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RacingThePlanet: Madagascar 2014 Blogs

Wrapping up Madagascar (finally), and looking forward to Antarctica!
29-Sep-2014 02:37:18 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

First off, my apologies on the formatting of this blog. For some reason it isn't separating paragraphs. Oh well...

I promised to post a blog update after the banquet... and failed miserably. I guess better late than never! On a side note: It's pretty crazy how quickly a few weeks can sneak by. I feel like I just got home from Madagascar, but yet will be leaving for Antarctica in 5 weeks.

On to some random thoughts about Madagascar...

The short day is always an awesome way to end one of these races. Despite the blisters, sore muscles, and beat up feat, people still find a way to go all out on the final day. It's funny how food/ beer waiting at the finish line has a way of motivating everyone to that next level. The finish line was down a pretty busy section of town, so there was a pretty decent crowd of locals and racers' family members cheering us in. As soon as I crossed the finish line, I chugged 3 sodas, a few beers, and ate a bunch of food (I'm still not exactly sure what it was, but it was delicious).

The banquet was a great time (as always). I may have had a bit too much down time prior to the banquet, that was spent exclusively in a Malagasy bar. This led to some sort of rambling speech when I received my third place trophy. The party continued at some random Diego bar, complete with a dance floor and a fog machine. Sadly, my very aggressive day caught up to me and I *only* made it out until 1am (I didn't see the sunrise on my walk home as I did in Iceland and China).

The next few days I spent relaxing at the Suarez, this hotel set up with a group of bungalows surrounding a pool. Most of my tent as well as a number of other friends were staying in or around this hotel , so it was really fun to hang out with the group while relaxing at a pool. I think we also broke records with the amount of food we consumed (somehow 5 course meals became the norm). It's always great when you finish a dinner and say, "that was great, can I have that exact same meal again please?" After a few days of relaxation in paradise, I flew back to Boston (a shockingly easy trip - no lost baggage!)

I'm currently in the late stages of 'tent withdrawal syndrome.' Once again, I was in a tent with a really incredible group of people. I don't think I've ever laughed so hard on one of these races. Our late night pillow talk constantly bordered on the ridiculous. Our tent mascot was a hilarious Italian man. I'm also pretty sure Dave ended up drugging all of us by burning his 'mosquito repelling incense' in the tent. This is the only explanation I have for people having crazy dreams and screaming about bears in the middle of the night.

I loved every minute of my Madagascar adventure (even if a few of my blogs made it seem like I didn't). I'm actually really bummed that my Day 3 blog ended up lost somewhere over the internet (Day 3 was my favorite day I had all week - really scenic running throughout the entire course, plus I did my laundry in a river infested with crocodiles at the finish!) It was really cool how many different sides of Madagascar we were able to see, all by traveling on foot. All of the locals were incredibly friendly and supportive, and only laughed at us half the time. I also didn't realize how much the locals loved the race markers. I'm really impressed that the course team was able to remark the course as quickly as they did (over and over again). Apparently there were a few times where they were running about a half hour in front of Ryan trying to get everything remarked. The fact that we only had one small area where people got lost during the week is incredibly impressive (I had no idea how difficult it was for them until talking with a few of them at the banquet).

Lastly, a huge thank you to all of the people that emailed/ wrote on my blog throughout the week. It really is awesome to read all of your hilarious/ supportive comments throughout the week. I think that's all for Madagascar. Now, it's time to look forward to Antarctica!

Day 5: Swimming the Planet
05-Sep-2014 09:32:31 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

First I want to say a big thank you to everyone emailing and commenting. It’s always really nice to have these to read at the end of each stage. The comments have been an awesome mix of hilarious and motivational (and only a few have mentioned the delicious food they are enjoying).

So yesterday was the long stage. I was pretty concerned about it, a bit for the distance and but more due to the heat. I knew I had about an hour gap behind me, and a half hour in front of me, so my plan was to be very conservative. I was going to push it hard off the start, just to see if I could sneak back on Andrew. Then, at about checkpoint 5 I was going to either pull off the gas or speed up based on where I stood (no use getting myself into serious trouble to make up a few minutes).

Everything in the morning was very runnable. The top 4 held together until checkpoint 1 (our usual pack). At that point, Ryan and Wataru sped off, and Andrew and I held together for a bit. We went down a long sandy/dirt path through a number of villages. This opened up to a pretty incredible valley, with a massive gray canyon wall. I lost sight of Andrew between checkpoints 3 and 4, when the heat really started to kick in. Apparently three or four people missed the tiny trail to checkpoint 4, and got themselves in a bit of hydration trouble (20K without a checkpoint at the hottest part of the day).

