Monday, June 28, 2010

Performance Anxiety

Nerves. Nerves. Nerves. I am not so much nervous about Badwater itself, I applied, I was accepted and I have trained hard for this race. I am confident that I will go out there and give it my all, and unless something out of my control happens I fully intend to cross that finish line one way or the other. My nerves are on edge because I have begun my taper, I have started to really start thinkng about what I need for the race. This time, two weeks from now I will have been out at Badwater for 6 hours. Hopefully I will be closing in on Stove pipe Wells within a few hours of this time and jumping into an ice bath. From there I will proceed to climb out of Death Valley and into the mountains toward the Panamint mountains. Going into a race like this has been a life changing experience. I have never trained like this before, never have I devoted such time and effort and thought to one single race. As the days draw closer so do the overwhelming feelings of excitement and anxiety. I want to be there so bad I can taste it. I can feel the heat burning the thins of my ears, the suffocating feeling of 120 degrees is all but inches away. Never would I have thought that the desire to put myself through such a test would be so strong.

Tick, Tock.....

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Badwater Bound

Badwater. The hottest place on the planet. Last year it was 128 degrees. At that point I stopped looking at the thermometer. It starts there, -282 feet below sea level. For some it starts at 6a.m., for other such as myself it starts at 8a.m. and for the elite runners it starts out even hotter at 10a.m. Regardless of when you start, the race is going to be the hottest, hardest, nastiest, race you will probably ever do. It ends at the Mt. Whitney Portals at 8,360' elevation. There is 13,300' feet of vertical gain over the entire 135 miles. But if you happen to be reading this you already know all of that.

Today was another training day; everyday is a training day, kind of a novel idea for a guy that in the past just waltzed into a race and started going. It can't be this way any longer. If you neglect to train for Badwater you can DNF, you can not buckle, and worse than that you can die. So my running has been consistent, my runs have been different every time. My idea was to keep the schedule open to accommodate a run in the hottest part of the day. In fact some days I ran twice and hit the sauna all in one day. Some days were mixed 2-3hr runs with core in sauna, some days were hill repeats for 7hrs in 96 degree heat, on asphalt with a mix of core thrown in. Some days were cross training bicycle rides of 60+ miles. Some days were "rest" days with only sauna core work. So I am crazy, I choose to suffer, but I am not dumb. In every run that happens, I have my little secrets. I only use Polar Bottles, these keep my drinks/nutrition cold for a long time. I only run in Drymax socks, as a matter of fact I wear them everywhere, everyday, all day. Love em. I highly recommend bot of these products. Highly.

I am tired. My legs want some rest. Even during those training days I found myself helping my in-laws load and unload trucks of furniture, appliances, cabinets and just about everything heavy you can throw on a truck. Some of those days consisted of morning runs with later day trips up to buy fabric in North Carolina. Thing is with that is fabric doesn't take itself back to Georgia. Imagine loading hundreds of 50-60lb bolts of fabric from a warehouse into a truck and having to unload them when back home. Now imagine having to go run.

Badwater I want you. I have never wanted to do a race this badly. Then again, I never put the time and effort into training like I have this race. Less than 4 weeks to the big day. Bring it.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Marathon De Sable

25th Anniversary MdS

The Marathon de Sables 2010 is a desert stage race consisting of 6 stages and 7 days to complete all the stages. Every day has a time cutoff and the longest day allows 1 day and 10 hours to complete. The overall distance of the 2010 race was 250 kilometers, which to us in America is 155.342 miles. Each stage is different and the first stage starts with a 29km race. This is followed by a 35.5km, a 40km, a 82,2km, a 42.2km and a final 21.1km race through the largest sand dunes in all of Morocco. Conditions for the race are some of the most extreme on earth, the race is often billed as “The Toughest Footrace on Earth” and most who enter the race will agree. Before I start the race report, or my rendition of what happened out there I will note a short list of facts. Some are my personal race facts, other are interesting little tid bits.

Self supported with the exception of water: all food, clothing, compulsory kit and flare are carried by the runner.

Gu’s consumed: 57
Recoverite consumed: 1,710 calories
Total calories consumed: 15,903
Litres of water consumed: 60 aka 15.85 gallons
Scorpions spotted: 2 / Scorpions not spotted: 1 (More on that below)
Scaps: 24
Salt tablets: 38 (est)
Pack weight race start: 18lbs
My weight @ start: 192lbs
My weight today: 182lbs
High temperature: 47 Celsius, or 116.6 Fahrenheit (Day three) 40km stage
Toe nail fatality: 4
Men in Speedos: Waaaay too many
Gear: Drymax socks (5 pair), Polar Water bottles (2), Nathan HPL063 Pack (1) Mizuno Wave Ascend w/over 1,000 miles on them. Getting 2 Tri Sport Shirt (1), Big Peach Brooks Shirt (1) GetFit Atlanta Wind Breaker (1)

A special thanks to these sponsors who enabled Jennifer and I to do as well as we did in such harsh conditions. Thank you Drymax Socks,Polar Bottles, Getting 2 Tri Foundation, Big Peach Running Co, and Get-Fit Atlanta. Also a HUGE Thanks to Jon Ross who posted our updates daily; thanks Jon for your time!

