|Gobi March||China||2 Jun 2013|
|RacingThePlanet: Iceland||Iceland||4 Aug 2013|
|Sahara Race||Egypt||16 Feb 2014|
|Gobi March||China||1 June 2014|
|RacingThePlanet: Madagascar||Madagascar||31 Aug 2014|
|Atacama Crossing||Chile||5 Oct 2014|
|The Last Desert||Antarctica||16 Nov 2014|
|Sahara Race||Egypt||15 Feb 2015|
|Gobi March||China||31 May 2015|
|Atacama Crossing||Chile||4 Oct 2015|
Day five, The Long March, began with an earlier than normal rise and a two hour bus trip to the start line. Sure enough, this took the stuffing out of most; none more so, it seemed, than Tim who was still far below his best carrying a knee injury which would prevent him from running a single step throughout the course.
The 10am (rather than 8am) start meant it was hotter than usual, making the going tough for the first 9km until CP1. Between CP1 and 2, the canyons which plagued on stages two and three returned and slowed progress considerably. I was overtaken by three of the more experienced climbers/descenders and found it hard to keep them within my sights. Mercifully, the undulation eased and by the 35km/CP3 mark I'd regained two places and had joined an Austrian competitor, Jochen, for what turned out to be the final 40km of the stage.
For all money, he is a relative of Arnie. He pretty well dragged me across the Gobi, negotiating sandstorms, a 930 tornado, brutal winds and, of course, rain. Running 80% and walking 20% we managed to cover the last 40km (30 of which was either flat or a gradual downhill) at 8-10km/hr. With the occasional post-CP fist-pump we powered across the line in 9 hours and 17 minutes - positions 8 and 9. Another supremely satisfying day and one which stands to vindicate the hours I spent training.
Tim crossed the line at 01:30 this morning, licking his wounds - 15 and a half hours after he'd begun. Frustration, relief and acclompishment are the overriding sentiments for him. He knows he is capable but was unlucky with how his body responded to what has been an incredibly tough week.
Today is a rest day, and the campsite, Kashgary, provides a fitting setting for some recovery. Tomorrow is the final 15km, and, topography-wise a relatively easy run to The Last Old City.
Some housekeeping for S.Hill: the distances between checkpoints are arbitrary, ranging from 7-8km for the more unforgiving terrain to 11-13km for the flatter, gentler terrain. As far as the revised distances go, at this stage, I don't think they will be making up the distance elsewhere. The 250km may end up being more like 240km - the horror!
Day Four: On the back of some slanderous, but nonetheless constructive, remarks from R.Hill, today I finished 9th. Showed the Turk a clean pair heels, and really had the run of a lifetime. We began by ascending 300m to Shipton's Arch - a natural archway the size of the Empire State Building at 2800m above sea-level. Truly breathtaking - and that was just the altitude!! Tim and I had vowed to make a fast start as some of the ascent to the arch was single-file climbing up ladders and staircases. Mercifully, a few kilometres were done sans backpack - a welcome respite. Upon retrieving our packs, we were in 15th spot and checkpoint one followed soon after. Checkpoint one to two was a murderous 8km of 50-60m of sheer climbing followed by a short run across the ridge of the hill then a slippery, rocky descent over the other side. Between every three of these, there was a run up a hellish riverbed with the ubiquitous Gobi rocks looking to break ankles and twist knees at every step. This was repeated what seemed like countless times. Although tough, the view at the top along each ridge was unbelievable; snow-covered (!) mountains forming the backdrop to hills and mountains which have not seen a drop of rain forever.
Checkpoints two to three there was more of the same, this time for only 4km. For the next 8km it was a lonesome (Tim and I had separated between CPs 1&2) downhill trudge across the riverbed, willing on checkpoint three with every step. I didn't see anyone for the vast majority of this stage and was concerned about my mental capacity to handle the last 14km push to home.
Just after CP3, me and an American, who was finding his second wind, decided to 'buddy-up' and attack the final stage together. We negotiated some river crossings, deciding to keep our shoes on, then, with sodden but soothed feet, held a nice pace (some running, some walking) until the (very welcome) revised finish 10km later.
While it was an incredibly satisfying day for me, Tim was frustrated with what he thinks is some ligament trouble in his right knee. At the start of the day it was evident that we were both feeling strong and relatively fatigue-free so it is disappointing that we couldn't complete and finish the stage together.
Tomorrow is 'The Long March' - 75 of the sweetest kilometres. While it would be great to consolidate my position, finishing would ultimately be the greatest success (not if you ask R.Hill, mind you).
I hope everyone is well.
Day three's run was billed as easy/moderate. The lies, oh the lies. We managed to run the first 8km before we were polaxed by kilometre after kilometre of that glorious shardy goodness, this time on an obscene slant. Okay, some interactive blogging: in your mind, conceive the most perverse terrain you can, then multiply that by whatever you want - it doesn't matter what you come up with, it won't be close to today's landscape. Plenty of canyon work, too. 30-50m of slippery rock down, 30-50m slippery rock up; repeat steps 1&2 ad naseum until soul destroyed. The push for the finish line was an unrelenting 8.5km uphill - a 1200m gain to finish at 2500m above sea-level. Less a march, more a shuffle. Having finished day two in 31st and 32nd, we were happy, in the face of the grueling conditions to finish day three in 34th and 35th.
Temperatures thus far have been manageable, 35-40 degrees, with the importance of replacing salts and water ever-present. The attrition rate of the race has been good with only four people retiring for various ailments/not meeting checkpoint cut-off times.
Good luck tomorrow, Lizzie Edge.
I hope all are well. TH
After some of Tashpushka’s famous hospitality, and our tentmate’s world-class snoring, we began day 2 – 39km. Besides the upper-body ache from hell – backpack derived – the chassis was in reasonable nick.
Day 2 was a grueling day, punctuated by those pesky shardy, rocky plains which I am so very fond of. We traversed a 2-3km section dubbed ‘Mars’; red, dusty and marsy. Approaching checkpoint two, trail-running experience would have been spot-on as Tim and I battled down what seemed like endless rocky, shingly, heavily contoured terrain. Having almost been broken before checkpoint three, it was no short of a miracle what greeted us nek - hot, black bitumen, close to km of the stuff. The first three-or-so km were up-hill but it was the next seven downhill that were the saving grace. Deek and Monaghetti suddenly began their surge to the finish, swallowing up 12 places in the process. All in all, after 5:40 spent on course, it was a terrific feeling to finish.
Can I pleaaasseee give a big shout-out to K.Hill who turns 21 today, like an absolute bauce, no doubt.
We arrived at Saturday's campsite sometime in the afternoon and were greeted by the who's who of the ultra-indie Xinjian Province music scene. The trip to the XP proved relatively no frills aside from the escarpment cum mountain that seemed to disappear as the bus approached it exposing it's occupants to sheer mountain face. Suffice to say, Tim and I were not alone in our trousers.
Gobi March 2012 was opened at 8:00am Sunday morning - a revised first day of 32km. Tim and I started well and were strong through checkpoint one. Between checkpoints one, a few stream crossing and a diabolic amount of shardy, rocky plains our form remained reasonable. The last 8-10 kms was tough as the weights (13kg) of our packs caught up and caused our necks/traps grief. Our jog slowed and soreness, fatigue, wind and a touch of nausea caused us to walk. Despite this,Tashpushka (a small town and campsite 2) beckoned and we crossed the line 38th of 160th.
For something different, we'.re going running tomorrow.