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Time to rest - Finally -Matt

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Hello everyone from home. I have spent a heap of time reading everyones comments from the last couple of days. Thanks so much for all the support and love. It means a lot to know people are thinking of you so thankyou.

Yesterday was the "long march" and im glad to report that the team made it through the day in 12 hours and 13 minutes; just beating the sun as it dipped below the mountain range and night fell. Falling across the line in exhaustion and pain I was greated with a med student eager to stick i needle in my finger to draw blood to measure sodium levels... the perfect reward for pushing hard through the desert all day. Me and rodger were still not fully recovered from the sickness during the week but performed well given the circumstances.  

Apart from the sickness early in the day and the intence pain and fatigue which increased steadily during the day, there were parts that were truly amazing. The diverse landscapes are really hard to believe, from barron rocky planes, himalaian like mountain ranges to lush green pastral land. Again we traveled through may small villages and rural properties with very confused local people watching the stream of lycra wearing westerners trudge through the area. Im pretty stoked also to have my picture taken next a camle chilling of the side of the coarse.

Right now we a camped in a grassy area with a stream and shady trees, cool breeze, circled by shape snow capped mountains. im thinking about chasing down one of the sheep grazing in the paddock and having a celebratory meal early... ill let you know how i go with that. Everyone stinks and is walking funny but the vibe in camp is pretty up beat because the end is so near. Today will be all about enjoying the sun and the cricket. Next time you hear from me ill will be through this ordeal so im looking forward to then. Next stop.. Kashgar, where it all began.

Thanks everyone for the messages, especially Emma, Mum, Laura and Steve. You guys are the best support. xo  

Stage 5 - The long March. 74km. 12:12 Approx -Ron

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Long March is an apt title, we marched a long time. Up at 6am then a 2 hour bus ride and a 10am start. I thought we would have a long hot day, but the conditions were mixed. Up to 30 deg early, then mid 20's as we skirted the snow capped Kunlun mountain range. Then a storn, some sand some rain. Temps down below 20 and a lower wind chill. Jackets on for a section. We ran away fron the mountains, the sun came out and back to 30deg. from 7pm.

As for the course, we had a steady uphill on vehicle track, then a section of the typical short sharp hills and stony river beds.After reaching the highest point, the second half was gradual downhill on track and river beds. We ran sections of this, but used all of Matts energy with still 10k to go.

At times It became a bit monotonous, our feet were feeling it and we all wanted to get it done. No more so than Matt and Roger, who both endured some uncomfortable hours on their feet. Eventually it was job done. A relieved Born to Run team crossed the finish, collected our water and crashed in out tent.

Matt, Greg and myself were slightly delayed, as we are volunteers in a mecdical research program. We have been blood tested for sodium levels pre start and after Stages 1, 3 and 5. I had trouble producing enough blood, requiring 2 stabs twice, and a lot of finger squeezing.

Today we are relaxing at a great campsite. A grassy field amongst a grove of trees. It's quite protected from the hot sun and frequent wind blasts. Our media man, James "Hot Knees", has been busy filming and photoing. Numerous interviews and photo shoots of us, and fellow competitors of interest. 

Tomorrow it's a 15k run into the old Kashgar City. We are all really looking forward to a few comforts, hot showers, fresh food, nice bed etc.

I might not be able to post again, so a few closing thoughts. We now realise that we had a dream race at Atacama. 5 runners, 6 stages, travelling a long way, the leadup training etc gives plenty of opportunity for something to go wrong.

This time our fortunes chnaged, with sickness affecting Matt and Roger. They both prevailed in a great team spirit and we all pulled together to get us home. We finished in good shape and a still reasonable performance had we all been well.

Thanks for all the comments, they are are very encouraging.

Also a good mix of State of Origen feedback.

This looks like a NSW year, I reckon.

Ah, Relief -Roger

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Thanks Cipro!!! You, sir, are a kickass antibiotic. After non-stop nausea and daily double digit pit squats since day 1, day 6 I woke for the first time feeling not completely squalid. Kind of funny that we ran 220km in the meantime. Jill & Beat, I now have some clue how rat's-ass-low you guys must have felt running off food poisoning in Nepal. Blechh.

