"Not all those who wander are lost"

Wadi Bih Run

Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.

-William Faulkner


2/10  Wadi Bih Run Eve!

The back story:  Two weeks prior I found out/decided to do the Wadi Bih Run with some of the people I climb with who enter every year.  It’s a 72.2km relay race from Dibba all the way up into the mountains (passed several areas we climb) with a total elevation gain of over 1000m then all the way back.  I had been running for a while in Dubai, but it had already faded off a couple weeks before I join the race team.  I started running again immediately to prepare in the two weeks I had.  I did alright getting back into it but after my run Sunday before the race I was struck with debilitating shin splints.  I noticed them when I tried to do a short run the next day and could barely run at all.  After the short and painful run Monday I decided it was better to not have shin splints and be out of shape than be in shape and have shin splints.  I didn’t bother running the rest of the week.  Even with the rest I was doubtful; my long walks to the labor camp even caused significant pain so I didn’t know how I would run 15+km.

Wadi Bih Run Eve came and Gordon and I headed up to Dibba to stake out a spot on the beach for our team to camp and register.  We got a later start than planned and made it at 8:58, just in time to register before they closed down for the night to continue drinking.  We talked with some other climbers from the area for a bit until another team member, Simon, arrived.  We settled on a spot and unloaded Gordon’s car to go collect firewood.  We headed back to a construction site and found a pile of scrap wood we could swipe.  The rest of the night we hung out around the fire and carbo loaded.  Our other team members Javi and Maddie (Stocks) made it in at about 10 and 11:30 respectively.  We all were up to after midnight before we finally decided it was a good idea to get some sleep before the race.



I woke up without an alarm to the sounds go people bustling around getting ready for the race.  I checked my watch, 6:30.  I got up, packed up my sleeping stuff, ate two bites of muesli and a banana, popped some asprin to counter the anticipated shin splints, and was ready to go.  We started a bit after 7:30, on the latter end of the pack since running started between 6-8.  The first km was a group leg and all five of us ran while Sam, who had come to hang out and drive for us, drove.  Gordon continued onto the first real leg while the rest of us hopped into the car and cruised up to the next checkpoint.  We warmed up waiting at the checkpoint and Sam offered some topical pain reliever for my shin splints.  They hadn’t started bothering me yet but I liberally applied the cream.  I would repeat this many times throughout the race.  I had to wait a few legs before I got my first chance to run.  I was amped and started out with tons of energy.

(Gordon Rech)

I started running up the wadi I couldn’t help but stare up at the rocks around me looking for good areas to develop for climbing.  My energy decreased quickly as I run up a long steep hill around a boulder field (Damian’s Boulders) in the wadi.  I started to get into a rhythm and kept chugging away until I was around the boulders and Gordon’s car came into sight.  I thought there was no way I had already finished my leg, they must be there to take some pictures.  Sure enough when I got there it was actually the end of it.  I was relieved that it was over but had started to feel like I could just keep going.  With my stage over I hopped in the car and cruised to the next checkpoint.

We stopped for the checkpoint exactly at one of the climbing areas.  Once again, I couldn’t help myself and climbed half of an easy route.  We continued alternating legs, hanging out the windows of the car to look at the rocks, and cheering each other on.  Just before the section of very steep switchbacks we caught up to the group of RIT kids running (Andy, Maddie Burke, Allie, Kristin, and Nina).  Their rental Camry had managed to make it all the way here but they had been offered a ride by Nick, a guy I had meet climbing at Gordon’s , through the next few sections so they didn’t have to try to make it the rest of the way in the low car.  Andy headed off up the slope well before Javi got to the checkpoint for Gordon to take over, but just knowing that they were within sight made me determined to catch them.  Yes, I know, it’s unnecessary for me to be this competitive, but without a competition, even if it’s only a competition to me, I can’t push myself as much.  Gordon took over and did great on the uphill while we waited at the top, next to where we had camped a few weeks before.  One more leg to the 13th checkpoint where we would turn around and I would take over.  Simon ran the leg and we headed to the midpoint.  The top had a great vista of wadis and mountains including the tallest mountain in northern Oman, Jebel Kewee.

