Gobi March Blogs 2023

Clay & River Fife



Gobi March (2023) blog posts from Clay & River Fife

22 June 2023 02:00 pm (GMT+08:00) Irkutsk, Ulaan Bataar

I’d Love To Say Mongolia 0, Fifes 4…....... But if we won why is Mongolia still wild and wonderful and in possession of a fair bit of our blood, sweat and tears? The steppes still roll on from horizon to horizon while River and I limp around camp like wounded penguins? Yes we’ve won much but not at the expense of this rugged country, but thanks to it.
Yesterday was the start of the Long March: The 50 mile crux of this challenge.  Stage 1-3 were jabs and body shots to weaken and tire us.  The Long March is more like a blitzkrieg. A long war of attrition that sent us over mountains, through rivers, and on an emotional rollercoaster that tested our mettle’s depth and breadth.  My one biggest conclusion from this a crucible is that River is an absolutely strong person beyond my wildest expectations.  Physically she matched my best pace mile after mile.  She joyfully and humbly chats with any and all fellow competitors, offering kind words and encouragement.  The participants love her.  They yell her name as we cross the finish line.  People who speak almost no English know her name and say it as we pass one another.  She is truly like the camp’s adopted daughter.
But that is nothing compared to her inner strength.  I have always known that she and her brother possess hidden reserves of strength that they have very little knowledge of yet.  The reason I brought River here is to show her some of that strength and let her feel the weight of its power. And she has done that tenfold times this week! She is tired, sore, her feet are covered with large blisters, she hasn’t showered in 5 days, she is forced to poop in a hole or behind a 12” tall bush on the course. She has never run a single ultramarathon (a distance greater than the standard marathon of 26.2 miles)before this week.  She ran 22 on Sunday, 28 on Tuesday, 24 on Wednesday AND 50 yesterday/today. She has done it all with mostly good humour, and always with style and love for everyone and everything she sees.
All week I have been wracked with terrible nausea, usually around mile 20. This has varied from very uncomfortable to debilitating. I think my body is still not recovered from my cancer treatments 10 months ago. River has been a rock for me at these times. Yesterday, in my determination to see this thing through I edged very close to overdoing things. I ended up sleeping in a crew vehicle for an hour, then stumbling along the course resting with my hands on my knees every 400 meters (there is NOTHING to sit on in the wilds of Mongolia!). More than once I scared River to tears but she only cried when I made a partial recovery and was moving well again.  Otherwise she was there checking on me, encouraging me to eat and drink as well as positing that perhaps priorities are misplaced when I can’t stand upright but I won’t stop.  
Together we completed one of the most gruelling things I have ever done.  And more impressively, River came out the other side physically and mentally stronger than she started. She easily would have finished HOURS earlier if she had followed my direction and left me to fend for myself.  But she stayed by my side and inspired me in a way I thought was reserved for parents to do for their children, not vice versa.  I finished the Long March because I had an amazing woman on my team and nothing can bend her from doing amazing things when she sets her mind to it.
I am proud and VERY impressed by you River!

Comments: Total (4) comments

Michele Neu

Posted On: 24 Jun 2023 01:29 am


Brendan D'Ambrosio

Posted On: 23 Jun 2023 12:01 pm

You are both incredible people. So happy for you!

Summer Elston

Posted On: 23 Jun 2023 12:13 am

Way to go River!!!! I am amazed by your strength and determination. Keep it up!!!

Mary Kottke

Posted On: 22 Jun 2023 11:28 am

Wow 🤩 what a wonderful tribute to Rivy!! Take care and rest up well today!! We’re proud of both of you!!❤️🤗 We see all the faces and can tell this is a hard trip you’re on!! Be safe!! Love you guys!!🤗🤗❤️xoxo

20 June 2023 09:00 pm (GMT+08:00) Irkutsk, Ulaan Bataar

Today started with a class 3 scramble over the boulder strewn pass behind our camp. Once over the pass, we went through a Buddhist monastery and a few miles later we approached the Dunes of Desolation. These relentless, enormous, soul-sucking monstrosities definitely left a permanent mark on us. Between the powdered sugar-like sand and oven-like heat, your heroes used all their grit to persevere. But persevere we did and we were rewarded by the Gods with a rare desert thunderstorm. Clearly the ghosts of the Mongol hoard smiled on our bravery, grit, and walking acumen!
Tomorrow is the 50 mile stage, though we are heated, bruised, and scarred, we shall meet this latest challenge with vim and vigor.
Until next time, enjoy the fact that there is not sand in your butt crack when you try to go to sleep tonight.
Clay and River

