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Are we there yet? -Roger

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Today was brilliant . A stunningly fast run in remote and super-scenic wilderness, untouched by modern construction, diarrhea, the same police vehicle that has been following the racers for the last 3 days or Matt’s newly exploding fever. Oh no, wait – that’s all wrong.

Today was an evil war of attrition that begin with a 6 am pit-side chat, with Matt softly stating that he didn’t know if he could do it today. While I no longer expect to die, Jess gets Kitty and the car if I do. Meanwhile, Matt’s digestive dramas are now accompanied by fever while mine has receded. If Matt hadn’t been the slowest member of the team today, I’d have probably taken the wooden spoon. But there was really no time focus today, other than to get into camp in one piece (or 5 pieces) before the final cutoff at 5pm (later moved to 5:30).

Matty’s focus became the question of ‘how far?’, not to the end but to the next checkpoint. Team came to the fore again and everybody did what they could to help him get through, but I think he knew and accepted that his own resolve would determine his own outcome. Jess murmured to me that there is so much resting on his shoulders right now and she’s totally right. Thinking in terms of a relatively inexperienced and young runner thrown in at the deep end, he has enough on his plate already. Add to that the question of the team’s grand slam, the promotion of the Born To Run Foundation, and his father Greg’s overall vision and the way that the next 12 months fits into that, and he’s carrying far more than a 10 kilo pack and a stomach flu.

In lighter news, we hate hiking. Seriously, planning to cover 40km as slowly as possible and draw out as much suffering and fatigue as possible from passing trucks, desert dust, the heat of the day, and a heavy backpack is no way to spend your time. There are certainly some things to dislike about running fully laden but it beats walking all to hell. As much as we all have a newfound respect for the brave and determined citizens of the back of the running pack, we are even more incredulous that anybody would travel at 4km/h on foot by choice.

We totally support Japanese Spiderman’s choice to do so, however, because he is an underground wrestler carrying 19kg of food and running the entire 250km in a Spiderman outfit and wrestling mask. Do all those things at altitude in the Gobi Desert and you can do whatever you like.

Stage 3 -Jess

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

We made it! Top hats off to Matt today.  Imagine feeling nauseous, weak, and fatigued. What do you want to do? Just curl up in bed and sleep.  Well matt felt like that but got up and hiked 37km across the desert with 11kg on his back.  It was really touch and go today. James, the cameraman, got great footage; trying to build suspense he asked me whether or not matt would make it, and I genuinely didn’t know.  It is so different to Atacama, from running across the finish line each day in high spirits  to stumbling over the  line with sighs of relief in Gobi. It is hard to be upbeat and jokey when you can see one of your team members struggling so much.   We distributed some of his pack out to try to lighten the load.

As an aside,  it was fascinating to experience how the back of the pack roll, on your feet all day out in the heat, with no relief from the heavy pack.  Respect.  Imagine the pace at which you meander through a market - that is the pace at which we were going at for most of the day.  It was hard to be uplifted by the scenery too, some parts were stunning, but the last 10kms for example, we were trawling through a construction site with trucks driving past and leaving you to choke in a wake of dust.  Gobi feels much less remote than Atacama, with a road often in view.  tomorrow is promised to be tough …er!! . .  but I am really excited about seeing Shipton’s arch.  A natural arch the height of the empire state building.  I think we scale dodgy ladders and it is not for the faint hearted. 

Apologies for the writing. I have a dodgy computer, with people talking in my ear hole. 

Thanks for your support.  Let’s see how we go.


Day 2 - Tough day at the office -Greg

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A long day today with some difficult terrain. Matt in particular did it tough with lack if energy from being unable to eat due to his stomach problem, and also inflamed knee tendon, after effect of North Face 100. Roger also not well and lacking in energy, so today just became about getting the team to the finish, which we eventually did in around 6 hours 24, which was 68th and well outside what we are capable of fully fit. But that doesn't matter ,its a long race and we just have to do what we have to do to get to the end of each day.