(View from the top)

The last bit to the final checkpoint was a long zig zag downhill.  I watched as Maddie (Burke) ran in and waited for Simon.  I met him as he got to the checkpoint and took off after Andy, who was still in sight but almost all the way up the hill.  I had this leg, Maddie (S) had the steep downhill, then I had another short leg; I was determined to catch them on one of my legs.  I got into my rhythm and cruised up the hill passing a bunch of people.  Most of the rest of the leg was slight downhill and I let the road do the work, just placing one foot in front of the other to keep from falling on my face, which I still almost did several times coming around corners too fast.

(Determined to catch them, photo by Gordon Rech)

The 500+m distance had dwindled to less than 200 by the time my leg was over but I hadn’t managed to catch up.  Maddie and Maddie started the steep downhill close together.  There wasn’t much waiting to do once we got to the bottom before Maddie (Stocks) came hurtling down the hill and nearly took me out with the handoff.  Not looking to see who was running for RIT next or seeing if they were close behind I took off again.

(Gordon Rech)

My 1.5km leg went quick and afterwards there was no sign of the RIT kids for the rest of the race.  Now it was on to the next objective: finish in under 6 hours.  I only had one leg left to contribute to reduce our time and we needed an average of about 13 minutes.  It would be tough, but I had been averaging about 12 on the way up so the way down should be quicker.  Maddie and Simon didn’t know if they could finish all their legs and I happily volunteered to take any and all legs.  Gordon ended up taking Maddies and continued his straight through hers.  I struggled with my leg, starting to really feel the 14km I had run as I struggled up the short but very steep section around Damian’s Boulders.  I refused to give in, refused to walk, no matter how much my muscles screamed.  The downhill was great and I let loose feeling like I would surely eat it with how fast I was running for how weak my muscles were.  I defied the odds and remained on my feet.  After that I took half of Simons long leg and half of Gordon’s last leg.  Each time I started running I had trouble running straight.  My feet refused to be placed one in front of the other and wobbled around unsteadily, but I kept running.  The reality of my low blood sugar occurred to me while I was running.  I had eaten two bites of muesli, a banana and a half, and a light granola bar all day.  On top of that I had been drinking as little as possible, all to avoid my stomach sloshing around while I ran.  I forced myself to keep placing one foot in front of the other and refused to slow down.  Finally I made it to the end of the leg and melted into the seat.

We drove to the first/last checkpoint and waited for Maddie.  We were already over 6 hours but had changed the target to beating last years time of 6 hours and 20 minutes.  As we waited for Maddie we watched the minutes tick by leaving less and less time to complete to last 1km group run.  Each red shirt that came into view got us excited but the first three weren’t her.  Maddie made it to the checkpoint with only 2 minutes remaining to beat 6:20.  We couldn’t do it.  We casually jogged the last km to the finish line.

(Samantha Sitterson)

The finish line was behind the hotel and ended at a buffet and bar.  Starving and thirsty I got food and we all got some beer.  I know it’s about the worst thing to do after a race, but it tasted so good.  We hung out, had some food and drinks, and chatted.  There were tons of crazy costumes and team names in the race, a few of the more memorable ones are:  Wadi my doing here?, Wadi ya know, queens of love who were all covered in hearts and instead of using a baton passed along a tiara and a wand with a heart on it, a team in tutus, pirates, an entire kids rugby team, and a group of cavemen (I actually met and climbed with the cavelady the next weekend).  When the ceremonies were done and people were heading out we piled back into cars and headed back to Damian’s Boulders to camp.  After setting up camp and collecting wood I did a bit of bouldering until it was too dark and I returned to the fire.  Everyone hung out around the fire until it started to rain when people dashed for their tents.  Gordon, Javi, and I didn’t have tents set up (they didn’t want to, I didn’t have one) so we piled our stuff into a cave.  Unfortunately as the rain came down harder the cave began to leak through a crack.  I stuffed a crash pad into it and hoped that would be enough, but thankfully the rain eased up and we went to sleep.

(The Climber den, notice the crash pad shoved up into the crack)

2 Responses

  1. Hey, thanks for the post.Really looking forward to read more. Great.

    October 16, 2016 at 6:12 pm

  2. Thanks a lot for the blog article.Really looking forward to read more. Will read on…

    October 22, 2016 at 11:35 pm

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