My Thoughts

Gobi March

The Day After

June 15, 2012

​Body definitely feeling the effects of the long stage today.  Ankle is very swollen.  Dr. Nancy diagnosed me with a left high ankle sprain and strained achilles and has it tightly wrapped in RWL blue for tomorrow. Cant put much weight on it at all. Thank God for the day off. Looks like I have a 1 minute 18 second lead over seventh position. Why does that always have to be the case? Was really hoping tomorrows stage would be a casual 9 mile stroll to the finish but that wouldnt be my style anyway. Gonna go out and do everything I can to hold onto the position but Johns been real strong this race and if the ankle becomes too painful Im shutting it down. No reason to risk major injury at this stage in the game.

Other than that all is great. Feel strong and healthy with no stomach issues.  Overall this race has been run very well and the cooler temps and tremendous medical care has kept the dropouts and camp illnesses to a minimum. Great sense of pride - our tent had all ten of us finish. Thats a huge accomplishment and speaks to the comraderie, support and growing friendships between us.  Id like to specifically recognize Tara Gaston, Sarah Lord and Geoff Heald for being absolute warriors and not giving up despite fighting through a number of injuries and foot problems over the course of the week.

Our camp today is set against a lush meadow of green sheep covered fields covered and amongst a number of billowing willow-esque trees.  Looks like a portrait of Sherwood forest.  Temperature is perfect and skies are clear.  Guess you could say today is my official one day of R&R on this trip with lots of napping, stretching, chilling and dreaming of eating anything non-prepackaged or dehydrated.  Would kill for a burger, a couple beers and a clean pair of shorts but we shall have to wait another 24 hours for that.

Just wanted to thank everyone one last time for your extraordinary support this week.  So above and beyond. I cant say or stress that enough. No matter what it is in life...I think its incredible to see so many people from so many different walks of life and situations united behind a single cause.  Theres nothing more powerful.  At the same time we can always work harder and we can always do more. I feel extremely blessed to be a part of this special family...The MAGIC Family...and I look forward to continuing to do my small part to help advance the mission on behalf of the families (you) into the future.

BIG ONE IN THE BOOKS…

June 15, 2012

​What an amazing day on so many levels.  The Long March is usually a mental chessmatch with a multitude of highs/lows and this one was no different. Day started off with a 2 hour bus ride to the starting line so we would begin the stage closer to the host town of Kashgar. While we all hated the idea of a mid-race busride earlier in the week it was a welcome opportunity to get some zzzzss outside our increasingly cold and smelly tent.  Things kicked off at 10am local time with 75kms staring us in the face.  My approach to this day never changes...break it down checkpoint by checkpoint (there were eight of them today) keep running keep running keep running and eventually youll get there.

Again like the past three days I couldnt keep up with the pace upfront. Legs totally thrashed and in dire need of four or five days rest.  But Ive felt very strong physically. So I just plodded. And grinded. Between CP 1 and 2 we had more rollers with some steep climbs and feeling good and knowing the terrain was preventing a fast pace I used this opportunity to gain on the pack.  I spotted Justus, Anne Marie, Phillipe and John Ross out in the distance walking up a long hill.  So I started stalking them.  Seeing competitors in the distance walking can give you such a mental pick-me-up...just as seeing a competitor run away from you has the opposite effect.  I pursued hard and finally passed all four to pull into third place.  I tried hard to bury them Prefontaine style but they stayed on my heels and passed me back about ten minutes later.  Within 30 minutes they were out of site.

From CP3 to CP4 it was real struggle with more running through rocky riverbeds that took a major toll on the ankle. I struggled and lost a few more places. Again...gutcheck time.  For what seems like the 100th time this week.  Always just try to chop it out when feeling bad and wait for it to pass.  Once we got to the top of another long climb we started descending and would be running generally downhill for the final 30k. I opened it up and started feeling good.  So I pressed hard.  The fact that we were starting to countdown the mileage instead of up helped as well.  Had a stretch of about ten miles that felt simply amazing.  Got the confidence back that I could maybe turn in a good day.  Then immediately after CP6 the weather got nasty, winds starting ripping and a real-life sandstorm took hold.  It was so crazy running directly into it. Sand was getting into my eyes, mouth, ears, pretty much everywhere. Got some incredible footage though.  At this point I was just walking with my hands up trying to get through it. Gave the legs a nice breather.

