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An Unexpected March

7th June 2013 08:14 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

It rained through the night and into the morning that we started the Long March. As we ran into the mountains it soon became clear that it was going to frigid cold at the peak (Checkpoint 4- 7000+ ft). We donned trash bags and all of the warm gear we had as the doctor at Checkpoint 3 informed us that there was hail and high winds at the top.
 
I felt incredibly calm and at ease, not rushing or running on adrenaline, but just taking in the countryside for the first 15km. By 20km I hit a really strong pace, with a continuous climb to 40km. I passed a lot of people on the steep ascent up to Checkpoint 4 and took off running down the backside of the mountain. It was freezing and windy, with rain in and out, but I was unphased. I literally felt the strongest I had all week.
 
When I got to Checkpoint 5, I was ready to push on with a little over 25km left. It was at that point that the doctor told me they were calling the race and taking people off the mountain. I just laughed and said he was joking. He told me he wasn't and I just stared, laughed and cried simultaneously because I just couldn't believe it and swearing and getting angry at the nice doctor wouldn't have solved anything. We were told to run about 6km down the road where buses would be picking us up to take us to an alternate campsite.
 
Apparently there was serious danger both behind and ahead on the course on the next peak and they couldn't risk it. That meant only 9 guys finished the race (in about 9.5 hours) and a lot of us ran 52km to a couple little houses by a river where we shoved in and tried to keep warm while we waited for 2-3 hours for buses. The people who lived in the homes were so kind and seemed amused by us. They gave us hot water and their sheep's cheese and let all of our dirty bodies and stuff cover every surface in their modest little homes.
 
After waiting for a while we were bused to a yurt camp. The weather was foggy, barely visible, and raining and freezing cold. We ran into our yurts and found blankets and big embroidered pillows and after warming up and making sure everyone in our tents were back safely, had the best freaking night of sleep imaginable.
 
I don't think I can really explain the feeling about the race being cut short. Seriously disappointed, certainly, but I am also glad that no one was seriously injured or worse, which it seems was a very real possibility. As I got on the bus I just thought, well, looks like a 50 miler will be on the docket when I return stateside. No way I am letting that go.
 
So, we will finish the last 14km tomorrow as usual, which has meant today has been a lot of snuggling in our sleeping bags, eating local noodles that the race coordinated for us, and enjoying the beauty of the lake adjacent to the yurt camp.
 
I'm looking forward to running with abandon tomorrow and to a long hot shower. There are so many fantastic people to celebrate with as well. It should be a great party. :)
 
Thank you again to all of you who have joined a part of this journey with me. It has been incredible and I feel so privileged to be here and running for Opportunity International's clients!

Comments: Total (4) comments

Brian Townsend

Posted On: 08 Jun 2013 18:18 PM

Sorry to hear about the poor weather, but I am glad you are safe and sound. It has been such a treat following your journey. Enjoy the shower and party!

Thomas Muir

Posted On: 10 Jun 2013 06:54 AM

Vanessa, Don't know if you are in Beijing but if you are email me at [email protected] as we would love to see you. We are at the Peninsula. x

Lauren Hawley

Posted On: 10 Jun 2013 14:57 PM

Vanessa, we're sorry to hear about the bad weather, but we are all so proud of you! Thank you for all of the time, training, and immense effort you've put into this race - it will make a huge impact on our clients!

Abby Starr

Posted On: 10 Jun 2013 17:47 PM

So proud of you Ness! Maybe I an start training and we can do the long run together...and if not me, you always have Gregg!! I hope you are enjoying a sweet sweet finish. Can't wait for you to come home :) So much love! Abby
Stage 4- Local Celebs

5th June 2013 01:35 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Thank you all so much for your prayers. They are felt and needed. My IT band felt great today- a lot of stretching and a modest regime of painkillers, and I was off! My shoulder started hurting for the first time today, but did not intensify and I am hoping with an increasingly lighter load I can keep it contained. 

Today felt the best so far. We had rain all night and still a bit this morning, so I set off easy with cold muscles but started running within 10 minutes or so. The terrain was rolling pastures, with incredible views of the snow-capped mountains. I saw a pack of wild horses, running with ease across the hills that we were trudging up and down. The storm clouds remained around the mountains, with huge puffy clouds all across the sky, making the light clear and dramatic. It was such a sweet serene backdrop to this stage.

There were also many locals out today, clapping and cheering us on through the country side and in the final stage through the town. One of the highlights of my day was running past small groups of Chinese children who used their little English to say Hello, give high fives, and say "I love you". One of the Chinese military guards, who are typically perfectly stoic, even directed me into the camp saying "This was baby" (if you can imagine the accent, it makes it that much better). It was so fun and motivating to have local people out and to see their excitement to see us for the last 10k, a good chunk of which was on flat road, which many of you know does not feel the best at the end of a marathon (or 4 ;). 

