Gobi March Blogs 2023
Gobi March (2023) blog posts from Richard Behringer
10 July 2023 09:19 pm (GMT-06:00) Central Time(US & Canada)
I finished! This was certainly not a given considering my experience last year in the Atacama Crossing. Plus, I know that random things can occur during a race that can take out even the most seasoned competitor. However, everything went really smoothy for the entire Gobi March. I always felt that I could put one foot in front of the other to move forwards.
I was surprised at the equipment check-in when my pack weighed 7.3 kg (without what I was wearing) but I had calculated it to be 6.3 kg. I’m still not sure where the extra kg came from. But having a light pack made a big difference this time. My nutrition and electrolytes/hydration were spot on. I learned that you can rehydrate your meals directly in Ziploc bags but don’t pour in the hot water with the bag on your lap! I was even able to sleep in the tent. In fact, after getting into camp after the Long March I had the best sleep I have had probably in the last 5 years. One thing I learned is that I was consistently longer on course than planned because I hadn’t factored in ascents. So, I had to stretch out my electrolytes a little further, but it worked out well. Rafiq gave me a great tip to eat my snacks between CP2 and CP3.
Yes, there were challenges: Stage 3 – I literally crawled up the sand dunes on hands and knees.
The Long March – I had never gone that far before. I do remember between CP6 and camp, thinking I’m never going to do this again! This time training in the Houston heat served me well because although it was warm some days it never felt Houston hot. Every ascent was a challenge, but we were rewarded with spectacular views at the top. Thank you Carlos!
It is “more than a race”. I met so many wonderful and kind people from around the world. Many times, those people were pulling me forward because their pace was a little faster than mine or their conversations distracted me from the vast distances we had to travel.
As I flew to Ulaanbaatar from Houston, I first met Rafiq also from Houston in San Francisco and then Karen and Jason, my wonderful tentmates, in Seoul. The first people I met at the hotel were Jo (volunteer) and Dean Scott (competitor). I was always looking forward to seeing Jo on the course because she was usually at CP3. Fittingly, Dean and I crossed the final finish line together.
During the long Stage 2, it was Corinne who helped get me to the finish. Likewise, Christine, Julita and Aleksandra (who taught me how to say yes and no in Polish), Ann, Kyly, Iris, Rena, Dong Keun and Scott pulled me along. Hiking with Keith and Zach after the dunes during Stage 3 was a great day. Janet and Edwin pulled me with their red blinking lights from CP5 to camp on the Long March. Reinhold, Noemi, Jason, Keith, Isabelle, Po, Kristina/Bob, Michael, Beth, John, Cillian, and Mary who I had met previously in Atacama were always so encouraging. Emails from Atacama racers Ricky, Bob, Trish, Karen, and Sam lifted my spirits. Thank you to all of the volunteers and medical staff. You were wonderful and always cheerfully encouraging us!
Michiya (Eggplant) racing in his Japanese wooden clogs was also inspiring because he brought a smile to everyone’s face.
Perhaps not surprisingly, after such an intense physical and social experience, there is a withdrawal phase after the race. You can hear it in the WhatsApp conversations.
In Atacama, I thought I had finally reached the limits of my abilities. Maybe age was finally catching up with me. Completing the Gobi March, this time much better prepared, suggests otherwise. Now I have my sights set on Atacama 2023!
04 June 2023 10:35 pm (GMT-06:00) Central Time(US & Canada)
I fly from Houston to Mongolia next Monday, arriving on Wednesday. I have been training for the Gobi March since the first week of January. Today was the last training run/hike with a loaded pack. Now it is that wonderful time just before a race called taper! Like Dr. Rob, I have a feeling we all have a room in our homes that has all our required and optional equipment, food, and drink mixes spread out. I still have a few last-minute decisions to make on gear. Time to email friends and family the RTP link for them to follow the race. Every time I get to a check point and next stage, I’ll be inspired knowing they are following my progress. Btw, there will be a New Moon our first night in camp. I am looking forward to seeing the stars. The Summer Solstice, the longest period of sunlight of the year, is June 21, fittingly Stage 4 – The Long March. See everyone soon. Safe travels!