When I got to CP7 I was told we had 8.5km to the finish and two competitors were 12 minutes ahead of me. I also knew if I could lay this distance down in 46 minutes Id have a shot of breaking nine hours.  So I went out really hard.  Within ten minutes I spotted the two competitors in the distance run/walking.  That got me fired up.  I kept picking up the pace faster and faster as this five mile stretch could define my race.  I passed both of them with two miles to go and sprinted all the way across the finish screaming like a total lunatic and letting out UofT warcry after warcry.  Havent seen the final times yet but I missed breaking nine hours by less than a minute.  But the stretch run did get me into fifth for the day and I believe back into sixth overall for the event.  Couldnt be happier about it and I owe so much of it to each of you!!!

I was thinking about this during the run but I think what I love most about these races (and ultrarunning/endurance racing in general) is that its the only sport I can think of (at least now in a state of total exhaustion) where professionals, amateurs and average dudes like me all take the field of battle together.  And bc theres no prize money involved, more so just a sense of comraderie, self-discovery and accomplishment, that while many ultrarunners are firecely competitive they are also equally supportive.  I think back to the five races Ive run now and to all the winners - Paolo Barghini, Ryan Sandes, Salvo Redondo, Anders Jensen, and now Vicente - Ive honestly never met more humble collection of champions in my life.  All great guys.  All supportive of everyone who participates in this sport.  Makes me very proud to be a part of it all.

Thats it for now on this end.  We have a day to chill in camp tomorrow, rest and take in the beautiful scenery as the final competitors finish through the night and into the morning.  Saturday we have 15km left to the finish and then let the celebration begin.  What a special week. Not much more to say.

EPIC DAY 4 / THE LONG MARCH AWAITS

June 14, 2012

​What a rollercoaster. I could write an entire essay on todays action if I had a little more time.  But here goes my 15 mins.  We started Leg 4 with a very steep climb to Shiptons Arch. I was wrong yesterdays camp was at 7500 so we got north of 8000ft on the climb.  Altitude again made it difficult to sleep last night. Knowing we had a long day in front of us we paced ourselves appropriately.  And I must say it was magnificient. I was so blown away by the view I didnt care how much time I wasted taking photos. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Hope it doesnt become an overly commercialized tourist destination in a few years.

After descending out of the canyon the race was on.  And it was a monster.  For the next six miles all we did was climb and descend steep ridges and lengthy mountain passes.  Again the terrain was very steep, very technical and the footing was awful. I fell time and time again. Often on my rear, many times on my shoulder and a few times face first. As did many of the other competitors I saw out there. On the way up your feet would slide out from under you and you were on all fours.  On the way down you simply couldnt keep your footing so you just slid down many of the declines on your bum. That is if you didnt trip or stub your toe first. Must say those nice leisurely 20 mile training runs around the Charles in Boston are useless out here. Physically Ive taken quite a beating in this race. Maybe not quite as bad as Australia but close. The coolest part of the course was runnning several ridgelines that couldnt be more than 1.5 or 2 feet wide with severe dropoffs on each side. Scary and happy to have not taken a major plunge. But the vistas overlooking the valleys, towns and mountains in the distance were fantastic. Felt almost like running in the clouds.

Around mile 7 about two miles from the checkpoint I took a bad step and rolled my left ankle hard.  I immediately went to the ground in pain.  I sat there with my shoe off for about five minutes trying to shake it off and got very upset in the process as fellow competitors passed me. I got back up and started limping on one foot while I shouted obscenities into the air.  I thought my race could be over at that point.  When I finally made it to CP2 I was furious. I demanded 800mg of IBs immediately and then very bluntly told the volunteers to get me fired up at all costs.  Tell me how big a wimp I was being, etc. They even gave me a couple blows to the chest. It was comical.  But it also got me going again.  By the time I left that checkpoint the adrenaline was flowing full force and I was running with anger.  The pain in the ankle slowly started subsiding. Partially from the drugs but mostly from the adrenaline rush. If your reading Eichhorn it was kind of like our Yardsale moment.

The next 7 miles I went on a terror flying past four competitors like they were standing still.  We had a long slow descent through a riverbed till the next checkpoint and finally had some runable terrain.  I made the most of it cranking on pure adrenaline with goosebumps on my arms and and no thoughts in my head.  Just pure flow.  The legs felt like they did day 1 again.  That 45 minute stretch might end up being the highlight of this race for me.  Every once in a while you get in one of those zones where you feel invincible and its a special feeling.  I barreled into CP3 on top of the world.

