Posted by: Richard Bray | November 27, 2010

Thanks

It’s been over a month now since I finished the race and it’s been a tough adjustment back into real life. I got very sick soon after I came back with Bronchitis and a dose of the British Winter Flu. The change from Hot to cold did not go down well! Work has been overwhelmingly busy as we sprint to the year end mark as well. So, I have finally got the time to sit down and write this much overdue post to thank people.

Firstly I must thank the people that kindly sponsored me. I raised a total of £2975 which all goes to the EnKI charity fund. As a small charity we are able to see direct, tangible benefit from the funds that were raised. At this point EnKI is still deciding how best to use these funds. I will report back when a purpose has been decided. I must thank everyone who was kind enough to generously donate their hard earned cash to this worthy cause. It means a lot to me and the Kenyan community that will benefit from the funds.

Special thanks to.

Aldas Palubinskas,  Richard Atkins and the entire team at Mobico in New Zealand. A very generous donation that will go far in Kenya. Thank you guys.

Sally Peters and the team at Kenyan Airways for kindly donating two flights to Kenya. We raffled tickets for the draw to win them and we pulled the winner a couple of weeks ago. Oliver Simpson was the winner and will soon be flying over to the warm continent to enjoy his prize. Thanks again Kenya Airways – a very generous donation that helped us raise a lot of money for EnKi.

Mark Power and the team at Concep. Mark is also a close friend and keen runner helping me not only to raise money for the charity but also to push me on the many training runs I did before the race. Thanks mate – A very generous donation and I can’t thank you enough.

John Mazur and the team at ReachLocal. Always supportive of my crazy advenutures. Thank you for your kind donation.

 

I also have to thank my lovely Girlfriend Emma and my loving, supportive family back in NZ. Particularly to my mum for her fundraising drive back in NZ and helping to raise the awareness of the EnKi fund. I must admit that a lot of the funds raised are down to Emma and her hard work gathering sponsorship £’s at every opportunity she had. Without her love and support, I simply would not have been able to run this race and raise this much money. Thank you.

 

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Posted by: Richard Bray | October 12, 2010

Day 7 – Final Day and Medal Ceremony

Day 7 – The final day.

After completing 248km of the race, all that there was left to do was run 2km around the pyramids in Cairo to the finish line. We jumped into the bus after clearing up the campsite and drove 2.5 hours back to Cairo. We jumped off the bus to the magnificent sight of the pyramids. Impressive in photos – even more impressive in real life. Unbelievable what the ancient Egyptians were capable of.

We gave the organisers a few minutes to see up for our arrival and then we set off bound for the finish line and into the arms of loved ones. Emma arrived the night before and was eagerly waiting for me at the finish.

My final result – 16th overall from 160 starters. I did it in a time of 36hrs 58mins.

Here are the final shots of the epic adventure.

Posted by: Richard Bray | October 12, 2010

Day 6 – Recovery Day

Day 6 was a recovery day for those who finished late on Day 5 and a catch up day for anyone still on the course trying to complete the mamouth 95 kms.

Luckily I managed to get some sleep after finishing early in the night on Day 5 and my legs were thankfully recovering well. I had little food left in my bag so it was going to be a long boring day in the sun tending to my broken feet and legs. We layed around in the tent until it got too hot to do so and then ventured out to the shade sails to watch the late comers finish their race. It’s inspiring to see the determination and grit these people have. Many are on the course for well over 24 hours. Mentally I can not comprehend what that would be like – knowing how many people have finished, had sleep and managed to eat in relative comfort. The late comers and walkers are the real inspiration in this race.

Here are a couple of photos from Day 6:

Chilling in the tent:

Breakfast time:

Cyber tent time – Where I wrote my daily email to Emma for the blog update:

A shot of one of my feet after 248km! Not too bad… the paper tape is covering more blisters and holding 2 toenails in place. I think I will lose 4 toe nails in total. Not as bad as some!

