Off for a stroll..
Atacama Crossing 2011 Competitor
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That's a wrap
13-Mar-2011 12:40:53 PM [(GMT) Greenwich Mean Time: Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London]

Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2011
Last night I had my first night in a comfy bed. My legs were throbbing after my body began it's recovery process, but it felt great to be back on a soft mattress. Yesterday I crossed the finish line that I had been dreaming of for the past week and in the evening I was humbled by winning the Spirit Award, for completing the race - a moment I will remember for the rest of my life.

It all still seems so fresh and I know it will take a few weeks to fully sink in. During my acceptance speech last night I had not managed to say exactly all I wanted to say, perhaps as I was a little overwhelmed by the occasion, but also as there was so many emotions coming all at once. It feels in some way that from the accident until crossing the finish line yesterday has all been one long journey and whilst the recovery process still continues, I can finally put the whole thing behind me.

It is a huge honour to be recognized for your 'spirit' amongst such an inspirational group of people. So many come to these races with incredible stories of achievements and personal battles. My own involvement was part inspired by an Italian last year fighting with MS who completed the Atacama. I followed his story whilst I was still in quite bad shape and it gave me some belief that I could come back and do the same. I forget where I heard the quote: it's only be challenging ourselves that we truly find out who we really are....but it rings true in these races. It seems that everyone learns something about themselves by going through the experience. For me three things are:

1)Follow your heart: if you have a goal, go for it, no matter what.
2)Never stop believing: no matter how hard it gets, dig deep. If it seems too hard, take time out, relax, reflect and then reconsider.
3)Always help each other: Everyone needs support. Surviving this race is about helping others when they are in need and asking for help when you need it. I would not have got through this without the help from my wonderful tent mates, fellow competitors, volunteers, medics and support staff.

The test now is to apply these learnings to the rest of my life!

Thank you to the RTP team, Mary, Alastair, Sam, Alina and Riitta, for consistently putting on incredible events that inspire and provide life long memories for all those involved. Thank you also to everyone for their support in raising and an incredible £6934 for Wings For Life and for all the messages of encouragement and support throughout the race. It has been my lifeline and kept me going.

Looking forward to coming home to the family. See you soon!

Comments (11)

The Long March
11-Mar-2011 06:52:26 AM [(GMT) Greenwich Mean Time: Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London]

Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2011
You may have already seen from the results, but I made it through the long day. Sorry for the delay in getting to this post – I’ve been trying to get back into a reasonable shape to write, which at long last I am!
The long day is always a big mental battle and I felt that I was in for a good shot when I managed to get through day 4. It was a tough stage with 14km of salt flats to kick things off, which did not help the feet situation. The rest of the day was just getting from checkpoint to checkpoint and trying to manage aches and pains. Thankfully, at checkpoint 3, I met a dog, nicknamed Pedro, that had come out with the front runners and was resting. He seemed to grow attached after I gave him a couple of strips of biltong and we walked the next 20km together to checkpoint 5. This I took as a good omen, as if he was put there to help me through.  I was very impressed with his ability to climb sand dunes as we had a huge dune in between checkpoint 3&4, which he jumped up with no hesitation.
When night came I shuffled along and made it to the sleep over checkpoint around 10.30pm, which was around the 55km mark. I was pretty exhausted and took the opportunity to rest and eat, waking at 3am to head the final 20km back to camp. It was a stumbling, slow and sometimes mind numbing experience, walking through the night, made worse by the fact that both my shuffle and back-up shuffle had run out of batteries. I had good company for the last stretch and even managed to come in smiling at camp at 9.30am ish this morning.
The sense of achievement hasn’t really settled in. I guess we still have a small stretch to do tomorrow to get to San Pedro and cross the finish line, but nothing will stop me from that even if I have to crawl my way in! I must have felt like quitting at least 5 times a day. I never thought I would get through and really think, accident aside, this is a far tougher 4 deserts event than the previous ones I have done. Still, support has never been far away and all your amazing messages throughout have kept me wanting to keep going. The RTP crew, volunteers, medical staff and all the competitors as usual have been amazing.
It goes without saying that after 70hrs on your feet in the desert you have time to reflect on everything. I have not stop thinking of all of you every step of the way. I have visulaised you telling me to keep going when I thought I couldn’t anymore – so thank you. I owe this race to you all.
Tomorrow is the finishing line and more importantly a slice of pizza! Can’t wait to come back home and not do anything so challenging for a while..
Comments (7)

Stage 4
09-Mar-2011 05:46:22 AM [(GMT) Greenwich Mean Time: Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London]

Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2011
Arrived at camp today after 7pm. It was just a matter of taking my time and getting to the checkpoints. I’m really happy I’ve made it this far. I’m totally exhausted, but hopefully after a good kip and some food I should be ready to finish this thing!
Thank you again for your messages. Wish you could see this place – it is amazing.
Love to all and next post will be the key one!
Comments (14)

Stage 2&3
08-Mar-2011 06:22:31 AM [(GMT) Greenwich Mean Time: Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London]

Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2011
Apologies for not getting my blog sent yesterday. As I came in late I missed the cybertent. Today is almost the same so I will try to be quick!
Stage 2 was an epic day. It seemed to go on forever and at times it was hard to stay positive.. The first two stages were stunning: going through slot canyons and up a steep climb to follow a track along a long ridge before tumbling down the biggest sand dune I have ever seen. I have been able to take lots of pics which was great.The final two stages seemed endless and my feet got extremely tired. It was the first time I seriously doubted my capacity to do this. Luckily I got some good people around me to keep me positive. Diego Carvajal lent me his ipod which had some motivational talking which did the world of good - amazingly enough it was a quote from Rocky 6 that got me the most fired up! Anyway, don't know how, but I stumbled in around 11.5hrs later. I felt really happy for having pushed through
Stage 3 started with my feet in a lot of pain and the negativity crept back in. I got my way to stage two which was mainly just long flat stretches of desert. I took some pain killers for my feet and rested. It made the world of difference and I managed to take the next two stages feeling more positive. I will have to keep massaging them for the rest of the race, but I think they will hold good. The day ended with an enormous sand dune to climb and we are now at a great camp over looking the desert. Tomorrow is day 4 and I reckon if I can crack that I'm in for a shot..
Thank you so much for your messsages. It's great to hear from you all. Dinah I love you, big kiss to the little boy.
Comments (18)

