RACE COVERAGE

The Last Desert Blogs

View All Posts From : Jax Mariash

Ready For The Awards Banquet

30th November 2016 01:09 AM[(GMT-03:00) Buenos Aires, Georgetown]

Hey folks

So here we are in the thick of it to get through the Drake passage. We are really experiencing the Drake this time vs on the way over. I have wrist bands and patch on and I am still quite seasick. I have been struggling to eat for a while now and we all cannot wait to hit land. So, we take it step by step and count down the hours until we hit the Beagle Channel and the seas will become calm again. The waves are so big that they splash all over the front deck. We are rolling side to side and front to back. It is quite the experience to say the least. It is a huge thrill and feels like a 48 hour roller coaster.

Tonight after dinner and hopefully within calm seas,we will have the awards ceremony. I am so excited. It will be the true finish line for us all. It will be so special to share all of our goals at completion together before we head back to our homes. I am still in shock that the quest is complete.

Time to get off the computer before I get seasick again.

Cheers,

JAX

 

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On The Way Home

28th November 2016 12:39 PM[(GMT-03:00) Buenos Aires, Georgetown]

Hey folks

Here we are on the flip side of our epic snow running adventure. We are about 18 hours into our adventure back at sea heading to Ushuaia. The Drake Passage is projected to be quite rough this time so there are various protocols taking place to prepare. They have placed large ropes in the lounge to have extra points to hold on to. In addition, the doors to go outside are locked as the water eventually could come over the decks as it rolls. I am not handling the sea as well this time, and we haven’t gotten to the hard part yet. My stomach is really upset and I feel dizzy. I keep telling myself that it can’t be like this forever.

So with this time off, I can dive into some of the other details of the journey…

THE SHIP – MV PLANCIUS

The ship is a really neat experience. I cannot believe all of the amazing sights we have seen as we sailed to various islands to run. Two days ago, we sailed through an area full of ice burgs. It looked like a sheet of ice over the water. The ship just pushes through it and the moves around the really big ice burgs. It can handle swaying from side to side to a great level to handle the Drake Passage. The cabins are spacious and really nice. There is one movie channel that is looping through movies all day. Then some of the runners have movies too that we can hook up to a TV to enjoy. The food is plentiful and really great here. Depending on the day, it is either a buffet or a 3 course meal. The crew on the ship is top notch and so experienced. They are so helpful too.

RACING RULES

Here in Antarctica the running rules are quite different as well as the race format. Each day, we were told a start time and then a projected end time. Within that time window available, you try to run as far as you can. Time windows are defined by when the ship needs to sail to the next destination. The leaders for male and female are by who has the farthest distance. 250k is when the race ends for the leaders. At any time the race could cancel due to very high winds and storms. With the unknown of possible cancellations, you are always pushing for the most distance possibly in case the rest of the week is a weather day. Once a leader hits 250k they can go back to the ship. Every individual is hoping to get as close as they can to 250k by the end. This year, we were blessed with wonderful weather and we only had to end with a short 3 hour day on Thanksgiving. For all of us that are Americans, we enjoyed the Holiday break and even celebrated over dinner. On the course the loops were as follows, 11.4k, 3k, 1.4k, 3.8k, 3.1k. There is only one check point each day on those loops. Each day you are given a score card with numbers on them. Every loop you make, the loop number is punched on your score card. Due to IAATO rules we have to follow a strict protocol out on the course to protect wildlife and the land there. This means that we can only go to the bathroom at a designated tiny portable toilet. Additionally, you can only eat on a large tarp at the checkpoint and must ensure that every crumb is picked up and thrown away. Thus, your strategy each loop has to add in the time to eat and go to the bathroom.

Even getting to the course each day is a project. First, you need to pack a 60 litre drop bag that contains warm clothing for after. 

