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RacingThePlanet: Ecuador 2015 Blogs

Crater Capers
30-Jul-2015 04:47:37 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

The horror we feared, of 3300 metres of cumulative altitude gains, was dispelled at a drizzly, cloud-shrouded race briefing, as we all stood, steaming in our soiled, sweaty gear. Porridge, noodles and tea steamed in tandem, with an altogether more appealing aroma!

It appears that someone couldn’t work their calculator correctly and we ONLY faced 1950 metres of vertical!

Given what we’ve already seen and experienced, we would have lost half the field to exhaustion and failed cut-off times, had the original estimate been correct.

As the rain abated we made our way out along a winding, urgent river, necessitating a waded crossing. Dom and I decided that removal of socks and Hokas was preferable to running the next 36km in sopping footwear and accepted the loss of a few places for the luxury.

Immediately thereafter we hit a 400m climb out of the valley to the hills on the other side and then on to the volcano.

I am lost for a suitably hyperbolic adjective to describe the unbelievable scale and beauty of the scene from the rim of the crater. Only Dom’s photos will, hopefully, do it justice, but the chameleon colour changes on the surface of the lake defy description.

The running, scrambling, slogging was tough, but we hunted down more racers down the back stretch and when we hit a five-kilometre downhill, complete with scree, sand and fine volcanic pumice-dust, I was in my element. Both Dom and I are suffering shin-splints or tendonitis, however the frisson of the added danger of running downhill with a pack in loose terrain seems to take away the pain, so I took the shot, with Dom’s blessing.

I overhauled five people and only fell once, resulting in a minor scrape on one hip, which was worth the risk.

We came in in 37th and 42nd places and are happy with or performance so far. Only the ‘long day’ of 65km tomorrow poses any real risks, but apart from shins and my rapidly evaporating toenails, we are in good shape.

Couldn’t wish for a better team-mate and we are still on very good speaking (well, me talking and Dom listening, mostly, if you can believe it!) terms.

Lots of others dropping out, so we feel like we’ve done well to get even this far, in this fashion.

Signing off from the little local church which is serving as cyber-tent and medical centre and back to the one-room school which is to become our dormitory for the night, much to the amusement of the local kids!

Love from lava-land…

Peter Pan & Wendy xxx

Stage 3
29-Jul-2015 04:53:35 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

I'm the one with the short, fat, hairy legs...

So, much to our conjoined surprise, we romped home again in a superb time of approximately 7 hours 5minutes.

This left us in positions 39 and 40. Dom let me come in first, as he deemed me ‘King of the Hills’ and awarded me the theoretical polka-dot jersey, as I have discovered I’m not too bad at running downhill. I can only surmise that, having only about three feet to fall, if I do go over, it has removed the fear and the incredibly low centre of gravity has done the rest.

At the top of one particularly gruelling climb of about five hundred metres, at what felt like 45 degrees, both in angle and temperature, it was very gratifying to find a team of five Swiss competitors flat on their backs, recovering – so much for Zee Alps, eh? We gave it the ‘stiff upper lip’ and marched past, disguising the fact that I wanted to cry and Dom wanted to strangle me!

Ever since he signed us up for this, he has protested loudly and regularly that ‘we are NOT running this thing, OK, Budge?!’

Well, so far, we’ve run about 50% of it and he’s STILL bloody saying it every morning! J

The scenery as we descended and remounted the incredibly verdant gorges, repeatedly, is spectacular and Dom will have some phenomenal shots and video, I think.

Finishing as quickly as we did allowed us to stroll down to the river, next to which we are camped and stand in it as if it was an ice-bath. Very soothing on the four blood-filled, soon-to-be-lost toenails I have (whilst Ginger bloody Rogers still has a fully-functioning

complement!) developed. Oh well, pain is, apparently, only ‘weakness leaving the body’! I must have a lot of weakness, is all I can say.

Weather is changeable as we climb into and descend out of cloud into and back, requiring quick changes clothing and application of suncream, which adds to the fun, but so far we have avoided the heavy rain predicted, with only a few squally showers to contend with. Hoping that continues,

Signing of to grab a dehydrated dream of a meal and an early return to the Anglo-Italian coalition that is Tent 3, La Bomba, which resembles a Crimean War ward, given the mount of blood, dead skin, dirty plasters, alcohol wipes and needles in evidence.

Perhaps I’ll give the curry a miss..

Thanks for all the emails and blog replies – really helps lift the spirits and keep us going – please keep it up!

Love you all,

Morecambe & Wise xxx

Stage 2
28-Jul-2015 06:47:16 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

This morning, aching and with three large blisters taped on my right foot (pretty-boy Dom is still pristine, of course) off we sloped, in every sense of the word, as it later transpired. The opening challenge was a relatively flat 13.5k, but there was an absolute shocker to follow – effectively 1000m of ascent in 10km from 2600m altitude to 3600m – suffice to say, even I had trouble talking my way through that one! The scenery is truly stunning, but we’re slogging so hard at times that we are struggling to stop and appreciate, though Dom’s doing his best Annie Liebowitz where possible.
We know there have been a number of retirements today, due to the arduous nature of the stage’s terrain and a couple had succumbed to altitude sickness. Dom and I are alternately pushing and dragging each other round the course.
One stage was a cross between Mount Butler in reverse (for the HK crew) and a sandy version of skiing a couloir in Courcheval and we were overhauled by an Italian dude sporting a grey Salvador Dali beard and a race-kit put together by Donatella Versace.
I, of course, wasn’t having that and, despite being exhausted, set off in hot pursuit, with Dom warbling ‘Stalking Italians’ as I went.
We caught him and several others on the morale-sapping last climb into which lasted five kilometres with an elevation of about 300m, nearly causing me to vomit with the exertion. Dom got me through it, with the help of an amusing South African called Lloyd and promises of chocolate – duly delivered!
Now about to eat dehydrated, radioactive chicken tikka and sleep in moistened sleeping bag, before an ‘easier’ stage three tomorrow. We’ll see; especially as my big toenail has fully parted company with its bed..
Please keep the blogs and emails coming as they’re great for morale after a long, painful day on the trail.

