Category Archives: Cruce 2012

M&MRC on ESPN Run

As Laura and I mentioned before, we are famous.

We were interviewed by ESPN before starting Cruce and then again after crossing the finish line.  It’s taken me a while, but I’ve finally edited it so that our shining moments can be seen.  The entire episode gave me goosebumps, but due to copyright I can’t upload the entire thing.  Also, I apologize for the poor quality.  I’m not too tech savvy and ended up putting my camera in front of the TV as I couldn’t come up with a better idea.

Click on the image below to view.  Enjoy!

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Words running out of our mouths

Words are important to Maria and I. When we both lived in the same city and ran together each week, we would talk the whole way. Talking, laughing, discussing, telling, complaining, marvelling, joking and questioning meant that we didn’t have to think about the running. That just happened and by the time we’d been round Puerto Madero we had caught up on the office and student gossip, family life, plans and boyfriend endeavours. Which, run done, of course left more talking.

I haven’t run and talked in a while as I now run by myself. Martín doesn’t like to run with me as I “go too fast up the hills” (remember, these are no longer hills in a post-Cruce world). So that’s why being with Maria again for our Andes 3-day running/hiking challenge was fabulous: I had a partner in crime that talked!

Now, I’m not going to bore you with the intimate details of our never-ending conversations. That would be honestly foolish. No, what I am going to do here is celebrate the funny and the ridiculous of what came out of our and others’ mouths during Cruce de los Andes.

When all is said and done, the sublime and the preposterous stand out. And, as words, here they are.

“I was going to say… this must be the Columbia store.” Laura using all her observational powers walking round San Martín de los Andes.

“What do they do about people who want to go out at night?” Laura.

“Maybe they just don’t promote going out.” Maria, on why we can’t get into our hostel at some unearthly hour of the morning.

“Is 3km per hour even possible?” Laura, before 3km per hour.

“Y EQUIPO 90?” José, always concerned about us girls.

“LLamando equipo 90!” José and Gonzalo, calling across the very narrow space to our tent at night.

“DURISIMO!” Everyone, revealing how bloody hard Day 1 was.

“That’s when I’ll put on deodorant.” Maria, Night 1 planning her armpit stops.

“OTRA subida?” Everyone, wondering when the climbs would stop.

“Is this where we get choripan?” Maria. Obviously.

“Is this still lunch?” Laura to a kitchen helper on Day 1, 6.38pm.

“I mean, SERIOUSLY?” Laura and Maria every time they talked about Reyes and Ortega (the winners).

“Oh look, there’s your mate.” Laura to Maria every time we saw an American.

“I suck at math.” Maria, not being able to count how far we still had to go.

“Tienen GPS?” Various women who were always wearing pink and confusing us. And no, we didn’t have GPS.

“This is BRILLIANT!” Laura, reminding everyone they had chosen this and to enjoy it.

“You had me fooled for a while, at least 30 seconds. I’m the Argentine-American.” The mostly American Argentine-American. Maria clocked him a mile off with this thumbs-up photo poses.

“Como están las piernas?” Everyone, all of the time, concerned about the legs of others.

“Let me talk to your boss.” Man at the lake to the boy with a walkie-talkie who was telling us the race had been abandoned.

“When we get back we’re going to go to the tent. You’re going to go to your side, I’m going to go to my side and we’re going to have a long, hard word with ourselves.” Laura, Day 2 still on the downhill; still over 2 hours from home; still unaware there would be no tent that night.

“The tissues are migrating.” Maria, with tissue issues.

Faces of our Cruce Family

Back on the horse

I had to laugh yesterday when I got out of bed. It wasn’t pain exactly, but the muscles in my legs were definitely shouting “GOOD MORNING! HERE WE ARE AGAIN!”  This was after a 4.5-mile run on Sunday. Yes, a mere FOUR-POINT-FIVE miles.

Rubbish! And laughable after the miles and miles of doing Cruce de los Andes.

But, at some point, you have to get back to it, and finally, that was Sunday. My legs had been itching to get moving again for about a week, but  having to search the internet for wedding venues (the clock was ticking while I was still in Argentina) and catching up with friends in places like bars and restaurants put paid to that.

So that sunny late morning I donned my Cruce t-shirt and headed out on an old route. It used to be my ‘hills’ route, but after having done Cruce, I’m not going to even bother lumping those London bumps in the same sphere!