Overall I felt really strong today. After I was told at Checkpoint 2 that we did not have another huge climb (like I thought because I was clearly not paying attention at the morning briefing- woops), I took off running and sustained it for most of the second half, with a minor pause when I came across a tentmate who was nauseated and had been throwing up throughout the morning. I walked with her for a bit and made sure she had enough water and the doctors were aware. She had been in third place for women up until that point, but was really strong and made it all the way. 

Camp is buzzing with nerves and preparation for the 80k day tomorrow- the Long March. We will have over 2000 meters of elevation gain, which means altitude will be a factor again. I am planning to be conservative, eat and drink often, and enjoy as much scenery as I can. When that day (and night) is over, we will just have a 15k finish, which seems like peanuts at this point, but could be brutal. 

Wish me luck! Next blog from post-Long march!

Comments: Total (9) comments

Dennis Felts

Posted On: 06 Jun 2013 03:46 AM

I'm sure you are feeling strong just knowing now the end is in sight and you have fought victoriously against fear, doubt and exhaustion. Keep it up! Go, Vanessa, Go!!

Paige Kearin

Posted On: 06 Jun 2013 03:55 AM

Vanessa- you are strong and brave. We are reading your posts every night over dinner & keeping you in our prayers. The world needs more courageous women like you. Thanks for your service to OI and for your commitment to become a better person. You are inspiring more people then you know. Big hugs to you!!

Brian Townsend

Posted On: 06 Jun 2013 03:57 AM

Sounds like incredible scenery. Love the story about the Chinese guard, I am just picturing him saying baby. Good luck tomorrow in the long march!!! I know you will do amazing!

Rachel Troost

Posted On: 06 Jun 2013 13:17 PM

I love you and am so proud of you! March on snuppa!

Sharon Kearin

Posted On: 06 Jun 2013 13:22 PM

Vanessa, What an amazing run you had in stage 4. You are such a fighter. Thank you once again for being this warrior woman and setting the bar high for all of us girls who know you. I pray you have a one on one with GOD today....that He supplies you with all that you personally need...a holy moment that confirms HE is always with you. God bless you during this long one!

Leilanie Delrosario

Posted On: 06 Jun 2013 16:21 PM

Vanessa, YOU ROCK!!! An amazing journey for an amazing woman. It is so much fun and inspiring to read your stories. Thank you so much for all that you do on behalf of God's beloved poor and the women you help empower. May God continue to run beside you! Blessings, Leilanie

Michelle Mantyla

Posted On: 06 Jun 2013 18:16 PM

Keep it up, girl! So proud of you. Been thinking of you non-stop the last 24 hours during your Long March. Can't wait to hear more from you. Praying for great physical and mental strength!

Kaitlin Jones

Posted On: 06 Jun 2013 18:46 PM

What a great update. I love all of the people cheering for you. It reminds me of being on the camino and people wishing us "buen camino". There's something so unifying and encouraging about people acknowledging your journey and sending you on your way. I saw an update that Stage 5 got cut short. I don't know if that means you'll have to make up that distance the next day? That seems crazy. Excited to find out! Last night Jen and I walked down to leadbetter to greet lululemon Laura after night moves (it was her birthday) and we saw Deyl running (one of the first men to finish, not surprisingly) and he ran past us and we cheered and he was wearing his Run4Poverty shirt. Thought you might like that image. Everyone is out running with you (minus me, I'm sorry, I've thought about it, sort of, but yeah...)! Your fundraising is also going really well which is so exciting. Can't wait until we get the next update! xo

Kaitlin Jones

Posted On: 07 Jun 2013 16:12 PM

Well, it's Friday here. You know what I'm thinking, and why I miss you loads more today. I want to hear an update about stage 5! I know they cut it short, but then what happened? I pretty much just wanted to say it's Friday. Can't wait to sit down at the cat in a month and hear all the details. Love you!
It Takes A Village

4th June 2013 02:10 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Today was gorgeous. It was also a day to adjust my expectations. I think Day 1 I proved I can run a really strong half marathon, coming into Checkpoint 2 in less than 2.5 hours with a 8.7 kilo pack on a whole lot of rough terrain. It was a classic rookie move though and I have had to deal with acknowledging the fact that this race is a whole lot longer and more challening than I was treating it at first. Each day has been longer and more challenging than the last. 

