Saturday, March 12, 2011

Who is this man at the finish line?

It is a good thing, they have their bibs on. I cannot recognize my husband in this pic. Honest to god!

First Indian to cross the Atacama Desert

I got the much awaited call an hour ago. Sumanth has successfully and safely completed the Atacama Crossing. What a proud moment for him and us! He has received the medal and has checked into the hotel for a much deserved shower (after a week) and a pizza & coke lunch.

Will post pics and other updates once he gets back to the hotel for some R&R.

You can follow him on twitter as @skeeedamnbee for updates from Chile over the next few hours.

Thank you one and all for your support, your cheery messages and being there for us. Means a lot!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sumanth's blog update of Stage 5 - The Long March

Pictures from Stage Five

Stage 5 - The Long March
11-Mar-2011 06:28:05 AM [(GMT+05:30) Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi]

Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2011
It is now 10AM.  I got in here at 3.15AM, completed the stage in a little over 19 hours, including 2.5 hours of R&R.  My body has no feeling below the hip and I am limping back to normal.  My lips look like the salt flats I just crossed, torn and dry!

The stage started with 15km of extremely difficult salt flats (to CP1) followed by another 10 odd km of hard and crusty sand (to CP2). I did decent time here and also managed to reach CP3 by 1PM, given the cut off was 7PM.  CP3-CP5 was brutal.  Desert heat and no shade anywhere.  I was hobbling for the most part, given my bad legs from yesterday and at on point almost felt like giving up.  Oh, well.  It is also funny, how at times you pass people, people pass you or you are moving on alone for miles and miles, just you and your thoughts.  The key was to just keep sucking up all the good thoughts and wishes and channeling them inward, to move on.

Nutrition wise, the day did not go well.  I could not eat any solid food for the last two days and had to force some soup in at the end of Stage 4.  To ensure no nausea or giddiness, I kept nibbling on a few sugar bars during the day, washed down with loads of water and antacids at each CP.  Consulted the doctors monitoring us and I was assured no cause for concern.

At CP5, took a break for 2 hours.  Had a large cup of miso soup and took a short nap.  At this point, I had company - Len (my tentmate) and Gary and Brad (both of whom I met a day ahead of the race).  We set off from CP5 around 10PM.  CP5-CP6 took us almost on the border of Argentina-Chile and we were told that because of border issues between the countries, we were passing through a landmine field for 6km.  Oh, fuck!! Well, onward and upwards.  Gary, who worked in Tanks in the Canadian Forces took lead and we followed.  We kept to the path, following the glowsticks and not straying too far from the designated path till we reached CP6.

Post CP6, we walked on through a difficult creek/river canyon.  We stopped many times to look at the night sky -Beautiful to see the entire milky way, a sight you will never see in a city, thanks to light pollution.  We identified the southern star, orion,  the two bears.  I mean, against the backdrop of the black sky, the glowing stars were so refreshing to see.

The road into camp reminded me of "on a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair" minus the warm smell of colitas wink wink.

With all this little soirees to keep our enthusiasm going, we finally made it to camp at a little after 3 this morning.  The four of us crossed the line together - great camaraderie.

I am more refreshed now, will be eating some soup and food soon.  Tomorrow is a 16km into San Pedro where pizza (lots of it) and beer (more than lots of it, I trust) await us.  Thank you all for your kind wishes.  There are many who have written in, who I do not know personally.  Thank you as well.  These are what have helped me complete six days in the desert.

See you all soon.


234 done. 16 to go. YAY

News is in that Sumanth has successfully navigated Stage 5 which is also called the Long March, of 74 odd kilometers with timings of 19 hours and 13 minutes. Phew!

I'm not expecting a blog update from him after running for nearly a whole day. I'd rather he rested himself thoroughly for the last 16 km on Day 7 of the crossing.

