Atacama Crossing Blogs 2022

View All Posts 2022 From : Josh Tebeau

Josh Tebeau
9:38, 43 Miles, ~13:30 pace

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).


Comments: Total (5) comments

Ralph Tebeau

Posted On: 01 Oct 2022 04:36 pm

So proud of you and happy you are doing what you want. Congrats

Monika Switakowska Tebeau

Posted On: 01 Oct 2022 06:13 am

Synu, jestes fenomenalny!

Monika Switakowska Tebeau

Posted On: 01 Oct 2022 06:12 am

Synu, jestes fenomenalny!

Monika Switakowska Tebeau

Posted On: 01 Oct 2022 06:12 am

Synu, jestes fenomenalny!

Matthew Tebeau

Posted On: 01 Oct 2022 05:25 am

Great job! Enjoy a good night’s rest. Still thinking about the quicksand.
Josh Tebeau

30 September 2022 09:06 am (GMT-04:00) Santiago

A sandstorm blew us off the dune where Camp 3 was located and RtP truck evacuation brought us to a shelter located beside Camp 2. As a result, the rest day was moved from after the Long March to yesterday (the winds were still to high to compete; flags were getting blow down and misplaced). I spent the day hydrating and recovering and in the process I made a great deal of progress overcoming my cold- the RHR (resting heart rate) dropped from the 70s when I was quite ill to a more familiar 54 (still some distance to go before I reach my avg of 48). Additionally, I slept well and had dreams for the first time in Chile, which was reflected by my watch which indicated a reasonable amount of Deep and REM sleep.
Stage 4 was moved to today (the fifth day) and everyone, with the extra rest, started FAST. I averaged a 10 minute mile through the first 6 miles and was running alongside the same people that finished around 15/16 min miles on previous days. The course started with a long downhill dirt road before transitioning to salt broccoli that seemed less menacing than previous days. I took a flyer and decided to run it and quickly figured out my footfalls and gained massively, winning several places.
Crucially, CP1 was located at around mile 6.5, and the next water station/checkpoint was located around 9 miles later. We were required to take an additional litre of water upon leaving CP1 which was an extra weight I definitely felt but managed to ignore and maintain brisk pace.
Running over the salt broccoli I gained a dozen spots, breaking into the top 12-15. I clearly made substantial strides in my recovery, as my heart rate was an even 165 at 11 min miles with several kilos of weight and difficult terrain and ~75 miles of wear and tear.
After about 3 miles of running the broccoli a channelled form with red clay and crusted over with dirt that seemed much friendlier than the coral-like salt formations (particularly on my hurt ankle). I moved into it and immediately moved quicker.
Then, after about 300 meters of shooting the channel, I sank into a muddy quicksand. With no warning I was almost instantly waist deep in mud and any motion caused me to sink deeper. I waited for the competitor behind me who helped pull me out but in the process my backpack was ripped and I lost a shoe in the trap. I dove in to retrieve it (anchored by the other runner) and was successful, but in the process lost an Airpod Pro and inflicted further damage on my gear (t-shirt ripped).
The shoe was more mud than Hoka and its shape and sole was warped. I was caked with mud to my belly button and hands to elbows and was without music. I tried to continue at my earlier pace but this was impossible with the additional mud weight and damaged equipment flopping around. I lost all the places I gained. Furthermore, because of the mud and my paranoia of tropical illnesses my bottles could not be used to drink and I was not going to use my hands to eat M&Ms (I tried to suck in a GU gel and am worried I swallow a little bit of mud).
Yet, for some reason, as the conditions become more and more adverse, I become stronger. Even with my mud experience losing time I ran that mile in 17 minutes. The next miles forced me to walk through a fetid bog, which I was still able to do at about 15 minutes. (It’s quite a funny coincidence that the top runner has listed his name as “Bilbo Baggins” from the Lord of the Rings Universe of J.R.R. Tolkien, and that this bog was eerily reminiscent of the swamp where Frodo is lost and falls into near Mordor. Additionally, that bog is located adjacent to the mountains that encircle Mordor, and this bog is located adjacent to one of the spines of the Andes.) 
I reached checkpoint 3 in relatively good time, and then sent the final 6.5/7 miles at around 10:30 pace. The last 5 or so miles I ran with Rory from Scotland, and together we alternated anaerobic running for 2 or 3 flags and walking 1. We had a great sprint at the end too.
I finished the day at 4:38, 12:07 pace. My legs feel excellent and, although I am still congested, I feel considerably stronger than in the first 2 days. I immediately visited the medical tent and got all my cuts cleaned and disinfected in hopes of avoiding infection and with Elise’s help I am free of mud.
The count of broken gear:
-Airpods (1 lost)
-Poles (1 broken)
-Backpack (Torn, needs tape/sowing)
-Frontpack (Torn, needs tape/sowing)
-Waistpack (Torn, needs tape/sowing)
-Shoe (Right shoe warped beyond comprehension)
-2 pairs of socks (more mud than sock)
Long march tomorrow, so my gear nightmare will soon end and I hear the terrain will be gorgeous.

