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Who Runs In The Desert And Why

26th June 2009 08:55 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

I was pretty clear why I did.

The economy was in a tailspin in November and while I knew what to do, I also knew I couldn't control the quickness with which the tide was receding. Like some, my business life spills over into life itself. And into my self esteem, my moods. Even my ethos' foundation seems shaky when things turn really nasty. As an entrepreneur, too many times it has been the business tail that has wagged the dog. I'm smart enough to know it is not a good thing; but I just don't know how to control it.

When I painted the scenario for 2009, I thought at best that I would look back with melancholy thinking it was the year that wasn't, shoulders sagged, knowing I would have right sized the business and fired friends, cut cost, created sales generation programs, focused on innovation, and ultimately owned the failures of the business for this year. All of the negativity would get magnified because clients may not relate to you as a critical business partner when business sucks, and you meet a disproportionate number of executives now looking for jobs where anxiety, scarcity, panic, depression are palpable.

So while battling as best I could to retain some sanity and survive as opposed to thrive, I wanted to create a positive conversation for myself around variables I could control. Health, personal development, and spirituality. I went shopping for an experience that could alter the course of 2009 with potential to change my life. I vetted a bunch of ideas with Leslie (this had to be a family decision) and zeroed in on a desert race. It seemed monumental for someone who had run a half marathon 5 years before as a personal longest. Sprinkle in running in the desert, at high altitude, in searing heat, unaided with 27 pounds on your back to add to the challenge. In return, I probably would get in the best shape of my life via the training, get time to myself to think about the business and my life, listen to books on tape while running and convert them to business ideas, explore a part of the world closed to the public, get conversational capital, and put the puzzle together of how to prepare for this and what to put in your backpack. Later, it grew to be bigger than that and became a great vehicle to raise money for the unemployed. And of course, I got a lot of more out of it than what I put in - and trust me, I put a valiant effort in.

My tent mates were representative of a particular type of demographic here; we were all over 40, one over 50:

3 Brits, seemingly oblivious to the pain, a result of experience.

John, Andy and Dave have quite the pedigree; John who is 50, is a top 10 in the world overall at any ultra race event he shows up at. The three of them have run the famed MDS Marathon Des Sables (250K in the Sahara)http://www.saharamarathon.co.uk/, the Himalaya 100K http://www.himalayan.com/, the Verdon Canyon 100K in France http://www.trailverdon.com/Site_2/Bienvenue.html, and the Amazon Jungle 200K http://www.junglemarathon.com/among among others.

We were able to learn from them as they shared their experiences. They were a good source of advice on how to deal with rest, feet, food, etc. They do it to raise money for the British Army's Help for Heroes program and annually set the goal to stay healthy, get out of their comfort zone and test themselves. Accomplished in business; they are prosperous entrepreneurs; each owning a large business: UK's largest frozen food co (M&M Meat like) (John), large truck transportation co. (Andy), and large glass and window manufacturing co (Dave).

2 Aussie ladies, Berenice and Sharon, also experienced but doing it for different reasons.

They have done the 100K race in Papua New Guinea http://www.kokodaspirit.com/ before.

Berenice owns the Binbilla vineyard http://www.binbillawines.com/ in Australia with her husband. (Getting Binbilla wines shipped to me was another unexpected outcome from entering the race...). With 3 kids, she is here alone to stay sharp and push herself to her limits. She spoke at length about modeling her kids and ensuring they could witness her tackling this race with the training, suffering and completion of the project. Her hope is that see life's rewards come with hard work - I loved her approach in light of the abundance our children have today as I always ask myself the question - will they be hungry - will they carve their own path/projects.

Sharon owns her own corporate wellness business. A physiotherapist by training, she inherited the role of mother hen and medic, and probably focused too much of her time on treating 3 high maintenance Canadians who had never popped blisters before... She helped tape our feet, massage us, etc. We all thought we were warriors before getting there, but us 3 Canadians rapidly realized we were in over our heads. She is separated with 2 kids at home. She feels a little isolated in Australia and shared the bond she felt with everyone - the world is a big but everyone here makes it look like all human beings share the same issues, joys, pains.

Louie and Ernie are very successful entrepreneurs, members of YPO, who did this to challenge themselves. Ernie is a sub 3 hour marathoner and Louie played semi pro soccer.

Demographics of entrants were as follows:

130 participants:

Equal number of 40-49 age group and 20-29 group (25%), overwhelmingly 30-39 (40%), and two handfuls of 50+.

Age from 22 to 57.

About 50% raised money for a charity.

20/80 female/male split.

28 countries represented; an American has won the race more frequently than any other nation; but Canada is a close 2nd!

What else did I see. Many CEOs (over 45 crowd), entrepreneurs, investment bankers/analysts, telco executives. About 10% were in transition, between jobs. Handful had climbed Everest, looking for the next challenge; most had run many marathons, all but me had run ultra marathons, a desert type race, or ironmen's amongst the top 20.

Who else is here and why?

Ludvig, 28, from Sweden who runs Asia infrastructure group for Ericsson who is a triathlete and just ran the Great Wall marathon last month. Raising money for his wife's hearing impairment foundation. Does it to see what is possible.

Ron 27, from Israel, did mandatory army service, completed his MBA at Yale, runs investments in Beijing. Raising money for Medecins sans Frontiere. Does it to see what his limits are.

Chris 22, from Britain, who is a sailing champ, and is seaman on large pleasure yachts serving the stars. Doing it to see what he has inside, to push himself. He will run the Sahara Desert in October.

Giles, Gareth, and Sophie a UK team, who won the team competition. Guys are paratroopers for the British Army and served in Afghanistan. They empathized with the Canadians and our vital role there. Sophie is a physiotherapist. To compete as a team, you needed to have 3 runners, and needed to finish together and never be more than 25 yards away from each other. Most teams (67%) imploded during the Gobi, unable to stay together and deal with a struggling or slower member. Friendships were tested and some broke down. These guys kept it together... They were amazing. But they are cool cucumbers; they have run 5 Marathon des Sables and Sophie just carried a sled for 300K in the Yukon in a race earlier this year. Raising money for War Heroes and doing this annually to test their limits.

Todd and Peter, two awesome CDNs in my age group living in HK. Todd is an executive at British Telecom, while Peter owns his own business. Both raising money and grounding themselves on the joys to be alive (when you go back...).

Cyrille and Valerie from France, they chose to come for their 10th wedding anniversary and left kids at home. She is a Nokia executive, he owns a recruitment firm in Jakarta! To enjoy the tough journey, get away from the business, and appreciate each other and catch up as they ran side by side the whole way.

Almiro Romiro from Guatemala. YPO and looking for a challenge. Runs marathons with his son. Wanted to come up with a scary big goal.

Rob and Katrina Follows. They climbed the 7 summits and are now looking for other challenges to celebrate being alive and raise money for Altruvest. Rob is YPO, my age and Katrina is 35. They are extraordinary people who do extraordinary stuff with their free time. Contact them at Altruvest and they also do speaking engagements where they share their amazing journey.

Len Stanmore was the oldest competitor at 57. He also climbed Everest with the Follows 2 years ago and regaled me with stories (intriguing stuff - any takers?). He ran 150K/week to train here in Toronto. Raised money for Breast Cancer. Len's wife Liz, came as a volunteer to look after racers along with about 10 others; unequivocally one of the most engaging and empathic and supportive person I've met in my life. Volunteers come at their own expense and are here to give you water at hydration stations and give you the needed "at'a boy". She was an oasis for all of us.

Why were people doing it?

Challenge

Personal growth

Clear their heads

Get away from life's trappings and get back to the more primal world Experience and travel - discover a beautiful part of the world Live on the edge Raise money Get in shape and be healthy Camaraderie Global understanding Get time to yourself Reconnect with a spouse Learn about teamwork Competition Purity of getting out of it what you put in Finishing something big Being alive Having a goal and pursuing it Seeing what is possible Build your own capacity to handle adversity The list goes on...

People have asked about friends for life? Don't know.

Life is pretty full as it is. Maintaining the network will likely not happen but I believe I have a place to stay, or drinks at a great location on short notice, in 28 cities around the world! Already my home will be taken up this Summer by Sandra who is coming to Canada for a wedding. The bond you make with the others is there forever, no doubt.

The training

I'd say on average, people walked or ran well in excess of 100K a week as part of their training. But some didn't and just showed up and walked. With the help of whoever would pitch in, I designed a program for myself. I am happy to send it to anyone who has an interest in doing this type of event as preparation is key. I have the program detailed by week, and all the elements that went into my backpack (thanks to Mehmet Danis for saving me the time and telling me what to do).

The most I had ever ran before this was 17 miles. But my trainer Phil designed a program to bring me to "failure" to simulate the wall of a marathon, in 10 minutes. It worked. So there is evidence you do not need to run long to run this (unless you want to win of course).

It was a great journey and it unlocked my athletic performance in other activities I cherish far more than running - skiing, hockey, or tennis for example.

It was expensive in alterations as I went from a size 36 to a size 32 (all good until your pant size is the same as your wife's - LOL). I lost 20 pounds in 6 months. Good things happen when you are lighter on your feet - I have had two full knee ACL and MCL repairs, torn meniscus, and they like the stress free new weight. My shin splints have dissipated, and the feet are returning to normal (it was odd to take the subway to work this week with air Canada slippers on...).

I can't list all the benefits of doing the race and feel free to speak to me if you want to explore the upside of the journey. I can be reached at 416.922.5600x240 or [email protected]

If you feel you got any value from the blogging, and see it within to donate to nabs, then please visit my website at www.gobi4nabs.com and make a small donation to help white collar unemployment - I am trying to get to $40,000. God knows it is tough out there especially with Summer around the corner with its decreased seasonal business activity.

Last but not least, like most of you, I have never written anything before but for PowerPoint's and business reviews and plans. This project allowed me to visit a part of China (put on your bucket list), and to share my experience. I did it to ensure I would remember it forever. It unlocked some sort of hidden creativity which I now know I have.

But the gift I got from getting some of you to participate and interact with me while it was happening was magnificent. I was blind to the impact I had sharing my experience; you may have been blind to yours. Let me just say your well wishes changed my life forever. I will always carry an abundance of well wishes with me that I can share with others.

Best

Stefan

Comments: Total (2) comments

Cathy Whelan Molloy

Posted On: 30 Jun 2009 19:36 PM

Hey Stefan, Sorry I didn't get to see you after the AGM the other day - that was a surprise and I wish I had known - would have planned around it. You did a tremendous thing - and a very inspiring one. A standing ovation, many times over. Loved your blogs and updates. Hope your feet are almost back to normal... Cathy

Walter Bailey

Posted On: 30 Jun 2013 07:44 AM

Very nice update. Thanks for sharing!
The Final 10k

20th June 2009 08:21 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

After the 80K long stage, day 6 is designed to allow the pack to catch up.

Some rolled in about 28 hours after the start - around noon that day.

The 20 or so who rolled in before night fall were able to enjoy the benefits of a tent as opposed to being in the desert at night. Tents are good but for the odd snake that will sneak in (yes it happened in ours) and becoming home to fly colonies. So a day of rest before the final short run into Kashi City was the plan.

I made 3 mistakes on the rest day that would cost me on the final leg. First, I related to the long stage as the finish. I emotionally stopped being in the moment and sent neural signals to me body that the race was over. Second, to anchor the "I'm done" illusion, the fross filth was getting to me; and I detaped my whole body - shoulders, chest, back abdomen, shins, heels, foot, toes. It took a couple of hours - unpleasant to rip out the hairy areas... I found a 3 inch deep natural spring and enjoyed the equivalent of a clean bath splashing water on myself.