Favorite dehydrated meal: Turkey Tetrazzini

The trip began on Weds, March 31st as we headed to Morocco from our beloved Atlanta Georgia. Our flight touched down Thursday afternoon in Quarzazate, Morocco, and after an interesting wait in the passport customs line we were in a taxi headed to our hotel to meet up with all the other Americans, Aussies, Kiwis and a few Brits. The race representative for MdS is Dreamchasers Events and the entire contingency is led by Jay Batchen. Our hotel was beautiful and the food was amazing, we enjoyed a huge buffet and delicious breakfast before we all loaded into the buses and headed south to the Sahara. This little bit of luxury was feeling a bit like our last real meal at this point. Our bus ride was rather long and we made multiple stops as everyone on the bus was guzzling the water provided as if it were their last drink. I was as well seeing that the humidity was hovering around 9 percent. Coming from sultry Georgia and being raised in Florida this is quite a difference. After cruising though many a quaint little town we made the last turn and headed down a long straight road into the mountains we had been staring at for some time now. As we approached the end we could see our bivouacs and all the tents surrounding the camp. The sight was amazing, just a huge barren flat surrounded by mountains and sand dunes on either side. Truly spectacular, and every day would look similar in some fashion. As we arrived and were shuffling from the buses onto the military transport trucks we were able to experience what would become known as European hospitality. Military trucks were used to get us the 1 mile to camp because the buses would never make it across the flats and dunes. The trucks were very tall and it was an effort to get into them if you were a shorter female, so my thought was to jump in first and help some of the ladies into the back of the trucks. Obviously chivalry is dead in Europe, or never existed in the first place because when I jumped in and began reaching for Jennifer’s hand and pulling her up; the French and Italian men were pulling her off the truck as I was trying to pull her on. It seems that they felt they needed more help loading than a lady. Either way that set the expectations for the rest of the race and the French more than earned their reputation!

Aside from some little hiccups in the beginning we were off to a great start and meeting some of our tent mates for the first time. Of course there was my lovely wife Jennifer Vogel( 1st place American woman, and 7th overall woman!!) , Jay Batchen 7 time MdS racer. Toby Luxford from England and a 5 time MdS racer. Katherine Hay-Heddle 2 Time racer, Tia Boddington the amazing editor from Ultra Running magazine, John Callos from California and experienced Ironman and Ultraman, and motivational speaker. Last but most certainly not least we had Michael Wardian who placed third this year in MdS and currently hold US record for the 100k and 50k! What a great tent, everyone hit it off and was able to enjoy one another’s company and make the best of tough times. As for the last meal at the hotel I was wrong, they catered the first two nights before the race and the food was simply wonderful. So amazing they managed to get that kind of production out into the middle of the desert, but then again they have been doing it for 25 years now.

Day one, 29km started off with much nervous anticipation, how fast do you go out, do you start at the very back and see exactly what happens? How are these gaiters going to hold up in the desert? How hard do I push if it’s “just” 29km? All of these questions raced through my head as I can imagine they did in everyone else’s thoughts. My plan was to have a Gu every thirty minutes and a Scap every hour, all the while moderating my water as to not run out to far away from the first water stop. We were allotted 1.5 litres to start and on average one had to make it between 10-14 kilometers before the next water station. My race plan was a great plan with the exception of one Scap per hour was not nearly enough. My plan adapted after the first two hours and I continued on now with two Scaps an hour. Although we trained heavily in dunes by the beach and ran in heavy sand in the orange groves of central Florida quite a bit, nothing can prepare you for the Sahara desert quite like the Sahara desert. Somehow every running step in the arid, dry sand felt like you were standing still and making no forward progress. Every step in the dunes was a sinking sensation in more ways than one, for one I realized this was going to be way harder than any training run I had done to prepare for this race and two you really do sink in the sand. For every two steps run the equivalent is more like one step; relentless forward motion has a new definition. At the end of the first day we all gathered in the tent and recalled the days experience and congratulated one another on a fine finish and marveled over the fact that Katherine on the first day became ill and was made to take six IV bags from the medical staff. She still finished the stage and was in remarkably good spirits having endured such anguish over such a long period. However later that night and into the wee morning hours Katherine was bit, or stung by something in her sleeping bag. As a true trooper she ignored what at the time she thought was just an irritation from the day before and trudged through until the pain and swelling could not be ignored. Katherine was out of the race and treated for a bite or sting of some kind that would later be identified as a scorpion sting. She flew back to the hospitals in England where the doctors identified the venom, and that she also got blood poisoning from it as well. Katherine is fine today and has recovered, but it is a sobering fact as to what can actually happen out there. I should also note that Katherines race number was 666. Seems to have been a contributing factor in her bad luck.

Day two 35.5km was one of the hardest days we had to face, long desolate flats, baseball sized rocks strewn everywhere and one unbelievably large dune and mountain to climb. The climbs were plentiful and there were more than I can count. The effort to climb and continue up these steep mountains was incredible, and for that I blame the fact that I have no really nice pictures. After pushing to the point that my chest was going to explode I chose not to take the time to get my camera out of its protective bag, I only wanted to get down from the insane climb I just experienced. Once again nothing in my training could prepare me for the steep, loose rock and sand that was on the sides of these mountains as we trekked up them. In an effort All that and this was not the hardest climb we would face that day. Later on the real deal came into view, a huge monster dune that had made itself by blowing up the side of the mountain we now had to scale. Shin deep sand, basketball sized rocks blocking any reasonable path and then the monster sheer rock climb. If anyone remembers the climb up the waterfall in Mt. Mist, multiply that by 20 in length and add in the boulders, the shifting rocks under foot and the fact that you had to reach into holes and cracks in the rocks to get grip; and there may or may not be a snake, scorpion or spider unhappy with your placement of digits. To make the climb ever more interesting, to the left there was a drop that if you fell; it could kill you and if it didn’t, it would certainly leave you disabled.

