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THE LAST DESERT - AWARDS AND FINAL SPEECH

Hey folks

So here we are in the thick of it to get through the Drake passage. We are really experiencing the Drake this time vs on the way over. I have wrist bands and patch on and I am still quite seasick. I have been struggling to eat for a while now and we all cannot wait to hit land. So, we take it step by step and count down the hours until we hit the Beagle Channel and the seas will become calm again. The waves are so big that they splash all over the front deck. We are rolling side to side and front to back. It is quite the experience to say the least. It is a huge thrill and feels like a 48 hour roller coaster.

Tonight after dinner and hopefully within calm seas,we will have the awards ceremony. I am so excited. It will be the true finish line for us all. It will be so special to share all of our goals at completion together before we head back to our homes. I am still in shock that the quest is complete.

Time to get off the computer before I get seasick again.

Please enjoy the final speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-nz1D94sJE

Cheers,

JAX

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THE LAST DESERT - THE JOURNEY HOME

Hey folks

Here we are on the flip side of our epic snow running adventure. We are about 18 hours into our adventure back at sea heading to Ushuaia. The Drake Passage is projected to be quite rough this time so there are various protocols taking place to prepare. They have placed large ropes in the lounge to have extra points to hold on to. In addition, the doors to go outside are locked as the water eventually could come over the decks as it rolls. I am not handling the sea as well this time, and we haven’t gotten to the hard part yet. My stomach is really upset and I feel dizzy. I keep telling myself that it can’t be like this forever.

So with this time off, I can dive into some of the other details of the journey…

THE SHIP – MV PLANCIUS

The ship is a really neat experience. I cannot believe all of the amazing sights we have seen as we sailed to various islands to run. Two days ago, we sailed through an area full of ice burgs. It looked like a sheet of ice over the water. The ship just pushes through it and the moves around the really big ice burgs. It can handle swaying from side to side to a great level to handle the Drake Passage. The cabins are spacious and really nice. There is one movie channel that is looping through movies all day. Then some of the runners have movies too that we can hook up to a TV to enjoy. The food is plentiful and really great here. Depending on the day, it is either a buffet or a 3 course meal. The crew on the ship is top notch and so experienced. They are so helpful too.

RACING RULES

Here in Antarctica the running rules are quite different as well as the race format. Each day, we were told a start time and then a projected end time. Within that time window available, you try to run as far as you can. Time windows are defined by when the ship needs to sail to the next destination. The leaders for male and female are by who has the farthest distance. 250k is when the race ends for the leaders. At any time the race could cancel due to very high winds and storms. With the unknown of possible cancellations, you are always pushing for the most distance possibly in case the rest of the week is a weather day. Once a leader hits 250k they can go back to the ship. Every individual is hoping to get as close as they can to 250k by the end. This year, we were blessed with wonderful weather and we only had to end with a short 3 hour day on Thanksgiving. For all of us that are Americans, we enjoyed the Holiday break and even celebrated over dinner. On the course the loops were as follows, 11.4k, 3k, 1.4k, 3.8k, 3.1k. There is only one check point each day on those loops. Each day you are given a score card with numbers on them. Every loop you make, the loop number is punched on your score card. Due to IAATO rules we have to follow a strict protocol out on the course to protect wildlife and the land there. This means that we can only go to the bathroom at a designated tiny portable toilet. Additionally, you can only eat on a large tarp at the checkpoint and must ensure that every crumb is picked up and thrown away. Thus, your strategy each loop has to add in the time to eat and go to the bathroom.

Even getting to the course each day is a project. First, you need to pack a 60 litre drop bag that contains warm clothing for after. 

Your running bag that is around 5 kilos and has everything you need to deal with weather changes and required supplies for body maintenance and safety. The bag is definitely lighter than the other races, but you still feel the load due to running in snow terrain. Once those bags are packed, we have a small race briefing and then head out to the gangway. From there you must step in bins of water with soap to wash off anything on your boots, shoes, poles and drop bag so that there isn’t any foreign materials hitting the Antarctic lands. The next step is to board the zodiac boat. It can hold 10 athletes at a time. Once we get on land you will swap out your boots for shoes and prepare to run with everything left in your drop bag or your running pack. There is one more course briefing and we are out to run.

RUNNING IN ANTARCTICA:

To start, all I can say is that the revised format and running in extremely hard conditions with a pack leads to A LOT more time on our feet pushing through the elements and eventually get to 250k in 6 days. The hours for me to get to 250k by day were 13, 8, 9, 2.75, 6.5, .75. 40 hours total vs the desert races would end around 30 hours. So roughly 10 more hours of time on your feet running in snow, slush, ice, mud, and rocks. The last 4 stages were on 100% snow. We would spend the first loop packing out the trail and then as it defined itself, you could finally pick up the pace. Stage 3-5 felt like skimo courses yet, without the skis. Your legs and feet every night would throb and were extremely sore due to the difficult terrain. It is by far the hardest race I have ever done mentally and physically due to this terrain. Every day, there were nagging pains and you were constantly afraid that you were going to have an injury. I have never felt so wrecked and exhausted in my life. With all of the difficulty, some days you didn’t even want to get out of bed. You had to dig deep and just do it. The recovery for this race as well as it being 6 of the 4 Desert races in 13 months will be long. I am so exhausted to say the least. I am so proud of everyone’s effort during this race. Everyone had so many challenges to deal with. The encouragement from the ship crew, racing staff, your emails and other toursits on our expedition ship help you to keep going.

WILDLIFE + LANDSCAPE

It was really fun to see wildlife at times. Two days we ran by penguin colonies which was really cool. The penguins are so happy in their elements. We also saw some leopard seals relaxing on ice burgs as we sailed by. There were additionally seals lying around close to the course on stage 2 and 5. Yesterday we saw an elephant seal in Half Moon Bay. They are HUGE. The landscape is epic. When running on Islands you would see magical white terrain from nearby. There are glaciers everywhere as well and huge mountains. As we ran on day 3 we could hear avalanches in the distance as well as snow cracking off and falling into the water. While traveling on the boat you will sail right by massive icebergs. Turns out what you see on top is 9x bigger underneath in the water. So cool! On the ship, the staff will also give lectures on many topics in the area.

There are just a few notes of our lives here. I would say the highlight is the jaw dropping terrain as well as sharing this experience with many friends that have been at all of the races together.

Cheers folks. More to come tomorrow if we aren’t stuck in our cabins trying to deal with the “Shaky Drake.”

Jax

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THE LAST DESERT - STAGE 6

Hey folks!

I am not sure how long I will last typing this with us back in the Drake Passage and the boat is rooooooling and nowhere near as bad as it is projected to get on the way back.

Stage 6 was so fun. We ran at half moon Bay. Now mind you the day was fun because I only had to run two of the 2.4k loops to finish 250k and then another leader victory lap with Kyle later on followed by getting our medals. The course was flat, but technical with super crusty snow that you kept falling in. But every frustration on the course turned to excitement as thoughts of a yearlong project took place. There have been SO MANY ups and downs during the Grand Slam Plus adventure that sometimes you look back and wonder how you actually survivied.