About 30 minutes later, my body completely shut down. Two toes got immediately infected, all my blisters started leaking again, my chafing areas and nose started bleeding, and both feet and ankles had a dramatic swell up. I went from struggling to having one large appendage on each leg where the line from calf to ankle to foot became one big blob. At the medical tent, I was greeted as Mr. Cankles.

Soon, the cocktail of anti-inflammatories, and antibiotics turned into unbearable stomach pains. All self inflicted by sending physical and emotional signals to my body that the event was done. I hopped to my tent to put my feet up and drain the blood down to my mid section.

All shoes lay outside as they are filled with bacterias, and all roaming flies seem inside, looking for their food. My feet, Louie's, Bez, and Sharon became their permanent nesting trees. Easily 20 flies feeding on each pussing foot, with nothing you could do about it. I have to say by then, for the first time, I was completely miserable.

Rebandaging would shoo them away for 30 minutes, but soon the smell would attract them back.

Although I had the best tentmates, the lack of privacy had now gotten to me. It wasn't fun anymore. Just like that. An amazing emotinal swing from which I never recovered. I don't know if you can relate when for no reason you can pinpoint - you are now your self appointed black cloud - the filth unbearable, tired of dehydrated food, no comfort, being in pain, the mountains not looking so good, dust clouds instead of desert. I asked myself why I was here and wondered if I should just skip tomorrow's last stage and go home. At night, I celebrated the fireworks for racingtheplanet 20th anniversary by putting ear plugs on. My whole tent felt the same way to accelerate the spiral - negative group momentum.

The last Stage started.

 

Predictably, I ran the longest and slowest 10K ever on two football size feet to an approximate 70 minutes (good enough for last Canadian I think - and about 25 minutes off my training time). The fast times were below 50 minutes, although the top runners routinely can be 25% faster. My head was no longer in the game.

For good measure, I also managed to get lost in the city with Nicola from Argentina which cost us a few minutes. With the wrong mindset, the stench of the exposed garbage got to me early, any uneven terrain and altitude were challenges I couldn't overcome, and uphills looked like mountains. Children running with us were now annoying...

A reminder that choices dictate emotions; clearly I had checked out and robbed myself of a very special moment. It caused me to reflect on where else in my life have I checked out? I came up with a list and hopefully have a clear visual of how my attitude dictates my moods.

 

Nicola and I crossed the line hand in hand. It was emotional for most but not as much for me to finish and meet that objective. A few pictures with our friends, I then over ate some of the best tasting cheese pizza. As a bonus, and to get to 260K, I had to walk the streets forever to look for a pair of oversized sandals. I knew my feet would never fit my shoes again once let out!

I got to the room, ran an ice cold bath, put my fleece hat on, and lied in it. I stopped shivering early and shrunk a couple of sizes over 90 minutes.

I chose to do this. I chose to be here. With effort, I put myself back in the moment.

I woke up my mom for my first live conversation in 8 days. Then spoke to Leslie and the kids.

I had slipped to 14th overall from 130 entries, losing a spot to Ron from Israel. Of all people, perfect - his family had flown in from Tel Aviv to cheer him. He had issued the challenge prior to the Stage and my meek response was "take it", and he did by 20 minutes.

The hard work paid off in the end - I put myself in a position to control my destiny by going hard early. I had that nice podium moment (I won the 40-49 age group by 3 hours out of 33 entries) under the eyes of the newly erected Mao statue in the new square (which no doubt horrifies the muslim population in Kashi). Many young guys came over to say they didn't know my age and were inspired to know age is a non factor. My racing posse was the 12th to 16th - all the guys I raced with hard were on average 17 years younger. Had I not raced defensively on the long stage, I probably would have come in 12th.

I ended up the top Canadian by 1 hour out of 14 entries, also a gift.

Not having run a marathon, the results are possibly miraculous. Or are they? The average top 25 ran 150K/week for 6 months, has run dozens of marathons, ultra marathons and are materially younger. But I trained hard, paid the price of injuries, and some parts of my life went untended. I applied creativity to make up for the lack of running time. I reinvented work, worked standing and with a pack on my back for 5-6 hours a day. My trainer designed a program to bring my to exhaustion in 10 minutes as opposed to 2 hours to have me learnt to deal with pain. My legs grew stronger and the event is designed such that there are no flat spots to run on - strength is almost as important as speed.

I don't know how it happened; having fought through more adversity than the younger ones turned out to be a big asset. About 40 CEOs did the race, testament to the resilience you need - mind over matter. That, sprinkled with some good positive mental visualization, some luck, good advice before I got here, and overwhelming encouragement during (my secret sauce) was the key. Knowing I was making a difference for Nabs was the sweetener.

Until I allowed my cynical voice to take over, I will cherish the Gobi Desert race as a moment when I've rarely felt so alive and filled with strength and humility. When have I last been left to deal with true physical and mental adversity on my own? Not sure.

A big thing was that I also learnt to enjoy the process. I'm a typical executive who is single mindedly outcomes focused. For the first time I can recall, I learnt to cherish the training journey which has made my life better. I'm healthier, stronger, and filled with an inner strength I know I can summon for other life projects. I also learnt at my expenses to go forward and not play defense, and I expanded my ability to handle the criticisms and judgments I direct at myself, others, and my circomstances. I've never spent so much time with myself and I've made headways in becoming a better friend to myself which will spill out into my life. The last day was an indication I have a lot of work to do there still, but at least, I can hopefully see the patterns earlier and snap out of it quicker. I beat myself that day. We probably all have a comfortable zone where we fear failure and fear success. I hope I can raise the success one.

Thanks again for your care. I have never written anything before besides powerpoints... This has been helpful. If any of this speaks to you; feel free to call me to discuss. The economy is still challenging and managing your physical and emotional state are within the elements you can control.

My next and final blog will describe who shows up at these races and why. The people are truly fascinating.

Comments: Total (10) comments

Howard Breen

Posted On: 13 Jul 2009 12:49 PM

well done Stefan. a great inspiration to us all. some people talk about doing...others simply do it. you will cherish each and every blister, bug bite and scar forever.

Patrick Allossery

Posted On: 25 Jun 2009 23:21 PM

Stefan, I just read your blog from start to finish. Wow! Like everyone else, I'm astounded and in awe. And that's just at your writing skills. You've got another career ahead of you. I very much enjoyed your description of losing your mental focus and your body's unfortunate response. And yet -- football-sized, puss-oozing feet be damned--you finished the race. Bravo!

Tom Davidson

Posted On: 25 Jun 2009 12:30 PM

Stef I feel like I have been on this journey with you, only my feet arent swollen and stinky. Well they arent swollen anyway. What an incredible inspiration, I am not sure for what however as I now know I never want to run that race, but it does show you how powerful our minds are. Thanks for sharing your thoughts during your journey. Question - Are you still working standing with a pack?

Nancy Olive

Posted On: 25 Jun 2009 02:38 AM

Really inspiring Stefan... thanks for sharing your insights. Enjoy some rest now that you are home!

Doug Keeley

Posted On: 24 Jun 2009 18:26 PM

Stefan Words alone canot convey my respect for what you have just done and for the intelligent insight you have gained from it. I am in awe. Lance Armstrong, when asked why he did it seven time, answered "to find out how deep - how good - I really am". In the Western Executive world that most of us inhabit, it is sadly true how little time we spend with ourselves - finding how good and how deep we really are. You just went to the wall to find out. Congratulations buddy. An amazing accomplishment. What a chapter for your story!! Doug

Steve Phillips

Posted On: 24 Jun 2009 17:09 PM

Tremendous accomplishment Stefan! During a time when many of us are faced with extraordinary difficulties, you take on an additional monumental challenge! Your blogs clearly demonstrate the extensive personal insight you have received and will continue to receive as you reflect further. You probably do not realize the impact you have had those of us that witnessed this adventure. If you see those around you improve themselves, know that you were a catalyst! I look forward to hearing more about your adventure story! SKP

Peter Porteous

Posted On: 24 Jun 2009 09:21 AM

Stefan, holy smokes. First and foremost what an accomplishment - you'll take this with you forever and you should be very proud. I'm sure there was a big long list of personal and business reasons not to do this...but you did and did incredibly well. Secondly, thanks for allowing us to share the experience with you. The insight on your last blog is really powerful and can (will) benefit others. Well done! Rest up.

Doug Poad

Posted On: 23 Jun 2009 20:19 PM

Your last entry reads like a best seller. Now, get to work on the power point! Well run.

Al Leong

Posted On: 23 Jun 2009 20:23 PM

congratulations on such an incredible effort and great successes! ... old man!

Kenny Solway

Posted On: 23 Jun 2009 20:59 PM

Stefan, Thank you for sharing your journey and your 'learns'. I don't doubt you ever will forget those life changing insights, but make sure to refer back to your logs on a regular basis as it can be easy to slip back into your previous ways (especially the one's you've recognized you'd prefer not to). Looking forward to hearing more upon your return. Safe travels back. Kenny
Cat And Mouse In The Desert

19th June 2009 07:19 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Night after stage 4 was brutal. Very cold at high altitude. I decided to take all my sleeping pills at once to knock myself out. The tent blew off in the middle of the night, and everyone was hard at work to fix it, outside in the middle of the night. Allegedly it happened. I slept through it all.
 
We were up at 530 and on a bus to be taken to a new location for the long day. Dropped in the middle of nowhere we started taping our feet, popping blisters. I'm not very effective without morning coffee and I typically barely make the start. Again, they called for racers to the start and I had one foot to tape, so didn't get to my right foot. Cursing I got to the start. By now, I don't even feel the pack - working at the office with a backpack on for hours was a stroke of luck, my back and legs are comfortable with the load, much lighter now that I've eaten most of what's in it.
 
One of the issues here is that we have no real idea how we are doing; you know instinctively, but never quite sure. The info I had was that I was 25 minutes ahead of my mate Louie and about 40 ahead of Blain Davis, a personal trainer living in Edmonton raising money for CF which has afflicted Jack, his 6 year old. The big dog, Kevin, the CDN investment banker who runs 100 miles a week living in HK had a bad day on Stage 4 and pulled out. Technically, reframing the race, I had a chance to come in first as Canadian; and first in the 40-49 age group; an unexpected outcome.
 
So I decided to mark Louie and Blain. As usual, I bolted out to lay down my cards and let everyone know I was not going to go down without a good race. You can dampen spirits early as the competitors see how far behind they are at each checkpoint. I rolled in fast on the nasty uphill. Got passed by young Brit Chris who was my running mate the day before, and Ludvig who was my mate on day 2. But I decided I wasn't competing with them. Ludvig and I had an epic run down the canyon on a ridge passing people at full speed. At the bottom was the largest riverbed for about 10KM, slightly downhill. I was happy to cruise down miles run, 100m walk as each step sent shock waves up my right feet; no flat spots in the river, just damn rolling rocks. I was losing ground but expected to do so. After 20K, Blain shows up. He chatted for a while, took pictures as there was a huge snow capped mountain range. We whined about our feet, legs, and then both put on our ipods. We ran and walked together for 45K, never more than 500m apart. I knew I had some gas in the tank to respond if he attacked and I made sure to sprint out from time to time to let him know. He would catch up. Then I decided to go and never look behind. Bit of a metaphor for life for me. I think I have looked behind a little too much in life. I decided to accelerate and never look back (I'm looking for a breakthrough in that area as I tend to not be as good a finisher as I am starter). For example, I can't hold the lead in golf - invariably I tend to mess up. I wanted the breakthrough for me to be to not do that today. In other developments, somehow, I thought the day was 70K but at the 50K mark, they mentioned 3 more legs and my spirits weren't exactly uplifted. It was a double marathon.
 
