Hello, my name is Jax Mariash Koudele, I’m a professional ultra runner, entrepreneur and VOKE TAB team member. I wanted to share a story from my ultra running mission in 2016, chasing to become the first female endurance runner to complete the global series of desert ultra marathons put on by the 4 Deserts Race Series. In the 14 years of the 4 Deserts race series, an annual event of ultra marathons held across the globe in desolate and challenging terrain, there have only been three men to complete the Grand Slam Plus.
The Grand Slam Plus is a series of five 250k (155 mile), multi-day foot races across the roughest terrain in the world. It includes the 4 Deserts Grand Slam plus the Roving Race – in the same calendar year. Representing U.S. and Canada and raising awareness and funds for the LymeLight Foundation, I will attempt to not only become the first female ever to complete this grueling challenge, but also land a spot on the podium at all five races. I hope that my efforts will help make a difference in the lives of those children suffering from Lyme, helping them more quickly get back outside.
In 2016, the Grand Slam Plus races began almost two weeks ago in a roving race in Sri Lanka from Feb 14-20th. This is followed by the 4 Deserts races on the hottest (Namibia), windiest (Gobi March), driest (Atacama Crossing) and coldest (Antarctica) deserts in the world.
Each race consists of seven days out in the desert moving camp to camp each day. The race format starts with four stages (days) in a row with 22-28 miles per day. On day five, racers run approximately 50 miles (known as the Long March) followed by a rest day. On the 7th day, athletes complete the 250k (155 mile) journey with a 10k jaunt to the finish line. Due to safety in Sri Lanka, it was split into 7 stages with the following approximate distances, 24mi, 25mi, 27.5mi, 29mi, 19mi, 32mi, 1mi (157.5 total).
In addition to the terrain being so challenging, the race is also made more arduous by the requirement that athletes be self-sufficient, carrying everything they need to survive on their backs. The only support from staff is hot and cold water, medical treatment, and a tent space to share with nine other competitors. The race format is so grueling and the terrain so undulating that it is not uncommon for racers to walk away from an event an almost super human runner’s high. I hope that through my achievement completing each race, others will find inspiration in my passion for the outdoors and will get outdoors themselves.
Sri Lanka was nothing short of epic, extreme, undulating, rough and challenging. Yet through it all, I ended up scoring a podium spot as 2nd female and was 9th overall with the gents. The course set off through virgin forest and jungle terrain, and through the week, made way through tea fields, local villages, lush hillsides and along an active train line. Native wildlife, including elephants, monkeys, and even sloth bears were abundant and even caused some changes to the course. Not only was the terrain extremely rough, we also encountered intermittent weather patterns. The week started off hot and humid before turning into rain showers and then downpours that left us in leaking tents and wearing soaked clothes as we started stage 5. Ending at Yala Beach was definitely the icing on the cake.
Personally, the race started with a slew of adversity that left me in stage one on day one pushing through a fall hitting my knee, equipment failure and a turn in health with vomiting and diarrhea. Hoping that zero of those struggles ever come in these races, it was a trifecta of challenge right from the start. In a multi day adventure, you have to have the mental grit and strength to end the stage and push the reset button for a new day on day 2. Luckily, I successfully pushed through to a stage win. Day 3 brought forth more challenges with two sections deep in jungle terrain with extremely technical footing. Unfortunately, while letting some gentleman pass, the earth fell under my feet and cause a sprain in my ankle. Once again, it becomes an immediate project of how to push through. With a compression bandage on for the next three stages, I maintained 2nd position among the ladies each day. On stage 6, I finished with another stage win which solidified the power of the mind for me.
Out there, you are responsible for all of your own caloric intake with a required minimum of 2k calories a day (14k calories total). In my normal day-to-day life, I tend to start the day with a giant cup of coffee. VOKE TAB is usually my 2pm pick up as I live a life of entrepreneurship and being a professional athlete. Out there on the course, it becomes a staple for me twice a day to get through. The pick-me-up it offers around 3 hours into the race is amazing… A natural and blissful boost to click into 2nd gear. The heat and humidity that often ranged from 80-95degrees and 80-99% respectively, left me extremely nauseous almost every day. Often if I had an additional VOKE TAB when I was feeling this way, it helped a bit as well.
Quite frankly, on many levels, for this race as adversity approached, VOKE TAB was there to help pick everything up. Mood, energy, and stamina.
The next race is just 8.5 weeks away from now. I am taking a week to rest my body which feels really great, yet I already miss running! Then it is back to a mix of running and skimo training for a few weeks to compete in the Grand Traverse and then a final move to all running to follow.
For training I will develop a program of 2x double long runs per week of 20 miles followed by 15 miles. (first day on both double long runs accompanied with a 17 pound pack), and 2 speed workouts, plus 2 small afternoon 2nd runs and one day completely off. This will total around 92 miles a week to prepare for Sahara. I will want to develop a system where weekly my body becomes comfortable with that program so that the race week is just a small bump up in mileage followed by a week off to recover. I cannot even begin to tell you how useful VOKE TAB will be in that entire regimen. A daily component for sure.
Cheers and get VOKED!