By Sam Healey
We asked today’s winners of the Stage 1 for some inside tips on equipment and training – and you might be surprised at what matters most.
For two-time 4 Deserts champion Ryan Sandes of South Africa and the current leader in the Atacama Crossing 2010 it’s nutrition that seems to top his list. It’s Pronutro, a high protein meal for breakfast, and Hammer Perpetuem throughout the day to provide maximum energy along with a few gels and Endurolytes to replace lost salts. Dinner is a freeze dried meal for two and maybe some Billtong for a snack.
Ryan has no one piece of gear that he counts as his favorite, there are no little luxuries, everything he carries on his body at the Atacama Crossing he considers a necessity. He trains for three months leading up to an event, two months of quite intense training averaging 140 kilometers a week with a final month of tapering. And, when it comes to dealing with pain he just refuses to think negative thoughts, but rather looks for the positive in everything. This combination certainly seems to be working so far, Ryan was the first to cross today’s finish line, almost 30 minutes ahead of his nearest rival.
Now take a look at Jo Zakrzewski from the UK who has trained hard for the race, and knows everything about equipment - planning her gear very carefully. Her favourite item is her iPod, as listening to music helps her relax into the rhythm of running down all those miles. Unfortunately for her, that iPod and all the rest of her equipment disappeared when her baggage was lost en route to Santiago from Madrid. She’s had to borrow all the mandatory kit she has to have to register for the race: from her shoes and backpack to every single meal and snack. Jo is also a vegetarian and the only meals she could find contained meat so the hours before the start of the race have been rather more fraught than they should have been. But this hasn’t dented her performance. Keeping hold of that Marine Corps mantra of “Pain is just weakness leaving the body,” Jo ran in first in today’s women’s division, and eighth overall.
For both these two early leaders it seems that mental attitude is just as important as training, having the right equipment and getting the right nutrition.