Matty & I had seesawing fortunes over the past couple of days, with yesterday's 73km run incorporating the full spectrum from runnable to nearly hurling for both of us. The previous day - Day 4 - began with a near ultimate scenic highlight of the entire trek when we dropped our packs to run up to Heaven's Gate, Shipton's Arch. At close to 3,000 metres altitude, this stunning natural archway frames a breathtaking desert mountainscape. Reaching it provided us the first real adrenal hit of the week too - a welcome and elusive rush.

The running after this was restricted by our states of health but the terrain was also the most satisfying and welcome of the week.

The quote from Sam, one of the key race directors at RTP, to best describe it was "if you fall, you will get hurt".

Picture running along the teeth of a saw, only they're not metal, they're jagged slopes of lightly sprouted dirt and rock, with ridgelines one to two feet wide plunging into sheer slopes that even goat tracks baulk at. Roughly 10 kilometres of this led us ever deeper into an astounding landscape ringed on one front by towering rocky dirt faces of brown, red, and ochre, while a new horizon dominated by snowcapped giants grew ever broader.

It was an amazing day, to be sure. Even if it ended with us running along a freeway construction zone, drowned in the diesel and dust of heavy earthmovers as we trundled along to a makeshift carpark where the shuttlebus pulled away just as we arrived, leaving us to wait an hour next to stacked cement beams and bulldozers.

Gobi, land of contrast.

Ah, the long day - Day 5. I felt shattered by the start. I could explain but my bowels have featured fully enough on this site already. Funnily enough, perfect blood sugars all week on course and off. Diabetes has played second fiddle to other things starting with di-, and all things considered there are certainly worse chronic health conditions to deal with.

The course was quite easy after some early pitches and rolls, the literally slippery slopes. Terrain ranged from sandy and flat to rocky, and flat. Matt started feeling 8 out of 10, Jess an ever-constant 10, while i was hovering around a 3. Playing 'slowest guy out front' it soon turned out I wasn't actually slowest guy. It was great though to catch up with our friend Hiro early in the day as we had hardly run together at all the entire week. He had a real spring in his step and went on to come 11th on the day's course. Soon enough, cameraman James hijacked me and then Jess as she came running through to build more shots for his documentary of our week.

He's been a welcome friend on course since Day 1 - bringing updates on other runners and race news, ideas varying between great and ridiculous about footage he's wanting us to help him get, or suggestions which we frequently decline less than politely without him ever seeming to get too flustered.

New on-course games that passed the time were Significant Moments In History, where a moment had to be guessed at without having been directly referred to or the country of origin being named. E.g. 'a wall falls down, everyone has a party' for the fall of the Berlin Wall, or '2 feet to the left would have got his wife, everyone would have been much happier' for the assassination of John Lennon. Jess didn't get that one, and a South African friend answered with 'JFK' - the first bonus points of the day for creative upgrades.

The next game, 'All of It', later expanded to 'All of It/Them/Those' got a bit too complicated to explain, and not a single answer was politically correct enough to be included as an example.

The other highlight of the day, other than sweeping all-encompassing mountainous desert immersion of course, was Matt's ultra-toughness. It's easy to forget he's only really found himself thrown headlong into endurance running this year. Yesterday, as the day wore on, he knew it would all come down to his performance. In weather conditions that ranged from thunderous sandstorm to cool and mild, he plugged away until the job was done. Running when he could and walking as steadily as he could manage when he had to, he got the team home in just over 12 hours. We started the day expecting to come in under torch power so it was a far less painful result than expected when we strolled across the Finish line as the last direct sunlight of the day dropped behind a faroff summit.

Hot recovery formula, long-awaited vegie lasagne, restless legs, and a deep sleep untainted by anticipation of a visit to the blog tent.

Stage 5 -Jess

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Hey guys!  FanTASTIC to log on and read so many emails and comments - thank you, thank you, thank you!

Well, we did it...in just over 12 hours and just before dark - result!  The morale was low in the team at the start, despite big efforts to raise them.  People were in their own hurt and head space, and it was tough trying to keep the team together.  Worrying who was ahead, who was behind, and being the ogre asking people to hold up a bit or catch up.  I reflected on this challenge of being a part of a team, and did have a pine for running free without thoughts of others towards the beautiful snow capped mountain range that led us most of the way.  (There was no construction site in sight yesterday - wahoo!)

