Sunday, November 05, 2006


At the Finish

Hello from the finish line!

Let me, however, start with the night before. As you know, Friday was a rest day spent taking care of blistered feet, raw and seeping with blood and pus. Almost every other foot in camp that belonged to a runner bore a black toe nail ready to come off or a red heel. It was a podiatrist's heaven. Some people limped around on legs that were swollen to twice their size due to poor circulation and and the heat. Literally some looked as if the beginnings of elephantitis was setting in. So we lay around, sleeping, chatting and sorting out the last of our rations, throwing away anything that we would not consume in the next 18 hours.

Around noon on Friday, five people still were out on the course. I asked my tent mate Victoria if she wanted to come with me to see if we could find them and encourage them through the last few miles. We headed on down through the village but didn't get far as we were asked to go into one of the homes. Although quite poor by our standards, the children eagerly had us sit down, producing a bowl of fava beans. Victoria hesitated to eat any but I assured her a few wouldn`t put her in the med tent with a case of dysentary. We chatted away and they just looked at us and smiled. With hand motions they indicated that they would like some skin cream. We went back to our tents collected our remaining SPF cream, sewing kits and flip flops and handed them around. Thanks came in the form of huge smiles.

Back to what you really want to know about, the last stage. We had to be on a bus at 2:30 in the morning Saturday heading back to Cairo for the last 12K. So no one really got alot of sleep, we all tried to grab a few more hours on the bus and wolfing down whatever it was we had deemed to call breakfast. For me it was two power bars; I think both from Italy. We arrived at the start, took care of calls of nature by the road side as there was no where else to go. The first group was set to go at 10 am. The second group was set to go at at 11 am. The top ten runners were scheduled to go at noon. I took off pumped with adrenaline. I ran my best, constantly telling my self to forget the pain, just put one foot in front of the other and don't wish away the moment, don't think about what lies in the future, live this moment, run with your heart. I did. I sang the National Anthem, America the Beautiful and Amazing Grace. One more hill had to be climbed, a reminder of the what this race was about. I crested the top and there before me were the Pyramids of Giza. Goose bumps surfaced and I felt another surge of energy. I ran, hard and with deliberate purpose.

A volunteer told me there was 1 K to go. My legs pumped up and down, my strides lengthened and I tell you, I am certainly not a fast runner, but I was fast then. I passed two runners, risking a fall by not slowing down over the rocky uneven terrain.

A tourist asked me as I passed, "What are you running a marathon or something?"

"Yeah, something like that," I responded.

There it was, just ahead, the beautiful green "RacingThePlanet" banner, the band was playing an aria from "Aida." I ran for the sheer joy of being able to still run after six days. A huge silver medal on a green ribbon was put around my neck. My picture was taken and I headed over to Dr. Brandee to get weighed in and have my body fat calibrated. I honestly can not recall my beginning body weight and body fat percentage but when Dr. Brandee emails me the numbers I will certainly share them with you in my post blog.

Pizza Hut provided endless amounts of pizza, there was soda and yes more water. After finishing up with Dr. Brandee I wolfed down in a most un lady like way, two pieces of pizza. I wanted more, but my stomach started cramping. Treated myself to an orange soda and sat on an oriental rug staring up at the splendid massive Pyramids which I had just run around.

At that moment, I felt like the Queen of Egypt. I know that I didn't run a pretty or fast race, but I felt as if I had run a brave race. There will be more, I promise.

I will be headed for the airport in a few short hours for a 3:45 am flight. I am coming home a much better woman. Of that I am certain. I have seen heaven when I looked up at the blue sky during the day and star lit sky at night, and I have felt as if I were in hell perhaps more than once during this race. I know the difference between discomfort and pain, and I know that I will feel pain again because, yes, I will run another ultra again.

To all of you who have read and written, you have fueled me with such positive energy and so you should know that when I ran, you ran with me.

Cheers, Jacqueline


Editors Note: Jacquline finished 42nd out of the 55 competitors to complete the race. She was ninth out of 13 females. Jimmi Olsen of Denmark was the winner. First place female was Claire Price of the United Kingdom, who came in fifth overall.

Photo Credit: RacingThePlanet

Friday, November 03, 2006


Rest Day

Jacqueline playing with a local boy visiting camp today.