Of course Blain caught up to me. Guess that approach wasn't perfect but still felt like it was the right thing to do - focus on yourself not others. This turned out to be a good development as his eyesight is far superior to mine and he could pick out 4 flags ahead whereas I can't see the pink flags until I stumble on them (they are the visual markers - it partly explains why I get lost so often). So that worked for 45K or so and I was happy to spot him. He had done the Sahara race last year and remarked that the soft sand we were on was like it. One of the good thing for my feet about the Gobi is that the sand is relatively hard; issues are rolling rocks. We were in the middle of a flat valley, with nothing but salamanders, soft sand and rocks. Completely depressing and uninspiring; endless. It sure felt by then that it was not possible to run in the soft sand. We then discussed how we wanted it to finish; he was my eyes (the worse thing that could happen now was getting injured or getting lost); and we would stick together and cross the finish together as top CDNs for the day. I have to say by then that deep down, I was relatively content and felt like we were coasting; I had to choose to enjoy the stage and tactically race as opposed to push myself to death.
 
Whack, out of nowhere, gifted Kevin shows up and runs by us. I was shocked. I thought he was out of the race. It took me 2 minutes to collect myself; we were 15K out of the finish. I had a little in me, not much. I could already barely see him ahead, I turned to Blain and said I have to go after him. Take home here is that when you think there's little left, there is some more. I ran 15K without stopping trying to catch. I passed young Chris. Kevin was looking over his shoulder and I was intent on trying to get to him and have no regrets about leaving it all on the course. I'd come this far, might as well get to full exhaustion and collapse. Got to the last checkpoint with 6.5K to go and rudely asked them to pit me water fast. I was 4 minutes behind. Not knowing the overall separation between us, I ran all the way to collapse and crossed the finish line with about a 3 minute lag on him. We high fived, laughed and I have to say I was filled with knowing I had left it all out.
 
I'm not sure I've felt as alive as in these 15K. Mehmet Danis had said in a spectacular presentation at home before I left that he was grateful to his competitors for showing him what he could do; without someone around to push you, sometimes you do not know what is possible within. It was hard for me to understand what he meant but I got it as Kevin passed us running full speed in the sandy desert while we thought it was impossible to run, cursing the sand. Anything is possible. Win/ lose, I wanted no regrets. A little like the "dance like no one is watching". I have none, feel more humility and appreciation for the little things than ever before. I'll be a changed person as a result of it. All of us here have reached a new level respect for each other and life in general. This event is very confronting, a lot of time with yourself going through ups and downs. You have to become a friend to yourself, hear the detracting voice and shut it down. Just like life in general, just more raw. I don't know if I've been the best friend to myself but it is now a tool I hope I have.
 
As I type this, the Follows are rolling in together. They have been on the course for 27 hours. They have climbed Everest together. It is all possible isn't it? There are still racers out there on their way. My mate Louie caught the camp virus and was violently sick on the course but still managed to finish in good time. He will have to heal his disappointments and he will no doubt bounce back. He is my hero. My friend Ernie left the site yesterday, injured. I hope to connect with him in Beijing in two nights.
 
Today is rest day. I have carried a deck of cards and it is now time to go play euchre...
Tomorrow is the triumphal run to the finish. I intended to run with Louie and cross the line together. As I typed this, the guy sitting next to me, Ron from Israel says out loud that his mother has just emailed him and is telling him to push to catch up to some CDN who is 15 seconds ahead of him. I turned to him and introduced myself. Possibly we cut a deal and he gives me his delicious dehydrated mac and cheese and I let him go.
 
My fingers are the size of large sausages, and typing is sloppy. Time to go.
 
Final words to the following:
 
Thanks to Donna Carrigan for giving me her training program - she did Gobi 2 years ago  and became the foundation.
Mehmet Danis for inspiring me to push and being unrelenting optimist and reviewing my gear.
Ray Zahab for teaching me the concept of metronome running on the phone - it worked and I think I know how to run now.
The new corporate Salomon store; the trail Lab shoe held and was the best part of my gear - I will bring them back and they can analyze wear and tear.
Dr. Kazemi and DiStefano for healing me and getting me orthotics to deal with my shin splints when my spirits sagged in early April after getting injured.
Phil Delaire at The Granite for training me once a week - it worked Phil!
The physio therapists at The Granite. Norma Bastidas for introducing this event to me - she is running 7 events in 7 continents in 7 months.
The team at Racingtheplanet for not accepting my attempted withdrawal when I realized I could not run in April and most of May. Rest may have been the right approach.
And my family for being tolerant and supportive - I missed Leslie's and my daughter's birthday to be here and was without communication with my mother at a challenging time.
 
Last thing. I really think that this is a fabulous concept. Possibly Nabs can help spawn a few others who may want to take on a big objective and try their hand in Atacama (Chile) in April 2010?

Comments: Total (18) comments

Kenny Solway

Posted On: 23 Jun 2009 14:52 PM

thanks for sharing your wisdom and insights....while they will be forever entrenched in your mind from the imprint this experience has had on you...they can still resonate with us back home....extremely impressive and a great feat!...congrats

Michel Landry

Posted On: 23 Jun 2009 03:13 AM

Absolutely amazing Stefan! I just read all of your blog from beginning to end and was captivated by your narrative and your accomplishments. Is there anything that you can't do? You should be proud, you are an inspiration to us all. Cheers!

Lori Barkley Mccrae

Posted On: 22 Jun 2009 11:22 AM

Unbelievable Stefan! Congratulations from Conestogo Ontario!! You're an inspiration to all of us. Lori

Mike Fenton

Posted On: 22 Jun 2009 11:54 AM

Stefan - a very thoughtful summary of your experience to date. There's some 'life lessons' in your observations for all of us to consider. Looking forward to seeing you on your return. Can I say congrats again - even tho' you've heard it from everyone? cheers, mike

Bruce

Posted On: 21 Jun 2009 06:16 AM

Stefan, I am incredibly happy for your successful journey.

Ev Garn Cary Carrie

Posted On: 20 Jun 2009 16:36 PM

Stef, We're in Collingwood reading your blogs. Feeling inspired and hungover at the same time. We toasted you last night. Congrats on top Cdn and winning your age group. See you on the ice asap. Carrie, Garnet, Cary and Ev

Patty Davidson

Posted On: 20 Jun 2009 01:25 AM

WOW! Very impressive performance and it's been fun reading your blog. Congrats on your performance... pretty impressive for someone that's never run a marathon! I can only imagine the blisters on your feet. Nothing time won't heal.

Doug Poad

Posted On: 19 Jun 2009 19:16 PM

Wow...this seems like it is wrapping so fast! Bring it home...

Sandy Johnson

Posted On: 19 Jun 2009 18:25 PM

Congratulations! You did it! Bet there's a grin on your face from ear to ear.... Enjoy and savour the next few days, Stef. You've got some very special memories and experiences on which to reflect. How fortunate you are! Looking forward to hearing more when you when you get back. ...You are coming back, aren't you?

Phil

Posted On: 19 Jun 2009 17:11 PM

Stefan! Worried about the "last stage" (10km is a walk in the park after that! :) Kept checking every hour for an update on your time - when I finally saw that you were in a big smile came over my face. Scary about Louie though - his time never came up so I thought he was done!...but it showed up a few hours later.... Cant wait to hear the stories. Already arranging you to get you on the speakers circuit. I ran into Leslie and the kids at Marche on Wed night. She is very proud of you - and you should be as well. I feel like this is a huge understatement - but - you did good!! Take care of those feet and think how good that shower and that first sip of beer is going to taste. Be well and cant wait to see ya.

J. Schnarr

Posted On: 19 Jun 2009 15:54 PM

I'm a friend of a friend...but that neither here nor there... I enjoy reading your blog each day. You are a true inspiration. Your dedication and commitment and perseverance is astounding. Keep up the great work, you are in our thoughts. From one proud Canadian to another

Donna Carrigan

Posted On: 19 Jun 2009 16:18 PM

Rest those sausage fingers Stef! You'll need them for all of the celebratory beers after the finish line. yayayay!!

Henry Adair

Posted On: 19 Jun 2009 15:28 PM

Great work out there. Have very much enjoyed your blog. My brother Hugo is running with you and as such I have found myself following a whole range of blogs. All very inspiring. Enjoy the swansong! Henry

Peter Renzetti

Posted On: 19 Jun 2009 14:59 PM

Stefan, congratulations on a job well done. It has been fun following your blog. I have worked with Louie at the Granite -- could you please congratulate him for me. Well done guys -- love to speak live at the club to hear all about the challenges and adventures. Peace, peter renzetti

Daniel Hageman

Posted On: 19 Jun 2009 15:18 PM

Cograts Stef! What an accomplishment. What an adventure!

Ross

Posted On: 19 Jun 2009 15:20 PM

Great blog comments for a future strategist in the gobi .

Edithe Trepanier

Posted On: 19 Jun 2009 15:25 PM

bonnes chances champion ! keep the faith and spread the love ! A bientot E.T.

Sherilyn

Posted On: 19 Jun 2009 14:57 PM

I thought the English are the only people s'posed to be mad ! Looks like you have some English blood in you my friend. Am cheering you on from the UK. And to cheer you up....I have a really exciting assignment to discuss with you when you get back :-) xxxxx
Day 4: Teamwork Lifts My Spirits

17th June 2009 08:09 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

It was a brutal night, slept at 8500 feet in cold conditions with fleece hat on and not sleeping - the sleeping pills I have are no longer working. Fair bit of snoring in my tent too. 

We started the signature day by climbing a steady 3 Km uphill to about 9000 feet. I intended to stay with the big boys and tried to keep an eye on them. They are young, fit, all train and do these types of events frequently. God they are fast. We then got to the foot of Heaven's Gate, a 1000 foot climb, very steep, more akin to climbing a rock tree than walking. Definitely no running. 8 ladders were set up to go up through tight parts. My plan was to run as hard as I could to the ladders as once there, it is then single file and then you waste time waiting to go up ladder. Of course I was exhausted by the time I got there and was in 10th. Climbing 1000 feet fast was the most demanding of all stage legs thus far, part altitude now at 10000 feet. I got to the top and collapsed and was in so much pain a started to cry. It also had special significance because of my dad's birthday. I needed a break and the big payoff was to see that incredible stone arch on the other side, just above us but so little time to enjoy when you are racing (I'm sure there are pics of it on the website). I stopped took pictures to recover, hammed it for the photographer, and looked down as we had to take a parallel route down while others were still climbing. The cool thing about the descent is that there is a unity amongst all here and you get cheered on, vice versa. I recklessly decided to leverage all the mountain biking and snowboarding mileage that I have and picked lines and caught up to many people - I felt like the spider type climb/chase scene in that 007 Casino Royale movie. I literally thought I was flying down, hopping from rock to rock, high fiving climbers. Half way down, I saw Kevin, a young investment banker in HK who is the fastest Canadian and he was limping; my heart went to him as he is top 5 overall at that time. The night before, my tent mate Sharon had tried to work on his leg. She is doing the race and has been spending time with Louie and I taping us and massaging our legs. Kevin and I fell off the cliff when we got lost yesterday on that flag incident and his leg got bruised badly.

Made it to first leg in 11th. Then we started cannoning again climbing on donkey trails, and again couldn't keep up and lost sight of the guys in front. I was by myself exhaustingly climbing overdosing on electrolytes, gel, popping calories. I slipped to 13 or so. I was so spent I got caught by trekkers who use their poles and are like mountain goats going uphill. I started slipping and got caught by Chris, a young Brit. We kind of sized each other up and he paid me forward by pacing me on the canyons. We were flying on the downhill and it was then down a 7K dry, stony river bed. We ran side by side as fast as we could for a glorious downhill. The riverbeds are very dangerous as they just a bunch of stones, rolling types and your foot moves sideways tearing your blisters apart. Most people hate them but my feet were numb..