Your running bag that is around 5 kilos and has everything you need to deal with weather changes and required supplies for body maintenance and safety. The bag is definitely lighter than the other races, but you still feel the load due to running in snow terrain. Once those bags are packed, we have a small race briefing and then head out to the gangway. From there you must step in bins of water with soap to wash off anything on your boots, shoes, poles and drop bag so that there isn’t any foreign materials hitting the Antarctic lands. The next step is to board the zodiac boat. It can hold 10 athletes at a time. Once we get on land you will swap out your boots for shoes and prepare to run with everything left in your drop bag or your running pack. There is one more course briefing and we are out to run.

RUNNING IN ANTARCTICA:

To start, all I can say is that the revised format and running in extremely hard conditions with a pack leads to A LOT more time on our feet pushing through the elements and eventually get to 250k in 6 days. The hours for me to get to 250k by day were 13, 8, 9, 2.75, 6.5, .75. 40 hours total vs the desert races would end around 30 hours. So roughly 10 more hours of time on your feet running in snow, slush, ice, mud, and rocks. The last 4 stages were on 100% snow. We would spend the first loop packing out the trail and then as it defined itself, you could finally pick up the pace. Stage 3-5 felt like skimo courses yet, without the skis. Your legs and feet every night would throb and were extremely sore due to the difficult terrain. It is by far the hardest race I have ever done mentally and physically due to this terrain. Every day, there were nagging pains and you were constantly afraid that you were going to have an injury. I have never felt so wrecked and exhausted in my life. With all of the difficulty, some days you didn’t even want to get out of bed. You had to dig deep and just do it. The recovery for this race as well as it being 6 of the 4 Desert races in 13 months will be long. I am so exhausted to say the least. I am so proud of everyone’s effort during this race. Everyone had so many challenges to deal with. The encouragement from the ship crew, racing staff, your emails and other toursits on our expedition ship help you to keep going.

WILDLIFE + LANDSCAPE

It was really fun to see wildlife at times. Two days we ran by penguin colonies which was really cool. The penguins are so happy in their elements. We also saw some leopard seals relaxing on ice burgs as we sailed by. There were additionally seals lying around close to the course on stage 2 and 5. Yesterday we saw an elephant seal in Half Moon Bay. They are HUGE. The landscape is epic. When running on Islands you would see magical white terrain from nearby. There are glaciers everywhere as well and huge mountains. As we ran on day 3 we could hear avalanches in the distance as well as snow cracking off and falling into the water. While traveling on the boat you will sail right by massive icebergs. Turns out what you see on top is 9x bigger underneath in the water. So cool! On the ship, the staff will also give lectures on many topics in the area.

There are just a few notes of our lives here. I would say the highlight is the jaw dropping terrain as well as sharing this experience with many friends that have been at all of the races together.

Cheers folks. More to come tomorrow if we aren’t stuck in our cabins trying to deal with the “Shaky Drake.”

Jax

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Stage 6

27th November 2016 09:44 AM[(GMT-03:00) Buenos Aires, Georgetown]

Hey folks!

I am not sure how long I will last typing this with us back in the Drake Passage and the boat is rooooooling and nowhere near as bad as it is projected to get on the way back.

Stage 6 was so fun. We ran at half moon Bay. Now mind you the day was fun because I only had to run two of the 2.4k loops to finish 250k and then another leader victory lap with Kyle later on followed by getting our medals. The course was flat, but technical with super crusty snow that you kept falling in. But every frustration on the course turned to excitement as thoughts of a yearlong project took place. There have been SO MANY ups and downs during the Grand Slam Plus adventure that sometimes you look back and wonder how you actually survivied.

What we all assumed would be an easy race full of victory laps was the most challenging week of running of my life. We are so excited to finish and totally exhausted at the same time. Every pain in my feet and legs today, I knew that in just a few km’s I can rest as long as I want to recover.

Receiving this medal is such a huge deal and emotions were exploding inside.

I am so glad to achieve every goal I set out for!

  1. I officially am the first woman ever to compete the Grand Slam Plus…wow!
  2. I will be crowned the 2016 4 Deserts Female Champion
  3. We have raised over our goal of 10k for the LymeLight Foundation
  4. I will be the 2nd woman ever and 3rd individual to win all 4 of the 4 Deserts races in a fiscal year
  5. I ended up  being top 5 and the only female to reach 250k

I am still in complete shock due to the project being so long this year. I think it will sink in even more once we all get through the Drake Passage and have the awards ceremony in the Beagle Channel.

