Part 10. Day 1, Stage 1

At last, the morning of the race.

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(From left, Shin, me, and Kuro)

The Stage 1 course has the highest altitude in the entire race.

You climb up to 3,300m, and then you descend all the way down to 2,400m. The course’s distance is about 40km.

It was our 3rd day since we arrived to Atacama – we hadn’t gotten used to the high altitude yet.

“Today should be a wait-and-see day. We have to remember to be patient.”

There’s a “25m Rule” in the team race.

All team members must run within 25m of distance from each other.

All team members must start and reach the goal at the same time, and run through each check point at the same time.

The German team and Scotland team had their own uniform, so the team could be recognized at once.

However, the “unpredictable” England team didn’t have a team uniform.

It was difficult to tell if the runner is an individual racer or a member of the England team.

(Anyway, we shouldn’t worry about the others, and aim to reach the goal within 50th place.)

We did everything we could to make our equipment lighter.

Each of our members’ equipment weighed:

Me: 7.5kg (including the radish weighing 635g)

Shin: 9.5kg (including the banana weighing 635g)

Kuro: 10kg (including the giraffe weighing 711g) 

(Plus 1-2.5kg of water would be added)

Kuro was tall, so his food weighed more, resulting in his equipment’s heavier weight.

But compared to other racers, we were pretty lightweight.

Still, running above 3000m with equipment and water weighing over 10kg is more suffocating than you can imagine.

“This is pretty tough…”

In order prevent suffocation, we told each other, “Let’s bring it (SPO2) back to 90!” – a line our hypoxic training coach used to say.

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We walked during the uphill, and whenever we could, we ran at a slow pace.

(My leg seems to be alright so far. I’m so relieved!!!! But it’s still the first day of a 7 day race. I should be careful!!)

In the latter half of the stage, after the 20km point, my stomach started to have trouble. I started to have a bit of nausea.

(Oh boy. I experienced this in Sahara, but NOT on the first day… Maybe my stomach hasn’t recovered…)

On the way, we lost our course for about 5 minutes, but my legs and stomach were fairly OK. We finished our first day at 42nd place.

It was quite a slow pace like we planned. Not bad.

My leg, which started to hurt at the 10km point during the Tokyo Marathon a week before, was alright after 40km of running.

This was good news!

Evan (who treated my leg in New York) and Ayalo (who introduced Evan to me), I cannot thank you enough!!!

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(A photo of my “best” taping before the start)

(Evan told me that the pain might start to happen at the latter half of the race. What’s gonna happen with my leg during Stage 4 when we start to run seriously, and Stage 5, the key stage…? Well, I shouldn’t think about it too much for now.)

After reaching the goal, I checked out the results of other teams. I learned that the unpredictable England team finished 16 minutes ahead of us.

(Wow! I’m not sure how serious they ran today to get this result, but things might not be so easy…)

But later I learned that the England team actually didn’t finish at the same time. 2 reached the goal at the same time, but another member had reached the goal a lot earlier.

“Don’t they know about the 25m rule? Or did they quit the team race and decided to run the individuals race?”

There were many questions in my mind.

But the nausea that started during the race had become unbearable, and I had to lie down in the tent.

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(The banana next to me is Shin’s sleeping pad)

(Oh no… I may not make it after tomorrow if my condition’s so bad from day 1)

Because of my past experiences at the Sahara and the bad condition before the race, I brought a lot of medicine.

I took medicine for my stomach and anti-nausea drugs, but my condition wasn’t getting any better.

(Maybe I’m dehydrated…?!)

In a rush, I licked salt and drank water.

Since Atacama has a dry climate, you won’t notice even if you sweat a lot.

If you sweat, you will not only lose your body’s water but the salt within your body too.

(Hmmmm? Huh???? My condition is getting better!!!!!!)

It seems everything was because I was lacking salt.

“If you take too much salt, the concentration of salt in your body gets too high; as a result, your body tries to store water to lower the concentration, which causes your body to swell.” – Because I heard that story, I took less salt than the desert races in the past.

Just two tablets of salt, and the body that didn’t get any better with various medicines suddenly recovered.

The power of salt!

Even a small adjustment of salt would result in dehydration or swelling.

Once again, I realized the difficulty of desert races.

(Well, so many things happened during day 1.

But this is just the beginning! At Tomorrow’s stage 2, we will go across many rivers! We are going to splash each other water and run!!!)

(Continue to Part 11)