I usually don't talk when I run but we did the whole 90 minutes and we got into a groove, pushing each other to make time. It was thus far the most enjoyable part of the Gobi, two guys speeding down helping each other and later having to decide when to drop each other... We hit last checkpoint with 15K left to complete the toughest day of the first four as rated by the organizers. We decided to race each other and leave it all out racing each other with a mile to go. Funny to establish the protocols but it makes it clean - no surprise. The finish was through a wet river and then flats and farmlands. Flats aren't my strength; they cater to the 3hour marathon crowd. I bonked in the village and Chris was timing us on running 10 minutes and walking 1, and then 5 and 1. He was fresh, I asked him to leave me, but he decided to stay. We missed a flag and incurred a 10 minute delay and were passed by a person behind which waved us back. Just dumb but it happens when exhausted. I was back to counting each steps, managing my breathing as the last leg was infernally long. Then I reached in my pouch and poured as much sugar as I could find and 15 minutes later I got a surge of energy and it was my turn to pay Chris back. We had been running died by side but I felt so strong I asked to take the 30 mile/hour head wind, allowing him to draft and paced him on as he had now reached his limit. I had offered him to leave me behind, and now he was doing the same. We separated  at the end and I waited for him 5 yards before the finish and we ran in hand in hand. He was very grateful and so was I, it was my best moment of the whole race thus far - 3 hours of work where he was the domestique at first and then I was at the end. I couldn't somehow pass up the opportunity to tell him later that I was twice his age when we debriefed on the day.

We came in just under 7 hours, it was the toughest, longest day yet, yet i look forward to tomorrow..

It is interesting to note we are in time delay here and you don't quite know where you stand on your rankings. The website has the info, with some time delay and we get the data a day later (as well as emails).

I felt the strongest yet and it felt great to teamwork.

Tomorrow is the brutal day - 70K run. We have come this far; with a little more at stake now as I know I’m top 3 for Canadians and possibly leader in my age group although my tent mate John is 50 and in 5-6 place. Apologies for the typos, there is a line up at the cyber tent and a little tired.

Again, you have no idea how uplifting receiving emails are. The experience is very enriching but the feedback really motivating.

If feet stay numb, it will be OK. I think i have a fever, shivering in the wind - it is brutally windy and right now and as i type this there are still people out on the course after 12 hours. Wow. When the spotters see you, they start drumming and playing music and all competitors converge to the finish line to greet the incoming participants. Big hugs follow. It is really beautiful. 

Comments: Total (60) comments

Fred Jaques

Posted On: 21 Jun 2009 13:40 PM

Stef, Congrats on the fantastic result. Unbelievable commitment. I look forward to a debrief and maybe 2010 planning!! safe trip home..

Mike Fenton

Posted On: 19 Jun 2009 14:41 PM

Stefan - I've updated the NABS Board and committees on your progress - and on behalf of them want to pass along lots of support. Hope today's final segment sees the wind and sun at your back - good luck! Mike

Willem Simonis

Posted On: 19 Jun 2009 12:40 PM

Congrats on finishing the 5th stage! Onto the finish!! Lotsa luck! Willem

Shanna Landolt

Posted On: 19 Jun 2009 13:02 PM

I think that Today is your FINAL day of the race! Congratulations on an AMAZING stage #5! Today should be a breeze into the end.... 1 foot in front of the other! Shanna

Aldo Cundari

Posted On: 19 Jun 2009 13:06 PM

Hi Stefan, A wise man once said..."A persons character is their destiny" and you are on the way to becoming a hero, stay strong. Aldo

Scott Armstrong

Posted On: 19 Jun 2009 04:12 AM

Incredible! The racing is awesome but the incredible part is finding enough energy to keep us updated. The world is truly flat even if the course is not. Best wishes from the Armstrongs. Scott

Keith Carrer

Posted On: 19 Jun 2009 00:33 AM

Hey Steph, I been thinking about your thighs....you know, like your Mothers...sheeesh, I never thought you were that beautiful. I will be checking you out more carefully from now on. Bye the way, those thighs of yours are doing an amazing job. Way to go. What a guy!! All the best from your uncle keith

Jim Jaques

Posted On: 18 Jun 2009 23:58 PM

Such a fantastic story and experience....almost makes me jealous...NOT....I like my feet!! You are there man...1 day to go. Go fast, go proud...one more push. See ya soon.

Lynda

Posted On: 18 Jun 2009 22:14 PM

And you do this for fun? I can't imagine what you might consider a bad holiday. In all seriousness, it is absolutely amazing what you are willing yourself to do. I fear what you might do to top this. Hopefully not something that you need your feet for as there may be very little of them left when you complete your journey. Best of luck on the remaining race. Looking forward to seeing the pictures upon your return.

Tom D

Posted On: 18 Jun 2009 21:02 PM

Stef I am tired just reading about it. I really dont know why you would do this. Have you taken an IQ test recently? Keep up the humping. I will be keeping the beers cold for your return.

Dijana

Posted On: 18 Jun 2009 18:58 PM

If one more person asks 'have you heard from Stefan' I am going to lose it! We are on the edge of our seats, waiting for details (as if you want to write right now!)... You finished the Death March!!! How incredible! Write as soon as you can and know that we are all so very, very proud!

Robert Landsmann

Posted On: 18 Jun 2009 19:02 PM

Stefan, You are a true competitor and sportsman. We, at Fantail, look forward to reading about you finishing the race! Keep those feet moving one in front of the other.

Julie Fotheringham

Posted On: 18 Jun 2009 19:06 PM

We are all so relieved to see the posting that you finished. Shaun and Dave have asked me to pass on their congrats and well wishes...and tell you that you are a stud! We are all cheering for you...nice birthday present for Montana :)

Christine Gerritse

Posted On: 18 Jun 2009 16:51 PM

Well done!! I just read the results of Stage 5 -- an impressive 11:40:27. If I read the site correctly, Stage 6 is 10 kms - I pray that you are able to go the distance and conquer the Gobi March! I've shared your story with dozens of people and even tweeted about it! This is a story of incredible courage, awe, commitment and indomitable spirit. I would love to see your trip photos and personally hear your stories. I'd be delighted to help organize an evening of celebration and merriment!

Nancy V

Posted On: 18 Jun 2009 16:48 PM

OH MY!!!! YOU FINISHED DAY 5!!!! I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!!!! I AM SO PROUD OF YOU!

Daphne

Posted On: 18 Jun 2009 14:33 PM

hmmmm....another definition of success: it is never losing determination and enthusiasm...your writing brings this to life... holy inspiration. keep on!

Maureen Spitz

Posted On: 18 Jun 2009 13:10 PM

Stephan you are incredible, and 11th wow, you must be so proud of yourself. All the best on your next leg.

Nancy Olive

Posted On: 18 Jun 2009 05:05 AM

Stefan - This is really amazing. I can't think of better words than those which many of your friends have already used: riveting and inspiring. I'll join you in visualizing a Top 10 finish for you! Thanks for taking the time and energy to share the experience with us.

Nancy V

Posted On: 18 Jun 2009 04:12 AM

Sorry to be late posting! Just got home, which means by now you will be starting DAY 5. As it is Montana's birthday today, you can now be inspired by her! You are doing an amazing job out there. Can't wait to see you post after this day - then I will rest easy! Double prayers for the double marathon!!

Heiner

Posted On: 18 Jun 2009 00:36 AM

Wow Stefan - amazing writing and racing - keep my fingers crossed.

Sean Shannon

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 22:05 PM

Such an inspiring write-up Stefan. Regardless of the balance of the race, you have already won. Run Stefan Run!

Anne Kothawala

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 21:24 PM

Your perseverance is truly inspiring! You are showing all of us what you can do when you dig down deep, the power of the human spirit and when all is said and done, the unbelievable generosity, caring and humanity that you have shared with your fellow participants. When I read your blog I can't help but think of Jack Bauer on 24, I know you will find your way out of even the most impossible situations! Keep the faith, god's speed, Anne

Sandra Keeley

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 21:15 PM

Stefan, We are completely on the edge of our seats reading your comments. Thank you for sharing your journey! It is hard to imagine all that you have been through - we are thinking of you all the time. Best of everything tomorrow... you are a super star and are going to great!! xoxo Sandra and Pat

Helene Donnelly

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 20:25 PM

Hello Stefan, It is obvious your strong will and perserverance will see you through this incredible journey. You are such an inspiration!!!!!! I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers for the remainder of your journey and for a safe and healthy return home. Helene

David

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 19:57 PM

Stefan, We are sitting on the edge of our seats watching your every move and are thrilled that you have shared your journey with us. It’s hard to fathom the physical and mental highs and lows that you are experiencing! We are all cheering you on; dig deep and bring it home!

Mark Augustin

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 19:13 PM

Stefan, I have shared details of your inspiring adventure with many, especially the importance of being "unreasonable". We are all beneficiaries of your tremendous effort and achievement. Thank you and kick to the finish!

John Clinton

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 19:13 PM

I am almost as amazed with your journalistic skill as your running skill. c'est magnifique! be brave. cheers john

Dijana Cosic

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 19:26 PM

It gives me goose bumps to read your blog and then all the comments... People are so inspired by what you are doing that it makes you, in my eyes, our very on little Obama. What you are doing is changing landscapes of possible and you are changing mindsets as well. We are all so proud of you. Take care tomorrow, it is the darkest hour before the dawn.

Terry Donnelly

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 18:55 PM

Stef - sent the link of your blog to my brother Kevin - here's his response: Awesome! Read the last posting and am totally inspired!. I am running my 26th full marathon on Sunday, and just rode a 160km day in France followed by a 110 km with 2 mountain passes of HC grade….but old ladies stuff compared to him. Tell him to rock on!!! He has a fan in Winnipeg!!!

Patrck

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 18:35 PM

Stefan, Spoke to your mom earlier today, she is following the race closely; I feel she is less worried after reading and following your details online. She is very proud! Following your journey through this incredible experience is truly inspiring ! - It is no surprise that you are doing so well; You are the only person I know who can not only complete the race with success but overachieve and outperform as you are! Keep it up we are all cheering for you and look forward to hearing all your stories in person upon your return.

Greg And Heather

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 18:04 PM

Hi Stefan; We are so proud of you! Your descriptions of what you are going through are riveting! I am sorry but I can\'t stop smiling at the picture of you running hand in hand with your new 20 year old friend! I hope you can re enact this scene for us when you get home! We know you have the right stuff to complete this journey. All the best to one of the best persons we know. Greg and Heather

Evan

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 18:26 PM

Hope you get this in time. Just one more day, my friend. It's been an honour to live a little bit of this journey with you. I hope you are learning rich lessons about yourself, your strength and your character. When your last day gets hard, recall the Persian proverb, "When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.". May they light your way to the end, and home safely. Congrats on all that you have achieved to get to the start line on your final day. Bonne chance, Ev

Susan Charles

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 17:57 PM

Stefan: You were featured in Marketing online yesterday. You have have a following that I am sure is so much bigger than you can image. You are inspiring many. Looking forward to your blog when you have conquered this dessert!

Mike Fenton

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 17:57 PM

Amazing stories - and that you can describe all of this after each gruelling day! Your story telling really paints a picture of what you are experiencing - and the real pictures when you return will be fantastic! Keep pushing - the entire NABS team asked me to send along their best wishes. mike

Doug Keeley

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 17:38 PM

Stef You story is unbelievable. My feet hurt just reading. I know tomorrow is the bad day and when all hell breaks loose in your brain - which it undoubtedly will - I hope you think of how proud your family must be of you. Your daughters have a hell of a story to be telling their classmates - and it will be even more amazing after you do 70 tomorrow. Good luck. We are all cheering you on and telling your story with great pride. Doug

Julie Fotheringham

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 17:36 PM

We are humbled and inspired and praying for you!

