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RacingThePlanet: Ecuador 2015 Blogs

Stage 4: Just Don’t Pass Out into Crater Lake
30-Jul-2015 03:30:00 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

From looking at the elevation chart, we were all ready for a pretty epic day 4.  Today had the most climbing, and we were going to hit the highest point on the course (13,500+ feet).

We started the day by running straight up along a river.  This was a pretty nice stretch, as we had crazy mountains on either side, and crossed a number of bridges (and by bridges, I mean logs).  After this stretch, we then turned and went straight up one of those epic mountains.  It was a pretty crazy climb to get out of the valley.

The next two sections of the course was more and more climbing towards Crater Lake.  I had actually jumped out in front at this point, as I was feeling pretty good early on.  I had one really scary moment, as five dogs surrounded me biting at me.  I still have no idea how they all missed, but that would have been game over if one of them made contact.  It took me a little bit to pull myself back together (as if my heart rate wasn’t out of control already).

I hit checkpoint 3 and thought it would be smooth running until camp.  I was very, very wrong. The crater was crazy steep, up and own.  This was the highest point on the course, and I was definitely feeling the altitude.  After making it around the crater, we started dropping down towards camp.  This stretch was really technical, and Paul went flying past me.  I made it into camp in second again today, about 3 minutes behind Paul.  I need to get the results fixed from yesterday (about 2-3 minutes were added to my time and they had me as finishing 3rdinstead of 2nd).  I think Ake and Paul are pretty close, about 15 minutes apart.  I should be back about 40 minutes from Ake, and 25+ minutes behind Paul.  It should make for an exciting day tomorrow!

Tonight’s camp is in a school, and I am blogging from the school’s Church. It will be a rough night for those of us without sleeping pads.  One more day and then we can relax a bit!  I’ve already started planning meals for when I return (a gallon of lobster bisque from Legal Seafoods, Chipotle burrito, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, steak+steak+steak- and this is all for Monday!)

Thanks again everyone for all of the emails and blog comments.  It definitely is great returning from a long day of running and getting to read them.

Stage 3: Single Track Around the Cliffs
29-Jul-2015 04:20:47 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Last night I spent a bit of time figuring out how my backpack actually worked.  I did some reworking and now have it sitting where it belongs.  I also wrapped my back with elastic bandage, and ran with dirty socks on my shoulders under the straps.  Mission successful!

This morning we woke up to cold rain and wind.  Luckily this only lasted for the first hour, before the sun came out for the awesome views. Today started off on a road again, before we hit some really nice single track trails.  These trails were literally carved right into the side of the mountain, where you had a wall on one side and a cliff over the other.  I started running with Paul and Ake for the first half of the race before falling back from the (and Mark) on one of he climbs.  I was very thankful to have Ake there, as he is apparently a cow whisperer who stopped a charging cow from pushing me off the single track.  That makes it sound way more dramatic than it was, but I was being chased by a baby cow.

We continued with epic climbs and really steep descents during the middle of the course.  I got into checkpoint 3 in 4th place a little bit behind the others.  I saw some of my favourite volunteers at the checkpoint, who really got me moving again.  I ended up having a strong final section, sneaking past Paul and Mark.  I ended up finishing 2nd about a minute or so behind Ake.  I think this moves me back into 3rd.  The altitude is still insane up here (I thought I was going to pass out at the finish line).  Hopefully this breathing thing keeps getting better over the next 2 days.

Our camp tonight is pretty incredible, as we are in a field surrounded by steep mountains.  There’s a river long the camp, which was awesome to clean up in a bit.  The rain has come back, but hopefully only for a short bit. 

I wanted to say thank you for all of the entertaining emails this week.  I’m looking forward to getting back and catching up with everyone back home.

It’s time to go eat.  We’ve got an epic day of climbing tomorrow, so it’s time for some calories.  Until then!

Stage 2: Climbing, climbing, climbing
28-Jul-2015 07:03:26 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Today was a pretty rough day.  I don’t think I’ve been this beat up after two days since my very first stage race. 

I actually had a pretty good sleep last night.  It was much warmer than the previous night, and it wasn’t all that windy.  My back was still really sore from my new pack, as it has very few pressure points that are carrying all of the weight.  If anyone reads this blog who is considering running an ultra, rule #1 is always test your gear.  I had to get this one in a hurry, and I’m paying for being so dumb (I will be returning to my other pack for the next race).  Kyle (3rd at Gobi) tried to warn me about the pack, but sadly it was too late to switch.

We started by going back through the small town we ran through the previous day.  The dogs were extra angry today, and Ake and I had some close calls with some of them.  Things were going fine until we hit checkpoint 1.  We had to pull out our blinking red lights because of fog at the top of the mountain, which I had packed at the very bottom of my bag.  So I had to empty everything out of my bag on the side of the trail, find the light, and then pack everything back up.

This is where we started the climb from under 10,000 feet to about 13,500 feet.  This stretch was brutal, and my pack was really starting to bother me.  There were stretches were I actually strapped the backpack to the front of me like people do with babies (yes, I got lots of looks).  Those were probably the lowest moments for me.

