We had the long stage yesterday… We woke up at 5am, after another cold night. We prepared our kit and got on the bus at 7am for a 2 hr drive to the start. I ate the breakfast in the bus and tried to get some rest. We finally started the 75.4km stage at 10am, it was already hot. I started slowly running with John and we caught up Anne-Marie and Justus right after CP2. The scenery on this section was very nice, wide open view over the mountain range and high peaks (over 7000m I guess). John was a bit faster and left us. The weather became stormy, we could see the rain in distance and then the wind and stand storm picked-up. We were a bit worried when we arrived at CP5 because there was nasty twisters just a few km away and we were on flat terrain with no shelter whatsoever. Then we had a long long straight cross country trail. For some reason my legs accepted to accelerate the pace. I left Anne-Marie and Justus who both were a bit sick. I passed John and continued in a major sandstorm. It was hard to find the trail as we could see one marker at a time in best case. At some point I could barely run against the head wind, but then I saw two women working on a field and I thought “shut up, stop complain and run”. I passed the last check point in 60km/h wind at least, fortunately it was coming a bit from the back. I took some extra water just in case I would get lost, constantly keeping an eye on my Suunto watch to check the distance. Then I saw the finish line, so happy to finish 3rd in 8h38!! Thanks Mo and Vincente for your cheering at the end. We are resting today in a fabulous camp site, with an amazing view. Tomorrow we have 15km to go… 15km away from food, shower…
This is my last dispatch, I would like to thank Anne-Marie, John, Justus for the kilometers run together. Thanks to all of you, family, friends, collegues and sponsors for your email and support.
4th Stage, 39km +650m
This stage was supposed to be long and difficult... and it was. And it was also very scenic, technical and fun.
All started after a cold night but I guess it could have been worse. Getting up in the dark and cold, still a bit tired from the day before, is a challenge. We started off by a 4km running up-hill to the entrance of canyon going to the Shipton's Arch. We left the pack there to do a back and forth to see the arch. We ran up passing 12 ladders to reach the arch. I stopped for a while to take some photos because it was fantastic. Then we started a descend to check point 1 before going for a long roller-coaster crossing endless ridges. This section was very scenic, technical and very fun.
We rapidly made a group of four with Anne-Marie, John. We helped each others to keep a good pace and we passed the finish line together in 3rd position in 5h29. The last section was a bit hectic again as we ran in the middle of road constructions and RTP decided to stop the race 3km before the camp because of river too dangerous to cross.
We joined the camp with a bus and we rush now to eat, rest, send emails because tomorrow is the long stage; 75.4 km...
Yesterday I finally could get a good night of sleep, the first one since I left France. Still, I was not feeling so well this morning, we woke up at 6h, 2hr before the start but I managed to arrive late to the briefing, half dressed…
I started the race very slowly, I felt so crap that my hope was just to finish. As we started going uphill for 5km, the pace was slower than yesterday for everyone which was good news. I passed the 1st check point 20th in ranking, then we entered the red canyons (called "Mars" for obvious reasons), the terrain was rough, the scenery amazing which boosted me. I passed 14 runners in the canyons. Then I got lost for a while just 1km away from the last check point. I lost sight of the flags looking at my feet to not fall due to the rocks but that didn't change the ranking. Most of the stage was scenic, more technical except the last 9km of a paved road! Fortunately the views overs the Mountain Range behind were gorgeous. Like in Atacama, it is funny to run in this hot environment with big snowy mountains in the background. I am also excited to think that in about 7 weeks I will go just 250km North in Kirghistan to climb Khan-Tengri (7010m) with two friends.
Anyway I finished 5th today, it is just afternoon, so I avoided the heat and I have plenty of time to eat, drink and rest. I feel better than yesterday, I hope it will stay that way. Tomorrow should be technical again (I hope) with 1200m of elevation gain, ending at 2500m. No more dirt flatish road pleeeeease.
I have mixed feeling about this first stage, after a cold night the weather in the morning was great, not warm at all and with a nice breeze, except that we had it in our face most of the stage. Unfortunately the distance has been reduced to 32km instead of 42km and most on it on a not so interesting dirt road. So the race went very fast, I finished 7th in 3h20 but really struggled at the end. I don't think I slept more than 3h yesterday night, still jet-lagged and I may have a cold. My old tendinitis on the left foot is back too, so it is a pretty rough start but guess it's the same for most competitor. The stage ended in a nice village and we'll sleep in some kind of big room which is amazingly cool knowing the outside temperature is quite hot now and with 30 people in there. Tomorrow the stage will be longer, 39km with 779m of elevation gain and on more difficult terrain. We will see at it goes.
I will fly out tomorrow for Kashgar, exited to participate to the Gobi March just 3 months after the Atacama crossing: