Long Distance Relationship

The race is now pretty much over and man it’s been a tough week. Yesterday was the pinnacle of pain and joy. The title of the blog today says it all. Long distance relationship with a lot of things – my wife who has been so supportive and caring, Mark who has run across a desert with me, our tent mates who were unknown at the start of the week and are now close friends soon to go back to their corners of the world, my feet (that relationship is not going so well at the moment) they have carried me across the desert. What a week. Let me recap yesterday.

It started at 5:30am. Wake up time. Power and I lay in our sleeping bags talking tactics for the day ahead. We thought about how to make the day easy on our minds. As we shoved another cliff bar down our throats we thought, checkpoint treats. With food supplies running low we decided to pull out treats at certain points. We decided to have half a peperami at 45km’s in, a cereal bar at 55km’s in and another half a peperami at 65km’s.

We rose, got our bags packed and then I read my daily card from Emma. It was so lovely and warming I read it to the whole tent which made them all emotional and a few well up. Those cards have got me through the week.

We headed to the race briefing at 7:30am where the day was given to us blow by blow. So, engage your imagination here. You have run 4 marathons in 4 days, your feet are battered and blistered, you are about to run 75km’s. What would be the worst way to start the race??? The first stage had us running across a salt water lake. Yip. Ankle deep in salt water which was amazing on the blisters and even better to have wet feet and socks exacerbating the blisters and softening the feet ready for more to form. The race director I have decided is sadistic.

We set off across the lake and despite the discomfort, it was amazing and we took some amazing photos. We headed into the salt plains, which are too tough to run. The top 20 or so runners walked together for the first 20km’s or so. The salt plains are like coral. Hard, crusty and sharp. You definitely don’t want to fall over or you would cut your hands. We all agreed it would be best to walk fast and get through it and let the race open up after 20km’s. That was perfect as it meant Mark, Alaister (a rugby boy and pharma solictor from London) and Grant (An Aussie superyacht captain) and I were able to talk and banter for the first two stages.

Once passed the salt plain crud, we hit flat ground and we got a run on. It was slow and careful as were feeling very beaten up. The day was about getting the distance done efficiently. We weren’t going to beat any records. Mark and my placing’s were slipping but we were not caring. We were doing everything we could and our feet were holding  us back from giving more. Our fitness was fine, it was our feet that were in bits. My small toe (the one the medics took pictures of) was in agony right from the moment I put my shoe on. Every step was excruciating pain. I seriously don’t know how I would do an ultra on it. I threw down 2 panadol (you have to be careful with painkillers and dehydration as it can cause kidney failure) and got my head down. If it weren’t for Al, Mark and Grant, I would have really struggled to get through.

On we went, pushing forwards over tough terrain. Trying to run as much as we could. We ended up getting into a rhythm by running 5 flags and walking 1 flag. On we went until the sun got too hot and the terrain got too bad as we were forced to walk again. We then hit the dune. I wish I would show you the picture of this. It was huge. You could see it from miles away and got bigger and bigger as you approached it. The 4 of us battled the hill and won. That dune was going to break a few people later in the day.

We continued through another checkpoint as the heat intensified. The panadol wore off and I had to deal with the toe pain. I was struggling. Every step was an effort and we were only half way. Grant and Al kicked ahead and Mark and I plodded on together. Mark pulled me through a dark place as the pain got too much for me and I started to really hurt. We kicked on, checking off markers and setting little goals to help the miles pass.

The day went on, the heat increased, the pain increased and we moved forwards. The desert shuffle in full effect. We hit checkpoint 5 – 17km to go. We hobble off down a 4×4 track both feeling it. No sight of competitors in front or behind us. Walk, shuffle, run – we made it to checkpoint. Almost crying from the emotion, mental battle and physical pain. 9.7km’s to go. We plodded up the hill sucking on our water bottles and topping up with salt. Tourists everywhere watching the sunset through the red rocks, they looked at us with very quizzical looks. I’m pretty sure we looked bad but they had no idea what we had done. We pushed through the hills and down the other side till we finally heard the beating of the drums. That signalled base camp.  They drum everyone into camp. We had done it. Almost crying from relief, we jogged into the finish elated it was over.

We bathed our feet and calmed the body down. Mark and I had completed 240km’s through the desert together. Friendships don’t get much better.

Our tent:

Me – The not so young anymore Kiwi with battered feet.

Power – The Aussie CEO brimming with confidence humbled by the intense race.

Alaister – The Rugby boy come pharma solicitor who managed to deal with and push through intense calf muscle pain from a prior strain.

Matt – The Team GB Ultra runner and one of the favourites who dealt with immense knee pain and has continued on to finish by walking with a knee brace.

Rebecca – The winner of the Women’s race. Enough said.

Jeffa – One of the most amazing woman I have  ever met. Jennifer Murphy – Google her. She is the tent captain.

Jim – A cancer survivor and all round great guy.

Jackie – The London governament worker who impressed us all by completing the race over double the time we did it.

Blanka – A macmillian charity worker who signed up because of Jeffa. Finishing late in the day each day. Amazing determination.

Annabelle – The Aussie mum who got her head down and battled through each day not complaining about a thing. I think she has come in 4th female.

As I write this, I’m staring at the finish line where competitors are still coming in, It’s 11am on Friday. Over 27hrs after we started the long stage. These are the real inspiration. We did it tough but we were in before dark. Had food and went to bed. We woke, had breakfast (freeze dried korma is all I had left) and now relaxing whilst these people are still out there. Truly amazing. Anyone can do this race. People have walked the whole way. The key is – enter and action it. It’s one hell of an achievement no matter what place you come. I feel so proud to have achieved another medal. I implore anyone reading this to take on a challenge this year that is bigger than you think you can do. Whatever it is – DO IT.  PERSONAL GROWTH – It’s the only way to truly feel satisfied.

Final day tomorrow. A 10km run into town for the victory party. Then it’s time for beer and pizza. Stuff dreams are made of. Then it’s time to call the wife. That’s going to be an emotional call!

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6 Responses to “Long Distance Relationship”

  1. Champions

  2. Richy – wow, wow, wow. You and Mark, what a monumental achievement!

  3. LEGENDS!!! We are so proud of you boys and had no doubts aboutu finishing. So relieved those feet weren’t the end of u too! Well done!! ….ps can we see photos of ur feet? Xxxx

  4. CC & I loved your posts. He is FAR TOO INTERESTED in you and Mark’s achievements for my liking. We hope you have a great party in town this weekend and can muster up some chat for Emma rather than just crying. Please email Lyndsay the feet photos in private ; ) See you soon xx

  5. you guys are an inspiration. awesome if not epic adventure. time to get rid of my mechano set and start training.

  6. Richard, we are exhausted just reading this account.. It is Ultra in every way!! The human body and mind are capable of the extreme and you have proven it yet again…

    Well done , now relax totally fulfilled and save the inspiring stories for your new Baby ! (:-) R AND Bx