Monday, May 25, 2009

Continent Five, Check

Continent five, check. I am done Namibia race now. It has been a couple of days but I have had limited access to Internet since I have been crossing the country by bus to get back to the capital of Namibia, Windhoek.

The last day of the race went really well, We all woke up with high spirits since We only had 8 kilometres left to the finish line. The race had a staggering start times from slowest to fastest, 3 groups in total, I was in the middle group that had competitors 25 to 110. Of the 220 competitors that started, only 170 where left after 50 dropped out. At 8am We all cheered the first wave of competitors, some who where in considerably bad shape from the last 6 days. at 9 We finally started and it was a mad sprint to the finish line were pizza and beer awaited us, by now after sharing a week of our lives with no other people but ourselves, we had become sort of a family, and a few of us pretended to try and take each other down on the hopes of getting to the town of Luderitz first and get more slices of pizza. It was a beautiful day in Namibia, there running with 80 or so smelly and dirty people along the beach in Namibia, It was hard to remember all the pain We had all endured the last few days, and that's the reason why We all keep coming back. in about 45 minutes I was crossing the finish line and receiving my medal, the whole town of Luderitz had come to the town square to cheer us on. Luderitz is a small German fishing town that began its life as a trading post in the 1883, in 1909 diamonds where discovered in the area and had a short surge of prosperity, today however, diamonds are mostly found elsewhere in Namibia.

Exhilaration follow, to be done such a hard race, to endure hunger, tiredness, I was exhausted from the running but also from barely sleeping everyday, We had the bare minimum with us so we endure sleeping on the floor of a tent, where the floor felt hard and every night I could feel every bone on my body, eating tasteless dehydrated food and surviving on gels or bars. I was glad to be done and I was looking forward to some real food and a shower, I grabbed two slices of pizza and quickly finish them, being a German town , we were offered sausages on a bun, sort of like the ones you get at Spolombu's in Calgary, the sensation of flavours in my mouth was incredible, but then I felt someone tugging on my sleeve, there in front of me was a small child, of about 7 years old. He looked at me with big brown eyes and ask me if He could have a small piece of my sandwich. I felt ashamed at that moment, I was arrogant enough to feel that enduring a week deprivation I felt deserving of praise and a medal, this is the life these people live, never knowing what a pleasure It is to enjoy a daily shower, going to bed with a full tummy every night, all of a sudden the medal felt heavy on my shoulders.

Namibia is a big country, 824,000 square kilometres, It offers deserts, beaches, forests but it has the lowest population density in Africa and the second lowest in the world. this is manly because of the harsh desert conditions and the resultant scarcity of surface water. Namibia has an average of 300 days of sunshine per year and only rains during the summer months and mostly as heavy thunderstorms when the dry rivers flow for a few day or sometimes even for a few hours. Namibian people are use to enduring hardship, and been here has shaped a bit the way I perceive my life, while I doubt I will give up showering everyday, I am not about to move to the mountains and compleatelly give up comforts, I am rethinking the way I live, I no longer wish to live my life with a sense of entiltement, I don't need a haircut every 6 weeks, I am sure I can do without for a few months, while I might enjoy the odd fancy triple, no foam, skinny fancy coffee, i don't need one every day.

I have always heard the frase that when you give you get so much more in return, I am so grateful for the oportunity I have been giving to set my priorities straight, I was invited by one of my charities, Operations Eyesight to become an international Ambassador, Operation Eyesight works in areas of the world such as Africa and Asia , where living conditions affect people visions, while a lot of their work is to provide the operations that the wold poorest need to restore their eyesigh, They also build wells that offer clean water to a villages since they found themselves having to treat the same vison problems year after year since the cause of the problem was the lack of clean water.