I am mostly thrilled at how this is and can continue to inspire women and individuals to get outside and explore. I am so thrilled at the final push from everyone to help out by donating to the LmyeLight Foundation. THANK YOU!

Thank you everyone for your love, support and messages!

Jax

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Merrily Manthey

Posted On: 28 Nov 2016 03:42 AM

You are such an inspiration !! I hope you will write a book telling the reader all about the Grand Slam Plus and your phenomenal achievement. You are a very fine writer. Reading your blog entries is a complete vicarious thrill. I have met a number of champions but non as amazing as you. First, you maintain your mental state. Of course you maintain your physical fitness as a world champion. Third, you have a commitment to Limelight. You are totally awesome to raise awareness and money for such an important cause. Thank you for doing that. Congratulations !! Merrily Your Avid Fan
Stage 5

26th November 2016 01:09 AM[(GMT-03:00) Buenos Aires, Georgetown]

Hey!

WHAT A DAY!! WOW! After a break yesterday as the day was cut short at 15.2k, it made today a lot more important to jam out as many kilometres as I could in 6 hours as I really want to join the boys in making it to 250k by the finish line. Yesterday we enjoyed some time with my fellow American friends celebrating Thanksgiving. Sat phones were down so my attempts at calling did not work. I guess we have been too far south for almost 3 days to get and satellite connections. The upside is I just came back to so many beautiful messages from people. THANK YOU!!

Today started early with a 5:30am wakeup call to get the race started as close to 7:30 as possible. Out here that includes breakfast (such a lucky plus), and then packing up a race bag and drop bag, then a course briefing followed by a process to clean our boots and then board zodiac boats to get to the race site. Today was another challenging day. The loop was 3.1k and all in was 5,800 feet of climbing. The weather here is 32F / 0C so the snow is not the easiest to navigate through. Each day for the past three days, we tend to spend the first loop or two just packing out the track a bit. Today I was honoured to run the first 4 loops with Kyle, which were his last 4 loops. It was really exciting to see him come to the finish line as the first male.

All day I pushed and pushed and never let up to get every kilometre I could. I never let up and only stopped twice on the tarp to eat a snickers. Here you must eat your snacks at the tarp due to rules in Antarctica. I will jump more into that when we start to sail home and the running is complete.

Absolutely everything hurts right now. Sunburnt lips and face, swollen feet, strained tendons, strained Achilles, tight and sore legs that throb all night long, and then for some reason my body always decides to have another period. We all just waddle around the boat like penguins. Our bodies are completely wrecked and I really don’t know how we get up each day to do it all over again. There are so many moments that you push snooze and toss and turn in utter exhaustion not sure how you will get up. But the will and might of the goals of making history, inspiring the masses and pushing to raise funds and awareness for the LymeLight Foundation soon make you fly out of bed and get after it.

I cannot believe that I am 4k away from a goal that has taken a full year with so many sub goals that are also going to occur. I am in total shock really.

So now we have set sail for 16 hours to head to Half Moon Bay for the finish. I am finally excited to run in the snow and celebrate those victory laps with honour and pride. Folks will have around 3.5 hours to try to get to 250k and then at the end we will all share moments of victory together to a really hard week of work in the toughest race of them all.

So now we rest once more and take in the epic views on our sail. It is an incredible day with epic weather and we are soaking in every minute of the sail. The sun never really goes down all of the way here so we are able to enjoy a lot of time viewing the sea as we sail. Even when our whole body is so sore and we cannot sleep.

Thank you everyone for the messages and positive vibes and love this week. Most loaded today. To celebrate my victory tomorrow, please consider making a donation to the LymeLight Foundation through my auxiliary fundraising page that you can find the link on Facebook or in my Instagram profile. That would mean more than anything!

Cheers,

Jax

Comments: Total (1) comments

Charles Allred

Posted On: 27 Nov 2016 18:54 PM

Congrats on your victory. What an awesome accomplishment.
Stage 4

25th November 2016 09:51 AM[(GMT-03:00) Buenos Aires, Georgetown]

Hey there folks

 

Stage 4 came upon us with an extra-long rest and on Thanksgiving (Happy Birthday Lance)! The whole concept turns when you now start to calculate how many kilometres you have and how many are left. Once you hit 250k, you are finished. I began the day at 193.6k. The loop today was 3.8k on a glacier in Dorian Bay. There were so many penguins and they looked so happy in their element. Some walking around, others sliding on their bellies, some swimming and others snuggled together standing. The stage was my favourite yet. After taking the first 3.8k to pack down the snow, it was the most runnable course yet. The top half of the course was windy and a bit of a concern if they would cancel. Having experience in those conditions I just bundled up and enjoyed the running track. To finish in the 7 hours we had today, I would need to do 57kms. I was mentally focused to pick off as many as I could to make tomorrow a really short day.

 

Low and behold as I started to come in to loop 4 there was a line of folks with their drop bags approaching the zodiac boat =(.  The wind was too dangerous to continue and the day was cut short. I am not sure if it is a Thanksgiving gift to get to eat more and nap a lot from the universe, but I will take the rest and enjoy a 15.2k day =)

 

So therefore the new total to try to reach between tomorrow and Saturday is 41.2k. I hope I can make it as an extra plus to it all.

 

Now, to take advantage of the extra time to rest and enjoy the sights of this pristine location at sea. We are currently moving slowly and pushing through ice. It is surreal. Every once in a while you will see a seal resting on an ice burg. The sights here are epic! Jaw dropping really.

 

I will share more when I have energy and have completed the running mission and we will set sail back. This race has taken all of my energy and might. My body is wrecked. This is the hardest race of them all by far.

 

Cheers folks and more to come,

Jax  

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Stage 1 And 2

23rd November 2016 01:24 AM[(GMT-03:00) Buenos Aires, Georgetown]

Hey there folks,

I am not really sure where to start here. I am sitting in the observation lounge on our typical cyber tent tablets as my legs throb from 127.8km run in the past two days. Everyone is trashed, walking around like zombies and sore. The format is quite different here at The Last Desert. Personally for me, it is really taxing on your body. Due to the risk of bad weather coming in at any given time, there is a huge push for very long days if the weather is good. Thus, day 1 was 79.8km and today ended with 48. Now add in extremely challenging terrain with slushy slow, crusty snow, mud, sand, and a roughly 5 kilo pack. Last night we finished at 8pm, dinner at 9, stretch, recover, shower (such a gift), and pack for today. We went to bed at around 11:40pm and then woke at 5am to run by 8:30.

The loop yesterday was 11.4k in a boomerang style. It was fun but exhausting and our first day wrapping ourselves around the idea of running in loops. The terrain was really hard due to the snow being soft and slushy from warmer weather. Then there were roads that melted and had a mix of snow and running water so having dry feet was out of the question. The weather was magical I guess for that area. Super special for us and allowed us to run foreeeeeeever and a joy for all of those that live at the various research facilities. As the day rolled on, I began to struggle quite a bit with my IT band cramping up and pulling on my knee. Not so fun =( then it became endurance, strength and pain management. I was really afraid.

Today was really hard with little sleep. I rolled half of the night trying to loosen up my legs while we were at sea all night until 6am. I was so worried my IT band would tighten up again and knew a big day was ahead. The loop was on deception Island and was 2.9k long. This already was going to be  challenge with the loop being so small. At 10 loops in we swapped directions. This also helped us to see where we were at with competition. I took it easy to just get myself back together for tomorrow. I am not glad that I did because we just found out we will try to run from 9:30am-8pm. Weather permitting, yet it is looking good again.

Tonight we will be at sea for 15 hours until 7 or 8am. Depends on ice that they may have to navigate around. Cool eh? It is currently snowing outside. Many runners are hoping that it will keep snowing because we are so sore…

I am so tired with so little recovery ahead. It is taking everything in me to compete and be in the lead in the end. This has been the hardest race for me by far.