Comments: Total (1) comments

Lori Fife

Posted On: 20 Jun 2023 01:01 pm

Hahaha! Glad you are still able to find humor throughout the day of your challenge. You’ve been dreaming of walking in the sand and now it sounds as if the dream is no longer as you have some to take back to camp with you…and does drywall dust count as an equal bedtime companion? Again, couldn’t be prouder of you both. River, you are an amazing motivator for your pops keep up the determination to not let either of you give up. Maybe another song for you to both learn is ‘It’s The End Of World As We Know It’. Fig and Crom look for you both when we come back from walks and I rarely see Swaggy. They will be so crazy happy upon your returning home as will I and ‘The Tribe’. Keep your eye on the prize and finish this long day coming up with a grin knowing you beat it.

19 June 2023 08:00 pm (GMT+08:00) Irkutsk, Ulaan Bataar

We have completed Stage 2, 28+ miles and some desert-like temps…though not as hot as it could get: I am not challenging the Heat Gods!!
River and I once again got great sleep though it was noticeably cooler last night. I ended up sleeping in shorts, t-shirt and added a down jacket later haha.
Here are my highlights from today: 
We passed two Buddhist shrines today.  The first one early and the second one late in the day.  The second one was dedicated to famous race horses from the area and featured their skulls, candles, offerings and prayer wheels.  We spun them for the horses and our poor feet! Haha
We also passed large rock formations that were graves for locals.
We had sweeping views of hills, mountains and valleys.  We even passed through what Mongolians call a forest: a few dozen trees that provided a little welcomed shade and contrast to the tree-less Steppes that we are travelling through. 
River and I are passing the time by learning all the words to Johnny Cash’s version of I’ve Been Everywhere. It’s slow going but passes the time and is surprisingly fun when we learn a new section.
Tonight we sleep in Mongolian yurts (called “gers”), which is pretty cool!
At one point today a local herder offered me 3 good horses, 17 sheep and a 1965 Chinese motorcycle in exchange for River marrying his son.  I of course said no way: how would I ever get that stuff home and if I did Lori would be PISSED! Haha. Ok I made that one up, but I was busting myself up today as I wrote it in my head :-)
Ok it is 7:30 here and time to wind down.  We start tomorrow with a tough scramble  Up and over a boulder-strewn mountain so some sleep would be wise.  Thanks to everyone who is sending messages. They are awesome to read and River particularly enjoys the support as she works through the challenges of this event.

Comments: Total (3) comments

Jackie McNeice

Posted On: 22 Jun 2023 06:41 am

You guys are amazing! It’s been fun to watch the adventure. Have fun, be safe, and don’t trade River 😜

Brendan D'Ambrosio

Posted On: 21 Jun 2023 03:00 am

You two are doing great! Been following you online. Together you can do this! Can't wait to see pics and hear about your adventures! Zombiefit!!

Mary Kottke

Posted On: 20 Jun 2023 12:02 pm

Awesome 👏!! Funny stuff about Rivy!! She’s worth a LOT more than that!! Glad to see you’re appreciating your country western music 🎶 upbringing!! That’s a great song! Music and audible makes the job go easier!😉 I think you’re past the halfway mark so keep the spirits high!! You’ll have a lot to tell everyone on your return!! We’re anxious to hear about it all!! I’m getting great pictures!! Love you kids!! Mom & Ron 🤗🤗❤️xoxo

