Antarctica Half Marathon

We did it! 

A race four years in the making finally came to fruition. Even after illness and injury, I completed one of the hardest half marathons on the planet. It was hilly, rocky, windy at times, and unbelievably muddy. It was everything but freezing cold.

The race was set on King George Island. It was a little over a four mile loop out and back, set along the Uruguayan base. The race director said it was the best and warmest day in the race’s twenty year history. Thank you, global warming. 

Although we started out on a frozen tundra of dirt and rock, twenty or so minutes into the race, the temperature rose and capped out at a balmy 36 degrees. That increase along with ninety-some-odd runners trodding the path and a steady stream of glacier runoff created a sticky, sludgy mud path along with sizable puddles – the kind that steal your shoes if you happen to step in the wrong one – on the race course. 

The first loop was mostly run on tractor tire treads frozen in the mud. Every tread was an ankle bender so each step was placed carefully. It made for a concentrated effort and although it was cold, there was almost no wind, so I was very warm about half way in and ready to shed a layer.

On the second loop I pulled off a middle layer – a three-quarter zip fleece – and ran in a long sleeve technical tee and windbreaker the rest of the race. I also shed my gloves, which was a bad idea as the wind picked up during my second loop and I was shivering by the time I got back to my gloves around mile eight.

The race was entirely self supported and no plastics of any kind, including those that house nutrition from gels, beans, or in my case Starburst, were allowed on the island. Runners found interesting ways to squeeze their single serve packs of Gu or other gels into bottles that hopefully didn’t clog during the race.

I unwrapped about thirty candies and popped them into the little bag on my water bottle. The red stains on the blue bag still haven’t come out even after a couple of solid washings. Mental note: I need to find a new nutrition strategy. My friends used sport beans, and they seemed pleased with them. I’ll try them next race.

The last loop was the muddiest and messiest. My achilles was screaming and pulsing with pain, but I wasn’t about to cave. I had come this far and with only four miles left, I wasn’t about to stop. I walked up the hills and plodded lightly down limping a little to help relieve the throbbing.

When it was flat, I ran at about 70% effort. I didn’t want to miss out on all the hiking and excursions if I totaled my ankle. In fact, I ran all the way to the finish line.

I completed the half marathon with a time around 3:30-ish and a smile. It was the worst time I had ever run, but I was happy to cross the finish line at all, with both shoes still on my feet and my achilles mostly intact.


Exploring Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is a beautiful cosmopolitan city with hundreds of towering stone, metal, and glass buildings sprawled across its expanse. The metro boasts several neighborhoods with thriving nightlife, shopping galore, delicious restaurants, and hopping bars complete with tango dancing and interesting mixology.

The city also has wonderful green spaces, like parks and plazas, a plethora of museums, and deep historical ties throughout. With all it has to offer, almost anyone can find something appealing in Buenos Aires.

Plaza de Mayo and Casa Rosada

Although I’ve only been here three days (and one of those was thoroughly enjoyed in Uruguay), I’ve had a chance to experience a few of the main tourist attractions, like Eva Perón’s grave inside the Cementerio de la Recoleta (see images below), the building and balcony of Casa Rosada (pictured above), on which Evita addressed an impassioned crowd overlooking the Plaza de Mayo, and consuming an authentic Argentinean steak.

Recoleta Cemetery (where Evita is buried)

Buenos Aires has been a wonderful place to walk around, explore, learn, ponder, and be inspired.

Liliana and Sabu (my favorite statue in Recoleta)

Communicating in Spanish has been both challenging and exciting. Me gusta hablar español, pero sé muy poco. Luckily, the hotel staff knows more English than I do Spanish. 😬

Three days of walking around cobblestone sidewalks and streets, up and down stairs, and in and out of buildings has taken a toll on my achilles. Today, I plan to rest it mostly and lightly explore a few more of the green spaces if/when the rain lets up this afternoon.

As far as the race, last night we learned the course is expected to be quite muddy and extra hilly. Due to one of the South American bases closing, our route will be different than years in the recent past, which means a lot more mud and hills.

