When I blogged yesterday, it was still quite early in the day and most of the competitors hadn’t come in yet…and as the hours rolled passed, the number of casualties increased exponentially. I mean, I KNEW it was tough, but I really didn’t get a full appreciation of how tough the conditions were out there until I saw my fellow runners suffering. Really suffering. And I’m not talking about just the rookies. Some VERY experienced racers succumbed to the heat yesterday. Ahn Beyung Sig, the amazing runner from Jeju Island in Korea, became severely dehydrated and was vomiting all over the course. Two IV tbags for him. I ran about 20k of the long stage in Vietnam with Ahn and ever since have felt quite a bond. We can’t really communicate all that well, but I can tell that his spirit is as kind as his legs are fast! It was awful to see his face contorted in pain as he lay in the medical tent hooked up to an IV.
Then there was Paul from South AFrica who was in tent 16 beside me. I believe Paul has raced all 4 deserts in one year (amazing!!!) and is a VERY experienced racer. I’m not sure what the press releases are saying, but apparently Paul passed out on the course. Last night I heard him wretching outside the tent – it sounded like he was vomiting his internal organs. I ran over to the medical tent to alert them as Paul didn’t seem to be able to get over on his own steam. I went for some treatment on my back myself (ewww, the chaffing…) and saw about 4 people hooked up to IVs. And then there was the puking into buckets. It was seriously intense. I didn’t think my back was too bad until some of the other patients started making faces and taking photos. Hmm, maybe it was worse than I thought? My back was rubbed almost completely raw by my backpack. The doctor started to put neosporin on it, but then the flies swooped in… I guess I looked like fresh meat!! I begged the doctor to make sure he had picked all the flies out of my wounds before he put the tape on!
The last person in our tent to arrive was Zandy. I didn’t hear him come in, but he was also vomiting during the night (luckily not on me!). Wow.
Wake up was earlier today, which I think everyone was excited about. We started at 6am to try to get as much mileage done before the sun really started beating down… Even at 6am I was sweating buckets!! The first check point was just 8km away and seemed to arrive quickly. Lia shot ahead right from the start (amazing!!!) and I struggled to keep up with Barb. I really wasn’t feeling great for that first mini-stage. I think seeing all of the casualties last night really freaked me out and I was worried about withering under the heat. If it could happen to Ahn and Paul, surely it could happen to me!! After the first check point we had to run a whole 16km before reaching checkpoint 2. That may not seem far, but in these conditions it is a VERY long way. We were advised to make use of every water hole that we found… And I did. Anytime I passed a water hole of stagnant water, I would at least dunk my head in and cool down my legs. Moving streams were perfect for refilling bottles. I didn’t care about any extra weight I was carrying – I filled up every bottle to the max and tried to bring as much water as possible. After about 17km the field really spread out and I started to get into my groove – I was on my own. I let my body do the talking and just tried to run (walk and crawl) in tune with how I was feeling. There were some difficult climbing sections and some rocky outcrops we had to navigate. I don’t go very quickly over these sections because with the weight of the pack on my back I know I’m a bit off balance and I really try to avoid falling!
Alas, I still had a few tough tumbles. On the last one, I actually broke my bite plate. OH NO!!! It was my secret weapon!! Basically, my dentist Dr. David Cook, outfitted me with this amazing bite plate (OSO bite plate) which actually makes me stronger by putting my jaw in a slightly different alignment. Really! I have been wearing it in training and during the race so far and have definitely noticed a difference… However, today, when I took it out to eat some chips I tripped in a stream and fell on a tree trunk. When I looked down at my hand, my bite plate was in half. SHOOOT!
Other than the rock sections, there was just a lot more spinifex. One look at my legs and you’d think I had some crazy chicken pox disease. Or maybe ebola. The little spikes go right through shoes, socks, and shorts and jab right into your skin…but there is nothing to do but keep moving forward!
During the second half of the course I got some relief. Every once in a while the sun would duck behind some clouds and we even got a breeze… The difference was astounding. Whenever the sun was beating down, my legs ground to a halt, but as soon as there was a bit of cloud cover I got a burst of energy and was able to forge ahead.
The end of the stage was all on dusty road, so no excuses not to run! It may sound strange to non-ultrarunners, but sometimes it really is nice to have a hill or two because it allows you to walk guilt-free!
I finished today in 10th place and 2nd female again. I am still struggling with the stages and my back is itching like crazy… the toe is really flaring up and the nails are starting to lift off… but I’m happy to be getting some miles behind me. I am in awe by the level of competition here. It seems every year it gets better. Some seriously strong women!!! I’ve got a lot to learn from them.
One last little excitement at camp – at one point, a wind/rain line came through and blew a bunch of the tents over. It went from hot and sunny and dry to massive wind and rain in about 30 seconds. Gabriel, Bradley and I hung onto our tent for dear life and braced ourselves against the rain, which was coming in sideways….INSANE!!!
Thanks for the messages everyone! They help immensely….PLEASE KEEP ‘EM COMING!!! The more, the better – and from anyone!! I rely so heavily on outside support here. It keeps me motivated. I am humbled by these conditions, the other runners, and the sheer insanity of this sport. I thank you for your encouragement, your donations, your thoughts and prayers. Much love to all