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.



(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!