23 May 2023 10:37 pm (GMT-06:00) Central Time(US & Canada)
Less than 3 weeks before we all fly to Ulaanbaatar for the Gobi March!
Looking forward to meeting everyone.
Last weekend I was in Southern California for my niece’s wedding in the Thousand Oaks area north of LA. I stayed an extra day and went on a ~4-mile hike with my Gobi backpack filled with 6 kg of bags of beans and pasta. We went to Point Mugu State Park which is about a mile from my sister’s home. It is beautiful there right now with lots of flowers in bloom because of the rains that the West Coast got earlier in the year. Hiking up and down hills and across small streams was a welcome change of pace from very flat Houston, Texas.
View of the trail we hiked
Nephew Josh & Brother-in-Law Pat
So far so good with my training. No injuries, fingers crossed. My coach has been great getting me ready. Now I just need to avoid getting sick. Like everyone else, I am making final decisions on equipment and food.
I found a YouTube video to learn some Mongolian words. I now can say hi in Mongolian: Sain-oo (sounds like San as in San Francisco and New). Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-ArThKgV-8
As a biologist, I am looking forward to seeing the Mongolian plants, animals, and environment along the course. You might see me distracted looking at the ground or sky admiring an insect, plant, bird, or thrilled to hear the howl of a wolf in the wild!
31 March 2023 09:50 pm (GMT-06:00) Central Time(US & Canada)
Last year in March, I served as a pacer for my friend’s 100-mile race at the Pistol Ultra Run in Knoxville, Tennessee. The course is a ~10-mile paved loop through forest and park. The plan was to join her at mile 60 and pace her to mile 80 when other friends would take over as pacers. That turned out to be from about midnight to dawn. What I didn’t appreciate about ultras at this distance is that many of the runners walk. So even though I was fresh and ready to run, we basically walked throughout the cold night, perusing the variety of food and drink at the 24 hr aid stations. Our racer’s support group knew that the cutoff time of 32 hours was drawing near so we did our best to motivate her. She finally crossed the finish line but 3:46 over the official cutoff time. Technically, a DNF and no medal but to all of us it was a finish and great accomplishment.
Two Saturdays ago the group returned to the Pistol Ultra Race. This time I competed. I finished my first ultramarathon, the 50K distance. I used it as a rehearsal for the Gobi March carrying a 6 kg pack. I did a walk/jog, testing nutrition and hydration. It was a beautiful sunny day, chilly in the morning and warming up a bit by the afternoon. My new OMM 25L pack was great. I learned I need to have a better hydration/electrolyte plan. Music was also very helpful. Towards the end of the 50K my Garmin and iPhone lost their charge. Something to rethink. Oh, my 100-miler friend also finished the 50K and then proceeded to do the 50-mile race and finish. This weekend more rehearsals for me, Saturday and Sunday, back-to-back 5-hour hike/jog with 6 kg pack.
27 February 2023 10:20 pm (GMT-06:00) Central Time(US & Canada)
I got a coach! The recent RTP Zoom on “Top Tips on Stage Racing from Personal Trainers" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dGfWSsVvAEI) was very helpful. I decided I needed a professional to guide my training for the Gobi March. In the past, I have been able to use boiler plate training plans to complete marathons and Ironman triathlons but a multi-stage ultra is much more complex. My coach has completed the Gobi March so I know they are aware of the issues specific to this event. So far so good!
I was very happy to see Dr. Rob’s recent blog on Food to learn about details selecting nutrition for the race. I have been taste testing a lot of different brands and meals. Stowaway Gourmet (https://www.stowawaygourmet.com) and Pinnacle Foods (https://pinnaclefoods.co) have some particularly great tasting meals. I also stumbled across a “Power Chia Bomb” recipe (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Rk759fxiKM). You add room temperature water to the mix. The next morning it is ready to eat. I have tried this multiple times (either a full or half recipe), it tastes good and it sits well in my stomach. I have also been testing snacks for during the race. It has started to warm up in Houston and I learned that chocolate things melt into a mess. I have to think of alternatives.
