This one’s for you BIG P…
March 11, 2011
4th place today. Strongest run of my life. Came in well below 10 hours. If I had 100 shots at this course no way I complete it a second quicker. To our good friend upstairs – thanks for NOT ALLOWING me to walk today. Many people who read this might not believe it or think I’m exaggerating but that wouldn’t be accurate and I don’t care. My low battery notice hit my ipod with 25+km to go before even reaching checkpoint 5. I got upset b/c that always means you get a couple more songs and then its dead. We all know that to be fact. I was really hurting then in the heat of the day and desperately needed it. Yet somehow, someway it lasted over 3 more hours and was still playing when I crossed the finish line. Wasn’t like I had it plugged in to some magic solar charger. Something bigger was at work here and I know that was you upstairs keeping the beats rolling ensuring I didn’t quit. It brought me to tears when the Braveheart theme played 5 miles from the finish and I realized what was going on. We all love you and miss you lots. Thanks for carrying me today. Saturday we walk that grand ole American Flag across the finish line together.
Highlight of the day – Broke the aforementioned “thoroughbred” 9 hours in with two miles to go in a dead sprint on a downhill without even acknowledging his presence. No need to look back…he wasn’t going to be there. My heart rate had to be in the 180’s for the last 15 minutes. Can’t even begin to explain how good it felt to return the favor. That move gave me a stranglehold on 4th place overall, which is absurd for a backyard athlete with terrible running form like myself.
The Day After…
March 11, 2011
Feels weird getting out of the tent this morning with no mission in place. No responsibility. No pressure. No fear of failure. No potential reward. I already miss the challenge of seeing how much my mind and body can endure and attempting to best my previous results. Then again Im not entirely insane and Id be lying if I didnt say how good it feels to have a day off to rest the legs. The last competitors just crossed the finish line a full 26 hours later. Talk about a long day....and an even longer night. The intense pain in their eyes mixed with that awesome feeling of perserverance and self-fulfillment as they cross the finish line is the spirit that defines these races...irregardless of time or where you finish in the rankings. Thats what we've all shared this week. Its about not giving up or giving in. So proud of my fellow competitors and thankful to the staff and volunteers. And Id be remiss if I didnt congratulate Anders on his second 4deserts victory. Hes a tremendous runner, a true champion and a classy and genuine individual. I couldnt be happier for him as he's battled as hard as anyone to come out on top and put up a very impressive overall time from an historical perspective. I look forward to competing with him again and narrowing the gap.
Rest of the day we'll be hanging around camp, trying to scavenge whatever food remains. My specialty. We're all famished and weak. We're all chaffed up. We all stink. Its an absolute bloodbath at the med tent. Some runners have blisters the size of golf balls. Yet there's a feeling of accomplishment and pride buzzing through the desert. We're pumped for the final 15kish run tomorrow and the big celebration at the finish line in San Pedro and the award ceremony tomorrow night. Not to mention as much food and booze as our hearts desire. Id like to say Ill be taking it easy on the final leg but thats just not my style. Ill be trying to win it. And despite missing the top three overall Ill be receiving an award tomorrow for winning my age bracket (top 3 overall dont count for age awards) which is a nice consolation. OBVIOUSLY theres no way I wouldve done it without all the support on here. While I havent responded to many of you directly Ive read and reread and reread the comments many times over as they were invaluable this week. Im very blessed to have so many people in my life who truly care. I cant thank each of you enough for keeping the wind at my sails this week. See you all soon!!!
Detroit Lions...2012 Super Bowl Champs!!! Or not...
Spectacular Day…The Monster Awaits
March 09, 2011
Today was another memorable day. Despite being sore, cut, sunburnt, covered in salt and blood and not having brushed my teeth, showered or changed my clothes/socks in 4+ days I feel great and am ready for the big one. Right now I’m eating everything I can get my hands on to gear up for tomorrow. And it doesn’t matter what it is – Cliff Bars, Almonds, Chicken Tikka, Chile Con Carne, Sweet and Sour Pork, Spaghetti Bolognese, Beef and Noodles it all tastes exactly the same – like crap. But attempting to force it down is part of the fun.
