Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Race Report: Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon

by Brett Johnston


I am still trying to put this all into perspective, but the more I try, the harder it seems to be, and the longer I wait, the more urgent I feel the need to let people know about this amazing experience. This is a long one, so grab a 6-pack (beer or wine) and enjoy….

Here is a brief explanation of what this race is:

"The Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon is a self-sufficiency run held over six legs in seven days with set distances for each day, ranging from 30km to 79km.  Participants must carry all their supplies, clothes and compulsory safety/survival equipment for the duration of the event.  Overnight shelter in camps, and water, which is strictly controlled and distributed during the race, is supplied.  The event goes way beyond merely covering 250 kilometers in extreme conditions; it is a challenge to get past what normal people would regard as crazy, and achieve one’s personal goals"

As many of you know, this has been on my list for a long time. In actual fact, I contacted the Race Director nearly 2 years ago and signed up for the race, but naturally as time got nearer, the reality started setting in. 

This is something that I sent to one of the race organizers about 2 weeks before the race:

"It's getting a little more real now that time is getting closer, but at times I still cannot believe what I am about to embark on. If I find it hard to believe, I know that it is harder for my friends to fathom it out, and then you get the "non-athletes", and they just shake their head….
Am I nervous?… Yes, for sure, but in a calm way. My biggest fear is being pulled from the race and not being able to finish…that would be terrible for me, so my mental focus has got to be on finishing and taking care of my body along the way."

I left Boston on Tuesday morning, with a flight to NY, and then a flight from NY to (JHB) Johannesburg (14 hrs there and 16 hours return). I arrived in JHB on Wednesday morning and was collected by my brother-in-law. This gave me a day in JHB to pick up any last minute supplies, or complete supplies if my luggage got lost or all my food was confiscated. Fortunately, there was no problem getting through customs, and I had all my food. With bags packed and then repacked for the next morning, it was off to the bar…surprise surprise!

Thursday morning, those participants that had opted to take a bus trip to the event had to meet at a hotel near the airport at 6.30am to depart at 7, and they supplied us with breakfast and lunch on the bus. This was the first time for many of us to meet each other, other than the odd couple of posts here and there on the events Face Book site. The Bus Trip….oh the bus trip!  Well it didn't start well because before we got to leave, we were told that the breakfast bags that they had given us were not actually for us, and we had to return them, and then wait another hour for new ones to be made up. Eventually, we got on the road with all the cool kids at the back of the bus…no not really, but I was at the back.  Did I mention that this bus was not actually a luxury coach/bus that you would expect…think more along the lines of a ‘Fung Wah’ bus with no toilet!  Fast forward 14 hours, a tire change, about 10 stops for various reasons, about 40 South African farm towns later, which, I was sure were all the same, and someone was just playing a joke on us and switching the names…..we arrived in AuGrabies.  

AuGrabies is a National Park in the Kalahari Desert bordering Namibia, and is famous for its waterfall. (Augrabies Falls, which when in full flow is quite a site). 2 of the bus passengers actually got online during the bus ride and booked flights back instead of taking the bus again, vowing never to bus it again! We quickly got our bags, and room assignments, and then headed off to the lodge to have dinner with all the other racers, crew and staff. Dinner was a traditional South African "pooitjie", which was quickly consumed along with a certain amount of beer and wine.  At some point, the festivities were ended and everyone got back in the bus and headed back to the park where all the rooms/chalets were. Naturally, I (and a few others from "the bus trip") decided to stay and hang out with the crew and staff.  A few hours later, we were  driven back to the chalets. As I walked around the corner into my unit, there was my roommate - Julian - who I had not yet met, setting up his mattress and sleeping bag on the patio outside. Apparently we only got 1 room key, and I had it with me.

Friday morning was to be used at our leisure, which I used to nurse a hangover and explore the falls with Julian. As the morning progressed, more and more people emerged, and groups were sitting outside each other’s Chalets, with the topic of the day being "Weight". How much does your bag weigh? Is that Wet or Dry? (With water added or without your water) How much have you dropped? (As in how much have you gotten rid of since talking to everyone else). Who has extra Hot Chocolate? Are you taking Deodorant? And so on.

My starting backpack weight…DRY…was 12kg (26Lbs, which was a lot more than what I had been training with)…plus add another 2kgs for water which consisted of 2* 750ml bottles on my front shoulder straps, and then another 500ml in the bladder in the backpack…which now put my starting backpack weight at 31lbs.

