carrying a small bottle of champagne for one of those special moments. I think this moment will be now; just making it to the start was an accomplishment in light of injuries and a busier work schedule. 

My thoughts today are about the choices you make when you train this hard. Saying Yes to Atacama meant No to my friends, skiing, reading, TV, date night. A sacrifice which will right itself in 10 days when it is all over. (Thanks Les for your patience and support).

The air is thin in camp 1, we are at 10670 feet. I think climbing a volcano two days ago is aiding a great deal. The landscape is mars like; high clay cliffs, reds, blood colors and ochre. Stunning and reminiscent of the Gobi. The stage tomorrow is designed to hurt us early; the elite runners (230 marathoners and under) will run the first 10km in 1h20 or so. Running at the altitude with a full pack will be challenging and we have discussed our plan as a team. Team violation has already occurred; while I waited in line to blog, I re-read some of the notes of the last few days and I came upon a passage written by my good friend Ernie who clearly was having a grand old time at my expense. The gauntlet has been thrown and I will be looking for my moment - sand in his sleeping bag? rocks in his back pack? Just planning will keep my mind off the jitters we all have. 

Running as a team will be an extraordinary challenge. We seem to be on the same page and the first stage will be the one where we find out how are running styles will blend. I will pace the guys early and will look to Ernie for bursts of acceleration. Louie will see us through the lulls - he is a tank and never stops. 

There are world class runners running as a team and our objective is to finish. Some of the running pedigrees around here are extraordinary; as such our strategy is hope. Stay alive, stay around, and who knows. We have already hedged our trip here by creating incredible memories for ourselves, hiking up to a volcano, and yesterday I hired a car to take me into the desert and sand boarded with a local pro. Imagine hurling yourself down a 45 degree 300 foot sand dune and taking turns barefoot on a board with straps. A complete rush.

At the same time as our competitive spirit is sure to be awakened, our objective is to fully partake on the communal experience. Believe it or not, we share a tent with Laurie Brophy who is returning to the Atacama after being pulled out of the race last year for being too slow as he was helping another racer in distress. The medical team felt they had to leave a doctor behind to look after him in case he put himself at risk. What injustice; but he decided to return this year despite his anger at the way it was handled. Laurie is from Wales and I will find out more about him in the days to come. He is 78 years old! He is the embodiment that nothing is impossible. another noteworthy tent mate is a nurse in Charleston; I think we will get to know each other well... (mom I am therefore safe).   

I reconnected with a few racers from the Gobi who are here; my incredible former tent mate Berenice an aussie, and Norma Bastidas a Mexican Canadian. Norma is being followed by a camera for the Oprah Winfrey TV. She is one of 8 amazing women who are single parents doing extreme activities to bring attention to their charities. Norma has a special place in my heart; she introduced me to Desert racing! There are 3 other crews here filming for other networks, for other purposes. 

Time to go and eat my back pack to start reduce its weight. 

This will be my first marathon since June 09.











Comments: Total (7) comments


Posted On: 08 Mar 2010 14:40 PM

So it begins. You are now nursing the first wounds and the least of sore feet to come. We are thinking of you and cheering for the Old Guys team - you rule!


Posted On: 08 Mar 2010 16:01 PM

1st marathon since June 09 ... you forget to mention that in June 09 you ran at least 4 marathons and a double marathon in a row!! Say hi to the team from me! Shame we didn't get to catch up in Toronto last year! - Sandra

Georges Soaré

Posted On: 08 Mar 2010 20:47 PM

hey, bravo les boys on a successful first day. Nice job as a team. way to go. pictures and documentary are outstanding. Keep it up, and will follow with great enthusiasm! PS...missed you at the Club Champs this weekend...sunny, +5C, a few beers on the deck afterwards...[but don't think about that during your race tomorrow...]. :)


Posted On: 08 Mar 2010 21:46 PM

You guys came in 1st! Congratulations!!!! Never doubted you would, but it's nice to see it in writing :)

Les, Montana, Jaide

Posted On: 08 Mar 2010 23:03 PM

Your 3 girls are very impressed! Hi Daddy, Elephant, and Pokerman. I LOVE YOU Daddy and Ernie, maybe Pokerman...(Montana & Jaide) Keep up the great work! How are the injuries? Keep yourself somewhat healthy and uninjured. xoxo (sent email too)


Posted On: 10 Mar 2010 18:29 PM

stef, it's time you give up your day job...with these great epics you're capturing here in your blog...i see another realm of talent! nice going, nice teamwork...maybe this can be a summer olympic sport...then mandrake will have an olympic medal winner! stay at it stef and team...you guys are amazing!