Frank

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 17:24 PM

Stef- Last nite I popped a Corona in your honour- and we'll have a few for you when u return- keep rockin'! Frank

Shanna Landolt

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 17:15 PM

Hey, You should know I've been dreaming of adventure races and endurance races. I'm thinking of doing a 1/2 marathon in the spring of 2010 after the baby is born and then getting trained up for something really extraordinary. I know that it's one of those things that takes everything.... that's what makes it so special! Shanna

Sandra Hokansson

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 16:49 PM

i am amazed at your courage, and, stamina. i am enjoying your blog and it will serve as an uplifting historical record of your journey for you to look back upon. I feel like i should at least go for a walk:) thank you for sharing with us.

Jim Warrington

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 16:48 PM

We're dazzled by your +++ approach and achievement, Stefan. Strength for tomorrow! Jim + team

Steve Phillips

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 16:31 PM

INSPIRING STUFF! Stéfan you are creating a truly awesome adventure story! You must share it at our YPO retreat in September! SKP

Nicolas

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 16:32 PM

man YOU ROCK !!! what a role model you are for all of us !!!

Sandy Buik

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 16:39 PM

...wow. I've been waivering on my trail runs in the last few days and it seems a little sad now... What an amazing life experience - kind of the point really isn't it? Race well and stay safe Stefan!

Sandy Johnson

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 16:40 PM

You competitor, you! For someone who had the goal of completing the event, you are rockin'! It looks like you are 1st in your age group and not far out of 10th spot.... Best of luck tomorrow, Stef, and keep reelin' them in. Here's to numb toes and feet!

Willem Simonis

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 16:26 PM

Hey Stef! Finally had some time to visit your blog and I just read it from beginning to end - I couldn't stop. I'm so incredibly proud of you and wish you the best. Keep it up and enjoy!!!! Willem

Chris Guella

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 16:28 PM

Ok. You are out of your mind. You have just, in 3 days, ran more marathons than I have in my life. Inspiring. I can't wait to read about tomorrow... Thanks or the updates. Kick ass. Have fun.

Charleen

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 16:29 PM

TRULY inspirational !!! You are a man with a mission in every sense of the word. My thoughts and well wishes are with you every day and I look forward to reading about your adventures. WOW! Kisses and sugar for energy...

Kate Taylor

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 16:16 PM

HI Stefan, Amazing to hear that you are still in the running (sorry - bad pun). Your blog is very inspiring and a bit scary - I think of your journey when I am doing my piddly 10K and I suck it up! It seems that the camaraderie is good - which is amazing - I am sure you will develop bonds throughout this that you will have for life - there are so few people who have attempted this. Have a great day tomorrow – the big one! Cheers, Kate

Melanie Carrier

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 16:07 PM

You are an inspiration. Way to go Stef...you're gonna make it to the end for sure!

Peter Housley

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 16:00 PM

Stefan. Your writing is so incredibly robust I can almost feel the pain, the exhilaration, and the exhaustion. How you can push yourself like this and then have the mental energy to write so well is CRAZY! Your daily victories suddenly make my 90 minute hot yoga suffering, pretty whimpy! :-) Awesome! ph

Maurizio

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 16:00 PM

Your adventure is inspiring Stefan! Thank You!

Daniel Hageman

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 16:01 PM

Must feel incredible to stand (run) on top of the world like that. What an inspiration! Way to go Stef. God speed tomorrow!

Eric Blais

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 15:52 PM

Lache pas mon grand. Incroyable. Cours vite mais sans te casser la gueule.

Marty

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 15:59 PM

Stupendous !!! Great work Stefan !!! Age is all relative.

Estelle Carrère

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 15:59 PM

Hi Stéfan, So odd to be sitting here complaining about this and that when you go through so much and still "look forward to tomorrow" with so much strength, patience and optimism... what a lesson... I'm sure you'll make it ! je croise les doigts (des mains) pour que tes doigts (de pieds) te permettent d'arriver jusqu'au bout ! ;-) E.

Ross Eathorne

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 15:31 PM

great day and blog stefan. keep it up.

Terry Donnelly

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 15:34 PM

Wow - your stamina, strength and commitment to this undertaking are truly inspiring. After completing this, there is nothing in life you won't be able to accomplish if set your mind to it. Be well, run hard, and come home in one piece.

Janine Turner

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 15:38 PM

Stefan, I hope your feet stay numb for your sake. Sound like a harsh but very uplifting experience all at once. Good to know you are holding your own in your age group and that you are one of theleading Canadians, way to go :-)

Cathy Whelan Molloy

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 15:45 PM

Bonjour Stefan - OMG! This race is incredible - and it sounds like tomorrow is an even bigger day. I am at a NABS committee meeting in the morning - you will definitely be part of the conversation - we salute, admire and so appreciate what you are doing. Hang in there!!!!!!!

Doug Poad

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 15:50 PM

You're doing amazingly well for being a rookie at this! Keep it up. Me? I'm just doing emails. F%@K.
I'm Alive. Not So Well But Persevering.

16th June 2009 07:25 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Today was a day of how to handle injustices and carry on.
 
Last night was a sad but heartfelt finish. My friend Ernie proudly carried on his stage yesterday and walked into camp Lagerville after 12 hours on the course. We were really concerned for him and he chose to finish despite a bad knee and hamstring. He was in pain. We had food ready for him and tried to comfort him. He withdrew and is now staying with us, riding in the fleet of Land Rovers. Keep in mind Ernie is an elite runner and has run sub 3 hour marathons before, so he is a real warrior - this can't be easy for him.
 
This morning was filled with worry about how my feet would handle the day. I have two toe caps to hold each of my index toes together. They are shredded and I have to drain them morning and night; and then cap them under the supervision of the medical tent but without help. So I put one of Ernie's sock on to have three pairs to fill in my shoes who are 2 sizes above normal to allow for feet expansion as your feet grow out during the race.
Most of us have our feet taped up to preventively defuse blisters or cover what they call hot spots (pre blisters). You must do it yourself and it is quite time consuming, every morning. My shoulders, chest, abdomen, and lower back are also permanently taped to prevent chafing from the back pack.
 
With apprehension I went and thanks to Naproxen and Advil, it got numb and was never an issue. It'll get handled in July I guess. First leg was mostly in a village climbing slowly, but without having to deal with boulders which is good for the feet. I felt good and tried to keep the top guys within sight. That lasted a few minutes! Some of these guys are just in another league. A beautiful young girl gave me a flower as I ran buy - no doubt my red Canadian outfit. I was doing fine and was low teen at the first turn.
 
Leg 2 started in right away in a jungle of what looked like bamboo; marginal line of sight of where the next pink flag is and I got lost. About 10 people passed me and I couldn't find my way back. I finally did, you had to run across a 2 foot deep river which I had missed. I caught up to them and reeled everyone in. We were running an 11km leg in a cultivated area, mostly mud, sometimes wet forest, 15 river crossings or so, including running a 3 inch deep river downhill. Fun. All damp and very wet and I feared for my blisters but the set up and drugs were great. Initially it was slippery but you adjust and it reminded of trail biking the Don when it is wet. People were cursing, I decided it was an advantage. I zoomed in to check point 2 filled with drive.
 
Then the course took us through a dry riverbed of loose stones in a deep canyon. It was so beautiful I had the camera out. I was running alone which was OK, hoping to see someone at every turn. At a point, you had to climb through an opening to get on the higher river plateau. Then it happened again. I got to the other side and couldn't see the flags. I ran up river and retreated and then spotted flags going up a bank to a 200-300 foot nasty hill which I needed to climb on all 4's. I got to the top saw another flag, ran to it and then no more flags. It was a high mesa with 180 degrees direction. I ventured right, then left. Nothing.Then 6 other runners who were ahead of me ran towards me. They had been lost as well. One fellow Canadian Kevin who lives in HK was up there for 55 minutes sitting by the flag imploring someone to tell him what to do.Then, Eveready bunny Louie Santaguida showed up with a bunch of people who were behind me. Basically number 8 to 20 were lost up there. We decided to stick together and go back down in the river and stay together and run up river. The climb to the mesa was nasty, the slide down was worse. I fell and slid down 10 yards in the rock, runners all the way to Kashi heard my expletives. I wished Louie well and decided to go, upset that so many people had caught up, yet humbled to know 6 guys felt worse than I about it. We later found the flags up river - someone deliberately moved the flags to send us in the wrong direction and speculation is rampant about who. As we were run walking up river, about a 700 feet incline at 7500 feet, one of the organizers was running down river to fix the problem (he had been told by the leaders of the fiasco - they went up there as well but were quicker to decided a mistake had been made). I lost 30 minutes up there and about 20 guys never made the mistake we did and caught up. I was now in the 30s. They were fresher and a couple of Brit shared how lucky they thought they were to have seen us coming down and save themselves the mesa... I dug deep hobbling and decided to run up and made it the checkpoint in 16th place. Running uphill took a lot out of me and it turned out to be a mistake.
 
The last leg was a straight 8km endless uphill rising 1500 feet. I ran out of water, collapsed and started to run for 100 steps, walk for 200. The altitude was getting to me, not having trained in it like many of the guys in front. I thought about throwing the towel in. My pace was sluggish, people were walking by me. I zoned out and considered jumping on the camels grazing by. It took me 90 minutes to do 8km!
 
Made it to camp; Ernie was there to cheer on. I went to the tent and collapsed and just woke up. I would have broken the 5 hour mark without the mesa incident. 5:28 I think and came in 20th, broken. People are rolling in as I type this, 9 hours after the start. A lesson in having to suck up an injustice and roll with it (with 15 others). We are now at 8500 feet of altitude, it is cold and breezy. Many will get sick tonight, hope I'm not one of them. New problems are developing now, shoulders are very sore - must be uphill and altitude related.
 
We are in a moonlike terrain at Heaven's Gate. Tomorrow we will climb to 10000 feet. The day today was rated Moderate to Difficult. Tomorrow is difficult! Fun.
 
Thanks to everyone who took time to write in. It is extraordinarily uplifting. I was expecting to slide down the standings and now we are half done, so I hope to keep it together.
 
Best to all my friends.

Comments: Total (23) comments

Deb Mckenzie

Posted On: 18 Jun 2009 01:56 AM

Stefan, you are such an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your incredible journey with all of us. Congratulations on such great results!

Leslie

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 21:12 PM

I've been sending emails and not comments but it seems this is where the action is. Your feet are numb and so an I. I'm trying hard not to worry and focus on the pain endured...Your girls are with you and love you.. Just come home not completely mutilated!! xoxo

Brent

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 17:55 PM

Stef, I'd say "head down" and keep plugging but it sounds way too difficult to even put your head down for a second...so "Keep it up!"...what an amazing adventure, I'm willing you all the way...keep strong my friend!

Sandy Johnson

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 13:47 PM

Wow, Stef....you are amazing. You pack a lot of adventure in one day. Here's a quote for you to help you in the last few days... "Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go." William Feather We know the going is tough. Hang in there. :) Sandy

Kenny Solway

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 12:44 PM

Stefan, Thank you so much for sharing your journey and adventures. Words can not convey the appreciation of your efforts and selfless act. Sounds like you have the right attitude and know that everyone is looking forward to your end of day updates. Keep on keeping on.

Doug Poad

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 12:22 PM

I think a sponsorship from Band-Aid is in order if you do this again.

Melanie

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 11:17 AM

Your daily tales read better than the best adventure novels. You should have been a writer! Your will is incredible and we are with you all the way. Stay determined! Love Mel.