What we all assumed would be an easy race full of victory laps was the most challenging week of running of my life. We are so excited to finish and totally exhausted at the same time. Every pain in my feet and legs today, I knew that in just a few km’s I can rest as long as I want to recover.

Receiving this medal is such a huge deal and emotions were exploding inside.

I am so glad to achieve every goal I set out for!

  1. I officially am the first woman ever to compete the Grand Slam Plus…wow!
  2. I will be crowned the 2016 4 Deserts Female Champion
  3. We have raised over our goal of 10k for the LymeLight Foundation
  4. I will be the 2nd woman ever and 3rd individual to win all 4 of the 4 Deserts races in a fiscal year
  5. I ended upbeing top 5 and the only female to reach 250k

I am still in complete shock due to the project being so long this year. I think it will sink in even more once we all get through the Drake Passage and have the awards ceremony in the Beagle Channel.

I am mostly thrilled at how this is and can continue to inspire women and individuals to get outside and explore. I am so thrilled at the final push from everyone to help out by donating to the LmyeLight Foundation. THANK YOU!

Thank you everyone for your love, support and messages!

Jax

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THE LAST DESERT - STAGE 5

Hey!

WHAT A DAY!! WOW! After a break yesterday as the day was cut short at 15.2k, it made today a lot more important to jam out as many kilometres as I could in 6 hours as I really want to join the boys in making it to 250k by the finish line. Yesterday we enjoyed some time with my fellow American friends celebrating Thanksgiving. Sat phones were down so my attempts at calling did not work. I guess we have been too far south for almost 3 days to get and satellite connections. The upside is I just came back to so many beautiful messages from people. THANK YOU!!

Today started early with a 5:30am wakeup call to get the race started as close to 7:30 as possible. Out here that includes breakfast (such a lucky plus), and then packing up a race bag and drop bag, then a course briefing followed by a process to clean our boots and then board zodiac boats to get to the race site. Today was another challenging day. The loop was 3.1k and all in was 5,800 feet of climbing. The weather here is 32F / 0C so the snow is not the easiest to navigate through. Each day for the past three days, we tend to spend the first loop or two just packing out the track a bit. Today I was honoured to run the first 4 loops with Kyle, which were his last 4 loops. It was really exciting to see him come to the finish line as the first male.

All day I pushed and pushed and never let up to get every kilometre I could. I never let up and only stopped twice on the tarp to eat a snickers. Here you must eat your snacks at the tarp due to rules in Antarctica. I will jump more into that when we start to sail home and the running is complete.

Absolutely everything hurts right now. Sunburnt lips and face, swollen feet, strained tendons, strained Achilles, tight and sore legs that throb all night long, and then for some reason my body always decides to have another period. We all just waddle around the boat like penguins. Our bodies are completely wrecked and I really don’t know how we get up each day to do it all over again. There are so many moments that you push snooze and toss and turn in utter exhaustion not sure how you will get up. But the will and might of the goals of making history, inspiring the masses and pushing to raise funds and awareness for the LymeLight Foundation soon make you fly out of bed and get after it.

I cannot believe that I am 4k away from a goal that has taken a full year with so many sub goals that are also going to occur. I am in total shock really.

So now we have set sail for 16 hours to head to Half Moon Bay for the finish. I am finally excited to run in the snow and celebrate those victory laps with honour and pride. Folks will have around 3.5 hours to try to get to 250k and then at the end we will all share moments of victory together to a really hard week of work in the toughest race of them all.

So now we rest once more and take in the epic views on our sail. It is an incredible day with epic weather and we are soaking in every minute of the sail. The sun never really goes down all of the way here so we are able to enjoy a lot of time viewing the sea as we sail. Even when our whole body is so sore and we cannot sleep.

Thank you everyone for the messages and positive vibes and love this week. Most loaded today. To celebrate my victory tomorrow, please consider making a donation to the LymeLight Foundation through my auxiliary fundraising page that you can find the link on Facebook or in my Instagram profile. That would mean more than anything!

Cheers,

Jax

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THE LAST DESERT - STAGE 4

Hey there folks

Stage 4 came upon us with an extra-long rest and on Thanksgiving (Happy Birthday Lance)! The whole concept turns when you now start to calculate how many kilometres you have and how many are left. Once you hit 250k, you are finished. I began the day at 193.6k. The loop today was 3.8k on a glacier in Dorian Bay. There were so many penguins and they looked so happy in their element. Some walking around, others sliding on their bellies, some swimming and others snuggled together standing. The stage was my favourite yet. After taking the first 3.8k to pack down the snow, it was the most runnable course yet. The top half of the course was windy and a bit of a concern if they would cancel. Having experience in those conditions I just bundled up and enjoyed the running track. To finish in the 7 hours we had today, I would need to do 57kms. I was mentally focused to pick off as many as I could to make tomorrow a really short day.

Low and behold as I started to come in to loop 4 there was a line of folks with their drop bags approaching the zodiac boat =(.  The wind was too dangerous to continue and the day was cut short. I am not sure if it is a Thanksgiving gift to get to eat more and nap a lot from the universe, but I will take the rest and enjoy a 15.2k day =)

So therefore the new total to try to reach between tomorrow and Saturday is 41.2k. I hope I can make it as an extra plus to it all.

Now, to take advantage of the extra time to rest and enjoy the sights of this pristine location at sea. We are currently moving slowly and pushing through ice. It is surreal. Every once in a while you will see a seal resting on an ice burg. The sights here are epic! Jaw dropping really.

I will share more when I have energy and have completed the running mission and we will set sail back. This race has taken all of my energy and might. My body is wrecked. This is the hardest race of them all by far.

Cheers folks and more to come,

Jax  

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THE LAST DESERT - STAGE 1 + 2

Hey there folks,

I am not really sure where to start here. I am sitting in the observation lounge on our typical cyber tent tablets as my legs throb from 127.8km run in the past two days. Everyone is trashed, walking around like zombies and sore. The format is quite different here at The Last Desert. Personally for me, it is really taxing on your body. Due to the risk of bad weather coming in at any given time, there is a huge push for very long days if the weather is good. Thus, day 1 was 79.8km and today ended with 48. Now add in extremely challenging terrain with slushy slow, crusty snow, mud, sand, and a roughly 5 kilo pack. Last night we finished at 8pm, dinner at 9, stretch, recover, shower (such a gift), and pack for today. We went to bed at around 11:40pm and then woke at 5am to run by 8:30.

The loop yesterday was 11.4k in a boomerang style. It was fun but exhausting and our first day wrapping ourselves around the idea of running in loops. The terrain was really hard due to the snow being soft and slushy from warmer weather. Then there were roads that melted and had a mix of snow and running water so having dry feet was out of the question. The weather was magical I guess for that area. Super special for us and allowed us to run foreeeeeeever and a joy for all of those that live at the various research facilities. As the day rolled on, I began to struggle quite a bit with my IT band cramping up and pulling on my knee. Not so fun =( then it became endurance, strength and pain management. I was really afraid.