The course today went along and then up and over the mountains (total 6k feet elevation gain) but the views and the company were SO rewarding. Due to a huge mistake on my part, I learned how many friends I have and how many people it takes to get a weak link through the race. At Checkpoint 2 I was chatting and joking around with race manager Ross and some fellow racers while chugging a bottle of water. My IT band was seriously painful again by that point so a sports therapist did some crazy stuff to it and I took off with the guys, thinking about the massive mountain we would ascend in that leg and continuing the chat. It wasn't until 10-15 minutes in that I realized I forgot to fill one of my two water bottles. Crazy. Added to that I was wincing with every down hill step, it really felt like the cards were stacked against me. The English guys I was with gave me a pain killer, which thankfully kicked in about 20 minutes later, after I grit my teeth and fought back tears on the steps down to some really cool cable bridges across the canyon. As we started to ascend the dehydration and a bit of nausea (altitude, hunger cocktail?) Started to kick in full force. The English guys kept looking back and checkin on me, slowing at times to keep me close. My friend Jamie, a Canadian guy from Toronto, who is usually far ahead of me but was also struggling with knee pain stopped when I came up the river bed and offered to compression wrap my knee for a couple minutes to increase the blood flow. I told the English guy to go on ahead so as not to slow them down, not really thinking about the fact that that sort of tied Jamie to the ascent with me. This guys is really athletic and could have easily powered up the hill, but instead walked slowly, pausing often for extended looks at the views while the dizziness and pounding heart slowed. This climb was described as 'hands and knees steep' and although the poles took the place of hands, it was as gnarly as it sounds. Jamie talked me through it, asking me to think about and visualize sweet memories, and being incredibly patient in the process. It was humbling and incredibly motivating in the end. 

After a nice steep walk down the back side of the mountain, 1.5 bottles of water for me and a great conversation, we finally got to Checkpoint 3, with 6.6km to go and the camp in sight. I told Jamie to take off and kill it, put the iPod Kaitlin made for me on, and took off after him. He teared across the plain, showing the athleticism he held back for me, and that and the camp ahead were all the fuel I needed. I covered the remainder of the kms at a full run. It was such an amazing feeling to let loose and run. It reminded me how much I love this. The pain and heat and wind and cold and all of it are worth it for those moments. And even more so, worth it to experience friendship and kindness in such profound ways in dark moments. 

I know that tomorrow will present with new challenges, but right now I am experiencing a runner's high that has lasted several hours and I am going to take that with me into Stage 4. 

Thanks again for following me and praying and encouraging me through it. I can only imagine the struggles that the women I hope to be empowering experience on a daily basis. For me, it is one week. Wow. Such a humbling thought. Please continue to support Run4Poverty in whatever capacity you are able!

Comments: Total (15) comments

Cecilia Kolonie

Posted On: 05 Jun 2013 02:59 AM

Praying for relief for your leg! Love you and so proud and inspired. Lots of love and cheers!

Brian Townsend

Posted On: 05 Jun 2013 03:23 AM

You are so inspiring Vanessa! I am on the edge of my seat every blog I read. I can't wait to here how stage four goes. Keep up the hard work and push through the pain.

Dennis Felts

Posted On: 05 Jun 2013 04:04 AM

Ok, googled IT Band, so I am now up to speed. Should have known as much from your history with this part of the anatomy. And with that new-found knowledge I have new-found appreciation for the fact that you are one tough lady. I thank God that He has surrounded you with caring people who will keep watch. Take this adventure to your limit, beyond if you must, just come home safely! Hugs from all of us.

Cosy Del Carlo

Posted On: 05 Jun 2013 04:11 AM

Love your reflections. Wish I could see the things you describe. Can I have toenail update please?!

Janey Strong

Posted On: 05 Jun 2013 04:56 AM

Vanessa! You are doing so amazing! What an incredible journey you are on. I'm so inspired by you - you've got a heart of gold. Go get 'em!

Kasey Sander

Posted On: 05 Jun 2013 05:07 AM

Such great reflections! Love your spirit! Love your attitude! You are a tough chica. Continuing to pray for you. You got this!!!!

Kaitlin Jones

Posted On: 05 Jun 2013 05:46 AM

Yay for running music!! Hope the gems I threw in there are helping, if all else fails choose Beyonce. Always choose Beyonce. Duh. Every time I see the word nausea in one of your posts obviously I freak out and my heart starts racing. So far sounds like the nausea hasn't been too debilitating, that's my new prayer. No more nausea. You're running stage 4 as I type, I know this day will be a big one, but I just hope and pray that you power through as I know you will. I've collected some good pictures off the website, you're looking great! Stay hydrated. Stay happy. Stay high (running variety). xo

Megan Stichter

Posted On: 05 Jun 2013 06:29 AM

Always chose Beyonce! Love that Kaitlin. Haha. Vanessa, you are killing it! Way to work through the pain and I'm glad to hear you have a great group running with you.