Alex Barseghian

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 11:03 AM

Talk about an example of mind over matter. You are an inpiration...focused, determined and LOTS of stamina. You definitly need a holiday when you get back!

Anders

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 08:48 AM

Impressive result, I enjoy reading your blog. Good luck and all the best Anders

Tim Venedam

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 01:55 AM

Stefan, remember to save some of that energy for hockey, when you get back. From everyone on the team, we miss you and we are watching your progress, good luck and stay strong. Make us proud

Michael & Ann

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 01:52 AM

Stefan - day 3 done! Given the injuries you had before you left you are doing amazing - 5 hours per day! especially when you see the slower times of some really accomplished people. We are a little worried what the next big challenge will have to be for you when this is over. Best to Ernie. See you at the wedding in only 11 days. Our rations of food and beverage will be generous I promise. M&A

Pat Sullivan

Posted On: 17 Jun 2009 01:44 AM

Stefan, unbelieveable job! I bailed out of my May marathon and dropped to the 1/2 because my knee was paining me. My knee and my little bit of pain pales in comparison to your challenges and your success at overcoming them. You are doing amazingly well and should feel very proud. Remember to break it up into chunks of 1, 2 or even 5 kms and just make it through that next little bit. Keep at it!! Pat

Patty Crosbie

Posted On: 16 Jun 2009 23:09 PM

I am in total awe. Your bravery, your stamina, your selfless determination are beyond measure. NABS has always been blessed by your caring and generosity and now, running across the Gobi!!! Continued best wishes. - Patty Crosbie, Founding Executive Director, NABS

Nancy V

Posted On: 16 Jun 2009 22:57 PM

Stef - I am vacillating between worry and pride, and quite frankly getting dizzy! I feel badly for Ernie - please give him my best - we can drink to the adventure at Simcoe this summer. Be steady tomorrow (Stage 4). Keep the focus, and keep enjoying the Kodak moments. We are with you, my friend! Love from Elias, Olivia, Megan and Michael too!

Nancy V

Posted On: 16 Jun 2009 22:58 PM

BTW - I think you will more than have earned your OWN bottle of Mojitos and your OWN raspberry salsa nacho dip when we get to the lake!!! Maybe a pecan pie to finish it off!

Jen Timko

Posted On: 16 Jun 2009 19:31 PM

I love reading your blogs, really sorry to hear that someone moved the flags and cost you some time. I know you will make it through even though its tough. It will make for some pretty amazing stories. Really didnt think you would have a camera on you while running but i cant wait to see some pictures. Hang in there, you have made it this far, you can definately make it through to the end! Congratulations on everything you have accomplished so far.

Ted N

Posted On: 16 Jun 2009 19:33 PM

Stefan, I've run 10 sub 3 hr marathons but never experienced anything remotely close to what you're doing. You are a true hero. I'm almost afraid to read your blog for fear of what comes next. Did the 220 km Ride to Conquer Cancer this past weekend with Rick Murray that was a walk-in-the park by comparison - except for Rick who fell and broke his wrist. Stay strong my friend, Ted

Daphne

Posted On: 16 Jun 2009 18:15 PM

hey Stef... it's fantastic how you capture your experience...it is one thing that you have created the opportunity for yourself to run this race, it is another that YOU feel every aspect of this opportunity, and it is yet another that you enable YOUR READER to FEEL your experience... good luck...we are all thinking about you. daphne

Guy Larivière

Posted On: 16 Jun 2009 17:48 PM

Salut Stefan, Tu es une source d'inspiration. Lâche pas nous sommes avec toi ici à Montréal. Franc succès tu ne cesse de m'impressionné ! Guy

Phil

Posted On: 16 Jun 2009 17:30 PM

"It is not perfection, rather progression, that one should be focussed on" Keep moving Stefan. Nothing else to do - but keep moving forward. Be well my friend and take care of those feet! Best wishes, Phil

Kathy B

Posted On: 16 Jun 2009 16:12 PM

You are truly incredible. My heart breaks for you, but I now the determination you have. Keep it going! We know you can tough it out. We're all cheering for you. Love reading your blog. Kathy B

Mark Thompson

Posted On: 16 Jun 2009 15:38 PM

Stefan, You are a machine. Most of us can't even fathom completing one of these stages and you are doing it day in day out. Congratulations on continually overcoming every bit of adversity that is thrown at you on this relentless course. I am in awe with your ability to persevere. Stay positive, maintain focus, and remember your training. We're all proud of you. Go get 'em Stefan!

Ross Eathorne

Posted On: 16 Jun 2009 14:39 PM

great blog mate, not so good about people laying false trails...not in the spirit of the gobi. keep on my wife is one of those coming in at 9:28 today number 86 liz luya
Thanks To My Mother For Her Thighs

15th June 2009 06:52 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Stage 2 is done. So are my feet.
 
After staying in a Kyrgyz home for the evening; it was time to go and see how the second stage would feel. I've never put huge distance back to back before.
 
All rookies im sure were concerned about how their legs and heart would handle Day 2. To make sure we all knew it was going to be brutal, the first stage was all uphill. Now at 6000 feet, i could feel the altitude on the climb, mostly through a mud village and then, mud hills. I left at the back and since i did well yesterday, i decided to go early and see how long i would last. It was a short stage and i raced in 11th place and was happily surprised. John from Hong Kong and I paced each other and put healthy distance on the followers but could never see the guys in front (i've asked for a urine sampling...). The terrain was Mars like, massive 200-300 foot dunes like waves we had to run over. Many side angles, thankfully the dunes are made of relatively hard clay and while you foot digs in, the sand doesnt get in your shoe. I mountain biked in Moab with my YPO colleagues and it was identical terrain to slick rock, just bigger hills and not hard. Here comes my mother; we all have our physical strong attributes; and I have only one good one - my thighs. Thanks to my mother for that; her an I have had many good laughs about this. Over-developed thighs are what you need to excel in these type of up and down conditions. It was brutal but i laughed my way through; easy to race with John who runs 90 miles a weekend!!! He will only get better and I probably won't see him again now. We were now at 6,000 feet.
 
The next leg was brutal for me. About 5 minutes out of the hydration station, my back pack broke and it was a full yard sale. I could not believe it; my stuff was all over a 40 yard radius as it got loose without me noticing. I had to stop and start looking for everything to try to repack. John left and it was a 15 minute moment of pure anger. A runner caught up and kindly located my solar panel, slippers, survival gear, mat. Ludwig is from Sweden and we ran the next leg together. Hulking guy, triathlete, and we paced each other, and very kind to take a couple of minutes to help me. But I was still mad, lost my focus, and twisted my ankle on a rolling rock; lost him.  The terrain was full of sharp rocks and you could feel your feet getting poked at every step. I couldn't let it go for the next hour or so. I put music on to try to change my mindset.
 
Got to the last hydration station; and who rolls in but my mate Louie, a YPOer wo also trains at the granite and sees the same therapists, acupuncturists, etc. He is strong like a bull. When he rolled in it just gave me a surge of inspiration and i went after Ludwig. It was a nasty uphill. I caught up to him and then started a huge descent in the nastiest canyon I've ever been in; huge hills with a riverbed at bottom of about 18 to 24 inches and so steep i kept on rolling my shoulder on the walls. Pure hell in extreme heat. I ran out of food which i had allotted for the day and ran out of water. Every corner, the hope of seeing the finish line was getting dashed. I was going as fast as i could but was getting sloppy and dehydrated. My feet blistered up really badly on the 4km canyon descent. The advice is to stop when you feel this and tape your feet. But i erroneously thought i was close to the finis and didnt. i spent 60 minutes with the medics who advise you on how to use what you brought to treat yourself such that it remains unaided unless you need an IV (many of those today). I'm not sure what hitting the proverbial marathon wall is but i think i got a taste of it then. The section was endless and when it spat you out on a field, i got confused, incurred another 5 minute delay as i was trying to locate the flags which you must follow (the whole course is flag line of sight). Ludwig came out, ran in the proper direction, and he clipped me. Poetic given he had helped me 2 hours earlier. We are in the mud city of Langerville and i hope my feet can handle tomorrow. Louie did very well and is right with me in the standings. In light of his injuries, he is incredible and totally inspiring. No one but for an experienced runner, John from Britain, is ahead and older than us two. 
 
Sadly, my other friend Ernie pulled out today. He injured himself on the first day and ran half today and forfeited. He was in pain and Louie and I waited for very concerned. I came in 6 hours ago and we are not sure were he is yet. Many of us are hurting as the last stage was by far the most brutal yet.
 
My tent also had another interesting development; Andy one of our British tentmate could not handle the heat and drank too fast and i ended up wearing some of it. We are constantly using alcohol swabs to clean ourselves (there are no showers) as there is already nasty stuff spreading in the camp.
 
Tomorrow should be interesting as we will climb to 8500 feet. I'm not sure my feet will handle it - slow may be the way going forward.  Aggregate results came out and I came in 12th today and slipped in the rankings - but still 100 better than in going expectations. I won't be able to sustain and expect a top 25 finish when all is said and done.
 
Thanks for the mail and responses to the racingtheplanet blog; it makes a huge difference and is very uplifting.

Comments: Total (12) comments

Peter P

Posted On: 16 Jun 2009 10:29 AM

Stefan, thanks for letting us share the adventure with you. Incredible. Just finishing will be an awesome accomplishment......but that competitive type "A" is showing through in your updates. Good for you. Stay healthy and savour the rest of the experience.

Richard

Posted On: 16 Jun 2009 02:15 AM

Stef - you rock! Take care of the feet, you cannot fun on your hands. Wait I'm talking to you - you may just try. Seriously, I am following everyday in awe. Take care of yourself. I want to see the post after race end , when you celebrate each kilometre of experience you've gained.

Veronique

Posted On: 16 Jun 2009 01:55 AM

Oh my God!!! cannot believe what you are putting yourself through Stefan...what an effort - incredible. Well, takes my breath away reading your last report. Look after those feet...ouch, ouch, ouch. But seriously, my friend, well done. Really...well done. Amazing. Veronique

Nancy

Posted On: 16 Jun 2009 01:38 AM

We are amazed with your progress, Stef! Must be all those gruelling tennis matches we won against Elias and Les that helped you get where you are! Hope you will remember all the little people when you get back.... We love you, and you will stay in our prayers until you are safely home.

Chris Guella

Posted On: 15 Jun 2009 22:42 PM

AWESOME. Keep it up.

Jim & Michele Jaques

Posted On: 15 Jun 2009 21:54 PM

Stefan....we are so impressed! Go man! Be tough. Think of Maurice Richard for inspiration. By the way Pittsburgh won the cup in case you didnt know. It was awesome just like you. Go go go!!! xoxo

Marty F

Posted On: 15 Jun 2009 20:59 PM

WOW - Unbelievably impressive!! Truly our fearless leader!!! Way to go Stefan. As an aside - Would love to tell you that you have inspired me…but let’s get real..lol Have fun----be careful.

Annie Gaudreault

Posted On: 15 Jun 2009 20:42 PM

Stefan - I am sending great energy from Toronto. And to think that I am feeling a little down from my 20k training run on Saturday... Shame on me. You've inspired me to train way harder! Stay focused, don't get overwhelmed - you're doing great! Annie

Phil

Posted On: 15 Jun 2009 19:04 PM

Stefan! Dude - you are so kicking ass! Got goosebumps reading your blog. Very inspiring - wishing I was there beside you (well...not really - in sprit anyway). Enjoy the process. Dont keep asking yourself "when is this going to end" - instead - "man, this is going to end too soon - something I have trained for so hard and so long." Try and stay present and enjoy it - as much as you can. You are awesome! Keep it up buddy. Phil

Christine Gerritse

Posted On: 15 Jun 2009 15:14 PM

Hello Stefan! I just learned about your race and am in awe of your commitment to raising funds for the unemployed. I look forward to reading your next blog entry. Sending you warm wishes... You are truly an inspiration.

