Stage 1 (Antarctica)

Oh my goodness WHAT A DAY!!! It is 9:47pm and we are waiting to eat dinner before a much needed recovery rest. For those who didn’t receive the breaking updates our start time was considerably pushed back due to strong winds which made it unsafe to take the zodiacs to shore. We didn’t receive this update at 3:40am when Ricky and I were fully dressed, pumped up and about to eat breakfast. We climbed back into bed and slept until 6am when I headed to breakfast to see a decent contingent of competitors looking out the window and hoping the start would hurry up. It was the epitomy of a waiting game and I had finally curled into bed when we had a PA announcement saying the weather had cleared and we needed to be ready to depart in an hour. All of a sudden it became very real.

Once dressed I waited in the library but everyone was umming and ahhhhing about their gear selection so I escaped to Ryan&deans room where we had some quiet focusing time. The trip on the zodiac was incredibly windy and I was thankful that I had chosen to wear two pairs of CW-X tights (1 being a thermal), gortex pants, long injinji compression socks, thermal CW-X top, light CW-X top and vest and waterproof jacket. I thought I looked like a oompa loompa but Alina insisted that I looked like a munchkin- so that is probably slightly more complimentary.

We had 30minutes to prepare ourselves on shore and off we went. The first 1.5kms was a part of the walking zone which obviously means we were not able to run (bahaha). It seemed a little frustrating at the beginning but I can assure you that I was kissing the air on the walking zone sections later on in the race. I probably started a little too hard and was the second placed female until the 28km mark- where I was joined and subsequently overt taken by a Croatian competitor Marianna. In typical style I made her converse with me and found out that she has placed second in every RTP race she has ever done, she is a total warrior.

Now onto the terrain- TOUGH TOUGH TOUGH- in fact the toughest terrain I have experienced in an RTP event. It felt like a combination of salt flats + sand dunes. There was thick snow which was impossible to navigate through, ice which was broken into freezing water by the second loop (it was so deep that at times I was waist high in freezing icy water) and mud that was slippery and had such suction that it removed by shoe twice. I had envisaged that the terrain would be flat but it was anything  but flat. There were hills at every turn and it was probably a 50-50 split on whether I ran or walked them.

Onto a slightly disturbing confession: about 40kms in I needed to go to the bathroom. There were 2 portable toilets near the shore, approximately 100metres from the course. The thought of making that detour and pulling down my copious layers in the freezing weather was less than appealing. I said to myself if I still needed to go in 30minutes I may be tempted to pee my pants. Disgusting I know but luckily It didn’t get to that point!!

One great plus of the figure of eight loop is that you were able to see people all the time. Everyone had such a positive spirit despite the tough stage. It was motivating to have competitors that you had’t spoken to slap you a high give and pass on encouraging words. In fact when I came back to the boat I had two competitors shake my  hand who I had never met before. Great bunch of people!!!

I ended up doing 60kms which was four laps. There were an even split of people who did 3 or 4 laps and about 4 people did 5 laps and the amazing Ryan Sandes did 6 =90kms. Absolute trooper! One horrific part of the course was when there were swooping birds that proceeded to attack a few competitors. These pesky birds swooped me to a point that I was laying on the snow screaming. When I had the nerve to get up again they came back and pecked at my head and I laid on the snow screaming and waving my poles in the air. Every time I came to that section again I put my poles in a cross above my head and ducked down low.

Although there were several people who did four laps- our times were all different on when we completed them. At this point everyone who did the same amount of kms is on an equal score- somewhat bizarre approach but lets just roll with it. I had a very tough section between 2-3 loops and was in a total rut. Came around for the last 1.5loops and loved every moment of it- felt like I could have gone for hours.

I had a 20 minute shower when I got back to the ship and am now just thawing out. Two competitors pulled out because their toes were frozen. By the end all of our feet were completely soaked and there was nothing much you could do about it.

The plan for tomorrow is the same as today. 3:30 wake up for a 6am start and 9pm finish. The Chinese meteorologists at the manned station said it is meant to be a rough morning, so maybe we won’t be starting till later. Everyone is hoping that is the truth as we will only get a maximum of four hours sleep. Have to still be prepared to go early- gahhhh.

Long blog but it was a biggie today.

Loving the blog comments and emails. I am thinking of all of you and you are certainly helping me get through.

Thinking warm thoughts

 

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