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RacingThePlanet: Madagascar 2014 Blogs

Long Day DONE!!!!
05-Sep-2014 10:13:20 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Hello everyone.

Well it’s all but done…I finished the 77km long day (a little unkempt mind you) at 10.30pm last night…I’m relieved, a little tired and sore but very happy to have plugged though.

I started out the day with Jaime and our plan was to get a strong walk on and get through the heat of the day before reassessing the foot pain nd chafing. The morning’s stages were the now familiar dirt roads, vivid ochre cutting through course grasses, and connecting the endless network of small villages. The locals were out in force and we shared the ‘road’ with Zebu carts, bicycles and local farmers sporting massive machetes on their way into the sugar cane fields.

We were making pretty decent time as we left the main road and traversed single track through spinifex grass that led closer the an immense range of jagged grey Tsingy. We kept the massif to our left and pulled into the 38km mark in pretty high spirits. Jaime and I both determined that running was as uncomfortable as walking and so concocted a plan to chew through the final marathon. 2min of walking and 1min of running and we’d hold that tempo as long as we (that is; me) could maintain it. Jaime’s feet as mashed so I held my pain protests to myself and affected an amusing yet efficient waddle to get some breeze of the chafing…imagine Popeye jogging.

We started passing other runners and the evening’s trail was fast looking like the avenue of broken souls. The mid point rest/meal stop gave us a chance to wet socks after crossing a stream through a stunning green rice field. After dinner (jerky and some nuts) and recommenced or limp/shuffle plan. The sun set a text back African gold and we flicked the head torches and iPods on, “let’s just get this done.”

The next few hours were really rough and the sweat was murder in the chafing and each pace was compounding the irritation if blisters and pounding under bruised feet. We passed through eerily quiet villages, our head torches illuminated the eyes of all the livestock and it was quite a spooky little audience we had. Jaime was in much better form than me, despite his positively mutant feet, but we stayed together to see the day through.

After a final few km’s with the horizon brilliantly lit by sugar cane field fires (all standard burning off before harvesting) we counted down the last k’s and rounded into camp. Done it mate…bravo Jaime…I’d have been hours behind if I was trying to slog through alone.

A few bottles of water into a tub to ease the burning feet and scraped the bulk of the dust and grime off before trying to get some sleep. I haven’t had any sleep though, a little tough to get comfy but I’m shaping up for a shady nap under a tree very soon.

I have just had time to read some messages you have sent and I’m overwhelmed by the support and well wishes. I can’t thank my friends, family and colleagues enough for your support and encouragement. I hope I have done you some small service by writing well enough to have you know that you have been with me from the ‘get go.’

My very best to you all and, always, all my love to Leanne and James and Anna…my heroes and champion. Finally, to all kiddies, families and friends with loved one with autism…you get me through this, I owe you all far more than you can know.

It doesn’t end here. Until our next challenge together.

S

Passed the Sacred Lake
03-Sep-2014 01:49:09 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Hello all,

Well I’ve scraped through the fourth marathon in four days…it’s all being held together with tape and various lubricants.

The sun was merciless today but I’ve come to expect that. I started out slowly with my tent mate Jaime and we simply wandered along chatting and inhaling water as we passed km after km of hard packed red road and grasslands. It was a very welcome change from three days of sand slogging.

My feet are very battered, but so are everyone else, and my chaffing is pretty nasty but bearable once everything else starts to hurt…the small mercies huh. My pack broke again, just as we were getting a shuffle on so it was down tools for a quick repair job and back into it. The grasslands showed the way into higher country and after a river crossing at the halfway mark we started a steady climb up a talk spur line that cut between two stunning and very inviting lakes. The scared lakes however are thick with crocodiles so we stuck to the high ground and gave the steep lake banks and very wide berth.

Striking the heat of the day is always pretty joyless but fortunately just a little after it was becoming unbearably hot we passed through a lively town. Market day combined with the rare sight of racers so it was all pretty festive out. The villages are ramshackle, makeshift huts and sheds..all swelling with large families and mangy dogs. By all accounts a few racers stopped for cokes, but Jaime and I pushed through town snapping some pics and say hello to the curious kiddies. The stalls heaved with fresh fruit; tempting…and prawns and fish steaming in the hot sun; not tempting.

After town we negotiated 3km of flat but foot pounding bitumen until the final 1-2km into camp. It was immensely relieving to get in and get the feet and body sorted. The stocktake; feet are trashed, back aches from broken pack and the chaffing is very uncomfortable indeed…with a few raw patches around the nether regions. Ouch.

And so where to? It’s oddly festive ahead of tomorrow’ “long day”, the all but final 76km stretch to the finish line. The thought of a double marathon after the last four back-to-back holds little appeal. My plan is go out very slow and deteriorate from there! Seriously I’ll go out at a slow pace and just ‘bank’ the miles throughout the day and night. I’m pretty battered but generally sound of mind at the moment. No doubt tomorrow will be extremely challenging on both mind and body but I’m set to getting it done. I’ll tape my feet again tomorrow and smear on enough lube to grease a tank.

I’m spending a lot of time inside my own head as I stroll along. I’m missing my wonderful wife and beautiful children a great deal but find much solace in the fact that I have them. Being mindful of my extraordinary good fortune is very helpful whrn the going gets truly difficult…and I’ve had plenty of those moments. But the dark patches fade and in the end it just comes down the distance and how much I want it.

I want it.

Goodnight and my very best. Much love to Leanne and James and Anna.

