Atacama Crossing Blogs 2022
View All Posts 2022 From : Josh Tebeau
30 September 2022 08:24 pm (GMT-04:00) Santiago
I woke up and felt a bit sore for the first time since the start of the race (no doubt due to the extra mud I was carrying yesterday). I washed my shoes but the night reached -7C and instead of my shoes being locked with mud and salt they were frozen solid. I opened a few cuts getting them on and for some reason I couldn’t get up quickly and my entire morning routine was thrown off. I failed to get my Buff on and just generally failed to enjoy the chaos. Not an auspicious start.
Per my usual strategy I got off the line a bit slowly but pretty soon was maintaining a relatively ok 12 minute mile pace. Today’s course took us back through the fetid salt marshes sprinkled with alpaca/llama/donkey excrement and along a well trod path through the salty coral formations. Passing was not worth it (unless absolutely necessary) so pelotons formed and because of my slow start I found myself constantly dancing onto the coral to get passed competitors. Some of my fellow runners noticed me and would try to get off to the side but we would end up colliding.
Nevertheless, I made great time and maintained a running pattern where I would roughly run 90% of the time around 11:15 and walk 10% of the time at about 16:30. I managed this tempo through to checkpoint 2, about 16 miles into the course, at which point the terrain turned from road and trampled paths to cross country through desert.
I was quick and gained places and at checkpoint 3 had the chips I had been keeping in reserve with a cold RtP provided refreshment which reanimated my effort and carried me through the Valley of the Moon and the huge dune that inaugurated the Valley of Death. I gained about 5 places through this as we traversed land so arid cruel and alien it can only be compared to atmosphere-free boulders and abstract concepts.
At checkpoint 4 I had my shoes re-tied sun screen reapplied and I lathered myself in voltaren from the waist down and started jockeying with two other runners (Harry from Austria who pulled me out of the quicksand and a Japanese runner who I have not met). We had a great battle through the dried riverbeds that trailed out of the Valley of Death and kept trading places as heat exhaustion developed. From CP4 to CP5 it was about 4.3 miles but it felt like 12 as the three of us slowly moved from running predominantly to brisk hikes.
CP5 into the finish had us climb a mountain pass as tourist vans drove by and ogled the near-dead men, occasionally cheering us on, and most of the times I had hoped we reached the top of the pass I was disappointed. With about 5km to go I hit a downhill and said knees be damned and ran down, culminating in a feverish sprint to the finish so fast that unfortunately no one managed to capture it on video.
After the run I spent 1.5 hours in my tent with a cold towel caressing my face as the heat exhaustion slowly faded with the afternoon heat.
To compare my performance against Georgia:
Atacama Long March: 9:38, 43 Miles, ~13:30 pace
Georgia Long March: 10:01, 40 miles, ~15:00 pace
My overall time is around 32 hours, with 8km to go tomorrow. I beat Georgia Josh (over a longer race).