At 12'oclock, it was orientation, registration, medical and bag check. Sitting in the shade, I was already getting a glimpse at the unrelenting heat and sun that this place has to offer. Once the race director had reviewed everything with us, it was bag check, which meant unpacking and doing a complete checklist of all the supplies, as well as your food for the 7 days.  Then time for a weigh in, and then a discussion with the Doctors (mainly to ensure that you are still actually crazy enough to do this race),  and then you were issued with your number, check-in card, route booklet and 5 liters of water, which was for the rest of the night, and to fill up our bottles for the start, until we reached Checkpoint 1.  Friday night, we headed back to the lodge for dinner, and a few drinks, but it was a very quiet night. Back home to our chalets, final bag checks and then it was off to bed.

Here is brief summary of what my food/nutrition was setup for the race.
Breakfast was freeze dried granola, milk and blueberries.
Dinner was freeze dried chicken breast and mash potato.
There was no lunch, but more a mixture of things that I could eat either during the leg, or at the end of the leg, which consisted of Macadamia nuts, Salami stick, biltong (jerky…only better). 

For nutrition during the run, I was using "First Endurance" sachets, Power bar Gels, Power Bars… (Which I tossed all of them after the 2nd day), and then a First Endurance Protein shake for the end of each leg, salt tablets.
I packed the same for each day, which made it easy to manage and not having me want to dip into Day 4's food on Day 2 etc. 
The First Endurance sachet drinks worked out great, but one thing that I quickly learned is that 18 miles on Day 1, is not the same as 18 miles on Day 3…and I had calculated my nutrition that way. I would have said that this was a rookie mistake, which in part it was, but without the knowledge of the course, route or checkpoint locations you had very little idea other then the distance.

Saturday morning we were up by 5, and ready to roll. The bus and a number of the crew shuttled all the participants out to the start, which was about a 1-hour drive away. Sunscreen applied…lots of it…Pee taken…First of many…prayer said, and then it was off to the races….Holy shit, was this really happening? I had not packed a breakfast for this day, as I thought they were supplying it, but was mistaken, so a Power Bar was breakfast for today.

Checkpoints: As mentioned above, these were usually placed around 4.5-5.5 miles apart throughout the race. However, there were exceptions.  If you looked on your map, and say a checkpoint that was only 2 or 3 miles apart, you knew that there was an extremely tough sand section or climb coming up…it was more based on time that they expected runners to take, rather than distance.  At these checkpoints throughout the race, you would need to announce yourself “Brett…221" and they would note your time of arrival. They then signed your card, and gave you your 1.5litres of water. This is where you could sit down, dry out your feet, change socks, fill up your bottles, get medical treatment etc. and then you would be on your way….checkpoint to checkpoint.) 

Water: Water is strictly controlled in this race, with you being allowed 1.5litres at each checkpoint, and then 5 liters at the end of each stage, to be used for the rest of the day, that night, the morning, and to fill your bottles, until you get to the 1st checkpoint. Oh and one other little point…Its Hot…not cool, not warm…its hot. There is no ice, no fridges, so the water at each checkpoint is just sitting there in its bottles absorbing all the heat. The crew at each checkpoint certainly tried to keep it cool, by covering the bottles in a blanket, and then pouring water over the blanket. I had read about practicing to drink hot water, but never did it.  It was tough in the beginning, but like everything else, you eventually get used to it.  The worst would be at the end of the day, where you have been running for however long, and you get to the finish, and you are handed a 5l bottle of warm water…woohooo…what an achievement.  One way to help "cool" the water when running was to create a "Kalahari Refrigerator" which means that you would take a Buff, soak it in water, and wrap it around your water bottle. The wind over the wet buff, would actually cool down the water.)

Camps: The camps were setup at the end of each stage usually in some sort of clearing.  On Day 1 and on Day 4/5, we were actually on the river (Orange River), which was great. They were comprised of 16 "Gazebos" tied together and legs dropped so that they are low to the ground to try and minimize the heat. There were groundsheet things on the floor, and then you would use your mattress and sleeping bag. No assignments here…grab a spot, put your stuff down and get off your feet. After the first day, you would quickly learn that you need to find the side of the "camp" that is furthest away from the setting sun, because even when its setting, it is hot, and it will be baring down on you even under the shelter. As soon as the runners would start setting off in the morning, the crew would start breaking down the camp and getting ready to move it and get it set up at the next camp. 