In a couple of weeks I am off to my sixth race in China, and I am feelign really good, I paced myself really well to make sure I would be healthy for Gobi and it paid off, becase this race had such an elite rooster everybody went hard at the beginning, I ended up placing 9th female and 62nd overall, well beyond my wildest dream but I guess that's the allure of a sport like this, everybody trully have a chance to shine if you are willing to though It up and work hard.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Namibia Day 6

Today we woke up to great news, after having a total of 40 people dropping out on the long stage the race organizer decided to shorten today's race from 28 kilometres to 20. Today's stage was the sand dunes, It was spectacular, the view from the top was worth it having going through all the pain yesterday just to experience today. We arrived at campsite by the beach, I have to say I tear up when i saw the shoreline. Running a race like this make you appreciate things, we have to earn our food and sleep everyday by running hard sort or primal. As usual the talk today was around what We are looking forward the most tomorrow after the race, food being the top and a nice shower being a close second. I had a chance to meet the other fellow Canadians today around campsite, I am amaze of the range of level and the reason of why any of us are here. AshKan Mokhtari from Toronto had an amazing day yesterday, he came top 35, even though He is not a sponsor athlete he could easily become one if it's not that he choose dentistry as a profession. on the other end David Cenaiko from Calgay as well is here to finish. There are to types of participants on this race, the ones that have experienced something dramatic in their life that made them find an outlet where to express thmeselves or the ones that do It just for the love of It. Myself being on the first group had a hard day today after the race at my tent, just as I was getting my flag sign from my tent mates, I got a pang of pain of why I am here, I wish with all my heart my son was not loosing his sight, I wish with all my heart I was here for the later reason, just for the love of It, but then again I don't have control on what happens in my life only on what I do about It

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Namibia Day 4-5 The Long Day

What a long day yesterday was, the dreaded 100 kilometre was even worse that We imagined. After been awakened at 2am then got on a bus to move us to a different location in Namibia we started the race at 8:20am and It was already hot, the course hand book called for a moderate course with 9 check points every 10k or so before arriving at camp springbox. The course description was long plains with sandy ascents to hilltops and some inense dunes, fantastic views from hilltops, past the famous Koichab Depression of subterrean fossil water over 1 million years old.

Because the most important thing for me is to finish so from the begining I took It easy eating and hydrating as much as I could, temperatures reached around 42C in the first few hours so by kilometre 20 people started dropping out, as I came upon check point I was sad to see that Canadian Ultrarunner Sandy McCallum was one of them, overcame the extreme heat. I was beeing paced by Isadoro Azanar and Fernando Guardola both from Spain and my tent mates, I had given myself 20 hours to finish or even longer if necessary depending on how I felt at the mid point camp at kilometre 60 where we where given the option of sleeping if We didn't want to run all the way though.

By kilometre 30 I had lost one of my pacers, Fernando was not looking well so I told him to slow down and rest at check points if he wanted to finish so Isadoro and I press on, him barking orders at me to go through check points quicker, as we started to count them down, we started to pass a lot of people, the heat was really taking a toll, as well as sand in the shoes, imagine blisters being scrubbed by the sand hour after hours. I hadn't anticipated this much sand so I brought regular gaiter to cover my shoes, to protect my feet for rocks and such, but the sand just kept pouring in my shoes but luckily It didn't havouck my feet.

So what exactly happen when You are out there for 22 hours, well you get to know yourself and others very well. As people ahead of us started to slowdown we started to run with other people, sometimes it will be 5 of us and sometimes just a couple. I started to try to look forward to small things along the way to motivate myself to go steady, like in the next check point I can get the sand out of my shoes, on the next check point I can finally have my dinner, the hardest part are always the beginning when you have a monumental task ahead, and also the last 3 checkpoints when you have already pass the option of stopping to sleep so you have to keep pressiong on but you still have a long way to go. It was around kilometre 70 that I started to wonder why didn't I decided to take crotcheting instead to relieve stress. By this time Isadoro and I where around 60th place but he could not mantain that speed any longer so I left him with a pack of people we came along so He wasn't alone and then speed the pace and run hard. It was around 3am so it was nice and cool, I was hydrated and fed so it was no risk of me not finishing at this point.

I arrived to camp around 6:17am, a lot longer than I though it would ever take me, to my surprise, camp was quiet, I was around the 46th place, shocking considering I keep a pretty conservative pace until the last 30k, I felt great and if a bit sore from the distance and the sand dunes.

It's around noon and camp is a bit more alive, of the 200 plus participants only 108 have come thougth, the rest have until 6pm today to finish or risking being disqualified. In my tent two of the members have dropped out, on an average bu now most tents have casualties.

