It has been a long time since I wrote here, and it’s going to be just a bit longer yet. Just thought I’d post some fresh pics of what I’ve been up to, because the last 2 months has been MINDBLOWING in the extreme.
First, in early October, I went to New Zealand with Hoka OneOne for the World Championships in the ITU tri series (to work, not compete….obviously!). As exciting as it was to see Gomez edge out a Brownlee when he wasn’t being double-teamed for a change, the para triathletes were my greatest source of both memories and inspiration. The way they shared their stories candidly and competed with complete commitment in the total absence of arrogance or self-importance was genuinely mesmerising.
After being in Auckland for a week, I returned to Australia on a Monday night to be reunited with my partner, Jess. She’s also my partner in Team Born to Run, and just 3 days later we flew to Egypt for The Sahara Race in the Racing The Planet 4 Deserts Grand Slam that we have been completing this year, as we help launch the Born to Run Foundation.
The day after landing, we were in a bus on the way to the Sahara and a week of heat-infused, sandy, partially dehydrated shenanigans. Even for the better-prepared in our team of 5, shadeless days of soft sand running during which the mercury crested 46 degrees Celsius had an element of harsh brutality. One teammate dehydrated hard on the first day, and the week became a death march earlier than expected. In case you’re not a distance runner, the term ‘death march’ refers to the shuffle that runners adopt when the tank is empty and the legs simply cannot move any faster without causing a complete meltdown. It’s not the place you want to be.
More detail on all the races later, though.
This is a very brief recap and an excuse to post some colourful pictures of an amazing 8 weeks in the life of a lucky runner.
Sahara was a struggle, but also jawdroppingly gorgeous. On the second night we were there, the full moon was so bright that we could only see 3 stars in the sky, and I’m pretty sure sure that they were all planets. By the sixth night, we could see by the light of both the moon and stars that we could run without our torches at night.
The long day hurt, 87km in just under 17 hours as we crossed the line seconds before midnight, but that’s all a story for another time. If I start going into that detail, I’ll simply have to spend hundreds or even thousands of words talking about the amazing people we have been fortunate enough to spend time with over the last couple of months, as well as the commitment and excellence of the Racing the Planet organisers and volunteers and all the in-country staff and expedition leaders they liaised with to make our adventures so richly textured and ultimately unforgettable.
But, like I said, this is for the pictures. The weekend after getting back from Egypt, we crewed our friend Nikolay on one of Australia’s toughest trail races – probably the toughest actually, the Great North Walk 100-miler. The Race Director has such a great sense of humour that it’s actually a 108-miler, or 174km, give or take. Fortunately, I was just crewing, because paced by Jess, Nikolay was running sub-4-minute kms over the last hour of the race to leapfrog from 4th into 2nd, with a massive PB and a pre-sunrise finish. A truly awesome weekend that kept the adrenalin pumping, even if we were living through our friend’s rush. Well, I was. I just prepped food and drink. Jess was the one who talked our runner through a nausea-slump and then helped him bring it home hard.
So, just 10 days after returning from the Egyptian Sahara and all its classically exotic horizon-defying endlessness, we were on a plane to New Zealand, then Chile, then Argentina, and finally a boat – the Plancius – across Drake’s Passage on a 60-hour journey to our final destination in the incredible journey that has been this year – ANTARCTICA!!
Words fail. But I had anticipated as much, buying a booting camera the week before. Here are some moments from our Antarctic adventure. Please enjoy and ask as many questions about the trip, multiday racing, long distance running, doing all of these things in remote locations with type 1 diabetes, and ultra running as you like.
Highlights are impossible to count. Every penguin made us smile. Almost every iceberg made us look at least twice. Every knee deep trudge up a steep snowbank into the wind made us feel so alive. Every dinnertime conversation was a joy of recollecting the day and meeting fascinating, motivated people from across the globe or just from across this great big country called Australia.
Like I said, more stories later BUT ultimately, as the leader of the race passed the 200km mark, everybody’s race came to a successful and incredibly satisfying end. Vicente and Anne-Marie became absolute champions, our friend Garry was honoured for his contribution to the series throughout the duration of his involvement with Racing the Planet, Tara and Jim became the first brother and sister, Jim became the first 5 Deserts runner, we each completed the 4 Deserts Grand Slam – a giant milestone in itself – and achieved our own personally significant world firsts. Then we celebrated.
Every moment of the trip was its own special moment, but some moments towered greater than others. It really was the trip of a lifetime. Thank you Greg for involving us in your dream. All things now point to Big Red Run, but let’s acknowledge this year in its own right as simply exceptional. Thank You.
So, after spotting various orca, whale, dolphin, and massive seabirds on the way back to land, having slept on the Antarctic mainland, having run for up to 13 hours at a time in unpredictable but almost invariably thick snow, what were we to do?
We went horseriding of course. Erratic trails, narrow and sloppy, some with steep dropoffs and less than 6 inches for horses to place their feet, with no helmets and no instructions. Just awesome!! Next day, we were into the roundabout of connecting flights for a 47-hour trip back to Australia.
As soon as we landed at 7:45am Thursday morning on December 6, Ron and I both went our separate ways but we were headed to the same place – Eden! Not the one with the apples and the nude bits, but the one with the 231km run up to the top of Australia, followed by a gentle 9km downhill. That’s right, Coast2Kosci.
Physio near the airport (Lisa Rollo, you are a LEGEND – thank you so much), pick up by the super crew, work phone calls, vegie burger, collapse in the backseat. Wake up for the race briefing, go back and pack and organise gear, in bed with sugars pretty normal by midnight. 4:15am alarm, off to the beach. 5:30am, start running 240km (150 miles, for my US friends). Hello again Jess, care for a 100km jog to the end? Finish running about 8:12pm the following night, job done.
Eat loads, sleep, eat more, go to breakfast, collect the best hat ever. Thanks Paul and Di. You. Are. Awesome. You too, Dave, Taras, Jess of course, and everybody else who has been part of the adventure.
But, like I said, stories later. This is all about the photos.