18 June 2023 10:00 pm (GMT+08:00) Irkutsk, Ulaan Bataar

After a wildly adventurous long bus ride we made it to Camp 1 last night.  It was such a fun bumpy ride that my watch registered steps as we went and I got credit for thousands over the trip!
The Camp was in the ruins of an ancient castle complex and really set the mood for a crazy adventure in a far off land full of rich history and expansive scenery. River and I actually got the best night’s sleep of the trip so far despite new friends as tent mates, snoring from all over camp and epic thunderstorms throughout the night.
We awoke to drizzle and cold cereal, but our moods were more than enough to warm our spirits.  After a short race briefing, we were off at 8 am! Day one was 22 miles of epic scenery and one brutal climb that will not soon be forgotten. The weather was partly cloudy and not too hot.
We stumbled into Camp after 6 and a half hours of walking, jogging, and slogging through a bog. We just finished dinner while classic rock is cranking throughout the camp. Though it looks a bit like a military hospital (with all the limping & kinsio tape) everyone is in high spirits. Hard to believe we have to do this again tomorrow! But for now, we’re only dwelling on the present and having a good time.
Very important to mention are all the animals that we saw today (and yesterday). On the bus ride we saw cows, sheep, goats, lots of puppies, camels, and a little guy who looked a lot like a duck but definitely was not. Today was much of the same and we did make friends with a puppy while we were giving stickers to some of the local kids. He followed us around for a little while, trying to herd us, and wanting lots of pets.
It was a hard, but fun day, and getting to read such supportive emails is such a good way to end it! we’re looking forward to the rest of the week!

Comments: Total (2) comments

Mary Kottke

Posted On: 20 Jun 2023 11:55 am

Great job kids!!👏👏 I’m getting some great pictures of your adventures!! Keep your eye on the prize!! A HOT shower & warm soft 🛌. Plus your adventure after this is accomplished!! Love you kids Mon & Ron 🤗🤗❤️xoxo

Lori Fife

Posted On: 19 Jun 2023 06:33 am

Okay Fifes one day in the books and good to hear all went well. I know you may be thinking ‘I’ve made a huge mistake’ but you got this. Nothing was more demanding of your will than 365 days ago just remember that. River keep your smile showing even if it gets rough…remind your dad too! Love ya both now keep on keeping on.

16 June 2023 07:58 am (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana

After three flights we arrived in Ulaanbaatar (UB to us locals:) yesterday afternoon. Except for the South Korean TSA confiscating my mini multi tool, we had no real hiccups. Our bags arrived with us. We immediately exchanged some dollars into Tugrik (about 3500 T per $) and got local SIM cards for our phones to avoid roaming charges. 

we set up a van to pick us up at the airport and met several other race competitors awaiting it. There was some confusion about when/if it would arrive. We'd met a local driver when we arrived who pointed out where to exchange money. He was still around so River and I took a ride from him. We weren't staying at the race hotel the first night anyway. 

it was about an hour drive through crazy traffic to get the 20 miles to our hotel. We witnessed a truck knock over a street light and the final stages of the local fire department extinguishing a giant TV advertising sign that had caught on fire. 

Once at our hotel we dropped our bags, wandered the streets a little then ended up eating some of our freeze dried food and going to bed by 6p. 

This morning we were up at 4:30a so we went for a run. There is a complimentary Japanese bathhouse in the hotel so we hit the sauna and cold plunge. The hotel breakfast was elaborate and we ate our fill of eggs and granola and fruit, etc. 

Now it's nap time then we move to the race hotel. We plan to go to the National Museum and sightsee later. 

Comments: Total (5) comments

Brendan D'Ambrosio

Posted On: 19 Jun 2023 01:34 am

Really excited for you Fifes. Looking forward to following your journey!

andrew Lo

Posted On: 17 Jun 2023 08:47 pm

Glad you made it! Looking forward to your updates!

Mary Kottke

Posted On: 17 Jun 2023 01:53 pm

Love the robe!! We’re watching closely! Got a great shot of you and Rivy in the meeting. And Rivy getting ready to board the 🚌. Happy Fathers Day!! You’ll remember this one!! Love Ron & Mom 🤗❤️

Lori Fife

Posted On: 17 Jun 2023 04:00 am

Hey Fifes! So glad you are there with all your gear. I couldn’t be happier for the two of you. Run, walk, skip whatever floats your boat for the next week. Have a blast. Everything back home is golden.

Samantha Fanshawe

Posted On: 16 Jun 2023 07:10 pm

Loving your blog posts. The adventure has begun! Looking forward to following your every step and cheering for you (from a distance) along the way!

