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RacingThePlanet: Ecuador 2015 Blogs

It’s all gone downhill …
01-Aug-2015 04:27:17 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Actually, it all went downhill bloody quickly and in exhilarating fashion and, like Jimmy Anderson’s superb 6-47 against the Convicts, was completely unexpected.

Having, genuinely, come here just to get something other than a ‘DNF’, we have found ourselves able to make a real attempt at reasonable speed, if not actually being ‘competitors’ in the truest sense.

Finishing at all will be immensely satisfying, finishing in the top half would be amazing and we have a real chance to do that after a day characterised by one of Dom’s internal mental ‘deals’. Previously, we have had his ‘negotiations’ with his quads which involved them relenting on the anguish they were causing on the brutal climbs of Day Three, in exchange for a gentle amble down the descents.

Given that he then reneged on the latter part, it was no surprise when his shins came out in militant sympathy and began picketing vociferously on the frontline of his socks.

Into Day Five and the real challenge of this whole adventure, the ‘Long Day’ faced us, as we awoke in a cold, concrete shed, which formed the tiny town’s schoolroom, the locals kids staring through the windows, thanking us, silently, for the suspension of double-maths for first period.

Conchita, by the way, was leading the housepoint chart by a country mile, whereas Raphael (a little Budgie, obviously) had yet to trouble the scorers.

The cloud and wind whipping though the valley promised a miserable start and most commenced in rain jackets, though with a touch of optimism and plenty of English winter-training under my belt, I felt it unnecessary and decided to wing it, which proved fruitful, inasmuch as Dom and I caught a dozen people in the first few miles as they stripped off their outer layers. He and I have developed a ‘rolling-pitstop’ for adding or divesting clothing, involving one carrying the other’s bag on the run, which seems comfortingly efficient, though, in reality probably only saves seconds.

With 68km in front of us and both carrying injuries, including shin-splints, blisters and disintegrating toenails, we decided to be conservative and preserve ourselves to guarantee a finish, knowing that was committing us to about twelve hours on course and, therefore, a good three-to-four hours running in the dark.

At some point, Dom, having received an inspirational message from his son Ben (‘What would Dave Grohl do?’, in homage to his playing on despite a broken leg, during a recent concert), decided that we would ‘run the downhill’. Not usually a major commitment, but today that meant over 27km and a drop of 4000m to endure, whilst still making intermittent gains of a total 1400m, as we wound round seep after sweep of a landscape which resembled the mountains of Mordor. Beautifully imposing, peaks clad in virgin, emerald-green foliage, which became increasingly foreboding as dusk deepened  and darkness descended with a thump almost immediately, a characteristic of anywhere so close to the Equator.

We descended fast, in muddy, rocky rivulet-crossed mountain paths which, once the gradient finally relented, gave way to a boulder-strewn lorry track. The temperature rose and humidity rocketed and we were soon dripping in sweat as we pushed on for the last fifteen kilometres through darkened farm fields replete with more of the, now commonplace, belligerent dogs, which are far more scary when one can only see the ghostly reflection from their retinas in a headlamp’s sweep. Nonetheless, we could see the red flashing lights, which are mandatory kit in the dark, bobbing on the rucksacks of the competitors ahead and that was all the motivation we needed to redouble efforts and using that and the spur of iPods for the first time this week (Dom to Dave Groh and his fabulous Foo Fighters, me to Stone Roses’ nine-minute-thirty-two-second rendition of Fools’ Gold – ‘the pack on my back is aching… - on repeat), we reeled in at least nine in the last few kilometres.

Suddenly, as we had mentally budgeted for another two kilometres, we rounded a bend and the waving flags and banging drums and cheering, which herald every finisher’s arrival at camp, were upon us and the sense of achievement was truly emotional.

My attempt at giving Dom a big kiss and a hug were rebuffed, ‘at least wait til we’ve crossed the bloody finish line!’, at least til we had had our timing chips register.

In all we went from 77 to 52 on the day, but that pales into insignificance when I consider what we have achieved this week as individuals, as a team and for the charity which I am supporting. I have to admit that, in the words of Vinnie Jones, it’s been emotional.

I have the small matter of suspected cellulitis in my right shin, for which I’m now on antibiotics and have a biro pen line around the area to monitor its spread, or otherwise, before the 11km amble in to the actual finish tomorrow morning.

Whatever happens, wherever we place, Dom will have my undying gratitude for bringing this whole thing to reality. It’s been amazing and an experience I will never forget.

Thanks mate. Love you.


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Posted: 05-Aug-2015 08:00:42 AM

Epic effort Budgie and Dom! I am amazed you can endure that and still muster up the energy to put out a humorous and well written blog. Not sure I'd be breathing let alone able to type. Really well done!

David Grosse

Posted: 02-Aug-2015 12:45:35 PM

An excellent performance both on the course and as tent mates. For which many thanks. Thanks for keeping a corner of the tent forever England for me, as i spent each day at the social end of the field. That said, I reckon on the long day part 2 even my speed would have left you agape - i was going so fast downhill the Swiss were ringing cowbells. It was a pleasure all week.

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Posted: 01-Aug-2015 04:25:37 PM

Absolutely brilliant - knew you guys could do it what a huge huge achievement xx


Posted: 01-Aug-2015 04:10:34 PM

Many congratulations to you both gentlemen !!... A most impressive effort. Enjoy the celebrations - very much deserved !!

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Posted: 01-Aug-2015 10:52:08 AM

Very proud of you, well done mate. Just a quick stroll then tea and medals!

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Posted: 01-Aug-2015 09:11:04 AM

Brilliant, absolutely kin brilliant....,well done chaps, amazing effort!!! I'm sure when you cross the finishing line it will be an amazing feeling and throughly deserved after all the effort you have both put in.....no tongues when you cross the line though!!! Am sure Dom is small worried. Enjoy the beers at the end, remarkable effort xxx

Budgie Mackintosh

Posted: 01-Aug-2015 07:05:57 AM

Monumental effort and i can almost hear the dogs howling, as the realise you have slipped through their grasp. i am sure the guinea pigs are already quivering on the kitchen floor at the finish, as they realise that their time is near for the feast at the finish! Hope the final push goes smoothly! Look after the shin!

Rachel Penton

Posted: 01-Aug-2015 05:14:08 AM

So glad both of you are kinda still in one piece.. Hope the Cellulitis stays within the biro boundaries .. nearly therex

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Advisor on real estate acquisition, disposal and
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Got caught up in someone else's mid-life crisis!

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