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RacingThePlanet: Madagascar 2014 Blogs

Finish and reflection
08-Sep-2014 11:38:33 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Its taken a couple of Madagascar days to get to a place where I could put down my last words on the race finish and the aftermath. Friday night at Ambilobe camp was a cocktail of physical discomfort blended with good laughs and support that everyone gave each other - especially at home in Marofato. I'd made a miscalculation trying to shed excess weight for the long march and left myself without a meal for Friday night. . By the time I got to the lost and found bag, anything even remotely edible was gone. But I managed to scrape 3-400 calories by splitting my Saturday breakfast plus bits and pieces scrounged and donated around the camp. A cup of beef oxo has almost nothing in it but so tasty when you're starving. So my memory of Fridays sleep was painful feet, hunger, restless cold sweat and my brain working overtime trying to figure out how to make the best of the final 10K when even standing up was excruciating. When morning came I had my small breakfast plus a couple of painkillers and then tried to warm up a bit. As we gathered at the start I was buzzing with adrenaline and within a couple of minutes I was chasing with the lead pack in sight. The feet were behaving themselves and it didn't immediately feel hot so I locked into my stride. I had a bit of a duel with Leiven for a bit but let him go as I wanted to hold something back for the last 2 miles. I didn't have a watch, the strap having broke on the first day so it was good to get a time check from the US half of the run/walk/pee quartet when they came through. I was feeling comfortable with sub 9 minute miles so the last 10K looked doable in under an hour and the whole event in under 45 looked attainable then also. As we approached Ambilobe I could see Lorence ahead - he'd run out really fast and I thought there was a high chance he'd blow up. I drew level and passed him and my intuition was confirmed as he fell back after a couple of minutes. So all that remained was to hang on for the finish and fend off any late attacks. The canadian barefoot runners and one of the Italian gents passed me as we entered the main street and I was getting hot and looking for the finish. The crowds were out lining the street and I just tried to keep my stride and form while smiling and waving to as many folk as possible. Once I reached the timer, I swiped my card and looked ahead for the finish chute. With that locked in, I lifted my knees, swung my arms and kicked for the line as hard as I could. I was pleased with how I felt: nothing held back and not hasselled with foot pain or sore shins. I thought I'd come in decently under the hour and the welcome we got at the end was incredible, not to mention the long awaited cold beer - the subject of 6 days hallucination came into reality!!! And to hold that massive medal was just the best feeling; I can't describe it. I am glad I pulled myself together and got back to the finish to see Lois, Andy and Ewan finish too. They're all legends - so very very strong to finish this race. What an epic week!!!
Camp 6 the day after the longest day
05-Sep-2014 09:57:23 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Well I can say that ranked amongst the toughest days of my life.. My feet are shredded, I have strained the tendon bottom of my right shin, I have not slept with the pain. However, most importantly, I finished the 80km stage. The tale for yesterday is mostly about what went on inside my head rather than lengthy descriptions about amazing scenary. Of course there were stunning sights along the way, including a particularly beautiful river crossing and the majestic grey Tsingy, reflecting the fiery sunset. Had been in sight of Lois, Andy and Ewan til somewhere between CP2 and 3.. Lois was on a mission and Andy resolved to stay with her, which was a tough ask – with such disruption to his preparation, Andy had to use the 4 X 25 milers to get conditioned and work with his years of experience yomping . Ewan too showed his strength and determination to push hard despite his feet being in a bad way. As for me I thought that making the day alone might be quicker or maybe disasterously slower and I felt Lawrence , who is in our tent would be a good man to mark, having similar pace plus being good company. That turned out to be a good choice as each of us had to take turns to set the tempo when the other was flagging. After some13.5 hours, the two of us rocked up in camp, finding Andy Lois, Leiven and Ewan there already as expected. That was a joyous reunion and great that all of our tent were home safe. The previous 3-4 hours had been super-hard. The route took us across agricultural land, country tracks and through small settlements but there was almost no ambient light, with the moon hidden behind clouds. So our only visual references were the glow sticks and reflective markers spaced along the course. and other senses were amplified. Sounds of dogs barking, children crying , birds calling and smells of woodfires and cooking . At one point I was convinced I could smell liquorice but don’t know if that was hallucination So these sensations plus Lawrence’s company were my only distraction from the endless sandy path that we must travel to reach the haven of the campsite. At times the only rational motivation to keep going was the certainty that if we kept going, regardless of speed, we would each our destination. The rest was about what state our bodies and minds would be at the finish.

