Successfully completed stage 5, and we are resting in Camp 5 today. We have 8+km left tomorrow, a nice ‘victory’ jog/walk through the finishing line. Barring any unforeseen calamity, I feel safe to say that I will finish the race. Thank you all for your support, and to the HK Anti-Cancer Society. I am certain the money raised would be put to meaningful use.
Stage 5 was pretty tough. I thought stage 3 was supposed to be the toughest day (it was a very difficult day) but in my mind yesterday was worst. I guess that had to do with the accumulated fatigue, lack of sleep, not eating enough (or at all – I only had 2 mouthful of chips and some bah-kwa yesterday, and I powered through the day with no food… I hated the nuts I brought, and also the thought of the instant rice and noodles made me sick; the bah-kwa (thank you Kwong Hwee) generally works better but then again the thought of having that made me sick as well!), the extreme cold and heat, and of course the tough/harsh terrain. It was clear I wasn’t ready for this race, but then again it hadn’t been easy juggling work, family and training. Well, it is what it is… press on and glad I completed and delivered…
The course was gorgeous. We had more servings (hue dosage, easily 25-30km) of the uneven infamous salt-flats, loose sandy patches with tons of stones and rocks of various sizes, hills, undulating terrain and very daunting cheeky 1 km sand-dune. At the end of the day, my feet looked like it had gone for a major surgery – in a mess!
The last 5 km was both awesome and awful at the same time. Awesome in knowing that my old bones will survive another beating. Awful in the sense that there was no end in sight… it was dark, the batteries on my head-lamp was gradually dying out, it was xxx cold, I was going up and down demanding slopes, I was having gastric issue, I had some pain, and there was no camp-site in sight. It was the second time during a race (first being with Alvin at the Gobi) where I ran out of creative profanities, after every disappointing climb or turn (with no camp in sight!). I was angry but there’s nothing I can do about it… just had to dig deeper and continue
Yet again, during the various zone-out states, I was thinking of food! The roast chicken at San Pedro, an ice cold local beer, and I was working out the timing (between connecting flights to JFK) at the back of my mind to see if I can make a quick dash to that great steak house Gonzalo brought me to for lunch in Santiago!
The weather here was colder than I have expected (daily struggles), and the heat was not as intense as what we had experienced during the Gobi race but it sure is hot… gradually getting roasted – medium rare now!
I can’t say enough how amazing the scenery are over here. Breath-taking. Also the folks here are awesome. A very special group of people here. It has been a privilege to be here.
Once again, thank you all for your support. Will have to return to reality and P3 shortly!
Mama, I missed you and melon. Let melon know dada will be home soon, and I will show her the medal and the gecko photo! And I want to go to that wanton noodle place for supper on the day I arrived back home! CSP!
Done with stage 4, and I am in much better spirit today. I was feeling rather miserable last night – I was down with mild heat-stroke, I couldn’t eat (and didn’t eat), I couldn’t pee (alright too much details) and I was shivering, etc… and wasn’t even sure if I would feel well enough to continue today. I was lucky to have a really fantastic bunch of experienced runners from China in my tent and they gave me some medicine and massaged me! I felt slightly better in the morning, and I couldn’t say no to myself for not trying!
It was a long day today as the race organiser adjusted the course a little. We have completed approx. 160km, and tomorrow is the Long March. Not going to be easy but I will give it my best shot. The temperature is now slightly better, cold but better (at least it wasn’t -1C like on day 2 in the tent).
The course today is pretty challenging as well. The first section is tough, and we had to essentially do the reverse of what we did the day before, while on the way into Camp 3. The first 10-12km was technical with seemingly endless climbs up the mountain, and it was interesting tackling the various sand-dunes. The hardest section for the day was from checkpoint 3 to 4… 12.3 km of crusty salt-flat, aka broken broccoli… it was km and km of salt-flat, with ‘no end in sight’ and it was hot! The last 10 km or so was on a dirt road, and it is during this stretch where my mind drifting between a nice steak at Bistecca, nice home-steamed pomfret or grouper and the wantan noodle at Jordan! Rather painful, considering I am hungry but I simply cannot stomach anything solid….
Alright I have to go sort out my feet (a couple of new ugly blisters) and I need to try to eat, and I need to rest. One final push tomorrow. Fingers crossed.
Thank you all for your support.
Mama, big kisses to you and melon. CSP!
Done with stage 3. Today was a big test of will/grit! It was 39km of very tough terrain – the toughest day by far even when compared to my previous Gobi and Sahara races! And I am feeling great to have accomplished/completed this stage, but I am feeling a little horrible now. Food is not going in. I suspect I am suffering from slight dehydration. Will keep this blog short and I need to go lie down and rest.
The first 2 sections of the course today has some pretty good running sections but the third section was our introduction to the infamous salt-plan. It was only 4-5km, but it was awfully painful and ugly! The crusty salt plan ground was very hard, and was very punishing on the joints, feet/knees, etc and it was impossible to move fast without running a real risk of getting injured. Just imagine running on a foot-reflexology stone for a couple of kilometres, well not quite but you get the idea. I understand we have 12km of that crap tomorrow.