I will write much more once we wrap up the running. There is so much to tell. Send good vibes and successful thoughts my way for tomorrow.

Time to keep focused and power through.

Jax

Comments: Total (4) comments

Suan Lam Koh

Posted On: 25 Nov 2016 06:04 AM

Wow! So envious of you for all the experience that you are going through. Enjoy enjoy! You are doing well and I am sure you are going to come in great in good standing at the time of the whole expedition! :) All the way Jax!

Angela Krause

Posted On: 24 Nov 2016 05:53 AM

Do your best Jaxx, I'm sending all my energy your way. Stay as strong as you are awesome...which is a lot

Gunnar Faehn

Posted On: 23 Nov 2016 14:39 PM

Fascinating to read, Jax. You almost brought me back to Antarctica. Conditions so far seems to be very much like the year I did the race. Hope your knee will behave well - good luck! Gunnar

Merrily Manthey

Posted On: 23 Nov 2016 04:11 AM

Wow Jax !! You're doing GREAT and I know you'll rest well tonight so, as you say, you will power on with great joy !!
Land Is In Sight

21st November 2016 02:04 AM[(GMT-03:00) Buenos Aires, Georgetown]

Hey folks,

The journey has begun. We have been at sea for 37 hours and boy have we been lucky. On our journey at sea, 48 hour of the 2.5 day journey is at the Drake Passage. The Drake passage is known as the roughest seas in the world. So rough that you don’t even want to leave your cabin. Low and behold we must have brought some runners luck with us as this has been very calm compared. We are still rolling from side to side, but we are able to get around and enjoy the ship while at sea. Every day we have breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as a treat at 4pm. The ship is beautiful and we are all really enjoying being together. We all cannot wait to begin running as so many of us are at the last phase of a year long journey in the Grand Slam or Grand Slam Plus. Others also will join the 4 Deserts club if this race is the last one and they completed the others at any time in the past. The food is great and the beds are really comfortable. We are even spoiled with hot showers.

I am so excited to begin running. This is one long taper. It make me want to run around outside the ship. Word is we will be able to see land around 6pm and will drop anchor near Antarctica at 10pm about 10 hours left to travel.

The trip is going really well so far, and I haven’t experienced any sea sickness. I am so glad about that. I am continuing to do my core, glute work with a TRX that I brought and rolling to stay fresh.

That’s it for now. I cannot wait to start picking off the miles to achieve big goals and make history.

Jax

Comments: Total (3) comments

Megan Stewart

Posted On: 22 Nov 2016 19:08 PM

jax - you are rocking this one - amazing first stage !!!. amazing place - you will love deception Island - OMG - one of my fav places. Keep at it, enjoy and a massive hug to ya xxx

Erika Marcum

Posted On: 22 Nov 2016 16:47 PM

GO JAX!!!!! Love and energy from Colorado for you on this journey. xoxo ~erika

Lance Koudele

Posted On: 22 Nov 2016 00:41 AM

Ya Jax! So excited for you. Loki sends his best snow running energy! He told me he WISHES he could run with you there... it's been his dream to chase penguins his entire life. Love you doll... run like the wind. Lance
The Last Desert - The Final Stage In A Year Long Quest

18th November 2016 10:07 AM[(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Hey Folks

Just like that, The Last Desert is upon us. The completion of a year long quest to become the first woman in the world to complete the 4 Deserts Grand Slam Plus.

As I type this note, I am looking at our boat docked at the port that we will live on for the next 10 days. What a rush eh?!?!

The journey is going to be a tough one at points as we adventure through the Drake Passage and some of the roughest seas in the world. We have all of our sea sickness medicine lined up to try to conquer the odds and end up 2.5 days later in one piece.

From there, the journey will begin with the long day as the first day. The goal will be to run around 100k if possible. Each day in The Last Desert is weather dependent. Antarctica can have variable weather and change in a moments notice. At any time that can end the day.

Final preparations take place today with last minute shopping in the town of Ushuaia, a team meeting at 12 noon and then we will embark at 4pm.