I’m a little concerned my road shoes will not hold up. But I brought some duck tape because, as we all know, duck tape fixes everything. 😬😬

Tomorrow night, we leave for Ushuaia. The plane is expected to take off around 4:30am, but we need all gear and luggage ready to go by 2am. It seems like I might as well skip sleeping before we leave and try to catch some shuteye on the plane.

We depart for Antarctica on Thursday evening, which gives us about half a day to explore Ushuaia. Depending on weather, I hope to get up to the Martial Glacier for some hiking before we have to board the ship. Also, will pick up any last minute gear – like gators since the race is going to be so muddy – in Ushuaia.

That’s all for now. 🙏🏼


Arctic adventure begins in two weeks 🐧❄️

In two weeks, I will hop on a plane to Buenos Aires, Argentina, then another to Ushauaia, and last, board a ship to sail the Drake Passage down to Antarctica.

The race is a little over three weeks away and I did something nasty to my achilles on the last, long and very hilly training run. Again, I tried using trail shoes, and again, they didn’t work out. I’m sticking with my road shoes. Hills, rock, and snow be damned.

The problem with an achilles, let’s call it, aggravation, is it takes a long time to heal. I’ve been limping around since Sunday, and that’s walking. Running has been out of the question, and still is almost a week later.

I feel like my fitness level and endurance training will carry over another two to three weeks if rest is all I need to heal my achilles, but I’m not happy about it. I’ve been grumpy and a little down lately as the realization that due to this setback I won’t be running the best race I could.

Don’t count me out yet. Two weeks is still long enough for me to recover sufficiently to get the job done. I just hope it’s enough for the tough arctic terrain that lies ahead.

Race participants received a final informational email from Marathon Tours on logistics, avoiding scams in Buenos Aires and what to do if your flight is delayed or canceled. They said all of this tends to happen quite a bit in South America.

There will be no internet and no cell phone coverage while on the ship or on the white continent. I have an option to register for a ship, text-only, email address. I’m guessing this is a small data channel on a ship-to-shore radio that can allow for a limited amount of communication to and from the rest of the world.

The email also included a few pictures from previous races. The inclines on the race course looked intense. I’ve had some hill work – some that’s nearly done me in – but those long ass hills go up and up forever. Gulp.

Deep breath. It’s going to be fine. Carry on.

There are no ports or docks on Antarctica. Instead, the ship drops anchor and they lob us (hopefully it’s gentler than that) into a Zodiac. A Zodiac is a rubber boat with a motor, think what navy seals use. The Zodiac will bring several of us to land. Then we’ll step out of the boat into calf-high Arctic ocean and walk (or run) to land and ice and snow.

Zodiacs will be used for race day and other activities on Antarctica. Before and after the race there are several excursions like arctic ocean kayaking and penguin viewing. Count me in!

With the help of a check list from Marathon Tours, I’m still narrowing down my own packing list, which I’ll publish when I have it pretty much locked. More to come.

Stay healthy, stay strong. ❤️🙏🏼💪🏼


Hello, 2019

This morning I woke at 5:50am, pulled on a hoody, rolled out my yoga mat, and did about six minutes of morning yoga. Yep, starting slowly. I followed that up with 15 minutes of meditation. So far, so good.

Then I brewed a pot of bulletproof coffee. It wasn’t until I took my first sip did I realize it’s not really for brewing. It’s supposed to be pressed. Whoops. That’s what I get for not reading directions.

My trainer had mentioned he loved it, so when I saw it on sale I picked it up and thought I could just brew it like I would any other ground coffee. Um, not so. Well, I did, but it was awful. I didn’t bother popping in a lump of coconut oil or butter because I can only handle a little bit of change at a time. And I’m glad I didn’t. That lump of fat would have forfeited my intermittent fasting, which I had planned on doing until 8:30am. After a few sips of drinking the not so good stuff, I tossed it and made my usual americano. Oh, how familiarity feels so good.

