There is less than 1 week before I fly out to Argentina to hopefully complete the final race in the RacingthePlanet’s Four Desert Series. It has been one month since I returned from Egypt where I was amazingly uninjured and satisfied with a consistent performance. Everything seemed to come together in Egypt despite having the accumulative strain of racing in three 250km desert races in the past seven months. I was incredibly happy with my nutrition, which was certainly on the minimal side in comparison to previous races. However I had the essential combination of ASCEND protein recovery shakes & bars and Juice Plus+ supplement capsules. I didn’t change my clothing from the Gobi at all and knew that my CW-X gear would provide me with the necessary support during the stages and assist my recovery at night. As the turnover period between the Sahara and Antarctica was only five weeks I was very lucky not to have any blister (woohooo to Injinji socks & hydropel). This would have surely impacted my final preparation and training.
Preparing for this final race has had its share of difficulties. I came back to Sydney in a cloud of delirium and excitement. I was quickly shaken back to reality as I had to sit my law finals within the first week of returning home. The motivation to immerse myself into study lockdown was waning but I have come out on the other side- relatively unharmed & with most of my hair. Seven years of university completed= tick, tick.
Needless to say the opportunity to break in my new gortex trail shoes had been limited until the weekend just been. Daniel (the boyfriend), Malcolm (Sahara tent mate) and I decided very last minute that we would make the four hour drive to Canberra to race in the Deep Space Mountain Marathon. Wildly unprepared for a 44km race let alone one with a steep gradient, we made the trek out to Namadgi National Park Saturday afternoon. As we reached the camp ground we started to realise what we had gotten ourselves into. Temperature was at 5 degrees, it was raining and the terrain looked incredibly tough. On top of that we looked at the other competitors who fitted into our perception of what a mountain runner should look like- tough, wiry with long grey beards.
We set up our tents in the rain & huddled into Malcolm & Amber’s tent for a feed of pasta, crunchy Asian salad and roast chicken (for the meat eaters). The rain continued into the night & the temperature dropped further. I went out in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and my heart briefly stopped as I heard a kangaroo right next to me.
4:15am came and we chomped down an Ascend Bar and made our way to the start line. Still unsure if we would do the 44kms or the 25kms we all decided we would make the decision along the way- as there was the option to drop into the 25km event. The first 6kms was on road, windy and downhill. Conscious of my somewhat fragile knees I took it carefully and tried to concentrate on my form. My shoe laces came loose twice despite double knotting them. I chatted to a few of the competitors but was pretty consumed with 110% focus on each step. We turned off the road onto the trails and I was able to see Daniel & Malcolm about 500metres ahead of me. Then the climb began. We had 6.5kms up the greatest gradient I have ever raced on. It involved one river crossing, muddy/ slippery surface, occasional rocks and I was certainly succumbed to walking sections of it. I was approximately 1km from the peak when the first competitor made his way down the hill (as it was an up and back course for the first 25kms). Daniel and Malcolm flew past me with 600 meters to go and they looked in great form. Although my legs were stiffening up from the uphill’s I knew the downhill would be far more taxing on my quads and knees. Being aware that I didn’t want to have an injury for Antarctica I attempted to be uber careful on the downhill whilst still trying to stride out. Again my shoe laces came loose twice & I cursed my decision not to change the laces beforehand. After chatting to a few other competitors about the terrain after the 25km mark I knew the smart decision would be to stop once I reached the top of the hill.
Daniel, Malcolm and Amber were all waiting for me at the end, waving their arms in the air like fools and cheering me on. All four of us placed in the top three in each of our events and came home with four bottles of red wine. An amazingly well organized race and the race director clearly puts on the event for a love of mountain running. Next year I hope to complete the full course with some specific training.
So it is the morning after and my legs are feeling alright. A little stiff but less than I expected. Lots to do before I fly out on the 15th, which will be squeezed into full time work.
The challenge is nearing an end but my quest to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Research Trust is still in full swing. Thanks again to everyone who has donated so far and I encourage everyone else to chip in as much as you can. The trust is dependant on donations to fund the amazing research projects which are undertaken. Cystic Fibrosis affects so many people and does not always receive the comparative level of attention. You can donate through the link on my homepage and all donations are tax deductible and go straight to the trust.
Till next time.