I am writing this blog from a very exhausted yet exhilarated state. I definitely cannot guarantee there will be a coherent line of thought expressed. I have just completed a 11 hour stage where I managed to complete 75kms. The greatest mileage covered was by the amazing Ryan Sandes who pumped out 100kms. Followed by Paolo (Italy) who completed 82.50. The least amount covered today was45kms.
You may have read from my last blog that we were meant to go out in the afternoon for a second attempt to run some kms. The weather didn’t get any better so we spent the rest of the day on the boat. Although it is frustrating getting all of the gear on – for the second time in one day, I had pumped myself up for some more running in the snow. Last night we cruised to Deception Island and the plan was to do a long stage beginning at 6am. Luckily the weather permitted the zodiacs to take us to land and despite being in a mild blizzard the race started on time. The route was completely a mind game with a 2.5km circuit. This meant you were constantly crossing people who were headed the other direction and also looping people if they were slower than you. It was quite a magical feeling running in the snow and I was happy with my gear selection which kept me relatively toasty. The countdown went off and we were on our way. This was one of the most toughest runs I have ever participated in. Obviously there was the mental element of continually looping a 2.5km circuit- boredom is one word which can adequately sum up that feeling. The other element I was confronted with was one of competition. On a long day in other RTP events you don’t have much idea where other people are, so you are pretty much pushing & motivating yourself. Very early in the day the three top women, which included Diana (Ireland- winner of Gobi 09 & 3rd placed in Atacama 10), Mirgana (Croatia- 2nd placed in Sahara, Gobi & Atacama) and myself were incredibly close to each other. This race is based on the amount of loops you do so if you were thinking competitively you didn’t want either of them to be a loop ahead of you. We pushed each other to the max and we kept the pace up so that all of us are now placed within the top 12 competitors of the field. Unbelievably I am now equal sixth which is a very bizarre and unusual place for me to to be in. Although we were competing against each other it was incredibly friendly and everytime we passed each other we would embrace a quick high five and tilt of the head. On a personal best note I ran the whole day (mainly grandma shuffle style) which has now lead to quite a sore knee and very painful muscles and joints.
The legend of the day for me was Mark Jaget. He was pulled out the first day for medical reasons and decided to join me for a lap after 5 or so hours. He ended up staying with me the whole day and completely pushed me to a place I have not been before. Diana and Dave were running together and Mirgana joined them for a few loops so I was feeling quite lonely on my own. When Mark joined me I was over 2kms behind them and within an hour I had slowly caught up and ended up leading for at least 6 loops. Towards the end I was in struggleville and he was constantly pushing me to eat the picklets that I grabbed from the breakfast and told me stories whilst asking me random questions. I have so many things I would love to say about Mark right now but I feel very blessed to have had his company with me today and he opened my eyes to a new way of racing. That being said I definitely pushed my body to its complete limits. When I finished I was in tears, shivering and unable to communicate. The weather suddenly shifted and we were stuck on the island in a hard core blizzard. We were lucky to get back to the boat all safe.
This race has also taught be about the volatility of Antarctica. The weather changed at the drop of a hat from snowing to relatively warm to intense blizzard with high winds. I kept all of my layers on all day because I was fearful to be caught out without my jacket and layers. I did get quite hot in the middle section but lucky considering what happened at 5:30pm.
I have just finished dinner and I am READY for bed. Will be running the final stage (could be a long one again) tomorrow at 10am. Grateful for the sleep in.