The Penguin Highway...
01-Dec-2012 04:30:51 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]
The Last Desert is finally complete. I am not sure what to feel now. For 15 months I worked towards completing one goal and now I have made it.
The last stage consisted of a 1.5km loop through a penguin highway. The penguins made there colonies on rocks halfway up a 100m hill. There was a well beaten path from the ocean up to their isolated home. When we ran our laps, the penguins would often get on our course and just stand there, looking unsure of what to do. They weren't really scared of us, they were just unsure of what to do with us. Often the competitors would pile up with weird looks on our faces, waiting for the penguins to waddle on out of the way. The course was only 1.5km because there was a second, bigger penguin highway at the end of loop. The penguins would just hang out in there dozens as we would run past, minding there own business.
The course was fairly flat and was quite easy to run compared to the last 2 courses. The setting was as amazing as ever. Beautiful mountains, shimmering blue water and all of the penguins you could ever hope for.
I ran 10 laps before the race ended. I wanted to go more, but they stopped due to the necessity of us getting back on the boat.
Crossing the finish line was poignant reminder that the 4 Deserts was over. I ran under a giant blue Last Desert banner and received the last of my medals. It depicts 3 deserts races marching through the cold snow of Antarctica with icy mountains looming ahead of them. It was quite suitable as it looked similar to the race at stages.
After I got my medal, I went over to the Canadian flag and got a picture with my medal. Of all of the deserts that I have completed, this was the one I was proudest of. It was the hardest of the course and I wanted a picture with my countries flag to show how proud I was.
Soon afterwards, I got onto a zodiac, got back to the ship and promptly showered and ate. The mood on the ship was the most jubilant I have seen after a race. People were happy to be done the 4 deserts challenge and they wanted to celebrate!
Today, we got up and went of a last zodiac cruise around the ship. We went and looked at some impressive icebergs that had collected around the harbor. There were some monolith icebergs that were amazingly beautiful and added even more joy to an already amazing trip.
My roommate Scott Smith is crazy. He decided that he wanted to go for a polar plunge and I was stupid enough to follow him. Before we left he put on his custom Speedo and he was kind enough to lend me his swimming trunks. The expedition leader found us a rock to jump off of for our plunge, so at the end of our cruise we took a polar dip.
When we got to the rock, Scott stripped down in record speed and dove head first into the water like a mad man. He had the biggest smile I have ever seen when he got out and seem to genuinely enjoy it. I on the other had remembered what jumping into cold water feels like, so I was little slower then him. Whereas he had jumped right in, I was more cautious with my footing and rather gingerly got in. I dunked my head in the water, started to freeze and immediately got back in shore and waited a few moments for the zodiac to get back, so I could dry off. I was shivering for 15 minutes after I went in. For everyone at home, I have video evidence that I will be putting up on the internet. I look like I was completely miserable as I went in, which is good, because it accurately showcases how I really felt. Scott Manthey, the race photographer was kind enough to come out and document Scott's joy and my misery with his camera. I am told there will be pictures coming up on the internet soon...
I am glad I did it, to say I have done it. It was terrible at the time, but it was definitely worth it.
I will blog at least one more time. We have a banquet coming.Sunday night and I want to share my final thoughts about the series. It was an amazing time and I will need a few days to process it all and put it into words that do the 4 deserts justice. It still hasn't sunk in that it is all over.