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    Gobi March China 1 Jun 2014
    RacingThePlanet: Madagascar Madagascar 31 Aug 2014
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    The Last Desert Antarctica 1 Nov 2014
    Sahara Race Jordan 8 Mar 2015
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RacingThePlanet: Madagascar 2014 Blogs

Stage 1...three bays
31-Aug-2014 02:46:06 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Hi all

Wow, what a rough day. Please see past all typos and spelling and do your best to decipher my message and intent.

I’ve just completed the 36km stage 1 and found it MUCH tougher than expected…but we’ll get to that.

I spent last night at an old French foreign legion base and all was pretty festive. And just a little pensive. The azure ocean was to our right and high wooded spur line bordered our front and left. On dusk the wind picked up and as it slowly became darker and cooler we all began to retire ahead of race start today.

Finally underway and the course could not have been more stunning. Up around the first head land and past a broad concrete rampart, replete with old iron cannon…an army posting to the north of Madagascar would have been nice! Not too far after we looped down onto the beach for sand, sand and more sand. The heat picked up but fortunately a nice sea breeze kept it tolerable. Across some sharp volcanic rocks and by some fishing villages and I was running quite well…a little too well as it turned out. 5km into the race my back pack snapped and I had to make some running repairs..i didn’t enjoy the knot in my back for the next 5 hours though. The race course continued to impress and I loved passing through primitive and very basic local fishing villages. The locals turned out to support and the kids were delightful. Timid and squealing as they trotted alongside in the hope of a high five.

The checkpoints past reasonably quickly and I was taking of plenty of water, electrolytes and nutrition...so far so good. Past some Zebu herds and locals on bicycles and women ferrying broad silver pots on the heads between the town well and their huts. Small children wandered past and had fashioned all manner of toys from sticks or the oceans detritus. By checkpoint 3 I was pretty spent and the 38C and 60% humidity was taking its toll. My feet ached and my hip started giving me hell…with 5km to go I stumbled on the challenge I hoped for…I was in all sorts of chaos. I was getting passed pretty easily by now and simply adopted the head down, bum up to trudged through the final hour or so.

When some local workers drummed me in dancing and carolling I couldn’t have been more delighted. I picked up a coconut and some water and rested. The coconut milk was heavenly and just what I needed to ignite my recovery. The ocean dip was quite unexpected and beyond refreshing. Though we’re paying the price now. Our tents have fine sand drifts going through them and sand has permeated everything…yes everything.

When I do a little stocktake I come up with..broken pack, sore feet, a VERY uncomfortable hip and a renewed level of focus. I think I’m about halfway in a field of 250. I took 6.5 hours to knock over the surprisingly challenging 36km…Ryan Sandes just broke seat in his 3h.08m speed session.

I’ve met a great swag of people and we’re all enjoying a relaxed and balmy beach camp. I’m smiles now and just trying to work some kinks out ahead of tomorrow’s 46km stage. With some chafing under my arms I squealed when I applied some deodorant…it got thrown out in a very swishy huff after that, I’m happy to be starting tomorrow blister free.

II’ll leave you all for now and send all my love to my wonderful wife and children.

In health and happiness


It's getting real huh?!?!?
20-Aug-2014 09:28:05 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