Comments: Total (4) comments

Karen Wei

Posted On: 03 Oct 2022 11:03 am

Hey Josh - I don’t know if this even means anything at this point, but Myf and I were walking together on The Long March and she found / picked up your AirPod Pro. I hope somehow you have been reunited with that lost item. And congrats on a great race! Karen x

Delma Taylor

Posted On: 30 Sep 2022 03:46 pm

O wow Josh, you've had it rough, but your still doing great! Congrats on making it this far. Keep it going. Wishing you the best of luck!!!

Monika Switakowska Tebeau

Posted On: 30 Sep 2022 07:50 am

Synku! Do przodu, dajesz rade!

Mariamne Ingalls

Posted On: 30 Sep 2022 03:36 am

Heavens, Josh! Quicksand!!! Thanks for your riveting blog! I bet you will get your gear straightened around enough, to manage. Good luck on the Long March
Josh Tebeau
The Knocks Mount

28 September 2022 10:05 am (GMT-04:00) Santiago

The stages become more beautiful by the day and today I put together the best all-around performance in my short time running as all my pieces of gear failed and we encountered staggering terrain.
The day began on earth soft and crusted over with sun bleached minerals. I decided to avoid running and not sink my energy into the putty and lost many places. Nevertheless, I started to gain on my fellow competitors on the long asphalt downhill between checkpoints 1 and 2. Right around checkpoint 2 I encountered “salt broccoli” for the first time.
The salted earth resembled coral with no warning which bouquet could maul my shoes and tear my gaiters and which formations would swallow my poles and shoes. One of my poles snapped in half and was lost to the desert ( I abandoned it at a later checkpoint). Over the course of the 8.5 miles of salt reef a sea urchin like grass began to sprout that turned into brambles that cut into my skinned knee and I briefly trailed blood.
Soon the salt turned to dunes and I discovered that I am weak on sand but I grew stronger and more confident as I read the colors and texturs and undulations of the terrain like an ultrarunning cuneiform and soon started to gain on the competition again.
I earned a few more spots by checkpoint 3 and I found familiar Utah terrain with a gradual uphill over landscape of sandstreams lacerated by large slabs of stone. My electrolyte, water, and food consumption was executed perfectly as I backloaded my energy and I grew stronger and more able over terrain more challenging than any I have encountered before.
After checkpoint 4 I fought over uneven dunes and gained places as my reading of the sand became more sophisticated and I was entranced by the building sandstorm that swept a light film of kernels over the reliably solid darker volcanic sand waves. I glanced upwards and spotted an oasis and driven by some ancient instinct turned my effort anaerobic and played “Ocean In Between the Wave (Live DRUGS)” and soared into camp in 6:30.
16:12 pace on the most difficult stage of my life. My left foot is blistering, right ankle is shot, left rotator cuff impinged but I am in incredible shape given the circumstances. We continue tomorrow.

Comments: Total (6) comments

Lois Tebeau

Posted On: 30 Sep 2022 04:50 pm

Grandpa - Your spirit is good so hope body responds to it. Grandma - old saying, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Sounds like youu

Lois Tebeau

Posted On: 30 Sep 2022 04:50 pm

Grandpa - Your spirit is good so hope body responds to it. Grandma - old saying, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Sounds like youu

Lois Tebeau

Posted On: 30 Sep 2022 04:50 pm

Grandpa - Your spirit is good so hope body responds to it. Grandma - old saying, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Sounds like youu

Matthew Tebeau

Posted On: 29 Sep 2022 05:09 am

You are doing great! Keep it going. Hope the rest day helps for the final push!

Dave Carr

Posted On: 28 Sep 2022 09:44 pm

Your time is phenomenal considering the terrain. You're crushing it!!!!

