Archive for June, 2012|Monthly archive page

Stage 1 . . .

In Uncategorized on June 20, 2012 at 1:39 am

In these races there are a variety of different types of competitors and you should be sure not to confuse them.  First, there are the folks trying to win.  They aren’t human.  Then, there are the folks trying to do really well.  They might be human, but probably aren’t.  Then, there are the folks trying to run the entire race.  They are definitely human, however they are also the naturally gifted athletes you knew in High School who played every varsity sport for four years without getting sweaty.  Then there are the folks who will run part of the race and walk part of the race.  These folks trained really hard to get this far and deserve a ton of credit for their accomplishment.  After all these folks is this guy. 

Please don’t confuse him with anyone in the previously mentioned categories.

The first stage was supposed to have been about 41 km ( metric for almost a marathon ), but was shortened to 32 km because a river we were supposed to cross became swimmable.

Each day was different, but also the same.  The course was marked with these pink flags that were set about 50-100 meters ( that’s metric for something ) apart.   They were reasonably easy to follow IF you paid attention.  Anyone who knows me, should realize I had varying levels of success with this throughout the week.

The terrain was different throughout each day.  Some of the course was dirt road, some gravel road, lot’s of dried river beds full of various sized rocks, some paved road, some hills, some bridges, some water crossings, some camels, some goats, and some random open vastness.

In a general sense, the area resembled the United States desert southwest in Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada.  It was much different, but similar enough to give you an idea of what things were like.

Checkpoints were usually 10km (metric for 6 miles ) apart.  At each check point you could get up to three half-liter ( metric for kinda small, but not ) bottles of water.  There were doctors at each checkpoint, as well as other volunteers to assist you in getting in and out.  The volunteers were awesome and deserve a ton of credit for everything they did.

This first stage wasn’t easy, but wasn’t impossible.  It was a good start and I walked the entire course in a reasonable amount of time.

At the end of Stage 1, we had a ‘Home Stay’.  So, instead of sleeping in tents, 160 people crashed on the floor of some villager’s house like a giant slumber party of homeless smelly hippies wandering aimlessly through the desert searching for a Twinkie.

Nothing says fun like a cow watching you pee.

Pre-Race . . .

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2012 at 10:08 am

Saturday morning we had our pre-race meeting at the hotel.  This basically amounted to the race directors going over various boring topics and providing information on not dying from dehydration or being eaten by a camel. 

Following that, we had gear-check where our packs were inspected to verify that we had all the mandatory equipment and nutrition for the week.  My pack weighed about 11.5 kg ( 25 pounds in metric ) and included approximately 15,000 calories to keep me alive for a week.

You are required to bring a minimum of 14,000 calories.  Most people bring the freeze-dried camping food and a variety of power bars, gels, etc.  ( Hot water is provided each night at camp. )  I had the camp food in addition to nuts, trail mix, crushed potato chips, pepperoni, oatmeal, and candy.  One guy brought nothing but this powder he mixed with water.  Another guy brought ingredients and basically cooked dinner each night.  ( HINT – If you bring the freeze-dried meals, don’t bother bringing them for any day past day 4, because by then just looking at them makes you want to vomit and you somehow exist on Swedish Fish and Gatorade for the 80 km day. )

My pack weight was about average.  The lowest was close to 6 kg and the heaviest over 17 kg.  How/why either one of these folks got to these numbers is completely beyond me.  I had 6 kg worth of food alone and with 17 kg, he probably had a Sherpa in there to carry everything for him. 

The whole idea of pack weight is a vanity thing for people to brag about how little they brought or how smartly they packed.  In a way it is good, because it forces you to question all the random crap you shouldn’t even consider bringing.  On the other side, it made me be dumb enough to not bring an extra 1.5 ounce camera battery.

After going through the most inefficient hotel check-out process every, ( HINT – If anyone at a Chinese hotel ever gives you a blue piece of paper, NEVER EVER EVER let it leave your person and make sure every single person in the line in front of you has the piece of paper because the crazy people behind the counter will refuse to check you out without the blue piece of paper even though at check-in no one even remotely bothered to mention the importance of this random slip ) we boarded buses for the 4 hour trip from Kashi to the desert.

When we arrived at Camp 1, the locals had prepared a welcome for us that included various forms of entertainment.  One of the guys with the accordian may or may not have been the Governor of the region.  The translator needed a translator.

Plus, there was ‘Goat Ball’, which is more commonly called ‘Buzkashi’, the national sport of Afghanistan, which was prominently featured in the timeless classic Rambo III.  ‘Buzkashi’ features two teams on horseback fighting over a headless goat carcass trying to get the headless goat carcass onto a special pile of rocks.  Imagine rugby with a dead headless goat.