Posted On: 10 Mar 2010 19:29 PM

Mon doux,,, You guys rock...such resolve...you are true models...Godspeed!
Where Were You When?

28th February 2010 11:44 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

I was going to write about my training leading up to this event but having just watched Crosby potting the winner in OT, what else is there to say but goalaa!


Hard to think of any other occasion that could bring us Canadians more joy than winning the gold against our favourite foe! I’ll always remember where I was (in Buenos Aires looking for a bar to watch the game and having to retreat to the hotel as all insisted to watch Sunday afternoon futbol instead). It puts it all in perspective to be a fan in a location where no one cares, neither about hockey, nor the Winter Olympics.


Their loss!


I recall vividly where I was on Salt Lake’s hockey gold, or other events like Zidane’s head butt, Donovan Bailey’s Gold, the Canada Cup, and as far back as that famous last game in 1972. These are some of the greatest moments in sport ever. Were you in one of these places you will never forget today?


At the same time as OT started, I got pinged on the Blackberry – CNN - Death toll has risen to 700 in neighbouring Chile. Hopefully the rescuers can have success over the next day to save lives. If there’s work that can be done for a few days and my feet allow me to walk, I will try to go to lend a hand after the race. I am sure we will get socialized about it by the volunteers who will support us.


The Atacama Desert must be travelled to via the Chilean capital of Santiago, and the airport is closed right now. The race organization has sent an announcement today that Atacama Crossing 2010 is going to happen as planned, starting March 7th. I plan to fly in from Argentina Tuesday and go straight into the high Desert to acclimatize to the elevation, landing at 8,000 feet.


Focusing on the race has been enlivening, and thinking about it too much terrifying! Parts of the Atacama Desert are inhospitable – it has never received a rain drop in 120,000 years (50x dryer than Death Valley), and sits above 10,000 feet where it gets quite cold at night. Flipside, it seems to be a visual feast; some 18,000+ feet volcanoes with perfect conic forms surround you; lava flows and sand to run on in a lunar like terrain where NASA tests its rovers. It is close to mining country and the high mineral density provides a unique floor for preservation of natural artefacts such as mummies. Large paintings of ancient sacred Inca will remind us of the people who used to live there. The Atacama sits between the Andes and the Pacific and we will run within just a few kilometres of Bolivia and Argentina. The whole concept is exciting; I can’t wait for it (to be over).


I will send a daily blog.






For more info on the fundraising campaign for Nabs, please visit www.running4nabs.com 

Comments: Total (3) comments


Posted On: 04 Mar 2010 21:15 PM

Sunday was a great day indeed! GO CANADA! GO CROSBY! I wish you well my friend. Travel safely and take care of yourself during this epic journey of yours. OBSC and the Chiefs are behind you all the way! We look forward to reading your updates. Garnet


Posted On: 05 Mar 2010 22:00 PM

While I sit in cushy Florida, complaining that it is only 65 degrees out, I think of you living through a mulitple of earthquakes, the adventure ahead, and wish you were here not there! However, as I was running a mere 5 miles this morning I was struck not only by your determination but who you are. It pushed me an extra mile...still 21 shy of your usual day to come. and it reminds me of something you once said to me that is so much more appropriate for you. "most people have greatness in them, however, you have extraordinary in you" Good luck my love, be safe, and rock that race. xo


Posted On: 06 Mar 2010 18:16 PM

Good luck with the race Stefan! I look forward to reading your blog posts.
Suck It Up

28th February 2010 11:13 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

1,200 km’s of running, 800 km’s of walking, 45 cross fit sessions at the gym, 40 hot yoga practices, 25 massages, 20 hockey games, 15 chiro/medical appointments later, it is now time to leave and see if it was enough to be ready for the Atacama Crossing.


As expected, during the training I was walking around either limping, grimacing, or simply shaking my head knowing every week, more mileage was necessary. In a week today, I will have completed my first day!


Training for the Gobi was simpler; fear of failure was driving much of it. There was also a bit of time to get it done as business in my sector slowed and some of my activities migrated to development and strategy more easily done in your own time as opposed to doing the business.


Post Gobi , in July, revenue declines receded and the Fall brought new promise; the curve started its climb towards respectability and optimism. My wife Leslie returned to work as a coach successfully, and my other board roles also started their busy season. In late January, just before co-hosting the 6th annual Marketing Hall of Legends, I ran out of gas. My days and nights had been full for 7 weeks, training was suffering and I was making poor decisions to try to keep it all together. I’d gotten home from a black tie gala at 2am following too many cocktails, and went running until 430am. I was now running later and later at night and Leslie stopped sleeping comfortably, worried. I would skip building a proven running foundation to layer in more mileage, and just tried to skip some basic steps.


“No Mas!” I was done, tired, exhausted, and didn’t see a way out, victimized by my own decision to run again.


In an interesting human interaction, I shared with a bunch of friends I felt overwhelmed for the first time ever. Not the typical manly conversation, but life did occur to me that way. Since it isn’t a great conversation to take to your staff and partners, might as well tell my friends. I got a few empathetic look. I repeated these were all choices I had made, within my own circle of influence so to speak.


And then the unsolicited advice came out, like a two by four.


“Just suck it up”.


You may have experienced this before; careful what you ask for… After picking myself up I realized my issues needed to be put in a certain context. The world had big problems that month – think of ; seemingly untouchable businesses had theirs – Toyota was recalling 8 million cars; Olympic issues were developing - Cypress Mountain had no snow; and Canadians became more pessimistic about the economy, unemployment, and their debt load. And my friends had their own issues.


All real. We all have them. The key was that I seemed to indulge in it a bit.


I decided to put a positive spin on “Just suck it up”. And I get the sense it will come up in handy in the desert. The signal to catch myself before I whine or complain about the choices I have already made!


If you enjoyed the Blog, I invite you to make a donation to Nabs via my race www.running4nabs.com. In the last year, the number of distressed and unemployed executives has risen faster than Nabs can handle and more help is needed. Thank you.

Comments: Total (0) comments

Running Barcelona

27th February 2010 11:35 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

I packed my stuff and left for Chile via Barcelona for a conference.


Tourists all over the world walk cities and many choose the Hop On/Off bus. It was just a matter of time before entrepreneurs would launch sites recording people’s favorite runs to help you sort out where to go, or actually offer to guide you through. Running guides – great way to see a city.


Were it not for the relative safety of Barcelona, I would have gladly taken advantage of a running service. But as Barcelona packs more “running candy” than most cities: the sea, mountains, and jaw dropping architecture; I decided to go without.


After one month of complete running hiatus, it was time to test the left side of the body. First I wore a backpack and stood during the conference I was attending in Barcelona to test the left torn rotator cuff. An unfortunate outcome while skiing with my 8 year old; “tree’s are 90% air” didn’t hold that time. So there’s been no weight bearing on my shoulders for any significant period of time which is a big source of concerns. While I trained for the Gobi, for 4 months I worked standing with 25 pounds on my back! Not this time.


And I wanted to go for a run to see how the injured Achilles would react. A light pinch of the Achilles hurts and reveals the scar tissue is still there; not a good sign!  A couple of back to back 15kms, with city style required red light stops (for which I am thankful…) was what I had in mind. The race now in less than two weeks, I started loading up on Naproxen, a powerful prescribed anti-inflammatory, and Omeprazole an ulcer suppressant, a necessary partner to counter Naproxen’s by product which can assault the liver viciously.


The shoulder held well. The eyes feasted on the sights. The Achilles yelled on the first day and screamed on the second. I will need more Advils and need to research what happens when they are mixed in with Naproxen. Any doctors reading this?


For the inveterate travelers who have been to Barcelona, you will know this already. For the others, just add it to the evidence you need to make it a point to go one day.


A bold statement to start; a top 5 city in the world for me!


First day I ran with Leslie from one end of the other along the 6km long sandy beach, starting from Diagonal Street where the new state of the art contemporary hotels and conference centre are, to the other end where the new W Hotel is, alone owning the last point on a long peninsula. Each end can now boast ultra landmarks; triangular with futuristic grown-outs at the Eastern end, and a new wonder hotel at the other end. Not to be outdone by the city’s modernism found everywhere here, the W is shaped in the form of a sail, referred to by the locals as “Vela”. I like it already; I actually wanted to name my second daughter Vela being a sailing enthusiast. My wife insisted having a Montana (now 8) and a Vela (would be 6 but is called Jaiden) would cause too much suffering for them down the road so we went with a safer option.