Comparative feet shot – one of my tent mates feet!! See how lucky I was now!

Sweeper Camels – the swept the course each day and did the full 250km too. This was them finishing around mid afternoon on the last day.

Posted by: Richard Bray | October 8, 2010

Day 5 – Long Day. Done and Very Dusted / Dusty!!

Wow – all over and what a race. What a long day!

It started badly with more freeze-dried porridge and strawberries! The worst meal yet. Not the best way to wake yourself up at 4:30am and prepare for a big race. I have 160km of  soft sand racing  in my  legs and the final day of pain is going to be unbearable! My legs were tired but functioning which is the main thing.

My tent mates.

We kicked off at 6:30am with no staggered start. I held pace with competitors I had finished with  on the previous days. It was a steady run through the sand trying  to chew through km’s before the sun rose. We breezed through checkpoint 1 grabbing water and trying to force down food. The next stage was flat and sandy making the pace only just bearable. We hit the 2nd checkpoint with our group in tact and then headed into the hills. The sun was rising but my spirits were high. Your spirits go down and everything goes down hill. You do anything you can to stay positive… chat, count slowly to 100, listen to a track or two on an ipod or simply dream you’re in a different place.

We kept  pushing to  checkpoint 3 when the sun started to rise. I tried to stay close to my running mates but it was tough. These guys are 2:45hr marathon pace runners or very  experienced desert ultra runners so the unknown element of what’s to come was playing on my  mind. I just kept my fluids and electrolytes high and forced as much food down my throat as possible. Enduralite tablets, salt caps and hammer bars were my friend for the first part of the race.

Checkpoint 4 saw us climb one of the biggest dunes I have ever seen. It was hundreds of feet high and very tough to conquer with almost 40kms in the legs. Of course the checkpoint was on top of the dune… how the 4wd got up there is a mystery.

View from the top:

Heading to  checkpoint  5 the temperature quickly rose to above 40 degrees. The heart rate was way too high and the body was chewing through calories and water like you wouldn’t believe. This is the danger time. Glycogen levels  are low – if you cramp, your confined to walking. Luckily the experienced desert racers I was with helped me manage electrolyte and food intake which got me through. Heading to checkpoint 6 was much of  the same. We were in the top 20 and to maintain the pace, everything had to be managed correctly. One bad decision could end everything as your body is on the edge of breaking down. We stopped at checkpoint 6 for a slightly longer break of approx 20mins to get more calories down. They had hot water so I dissected a water bottle and threw in half a chicken korma freeze-dried meal. Man that is tough to keep down – try running with  it in your belly being mixed up with sweet electrolyte gel!

A Welcome sight – one of the checkpoints.

After checkpoint 6 the group split apart even more so it was a good time to  throw on the ipod and have a bit of Richard time. Head down and singing away I got through to the 7th checkpoint at which point the sun died down a little. Time to pick up the pace again! I was amazed i was still in the top 15 but with over 25km to go and 70km in the legs, I was still wide open for  failure. My body was really struggling now. My legs and toes were swollen and my  hands were almost twice the size they should be from so much swelling. I felt  like a marshmallow being but  in the fire. I put the pain aside and concentrated on my food and  water intake.

I hobbled  into checkpoint 8 sick of  soft sand and ready for a proper meal. No such luck. It was time to put the head torch on though as the sun was going  down. 10+hrs of soft sand running by now – you can imagine what the next stage was like. You are so pleased to have gotten through the most of it but you are so drained physically, mentally and emotionally all you can do is keep focused on moving  one foot in front  of the other. I was back with my running mates placed 10th and 11th and it was great to run as threesome through the night. At checkpoint 9 (the last checkpoint) they dropped me again so I was again out on my own. The last stage was tough. Sand up to your calves – ankle breaking stuff. I tentatively pushed on knowing the headlights of other competitors were baring down on me. I came down the hill and tried to follow the little glow sticks cursing every time I slipped. My legs were gone – they weren’t responding to any requests from my brain – they were now on auto pilot! I saw the flicker of lights from the campsite in the distance and kept my head down only looking occasionally. Slowly but surely I drew nearer. Then I heard the welcoming drum beat and I knew I was home. I crossed the finish line and collapsed in a heap. The toughest day I have ever lived. I ended up with a time of just  under 14 hours for the long  day and came in approx 12th position. Not bad for my  first desert ultra! As I write this 12 hours after I finished later there are still competitors coming through the finish line. Now that’s mental strength.

