Well, it has been several weeks since the end of the Last Desert and I think it finally has all sunk in. The Last Desert was a blast. It was by far the most fun of the 4 Deserts for me. It wasn't because we got to sleeping in a beds, or eat real meals, it was the unique atmosphere. There were 49 competitors on the boat and we had all set out on an epic journey to conquer our Last Desert. Each of my fellow competitors had endured at least two of the other majestic desert challenges was prepared to go through it all again. We travelled to the end of the earth and saw what very few others have seen. We raced as best we could in unpredictable conditions and witness epic scenery that we will never forget. I made some great friends that I hope to see again. It was an amazing experience that is going to be very difficult to top. The 4 Deserts was an amazing experience for me. Before starting training for the Atacama Crossing I never really ran that much. I was out of shape and I had never left North America. Here I sit over 9 months after the Atacama, in the best shape of my adult life and much happier. I have come a long way in those 9 months and I thank Racing the Planet for putting on these wonderful events. They have greatly enriched my life and brought me much joy. I look forward to Iceland next year and the challenge that it represents. I hope to see some amazing scenery and many of the people I have met in the last year. Shayne
Another Couple of Days and Several Thousand Penguins
I am not joking about the thousands of penguins(gentoo's for those who are interested in such things). I will get to that in a bit though.
Yesterday, we got to deception island, only to find 50 knot winds and an iced in shore. The passage in involved passing by Neptune's bellows. Neptune's bellows was a giant piece of stone protruding from the shoreline like one of the mythical pillars of Hercules.
The decision was made to head to Trinity island. When we got to Trinity island, there were too many Penguin colonies around, so we could not run a course without getting too close to the wildlife. Shucks.
We were forced into having a rest day. I had the option of kayaking around the bay or going onto shore and taking pictures of a penguin colony. I figured I could take pictures from my kayak of the penguins, and when was I ever going to get the chance to kayak around Antarctica again????
As soon as I entered my kayak, I knew that I had made the right choice. Pristine blue waters, penguins splashing around the kayak and the freedom to enjoy the open water.
The first thing was did was kayak to the penguin colony and take an obscene amount of penguin photos. Eventually our guide got us on our way and led us to the most beautiful iceberg that I have seen in my life. The top and sides were the glistening white of melting snow. Nothing remarkable there. The middle was a pale blue that you only get from the crushing pressure of a glacier over thousands of years. The oxygen was gone from the snow and the result could not have been more amazing.
After 10 minutes of enjoying the gorgeous view, we headed to another penguin colony and got some more photos. This was my idea. I spotted it in the distance and my tour guide said she would indulge me and let us row to it. At this point we were a good 4-5km from the boat. We paddled halfway back and our guide got us to turn a random direction, paddle 30 strokes, find a point in the exquisite scenery and stare at it for 5 minutes.
When we were done I felt a peace that is hard to describe. It felt like my soul had been uplifted and my soulf rejuvinated./p>
The next day we went to wiencke island and started racing at about 11am. We did about a 3km loop up a ridiculously large hill and down the side. We had to do 400m trek from the shore to the course before we could start. This involved walking through several magestic penguin colonies.
When I started I didn't really want to race. The scenery around us was so magnificent that t I just wanted to stare in wonder. The mountains around us were the biggest yet. Towering monuments of icy beauty that exist no where else in the world. From the hill we could see several penguins colonies by the shore, with the mountains in the background. The water was as blue as ever and there were a few lonely icebergs floating around the bay.The ice shelfs around opposing shoreline were mostly white, but they had an pale blue reflecting out from the inside.
The race itself went well. I did 15 laps, however many km that is. The course was harder this day, but I was feeling stronger. Slush and steep ascent took a lot out of me. At times I felt weak, but normally a gel or two would rejuvinate me. If that didn't work, i would watch a lonely penguin wander around, with his flippers back and his head held high.was fairly warm. I am guessing that it only got down to -10 with wind chill max. People were complaining it was cold, but I was running in similar temperatures at the beginining of October.
I ended the day on a high note and wanted to go another lap, but they held me back. My adrenealine is pumping right now, but I am sure it will wear off soon and I will sleep well tonight.
If you are reading this Stephen, could you send a link to this blog to Jason and Nathan? They might be intersted.
After a rough voyage though the Drake passage, we awoke to calmer seas. Our wake up call was the pleasant sound of the anchor being dropped. I got out of bed and immediately looked out my cabin window. I was immediately rewarded with a view of several penguins diving in and out of the water in a playful fashion. Not a bad way to start the day.
The landscape around the ship was simply magnificent. The water was a shimmering blue so intense that it seemed surreal. Our ship was moored in a natural harbour that was protected by monolithic mountains of unforgiving ice. The shoreline was covered in a blanket of the whitest snow, and dotted with a smattering of international structures. There were several research stations on King George island as well as a tiny Russian Orthodox church.
After breakfast and a briefing, we headed to shore in zodiacs. As we neared shore the was a group of 3 gentoo penguins hanging out under an ice alcove by the shoreline.
The atmosphere was jubilant as we prepared to start the race. After so much hard work and so much sacrifice, we were about to start the final step in our quest to conquer the 4 deserts.
After the race started, I couldn't help but ponder that this was the most beautiful of the deserts we have dared challenged.
The course was as usual a breath taking affair. It reminded me of home with the snow and ice.
We ran a 14km circuit with two loops. The first loop went had several large hills and ended at the Uruguayan base. The was a large whale skeleton by the entrance.
The second, smaller loop end at the Chinese base. It was more challenging as the snow turned to slush as the day went on. There were several spots that my legs sunk to my knees as I wandered along the cold trail.
The best part about the course was the magnificent ocean view with random penguins appearing on shore. I was told there were several seals on shore, but unfortunately I never saw any that day.
As I was finish my last lap of the day, the clouds filtered the sun in such a way that the bay was covered in golden light, highlighting a line zodiac as it came into shore.
I believe we ran for approximately 13 hours by the end of the day. It was tough going and definitely the hardest long day I have ever endured. I was a little slower then I would of liked, but this is still my first year of ultra running. I never gave up and did a extra half lap when I was given the opportunity to call it a day despite my body calling for me to submit.
Once I got back to the ship, I immediately took a hot shower followed by a warm meal and a well deserved rest.
More updates to follow soon. I appreciate any comments.
On the day of the first stage we woke up to the lovely sound of the anchor coming down. Not the most pleasant sound I have ever heard, but an effective wake up call. I immediately got up and looked through my cabin window. In the distance I see several penguins jumping in and out of the water and steadily coming towards the boat. Definitely a great start to the day.
In less then 6 hours I will be boarding a boat for Antarctica, The Final Desert, in my Four Deserts journey this year. The 4 Deserts has been an amazing journey so far. Running 250km through Atacama, Gobi and Sahara have been amazing experiences that I can never forget. At times during my journey I have wanted to give up. These races have challenged me in ways that I never expected and it I am amazed that I have managed to come so far. These races are both a physical and mental challenge that are rewarding beyond words if you can complete them. Only one more journey awaits this year and it is going to be epic. A two day journey across the Drake passage followed by running 250km(weather dependent) on Antarctia is something I have dreamed about for years and I can't believe that this day is here! Expect updates to follow as the race unfolds. This is going to be an amazing journey and I hope that I can rise to the occasion of documenting this amazing experience. Shayne
I'm at the Houston airport trying to kill time, so I figured now would be a great time to test out my blog.