At 26 stories high, it looks like the Tower of the Arabs Hotel in Dubai. It is large, shimmering, in your face, and a perfect target to run towards. It was also a target for many while being erected; too high at first for Mediterranean standards, and the only hotel with direct beach access. Being a W enthusiast, it also seems odd to have it not in the core. But it is a gem, albeit out of the way. http://www.starwoodhotels.com/whotels/property/overview/index.html?propertyID=3183.


Not being able to afford to stay at the W, we ran in the lobby to peek and the staff, aghast to see us dressed the way we were, and were quick to play defense and escort us out. The run along the sea is superb and reminds me of what it could have been back home and what it could still be with our soon to be rebuilt Portlands. We ran one modern park, one sculpture, one square after the next, including the Olympic basin, and the largest aquarium in Europe. I think Toronto deserves an aquarium too but I digress. Net, the waterfront does not show the heart of Barcelona or the old world charm of Nice’s Promenade des Anglais, or the escarpment of Bondi, as it is a bit separated from the city. It is more like running along Shanghai type buildings, each competing for your attention. I later found out the W architect, Bofill, had also designed the Barcelona Airport, which I assume was built in time for the Olympics. The incredible terminal of glass, metal and black marble is as well appointed as you would expect and as such buying an FC Barcelona hat will set you back one mortgage payment.


Next destination was to get lost in the sublimely beautiful 500 years old gothic maze, run up and down Las Ramblas in search of the famed Museo Picasso, one of three locations to see in Barcelona from my bedside table book “Top 1000 places to see before you die”. After rounding Christopher Columbus monument, we turn North on Las Ramblas, a plane tree lined pedestrian avenue that feeds into the old town. Mostly empty on that week day but for its main attraction of mimes and living statues that stop you dead in your tracks given how talented and funny they are. Most of Europe has these beautiful cafes where you sit and watch people stroll by. Here you can do that or interact with the dozens of creative living statues who are dressed and made up to an incredible level of details. The Mercat de la Boqueria (market) is there, inviting you to part with your money. It is the most eye catching outdoor food market I’ve ever seen; the visual display is a lesson in food presentation. The food sparkles; think of St. Lawrence Market’s size, outdoors, with the Christmas windows only found on New York’s 5th Avenue or Harrods. The range of food is jaw dropping and while I am not a fish eater, I wanted to buy one.


We ultimately find Museu Picasso, bordered by a few others which we also visit drenched in sweat.
The early work, and the Blue Period are in evidence. We kind of ran through it until getting to the 3D exhibit on Las Meninas which brings cubism to life and makes its appreciation more accessible.


Next day the Achilles stiff but manageable I ran around various sites including La Segrada Familia, the Catalan Museo, and the Olympic installations. Wow.


Antoni Gaudi essentially invented modernism and fore-fathered the W’s Vela, and many of his 100 year old achievements are here to be admired. At the top of the list is La Sagrada Familia, a church I saw 25 years ago then under construction. It still is 60+ years after the architect died. I assume the cost will rival that of building the Big O in Montreal… but from all accounts, it is already a modern wonder of the world, yet years away from being completed. Not being an architect, I can’t quite describe it but I had to stop to get a glass of wine and just look at it. I could have looked at it for an hour on each side as they all are completely different. In fact, one side, facing West is meant to depict Christ’s death and is designed in a cold, modernistic way with centurions. The East side has every metaphor known to us about the birthing process, including live trees on the façade, 100 feet up. If it is your thing, you could study the façade for a week and you still wouldn’t have covered it all. The other two sides are also meant to engage you but the scaffolding blocks it all. Your kids will likely be able to fully appreciate it – it is supposed to be completed in 2026!!! The inside is also unfinished but it matters not. The genius of the construction inside is completely over the top in its simplicity, and meant to look like a forest and of course it does. A must see.


The greatest running moment comes via not having researched the run and turning unto a rising avenue  leading up to the dome shaped Museo Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. I have been fascinated with cathedrals since I was a kid. From where I grew up, on a clear day and from a particular hill, you could see the St-Joseph Oratory on Montreal’s Mont Royal, more than 40km away. This beige looking Montmartre/Capitol Hill sits atop Montjuic where other attractions are such as the Joan Miro Fundacion and the Olympic village. I remember watching the Olympics on TV and the diving events were incredible as the side angles from the 10m platform seemed to have the divers perched over the city. You can see why once you are up there. The run up has 300 incredible steps spread amongst beautiful terraced fountains. Once at the top, you can’t help yourself but raise your arms in victory and turn around for a look at the city sitting beneath your feet. Then you naturally start humming the Rocky Theme.  You can again enjoy the view of La Segrada Familia in the distance and you realize it is at eye level. The church is 117 meters high and meant to be the same height as the mountain (Montjuic) as to be in balance and harmony (of course).