Crazy eyes – Approx 90km in and 5km till the finish. On my own focused on the finish!

I headed straight back to the tent to get set up before my legs seized. 10mins later I was in the most excruciating pain you can ever imagine. This went on for hours and meant I had very little sleep. My poor body was in shut down mode. How to describe the pain – you know the sharp pain you get when someone gives you a dead leg and then it slowly goes away. Imagine that pain all over your legs and it doesn’t go away. It’.s literally unbearable. You can’t walk without almost falling over because your muscles are so fatigued. You can’t lie still because it hurts even more. Your joints ache and tingle from the impact. It  is the most pain I have ever been in. It literally moves you to tears. Your toes are so swollen, sore and sensitive you can’t touch them. Your back is red raw from carrying your food and sleeping gear around all week. So, anyone interested in doing one now? I think I have ticked my desert running box…. for now!

A day of rest and then on to see the pyramids, the finish line and of course my beautiful girlfriend. I’m not  sure on my final place but I think I am top 20 and the first kiwi home. Very proud but beaten up!

Bray’s top desert tip – Enduralite tablets and wet wipes. Nothing like a wipe down at  the end of the day to remove some of  the salt crust!

Posted by: Richard Bray | October 6, 2010

Day 4 – The Toughest Day So Far.

After a good day yesterday I was feeling strong going to bed however, I was not as mentally prepared for the day as I could have been. The so-called filler day between the long day and the second longest day – I thought it was going to be easier. I was wrong!!

I went to bed around 7pm like normal after downing my calories all afternoon. My IT band has flared up which is not a good sign. I’m trying to stretch it but it’s hard as it has taken a real pounding from the soft sand km’s. Otherwise I’m good – pretty damn smelly but hey you get that after not showering for 5 days and running marathons in the heat. That first shower is going to be heaven.

We started  today like every other day – 4:30 wake up for race prep and food. Today we had an amazing sunrise – see above. We set off again at 6:30 for a day that was rated “moderate” it was far from moderate! By 9am the sun was high in the sky and with no wind, I really  struggled with the heat. It’s the first  day I had run out of water  – boy did I struggle. My hands started to tingle and I got a little dizzy and we were only part way through section 2! The second checkpoint was a welcome relief. Right before we headed back into the dunes. The part I have come to love the most.

The dunes spread out the field and allow a little relief as almost everyone is having to walk up them so the pace is relatively the same. The flats can get very boring and the slow plodders do well. Not the most exciting part of the desert! another welcome relief at this point in the race was to see one of my tent mates Matt who was having a tough day. He has been doing amazingly well all week and today got on top of him. Good for me as I now had a running partner. It was necessary for both of us as we both were struggling to get the distance done today.We battled through the sand trying to run for 5 flags and then walk for 2 flags. We needed to keep moving to ensure we kept our position. The strategy worked – we kept pushing through the heat which was well into the 40’s and through the soft sand which tires your legs like you wouldn’t believe. Sneakily the organisers had hidden the campsite over a dune and around a mountain so when it looked like there was nothing in sight we turned the corner and gladly rolled into camp.

Another top 20 finish – how will I stack up tomorrow. The true test. Will the IT band hold out? Will my blistered toes win and push me down the leaderboard? There is talk of a staggered start which means the top 20 will go off later than the rest. I hope we do get staggered. Nothing like picking people off to boost your motivation for the day.

