First off, I apologize for the long post. I'll keep the intro to this post short and sweet. It contains my thoughts that I wrote over 2 years ago during my first trip to Antarctica for the 2012 Antarctic Ice Marathon.
Day 1 (November 17th):
After four flights and 18 hours of flying I finally arrive at my hotel in Punta Arenas, Chile at 5 am (Midnight Pacific Time). I crash for 4 hours and then spend most of the day walking around town with Carl and his friend Nick who will be completing a marathon on all 7 continents. The town is nice and has that “beach / port” town feel to it. Tonight and tomorrow morning I will learn the actual details of what I am about to do.
At about 10 pm, I meet Richard, the founder of the race, and most of the rest of group for the first time. It is an interesting bunch to say the least. I think I am the only one here who doesn't necessarily have the end goal of doing a marathon on all 7 continents. I am just the crazy guy who decided to go to Antarctica and run a marathon for shits and giggles. Who knows maybe by the end of this I will decide to do one on every continent. Also, my 5 years as a consultant has prepared me for the next week of unexpectedness. It’s a good feeling to know that I am fine being in situations where I don’t know what will happen next or when it will happen. Richard told us in our intro meeting to be prepared to wait and go at a moments notice or to be delayed for a few days. Apparently, Antarctica flights don’t go according to any set schedule but only on Mother Nature’s schedule.
Day 2 (November 18th):
We heard from the of logistics company for the first time today. The feeling of excitement and “Am I really doing this?” has almost completely set in. I am sure once I am on the plane it will be an “Oh shit” type moment. It is finally getting real as the company said that we could leave tonight at 7 pm if the weather is right to fly. I hope we get to go tonight. Well I am signing off for 5 days only hopefully. Follow along for regular updates here: http://www.icemarathon.com/live/206.html.
Day 3 (November 19th):
Well, as expected we didn’t get to leave last night but heard that we were likely to leave in the morning. In hindsight, leaving on Sunday night would have been rough. I also found out that a friend from mine from my semester in Barcelona at IESE neighbor John is doing the race. We actually sat next to each other over beers on Saturday night and didn’t even realize it. What a random connection.
At 6:20 am, I got call from Richard letting me know that we would be leaving for the airport at 7:40 am to board the plane to head south. After the call, I took my last shower until we return from Antarctica. The only shower available to me will be the baby wipes I brought along. Also, I won’t be able to make in yellow snow as we have to pee in a bottle for minimal impact. Anything that is taken to Antarctica must be brought out.
At ~1:30 pm, we finally touch down on the ice runway in Antarctica! Continent number seven is now done along with all 50 states. It is hard to believe that at the start of 2009, I had only left US for spring break in Mexico. In the last four years that number has ballooned from one to nearly thirty-five.
The experience of being in Antarctica is surreal. I am not sure when it will fully set in. After spending about an hour on the runway taking it all in, I board the last van to camp. For most of the next five days, I will be bouncing between our dining tent, my sleeping tent and the vastness that is Union Glacier with 24 hours of sunlight. Day one in Antarctica is finally done when I fall asleep around 12 am. The marathon is set to start at 10 am tomorrow.
Day 4 (November 20th):
Today is marathon day – Not. After having no pre-race jitters and sleeping until 8:45 am, I find out that the race will not be happening today due to wind as tomorrow will be better running conditions. The delay is actually a great thing as I get to test out my running gear to make any adjustments. I learn that I will surprisingly be too warm with all my gear on so I decide to change my mid-layer. The day was mainly spent telling stories, playing outside and taking photos (especially the random photos with Carl, Janet, Karen and Jason). Someone also came up with the idea to write people’s names in the snow to give them as gifts. A great idea if I do say so myself. After dinner, we learn that the race is set for 10 am tomorrow. If the weather acts as forecasted it should go off as scheduled.
The delay also gave us time as a group to bond even more than we had already. The people here have so many amazing stories. I may continue running to try to get to a marathon on every continent but I may not. I know that my interactions with everyone here have changed my perspective on how I will continue to see the world though.
Day 5 (November 21st):
Marathon day is finally here. I wake up around 8:30 am after a good night’s sleep (or is it day’s sleep since the sun doesn't set). The marathon is on. The course will be two 13.1 mile loops. We start at 10 am. What lies ahead for the next several hours I have no idea.
The first four miles to checkpoint one fly by. The front stretch is well groomed for the most part. After mile four, things change significantly as the wind over the past few days has changed the course condition making it much more difficult to run. It is like running on a beach. I complete the first loop in just over 2.5 hours.
At mile 14, I realize that my walking stride is just as if not more efficient than my running stride so I make the decision to walk most of the rest of the race. The 6 miles between checkpoint one and two seem to take forever on lap two. Although I am now walking, only a few people pass me on the second lap. I think everyone is struggling in the conditions. About a half a mile from the finish, Pascal catches up to me. He has been power walking since he started cramping. He passes me and with the finish in my sights I decide to run as best as possible to the finish. As I go by him, he lets me know that I have a chance at sub six hours. This is the first time I have any concept of time. As I cross the finish line, I drop to my knees and kiss the finish line similar to Indy 500 winners. I completed the second lap in under 3.5 hours for a time of just under 6 hours. I didn’t find this out for another two hours as I didn’t even bother to ask when I finished as it didn’t matter to me.
