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!
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....
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!