There were two things about getting back to ‘normality’ for me the other day. The first was that I spent most of the run thinking back to all those moments of Cruce and imagining being back there. Running along in my t-shirt gave me such a buzz. I am the only person on this island who has this shirt. I am the only person on this island who travelled to Argentina to do Cruce. What a great feeling. I almost forgot about the running.

The second thing was trying to emulate the ‘flying’ of Equipo 1. Team 1 from Cruce have won the race three years on the trot. On day one, 38kms up and down a volcano, we did it in 8 hours 20. They did it in just under 4. They are truly amazing. As one ESPN cameramen said, “It’s like they are flying over the ground, not running.”

So, I thought about that. I tried to keep light and smooth, pump my arms a little more, keep my back straight and lift my legs higher, tread softer, instead of wobbling as I surely do from side to side like Teletubby in trainers. It was a good tactic, as focussing on that also kept me busy. My body was loving me. My lungs were wondering why they weren’t still on holiday.

Because that’s the thing about getting back on the horse that hasn’t actually bucked you. The holiday is over. We’re getting back on a horse which had taken us round the world, delighted and impressed us. We are not putting our running shoes back on with a groan and fear in mind. Instead, there’s a feeling that it will never quite be the same again.

And there’s no going back. It was a comfy saddle.

 

THIS IS BRILLIANT!

There are many things in this world I don’t understand. Calculus. Argentine popular television programmes. Fashion.

And complainers. Especially those who complain while doing something they chose to do.

Doing Cruce de los Andes was one of the greatest things I have, personally, ever done. For the physical challenge; for the experience shared with my best friend; for the incredible views and places we saw; for the achievement.

Although the decision to do it was taken rather easily, Maria and I both knew that there would have to be a strong commitment to it. And that commitment was broad too, including: our time, our fitness, our money. And we invested in all three.

So, it pained me when we got to the finish line, burst over the time chip and happily stood in the queue to get over the lake to the final finish at the camp, to hear people complaining about the race.

“I am so over this race now. This needs to be over. Why didn’t they…” We shut our ears to the rest.

24 hours later, we were at the airport in Neuquen waiting for our flight back to Buenos Aires. The little restaurant was full of Cruce runners: faces we had spotted as we’d passed them; heads we’d only seen the back of; and all telling slightly different versions of the same last three days. It was a good atmosphere. People were tired, but happy.

Apart from the bunch of girls at the table next to us. On their mobiles, talking to friends and family for the first time since finishing (actually, it turned out they didn’t), all they could do was moan and whine on. It was as if they were the only four runners in the whole event. Their bags didn’t turn up on the second day! It was total chaos! They had to wait!

Like everybody else.

Cruce de los Andes is not an event for princes and princesses. We saw plenty of people who didn’t qualify, for whatever reason: injury, border issues. And we heard other team mates shouting as if the world was ending to their running partner, metres behind, trying to get them to hurry up. Being angry about it all is a complete waste of energy and time.

But we were so close.

I know, and that’s the point. You were there. You at least had the chance. You nearly did and probably could have (for whatever reason). You still saw all that stuff along the way. And you chose to do it, knowing it wasn’t going to be five-star service and everything at your fingertips.

So, these people should stop complaining and take away the good things from the trip. It’s not called an adventure race for no reason. It’s hard, things go wrong, you’re at the mercy of nature. And in those tough and trying moments, with burning thighs, sun beating down, a never-ending climb, the finish always round another bend, there was only one thing I could shout:

THIS IS BRILLIANT!

Cruce environment

Never in my life have I been surrounded by so many people with the same love of running.

Laura and I had spent the weeks before Cruce discussing the ‘freaks’ that would present and wondering if we’d be sorely outnumbered.  Much to our surprise, this wasn’t the case.  There were people from all walks of life and various countries, but we all had the common interest of running.

On the flight to Neuquén, we started eyeing people’s watches and shoes to guess who would be joining us.  We had our first Cruce conversation with a Brazilian man while waiting to catch the overnight bus to San Martín de los Andes.  We discussed our training, if we’d complemented with weights or stairs and if this was our first time.  That conversation was repeated over and over with members of different teams during the next 4 days.  I managed to find people that run the same routes as me and I learned where there are hills for training (just in case we do this again).  We were given tips by other runners and caught the Cruce fever by just being surrounded so many avid runners.

Even though I’ve run several road races, I’ve never felt the sense of community that I did while in the camps.  The awkwardness that might be present at the start of conversations was missing.  Chats with fellow runners were struck up with ease due to our common ground.  It made the event that much more special.  Not only did we start with a collective joy of running, but we all left with experiences of surviving the Mocho-Choshuenco volcano and the details of the ups and downs (literally) of each day.

