Thursday, April 26, 2012

this is a test

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

I'm HOME!! Finally. Flew overnight to Dallas, this afternoon arrived back in GR. The lovely Francine picked me up at the airport.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Quick update

Arrived back in Punta Arenas at 8:00 p.m. Catching up on my blog, then tomorrow going to the airport and figuring out how to get home as quickly as possible. We'll see how it goes.

Henri's Finish!

22 December 2007

MAYBE they'll bring the Iluyshin in today. Well, actually in the very early hours of tomorrow. They're waiting for some more weather info. By 11:00 they still haven't made the call, before lunch they are talking like it's going to happen. Probably tomorrow morning. They are starting to clear the runway now.

We have the afternoon to ourselves, so Brent and PH Staffer Rachel decided to talk Henri to finish his marathon. Finally, our photographer Bertrand convinced him by agreeing to do it with him. So, Brent, Rachel, Susan, Christian and I went out on the snowmobile with a sled behind it and dropped Henri and Bertrand off on the course. Because the first loop around the mountain range was still marked, we used that part of the course.

We stopped every 2K to set up aid stations. The whiteout conditions of race day had been replaced with a beautiful clear day. We got to see all the mountains that we missed on Thursday. It was great.

When we rounded the last pass in the mountains, you could see Patriot Hills camp. It was still nearly 8 kilometers away. The other day I couldn't see it until just about 15 minutes before I got there. Quite a difference.

So, Henri, seventy-two years old! finished his marathon. And Bertrand did a half-marathon. Nice ending to a nice trip.

Tomorrow, the Ilyusion lands and we go home!

And now, my mission finished
The most important part awaits.

Where love awaits
The arms I've missed
The lips I long to kiss.

Always fun
Always interesting
Rarely predictable

But adventures only count
If you make it.

More life at Patriot Hills

21 December 2007 Friday.

Our mission done, we now await the weather conditions for our transport back to Punta Arenas. As soon as it's suitable, the Iluyshin will be here, bringing in a load of fuel for the camp and taking a load of passengers back.

Everyone here is anxious to get home for Christmas, speculating on tomorrow's weather, wondering about the logistics to clear the runway, get the plane here, and get us back out. Antarctica, however, isn't like anywhere else on earth. There are no scheduled flights. We're at the mercy of the weather and the logistics people to get us out of here.

The Four Poles

If you've seen the South Pole on TV, you've probably seen the "Ceremonial South Pole." It's that striped pole with the silver ball on top of it, surrounded by the flags of several nations.

A few meters away is the actual Geographic South Pole, where all of the lines of latitude converge. The marker is a metal post with a medallion on top of it. Because it's located on nearly two miles of ice, the post drifts northward a few feet every year. Every January first, a new post with a new medallion is positioned over the exact pole. From there you can see the row of posts from previous years, going off into the distance.

The South Magnetic Pole, exactly opposite of the one in the north, is actually located off the coast of Antarctica in the ocean. It tends to move a little every year, roughly in a circle. In the center of the circle is the Russian base, Vladavostock. (CHECK THESE FACTS)

The other one, the "Pole of Relative Inaccessibility," is a human-contrived point that is the farthest average distance from all the coastlines of Antarctica. It's the closest thing man has come up with to being "in the middle of nowhere."

We spent the day recovering from our marathon efforts, relaxing a bit, enjoying the great food. We had a short meeting after lunch to award everyone with a finisher medal, and after dinner we drank up the wine and beer they had for us, then I broke out the bottle of Chivas Regal that I brought from Punta Arenas to celebrate our marathon. A few of the guys played cards late into the night, some of them loosing thousands in the process. Thousands of Chilean Pesos, that is. Ten thousand is roughly twenty dollars in the U.S.

After midnight, the train left for the South Pole, then to the Pole of Relative Inaccessibility. What a neat adventure for them! Fred and Sue are on that train.


20 December 2007
Start at 7:12 a.m. Preparing last night, people sent snacks and extra gear out to the three aid stations. My choice was to carry whatever I needed in the small backpack that they gave me in Punta Arenas. After starting my watch and adjusting gloves, etc. I ended up at the back of the pack for the start. Gradually I passed a few of the others and settled into a pace. I was feeling great after too-many-days rest.