The very word Madagascar evokes the exotic but before I get to the red island though, I need to work my way through my ‘to do’ list…packing for the race and a little post-race R&R, closing work projects and on it goes until my final task; a pre-race buzz cut before heading to the airport next Monday evening. Breaking from my traditional ‘where I’ve gone wrong’ confession before each key race I thought I’d try and document what I believe I’ve done right? Footwear: As a firm advocate of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” I’ve stuck with a shoe and sock combination that got me through the Gobi and Sahara deserts without a single blister. I swear by the Injinji toe sock and my foot fits into a Salomon Speedcross 3 like it’s tailor made (No Jinx..please!!!!!) for me. I use a fresh pair of socks each day and clean my feet very well at the end of each stage to keep them in the best order I can. Main Meals: After Australian Customs seized my postal order of Freeze Dried Expedition Foods meals I had a sense of humor fail and just went into the city a grabbed a swag of Back Country dehydrated meals. I’m chuffed: I like the variation (they almost taste like the packaging tells me they should) and they’re lighter. Snacks: I recalled from previous races that I became somewhat unhinged when I saw competitors enjoying a morning coffee while I started my day with a ‘dingo breakfast’ (a scratch and a look around). So I’ve squirreled away some sachets of Nescafe (and yes, I’m man enough to admit they are a mix of white choc mocha, hazelnut or butterscotch flavoured). I’ve got a small pack of crisps for a little post stage treat (the salt is heavenly) and, this time around, I’m limiting the gels to 1-2/day. I have been know to pack enough to provide race nutrition for every competitor in the Boston Marathon. Gadgets: All gone. Hey that’s another lie! I’m taking a small camera; but no music, no chargers, solar panels, books, Garmin branded anything or spare widgets ‘just in case’. I now feel a little more in control of my kit rather than the other way ‘round. Training: I certainly won’t trouble the front runners but I’m thrilled to be going into the race injury free. I haven’t had the back pack on (no..really; not once!) and am only getting through 20-40km/week (and often less) but I haven’t felt this good in a year. So no excuses. Pack weight. Across the entire mandatory kit list I’ve look at ways to trim grams. Lighter clothing and ration packs have made a difference so I’ll be curious to see what the final weight comes in at. I could have gone a lot further with kit weight comparisons, eliminating every non essential kit item (hey I’m 45 with bad hips..I like a blow up mattress and I’m keeping it) or comfort item. Besides a few small toiletries enable me to get clean each evening and that in turn improves my sleep. So yes I’ll carry deodorant and a razor…it’s not vanity; it’s all about recovery (promise!!!). Mostly I’m happy that I’m happy. Running 250km through Madagascar is not something a younger Steven ever imagined doing. Now, on the eve of the race, I expect to grow a ton from this experience and the people I meet. So I’m beyond happy that running 250km through Madagascar with so many others on the adventure of a life is not something an older Steven could ever imagine not doing.
Ready, set and (almost) go.
07-Aug-2014 02:38:31 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Hi all, Well the bulk of our training and preparation is behind us (for me and other's that fact may put a little panic in the britches?!?!?) and we're all now looking at Riitta's emails on hotel bookings, waiting for tent assignments and (perhaps) second guessing our readiness and kit choices. I'm pretty happy with my gear and nailed my final decision yesterday. I grabbed a pair of Salomon Speedcross 3 shoes..now it's all about breaking them in. I used these shoes in Sahara and Gobi and paired with Injiji toes socks I enjoyed two completely blister-free races. Over the weekend I'll dust off the Aarn pack (I've done ZERO pack work for Madagascar) and do a stocktake to identify any last minute bits and pieces I may need...I think I'm pretty good. Most of my choices have been centred on trying to recall tips and ideas about lightening the load and getting a little variety into my race nutrition. My morning 'meal' will be little more than a 'Dingo Breakfast' (a scratch and a look around) in terms of anything solid. I have some flavoured caffe latte satchels (to sit quietly each morning with a hot brew and some thinking time is a nice way to start the day for me). I'll polish off a packet of soup of noodles and wash it all down with a Perpetuum (mmmm 6 mornings kicked off with Perpetuum; living the dream) During each stage I'll carry a max of 2 gels with a cliff bar and some GU chews or 'sports' jelly beans. My post run recovery (I'm trying to to let my mind believe sitting around on my bum will be a highlight) but it is a great time to relax, chat and enjoy some beneficial 'treats'. I could inhale a whole cow of jerky...but I'll settle for a small packet each day with some chips (or crisps for my English friends), some Recoverite and plenty of water before dinner. I've abandoned 'Expedition Foods' for a diet of 'Backcountry' dehydrated meals for my evening meal. My goals for my previous races with varied (Sahara: survive - achieved that and Gobi: top 50 - achieved that...just!) for Madagascar I've abandoned any thought of time or position and am really only aiming to run with and chat to as many other competitors as I can...I don't see myself getting back to Madagascar too often in my life so I really want to savour each step and stumble. I wish you all well in these last weeks, taper well, reassure you're loved ones that you're off on an amazing adventure and will return (with a massive massive, massive smile and odd intent to do it all again). See you in antanannnaarivo (no?), antanvario (wrong again), antanabanano (oops) ..damn it...see you in Madagascar!
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