Sharon Kearin

Posted On: 05 Jun 2013 13:38 PM

I am with Brian....at the edge of my seat reading your next blog. I am so happy to hear that your "village" came along side of you to support and encourage you. I pray that the power of God's spirit fills you again today right when you need it. You have accomplished so much already...amazing endurance physically and emotionally. God bless you today Vanessa!

Teri Felts

Posted On: 05 Jun 2013 15:52 PM

I have read your blog posts daily and have no doubt you will finish this race... challenges and all... as this is what you are made of! So glad to hear of the support of the Aussie, Brit, and Canadian. I am praying for that darn T Band and the altitude sickness to calm down so you can enjoy the rest of this race. XOXO

Kristin Knopf

Posted On: 05 Jun 2013 19:26 PM

Holy Shit Balls Vanessa!!! This is impressive. Go IT bands! hurray for "running pills" and friends who make you good ipod mixes. Go get after it. And after come visit Utah.

Deyl Kearin

Posted On: 05 Jun 2013 22:57 PM

Vanessa, you have already raised $14,000!! That is going to change the lives of almost 100 women and countless families. Let that sink in... Also, let that be enormous motivation as you push past the obstructions of pain and fatigue. You are capable because of Him who enables you! "But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint."

Lisa Holmlund

Posted On: 06 Jun 2013 01:12 AM

Vanessa, you are so inspirational! I have to let you know that you are sort of the talk of the town... as I found out from others that you are doing this race! I have been praying for you and now that I found your blog, I am so so proud of you! Seriously, you are one of the toughest girls I have met.... and I love that you are doing this for so much more than just yourself. God has got to be so stoked at the woman he created when he created YOU. Beautiful, strong, confident, and a hearts desire to make a huge impact on the world! Be encouraged. Know that you have a huge support team. Way to go! You got this!!!!

Dj United States

Posted On: 06 Jun 2013 16:07 PM

You're amazing! This is incredible!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love reading this and I just can't believe it's real life and you're doing it!

Ryan And Britt Warner

Posted On: 07 Jun 2013 16:38 PM

COME ON VANESSA! CELEBRATING WITH YOU TODAY! BRITT AND I ARE PRAYING THAT THE JOY OF THE LORD WILL BE YOUR STRENGTH. peace and grace, the Warners
A Stormy Stage Across The Gobi

3rd June 2013 07:55 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Today was 2km shorter than yesterday and a whole lot flatter and I came in 20 minutes later, so that's that. It was gorgeous running from camp toward the base of the mountains, again with ominous clouds overhead, which provided a nice bit of shade. They also provided a massive downpour with fierce winds about 22 miles in. So much for this place being a desert. Thankfully I was walking at that point with a true English gentleman who insisted I wear his waterproof jacket since I only brought a micro-puffy that is not suitable for this weather.  The storm was brief, but intense, and had some of the crew driving out to caution us to remove any metal from our packs (which would mean ditching the titanium poles) and duck for cover if we saw lightning. We didn't, but it was an exciting, if not entirely rueful thought. There were a lot of herds of sheep and goats along the way today, as well as locals cheering us on. I love the reaction of the people watching us. It's a mixture of excitement to see foreigners and bemusement at, what I can only imagine they think is, the most ridiculous feat. Sometimes I agree with their facial expressions and laugh back, but we always at least exchange a Ni Hao. 

Overall I felt tired and depleted from not sleeping much at all and almost immediate hunger after I ate breakfast this morning. I wasn't able to run as much as I would have liked when my IT band seized up at Checkpoint 2, but the upside of that (because there has to be!) Is that I got to walk with some lovely people and admire the stunning scenery. The finish line in camp is nestled back close to the mountains we will climb tomorrow, along a frigid river that our dirty bodies and tired muscles painfully enjoyed. Have I used enough negative adjectives yet? Goodness, it is certainly arduous, but I am still so aware of the unique and privileged experience I am having. 

I finally got to read comments on my blog from before the race (there is that much of a delay) and I am so pumped up by the encouragement. Thank you so much for following and sharing this experience with me!

I'll write again from the end of Stage 3, a good 5,000 feet of elevation gain later. ;) Wish me luck!

Comments: Total (12) comments

Dennis Felts

Posted On: 04 Jun 2013 12:37 PM

An IT band seizure conjures all kinds of reactions, but since you are still on your feet, I can only assume it was technical not physical? I think about your exploits constantly, can almost feel the excitement and pain you are experiencing. Certainly I love how you express your journey through your blog. Did I mention I am proud you are my daughter? Keep strong through the rest of the race and God bless you and all of your efforts!