Today was really hard with little sleep. I rolled half of the night trying to loosen up my legs while we were at sea all night until 6am. I was so worried my IT band would tighten up again and knew a big day was ahead. The loop was on deception Island and was 2.9k long. This already was going to bechallenge with the loop being so small. At 10 loops in we swapped directions. This also helped us to see where we were at with competition. I took it easy to just get myself back together for tomorrow. I am not glad that I did because we just found out we will try to run from 9:30am-8pm. Weather permitting, yet it is looking good again.

Tonight we will be at sea for 15 hours until 7 or 8am. Depends on ice that they may have to navigate around. Cool eh? It is currently snowing outside. Many runners are hoping that it will keep snowing because we are so sore…

I am so tired with so little recovery ahead. It is taking everything in me to compete and be in the lead in the end. This has been the hardest race for me by far.

I will write much more once we wrap up the running. There is so much to tell. Send good vibes and successful thoughts my way for tomorrow.

Time to keep focused and power through.

Jax

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LAND IS IN SIGHT

Hey folks,

The journey has begun. We have been at sea for 37 hours and boy have we been lucky. On our journey at sea, 48 hour of the 2.5 day journey is at the Drake Passage. The Drake passage is known as the roughest seas in the world. So rough that you don’t even want to leave your cabin. Low and behold we must have brought some runners luck with us as this has been very calm compared. We are still rolling from side to side, but we are able to get around and enjoy the ship while at sea. Every day we have breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as a treat at 4pm. The ship is beautiful and we are all really enjoying being together. We all cannot wait to begin running as so many of us are at the last phase of a year long journey in the Grand Slam or Grand Slam Plus. Others also will join the 4 Deserts club if this race is the last one and they completed the others at any time in the past. The food is great and the beds are really comfortable. We are even spoiled with hot showers.

I am so excited to begin running. This is one long taper. It make me want to run around outside the ship. Word is we will be able to see land around 6pm and will drop anchor near Antarctica at 10pm about 10 hours left to travel.

The trip is going really well so far, and I haven’t experienced any sea sickness. I am so glad about that. I am continuing to do my core, glute work with a TRX that I brought and rolling to stay fresh.

That’s it for now. I cannot wait to start picking off the miles to achieve big goals and make history.

Jax

 

 

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THE LAST DESERT - THE FINAL STAGE IN A YEAR LONG QUEST TO MAKE HISTORY

Hey Folks

Just like that, The Last Desert is upon us. The completion of a year long quest to become the first woman in the world to complete the 4 Deserts Grand Slam Plus.

As I type this note, I am looking at our boat docked at the port that we will live on for the next 10 days. What a rush eh?!?!

The journey is going to be a tough one at points as we adventure through the Drake Passage and some of the roughest seas in the world. We have all of our sea sickness medicine lined up to try to conquer the odds and end up 2.5 days later in one piece.

From there, the journey will begin with the long day as the first day. The goal will be to run around 100k if possible. Each day in The Last Desert is weather dependent. Antarctica can have variable weather and change in a moments notice. At any time that can end the day.

Final preparations take place today with last minute shopping in the town of Ushuaia, a team meeting at 12 noon and then we will embark at 4pm.

I am so excited, nervous, and beyond for this journey. The training is in the bag and has been complete. From here it is time to rest up and enjoy the long journey at sea.

I am ready to get out there and give my last push. Here are the goals at hand:

1. Become the first woman in the world to complete the Grand Slam Plus

2. Become the female champion at The Last Desert

3. Be crowned the 2016 4 Deserts Champion

4. Raise at least 10k for the LymeLight Foundation

Just one of these goals is a huge feat, let alone all four. I am so honored to have the potential and be in a position to try to get them all in 10 days time. As the year comes to a close I want to take this first post to showcase information about Lyme Disease and the LymeLight Foundation. Please joing me by donating to help provide a medical grant for a child or young adult to gain the medical care they need to get better here: https://lymelightfoundation.org/auxiliary-event/4-deserts-grand-slam-plus/

ABOUT THE LYMELIGHT FOUNDATION AND LYME DISEASE
The LymeLight Foundation provides medical grants to children and young adults under the age of 25 that are suffering from Lyme Disease. To date they have currently raised $2.1M. The grants help children to get the medical care that they need as insurance to this date does not cover it. Often times families go broke trying to help their children out. Lyme Disease is the fastest growing infectious disease in the world. Here are some other facts and information:
WHAT IS IT: Lyme Disease is an infection caused by the spirochete bacteria - Borrelia Burgdorferi. Lyme Disease has 6 times more new cases each year than HIV/AIDS yet receives less than 1% of the funding. There are 300k new cases each year in the USA alone. That is 1.5 times more than the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer.
HOW IS IT TRANSMITTED: Lyme Disease is typically transmitted through the bite of an infected tick. The most common carrier is the backlogged deer tick, Ixodes Scapularis. However, various types of ticks have been known to transmit the disease, and can be found in all fifty states and 6 continents. Ticks often carry other co-infections such as Babesia, Bartonella and Chrlichia.
LYME DISEASE TESTING: Because Lyme disease evades the immune system, Lyme disease is only detectable by conventional testing when it sin the earliest stages. If the bacteria infection becomes chronic, the rate of false-negatives in testing increases exponentially. These ticks, often the size of a poppy seed, can leave an undetectable bite. Some cases will create a red bullseye effect around the area. The medical community is conflicted on treatment guidelines. Therefore, health insurance often does not cover the treatment for Chronic Lyme Disease. Fewer than 50% of patients with Lyme Disease recall a tick bite or any rash.
LYME DISEASE SYMPTOMS: Fatigue, neck stiffness or pain, jaw discomfort, muscle pain, joint aches like arthritis - typically in the knees, swollen glands, memory loss, cognitive confusion, vision problems, digestive issues, headaches, and fainting.
LYME DIESAESE TREATMENT: When detected early in its stage, Lyme Disease is treatable with an appropriate course of antibiotic therapy. If undetected and untreated, the bacteria replicates and the disease progresses into its late stages, becoming chronic. Treatment for Chronic Lyme disease is prolonged and complex. Patients often require years of intensive conventional and alternative therapies to fight the infection, recover immune function, and gain strength.
Lyme disease is a worldwide infectious disease and has been reported in all 50 states and every Continent but Antarctica.

OTHER FACTS:
Children are at the highest risk of contracting Lyme Disease and are more vulnerable to central nervous system infections.
Transmission of Lyme Disease can happen in a matter of minutes, particularly if the tick is not removed properly.
Lyme Disease has been called “The Great Imitator” and can be mistaken for ALS, MS, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism, and other illnesses.
Studies show that standard laboratory tests recommended by the CDC to diagnose Lyme Disease miss approximately half of the actual cases, leading to misdiagnosis and an infection that is more difficult to treat.
Over 63% of patients treated for Lyme Disease continue to suffer symptoms that can be debilitating.