Race is getting really exciting. Anders and Martin have been dueling it out hard every day and tomorrow brews a legendary showdown for the top spot. Darren, the experienced Canadian ultrarunner continues to get stronger and is poised to make a big move. Another runner, who I’ll fail to address by name, has come out of nowhere the last two days and looks like a thoroughbred on crack. He passed me the last two days around mile 10 as if I was standing still just laughing and hopping through the brutal terrain at an absurd pace. Odd. For me…while Ive fallen about an hour off the lead I feel like today might have been my best effort yet. Felt strong all day, didn’t overdue it, and had such a great time running with the local Chilean Matias. We ended up joining forces about halfway and ran the last 3+ hours together through the punishing salt flats pushing and supporting one another. While my Spanish is broken and his English is choppy today we spoke the same language. We learned about each other’s families, hometowns, our love for cervezas and how much pain we can endure. It was awesome crossing the finish line together tied for 6th and right behind the top 5 knowing we both would have done worse individually. Also - want to give it up for Nahila, Angelique and Sophie for kicking ass in the women’s category and making it look easy while doing so. Not to mention this Japanese film crew is everywhere. These guys are hysterical and will be producing a 90 minute special on the race on Japan’s #1 TV network. Reimer like you always said – HUGE IN JAPAN!!!
So tomorrow’s the big one. Seven minutes away from medaling in one of the toughest races on the planet. We’ve been here before. Surreal when you think that we’ve already covered 100+ miles in brutal conditions and tomorrow we tackle a 46 mile stage with the first 10 miles over the treacherous salt flats. The goal is the same as always. Positioning for the first 25…scarf down my go to meal (porridge with sultanas) at the halfway point and let the adrenaline take over on the homestretch when the weather cools and we start counting down the miles. Hoping to experience that same indescribable moment I had in Egypt when the pain disappeared and it felt like I was running on air the last 20. I don’t know if I have enough to overtake third but it won’t be for lack of effort.
Thanks again everyone for the comments. I’ll keep em tight tomorrow. BP ^
March 08, 2011
Today hurt. Physically, mentally and emotionally. Im flat out drained right now and there are very few areas of my body that don’t throb. Similar to how I felt after day 3 in Egypt. But considering how weak I felt all day I’d have to say I’m pretty satisfied with the result of finishing seventh and maintaining third place. Disappointed though. Just can’t expect to hold these guys off with your B- game. Nothing about today was enjoyable. The day started off poorly with another terrible night sleep (think I discovered the definition of deep tissue message is sleeping on golf ball sized rocks all night). Got out of the tent late, back killing, scrambling with all my prerace exercises barely making it to the start by 8:00. Then the course just pounded the hell out of me. We had about 12 miles of running on salt flats (which are like sharp coral). Some are hard and can roll your ankle easily and some are soft and you sink in. Never know. By the time I got through the flats I was physically beat up and every step hurt. Top speed you can navigate these things in is about 3.5mph. Then we faced a long climb through very soft sand in the heat of the day with a number of steep dunes. I was absolutely zapped. Did everything I could to just keep the legs moving and hang to fight another day as the thought of quitting must have went through my mind a couple hundred times today. After being away for almost a year I forgot how difficult these races are. To my Nepal boys – be prepared. This is no joke.
Long story short I need some serious zzzz’sss and hopefully can rebound strong on day 4 like I did in Sahara. Despite the swelling in my foot and the pain from already draining four toenails my biggest concern is my shoes are falling apart. The sole on my right one is ripping off and will be undergoing a serious ducktape operation shortly.
