Wednesday, December 20, 2006

No Ball Class Thursday + Desert Happenings

For those of you who take the Tuesday/Thursday ball class in Westboro please note there will be no class Thursday Dec.21. Classes will break for the holidays and resume Tuesday Jan.9. Our apologies for the mix-up and short notice!

With Christmas only days away and ski passes ready to go, many of us in Canada have been discussing the lack of snow. A green and ski-less Christmas may not be the
norm for us but for Ray, Kevin and Charlie it will certainly be far from “normal”. While snow may be flying around here (optimism!) it will be sand in Niger. For the last few days the team has been dealing with some crazy head winds. “Wild” as Ray described it! Winds have a magical way of making the sand come alive so in addition to the challenge of running into the wind comes that of the sand getting into everything! A day in the life of a man running across the Sahara!

Another interesting challenge has been the maps. For those of you with a sporting background that involves maps you’ll appreciate the impact of out of scale maps. Ray says we’d all be incredibly surprised at how out of scale they can really be.

With the team well inside Niger and about 3300 Km’s down, the next stop is Agadez. Check out the website for the latest update from the crew posted from day 42.

Stay tuned, more to come! If you'd like to send Christmas Greetings to Ray he will get them, please go ahead and send them via email (ecofit@yahoo.com)!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Another day, another 80k!

With lots of communication from Ray over the past week, thanks to the good old satellite phone, we have lots of info for you!

The team is now consistently running down 70 to 80 km’s a day, still without a single rest day. By the time you read this the team will have passed over the Niger border, leaving Mali behind and pressing on toward the half way mark. In recent days they have mostly been on sand and at times it’s been very deep. Despite the associated challenges it’s been invigorating for Ray to be in his element. The hundreds of kilometers on the Trans Sahara highway were tough.

In his last conversation with his brother John, Ray talked about coming across a strange kind of grass that has tiny needle like barbs that work their way through the runners’ shoes. When they stop to take their shoes off they are stuck to their feet by thousands of these needles.

While talking to Ray this week, it’s obvious the team is keeping positive and is becoming more energized as they go. As Kathy said after her last talk with Ray, he sounds normal, just like himself. It’s rather hard to tell he’s running 80K a day. The team is excited to be on tract (a little ahead of schedule even) and nearing the half way mark which falls in the middle of Niger. Ray is thrilled to have Niger, Libya and Egypt ahead, all countries he's run across before. He's happy to be in a part of the world he’s so passionate about, and as you know this expedition is about more than running 80K a day. There’s purpose and passion behind it, trying to make a difference in a world where every 15 seconds a child dies due to unclean water.

A few things to take note of:

* In the first 31 days of running together, Ray, Charlie and Kevin ran the equivalent of 50 marathons!

* There are updates from the expedition crew on the Running the Sahara website. 2 from day 13 and 25.

* Also on the website is info about the route, check it out, it’s interested to read about where they are right now!

Keep those emails of encouragement coming to Ray. They are a source of energy for him! Thank-you!

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Message from Kathy!

Hi all!

It’s not often I write for Ray’s blog…but I thought this would be a good opportunity to say “thank you” to my husband for providing me with an amazing training program for my first Ultramarathon!

I ran my first Ultra 3 weeks ago in Maryland (JFK50 Miler) – it was great! Ray’s training program was perfect for me! Prior to July of this year I had never tried trail running, only ran a couple of marathons on the road. Plagued by injuries from high mileage on asphalt, Ray suggested I try trail running with him, somewhat unwilling I agreed. Wow – what a difference! So much softer under foot, but I found the terrain challenging at first (lots of hills and some technical sections). I also noticed I couldn’t keep the same pace I was used to running on the road which was frustrating in the beginning!

Ray’s first suggestion to me was to stop worrying about my pace and just run based on time…and enjoy it! So every Sunday I would tag along with Ray for an hour or so and I actually started to enjoy myself…and even started to think I’d like to try a trail race! A friend of ours suggested I try the JFK 50 Miler. With encouragement from Ray, I figured I would give it a shot. Now let me put this in perspective for everyone, when you live with one of the best Ultrarunners in the world and whose typical races are in the 250km+ category, 80km does not seem so far or unrealistic! So I set that as my goal and asked Ray to train me for it. Lucky for me, our friend Brian (who also had never ran an Ultra before) somehow let me twist his arm to run the race too! Just like any other client Ray works with we chatted about my goal, the amount of time I could actually commit to training, etc., and Brian followed the same procedure. We had 2 ½ months before race day so Brian and I made sure we followed Ray’s training program diligently!

On race day I thought about all the things Ray taught me over the last few months…stay hydrated, tips on how to stay relaxed while running uphill, and the power of positive thinking! He was certainly my motivation for the race – I kept telling myself “I just have to run 80km for one day, Ray is running 80km for 90 days…go!” Turns out both Brian and I had a great race! Brian finished in a time 7:58 and placed 69th out of over 1000 runners, and I ran 9:04 and was the 13th woman overall and 2nd in my age category. We were both quite pleased considering it was our first Ultra! We give Ray credit for providing a great training program (and I also want to say thanks to my Dad for coming to cheer us on)!

Ray called me from the Sahara Desert the following evening and I told him our results and how much we enjoyed the race – he was so proud of us! It was amazing to hear the excitement and satisfaction in his voice. Ray truly takes pride in seeing his clients do well and knowing his clients are pleased with their performance.

For anyone who wants a motivational, knowledgeable coach to help them achieve their goals – Ray is the BEST (honestly, bias aside!)! Check out Ray’s website for information on his training packages: www.rayzahab.com