Estelle Carrère

Posted On: 15 Jun 2009 14:58 PM

Hi Stéfan, Thank you for the exciting tale of your adventures out there in the Gobi desert. What you're doing is really amazing ! Bon courage et bonne chance pour la suite... Estelle

Les

Posted On: 15 Jun 2009 15:11 PM

Cringing at this blog...This might be the point where I have to stop reading in order to sleep at night. My poor sweetie!!!
Canyons, Rivers & Camels For A First Timer

15th June 2009 05:41 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

We finished the first stage today and we all had a great day; including my two recruits Ernie, and Louie.
 
Temperature was blistering hot; 44 degrees in the sun, but mostly at our back and the wind was non existent.
Elevation was approx 5000 feet the whole way.
Mostly flat with about 8 river crossings in the first 10 k which I was worried about given running in wet shoes.
After run crossing, I laced up tighter and it worked out fine. Cleverly some of the runners were putting ats in water to refresh themselves. As a good rookie, I missed that part. imp ready if I come across rivers again.
 
We left gazi village where we were hosted last night to a beautiful evening capped with horse racing in the canyon below by the villagers for us. it was breathtaking and we ad to restrain rob follows to go down as e is an experienced polo player and they then played some sort of a polo type game with what looked like a sheep! I hung out with the contingent of canadians who are simply great; Louie Santaguida, Ernie Votis, the Follows, and Norma Bastidas. Norma is a veteran who is on sabbatical to run all over the world to raise money for cnib and other eyesight related charities. She generously shared tips which was helpful.She also did on the dance floor with the locals who were not quite sure what hit them when norma and a couple of German women made us very proud in the welcome ceremony.
 
Here is how it went for me:
 
the first stage was in deep canyon in the shade. I made a decision to run in long pants and shirt and not have to deal with sun screen. a good call. We were canyoning in Mars like terrain and the sights were exquisite, ochre, reds, browns. but tough as we ran primarily on loose baseball size stones.
At the end of stage 2, I decided to drop my buddy which was a tough call as he likes to remind me he came cause I asked. oh well - we can stamp his authority tomorrow which im sure he will!
 
in stage 3 came an unbelievable moment as a huge range of snow capped mountains came into view, like you could touch them -  they are the tianshan separating the desert from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan - the peaks had to be in the 15-20000 foot range. it was humbling and spectacular.
 
I ran with an American team and then carried on. I then hooked up with a young American living in HK who was awesome. running for his grand pa.
 I uphills downhills in some section including an actual wall, literally vertical.  Sadly the cameras battery died before the end- a bummer.
 
I think I had an unforeseen gift here's how it played out.
 
My bib number is 31 and after stage 2 (10K each) I thought I was in 31st place. he shared we were in 12 and 13th place. I was shocked. then I thought might as well go for it as I wanted my first marathon to be special.
 
And that we did. In my mind I started thinking about top 10 and specifically 9th as it is a lucky Chinese number I just learnt about. So while in pain (quads oddly - usually not an issue for me) we started reeling people in. when we crossed the third stage (10K) to go I knew we were then top 10. I visualized the 9th and we passed one guy. I was able to enjoy the entire last stage knowing no one was going to catch me. I looked over my shoulder but knew I had snucked it in - strange given I really thought I would place bottom quartile. I chose to coast and let him go with 500 meters to go ran in with 4 local kids all dressed up and held hands with a boy about 7 who was hamming it up with me and we crossed the finish together, hand in hand. I felt emotional but no tears could come out in this heat. I think I was first Canadian. not sure and sure to not repeat itself.
 
Anyway shocking but I think working standing made a difference. it cant be the running. It all went beyond expectations.  I had electric type pulses on my shins, but infrequently - had to stop when they appeared. My quads were cramped up, but feet are good although I lost a toenail. My time was 5 hours and 8 minutes. Winner was under 4 - wow. and I guess half my age... (that's what I tell myself)
 
every dog has his day. Quite convinced this will not happen again and im so pleased I don't know I need to push. possibly I just enjoy it instead now.
 
People are still coming in as I type this, 5 hours after me. brutal in the sun and 44 degrees.
 
We finished in a mud hut village and are staying in someone's home. Locals are incredible, I guess this is a big event for them as little happens in this remote land and the course changes every year. Many donkeys, and a few yappy dogs. And lots of flies when you have to go. but villagers are dressed up for us and the kids look so happy. I took picture while running today and they loved to see themselves on digital!
 
cheers I received mail last night and it propelled me today. stefan

Comments: Total (6) comments

Lori Barkley-mccrae

Posted On: 15 Jun 2009 13:48 PM

Stefan - congratulations! you are unbelievable. Thank you for taking the time to write to all of us...and letting us know how things are going and what you're experiencing. This is life changing..and very inspirational for all your friends, colleagues and supporters. Keep it up! We're with you all the way!!!!!

Daniel Hageman

Posted On: 15 Jun 2009 13:18 PM

Simply incredible Stefan! What an unbelievable experience. Can't wait to see the pictures that coincide with the tale. Keep on running man!

Mark Weisbarth

Posted On: 15 Jun 2009 13:20 PM

Stefan, Wow, Sounds amazing. Best of luck! Mark

Sandy Johnson

Posted On: 15 Jun 2009 13:29 PM

Your experience sounds awesome - Isn't it great when things turn out as you imagine? and better!! You sound like you're on top of the world..... Just keep doing what you're doing - it seems to be working just fine!

Jason Gilbert

Posted On: 15 Jun 2009 13:33 PM

Unbelievable!!! Keep going.

Greg Hogarth

Posted On: 15 Jun 2009 13:34 PM

I loved your blog! Great detailed descriptions! I feel like I am there with you! You make us very proud!
Sizing Up The Competition

14th June 2009 02:40 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

The day started on the wrong foot. First there was no running; best to taper now before the real pain starts. We were about to be run out of Beijing given my travelling mate's haggling performance at the Silk Road market anyway (see blog 4). The Beijing Intl Airport while spectacular as one would expect, wasn't kind to me either. Having stocked on more gifts for my kids than responsibly allowed, and having bought a brand spanking new Armani suit and a G&D spring coat for my wife, the Southern China Airlines welcoming team showed no empathy when my bags' weight tripled the allowable limit. I tried to explain that my home would be more a Palace of Beauty and Perfection if I could bring all this with me at no surcharge (see Blog 3). So I had my first tantrum. I never saw it coming. Everything had been so Feng Shui. Piss off at the Silk market, the airline, my newly acquired heavy metal dragon. In the end, the storage premium I had to pay wiped out all the hard earned discounting from the night before. As luck would have it, a bunch of other runners were also flying to Kashi. Kashi is closed to foreigners but for the permits arranged by the race organization. Back in Toronto, when I proudly announced to the Chinese lady at the embassy that I was running the Gobi to raise money for Nabs, she said I wasn't allowed to go. Ugh? "No allow". After a heated exchange she accepted my passport and stated the standard procedure of returning in 4 days for pick up. When I did, they couldn't find my passport, then did. I thanked them and left. Once on the street I realized there was no visa stamp. So I ran back in waving my passport and she looked at me incredulous saying "I told you no allow". Fine. What am I supposed to do I asked? "You go to Beijing". Then I understood it was code for I can get you to Beijing, if you lie on your application - the rest is up to you. Which is where the 4 Deserts Race Organization comes in, and arrange. But where were they now that I had excess baggage? I digress. Back to the airport. Were these runners looking at their tent assignments to see if they would have to share a tent a cranky doting father for 7 nights in the desert? Did they sense they got an edge on a competitor? Possibly a weapon they could deploy? Clearly the outcome had to be one less guy to worry about... Hard to say what goes on in people's mind before a race. Mine was - what about my bracelets, suits, statues, and chop sticks. Greetings and introductions following the "scene" was as expected. First, every one looked younger, fitter. Then there's the look, chin is up, the firm handshake, some vital stats exchange. And then a smile. Why a smile? The smile revealed itself in the question: Where's your backpack? My travel mate and I had our first rookie moment. No real competitor would ever check in their gear. Why chance 100s of hours of training, dozens of hours of meticulous research on which food to bring, what gear to wear, all of which could go up in smoke if Beijing's airport has a Denver style baggage handling track record. All of which not relevant to miss empathy at Southern China Airlines. At least I have my Hugo Bosch suit and I've had some fun while I was here. I later found out it was also a rookie move to fly in the day before - just in case... Today the reality of the desert just got a bit closer. I saw safe harbor in a couple of people I knew at the airport and fessed up I was a bit nervous. They nodded approvingly. And smiled. When I worked with my coach Donna Carrigan to prep for the race, we concluded my best asset was not knowing how hard this was going to be. Her point made sense; why sweat it if you don't know what you don't know! Based on today, I can hardly wait to see what I don't know next. Next blog from Kashi

Comments: Total (0) comments

Troubles In Kashi

13th June 2009 09:49 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

While my troubles are about  to start, there are serious troubles in Kashi.
Kashi is the portal to the Gobi desert. It is a predominantly muslim city; and a problem here in China.
 
The Chinese government has declared parts of the city unfit to face earthquakes and has decided to intervene. What does this mean? It means sites of pilmigrage and muslim interests are being bulldozed to be replaced by a new square and condos! The population is in uproar; the government is asserting its power in the same way it is in Tibet.
 
And none of this is reported in the China Daily and other controlled goverment mediums. We learn from ar article in the NY Times.
 
From the top of the hotel this morning while being briefed on blister management, i video recorded army helicopters roving around the square as demolition was about to start. An american woman sitting next to me on the plane was flying in just to see the Mosque prior to the demolition. This drama are some of the disturbing events that can take place in this part of the word.  
 
We are at the race camp, 3 hours by bus from Kashi. It is an extraordinary site by the water at the foot of Mars looking mountains.
I had goose bumps as we arrived as hundreds of locals, dressed in their best suits clapped and played music while lining the road all the way to the tents.The march was overwhelming and many competitors shed some tears. A show of local culture followed which looked nothing like a traditional chinese as most was arabic, representative of the community that lives here in the beautiful mountains.
 
Race starts at 9 tomorrow, and temperature going down rapidly as i type with a fleece hat and a miners light.
 
Stefan Danis

Comments: Total (0) comments

Running Into A Wall

13th June 2009 05:10 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

We ran the Great Wall in some very jagged, spectacular mountainous terrain. Besides my two daughters... the Taj, the pyramids, seeing the wall was a most humbling sight.

We stopped after 3 Km.

We both had a resting heart of about 58 and ran it up to 145 in no time. It was soon time to stop; it just seemed to go on and on (6700kms) and it probably would take us as long to get to the end as it took to build (2000 years). While we wondered how it got built, no one seemed to offer a plausible answer so it is best to make up a good story. So you know, not all of it is maintained; I had to turn around when some sloppy up keeper decided to stop tending to it (I hadn't thought about the logistics of keeping the whole wall neat and tidy) and a forest of weeds and bush looking like our cottage had permanently set home on the steps. I guess the upkeep was seen as prohibitive (the emperors must be saddened at the news from their Heavens of Benevolent Righteous Glorified Perfection (see Blog 3)).

We spent 30 minutes pre Great Wall trip to explain we wanted to explore a part of the wall seldom seen. We weren't disappointed.

While I'm not sure what the touristy Wall sites look like, ours had just some of the basic fare I guess; a choice of either a pristine German engineered gondola, or an old Italian chair lift to get up - walking not allowed.