Thanks again everyone for the love, laughs and motivation. Short blog today as I barely have enough energy to sit-up straight. Lets get em tomorrow…
The Beatdown has Begun
March 07, 2011
So today’s leg was eerily similar to my golf game. Wild off the tee coupled with a shaky putter and numerous mental mistakes…but a few clutch up and downs down the stretch. The first big mistake happened only a couple miles into the day. The stage started with us descending into the slot canyons where we had to face atleast ten river crossings over a couple mile stretch. Trying to avoid the cold water, and thinking that I actually had legs like the 6’7”Dave Gardner, I attempted to jump across the first one. While I managed to clear it my right foot landed directly on a slick rock and both my legs flew straight up in the air. I crashed harshly back into the river soaking my pack and narrowly missing cracking my head open on another rock. Obviously I was pissed. And my pack was pounds heavier now. Mental mistake number one. Fortunately the electronics survived as I now water proof them (for obvious reasons). After making it out of the canyons I got into a nice groove courteous of Dan Caso’s disco club grooves (mix #97). Unfortunately the beats were so intense that I lost my bearings and blew past the markers as the course took a 90 degree turn right. By the time I realized and turned around I had run half a mile. So this bonehead move ended up costing me ten minutes. Thanks Caso. Haha.
After getting through the canyons we embarked on an extended climb for the next hour. Very steep - most of us paced ourselves on the way up. The views from the top were spectacular overlooking lush valley and mountain tops in all directions. At this moment I forgot we were actually in a race and I took it all in absorbing the scenery and snapping pics with fellow competitors. By the time we got to the summit we realized there was only one way down – dropping off the edge of a cliff into a gulley and running straight down a massive sand dune to the valley - almost the same way you would descend into a double black diamond. There’s no way words could explain the thrill and exhilaration of running straight down a steep dune flat out for about 800 yards. Had to be going something b/t 15 and 20mph screaming at the top of my lungs. Completely out of control. Definitely worthy of the term animal style. If I would’ve lost my footing I’d be pickings sand out of places I don’t exist for the next two weeks.
After that incredible experience we reached CP2 and it was back to business. Put the game face on…avoided Caso’s tunes and went back to the 80’s classics and ran incredibly strong the last 13 miles home despite severe cramping and pain in my left foot. Managed to finish behind Anders by only 8 minutes and 3rd place for the second consecutive day. Still can’t believe I’m hanging with him. But now everything hurts. The legs are gone after doing 50 miles in two days. The blisters are back. So are the neck gashes. Legs have cuts everywhere and every step hurts. The MT 101’s have taken a beating so far. But so far so good. They’ve performed brilliantly and the minimus construction has kept me very light on my feet. Thanks to Whitney Carroll and all the support at New Balance!
We’ve reached the point of the race that I love most. All the long runs, all the training marathons, all the mile repeats, all the 15X15’s, all the 400’s, all the hill climbs, all the strength training, all the pilates (by the way shameless plug but Jenn Phelan is the most amazing pilates instructor in Boston and probably east of the Mississippi, I’d call her if you’ve ever considered it) mean nothing now. At this point we’re all hurting and it’s a battle to see who can endure the most pain and keep asking for more. I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to be here and live this experience. Many children (specifically those supported by the MAGIC Foundation and the Endurance Trust) deal with so much more than I could ever imagine on a daily basis. It’s the strength in those children that will help get me to the finish line. They’ve kept me strong and healthy so far. I promise I will be leaving every ounce of energy and muscle fiber in the Atacama in hopes of a miracle finish.
The Race is On
March 06, 2011
Wow. What an incredible last 24 hours. We arrived at camp 1 yesterday afternoon to one of the most dramatic landscapes ive ever seen. Mountains...ranging in color from green to brown to rust to gray surrounding us in every direction and this little tiny camp packed tightly on a bluff right in the middle. Breathtaking. Hope the pics do it justice. As i had been idle for a few days decided to loosen up and grab a couple miles with Youssef, whose rapidly becoming one of the funniest people and the biggest eater ive ever met. After a big dinner i tried to get to bed early but i was sucking wind all night from the altitude and freezing cold so I might have slept an hour...two hours tops. Obviously as we awoke today i was full of anxiety and doubt. Running at 11,000 feet when youre not fully acclimatized is extremely difficult. First 45 minutes i couldnt catch my breath. My legs were dead. We faced a number of difficult climbs prior to checkpoint 1 and i seriously doubted my place here. I pushed on. Then we descended a couple thousand feet over the next 5 or 6 miles and that extra oxygen combined with the right dose of ZZ Top and a push from Big P brought the strength back. Settled into a strong pace and started catching a number of competitors. Then as we got to mile 17 we faced a winding five mile climb to the finish. Seemed like it would never end. At this point I was in sixth place and this was probably a good time to conserve energy for the rest of the week. But thinking back at how Lance won so many tours by pulling away on the hill finishes I kept the accelerator down, trying to put some distance on the peloton and catch the competitors ahead of me. I ran about 80% of the incline passing three more guys who were struggling. I may regret this move tomorrow or the next day as im feeling more gassed than i should right now but it got me into the top three and only 12 minutes behind Anders, whose an absolute jet and current Sahara Race chamption. Think hes hurting more than hes letting on right now but we shall see. Hes a phenomenal runner.