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4 Deserts Atacama Crossing - Overall Results, Awards

Overall Results: 1st female, 4th Overall | 30:47.54 | 250k (155mi)

Just like that, the 4 Deserts Atacama Crossing is complete and another big WIN is in the books. This race was so special to me and to come away as the female champion and in 4th overall is just amazing. All of the hard work and commitment has paid off. I took a peek at last years results where the journey began and couldn’t believe the improvement. My overall time was 4 hours and 27 minutes faster than last year and I went from 14th to 4th. I am so honored and excited to push through a great performance. This brings the total results here to 3 wins and one 2nd place. I can’t believe it. 

Last night was the awards banquet. I was so excited giving my speech that I forgot half of it and my body was shaking as I spoke in joy so I cut it short... Here was the full version of what I wanted to say to enjoy. 

Thank you everyone for following along and I hope to continue to inspire all of you to get out there and explore.

5 weeks until Antarctica! 

"Joshua Marine said the following: Challenges are what make life interesting, overcoming them is what makes life meaningful. Each of you this week has overcome an insurmountable amount of challenges. From a blister, a bad ankle, running out of food, overheating, or just being taken down by the the challenges of the terrain. No matter who you are, or what level you are competing at, each night we all will have a moment lying in there in bed intimidated by the day ahead. We ask ourselves, how will I take myself through another day of 20+ miles on undulated terrain and succeed to the finish. And yet, here we are, as champions, conquering that terrain and inspiring all of our friends and family and even strangers back home. Do not forget that impact and let it grow viral through all of your home towns. You have done something the less than 1% of the world will do, and you have the power to impact your communities with inspiration to grow and explore. 

The entire grand slam plus journey is one that is meant to inspire the masses to get outside and explore. A year ago I sat here in this very room as the 2nd female and saw the inspiration that it created back home. This ignited the journey to become the first female ever to complete all 5 in one year and none the less as the female champion of as many as I can. I hope to additionally leverage this movement to help create awareness and raise funds for Lyme Disease through the LymeLight Foundation. 

David Brinkley said, A successful woman is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at her. It is only because you all that I can stand up here today. Bricks from the 4 deserts race series creating this event series for all of us. Tent 11 for being my intimate family out here. For the local grounds crew that is supporting our efforts. To my sponsors for helping to make this journey possible and for my husband, friends and family for pushing me daily to make this happen. 

In the end, its not the years in your life that count. its the life in your years. And all I can say, is congratulations to all of you for how you have chosen to spent them.

Thank you so much!"

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4 Deserts Atacama Crossing - The Final Stage to San Pedro

Distance: 5.1 miles

Position: 1st female, 10th overall

High Point: Running with Thomas Stordalen to the finish line.

Low Point: none

Wow what a race! The finish yesterday was extremely fun and emotional. Our day started with a peaceful last breakfast and STOKED STIX coffee with many friends. We cherished every last scoop of Expedition Foods oatmeal and great laughs with friends. This morning also was spent cherishing our last moments with our tent. Boy was our tent amazing. 8 incredible individuals that have become an extremely tight family. Franco shared some very emotional words with us and played a song that dedicated to us all. The song was Conquiste Of Paradise. We cherished every last second together. 

The final steps to the finish line were extremely emotional and special for me. This win meant a lot to me. Seeing the last finish line in a very hard effort is so incredible. The coke and pizza that followed hit the spot as well.

It is a special moment in town square with runners, volunteers, medics, grounds crew and race staff celebrating and hugging in joy. So many memories of the week rush back with each hug. There are bonds and relationships that will last forever.

I am so blessed for this opportunity to run hard and inspire the masses to get outside and explore. It is a really special opportunity to create awareness and raise funds for the LymeLight Foundation.

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4 Deserts Atacama Crossing - Stage 5

Howdy folks,

Stage 5: 46.5 miles

Position: 1st female, 8th overall

High Point: Valley Of The Moon

Low Point: Really dragging midway feeling low on energy

Just like that the rest day is here. Our camp is tucked away by the Valley Of The Moon and has epic views from every angle.

I am beyond stoked for how the week has panned out as I am sitting in 4thposition by 19 minutes and 1st female by almost 4 hours. With only 8k left to go, the standings should settle in a similar position tomorrow. The 13 weeks of nonstop hard work paid off.

The long march was a long day. I told myself that if I woke up feeling 110%, I would really push for a top 3 position. If I felt less than that, I would settle in on cruise control and save my energy for Antarctica for the final phase of the Grand Slam Plus journey. The night felt like the coldest one yet and our entire tent struggled to get going. I even missed the announcement that at that point Neil and I were tied for 2nd place. I literally made it with 1 minute to go. I felt groggy and tired as unfortunately my lady time of the month arrived over night. It is just one of the things we must power through as a female. I decided to keep my heart rate humming at a low zone 1 all day to make the running as effortless as possible. Now I say that with us going 47 miles and on very challenging terrain and with hot temps upon us all day. At checkpoint 4 I was really struggling to not feel exhausted. I have a tendency to fall quick into borderline anemia if I do not have red meat or iron, especially at altitude and when that time of the month comes. Luckily the docs gave me some iron, and we enjoyed a small coca cola as a present at that stage and I put my ipod on for the first time all week. From there I reversed my mindset and successfully pushed to the finish getting stronger and stronger with each check point. The last 6 miles are really fun because you run through the Valley Of The Moon and tourists are taking your photos and cheering you on.

Upon arriving to the finish line at camp, I was really emotional in excitement knowing the hard work was complete and I had really pushed hard this week. I was hollering in joy.

I cannot wait to reach the finish line tomorrow as the female champion. It has been my dream for a year for this race. For many reasons, it is the most emotional win for me.

Persistence, dedication, stamina, belief, and focus really do pay off.

More to come after the finish line.

Thanks for following my journey, and a huge thanks to Lance for keeping updates flowing on social media while I am off the grid.

Jax

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4 Deserts Atacama Crossing - Stage 4

Hey folks!

Distance: 27.4

Position: 1st female, 5th overall

High point: The first section of the day is always fun to navigate through sand dunes, rock and varied terrain with a huge steep sand dune near the end before checkpoint one.

Low point: Long stretches of the same terrain for miles and miles.

I am nestled in camp 5 after stage 4. It was a fun day, but long and hot. Today’s stage is one that is long, and a bit draining so I made a decision to take it easy and coast along to save up for the long march tomorrow. I was so lucky to spend the entire stage with Daniel. We kept each other going and it helped so much when the path just went on and on as far as you can see. We also helped each other to hold back and save it for tomorrow. You can’t ever underestimate the long day ahead so you want to have a smooth run, get to camp, fix your feet, and find any points of chaffing as well as rest a ton. Nap as much as possible and eat up. I have a little bit extra running food in my bag due to finishing faster than expected, so I am just eating it all today =)

I’m going to cut it short and rest and visit with my tent mates. They are hilarious. Brendan will come in from a 3rd day without a shower and announce to the tent that he feels so sexy today. Folks move you sleeping pad to the side to squeeze in. The tent stinks like crazy in the morning. Ludy is on cloud 9 scoring top 40 in two stages…and boy do we hear about it. It goes on and on. No matter what kind of day you have out there, you have your “family” to come back to at night.

Cheers folks and I will check back in on the 7th when the cyber tent is back up in action after the long march.

