Race day!! Everyone in camp was up early in the darkness of pre 6am but very tired as no-one slept in the night due to the cold and we certainly didn’t expect to be waking up to frost in the jungle. This was the highest point of the week at just over 3000m so going forward nights should get warmer as we descend further down into the valley. But we were warned that tonight would be not much warmer than last night which is a problem for most of us as we will have to hand in our excess luggage and will only be living with what we are carrying in our race packs. For me this means I have left behind a sleeping bag and my down jacket. I couldn’t bare to part with my fleece top as cold is a big issue for me so decided to carry it today, sleep in it tonight, donate it to a local tomorrow morning and hope for warmer nights from tomorrow.
A surprise at the race briefing yesterday was the weight of the tracker that we would all need to carry. An extra 300g in weight was not what anyone wanted in our already bursting packs. And the surprise was even bigger this morning when we discovered how big and bulky they were. Packing done, breakfasts eaten and we were off to the start line on the road above camp.
I had saved a Red Bull for the start of the race and was so pleased to be able to drink this as we stood waiting whilst the local major welcomed us all to the jungle. And then we were off!
The race started with a gentle descent down the road for about a mile until we reached a wooden door on the right. This was our entry point into the jungle where a path had been cleared by locals in the preceeding weeks down to the river. The path went on for hours as it zig zagged back and forth across the side of the valley. After some time I could hear voices ahead of me and was thrilled to have caught up with some other runners as I knew there was only one person behind me. I finally met up with Diane who had managed to sprain her ankle soon after entering the jungle and was being looked after by Anne-Marie. I handed over my poles to Diane and made do with a big stick. Together we slowly progressed to the bottom of the valley where we hit the wide stoney basin of the river and crossed the river itself to reach check point 1.
The next section of the race was an amost vertical climb out of the river basin, through jungle with the assisance of hanging ropes until we reached the road. And the rest of the day was a long, slow descent of the road but made better by the fact that myself, Anne-Marie and Diane stayed together for the whole day. The road provided it’s own entertainment with a vertical drop at one side. Vehicles would appear from without warning and the challenge was to not dodge out of the way without jumping over the side of the vertical drop. On the tight turns there was usually a stream either flowing across the road (very refreshing for the feet) or under the road where the water flow was big enough to warrant a bridge.
The day was warm but not as hot as we had worried about and whilst it felt long, we finally reached the camp for the night by mid afternoon. Time to eat, soak feet in the stream, get knee taped up by the medics (niggling pain in left knee during the later part of the day) and be in the hammock ready for sleep by 6pm when it got dark. Race day 1 completed.