Im pumped for tomorrows stage as were down at 8500 feet now and that makes a huge difference. But tomorrows stage is 4 miles longer and the legs surely will be a little tight. Either way...were in the thick of this thing right now and you never know whats going to happen. Thats what makes these events so risky and so fulfilling. Hopefully can fire another round under par tomorrow and put myself in position to go low on the long stage. Thank you all so much for the support and comments. I cant tell you how much it helps.
Poison-Motley Crew North Jersey this summmer. Done and done.
Now or Never…
March 05, 2011
Sitting here at 9:20am after a great night sleep. Been eating everything i can possibly get my hands on to carb up last 24-hours. yesterday had 3 1-2 pepperoni pizzas on top of a huge breakfast and about five coronos and six liters of water. Starting to get my strength back and feel close to100% again post marathon. Altitude feels much better today although we head much higher in a few hours to camp 1 at 11,000ft.
Offical checkin 40 mins from now. Town alive with a buzz as competitors scramble to make final adjustments to their gear. Feel pretty good about my pack as Ive gotten to be a relative expert on the science of these races. Despite the extra gear necessary for this trek i expect to be around 8 kilos.
In terms of race strategy i have no illusions about being the fastest runner here. Wish i was. not the case. in fact anders and youssef, probably the two fastest, along with Ali and a few other runners have driving 90 minutes a day to the bolivian border to train in the moutains at very high altitude for the last two weeks. Clearly they are going to have a huge advantage early on. Wish i had a job that allowed me to take a month off to prep for a race. oh wait no i dont. Biggest mistake i could make would be to race it out with them on the first day. my only hopes of contending in this event is to get stronger as the weak progresses and do something magical on the long stage. So the goal is to lay off the leaders the first few days and try to win this with strength, heart and guts, not speed and flash. last thing i want to do is look back from my office eight days from now with any regrets whatsoever. Wishing i wouldve done this or that. At that point itll be too late. The time is now. im here to leave it all on the table. But i need to be intelligent about it or the elements will get the best of me. lets be honest...ive been training in very cold, humid weather at sea level. now were in very hot, dry weather 11,000 feet above sea level. couldnt me more of a stark contrast. ive mapped out the stages below and my goals for each day. When Dean Karnazes (the legendary ultramarathon man whose now doing the kelly and regis run across america) won this race in 2008 he did it in 31:45ish. My goal is to do it in 31:00. Only two people ever have broken 30hrs in this race.
Stage 1: Navigation by Rock = 35 kilometers / 22 miles (Goal - 3:40) Stage 2: The Slot Canyons = 42 kilometers / 26 miles (Goal - 5:00) Stage 3: The Atacameños Trail = 40 kilometers / 25 miles (Goal - 5:00) Stage 4: The Infamous Saltflats = 43 kilometers / 27 miles (Goal 6:00) Stage 5: The Long March = 74 kilometers / 46 miles (Goal 10:00) Stage 6: The Final Footsteps to San Pedro = 16 kilometers / 10 miles (1:20)
On the Ground in San Pedro…
March 03, 2011
So far so good. Made it to northeast Chile with relative ease. Havent lost my mind, my wallet or my luggage yet so thats a positive. San Pedro is a gorgeous little town trapped in the middle of endless Atacama desert with expansive snowcap covered mountains and volcanoes in each direction. Words dont do it justice. Magnificient. Town has that very cool southwest pueblo feel about it. Surprisingly clean. Everything is several paces slower. Which is such a nice change from the northeast. And despite sticking out like an obvious tourista the locales have been very accomodating and friendly. Went out for a nice sunset five-miler to test my legs, the sand and the altitude. It was much harder than it shouldve been. Legs felt heavy. As did my breathing. Now i realize why most racers categorize this as the hardest 4deserts race. The battle is on.
