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2018 Sahara Race (namibia) Race Report

6th May 2018 08:51 AM[(GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana]

The 2018 4Deserts Sahara Race (Namibia) took place from April 29 through May 5 along the Skeleton Coast and Namib Desert in northern Namibia. Eighty-eight competitors appeared at the start line and all but a few completed the 257 kilometer course. We covered roughly the distance of a marathon each of the first three days. That was followed by a 50-mile stage dubbed The Long March. After a day’s rest, we ran one more marathon and on our final day, trotted 10K to the finish.

I described the day-by-day grind in my brief posts from the field, but, in sum, here’s what you get: seven days of running on a course that’s challenging for elites, but doable for ordinary athlete’s who are well prepared and determined. I “power-hiked” 85 percent of the distance, easily made the cutoffs and finished near the middle of the pack. You do this in the context of a beautiful but remote point on the globe, a place you otherwise never would have visited. And you do it in the company of a few dozen like-minded individuals from all over the world who provide excellent companionship and support through every rocky, dusty mile, every fitful night of sleeping on the ground, and every re-hydrated package of porridge. In the end, you find you’ve accomplished something much more than running across a spit of land. I recommend it.

In my personal journey, I benefitted from the support of many kind-hearted people. Firstly, Racing the Planet’s Sam Fanshawe and her remarkable crew. I cannot imagine the effort it must require to plan, organize and execute such an event. They were there for us at every bend in the road with jugs of water to quench our roaring thirst and medical assistance should we falter. I owe a deep debt of gratitude to my fellow travelers, an exceptional bunch of crazed runners. I was blessed with great tentmates, Sandy, Flo, Gudrun, Mike and Steve, and a most gracious roommate at my hotel in Swakopmund, Roberto. BFFs one and all.

I was schooled by two excellent trainers, Darryl Copeland in the gym, and Sarah Mista, on the trails. Their guidance and advice were crucial to my ability to complete this event and emerge with nary a blister and only a few aches and pains. Thank you!

Throughout my months of training, I enjoyed the camaraderie of my friends in the Santa Monica Mountain Goats, the Culver City Run Club, and many others. I appreciate their encouragement and tolerance for my incessant nattering about my “big event.” Sorry, now you’ll have to listen to months of regurgitated glory. Invest in earplugs.

My inspiration comes from my family. My children, Dash and Tess, are an endless source of pride and sustaining spirit. I had them at the top of my mind through every step in the Namib.

Lastly, I thank my wife, my best friend and the love of my life, Linda Rosner. She not only puts up with my excessive behavior, she supports and enables it...often to the point of great personal self-sacrifice. Everything good in my life comes from her, far more than I could possibly repay. I'm the luckiest guy in the world.

Wherever your Long March leads you, I wish you what I have had: great friends, beautiful surroundings and a smattering of success. Be well.

Comments: Total (10) comments

Atila V

Posted On: 06 May 2018 11:40 AM


Sydney Risser

Posted On: 06 May 2018 15:38 PM

A wonderful nod to those who helped behind the scenes so you could toe the line. Congrats again! Really impressive.

Donald Feinstein

Posted On: 06 May 2018 15:41 PM

Yes - Hero!

Linda Rosner

Posted On: 07 May 2018 16:41 PM

Beyond proud of my amazing husband who I love so much ; words cannot suffice for the love I feel for him; it's a little scary.

Sarah Mista

Posted On: 07 May 2018 21:31 PM

You DID it! I had no doubt in my mind that you would finish and finish well. Loved following along your journey and seeing all the pics!

Van Levine

Posted On: 09 May 2018 03:54 AM

Fantastic and so inspirational!

Roberto Rivola

Posted On: 11 May 2018 06:20 AM

Welcome to the Club Keith!

Badanibe 11

Posted On: 14 May 2018 15:26 PM

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Don Lepage

Posted On: 16 May 2018 11:36 AM

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Darlene Greene

Posted On: 24 May 2018 11:50 AM

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Stage 5

4th May 2018 10:23 AM[(GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana]

The penultimate day. Our last marathon day began with a rolling amble up a soft sand and gravel road. About 10 miles in, we encountered a series of small dunes. No  problem. At the halfway point, we made a sharp left turn and ascended a towering dune and began following a ridge line of cascading dunes amid a sea of sand  that extended as far as the eye could see. We went up and down these dunes for more than five miles. We could see the ocean below, parallel to the line of dunes, It’s a sight I’ll never forget. My legs we grateful when we descended from the sand. The course ended with a gallop along the seashore, It as just me and a couple of gulls.