The previous day they had driven one of the big cats over the course to mark it for us, and over about 18 hours it solidified quite well and kept us from sinking in. Still, there was no push-off because the snow would give way under the pressure of our shoes and loosen under our feet. It would be slow-going all day.

The first loop of the course was around the small mountain range, the Patriot Hills. We ran out of camp, keeping the mountains on our right, toward the first aid station tent, five or six miles out. Even that short distance seemed like a long time. Finally, after an hour and 22 minutes I got there. I only got about half a cup of liquid there. Kinda reminded me of Chicago. They told us that someone would be along on a snowmobile soon to give us some more.

Weather conditions were cool, maybe around ten degrees Fahrenheit, with a light wind in our faces for the first leg. A mist of snow was falling, and before the first aid station a little glaze of ice covered my glasses. Quite foggy, so the beautiful course we heard of was mostly obscured by the low visibility.

I pulled out the sleeve of cookies from my pack and ate a couple of them as I continued. Now the mountains were between us and the camp. We were actually between two mountain ridges at the time, but the low visibility and poor contrast kept us constantly vigilant in finding the next orange flag.

With the wind at our backs, I soon realized that I was getting too warm and stopped to take off my outer jacket--my wind layer--to allow the sweat to evaporate instead of pooling in my sleeves and soaking my gloves as it ran out. After nearly an hour, the promised snowmobile arrived with some hot lemonade. I didn't drink a lot, because he told me that the next aid station was only about 2 Ks away.

Well, the "two kilometers" was a bit off. After a while the trail curved around to the right and headed slightly up hill through a pass in the mountains. Nearly an hour after seeing the snowmobile I finally reached the next tent. I drank a couple of glasses of hot liquid, but had to be very careful to avoid burning my mouth. Now we were headed back to camp.

Nearly 11:00, still no camp. The sweat from my body wicked away from my skin into the outer layers, so the sleeves on my outer shirt were now frozen. Still, I was comfortable as I kept my legs in constant motion through the loose snow. I knew the camp should be visible soon, but with the fog and the low- contrast conditions it was impossible to see. I ran, alone in a world of white, only a couple of runners in the distance in front of me.

At 11:15, I could make out the camp in the distance. Just after 11:30 I arrived at the finish banner, nearly 4.5 hours for the first 27 kilometers. Still feeling fresh and strong. I went into the dining tent, drank four glasses of "juice" (orange flavored sugar water) and scarfed down three cookies and went back out the door before my outer layer thawed out. I actually passed three people at that point by keeping the stop short. We headed out of camp for the final loop, toward a DC6 plane that crashed a few years back. Soon Susan Holiday caught up with me, and together we searched the all-white horizon for the next orange marker. The contrast was getting worse, and in this direction there were no mountains for landmarks. Only white.

We struggled to see the trail, but would frequently wander off to the side, beginning to sink into the snow. The markers weren't frequent enough to keep them always in site, so working together felt pretty good at that point. Because the loop was long and narrow, occasionally we could see some of the other runners heading back toward the finish, letting out a whoop and raising our arms to encourage each other. We were too far apart for words, but the sentiments we felt.

Finally, after an hour and a half, we could see the final aid station tent. Fred and Sue Morris were there, waiting with warm drinks. We stopped for a minute and made the turn for home.

Toshio caught up with us and passed us. As we headed back toward camp, the wind picked up, hitting us in the face from the left, and blowing snow into our faces. I slowed down for a minute to put my wind jacket back on. Now the markers were even farther apart and harder to spot. Toshio passed Susan, and I kept them both in site, along with a couple more runners farther ahead. At least I knew I was going in the right direction. More and more I would loose the track and end up in the soft snow. Still, I made my way toward the finish. 2:25 p.m. The end is in site, but still a long way. Gradually specks in the distance became tents, people came into focus, and finally I spotted the finish line. At 2:40, seven hours and twenty-eight minutes after starting, I raised my arms and crossed the finish line. I stood under the banner for everyone to take pictures.

