Continent 1. 250k Namib Desert – Daily Recaps


So I am sitting here trying to figure out how to begin my first blog in the desert and I decided to go with..

Dear Desert Diary, Day 1 (Ha! Ha!)… clearly, I still have a sense of humor because the pain hasn’t begun yet!
Thank you for the messages Tim S, Tash, Karen B, Louette, Alan and Carl – I loved reading these!
So day one we were on the bus for 4 hours to get to camp site number 1, at camp site 1 we were greeted by about 10 local Namibian people singing and chanting, it was awesome!
I am in a tent with 8 people – the tent is more of a sand pitt due to the doors of the tent just being constantly open so the wind just drags it in. My position where I am set up is right in the firing line Ha! Ha! It is 6pm here on Saturday night and the sun is still going strong and the wind even more so! 
I have made friends with Zeanna and Jim who I packed my race kit with last night and they are a real laugh – Zeanna works for Racing the Planet but is running this one and Jim has competed in a few of these. I also am in a tent with a guy called Ollie, he is a Doctor from the UK and is a very strong runner – lovely guy. Everyone is super friendly and I am having a great time so far – I am really looking forward to running tomorrow. Each day kicks off at 9 am as sunrise isn’t until 720 am.
My bag weighed 9 kg after the first weight check and I culled a fair bit of food since then to try and get it down to 8 kg. I even limited myself to just 12 baby wipes for the week, eeeek! and got rid of my deodorant! Already I am covered head to toe in sand and my hair is sooo knotted from the wind that no amount of brushing would help the situation.
Anyway off to cook up some dehydrated spaghetti carbonara for dinner (Yuuuummm) and I have a trashy gossip magazine to read tonight before we throw out any unnecessary items that we won’t be carrying for the week. 
My heel which I have been suffering from a bad case of plantar fasciitis over the last few weeks is feeling good so here’s to hoping it stays like that all week.

JB xx

DAY 2.

Dear Desert Diary, day 2 (Ha! Ha!) –
(Stage 1) – 9 am start – 43 km run leg – 5:44:12 – 3rd  place for females – stoked about this! 

I woke up after night 1 camping feeling as fresh as a daisy! I honestly slept like a baby – so glad I made a last minute purchase of a blow up pillow that weighs only 45 grams! People were up and at it by 530 am .. take into consideration that it isn’t even light until 720 am Ha! Ha!.. I decided to get up as well and I did some preventative taping on my toes which totally paid off – day 1 – zero blisters or hot spots ! WINNING ! Then I packed up my sleeping gear – another small win was that I somehow got my sleeping bag into the small compact bag in one go – (Mum you would be impressed)

Anyway, getting to the actual run…
Well, here is how NOT to start day 1 of a 257 km ultra… if you know me you will probably just think, yep, classic Jacqui Ha! Ha!…

What does it feel like to run 43 km’s with a 9 kg pack on your back?… feels like a small child is hanging off you, imagine that! Ouch!
I ended up having to fold my down jacket up and popped it between the bag and my lower back for some extra padding.

So to start with 2 minutes before the start of the race (yes I left it really late) I had to pair my Jaybird Bluetooth head phones with my phone and I didn’t know how, mini freak out and luckily a guy Mike helped me out and got it sorted. (Yep, typical Jacqui)
Now I had imagined the first km would be super exciting and a total hype, but for me my entire left side of my bag fell apart Ha! Ha! – the water bottle holder came off and it was a nightmare so I watched runner after runner smoke me and run off into the distance – it took a good 5-10 minutes, numerous swear words and a really nice guy to stop his run and help me! – I then spent the next 3 km trying to make up some ground.

Other mishaps – my sleeping bag dropped out .. took me 300 m to realise this happened and then just after checkpoint 2 I took a video on my phone and when I did this I left the bag pocket open and my GOPRO dropped out… this one was a heart attack moment (Going well) I searched around for 200 m and somehow I found it – OMG though soo horrible especially since the Gopro looks like every single rock that was on the ground.

All in all the run was so awesome I had to pinch myself a few times and remember that I literally am running across the Sahara Desert in Namibia… if you told me this a year ago I would of laughed!

My hydration was really good – I have had almost 10 litres of water today already – half of which was electrolytes. One of the main reason competitors pull out of these events is due to severe dehydration usually on day 4 on the long march day. Today my heart rate sat at about 160-170 so I was working at about 80% which felt very comfortable, I nailed the runners shuffle today and was happy that I didn’t walk any of it.