Unfortunately that ended quickly as we had about 10 river crossing immediately after.  The water was ice cold and by the time I got through them the legs felt like bricks again and I came off that high.  The last seven miles were a slug and I started getting a little delirious and dehydrated out there.  I swear I saw two snakes but then realized one was a hose and one was a curled stick. Ended up finishing the day in 7th place to go with a 3rd, 6th and 8th. Gotta say Im very happy with the way things have gone so far...especially considering my lack of altitude training and technical running skills. 

On the lighter side its getting pretty filthy around camp.  Our tent smells like a combination of B.O., canned salmon, parmesian cheese and muscle rub. Its not pretty.  Ive been in the same clothes all week and just feel gross.  Funniest moment of the week so far happened this morning when my tentmate Jeff got up and in his morning daze grabbed his hanging compression shorts and left the tent to put them on.  When he returned he immediately commented on how nice and comfortable they felt. Then we realized they were Sarah Lords shorts.  She was mortified having to put them on after Jeff worked em in. Cant stress just how nasty that is.  Another day in the desert.

Now that were through the worst of the technical stuff Im pumped.  Tomorrow is the long stage.  Its approximately 50 miles and mostly flat which should help the runners not the climbers. My goal for tonight...get the ankle taped, eat as much food as I can, take as many IBs as I can, avoid renal failure and go out tomorrow and put up an effort that I can be proud of looking back 10 years from now.

Mary/Jamie/Dianne and all MAGIC Families - cant thank you enough for all the support and the personal stories. Helps so much to hear from you.  There will be a story posted on the RTP site under features on the MAGIC Foundation in the next day.

Horvath - well said brother.  Thx for the shot.  Send my best to the fam and tell Luci I said hi!

Pops - great sports update. I was in serious need. Always come through in the clutch.

Ford - If something happens tomorrow...remember...he would have wanted it this way....

Steveo/Maxine - glad things are cranking in upstate...looking forward to my trip west end of the month

Chmiel out...

HALFWAY HOME

June 12, 2012

​Well were finally halfway home here in the desert.  The light at the end of the tunnel is very dim and about 130k away.  And there are a lot of obstacles (most noteably mountains) in the way.  But at least its there.  They told us today would be a relatively straightforward day before the two hardest legs of the race. Not so much. Today was 36km and involved 4000ft of climbing and 1300ft of descending for a net gain of 2700ft.  And were now at 5800ft altitude so its noticeable. The terrain today was essentially all rocks about the size of grapefruits and it seemed like all we did was run up and down a myriad of canyons and crevices. I felt great this morning after a decent night rest and was hoping to put up a good number today.  And God willing I was able to. But it seemed like I had to work way too hard to do so. The highlight of today was the final 1500ft climb from CP3 to the finish. It was straight uphill for 8.5km.  I was in ninth place at the time and trailing the eigth place competitor by seven minutes. My goal for the final stretch was to just chop it out and attempt to catch him.  And I finally got him about half a mile from the finish. A nice small mental victory.  Unfortunately at this point the legs are completely shot and just dont have the spring Id like to run faster. But as they say it is what it is. There are no days to recover now.  So just got to keep battling.  And despite many rolled ankles, kicked stones and bad steps the feet/ankles are hanging in there. As are the ST5s.

Tomorrow is supposedly the hardest leg of the race as it involves 42km of very technical terrain.  A lot of it will be climbing and scrambling.  The highlight will be running through Shiptons Arch (also known as Heavens Gate) which is the tallest natural archway in the world.  Supposedly taller than the Empire State Building.  We shall see but Im sure its going to be quite a challenge.  Im hoping to just survive tomorrow with no major blowouts and stay around the top 5 to gear up for the 50-mile day.  Historically thats been my best stage as it will be flat and ultimately comes down to who wants it most.

Thx again to everyone for the extraordinary support. Cant tell you how much it means or how big a smile it places on my face.  Wish I had more time to read through them all but theres generally a line 15 deep waiting to get on the computers.  And there are only five.  Safe to say I take my sweet time though.

