Atacama Crossing Blogs 2023

Christopher Stark



Atacama Crossing (2023) blog posts from Christopher Stark

26 September 2023 07:06 pm (GMT-04:00) Santiago

I dream of boulder hopping along the wet and misty causeway to the Worm’s Head on the Gower Peninsula;
I dream of being in a pool in Caunes drinking nameless but delicious rose;
I dream of Friday night G&T’s at 5pmish with ice and lime; and
I dream of how amazing it will be to have cold, sparkling water again. 
Today was 40km-ish - I came 30th. I can hardly type that without getting all emotional - the top 15 athletes here are just next level - like seriously - so for some fat old geezer who huffed and puffed around bloody Rudge Hill and the beacon and the woods above Sheepscombe to do that is amazing. 
So. Today was brutal. Again, Sonia was my buddy - she’s a frickin’ formidable Canadian and a total badass - so  it wasn’t a chatty day, the terrain was savage but we just got our heads down and looked out for each other.  The last 4.4km was a freak show - nearly vertical ravine drops down dunes with a concomitant big hill to the other side - you could see camp and then you dropped into a glorious oasis / ravine - and sacrificed over 200m of elevation to literally crawl up a sand dune to make it to the line. Sam the amazing race director just poured two bottles over my head - which was handy, because firstly seeing Tim at CP2 was pretty emotional -seeing Shell waiting at the line having withdrawn nigh on sent me over the edge. I’m going to be a big soggy flannel come Saturday…my legs are fucking strong; my head and lungs are clear and working well; today my shoulders got a little moany and I know now how much blister pain is acceptable. 
Tomorrow is another 44km - bring it b*tch -I’m going to take it real easy and have another chatty-cathy day-  didn’t take a single photo today - which I’ll rectify on the road tomorrow. As I sit here, high up on an escarpment and feel the slow process of recovery taking place, I have no fear of finishing - barring something extraordinary happening - I feel like if it all gets rough, I have the guns to cope and no long march or effing stage 4 is going to derail me now. I do get all the messages - which are so welcome and needed - so thank you everyone for those. 
Lastly - I dream about the reception of the Singular Hotel in Santiago on Sunday, and seeing you again….xxxxx
Stark out.  

Comments: Total (2) comments

Stephanie Cox

Posted On: 26 Sep 2023 11:22 pm

Congrats Chris! 30th is amazing! Looking at the competitors it is no joke. Incredible the terrain you are all experiencing. Keep going ! you are doing phenomenal! Stephanie

Orlaith Palmer

Posted On: 26 Sep 2023 10:27 pm

Amazing well done we're all behind you every step. Go for it 👏👏👏

25 September 2023 09:46 pm (GMT-04:00) Santiago

Sad to say goodbye to Tim - totally understand the reasons, but still, big loss to see the big man go.  
If yesterday was a long hot slog, this was the day where the training and the time and cost all paid off.  Weeping creeping Jesus that was the most stunning experience you could have had here in the desert. Ended up smashing in through the Slot Canyons - met up with Scott, Lu and Sofia - and we nattered and power walked together all the way to the top of the ridge, climbing the amazing hills and going through the mining tunnel - and then along a jaw dropping ridge to get to the money shot: The Biggest F’ing Sanddune decent you’ll ever see. Tired legs? Pah ! Went flying down - actually skied at one point, these things are totally vertical.  Then there was a big of an ugly grind for home - but met up with my roomie Matt and we ground the fecker down and got home in 8.11hrs. Legs, lungs, head, shoulder are all tiptop. Had some amazing care and support from the Docs to see to my blisters - my feet are taking all the pain - which I think I can live with. 
Can’t wait to bore the whiskers off anyone who asks about this (or doesn’t actually ask about it) because today was simply astonishing. 
Saw Shell come home; she’s a tough-as-guts mofo and I am super proud of her. 
Love to all - I do get the emails - Daisy - so glad to hear  you’re getting vrot in Cardiff (!) and I can’t tell you how much every message matters. Suspect I’m going to be a thoroughly soggy mess by the end of this all - but for the time being, let’s keep on keeping on and putting one size 10 in front of the other. 
Stark out. XXXX

Comments: Total (4) comments

Mike Mantis

Posted On: 26 Sep 2023 10:31 am

Hey Chris - you mad man!! Rob just told me about this....f'ing hell, sounds like a both the good and bad sense! What an incredible challenge - definitely keep me in the loop and let's get together when you're back. Look after those size 10's! Lots of love from all of us. :)

michael sorrentinomso

Posted On: 26 Sep 2023 06:47 am

Keep going dude! You didnt come this far just to come this far! Keep killing it!!!!!