I was very pround of Matt who was clearly in pain and distress but toughed it out, and has now crashed in the tent, and will hopefully be able to hold some food down and get his energy back. His knee however is quite bad, so its going to be a long week. In a stroke of luck a guy strolling past our tent for a chat kindly lent Matt his patellar tendon strap, and hopefully this might help tomorrow..

So with 170km to go its hard to tell what will happen. Its equivalent to over 12 city to surfs across difficult desert terrain with the equivalent to a slab of beer on your back (unfortunately its not beer, it s just stuff like freeze dried vegetable tikka).

Jess, Ron and I are going OK, however Ron metioned he was quite tired and was seeing stars, so has decided to have a sleep post race.

Tommorow is a bit shorter at 36km, however camp 4 is 900m higher than we are at the moment at 2,525m elevation. I didnt realise we would be running at this sort of altitude in Gobi. Anyway we just have to deal with things like this day by day and keep pushing on.

Blog again tommorow.

Update from stage 2 -Matthew

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Today's effort was 40km of hell. For the second morning in a row i woke up unable to eat anything. I spent the night with stabbing pain in my stomach and a painful inflamed patella tendon. It was a struggle to rise out of bed. I and the team fronted the start line with no expectations for what the day might hold. During the first stage i finished very dehydrated loosing 3 kg after being weighted for a study looking at sodium levels over the coarse of the week. This plus my GIT problems made recovery poor and it showed during stage 2. For the majority of the stage i could manage no more than a walk. We finished in about 70th position compared to 30th in stage 1.

There was some amazing scenary along the way and it was cool passing through the remote villages and seeing the local people. Unfortunatly because of my condition i could not enjoy it as much as i would have liked. I;m optimistic for a better run tomorrow as i have been able to eat my first meal of the trip and am feeling a little better. I;m looking forward to everyones comments so don't be shy!

Stage 1 & 2 -Roger

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

when daily marathons become hard to stomach (or give you the sh*ts)

Well, what to say? It's the end of Day 2 in Gobi. We have already experienced massive highs and potentially worsening lows. Team Born to Run is bruised and depleted, and we have 2 40km and a 75km day to go in oppressive heat and dust.

Highlights have been a moving welcome from Kyrg and Uighur villagers who lined our entry to Camp 1 in all manner of clothing, from traditional pointed white felt hats, fancy sequined head dress, and shiny 1980s suits reminiscent of stockbrokers. It was emotional in that we hardly deserved such a show of warmth, just for turning up to run. And because this is a country where not everything is as it seems, and there is always a question in the back of my mind, 'did they choose to be here?'. Military and police looking on seemed to also enjoy the show, which ranged from mimed karaoke and Bollywood to traditional folk accordion.

This was followed by a game called 'Urr ah tatch o-lak'. That spelling is entirely phonetic and loosely translates as 'grab the goat'. Players on horseback charge into and around each other, wrestling a decapitated goat's carcass from each other at high speeds, with the goal of making a break and throwing it down in a small ring of stones on the field of play. Gambling on each score upped the stakes.

But to the running, yesterday - Day 1 - started with a personal catastrophe. Some kind of stomach bug had begun to ravage my guts and in the 2 hours before we toed the starting line I'd already found myself squatting over the toilet pit 3 times. Above, clear skies. But below, liquid thunder. Teammate Matt seemed to be experiencing a similar thing but with more nausea and less of the Squirt McGurts. Either way, by the final 10km we were both sapped, reduced to an alternating shuffle/walk even on flat road. As hard as this is for us, it's no fun for the team either. Ron seems happy enough to cruise and chat about Garmins and the weight of things, while Greg is clearly benefiting from his training load since Atacama and happy not to be the one running at his limits. But Jess is in the quiet hell of watching runners that she normally wouldn't even see in a race until they finished well after her take off over the horizon. The teams component of Racing The Planet is small, but cruel.

Things took a stellar turn for the better as we reached the Uighur village where we'd be staying for the night. A little boy on a collapsible bicycle met us on the dirt road outside of town. 'A-salam-u-lakem,' I waved. 'A-lakem-u-salam' he smiled back, also waving.