Abby Starr

Posted On: 04 Jun 2013 13:05 PM

Ness, You are one amazing woman. Thank you for sharing this journey with us! Even in these few moments of reading your adventures I am taken from my Chicago hotel (overlooking a parking structure) to a much more magnificent landscape :)I hope you are proud of your accomplishments, because they are more than praise worthy. How are you holding up spiritually? I have been praying that in this amazing wilderness that God would speak to you, and in these long hours provide strength, love, and peace. Can you imagine those nuns (or were they missionaries...or is it the same thing??) many years back walking these same paths? Glory! I love you Ness, keep going! <3 Abby

Jeff Swan

Posted On: 04 Jun 2013 13:27 PM

What an incredible challenge - amazing! Prayed for you today.

Nicole Mohovich

Posted On: 04 Jun 2013 15:20 PM

Praying for you Vanessa! This is an incredible adventure for you and we are so blessed to have you raising awareness for Opportunity International. Sending you blessing for a safe journey and lots of energy!

Sharon Kearin

Posted On: 04 Jun 2013 15:27 PM

Way to go through stage 3 with rainstorms and lightening...my mother's heart was saying no way...come home Vanessa!!!! But I also read these positive words in your blog....stunning scenery, excitement, lovely people and a unique privilege and experience. So...keep on truckin and know that many people are thinking of you and praying for your safety, good health and strength. God bless you during Stage 3. You are one amazing woman!

Kaitlin Jones

Posted On: 04 Jun 2013 16:29 PM

I keep checking for results and blog posts compulsively, I love getting to see all of the updates! I've searched through the hundreds of pictures and found two of you so far, so fun! You're being covered in lots of prayer here in SB, I love all of the random people who keep asking me for updates on you. My whole office is following along. My mom keeps checking in, Carol loves you! I haven't seen Leo since we moved, but I know he's probably cheering you on as well, even though he didn't want you to go. As you know one of my favorite verses the last few months has been Exodus 14:14 "The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still". Now, you can't really be still physically, because you're running like a maniac, but hopefully your soul has found some stillness and peace, and you're able to experience a lot of that while you run your many miles. Praying for you for the big day of stage 4, you'll do great! Looooove you!

Jon Felts

Posted On: 04 Jun 2013 17:08 PM

A crazy rain storm?!? Awesome...if a camera wasn't so heavy it would be sweet to have! Mental pictures sis, mental pictures. You make my day every time I get to read your blog! Kick the mountains butt today. Love you and unfaltering determination. XOXO

Tara Jones

Posted On: 04 Jun 2013 17:26 PM

Vanessa! This adventure of yours is so amazing....I am constantly inspired and in awe of your strength and determination every time I see another status update pop up on FB. Keep going, girl!!!! You. Are. Rad. Phil 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Awww yeeeeah!)

Stephanie Logan

Posted On: 04 Jun 2013 17:47 PM

Nice work Vanessa! I've been enjoying reading your updates and seeing the pictures that Kaitlin is sharing. Stay strong and courageous! Good luck on on your elevation climb.

Brian Townsend

Posted On: 04 Jun 2013 19:34 PM

Sorry to hear about your IT band, sounds very painful. Keep up the great work you are doing amazing!

Lesley Miller

Posted On: 04 Jun 2013 20:16 PM

Go, Vanessa, Go! I love your updates and I'm so thrilled for you to experience something so few people ever will. Sending prayers your way for a healthy body and energy in the days to come. Love, Lesley Miller

Ann Abrameit

Posted On: 05 Jun 2013 01:25 AM

Vanessa, we are a farming family in Texas who support OI and read about you through them. As I walk in our pasture with our cows, geese and chickens, I am praying for your strength and endurance as you run the race set out for you. He has uniquely equipped you for such a time as this. Ann for the Abrameits
Stage 1- Mysterious Stones And Such...

2nd June 2013 03:04 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Stage 1 was an emotional mood swing, in a nut shell. I started out feeling strong and was in 3rd place for women through Checkpoint 2, at which point I over-zealously indulged in a couple sodium tablets and ended up fighting nausea for the better part of an hour. Praise God, I did not vomit (loss of consciousness is pretty frowned upon in the race), but I dealt with a lot of anxiety and self-doubt for a bit. When the doctor asked me how I was feeling at Checkpoint 3 (18 miles and about 4 hours in) I pushed back tears. The race crew is so careful and kind with every racer. I am so thankful for them already. They helped me choose nutrition and fluids that would not exacerbate the problem, filled my bottles for me, and were just generally really encouraging. I left that Checkpoint and headed into the difficult (so identified on the course map) last leg. It was also the most majestic. The slight cloud cover we had enjoyed for the morning materialized into dark clouds at the foot of the mountains an actually rained on us a bit, which was so luxurious. The last leg involved climbing hundreds of stairs up into this incredible rock formation that housed a natural Buddhist temple. I was slowed a bit by a few Chinese tourists asking to take a picture with me, but it was fun and a welcome breath or two on the huge and precarious staircases. The rest of the leg went up and down the foothills, with incredible views of the valley and the stormy mountains. I was able to finish strong and realized after coming in at just over 7 hours, that that was my first official marathon and certainly the longest amount of time on my feet for any race. To give you an idea how difficult the terrain and weight combo are, I did a 50k two weeks ago in just under six hours, and the first place male finisher (an Italian professional triathlete) finished in 4.5 hours, and the top two women in 5.5 hours. 