Photo Credit: RacingThePlanet

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Race Day 5: Long Day's Journey Into Night

Hello sports fans:

The good news: The fifth stage was 90K, not the 100K as we had previously been told. The top 20 runners started at 9 am yesterday and the remaining group started three hours earlier at 6 am. Ughhh. Getting up at 4:30 was not easy. I saved my last oatmeal for today's stage feeling as if I needed all the good food I could get into my system. It was quite pleasant actually running in the cool morning air. I was determined to run as much of this stage as I could, knowing that the probability of heavy sand and weariness was quite real and that would mean slower legs, no pun intended.

The first three stages were a mixture of packed and loose sand. The heat kicked in pretty fast. I was feeling good until almost the end of the third leg where I was forced to sit down and remove my left shoe as my toe was seriously throbbing. I tried to drain it but didn't manage to get the needle all the way through. so I put everything back on and continued to the checkpoint three. There, the medics managed to get a scream out of me and fluid out of the toe. I popped some Advil and carried on.

I am convinced in every ultra endurance event, a melt down occurs. Mine began while I was between check points 17 and 18. Aside from power bars, three of which I managed to down, I had no snacks. I was bonking and still at least six miles out from checkpoint 18. Even worse, it was 12 more K to check point 19, which had hot water. That's what I needed, hot water to make my dinner. Alot of thoughts go through your head when you start crumbling. You give yourself a gazillion reasons to keep going, tell yourself not to cry, not to stop, to suck it up, because after all this is what you signed up for. I dug in my pack and pulled out an instant soup packet and started eating the salty powdery mix, willing it to make me stronger. I threw the rest of the mix in the bag with the ramen noodles mixing and crushing the noodles into bits. I started munching on the mix. I needed fuel to keep going. I arrived at checkpoint 18 and just mumbled that I was so hungry, I didn't have any food that didn't need water. Dr. Brandee gave me some of her pita bread and a small bag of cheese nips. I started off again with a glow stick on my back pack as darkness was beginning to descend. It was tough going to checkpoint 19. I was running on fumes but the evening sky was brillantly lit with an almost full moon and a astronomers dream galaxy. I slogged on, arriving at checkpoint 19 spent. They put hot water in my dinner and gave me some sweetened teas, all of which I inhaled. I curled up in my sleeping bag and asked to be woken in an hour. This was the check point where you could choose to spend the night or sleep a couple of hours. The only glitch was that the time would continue to run. There was no way I wanted an extra seven hours tacked onto my time. I filled one bottle with tea and one with water.

I ran the next 13 K and grabbed some electrolytes and water at the last check point intending to run the last 9 miles. This wasn't going to happen. The course wound up and down the dunes, which were strewn with rocks. Keep in mind it's now 1 am today and I was going to be out there for at least 2 more hours. The last 5 K wound through an oasis and deserted village. "Lions and tigers and bears, OH MY" is what I kept chanting quietly.

At about 3 o'clock this morning I entered camp. I sat by the fire, had some hot tea an crawled into my sleeping bag.

Without question I had to dig deeper than I ever had to physically get through those 21 hours. I thought about alot of people in my life, called on God and told myself that I would never ever be able to live with myself if I quit. For if you quit, you will never know if you would have finished.

That's all for now. I must sleep and rest up for the final 12 K stage tomorrow. Thanks for reading and for all of your e-mails.

Cheers,

Jacqueline

(Editor's Note: This arrived at 6:50 a.m. Philadelphia time)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006



Race Day 4

So many inquiries about the blisters. Still, compared to others I am most fortunate. Two mild blisters on the inside of my left foot and the same blister underneath my left big toe. My fabulous tent mate Doreen was pulled from the race due to an infection in her blisters that they say may possibly go to her heart. Doreen had major heart surgery last year and has a 13-year-old so at home, so she is dealing quite well with the doctor's decision. She also is 46, one month younger than me (I am the oldest female) so I have told her I am running for her as well. She selflessly gave me her desert gators, hiking sticks and water bottle.

They started us again at 7 am. I ran a portion of the first stage, but had to finish the entire rest of the day walking. No worries, I want my feet to be better for tomorrow's stage. John, from the UK who came in first place on the first day, also was struggling with blisters. One nasty one was starting up on his heal, so he had decided to take it easy today as well. We walked the rest of the day's stage together. Running/walking with someone is huge as long as you both connect and find endless topics to talk about. I know for certain that I managed to walk faster with his company. Ultimately, I moved up to 47th place, only one place, but I am quite pleased.
Today's terrain was a mixture of slightly packed sand, certainly much easier to run on and soft sand in the last stretch. No dunes, no gales, but a marvelous treat at Check Point 2 -- an oasis. We weren't allowed to immerse our filthy, stinky bottles in that glorious pool of water, but we could use a water bottle to douse ourselves, which I did and felt immediately invigorated. So off we went to tackle the last 11.7 K.

