Hi friends and family. I'm SO sorry for not being able to blog after the long march. Spoiler Alert, I survived, and in fact finished the race. Here's my recap.
So I had a long, hard day on Stage 4. As much as I enjoyed staying with friends and laughing during the day (Genko bought ice cream when we walked through a small town!) I learned that I am not a very strong walker. While I could walk the first half of the day feeling fine, by the second half I was struggling to keep up. Too much time on my feet.
So for the long march, 47 miles, I decided that I needed to go off on my own. I saved music for this day, and plugged in Motown during the first 10 mile stretch of the Long March. While I somewhat hoped to find someone to spend the day with, I ended up alone the entire day. The first half (nearly 30 miles) was super technical. My feet hurt walking over the uneven ground. Before CP 4, we had to climb a huge sand dune, the largest one yet. What's crazy is that I was all alone climbing it - no one in sight before or after me. It was such a surreal experience. Just me and the dune...oh and the photographer Thiago, who gave me just the right amount of encouragement and the right amount of silence to conquer the dune. When I got to the top, I did a dance and let out a yell from somewhere deep down. It was amazing.
The rest of the stage was a blur. The temperature dropped as the sun went down, the wind picked up, and I turned on my headlights and started running in the dark. My whole body hurt, but my whole body was also numb. My brain just turned off, not really processing anything beyond taking salt tablets and eating small bites of food. I cried a little bit here and there, but not as much as I expected. Shortly after 11pm, I crossed the finish line, just around 15 hours - I had no idea I would do that well. I finished around place 52nd...
After getting in my tent, Lisa took care of me, getting me hot water and helping me get changed and in my sleeping bag. Unfortunately after eating some calories and laying down, my legs started spasming in immense pain. I've never experienced anything like it before in my life. After crawling out of my sleeping bag and rolling my muscles with a tennis ball, exhaustion finally overcame the pain and I fell asleep.
The End -
My final rest at camp was much needed. I felt that this race went by so quickly, and I was not ready for it to be over after the Long March. I spend the day talking to other competitors and taking naps and playing games with my tent mates. They are the most beautiful people I have ever met. We feel like a family, and the thought of leaving them is heart breaking.
The morning of Stage 6, the last 5 miles into San Pedro was surreal. After running a few miles by myself, Shelley, my tent mate from South Africa, caught up with me and we ran the last of the race together. We talked about the last week, about what we saw in each other, and what we hoped for each other's futures. We crossed the finish line holding hands. It was so special.
Final Words -
I would do the Atacama Crossing again and again and again. The two weeks I spent in San Pedro and in the desert were healing to my soul in a way that I didn't know I needed. I was hoping for a glimpse of something inside of myself, but I found so much. I found friends who I now consider family. I found strength and power in my legs and in my mind. I found love...a deep love for life, and for connection, and for myself. I found a hunger for speed, I want to do this again and get better and stronger. But mostly, I want to be better, more generous and kind and patient. I want to be like the people I met and I want to be the person they saw in the desert. After the race, Shelley told me "Tina, you're desert pretty," meaning that I didn't look like complete shit out there during the race. But I think it was something else, I felt alive and right in the desert. I was just me.
Love y'all forever, thank you.
Yall. Stage 4 was rough. I’ll try not to die tomorrow. Love you, t.
Okay, so I owe you a long blog post because guess who has two blistered thumbs (from trekking poles) and came in to camp wayyy too late last night? This Texan. However, I did extremely well today (spoiler alert) so I have plenty of time for a recap.
Stage 2…WHAT THE HECK. So the whole day was just slow. The river crossings were surreal and beautiful; however, my feet were frozen solid. I had no motor functionality in my feet, which made climbing over the technical rocks really difficult. After that we (me and Genko, the Bulgarian dentist) had a very hot climb, though we did get to run down a huge sand dune, which was one of the most amazing runs I have ever had – just wow. Unfortunately, the remainder of the 28+ mile was just as brutal. Sand, crumbling rocks, hard soul crushing road. I told Genko to ignore when I started weeping, which he did kindly as we struggled in. We made it to camp at 7:23, over 11 hours, y’all. Way too long. By the time we arrived at camp, the cybertent was shutting down, and I barely had time to get my feet checked out at the medical tent before eating a rushed dinner. I cried a lot yesterday. Blisters and tight hip flexors made me question if I could finish.