People then all seemed to get out of their head spaces, and we regrouped and banded together again.  I giggled my way with Roger for a good 30km playing games such as "guess the historic event" from humourous descriptions without mentioning any key names or words, or creating quotes with the phrase "all of it/that/those" in it that a famous person might say, and guessing the person.... I guess you just had to be there right??  :)  It was awesome though, chatting to some South African guy saying how he was in a complete low, but how our chuckles picked him up.  Testament to how important it is to be around positive people when you run. 

Another highlight that all my British chums who send me tubs of marmite might appreciate....saved for the long day....TWIGLETS!!  :)

For the last 30kms we followed Matt's lead, shuffling when he could, and walking when he requested. The sense of team was AWESOME. Matt gave everything he had...and more! I also had the Go Pro - a handheld of camera, so I had lotsa fun playing with that, and it gave me good reason to run ahead, or sprint to catch up...so I got my little jogs in Sam!  :) 

Everyone flopped into bed pretty much when we finished, but I stayed up chatting and laughing around the campfire with James, the cameraman, till about 1am.  I haven't felt like I have connected with people as much here as we did in Atacama (no-one like the Saturo family, wahoo) and other people agree who have been to both that the atmosphere is not quite the same, thus it was nice just to have a good conversation with someone.  I really like James, and am starting to feel more comfortable in front of the camera...to the effect that there may be quite a bit of me in this part of the doco for you mum! Definitely me doing some, I quote, "hilarious", dancing - whoops! :)

It's awesome that you can see the photos that accompany this blog - word cannot do it justice...or well, maybe Roger;s might!  :)  My spotty socks are dog print gaiters to keep the scree out mum - tehe- glad you like them - (another!) gift from Roger!

Today is the "rest day", aka, the boring day for me!  Roger seems a lot better,so I might be able to entice him for a little walk.  I have a magazine too.  One advantage of Roger's sickness (whoops!), is that we have a bit of food leftover - nothing like Atacama when we sat and tried to make a sachet of peanut butter last one hour!!  :)  There are lots of funny walks going around the camp today too.

I am soo excited to be returning to the UK soon.  Steve can you and Vicky make it to our house? I'd love to see you both; and Kel, watch out, I am soo going to be trying to convince you to meet us in Sahara.  It is tough, but the cut-off is soo generous, you so could do it! And Sam and Nathan...???  :) Mum,I'll let you off!  :)  Pauline, Roger and I definitely having you over for dinner to share tales of outback and Gobi!  :)

I will log on again one more time tonight, I anticipate around 6pm China time.   One thing I haven't mentioned is that because China only has one time zone it gets dark really late here about 10.30pm which is a bit strange, and light again at 7.30am. 

I will be back in Oz on Tues straight to work, eek, but then will be up for catchups soon after. 

Lots of love,


News From Stage 4 -Matt

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Im sure by now most people are aware of the minor hiccup we faced on days 2 and 3. I’m actually very surprised to be sitting here and reporting on today because I very nearly pulled myself on stage 1 day three; hence no blog on day three. Day three started pretty bad, being very dehydrated from a stomach bug. On top of this I skipped breakfast and started out the 40 km run… which turned to a slow trudge very quickly. I don’t remember much from the day either because my head was spinning and vision blurry or maybe I subconsciously erased that experience from my mind. Rodger bought me a coke from a road side vendor and I managed to get a little down which gave me a kick… for about 15 minutes, then it was back to the death march. The team tried all they could to relieve the pain by taking some of my pack weight and then my whole pack. Maybe that made the difference. When we arrived at camp I went straight to the medical tent where I lay down, shivering, headache and nauseous. After a long while I managed to eat and drink some food which stayed down.. Tick.

Stage 4!

I woke up very late and was on the loo twice before the gun went off. However I managed to get breakfast in.. tick. When I woke this morning I still didn’t know if I would start the day considering my condition the night before. My through’s were “if im not dead in the morning, I have no excuses to prevent me from starting” so I did. Energy was still very low all day long but heaps better than day three. Im very glad I made today because the coarse was stunning in many sections. The first 20 km was very steap ups and downs and ridges. “Heaven’s Gate” or “shipton’s arch” was a real treat and the long climb was well worth it. Google it and check it out.