Format: Each night, the crew would give us our starting times for the next day. For the most part, we were broken into 4 groups with the slowest runners/walkers going first; to the fastest group going last and set-off times would usually be 6.30,7, 7.30 and 8. 

River Beds: These were the ultimate killer in this race. They are dried out river beds with thick soft, soft sand, and then usually gorges on either side, so there is nowhere for you to go and try and find harder ground. I remember the description in our handbook, which I believe was from Day 2, which said, go for 1km in a Sandy River Bed, then Turn left for another 1.6km on an even sandier river bed…uggghh…how is that even possible, but it is. This sand is soft, and almost impossible to run through. Actually you end up expending so much more energy for little return in trying to run through these which I learnt pretty quickly. Embrace them and look for the end….

Day 1: 30km (+/- 18 miles)(Temperature - Low 100's)(Finish Time 04h52)
The siren went off, and we were starting our journey.  My plan for this race was to take it one day at a time…get through the day, and then worry about the next day. Soon, that changed from day to day, to checkpoint to checkpoint. My run was kind of slow, and I was just hanging in the middle of the pack, which pretty quickly spread out, and before long you were totally solo. Today's run I broke down into 3 * 10k runs. The good thing was that one of the areas that I trained in, was a 10k loop, so mentally, it was 3 loops of my training run. For the first 2 checkpoints, I was still in awe of my surroundings, and just sucking up the beauty around me. The run was mainly on rocky terrain, with quite a lot of up and downs, and a few River Beds. The run finally ended with a long sandy river bed toward the finish, which thankfully was at the river. Got my hot water (Thanks you sir, may I have another!), find a place to crash and headed for the river. The water was ice cold, but great just to stand in it and then dunk yourself once in a while. Day 1 saw 2 IV's administered, but everyone who started made it through. One down…6 to go. 
(Day 1 Video)
Day 2: 38km (+/- 23 miles)(Temperature - 110+)(Finish Time 07h10)
After not much sleep the night before (45 of your closest snoring friends), it was time to get Day 2 started. I was off at 7.30am and it was already hot. Today was gonna be tough, but we all knew this. There was a monster climb out of the river bed of 300m to the top and at Checkpoint 1, which was only about 2 miles from the start. This climb took a toll on a lot of the runners as it was unrelenting. Once we got to the top, it was OK, now the day can start. We have already wasted 2 hours, and only made it a couple miles with 21+ more to go. For the rest of the day, it was all back to rugged terrain, rocks, sand and a lot more sand. This was a tough day, and saw 5 people being withdrawn from the race. 
(Day 2 Video)
Day 3: 30km (+/- 18 miles)(Temperature - 120+) (Finish Time 05h40)
This was by far the toughest day yet. The heat was a complete killer and pegged everyone back. And always looming in the back of everyone's mind was that tomorrow we had 79km's to do, so it almost became a juggling act to try and save some for tomorrow, but you also wanted to get finished and get out of the sun. Today saw another 2 people leave and another IV administered. (If you need to receive a 2nd IV, then the Dr will pull you from the race). Fortunately nobody else left the race….
Again, the course today offered a bit of everything, with the killer being the last 4 kilometers being in a river bed. This literally just went on and on, and of course it was during the hottest part of the day. At one point when I was walking through the sand, and had gorges on either side, I could hear baboons barking, and eventually they appeared walking along the top of the ridge. It almost seemed as if they were following me, waiting for me to keel over. I must say, I was pretty nervous with nobody in site and just a bunch of barking baboons. I quickly went off to the side and grabbed a huge stick and carried on walking with that which I believed would be my defense weapon. They soon departed and eventually I made it to the finish. This camp site was at a sort of cattle farm site, as there was a "pool" that was used to store water that was pumped from the ground, and this was almost as good as the river, as it gave us the opportunity to just stand and pour water over ourselves…it was truly amazing! Tonight was a relatively quiet night as everyone as thinking about tomorrows long day. The times for people starting ranged from 6am through until 1pm. My start time was 10am so I kind of had the morning to relax.
(Day 3 Video )

Day 4: 79 km (+/- 48 miles)(Temperature 100+) (Finish Time: 14h48)
This was the day that everyone had been working towards. This was the monster that was staring at us from the start, but looking back historically at results from the race, and hearing from the Doctor, that everyone who makes it through Day 3, almost always finishes the race…the reason being that by this stage, you have sorted out your nutrition, feet, and hydration, so although it was daunting, we all knew that we could do this.

