Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Atacama Crossing 2012, CHILE : Stage 4 - 38.8 km

I survived a very hard day, where the competition was extremely high among me, Bart (Belgium) and Zandy (USA). My body was not feeling as fresh as yesterday and from the 25th km onwards, I was suffering from extreme pain on my right quadricep. Be that as it may, I pushed myself to my limits but I had a really tough time at the INFAMOUS salt flats after CP2.

Me & Zandy racing through the desert

Still time to smile for the camera!!
 The first 4 km of the race was terrible and difficult. There were a lot of sand dunes to climb and loose rocks on sand. We then went through a very sandy descend into a river valley before reaching CP1. The course between  CP1 and CP2 was not so bad. We ran through a village and thank god I did not attract any dogs, like I always do!! I was quite wary of dogs chasing after me after reading the blog of last year's winner, where he mentioned that he was chased by some in this village!

Ascending through loose rocks on sand

Scaling the sand dune

The sandy descent 
And then, we reached the salt flats after CP2. For about 10 kms, we have to run on hard terrain like corals, but made of crystallized salt. Every time you step on these salt flats, you never know what is going to happen. It can break/collapse and cut your feet like broken glass (sharp-hard edges) or you can get a sprain very easily. Usually, most runners will choose to walk through this part of the terrain to avoid the danger of getting hurt, but the competition was so intense among the three of us today that we all ran perilously for most parts of this dangerous track. Thank God none of us was hurt!

The infamous salt flats!!
The omnipresent Licancabur dominating the landscape

However, I now face a little problem because a small piece of my shoe broke due to my run on the treacherous flats and the posterior area of the heel now looks very risky of falling apart. Hopefully, the terrain is going to be better tomorrow (??) and the shoe will survive!! Come on, they are Nike, after all ;-P!!

When I arrived at the finish line, I was overwhelmed by tiredness and stressed with my right quadricep and broken shoe. We were camped beside 2 large lagoons but I was being extremely careful and resisted the very tempting idea of having a dive in one of them. Many other competitors were jumping into them to get a relief from the soaring heat. The cold water must also be very soothing for the aching muscles. However, I was worried of getting a cold...or disease...??? So, I chose to stay in the comfort of our tent despite dying for a nice soak after 5 days of total lack of hygine :-)! 

Perfect location to base our camp
Stage 5 tomorrow is going to be the hardest and most challenging run for many of us. It is a 73.4 km course and is called The Long March. Due to its long distance, some competitors can choose to finish the course  in 2 days by taking a few hours sleep at an overnight checkpoint set up by the organiser. I have no idea how I will perform tomorrow, with this new pain I have just acquired and with a rather fragile shoe to stand such a long distance.

However, with all the amazing support and prayers from my family and friends, I hope I will pull through and the pain will not disrupt my performance and the shoe will hold on until I finish the race. After finishing this entry, I am going to rest and concentrate on the race tomorrow by drinking and eating properly. For once again, I want to thank all of you for your amazing support and I hope to bring only good news to you all, a day after tomorrow, for tomorrow, we will reach our camp late and definitely, there will not be time for me and energy in me to post any update on the race. So, stay close to the organiser's updates and continue to pray for me!!   

**All photographs on this entry are by the official  photographer, Scott Manthey** 

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