William was there in his wheelchair, and I went over to give him a hug. Unfortunately, I seriously misjudged the stability of the chair, and the next thing I knew we were both flat on our backs, lying in the snow laughing like crazy. People tried to help us up, but William was waving them off and telling them "Take a picture."

My mission now is nearly complete, the only thing remaining is to get home. No, I didn't make the world record I had planned on, but I did accomplish a few things.

I took two days off my personal record, completing the seven continents in just under 33 days.
I set a world record by running all seven continents TWICE in only 307 days.
I'm the only human on the planet who has ever run all seven continents twice in one year.

And to top that off, a beautiful woman, proud of me, her heart filled with love, waits for me to come home.

Life in Patriot Hills Camp

19 December 2007
By definition, it's a nice day whenever the plane arrives here. That's because the plane can only fly on nice days.

It was warm in the sunshine after we arrived yesterday, so Brent went out to the runway and marked off a half-mile course so William Tan could do his marathon in his wheelchair. Most of the group went out and supported him, walking the one-mile loop, starting somewhere just after 5:00 p.m. He continued to roll, back and forth, until at around 3:00 this morning he became the first man ever to complete marathons on all seven continents in a wheelchair. Twice he has tried to do Antarctica on King George Island, but the course and the time restrictions have stopped him. But now, he's a world record holder, doing all seven in less than 29 days.

Patriot Hills Camp. Getting off the plane was almost like coming home. I lived here for most of January in 2002, along with Brent. It's been updated a bit since then. The "ice toilets" are much nicer, two of them in a small arched tent with a wall down the middle. All of our waste is sent back to Chile for disposal, so we relieve ourselves in numerical order--#1 in the urinal which goes into a small drum, and #2 into another toilet. There's a sit-down toilet for women and then they can dump their pee-bucket into the urinal. The solid wastes go into black plastic bags to be bundled up and sent back on the planes. At night, we keep pee bottles in our tents to avoid having to get bundled up and going out.

"Night" is relative here. It's really light twenty-four hours a day here, and we run our clocks on Chilean time, since that's where the HQ is for our tour company.

All the water here comes from melted snow. There's a big pile of it outside that they shovel it into bins and bring it in to melt in a big metal bin near the stove.

We always have lots to drink, hot water, cold water and "juice" in big coolers. The kitchen staff are all amazing--every meal here has lots of variety, and is very well prepared. We also have snacks available all the time. Meals at 8:00, 13:00, and 19:00.

9:30, the morning briefing. Weather at the South Pole isn't too promising for today. At 11:00 we'll get a camp tour. As to running the marathon, they have to groom and mark the trail, so we won't be running today. The two feet of new snow has totally wiped out the trail that they had for us last week. After driving over the trail, it needs to freeze over and solidify so we're not sinking in as far. MAYBE we'll run tomorrow.

11:00 Tour. The runways for the Twin Otter airplanes that they use to take the smaller planes to the Pole, to Mt. Vinson, and for other expeditions are the first stop. Then on to the ice cave. It's a dugout area, about then feet below the surface, where they store food for the season. It's a constant negative 20 degrees Celsius (-4 F). Strings of 12V Christmas lights powered a car battery light up the chambers. Solar panels are used to recharge the battery. There are many of them around the camp, as everything here runs on battery power. No lights are needed other than in the cave, of course.

12:45 Weather briefing. Looks like some winds coming in tomorrow afternoon, so we'll try and start the marathon first thing in the morning.

Arriving in Antarctica

18 December 2007
4:50 a.m. William called me. "Did you get the phone call?" "No." "Me neither, I guess I'll go back to sleep."

5:00 a.m. Brent called. Be in the lobby at ten to six. Bring your passport.

We're leaving for Antarctica, finally. Officially, my world record attempt is over, having expired at 6:17 local time last night. Aroud 7:30, we boarded a Russian Iluyshin plane. Not your normal commercial flight. The whole plane is open, no panels on the ceiling, overhead cranes on rails running down each side. Stacked down the center is all the cargo, strapped down by cargo nets and tarps. A big snow cat in the back, about the width of a semi truck.