The landscape changed from the desert one would see in Arizona or New Mexico, sparse grass throughout, to magnificant salt flats with fantastic fossilized shells and impressions embedded therein. Truly, if I didn't care about the weight of my pack, I would have a hefty stash of rocks/shells to bring home as gifts. Speaking of weight, my pack is noticeable lighter. I am going to have to ask around for more recovery drink as I used my last one today. Quite important, especially if we have to tackle the dunes tomorrow and I don't want my calves to cramp up.

It's interesting, but most of us who are volunteering for the John Hopkins study, are eating barely 2000 calories a day. Most of my calories I am getting through my carb/protein drink. Eating power bars is quite difficult. The stuff I have is still strange -- way too sweet for me and as the others say, its just simply too hot to eat. When I come into camp, I do drink a good quantity of recovery drink and have two cups of nice salty broth. Ate the last of my wasabi peas yesterday so I will most likely have pasta and mashed potatoes tonight. A lovely treat was given to us this evening -- marshmallows! Yum. Burnt marshmallows are one of my favorites. Unfortunately my interest is still in salt, salt and more salt. I will say, that laying off the salt tabs clearly has made a difference in the way I feel, which is much stronger. So tomorrow morning, its a 100k. Yup, apparently the rumor is true. Sixty miles of lovely desert. So the 15 fastest runners will start at 9 am the rest of us will start at 6 am. Tomorrow will be a test for all. Even the front runners are a bit concerned about the distance. Hey, this is an ultra!

Off to eat and relax and think good thoughts about my feet and legs carrying me along tomorrow. I am going to have to reach down one more time into the "suffer bag" and deal with what comes up. The good news, is that we all get to rest until the final stage on Saturday morning. Tomorrow night will be a challenge for me as I have never run in the dark. The runners will be wearing a glow stick on their backs and glow sticks will light the way. I expect the pictures will be fantastic.

Many thanks for your e-mails. They are positively motivating!

Cheers,
Jacqueline

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Race Day 3: Marilyn Monroe on the Dunes

Hello from somewhere in the Desert.

Well, this is the first Halloween I can actually say "Trick or treat, smell my feet..." Honestly, my feet are holding up so much better than I expected. I had one blister taken care of yesterday. It wasn"t visible but my left big toe was throbbing and the Doc said there was probably a blister underneath. Nothing to do, but stick a needle directly through the top of the nail. Yes, it HURT! Once that was done however, it felt oh so much better.

For any runners out there, I am telling you these Injini toe socks are fabulous. Although I am wearing gaiters, sand does manage to get in but at least doesn't settle between the toes directly.

Today was positively a Sahara day as you may have seen in "Lawrence of Arabia." A longer stage with four check points. We were up at 5:30. Brrrr. Iit's been chilly at night and it was chilly getting it all together for a 7 am start. I have one bag of oatmeal left from the breakfast donations and I am saving that for Thursday, which has been rumored to be not 50 but 60 miles! So it was Ramen noodles for breakfast with a power bar. Anything hot is positively delicious for both breakfast and dinner. It's challenging to think about what you want to wear at that hour, because you know you're going to heat up pretty quick but feel chilly waiting for the start.

Today's start was hilarious, as the front group for some reason headed left at the start instead of going straight. This put me in the lead for at least 60 seconds! Yeah baby! So, the race committee honestly couldn't have planned it better. By the end of the first leg, heading into checkpoint 1, we had 50 mph gales, sand obscuring the pink marker flags, which are placed 25 meters apart. Unbelievably challenging. Again, I ran the first leg almost to the end and then could do more than "slog along." Heading out of checkpoint 2, the winds were gusting directly into my left side. I was completely covered in sand and could do little more than keep my head up so as not to go off course. Literally had to walk the second stage. Coming into the second checkpoint, I quickly had my water bottle re-filled and as well my electrolyte bottle. I neglected to mention, that my water bottle was also in my luggage bag, so I am carrying a small water bottle, the size of a Poland Spring bottle on one side of my bag, and a one and a half liter bottle on the other side. It is clearly unbalanced at the start not to mention akward to reach but a necessity.