Besides the race itself, I have had loads of fun meeting other racers, mostly from the UK, Australia, and Hong Kong (a lot of ex-pats). Alex is a Brit who manages engineers at Google and generally makes me laugh my pants off. Steve is an Aussie who is running for his son and children with Autism in general and is also quite a kick in the pants. I have learned that pants means underwear and the U.S. runningterm for carb/electrolyte depletion 'bonking' means something else entirely to my British tent mates so one should use these words with caution. There are so many wonderful characters, I'll probably only have time to introduce you to a few on the blog. I can imagine doing these races soley for the rare kinship and camaraderie that only sufferring and communal filth can create.

In other interesting news, we are racing in a part of China that most people are not allowed into (right on the border of Kasakstan) so we are being watched very closely by the Chinese military. We are not allowed to video record, use GPS, or take pictures of any official or official buildings. The officials, however, can ask to take pictures with us, which they do liberally. We also have a military encampment that is traveling with us and guards the campsite, which is supposedly for our safety, and also to make sure no racers wander off or show too much curiosity outside of camp. They have their younger officers dressed in track suits, wandering through camp to 'blend in'. It's such an odd and amusing experience. 

Thank you to all of you who are supporting me and Run4Poverty in multiple ways during this race. Please continue to share on social medias for the share campaign and give! I can use all of the motivation I can get! Cheers until tomorrow from post-Stage 2!

Comments: Total (19) comments

Leanne Brydon

Posted On: 03 Jun 2013 03:58 AM

Well done Vanessa, what you and the rest of the group are doing is absolutely amazing! I'm enjoying reading your blogs (along with Steven's), they give me a sense of being there without having to endure the toilet 'situation' which I understand is quite horrific! Take care!

Deyl Kearin

Posted On: 03 Jun 2013 06:32 AM

Great work neighbor!! So proud of you for charging through stage 1 and facing your adversities head on. The race wouldn't be worth anything if it were easy right?? Hundreds of women's lives around the world are being changed because of your efforts. Let that be fuel in the tank when things get tough. Super proud of you and covering you in prayer! Godspeed!

Brian Townsend

Posted On: 03 Jun 2013 06:54 AM

Great job Vanessa! So proud of you. Keep up the good work, I have faith in you.

Kaitlin Jones

Posted On: 03 Jun 2013 08:21 AM

So happy to read this update! I love the image of the Chinese officials in track suits, so great. Everyone keeps asking for updates and I keep delivering. I had lots of help in the move out process, and everyone wanted a China update. Chels cried when we left the house, it was really sweet. Anyway, enough chit chat. You are missed, so proud of all you\'re doing! Can\'t wait to read the next update! Cosy is praying for your feet :) xo

Sharon Kearin

Posted On: 03 Jun 2013 13:23 PM

What a great entry...the location sounds amazing and who wouldn't want to take YOUR picture...you are so beautiful! My prayer for you today is that you stay strong and injury free so you can enjoy every moment of this experience. God bless you Vanessa. I am so proud to know you.

Annie Misner

Posted On: 03 Jun 2013 14:28 PM

Vanessa, I am a new employee to OI and so inspired by what you are doing and so thankful you are doing it in support of our mission to help these women. Thank you so much and god speed. Will keep following your progress. What an amazing and generous feat and what an experience....wow. Thank you!You're awesome!

Deyl Kearin

Posted On: 03 Jun 2013 16:52 PM

By the way, who is your ghost writer? There's no way you're that expressive and eloquent after running a marathon in the desert! Keep it up :)

Hayley Smith

Posted On: 03 Jun 2013 17:42 PM

Love this update and can't wait to read more! What you are doing is actually unbelievable -- encouraged by you and your determination! I will be praying for these women you are running for and for you! HUGS! -H

Gregg Starr

Posted On: 03 Jun 2013 17:50 PM

Hey Vanessa, So happy to hear you made it through the first leg. Know that Abby and I are so proud of you and inspired by your determination to run for such a great cause. We are praying for you. Side note; the Prefontaine Classic was this last Saturday and it reminds me of a little quote Pre said back in the 70's (The golden age of running and mustaches) "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift."