Aunt Aud - Please sent Uncle Bern my best wishes.  Cant imagine the pain hes dealing with right now but let him know hes in my thoughts.  I know his road will be a long one.  And as I know he wont quit nor will I. 

THE NOT SO HEAVYWEIGHT SLUGFEST

June 11, 2012

​I’d like to define today as a heavyweight slugfest but at 160lbs and losing weight rapidly by the hour that would be a complete fabrication.  Nevertheless I took some serious body blows out there.  The day started off miserably as I again failed to sleep last night.  I was weak, exhausted and had zero giddy up in the legs.  Quads full of lactic acid from burning it yesterday.  On top of that I took two solid falls in the first 6 miles….one head first into a thorn bush that sliced up my right forearm pretty good.  After that I was pretty dejected and competitors were passing me at will.  The terrain was very technical as we were climbing up and down steep canyons covered by loose rock.  It took a lot out of you.  I slipped all the way back from 4th to 12th position and was in danger of putting up a really bad number today.  Fortunately I relied on my experience (for a change) and kept telling myself it’s a long race and I’d break through this wall sooner or later. So no need to force it.  Right before CP2 around mile 12 a Roctane combined with Flock of Seagulls on the ipod got the juices flowing a little.  Legs started to loosen up and I started making a move.

Over the next 12 miles I managed to overtake six competitors.  The last 11k stretch home was a very steep 3k climb followed by a nice downhill into camp.   I chopped it out on the way up doing one minute running/thirty second walking intervals.  Then at the peak I told myself not to walk one more step until I crossed the line.  And I didn’t.  Came home bombing the downhill for 40 minutes straight and finishing strong.  So all in all I’ll call stage 2 a draw.

While today’s overall result was worse than yesterday I’m more proud of my effort considering I had my C- game and could’ve quit on the day because I sure as hell wanted to.  It’s funny no matter how many of these races you do they never get any easier.  I guess as time passes you forget about how much pain you’ve endured in the past and somehow expect it won’t reappear next time round.  But that couldn’t be further from the truth.  This is brutal.  And we’re only through two days.

At this point I’ll be relying on my inner strength and constantly reflecting on the cause at hand to get through the dark moments.  Its only going to get harder at this point.  But at least we’ve made a small dent now.  Again I can’t thank all of you enough for your support.  And I’m super pumped for The MAGIC Foundation fundraiser were hosting in Boston in late July so we can continue to advance the cause. 

OPENING ROUND 67

June 10, 2012

​Have to say Im pretty pumped with todays round.  Got off to a good start holing a 20-footer for bird on the first and sticking it tight on the third for a tap-in.  Got up and down from the thick stuff a couple times in the middle of the round to keep the momentum going.  And despite three-putting for bogey late (ala Phil Mickelson) when I took a bad step and got soaked in a river crossing I was able to make a few good strokes down the stretch and finish a strong 3rd for the day.

It was absolute pristine conditions out here.  Clear, cool, dry and very windy.  I went out like a freight training running my first two miles at a 6:30 pace.  I maintained the lead for about 5k until Vicente and Mo passed me on a climb. Those two are absolute freaks and will be virtually impossible to beat unless something goes wrong. I settled into a solid 7:30 pace for the majority until the last 7 miles where we turned into a brisk headwind.  I now understand why its the windiest desert on the planet.  Made the day a lot harder than it shouldve been.  Last three miles Anne Marie was bearing down on me hard so I had to keep the pedal down and barely held her off.  Shes tough. 

Overall Ive gotta be happy with my performance today.  The terrain was very rocky and you never know what can happen on day one.  Case and point my good friend Stephanie took a monster fall and is now blogging next to me with dried blood on her hands and knees.  The rocks definitely took its toll on the feet and ankle. Soles of my feet are very sore.  Little concerned about the ST5s making it through the week. Probably shouldve opted for a little more shoe. Otherwise I feel good physically and am ready for a much harder day tomorrow.

Todays day finished in the town of Tashpushka.  Again we were greeted by an overwhelming amount of local support at the finish. You have to wonder if these people really understand what were doing or not.  But it feels great. And tonight we get to share sleeping quarters with the locals as they have opened up their huts to us. 

Gameplan for tomorrow...more of the same.  Need to focus on running my own race and not push beyond my limits with the leaders and blow myself out.  If you hang around long enough you never know what can happen.  And either way...Ive positioned myself well for a spot on the podium.  Tomorrow will be very important.

