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The Black Desert March

October 30, 2009

​Sitting in this tent at 9:00am local time feeling awful but so full of emotions and absolutely blown away by what weve all been able to achieve here.  Other competitors are joking with me bc we receive the comments each day on an excel doc (no internet access) and Im receiving close to 1/3rd of the comments for all the competitors in the entire race.  The support has been overwhelming and whenever they set up the cybertent Im sprinting over here (albeit awkwardly with a limp) to read them ASAP.  So thanks everyone again for the unreal support.

First off...this race is beyond insane.  It has been exponentially harder than I ever imagined it could be in my worst nightmares.  The heat out here is suffocating and relentless...knocking competitors out every day.  If the 5-8 mile stretches of super soft sand doesnt put you under than the intense up/down hill climbes on the rocks can surely deliver the death blow as you slice your feet open.  Your pack pounds on you every day, wearing you down and sapping you of your strength.  And on top of that, everyone is dehydrated, everyone is behind on calories, and everyones legs are so blown out after the second day that we are all running at a fraction of top speed.   A couple of the faster runners here (1:15 half marathon times as a proxy) that can really burn it have done great on one or a couple of the stages but have succombed to the elements at one point or another.  And with that...all the time/effort/sacrifice over the last months and years goes out the window with the DQ.   You cant afford a bad day and you cant give in just once and thats the biggest challenge.  But what we have working for us is the unbelievable unity between the competitors, the race staff/organizers, the locals and everyone else associated with this world class event.  And without this teammwork I highly doubt anyone gets this thing done.  This whole experience has been so vast trying to put it in words does it zero justice.

So for yesterday:  They decided to do a stagerred start for the final stage sending the peloton out at 6:00am and the top 16 out at 9:00am.  So by the time our day started it was really hot.  My game plan was simple.  To run as much of the 55miles as I possibly could.  And to do that...I had to be very careful in the heat of the day.  So I came out of the blocks 10/16 and planned to stay there most of the first 20 miles just running strong 10:30 min/miles on fairly flat terrain. Biding my time.  The terrain was mostly a flat plateau looking out in every direction that seemed to have no end.  About 22 miles or so in, there was a glimpse of green in the distance.  As I got closer you could start making out palm trees.  This wasnt just an oasis, it was the El Ris Oasis that seemed to extend for miles in every direction as far as the eye could see.  The water of life and an entire village supported by it.  You had to descend about 1500 feet down a mountain off the bluff to get there.  So fired up by the site I ran down that thing at almost a full sprint.  At the bottom there were about 12-15 little African children waiting for us and cheering us on.  I grabbed a little boy and little girls hand and ran a couple hundred yards with them.  Obviously we couldnt understand each other but we were singing and dancing.  The little boy then pointed up at my ear, I thought he wanted to see my earphones but of course he was motioning for my ridiculous red/yellow sunglasses.  I gave them to him a gift and received a huge hug back in return.  That moment is probably what Ill remember most from this journey.

After getting to checkpoint four and coming down off that high I crashed  hard.  The next six miles were all dunes/soft sand at the heat of the day.  I had to do the run/walk and save whatever energy I had left.  After being passed by Ash/Martin and a few other competitors I was feeling beaten.  I managed to struggle to checkpoint five knowing I have been on the course for over 6 hours and still had over another marathon to run.  This was my time to turn it around.  Even though I felt sick I forced down another terrible granola packaged meal and a cliff bar and took a boatload of electrolytes.  The time was now.

With the sun starting to get lower and the temperature cooling off some I managed to find another gear.  I dont know how but I mentally forced the lactic acid buildup to go away with my adrenaline rush and I started cruising in the push for home.  From miles 32 - 54 no one was faster than me on the entire course.  I flew past Tobias (leader heading into the stage who was having heat issues).  I caught Ash about 10 miles down the course and Martin about 15 miles down the course and didnt even pick my head up.  One of the coolest moments of my life being in the absolute zone just driving for home and feeling no pain 10 hours deep.  Did have a brief scare as I hit checkpoint seven and realized my electrolytes and light sources had fallen out of my pack but I kept rolling until I found another competitor to borrow a headlamp from.  In typical fashion, the racingtheplanet organizers didnt make it easy on us placing the camp site at the top of a massive steep sand dune.  I ferociously crawled up it on all fours while gasping for air.  There it was, the finish line.  Today there were no war cries.  I passed it and collapsed head first in the sand.  I had been running so beyond my limits for so long on pure adrenaline that my body immediately caught up.  The med staff brought me over to the tent and I shivered/shaked/sweated profusely for the next few hours.  Ive never gone into shock but if this wasnt it was pretty damm close.

With all that I completed the Black Desert March in 11:22 (4hrs 38mins ahead of my goal) finishing 6th on the day and finishing in the top-5 overall for the competition.  Get ready Luci - Uncle George has a pretty cool present coming home for you!


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