Michelle Mantyla

Posted On: 03 Jun 2013 18:41 PM

Keep up the great work, Vanessa! Praying you have sustained energy and a clear mind. Thanks for the update, looking forward to more! Love you! xoxo

Abby Starr

Posted On: 03 Jun 2013 18:48 PM

My dearest most beautiful Vanessa, I can't say I don't ache a little reading about you day one adventures as I sit here preparing to board a flight to Lansing mi where I will certainly sit in meetings for 8 hours a day and fail to use my body as God intended, for adventure and physical strain! Soak in every glorious and difficult moment. Great job! You started strong. I'm sure u will be a race favorite in no time (if you're not already). I have to go I'm boarding now but I love you more than ever and you never fail to inspire!! Muah!

Kasey Sander

Posted On: 03 Jun 2013 20:29 PM

Way to go girl!!! Praying you get good rest and stay injury free. Sooo inspired by you! You got this!

Cathy Mantyla

Posted On: 03 Jun 2013 21:20 PM

I am praying for continued strength and energy as you run each day! Blessings of joy and peace.

Mara Deritter

Posted On: 03 Jun 2013 21:48 PM

Tu eres increíble!! Estaré pensando en ti estos días. Tu sí que eres un 7! :) Such a crazy and inspiring thing you're doing, Va! Love you mucho!

Megan Stichter

Posted On: 03 Jun 2013 22:39 PM

Extraordinary job Vanessa!!! Keep up the great work. Don't forget to drink lots of water. Hahha :)

Megan Stichter

Posted On: 03 Jun 2013 22:42 PM

Ps. You look awesome. Little bit jealous.

Kristabel Stark

Posted On: 03 Jun 2013 22:52 PM

Vanessa your name came up today at the Opportunity International headquarters...you're famous :) congrats on making it this far and best wishes for the rest!!

Nicole Cerball

Posted On: 04 Jun 2013 03:54 AM

awesome job Vanessa! You have such a great heart and inspire me and so many others. Proud of you girl and know you will finish strong. Wishing you all the best! xo

Amy Gammelgard

Posted On: 04 Jun 2013 04:35 AM

Go Vanessa, Go! So proud of you and how you are representing strong minded and bodied and hearted women so well.
Oh China...

31st May 2013 07:57 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Well, traveling solo in China, especially the Northwestern province of Xianjing, is an odd experience. I have spent hours surrounded by loud expressive Chinese with few interactions, two of which consisted of a Chinese person asking to take a picture with me and the others quite a lot of miming and gesticulating on my part. I've had a chubby Chinese man point to my food at breakfast and reenact Cookie monster to tell me I need to eat more. I've had salesgirls dress me, fuss over my accessories, and giggle amongst themselves (what every girl in a changing room dreams of, really) all while I just shook my head no, which apparently doesn't communicate much. I've had awkward solo dinners of frighteningly bad food because I'm being cautious, eating at places with pictures on the menu, and not eating at shady local spots or street carts until *after* the race. I've had surreal experiences in a monastery on Heavenly (Tianshin) lake, standing as a fly on the wall as local people chanted and sang together in homage to their dieties, and slamming a wood plank into a huge bell, listening to it's hauntingly beautiful sound reverberate off of the surrounding snow-capped mountains. I've discovered humongous shopping malls under the streets and a rollercoaster next to a Buddhist temple in People's park. I've been pointed at and gawked at and smiled at a few times too. It's been an interesting few days, but I am ready, oh so ready, for the main event. We got an email from the race director a couple days ago informing us that we cannot use GPS whilst on the course because we're going into a part of China that visitors are not allowed in usually. My excitement levels, already pretty high at that point, just went through the roof. A Chinese-Canadian guy asked me in the airport why I didn't just go run across the Mojave desert since it's so much closer to home. Well, that's one, of many reasons why, my friend. I have one hour until I leave for the airport and then no access to wifi unrim after the race, which means my next blog post will be from Stage 1, courtesy of the Cybertent. Thank you in advance for all of you who will be following me. I cherish your comments, prayers, encouragement, already. I promise to make it worth your while! Also, please visit run4poverty.org to see more about why I am doing this race and consider funding 1 kilometer (or more!) of my race. If you check out this link http://www.opportunity.org/run-4-poverty and share it on a social media platform or #run4poverty on Instagram $1 will be donated as well. How cool and easy is that!? Wish me luck! Ad Astra per Aspera!

Comments: Total (11) comments

Tracy Longacre

Posted On: 31 May 2013 19:08 PM

Woo hoo! Have a great, great time. We're thinking of you!

Patrick Sweeney

Posted On: 31 May 2013 18:10 PM

I'm really excited for you. I can't wait to hear about your adventure. Be safe and have fun. :)

Jon Gannon

Posted On: 02 Jun 2013 04:04 AM

Vanessa, I cant wait to follow you on your first race. I know Deyl will have prepared you well. You have started the first day as i write. I hope it went as you had hoped.

