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RacingThePlanet: Ecuador 2015 Blogs

Damage to my key toes...
08-Aug-2015 04:31:06 AM [(GMT) Greenwich Mean Time: Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London]

Damage to my key toes... ...... (see what I did there?) There have been plenty of 'there's no 'quit' in Quito' quips, so I thought I'd look for something else to call mine. I think theirs are better. But, never mind. Here's the last installment of my bloggy-wogg, to paraphrase that insufferable arse Brand - but let's not get started on him, shall we - although thinking about him gives me very visual and olfactory flashbacks to the worst of the long-drop lavatories and their contents. I have to say, I thought Wednesday's offerings appeared to be the most explosive and least viscous and I wonder if any of the doctors or med students have ever considered doing a study on the effects of high-intensity, long-term exercise, overlaid upon a diet of freeze-dried nuclear nibs, which have been marinated in what appears to be a cocktail of four-fifths of the Periodic Table and then served up in an orange aluminium bag? I would imagine it'd make engrossing reading. Or, it'd be total sh*t. However, as is my won't, I digress, so I shall return to the matter which was at hand (and foot) after Wednesday's extended efforts which were characterised by Dom's determination to take dictatorial control of his rebellious lower limbs and hammer them into submission over the last half of the 60 kilometre 'long day' downhill.

Though we were in camp two hours after dark, at eight-thirty and ten-and-a-half hours after we started out, some of our fellow endurers didn't arrive until the early hours of the morning. Poor sods. Fortunately, Friday was the designated rest day, giving some, including me, the chance to recuperate and dress wounds, manage injuries and the like. The hiatus allowed for plenty of reassessment of food requirements for the next twenty-four hours and the discarding of excess equipment in advance of the eleven-kilometre 'sprint' finish in prospect. A mixture of relief at getting a break from the intensity of effort and impatience to get the pain over with was palpable in camp with many hobbling and crabbing across it in a comedic rehash of Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' video. Some of us meandered down to the nearby river which was a trek in itself, but so worthwhile, to lie in fast-flowing, cool, refreshing water, especially as none iof the rumoured leeches made an appearance.

Having eaten what was needed, distributed or discarded the balance, napped, nattered and networked, most opted for an early night to stem the boredom of a long day of nothing to do and to prepare for the mad dash to the finish. Dom and I decided that, by looking at the cumulative times on course of the closest competitors around us, we could do little to improve out positions and would have to lag numbers 9 & 55 by about 30 minutes to lose places in the overall standings. Therefore, we decided on a strategy of seeking them out before the start and tracking them to ensure that they didn't get away and spoil out party. We quickly outpaced the lady in 55, but number 9 was on a tear so we kept him in sight for a few miles and then let him go so we could enjoy the scenery.

The course was a beautiful mixture of rugged track through bamboo and banana palms, single grass tracks, bamboo bridges over sparkling rock-strewn rivers and, knowing it was such a relatively short run made it a real pleasure. As we crossed a bouncy, steel suspension bridge into the last tiny town we were elated to have completed the hardest physical challenge either of us have ever endured. Crossing the finish line to the cheers and whistles of our fellow runners was emotional and, once medals had been garnered, beers and bananas devoured, it was our turn to return the favour to those following behind. To finish the event at all was excellent. To finish in the forties and in the top third was unbelievable and I am very proud of our achievement. Huge thanks to the organisers, our tent mates David Grosse for his great humour and attitude, the mad South Africans and many other of the runners and most of all Dom for the whole thing. It's been joy and pain, as someone once sang and so, so worth it. Thanks for reading. Budgie 

Is this thing on?
05-Aug-2015 03:50:48 AM [(GMT) Greenwich Mean Time: Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London]

can you hear me at the back??
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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RacingThePlanet: Ecuador 2015 competitor


London, United Kingdom

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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