When we woke up,(about 5am..As the first runners headed out at 6am) it was dare I say a little chilly…it was actually a little windy, and this made it feel pretty cool. This was a good thing to have the wind, as the heat the day before was a killer. My start time was 10am and there was a group of about 10 of us. The order of the day for me was to get through 9 checkpoints…that was it…slow and steady. My strategy was going to be the same as it had been pretty much since Day 2, which was any thick sand, I was gonna walk, and then run the flats and downhill's, and make a call on the uphill's as I reached them. I stuck to this for the most part, and it seemed to work. We knew that the 1st half of this day would be more technical terrain when in daylight, and then the 2nd half would be less technical…which meant one thing…sand! The day went by pretty quickly, knocking off the checkpoints one by one. Checkpoint 4 was what appeared to be an old farmhouse, and they had a "pool" (I use that term loosely, as it is simply a giant fishpond/well that you could wet your head in). This was where I decided to eat my solid foods, so I sat down, took off my shoes and socks, and rested and ate for a good 20 mins. Then it was time to move on. 

From a scenery point of view, this day was the most beautiful that you could imagine, just seeing all the various terrains against a setting sun was unreal. From checkpoint 5 to 6, I had a good burst of energy and was able to run most of it thanks to the good terrain and lack of sand. Running down the one section, I had the sun setting to my left, and then a whole herd of Springboks, came jumping across the path about 100 yards ahead of me…It was good to be in the Kalahari at that time. When I got to checkpoint 6, I was pretty beat by this time, but had caught up to 3 of my "roomies" (Dave…aka "Spice Rack"(more on his name later), Mike and Pete…aka "Riff and Raff") and decided that instead of trying to push on, I was gonna hang with them. Looking back, this was the best decision I made, as from here on in, was where many dark moments arose, and thankfully having these guys around made it far more easy. At this point we had already completed about 45k's and had about 35 still to go. The 4 of us headed off into the sunset…literally…with a walk, run…or as Spice Rack said…"Brett, it’s time for the Ironman Shuffle". Besides the pain that we were feeling, this section was amazing. (Actually our pain was just general fatigue, whereas Mike "Riff" , was suffering from blisters that had surpassed the blister stage, and were literally holes in his feet). 

The sun set, and we had our lights on, which almost became eerie, as your entire vision concept was changing…not to mention the fear of Leopards in the area, so your head is literally spinning from side to side to look around. Another good reason for sticking together. On our approach to Checkpoint 7, the moon started rising, which was just unbelievable. We had seen the Full moon rising every night, but to watch it as you were running was unbelievable. The 4 of us eventually made it to Checkpoint 7 where we could get more water and rest the feet. At this stage I was taking my shoes and sox off at each checkpoint and elevating my feet, as they were killing me. Actually running appeared to be less painful on my feet than walking was, but my body was having none of that…not at this stage. Mike was starting to take a lot of strain at this stage, and took a lie down on the rock wall while the nurse checked him out. Spice Rack and I decided to head off, as Mike needed to wait for the Doctor to get there so that she could clear him to carry on, and Pete stayed with him. (Amazing friendship that these 2 showed during the entire race, with not leaving each other’s side!). 
Spice Rack and I hung together for the next 2 checkpoints chatting to each other, exchanging stories. I remember at one point, I just could not talk anymore, and said to him, I am not ignoring you…I just can't talk…but on we went. By the time we got to checkpoint 8, I was starting to get cold, and knew that I needed to sit down to rest my feet, but also needed to keep moving and stay warm. We didn't spend too much time here, although after sitting and taking my shoes off, it was tough to get going again. One of the best things that I remember here was the music that the medics had blasting out of their car….Song 1 when we got there was AC/DC…..Highway to Hell, and song 2 was also AC/DC … Hell, Aint a bad place to be….which seemed fitting for my mental state at this point. Dave and I pushed on, with finish times starting to come into our minds. Dave had set-off 2 hours before me in the morning, and his goal was to get in under the Ironman cutoff of 17 hours…which would have put me in under 15 hours. We were doing all sorts of calculations in our fatigued mental minds, but figured we could do it. By the time we got to checkpoint 9, I was done, and I was cold. I knew that Dave had his goal of getting in under 17, but I had no goal, so I told him just to go, because I knew at this stage, I was holding him back. We argued back and forth for a minute and then he agreed to go. We started off together walking and then he was "Ok mate, see you at the end" in his wonderful calm British accent, and off he started running. 