There were rows of seats running along each side of the plane. We strapped ourselves in for the 4.5 hour flight to the Patriot Hills.

Seat backs and tray tables? No problem. There weren't any. Just the bench-like seats where we would hang out for the next few hours. At 12:40 we got the word: "Get your gear on, we're about to land.

It was nearly a half-mile walk from the blue-ice runway across to the camp. Soon though, they came along with a big tractor and wagon that we all jumped on. We met at the Patriot Hills camp dining tent for a lunch and a briefing. Steve Jones, the camp manager, gave us a briefing. We're now in a world that few people will ever be. About 800 meters (2600 feet) above sea level. 500 meters of that is snow and ice.

The dining tent is a long, arched tent with the kitchen area in the back. It's where we'll eat, read, fellowship for the next few days. Accommodations were in clam-shell tents, plenty roomy with two beds in each one. Quite nice. Brent and I teamed up--we're used to each other and know that we can sleep in the same room.

Don's Anticipated Arrival Home

Posted by Francine Robinson on Sunday, 12/23/07:


The results are in for the 2007 Antarctic Ice Marathon and 100K. They can be found at: You can read some interesting details about the events--including information about some of the participants, as well as the weather conditions--by clicking on the following link, which will take you to the "Live Updates" page:

As to Don's expected arrival home, the latest update indicates that the Ilyushin-76 (IL-76) plane landed in the Antarctic today and the race participants should be back in Punta Arenas, Chile, between 19:00 and 20:00 Chile time. I spoke with Don last night, and he said there is usually an early flight out of Punta Arenas each day to Santiago, and he will try to get on that flight Monday morning. From Santiago he will book the first possible flight back home, probably connecting through Dallas. looks like he will be home for Christmas! Once Don has the specific flight information, I will post it here.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Don has done it again!

Thursday, 12/20/07, 11:45 p.m.

CONGRATULATIONS TO DON! For the second time this year, he has completed seven marathons on seven continents.

On Thursday morning, the Antarctic Ice Marathon participants began the marathon at 07:00 Chile time. The website indicated they were running under "tough conditions and snowfalls." Don called me briefly around 2:45 p.m. ET to say that he had finished somewhere around 7-1/2 hours. I don't know much more than that, because he was using a satellite phone with limited minutes, plus I was in the middle of a 3rd grade Christmas party at Carly's school which was a bit noisy, as you might imagine!

At this point, Don believes it will be Saturday before they will be able to leave Antarctica, and of course, it will depend on the weather conditions.

I will check the marathon website tomorrow for any more updates and post anything pertinent to this blog.

Again--please join me in congratulating Don for another amazing accomplishment! :-D

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Update on Antarctic Ice Marathon

Posted by Francine Robinson:

Wednesday, 12/19/07, 10:30 p.m. ET

I just checked the Antarctic Ice Marathon website for the latest update on the marathon. Some of you who have been reading Don's blog regularly may be aware that Neuroscientist Dr. William Tan, of Singapore, was competing to become the first wheelchair participant to complete a marathon on all seven continents. I had the pleasure of meeting William at the Atlanta Marathon on Thanksgiving Day. He's a super nice guy! And I'm pleased to say that HE DID IT! Congratulations, William! He finished in 9:48:52. Apparently the weather conditions were pretty good for Antarctica when he began early Wednesday morning: -8C, clear blue skies, and no wind.

The website further indicates that there will be a briefing on Thursday for the rest of the marathon participants at "06:00 Chile time" (two hours ahead of the Eastern Time Zone). It is hopeful the race will begin at 08:00, since the storm that was predicted never materialized, and the weather is "quite balmy for Antarctica."

Don will try to call me (on a satellite phone that will be available to the participants) as soon as possible after he has completed this marathon. I'll post something after I hear from him.

Monday, December 17, 2007

6:30 pm phone call

Brent came over and told us to pay our bills tonight. It looks like we'll get a 4:30 wakeup call and fly south. Looks good. We'll see how it goes.

