Vandenberg Airman conquers Sahara

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Steve Bauer
  • 30th Space Wing Public Affairs
A 533rd Training Squadron instructor here completed the 2010 Sahara Race in Egypt Oct. 9.

Capt. Carrie Zederkof, a 533rd TRS space-based infrared system mission instructor, competed against more than 150 competitors from 36 countries in a race TIME Magazine named as one of the top 10 endurance competitions in the world.

Entering the race was the idea of Captain Zederkof's brother, Matt Lowe, who found out about the competition online.

"He mentioned that he wanted to do it last year, three weeks before the start of the competition," Captain Zederkof said. "My dad (Ted Lowe) and I tried to talk him out of it because it was a little insane to do something like that without training for it, but we told him that we might do it with him if he waited a year -- and the idea just went on from there."

A year later, on Oct. 3, Captain Zederkof found herself hauling a 20-pound backpack filled with just enough gear, food and clothing to last seven days through a six-stage, 155-mile footrace over sand and sand dunes in the world's hottest desert. The only assistance provided was water and tents, which she didn't have to tote.

"The hardest part for me was the heat," Captain Zederkof said. "I had trained, but hadn't been able to train in heat because it is not very warm here. It got up to about 118 F nearly every day there. That was the hardest part."

To overcome the heat of the desert, water and electrolytes were continuously consumed for the duration of the footrace, Captain Zederkof said.

"It is hard to run on that much water," Captain Zederkof said. "I definitely drank more water than I would normally drink on a run, and I ending up crashing, or 'bonked' as they say, towards the end of the first day. I had to walk the last three kilometers very slowly because my body couldn't handle it anymore."

At the close of day one, an exhausted Captain Zederkof said she began to doubt herself. Countering thoughts about her ability to finish the race crept into her fatigued mind. However, these thoughts didn't last long.

"It is all about the people who help you get through the race," Captain Zederkof said. "That is what's neat about this. Although it is a competitive race, people are not out to get each other. We all want to finish, we all want to do well and we all are in pain. It doesn't matter how good of shape you're in, everyone hurts, but the people were really supportive."

Veterans of the race even mentored Captain Zederkof, showing her how to balance electrolytes with water and passed along helpful tips like snacking often to make it through the day.

"I told a couple people about this race, and I didn't want to disappoint them," she said. "I don't like quitting."

Likewise, there was no quit in Captain Zederkof as she pushed through the remainder of the race, ambitiously crossing the Valley of Whales, where 40-million-year-old whale fossils protrude in what was once an ancient shallow sea, and then on to the finish line at the Great Pyramids of Giza.

Not only did Captain Zederkof complete the seven-day race, she placed high among the competition. Out of 156 competitors, 75 percent of which were male, only 107 people finished the race Captain Zederkof was the seventh female and the 39th person overall to cross the finish line.

Waiting for her at the finish line was Captain Zederkof's father and brother who shared in the celebration of the accomplishment of her two goals: to finish the race and to finish the race without injury.

"It felt awesome that I had finished, and I was relieved that I made it," Captain Zederkof said.

Now, after conquering the Sahara Race, Captain Zederkof is contemplating the idea of competing in another part of a series of endurance events called 4 Deserts that includes The Last Desert, Antarctica; Gobi March, China; and Atacama Crossing, Chile.