Libyan Challenge – American Team Prelude and Start

As you all know by now, I’m very excited to be running the Marathon des Sables in a month and […]

By on February 24, 2009 | 2 comments

Libyan Challenge raceAs you all know by now, I’m very excited to be running the Marathon des Sables in a month and as part of the Dreamchasers USA team no less. Despite still having more than a month until I take my first stride in the race, I still find myself both nervous and uplifted with anticipation for the race multiple times each day. It’s hard for me to imagine how I’ll feel as the race buses leave Ouarzazate, while waiting impatiently in the bivouac on admin day, or preparing for the start on Day 1. That said, Rebecca Byerly of the first America to compete in the Libyan Challenge gives me… and you a sense of what I’ll be feeling with her field update regarding the team’s final pre-race hours and initial kilometers of the race. For more on the race, check out iRF’s previous post or National Geographic’s coverage of the American team. Keep reading for Rebecca’s update.

Rebecca Byerly Libyan ChallengeSunday, Feb 24th 2009 at 1:30 am

Ghat, Libya

On the road to the start of the race!

Cold, cold, night with very little sleep. I cannot imagine that we will not sleep again until Friday or late Thursday. Now on the bus going to the start of the race. I am sitting next to Mudar and his advice is to be patient. When I asked Isabella about not sleeping, she laughed and said, “Honey, I am a mother of five and a previous lawyer, I am use to not sleeping.” We will see how it works. Our goal is to make it to Camp 1 at 43 miles or so. Then we will plan from there. It’s 30 kilometers to the next first aid station so we have to carry a lot of water – about 2 liters each.

We learned at a meeting yesterday that we have to pay close attention to the road book, as every twist and turn and change in geography matters and if we are not careful could lead us off course. My personal goal is to remain positive and fully supportive of my team. We have worked so hard to get here. We need to enjoy this experience and take it all in. Next year, it would be great to have more Americans here.

Don’t forget to check the Libyan Challenge website for live updates. Incredibly, I am sending these dispatches via text on my cell phone (AT&T really is everywhere) which is probably going to cost a fortune.

Along the way we will pass some of the rock paintings today. We learned that there is a dispute that the rock paintings may not have been painted by the Tuaregs. We hope to learn more as we proceed.

We are passing what is called the “Cave of Evils.” It is 81 meters of rock and local people believe it is haunted. Get a strange feeling when the climb it. It looks like the Grand Canyon.

We are being driven to the start of the race in a 4×4. Our motto is “Yes we can.” Loaded up and heading out feeling like flying through the desert. I’m in the back of a pickup truck being driven by a Tuareg driver. There are runners from France and Italy with us and a French father and son team. The Father, Bob, says it is freezing cold in the desert and boasts surviving it – “ bon voyage!” Jean Narc, the race director, is riding with us and says we our presence is “miraculous.” He is real happy to have Americans finally come.

Everyone thinks JB and I we are nuts are carrying video equipment and cameras with us. Can’t believe relieve I have cell phone service in this craziest adventure.

We made it to the start point!!! Americans at the back of the pack and it’s getting hotter. Walking through a canyon and about to start the climb down. Now in shorts and a tee shirt. Passing nomadic houses made of clay and rock low to the ground. Probably housing for one of the few Tuaregs left living in the nomadic lifestyle. We are so far behind the other runners. All other runners look like pencils in the distance.

OK, Libyan Challenge – here we come!

Rebecca Byerly

Ghat, Libya (c) 2009

Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Editor-in-Chief of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.