Day three 40km was the hottest day from what I could tell, hard to get an accurate estimate but more than one volunteer and medical staff stated 47 Celsius, or 116.6 Fahrenheit. Day three was a pleasant relief from the day before in regards to the climbing, but the temps were getting very hot and by the end of the day most racers will or had run out of water. The smaller climbs and the dry river bed crossings had had more of an effect on the runners than most had imagined. By the time most of the racers piled back into camp beaten and dehydrated some had started to request and petition for more water. I myself was in agreement and would have loved to have more water that night to replenish my dehydrated body while I rested and regained strength. This was not to be….In my opinion what happened next was a purposeful slap in the face to those requesting more water. Rather than give the racers water in the evening when they could consume it and put it to use, the race organization chose to boast that they were fulfilling our requests and gave us and extra 1.5 litres of water in the morning. What this means is that now instead of the 1.5 we normally carry in bottles, we now have an extra 1.5 litres that cannot be carried, nor consumed safely in the 30 minutes before race start. This was a complete and total waste of 1,500 litres of water. Racers were forced to pour the water out and crush the bottles to fit into trash bags, otherwise if they were left behind full, with ones race number written on the bottle, a penalty would be issued. It was careless, irresponsible, but out of our control. Anyway, enough about that.

Day four 82.2km was the longest 50 mile I have ever run. Period. Time total was 14hr25min, and it felt every bit as long. When race description states “deceptively flat uphill section” it really means it. My race plan was to be moderate and to base my pace on a comfortable 12hr cruise. There was to be no major climb and the big dunes were at the end, or nearish to the end. The race started for us at the normal time (9a.m.) and the race started for the 50 top men and 5 top women at noon. This means our great hope Mike Wardian starts in the heat of the day. My race was getting off to a slow, comfy pace and as the heat increased, so did the level of pain. Three days of hard pushing, then a 50 mile stage in the deep Sahara was taking a toll. My feet were hurting with the rocks pushing into the soles, the salt was crusted on my face and 200 calories an hour was just not enough. Mike Wardian passed Jay and me at a 51k looking strong and fast, which is how Mike always looks. Making our way to CP4 took more of a toll on me than I thought and I decided to slow it down and watched Jay trot off into the dunes with no effort. As I was plodding through the dunes, taking two steps forward and sliding one step back I began talking to myself. I wasn’t really having a conversation, but an argument. Why was I not running? Why wasn’t I pushing? Why was I so slow? Damn dude, get a hold of yourself, maybe you need to eat something other than Gu? So I crested a dune and sat my butt down in the sand and rummaged through my bag looking for something that tasted good. As I sat and watched the top fifty guys moving past I finished my bag of dried fruits and nuts and slowly got up and pushed forward. Finally I arrived at CP5 and was faced with the thought that I had 20k to go, through deep sand and hills the entire way until about 7k from the finish. Once again I found myself feeling down, mad at myself, tired and wondering just what happened out there today. I tried to reason that it's 45 Celsius; the dunes were way harder than I thought, everyone is just that much stronger, and maybe I just suck. Right about that time a few Brits and a few French caught up and I had somehow found the motivation to power walk with them. I started to feel good, my walk got stronger and I was soon on their heels and then I couldn’t stay behind them. I was walking faster, and faster, and then I was running. The pain in the feet went away, the legs felt sore but good and I was going…I was really moving. I saw the light from the finish line from what seemed like a close distance, so I ran hard, I was really moving at what seemed like a crazy pace. My heart was pounding, my pack was making a bunch of noise, my breathing was labored and I was gaining ground on all those who passed me in the dumps. I ran what was, from what I could guess the last 5k in roughly twenty minutes. I was pouring sweat, it was getting close to midnight and I wanted to be in and go to sleep. Finally I made it in at 11:40p.m.; legs throbbing, stomach aching, busted feet and a smile.

Day five, 0km Rest.

Day six, 42.2km or what is known as a marathon. Marathon De Sables is a race of firsts and the marathon stage was no exception. The heat was suppressing, the dunes were demoralizing, and the rocks were unforgiving. This was the hardest and slowest marathon I have ever run; now I am not a fan of marathons in the first place and the start of this one was not heading in my favor. After a restless night sleep coughing, feeling sick and fighting what felt like a cold I got up just like every other day and kept going. My face was swollen, my throat sore, my breathing very labored, but my mind said to continue no matter what. I was proud of Jen who in the fifty mile day crossed the line as the first American woman and the first woman that left from the 9a.m. start. Jen had moved into 7th position that day and would keep that rank for the rest of the race clicking minutes off the competitors leads every day thereafter. My thoughts this day were with her and all those who suffered in the 50 mile day only getting limited sleep and rest before starting this grueling marathon. My race plan that day was to just finish and get it over with, no amazing feats would come from this day, only a solemn push for an end to the “Marathon of Sands” After a modest hustle through the last dunes while Tom Petty cranked out of my IPod, I got a little ill. I could see the finish, it was so close, but still I doubled over and coughed and vomited a bit. Again I was wondering if this was the hardest thing I have ever done. My throat was so sore and hoarse I could barely speak, but I could smile and revel in the fact that there was only one more day. The Marathon was over; I grabbed my cup of Sultan mint tea, my 4.5litres of water and went to lie down in my bivouac.