So everyone must be wondering what’s it like to run this distance in this heat. Let me try to describe it for you as best as possible. Put a sand box in a sauna and do laps for 6 hours non stop. When you are done – lie down and try to get some sleep then get up in the morning and do it again. Seriously – the heat is off  the charts. Dangerously off the charts… things can turn bad very quickly. A lot of people have dropped out already. Some experienced ultra runners too.

All for now… thanks again to everyone for your warm messages. It means a lot at a tough time like this.

Rich

Posted by: Richard Bray | October 5, 2010

Day 3 – Bring the Heat and a few dunes!!

After a better day yesterday we bunkered down in a very hot and windy campsite to get some rest. Unfortunately the wind was so strong it whipped up all the sand so it was hard to find a place to try to cool down. We finally got to sleep around 8pm. Not long after the final finishers turned up at camp. I have to commend the walkers. I struggle being out in the sun for that distance. Double the time and half  the recovery time for the walkers. They seriously are mentally strong. I don’t know what I would do without my afternoon noodles. They are a great pick me up. Much better than the freeze-dried food I have for a main meal. They are getting harder and harder to stomach.

Day 3 started at just after 4am. I woke spluttering sand. I was covered in it from the winds during the night.After a horrible breakfast of freeze-dried porridge and strawberries and my small cup of joe, I prepared my feet and packed up my backpack ready for another 6:30am  start. Today was to be one of the toughest days – 42km of soft sand and sand dunes. Mentally it was going to be a challenge.

I set off at an average pace as I wasn’t sure how the dunes and distance were going to affect me. I didn’t want to use up all my glycogen too early. The leaders set a cracking pace as they usually do… I can’t fathom how some of these guys do it. They are truly freaks!

By checkpoint 1 I was averaging a comfortable pace and I had a few pace setters ahead of me to base my time off. The sun quickly rose baking the earth and us too. I slowly but surely reeled in fellow competitors and felt stronger each time I did so. I rolled into checkpoint 2, grabbed some water and electrolytes and pushed on through. Head down, I pushed on through the dunes to the 3rd checkpoint which was a welcome relief. The energy levels were low but the spirits were high. I left feed and watered and ready for the heat. Again, the Sahara didn’t disappoint. The temperature quickly rose into the 40′s and out in the open, your core temperature quickly rises. By checkpoint 4 I was baking. Your heart is racing trying to keep your temperature down which makes it a challenge to move fast. Just walking raises your  heart rate to above 145bpm!! Try running in that heat and see what your heart rate gets up to.

At checkpoint 4 I knew I only had 9km to go. 9 very hot kms though. I threw back an ibuprofen plus, grabbed some water and put on my ipod. Anything to keep the spirits high. I set off down the dune to the desert floor – the hottest place ever imagined. Slowly but surely I plodded through the sand until I saw the welcoming site of the tents at basecamp. A tough day over and done with. I finished 17th today in a time of over 6:20hrs. That puts me in 19th position overall. A very tough day indeed.

2 more days to go. Including the long day which will be a true challenge. I’m pleased to be the first kiwi on the leader board. Especially considering two of my country folk (Lisa an Meagan) are renowned ultra racers who have done things like run the length of New Zealand or complete the Badwater ultramarathon in death valley. Both are older females with much more experience so I’m happy to be ahead of them. This could all change on the long day though!! It is certainly not over yet.

Thanks to all my family, friends and colleagues for your messages. It is the best pick me up at the end of a long hard day.

One final mention – my beautiful girlfriend Emma. Only 4 sleeps till I see you at the finish line. I can’t wait. Your smiling face in my thoughts have kept me going through the hard times. Thanks for all your love and support.

Bray’s top desert tip – 500 calorie instant noodles and salty pork scratchings are key to survival out here. Who would have thought I would be craving pig fat after a hard day in the sun! I wish I had a beer to wash it down though!!