Anyways thank you all for your very kind messages, they mean a lot. Tomorrow is the long stage. Wish me luck!      

Stage 4 - Brutal but Beautiful -Greg

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Firstly thanks for all those that have sent blog replys to Matt. He will draw much strength from them when he reads them tonight, as we rest and prepare for the long day.

It has been an amazing day. After I took matt from medical tent back to our tent last night, he had deteriorated further, and was not well, but managed to eat and then straight to sleep. The chances of him starting day 4 seemed slim. However when he woke he said ‘my stomach is still bad but im feeling better so think I will give it a crack’ after 2 dashes to the toilets, our packs were on and we headed to the start line,with a 400m altitude gain 3km climb to heavens gate, a huge natural archway the height of the empire state building. The views from up there were amazing. we needed to remove our backpacks and climb ladders to get up there. Of course having started, the strategy was just to manage our pace and do whatever we needed to finish, with our time not important. Todays course can only be described as brutal and after the first climb and then descent we did about a 16 km stint of endless huge up and down hills, which were very steep and very long and the downhills quite technical with large drop offs if you fell. The first 10km took 3 hours including 2 loo breaks for matt, and a dose of gastrostop, which seemed to help him. The course makes six Foot track look like a leisurely bushwalk. But today Matt was  a man on  a mission and was not going to let the hills stop him. The mood in the team was more upbeat today, and we just pushed on hour after hour, and eventually finished in 8hrs 45, which was a great mid pack result,which was very inspirational to the team, and makes me very proud of Matt. Everyone else in the team is all going well, so if Matt continues to improve we should have a reasonable long day of 75km tomorrow, and finish this thing off.

Myself I ran on 5 snakes today, and sports drink, as I am short on food and needed to preserve it for the long day. This effort would normally deserve 6 bacon and egg rolls, but that will have to wait.

Will blog again ,but wont be until the day after the long day, as we will be in late, all going well.

Stage 4 - Stairway to Heaven. 36.7KM 8:44 - Ron

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Day started with a climb to Shiptons Arch/Heavens Gate.  200m rise on a vehicle track, then 200m climb of steep track and Ladders.

An amazing spectacle, advertised as higher then the Statue of Liberty, I think.

We stood underneath it at 2900m elevation. Access through the arch is blocked, but it would take an experienced climber to decend the other side. Then we retraced out steps back down 300m to Cp1. All slow going.

Then next 12 k or so, was the most difficult terrain so far. All between 2600m and 2700m. When I say between, it was up to 2700, down to 2600, up to 2700, etc, etc.I lost count of how many hills, all very steep. Many parts were slippery scree and most runners had a slide or two.

Eventually we decended to a stony river bed, and followed that for a long drop to CP3. Then mostly flat road and river for the final leg.

Matt was much improved today, much stronger. However running was an issue as it upset his stomach as soon as he started. So we walked almost all the course, except for a short fartlek section on the road where Matts stomach had settled somewhat.

The rest of the team is going well. No issues for Jess and Greg, and Roger is much improved from the first day.

For me, I enjoyed the Stage. Although we went a little harder today, I finished feeling quite fresh. Additionallly, I was able to handle all the hills well, so much better than I have for a long time. I could run down steepish slopes painfree!

Weather was good today, 10 at start, 8 near the arch, 30 at CP3, and quite cool tonight at 8pm.

Tomorow the long day and we are so much more confident after today. We are up early for a 2 hour bus ride to the start. Start time is 9:30, so we will be going right through the hot part of the day, which is usually 3 to 7 pm.

Stage 4 -Jess

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I LOVED it today - 8 and 3/4 hours, but it went soo much quicker.  Shipton's arch was spectacular, and was followed by 15kms of awesome steep up and downs.  It was so exciting to scramble up and down the scree (everyone took some kind of stack); to get the heart rate going and that buzz and adrenaline again - something that has been lacking the last couple of days.  I've decided that running along windy mountain ridge lines is totally my favourite kind of running.  Matt is making a miraculous recovery (we were joking that people might think it is a fix in the doco)! With that concern gone, cheery spirits could be liberated again, and I was totally in my happy place again running towards, and away from stunning mountain range vistas that fade as far as you can see into the horizon.

Meeting some more awesome people, e.g. a guy whose wife has written him an inspirational quote for each day - how cool!