2nd place today in the females was a fellow aussie Sandy – such a lovely lady – She somehow got her backpack weight to 5.2kg’s – this is almost unheard of! Sandy is very experienced with ultras but is super down to earth and friendly which is great – sometimes the front runners can get overly competitive!
I was in 4th place just near the end from 37-42.5 kms and then the last 500 m I couldn’t help myself but to get my sprint on and snag the 3rd spot!
Thanks guys for the kind messages they honestly make my day so keep them coming – love them! ?

Day 2 tomorrow is apparently one of the toughest days so fingers crossed it flys by just like today did and I am mentally as strong as today – I had some good music on today and actually had a good sing along and won’t lie I had a bit of a dance for some of it Ha! Ha!… no one else was around (obviously, I’m in the Desert)
It is 5 pm here and runners will still be making their way in until about 8 pm – this is a very long day for them, today the wind was behind us the whole way so we were really blessed!

JB xx

DAY 3.

(Stage 2) – 40km’s – 5:09:17 – 3rd place in females (Stoked)
What an incredible day, there was a lot more sand dunes today and like every day so far, the scenery is unreal! 

I figured out my backpack situation by putting my sleeping bag into my dry sack bag and hooking it onto my backpack so now there is the sleeping bag between my back and my back – this has made the world of difference – Big thanks to Mike and Leon, my savours literally everyday with my earphones, pack, helping me hold things so they don’t blow away in the wind, haha, you name it and they are there to help. Mike is a strong runner and actually runs for Redbull – super enthusiastic guy. 

Surprisingly there has been no big dramas running today like yesterday haha, seems as though it was all smooth sailing – I had to stop at checkpoint 1 and put some tape on my feet as I know have some blisters – one under my toe nail so a doctor drilled through my toe and got it sorted and a few other minor ones. Still no chaffing wooo ! 

My groin and hip flexors are a little sore but otherwise feeling great, I really have no idea how – I guess all the training has paid off and for once I am so glad I have a strong booty and legs haha, because being strong in this sort of race really pays off when running through soft sand, up big dunes and carrying such a heavy pack on your back!
I ran the whole race again today – runners shuffle haha and always try to knuckle down and leg it up the sand dunes. Today I saw a lady coming in close behind me at the last checkpoint so classic competitive me – I absolutely legged it in for the last 5km’s… woops I might regret this in a few days.

Tomorrow is 42km’s along Skeleton Beach and the day after is the long march which is 81kms – big days coming up!

A day on my plate

About 10L’s of water each day – half of this is electrolytes 

Breakfast – Instant oats, muesli bar, black coffee 
Whilst running – A bar of some sort and a gel
Post run – Protein shake with water and handful of nuts
Dinner – Expedition dry packed meal – either mac and cheese or chicken tikka which was on the menu today – they are super yum – they were 800cal meals but I culled a lot of food to make my pack lighter so now only 400cal
Night time – Hot chocolate 

So at the moment I am having about 1300cals a day… maybe 1500 if I steal some food from my day 5/6/7 packs… and my fitbit has told me today I did 70,000 steps so far and burnt over 5000cals so we’ll see how a full week of this goes… doesn’t sound too ideal when I put it down on paper haha.

As I mentioned I threw out my deodorant but kept my hairbrush – well most girls don’t even bring a hairbrush! Honestly though no one smells too bad yet.. maybe because we all just stink or we are doing a great job using one baby wipe a day after running. 

After the run today I gave myself a bit of a sponge bath/clean with the mini expandable towels that are the size of a $2 coin but expand into a mini towel – following this, in true form, I continued to walk around the camp site in just my joggers, undies and a jacket, as you can imagine it was a really great look haha but it felt so nice to have my pants off. Myself and Jim then walked about 500m – 1km down to Skeleton Beach – yes there literally is skeletons everywhere, lots of us say we see human hands but apparently it’s just animal remains. It is a super super rough beach with crazy waves so the plan was just to dip our legs in for some recovery – I ended up stripping off everything to my undies and going for a swim and I even used a few little shampoo leaves that we have so it is safe to say I am by far the cleanest runner at this camp! 