I was trawling along behind the team, maybe 20 or 30 metres back. Next thing I know, this sweet-faced kid on a bike with big Suzuki stickers is virtually pacing me. As if this wasn't enough of a boost for flagging spirits, dogged by widespread abdominal pain and a white hot ball of pain and nausea centred on my stomach, he then started to sing as he rode along, local songs in perfect pitch without the slightest self-consciousness. He even hinted at taking one of the course markers, perhaps to help shake off our competitors. Laughing I motioned not to.

As we rolled and shuffled into town, we were joined first by one, then three then finally over a dozen kids all running along with us. Jess laughed and encouraged and cheered them in shortened Chinese as they ran amongst us, but it seems that this cultural pocket is yet to be pierced by the overwhelming weight that grows beyond its dirt walls. Uighur still seems to be their one and only language, and that is a beautiful thing.

The following 10 visits to squat over the traditional pit, further dehydrating with each one, were overseen by the very talkative cows in the adjoining stables.

Matt's nausea became an issue for him last night too as he attempted and failed to fully eat, but more significantly his patellar tendon has flared up again. Just 3 weeks after his first solo trail 100km at The North Face 100 in the Blue Mountains his body is paying the price for brave inexperience. Ron, Jess and I, while we all had mixed fortunes at the race itself, have enough long run conditioning built up to bounce back from running 100km within a few weeks, more or less. Matt will too, soon enough. But, apparently, not yet.

Today was rough - really rough. Yesterday we knocked over 32km in just over 4 hours. Today 40km took 6 1/2, and it hurt. Last night, all I managed to eat was a cup-a-soup and some Sustagen, followed by about 2 or 3 litres of hydralite, and 4 barely tolerated spoonfuls of rice. Breakfast was a scoop of peanut butter, some porridge, and half a chunky muesli bar, maybe 500 calories in total. Just 5km into today, I felt like I'd already run 30km, at effort. Alternating hot and cold chills, snot, nausea, disastrous guts. Time spent lying awake last night considering the consequences of failure. This is it, the hard stuff. This is why doing the Grand Slam means something. Miss one race and it's all over. Sahara in October, Antarctic in November. But without bearing up now, none of that happens.

It seems we had a really easy ride in Atacama, but it's the potential for things to go south hard and the opportunity to turn those around - however slowly - that is certainly a distinctive characteristic of ultra running. We aren't aspirational marathoners or determined hikers. We're here for the challenge of the long day. That gives me and Matt 2 days to get it together, with the help of team and friends, so that our lasting memory of Gobi won't just be warm friendly green-eyed villagers and a race we could only stagger through.

Stage 2 -Jess

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Thanks so much Mum, Dad, Sam, Clare and Steve for my emails - always lovely to log in and see.  I can't see any blog comments for me- is that right? Glad you liked the grad photo mum - arrrived so quick.  Well, a lot slower, subdued day today.  We effectively hiked our way in.  Matt is really struggling with his stomach, knee and back.  He queried whether he should feel proud or disappointed.  I confidently asserted he should feel proud; he is clearly in a lot of pain and is battling on.  Ron was lagging a lot today too.  The slower pace is great to take in the scenery - red Mars like rock was one section, and the second opened out onto what I imagine to be like African plains, with lots of mini Table Mountains to scale up and down.  The adrenaline of the team is lacking however, roger is not back to form yet, and I'm missing my fun play partner!  The female and male individual competition is quite exciting.  It feels like watching a footy game from the sideline with your football boots on.  I contemplate what it would be like to run individually; I wonder how one would pace themselves - I'd love to try it sometime.

I am still enjoying the international nature of the event, and meeting people of all different nationalities.  A 55 year old Korean who has donated 418 pints of blood.  A man from Kuwait who ran 600km across Australia, and a French lady who ran 555km across Northern Africa.  I am getting lots of ideas for future runs - sorry mum!  :)

It is cooler than Atacama, but the longer we are out on the trail clearly means more sun exposure in the heat of the day.  I feel completely satiated on my food, but might not have packed enough trail food - as opposed to eating back at the camp food - if we are to be a lot slower as I anticipate.  It is awesome to wake up every day and just run.  I am sleeping well, eating well, stretching much more than I EVER would normally, and just relaxing.  I am having a great holiday. 

