We were woken up yesterday at 4am to be told that Stage one was on hold due to really strong winds. This was not the news I wanted to hear as after 3 days on a boat I was starting to get serious ‘cabin fever’ and really wanted to get the ‘Last Desert’ race started. At about 10am the another announcement was made that stage one would be starting at 12 o’ clock and finish at 9pm….this meant competitors had 9 hours to see how many full 14.5km loops they could do. Whoo Hoo it looked like we were finally getting started!! On the zodiac across to King George Island it suddenly struck me that the ‘Last Desert’ was here and my adrenalin was pumping.. Stage one consisted of a 14.5km lap with two loops of 4.5km and 2.6km as well as a 150m mandatory walk zone past the Russian base… I assume there are no Russian runners on Antarctica!?
Stage one started and after about 1km I had to peal off all my layers as I found I was overheating…I ran in this gear (tights, 2 base layers, long sleeve running T, buff and a pair of gloves for the last two stages) for the entire stage and never really felt the cold. I was quite a surprised as I thought I would have had to be layered up like an Egyptian mummy. On a few occasions when the wind picked up I could feel the chill on my hands and face. Stage one went really well and I felt comfortable the entire 87km (6 laps) apart from my near over heating after the first 1km. 70 % of the course consisted of thick snow and Antarctica was a lot more hilly than I expected. Running in snow is loads of fun and in some ways is very similar to running in the sand – just a bit more tricky.
The scenery was insane and it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever run in. While running I could see birds flying everywhere, frozen blue lakes and never ending white frozen landscapes. There were times I forgot I was running a race… There was one little white bird that tried to attack me every time I ran past it…the first time it dive bombed me and pecked me on the head. It tried this three or four times but after I threw a few snow balls at it left me alone!!
Back to the race I completed 6 laps which was the most and therefore I won stage one. I was stoked with how the day went and also relieved as it is very common for stages to get cancelled during the ‘Last Desert’. This was a nice start but with the race organisers planning to make stage two 15hours long, the race was far from won.
The plan was to start stage two at 6am and finish at 9pm…most competitors only got to bed at 12pm so a 4am start left little time for any recovery. Stage 2 was also going to be held on King George Island on the same course as stage one. At 4am we were woken with the news that the stage had been delayed due to strong winds and to be honest I was not complaining. I rolled over and went straight back to my coma. At 8am the news was that stage two would be starting at 11am. I ampt myself up and boarded the zodiac to the start line, but on the way there a mass of black clouds were building up overhead and things were not looking promising. Never the less we started stage two but unfortunately the stage was stopped after the first loop (9km).I finished first but as this race is run on distance everyone who finished the first loop gets credited for the 9km. I was super disappointed to be stopped but at the moment we are sitting on the boat in a blizzard. There is talk that we will go out again later… so who knows. I think the most frustrating thing about the ‘Last Desert’ is how uncertain the racing is as we are controlled by the weather conditions.
OK apparently we may go back out to the course at 3:30pm so I better get ready!!
Thanks to everyone for their messages of support and encouragement!!