JAX

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4 Deserts Atacama Crossing - Stage 3

Hey there folks,


Day 3 is complete! Yay! I was dreading that day and I took it on with full positivity and strength.

Stage: 23.9 miles
Results: 1st female, 3rd overall
High point: Finishing with a smile vs last year in full struggle and also running the sandy / flat rock terrain vs last year I was a mess at that point.
Low point: Running on whompy crusty mud where your feet fall into the earth down to your shins as well as coral reef terrain.
 
I had a slow start today with getting myself together, so I was hustling until 1 minute to go before starting. The day had extremely challenging terrain and, of course, it was hot. The day was a big flip flop of positions depending on what stage we were at. At each check point my overall position was 1st, 2nd, 6th, 1st, 3rd. In the last 4.5k we had to crawl straight up a sand dune about 1k past Tommy and Ben zoomed by. I stayed close enough to Ben to sustain 2nd overall for the cumulative standings still. Yay!
 
This was a stage that you constantly had to think about positive thoughts and smile. You have to take on each difficult stage with optimism and just push through knowing it won’t go on forever. I was happy to be with the lead boys as we all pushed each other and kept going strong.
 
Lance had the perfect notes today to handle obstacles and embrace challenges by being grateful for everyone in my life and think about positive visions. It helped the entire way.
 
My body is still holding up for the most part. I developed a nasty blood blister under my toenail so that was not a fun visit to the med tent. It will continue to be tender as I couldn’t deal with the pain of drilling  hole through the nail but we were able to relieve some pressure from getting a needle in the side. So nasty eh?
 
Mentally I feel strong and I am excited for tomorrow. It is one of my favourite stages.
 
Until tomorrow,
Jax

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4 Deserts Atacama Crossing - Stage 2

Hey folks,
 
Day two is in the books, and boy was it a fun day.
 
Stage: 27.6 miles
Position: 2nd overall, 1st female
Highlight: Many river crossings in 8k
Low point: Not a fan of dirt and mud that falls under your feet
 
The day started off with my normal routine back in position. That includes a 5:30m wake up call to have oatmeal and protein powder. This round, I am using gnarly whey protein which I love. I’m so excited to enjoy STOKE STIX from my coffee business STOKED ROASTERS. It is amazing! A bunch of folks are enjoying it here as well. After breakfast, I take another nap from 6:00-6:50 and just let the food settle and visualize the day ahead. Then I pack up and organize my DripDrop (today 6 sticks), salt tabs (1 per hour), Honey Stinger waffle, Honey Stinger energy chews (11 of them), coconut shavings, and marcona almonds and 1 VOKE TAB. With it being hot, I also have my Avalon7 mesh bandana ready to go for a way to cool off at every aid station by getting it drenched and taking it along with me. Today there was extra preparation for the river crossing with having small socks and removing my gaiters for the first two stages. Then once past the big sand dune, I sacrifice the 4 minutes to change out to clean socks and re-apply the gaiters. The time spent is worth it and prevents blisters.
 
The day started with 3k on dirt and rock and then 8k in many river crossings through a canyon. It is one of my favourite sections of this race. I felt great and ended up at check point 1 in 1st position overall. The next stage is equally as fun with a quick part down a dirt road, and then a winding dirt road up to a tunnel in death valley. From then you push up over the tunnel to the ridge line and run across it until you get to fly down a big sand dune. You can’t help but holler in joy the whole way down. It is SO FUN!
 
I held on to 1st overall until halfway through check point 2 and Tommy Chen came flying by. I tried to keep up but my heart rate limits wouldn’t allow for that. From there I settled into 2nd.
 
The next two stages are physically and mentally challenging. It is hot and dormant as well as a mix of canyon dirt and rocks as well as a section of whompy dry mud where your feet keep falling into the earth and you really have to focus on the flags in the bushes, or you will lose course. So you just have to put your head down and get through it. I had a VOKE TAB at 4:45 in to get a little pep in my step and that helped a lot.
 
All of the sudden I was at camp and 2nd! I couldn’t believe it. The next runner came in around 30 minutes later, so my overall position might have bumped up to 2nd a well! So cool.
 
I believe I am now just under 1.5 hours in the lead for the women, which is exciting. Sarah and Isabelle are both very strong runners and they are doing awesome. It is great to have that competition here.
 
Tomorrow is my least favourite day for this race. I am preparing positive things to think about the whole way, and will make sure to just keep smiling and pick off each check point. The terrain is gnarly just about the whole way, but the camp at the end is one of my favourites. Focus on the good points eh?
 
Off to rest and eat some more high calorie Expedition Foods mac and cheese. My fave!
 
Jax
 

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4 Deserts Atacama Crossing - Stage 1

Here we are at camp 2! Although it was a 12 week break, it seems like just yesterday that I was sitting at camp trying to recover as fast as possible for another day to come in the desert tomorrow. The day was a bit shaky but I can’t complain as I took 6th overall, 1st female and wet around 45 minutes faster than last year.

Day 1: 23.1 miles

Position: 6th overall, 1st female

Highlight: Running though the slots

Low: Feeling hot and dizzy and struggling to eat

It is interesting, no matter how experienced you are, day one seems to always be a day to shake out your system again. For example, a tent full of grand slammers barely made it out in time to get to the pre-race meeting.  From the start, my belly felt extremely full but I forced down breakfast anyway. I was already worried how my stomach would hold up but stayed positive.

At the start,  realized my rigged buckle was no going to hold up. With a minute to go, I tried to tie my hair tie tighter and it broke. So the race began with a pack flapping around ad I decided to just get going for a bit and when the terrain presented a good moment to rig it different thenwould be good to go. I found a way to tie a knot with the small amount of strap left and it worked like a charm. It is now secure with duck tape =)

The day felt very hot and I felt a bi constricted by my shirt having a tall neck line. Eventually, I cut it. I couldn’t figure out why I felt so hot and dizzy and low and behold upon changing later, two hand warmers fell out of my sport bra and I realized with all of the nerves that I forgot to take them out from the night when I was freezing cold. Even with all of the extra layers and the donated items from TREW, my night was very cold. With our tent all being grand slammers and like family, I almost asked someone to move closer for body heat. This makes you a bit fatigued the next day, especially when camp is already at 11k feet. You just have to get tough and deal with the adversity quickly.

I sat in 5th position until 3k to go and Lulian blew by. He was a speed goat up the 3 mile hill.

Other than that I struggled to eat and felt dizzy, and hot. I had a hard time but knew to just keep going. The last challenge was my foot pads are still tender from Gobi and they already had hot spots. Thus I need to tape my feet to minimize the friction and prevent a blister.

All in everything is positive and the system of rest and recovery begins…

Until tomorrow,

Jax

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4 Deserts Atacama Crossing - Training And Race Day Preparations

As I sit here in the Hotel San Pedro lobby working to tighten up any loose ends for the week to come, I am watching my fellow tent mates and running buddies laying out at the pool and enjoying a relaxing day before the hustle begins tomorrow.