My Dinner for the night…

Posted by: Richard Bray | October 4, 2010

Day 2 – Dune Day

After a ton of food and time to put my feet in the air, we hit the sack very early. I was flat out at 7pm – the earliest I have been to bed since I was a kid. It was needed though – the legs were sore and tired.

We woke jut after 4am to prepare for the long day ahead. I strapped my feet, and threw back as many calories as my stomach could handle… the freeze dried dinners and breakfasts are taking a toll. Race briefing started at 6am and we started the second day at 6:30 to try and avoid some of the heat.

I set off much faster today. I wanted to try and get the max number of km’s under my belt before the sun rose. We started fast and I kept with the top 10 competitors right to the first checkpoint which was 10km in. 10km of soft sand that is!! After filling the bottles at checkpoint 1 we set off again and this time the field started to spread out. I managed to stick with an aussie mate which made the section much easier. After flying into checkpoint 2 we topped up the bottles and forced down more salt and electrolyte caps before heading into the dunes. You have never seen a dune until you come here! The dunes are the size of mountains! Section 3 was tough. My quads started to cramp and I started to flag behind my running mates. I pushed on trying to run for 2 flags and walk for 2 flags. It was more of a scuffle as I tried to push through the cramp. About 2km before the 3rd checkpoint I decided to take an ibuprofen and ease the pain in my shoulders and legs. It worked!! By the time I hit checkpoint 3 I was in better spirits again despite loosing a few positions. I filled my bottles, downed more salt caps, put my ipod on and scuttled down another huge sand dune. I set a cracking pace across the flat and I was glad to be enjoying the run again. The sun was high in the sky and hit the last two dunes at pace. Of course the camp for the night was placed on top of the biggest dune in the valley!

Running up towards Day 2 Campsite. A very welcome sight

I finished in 15th place for the day and I am in much better spirits. My time today was just over 5hrs so I don’t know what that does to my accumulated position. It’s the toughest race / challenge I have ever embarked on and I have asked many questions over the last 2 days. I’m remaining humble till after the long day. Things can go very well to very badly on that day… all positions are open at this stage!

A big thanks to all my friends and family who have emailed me. It definitely lifts your spirits to read such warm, supportive messages.

Blister count – 2 and 1 blood blister under a toenail. So far I think I will only lose 2 toenails! Long way to go though!

Bye for now.

Posted by: Richard Bray | October 3, 2010

Day 1 – Welcome to the Sauna

I’m going to skip through the pre race checks and briefings. All that i took from them was to drink heaps, watch your electrolytes and good luck in the heat. Man were they right!

We caught a bus out to the first camp and what an eventful trip. Psycho drivers, open coffin caskets in station wagons and even a lady pushing a wheel chair in the middle of a highway!! We finally arrived at camp which was a welcome relief. The exact location of the camp – middle of nowhere! Sand everywhere and a dodgy lake that no-one wanted to think about entering. We scoffed down our  nights food (a takeaway pizza from the hotel for me – great last minute treat) and then sat around the camp fire trying to settle the nerves. We hit our tents around 8pm where we tried to get sleep whilst a storm was going on outside our tent. To ensure we didn’t cook, we kept the door open which meant we were covered in sand this morning.

We woke at just after 5 to prepare for a 7am start. Scoffing down breakfast calories and preparing the feet for what’s to come. Gladly the heat was not on us yet!

Just before 7am we lined up full of beans and anxious of what was to come. Everyone was suggesting to take the first day very easy as you need to save energy for the later days – esp the long day. I set out at a reasonable running pace and found myself next to a fellow kiwi – Lisa. We hammered our way through the sand to checkpoint 1 where I found myself in 30ish place. I stopped to attend to a blister hot spot that was developing and let a few others through. My fellow tent mates had shot out fast and were now way ahead. I had to use my will power to hold myself back.