The final section of the day, the last 12km was extremely tough. We had to climb a mountain, and go up and down several ‘decent’ sized sand-dunes! The view was amazing but t was really tough – I had to stop several time to catch up breath! Anyway, I am glad this is done. We have completed approx. 110 km thus far and hope I feel well enough tomorrow to continue. I need to go lie down and rest.
Mama, guess what – I spotted more than a dozen geckos today! Tell Tasha dada managed to take a couple of photos and will show it to her when I am back. Hope all is well back home. Missing you and melon. Love you.
Dear all, this is just a quick update/blog for Day 1 and 2. I had no access to the cyber-tent yesterday as we were hit by wind-storms and we were all driven to a nearby shelter (about an hour from the camp 1 location). It was a fairly eventful day 1….
Done with stages 1 and 2, and we have thus far covered approx. 71.5km and I am feeling OK, not great.
On Day/stage 1, we started the race at 8 am, and the elite runners flew off at awesome speed! Given we were at 3200m above sea level, my plan was to alternate between jogging and power-walking, taking it easier on the first day or 2, erring on the cautious side, otherwise the race might end sooner than expected. That plan worked out well, given I ended the day feeling good despite not having a good sleep the night before – it was really cold (a Chinese competitor in my tent said the temperature was 0C inside the tent, which means it would be a few degrees colder in the open as the wind was fairly strong) and I was having a running/block nose! Yet again, like what happened during the Gobi March, I struggle with the cold. (Graham, if you are reading this.. I doubt I can manage the 6633 race!)
The course/scenery was simply amazing. We started at 3200m and we ended the day at 2700m above sea level. But it is far from a down-hill course; there were several challenging hills to climb and I was struggling as the air was thin, and I was breathless even when I was running on flat/level road! A mega-challenge on day 1 was that we had to fight with the ultra-strong wind. Almost right from the start of the race, we were hit with ‘gale-force’ type wind. The wind was so strong that it pushes me off-course, and it was an ongoing cold, fight for many, many kilometres. And at Camp 1, there was no tent to go back to!
It was cold as well in the morning on Day 2. The course for day 2 was originally 44km, but the race organiser changed it to 35km (given all the disruption that happened in the previous evening, and the time required to drive back to camp 1 which is the starting point for Day 2, etc). I suspect the organiser will lengthen the long march by 9 km! Anyway, the course on day 2 covered some tough terrain. The first bit of the day included 8-9km of river-crossing, where we had to wade through and get wet 17-18x – calf and knee-deep water. I didn’t enjoy this section at all, as it was very cold and the water was icy cold, my feet was completely numbed (17-18x!) and I dropped my sunglass into the river! It is a good thing I was prepared for this contingency and I have a 2nd pair. My race would have ended today, without a sunglass – it would be close to impossible.
The best bit of the race today was the massive and very beautiful sand-dunes. Epic and big sand-dunes. The climb up via an old trail was rather painful but the view from the top is simply incredible. And we get to run-down the super-soft sand!
Stage 3 tomorrow is going to be a tough day, from what I gathered from some of the veterans here. Appox 40 km. Let’s see. Fingers crossed.
I will wrap up by saying this has thus far been an amazing experience, a very tough course and a very challenging keyboard!!
Mamami, I am ok over her, don’t worry. My left knee is OK. I have 2 big blisters, one each on the left and right big toe. I am tired. Not sleeping well. Eating OK thus far! And can you let melon know dada has not sighted a gecko in the past 2 days, will continue to search for one tomorrow! Thank you for your unwavering support and for looking after melon when I am away. CSP! Tell melon dada loves her.
D-2 to the Atacama Crossing!
I arrived in San Pedro de Atacama on Tuesday evening, a couple of days prior to the start of the race so as to allow my body some time to acclimatise to the altitude. I was a little worried about acute mountain sickness given I have spent all my time living in countries that are <20m above sea level.
I visited Salar de Tara yesterday which brought me up to approx 4800m above sea level and I spent a couple of hours above 4000m.... that helps. I was feeling OK, albeit I wasn’t running and was fairly comfortable sitting in the car playing tourist; I reckon it would still be sensible for me to take it easy on the first day (or two) of the race.
San Pedro de Atacama is a charming little oasis in the driest desert in the world. A little Wild West of sort; a very cool place and the surrounding areas are immensely beautiful. This place is a paradise for landscape and wildlife photographers. I will certainly be back again with my family to explore the natural beauty, and it will be great to drive across to Bolivia as well to check out the Salar de Uyuni.
Anyway, this is a blog to test the system.... I will spend the rest of day resting and repacking my race pack, and will see if I can shave a few more grams off my backpack and to decide if I should carry a power bank or more bah-kwa! Will need to head out for Exercise Carbo-Load as well, not doing enough of that!
There will be a safety brief and equipment check tomorrow morning before we get ship out to base camp in the afternoon.
The race starts on 1 Oct.
Thank you all for your amazing support - both for myself and also the HK Anti-Cancer Society. As I have mentioned a couple of time, I hope my old bones can take another round of beating; and I certainly hope I do not disappoint. I am excited and happy to be here. Will do my best, for sure.