I've arrived in Camp 2! Where to begin....
06-Mar-2011 06:35:55 AM [(GMT) Greenwich Mean Time: Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London]

Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2011
We set off from San Pedro at around 3pm yesterday and arrived at camp 1 which was situated between stunning red rock formations. It was great to finally be there. Sadly, the night was horrible as I had under estimated the bitter cold and wind and spent the whole night trying to hide for warmth in my sleeping bag listening to tent mates snore. It was when I started focusing on starting to dream that I knew it was a hopless case. I must have got about 40mins of semi-sleep and the rest was just constant turning and shifting. I tried not to worry about the race. I knew the next day i would be a lot more tired so hopefully I could catch up on sleep!
The race got under way at 8am. Almost immediately i was at the back. My walking speed is not as fast as it used to be and certainly not as fast as a fresh group of ultramarathoner's. It was fine as I just focued on doing my own race. It definitely became clear that this was going to be a very different Racing the Planet experience than my previous two. Thankfully the first two stages passed by quite well and I had time to take some pics and enjoy the scenery. After check point two things started to get more difficult. I was about half way through when my lack of  miles through my legs started to show. Basically I just satrted to ache! Not surprising really after 5hrs walking in the desert. The sun became a lot stronger and I felt pretty exhausted by the time I reached checkpoint 3 - not helped by the 5km uphill track that seemed to go on forever. Thankfully today we only had a short 3.5km's to go to camp 2, so I managed to crawl in around 4.14pm - about 8hrs of walking.
Obviously, the body was sore, but I have since had food, gone down to a river to paddle and streteched and startring to feel ok again. Tomorrow will be slightly longer so taking it day by day..Thankfully, I will have eaten more of my pack so it should be lighter and hopefully my body will start to understand what's expected of it! I can report my back is holding up great and no issues there. Just a few blisters - but that's nothing new! My mood is good.
Thank you all for your messages - it really is great to read them. Lots of love to the home team - Dinah, Anthony, Fred. Hope you had a great weekend. Also, a big hello to the Wings For Life team. Going strong so far,
Comments (13)

I can see snow peaked mountains...
04-Mar-2011 01:06:58 AM [(GMT) Greenwich Mean Time: Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London]

Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2011
So, I arrived in San Pedro this morning around noon after spending the night in Calama. I found it hard to sleep as I was a little wired after the 30hrs or so travelling to get there, but I had a good rest in the end. Waking up today I felt for the first time the atacama sun which is definitely stronger than anything in London at this time of year! I also realised how pasty white I am, so I went straight to get the sun cream on. In the race I am almost completey covered so not too worried about that - I just dont want to be the burnt brit walking around town on his first day..

Arriving today I saw the beautiful peaks of the Andes that surround San Pedro. Amongst them is a beautiful snow capped volcanoe that makes an impressive sight. I expect these peaks will form our backdrop for at least some of the next few days. I can already feel Im going to love the atacama. 

The town is buzzing with competitors and the anticipation is starting to build. I think, I finally managed the 7th and final iteration of packing my bag. Deciding on whether to take the extra cliff bar or not was keeping me going for about 30mins, but I finally broke the deadlock and decided to take it - an extra 50g! Overall, I am quite happy with the weight which I reckon to be around 8-9kgs - will find out tomorrow at check-in..

For now, its just trying to kill time, eat pasta and rest. The hotel has a swimimg pool which is great. This desert running is really quite luxurious.

Most people say the altitude makes the atacama difficult - that, and the salt flats. I noticed the air thinning when i got to Calama which is around 1600m. San Pedro is 2400 and I have not felt it too badly yet. Camp 1 is 3000m and I know I will feel that. I am thinking its just about gettng through Day 1 and re-evaluating the situation. That seems like a very feasible goal to me.

Hope you are all doing well. Thanks for the comments. Lots of love to Dinah, Anthony, and all at home, xn
Comments (1)

Half way there...
03-Mar-2011 06:38:17 AM [(GMT) Greenwich Mean Time: Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London]

Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2011
Happy to report I have made it to Buenas Aires intact. I now just have a connecting flight to Santiago and then an internal flight up to Calama in the north of Chile - an hour away from San Pedro de Atacama. It´s all gone smooth so far and customs have not taken issue with any items in my bag. I´ve been warned Chile crack down on meat, so hoping my pepperoni fly under the radar... I decided to take everything as carry-on as I had a nightmare a few years ago with bags going missing etc Not to be repeated. It does mean getting the odd strange look from people wondering what I´m doing in the airport with bottle´s attached to my shoulder straps, but I´m fine with that....

Anyway, should arrive in Calama sometime late tonight. We had a brief stop over in Sao Paulo where it was raining, but here in Argentina the sun is shining and I´m already getting excited about the warm weather ahead.....

Oh, and I managed to see Social Netowrk and 127 hours on the plane over. First was entertaining, the second dragged - the audio book was better - I recommend skipping the first half and getting to the middle... Hopefully, I will not be requiring my multi-tool on this trip!
Comments (2)

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