S

x

Stage 3 Into the Red Tsingy
02-Sep-2014 01:09:44 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

You have to be careful what you wish for…this course and the race conditions are getting no easier and I’m deteriorating…but in good spirits. My feet and chafing are the key concerns and even after Sahara and Gobi I’m only starting to realise what these races are about and how tough they are when the body isn’t holding up well.

The day started after an appalling night’s sleep. The local villagers slaughtered a Zebu and tradition holds that they party until the animal is completely consumed. Well these guys were the loudest revellers and slowest eaters in Africa. Their disco beat pounded until dawn kept us all awake until 6.00am and I emerged bleery eyed and hostile to ready myself for today’s marathon length stage. I’d had recovered in somewhat reasonable order overnight…albeit completely lathered in thick lubricant and started out slowly.

The first stretch was a beautifully compact beach and had I been feeling better I’d have enjoyed running it. A few km later the racers pushed into the bush and recommenced the dusty slog through deep sand. The hours past slowly and the heat was really depleting. I left my mate Gav resting at CH1 and wandered through the next few hours alone and very focussed on getting the distance done. By early afternoon the sun was burning fiercely as I entered a long, hot and very exposed Tsingy canyon. Tsingy are very striking rock pinnacles carved by wind and time to form jagged stone forests at the base of the canyon wall. As soon as I was through the Tsingy the path traversed several spur lines and re-entrants thick with camel thorn. My arms and legs got pretty fragged but the sights and terrain was a welcome change from deep sand drifts.

By late afternoon I had the most technical and challenging stages done and it was down to a final 11km trudged through the dust. I must admit my head and feet were dragging as I crossed though more and more villages. I passed and got passed by a calamitous zebu cart and the animals were protesting loudly. They had jackknifed and gotten themselves twisted in a deep bog. The drivers were giving them quite a belting with sticks to get them moving…pretty sad but quite an insight into local conditions. When I forded a knee high river I knew I was within the final km of camp and it couldn’t have come soon enough. I wanted to pause for a dip but an apparent crocodile siting earlier in the arvo got me move through the frustratingly cool water.

When I finally crossed under the stage finish banner I was thrashed. I don’t have too many more adjectives I can conjure to describe the race, conditions or how I’m feeling; I do have a few choice expletives though.

Recovery was pretty slow tonight; get some calories in, do my best to get clean and rehydrate. The worst of it is some deep blisters under most toes and bruised heels and pads. The chaffing is getting a little worse so it’ll be the priority to sort that before bed. Tomorrow is another marathon but likely to kick off with my first ever visit to the first aid tent. I’ll let my feet dry out tonight and get the blistered tended to as best I can. We continue to lose racerd and I’m really bummed to have seen my mate Gav off in s race vehicle and off to hospital. Gav is en ex special forces lad, a top 20 runner but succumbed to a bout of fever and spent the afternoon vdry poorly indeed…I hope to see him back in Diego for a quiet beer.

That’s it for me…certainly tough out there and a I don’t usually (I think) whine in blogs I hope I haven’t caused my family concern; I’m trekking through northern Madagacasr and exactly where I want to be…Sure I want the pain to stop and the race to be behind me; but I want to get it done more than I want to quit. And that’s the key for me.

Tomorrow is another day, I’ll recover as well as I can overnight and set out slow and steady when the starter’s gun goes off.

My best to all and much love to my dear family…in health and happiness

S

Stage 2
01-Sep-2014 01:10:29 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Hi all,

I cannot recall of more hellish single day of running. Ever. Period. And I’m in all sorts of strife..the worst of which is some mutant chafing.

The day started by the sea with some very ginger hopping over an expansive headland of serated honeycombed rocks. Jagged, volcanic and extraordinarily sharp. After tip-toeing over those the course ducked into the scrub and the start and the commencement of what would become a 10 hour slog through sand, dust, rice paddies, river crossings and dank bogs.

About 15km into the day I stepped over a light tan snake that had darted toward me. It only changed direction when startled by my shrill manly squeal and wisely slithered into the bush to avoid my landing on it when I come back to earth after my best ever vertical leap. Jamie and I were trotting along well at that stage and alternating walking and some short spells of running. Not long passed until a much larger python was sunning itself on the path until it too moved into the bush. No more wildlife and we moved quickly through a long grove of trees and locals farmers fencing. The villages were abuzz but I was tiring by early arvo and had to let Jaime shoot ahead.

Before that though, just ahead of a checkpoint we spied a large knoll wooded with towering and magnificently broad baobab trees. It was text book Madagascar and I was enjoying the first stages. Until we wandered into muddy rice paddy and I sunk into the mud to my right knee. When I tried to lift my left leg out my shoe stayed in the mud. Deep and stuck fast..and the day then really started becoming tough. The long dusty roads of deep sand were very tough to negotiate and I was heading downhill fast. To be honest the heat, humidity and sand was simply savage and I was spent with 17km still to go.

The afternoon held series of waterways to be forded and rice paddy bunds to balance along. I tried to be cheerful for the dozens of villages I passed through. I enjoyed wandering amongst the thatched adobe huts and watching the kids dart after me was a welcome distraction. By now though I had disintegrated to a staggering lumber and just needed to get it done. When I heard the drums I was relieved beyond belief. The final few km’s of paddies, mud and fences have taken their toll. My biggest concern is the aggressive chafing and I’m afraid my only option will be Elastoplast over my raw thighs…that’ll stay on for weeks!

I’m trying to recover as best I can for tomorrow’s 40km stage..today’s 46km was stunningly tough and my goals have gone from top 100 to top half of the field to simply surviving the week. Much, much tougher course and conditions than I expected.

But hey; this is Africa.

My best to you all and much love to my wife and children.

S

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STEVEN BRYDON
RacingThePlanet: Madagascar 2014

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