Love to you all XXX

Try this for Sport! -Greg

Monday, June 11, 2012

Before I blog about day 1, i wanted to mention a unique western chinese sport that was put on for us by the local village, that very few westerners have ever witnessed. It works like this.
2 sides, 3 horsemen a side (dressed in suits), one   Horseman referee 
Object of the game: Get a dead goats carcass into   a goal on the ground formed by a circle of rocks. The side who does this   wins!

Imagine a game of rubgy leauge except on horseback, with a dead goat instrad of a ball. The six horses charge  into a "scrum" and you have 6 people grabbing the legs tail or head of the goat trying to secure it, eventually one wins and charges off on horseback, dead goat in hand towards the goal, with 5 other horses in hot pursuit. The goat can be passed between teammates,... have you ever seen anyone throw a "dummy pass" with a dead goat... we have!. Eventualluy the 5 horses catch the goat carrier and a new scrum ensues, with vigorous competition for the goat carcass. Eventaully one wins again, heads for the goal and   throws the limp carcass into the rock pile, and the locals all cheer and settle their bets. This goes on for ages, I think until the goat is finally destroyed (but they are tough little buggers).. Is that a crazy sport or what!. As  a bonus James has it all on film.. Kind if puts a new spin on the term Goat F%$@.

Anyway, day 1 of the dace. Nice cool weather relatively easy course, much of it on tracks, which was redcued to 33km due to a canyon being flooded by recent rains in the nearby mountains. However it was a tough day for Tream Born to Run. Roger and Matt must have had a dose of local food that wasnt too good and were suffering. I was running comfortably and just before the first 10k checkpoint found I was some way in front of the team, and Rog had needed go behind a rock pile 4 times. Matt was feeling nauseated and stopped to try and throw up but couldnt. We stuck together as a team, and generally let Rog and Matt determine the pace they were comfortable with. As it turned out the course reduction was a blessing, as Rog and Matt were finding the going tough with their problems.

Anyway I told the guys not to stress and the medals are handed out on day 7, not day 1. Despite the problesm we still did pretty well finishing in around 4.15, and 31st place. We are hopefull of improving on this placing as the event unfolds, but time will tell and anything can happen in an event like this,first  and of course the main goal of the Team is to finish.

I am feeling good and strong, no problems and Jess just continues through the desert on her laughing way, and making sure the team is OK.

I think the highlight of the day was the last kilometre to the finish line through the village, and our team were escorted in by around 15 kids aged from 3 to around 8, some on bikes and most running, to cross the line with us, an awesome and unique experience, again captured on film courtesy of James.

I have not had access to any blog replies, and willl see these later., but thanks for any you have sent.

Love to all, and hopefully the team will be feeling better in the morning to have a good crack at day 2..



PS Lots of poms here and some indians as well, and we hope to hold the first tri-nations cricket tournament on the Chinese continent on the rest day.We have bats and balls, and are good to go.

Day 1 - Done and Dusted -Matthew

Monday, June 11, 2012

Hello everyone from the western world. Sorry I was unable to upload anything on FB until now, I totally forgot about censorship from the Chinese government. Oh Well. First an update about the trip so far. WOW! I  could have not  imagined some of the crazy things I have seen so far. Kashgar is the farthest west city in china and has a crazy mix of extreme eastern and middle eastern cultures. Afganistan is literally a stones throw away. We spent the first 2 days exploring the city and getting A LOT of people looking at us as we roved around with bright red shirts and a camera man not far behind. Remembering this is a very sensitive area of china where very few people are allowed to go. There is a very strong military presents in the city with troops on nearly every street corner. On one occasion I nearly shat myself as one troop pointed at me and James our camera man: “YOU.. HERE (pointing to the ground in front of him)… NOW”. We didn’t argue and did as we were told. He was happy enough to see the pictures on the camera and delete the ones where the troops were present. Disaster avoided!