Tomorrow, we have a 10K run to the finish.

Comments: Total (7) comments

Linda Rosner

Posted On: 04 May 2018 22:37 PM

Congrats! xo

Stella Beale

Posted On: 04 May 2018 23:34 PM

Congratulations, Keith! What an inspiration!

Lisa Lee

Posted On: 04 May 2018 23:46 PM

Woohoooooooooooo!! Congratulations Keith! You are truly awesome. Enjoy the final 4 miles!

Shell Shockers Shell Shockers

Posted On: 05 May 2018 07:50 AM

I wish you success shell shockers

Curt Bennett

Posted On: 05 May 2018 12:27 PM

Amazing. The pictures are beautiful. Great job!

Sydney Risser

Posted On: 05 May 2018 23:01 PM

I am so in awe of this accomplishment! Your dedication and hard work paid off. Amazing!

Larry Meyers

Posted On: 06 May 2018 03:24 AM

You have covered all four corners of the world. What’s next? Congratulations!!
Stage 4

3rd May 2018 10:10 AM[(GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana]

Still standing. Yesterday, we turned inland for the Long March {50M}. The course trended uphill for miles. We found ourselves in a series of long valleys, ringed by rolling hills and buttes. The desert floor was covered in a blanket of green grass. Eventually, the course turned downhill on a long amble to camp. It would have been an easy run, except that we had completed three marathons previously, were still carrying heavy packs and temperatures topped 100 degrees. About six thirty, the sun obligingly dipped beneath a hill,  the heat abated and I spent a pleasant hour and a half running under a canopy of stars. Then the moon rose like the headlight from an old Ford pickup. The night run was complicated by a running surface of soft sand and gravel. Got old quickly. Reached camp around 1:00, 17 hours in, middle of the pack.

Veni Vidi Vici.

Tomorrow, it’s one last marathon across the world’s tallest sand dunes. Marvelous.

Comments: Total (5) comments

Linda Rosner

Posted On: 04 May 2018 00:22 AM

Tess and I anxiously awaited your results. I even checked at around 3:00AM to see your stats. Congratulations! You rock! xo, Lindi

Kathy Bawn

Posted On: 04 May 2018 01:12 AM

Wow, Keith, you are doing great! Thanks for posting this awesome commentary!

Mark Handcock

Posted On: 04 May 2018 03:35 AM

You came, you saw, you lived. Big smile.

Atila V

Posted On: 04 May 2018 14:38 PM

Phenomenal effort.

Stig Pedersen

Posted On: 04 May 2018 17:58 PM

Joko and I are following your progress avidly, especially the Long March. Bloody well done Keith.
Stage 3

1st May 2018 11:38 AM[(GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana]

Halfway home. Challenging day. We started out in heat and finished with a tough 10K slog up a rocky, featureless hill. In between, we enjoyed a 16 mile trek through soft sand on the Skeleton Coast. Save for my presence, completely unspoiled. Seals, dead and alive, and shipwrecks. At one point, the vista was so beautiful, even I stopped to snap a picture. All in all, a grind it out sort of a day. Looking toward tomorrow’s epic 50 mile stage, the Long March, I’m reminded of the words of Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, “Let’s play two!”

Comments: Total (6) comments

Linda Rosner

Posted On: 02 May 2018 00:11 AM

Seems as though you're having a fabulous experience! Congrats! xoxo

Kathy Bawn

Posted On: 02 May 2018 01:55 AM

Go Keith! Best of luck with the Long March!

Van Levine

Posted On: 02 May 2018 05:15 AM

You are absolutely incredible, Keith! We're rooting for you!

Don Feinstein

Posted On: 02 May 2018 06:32 AM

Lisa Lee

Posted On: 02 May 2018 07:22 AM

Go Keith go!!