For a group of us, the hustle will begin this evening with a Grand Slam and Grand Slam Plus priority check in. It is a great time to visit with our buddies from all over the world that have been with us at every race so far. It is also a special treat to go ahead and get the gear check in out of the way a night early and allows for more time tomorrow to settle in to the hustle, and in my case finish just a little bit more work.

The time is almost here to tow the line at race number 4 of the Grand Slam Plus journey and I cannot wait to start. On that note, I thought I would share how the last 13 weeks of preparation went to get to today.

Coming off of China was a lot harder than expected to gain back my energy. I thought that I could have two weeks off and that at week three I would jump in and it would not be a problem at all. Now I did spend 22 hour days for a week opening a coffee bar for my company Stoked Roasters in the Bay area within The North Face, but none the less it was a rough beginning. That said, it is important when you feel that groggy, to keep resting and allow your body to push back as slow or fast as it is ready. It is a key part of ditching your schedule until your body says it is time. Those that don’t listen often get injured.

At week 4 the consistency jumped in and I began my climb back to another level of fitness that is the highest it has been all year long. Training ranged from 45-100 mile weeks depending on where it was in the cycle. I also love to race during some of the training to spend some of those longer miles enjoyed with other people. This segment I raced in the Jackson Hole Marathon and was the female champion with a new new course record of 3:23. Next, I hopped into the Huntsville Marathon during a 100-mile week and took 3rd female overall in a time of 3:09. Lastly, I placed 2nd female at The North Face Endurance Challenge trail half marathon last week in 1:56. It was super fun to pop into those three races and all were at an altitude of 6,300 to 8,500 feet.

All in the training program was a smash hit. I am excited to be in the best fitness I have been in so far for a 4 Deserts race and hope for really good things to come this week. It is by far my favorite course, and I am really lucky to have knowledge of what is ahead on the course, both easy and challenging. This course is not an easy one by any means and it has very challenging terrain at points that will really test your stamina and patience. It is that much more important to stay positive and stay focused on the end result.

Jumping to this evening, the VIP check in for Grand Slam and Grand Slam Plus athletes was as always a wonderful gift from the 4 Deserts race team. I am proud to say that my pack is the lightest it has ever been for a 4 Deserts race, sitting at 6.75 kilos (14.88 pounds) and I have been training with one that is 10.2 kilos (22.5 pounds). I have been spending a large amount of time with my pack over the past 2 weeks, so it feels really light even at 22.5 pounds these days. This is another piece that feels great for day 1. I have also been religious about doing my strength and core exercises as well as a big hydration project for the past 5 weeks to ensure I am hydrated at the muscular level. Thanks to DripDrop as well for being a continuous piece in this formula. Lastly, I have had the pleasure of working with the Bemer and 40 minute naps for the past 3 weeks. It has been a huge element in recovery. I can’t thank my “recovery coach” Scott B. for always making sure I am sleeping, eating, getting massage and recovering as I should to put in great weeks of training.

And while the run training takes place, we have also been busy pushing Stoked Roasters to the masses. We launched our new instant coffee called STOKED STIX, launched a new van program with Stoked Mobile, and we began an exciting partnership with The North Face with placing coffee bars within their Flagship locations. We are really excited to see where this will go. On my marketing business, it has been really fun to get Powderbird Heliski underway for another great season ahead.

So the typical setting of Wonderwomanjax was definitely in play in a huge way over the past 13 weeks. It was busy, hard at times, yet very successful.

And now, we rest until tomorrow when we will enjoy the mandatory briefing and leave for camp around 2:45pm.

There are some exciting and beautiful days of running ahead. 

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4 Deserts Atacama Crossing - Setting The Stage For The Race

HOWDY FOLKS,

For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Jax Mariash Koudele. I am a professional ultra-runner representing both the USA and Canada. The Atacama Crossing will be my 5th 4 Deserts race in one year. WOW! That is nuts.

Last year, in a frenzy to collect UTMB points, I registered for the Atacama Crossing. Let’s just say, I had no friggen’ clue what I had just signed up for. One of my best girlfriends Julie Olsen suggested that I go and watch the Desert Runners documentary very quickly just to get an idea. So I did. Then I panicked. Then I really panicked. And following I went into strategy of how to survive this epic feat. I also told myself that I couldn’t ever imagine how those individuals were attempting to do the GRAND SLAM, which is 4 in one year. And low and behold 2 months after the race, I signed up to do 5!!

So, fast forward 12 months and here I sit scoring 2nd female in that first race totally inexperienced including carrying a 31lb pack with water on day one, 2nd female in Sri Lanka, and the female champion in the Sahara/Namibia stage and female champion in the Gobi March. I am on a quest to become the first female in the world to complete the Grand Slam Plus!

What happened you ask to bring on this quest? The Atacama Crossing in 2015 changed my life! I have had a goal since I was very little to do something so big and so outrageous that it would inspire the masses to get outside. I also have always tried to find ways to make big steps to try to heal the world and the LymeLight Foundation became a cause very dear to me to try to do that. At the finish of the Atacama Crossing last year, the support, inspiration, and effects back home were enormous. Folks were stepping out on runs for the first time, and signing up for races when they never thought that was possible. Bit by bit folks were getting outside more. This was a dream come true. All I could imagine was that effect that 5 races in one year as well as doing something as the first woman in the world and what that could do. Already the magic is happening.

Through the course of the year so far, we have raised almost 6k for the LymeLight Foundation and I hope to reach my goal of at least 10k by the end of the year. To donate and learn more about my auxiliary fundraising event, please visit here. Raising 10k will give at least one grant to a recipient to get the medical aid that they need to heal and hopefully enjoy the outdoors again.

As we all know, each race in the series contains a great deal of adversity. In Sri Lanka, within the first 12k, I had twisted my knee in the jungle, gone off course by 3k, vomited three times, and was lying on the side of the trail wondering if I could survive and knowing the entire year of racing was ahead. It was in that vulnerable moment as I lied on the ground in 95-degree heat and close to 100% humidity, that I knew the challenge ahead was going to be very hard. Two days later in Sri Lanka I sprained my ankle in the jungle and hobbled through the rest of the course at less than 100%. As I pushed through each mile, I kept reminding myself of this quote by Ralph Marston.  “You’ve done it before and you can do it now. See the positive possibilities. Redirect the substantial energy of your frustration and turn it into positive, effective, unstoppable determination.”

The Sahara race and Gobi March brought similar challenges. Sahara was extremely competitive and draining. The weather ranged from marine fog to high heat approaching over 100 degrees. The terrain was very undulating and difficult including long stretches of beach running that would last upwards of 15 miles. It took every ounce of my might and grit to make it to the end of the 50-mile long march sustaining first place female.