We cruised around and ate at a lot of very suspect places… And I think me and Rodger paid a pretty high price. I’ll describe the first stage in Chinglish and see if you get the picture.

Born to run team have unfortune because tummy devil bug live with Rodger and Matt. Heat and condition make difficult run but ending running anyway. Team is wishing fortune reverse with happy spirit fixing pain.

I hope that makes sence.

We arrived at the first camp greated by the local village who put on entertainment in the form of music and dance and a game of polo played on horse back. This game was somewhat different from the traditional game you might imagine played in England. Two teams of three played on a stoney field as they tried to rip a dead goat from each other and race to drop the carcass in a hole. Awsome!

Anyways that’s enough from me. Please leave your love and comments… and the score from the manly game. Thanks!

GOBI STAGE 1 32.9KM 4:14 -Ron

Monday, June 11, 2012

The stage started in cool weather, and warmed a little, although a nice breeze kept things comfortable.

Course was reduced as the river bed first part of leg 1 was too deep.

We ran long stretchs of 4WD road and firm but rocky ground. A few hills and riverbeds slowed us down.

Team Born to Run moved at nice pace early on. Just before CP2 Roger became hindered by stomach issues. Matt also was affected.

They ran a sollid pace until about 3 hours when they were forced to back off a little.

I also slowed from 3 hours. I felt the weight of the heavy pack. I started to fatigue and my hip joints were quite sore.

Jess was her usual self, running with little effort.

Greg had a great day, leading us for the first leg then keeping a steady pace.


All up a good effort, the same time as Stage 1 Atacama, 1.3km longer and 120m elevation gain compared to 400 drop.

We are living it up tonight, honestaying in a local village, Tashpuscka.

Half the field, about 80 runners are staying in a massive house.

10 to a room, the same as the tents, but a lot more comfortable.

tbc tomorrow...

Stage 1 -Jess

Monday, June 11, 2012

What a cultural adventure! Running today was awesome, but experiencing Kashgar and the villages is the standout so far.  It has been fantastic returning to China - the familar sights, sounds... and nasty smells (Sam!).  The team has been great at embracing the culture, and my terrible Chinese has been put to good use in the markets, street stalls and basic restaurants.  Yet, the Muslim population and close borders with Krykzstan (excuse spelling!) offers wonderful new faces, fancy headwear and food.

We arrived at the first camp to a spectacular surprise welcome from the neighbouring village - who had all hiked in to meet us.  They put on an awesome display of dancing, singing, miming (!) and musical performances.  The finale was a horse game - think polo cross with rugby...maybe!  Two teams, no sticks, no ball, but a dead goat that they throw between team players and play tug of war with.  The aim is to drop the goat in a "goal".  Bets are taken, and the attire was suits!  :)  Oh, and how could I forget that I was interviewed by KZTV! :)

The stage was cut short to 32km - which was fortunate.  Both Roger and Matt are suffering from gastro, with diarrhoea and nausea.  The team banded together really well, and we still finished in the top quarter of the field I think.  The scenery was not AS spectacular today - dirt roads with big trucks honking past, but I am not disheartened, the next days promise much more.  Tonight we are staying within a village, and are being met with fantastic curiosity from the local children.  One kid on his bike rode the last 3km with us, and as we ran through the village we accumulated a band of children who all ran to the finish with us - it was ABSOLUTELY AMAZING.  It was a good 1km, and some of the tiny tots were puffing.  I was like "cmon, cmon, you can do it", and we all exchanged excited high-fives at the end. 

Personally,  I am pleased with my pack.  My upgrade from feminine hygiene products(!) to sheepskin seat belt covers on the bag straps (thanks for the tip Margaret) are great.  My pack is nearly 1km lighter than Atacama - but yet contains more calories (fist pump)! :)  Mash and cup of soup are an excited highlight.  The bottles are still bruising my ribs, but hey, you can't have everything.   My butt is still getting a lot of exposure  - these deserts and their lack of structures to pee behind!  :)

Roger is recovering, so for those following his blog, I doubt he will write today, but hopefully tomorrow night.


Love to you all,