Wednesday, November 28, 2012

From January's edition of iRun Magazine

Running is my greatest teacher

Promoting teamwork through challenge

In September, Ray Zahab had the opportunity to travel to Utah for the inaugural Grand to Grand Ultra, a 6 stage, 7 day self-supported foot race covering 167 miles (268 kilometres). “Having participated in many multi-stage expeditions, my role was to support and advise the race director,” says Zahab.

Grand to Grand was supporting Zahab’s youth expedition foundation, impossible2Possible through their event. As part of that support, long time i2P volunteers were offered the opportunity to participate in the race from the Grand Canyon to the Grand Staircase. “Three i2P volunteers took part, including my brother, John, who has never done an ultra event before but finished 5th overall out of 65-70 athletes from all over the world” says Zahab. 

Along with helping the race director organize the race’s logistics, Ray Zahab’s behind-the-scenes support included assisting runners pack their bags as lightly as possible using all the tricks he’s learned on many self-supported expeditions like cutting labels and repackaging food. “I was taping feet. If someone had a blister, I would help with that.”
“It was incredible to be able to share many of the things I’ve learned, but also be able to help the race organizers,” says Zahab who loved watching people push themselves.

“The whole time I was out there, I was thinking about the i2P Botswana Youth Expedition,” says Zahab.
This expedition is from October 29-November 12 2012 and involves 8 youth ambassadors from Canada and the United States. Every time Zahab leads a youth expedition, he tries something different.

On this expedition, the youth are divided into two groups of four. Each group will take a turn running 40-50K for four days in the Kalahari Desert while the other group offers support, assists with logistics and acts as the education team, creating videos and conducting experiments. There’ll be one turn-around day as the groups switch from running to education/support.

Just as Zahab learned so much and was able to gain a whole new perspective on races through assisting the Grand to Grand race director, the students will have that opportunity on the expedition. “This is another layer of learning for the expedition and another layer of lessons that would make the event more meaningful,” says Zahab.

On every expedition the youth create their own content to share with students at schools around the world. In this case, the ambassadors are learning about water and about plants’ and animals’ adaptation to short supplies of water in the desert. While they are running through the desert, the ambassadors are also learning first-hand about how their own bodies process water while doing vigorous exercise. Water filters are another topic the youth are learning about. Each day they share these findings with students at schools around the world through video conferencing. 

Zahab points out that unlike the Grand to Grand racers who run during the day and rest in the evening, the i2P youth ambassadors are busy running or supporting all day and then uploading content, answering questions from students, connecting with residents of Botswana and getting ready for the next day’s adventure in the evening.

Before he left on the Botswana expedition, Zahab said he couldn’t wait for the young people to see the desert, meet the people who live there and realize that through working hard and working together they would be able to accomplish something extraordinary.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Day 9 – Dispatch from just beyond the Magkgadikgadi Salt Pans

You would be wise to get out of the way of a thirsty elephant. The beasts can destroy a shallow borehole within a few minutes, sucking the source dry and then digging away with tusks and feet to uncover water further beneath the ground. They’ll also topple entire trees, literally flipping them upside down so the water filled roots are accessible for the big beasts. When this happens the farmers pray for rain because when it falls the animals retreat to more traditional open water sources, rather than ravaging their land. 

Today our team is on its final march; the end of our official run but also the beginning of the next phase on the way to the Okavango Delta, the countries traditional water grounds. And we too are praying for rain. The clouds are blowing overhead but we have yet to see the skies erupt, despite our timing so close to the wet season. Chronicling what it looks like is one of our remaining tasks. The thirsty runners will be hoping to finish before it falls.

Day 6 - 44KM

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Bushman of The Central Kalahari Region

The i2P team had the privilege of meeting a small group of nomadic people living in their settlement in the Kalahari. The Bushmen are at the heart of a complicated debate in Botswana. The government has been trying to move them out of what is now a game reserve and in to villages, but the group we met is holding out; they want to remain on their traditional lands, and at this point seem able to do so. Visiting with the Bushmen was no easy task. Our group was tracked by the police through the Central Kalahari Game Reserve because they didn’t want us to meet the Bushmen. After negotiations with our guides the officials conceded on the grounds we not film or photograph the visit, and not ask any questions beyond some basic greetings. It left the group with lots to think about….have a listen.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Working as a Team!

Day 4 - 51 KM!!!

The i2P Youth Ambassadors ran Day 4 together; with the first group on their last day, and the second group on their first day. A new i2P record was achieved with a total of 51km on Day 4! It was also a day for many amazing learning experiences - adaptation, teamwork, staying positive, being resilient, listening to your body and planning for tomorrow!

Day 4 - 51 KM from GOi2P on Vimeo.

Day 6 Photos

Day 7 – Makgadikgadi Salt Pans

The forest on the border of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans looks like it’s ready to burn itself. 
The trees are bare and brittle and starved of water. Smaller twigs stick out of the ground at the base of the trees, and tangled in the twigs are piles of dry leaves that seem as though they were swept in place. 
The entire combination looks like a fire kit for camping amateurs, prepared by the locals, matches not included. But this is not human intervention; it is nature at its most efficient. 
When the rain falls, and it will, the entangled leaves will break down further and enrich the soil for the trees next growing season. Humans can take no credit for this process, though in Botswana and around the world there are examples of ways we continue to try to control nature. In Botswana, there is perhaps no greater example of that than the efforts to preserve the cattle industry. The animals are one of the countries greatest consumers of water. 
Today we explore cattle through the eyes of those who attempt to control it.

Day 6

Our feet have been shown little relief in the 6 days of our expedition. They’ve been wrapped in socks and stuffed in tight shoes, designed with various blister proof features, that don’t always work. 

Evenings at camp are spent tending to swollen toes and broken toenails, and our feet are often travel in flip flops, where they welcome fresh air but are left susceptible to brambles, biting insects and of course the warm dry sand. 

It’s been an inhospitable surface for our feet and yet, today, we run on to something with a far more daunting reputation.

The Makgadikgadi Pans are a layer of hard packed salt, the remnants of an ancient ocean seabed. The surface quite literally sucks the moisture out of the air, which means our team will have much more to worry about than a sore toe.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Expedition Botswana - Phase II

The sunrise each morning sends long shadows across our campsite. 
Tightly zipped bags rest in front of tents where inside our Youth Ambassadors are beginning to rumble. 
This process usually gets underway around six o'clock, but today it’s closer to five. We're eager to get going because today is a traveling day, a chance to reset and reflect. 
So far we’ve learned about how plants survive with little water, and how much extra water the body needs when exercising in the desert. We've also discussed water filter techniques and yesterday, the highlight so far, we got to meet the indigenous Bushmen at their traditional village inside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (check back very soon for our story from that visit). 
The sun has now crested the horizon, and the little dew on our camp is drying up. Tents must be packed away, and when the sun rises again tomorrow we’ll begin phase two of our educational journey! 
Join us at Impossible 2 Possible and www.i2PBotswana.com!

Day 4 Photos

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Day 3 - 43.3KM

An amazing end to Day 3 and a great look around Team i2P Camp!

Day 2 Photos

Day 2 - 45.3 KM