I am so excited, nervous, and beyond for this journey. The training is in the bag and has been complete. From here it is time to rest up and enjoy the long journey at sea.

I am ready to get out there and give my last push. Here are the goals at hand:

1. Become the first woman in the world to complete the Grand Slam Plus

2. Become the female champion at The Last Desert

3. Be crowned the 2016 4 Deserts Champion

4. Raise at least 10k for the LymeLight Foundation

Just one of these goals is a huge feat, let alone all four. I am so honored to have the potential and be in a position to try to get them all in 10 days time. As the year comes to a close I want to take this first post to showcase information about Lyme Disease and the LymeLight Foundation. Please joing me by donating to help provide a medical grant for a child or young adult to gain the medical care they need to get better here: https://lymelightfoundation.org/auxiliary-event/4-deserts-grand-slam-plus/

ABOUT THE LYMELIGHT FOUNDATION AND LYME DISEASE
The LymeLight Foundation provides medical grants to children and young adults under the age of 25 that are suffering from Lyme Disease. To date they have currently raised $2.1M. The grants help children to get the medical care that they need as insurance to this date does not cover it. Often times families go broke trying to help their children out. Lyme Disease is the fastest growing infectious disease in the world. Here are some other facts and information:
WHAT IS IT: Lyme Disease is an infection caused by the spirochete bacteria - Borrelia Burgdorferi. Lyme Disease has 6 times more new cases each year than HIV/AIDS yet receives less than 1% of the funding. There are 300k new cases each year in the USA alone. That is 1.5 times more than the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer.
HOW IS IT TRANSMITTED: Lyme Disease is typically transmitted through the bite of an infected tick. The most common carrier is the backlogged deer tick, Ixodes Scapularis. However, various types of ticks have been known to transmit the disease, and can be found in all fifty states and 6 continents. Ticks often carry other co-infections such as Babesia, Bartonella and Chrlichia.
LYME DISEASE TESTING: Because Lyme disease evades the immune system, Lyme disease is only detectable by conventional testing when it sin the earliest stages. If the bacteria infection becomes chronic, the rate of false-negatives in testing increases exponentially. These ticks, often the size of a poppy seed, can leave an undetectable bite. Some cases will create a red bullseye effect around the area. The medical community is conflicted on treatment guidelines. Therefore, health insurance often does not cover the treatment for Chronic Lyme Disease. Fewer than 50% of patients with Lyme Disease recall a tick bite or any rash.
LYME DISEASE SYMPTOMS: Fatigue, neck stiffness or pain, jaw discomfort, muscle pain, joint aches like arthritis - typically in the knees, swollen glands, memory loss, cognitive confusion, vision problems, digestive issues, headaches, and fainting.
LYME DIESAESE TREATMENT: When detected early in its stage, Lyme Disease is treatable with an appropriate course of antibiotic therapy. If undetected and untreated, the bacteria replicates and the disease progresses into its late stages, becoming chronic. Treatment for Chronic Lyme disease is prolonged and complex. Patients often require years of intensive conventional and alternative therapies to fight the infection, recover immune function, and gain strength.
Lyme disease is a worldwide infectious disease and has been reported in all 50 states and every Continent but Antarctica.

OTHER FACTS:
Children are at the highest risk of contracting Lyme Disease and are more vulnerable to central nervous system infections.
Transmission of Lyme Disease can happen in a matter of minutes, particularly if the tick is not removed properly.
Lyme Disease has been called “The Great Imitator” and can be mistaken for ALS, MS, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism, and other illnesses.
Studies show that standard laboratory tests recommended by the CDC to diagnose Lyme Disease miss approximately half of the actual cases, leading to misdiagnosis and an infection that is more difficult to treat.
Over 63% of patients treated for Lyme Disease continue to suffer symptoms that can be debilitating.

 

Comments: Total (1) comments

Merrily Manthey

Posted On: 20 Nov 2016 21:25 PM

Breathless !! Your goals leave me breathless and also confident in Jax The Wonder Woman.