Within an hour of finishing, I have cracked open the bottle of Chilean wine that I brought with Doug, who finished third. This is just the beginning of the celebration. The staff limits the alcohol that is available for dinner as apparently they think the marathoning crowd has the potential to get a bit rowdy. This is probably wise on their part as we had plenty of booze that we brought along. Over the course of the next eight hours, we make ourselves snow cone cocktails and hot toddies before hitting the bed at 4 am. Of course the sun is still up.
Day 6 (November 22nd):
Today is 100K (62 miles). There are nine brave people running it this year, two of which did the marathon yesterday. The course will be ten 10K loops so they can best avoid the wind. The race starts off at 8 am while I am still sleeping. Two people who work for the logistics company are running the race including the meteorologist who will determine if/when we can fly out tomorrow. A majority of the day is spent chatting in the dining tent and walking around taking photos.
Just before dinner, we find out that some workers in Punta Arenas are striking and have blockaded all the roads to the airport. Someone who tried to break the blockade was drug from his truck and beaten by the crowd. This means that they can’t load the plane or get jet fuel to the airport so if it stands we won’t be able to fly tomorrow. This happened last season as well and it lasted nearly a week. As soon as we hear this, we all think “Oh shit, we are not going anywhere tomorrow.” However, about two hours later we hear the strike is over. I am elated as there is a chance I can make my flight that is at 12:15 am on Saturday morning but I won’t know until tomorrow after breakfast at 9 am.
One of the people doing the 100K is Karl Hinett. Karl was in the British military and was injured in Iraq in 2005. The Ice Marathon is one of 100 marathons that Karl will do over the course of 2011 and 2012. Karl is walking the 100K the day after doing the marathon. At about 1:30 am, Karl set out on his last 10 K with 15 of us in tow to support him as he finished this amazing accomplishment. Karl ended up completing the 100K in just under 19 hours. This experience alone made the trip worth it. We all came here four days ago not knowing many people and four days later we were completing walking 6.2 miles at 3:30 am. I don’t know many other places that this type of camaraderie would have been established in such a short time.
Day 7 (November 23rd):
After going to bed at 4 am for the second consecutive day, I arose at around 8 am so I didn’t miss the hot breakfast which I had done every other day. We found out around 9:15 am that the flight was on. It was going to be tight for my connection but I had a chance at making it. The last day was spent remembering what a journey we had all been on. It was also our last chance to explore and take in the amazing setting that we were in.
At around 11 am one of my fellow Ice Marathoners, Andrew Murray set off on running a 50 K (~31.2 miles). This was the first of seven consecutive ultra-marathons that Andrew will complete in the next seven days on all seven continents to raise awareness about fitness in Scotland. You can visit his site at www.docandrewmurray.com.
Andrew and Karl are just two examples of the amazing people I met on this trip. There are individuals such as John Killingworth who raised over $80K for breast cancer research (www.80degreessouth.co.uk) and Wendelin Lauxen who set the world record for running an official marathon on every continent in just over 21 days. The people I met and memories I made in this amazing setting will stay with me for the rest of my life. Will I comeback to Antarctica? I am not sure but this is probably one of the best ways that I can think of to experience the continent. You spend five days in an amazing place with 50 plus amazing people who enjoy living life and exploring the world around them. They have sacrificed a lot but also gained so much as well. As Matt Dean, a fellow participant, said in his video while running the Ice Marathon to his kids “This was a dream of mine that I am living out. I want you to work towards your dreams and goals whatever they may be as that is what life is all about.” I couldn’t have summed this experience up better. I am not sure when I will fully comprehend this experience but I know it was amazing.
The plane finally landed 5 pm and it takes two hours to about turn around. It really will be a question of will I or won’t I make my flight in Punta Arenas that leaves at midnight. We finally take off about 7:45 pm for a four plus hour flight back to Punta Arenas. My flight to Santiago leaves at 12:15 am. It’s going to be tight.
On the flight, a lot of us chipped in to help the one man crew serve food and drinks. I acted as a flight attendant on the plane serving drinks and food. I also ended up making sandwiches as well after the first executive chef Grant Nethercott retired for the night. Grant owns his own restaurant in England and made ice cream for us in Antarctica (photos will follow). Demelza Farr, who won the North Pole and Ice Marathons, chipped in to speed up the assembly line. Demelza was on her honeymoon with her husband James who proposed after they completed the North Pole marathon in April. This just embodies the team effort and camaraderie we built.
We finally landed at 11:50 pm. With a flight that left at 12:15 am, there is no chance I would make – right? Surprisingly, I made my flight as it is a small airport. A group of us were escorted from the plane and dropped off behind the baggage door and walked through baggage claim. The flight was closed but apparently not as they put me on the plane!! We took off at 12:35 pm. I could not have done this without the help of my fellow competitors Marcelo and Mark who helped me!
I am writing this blog to chronicle my trials and tribulations as I try to complete the World Marathon Challenge and my 10 year goal of running/ walking around the world. I will also use it to chronicle my past and future adventures around the world!