11 June 2023 12:44 pm (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana


Well the time is truly drawing near now. I have been counting down the days on my gym's whiteboard:All the days of long runs in the rainy mountains, ordering/testing gear, reading books and blogs and the Racing the Planet website, survivng challenges like the Goggins 4x4x48 (running 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours), Last Fool Standing (running a 5km loop every hour for as long as you can: I got 93 miles done in 27 straight hours) and a 50 mile race with a full pack have prepared me well for this coming challenge. I also spent two weeks with my wife running and hiking the Grand Canyon and parks throughout Utah last February.  And Memorial Day weekend was spent in the dry heat of eastern Washington with River testing gear, food, sleeping pads and ourselves. I am confident that "the hay is in the barn" and we are about as prepared as we can be.  No serious injuries during training, no issues with gear nor vaccinations nor scheduling our lives around the event (thanks Lori, and the PRFS Tribe-the members of the group of clients I train who will be making-due/enjoying-the-break-from-me while I am gone).

Crom can't believe how heavy my bag is!

We board a flight to Los Angeles at 6pm on Tuesday, then one to Seoul South Korea around midnight. We finally arrive in Ulanbataar on Thursday at 10am local time (5pm Wednesday West Coast time). We will try to keep you posted as the adventure reveals itself.


Comments: Total (2) comments

Sam Fanshawe

Posted On: 13 Jun 2023 02:26 pm

That all sounds like amazing preparation. Safe travels and have fun!

Mary Kott

Posted On: 13 Jun 2023 12:23 am

This is soooo exciting for you both!! Our hearts and prayers are with you!! You’ll have so much to tell us when you get home!! Safe travels and racing!! ❤️ Mom & Ron

07 June 2023 09:46 am (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana



The much-anticipated Gobi March is coming up fast.  River and I have been preparing for this adventure for about nine months and it is surreal to think that we will be on the plane crossing the Pacific Ocean around this time next week. A TON of preparation, thought, training and expense has gone into preparing for this epic journey. But now the endless details swirling around are slowly coalescing into a sense of being prepared and anxious to kick the party off.

So here is our timeline at this point:

Our training has moved into the “Taper” stage: still working out but with an eye towards slowly winding down so we are recovered by Sunday June 18th when the event starts.

All our purchases are made and we are in the process of organizing. We carry all our food so we are dividing everything into Days 1-7 and vacuum packing them into individual bags (much thanks to my wife Lori for assisting with this!)

I get a couple vaccinations (Hep A & B) tomorrow and pick up a mild antibiotic in case of severe stomach bug issues.

Tuesday June 13 we board a 6pm flight to Los Angeles, then a plane to Seoul, South Korea and finally fly into the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar, arriving Thursday morning local time (which will be Wednesday at 5pm here in Seattle).

For those who don’t know, the event is a 7 day Stage Race across central Mongolia. There are 124 competitors signed up from dozens of different countries. We travel about 25 miles a day for the first four days. The event coordinators supply tents or yurts/gers for us and aid stations with water every 6 miles or so. And at the finish line each day they will have camp set up for us. River and I are sharing a yurt with a Canadian husband and wife. At the end of each day/stage we have the remainder of the day to cook our meals, lick our wounds and generally recover and prepare for the next day’s start at 0800 hours.

Stage five is called the Long March: it is a 50 mile leg that has a 48 hour cut-off. The final stage is relatively short (though I doubt it will feel that way after ~150 miles) to the finish line.

After the race we are put up in nice hotel, have an awards banquet and then go our separate ways. River and I will then start a private tour of the Gobi Desert, flying out of Ulaanbaatar on Monday and returning on Thursday. Saturday July 1 we fly back to Seoul, this time staying a couple days to see some sights (we are planning a tour of the DMZ with North Korea, including a tunnel that the North Korean dug underneath into South Korea). We arrive home on July 4.

We will have the opportunity to update this blog every day during the race so you can check in for details later. And you can monitor our progress live at http://www.racingtheplanet.com/gobimarch/live.


Comments: Total (2) comments

Mary Kottke

Posted On: 11 Jun 2023 08:57 pm

Ron & I are so proud of you both!! We’re excited for this experience for you!! Be safe and know we love you!! We’ll be watching the race and reading your blog as your trip progresses!! 🤗🤗❤️xoxo

Mary Gadams

Posted On: 08 Jun 2023 06:38 am

Hey Clay and River, I am very excited to meet you both. It sounds like you have everything in order. We have a number of Koreans in the race so get some tips on the visiting the DMZ in Korea. Safe travels. See ya soon. Best, Mary