Lieutenant Colonel John Bezou (Ret.) recently returned from Atacama, Chile, where he completed the Atacama Crossing ultramarathon. This race marked the third ultramarathon (155-mile race over seven days) on the third different continent that Bezou has completed this calendar year.
When Bezou started his quest back in April 2022 with an ultramarathon in Namibia on the continent of Africa, he was attempting to complete the 4 Deserts Grand Slam Plus which was five ultramarathons on five different continents in a calendar year. He completed Namibia in April followed by an ultramarathon in the Republic of Georgia in June. Next, he traveled to Lapland, Finland, where he started an ultramarathon but had to pull out due to injury in the second stage of the seven day race. Bezou suffered a dislocation of the proximal tibio-fibular joint which also caused a slight tear in his meniscus.
Bexou commented, “When an athlete begins a quest, they start with the mindset that nothing will keep them from obtaining that goal. However, through the gauntlet that an athlete endures in striving for an ultimate goal sometimes obstacles arise that force one to take a different path to success. While I did suffer an injury, it has not stopped me from finding a goal within my ultimate goal. I was striving to become just the third American to achieve the 4 Deserts Grand Slam Plus which is the five ultramarathons. However, I still have the opportunity to claim the 4 Deserts Grand Slam which is completing four ultramarathons on four different continents. That is where my focus is now.”
Bezou rehabbed his injury through different therapies including platelet enrichment therapy. In fact, his therapy went so well that he was able to compete in and complete the one desert he wanted to tackle since he began the quest which was the Atacama Crossing in Chile.
Bezou continued, “My therapy went well enough that I was able to complete the one race that I was looking the most forward to competing in which was Atacama. I still have the tear in my meniscus which doctors say may heal on its own or I may have to get remediation on it at a later date. But, for now, I am still competing and I have the race in Antarctica left to complete the 4 Deserts Grand Slam in late November.”
Bezou added, “Atacama was the harshest environment to compete in that I have endured. The course was expansive and the depth of the desert landscape deceived your eyes on a daily basis. The climate differential was dramatic with nights being in the 20s sometimes and then the daily temperatures escalating to 100 degrees. It was the ultimate test that I thought it would be and more with the descents and climbs through dunes and treacherous surface area. Due to the injury and not wanting to reinjure it, I had to take this race a little slower than I would have liked; however, the decrease in pace allowed me to appreciate the landscape and the toll it takes on you more than in other races I have competed in.”
Bezou’s injury in Lapland was a result of contributing factors including the treacherous landscape. The injury made itself known during the second stage of the race and it was complicated by factors outside the race. Bezou’s wife, Karen, was supposed to accompany him to Lapland and the trip to the location was to be a vacation of sorts for the two of them. But, their dog took ill and was diagnosed with diabetes and had to begin medicinal therapy. They could not leave the dog with someone to begin this life altering treatment, so Karen stayed behind. That complicated matters from a psychological standpoint because she would be at the end of the stages to cheer Bezou on. The trip took its toll on Bezou as well because he attempted to see and do too much before the race which left him exhausted. Bezou stated, “I was exhausted with the travel, what was happening at home, and the change in the whole mindset. To be truthful, the injury was really a blessing because it forced me to take care of my body. Looking back, I am thankful. I know that sounds odd, but it is true.”
Looking forward to the final race in the feat that Bezou is still chasing, it will take place in the last frontier and on the last continent - Antarctica. The race will take place from November 25 through December 1. Bezou stated that this will be the harshest and most unforgiving environment that he will ever compete in. The winds can gust to 50-60 miles per hour, at this time of year it is daylight 24 hours, the cold is bone-chilling, and you do not know if it will rain or snow from one day to the next. Unpredictable is the most sensible word to describe the climate. All of this makes the competition time all the more unknown as the racers may be on timetables that range from 4 hours to 12 hours to complete enough mileage in a period to be able to achieve the 155 miles needed for completion in seven days.
The competitors will stay on a ship when not running as the environment is not conducive to sleeping in tents on the frozen island. They will be transported to the island to compete by Zodiac boats. The pace of this race will be frenetic, at best.
Bezou ended, “We leave for Antarctica on November 19. Karen will be accompanying me to this final race. We will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary with this trip. I am looking forward to completing this journey. While I will not be the third American to complete the Grand Slam Plus, I will be one of 10 Americans to complete the Grand Slam. This is not a failure because one must fail to find success. Despite the injury, I found a way to complete a goal and have success doing it.”
The 4 Deserts Grand Slam began in 2008 with Racing the Planet. To date, there have only been 78 Grand Slam finishers. Of that number, eight of the finishers are Grand Slam Plus finishers. In the same 78 numbers, only nine finishers are American.
If anyone wants to send Bezou best wishes during his competition, you can go to this link and search his name to send him an email. The link is https://www.racingtheplanet.com/thelastdesert/results.
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