Posh and Becks.. xxx

So good we added 600m…
27-Jul-2015 06:15:47 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Dom and I had a great first day – naturally setting ourselves up for abject failure from this point forward…

At checkpoint one (13.5km in) we were surprised to find ourselves in 54h and 55th place, of the 137 competitors.

This, despite a night that wouldn’t have been out place in a Mister Bean movie. My brand-new, never-been-out-of-the-wrapper Therm-o-rest superleggera mattress came with gratis invisible puncture, so infinitesimally small, that it cannot be located and, therefore fixed. This resulted in my having to manually and loudly inflate it every two hours, much to the amusement of Dom and the annoyance of the other four tent inhabitants. The temperature dropped to about 5 degrees and my state-of-the-art, hand-made sleeping bag (a gift from the lovely Molly) kept me just warm enough, despite being made from little more than fresh air, it’s that light.

One of the Italian trio, probably disturbed by my inflation activity, took the opportunity to go to the loo, in the inky darkness and, upon his return, lightened and relieved, misjudged his step into the tent, caught his Gucci flip-flop in the threshold and managed to launch himself bodily across and on top of Dom. My immediate reaction was to exclaim ‘taa-daa!’, which cracked Dom up and he christened the unfortunate citizen of Rome, ‘The Flying Manzini’, much to our joint, puerile amusement.

As per any tent-based evening with members of the same sex, there was much coughing, restless attempts to get comfortable followed by discreet expulsions of air, which grew louder as the deliverers became emboldened by lack of protest from the audience.

In the end, I got about 45 minutes sleep and woke feeling shattered and the least prepared I could have wished for, ahead of today’s 48km stage. Breakfast was held in the low cloud shrouding Cotopaxi and its sister volcanoes. The gun went at 7:30 and off we went. 400 metres of early elevation strung us out and nervous pees further divided the serious runners from the tourists like us.

We hit checkpoint one in just over two hours, hydrating, snacking and salt-tabletting as we went. By checkpoint two we had caught some more of our fellow idiots, sorry, adventurers and were feeling good. The profile of the course had turned into a gently descending gravel, tarmac, grass track, punctuated with a few stream crossings, the obligatory belligerent farm dogs and, at one point, a run along a disused rail line.

At the final checkpoint, three, with 13.5k to go, we were flying and already planning our tickertape victory parade, when, failing to observe the course markers, we took a wrong turn and went 300-400m down the road, only to look back and see all the people we’d smoked, happily turning off and overtaking us. Feeling like a pair of clowns, we sheepishly did an about-face and chased them down, as I got a bit of a red-mist about the mistake.

Dom, reasonably, pointed out that there are still 215km to go and five days in which to sort it out, so we settled for a sensibly last five kilometres and a respectable 41st and 42nd place finish in the beautiful sunshine and into the grounds of an old monastery which wll serve as our campground tonight.

Now time to deal with the blisters, the dirt and the aches before food and, hopefully, a better nght’s sleep.

Watch this space, tomorrow promises to be far more brutal.


Fred and Ginger xx


Quito to Cotopaxi
26-Jul-2015 03:58:31 AM [(GMT) Greenwich Mean Time: Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London]

Frantic last-minute repack, followed by a briefing on the excitement to come, segued into a kit-check during which it became very quickly apparent who could read and assimilate instructions. Fortunately, Dom & I had not only everything required, but, due to being OCD-squared about kit, several spare items. We made a couple of new friends by distributing whistles and lights!

For what seemed an eternity we then sat little over-excited schoolkids on a sweltering bus with no air-con awaiting departure. Two hours later we arrived a camp 1 which came complete with Inca guitar combo, fluttering flags, long-drop loos and a breathtaking view of Cotopaxi; 6000 metres of snow-capped volcanic majesty.

Our tent is snug, filled 50/50 with three Englishmen and three of Italy’s finest. These guys are multi-event veterans, evidenced by the fact they were quicker in to nab pole position of the best spots, quicker than one of Enzo Ferrari’s legendary creations! Dom, therefore, has ended up with the dog spot right by the door. Hope I don’t tread on him on trips to the loo.

He, however, has had the last laugh, finding it highly musing that, as I attempted to pin my race-number to my bag, I managed to pierce my spare water-bladder inside the bag, about eight times, thereby turning in to an impromptu one-litre shower. Cos-bloody-mic, Rodney!

The sun is setting, chill air is permeating the camp, dehydrated foods have been consumed and Cotopaxi has been shrouded in a pink-hued blanket, as the sun sets over her. Bring on the night…

Night chaps, from Bernie & Elton xx

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