February 26, 2011
As my first RTP blog entry in almost a year I write this with a tremendous amount of excitement and anxiety as we approach race day. Can't wait for the competition. Can't wait to live the Atacama. Can't wait to reconnect with friends from around the globe and the entire RTP staff. Can't wait to leave it all in the desert. The last year was so special with the 100K+ we raised for The Magic Foundation and having the honor of meeting many of the children/families in Chicago and speaking at their annual convention. Couldn't have asked for a better 2010. While this race technically isn't a fundraiser...it lays the foundation for what's going to be a huge year. We have a team of seven from Merrill Lynch heading to Nepal, we're in the process of creating our own charity (RunningWithLuci) in which the MAGIC Foundation will be the primary benefactor, and we have a commitment from an experienced production company to film a documentary over the next 12-months climaxing with the Nepal race. It all begins in April as approximately 70 runners (many first-timers) will travel from around the country to run the Nashville marathon for team MAGIC. We continue to get the message out. We continue to make a difference. This year will trump last. I'd like to specifically thank Matt Nelson and the team at EnduranceTrust.org for their unbelievable support getting me back on my feet. Training update - I languished through the fall barely hanging onto a reasonable level of conditioning. After having run 3-ultras in a nine-month span the passion needed to train and compete at this level was simply gone. I was flat out exhausted and unmotivated. Then over the holidays's it all came storming back. Christmas day I went out for a light run in the snow to burn off excessive caloric intake from the night before. Instead of only doing a couple miles I ended up running a half marathon in about 1:35 and despite the ensuing stomach nausea I wanted more. So from Dec 25th till now I've trained hard. Really hard. And in that timeframe I decided to run this race. But it's been a completely different type of training than prior years. Raw intensity. Animal style. With the snow and frigid conditions in the northeast I haven't been able to get the huge mileage in outdoors. So my regimen shifted to rigorous speedwork 4 days a week, lot of climbing, lot of biking, sleeping at altitude, pilates and explosive strength training. I've only gotten 2+ pack runs in over 20-miles with the long being 27 miles. But then again in two months I've gotten into the best shape of my life and hungrier than ever. At this time I've mostly recovered from the wrist surgeries (although normal pushups are gone for good). Recently I've been able to nail an 18:18 5K and a 1:28 half-marathon. For a mediocre backyard runner with terrible form who drinks too many Coors lights I'm happy with those times. Tomorrow marks the last big training day as I run the Hyannis marathon. Hoping for a strong showing and a little more MO prior to my Chilean departure Wed night. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a few people who we've lost in the last few months. First I wanted to recognize Breanna O'Rourke who tragically and suddenly passed away a few weeks ago at the young age of 16. This was out of the blue and everyone associated with Breanna and the MAGIC Foundation is greatly saddened by her loss. She had a tremendous attitude and view towards life despite severe medical challenges. We could all learn a lot from her example. I also wanted to mention Charla Heimer who we all know to be an amazing woman and clearly the toughest gal in Australia! She recently lost her mother while on her way to compete in the Libyan Challenge (which was obviously cancelled). We're all thinking about you Charla. Finally I wanted to highlight my friend, and my best friend's cousin Preston Brown who recently passed away from a heart attack at way too young of an age. The only thing bigger than Preston's waistline was his heart, his laugh and his love for Chantal, music and Tennessee football. We all miss you a lot big guy. You three will be in my thoughts and prayers next week. As will my goddaughter Luci who continues to battle panhypopit and show strength and courage everyday in the face of great struggle.