Day Seven, 21.1km or a half marathon through the largest sand dunes in Morocco. Imagine music blaring in French, people unshaven, smelly, dirty, and dancing in celebration that this was the last day of what took years of their lives to accomplish. The feeling in the crowd was incredible, the rush from all 800 or so excited runners would push people that couldn’t walk the day before to run at a pace they didn’t hit the entire week before. The first 18km were moderately flat with rolling hills, smaller rocks and shorter dry lake beds. Just before the final check point we crossed through an old mining town and were marveling in the fact that the dirt there was purple; deep dark eggplant like I had never seen before. Along this same route were old abandoned mining camps that looked to be many centuries old, and from there the CP was in sight, now only 4km to go and time to turn on the jets. It seemed like everyone had reserves of energy and were getting ready to use it in this last 4km stretch. Up and down the dunes we went, power hiking up and running down, every dunes crest let us see the finish and every dune descent had us wondering if it would ever end. The crowds of people were becoming thick at this point, spectators, families, vacationers, and local children running next to us, all the volunteers cheering for the racers. Hundreds of people lined the dunes and stretched for 100 yards into the finish where each race was greeted by the race director and issued an MdS medal on a ribbon. Just like that it was over. Onto the buses for a 7hr bus ride back to Quarzazate, and into our hotel for the remaining 2 days until we made our way home.

Marathon de Sables is a life changing experience and one that most racers will say they won’t forget. This race is something special, the race itself, the friends you make, and the hardships endured all become special. The dunes, the rocks, the people and the intensity will never be forgotten; those who have done the race before said it would forever change you, and they were correct. There are quite a few races, or experiences that will never be forgotten, but there are few to which all others will be compared to.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Riding Waves of Sand to MdS Finish

After crossing the finish line yesterday after the 21.2 kilometer (13.1 mile) final stage of the 25th Marathon de Sables, Jennifer and Lane are enjoying some well deserved down time in Morocco before heading back to the ATL later this week. While many of the MdS competitors arrived at the start of Stage 1 with one goal - To finish one of the toughest footraces on earth - Lane continued to move up in the overall standings with each stage, and flew through Stage 6 to the finish, and the completion of a six-day, 151 mile desert quest. Among 1013 runners, Jennifer finished as the 7th Overall Woman. Cheers to both of you. Lots of superlatives come to mind right now, but the best that I can come up with at the moment is Wow...

You may click on the following links for additional Stage 6 and MdS supplemental material:

Stunning scenery and brutal conditions. The fact that Jen and Lane continued to get stronger as they went longer in all of that sand and all of that heat is truly amazing.

Way to go Team Vogel. Thanks for letting us join you for a virtual glimpse of a part of the world that many of us will never see with our own eyes.

Each of us was there with you every step of the way.


Stay tuned for race photos and additional race info as they become available.

All The Best,

Jon Ross

Friday, April 9, 2010

Kickin' It In

On the eve of the final leg of the 2010 Marathon de Sables, please take a moment to read a note from Jennifer Vogel that was received a few hours ago:

Today brought body-beating rocks, deep sand, high winds, and of course, heat. I came to the Sahara to find who I was, not a Daughter, Sister, Friend, Wife. When faced with adversity, who exactly am I? For the past 6 days, the Sahara (Who is one BAMF) has beaten my body and torn at my soul, and today was the day I would find the answer. I'm the kind of person that will get up one more time, then I'm knocked down. I'm a fighter and I'm damn proud to find that out. Lane is a beast out here and I am amazed by his strength every day. Tomorrow is the final stage. 13.1 miles through the biggest sand dunes in Morocco. If the Sahara wants to take us down, we are going down swinging. Thanks for all the emails and the prayers. Thanks to my family and friends, to Get Fit Atlanta for all of the support, to Big Peach, To Mike at G2t for letting us run in honor of some amazing people, to Jon Ross for keeping everyone up to date on us, and to 1st Choice Health Care for letting me leave my job for 2 weeks.

Will email soon, Jen

Please keep an eye out for updates on Stage 6 as they become available.

Stage 5 Complete, Final Stage Tomorrow

Stage 5 of the Marathon de Sables began this morning. This 42.2 kilometer leg is the equivalent of a full 26.2 mile marathon, and the remaining competitors have already covered a cumulative distance of 186.5 kilometers (115.9 miles) over the first four stages. Jennifer and Lane have both crossed the finish line within the past couple of hours, and will be preparing themselves for tomorrow's final leg, Stage 6.

You may click here for the preliminary Stage 5 results.

You can also check out some Stage 4, Day 2 videos from yesterday by clicking here.

Stay tuned for a Stage 5 recap with details as they become available.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Brief Reprieve, Then Stage 5...

