(Posted - 16 Jul 2010)
The Racing the Planet is a unique category of rough country footraces that take place over seven days and some 250 kilometres in some rugged and remote parts of the world. This international series saw an event take place in the Kimberley in April and this is an account of that race by West Australian adventure racer Robbie Adams.
Robbie has kindly let us circulate this article in our Rapid Ascent newsletter after I received it via e-mail and was captivated by his story back in early June. Happy reading.
A quick update as I’m in my fourth week of “recommended" rest after the body has had a bit of a melt down, the theory is that I have managed to deplete my glycogen stores to almost nil and have found any sort of exercise over the hour mark almost impossible without massive bouts of cramping and lethargy.
The great news is that I now have to replenish these levels so I’ve been trying my best by eating bucket loads of pasta and topping up the carb intake with a few beers (the latter wasn’t actually recommended by a health professional)
Racing the Planet Australia 2010 in the Kimberley was a fantastic event with the people, scenery and challenges all being amazing. We topped out at about 47 degrees with high 80% humidity, the first day saw 31 litres of IV fluid being administered and a general scene of wretchedness of people vomiting, cramping and passing out all through the camp, this day was truly epic and took some people well over 12 hrs to complete, a great achievement to be out there that long in those conditions.
Right: Actually having to do some massage myself: These guys had severe dehydration and had been out for 14hrs, both were later hooked up to IV.
Personally I came in about 40th position in 7.5hrs after seriously misjudging my electrolytes and “overdosed" giving me severe stomach cramps and letting me see a lot more of the scenery as I had to make half a dozen track detours into the scrub. A bit disappointed but had it sorted by the end of the day and was feeling good about day two.
After a fitful nights sleep on my slowly deflating mattress (note: don’t take ultra lightweight air mattress to sleep in Spinifex infested country!!) we awoke around five to get some sort of rehydrated stodge into the system and have the first and only coffee of the day.
Generally it is a myriad of repacking gear as all equipment and food is carried by the competitor with only shelter and water supplied by the organisers. You don’t want gear moving around in a pack that will have to be with you for the next 40 to 100 kilometres as you run, scramble, climb, swim and generally sprawl yourself through various parts of the Kimberley landscape. Packs weigh anywhere from 6kg through to 17kg, mine was a bit on the heavy side with 13kg. I’ll certainly lighten it off next time as it does make a difference over the cumulative days.
We were all very wary of what the day had in store for us and were licking our wounds from the day before, we had a fantastic run through the mini bungles and it was thoroughly enjoyable until the 25-30 km mark. Fatigue from the day before and the oppressive heat shook up a lot of people who were starting to have severe feet problems due to us having wet feet through water crossings and then running on baking roads. I teamed with another mate from Perth and we ran in about 24th for the day after around 6.5hrs.
Day three and I was starting to get into the groove and felt recovered from the disaster of day one, we had a few kilometres of road and then into some cross country, this was pretty similar to a broken bowling ball disposal yard that had materialised in a gorge and Spinifex system, very interesting and I found myself leading the pack as we picked our way through the debris and streams in the gorges. It took us over two hours to go 8km and we were in a bit of a conga line coming into checkpoint one. The rest of the day was more of the same with rocky outcrops, Spinifex, awesome scenery and the final 10km from hell down the Gibb River Road to El Questro airstrip. Finished 31st for the day.
We were now getting to the pointy end of the race and one of the last big challenges to break the back of this race, by day four 40 from 195 had pulled out and there was some amazing feats of endurance being shown all through the course. Today we were to climb over the gorge to descend into the maze and camp at an isolated location about 17km away, a short day in distance but was brutal in terrain. I teamed up with a group of four guys and we had a fantastic run into the campground (rock overlooking a magnificent pool). We came in equal 14th for the day and I was feeling great about the rest of the race. Just the massive 100km day tomorrow and a short 12km to the finish on Saturday, plus it was only 11am and I had all day to wash some gear and recover for what was going to be a major hurdle tomorrow.
Well, the major hurdle came in the form of keeping any semblance of food or liquid in either end as I went down with severe gastro about 6pm that night. I think we were drinking out of some dubious streams through pure survival and I picked up something, either that or food in conjunction with dehydration and fatigue. The end result was that after 12 hrs of this I couldn’t walk/stand up and I was out on two IV bags in the morning, I got my kit on and went to start about half an hour after the rest of the field and got about 50 metres before I hit the deck and stayed there.
It was one of the harder decisions I’ve had to make to withdraw from the event but due to the remoteness and the day ahead I fully believe I would have gone toes up if I had continued. On the good side I got to see the Kimberley and the maze from the helicopter on the way back to Emma Gorge, a simply fantastic sight and highly recommended. On the down side I got to my hotel room, stripped off my rather foul gear and passed out for 18hrs straight The people that delivered my bag are probably still in counselling.
It was of course a disappointing way to finish the event but there were so many learning points and I met some great people. Anyone that started, finished a stage and especially finished the event I have the utmost respect for.
I must thank the guys at Sea to Summit for supplying the Vasque shoes that were superb and the Black Diamond Axiom pack that may have found a new home in adventure races. Greg at Area 51 for his continued support and equipment and the guys at iRule in New Zealand.
A special focus for me in these events is to raise awareness of those people, especially children, who are suffering from both the condition and the preconceived notion that because they have Asthma they shouldn’t be participating in sport. This can’t be further from what they need to hear and we all need to realise that through effective education and management all those that have been sitting on the sidelines can come and enjoy all that sport and outdoor activities has to offer.