Then it happened, the dunes rose up before me. Splendid in their height with spindthrift blowing off the top. I started up the first dune, literally running on my toes heading into the wind as I didn't want to lose momentum and slide backwards. The feeling of sand blowing on my exposed legs and arms, can only be compared to the most aggressive acupuncture treatment one can imagine. This discomfort however managed to make me forget about the hot spots I felt forming on my feet. Pierre, who designed the course, told us this morning that the reason he was having us go up and down the dunes, was because he wanted us to experience the "Spirit of the Race." Let me tell you I did! Actually what came to mind as I was walking slowly across the razor thin top of the dune, was the quote which my coach loves from the movie "Braveheart," which is "All men die, but not all men truly live." At that moment I was living, for certain. Easily there were 12 dunes, which had to be summited with little reprieve. Perhaps I hadn't mentioned this earlier, but any deviation from the course would cost a runner a time penalty. Checkpoint 3 was strategically placed so that they could see that everyone followed the course. It was by far however, my favorite stage of racing today. At one point there were four Koreans behind me. As I was ascending, I was leaning forward and my running skirt was flipped up by the gales. Granted there are shorts underneath but despite my upward struggle, I did hope I wasn't offending them. Guess not, as they never ended up passing me!

I am positively pleased with todays outcome. I came in 41st in today's stage and moved up to 48th place from 54th where I was yesterday. Your good vibes and e-mails are instrumental and the best part of the end of the day. I'm off to bed as tomorrow the distance is the same, starting off at 7 am with the dunes (I'll try to keep the skirt down) and lots of soft sand.

Cheers from the Black Desert,
Jacqueline

Monday, October 30, 2006



Race Day 2 (Photos)

(Photo credit: RacingThePlanet)


Race Day 2

I FOUND MY MOJO! Yes, today was positively so much better than yesterday. The distance was a wee bit longer, 19 miles. I ran the entire first stage, took no salt tablets and just drank my electrolytes and water. I managed to consume and -- more importantly -- keep down, approximately 800 calories throughout the race as opposed to the mere 200 yesterday. I definitely think keeping the electrolytes down was the trick. I was positively delighted to not come in last. I placed 42nd out of 59 and have now risen from last place in the over all standings to 54th. I think the Desert Gods were smiling on me and my stomach today. Many thanks!

Due to my condition yesterday, I neglected to mention the majestic beauty of all we are running through. Today, we ran through the White Desert. Lots of sand, so more slogging along, especially through the second stage. The last leg was 12K and fortunately more rock terrain.

At the risk of being made fun of, I did somehow manage to get lost with just 4K to go along with Frank who informed me that I shouldn't be following him as he wasn't wearing his contacts. Sounds like the beginning of a blonde joke: "There was a blonde and a man who forgot his contacts, runnning through the desert..." I'll let you give it an ending. Twenty minutes later we spotted a Scotsman coming along, ah saved! Back on track, I ran walked through the sandy parts and brought it on in. I tell you the salt rocks throughout this run are remarkable. I make a point of looking up to see what animal/human the rock resembles. Pretty cool. The ground is a treasury of shells, fantastic rocks and a camels teeth here and there. What a fabulous two days it has been, despite my unwanted one and a half hour respite. If interested, I had yummy oatmeal and raisins for breakfast, dinner last night was Pasta with Napoli Sauce and the most wonderful comfort food, mashed potatoes. I understand that they have invented freeze dried wine. That is most definitely coming along next time (Can you believe I said next time?) and yes, it will be in my carry on!

Must go to bed as tomorrow's leg is 22 miles and we start early.

Cheers from the White Sands of the Sahara,
Jacqueline


(The photos are from Sunday)

Photo Credit: RacingThePlanet

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Race Day 1

A positively beautiful morning greeted us. We had a briefing of the day's race at 8:30 am and then an enthusiastic send off from locals. The Gods were smiling on us as they changed the first leg of the race from 31.69 miles to 18 miles. The temp was 100 (yeah) with a slight breeze in the first stage of the race. Fortunately there were alot of rocky areas, which allowed me to run the first leg. The second leg is where the soft sand began along with several inclines. It reminded me of when I was a kid at the beach, and the ice-cream man stood at the top of the dunes ringing his bell. Every kid within a 1/2 mile started running up the dune, the only difference was they weren't wearing a back pack.

