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TODAY'S THE LAST DAY (Matt Donovan)

Wednesday, December 05, 2012
Well it looks like we've made it. Today is the last day that we are able to be set ashore to run. It's been an incredible year... one that I will never forget, and one that I am so grateful to be a part of. I have to take my hat off to Dad who has put this thing whole thing together and followed through with his dreams. At times I was pushing myself hard and would have hated to think how he was feeling. He's definitely no Kenyan and can't scale hills like a goat but after nearly 900km of running/marching/walking/trudging through these deserts he has not stopped.

The whole team has stayed strong and got the job done and I'm looking forward to bringing this whole experience to the Simpson desert next year where we can finish what we started.

Yesterday's stage we only 2 hours around a 1.2km track. Racing the planet had showed their sick sense of humour with this one because the course was 600m straight up a massive hill and them 600m straight down. Dad was using his polls again and I was behind him pushing to move just a little bit faster... a nice little technique we learnt in Sahara :).

Talking about sense of humor, we also slept outside on the ice for the night. When I say night I mean between the hours of 9:00 pm to 5:00 am. I don't know if it can be classified as night because the sun never went down and it was light the whole time. A very surreal experience. Unfortunately I can't say I slept under the stars in Antarctic because there were none! If your wondering what it was like... it was cold. I woke in the morning with an inch of snow on me. We slept in a water proof sack (body bag) with a ground liner inside and double sleeping bag. As you can imagine going to the toilet took a little bit of skill! I'm proud to say I executed this perfectly.

Today we have been disrupted by the weather and are currently looking for a protected place to run. It looks like we may get a short run this afternoon but nothing has been confirmed yet. The weather has cleared enough and if there is a suitable track we may be sent out for a final 2-3 hour run. Fingers crossed!

Thanks again for sending through all the comments. I'll send more updates after we have completed today's stage and after we finish the 4 Deserts Grand Slam! YEWWW!

Stage 3 Update (Matt Donovan)

Thursday, November 29, 2012
Hello again everyone from home. Thought I would start off by saying that I'm currently looking out the window of the ship and watching a pod of killer whales cruise by. Pretty cool.. I'm not going to lie. There would be about 5-6 of them and we have been following them for about 10 minutes. Like I said before.. I know it sounds a lot like a holiday!

Yesterday was stage 3 and it went according to plan. We were set ashore on a 3.2 km circut and were given 8.5 hours to cover as much distance as we could. Dad took his poles this time which helped get him up the massive hill in the middle of the track. I took it on myself to stay behind him and physically push him along so we were moving at a quicker pace. We managed to cover about 45km in the snow. I think most of the competitors would agree that moving through the snow down here is much harder than moving throuh the sand in the Sahara. Even given the heat.

In about 10 mins we will have a briefing for todays plan. Weather is overcast but no wind so it looks like we will be going ashore again to get it done. Today we are doing 2 stages... one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Obviously both will be a little shorter than what we have done so far but still may get in 5 - 6 hours total. After running two separate stages today we are meant to be sleeping off the ship on the ice on the mainland. We have had it pretty easy so far compared to the other deserts so im kinda looking forward to roughing it a little and sleeping under the stars.

I will post another blog soon. Keep sending your messages and maybe a little news from home :)

Stage 2 was a little easier! (Matt Donovan)

Thursday, November 29, 2012
Hey everyone from home. Yesterday we rocked up to Deception Island where the weather was pissed off. Deception Island is an active volcano with an old whaling station on the shore. The island itself had a huge inlet and was kinda shaped like a dounut with a bite taken out of it, so we could cruise right inside to the middle of the island (google it if that didnt make sense). The wind was pushing about 50 knots/80km per hour so it was a little too dangerous to be out there for too long. Instead we were taken to another location about 7 hours away where there was a chance we could get in a few hours running before the sun went down.

When we eventually got to this place the sun was out and absolutly no wind. You could just about tolerate it with shorts and a t-shirt. It just showed how variable the weather is down here. The island itself was real small, about as big as 6-8 football fields which would make for a very small circuit. The other thing was that there were about a billion penguins and the biologist onboard forbid us from running and disturbing them. Instead we took the zodiacs to the island and hung out with the wildlife for a couple of hours. A little more enjoyable then running around in circles all afternoon.

Right now we are about an hour from our new destination and it looks very likey we will be doing another long day of about 8 - 10 hours to make up for the missed stage.

I'll try and describe what im looking at right now. We are cruising through a tight channel with a mountain range on either side, covered in ice and massive iceburges the whole way through. The sun is intense and the colour of the water and iceburges are a bright blue colour. The white of the ice is so bright is almost hurts the eyes.

I know it sounds a little like a holiday at the moment but im hopeing we can do another 50 - 60 km today.

Anyways, thats all from me right now. Stay tuned for our second bout of running!

