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RacingThePlanet: Madagascar 2014 Blogs

10k. Just a Sprint in the park, on sand.
06-Sep-2014 12:58:03 PM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Butterflies, up at 5am ('crow croaking' being the Malagasy word for 5am) nothing to do apart from stuff my now 5kg pack, toilet tea toes and teeth. Staggered start this morning, 7am, 8am, 8.30am. I'm in the middle 8am. Count down and sprint for 30 minutes, then my legs stopped working, I had taken on zero water and zero electrolytes, and the sun had been up for 3 hours (nothing learnt over the last 240k!) Drink and two Endurolytes later I'm back running through a crowd of shouting smiling happily bemused Malagasy. Someone shouts '200 METERS' and there's the finish line with flags of all competing nationalities fluttering, a great big heavy medal is placed around our necks and just like that....... it's all over.
Stage 5
05-Sep-2014 10:11:04 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Nailed it! 14 hours and 40 minutes, pulled through with the support of all of you and my ex-submariner hiking partner Peter.

I confess to having a good sleep, foot clean and blister slicing, followed by a cup of scrounged powdered soup with an OXO cube for good measure, before beginning this blog. Rather slack after 80kms of sandy trails, high tsingy spiky mountains, villages full of smiling happy people (and hundreds of pairs of discarded shorts for some reason), villages which in darkness provided sanctuary for slightly bolder dogs, and what I believe where the Malagasy Olympic snoring team (my ear plugs will be donated to their victims before I leave), and seven checkpoints full of dedicated team support, doctors and pained feet. At one of these we all pontnouly burst into the Boxer by Simon & Garfunkel, a weird and wonderful moment.

Brendan, they are playing a live tape of Queen as I type, so music is still good (just changed to ACDC), Kyra I stopped for a short break under a shady tree, to watch two very very small perfectly white kids (baby goats that is), jumping around together, sorry no video, but you would have wanted me to bring them home as new pets.

Thank you again all for your postings (if that is the technical term). So happy to know the pressure the Nile crocodile can exert with its jaws.

You will not believe this but someone has just arrived at camp here, which means they have been on the trail for over 28 hours! 4 hours earlier a Japanese couple crossed the line, and then he knelt down and proposed to her, with a ring that he hd carried for 240kms. Not a dry eye in sight.

There were many moments on the trail which will start to flash back to me, but the camaraderie and humour amongst competitors pervades with great strength through it all.

Flashbacks – Peter and I being driven off the trail by buffalo, dancing by torchlight through a laughing village who were listening to some awesome Malagasy jazz, repeatedly catching up with a team of 2 South Africans and 2 Americans whose strategy seemed to be walk/run/pee, walk/run/pee… large black and white ravens (?) waiting in trees vulture like by the trial, beautiful snakes (green and silver), cool Malagasy dude on a bicycle in 1960’s shades and dark purple shirt, a lovely French girl waiting for breakfast in tears before starting the day (she finished strong), immaculate Japanese tents, immaculate Japanese team food, still being unable to squat after 25 years in Asia, competitors laid out today under the tree, feet on benches where possible, chatting and laughing,

And the STARS, DID I MENTION THE STARS…………..

One more night and 10km final sprint to the finish and cold drinks, yeah!

Stage 4
03-Sep-2014 02:28:11 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

They drilled into my big toenail today! And I spent a joyous time bursting the rest of my blisters with a safety pin.

Sadly my training buddy Jeroen dropped out today, more space in the tent, but already missing his encouragement and cheerful big smile.

Finished a lot faster, despite spending time contemplating the sacred lake (with crocodiles so no swimming this time), great to get in and unpack before the sun goes down. Still 37 degrees C, and when the wind drops the heat is close to unendurable, the shade of a tree feels like jumping into the swimming pool at Abbots Manor.

The last stage came with some interesting temptations as we went through a small town along the “highway”, lots of little stalls selling cold coke and beer, even a hut with massage services, all of which we are not allowed to avail ourselves of, against the race rules : )

HERE COMES THE BIG PUSH – THE BIG DAY – 80KM, and then we are all done!!!!!! Feet don’t fail me now, pleeeeeeeeese.

Lost a race against all the little kids in a village, and wish I had stopped to kick a ball bout as well, but the thought of the pain in my feet made me think again (pathetic really).

Thank you for the emails and comments, fingers crossed I can provide a positive report in two days’ time, no blogging until we finish the 80 km.

Stage 3
02-Sep-2014 03:58:19 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

Well that was a little more painful, but the outstandingly beautiful scenery made up for it!

Big toe nail is on the way out, but the blister on my heal that I burst last night with a safety pin has not got worse. Well now I’ve got the more interesting parts out of the way. Won’t explain the toilet [hole] tents or joy of snoring, and armpit/feet smells (no showers here for 6 days).

Sadly Jane, one half of the ablution sisters has dropped (possibly heat exposure) as well as one of our Ecuadorian friends.

We started today to the red hot chillis, and blasted through the first two checkpoints in 3.15 hour (approx. 20km), lovely long beaches, horrible long sandy tracks, incredible and desolate tsingy gorges, I cannot do them justice and wish I could upload my pictures. Some river crossings, the best of which was 1.5km from the finish line, where, despite the warning of crocodiles I had a welcome bath (someone kindly gave me some soap flakes).

Oh, and nearly got bitten by a snake whilst avoiding another one on the trail!

After last night’s campsite on the beach, where the locals partied all night (until 6am) with drums and the sacrifice of three zebu cows, tonight’s site is up on a plateau , surrounded by valleys and then other plateaus, each of which looks like an extended Capetonian table mountain.

Clouds coming up, could be I for a spot of rain, I’m off for my dinner, not sure what the dried food holds in store for me, but it hasn’t been bad so far.

Dying for a cold can of coke!

Wish they could tune into your Spotify Kyra and Brendan : )

Stage 2
02-Sep-2014 02:30:43 AM [(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi]

9 and a half hours, 46km of sand in 42C - how do you train for that?

Incredible vistas, long sandy beaches, rocks of old coral and so many spiky plants, sooo many, I’m starting to feel the blisters, which were conveniently assisted by river crossings and wading through irrigation ditches amongst the paddy fields.

And what a finish, the whole village came to sing and dance, which they are still doing now as the sun sets. We have eight in our eight man tent (do they measure these things with oompa loompas), 50% lively Scottish contingent, Lieven and Jeroen who I trained with, and Peter an ex-submariner…

Packing and unpacking in the tent is becoming easier, and hopefully the pack will get lighter, especially after tonight’s powdered chicken tikka,

Best from Madagascar

LJ

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LORENCE JOHNSTON
RacingThePlanet: Madagascar 2014

Hometown
Hong Kong

Profession
Rare Book Dealer

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LORENCE JOHNSTON
RacingThePlanet: Madagascar 2014 competitor

Bio

Hometown
Hong Kong

Profession
Rare Book Dealer

Why are you competing?
Because it's Madagascar! and to tighten up so I'm
not physically embarrassed or embarrassing when by
the water with Brendan and Kyra J. And it's about
time I got back into some sport.

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