Unfortunately, I got no good photographs of the actual headless goat carcass.  I promise you, it’s in there.

After someone somehow was victorious at ‘Goat Ball’ we had watermelon and some local bread and the locals went home.   This left us to finish our dinners and then lie in sun until it went down at 11:30 pm. 

Interesting fact, China has only a single time zone.  So, although it gets dark in Beijing at about 7:30 pm, the sun stays up a ‘tad’ longer the further you go west.  Imagine how the residents of Los Angeles would feel if they were on Eastern Time.  It was even more convenient getting ready in the dark every morning.

Kashi . . .

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2012 at 8:54 am

The host city for the 2012 ‘Racing the Planet’ Gobi March was Kashi (aka Kashgar), China.  http://www.4deserts.com/gobimarch/    If you consult your handy maptlas, you’ll find Kashi on the far Western ( metric for left ) side of the country wedged between the friendly nations of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.

Here’s a link with all the boring history:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kashgar

Kashi is one of the places the Chinese media doesn’t always like to discuss.  It seems the people of Kashi ( mostly Islamic folks called Uighurs ) don’t really like being part of China and would like some more religious freedom.  For some strange reason China has a problem with that, so let’s just say there are some ‘tensions’ in the region and the occasional ‘incident’. 

Arriving in Kashi a day early allowed me the opportunity to wander the city with three other American racers I had met in the Beijing airport.  We went pretty much anywhere we wanted and NEVER felt threatened.  Whatever issues exist in the region, none of it is directed toward foreigners.  Seriously, no kidding at all.

At the center of Kashi is a statue of Mao.  You’ll probably remember him from the middle little Stockdale’s ‘communist in training’ t-shirt.  The further away from Beijing you get, the bigger the statues of Mao become.  The biggest Mao statue is in Tibet.  ( hmmmmmm ?  ? ? ? ? )

Parts of Kashi are fairly well developed, although you’d never be able to forget where you were.

There is also the old city of Kashi which is being re-developed / re-habbed.  This part of town is literally a thousand years old.  There was a huge amount of construction going on in the old city.  However, that begs the question as to whether this development is being done to make the Uighurs happy or to turn the place into a giant tourist town.  Regardless, this was the fascinating part that I’ll never forget.

There were also some parts of Kashi that looked/felt pretty darn normal.

Overall Kashi was a very cool place, however there is very little reason for anyone to come here, unless you’re clueless enough to run around the desert for seven days.

Gobi March . . .

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2012 at 2:48 am

Since there is no easy way to drop this Gobi thing into a single post, I’ll split it up into a bunch of smaller ones. 

However, if I were to reduce it to a single entry, here it is:

Before the race, this is all the stuff I took.

And all the stuff I took in my pack.

At the start.

During the race, this is the blister under my big toenail being drained each day.

After the race, this is me with a beer and a medal, or a medal and a beer.  It just depends on your priorities.

More to follow in the next few days (week). 

That said, the general question I keep getting is whether or not I would do it again.  The answer is,  without hesitation –  YES.  Probably the Sahara or Atacama race in 2014.  Let me know if you’re interested in joining me.  (Not kidding, anyone can do these things.  It’s just a matter of preparation, stupidity, and a reasonable amount of stubbornness to carry you through to the finish.  A little support from your Mrs. Stockdale doesn’t hurt either.)

Seoul . . .

In Uncategorized on June 2, 2012 at 12:28 am

Better late than never, but here are some pictures of Seoul taken from a park on a big hill in the center of town.

As always, you can click on the photos to embiggen.

The population of Seoul is 10,000,000.  If you include the area surrounding the city, this number swells to about 23,000,000.   That means that approximately half the population of Korea lives in or around Seoul and is within artillery range of our whacky neighbor to the north.

Traffic can be pretty bad, but you just learn when to do things.  While there are times when things become totally gridlocked, those situations are reasonably rare.

Urban living in Seoul is basically the same as it would be in Chicago or New York or any other big city.  There are numerous little grocery stores around our apartment.  90% of what we need can be found within walking distance.

Also, I can’t begin to describe the convenience and INEFFICIENCY of the subway system.  Yes it works, but it’s barely an improvement on searching for a parking spot.  Listen to me America, never fall for this public transportation boondoggle.  Everything I said in my old post about public transportation in Singapore still holds in Korea.


Few more weeks and then we’re back in KC for the Summer.