We left early on the Friday to get ahead of the weather but got the full Drake Passage treatment, or the Drake Shake as it’s not so affectionately known! We hit a max wind speed of 55 knots, a port-starboard roll of 36/37 degrees and hit a 10 out of 12 on the Beaufort Scale.
With the winds coming in from the west the ship would pitch pretty violently to the starboard side. It would right itself after the roll and return to neutral but then the entire ship would shudder as the bow crashed into an oncoming wave.
The scopolamine patches worked pretty well but a number of people were confined to their rooms with sick-bags for company.
Throughout the evening everything not nailed down would be tossed all over the cabin. Suitcases thrown around, chairs upturned and cups and glasses broken.
When lying in bed there were some points when the roll was so severe it felt like the free-fall drop of a rollercoaster - you’d slide down to the bottom of the bed and then slide back up to the top of the bed on the next roll. At dinner in the dining room chairs (with people still sitting in them) would slide across the floor from one side to another. Like something from a movie!
We’re currently sitting in the relative calm of the Beagle Channel - before making our way on the final leg to Ushuaia where we’re expected to dock tomorrow morning.
We’ve now been on and off the ship for last 9 days and it’s probably time to go home!
Huge amount of thanks to everyone who sponsored me and gave generously to Save The Children on this event. Will thank all of you separately.
It’s been a long, difficult, often times painful but amazing journey to complete these races - from Atacama (2013) to Gobi (2016), Namibia (2017) and finally Antarctica.
I’ve seen some amazing parts of the world and met some wonderful and inspirational people on each of those journeys. It’s been a privilege to meet and run with people from all over the world. And finally thanks to Mary, Sam, Riita and Zeanna and the broader 4Deserts family. Thank you all.
Another uphill switchback stage - this time in Paradise Bay.
A winding route again through deep snow. Once at the top of the stage there was a long flat loop before the downhill back to the start-line. The weather was kind to us - winds were minimal and no snow or rain. The route was a 2km loop, up, up and up, flat then down, down and down.
On the downhill it was a bit like a mogul run - running / sliding down on heels.
Spectacular view on the way around the course. To he right on the uphill the view was the whole bay. At the top - beautiful views of the mountains and some of the glaciers. The bay was surrounded by icebergs - every so often you’d hear the loud crash of another piece of glacier crashing into the sea to form another iceberg. On the way to the landing site we passed another Fin Whale - no more than 200m away.
I started off the stage wearing a couple of base layers, light down jacket and goretex waterproof. It got pretty hot on the uphill loops so ended up going back down to just the base-layers. Unfortunately the goretex running shoes and gaiters didn’t fare so well - feet were wet for most of the course. Felt. much stronger on day three than earlier in the week - and managed to get in 30-something laps.
Got back to the ship latish and had a late dinner. A couple of the front runners are closing in on the 250km target but for most of the rest we’re way off the 250km target.
It’s significantly harder and slower to run in snow than in sand - amazingly no blisters even with wet feet. Think that’s a combination of the cold - you don’t get hotspots and running style - it’s more of shuffle than anything else. There were very places where it was possible to run at any kind of pace and average pace per km is significantly down for everyone - but thankfully very few medical issues!
Next stage tomorrow is Damoy Point.
Final stage at Damoy Point - the furthest south we’ve been in the Antarctic Peninsula
Another absolutely spectacular setting with high mountains on all sides, icebergs and collapsing glaciers.
The circuit itself was just over 2.4kms long, starting down by a very blustery shoreline. Climbing up in a zig-zag until we crested the top of the hill. Then it followed a long flatish loop back to the shoreline.
The first couple of laps were a real slog until the snow got packed down a bit. We passed a small colony of Gentu penguins on the ascent and had to stop to make way for them if they wandered across our course - which happened on a number of occasions.
The shoreline side was cold, windy, snowy and wet. So there was almost no shelter or incentive to hang around at the start-finish line. But once you got to the second part of the stage the rest of the circuit was relatively sheltered. You could run most of the second half of the circuit but the first half was a bit of slog uphill in mid-deepish snow. We were out there for about 8 hours during which I managed 18 laps. Running in snow is really slow work! Having said that, on the last few stages took it relatively easy for photos and to take in some of the landscape. Last chance to see etc...
Chung from Hong Kong was the only person to hit the 250km mark and Iulian from Romania was only a few kms behind. I finished in 156kms over four stages - just under a marathon per day which under the circumstances I was reasonably happy with.