Today I rest while we wait for the rest of the people to come, then tomorrow at 8am we do it all over again, ironically yesterday was rated moderate and tomorrow is suppose to be hard so I am very intimidated but by now my mantra has been to take it slow and one kilometer at a time.

Racing the planet is constantly updating the website for updates on the race and pictures, you can check them at

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Namibia Day 3

Well, I am still alive and kicking. I had a better day today, since it was only 35 kilometer stage I decided to bear and grind the shoulder pain and just go for it. I finished on about 5 and a half hours, consideribly better than I have done so far, my motivation was to get to camp faster to rest for tomorrows stage which is the feared long day 100 kilometre stage, I have been barely eating since I been coming to late and my tent has the top 25 runners so its light out and sleeping by 6pm.

Today was hot, as usual we had 3 checkpoints between camps, the course started as a wide valley then quickly turned on to sharp stony ground, for about 10K then along the riverbend. I have to say the best treat was finding out that we camp next to the river, you should have seen us all jumping in the river like little kids, is amazing what little pleasures in life can bring the kids inside.

Right now the yellow jersey wearer is Salvador Calvo Redondo from Spain and Ryan Sandes is not far behind as second place, Lucy Hilton from the United Kingdom is fastest female and Lia Farley from the United States is second female. As for us Canadians, Stephanie Case a resident of Toronto and Vancouver is leading the race and Ashkan Mokhtari si fastes male not far behind Stephanie. I talked to Stephanie today and she has been struggling with stress fractures and hasn't been able to run for the last 5 months, she literally took her cast off the morning she boarded the plane to come to the race, now, that really boosted my morale, She can out run me on a cast.

Tomorrow is the long stage and will not be able to do a race report since I am anticipating to be out there on the course for about 20 hours. There is an option of stopping halfway and sleep for a few hours but right now I might rather push through. It will be touch and go since we are all getting on a bus at 3am to be transfered to another area of Namibia then literally dropped and go.

So wish me luck, I am still struggling with shoulder pain, the problem was that I didnt pack my stuff correctly yesterday and having nine kilograms bouncing on your shoulders isn't pretty, its also getting hotter so it makes it harder, but I am just going to take it easy and do my best after all, sometimes that's all we can do

Monday, May 18, 2009

Namibia Day 2

Day two was a bit easier than yesterday and I think We all needed to boost the morale.
Today we ran 38 kilometres on moderate terraine, descending from the camp site 2 on stony ground, past broken windmill then followed faint tracks not travelled for well over 20 years. Passed an old corral and still descending with some flat areas and ocasional small uphills, finally descending to check point 6 avobe the Konkiep River, along riverbed and over low pass to check point 7 then over the hill via Beacon and onto plains to camp 3 that nested between the hills by a deserted farmhouse overlooking the plains of Africa.
I had a hard time running, for some reason my shoulder blades where killing me, my pack weights over 9 kilos and even though I have eaten some of my rations of course it is still heavy. I came with more weight this time expecting to need more calories and more layers since I am a bit tired from all the races I have been doing. At night I am thankful for my fresh socks, cozy jacket and extra socks, during the day I pay the price.
The mood at camp tonight its lighter tonight, this morning we heard of a Japanese runner that was lost still at 8:30 this morning he never made it even to check point one so he was lost for over 24 hours, thankfully they found him well a few hours later. Although Racing the Planet does and amazing job at marking the course people still do get lost, I have been very attentive on watching the course at all times and resist temptation of listening to my iPod since it`s easier to get distractacted by it. Other news from yesterday. I saw a runner beeing stranded on a drop, She was crying and was been helped down by other runners, that runner was Sandy McCallum, a well know Canadian Ultrarunner and a former Calgary resident. She ended going the wrong way too and found herself unable to climb down a rock she had climb thinking she could go over it.
I am struggling a bit, fatigue taking over but I am possitive that I will finishif I only remain smart and focus, after check point 2 out of 3 I couln`t run anymore, the pounding of my backpack on my shoulders sent sharp pain, so I just slowed down, It took me just as long to finish today than yesterday and It was a lot esier but I don`t want to risk hurting my back again. But don`t feel sorry for me, if I were to choose a place where I would want to walk for 8 hours, this will be It, I have missed seeing any wildlife, except for the odd scorpion or snake, the fasters runners today got to see zebras, but this is a majestic place never the less, so as I walked I try to take in as much of the view as possible, after all I might never have the oportunity to come back.
I am making so many friends here, I will really encourage people to try an event like this, I love the sight of camp, with all the tents and the fires going and people just relaxing after a long day, It puts a smile on my face.
I moved tents, I am now at the Spanish tent, I am craving the sound of the language and the smells of their food, It reminds me of my mom`s cooking in Mexico.