After checkpoint 3 (around 18 miles), we finally started heading back downhill.  I did get lost for a quick bit after checkpoint 3, but luckily Mark was only a few minutes behind and had gotten directions from the people at the checkpoint (they were watching me wander aimlessly at the top of the hill). Mark and I were actually about a few hundred meters apart the entire time back and forth, but we never actually went together as we never had ‘overlapping challenging moments.’  In other words, we were both struggling at different moments.

We then hit some very technical single track that ran down the mountain.  This was by far the best part of the day for me, as you had to be so focused on footing, you ended up distracted from the pain.  Some of the stretches were so steep, that I was actually moving slower downhill than when I had climbed the massive hill.

The day ended with another 1,000+ foot climb up to camp. I was so happy to be finished, as the day was so, so long (as in 5 hours 40+ minutes long). I ended up 4th today, a ways back from spots 1 and 2, which probably drops me to 5th overall. Camp is much colder than last night, as we are up at about 12,000 feet and not sheltered from the wind.  I’m trying to recover as much as possible, but these next few days will be a battle.  I will be doing some Frankenstein work on my pack to try to get it to sit higher on my back.  Hopefully that helps.

Emily Woodland (she isn’t  writing a blog) wanted me to mention that Vlad (the blind runner she was guiding) had to pull out today, but is doing well.  Vlad wanted her to keep going on, so she finished up the stage and will be starting up tomorrow despite her busted ankle.  Lucy RB (on the course team) told her it would be an epically scenic day, so we are counting on that tomorrow.

Time to try and get warm!

Stage 1: I Need More Red Blood Cells!
27-Jul-2015 06:50:46 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

We arrived at camp last night up on the top of a hill.  In the background was a massive, very active volcano.  Apparently it has been on high alert for the last two weeks, and you could see steam coming out of the top (or maybe those were just well placed clouds).

Dave and I had picked up numerous pizzas, so I had pizza for lunch, dinner and breakfast before racing.  The first night got pretty cold and windy, but still way warmer than the first few nights in Gobi.  We were up at about 11,000 feet, and the night reflected that.

This morning we started up pretty early (7:30 am).  We had about a 30 mile day, climbing to about 13,000+ feet above sea level, before dropping to 9,500 feet (camp 2).

As we started off, I was immediately sucking wind.  My heart was racing, and I just couldn’t get enough air.  We continued up towards the crazy volcano, before turning back towards he villages down below.  The first part was really cool scenario, out in the middle of nowhere.

We got to checkpoint 1 (about 9 miles into the day) and couldn’t believe how hard things were.  I don’t remember my bag ever feeling that heavy, and my legs felt like I was trying to run through water.  This feels like the same story each race, but the first part of these things are always a shock to the system.  I arrived at checkpoint 1 in 4th place I believe. 

The next few sections were mostly downhill, in and out of a bunch of villages.  Eventually we did arrive to some more densely populated towns, with the roads that come with it. I believe from this point I stuck in 3rd place for the rest of the day.  On most of these stretches there were dogs all over the place, and most seemed very angry that we were there.  I was bit by a dog back in March, so I’m still a bit uncomfortable around dogs running straight at me barking (especially the stray ones).  Yes, most of the dogs I saw were the size of a toaster, but I still went into panic mode. 

The hardest stretch by far was the last 8 miles of the day.  It was really tough covering that much distance with completely full bags (probably at about 20 pounds today).  The heat also really picked up as we got later in the day. 

Ake (a friend of mine from RTP Iceland) finished up the day in first, with Mark not far behind.  I was about 17 minutes back from Ake, and 9 back from Mark.  Considering I finished Gobi day 1 in 5th, 22+ minutes behind the first three guys, I consider today overall pretty positive. Campsite 2 is in the grounds of a Church.  There’s a big wall surrounding the land of the Church, so it helps keep the wind down at our tents.

I am going to go eat some of my Mac + Cheese while it’s still light out (sun sets at 6:30pm).  Tomorrow is shorter (a marathon) but I believe there is much more climbing. Hopefully my body is a bit more comfortable in the high elevation tomorrow!

Until then!

Racing the Planet
27-Jul-2015 06:49:17 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Pre Race Blog:

I wanted to start up my blog before the race, but as usual I'm scrambling to get all sorts of things done before we head off to camp 1.  The most important task of course is to pick up pizza for tonight (priorities).

The last few days have been spent in Quito getting acclimatized, and tying up loose ends for work.  The altitude hasn't been too bad so far (at about 9,000 feet currently).  We will get up to 13,000 feet by the end of this race.

The race starts tomorrow with a nice 48K day (30 miles-ish), so we will have a good test right out of the gate.  I'll be blogging everyday, and they'll pop up with this link throughout the week.  The next time I check in I will (hopefully) have 48K under my belt (and a bit more time to write).  

Off to get some pizza...



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