Anyway time to sign off and enjoy the evening around the camp fire and just hanging out with everyone – bizarre how we have only known each other for 3 days but it feels like one big family! All in all super happy with how I am running – I have no idea how my plantar fasciitis (which was giving me absolute grief for a month prior to this) has literally disappeared…fingers crossed my body keeps holding up! 

Absolutely loving the messages guys, thanks ?!

Ps. KB – Mara’s 50th birthday playlist was pumping me through todays run ha!

JB xx

DAY 4. 

Desert Diary Day 4
(Stage 3) – another marathon –  6:40:50 – kilometre count = 125kms!
Equal 3rd place female with Cristina today – FOUND MY HURT !!! 

530pm here – Theres a nice breeze this evening. 
It was a super long day today and each day is now getting hotter and hotter! 
Last year the long march got up to 49 degrees! Fingers crossed this isn’t the case tomorrow. 

Ouch…. Today was tough! So much soft sand, big BEAUTIFUL dunes at the start and then the majority of the run was along the Skeleton Coast. The last section was a long, long strip through the desert…the last leg was like what you see in movies when people hallucinate haha. The beach and waves were really amazing and there was some ship wrecks and a long section with lots of seals (you smell them before you see them haha). I ran the first 15k today than I walked/ran along the beach. 

Today was a real mental challenge, if it wasn’t for running and chatting with Cristina majority of the way I can only imagine that the mental struggle would have been far worse. I also beginning to hurt from my head to my toes – bruising on my shoulders and back from my pack. Very, very sore quads (most people are feeling it here) and starting to get some gnarly blisters – I think I’m definitely am going to be losing a few toe nails!

SAD Moment early on today…
Early into the run I was running, chatting and fixing my hat when one earphone dropped out in the rocky area = such a bummer – I love them, RIP Jaybird earphone ?It’s going to be rough not having them both for tomorrow. The crew and volunteers just said oh good now you will be able to hear us when you are running haha – there have been a few close calls with the cars driving up behind me and I am usually distracted singing/dancing or skipping to my songs haha.

Loving every minute of this trip and experience! Feeling really good mentally still – no tears have been shed, yet ? all smiles so far!

To the people sending emails and messages, thank you ? 
Rory T, Tate and Laura, KB, mum, dad, Harry B, Em Bowz loving the messages haha (that’s bizzar about your admin lady following aswell ha), thanks Mary – stoked to get a message from you ! Esther, Jade, Tracy, Aimee, Lisa, Sammy, Rowanne, Charlotte and everyone else ?x

Tomorrow is the big day that breaks people left right and centre – 84km! – If I can do it in under 15 hours I will be very happy! 


JB xx

Day 5.

(Stage 4) – 84km – 19:04:32

Well my whole 4 deserts challenge was very, very close to finishing before it even began!
Just imagine 84km’s in 40 degrees – to give you an idea it felt like running up-hill in the pit of a volcano with a warm hair dryer blowing on your face with a heavy pack rubbing against my raw skin on my lower back.
ABSOLUTELY SHATTERED… By far the toughest day of my life, to date. 18 hours out of course … about 8 of these hours spent crying my eyes out.
From the start,
I actually felt really great and was off to an awesome start – we took off at 8am and I ran really well with Sandy, (the other Aussie female) for the first 40km’s we only walked a few parts and were the leading runners of our group. I then charged on ahead as she started to feel sick and needed to take a rest. I ran on at a solid pace to checkpoint number 6 – 50km mark – about 8 hours in running.
From here things went down hill…
Sounds simple in concept – only 34km’s to go, but my body was failing me hard-core – I got a really bad heat rash on my legs so they were swelling and making me feel very sick. I covered 12km’s to the next checkpoint which took me about 4 hours. During this section I began to be passed by some other competitors – one guy Mike saw me struggling and I had already begun crying at this point – Mike said to reset and have some food. I pulled out a dry meal of mac and cheese – mmm cold water with this was gross! Crunchy pasta haha, I was desperate.
Checkpoint 7 I made it to here somehow… I had been envisaging digging my own grave for few hours by now!
At this checkpoint I decided not to rest or take any pain medication and kept going, heading another 10km’s to checkpoint 8…
So now the sun had set and I had been walking/crawling alone for a solid 5+ hours and crying more than I ever had before – the heat, pain, sickness and sheer exhaustion was just too much.
Anyone who passed by me was super concerned, by this point I was taking a few small steps forward, one to the side and then would almost fall over – I was almost completely non-coherent. The first part of the race I was covering about 10km’s in 1.5hrs – now I was lucky to cover 2/3kms in 1.5 hours – crazy slow!
I thought I would have to pull out for sure – I honestly thought I was going to passout!
A roving car pulled up beside me and one of the medics and another videographer walked with me for almost 2 hours to the final checkpoint number 8 – I was in terrible shape – they gave me different medications and tried to figure out what food I could eat to keep down.
We got to checkpoint 8 after them witnessing me crying (definitely some whaling in there haha), lots of swearing and much struggle. As soon as we got there I got into my sleeping bag and passed out for a while before somehow getting up and finishing of the final 8km’s, it was a pretty horrid sight – I was in a very bad way, the medics were feeding me and helping me change socks etc.
I left at 8am and got in after 2am… brutal. 
But to put this in perspective the last competitors got in at 10am this morning and 3 competitors have had to pull out so far.
I climbed into my tent and passed out – today is luckily a day off – I woke up and for the first hour of today, whenever someone even spoke to me I honestly would just cry, over tired and super emotional I guess. 
Anyway, I have to psych myself up because tomorrow is a super tough 38km’s of sand dunes and my feet are now covered in blisters, about 4 toe nails are one kick of a rock away from coming off and I am almost out of food.
I CANNOT WAIT TO FINISH THIS DAM THING haha … so excited to jump straight into the hotel swimming pool when we get back.
Thanks for all the kind messages again, honestly feeling super deflated today and just really rough.