Tomorrow is suppose to be an easier day, I will however keep in mind that I still have over 600 kilometres in the next couple of months. Not so bad if all the miles will look anything like the ones I have already taken"

Namibia Day 1

Day one proved to be extremely difficult for almost everybody, I spoke with the stage winner a Spaniard and he had a great time. everybody else however seemed to have found it difficult.

Today we run Africa`s Grand Canyon, 38 K in total, most of the way was rocky, wet or a steep ascend. after making camp the night before we started around 8:15am it took me about 8 hours and 30 minutes to make it to camp 2, i was expecting to be out there for a long time but i never anticipated it was going to take me that long.
i am feeling not bad considering i have just run 100 miles less than a week ago, my blisters are healing, i think the worst has been being homesick, i always get like that just before the race. it takes so long to get to the race place, sleeping at random gates on an airport layover, then it`s usually a long bus ride to the final destination.
but once we get here it`s fantastic, meeting new people , seeing old friends, sort of like a summer camp for grownups.
Namibia is so beautiful, looking down at the canyon today i couldn`t help but feel privileged, just behindme there was a blind competitor from Korea, i kept thinking of him though the whole trek, eventhough it was hard it was worth just to be able to experience such beauty.

I am amazed of people like him, just like my son, watching him living life to the fullest, he is still refusing to slow down even though he has an excuse if he decided to take it, but he doens't because he will be cheating himself. After watching him I am embarassed when i find myself making excuses not to try something just because I think it will be hard, you know the usual excuses, not enough time, too old to do that, too busy.

Tomorrow is not suppose to be as hard, but we could be wrong, I am prepared to have an other hard day, that way if it its i am not dissapointed, I am here to finish so no matter how hard i just plan on putting one foot infront of the other until i get it done.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I am off to Namibia for my next race this afternoon, i will be traveling for a couple of days, it will be a bit like the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
Here is what i know about the race form the press release. You can also follow the race and send emails at this link as well

RacingThePlanet: Namibia 2009 gets underway in less than one weeks with two hundred and fourteen (214) competitors from 38 countries expected to participate including a record number of past champions who will be vying for top places

(7 May 2009, Hong Kong) -- RacingThePlanet is set to stage its next endurance event in Namibia on 17 May 2009. Traversing some of the most spectacular dunes and stunning landscapes of the oldest desert in the world – the Namib Desert, RacingThePlanet’s six stage, seven day, 250 kilometer self-supported footrace, features a field of 214 from 38 countries. The event kicks off with a steep descent into the Fish River Canyon, the second deepest canyon in the world, an area rich with local wildlife such as Mountain Zebra, Giraffe, Oryx, Steenbok, Springbok and even leopard. Competitors will make their way through the African bush traversing lunar landscapes and over some of the most demanding and challenging sand dunes in the world to finish at the Skeleton Coast in the charming town of Lüderitz.

The field of 214 features a record seventeen (17) former champions including 27-year-old Ryan N. Sandes of South Africa, who has won two previous RacingThePlanet events and 60-year-old Marco Olmo of Italy, a recent champion of many top ultramarathons. Seven teams will be competing including a four-person team from Israel, a Spanish team, a father/son/daughter team, a Japanese team, an HSBC bank team, an American/Danish team and an all female team. A record number of women will be competing with 54 on the roster. The largest contingent of competitors hails from the United Kingdom with 58, and a record 63 competitors are coming from Hong Kong.
Many competitors will be raising money for charities including Briton’s Mark and Philipp Mosimann, brothers from the United Kingdom who have already raised more than US$50,000 to support an Operation Smile mission in Namibia; American Norman Waite, a banker with Nomura in Hong Kong, who is hoping to raise US$250,000 to support the Otto Wong Neuro-Oncology Clinic; and Garrett T. Quigley, Zein J. L. Williams, Gordon D. Oldham, Douglas H. Maclagan and Stephen R. Moore, who are supporting the Child Welfare Scheme in Nepal. More than 60 competitors will be raising money for local and international charities.