The Gobi March was by far the hardest race in the series so far. It tested our limits with intense weather ranging from a point where I was borderline hypothermic on day 2 to running 50 miles in over 130 degrees on the long march. It was so hot that your shoes were melting underneath your feet with every step. This lead to large blisters forming on both of my footpads, which made for a very painful chase to the finish line on the last 10k. If the physical conditions and extreme weather were not enough, we also had issues with our camp blowing down the morning of day 3 and on day 5 there was a dust storm that blew the entire camp over once again. This also lead to my sleeping bag, pad and liner flying away. I quickly found shelter under a sand formation and spent the evening hugging my backpack and trying to sleep. The storm escalated to a point where the camp was evacuated and we were taken to shelter where I spent the night sleeping on a sidewalk at an abandoned museum on my backpack pad. Each scenario tests your courage. It reminds you quickly that “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, I will try again.” Out there in the desert there is always the next mile, or the next day, so you must dig into your courage to smile, and keep going.

Out there the desert races teach you to push your tenacity and grit to survive. What is cool is that when I arrive back from my experience in the desert to my life here in the states running my coffee roasting and marketing business I learn to deal with problems that arise easier and stronger. In any goal that you have in life, it is always a level of dedication and determination that will help you get to the goal. I always follow a philosophy that thoughts are your future. So put forth your very best self every day to achieve your goals. Each day, think of what you can do to make that goal come true. Out in the desert when a problem comes, it teaches you that when a struggle comes up in the real world, try to take on the challenge strategically and skip the panic and just push forward to a solution.

My wish for all of you is to stay on course, and reach your goals and to always strive for a healthy life.

Enjoy the journey here on this blog as I take on race #5 at my favorite course of them all so far in the Atacama Crossing. I have a benefit of knowing the course and what comes next this year, so I know what to look forward to and what to put my head down and push through.

To see my blogs from the previous races this year. Please visit my website here.

And please follow my journey on Instagram at @wonderwomanjax

Cheers!

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4 Deserts Gobi March - Stage 6 and Awards Banquet - "Statues Of The Black Gobi"

Hey Folks

What a whirlwind! I am sitting here in the lobby of the Hami Hotel and cannot believe that yesterday I crossed the finish line in the Gobi Desert as the female champion and 6th overall. I am really stoked that my time was 30:49 and only an hour and forty-nine minutes slower than Namibia on a MUCH more challenging course for altitude, terrain and weather. I am so stoked! I cannot believe it. I believe it was the fastest female time on this version of the Gobi March course as well which is extra icing on the cake.

Stage 6 was extremely emotional and a bit painful. In the long march my feet had two huge blisters that developed on the bottom of each footpad. Every step came with a stabbing pain. I thought to myself that if I run or walk the pain is the same so just run for it! I really wanted to finish under 31 hours as well so I wanted to push it to the end as a victory lap.

The course was moody and had a nice cloud cover and sprinkles of rain as we went. We did a loop around the desert with a few steep climbs and the terrain was mostly rock and sand. Every footstep was a step closer to the finish of a very challenging week of running and weather conditions.

My emotions were extremely high this time due to exhaustion physically as well as the pain in my feet, being really hungry, and also dealing with the weather situations, evacuation and losing my sleeping bag and mat. I ran the last stage with only 4 hours of sleep in the past 2 nights. When I crossed the line I collapsed to the ground and thanked the Gobi Desert for such an epic week and started crying in joy and relief. My goals were achieved, the hard work was done, and it was time to rest and celebrate.

It always takes me a while to come down from the rush over here and there is still a whole lot of travel ahead to go 15 hours back in time and back around the globe to my friends and loved ones to celebrate. It will be really important to recover fully this time and also eat up. I am the lightest I have been in years and need to make sure to fuel back up for the Atacama Crossing.

Like any race, I am coming back with more tips for myself of what I want to change in Chile. The biggest and most important is to never wear a pair of shoes twice in these races. They are good for one and then need to retire. The super-hot ground and soles that were used could not take another 100 miles of running very well and my feet suffered the consequences. The shoes that are usually really hard soles can be bent and twisted and the entire bottom is squishy almost like the soles had melted. I also realized that on the super cold nights it is critical to bring a pair of smart wool toe socks so that you can have your shoes off and flip flops on at all times. Small items I will tweak too with more food choices too. I will also possibly keep a pack on my sleeping bag and mat when I am not in the tent now that mine blew away into the abyss in the Gobi Desert during the sand storm. Each race, you learn little bits and tricks form your friends to help advance your game.

To close, here is my speech for the awards banquet that took place last night. It was followed by a super fun karaoke celebration that went until 3am in the morning. The entire crew here became a really tight family and it is so exciting each time to see your loved ones and friends that have become 2nd family here. I cannot wait to see everyone again in 3 months at the Atacama Crossing in Chile. It is my favorite race in the series so far.

Here is my speech in video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKeFDQ4EagU&feature=youtu.be

So my husband lance sent me this quote on day 1 by Francis of Assisi

“start by doing what is necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

Looking back at this past week, I would say we all at one point or another tapped into the impossible, especially on day 5. I may stand here today as the female champion and 6th overall, however, we are all champions today. What each of you have accomplished today is epic. I would like for everyone to please give each other a round of applause for that! When you travel back to your hometowns, you are hero’s and inspirational individuals that many will look up to.

Eric and Paul said it so well one night when they stated that during every stage race, no matter who you are, you will feel defeat and struggle, yet you will find your way out of it to triumph. This week has made your inner core and strength thicker. You are more mighty and when you go home you will have added another level of enlightenment to your life from this experience.

Please join me in giving a huge round of applause in gratitude for the entire 4 Deserts race crew, medical staff, volunteers and local grounds crew.

Thank you to my friends near and far, family, sponsors, husband lance and dog loki for their ongoing support of the Grand Slam Plus journey. 3 races of 5 are now complete and I hope this journey continues to inspire the masses to get outside and it continues to raise awareness and funds for Lyme Disease through the LymeLight Foundation.  

Cheers and Namaste!

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4 Deserts Gobi March - Stage 5 (The Long March) - "Spring Village"

‘It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” – Muhammad Ali

The affirmation for the long march from Lance with a little addition: “You can do anything today and you will. I am a champion.”

Low and behold, I recited that affirmation probably a couple thousand times and at 5:12pm, I crossed the finish line in 2ndoverall for male and female for the day for the 49.9 mile journey. This took me from 9th overall to 6th! The latest results have me as the female champion now by over 12 hours! I am still in shock.

The past 30 hours have been a wild roller coaster of up’s and downs…

So let’s begin with the long march. The morning was clear and beautiful and we knew it would be a hot day ahead. I spent a lot of the evening tossing a bit with nerves. I had confidence that I could be a warrior in the heat but it was going to be a new level that I hadn’t experienced while running 50 miles. We were lucky to get an early start time of 7am to assist. My sleeping pad also kept deflating during the night due to a thorn puncturing it the night before. Not so fun. To prepare for the big day, I woke up at 5am to my normal routine of muscle milk, oatmeal and nuts. Then I prepped many bags of various snacks from my little pantry so I had fun options to choose from all day. My snacks included roasted and salted almonds, marcona almonds, Honey Stinger waffles, Honey Stinger gel, Honey Stinger protein energy chews, Dang coconut chips and gummy bears. As heat increases, your appetite will lesson so I made a rule to dip into my snacks every 30 minutes no matter what. Next is the importance of salt and electrolytes. This is the most essential. Here I made a rule to have a stick of drip drop in each bottle at each check point. That is 14 sticks. Salt was one an hour, 10 tabs. Then there is sunscreen application and lip balm application. So the system looked like this from the start to finish.