In the end, the eyes feasted, small price to pay for stiff Achilles.



If you enjoyed the Blog, I invite you to make a donation to Nabs via my race www.running4nabs.com. In the last year, the number of distressed and unemployed executives has risen faster than Nabs can handle and more help is needed. Thank you.


Comments: Total (0) comments

You Have To Believe!

24th February 2010 11:12 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Be it in your faith, your team, your training, or yourself. Or just that will win more gold medals than any country who has ever hosted the Winter Olympics!


In my case I now need to believe in my Doctor.


I’ve played it safe; I’ve played hockey but have my head up in the corners. I’ve barely skied, not raced to avoid trauma and knee issues. But on a trip to Whistler with great snow, I hit a tree with my left shoulder and sustained a rotator cuff tear. Since then I haven’t put the 25 pack on my back running since. Thinking pain killers will handle this.


And I’ve rested when my body said no more.


And even when you play safe, you still make dumb mistakes. Mine happened in January. My training has revolved around peaking at running half the distance (125 km in 5 days); the other half being “mental” (no pun intended). January 25th was the last day of a 5 day in a row to get to that distance. The weekend had been circled on my calendar, being the high point of two 30 km days back to back to test the recovery around two long runs.


I felt a discomfort early, climbing the uphill Road 19 towards Ravenna and changed my gait as my left Achilles was bothering me. I ran a bit more upright and likely hit the pavement with my heel (heel striking) a bit more than usual. It would have been fine other than doing it for 2 and a half hour compounded the problem.


The scenery was incredible, rolling hills with a long downhill finish. And I reached my objective for the week I celebrated my good fortune; thus far I had only incurred a bad shoulder. Two more weeks like this and I would start to taper prior to March.


The next day my left Achilles hurt, and so did my shin, femur, groin, and hip all on left side. Resting seemed like a good idea at the time. That was my second mistake. I stopped running and ferociously started stretching, also attending yoga practices.


Two weeks and it didn’t get better; it was time to escalate it to Dr. Kazemi of The Sports Specialist and Rehab Center who, with his team, has a knack for putting me back together just in time.


Always optimistic and having seen this issue hundreds of times he explained I simply changed by biomechanics and caused 4 other problems simultaneously. “I asked myself if I should have known and realized the amazing ramifications of an almost imperceptible adjustment.


It was now February 8th, one month before the race – and no room for rehab mistake.


In came the familiar foes that I had to befriend again: The Vibromax, The Magnetic Resonance Ring, laser pads, the dreaded Shockwave machine, the awkward ankle and hip adjustments, and the uncomfortable electric acupuncture.


First on the agenda was to break the nodules on the Achilles, the bulging scar tissue at the back and sides making it now impossible to run. They are built up needing to be broken down. The Shockwave is the way to go. Three treatments and your are likely done; only problem is it takes 6 weeks to know if it works. By then my race will be done. But you have to believe.


I will share the specifics as some of you may have the odd joint that hurts and possibly you get value out of this.


Treating Achilles


Bottom line is if you are ready to weep (which I did) when your Achilles get jack hammered with a pneumatic gun, then this is for you!


I feel much better now although a light pinch of my Achilles suggest I am not there yet.


Dr. K’s web site says that “Shockwave Therapy is a revolutionary rehab technique that uses acoustic waves to effectively treat chronic pain such as tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, calcific tendinitis of the shoulder, pain under strain at the knee cap and painful inflammation under the heal, non responsive trigger points, delayed healing and non-union fractures. Radial shockwaves are high-energy acoustic waves that are transmitted through the surface of the spread spherically into the body. With Shockwave Therapy the body responds with increased metabolic activity around the site of the pain. This stimulates and accelerates the healing process. The literature suggests total resolution of symptoms in most patients with three sessions of 5-10 minutes. Marked pain relief is observed in most patients in just 8 to 10 days after the first treatment.”