Thanks to the unwavering support of the Namibia Tourism Board, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and other government agencies in Namibia, competitors will have access to some of the most remote and pristine areas in the country, and will be the first ever humans to have crossed parts of the landscape.

Competitors in RacingThePlanet: Namibia will have access to a cybertent which will feature fifteen Intel-powered Classmate laptops. RacingThePlanet has utilized these laptops for the past year, testing and validating the devices for use in rural schools. The laptops have become a key resource for the event. Breaking news from the field will be sent utilizing these Intel-powered laptops and BGAN satellites.

Website coverage of RacingThePlanet: Namibia can be found at featuring hundreds of pictures, breaking news texts, daily journals, video clips, field updates and full results.

About RacingThePlanet
RacingThePlanet® is a unique category of rough country footraces that take place over seven days and some 250 kilometers in remote and culturally rich locations around the world. Competitors must carry all their own equipment and food; they are only provided with water and a place in a tent each day but are supported by professional medical and operations teams. RacingThePlanet is international; the events typically involve competitors from over 20 different countries who are able to mingle around the campfires and in their geographically mixed tents. Currently the events consist of the 4 Deserts, a series which encompasses the Gobi Desert in China, the Atacama Desert in Chile, the Sahara Desert in Egypt and Antarctica, and a fifth event which roves to a new location each year. Time Magazine recently ranked the 4 Deserts #2 on its list of the world’s top endurance competitions.

I am feeling fine except for all the blisters on my feet from running in the wet course at St Paul. I will be sending daily updates from the race whenever posibble. I am thrilled to be tenting with some friends at the race so it should be lots of fun as well. I will be gone for close to two weeks and i will miss my kids, of everything the hardest thing will be not seeing or talking to them for so long.

Monday, May 11, 2009

North America- done!

Well, let me tell you about the Iron Horse Ultra, I run a strong race, kept with the lead group until the end, gave them a run for their money, oh wait, that was my dream the night before the race, what really happened was that i survived my first 100 mile race

I finish the race at a little after 10am, around the 28 hour mark. I felt great to get it done. The weather was fantastic if a bit cold at around 3am. of the 12 runners that run the race 11 finished, rare for such distance ,where usually the finish rate is much lower. It was nice to see familiar faces, i run the first stage with most of the group, except for the top 3 guys who eventually finished the race at around 19 hours, they took off strong from the beginning and I never saw them again.
On the second leg I got lost for about 45 minutes, I was busy trying to decide between a Stinger Energy Bar or Sharkies and missed my turn. By the time I figure out I was on the wrong path I had to back tracked for a while, since the race is long enough without adding more distance I decide to focus hard on the markers and concentrated on following the fluorescent orange ribbons that where on the course, so much that at one point I found myself standing on a farmers backyard on a sandbox, I had to blink several times to figure out that the fluorescent orange I had followed was a kids shovel!

By the end of this stage I had fall back behind so much that I was the last runner on the course, I was OK since i was still hitting my times so it wasn't likely to time out and be disqualified, since the Yukon race I learned a valuable lesson, being last is never bad, my focus was on finishing the race this time.

By the third stage I started to catch up to the group of runners, although I was enjoying having the sweepers behind me, the sweepers are the people who are checking on the last runner on the course and also picking up garbage left behind as well as taking the markers down, I could hear them behind me and it was kind of nice to know they where there.

by the end of the five stage, I had ended up catching up Selena, I know her from last years races so it was a great break to run together, Selena ended up falling behind and eventually dropping out of the race unfortunately but just before she stopped she did tell me she was happy since she had made it pass 100K, farther than she had ever gone before, I loved the attitude.

on stage six I back tracked to ask Selena or the sweepers if I was going the right way since i didn't see any markers on the course,being so dark out made it even more difficult to find any markers on the road anyway, after an hour of back and forth I found Don running backwards like me to find help.Don and I decided to stay together for the the rest of stage six. we where confuse that it was not marked just like other stages,there where no orange ribbons on the course, the only thing we saw once in a while was wooden sticks with red tape on top, Don joked that maybe we where following the sticks that the farmers use to remind them where the ditch is. It's a terrible feeling when you find yourself running the wrong direction. We decided to trust that this was the right way since we couldn't keep running back to ask for help anymore and kept moving forward instead, by the time we made it to the end of this stage and found out that we where going the right direction for sure it was 6am. I was cold and hungry, I hadn't plan on stopping since we only had 17K to go but I decided to stop for a half hour and warm up and Don caught a quick nap too.