Keith Bilderbeck

Posted On: 03 May 2018 01:09 AM

Remember you are representing all the Keiths on the planet. Go Go Go!
Stage 2

30th April 2018 11:38 AM[(GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana]

Two down. Today’ run was slightly shorter than yesterday’s, but equally endowed with spectacular vistas. {Sorry folks, I took no snapshots as I was in machine mode all day. You’ll have to come see for yourselves.} We tackled our first {small} sand dunes and salt plain…the latter made for a bumpy ride. My run went better today as I slowed down and settled into the groove of the event. It was a day to “enjoy the way and the goodness of the wayfarers” {Beckett}. I managed 40K (25 miles) in 6:40. Stage 3 starts tomorrow at 9:00.

Comments: Total (4) comments

Clancy Johannsen

Posted On: 01 May 2018 00:09 AM

Good going Keith! How're the feet holding up? Gloomy weather here in LA - enjoy your weather over there.

Kathy Bawn

Posted On: 01 May 2018 02:39 AM

Yay Keith! Hope tomorrow brings more enjoying of the way and kind wayfarers!

Lisa Lee

Posted On: 01 May 2018 08:44 AM

Yay Keith! There’s a great photo of you on the site from stage two—looking strong and so happy! Keep up the great work!

Linda Rosner

Posted On: 01 May 2018 16:47 PM

Very impressive. So happy to see you happy! xo
I Had My Baptism To Stage Running.

29th April 2018 09:55 AM[(GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana]

Yesterday, after an orientation session where we were advised where to poo and not to turn over rocks for fear of disturbing scorpions, we boarded buses for the three and a half hour ride to the staging area. We had a grand night getting to know our tentmates before setting off in the morning on our first, 26.5 mile stage. As the Inuit have 50 words for snow and Siberian have 50 words for wind, I expect the Nam people have as many expressions for barren. Nothingness comes in a stunning varieties of tones, textures and landscapes in the Namib. We began by running across a vast sand plain, seemingly infinite in all directions, we then tackled an undulating series of hills, dusted with black, pulverized rock, around mile 16 we slipped past the ocean. Gorgeous. I managed a rumbling slog and wearied under the weight of my 25 pound pack. I arrived in camp 8 ½ hours on, and treated myself to a delicious freeze-dried meal. Stage 2 begins at 9 a.m. tomorrow.

Comments: Total (8) comments

Linda Rosner

Posted On: 29 Apr 2018 22:24 PM

Congratualtions! xoxoxox

Kathy Bawn

Posted On: 30 Apr 2018 01:50 AM

Great job, Keith! Thanks for sharing your adventure! Best wishes for the coming days.

Stella Beale

Posted On: 30 Apr 2018 05:15 AM

Go, Keith, go!

Ed Dorio

Posted On: 30 Apr 2018 16:14 PM

Proud of you Keith! You’re in your element now with kindred spirits.

Ed Dorio

Posted On: 30 Apr 2018 16:17 PM

Proud of you Keith! You’re in your element now with kindred spirits.

Atila V

Posted On: 30 Apr 2018 16:50 PM

It seems if you flip the rocks over fast enough, you could poo on the scorpions and solve two problems at once. Keep moving!

Stig Pedersen

Posted On: 30 Apr 2018 18:34 PM

Thanks for keeping us updated and bloody well done! This is awesome. I hope the chipmunk is not keeping you up at night :-)

Mark Handcock

Posted On: 30 Apr 2018 21:54 PM

All good so far :-)
Greetings From Swakopmund

27th April 2018 09:54 AM[(GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana]

After six months of mostly solitary training, I found myself at Johannesburg’s Oliver Tambo Airport waiting to board a plane for Walvis Bay, Namibia with 60 or so other travelers, half of whom were wearing trail shoes and carrying backpacks stuffed with running gear. I had met my tribe.



My seatmate on the plane was a young doctor from Brooklyn named Brian who was part of the event’s volunteer medical staff. Once we landed, I hopped into an SUV with Marek from Poland and Mel from New Zealand, by way of London, and we were whisked across the Namibian moonscape by a local man who had moved here years ago from South Africa. The land was a vast stretch of barren sand, dotted with imposing dunes; the air dry and very gusty.