Received the following note from Jen this afternoon:

We are all enjoying a well deserved off day, although as of right now a few of our tent mates are still out on the course and one had to drop Tuesday from a scorpion bite* (In the sleeping bag next to mine!!). Yesterday was a nasty 50miler, with 20km of dunes in the last 30k. I found out in the morning that I was 11th place going in to the 50miler with 3 girls right on my heels. My plan was to take advantage of moving well the first 50km in the heat of the day, then walk the dunes to the best of my ability. It seemed to work. I was the 1st female of the early group to cross the finish. Not sure where my standing is now but I'm hoping for top 10. Other than a few blisters and being a little dehydrated, I feel fine. Lane also moved it pretty well with a sub 15hr finish. We have 2 more rounds w the Sahara, here's to hoping we survive! Jen

PS - Thanks everyone for the emails. It's the best part of the day to get them all and to know that people back home are rooting for us.

* As a side note, from what I could gather on the Dreamchasers Outdoor Adventure Club FB page, the competitor was flown out of Morocco, and is currently in a hospital in London. To be clear, the runner was NOT Jen or Lane, and they'll be rockin' it out in Stage 5 tomorrow.

Here is what was posted at the Dreamchasers page:

Ok friends..we have a runner in need of our prayers and send her some emails! Katherine Hay-Heddle was bitten by a spider at the Marathon des Sables and is in a hospital in London....please pray for her and send her some notes...I am sure she would love to hear from you. Katherine is such a gift... We love you Katherine

Let's all keep her in our thoughts as we continue to pull for Team Vogel.

To learn more about Day 2 of Stage 4, which is today, the race organizers have provided some narratives which you can read by clicking here.

You may also plug the following GPS coordinates into Google Maps or Google Earth, and retrace the Stage 4 route:

Bivouac 4 : N30 37.937 W4 44.666
PC 1 : N30 37.178 W4 36.690
PC 2 : N30 42.752 W4 33.919
PC 3 : N30 48.463 W4 31.448
PC 4 : N30 44.625 W4 26.402
PC 5 : N30 43.544 W4 20.737
PC 6 : N30 45.371 W4 15.279
Bivouac 5 : N30 49.891 W4 12.977

And, as always, you can send an e-mail to Jennifer or Lane by clicking here.

Please stay tuned for updates as they become available.


Some Spring in Their Step

A quick note from Jennifer Vogel, from a tent that she's sharing with Lane somewhere in the Sahara, following Stage 3:

We are hanging in there. Today was round 3 with the Sahara- 24 miles of flat hot salt flats [Note: See photo to left] with a few dunes for fun. Tons of camels. Super hard not to stop and try to pet the babies. Time to recover and prepare for 55 tomorrow. The emails rock, please keep them coming.

The following is a recap of Stage 4, and it appears as though they were well prepared indeed...

While the race organizers describe yesterday's leg of the Marathon de Sables as an 'Exceptionally beautiful long stage', it is considered by many to be the toughest of the six stages, and rightfully so. With that, both Jennifer and Lane not only finished the 82.2 kilometer (51.1 mile) Stage 4, they also moved up significantly in the overall standings. As they left the relative comfort of the camp at Bivouac 4 Wednesday morning and pushed off into the desert towards the first checkpoint, Jen was in 183rd place overall out of the 961 remaining runners (1013 began Stage 1), and picked up 107 spots, which puts her in 76th overall going into Stage 5 which begins Friday morning. Lane moved up 144 spots, putting him 153rd overall amongst a field of some of the top ultrarunners in the world, on one of the world's most extreme and toughest courses.

The following is an excerpt from the MdS narrative of one of the more stunning portions of Stage 4:

...They also know from reading their road-book that it’s the price to pay to access the beautiful valley between Jebel Zireg and Jebel El Mziouda. After climbing up to a pass, they marvel at the extraordinary landscape: golden sand at the foot of the mountains, rocky undulations, fields of locust tree and camel grass, large stretches of black shiny stones.
Coming out of the valley, they come across CP 2, at km 26.1, and behind it, the dried up lake of the El Mader wadi. They cross it and then go up towards the El Maharch oasis, its inn and most of all its palm trees, offering shade to those who want to rest and recover. Further, CP 3 at km 38.7 opens towards the East and the Rhéris wadi crossing and CP 4 at km 51.

After painting that amazing picture in my mind, here is what I read next about the group of runners who started Stage 4 at 09:15 local time that morning (This was the entire field including all of the remaining competitors, except for the top 50 who had started three hours later at 12:15):

The first woman in this group to have reached the 51 km check point was Jennifer Vogel (696 – USA), at 4.22.

That's 31+ miles in just over 4 hours. In that heat. In the Sahara. After having already run a cumulative 104.5 kilometers (65 miles) over the previous three days. Both she and Lane clearly appear to be getting stronger, while many of the other competitors continue to fall off of the pace. Way to go, guys. Incredible. Seriously.

