Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Antartica and the Last Desert Race

On Nov 24th, I'll be competing in 's "The Last Desert" race...a 6 stage, 150 mile foot race through the ice and snow of Antarctica. My Australian teammates and I, will be competing along side 24 others from a number of countries and varied backgrounds. After completing similar races through the Sahara Desert in Morocco, the Gobi Desert in China, and the Atacama Desert in Chile, this will be my 4th desert, and thus will have taken me to the driest, hottest, coldest, and windiest places on the planet..and tested my limits both physically and mentally.

We'll be boarding our ship in Ushuaia Argentina, and making the often harrowing, two day sail across the famous Drake Passage, which is home to some of the world's roughest ocean waters. When we're not hanging our heads over the side with sea sickness, we'll be anxiously scanning the gray horizon for our first glimpse of the amazing white continent!

Antarctica is classified as a desert because it's interior averages only about 50 mm of precipitation a year...less than the Sahara. The very little snow that falls there, stays there, because there's so little evaporation. But it frequently appears that blizzards are occurring because the ever present winds are picking up, and blowing around snow that has already white-out conditions are common. Antarctica is the coldest and windiest continent with the lowest recorded temperature ever, at minus 128.6 degrees F!!

At this point, I'm used to the scorching heat of the "regular" deserts, but this cold is a whole new beast to wrap my mind around. It will surely be another great test of what we are able to grin and bear it...and trudge on through. It will require a lot of new gear that we aren't so familiar with, but which is vital in protecting us from the cold and wind. The folks at Mountain Hardwear have been nice enough to deck all three of us out from head to toe in the their latest gear, which is a HUGE help..and I want to thank them for that!! But once again, having my teammates along to lighten the darker moods will certainly boost our attitudes and hopefully make it another incredible experience. We had many moments of hilarity in our desert tents in the past, as we laughed at our shared pain and misery. I expect that "boat life" will be quite similar...but hopefully a bit cleaner!!

My teammates were just featured on the Australian Wide World of Sports and their TV spot is a great way to understand what it is we do, and why we choose to do it. Here is the link (might take a couple min. to load):

And once again, it's a real pleasure to be raising money for my charity as well.... St. Jude's Children's Hospital. It's a very worthy charity and it gives me quite the motivation to think about what these kids are going through when I feel like quitting myself. But please don't feel the pressure to donate because I know these times are tough for everyone. But if you feel that you can afford a few extra dollars for a great cause, this is it:

I have read many books about this far and forbidding landscape, and still can't quite believe I'm going to be experiencing it first hand. This land of such great explorers like Capt Cook who was the first to cross the Antarctic Circle...and Amundsen who was the first to the South Pole...and Scot who died coming back from there...and Shackleton's incredible survival story...all make this place seem like a fantasy world. In reading these stories, their brutal adventures came to life on the pages that I read growing up, in the warmth of my home. Most of us are "armchair adventurers", reading all about the farthest reaches of the planet, while sitting in our favorite chair in front of a gas fire that we can turn on with a simple push of a button!! It's tough to really imagine what these men must have felt while truly living these incredible, and many times brutal adventures...when we're enjoying such cushy lives. (but don't get me wrong...I'm not apposed to reclining chairs and roaring fires!!) But for me now, to actually go there and see some of what they saw, and feel some of the cold that they is beyond amazing!!!

You can read about the competitors, learn about our journey there, and follow the race at

Monday, November 10, 2008

Washington Post Article

During my running of the Atacama Crossing in Chile, a Washington Post reporter, Lauren Keane, came down and followed my progress and wrote a nice article in the Post. Here is the link:

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Mountain Mashochist 50 Mile Trail Race...Nov 1, 2008

About Mountain Masochist Trail 50 Race:

“Lynchburg is the place for “real” mountain runners to be in October. But MMTR is not for everyone. If you are slow, as this reporter now is, the cutoff times are brutal. At my speed, you have pressure all day. Also, you need a sense of humor. If it bugs you that a course is longer than advertised, you don’t want to do MMTR.”
“Many people, this reporter included, repeatedly forget that the bottom line about MMTR is that it is tough. There are many uphills, not all steep but several are long and frustrating. The two trail sections are tough, technical, and beautiful. To finish MMTR is a significant accomplishment.”
“Masochists is a brutal reality check. If you are not prepared for it, David’s course will slap you around. Such a reality check is a very good thing. It’s just not always fun!”

Anstr Davidson

This past weekend, I completed the "painful" Mountain Masochist 50 Mile Trail Race...and what you read above is ALL TRUE...too bad I didn't read that until after I did it!! I think the name speaks for itself and you won't get any argument from me there!! It's widely regarded as one of the toughest 50 milers on the east coast and once again, no qualms with that claim as well.

I had just run the MCM the week before...and as I mentioned in the post before, fortunately I took it easy there. The MMTR had been full, but just at the last minute, some spots opened up and so I only got into it about 4 days before the race. I'm heading to Antarctica in a few weeks for another 150 mile stage race, and since I had gotten a bit lazy in the last couple of months, I thought it might be a good idea to kick it up a notch, and do some back to back long runs... so I decided to go for it.