Truly, I was "slogging it" up each and every dune and rise, even the flats. Checked in at Check Point 2 feeling good, now to finish the last 6 miles. One mile into the stage, I felt my insides start churning like they were in the spin cycle of a wash machine. I had six mother nature calls, trying to abide by the rules of being 100 meters from the course or otherwise being penalized. By the third time, I didn't care how much time they added on to my total. Finally I made my way over to a rock and did the unthinkable. Stopped, sat down and took off my pack. One of the jeeps with the volunteers and an NBC crew stopped and asked if I was okay, to which I unceremoniously responded by bending over and leaning over and paying homage to the ground. I was empty of everything I had carefully been feeding my body. I lay down in the shade, then moved in to the sun to ward off the chills.

Dr. Brandee pulled up and gave me some meds to help my bowels, covered me with a blanket and about an hour later I felt much better. I gather it was the "new diet" I had introduced to my body. Granted there was no alternative as there was no way I was turning around and going home just because I didn't have my own food. The salt tabs and different electrolytes along with the sweet banana gu, which I didn't like but needed to fuel on, clearly didn't agree with me. The power bars, some of which I had never tried, also weren't going down well. I had made a point of drinking every fifteen minutes, most of that liqud was the electrolytes. Clearly I should have had much more of the water. I also only wore a buff and poured water over my head occasionally, but had no hat as that was also in the missing luggage. So after feeling as if I had just been on the cup and saucer ride at the shore for an hour and a half, I got up to finish the last 5 miles. They were the longest five miles as I dared not even try the gu, had a piece of dried bread and only water. I came in last but I finished! An hour later, having had a recovery drink, and some soup for starters, I felt so much better. I had some more dinner, tea and recovery drink. Within the hour, other runners were bringing me more electrolytes and gu, the kind I used! Tomorrow promises to be better, I am certain :) Anyway, whats an ultra without a few unexpected challenges.

For those who offered to Fed Ex items to me, that is actually a great idea for a commercial, but truly as we are always on the move, I don't think the Fed Ex man would catch up with us until Saturday!

Cheers from the sands of the Sahara,
Jacqueline
Pre-Race Report: Luggage Left Behind

AH YES, LET'S MAKE THIS RACE EVEN MORE CHALLENGING. MY LUGGAGE IS STILL IN FRANKFURT. THE GOOD NEWS IS FOR THOSE WHO DIDN'T READ FRIDAY'S BLOG, I AT LEAST CARRIED ON MY PACK, RUNNING SHOES, GATORS, RUNNING ATTIRE AND SUNGLASSES. THE OTHER RUNNERS HAVE BEEN AMAZING. EVERYONE CHIPPED IN BY PROVIDING ME WITH EXTRA FOOD, ELECTROLYTES AND THE OTHER THINGS I WILL NEED. THE HISTORY CHANNEL GUYS GAVE ME A HEAD LAMP, AND MOST OF THE OTHER EQUIPMENT -- KNIFE, SAFETY BLANKET -- MAGICALLY APPEARED. I DON'T HAVE MY MED KIT, SO LET'S HOPE THERE ARE NO MEETINGS WITH SCORPIONS OR SERIOUS FALLS OUT THERE. I ALSO AM ONE OF THE VOLUNTEERS FOR THE JOHN HOPKINS STUDY, SO I AM HOPING THEY WILL FEELSORRY FOR ME IN A TIME OF NEED. I DON'T HAVE MY ORIGAMI CUP, BUT CUTTING A 1.5 LITER WATER BOTTLE IN HALF EVERY DAY WILL WORK FINE.

THIS HAS CERTAINLY BEEN A CHALLENGE AS THE LOSS OF LUGGAGE COULD BREAK ONE MENTALLY. MY THOUGHT IS, I HAVE FOOD, MY SHOES, MY BAG AND I AM WHERE I HAVE WORKED SO HARD TO BE. WE HAD A SIX HOUR BUS RIDE THEN A 15 MINUTE JEEP RIDE TO THE START OFTHE RACE. DINNER WAS MADE FOR US AND IT WAS YUMMY AS IT WASN:' FREEZEDRIED.

SO, TOMORROW IT BEGINS: 31.69 MILES. THE NIGHT IS BRILLANTLY LIT WITH CONSTELLATIONS AND A CRESCENT MOON. IMAGINE YOU CAN LOOK UP AT THE VERY SAME MOON KNOWING ITS THE SAME ONE I SEE. OFF TO BED, WHICH IS A LOVELY 750 COUNT, 12 OZ SLEEPING BAG I BRILLANTLY THOUGHT TO CARRY ON BOARD WITH ME IN MY PACK. AH, LIFE IS GOOD.

CHEERS,
JACQUELINE