You may click here for their splits at each checkpoint, and their respective finishing times for Stage 4, and here for some Stage 4 videos.
Stay tuned for updates as they become available, and please take a moment to send each of them an e-mail to let them know that we are following their every step during this amazing adventure.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Out of the Frying Pan, and Right Back In

Of the 1013 competitors who toed the line at the start of Stage 1 of the 2010 Marathon de Sables on Sunday, 938 remained as the runners began the 40 kilometer (24.9 mile) Stage 3 leg just before 08:30 local time yesterday morning. The race organizers have said that this stage 'Calls for great mental strength', but from what I can tell as I sit in front of my computer in my air conditioned home office in a cozy suburb on this side of the Atlantic, it's safe to say that every step along the MdS course can be described in this manner. When Jennifer and Lane return, I am sure that they'll be able to back me up on that one.

The following is a breakdown of the cumulative elapsed time at each checkpoint along Stage 3:

Jennifer Vogel - Competitor # 696:

CP 1: 1:36:45, CP2: 3:19:17, CP3: 4:56:57

Bivouac 4: Total Stage 3 Time 5:40:26

Lane Vogel - Competitor # 697:

CP 1: 1:37:36, CP2: 3:18:13, CP3: 5:15:37

Bivouac 4: Total Stage 3 Time 6:14:52

You may click here for some video footage of Stage 3, and you can also retrace the Stage 3 route by plugging these GPS coordinates into Google Maps or Google Earth:
  • Bivouac 3 (Start of Stage 3): N30 51.162 W4 34.239
  • PC 1 : N30 48.893 W4 41.599
  • PC 2 : N30 45.488 W4 47.307
  • PC 3 : N30 39.864 W4 46.689
  • Bivouac 4 (End of Stage 3, Overnight Camp): N30 37.937 W4 44.666

The longest single leg of the MdS, Stage 4, began this morning, and the runners will cover 82.2 kilometers (51.1 miles).

Stay tuned for updates as they become available...

All the Best,

Jon Ross

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

MdS Stage 2 Complete

Both Jennifer and Lane finished the 35.5 kilometer Stage 2 yesterday at the Marathon de Sables. Here is a recap from Jen:

Today brought extreme heat, rocks, sand, ridges, dunes and the most insane climb I could imagine [Note: See photo to the left - She wasn't kidding...]. Running along the ridge in the first half, I thought to myself that this is crazy. One wrong step and a broken arm would be the least of my problems. After not pacing my water and running out 1km to the refill station - That doesn't sound bad but trust me it is BAD - I had to resort to a walk & run for the middle segment to try and regain myself for what was promised to be a nasty climb. The last 5km of the race brought it!! The best I can say about the rock scramble straight up the side of the mountain is that 6 months ago I would have had a panic attack and would have most likely stopped at the bottom and quit. The fact that I put on my 'big girl pants' and did it, leaves me speechless and so proud....and I beat Lane today...

Bloodied, battered, bruised but not beaten,


You can also check out some great video footage of Stage 2 by clicking here.

Stage 3 is underway, and is 40k. Updates and today's results will follow in a subsequent posting to the Endurance Spot blog.

Just a reminder. If you saw Jennifer's note yesterday, it was clear how much the e-mails that they are receiving from all of you mean to both she and Lane. It's really easy to send them an e-mail as you only need to click here. Jen's race # is 696, and Lane is 697.All the Best, Jon Ross

Monday, April 5, 2010

Hello From Tent 129

Received the following note today from Jennifer Vogel, which was sent following the completion of Stage 1 of the Marathon de Sables:

First stage - 18 miles - down. It's awesome out here. Morocco is beautiful. The heat, desert, the mountains, absolutely breath taking!! Lane beasted the dry river beds, dunes, and salt flats that we encountered today. He is going to be so strong at Badwater. Me?? I'm just trying to figure out how it all works. But being out in such a big expanse of nothing really makes you realize how little you really are! I cant wait to see what the surprises (and extreme heat) the week brings. This is by far the toughest thing we've tried so far. The emails are amazing. PLEASE PLEASE everyone keep them coming. We are in tent 129.

Stay tuned for updates on today's 35.5 kilometer Stage 2.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Ready. Set. Sand!

After Saturday's gear checks and pack weigh-ins, Stage 1 of the 25th Marathon de Sables began just after 5AM EST this morning. Following a spirited send off by the Race Director, Patrick Bauer, 1013 runners left the comfort of their first camp, Bivouac 1, and headed south for the 29 kilometer (18 mile) leg. Temperatures were relatively mild at 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit), with 25-30 mph winds. You can click here to check out some video clips of this morning's start, and of portions along the course during stage 1.

The drawing at the top of the post has been provided as an example of supplemental reference material that will appear in various posts to provide background information on various components of the Marathon de Sables. The image depicts a typical layout for a bivouac encampment that will welcome the competitors after each day's point-to-point leg, and this is where they will eat, sleep, and prepare themselves and their gear for the next day's stage. As a point of general interest, here's a typical morning schedule at the bivouac:
  • 06.00 to 07.00 am- Staff will dismantle the camp (tents), please do not hinder this process or cause delays- Breakfast : self sufficiency
  • 06.30 to 07.30 am- Distribution of mineral water (compulsory check point), water quotas will be distributed to you at beginning of CP1
  • Between 08.30 and 09.00 am : start stage (except 1st stage and 82,2 km stage, see Art.10) Every day watch for the organisation paper board

This is also where the tents are located from which the competitors will be able to receive notes from each of you. Should you wish to send either Jennifer (Competitor # 696) or Lane (Competitor # 697) a message, you may do so by clicking here. While the runners do not have the technological capabilities to reply to individual electronic messages while they are in the camp, it would undoubtedly mean a great deal to hear from friends and family with words of encouragement along the way. Please note that this portion of the MdS site is currently available in French only, and that Expéditeur is your name, Adresse de réponse is your email address, Sujet is the subject, and your message goes in Contenu. Please note that contact is only via this webform, and that messages sent by email or posted on forums will not reach the competitors.