The weather was once again perfect, although a bit chilly in at the 6:30 start. The 260 or so runners had to board buses at 5am in Lynchburg, Va in order to be transported to the start of the race. The gun went off and I was anxious to get moving in order to warm myself up since it was about 40 degrees and I was in shorts and a sleeveless shirt. I always warm up fast and run hot, so I deal with the cold early in the race because I know I'll warm up and don't want to have to shed clothes and carry them for miles and miles.

I carried my big Camelback which can last me for about 4 hours. So I never stopped at any aid stations for the 1st 4 hours or so and made steady progress. I wanted to run a smooth and steady race, and my only goals were to get a good workout, finish, and not injure myself and thus screw up my upcoming race that I had paid a small fortune to get into. I felt great up until about mile 31 when in a span of about 10 minutes, I went from feeling strong, to feeling like someone just poured concrete into my legs. This race has 9,200 feet of elevation gain and 7,000 feet of loss. After being in Leadville, Co., these hills didn't seem steep, but certainly were never-ending and finally after going up and down and up and down, I finally got to another up-hill and my legs just didn't want to move. From about 31 miles to near 40, I REALLY struggled and cycled through a number of different pains, coupled with having no energy...and once again I questioned my decision to ruin another perfectly good weekend by running a 50 mile race!!

After a few hours of gut checking, I managed to re-group and find some reserves of power, and kicked it back into gear for the remainder of the race. The last 5 miles or so, I really ramped it up passing about 15 or so people, and finished very strong. It's still amazing to me how the human body can come back from such lows and rebound while still being stressed, to feel strong again. But when you're at such lows, it's always hard to imagine feeling good without quitting... but quitting is never an option, so you just have to keep plugging along and remember that if it doesn't hurt, than it's not worth it!!

I finished in 10 hrs and 37 min and in 79th place out of about 260 people. After the finish, since the race was a point to point race, we all had to board the buses, and rode an hour and a half back to the hotel, and then I had to hop in my car and drive the 4 hours home...NOT FUN!! Although I still have swollen ankles from all the beating they took, I seem to be recovering and hopefully I didn't do any damage that might jepardize my Antarctic race!!

Marine Corp Marathon...Oct 26, 2008

The Marine Corp Marathon is a great "first-timer's" marathon, and even though I have done it a few times before, I keep coming back for more. Since I'm often flying to different marathons, I'd almost feel guilty for not running the one in my own back yard so to speak. I did have some motivation though because a friend of mine, David Kay, had recently made a full recovery from an agressive form of skin cancer. He had been a runner for a few years, but was stricken with this disease only recently. David had to go through a pretty agressive treatment including chemotheropy and had only just started running about 2 months before this race. It was quite inspirational to see him come back so fast and strong after being so sick. His wife Margaret is also a runner, and a fast one at that, with a PR of 3:20. The MCM was sort of his "coming back" party, and his wife was running with him, and I was honored that they included me to make up our trio!!!

Margaret and I were going to stay with David throughout, and even though we probably could have gone a bit faster, time wasn't our goal today...but rather just to finish and be together to celebrate being healthy again, and ALIVE...THAT was the goal!!! It was a perfect day to run...bright sunshine, nice temps, cool breeze...and TONS of spectators cheering everyone on. We had a great run and David enjoyed it (except maybe for the last 2 miles..but he had plenty of company there) and he finished in a very respectable 4:18!! Way to go David!!! (and as side note, he and Margaret went on the very next weekend to complete the NYC Marathon).... pretty HARDCORE and an amazing accomplishment for anyone to do 2 marathons in 2 weeks. But for someone who had been so sick so recently, it was incredible!!!!!

Dogfish Dash 10K..Sept. 15th, 2008

It's not often when I can run a race with my lovely wife Chelsea, who is smart enough not to run much more than a when we heard about the little Dogfish Dash 5 and 10Ks in Rehobeth Beach DE, we decided to sign up together. Out neighbors and good friends in Ocean City, MD...Frank and Denise Meekins signed up as well at the last minute. Denise and Frank have both run half marathons before and I had done the Eagleman Half Ironman with Frank back in June.

Chelsea did the 5K and the rest of us did the 10k. It was a perfect day and I was excited to run a nice and slow, easy paced race with no stress, for a change. Everything started off easy enough and Frank, Denise, and I pretty much were at the back of the pack. But it's amazing that no matter what I enter, it turns into an extreme event. Only a few miles into the race, the course veered off onto a little trail through a wooded area, when all of a sudden we heard shouting and commotion coming from up ahead. We all rounded a bend and saw a group of runners screaming and yelling and swatting in their hair and clothing and all around. I thought to myself, what the hell are these people doing, because we couldn't really see anything. And then as we got closer, we first heard the buzzing and then saw these big insects flying around attacking everyone, now including us!!! They turned out to be huge hornets that were obviously irritated that our lovely race had invaded their hive and so the realization of this hit me right about the same time as i felt a serious sting right on my back!! OUCH..I think we all got stung, but that sure kicked up our speed ...and we swatted and BOLTED the rest of the way through the woods.

Fortunately none of us were allergic, and besides some serious welts on us and some stinging, we all survived with at least an interesting story to tell, since our performance brought us to pretty much last place. Of course I was happy to run with some friends, but after finishing the 10K and giving Chelsea a kiss, I decided that 6 miles just wasn't enough of a challenge, hornets or I decided to just run the 20-some miles back to Ocean City!!! So at the end, THAT WAS one hell of a 10K!!!