As I watched his flickering light wonder off into the dark, I think I got a subconscious smack across the head, saying Brett, what the %&*^ are you doing? I all of a sudden got an adrenalin rush and started running… Damn you Spice Rack…how could you leave me (noooo…it had nothing to being out in Leopard territory all by myself J). I never saw Dave again until the finish, but I chased him the entire way and thanks to him leaving me got me running all the way through to the end. We both made it in before 1am…totally beat…and yay we got our warm water! Found a place to crash, made up my protein shake and tried to sleep, but I was cramping a lot, so decided to try and walk around a bit. Was eventually able to lie down at about 3.  
(Day 4 Video )

Day 5: Rest Day
With people arriving at camp all through the early hours of the morning, it was pretty quiet early on, as people tried to sleep. All the talk that was going around was about Kien (Ken). This is truly an inspirational guy, who had walked this entire event. He was over from Singapore raising money for charity.  A group of us headed up to the finish line to find out if we could get any news on his whereabouts. At about 7am, they said that he had just left Checkpoint 9 and was on his way to the finish. At about 8.30 we got a yell from the finish line that he was on his way down the river bed and then entire group of athletes went up to the Finish line to greet him. What a site to see all of the athletes clapping him in as he crossed the line….26h26 later after starting at 6am the previous day. For the night stage, part of the markers were little flashing lights, which he decided to collect on his way in as mementos…so he came walking down like a flashing Christmas tree…oh and we needed some of the markers for the route out the next morning, but at this stage, that was not important…everyone made it in. We spent the day, relaxing, eating, and washing clothes and socks in the river, taking swims in the river… Yes, this is where the "Golden Speedo" made its first appearance…and thanks to Mike, I was quickly named "Gold Member"….

The rest day was also Halloween, and thanks to Henda, prior to the race, a number of us had brought Halloween stuff to celebrate. I had the Orange Vampire Teeth, another guy had a mask, and Spice Rack had white vampire teeth, and brought a web that he and I set up in the sleeping area. It was good fun. Soon enough the sun had set, the moon was out, and the reality set in again that it’s not over yet…you still have another 28 miles to do tomorrow.

Day 6: 44 km (+/- 28 miles)(Temperature 120+) (Finish Time: 07h21)
This was a tough day…my legs were totally shot. As much as you like the rest day, it gives your legs a false sense of security. They think it’s over…time to go home…no such luck, and my legs just would not get started. We also knew that the Race Director was going to throw in some tough sections as this was the last big stage, and he did not disappoint with the first 7 km being mostly thick sand. The best thing about today was that it was really the first time that you noticed the backpack being empty…as Clint said…he ate all his food, so the "tank is full, and the bag is empty". The course ended with a mainly rugged terrain of up and downs that quickly took its toll, but you knew that the end was in site. When you crossed the finish line on this stage, you knew you were there…it was so close that you could taste that ice cold beer! That night we literally spent throwing out all foods that were not needed. I kept breakfast, a couple gels, and a couple sachets of First Endurance, and everything else went. (You could ONLY dispose of food, underwear or socks…everything else that you brought had to be carried to the end.) 
(Day 6 Video)

Day 7: 24 km (+/- 15 miles) (Temperature 100+) (Finish Time: 2h37)
The strange thing was that each night, the crew would hand out a results sheet of the daily results and the overall standings, which I had never looked at, except for last night. I took a look and saw that I was in 18th place, and that 17th place was about 20 minutes ahead of me. Hmmm…could I make up those 20 minutes on the Frenchman Alain? I figured that I was going to try, because worst case, I would blow up somewhere along the course and have to walk it in, but still would not lose the 1.5 hr lead I had on the next closest place to me, so this was a win-win situation for me. Damn, I was actually going to race this last leg. There were 6 of us in my group, and one of them was Alain. Soon we were down to 4, and it was I, Koos, Norman and Alain. Koos was leading us out, and flying like a freight train, and I was battling to stay on, as were the other 3, but we were able to hold on. When we reached checkpoint 1, I was in and out, and got out in first place, only to head the wrong way and get called back…fortunately. I was pushing hard, as I knew that this was going to be my chance. Eventually Norman caught up with me and the 2 of us pushed on through to Checkpoint 2. I was never looking back until we got to Checkpoint 2 which was at the very top of the hill, and looking back, I could not see Alain. Ok, so we had dropped him, but could I make up the 20 mins. Norman and I headed off with Koos right behind us. When we made it to "moonrock" which is a huge round rock outcrop that you had to summit, Koos came flying by and again I tried to hold on, but could not for a very long time. By this stage, we only had about 4 k's to go, so I was content with where I was. When we got to about 1.5k's to go, there was a little river crossing, and what better time to sport the “Golden Speedo”. My friends the night before had all convinced me to finish in the Speedo, so I dropped shorts, changed into the Speedo and off I went. Running down towards the finish, you had a lot of the crew and staff, standing on the side, and by this stage they all knew your name, so they were all shouting yay…its Brett etc…..but then all of a sudden when the realization set in of what I was wearing, there was almost a wave of silence…I have no idea why. 