Stage 6, the last part, starts at 10 am on Saturday (12th March) - so that's 234 done and last 16 to go. I am relieved. And thank you for ALL that support, you made my week much more bearable and gave me immense strength.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A poem from Pondicherry

Our dear friend, Vibha from Pondicherry has sent this inspirational poem for Sumanth -

One day-The Little More

One day, and all the half-dead is done,
One day, and all the unborn begun;
A little path and the great goal,
A touch that brings the divine whole.

Hill after hill was climbed and now,
Behold, the last tremendous brow
And the great rock that none has trod:
A step, and all is sky and God.

Sri Aurobindo

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Stage Four - The dreaded Salt Flats

According to the update on the 4Deserts website, the salt flats comprise hard, crusted, coral-like terrain which is extremely difficult to navigate – and sometimes will tear shoes to shreds. I did read about a couple of competitors getting their shoes torn trying to navigate these parts, and they continued after fixing their shoes with tape!

The View 

The Climb

Sumanth has done a very brief blog update after stage four and I am thankful for that, as I was worried about him going through this part without any injuries.

That's him in the picture below, green cap, red bottle in hand (Pic 23 in the set)

His update is as follows:

Completed Stage 4, The Salt Flats.  Am screwed physically, legs hurting badly.  Going to rest and recoup ahead of tomorrow's long march - 73km in total.

Will update once I complete that.  Keep your wishes coming, they sustain me throughout.


Like any wife would, I feel miserable to read that he is pain, that too 10000 miles away, when all I can send him are my thoughts and prayers. But then again, I know Sumanth is mentally prepared for this. He knew fully well what he was getting into. If he still at it, surely he think it is worth the back breaking grit and the pain.

Today, the contestants will be running the longest stage of the race, Stage Five - 74 km, also called the Long March. Here are some of the pictures of the Long March from the 2010 crossing.

At the end of Stage Four, Sumanth ranks 59th, which is a great improvement from his rank of the last three days.

Entire set of photos from Stage Four - here.

Wishing him lots of strength for stage five which stretches over the next two days.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Stage One - Blog update (delayed)

[Sumanth's blog update at the end of Day one- Stage one]

Well, we arrived at base camp last night after a one and a half hour drive into the desert.  Base camp was at Rio Grande.Managed to sleep well and woke up well.  Apart from Michelle the other Indian competitor, we have among others, Jagjit and Tan from Malaysia, Len and Stan from Canada, Pam from the US and Richard from HK.  Great people, I have made several new friends today.

Stage 1 was navigation through rock.  A total of little over 35km with three cheeck points.  Starting altitude was a little over 3,250m and we come down to 2600m at the end of the stage.  got through CP1 and 2 in 4 hours.  Terrain can best be described as a roller coasteer of loose gravel and very soft ground, followed by a walk through a winding canyon that was once actually a river bed/basin at some point in time.  Most important lesson learnt was that distance can be deceptive, followed by the importance of water conservation.

The run/walk from CP2 to CP3 was what beat the mickey out of me.  We ran through a undulating course that just keot going up and down and up and down and up again forever.  It was at a slightly higher altitude and given that we were coming down, I did not expect an uphill climb again.  Further, the route was absolutely still, no air passage at all and at times, I got a bit breathless so had to force myself to stop.  I had a great companion for CP2 and 3, Gavin from the UK.  Thanks mate.  He was who got me through CP3 and onward to Camp 2.

Covered the entire distance in 7hr15min, including R&R of 45 minutes.  I stopped several times enroute to CP3 and then to Camp2.  Took a short nap before I wrote this up.  Now it dinner time and then bed in a short while.  Back hurts like hell after lugging my backpack, so will probably stretch a bit.

Tomorrow, we tackle the slot canyons.  41.8km through difficult terrain.  So will write, once I complete the stage.

Thank you all for your kind wishes.  Nandita, Atri - love you very much.  Your pictures are what kept me going and provide inspiration.  See you all in a week, successfully.


Originally posted here