According to information provided by the MdS race organizers, Jen arrived at the end of Stage 1 in 4 hours, three minutes, while Lane finished in 3 hours, 51 minutes. I hope to receive more detailed information from Team Vogel soon, and will update the Endurance Spot Blog accordingly. In the meantime, the following description of the Stage 1 route has been provided as another bit of supplemental info, as this provides breakdown of a portion of the course in a narrative format:

  • Km 0 : Go South (bearing 197°) until Km 2.2. Not very hilly
  • Km 2,2 : Mech Irdane jebel pass. Turn left in the valley, going S/E (bearing 135°)
  • Km 3,9 : Cross the stony pass then go E/SE (bearing 116°) until you reach the next pass
  • Km 5,1 : Sandy pass
  • Km 5,5 : Exit pass. Go South (bearing 177°) until you reach the group of palm trees
  • Km 7,3 : Group of palm trees. Return to the foot of the jebel
  • Km 7,8 : Small ascent up the jebel
  • Km 8,5 : Rheris Bridge. Turn right at the exit then go South (172°) until CP1
  • Km 9,1 : Undulating terrain, crevasses on the bed of the Rheris wadi
  • Km 9,7 : Exit wadi. Follow the markings attentively to avoid the deep faults on the banks of the wadi
  • Km 11,3 : Crevasses
  • Km 12,8 : Enter small dunes
  • Km 13,4 : CP1. Go S/SW (bearing 198°) to exit the dune fields
  • Km 15,1 : Area of relief on left-hand side. Same direction (bearing 196°) through mounds of sand and grass for camels
  • Km 16,7 : Way through small rocky cluster. Cross the valley going South (bearing 192°)
  • Km 18 : Hilly relief. Follow path to reach the plateau
  • Km 19,4 : Top of plateau. Descend towards the sandy pass bearing South (174°)
  • Km 22,2 : CP2 before the dunes. Cross the dune field bearing 194°
  • Km 24,3 : End of Aitoulhetan erg dunes
  • Km 26 : Sandy path, slightly undulating relief. Go South (176°)
  • Km 29 : Arrive at B2 after the wadi bed.

You can also check out satellite views of the Marathon des Sables course and retrace the route of the first stage thanks to GPS points: all you have to do is copy and paste on such sites as Google Maps or Google Earth:

  • Bivouac 1 : N31 15.005 W4 22.393

  • Check point 1 : N31 08.695 W4 20.499

  • Check point 2 : N31 04.119 W4 21.053

  • Bivouac 2 : N31 00.677 W4 21.309

Stay tuned for further updates as they become available.

All the Best,

Jon Ross

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Wheels Up + Off to the Desert

They're off.

Jennifer and Lane left Atlanta yesterday afternoon en route to Paris, and then on to Morocco for this weekend's start of the six-day, 150+ mile Marathon de Sables stage race. Contrary to what you may have assumed, they actually flew across the Atlantic, rather than taking a little 'warm up' swim to stretch before the race.

Before even getting off of the ground, Team Vogel had already dealt with their first setback, and now find themselves with a 2,000 calorie deficit. You see, Lane's peanut butter stash didn't quite make it onto the plane. It appears as though the airline security folks may be profiling studly ultra-endurance athletes (Who actually ARE nuts), and Lane clearly meets that criteria, as does Jen. Given the difficulty of a race like MdS, and the harsh and unforgiving conditions that Team Vogel will encounter along the way, it's safe to say that this will be the first of many challenges that they will face and overcome, and that this minor inconvenience will quickly fade from their memory as they crest their first 200 foot high sand dune. After all, if this race were easy, they would not have signed on in the first place, right?

Stay tuned...

A few housekeeping items. Subsequent posts will provide info on sending e-mails to Team Vogel USA. While the number of e-mails that they can receive is not limited, given the race logistics and the fact that they will be hunkered down in the desert in their tent each night after that day's point-to-point leg, each runner is limited to sending out only one e-mail per day. While this was covered in a previous post, as a reminder, you can track Jennifer & Lane's progress on the Marathon de Sables website (Linked above), and their race #s are 696 for Jen, and 697 for Lane.

Also, should you have any questions or are having any technical issues with the blog or the Team Vogel site, my e-mail address is, and I am also on Facebook.

Again, please stay tuned for ongoing updates, and please feel free to pass along a link to this Endurance Spot blog so that others who might be interested may follow along.

All the Best,

Jon Ross

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Marathon De Sables Specifics

Ok, we are packed and doing all the final stuff before we leave. The following info will help get us emails, track us and see the general info as it happens.

Tracking is through the website below.

Jennifer is #696
Lane is #697

Marathon De Sables website:

Somewhere on this site will be the specifications on how to email us. Currently we are not sure how it works, but we each can receive emails. However we can only send one per day. Mine will be going to my mother, that's just how its gonna be. Our friend Jon Ross will be posting events as they happen on the blog, Jennifer will be sending those reports to him as often as we can.