45min in, begin food intake every 30 minutes

1 hour in, begin having a salt tab every hour on the hour

1:50 in, begin applying lip sunscreen every hour on the 50 and full sunscreen at checkpoint 5.

Then there is keeping yourself cool in 51deg Celsius. Mary said it was one of the top 5 hottest days in 4 Deserts history! It was so hot that the screen on my watch cracked. For me, it is all about mental and physical strategies to stay cool. I have an Avalon 7 mesh bandana that is one key staple to this. Every checkpoint, I would get this bandana and my desert running hat drenched and wear the hat and then use the bandana to keep wiping my arms, legs, neck and face with it to keep cool. They would dry quite quickly, but it was all in your head too to have these systems to cool off. Then checkpoint 5-7 I also filled up my 1liter platypus bladder and had more water to drink, plus I could use it to pour on myself as I ran and to keep getting my bandana wet.

The race was so exciting, difficult and tiring all at once. It started smooth and steady as I coasted along in 6th or so place. My heart rate rule was to stick between 135 and 145 which is zone 1. It felt easy and comfortable and I zoomed through check points. All of the sudden at checkpoint 3, I was in 5th. Then at checkpoint 4 I was in 4th and then I saw Tommy and passed into 3rd. I was in shock but knew I was in control and still running “my” race. At checkpoint 5, I slid into 2nd. I thought for sure Zeng would stick with me, but all of the sudden at about 20 minutes in, I was all alone again chasing down to the finish. Everything was clicking along, minus a moment of getting dizzy. I was on track for a nice clip even, and then checkpoint 6-7 began and I had to slow my roll. It was rough. The heat was so rough that even just walking my heart rate was at 138bpm. With checkpoint 7 in sight and nobody in my rear view, I decided to sit down for 15 minutes. This allowed my heart rate to get in control and to cool down for the last 4.5 miles. A distance that seems so short but in the conditions seemed so long. I popped back on the course and was able to run and walk for the last 1:09 to the finish. When I saw the banner I was in complete shock that I was 2nd. It was such an amazing feeling. I am stoked beyond words. I took the challenges of the day and took them on like a champ. Folks here keep saying that I am a machine =) My body is happily in one piece + 4 blisters (two on my foot beds). Ouch!!

Post-race another adventure began. Arriving at 5pm with a sunset at 9:40pm meant hot tents and a hot day still continuing. We sat at the finishing tent for 4 hours just staying cool and recovering. Then, the wind began to pick up and tents were hanging on for dear life. I finally went to bed around 11pm as sand blew into the tent and all over us. Then the tent collapsed. Folks came to fix it and I luckily stuffed my bags and moved to the other side of the tent in a corner. I tossed and turned trying to sleep. Finally, I decided to get up and get more water. I went and grabbed some and in the 5 minutes of my absence the tent had blown down and my sleeping bag and sleeping pad had blown into the abyss and my shoes were nowhere to be found. Total bummer which when exhausted seems much worse. Then a few more began to collapse so a bunch of us took shelter behind a sand formation and camped out there. We had a few moments of sleep in and out. Luckily, my tent mate found my shoes so I don’t have to run the last stage in flip flops. The sleeping bag and mat have not been recovered so I am sleeping on just the back mat of my backpack now. Then around 6am we woke to a full evacuation set in place. Total organized chaos in the midst of a huge sand storm. We have been evacuated to a museum a few miles away to spend our rest day. We are still in the tail end of the sad storm right now but at least we have shelter. We are mostly all outside still in the wind and sand due to the museum being hot.

So we sit, rest, eat our scraps and think of what we will eat and drink tomorrow and I am going to type up a champion speech. Wow! I can’t believe tomorrow I will be the Gobi March 2016 female champion! And I am pushing hard all of the way to the finish.

I hear we will still run to the finish, it is just a matter of where we will start. What a rush!

As always, I am running the quest to try to be the first woman in the world to complete the 4 Deserts Grand Slam Plus in honor of Lyme Disease through the LymeLight Foundation. Please join me by donating via my auxiliary fundraising link at my blog post titled “Day 0.”

With love and light,

Jax

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4 Deserts Gobi March - Stage 4 - "Eagle's Nest"

“You’ve done it before and you can do it now. See the positive possibilities. Redirect the substantial energy of your frustration and turn it into positive, effective, unstoppable determination.” - Ralph Marston

It is stage 4 today, blistering hot, downhill for most of the day, and we experienced every kind of rocky terrain imaginable. Small rocks, big rocks, sharp rocks, sandy rocks, round rocks, square rocks, rocks, rocks, rocks. Now this is fun n’ all but not so fun when two days prior jamming down a mountain pass my foot landed right on a sharp rock putting my foot pad into excruciating pain. On worn shoes, now just about every 100th rock over today and yesterday jams right back into that tender bruised area. Then the foot swells and then it feels like it is going to explode. And what do you do? You think about the quote at the top and bottom of this blog and you yell at the rock and then you think about something else and press on. Now take that scenario and replace it with many other issues that could come up, including the 40+ Celsius temps today and tomorrow and you just go for it.

No complaining. No fussing.  No whining. Just change your thinking and GO! If you don’t, it will be a long day.

That is my motto in these races for the most part. Dig deep ad grind it out baby!

Today was 27.7 miles of this and that ending at an abandoned military camp which is really cool. And it is blistering hot where you can’t even think of taking a nap because your tent is a sauna. So hot that earlier almost all of the tablets in the cyber tent over heated. So hot that out dog mascot that ran day 1-3 decided to take a car ride to camp. Good news is that the race crew found a foster home for our dog mascot to go to when the race is over. Hems such a cutie. I hear you can see him ln Facebook.

Tomorrow is the big long day. I believe I am walking into it with almost a 5 hour lead for the women. Some have asked what I will do about that as far as enjoying the view and taking it all in a bit tomorrow. As a competitive lady and still wanting to place in the top 10 overall, I have thought to maybe take 2 minutes at every aid station to chat and look around vs racing through and then also maybe take my heart rate down 5 beats less. It is already in zone 1 the past 2 days but maybe just a little bit slower to just save it all for the Atacama crossing which I have really high hopes for.

A fun fact is that the 5 of us that are pushing for the Grand Slam Plus hit our halfway point today early in the day. And the most exciting stages are ahead for me in Chile. I just love that terrain and it will be nice to go to a race where I know the course and what to expect. As far as the series goes I am in the lead among all 5.

I am off to rest up for the 47 hot miles in my near future. Hopefully I am done 24 hours from now! Due to the long march going through the night for some, the cyber tent won’t open until the rest day. Until then, Live it up and go out for an adventure in your hometown as we jam out our long day.

As always, I am running the quest for the first female in the world to complete the Grand Slam Plus in honor of Lyme Disease for the LymeLight Foundation. To donate, please visit my auxiliary fundraising page that can be found in my blog roll here under “Day 0.”

“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain. - Joseph Campbell

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