Friday, January 31, 2020

Final thoughts

This was an incredible experience. 

I trained pretty well and had a good idea of how I could perform physically, and went into this with a deliberate mental state to deal with the stress of this challenge. More so than any other race, I felt relaxed and determined to perform my best but savor and enjoy the journey. The only lull I had was when we were in a holding pattern in Chile waiting to get into Antarctica. 

The journey was full of diverse and deeply rich experiences. Even though we spent a limited time in each place, the pain of the marathons seared the memories in place. The intensity of the challenge made the experiences highly memorable. Each place had its own distinct place in my heart too.

In a previous post, I mentioned the positivity that surrounds running and that was completely in evidence throughout this journey. In fact, as I typed this just now in a lounge in Santiago, Chile, someone just started talking to me about it and asked to take a picture of my bag which has the event logo. This was a frequent occurrence at airports, and the positive energy of volunteers and supporters at races was amazing too. Despite being in a bubble for the nine days, I also felt some glimpses of the positive energy and support from back home through the quick FaceTimes with the family and some texts and obviously the donations to the Children’s Fund.

Amazingly, I may have gained a few pounds on this trip, despite running 209.6 miles and burning over 26,000 calories during the runs. I didn’t meet a calorie I didn’t like, and wolfed down fast food and gigantic airport Toblerons. 

I was very happy with my physical training going into this event. I had started about eight months ago to get ready for the 10K at the Summer Scamper, which also benefits Stanford Children’s. I then lost a bit of weight and tried to get fast for a personal record at a marathon in Ireland. I then piled on lots of miles to ensure I could go the distance. However, there was no way of knowing how my body would adopt to this stress. 

Thankfully, even though I had pains in different places, such as quads, glutes, and my ankle, nothing was too debilitating. The biggest concern was my ankle in the race at NYC, but I powered through that and didn’t have any issues afterwards. In Antarctica, I felt like a coiled spring after the one day off. 

Some folks were disappointed about not making the eight marathons in the eight days, but I ended the journey on a high with my best performance ever at the tough race in Antarctica. I just set my mind to do a particular pace and felt relaxed but focused on it. I only realized afterwards how tough the course was when folks congratulated me. A while later I did a loop with one of our crew who was finding it tough going when it got dark. The folks we met still out running those hills much later were really battling to keep spirits high, as the cold and treacherous conditions took their toll.

A lot of people asked me about what’s next. In fact, some folks were asking me that before we even did the race in Antarctica. I want to savor the moment and not rush back into anything soon.

The experience of having a great cause with this was also an amazingly positive experience. I felt really proud to be doing this with the support going to kids and families through the Children’s Fund at Stanford Children’s Hospital. To have meaning for this incredible journey meant everything. 

Thank you all.

Thursday, January 30, 2020


We experienced the relief and exhilaration of taking off from South America and finally landing in King George Island Antarctica yesterday afternoon. Touching down in the airstrip was a seminal moment by itself. 

However, we didn’t get to start the race for another couple of hours due to logistics with the different countries’ base camps, and the race organizer had to abruptly alter the course to stay away from one of the bases. Unfortunately this meant doing 10 loops of the most hilly and difficult terrain on the original course. Apparently it was cumulative of close to 3000 feet of elevation over the loops. It also didn’t help that three of us took a wrong turn on the first lap and ended up about .2 miles behind others.

Once I got going, though, I felt pretty good and tried to set a pace that was equivalent to my other races on this trip. Despite this being by far the trickiest with technical, weather and hilly challenges, I had my best performance by far - in any race ever. I had paced myself through this journey, and while I had pains with different parts of my body at different times, it was always one at a time and then that particular pain disappeared. So, I pushed myself to the limit on this one and came in with a time of 3:56, and what I think of as my first ever race win.

While it was a bit disappointing to not get into Antarctica the previous day to complete the eight marathons in the eight days, I enjoyed the rollercoaster ride of emotions that had a dip after an amazing seven days, but culminated in a high in Antarctica. 

In the next day or so, I will write some final thoughts on the variety of experiences across the world in the last nine days, with micro highlights in each location. For example, from the interaction with the people running with us in the streets of Cairo to the daybreak over the Singapore strait to hobbling around 26.2 miles in NYC. 
In the end, it wasn’t 8/8/8 but 8/8/9, and I subsequently found out that I had run 4:00 and 38 seconds in Singapore just down to clock management. These minor flaws may add to the character of this experience and make it a beautiful thing. Happily, I relaxed and soaked in the the experience including the support and wishes coming in from back home.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Back to the airport

The ever changing situation continues and now we have an earlier window to get into Antarctica. We are at the airport hoping to get out at 12:30pm and start the race by around 3pm. There is no guarantee though, even if we get airborne. Some flights have been known to divert back to South America if conditions worsen. 

I’m feeling physically strong for the race, and excited to put the anxiety of the waiting behind me. We were told that the window is more optimistic than yesterday’s, so let’s hope. We will also hope to get back out of the White Continent tomorrow and not be stuck there for a few days.

If I do get in, expect radio silence until I get back out of Antarctica.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The waiting game

After the whirlwind of flying around the world and the routine of running 26.2 miles every day, now we have to sit and wait for a window of opportunity to get into Antarctica. 

The latest news we got was that there may be a flight window tomorrow evening, which would mean we would land, sleep, then run early on Thursday morning. 

I did say at the outset that I was determined not to stress about stuff that is outside of my control, and this was always a possibility. Here’s hoping. 

Meanwhile, I just have to enjoy the sunsets in the southern tip of South America.

No go for Antarctica

Unfortunately, we were told at the gate that the flights are canceled for today. It is a bit disappointing, but better to put safety first. 

We will see if we can get out tomorrow or the day after. Would be good to do the full circuit in the eight days, but I’ll be happy to complete if we get out in the next few days. 

Antarctica ahead

Looks like we may have a window to get into King George Island, Antarctica this morning. We leave for the airport shortly and hope to be running at around 10am local time. 

Unsurprisingly, there isn’t great internet service on the White Continent, so I will have to post the update when we get back the next day. We are to sleep in sleeping bags with three to a tent. Of course, ours has the three biggest guys on the trip. 

Thanks again for all your support. I’m looking forward to completing this amazing journey, and hopefully justifying your support for the Childrens Fund.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Seventh marathon done

Thankfully the ankle didn’t give me too many problems although the other one swoll up in solidarity with its partner. The only pain was the typical marathon pain, and dealing with the lack of sleep since we were just off the plane. I managed to come through in the somewhat blustery conditions in 3:51.

The next and last one is on King George Island in Antarctica. We hope to fly in early tomorrow morning, but there’s no guarantee as the flight will only operate if conditions permit. There seems to be usually an 80% success rate of getting in on the day. If not, we will try again the next day. I’m eager to finish this quest, and give my body some rest. So, I’m hoping we get the call to go tomorrow. We will have to be ready and scoot out to the airport immediately if we get the call. 

Feels good to have seven done, and I’m feeling good for the last one!