First, you had to fight your way through a village of merchants with 300 shops selling identical merchandise where we polished up our rusty haggling skills.

The Great Finale was toboganning down on a 1500m long exhilirating ride (by then I had accepted my traveling mate's "off the beaten track" planning miscue). On the way down, we ran afoul and were flagged down and chased away for excessive speeding (all forgiven once they understood the French Canadian background).

Next Blog Sizing up the Competition at the Beijing Airport

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Running Of The Bulls In China

12th June 2009 06:56 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Urban running is a great way to see a city. I know of a few people who travel and join recently established city running tours and/or build their travels around famous city marathons. If I ever want to run again after this, I may look into it.

Architectural landmarks, modern buildings, historical monuments, public squares, green zones, tunnels, bridges, underground areas, endless steps to run, and unplanned breaks at intersections to replenish. Avoiding pedestrians and the odd low post (almost knocked myself out of the race by kneeing a low post designed to ward off cars to a pedestrian zone) add texture to city running.

All the main avenues in Beijing and Shanghai have intricate foot bridges or tunnels to facilitate safe crossings. The bridges are frequently architectural wonders with spider like legs leading to all corners. The tunnels are also plentiful; dozens of them and running them is fun with the stairs work, escalators or pedways. Besides the ones allowing safe access to Paris' Arc de Triomphe; I'd never seen them before. Tunnels are another expression of China's consumerism philosophy; the underground billboard bombardment rivals the large scale animated billboards making Times Square look, well, normal. No advertising space above or below ground is left unused but for the wall where Mao's picture oversees Tiananmen Square (not hard to imagine how he feels about China's capitalist approach).

The bridges are long given some avenues have 8-10 lanes at times, and many tunnels are marbled! They are rather necessary as you quickly find out your life hangs by a thread when you cross any road. China's feudal system is one 100 years dead; the new emperors are the drivers. And pedestrians or cyclists are right-less roadkill opportunities. Running seems like the only way to cross a street. And make sure to look both ways; a one way is just a loose guideline. Drivers here are different than the ones I've seen in Italy, India, or even Quebec. Unlike these lawless driving epicenters where most disagreements are initiated with a honk, a cut, a hand gesture, a bump (cow bumping is a sport in India), and a few words, here, you just run, like in Pamplona. There may be a honk if contact seems inevitable, but generally no one seems upset in this dance between bull and runner. No sound. No upset. No need for a settlement with expletives (unless I'm involved).

Next blog from Beijing running the sites On way to Kashi today; last night in a hotel!

I am running for nabs so please consider a pledge to help the unemployed:
www.gobi4nabs.com

Stefan

Comments: Total (1) comments

Heiner

Posted On: 12 Jun 2009 20:25 PM

Good luck Stefan. Try to avoid face-plants. Heiner
Running The Beijing Sites

12th June 2009 05:09 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Unless you run the parks, running here is hazardous as every corner brings into view a new set of buildings that have 600 years of history like the expansive, Forbidden City (now accessible since the lynching of the last emperor in 1949), Tiananmen Square, or The Summer Palace or that are French, Chinese, German, or Japanese architected wonders of glass, metal, plastic, and concrete with geometric expressions that defy gravity, from hotels, to retailers, or entertainment venues. The sights are truly astonishing; albeit more spread out in Beijing than in Shanghai which has a concentrated core where everything has been reclaimed and completely rebuilt.

Beautiful to see, and not surprisingly even more amazing at night with multi colored accent lighting and video installations.

The attention to design detail is nothing short of brilliant; for perspective, each of our hotel's rooms (Hotel G) has a choice of colored bright lights that illuminate the window when you sleep. Each guest chooses its color, every day. Sometimes clients all align on one, mostly they are completely different. The look from the outside and from a distance is surreal; a perfect branding solution that highlights the individualism of the clients.

The retail areas are bar none the most exquisite plazas I've ever seen. If you don't buy, then you must be a communist or have abundance in your life! The new shopping areas provide inspiration as to what the latest in consumer friendly design is while the old causes perspiration. Going to Silk Road where haggling is beyond what I've seen in Morocco, Egypt, or Hong Kong is a dangerous sport as my travel buddy can attest after being whacked on the head many times for pushing the negotiation envelope too far.

As we ran out with our negotiated fake loot, we also snuck in some of the better runs, which include the aptly described Nest, as well as the Egg and the Cube. The Nest (Olympic Stadium) is simply extrordinary and the grounds around it are a green textbook achievement. Next door is the Water Cube (Olympic Pool) which protrudes out of the ground and is best seen at night. But the one that stood out for me was the Egg. We first saw it from miles away not knowing what is was after climbing Jingshan Park, the highest point in Beijing. Jingshan is known as the location where an unhappy emperor hung himself after a bad day (the thought crossed our minds as well as we ran up too fast).

Not knowing what the elliptical shape was, it became another site to run up to. A masterpiece it is; a floating like massive metal and glass egg shaped structure that houses the National Centre for the Performing Arts. Standing seemingly 2O+ stories high, it is destined to rival Sydney's Opera house. The artificial lake around it creates its reflective image yielding a full egg! Wished I would have thought of it!

Too bad we either couldn't get the funding or the ingenuity to create such buildings despite valiant efforts at the ROM and AGO.

Should I have been surprised to see buildings officially referred to as a nest, an egg, or a cube?

Not really as a descriptive language is a great tool to take guessing out of play. Here are some of my favorite palaces, halls, gates, pavilion and gardens which I saw (best to sit down and close your eyes and pretend you are an emperor): Palace of Heavenly Purity, of Preserving Harmony, of Earthly Tranquility, of Happiness and Longevity; and Halls of Benevolence, of Virtuous, of Preserving, of Middle- and one level up - Supreme Harmony; Gardens of Perfection and Brightness; Gate of Heavenly Peace; and lastly Pavilion of Glorifying Righteousness.

If you are exhausted, take a breath and walk in the emperor shoes to put everything in context. Pretend you 1) never left the palace once (true apparently), 2) had the largest army in the world fighting your battles and directing the build of a 6700km long Great Wall on the backs of the wrong place / wrong time peasants; 3) had between 50 and 3000 concubines (not quite Wilt Chamberlain levels but emperors didn't live as long); and 4) had Confucius on your side.

I don't know if emperors could run anything but the Chinese government sure can create the conditions for architects to erec great buildings.

Next blog - Running into a Great Wall

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Gobi Running In Shanghai

9th June 2009 07:06 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

6 days to go before the Gobi

Running in Shanghai is not easy given the air quality and the heat.

Thanks for shaded areas, it can be enjoyable. As it turns out, my favorite tree is the Platane (Plane tree) which I first saw in Provence, bordering the big avenues. French colonials brought thousands of them to Shanghai and they now line the city's streets providing shade 100 years later! On the small streets, they give that tunnelling feeling.

My favorite city park run is Central Park. No visit to NYC without a run, rain or shine. A favorite for many; oasis in city, sheer size, ponds, rock, and the most beautiful skyline especially looking West at all the incredibly beautiful gothic scrapers from the East side of the reservoir.

Running Shanghai's parks showed two beautiful sides of the city.

Most impressive was People's Park which has the Central Park genre.

Besides perfectly manicured lawns, forest, ponds, most striking are the skyscrapers. The french and british colony era buildings are not visible, now the skies are filled with extraordinarily modern chest thumping statements (which are apparently for the most part empty!).

Some buildings right out of space age, some looking like spears, others are an engineering and architectural marvel. I don't recall ever really stopping to take pictures of high rises, let alone fifty or so, each singularly competing for your attention. Vegas meets Chicago, set in a Central Park setting. The park used to be a racetrack which was demolished by the communist party. Instead you now find 4 museums in the park...

My favorite however was Fuxing Park, right next to our hotel. The meticulousness of the parks is beyond most of what I've seen but for some Western european parks. No surprise, the park is a legacy from the French colonization era of the early 1900's.

At Fuxing, the rocks framing the paths have a coral like quality, and the gardens and forest are manicured. The park isn't that big, it can be run looped in 10 minutes, but a labyrinth within offers many different rewarding routes. It has a beautiful lawn as its central square. From this small half size soccer pitch like center, every day Shanghai life is on display to add to the experience; hundreds of kites of all shape are flown as high as 30 stories in that small area, men and women of all ages practice the chinese macarena version of tai chi and sword fighting, and people every where are playing improvised badminton with imaginary nets in the tightest of quarters. Running and dodging.

I ran the park at 430 in the morning in pouring rain in what looked like full day Shanghai smog day light and people were already dancing.

Running in warm rain is soothing; although my hotel mate also running the Gobi disagreed. Sadly, it appears the forecast is torrential rain for the Gobi (who would have thought) and the word from some runners is to buy talc powder to keep blisters somewhat under control. Seems sun stroking won't be an issue...

Next blog will be from Beijing.

Stefan

To help me raise much needed funds for Nabs and get some job searching tips, please visit www.gobi4nabs.com

Comments: Total (10) comments

Sandy Johnson

Posted On: 12 Jun 2009 18:21 PM

Well, Stef it sounds like you're on your way... Big adventures ahead! We'll be on the other side of the world here, cheering for you! Enjoy every minute.

Tracey Sutherland

Posted On: 11 Jun 2009 16:56 PM

Routing for you Stef! Good luck as you step into the land of the unpredictable ~ no doubt you\'ll have amazing stories to tell of obstacles you had to overcome but couldn\'t foresee before starting the race. We know you\'re well prepared, mentally tough and flexible in your thinking...all good things as you embark on this adventure. We\'re with you 200% and looking forward to celebrating. Congrats ~ getting to the starting line is a huge accomplishment. We are so very proud of you!

Daniel Hageman

Posted On: 10 Jun 2009 21:22 PM

Good luck Stef! What an increadible adventure. We're all cheering for you. Run Forrest Run!!!

Marty

Posted On: 09 Jun 2009 21:29 PM

Way to go Stef. FYI Talcum Powder weighs even more than baby wipes. Just a consideration...lol Have a blast.

Jen

Posted On: 09 Jun 2009 20:39 PM

Read your blog today with James, once Dijana sent out the link we had to stop working to see what you were up to. Must be pretty amazing to run around in a different country. The forcast being rain can go either way for you and i hope that its nice and refreshing instead of blistery..i wonder how sand is to run on when wet. Either way this is going to be amazing! Enjoy yourself..cant wait to hear more.

Sean Shannon

Posted On: 09 Jun 2009 15:03 PM

Run Stefan Run!

Greg Hogarth

Posted On: 09 Jun 2009 15:42 PM

Hey Stefan! We are pleased you are finding new levels of \'comfort\' in China! I am about to enjoy a nice mountainbike ride thru scenic Kelso, followed by a beer, a massage, a 5 course meal and a comfy bed. We are very proud of your accomplishments and look forward to seeing you start the race! Cheers buddy! Greg and Heather

Dijana

Posted On: 09 Jun 2009 13:49 PM

The rain may prove to be a blessing, given that you manage to keep your feet dry. It can provide the soothing cool during the run, but the question is how the desert behaves when wet...

Janine Turner

Posted On: 09 Jun 2009 14:02 PM

Stefan, great to see you running and glad to hear you are enjoying the sites. Hard to believe that Shanghai is only 100 years old. I went up the Pearl Tower when I was there last year and it provides a wonderful view of the high rise towers. Looking forward to reading your next blog. Cheers, Janine

Pierre Veilleux

Posted On: 09 Jun 2009 14:59 PM

Hey bonne chance buddy! Apres avoir courru tous ces milles les attentes vont etre grandes pour les "Chiefs" ca ne sera plus 2 ou 3 buts par partie mais minimum 5 haha! Lache pas Pierre