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Atacama Desert Run update: A torn open blister and the contents of Ray Zahabs backpack

Posted: Feb 05, 2011 09:02 am EST

(By Correne Coetzer) Keep moving forward even if you have a blister, is advice coming from the extreme long distance runner Ray Zahab. The loose rocky and open salt terrain of the Atacama Desert though was not what the big foot blister needed to recover, as it was torn open. Despite the blister challenge, Ray ran more than a marathon per day and some days up to 70 km.

Ray explains the camp routine and what he packs in his backpack.

Here goes a summary of his video dispatches the past week:

Day 8: Ray took antibiotics for the infected blister on his foot. He said he felt physically fantastic and his legs felt strong, so much that he could run more than 70 km per day. He also got used to backpack, but the blister slowed him down.

In his video report during the days run he said, It is a beautiful day, dry, crazy dry.

Because of the blister he saw his support team every 25 km to be safe. His message for the days was, Keep moving forward even if you do have a blister.

Day 9: In an early morning update Ray said he was happy to run the day before given how sore the blister was. He ran across very white ground, as white as snow he said. During the day he also ran though a very small community with some dogs chasing him.

His support team showed footage of a meteor crater and an abandoned salt mine compound. The salt mines are now national monuments.

At the end of the day Ray said his foot was feeling okay. After a few short days he clocked in 70 km, running 12-13 km per hour.

Day 10: Tough morning, said Ray, really, really hot, got through it, recovered, did a video conference with the students which got him totally jacked up, came out full of energy, got his muscles loosened up, and ran across loose rocks and open salt. Suddenly he felt pain under his foot and could barely walk.

The rough terrain, which was only about three kilometers, Ray said, torn open his blister. His support team was nearby. He called them. The blister, which was actually heeling, was bleeding. They tried to patch it up with their limited medical supplies, but then called somebody to bring in more medical kit from Santiago.

Ray was disappointed because he wanted to run 70 km per day.

Day 11: Ray explained their camp life routine. In the evenings he first stretch then he rehydrate and refuel. He takes a recovery drink and also a multi vitamin. He eats what the rest of the team eats, Chilean food, which he likes, and also have freeze dried food.

Ray explained what he carries in his back pack; his down jacket, sleeping bag (350g), a light pillow case, a bivvy sack, his tracker, a knife, razor, head lamp and medical kit. His satellite phone is vital he says, like when he phoned his support team for the blister treatment or to find out when they will be at a water point. The treats he carries are a special motivation.

In the morning Ray stocks up with water and starts running.

Day 12: The support team gave a history lesson about the salt mines. The last one was working till 1940 and was also used as a jail, explained Javier.

Rays friend Chris came from Santiago to run with him through an area filled with hills and no plant life at all.

Distances: 48.7 km (first day after blister), 70 km, 45 km, 70 km, 61 km


Jan 23 2:54 pm to Feb 04 10:45 am:

Date (local): Feb 04 10:45 am
Distance: 696.28 km, (432.65 mi)
Trip duration: 12 days, 2 hr, 50 min
Position: 23.70642S, 069.77363W

Taking inspiration from the legendary ultra-running athletes called Chasquis, modern-day adventurer Ray Zahab will test himself on the trails of these highly trained athletes as he traverses the length of Chiles Atacama Desert. He will be carrying a 12kg (25lb) backpack with all his gear/clothing/stove/tent to survive, and food and water (8-10 liters) for one day. Water/food drops will be available when a community or water source is not in the route. He will have a GPS, topo map and compass and hopefully find the water.

The plan is to run between 80-90 km per day for as many days as it takes to cover the approx.1,250 km (1,000 km as the crow flies). His start point at the Northern tip of the Atacama Desert is at Lago Chungara.

Following the recently completed impossible2Possible Youth Expedition to the Amazon in October 2010, Ray Zahab will be visiting a contrasting area of the Earth. The Atacama Desert will provide a great point of contrast on the topic of biodiversity which he will share with thousands of school children. Ray will carry a Solara tracking device from start to finish, and will be updating a live website www.atacamaextreme.com and communicating with classrooms via video conferencing software, a Macbook and BGAN.

Ray Zahab was born in Ottawa, Canada on February 11, 1969. He grew up on a hobbyhorse farm in Carp, Ontario with his brother John, and his parents. Fast forward 39 years to today, and I now live with my incredible wife and soul mate Kathy and our daughter Mia Sahara in Chelsea, Quebec, says Ray. He is very passionate about the organizations he work with, and when not running he divides his time sitting on the board of directors.

Rays ultra-marathons:
- 2004 Yukon Arctic Ultra, 160 km
- 2004 Jungle Marathon, Amazon, 250 km
- 2004 Trans 333, Niger, 333 km
- 2004 & 2005, Marathon des Sables, Morocco, 250 km
- 2005 Sahara Race, Egypt, 250 km
- 2006 Gobi March, China, 250 km
- 2006 Libyan Challenge, 190 km
- 2007 Running the Sahara, 7500 km, 111 days, with Charlie Engle (USA) and Kevin Lin (Taiwan)
- 2007 three extreme coastal trails of Canada, back to back, 100, 210, 75 km
- 2008 Canada, in each province and territory, 80 km per day x 13 days
In the 2008-09 Antarctic season Canadians Richard Weber, Kevin Vallely and Ray Zahab set the fastest time for a team from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole (1130 km) in 33 days, 23 hours and 55 minutes.

March 14, 2010 Kevin Vallely and Ray Zahab completed their speed record expedition across Lake Baikal in a time of 13 days and 16 hours; running/walking the 640 km (as the crow flies) in an average distance of 50 km a day with special screw in spikes shoes. They started from the small village of Kultuk on the southern side of the lake and finished at northern tip at a community called Nizhneangarsk


Ray Zahab: It took longer, was longer, and was overall much more difficult than I had anticipated.
courtesy Atacama Extreme i2P 2011, SOURCE
Bob Cox and the abandoned salt mine living quarters.
courtesy Atacama Extreme i2P 2011, SOURCE
Salt Mines sign in the Atacama Desert.
courtesy Atacama Extreme i2P 2011, SOURCE
Blister care.
courtesy Atacama Extreme i2P 2011, SOURCE
Campsite and website office.
courtesy Atacama Extreme i2P 2011, SOURCE
Ray: I love sleeping outside
courtesy Atacama Extreme i2P 2011, SOURCE