I was feeling pretty strong despite the heat through checkpoint 5 (48K ish in at around 4:20). The other three had a pretty good lead, so I decided to cut it way back and just make sure I got to the end without any issues. The next 30K was spent at a nice easy pace and taking cool down dunks in every river crossing (and there were plenty of them). I really loved this part, as the pressure was really off and I got to just enjoy the experience I was having. I ended up finishing a bit after 8 hours, and immediately crushed a bunch of my food (finally an appetite for the food I brought).

I ended up hanging out around the finish line area for a solid 8 hours, and was able to see most of my friends get in. Now we are just hanging out, talking about the foods we are craving, and waiting for the last 10K tomorrow. I’ll probably do one more wrap up blog after the banquet tomorrow night. Thanks again for all of the support, and I look forward to catching up with everyone when I’m back in the real world.

Day 4: No More Sand! (At least for today)
03-Sep-2014 01:29:06 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Today’s battle was a ‘short’ 40K in the hills of Madagascar. We actually had the benefit of some cloud coverage through checkpoint 2 (aka it was only 100 degrees and humid instead of 110 and humid). It was mostly on dirt trails (thankfully not sandy trails) and weaved up and down hills, through some rivers. You could see miles and miles across Madagascar. Once again I tried to chase the top 3 guys (they lost me as I got too ‘social’ at checkpoint 1.

The clouds disappeared between checkpoints 2 and 3, so the heat returned big time. We were climbing up a long hill through a number of Malagasy villages. Things definitely slowed down for me in the middle. I did see a number of random animals on the trail (iguanas, snakes, and chickens that I was considering hunting to get some protein).

Checkpoint 3 was at the base of a monstrous hill. However, at the top of the hill you had a great view of a crocodile infested lake. There was also an awesome breeze up there that kind of woke me up for the final few miles. The last part of the day was through the biggest village so far. There was food everywhere, but of course I didn’t have any money (plus shopping is illegal). They clearly were there to mess with our heads, and remind us of the ice cream, soda and meat-on-a-stick we’ve been craving.

Tomorrow is the long day, so it’s off to bed for me. I believe it’s 48 miles tomorrow. My biggest concern is keeping myself together through the hottest part of the day. That’s all for tonight!

Day 2: Ummmmm
02-Sep-2014 01:15:32 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

I just finished day 2. Today’s stage was 29 very difficult miles. I guess it was ‘only’ 103 degrees out (much cooler than the 109 I heard about yesterday).

Today started from our nice tent resort/ oasis. The first 3 or so miles were down the beach and over some coral like cliffs. We then ducked into a very narrow path. This is one time where being tall was not an advantage. This opened up to some nice single track into checkpoint one. I ran this part with Ryan and Wataru, which was really fun. I stopped here for a bit to pull myself back together, while the other two sprinted off (bib was ripped off from the branches, sunglasses dangling off my head, headphones all over the place- typical muppet).

Leg 2 was pretty short and fast. We ran through a few villages, over some sandy mountains – all positive thoughts. (Honestly the morning today seems like days ago, and things may be blurring together a bit.

Leg 3 on the other hand is when the positive thoughts ended. About 1 mile into this leg, I fell into a muddy rice patty (waist deep in mud, arms fully submerged). But what better way to protect yourself from the sun! After the mud, I immediately got lost in the baobab forest. I ended up at some villagers home, where they stared at me like I had just stepped off a space ship. I retraced my steps and finally found the markers I had missed (and realized how stupid I was/ obvious the markers were). This led to a path into a village, where it seemed like all of the villagers grabbed some souvenirs (ie no markers anywhere). I ran back and forth down the path, trying to get some direction from the locals. This is when I ran into Wataru, as lost as I was. We continued running back and forth trying to find any sort of markers. Eventually the 4th and 5th guys showed up and found some random ripped pink ribbons on the ground (goodbye lead). We managed to get going in the right directions, over some rivers and through some farms.

I went into Leg 4 with a very negative attitude. There was a ton of sand, it was really hot, and was moving at a snail’s pace. I think that’s enough said bout leg 4!

I pulled myself back together on leg 5. It was a nice, short 4 miles, with a bunch of river crossings and rice farms. This led to the finish line, where about a hundred locals were cheering us in (and stayed from 5 or 6 hours). I finished third again (with a bunch of people right on myheels), about an hour behind Ryan and 30 minutes behind Wataru. But yeah, that was probably the hardest non-long day I’ve ever experienced on these races. Hopefully tomorrow will feel a bit better than today.

The mosquitos are biting and I don’t want Malaria, so I’m going to sign off. Until tomorrow!

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RALPH CROWLEY
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