Crossing that finish line was truly amazing, seeing all your friends and being welcomed in by the race directors with a massive hug, was truly memorable. Before you could even move, there was an ice cold beer in your hand, which was heaven after 7 days of hot water.

I beat Alain by 22 minutes today, which pushed me up into 17th place, which for me was a great achievement and mission accomplished for the day.
For the rest of the afternoon as runners finished, the beer flowed freely…and naturally we closed the place down. (well they packed up around us and left us drinking).
(Day 7 Video)

Some Final thoughts in no specific Order…..

I am number 221…I will always be # 221 at KAEM, as you get to keep your number for life if you finish.

I think what makes this race are the participants, staff and crew. This is truly a Family, and I am now part of the KAEM family.
I would quite happily run and walk with each and every one of these legends. Below is a list of a few of them that meant a lot to me during this adventure. 
Dave "Spice Rack" Ball … (so named because of the multitude of spices and condiments he brought along) .. who was my savior on the long day, and his wit that kept us all going…and his snoring that kept us awake, and eventually evicted from the area.
Mike and Pete ("Riff and Raff")… Fantastic guys that I cannot wait to hook up with again…hopefully ion Mauritius… Pete, I already miss your laugh!
Adriaan and Johan… making the bus trip bearable and helping me decide not to take it home….it was a pleasure to have raced with you guys.
Julian….my "Roomie"…. Made me proud in carrying whiskey for 5 days!
Clint…for all your knowledge that help me prepare for this.
Genis… because you were "Always Well"
Tiann, Alwyn and Clynton…the elite runners who were just one of us every day…
Shinan…who learnt what "DFIU" means…yup…"Don't %$&* It Up" 
Brigid and Sanet, who were truly amazing women.
Brian and Laura…The Garden Gnomes… 
Phil and Edward…the Old Boys!
Dr Jann, and Dr Johan…who thankfully I did not need to see too often, but knowing that they were there was a great thing.

What I learnt here, is that you will never break this desert, you will never beat this desert, you need to work with this desert to get through this race…

As my friend David said…. "This was not a Holiday, But it was however a fantastic adventure and amazing personal journey"

I would like to finish off with the words of the theme song which kind of puts into perspective what this race is all about.

I want to go where the sun shines.
Where the river flows and the quiver trees grow.
To a place I know my soul will be revived.
I want to go where the rocks and cliffs rise up from the trail.
I want to run through the space into the setting sun.
It’s here I feel alive with a challenge to survive -
Even though I sometimes wonder what’s on my mind.
The sand is like the sea - rough and yet serene.
And the sky runs up as far as the eye can see.
I know I feel the pain as the sweat drops from my brain
Runs into my eyes as I cross this hot terrain.
I have overcome my fear and I know the end is near
I will leave this place - as I know I’ll be back again.
The finish line is near - I can almost taste the beer
As I forge towards the end with quickened pace.
And when all this is done - I’ll be happy that I’ve run
Now I yearn for rivers, rocks and sand and space.
Cause it draws me back again when I cannot feel the pain
Yet the sunsets, rivers rocks and sand and space
Yes, it draws me back again to the desert and the sand
To the sunsets, rivers rocks and sand and space…

Thanks for reading…. So long!!


  1. Wow,wow, wow. To my "Man in Black", I just want to say, it was truly a privilege to spend some time with you and all the other athletes on this race. It has changed me forever. Next year I will be back, there is still a lot of pictures to be taken out there. Hope to see you soon

  2. Coach/Big bro - you are truly inspiring (and hilarious with your golden speedo!) and I'm so unbelievably proud of you and your accomplishment. You give me something to strive for and someone to strive to be like. Congratulations and thank you SO much for sharing your story and incredible journey. hugs.... P