Tonight we are effectively camping in a poo field...or the smell testifies to such. 

Tomorrow is an early start with a 2hour bus ride to the start of the looong 75km day.  Hence the next email will likely be the day after (Matt is still not feeling THAT strong).

Thank you soo much for all your emails.  Yes Sam, you got your Chinese right.  Someone today asked if I was Roger's mai mai!!  Indeed, a few people keep mistaking Matt and I as sister and brother!!

I do miss running, and I am teased that my frequent phrase is "little jog?? Little jog?",but I guess the challenge for this desert is just to complete, and Sahara we can pick up the game again.

We had another awesome encounter in a village - with Roger exchanging with a young tot his first ever handshake, and me playing tickles with a kid with the cutest incessant giggle.

Love you mum, miss you too.

Thanks soo much everyone for your emails and comments (I can see the blog comments now), soo fab to get. 



Day 3 -Greg

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hi to all. It has been a very difficult and distressing day for the team. Matt woke thismorning with a fever and bad headache, and was unable to eat breakfast, and lucky to be walking. Neverthless he decided to start the day and see how things went. What transpired was nothing short of sheer courage by Matt who struggled badly just to move forward. To get to each checkpoint was amazing, and every checkpoint (except for the last) he was about to pull out, which would have been fine with me, as it was terrible to watch what he was going through.

At checkpoint 2 after 20km he was close to tears, and quite scared about the situation, but bravely decicded to proceed. I had to help push him up hills from behind, he could have stopped at any point, but had the occaisional slightly better spell which kept him going. It was just a slow trudge all day, much like the death march. At checkpoint 3 Matt had another rest before a long 9km walk up a neverending hill gaining over 500m of altitude.

The finish couldnt come soon enough and we crossed the line in about 8.15.. and effort from Matt much more impressive than a top 10 finish.

Matt is now sleeping in the medical tent, and we will asses the situation again in the morning. His temp is OK his hydration and salt levels are also OK, but he is just not well. Best place would be in bed not trudging 37km across difficult terrain. Tommorow is the hardest of the short days with endless 50metre hills, and is titled "stairway to heaven", but sounds much more like stairway to hell... and then the long day after that. If Matt does feel a bit better in the morning and decides to proceed it iwill just be a matter of survival and finishing. If he doesnt, there is no shame. The rest if the team is fine and pulling together to support Matt. Wiill repost tomorrow with an update. Please send messages of support to Matt, as he is unlikely to blog tonight.

Stage 2 & 3 -Ron

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

STAGE 2 Mars in the Gobi.   About 39km. 6:14


Homestay was amazing. Each tent stayed in a room of the house. We slept on an elevated platform with layers of carpet. Despite temps of 30+ outside it was really cool in the house. Also very dark, headlamp required. We fund the candles just as we were leaving.

Team started well, but about halfway, Matts Stomach problems slowed him, as well as a knee injury. Roger was improved, but still not comfortable.

So for the last 2 sections, we walked almost all the distance. We felt the first real heat today, on a bitumen road in a valley at the end of the stage.We got in ok and camped in a recently slashed field in a town called Langerfville.

A feature of the villages and farm areas, is the use of a border of trees as weather “shields” around the areas.


STAGE 3 The farmlands of Langerfield.

Matt awoke with a fever, no appetite and feeling washed out. From the start he was struggling. He walked strongly, but was unable to run.

It was supposed to be an easy day, but in the middle sections we came upon kilometers of ravines, 10-20m deep. They were steep and extremely slippery going down  That tested us all, but Matt, with a loss of strength had to battle really hard. He had a 15min rest at CP2. By CP 3 the terrain was easier, and Matt got to his feet after only a 5 min rest. That was a good sign, as well as a strong walk out of the CP. The last section was a vehicle track, which sounds, but we climbed 400m in 8km.

Today we climbed 700m to 2500m. It’s cloudy now and quite cool. A bit different to yesterday when it was over 30deg at this time 8pm.

Tomorrow will be more difficult, so we all hope that Matt wakes feeling a lot better.

We go to a feature tomorrow, called Heaven Gate. A huge natural arch.

I’ll detail blog on it tomorrow.

Thanks for the emails received so far. Please reply with the State of Origin score if you are emailing.

This will be the first one I have missed watching.