That there is a lesson on why we have so much strength at the beginning of the year – or morning – to keep a newly made resolution and almost none after a few days, weeks, or months. We make mistakes and look and feel foolish. Plus, it’s easier and more comfortable to go back the way we were. Even though the changes were better for us, we lose the willpower or drive or whatever it is that keeps us moving in a new direction even though it’s uncomfortable. The good news is even when we try new things unsuccessfully we learn new stuff. Bulletproof coffee is not meant to be brewed. Okay, got it.

Last year, I resolved to become minimalist. For the most part, I did. I reduced my possessions by over sixty percent. I didn’t buy anything that wasn’t consumable all year. That is, until the end of the year in mid-October, when my willpower was exhausted and I bought all the things. I utterly failed.

When I had my shopping breakdown, I bought, among other things, $120 trail shoes, a $150 SmartWool sweater, and a new Jeep. A couple of months later, I returned (or in the case of the Jeep resold) them all.

This year, I want to continue down the minimalist path, but more moderately. I have less stuff so it’s not about reducing so much as it is about not buying stuff just to buy stuff. Lesson learned. No more unnecessary purchases because no more depriving myself. I’m taking the middle way.

Hello, 2019. This year will usher in a few exciting things for me, namely the half marathon in Antarctica. During that trip, I’ll visit Argentina, Ushuaia, and sail the Drake Passage – all of which are on my bucket list.

I’m also excited to get back to developing a yoga practice. Adding that into my morning routine, before meditation, will be interesting. When I had a proper practice, I did it in the evening. I’m not opposed to going back to evening, but I thought mornings would help me with my meditation practice. It’ll be a bit of a challenge, but I’m excited to see what I can do and, in return, what it can do for me.

Of course I have other goals around finances, career, contribution, and community, and they’re just as important to me. But making it to Antarctica would be the pinnacle of the year. Completing the half marathon would be the cherry on top.

Come to think of it, I better hit the trails today. Training has begun. 💪


Antarctica

It was 2014 when I sent my application in for the half marathon taking place in Antarctica. A couple of months later, I was waitlisted without an estimated date or time for acceptance. My assumption was it would take a year. It seemed reasonable, like most marathons, a year or a little less is about when they open. But not this one.

Four years later, I got the green light to send in the rest of my deposit. The race folks confirmed I would be running in the 2019 race. A full five years later. But, hey, it was official. I had a room on a ship going to Antarctica, and this would be my final half marathon.

The problem with such a long waitlist is I’m no longer in the marathon-running shape I was in back in 2014 or 15 or even 16. I’m older and slower and have really started to enjoy not running for hours, not training during what were supposed to be slow weekend mornings, not enduring a foam rolling after the run. No more ice on my knees and piles of sweaty running gear filling up my laundry hamper.

Come on, I tell myself, trying to get motivated, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. How can I not take it on, and try to enjoy it regardless of how old I feel, or how old I really am? Maybe with all of this training and running to come, I might feel younger again. But deep down I doubt it. It’s more likely, I’ll feel older.

So I’m starting slowly. I’ve signed up to work out with a personal trainer once or twice a week depending on our schedules, just to give myself a base level of fitness. I have a history of getting injured while training and I think it’s because I’m not really that fit before I jump right in to running longer distances. I’ve been working with the trainer for about three weeks now.

I’ve also signed up for the first 5k I’ve attempted in so, so long. It’s a hilly up and down, out and back trail race. Training for that has also begun. Training, meaning, I put on my shoes and attempt to meet the distances, but mostly I’m tired and winded.

Regardless of my fitness level, I am excited about visiting Antarctica. Not many people get the opportunity to visit that continent. For me, Antarctica will be my seventh and last remaining continent to step foot on. I’m pretty stoked.

Now, I just need to get that running and fitness thing moving in the right direction. I’ve missed a couple of training runs already this week. It’s time to get in gear or I’ll never know what it was like to complete my last half on the most remote continent in the world.