We hope this plan of ours works and if it is interesting enough hopefully folks will check it out. We will be thinking about all our friends, and our families while we are out there. So if you should choose to email us it will most certainly up lift our spirits!

Ciao (had to throw that in there)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Marathon De Sables Preparation

Right now, at this very second I've got nothing. I mean I have a pack, shoes , clothes, running ability, heat training, flights, hotels, venom kit, great sunglasses, sleeping bag, emergency foil cover, gaiters, and resolve. But what I do not have is any idea on what kind of food to bring to the MDS race, I am normally a big fan of Hammer Gels, Hammer Perpetuem, and Succeed S-Caps. The question is do I just rely on what I always have used for a race that I have never experienced? Do I take a chance and go with a different water bottle set up? What the heck to do? Seems to me everyone had an opinion, and everyone has gear they like. I am no different, and sometimes i am pretty vocal about the gear I use, abuse, and rely on. What type of post run meal do I want? Do I get the organic with fewer calories per oz, or do I get the regular package that has fructose, benzolate, and all that other crap in it because it has more calories per oz. If I had more hair I may have pulled some of it out. With all these decisions to make and limited time, I guess tomorrow will have to be the day I bite the bullet and make a final commitment. I have a feeling Hammer will be making an appearance at this most amazing race. I haven't been let down yet.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Polar Bottles

Have you ever come across something so cool and useful you just want to tell everyone about it? I have been using these water bottles for years and have praised them repeatedly ever since finding them. Polar Bottles makes the absolute best water bottle on the Planet! Just check out what make these things tick:
Combining the thermal properties of an insulated vacuum bottle with the lightweight, flexible features of a plastic bottle, the Polar Bottle is the ideal choice for active people. Simply fill with liquid and ice and hit the trail. For even longer cooling power, fill your Polar Bottle and store it in the freezer before use. Either way, it will keep liquids cold twice as long as conventional water bottles.
For a more in depth look at these super cool bottles (pun intended) click on the FEATURES.
Another big reason I love these bottles is that they are BPA & Phthalate-Free Plastic
Constructed of low density polyethylene (LDPE): a durable, lightweight and FDA food grade approved material. Polar Bottles do not contain BPA or Phthalates. I also use the bottles in the morning to carry my cold frozen berry smoothies I make as well. In addition to that I will at times use them for my coffee in the morning on the way to a cycling class.
Either way you look at these bottles they are amazing, for really hot runs I double fist the 24oz bottles with water and ice, or ice and drink mix. When cycling these bottles are great as well, when everyone else has hot water on the ride I still enjoy cold water with ice inside!
Thank you Polar Bottles for the great product, and the advantage over others using standard bottles.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

ING Marathon/Half Marathon

Today was an exceptionally good day. Morning rolled around at about 3a.m. when I was not able to continue sleeping I laid there thinking about the day to come amongst all the other thoughts racing through my mind. I was excited to be running the half with two friends Jason Gunter from Ft. Meyers FL, and the famous Mike Lenhart Founder of Getting 2 Tri charitable foundation. Jason Gunter is a amputee athlete with a below the knee amputation. Jason is a great athlete, an amazingly nice guy and really good runner. We all met up about 10 minutes before start at the G2T tent and made our way down to the start. We were in corral B, which was about 50 yards from the actual start. We were really excited to be there, and even though he has a Bronchial infection Mike was right there next to us (at a distance) running. The race went about as smoothly as I could imagine a race going. Our pace was great as we made are way in an out of nearly every Atlanta neighborhood, and what seemed to be every type community in between. The three of us ran the half marathon today enjoying the shorter distance and getting a chance to ease up talk a bit on the run. Pace did however increase a bit when the rain started, or when Jason wanted to make up time. We enjoyed mostly dry weather and cool temps as did everyone else it seemed. Today was a day for PR's from what I can tell. Aside from us running we had a bunch of friends running today as well. My friend Jon Obst had an impressive day today despite some small Gastro issues, he finished I think 7th or 8th place with a solid 2:45 marathon! Amazing time considering he had been slightly injured and was off of recovering. Other friends did equally as well, Christian Griffith ran a solid 3:40 marathon the WEEK before he is heading up to the infamous Barkley Marathons!! Nuts Dude, Nuts. Also the savior of the day Nils Pederson, who graciously gave me a ride with "no sure way of knowing where we were going till we found it blindly on accident" to get my car at mile 10, somewhere my lovely wife parked the car hours earlier. Thanks again Nils, great race post stress fracture! The day ended well, Jen and her runner Kevin finished, with Kevin running his 99th marathon today, with an amputated foot mind you! And to top that off the G2T camp went off without a hitch, well except for Marshall Hamilton...yeah Marshall you know what I'm talking about ;) But all in all today was a great ending to an amazing week. Now its taper time.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I have been lazy

I know I have been a lazy slob in the area of keeping up with this blog/journal. I will try and commit to writing a little something at least every week. We have big plans this year- Marathon De Sables, Keys100 (yet again), BADWATER!!, also anything good in between and at least one Ironman. Gotta get on the ball and generate some thoughts here!