I also learned about DripDrop from Michael Williams’ (4 Deserts Club) YouTube videos (@user-fv2dq2pu1b). It is an oral rehydration drink. It comes in small 10-gram packets that you mix with ~1 cup of water. I love this stuff. I have used it on long runs and bikes. It immediately refreshes me. I usually drink it in one shot but recently I have been sipping it during training sessions. The passion fruit flavor is very nice. Definitely a keeper to incorporate into the Gobi March. Not much of a source of carbs though.
06 February 2023 09:00 pm (GMT-06:00) Central Time(US & Canada)
Well, I’m 4 weeks into my training for the 2023 Gobi March. I’m using the RTP Intermediate Training Plan. So far so good but I'm concerned there isn't a progressive long run or back to back long runs. Sunday I hiked for 2.5 hrs with a 10 kg (22 lb) pack, after building up weekly from 4, 6, and 8 kg. 10 kg is really heavy, at least for me.
On my spreadsheet with the required equipment, my pack is currently below 6 kg, not including what I will wear. Yes, I have turned into a gram geek but I think it will be really helpful because I can run with a 6 kg pack but probably not with a 10 kg pack. I am very happy to share my spreadsheet. Contact me at [email protected].
One thing that can reduce the weight of your pack is to bring calorie dense food. There is a very helpful RTP video by Sam (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIe0_GuN_Ts) that is worth watching, multiple times.
Trish Hepworth (Canada) from the 2022 Atacama Crossing told me she doesn’t bring any food that isn’t at least 5 calories/gram. For the minimum RTP required 14,000 calories this is 2.8 kg or a little over 6 lbs. If it is 5.5 calories/gram it is only 2.5 kg or 5.5 lbs and so on. She also told me about a great resource, a spreadsheet with all of the info you would want on hiker food with grams, calories, carbs, fat, sodium etc. It has been very helpful for me planning my nutrition.
Here are the links:
*Remember to remove the desiccant packet from your dehydrated food before you rehydrate your meal or it will taste horrible. Yes, I forgot to do this! :(
25 January 2023 09:14 pm (GMT-06:00) Central Time(US & Canada)
I first learned about RTP and the Atacama Crossing in the summer of 2019. I was captivated. However, I didn’t think I had enough time to train properly for the race so I ended up registering for the 2020 Namib Race. Then the pandemic shut things down. Last September, I was finally able to attempt Atacama. During the long lag time, I had gotten all of the required equipment, counted grams, made spreadsheets for food and calories, etc. Up to that point I had finished 8 Ironman triathlons, ran marathons, and did open water swim races. I trained diligently and suffered during the hot and humid Houston summer. I thought I was ready.
Unfortunately, I ended up withdrawing at Checkpoint #3 of Stage 2 just after coming down the giant sand dune. This was my first ever DNF and I was really puzzled. I greatly underestimated the realities of the Atacama Crossing. Houston in the summer is hot, humid, flat and at sea level. Atacama was very cold, bone dry, with many climbs on the course, and at high altitude. My pack was too heavy and wasn’t sitting properly, causing back issues. I completed Stage 1, barely, only because of the generosity and encouragement of the wonderful Minji Bak from South Korea. The stream crossings the next day early in Stage 2 were so much fun but the course between Checkpoint 2 and 3 got me. Although I did not finish, it was a great experience and I met so many wonderful people.
So now I will attempt the Gobi March this June. The course is lower in altitude and going to Mongolia was a big attraction. This will be a race for redemption. After Atacama, hopefully, I am wiser and numerous people have been very generous sharing great tips. I will share these tips and what I have learned in my blog.
Tip #1 comes from Karen Wei (Canada) who has completed an incredible 16 RTPs! She told me “I think even more important than physical training is the “I’M NOT GOING TO QUIT, NO MATTER WHAT!!” mentality. Everyone will be physically hurting at some point so it’s your head that’s going to take you to the finish line.” I will be shouting these words during the Gobi March!