Brian Townsend

Posted On: 31 May 2013 19:31 PM

Sounds like you are already having some amazing experiences. I am so excited for you and can't wait to follow your journey.

Lauren Hawley

Posted On: 31 May 2013 22:15 PM

We're so excited for you! Thanks for all you're doing to support Opportunity's clients - you're making a huge difference!

Marla Johnson

Posted On: 01 Jun 2013 00:22 AM

The Johnson Clan are following your adventures! Praying for you, so thrilled for you and super proud.

Dennis Felts

Posted On: 01 Jun 2013 02:07 AM

You are making a difference in people's lives. I am excited for you, and just a little nervous. So proud you are my daughter! Tell us all about the adventure, even little details will help us feel the march in meaningful ways. We love you!

Deyl Kearin

Posted On: 01 Jun 2013 05:50 AM

Awesome travel descriptions. You'll be reading this comment in the tent either the night before the race with a bunch of butterflies, or after stage 1 with some exhaustion! So fun. We're praying for you and cheering you on and rallying the troops to give till it hurts. Ad Astra per aspera!

Megan Stichter

Posted On: 01 Jun 2013 12:01 PM

Vanessa- have a great race, rely on your training and mental strength and Josh says, "beat Deyl". Looking forward to hearing about stage 1. Megan & Josh

Sharon Kearin

Posted On: 02 Jun 2013 19:45 PM

Vanessa...I have thought about you all day today knowing what you are facing. You are a WARRIOR woman...my favorite kind of girl....strong and determined. Thank you for setting the bar high for us girls! Prayers for your continued good health and safety. I'm kind of a mess during these races...ask my son.....I'm going to follow you right to the finish line!

Sharon Kearin

Posted On: 02 Jun 2013 19:48 PM

OH YA.....beat Deyl!!!!!
Some Thoughts On Death Valley

8th May 2013 02:24 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Last weekend I went on a running retreat that was led by Luis Escobar, one of the first ultra-athletes to run with the now famous running tribe in the Copper Canyons of Mexico (featured in the book, Born to Run). Luis formed a small group of close friends and a few of us lucky stragglers for a weekend that was supposed to be a lot of running, but turned out to be a sweet convergence of lives and the formation of a motley running tribe of our own.

Many of the people who shared that weekend have described it in beautiful ways. For me, I think the poignancy lay in the vibrancy and openness, the sharing of passions and lust for life in such an austere place, that in all its beauty still warrants the name Death Valley.

I fell even more in love with running that weekend and with the people that long distance running especially attracts. I felt more vulnerable and humbled, more capable and fortunate after running there and with those people. It is an experience that I hope will continue to shape who I am as a person and as a runner for many decades to come.

Enjoy a few shots taken by the extremely talented, Luis Escobar....

Comments: Total (3) comments

Alina B

Posted On: 08 May 2013 03:58 AM

Vanessa - That sounds like an amazing experience. Would love to hear more and see additional photos sometime! Cheers, Alina

Patrick Reed

Posted On: 26 May 2013 06:56 AM

Hey Vanessa! I have finally checked out your blog and run4poverty.org. Wow! What an awesome journey you are on. Keep up the training - and know that my family and I are praying for you in your upcoming challenge in the Gobi Desert. Here's to many many more miles for great reasons! Best, The "other" Patrick

Rob Provost

Posted On: 05 Jun 2013 19:52 PM

Hi Vanessa - OMG!! Your stories are so fun to read and exciting. I love the close to danger stuff. Keep up the hard work and good luck on the last leg. FYI, I went to school with Deyl and use to surf with him as well. That's how I came across your name. You and Deyl have inspired me to race in the Madagascar event in 2014.
T- 40 Days

22nd April 2013 03:34 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

With 40 days to go I thought it was time to get this thing going. The last few months of training have been a lot of fun and I have been overwhelmed with how blessed I am to live in Santa Barbara. From the miles of beaches and mesa trails that are a couple blocks from by front door to the mountains and canyons that are just a 15 minute drive, I am just enamored with this place.

I signed up for a Born to Run running retreat in Death Valley, Ca this weekend. One of the things I have been most excited about and anticipating with the Gobi March is meeting a lot of people for whom a 250km race across a desert is not an absurdity but a tantalizing challenge. I am hoping that the retreat this weekend is a nice prelude to that and I get to geek out on running with a bunch of new friends.

I'll post some shots of the weekend and the gorgeous desert when I get back. For now, here is a shot of me celebrating Earth day walking on one of my favorite mesas in SB.

Have some great runs this week everyone!

Comments: Total (1) comments

Deyl Kearin

Posted On: 25 Apr 2013 04:27 AM

So excited for you to go to Death Valley! Say hi to the mesquite dunes for me. I left a piece of my soul out there on the desert floor :)