Treating Shin Split


Magnetic Biostimulation (MBS) combined with Laseranalogues Light Energy System (LES). It is a foot cylinder where you insert your injured area and let sit for 10 minutes. MBS has full penetration while the LES is soft tissue only. Both combine for an active formation of new cells improving energy stimulation via more oxygen, and the system of the cell. It is painless and happens once you have wiped the tears from the Shockwave therapy.


Treating Hip Bursitis and Rotator Cuff Tear


I have had surgery here before and the ideal combination is Laser and Vibromax.


Here is how it works “Low level lasers supply energy to the body in the form of non-thermal photons of light. Light waves in the near infrared ranges penetrate the skin deepest of all waves in the visible spectrum. Low level laser light waves penetrate deeply into the skin with both anti- inflammatory and immunosuppressive effects.


  • Bio-stimulation, improved metabolism, increase of cell metabolism


  • Improved blood circulation


  • Analgesic effect (Decrease Pain)


  • Anti-inflammatory and anti edematous effect


  • Stimulation of wound healing


But for the discomfort of seeing your treated body parts have small convulsions, if is better than getting the electric acupuncture which I have had on pretty much all body parts.


The “VMTX Vibromax TherapeuticsTM is an innovative soft tissue therapy technique utilizing the effect of vibration via the art of compression and tension along and over the soft tissues along the known kinetic chains to break down adhesions and scar tissues, decreasing pain, restoring function and enhancing performance with minimal discomfort to the patients and the providers”. Think of it as getting an active massage with you perform movement which having a powerful vibrator loosen the injured area. It does marvels and seems to accelerate a traditional Active Release Techniques. The main benefits are “to reduce the viscosity of the blood and increasing its speed through the arteries, therefore, acting as a mild form of cardiovascular exercise. Increasing concentration of testosterone and growth hormone and decrease cortisole concentration in recreationally active people. Ability to apply greater compression and tensional forces to the tissues with minimal discomfort due to analgesic effect of the vibration, therefore, breaking down adhesions and scar tissues in deeper tissues than any other manual techniques.” Bottom line is it works!


Treating Groin Pull


This meant no more running until it heals. To prevent it from getting to a hernia stage, just RICE (Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate) it, a standard for most runners encompassing almost all muscular injuries.


Early Stage Femur Stress Fracture


Due to my over-pronation when I changed my biomechanics, I could sense that dull pain building in my femur. Having had this before, I knew rest was the only way to cure it. Best practices are to do nothing until late March, well after the race. Inconvenient…


Throw in a couple of adjustments which scare me and I’m done the visit. Repeat 3 times a week; with all the machines on you at one time of another.


Other than that, the right side of my body works well. Hard to believe given two right knee reconstructions and a torn meniscus!


So I believe in Dr. Kazemi, sprinkled with good pain killers and anti inflammatories. I believe in Dr. Kazemi and good pain killers and anti inflammatories. I believe…


Sometimes, it is just time to manage our care and seek other opinions. If you are challenged with the above and seek another POV, call Dr. Kazemi at 416.486.0110


If you enjoyed the Blog, I invite you to make a donation to Nabs via my race www.running4nabs.com. In the last year, the number of distressed and unemployed executives has risen faster than Nabs can handle and more help is needed. Thank you.


Comments: Total (0) comments

First Solo, Now Trio

22nd February 2010 11:43 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

After running the Gobi, and walking around with my airline slippers to let my feet heal back in Toronto, I gave myself time to write a bucket list of other life projects that would deliver intense sensory experiences, at least once a year. I’ve now lived more than half of my productive life; who knows what tomorrow will bring as I found out through my dad’s sudden passing.


Running another desert wasn’t going to be one of them!


I titled my list the Gobi List. I keep a board at home of the top 20 experiences I have had and not since the birth of my daughter Jaiden in 2003 have I put one on the list. 6 years makes for a long drought. Gobi made it. Writing the list took an hour. I furiously wrote all the places I wanted to see, all the experiences I wanted to have, and the things I wanted to learn. Then I attached a date to each; either a year, five, or ten years. And I identified who I wanted to do it with; my wife, family, mother, friends, business colleagues, or solo.


I think it helped my feet and 8 nail-less toes heal faster…


And it help produce answers to being asked – what’s next?


My short term ideas were to either:


1) travel to the South of France and cycle summit some of the famed mountain stages of the Tour de France, especially Mont Ventoux and Alpe d’Huez, or Col du Tourmalet or d’Aubisque;


2) heli-ski the Chugagchs in Alaska, or


3) swim with whale sharks.