I haven’t a clue what I would do differently next time, I’m just glad I finished that stage – and times and positions are irrelevant because in this race, every competitor had their own yardstick. I just watched Gretta, AKA miss Denmark in the tent next to us finish after 25 hours., still smiling and chatty and hat and lip gloss still in place after all her trials. What a lady - and she will be a grandmother soon. So I salute all the incredible people that finished stage 5 and showed that pure mental toughness wins the day whether a seasoned athlete chasing placing in the results table or participating because they enjoy incredible journeys with good company. I think I’m a mix of both. Tomorrow I will complete the final stage under my own steam; it won’t be quick with the strain I have and I’ll walk if that’s what it takes!

Massive thanks to all who made fresh comments and support. Everyone has been amazing. – stop press; a Japanese couple just crossed the line and the guy dropped to his knee and proposed to his girl – and she said YES! Fabulous!!!

And a special shout out to Dave and Ester back in Stirling for your wedding day. You both really are the happy face of Stirling Triathlon Club and I send you all the best from Madagascar!! xx

Stage 4
03-Sep-2014 02:01:24 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Camp 5 – 25 miles Hey all. Writing this with Pink Floyd playing in the background and if I’m honest feeling quite emotional right now. The trails were pretty straightforward today but from noon onwards, someone turned the heating up and there was no shade anywhere. High points were the beautiful cool river crossing after CP 2 - welcome to cool feet and wash off some of the red dust from the trail but alas, so far still to go and no time to hang around. Then later we skirted the hills around the sacred lake – beautiful and inviting but off limits because of the crocagators. No close encounters with wildlife today but I did heroically escort 2 lady runners past a large herd of zebu! Just doing my duty mam!

Fast forward to CP 3: we were travelling the hottest part of the day and I’d emptied my 750 ml bottle of electrolyte and running low of the second bottle of water. Mostly 1 bottle has been enough to drink and use the second half and half for cooling and drinking but today my hat was drying out so quickly every time I wet it and I felt I wasn’t controlling my temperature very well at all. Having stayed with Lois and Andy for well past CP2, I was unable to maintain pace and fell back. I caught up with them at CP 3 and needed to take 5 to get fluid, some nutrition in me ; and most important to let my core temperature drop a bit. Slightly nauseous and dizzy, I got up to press on, knowing that there were 11km to the finish for the day. The next ½ hour was hard but I started singing to myself and gradually pulled out of it and once I got down off the hilly section, I came across Andy and Lois taking a minute in the shade of a tree. That was a real lift and we pulled each other back to camp. That included a 1.5km section through a town with shops selling cold drinks - torture since the rules forbid buying stuff enroute – I sinned multiple times in my mind passing those!

So the three of us crossed the line together, while Ewan had a stonking day, setting off quicker from the start and finishing 15-20 mins ahead – plus he was reunited with his flipflops after thinking he’d dropped one on the trail – small things like that matter a lot out here! Well done Ewan, cracking result for the day and keeping up the reputation of our tent Marofatu. Unfortunately after Jane’s retirement, Jeroen, one of ours had to retire with his feet in bits.

I felt nauseous again back at camp as the sun was still hot mid afternoon. However after food and fluid and a short lie down I’m back in the room. That’s 100 miles done and the long stage to crack tomorrow. Just a few running repairs to do on my feet, try to eat some more before bed and I’ll be good to go. Been overwhelmed again by everyone’s messages and comments – Christine, Scott, Chris, Mike, Grace, Mad and Claire to name a few – you have no idea how much your support means and helps – Thank you :o) xx Will be in touch from camp 6.

Stage 3
02-Sep-2014 03:31:00 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Camp 4 / day 3- 42K / 26 miles What can I say about today? A day when I could run out of superlatives and expletives! Sandy dirt tracks are hard going here. Soft sand saps your strength, gets into shoes and destroys feet. Fortunately that was just the first 10 k today and emerging from the dirt track and reaching CP1 was a feast for the eyes. Beautiful beach, grass huts and a happy chappy carving out his dug out canoe from a tree trunk! Then cutting inland we crossed scrubland with lots of low bushes interspersed with palms and hills with fantastic rock formations in the distance. The afternoon got better and better as we crossed one of the national parks – red canyon and tsingy, which are an incredible rock formation. My words could never do it justice so good job I got pictures. After that the route got harder and pretty technical during the hottest part of the day. A couple of near dramas on the way when running with Lawrence and Joeren, two buddies from our tent. Someone shouted ‘snake’ so the 3 of us froze and as I was just about to step forward Lawrence told me not to take another step – I hadn’t seen the second beast a couple of feet in front with its head rearing! All in days running!! The last bit was a joy, with a clear river to wade through – nice to clean up and cool off. Lois made it back to camp first – I’ve renamed her Amazon Lady because everyone is remarking how fast she is on her feet - and its completely deserved: Lois is in amazing shape. Andy and I followed a few mins after, and then Ewan with the sad news that Jane had retired with the heat being too much. So it was a sad farewell as Jane left to go back to hotel in Diego Suarez - and then we all went through her kit scavenging anything useful ;o) seriously though, Jane had run around 65 miles through rough country and appalling heat and most important will live to fight another day. She has but one duty left to perform and that’s to have a glass of chilled wine for each of us when she reaches Diego. I seem to have rambled on but its been a heck of a day. Thanks to Graeme, Jane, Al and Claire for your messages. Lois, Andy, Ewan and Jane shouted hi to you Claire xx take care and love to all – Peter x

