Sunday, 30 November 2008
Stage 3:It was quite clear following the end of Stage 2 which was run on the Antarctic Mainland that the race was going to hot up during Stage 3. We lined up in a freezing cold blizzard on a small island covered once again in penguin rookeries and the course laid was a 1.3km loop out and back along the shoreline. We started off and the snow was again over 2 foot thick. I trailed Dean Karnazes for a lap and Paul was in front of him and put 200m on us in the first lap which was crazy. Dean let me past after the first loop which I found strange as he had said he felt much stronger that morning. It turns out I don’t think he ever felt comfortable with his gear and therefore the running for the whole day as it was colder and wetter than it had otherwise been. After 4 hours of running Paul was still exactly the same distance ahead of me, 200 metres. We would pass each other on the out and back within yard of the previous lap. The penguins would sometimes wander right onto the course which meant we had to stop for them to move off rather than run them over but once we were into a running groove it was actually a much easier day despite the distance being increased. In the end the stage ended after around 5 hours and Paul was pleased with his win but felt tired as Evgeniy and I had pushed him hard. I lapped Dean 3 times in the end and he didn't really explain why he had let it slip so much. I guess it had been a long year for him or that the conditions didn't suit him out there that day. Team Trifecta spent some time diving around in the snow tackling each other and it did occur to me I might have been better enjoying this race a little more by slowing down and taking in the scenery/ wildlife etc. Nevertheless I enjoyed pushing the limits again. Back to the ship for 10:30 pm where we were told to eat and sleep as the wake up call would be at 0415 for stage 4. The importance of sleep in these races cannot be underestimated if you are able to get some. That is the period in which your muscles take a break and start repairing themselves, it recuperates your energy levels and blisters have a chance to die down. It also meant there was no chance for kit to dry out. Racing stages so close to one another is not good for any of us but Paul and I suffered more than most the following morning....
Saturday, 29 November 2008
Stage 2: So stage 2 began on a loop of similar length to the morning. A monster climb before coming back down on ourselves and round a short runnable path before commencing again. Mentally it was very very tough but I always find the easiest thing to do is to concentrate on the race rather than watching the clock tick down which is torture ie ala treadmills which i have always hated. Paul, Dean and I head off at the front breaking trail again but it became obvious fairly quickly that Dean was not feeling great & Paul was feeling fantastic. The stage lasted 4 hours and was absolutely strength sapping. In the end I overtook Dean and held a good distance for the remainder of the race lapping everyone else. Apart from Paul that is who nailed the whole course and beat me into 2nd by some way.
For those that don't know Dean he holds plenty of recods & his longest ever non stop run: 384 miles. He recently ran 212 miles in 48 hours on a treadmill and covered 50 marathons in 50 states in the US. In 50 days. Needless to say he is an impressive athlete. Woke up this morning feeling rough but have slept this morning and feel better now. The bad news is we are now headed to stage 3 which is going to be 7 hours non stop. If the conditions are like yesterday its going to be a nightmare ad the pace will have to drop down several more levels again. The scenery will remain other worldy and absolutely stunning however which does ease the pain a little bit.
Friday, 28 November 2008
Stage 1: Yesterday morning we finally arrived on the Antarctic continent & immediately departed the boat for stage 1. The zodiac ride out to the island on which we were racing was incredible. Ice bergs filled the harbour ranging in size from small footballs to larger than houses. Penguins were swimming back and forth across the channel popping up and diving in and out of the water as they went. We landed ashore in the middle of a penguin colony. There were 1000's of them. They can't walk properly so they waddle with their arms out behind them and often fall over. We hiked up a very steep hill before RTP decided to hold the stage on a small plataeu half way up the mountainside. The course was absolutely brutal. I head off behind Karno (Dean Karnazes) and we broke the trail for around an hour before he started to pull ahead. I knew i was in good shape and felt I could really push Dean, the question was how much he wanted to win this last one of the year for him. The snow was over 2 feet thick the whole way around the course and when Dean started running the hills i dropped off the pace by 50 - 100 yards or so. The race format was to cover as much ground/ as many laps as possible within 3 hours. The big problem with this format is that you have to keep overtaking people the whole time which is both frustrating for them and for you. The best thing about that is is that you get plenty of encouragement especially from the Team Trifecta boys, Pete Bocquet and the other Brits in the race. Ive no idea how much ground we covered in the three hours but it was harder than any marathon ive done and i was cramping up massively on the walk back down to the shore. It was agony for a while but i took on a lot of salt and redressed the balance quickly. We were promptly informed then that Stage 2 would start almost straight away. You can imagine the general reaction of the racers when shorlty after finishing a brutal run in thick snow that we were told to get the wet gear back on and go again.
Thursday, 27 November 2008
Today we got up at 8 30 ate and went back to bed at 9 30. Great times. The only thing we have to do is watch DVD's and we only have 3 sh*t ones. Pete and I sat through alexander yesterday and it temporarily ruined my life until it ended and i remembered where we are going. Around 12, some whales appeared around the front of the boat. Im not going to say too much, instead have a look at Alex's photos in the photo section of the website www.4deserts.com. I was hanging off the bow with him as a 20m humpback whale and its calf came out of the water to exhale and dive back down and under the boat back and forth for about an hour. We were so close we had to stand back away from it to get any of it in shot. Truly unbelievable experience for which we shut off the engines & drifted for a while. We have literally just seen the first site of land 2 full days and 18 minutes since we left. It looks like an enormous white sail rising 6000 feet straight out of the sea. If where we are headed provides wildlife and scenery like this it will stack up to be some trip. That besides running around in the snow and ice for hours on end day after day. That also begins tomorrow. We are being told 5 hours in the morning on an island and then a possible 2nd stage in the afternoon on the mainland although it is unclear how long that might be. Frankly I can't wait to compete in the third desert in the series of 4 & give it everything. It has been a long year with 1200 miles of racing but what a finale to 2008 this should be. If we are to run 250kms however we will need to do it in 4 days. That breaks down into some painfully tough back to back mileage days but.... Fortitudine Vincimus. Through Endurance we Conquer (Shackleton's family moto).