JB xx

DAY 6. 

What is harder than running a marathon in a desert?… WALKING ONE – walking is definitely the long game and is a skill in itself – it’s a real grind!

Day 6 – (Stage 5) – 38km’s – 7:53:14 – (unsure of my placing anymore, that sadly went out the window after the long march) – Sand dunes

Pretty disappointed in the fact that for 175km’s of this event I ran super well but then things didn’t go quite as planned, I guess the Desert had other plans for me! … lucky I have 3 more deserts to go… ha ?
Anyway, the first 20km’s today I mentally wrote this blog about 10 times over in a very negative way, I was just in so much pain from my Achilles, it was consuming me but decided to suck it up, perk up and enjoy the rest of the run/hobble and event and get on with things because really I am in the Namibian desert in Africa! So lets hope my inner negative nancy doesn’t come through too much in this haha.
8am start today – Began off jogging the first 6km’s, I felt really good – Well I have the standard shocking blisters, toe nails falling off situation but otherwise not too sore!
Today I had to wear my buff so it covered my lips the whole run because of how burnt and blistered they are, the doctors were a bit concerned about them getting infected. Anyway, so after 6km’s my Achilles, (ouch) I realised how bad they are again and it was like there was a switch to my cry button from the pain in my Achilles, so I quickly learnt that one wrong step or too much plantar flexion and it would be HELLLA PAINFUL!  
I had to swallow my pride and just realise that this wasn’t the race where I was going to take out a place and just needed to finish and enjoy it.
So the sand dunes were coming up at the 20k mark so I teamed up with Jeremy (another competitor) and we power walked the rest of the way in – even snuck in a 7km run in the last leg wooo! He shared his jelly beans with me over the course of a few hours that we were together so it was a good day ha – All about those little wins – He even took some great pictures and videos! Also what got me through was at checkpoint 2 someone had thrown out one of their poles – I scooped it up and put tape around it so it was as good as new – This third leg (pole) helped me take much needed weight off my Achilles. 
The views along the sand dunes were the most beautiful views I have seen, truly spectacular and running along the beach to the finish was amazing.
It was a pretty long day out on the course but when I arrived into camp it was such a good feeling to know that we are pretty much done! 
At this camp we have even been treated to a swim in the beach and showers!! Felt sooo good to shower… haha some competitors decided they have gone the whole week without this luxury so whats one more night… I was in the shower for AGES!
Tomorrow is just 10km’s and we are DONE!! The food and beer at the finish line is calling my name…. well, I don’t drink beer but I am thinking after this my first ever beer is necessary haha. We will then be bused 4 hours back to the hotel for an awesome dinner and final evening before flying home on Sunday!
I have seriously loved getting all of the messages from so many of you.
Thank you so much Rowanne for your adorable year 5’s all writing such lovely words of encouragement that has made my day.
Thanks Lulu gals – Sam, KJ and Bethy ! such kind words 
Last night camping out tonight before getting back to reality!

JB xx

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