Our host site, affectionately referred to as Swack-Op, is a sleepy, oceanside tourist town. We’re staying in a grand old hotel. Once in my room, I was able to, at last, begin organizing the unruly mass of gear and provisions that I had dragged through security check points at LAX and airports in Addis Ababa, Johannesburg and Walvis Bay. I transferred my food supplies to neat Zip-Lock bags and was astonished to find that all of it (O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!) fit into my backpack! It even seemed to weigh a bit less than when I was lugging it around Joshua Tree.


So, the time has almost arrived. Tomorrow, we’ll go through gear check, and then pile into the vans that will take us to the first staging point. Sunday morning, it will be off to the races.

There are a lot of talented and experienced runners here and I feel privileged to be in their company. I’ll do my best to keep up. I’ve had a lot of coaching and advice leading up to this race and am grateful for all of it. The words of wisdom that stick with me the most come from that wise old sage and ultrarunner Polonius who, on the eve of his big event, cautioned Hamlet, “To thine own self be true.”

Comments: Total (4) comments

Mark Handcock

Posted On: 28 Apr 2018 21:23 PM

The Santa Monica Mountain Goats, ran the Will Rogers Trail this morning. We spoke to the running gods and they said you would be ok.

Linda Rosner

Posted On: 29 Apr 2018 16:30 PM

Keeping good thoughts. Know you'll do well. xoxox

Atila V

Posted On: 29 Apr 2018 16:41 PM

Inspiring and motivating.

Shari Davis

Posted On: 27 Apr 2018 17:43 PM

No doubt your tenacity, good humor, and well-executed training will serve you well, Keith! Sending good thoughts! We'll toast you at the Will Rogers goat run tomorrow. Good luck and thanks for the oh-so-eloquent blog posts!
Into Africa

21st April 2018 01:29 AM[(GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana]

On Sunday, I’ll board an Ethiopian Airlines jet at LAX and begin a long and withering journey that will eventually land me at the start line for the 4Deserts Sahara Race (Namibia). I’ll have four days on the ground in southern Africa before the race to adjust to the change of 10 time zones and one hemisphere, and the aftermath of having spent more than 24 hours in metal tubes.

Despite its remote location, this 4Deserts race will be marvelously well connected to the hub of humanity. The obliging organizers from Racing the Planet promise to provide updates on the progress of all competitors through the event website and a Facebook page. Friend them if you wish to follow along. Expect my results to dribble in hours after the leaders. They will also be updating the event FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube accounts.

A “cyber tent” with satellite connection will be set up at each staging point. Friends and family can thus send text-only emails to competitors through the event website. I’d love to see a few notes of sarcasm and ridicule from my well-wishers. (Emails are public, so keep it clean.) Lastly, if you’ve been looking forward to a week’s respite from the tedium of my blog posts while I’m out on the course, you’ll be sadly disappointed. The cyber tent will include the means to type out a few lines of doggerel after each day’s run, and I plan to take full advantage of that to vent and rage.

I am looking forward to the race with great anticipation. I’m also looking forward to being back with my pals in Southern California and resuming my “normal” routine with the Santa Monica Mountain Goats and Culver City Run Club.

See you all in a few weeks.

Comments: Total (3) comments

Van Levine

Posted On: 28 Apr 2018 15:11 PM

Yay, Keith! You've got this! :)

Lindi Rosner

Posted On: 20 Apr 2018 22:11 PM

Go Keith go! xoxoxo

Larry Meyers

Posted On: 26 Apr 2018 13:19 PM

So Keith What’s next? Mt. Everest does not seem Like a challenge after You finish this Run.

19th April 2018 01:43 AM[(GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana]

The mandatory equipment list for the 4 Deserts Sahara Race (Namibia), a 7-day, 250K, self-supported footrace, runs to 35 items. It includes everything from daily essentials such as food and water bottles to survival gear, like a bivvy bag that you hope never leaves its dark corner of your pack. My favorite piece of kit is a Nitecore EA-11 flashlight. It puts out an astonishing 900 lumens on a single AAA size battery and weighs less than 2 ounces. It should do a brilliant job of lighting my way during my nightly forays out of my sleeping bag to pee.