I set out  on my own and tried to efficiently get through the sand watching my pace all the time. I quickly hit the 2nd checkpoint and was greeted by a large kiwi volunteer who helped me top up the bottles and pushed me out the door. 20km done and now the sun was starting to bite… to go fast or to hold back… i had no idea what to do. I stayed to my strategy and pushed through to checkpoint 3. Now it was getting hot. Very hot. I camped out at checkpoint 3 for 5mins to catch my breathe and refuel. It was a welcome break. With just over 7km to the finish line… I set off  again. We were nearing  the middle of the day and the sun was baking. I pushed on. My legs were starting to suffer and my energy was being drained by the heat. I started to ask a few questions at this point!! I closed in on a welsh man not too far from the finish. He informed me his watch was telling him it was 45deg! Damn – no wonder I was suffering. We finished together and man was it great to be greeted by drums and 3 bottles of water!

I came in just under 6 hours for the first day and in approx 33 position. My tent mates finished over an hour ahead of me so I’m still debating tomorrows strategy. The long day is yet to come… To save energy or run it out and get in before the heat. You will all find out tomorrow.

Posted by: Richard Bray | September 27, 2010

Final Post Before I Leave

Less than a week to go and I get a cold. Perfect timing! Exactly a week from the race start and I can’t even run to the end of the street without blowing my nose, how am I going to make 250km! I guess this is my body telling me I have overdone it and I need a rest. As soon as I start to taper, the cold starts to set in. Loads of vitamin C and something that is very difficult for me – Rest! Two days on the couch and I’m going stir crazy. I’m far from a couch potato and a week before the biggest race I have ever attempted I’m confined to the lounge! To say this makes me nervous is an understatement. I am showing signs of improvement and I’m hoping this rest stuff will help me recover in time.

I fly out on Thursday night as I have given myself a day in the hotel to prepare and do the final pack. I have been counting calories and grams and trying to figure out what to take. I’ve managed to get a 4.4 calories per 1 gram ratio which is not bad. Add my sleeping equipment on top and my bag is up to 9.5kg in total exlcuding water. I want to try and get this down to 8.5kg which is going to be a tough task. What to leave out, what to include, how much food & energy supplements will I need / want. Here’s a picture of our spare room which has been taken over for race preparation.

Posted by: Richard Bray | September 5, 2010

Heat Training in Bulgaria

Not long now… 4 weeks and counting.

Last weekend Emma and I decided to go to Europe so I can get some heat training done whilst she was able to get some sun action next to the pool.  It was a chance to try and assimilate the race conditions as best as possible. 5 days of heat and long sandy beaches. A great chance to try out all my kit too. With CWX compressions shorts, injinji socks and columbia trail shoes, Patagonia top, Raidlight backpack and Legionnaire hat and my new Oakleys (Courtesy of Emma) I was ready to try it all out in conditions that would truely test me. I actually enjoyed the heat. It was refreshing to get intense sun after being in the weak summer conditions in London.

I set off early each morning to get the 20 – 30km done on the beach. The first few km’s were great… no one was on the beach and the legs were feeling fresh and raring to go. As the sun rose, the tourists came out in force. You can imagine their faces when they lay out their beach towels and then looked up to see a skinny, chocolate coloured fulla running up the beach in very strange desert kit.

On the second day I decided to turn right and head up the beach instead of left up to the normal tourist area. After rounding the rocky peninsula I found a 4 km stretch of sandy beach. With the iPod in and my head down concentrating on my footing, I failed to take notice of my fellow beach goers. It wasn’t until I ran towards the water to get on some flat sand that I noticed an old guy standing butt naked looking at the ocean! I then looked around and found myself in the middle of a Bulgarian nudist beach! I needed to get the training done so I kept going. I looked at them with a strange look thinking what freaks and a lot of them were doing the same to me.

Here’s a couple of pics of my beach get up. Not on the nudist beach!!

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