Conversations quickly produced other interested individuals, and more ideas. It helped galvanize 3 groups to put all of the above in motion. I was blind to who else had been thinking about the same experiences but never had taken the step to make it a project. Opening the blind spot, a time table was agreed upon to notch these three with a list of 100 in the pipeline! I find out common interests sure gets heightened connectivity, and then other ideas you were blind to come up. In communities you typically join a group that shares a past or current interest. In this case, we were coming together for a future project. What I didn’t foresee was who was interested in doing what! Just try asking the question:


What do you want to do that you haven’t done?


Will you have regrets if you don’t do ________ before you are 60.


Or looking back if in 2020, knowing you would have done it all, what you soon?


What do you know today you should have done already but didn’t? What’s stopping you?


As it turns out, most of these projects will get done in 2011 or 2012.  


And in late August, an unintended event happened after a Gobi reunion in NYC with Louie Santaguida and Ernie Votis to which I arrived late. It sort of went like this:


“Stef, we hold you responsible for dragging us to the Gobi”


“Sure – it was my fault”


“We have decided to go back and run another one” “You’re kidding!” 


“Better, we are going to do it as a team!”


“OK – let me guess – I’m the third guy?”




“That’s a bad idea, we won’t last a day. Do you realize all but one team imploded in the Gobi and the one who won were British paratroopers? We couldn’t be more different than them!”


“We are different! 3 type A’s who beat to their own drum, have no track record of playing team sports, or having a boss, or taking directions, or having sensibility to respect a chain of command”


“So basically it is a suicide mission?”




“OK, it will be fascinating! I’m in. We will either win as a team or perish as individuals?”




So the project started; 3 guys in their mid-forties who will run 250km at 10,000 of altitude and be required to be within 25 meters of each other at all times in order not to be disqualified. Who will blow a fuse first, or who will blow up period will sure be rich in colorful expletives. 


So far – 4 out of 10 on the team work.


We tried to create a program to communicate, run together, craft a game plan, but alas, life got in the way running our respective businesses in turbulent times and it never happened. In fact, another fellow joined us to make it 4, just in time to name the team “Old Guys Rule” to then shortly pull out a couple of months later. So zero for team but since we are all showing up to the Desert, we get a 4/10. We will have our first run together March 7th when the race starts.


Very promising.


When we signed up, someone talked about winning. I laughed and suggested we should try to finish. I also will suggest we drop the “Rule” from the team name – sounds a little too ambitious…


1,200 km’s later, it is now time to pack my gear and go get a taste of what teamwork in adverse conditions will be.


If you enjoyed the Blog, I invite you to make a donation to Nabs via my race www.running4nabs.com. In the last year, the number of distressed and unemployed executives has risen faster than Nabs can handle and more help is needed. Thank you.

Comments: Total (2) comments

Michael Gates

Posted On: 04 Mar 2010 00:13 AM

Hey friend - Feb 28 was 3 days ago and your blog has gone quiet. Are you in Chile yet or have plans to get there finalized? Best of luck Ann & Michael

Troy Sedgwick

Posted On: 06 Mar 2010 01:20 AM

Hey Stefan, Was just thinking of you and your run. 2 days to go, hey? - hope you get this before you start... Read your blog – a great read. Your thoughts on Sid the Kid's goal - I agree…a great moment in Canadiana that we will all remember decades from now. Your "1000 Things To Do Before You Die" book - one of our favorites…we bring it every trip we take. Your "Life To Do List" - I review mine often…and love adding to it and checking things off. But especially your insights into "choices (you) made" and "just (having to) suck it up". I too have been feeling overwhelmed and struggling with work/life balance of late. And I too have done it to myself with choices I've made. But you're right, we needs to keep things in context. A good friend and colleague of mine once said, "Troy, we don't have real problems. We have FIRST WORLD problems". Well put… This said, sometimes it's tough and we do just have to "suck it up". I prefer to think of it as "weathering the storm" or having faith that "this too, shall pass". I suppose that's just a kinder, gentler way of saying "suck it up" and "deal with it" – either way, it's the same positive spin you referred to in your blog. All good… Anyway, best wishes Stef. Safe travels, stay healthy and enjoy the run. We'll connect when you're back. Troy PS – am sending a work-related email as well…but don't worry about it until you're home.