Stage 2
02-Sep-2014 01:50:39 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

CAMP 3: 28 miles. Hot hot hot hard day! What did you do today to make you feel serene? I hugged a baobab! That was just the footwork today. We started 7.00 am to get a head start on the heat of the day but today just started hot. And if we delayed longer, the incoming tide would have dashed us on the razor sharp rocks we crossed on the first section! After that most of the trails were OK – a lot of sand again though which is not good for feet. The most fantastic scenery today: savanah, herds of zebu, the baobab forest. I went thigh deep in clinging mud when I fell into the rice paddy – some guys lost shoes; two had to fight off a big snake blocking the slippery tree trunk bridge over one of the rivers. We found a deep and clear river which was good to wash mud off and cool down: a small piece of heaven in a long hot day. All of us had a decent day – Jane and Ewan rocked up bright and cheerful a few mins after Andy, lois and I – not possible to run much in that heat and a day that was a serious undertaking on its own, never mind following yesterday. My old body is hanging together OK - back is aching from carrying the pack and poor sleep but other than that, nothing a steak and a few beers wouldn’t fix!

Before I turn in, thank you for your messages: keep em coming! Special mentions to Madeleine, Claire, Steph and Tina - and not to forget Jodi: thankyou for leading the cheering from Minnesota. Thanks to everyone who’s thinking of me and the Gargunnock crew this week: your thoughts and messages are carrying us each day. Good night and will meet here again tomorrow – btw the music in the cybertent is just fantastic! See ya later x

Stage 1
02-Sep-2014 01:50:29 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Camp 2: All pretty much to plan getting started and made the first 2 checkpoints in good time – pretty tough underfoot with sections of soft sand and jagged rocks to get over. However it didn’t get seriously challenging till the last couple of hours when the sun was right overhead and we were in amongst trails that cut through thickets and grasslands away from the beach. 12 noon onwards it was around 37 degrees - which in Scots is somewhere between sweltering and murderously hot - and its going to get hotter. So the last 10 k was more a march than a jog and what a relief to roll up into camp – around 5.40 I think, which is going Ok considering the heat and the load at its heaviest.

The highlights today were the 800 year old Baobab at CP 1 and the several malagasy villages we passed through – loads of kids cheering and shouting for us. One guy offered me a fish but I was dying for a cold coke instead so I declined and got neither but a smelly fishy handshake! Oh, mustn’t forget the lads and lasses from the Tana running club who blew through us up to CP1: not a pair of running shoes between them but all smiles, and obviously very fit – high 5ing the lot of them was a real high point! People I spoke with today, I clocked US, Canada, Lebanon, Japan China and probably a few more but the heat has wiped my memory.

The big treat on reaching camp is the pristine beach with the Indian Ocean surf. Plan A was to be disciplined and not get my shorts salt and sandy. That didn’t last long; the surf was too good to miss a full body dunk for ½ hour and get cooled off a bit.

Lois rocked up around ½ hour later - just as I was stood in line to get a fresh coconut so it was coconuts all round. Andy was next in and then Ewan, who’d waited back with Jane for a bit when she was struggling with the heat, and eventually Jane made it back too. Had us worried for a bit and hopefully OK after a drink and cooling off a bit – seriously, challengingly hot today!.

Now off to sort out food and rest for the night. The stars from camp 1 were incredibly bright and with the clear sky we have here, maybe we’ll get a treat tonight too.

Thank you Claire and Eddie and Donna for your messages – Alistair too. Anyone else forgive me because my brain is struggling a bit from sensory overload.

Take care all and will be back on it tomorrow :o) Peter

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Works for Emerson as the Global Field Services Director for Flow Lifecycle Services. I joined the company over 20 years ago and spent most of that time managing field services in the oil and gas sector. I didn't go to university straight out of school but joined the Navy instead and caught up on my education later by studying in my own time for BSc hons and MBA while working full time.

Gargunnock, Scotland

Global Field Services Director

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