Long Day Stage 1 (Matt Donovan)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Hello everyone at home. For me it is the morning after the long day. To give you the brief yesterday we had near perfect weather and were able to get in a full day of running. We had 12 hours to cover as much ground as we could over a 14 km loop. At the end of the day the Team had covered about 70km. The morning started really good and we were about to move along at a steady pace. As the day heated up and the snow/ice became a little soft and things started to slow down a bit. There were parts of the coarse where the soft surface meant that every step you took there was a 50/50 chance of sinking to half way down your leg. Obviously the heavier runners had more problems than the lighter ones!

The cut off time for last nights stage was 8:30pm. On your last loop we came into the checkpoint at 8:00pm and decided to push on and clock up another 7 km taking our total to ~ 70 km. A lot of people were very suprised by this because there was only a little bit of time to go. The last 7 km were very slow and the temperature dropped very fast as the sun fell bellow the horizon. Just to give you an idea, our cameraman stuck with us the whole way just to shoot some whalebones that were outside one of the scientific bases. 7km march for a 15 second shoot... thats efficient! By the time we arrived back at the checkpoint all runners had been taken back to the ship and we were the last to be recovered.

Right now I am sitting in a briefing and am a little unsure if we will be let out today seeing as its super windy outside (50 nots). Deception island (where we were set to land today) is locked in by ice an unaccessable by zodiac. I will update later as to were we will go next. Anyways i'll end it there. I'm kinda happy today is a writeoff because it looks pretty gnarley outside. I wish I could upload a couple of pictures of some of the red roar faces that were hammered by sun. Irish expedition leader describes his own face "akin to a smacked backside".

Hope all is well at home. Keep sending the comments as I look forward to reading about things for home :)

Crossing the Passage (Matt Donovan)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Hello everyone from home. I hope this reaches you all.

The last two days have been spent on the ship making the 1000km voyage crossing the passage towards our first landing spot: King George Island. Tomorrow morning when we arrive there we will be let out for the first stage which is estimated to be about 100km. I have to admit I feel very underprepared with zero experience in running in the cold. I have been powering through Cas and Jonsey's latestbook: Crossing the Ice. From this book I have picked up some wisdom regarding physical exhurstion in the cold.
No.1 - Get Fat! Unfortunatly left this a little too late but it could have been a fun thing to do anyway. Both these guys put on and lost about 25kg each. I have to say our adventure is not quite that extreme, and their's very inspiring.
No.2 - You sweat, You die. I understand completely what they mean by this but putting it into practice will be another thing all together. If you happen to get your clothes wet from sweating and then have to stop for whatever reason, within a very short time the moisture in the clothing turns to ice and you are essentially wearing your body bag. I should be ok with this but dad may have issues because he sweats like crazy. Fun times ahead!
No.3 - Conditions change. From reading the book and getting reports from other past runners and race organisers the weather down here can change very very quickly. There can be situations when you are running with only light base layer clothing and the temps can be up to 5 degrees C, and freak changes in whether can come up very quickly where the temp drops suddenly and wind storms come through. This could mean facing temps as low as -20 degrees. We have been told that when the temp drops to -20 degrees we are pulled from the course. We have been told we are largely goverened by the wheather and we have to be very flexible and patient.

Apart from that the last two days on the ship have been pretty cool. Every now and then I venture onto the deck to check it out and nearly get blown overboard (pictures to come). It's a mission getting ready just to go outside and hard to stay out there longer than 10 mins because you are being pelted with water from the sea, ice from the sky and gail force winds. The passage has been pretty rough (by my standards) although we have been told we are lucky to have got a "nice" crossing. Heaps for people have got sea sick and been in their rooms most of the trip. I'm pretty stoked that I'm not one of them!

Next time I read your comments I would have run the first stage of the race! I very much look forward to that! Keep the comments coming.

P.S.
@ Mum - Dad's fine
@ Steve - Don't forget to post URL to my FB wall with some type of message.
@ Emma - Thinking of you xo

Today Ushuaia, Tomorrow Antarctica! (Matt Donovan)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Hey everyone at home! I hope you receive this well. Just though I would give a little update so far before getting on the boat his afternoon and making the two and a half day voyage to the Antarctic peninsula! We arrived on Sunday morning. The group was short two bags which were left in some other South American airport and I started to get a little sick. I'm pretty sure it was the airport food that had me vomiting and running to the loo all Sunday. After getting next to no sleep for 2 days this was not a great way to recharge the batteries. I bombed a couple of heaven antibiotics which seemed to fix the situation and I'm happy to report I feel 100 percent. We have spent a few days getting to know Ushuaia a little better. We have been for a run out to a glacier about 10km from where we are staying and have also taken a hire car to the national park which was stunning. The ant isolation is building as we are preparing to board the ship this arvo. I've got enough things to keep my mind occupied and hopefully enough means to keep the sea sickness away. Past competitors have told some horror stories about crossing the passage. I'm just hoping our experience is a little better and much more enjoyable. Whatever the case, stay tuned for more info in the next couple of days! Until then!!

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  

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!      

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!

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!