Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Gobi Challenge Race Report.

Well better late than never but here it is the Gobi Challenge Race Report.


We arrived in Dalandzadgad at 6.45am on board what must be the smallest plane that I have ever been on 34 seat in all. Mike Inkster camp manager was our point of contact in Ulan Bator and was chaperion to the 15 athletes on the flight. On arrival we meet up with the other memebers of Sandbaggers, Dave Scott and Phil Briggs and the Mongolian support team lead by the very funny Tomba.

After fuelling up the vehicles it was a 2hr drive to the Gurvan Saikhan Mountains to our first camp site. On settling into camp I was sharing a tent with Al silcock and Alan Goddard and its was announced that the race briefing and kit check would take place around 5pm. Dave Scott took to the stage first to outline that stage 1 had been changed and that we would be doing a 30k cicular loop returning to camp to complete the stage and also outlined what we could expect on the proceeding days. Phil Briggs(Safety Officer) was next up to point out likely hazards(snakes,wild life,etc) that could be encountered during the early morning starts. The medical team was made up of 2 UK doctors, Duncan Goddall and Andy Murray and 2 Mongolian doctors Surena and Thorba. After the race briefing it was time for final kit checks then off to bed for the early rise of 5.30am with the race stage starting at 7.00am

Stage 1.

30K: 10K Climb, 10K Mountain Gorge, 10K Hilly Desert Plans.
Temperature: +42c

The race started at 7am when the temperatures were still cool but one thing athletes were feeling was the altitude at 8000ft there was increased problem with breathing and with the first 10K up hill it was going to a trying start. On reaching the first checkpoint we had reached the dizzy heights of 9230ft and with water on board it was a quick down hill section into the mountain gorge. The next 10K through the mountain gorges provided some rest from the rising temperature and also some of the best trail running you will find in the world with goats, camels and yak roaming free. On existing the gorge we arrived at the last checkpoint of the day were our water bottles were refilled by the support team it was a final push for the last 10K of the day, with a sharpe put up the a small hill it was now out onto desert plains and the rolling hills back to camp with temperature now +40c it was going to be a hard 10K.

Stage 2.

35K 10K Climb, 10K Mountain Gorge, 15K Desert Plains
Temperature +40c

The race once again started at 7am with runners making there way up the first 5K of the day before route and heading off into a second mountain gorge. After 10K of climb again we meet the medic and support team. Once again temperatures are starting to build but the gorge offers little rest from the sun until the last 2K. the trail running in the gorgr was as good as the day before. After leaving the mountain gorge its out and onto the desert plains and the first signs of wear and tear begins to show with Brian Jenkins having feet problems and Dave Fitzgerald beginning to feel the effects of the sun. Both require lenghty stops a the checkpoint at 30K before carrying on to finish the stage 2.

Stage 3.

43K: 43K Desert Plains.
Temperature: +42c

Due to the damage to Brain Jenkins feet from the prevoius days efforts Brian was offered to start at 6am to allow him as much time as possible to complete the stage 3 which he duly accepted with the rest of the field starting at 7am. As on the previous days the race breaks into its normal format Andy Murray, Caroline Richards and Walter Spenst lending the pack with the middle group of Nick Drews, Lee Wallington, Pete Barnish, Matt Simmons, Dave Fitzgearld and myself and bring up the rear Al Silcock, Alan Goddard,Deborah Stott and Andrew James all working well through tough conditions. After 10K Brian is passed by most in the field and is sebsequently removed from the race on medical grounds. Other people beginning to suffer at this stage are Al Silcock, Deborah Stott, Andrew James and myself all with blister problems. All remaining runners complete the stage to the welcome sight of the medic tent who carry out much need running repairs to allow athletes to take to the start line for stage 4.
Stage 4.
Temperature +42c
38K: 20K Desert Plains, 7K Climb, 11K Mountain Gorge.
Once again ther is a split in the start with Allan Goddard, Allan Silcock, Deborah Stott and Andrew James all out at 6am with the rest of the field to follow. Deborah and Andrew suffering the most from the porceeding days slowly making there way to the first checkpoint at 10K as the rest of the field head through on to checkpoint 2 at 20K. Its only at the 30K checkpoint that the other runners become aware that Deborah has been withdrawn on medical grounds due to very bad blisters. The rest of the athletes continue at a steady pace to complete the stage and finish in a stunning Mountain Gorge.
Stage 5.
Temperature +43c
43K: 14K Desert Plains, 10K Sand Dunes, 19K Desert Plains.
This Stage began with a short dash out of the Mountain Gorge before heading west to the sand dunes known as Khongyron Els. The first 14K on the desert plains are now taken its the effects on the remaining athletes feet with the pace beginning to slow. Once again there is a split start with Allan Silcock, Allan Goddard, Andrew James and Dave Fitzgerald all starting at 6am. Dave Fitzgearld still suffing from the heat makes steady progress and is accompanied by Allan Silcock as they head to the sand dunes. Now on the sand dunes the late starters have made up good ground and the dunes are busy with athletes trying to pick the best line to the next checkpoint high on the dunes. I make good progress and pass the early starters at this checkpoint then head off down the dunes and back onto the dread desert plains for the last 19K of the day. Once again the medical staff are waiting in camp and work wonders on the bruised and blistered feet.
Stage 6.
Temperature +42c
35K: 10K Desert Plains, 10K Big Dunes, 8K Desert Plains, 7K Even Bigger Sand Dunes.
Race Director Dave Scott had informed the athletes at the start of the race the stage 6,7 had been added together to give a final day of 35K. Once again the normal is followed the early starter and the chasing pack Andy Murray has now built up a commanding lead over Caroline Richards and Walter Spenst with the remaining places unchanged from previous days. Athletes temperament is beginning to wean due to the demands of the desert plains, long flat, very hot and featureless but known its the last stage everyone digs deep and attack the day ahead.
After 10K the first checkpoint of the day arrives and we are pointed in the direction of the biggest sand dunes you would ever see, in a sick way it was a great delight to climb them as anything away from the desert plains was heaven, its was now all about getting over the finishing line. On arriving at the 20K checkpoint I find Allan Goddard hiding in the shade feeling the effect of yet another hot day on the desert plain. After carrying out some running repairs to my feet, myself and Allan set off together for the last 15K offering each other much needed moral support. After 5K Allan is once again beginning to suffer and drops further behind. The last section of the stage bring athletes into the finish and given great support on passing through camp I informed the medical staff the Allan Goddard is suffering and may need attention on arrival. Athletes already finished are Andy Murray, Caroline Richards and Walter Spenst with all other athletes on the sand dunes or on the way to the finish line. On climbing onto the sand dune ridge it was a steady run/walk across the skyline to reach the final checkpoint and the last 3K down the sand dunes and back to camp and the finish line.
In all 15 athletes stater 13 finishers and enough blisters to last a life time. This is a must do race for anyone who enjoys adventure racing in amazing part of the world. Well done to the following Allan Goddard, Allan Silcock, Dave Fitzgerald and Andrew James who all found real strength to finish the race when most thought they were down and out. to Brian Jenkins and Deborah Stott who have confirmed they would return next year.
Bill Heirs 9th 41hrs 32mins
Special Thanks
To the Sanbaggers Team great event, great race, great support all the best for the future.