Thanks again everyone...we havent received any comments yet but I want to thank all those of you who are following along.  Obviously miss and love you all. 

ANOTHER ADVENTURE BEGINS

June 09, 2012

​Well its been a crazy 60 hours to say the least.  On top of four consecutive flights covering 40 hrs of travel time I managed to leave my passport in the seat pocket in front of me on my final leg from Urumqi to Kashi.  Its really not surprising considering how delirious and sleep deprived I was upon landing.  Most other competitors have been here for days/weeks acclimatizing.  Not Chmiel.  And the ironic thing – if I was in the states Id say my chances of recovery would’ve been very small.  But not in Western communist China.  After an exhaustive search for a translator, many people shaking their heads not having a clue what I was talking about and some serious black market negotiation at the airport the Passport was located on the ground in Urumqi last night and flown back to me on the last flight in.  What a break.  To that kind man at the airport I thank you.  And now as i meet fellow competitors for the first time im ‘that guy’ from Boston who lost his passport. Sweet.

So we just arrived to checkpoint 1 and I can say its nothing sort of spectacular.  Stepping foot off the bus we were greeted by hundreds of locals, military officials, children dancing in circles, etc.  That’s what really makes these events so special.  Were tucked away in a river bed surrounded by the majestic Tian Shian mountain range in all directions.  Phenomenal.  And im super stoked about my tent…cast of characters to say the least with inappropriate joke after inappropriate joke.  Thats what happens when you mix Americans, Brits, Aussies and South Africans in close quarters.

So Ive gotten a good look at the competition and it looks very tough.  There are 163 runners from 42 different countries in the field.  Ive confirmed at least four past champions. The Spaniard Vicente looks to be the heavy favorite.  Like all great ultra runners he’s incredibly fit and very light.  As is his pack. He’ll be very tough to keep up with but that’s what I’ll be attempting to do.  Got my pack down to 6 kilos.  By far the lightest its ever been.  Absolutely no frills or luxuries.  One pair of socks.  One pair of underwear.  One shirt.  For the entire week.  Happy I did go with a sleeping pad though as the terrain is very rocky.

Temperatures are expected to be warm but not scorchingly hot.  With tomorrow being the easiest stage of the race I expect the pace to be blistering.  I’m not sure what the total distance is yet but rumor is about 37k…or 23 miles.  I’m gonna go out hard and try to lay it down around 3 hours.  I didn’t come out here to take it easy.  Thx everyone for your continuous support.  Hope to report back tomorrow with good news.  Love you all.

Go C’s!!!!

ALIVE AND WELL IN GUONGZHOU…

June 07, 2012

​Survived the beast across the Pacific and so far no major hiccups. Have to say I've been very impressed with how outgoing, cordial and respectful the Chinese have been in welcoming "that guy" to their country. Aimlessly meandering through the airport with that look of utter stupidity while carrying a large pack with sleeping bag and water bottles attached doesn't really help you blend in. But nevertheless were here, were ticketed to the final destination in Kashi and were moving forward. This is the part of the adventure where the nerves and anxiety peak out and you usually start looking for excuses to justify a poor performance b/c deep down (even though you hate to admit it) you're a litte scared. Will i go out too hard? Will the heat get me? Will my ankle flare up? Will I get sick? Will I get lost? Will the competiton eat my lunch? Well this race I'm not thinking any negative thoughts heading in. I know this is a very strong and deep field of talented runners. But im ready. And I'm gonna embrace that challenge and attack it head on. I've trained harder than ever before and have made certain sacrifices required to compete at a very high level. And I'm going to go out there with no regrets and push myself to the edge - harder and faster than ever before. And whatever happens happens. I specifically want to thank a few people who've played a major role in getting me prepped for Gobi. Matt Hart, Jason Fowler and Jenn Phelan - thanks for your time and for pushing me equally hard on the trails, the bike, and the reformer. Brian Ford - thx for being there in so many ways. Ben Brunt and Terra Giddings - thx for all your help on the backend and for just being great friends. To my awesome friends at Zico - thx for keeping the muscles lubricated and the gas tank full. Proud to be a part of your team. Mama Chim - thx for helping add some organization to the tornado at 14.5. And to everyone else whose contined to support me and The MAGIC Foundation my heart goes out to you and I can't thank you enough for your inspiration. It's you who I run for.

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