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.


Antarctica bound

Photo by James Eades on Unsplash

Today, I leave for Antarctica. In a few hours, I will board a plane first to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Actually, we’re headed to Houston for an hour and then on to Buenos Aires, but that is a small technicality. We’ll spend a few days in Buenos Aires and then on to Antarctica by way of ship, which we’ll board in Ushuaia.

I’m excited, nervous, frustrated my achilles is not one hundred percent, and did I mention excited? This trip has been over four years in the making and it’s finally here. 🙌🏼

A cold is trying to weasel its way into my system. With all the rain and cold, damp days lately, people have been coughing, sneezing, and sniffling at the office, in the grocery stores, and forget about hitting the gym.

There is something going around. I can feel it worming its way through my sinuses and lungs trying to find a place to settle and get comfy. But, as my grandmother would say, I’m not having any of it. I completely refuse it. To counter its intentions, I’ve loaded up with EmergenC chewable tablets and Coldeeze (zinc), and will continue until both packages are empty.

Plus, there’s so much going on at work that the stress of all the change might have lowered my immune system as well. Change is never easy, even if it’s good. So it feels like it’s either the absolute worst time or positively the best time to be away. Perspective is everything, I suppose.

I’m going with it’s the best time, and will try to put all the change on a shelf for the two weeks I won’t have internet access or cell coverage. That’s right, no cellular coverage on the ship or on the white continent. I’m going to have the shakes for the first 24-48 hours. 😁

When I’m not marveling at the expanse of the Arctic Ocean or gazing at the billions of stars I’ll see from the ship’s deck, I plan to spend indoor cabin time with books – downloaded ten or so – and music. I’ll also bring my Mac to journal and capture the days and moments as they happen, plus do some other writing. And maybe just a teeny, tiny bit of work. Don’t judge.

All in all, I’m pretty much packed. Minimalism certainly has its advantages. I’ve managed to squeeze almost my entire wardrobe and running gear into a carryon and North Face duffle bag. The same duffle I used when I trekked to Everest Base Camp. The bag is enormous and I was able to fit several days of clothes for different climates (Buenos Aires is 75 degrees and Patagonia is 35 degrees) along with a short foam roller, dry bag for the Zodiac, day pack, extra pair of shoes, additional jacket, and much more.

In my carryon, I have all my running gear for race day, which is substantial because of how cold it will be. It’s packed to the brim with running shoes, socks, hat, gloves, balaclava, three layers of clothing, a sports bra, and so on. Plus, I packed all medicine in there too, especially the seasickness patches and my mini first aid kit that mostly consists of moleskin, ibuprofen, bandaids, and blister repair patches.

I also packed the GoPro gear in my carryon along with the bare minimum of clothing should my duffle go missing. No no no, not going to happen. But just in case. South America has a reputation for losing gear. I’m just hoping it’s not mine this time around.

With all of this packing and preparation, I still feel unsettled and unprepared, like I missed something. And I probably did, but I’ll figure it out as I go. Although I had more than four years to prepare for this epic journey, it really boiled down to the last few months and weeks, which happen to be a little tumultuous complete with a heavy dose of sickness and injury.

But, I’ll figure it out. Things always sort themselves out in the end. This is just my experience and I’ll make the best of it, work a little harder, spend a few more cycles making sure I’ve covered all the bases, check my packing list yet again for the fifteenth time. I’ll do – and have done – the hard things now so I can enjoy the fruits a little bit later.

Speaking of fruits, it’s time for breakfast. Next post will be from Argentina.

Buen día! 🗻🏃🏻‍♀️ 💪🏼


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.