I boarded a plane on Tuesday August 26th to travel across the world to race for 7 days in Madagascar. It took 2 days to get there. Over 25 hours sitting on planes!!! Once I arrived I began to meet and bond with other racers. Traveling in a developing country adds to the challenge. Transportation, food, language .... are very different in Madagascar. There is no organization, it is basically a free for all. Many racers had to pay a bribe to get their race gear on the plane.
The race organization pairs you with another runner for your first night. My roommate was from Australia and currently lives in China. We spent a good part of the day organizing are gear. I had a little panic because my pack was 2 lbs heavier then hers and weighed in at 20 lbs without water. After our official check in we were put into buses and transferred to our 1st camp. Our 1st and 2nd camps were located on beaches by the Indian ocean. We were greeted by locals and treated to a traditional dance ceremony. At camp, we socialized with other racers, ate our 1st of 7 freeze dried meals, and settled into your tent with your new family for 7 days. My tent had 3 men and 3 women. The men were from Israel, Britain, and the US. The other women were from the US and Russia. In all, there were 239 runners from 43 countries.
Wake up was around 5 am. They dug 7 holes for the entire camp to do there business. There were over 200 people in camp including volunteers and medics. Those holes got pretty nasty. The morning routine included breakfast, packing your pack, taking care of your feet and a morning briefing on that days course. The race start was either 7 or 8 am.
The first 4 days were around 25 miles, the 5th day was 50 miles and the last day was a 10k. The weather was hot and humid. At times, the temp reached in the high 90's. I train at altitude and relatively cool temps. I was really nervous about how I would respond to the heat. My nutrition, hydration , and clothing were planned for heat and I ended up responding really well. I did ditch my gaiters early on to save my feet from heating up and that ended up being a good thing. The course was flat with lots of deep sand and dust. There were also many river crossings. I had some good falls. I even got stuck in a rice patty. I slipped off a log and instantly sunk to my hip in mud. It took 2 people to pull me out. I was lucky to keep my shoes. Others were not so lucky. I heard stories of people having to fish around to try and find their shoes. There was a river crossing shortly after were I was able to wash up.
The course took us through many villages. There was little to no western influence in these villages. They lived in basic huts with no water or electricity. Some of the villagers looked at us like we came from mars while others clapped and cheered for us. During the 1st stage we ran with a local running group. Most of them ran in flip flops. There were times that the children would hold your hand and run with you through their village. We would stop and take pictures of them and show it to them. They really loved to see themselves.
A racer at camp said that the 1st three days took athleticism and the last 3 days were mental. I would agree with this. By day 3 you were breaking down. Many people had feet that were destroyed from blisters, others were dealing with swelling, infections, dehydration, and bad stomachs. You are tired, hungry, hot, and REALLY DIRTY. You are given water to drink but nothing to clean up with. In these conditions you have to be mentally tough. Most racers have a moment where they want to quit and you have to fight those feelings. Unfortunately, some do have to stop. I think 40 people did not finish.
I went to Madagascar to experience another culture, create new friendships and to race. I accomplished them all. I have grown as a person because of this experience. Traveling alone and racing in a developing country so far from home has given me new found confidence. I am ready for my next cool impossible!!!
My race results. I was 27th overall, 5th women overall, and 1st in my age group .