Monika Switakowska Tebeau

Posted On: 28 Sep 2022 04:55 pm

So jealous that I cannot see the beauty of the terrain with you. Thank you for sharing your adventures. Mama
Josh Tebeau
Fearful Symmetry

25 September 2022 05:42 pm (GMT-04:00) Santiago

A shocking start requiring perseverance already. In Georgia I struggled to sleep the night before the race, so here I took strong sleep medication at around 8 PM for preparation. I was woken up 4 hours later by my tentmate, Elise, who noticed I was shivering. I had not layered up enough for the cold night (-2C and tent flap open) and caught a nasty, nasty cold (COVID test today after the stage confirmed I am COVID Negative). I hardly slept all night, choking on my congestion. 
Nevertheless, the 22 mile stage was mostly fine. For the first 15 or so miles I was on strong pace, looking at a 5 hr finish. Starting in the canyons below some of the outlying Andes we charged through the soft sands of small slots canyons and crawled and shimmied through gaps in the rock as the pink markers demanded. Since the stage was mostly downhill I managed to do the ultramarathoner shuffle and kept my legs healthy through terrain not dissimilar from Moab, Utah. The altitude was definitely a factor, and my heart rate averaged at 180, with a peak at 198 (at 15:25 pace). Certainly the illness raised my heart rate by at least 10 or 15 BPM.
After the slot canyons we reached a vast and onetime shallow dried lake bed. It was then that the high-altitude sun began to press and while I managed to cover most of my skin above the waist the heat bore down in ways that even those who live in Utah are unfamiliar with.
As I often tell my family and those who want to listen, good ultramarathon stages often are the results of conscientious and proactive decisions. I did put on long layers and no sunscreen in the morning due to my cold and the cold before the sun warmed up our campsite. I paid the price from about mile 15, completely losing my pace and for some delirious reason I opted not to change and take a minute to put on sunscreen. My electrolyte balance was strong at the start but was running low at this point and that with the heat caused a complete breakdown. The group I was running with passed me and I lost 30 minutes on them.
The last section ran through ancient territory, low relief carvings and animal monoliths adorning the canyon’s heights. Perhaps I saw more in the abstract shapes that towered above than was actually there due to growing heat impact. I limped that last section and finished in 5:35, hand in hand with my tentmates, Elise, Alex and Ju.
I am feeling better with a bit of Sudafed and some shade and hydration and now the plan is to rest and recover.
Tomorrow is approximately 23 miles, and the decisions will be better. 

Comments: Total (6) comments

Grandma Tebeau

Posted On: 28 Sep 2022 04:39 pm

Keep up the good work Josh. It makes my kinky back and gimpy shoulders feel like nothing. Godspeed from Grandpa. Keep hanging in there and what a challenge with love from Grandma

Yours truly GOAT & GOAT Handler (person next)

Posted On: 27 Sep 2022 06:26 pm

Keep it up champ, looking forward to your next update!! We have some fruit soups waiting for you!!!! Cheers to poor decisions - they make great stories!!!!

jan domingo

Posted On: 27 Sep 2022 10:13 am

godspeed! you polish emperor

Dave Carr

Posted On: 26 Sep 2022 12:19 pm

Stay hydrated and rest. Stage 1 completion a success. I consider 15+ a great pace.

Monika Switakowska Tebeau

Posted On: 26 Sep 2022 04:47 am

Thinking of you! Stay well! Mom

Matthew Tebeau

Posted On: 25 Sep 2022 10:00 pm

Good luck son! Hope the cold is only a cold and that you feel better. Stay warm!
Josh Tebeau
Experience is Worth 5.5 kg

24 September 2022 05:39 am (GMT-04:00) Santiago

I am writing from tent 1 at 10769 ft (according to my watch). I underestimated the temperatures per usual and am wearing all my layers. Over the course of the race we will descend and it will warm up, but surely the frigid dust on the wind will keep me bundled up.
The air is quite thin and my tentmates, who train close to sea level, gasp in between laughter. Certainly altitude will be a factor but I am quite grateful for training in the Wasatch and occasionally atop Park City, around 5000 ft and 8500 ft, respectively.
In Georgia, I suffered from the weight of my bag (around 13 kg without water at the start) and the concomitant injuries and difficult decisions. For Atacama, I bought a RaidLite pack (1 kg lighter than my previous pack), reduced food weight (15000 calories vs ~20000 calories), and found weight efficient replacements for bulky items (ie a mechanical toothbrush tip vs. a full toothbrush). Today, my pack weights in at 7.5 kg. Additionally, I changed the distribution of weight by utilizing a front pack and a hip pack, which will mean I won’t need to take my bag off while on the trail. My race bib attaches to the front pack, meaning I don’t need to re-do my safety pins when switching layers (to keep the race bib on the outermost layer). (I expect these two changes to save approximately 20 minutes).
To motivate for this race, I decided that I am playing ultramarathon golf and 39 hours is my handicap (my Georgia time), and I am hyper-cathected with coming in under par. How much time will my adjustments save me? It is reduced weight, smarter nutrition and experience vs Andean altitude and the terrain which remains an unknown.
Tomorrow we move 22 miles, a distance that unfortunately has become banal for me since beginning ultramarathoning a few months ago. Insane how quickly we become familiar with crazy once immersed in it and surely I am under-estimating the day. Regardless, massively excited to get started and I hope that this energy will drive the week.

Comments: Total (0) comments