Which brings me to…Stage 3. So, I almost quit Stage 3 of Sri Lanka, when I had to hobble through the jungle with a bum knee and the worst blisters imaginable. So I had a vendetta day. Definitely something to prove to myself. The first half marathon was runnable – mostly gravely trail and even a flat road for a while. I had started the race planning to walk the first two days and then start running, but wasn’t sure if I could after day 2, but I just set off at a 12-14 mile pace, now that my pack is lighter. Then we got to the infamous salt flats. It’s compared to running on frozen broccoli – it is not stable, and either crunches underneath you, or stabs your feet. It slowed me down, but I tried to trot and hop with the use of my poles. I slowly just kept passing people. Then we got to a section that was half sand and half shale, and again I just trotted. It was always on the border of moving too fast, but I couldn’t help but think about how miserable being on the course for 11 hours had been. I kept a careful eye on my watch to make sure I was keeping on track with salt pills and electrolyte drinks. Before each check point, I made sure I had a plan of what I needed to do (usually: calories, Tylenol, sunblock), and I got it done without spending much time there. Again, kept slowly passing. The last section, though only 3ish miles, involved descending and scaling up sand dunes. IT IS SO HARD. Imagine rock climbing, where the rock is disintegrating beneath you. It is impossible to pause for a break, or else you will slide back down to the bottom. It felt like that scene from Homeward Bound when Shadow can’t climb out of the mud pit. I said a lot of words I can’t say here. Anyway, it was real hard. I came in 49th J also known as WTF TINA RAN SO FAST. It’s a good day y’all. Top 50, damn.
I have absolutely no clue what will happen tomorrow, or if my body will be able to recover and repeat. But I didn’t get hurt, and I showed myself something really special out there today. I will now leave this desert proudly, no matter what. Thank you doctors, thank you volunteers, thank you 4 deserts, and thank you to the competitors who encouraged me all the way.
Hey y’all! I made it through stage 1!
I guess I should start by saying that my week in Chile was amazing. Olivia (25) and I were so grateful to have arrived early both to acclimatize to the altitude and to spend our days drinking cappuccinos and eating crepes in the town square. More than that though, we got to meet, and reunite, with competitors, which is truly why I do these races. I always feel like I’m with my people here, and it’s amazing that it has started to feel like a family.
So as for the stage, today was good. Camp 1 was quite cold last night, below freezing, but I think I lucked out with the most wonderful tent mates. I laughed so hard last night, and it has only continued since being back at camp this afternoon. The landscape out here is incredible. There is nothing but vast desert and volcanoes in the distance. Again, thank god I live in Texas, because the heat has not been a challenging as it has been for others. Today was definitely not as difficult as the first day in Sri Lanka, though possibly because my pack did not weigh a million pound (it only weighed 21 at the start, before water). I have decided that defeating your ego on day 1 is the most challenging – my plan coming into the race was to walk the first two days, while my pack is heaviest. But you see all these fast people, and then you come across a nice flat part and it takes everything you have to hold back on your pace. But I did it today. Better than that, I didn’t get hurt (YAY!), I only have a few minor blisters (though I did step on a cactus that pierced through my shoe and foot), and I made it at my target pace of about 15-20 minutes per mile. Though I finished the last bit on my own, I had the unexpected and wonderful company of my Bulgarian tent mate almost all day. All 23+ miles were filled with a lot of sarcasm and laughter.
I’m a little nervous for tomorrow as it’s full of river crossings up to our knees, which means that my feet will be wet and more prone to blisters. The key for me is going to be keeping my feet in shape enough to run on the following days.
As always, I just want to say thank you to all the beautiful people in my life. Even though I haven’t had to dig too deep yet, I can’t tell you how much memories and thinking about my support system gets me through the tough bits.
Lots of love, y’all.