In sorting out what to bring, there is a certain tension between including things that will make the long and arduous journey more comfortable and minimizing weight. The need to achieve the optimal balance between too much and too little has become painfully obvious to me (especially around the shoulders and knees) during my training runs in Joshua Tree National Park.

Not that I am lacking in sound advice. I’ve read two books on desert ultramarathons. I’ve also watched expert videos on what and how to pack, and perused the blog posts of past competitors, full of personal stories of triumph and travail. Despite having imbibed all this wisdom, I’m sure that nothing will hold me back from making colossal errors in judgement. My capacity on that score is limitless.

One trick that many veterans advocate is repackaging food in Ziploc bags to reduce weight and space. In sussing out how to best do this, I stumbled across an ingenious YouTube video that had nothing to do with ultra-running. The creator showed how to do a poor man’s job of vacuum sealing with a straw. You simply insert the straw in the corner of the bag and suck until you’re blue in the face. This method not only does a crackerjack job of removing the air, it also provides a mild sense of euphoria. Not recommended for kids under 12.

The race begins April 29.

Comments: Total (1) comments

Debra Kaufman

Posted On: 13 Apr 2018 20:41 PM

Pity the fool who doubts you! I stand in awe of your persistence, training and masochism!
Training Days

17th April 2018 01:42 AM[(GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana]

A two-and-a-half-hour drive from my home, Joshua Tree National Monument has become my preferred training ground as I prepare for the 4Deserts Sahara Run (Nambia) in late April. With a mix of soft sand and rocky trails, Joshua Tree is a fair proxy for the Namib Desert, minus the shipwrecks, seal colonies, jackals and hyenas. As my friend Stig pointed out, it’s also near the spot where General George S. Patton trained infantry men to fight in North Africa in World War II. If the Mojave Desert could fill young men with the courage to face down Rommel’s Panzer divisions, surely it can provide me the gumption to tackle a few paltry sand dunes.

In terms of training, a 154-mile, 7-day stage race is not at all like your garden variety ultramarathon.  There’s much more to consider. With a normal ultra, you merely must build the strength to get from point A all the way to point B. In a stage race, you not only need to travel a formidable distance, you must do it while lugging a pack crammed with supplies, spending your nights in a tent with seven or eight of your newly-minted BFFs and surviving on dehydrated meals with deceptively taste-tempting names. (Rehydrated chicken korma, anyone?) All this takes planning and effort.

I began my training, prudently, by purchasing an insurance policy. Issued by the ominous-sounding Ripcord Travel, my policy includes a benefit of up to $15,000 for “repatriation of the body.” I selected the deluxe option, which comes with a monogrammed body bag.

Then I set to honing my mental and physical toughness with huge helpings of dogged running. I spent this past weekend in Joshua Tree doing my best to simulate the stage race experience. On Saturday, I traipsed up and down the Boy Scout Trail, a park favorite, carrying a 20-pound pack. It was a glorious morning of loping through forests of the park’s signature prehistoric ferns. I logged 16 miles or so before setting up camp.

I’m not a natural outdoorsman—I make the cast of Gilligan’s Island seem like Arctic explorers—so I felt it important to gain some facility in using my sleeping and cooking gear. It proved to be a challenge. Saturday was one of the coldest nights of the year in Southern California. The temperature dropped below freezing. The wind howled. My gear is all super lightweight and not meant for harsh conditions. My tent has the wind resistance of a Kleenex. So, I spent a restless night, but the upside was the coyotes were kept at bay by the sound of my chattering teeth. It didn’t help that I had to drag myself out of the tent no less than four times to pee. Nonetheless, on Sunday morning I popped out of my bag, packed up my stuff and jogged 10 miles with relative ease.

Over the coming weeks, my plan is to make several more trips to Joshua Tree, and perhaps to the nearby Mojave National Preserve where there are “singing” sand dunes. I want to build up to doing back-to-back days of 20+ miles with a fully loaded pack. I don’t know if all the huffing, puffing and teeth chattering will prepare me adequately to run six marathons in seven days, but I can promise you this, I’ll arrive at the starting line with an impressive tan.

Comments: Total (0) comments