On the last stage, Don told me to go ahead if I wanted to since there was light out now but i decided to finish the race with Don, we had stuck together though the night so it was the right thing to do, he couldn't run anymore so we power walked, Don is a tall man so he can power walk very fast,and after running for so long my running was resembling more a new born baby giraffe, so walking felt really good, it was at the edge of town when his wife joined us that we run the last two kilometres to the finish line. when we finally made it to the finish line,there were only a few people left since Don and I where the last to finish, the race organizers where there, Anna and her brothers and their 70 year old something mom! she was incredible cheering us on and manning some of the aid stations and instead of finishing medals we received an engraved bracelet

During the night when we had hit the hardest part of the race, we where hungry, tired and cold, this is where Don and I wondered why we do what we do, why run this type of races at all? we couldn't really put it into words, it was the way you felt when you finally did it, chasing something so hard and accomplishing it, it's rebelling against the self doubts in your mind that tell you that you can't do this or that, it's like Henry Ford said, weather you think you can or can't you are right.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Iron Horse Ultra

Iron Horse Ultra

I am ready for race number 4. Iron Horse ultra in St Paul AB promise to be challenging and beautiful. The route will cover the beautiful farmlands, lake shores, riverside of the county of St Paul while incorporating the old abandon CNR railroad. The race start Saturday 9th at 6am and it ends Mother’s day at 1pm giving me 31 hours to finish.
I am looking forward to this race; I am able to bring my kids for at least part of the way. My sister who lives in Vancouver is meeting us in Edmonton and my kids are having a mini vacation with her and my nephew.
I am also looking forward to running with a lot of my ultrarunning friends. I only started ultrarunning last year and in a short time I had a wonderful opportunity of meeting fantastic people from all over Alberta. Iron Horse Ultra is part of the Alberta Ultra Series which attracts a group of runners from elite to recreational. Alan Lam is coming as a support crew, he is an accomplished runner and very knowledgeable about endurance sports since he has supporter for Badwater Ultra which is considered the thoughts ultra in the world, also with me is Claudia Katz a great friend and an amazing photographer, it sure help to have friendly faces around me when things get though.
This last few weeks I had off where sure interesting, it was fun to watch my body experience withdrawal from the highs of running, after Australia I had to cut down my training to let my body rest and it was harder than I thought, all of a sudden I was behaving like I had a broken heart, watching endless bad movies and eating Mac and Cheese.
During this time I also had a chance to get more involved with the charities I am representing. Cnib, Foundation Fighting Blindness and Operation Eyesight had their annual fundraising events and i either volunteer or I was a guest. Last night Operation Eyesight presented me with a guide stick as a thank you. A guide stick is a stick that is giving to people in villages in Africa when somebody goes blind. they are giving a guide stick to navigate. This is as much help as it’s offered. The saddest part is that these types of blindness are avoidable but in developing countries are very common; the cost of restoring their sight it’s as low as $30 dollars. The guide stick was presented to me because this person in particular doesn’t needed any more, Operation Eyesight made that possible, so the stick is a symbol of what an amazing impact a small gesture such a running a race for pledges can make on someone’s life. It sure helps put things into perspective about why I am doing this.
Is unfortunately that because I am on the spotlight at the moment i get credit for the work i do, but these charities had been doing amazing work and changing people’s lives even when nobody was looking. Standing there on these events being thanked was an overwhelming moment for me since I am so grateful for their support. Giving back is just a way to say thanks, but also how could I just stand there and not be involved when I know what a difference had made in my life.
But Albert Einstein said it best with these words, “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” So as long as there is a reason to and an open road I will keep running.