I didn’t feel great the first few days so I’m pretty happy with that outcome. We had a short medal ceremony on the Friday morning - but after that it was a bit of a rush to get out into the Southern Ocean as quickly as possible to try to beat the worst of a storm that was heading our way...
So that’s stage two done.
Was set on a Gentu penguin colony on Danco Island.
To get to the island it was a five-minute zodiac ride to the beach landing. On the way to the beach we saw a Fin Whale, not much more than 50m away. It rose out of the water and then plunged back into the sea. The route to the island took us past lots of icebergs.
The stage itself was a 3km switchback loop to the top of a hill overlooking the bay. The objective was to get as many loops in as possible. Wasn’t as cold or windy but the snow on the first few loops was knee-deep in most places.
It’s very tiring to be walking / running through deep snow. On every step you’re hoping it will hold - and then you sink! It’s such a struggle to get out of the snow so it’s very draining. After a few loops the snow got a bit more compacted and it was a bit easier to run on it. The penguin colony was set a bit higher up the hill overlooking the course but occasionally the penguins would come down on their way to the water. They looked somewhat bemused at the runners as they made their way up and down to the colony but we were probably more strange to them than the other way around.
The sun remained unbelievably bright - it’s a very strange kind of colour. Like nothing you’ve ever seen. It’s so bright it’s almost fluorescent blue - everything is bathed in this blue / white colour.
Two down to more major stages to go.
The format for this race is a little bit different than in previous races – the objective is to get in as many miles as possible within the allocated time. The first stage took place on King George Island – home to a number of international research stations including China, Russia, Chile and Uruguay.
So we were all instructed to be ready at 6am for all participants to be ferried to the island on Zodiac speedboats. The stage was a 14km loop between the Uruguay and China research stations. The first half of the was snow-bound and uphill. The second half of the loop was mostly flat and roadish.
I had a few tehnical issues at start line – bag wouldn’t sit right and sunglasses kept fogging.
I had a pretty light breakfast and didn’t do a great job on the food I was carrying for the stage. There are a lot of restrictions on what can be brought into Antarctica – so makes it difficult to use powders and gels.
End result being that I was significantly undercooked for the first couple of laps. I got a second wind after stopping to take on more food but was still pretty tired.
Almost all of the snow was light and crunchy – which meant you were always sinking into it. Every step would sink a little, every second step would be ankle deep, every third step was ankle deep and some even deeper than that. There was a lot of slushy snow as well which mesnt wet feet for most of the day. I’d have changed socks but that would have meant removing gloves – and one minute without gloves meant numb hands for an hour…so wet feet it was.
So ended up covering 49/50kms over the course of the 10 / 11 hours. I had suggested a while back that would be more authetic to sleep onshore – but I was so happy to get back to the ship for warm shower.
One down and four to go – and now sailing overnight to Danco Island on the Antarctia peninsula.
This is my first blog post for the Antarctica 2018 race. It’s been a long time since Atacama in 2013 but it’s been incredibly worthwhile.
It’s been great to be reunited with friends from previous years. I know 8 of the 50+ competitors from Atacama, Gobi and Namibia. It’s been great to reminisce – lots of black humour about blister, injuries, sandstorms and oppressively hot desert summers!
I’ve always been fascinated by Antarctica – Scott and Amundsen and Shackleton. Crossing the Drake Passage gave some insight into how painful and challenging those early exploration journeys must have been. It’s taken us two and half days to cross the passage. Are we there yet? Are we there yet?
I’ve done a lot more running this year so my legs felt reasonably fresh. That could all unravel on the first stage but hopefully not!
The first stage starts tomorrow at 630 am and the plan is that we’ll be out on the ice for 12 hours – needing to complete as many laps as possible. Psychologically starting out with a mere 12 hour section can be quite daunting but everyone is in the same boat!
The IAATO (International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators) have very strict rules in terms of what food can be brought into Antarctica to prevent any contamination of the environment. No nuts, no seeds, no cereal bars – you need to pre-mix powders and other items so that they don’t get blown away in wind. Air temperature tomorrow is expected to be close to 0c but with wind chill could get down to-10c or so.
If wind speed unexpectedly gets above 30 knots then the stage has to be abandoned as the Zodiac boats can’t operate above 30 knots.
So, after a full week of travelling, months of training and preparation – tomorrow is the big day! Everyone is keen to get started!
Let’s see how I feel tomorrow!
Thanks for all of your support d if you get a few mins then check out the Just Giving page for Save The Children.