Robby Ninefingers

Posted On: 26 Sep 2023 06:31 am

Awesome progress big fellah and genuinely can’t wait for you to bore me senseless with all the stories, photos, and wonders that you are experiencing. There’s a few nights out to be scheduled once you are safely back home! Tracking your progress every day, missing you here, but really NOT wishing I was there ;o). Love from all of us t’up North in blighty xx

Stephanie Cox

Posted On: 26 Sep 2023 01:53 am

Hi Chris, You have some fans from Houston. Our brother in law, #61, Jerry Brett Lemley is doing the race - first Time and we are rooting him on. I saw your blog titled “Holy Shit” and was hooked. Congrats on your day 1 and day 2. What an amazing experience you and your wife are having doing this race. I have enjoyed reading our blog posts. Enjoy day 3 and keep killing it! Best, Stephanie

24 September 2023 09:35 pm (GMT-04:00) Santiago

First day of action, lots of nervous anticipation and then we set off. Tried to truck along to get some work done before the heat - was going great guns running with Rob, Scott, David - and just spending 20-30mins completely out of sight alone. The weather is blowtorch hot - none more so than when I hit CP3 (the last one) with only 5.7km to go.  I have never suffered so much running in my life. The 5km was a bastard 7-12% incline - in a canyon which blocked the breeze and turn the air into an oven. Felt like blowing chunks from 2.5km in, could feel the blisters growing on the outside of my heels and big toes - nothing too severe - off to lance and tape them  - but ended up trudging with Rob as we ground to the end. Wow.  If that’s day 1; day 2+ is going to be astonishing. So many good folk here - it’s just fab. 
Scenary is just mind bending - when you’re not so hot and tired you want to cry - no thoughts of pulling out; just mindful that this is a proper physical toughie and  my shoulders hate my backpack already. 
Getting the tent first gives me privileges like choosing which bit of the stony ground I get to sleep on - and will be sparko tonight. 
Read the emails - thank you for those. Love you all.

Comments: Total (0) comments

23 September 2023 08:05 pm (GMT-04:00) Santiago

Arrived in Camp: - Christ all frickin’ mighty. This place is so mind blowing and so gorgeous, it’s a trip to just sit outside with my Tenties and eat food and feel the heat and the wind and the altitude. 

I may well become serially emotional as the sheer scale of how I got here starts to become real. The ground under the tent floor is stony and hard; the smell of the woodsmoke and murmur of folks is so soothing and lovely. 
They’re predicting a heatwave in the Atacama - so the next seven days are going to kick arse. My legs feel like springs - but my heart rate and VO2 max readings are off the scale wonky. 
Have turned all tech and commas off - other than this little tent (the blue one - with the low roof) that’s going to BAKE in heat - I am so gloriously on the edge of the world and it feels amazing. 
Big big love to you all - ABD, G+G and the peeps out there - make an attempt at coming to Atacama - just wow. 
Tomorrow is 37km. I don’t feel anything other than excited. 

Comments: Total (3) comments

Lisa Roads

Posted On: 24 Sep 2023 07:45 pm

Well done for making it through the heat and terrain of day 1

Gail + Jeremy Perkins

Posted On: 24 Sep 2023 05:28 pm

So proud of you Sparkles, great day today! G + J xxx

Orlaith Palmer

Posted On: 24 Sep 2023 10:56 am

Everyone is so proud of you Chris, well bloody done!! Good luck for the next bit xx

17 September 2023 10:30 pm (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time: Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London

Departing 12h30 tomorrow to get to T5 at Heathrow and then on to Santiago, Calama and finally San Pedro de Atacama. 

Taken the last two years to get here; the desktop countdown app can be deleted or archived; I can stop obsessively waiting for updates from the RTP site / team / youtube channel and can hopefully reduce my running tech-porn shopping down to a more sustainable level. 

I'm very lucky to have the kind of family and networks around me that support and motivate me to do this - so thank you to you all.

See you in Santiago Mrs S - xxx C

Comments: Total (0) comments

25 August 2023 07:00 am (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time: Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London

So, it's about 25 days to go until we depart for Santiago; it's 6 days until I shut down for two months as a 'sabbatical' to clear the decks to participate in Atacama 2023 and things that occur to me that I wasn't quite thinking of when I set this all in motion:

- LATAM do like to change flight times - a lot - and seldom with my best interests at heart;

- Training fatigue - bored of training now - want to just go give this thing a full go and get to experience the whole gamut of heat, altitude, sand, camp-life and so on;

- Packing - was never the best at that - so getting everything into the backpack is still a work in progress - bits can hang off and I'm sure that will be fine;

- Better to know less? Made the mistake of talking electrolytes to a couple of smart people who wanted to know what rate I deplete magnesium at - terminated that convo pretty quickly as if that's required information, then I'm going to have a wonderful time lurching from ignorance to understanding; and

- I think I'm as fit as I can be, given the work done to date - but will it be enough? Really don't want to blow up and join the DNF squad (although that's still entirely possible and maybe even likely) given the lack of any real experience in these things. 

I hope the first cold beer in San Pedro will be as sweet as I think it will be. Look forward to meeting the other 120-or so nutters doing this thing and coming out the other side. 





Comments: Total (1) comments

Sam Fanshawe

Posted On: 29 Aug 2023 06:17 am

You sound in great shape physically and mentally. Most importantly now is to stay injury free and keep the excitement going. See you soon!