Wednesday, 26 November 2008
Shortly after my last blog we finally left the dock. Good things. We arrived back at the ship at around 3pm and were told straight away to make sure we were on board at 6pm for an important announcement which turned out to be that we were leaving straight away. The Russians welded a new plate across the hole in the front of the ship and we haven’t started sinking yet so I guess it worked. Shortly after leaving we had a lifeboat drill which involved us all climbing into the life vessel. There are seatbelts and it is fully enclosed therefore should the seas become really rough the thing can rotate 360 degrees and right itself. Not ideal to end up in one but if we sink but it might help any future book sell.I spent some time running laps of the enormous dock knowing we’d be out at sea for 3 full days without being able to stretch legs although I tried to stick to the side away from an argentine submarine unloading sailors and testing systems due to having union jack flags sewn into my clothes. The Falklands are due east of here so I just waved and held my hands over the patches.I have been reliably informed that the passage so far has been calm. That is frightening. The ship is constantly listing from side to side. At lunch I brought some of my carrot soup back up but avoided throwing up on the table. There is a good chance this could happen at any point. 6 of the 30 are bed ridden with sea sickness according to Zac and there are sick bags positioned every few yards throughout the ship. Standing on the top deck all you can see for miles and miles is wide open sea with some huge swell. The 70 metre Russian ice breaker is handling it well but the movement is still significant.Life aboard revolves around lying in the bed, going up on deck and looking at massive birds and feeling sick. Hully has been asleep for 39 hours non stop and Frank has read two books. He is a very fast and good reader. Yesterday morning Pete stood in front of his laptop next to my bed from 8am to 9 am playing air guitar to 80’s metal. The signs of cracking are there Its all good though. Running begins in just over a days time. Pretty soon we’ll reach ice bergs and start seeing the splitting pack ice created by Antarctic summer.‘That which we are, we are; the equal temper of heroic hearts made weak by time and fate; but strong in will; to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.’
Tuesday, 25 November 2008
Well we boarded the ship yesterday evening. Thats where the good news ends. Relatively soon after getting into the cabins we were summoned to the bar area for our briefing. Unfortunately it turns out the ship has a hole in the front from breaking through ice on the previous trip. There´s really no other way to dress this up. If the can´t repair the hole which is below the water line then we may not get there at all & everyone is absolutely prepared for this to be the case. On the other hand it is possible that the repairs will be completed sometime during the night and that we may be able to leave tomorrow on a slightly reduced schedule.If this is the case then we may be asked to repeat the 24 hour/ 100 mile non stop stage that took place 2 years ago.Peoples reactions have ranged from depression, anxiety, anger to acceptance that these things are what they are & cannot be prevented. Mary, Alasdair and Zac have been fantastic at keeping us updated from the race management side of things and I have complete faith that if they cannot organise anything to accomodate us around this problem then there really is nothing else that can be done. The initial discussions of running on shore today to begin building the miles towards the 150 mark have dissipated 1. because Alasdair would need to go and mark the course, establish new checkpoints etc and with the onset of leaving constantly looming this may be a worthless exercise. 2. because no one on this trip came to run in South America, we have all done it before, we came to run in Antarctica & if we aren´t going to do that then frankly there is no point. I am optomistic, others are not. I would do the 6 day return journey for an hour on the ice. I only hope the Russians manging the ship see it that way as well.The silver lining to all of this is that Jan the Belgian Hero of a barman declared free bar at 6pm last night & allowed us to make our own drinks, play our own music and generally have a damn good time through the onset of disaster. Its fair to say that a different kind of endurance event was held & some excellent perfomances registered through the following 8 hours. Others didn´t fare so well and there was a substantial amount of mess created particularly when the dishwasher was opened by one racer and around 30 glasses fell out and smashed on the floor. Jan laughed and poured another drink. We love each other and now I love Jan. Its going to be a good trip from that side of things.Update tomorrow I hope from the middle of the Drake passage. We´ll see.
Monday, 24 November 2008
Arrived here safely last night after 33 hours travelling. Thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it, especially the 13.5 hour flight from Paris to Buenos Aires. I was sat in a seat between a French bloke who, with all due respect, stank & an obese latvian naval officer who in broken english during the course of the flight asked me: 1. How to turn the light on for his seat, 2. how to work his tv, 3. where the toilets were & best of all 4. whether we would be being served breakfast. Everyone is here now. The most southerly city in the world has a frontier feel to it ringed by the very tip of the Andean mountain chain before it fades into the sea. The locals are friendly & the food is good. Last night I dropped the bags in the room and went to meet the boys down in town. We had a few liveners to celebrate re-convening for yet another adventure. On the way home we stumbled into a nice looking night club, a nice young lady leaning from a window beckoned us but something about her gold lamee night set told us there may be something 'special' about the establishment. This morning no-one could confirm or deny that we are staying next door to a brothel (we are).It gets dark at 11 here and light at 4. As we sail south on Monday morning this will become midnight and 1am. I can't wait...