Cautiously Optimistic

We had a briefing today at 3:00. Runway is being cleared. Possibility that we can fly in tomorrow morning. We'll get an update at 6:30 tonight, and may leave tomorrow morning sometime between 4 and 6.

Maybe it will work yet. We'll see.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Corrida Enap 2007 10K race. Sunday, 16 December 2007

Before breakfast, we ran into Vick, a guy who's staying at the hotel here, also a runner. He told us about a 10K race this morning here in PA. So, we ate breakfast and grabbed a taxi out to the race.

The day was rainy, and we soon found out that there were a lot of different races, but divided by age groups, not by choice. People over 51 were supposed to run the 6.5K race. The 10K was (I think) men only under 50. Vick, Brent and I told them we were going to do the 10K anyway.

The start wasn't until 11:00, so we hung out with some of the local guys who spoke some English. The shorter races all started before the 10K. At 11:05 we all started. About a block into the run, they diverted the "Senior division" runners around the corner as the 10K continued straight. Seeing Brent's white beard they assumed he was a "senior" and the guy was quite insistant that he make the turn. So he did. Vick and I continued on. (Vick's 67, by the way.)

I was running dead last for the first 4K. Actually, during that time four young guys realized that they were in over their heads and dropped out. So I had a motorcycle escort. I kept Vick and a doctor from the hospital across the street from the race in site, and just ran steady, knowing I'd catch up sooner or later. Finally some of the youngsters started loosing steam and we reeled a few of them in. As we got to the center of town I finally caught up to Vick and we ran the rest of the way together. We also picked up an adventure racer who had just finished a 4-person 1000K relay in Patagonia, and ran with him for most of the rest of the race. Around the Plaza and back toward the start/finish line, a little over 3K to go. Runners in front of us weren't very far away--we were doing well for a couple old guys. Finally the finish line, just over 55 minutes. Vick said it's the fastest 10K he's done in a long time.

We were greeted as if we were heroes. They really appreciate that we would run the race with them. Somehow they got wind of the fact that Brent and I were heading to Antarctica.

We stayed for the awards, but really weren't sure why, other than MAYBE Brent would win an award in his race. He didn't. The awards were great though--first, second, third got medals and wrapped presents. DFL (Dead Freakin' Last) in each race got a really nice medal. But at the end of the ceremony there was a surprise. They called the three of us and one other guy who's recently moved to Punta Arenas for work, recognized us for coming, made a big deal about Antarctica. They gave us each a small medal and a present--a small running backpack. Every clapped and made us feel pretty welcome, then afterwards many came up and wished us well and congratulated us.

So, that was my morning. We hopped a taxi and came back, soaking wet and cold. The hot shower felt great.

Saturday 16 December

Nice morning. Brent and I took a taxi up to Magellanes National Reserve to run some trails. We were last up there together in 2002 and had a pretty good run there, so we were excited to get back. We really picked the right day too, sunny, not too windy.

We started following a row on orange stakes marking a mountain bike trail through the woods. Trees are mostly deciduous, but with very small leaves. Big leaves wouldn't stand a chance--the heavy winds that are nearly constant here would strip them bare in a few minutes. Trees are gnarled and twisted, many are covered with beard-like moss that hangs from them.

We followed the trail through the woods and it turned uphill, slowing us to a walk for about half a mile. As we climbed the mountain, at any break we could look down over the town of Punta Arenas and the straights of Magellan.

Switching to another trail marked with red markers, we continued to the top of the ridge. We took a chance on another trail coming back down, and soon found ourselves on something that may have been a long, gradually winding ski run which took us all the way to the bottom again. We had to work our way down a bank and cross a small stream and climb a fence to get up onto a gravel road. Looking up the road, we spotted orange stakes again a few yards up and got back onto the trail. A nice run/walk of about 5 miles.

Back at the hotel for the 5:00 briefing. Things are looking better at Patriot Hills. Maybe we'll be able to fly there on Tuesday. My world record quest will officially fall short this time. Next briefing at 3:00 Monday. I wonder if this hotel rents rooms by the month?