Where angels fear to tread

As someone who loves surprises, I always welcome those moments in life when people, or something else entirely, enter it and come to the rescue. These moments are all the sweeter because you are, a) least expecting it and, b) later realise what could have happened if they hadn’t stepped in.

After doing El Cruce Columbia, our 3-day 11okm run/trek from Chile to Argentina, neither Maria nor myself can look back on the whole fabulous experience without paying homage to our running friends and neighbours, Equipo 86.

In the first camp, where we spent two nights, Equipo 90’s tent was right next to 86 on the beach of the lake which laps at Puerto Fuy, the village where we started. Equipo 86 was two guys from San Luis, a small province in Argentina which borders the mountains and wine growing region of Mendoza and the green hills of Cordoba to its east. As they said, it’s a place which is muy tranquilo.

Jose is a PE teacher and Gonzalo works in HR and that first day we got to know them over mate and cookies. We talked about the adventures we knew were coming, how we trained in such different places and what the hell this young American bird and young Brit bird were doing in the middle of all this. We traded jokes and stories and we were all there for the same reason: to take it seriously, yes, but to also enjoy the experience more than anything.

As we lay in the tent that first night, excited and nervous, giggles errupted from our neighbours (with over 750 tents on the lake shore, you can imagine how close we all were) We laughed with them, called out to each other and built a Cruce bond. The next morning they laughed at us as we were some of the last ones up, while they had everything prepared and were ready for the off. They would go off and end up doing very, very well.

After that first tough, but wonderful day, we came back to them shouting for us, smiles wide and expectations high. They shared in our feat and we exchanged more stories of the day. Tired, we put ourselves in the lake to cool the muscles and while we went to get some food, they dug a canal around our tent in preparation for the coming rain that night. We hadn’t thought about doing that. Nothing worse than waking up to a flooded tent and having to pack wet stuff or put it on to run in. Equipo 86: looking out for more than themselves.

That night we were stuck in our tents as the rain tried to drown out, unsuccessfully, the laughing between our tents, and the next day began the same. Lots of luck passed between us as they set off first for the starting line, spritely and organised, and we did it in our laid back style. And what a day that was, but for now, let’s say it was long and tough, wondrous and hellish, and full of surprises. We made it to camp after ten hours. The moon was high over the lake, it was still light. We we wet, hungry and exhuasted.

The second camp was on the southern shores of the same lake, though this time, while we had made it before night fall, our backpacks hadn’t. This meant no sleeping bags, no dry clothes, no plates and cutley to eat food with. As the stars shone brighter, we grabbed a place by the fire and took off our trainers and socks to dry out a bit. Sitting eating sausages from the grill, wondering what to do and trying to stay warm, two familiar shadows suddenly loomed over us.

“EQUIPO 90!!!” There stood Jose and Gonzalo. Two angels ready to save us from cold and hunger. They had arrived some 4 hours before us, as had their bags. They waited for us on the beach and started to get a bit worried. Still, we had made it. They lent us warm clothes, bowls to fill with pasta, mugs to fill with tea and socks to cover soggy feet. They did our washing up. And, as many slept shivering around the dying fire that night while waiting for their bags, we were on inflatable mattresses in front of a mud oven, hot and cosy. They had heard there was a cabin, and although it was full, after we had eaten, they took us over to a small cafe and got us a place on the floor of the kitchen. We slept warm and dry, and better than we would have done in the tent.

Equipo 86 had stepped in, and we had warmth and comfort because of them. This meant that for the last day of the race, we were refreshed and relaxed, and we could improve on our positioning. We had a great last day and did so. So many others between days two and three dropped out and dropped down. I am not sure we would have finished so full of beans had it not been for Jose and Gonzalo taking care of us the night before.

Of course, Equipo 86 were in San Martín when we finally made it back to civilisation and we celebrated our achievements over wine and beer and food. It was the perfect and right end to our adventure. They had shared our highs and lows, they knew the sacrifices and moments of pain. They understood the high we would be feeling for a long, long time.

And they had helped us. Our humble angels from San Luis had flown in where others never would. They were never absent from our struggles, so they deserve to share in our success.

To Jose and Gonzalo, Equipo 86 and our Cruce Crusaders. 

The wings of angels are often found on the backs of the least likely people.  ~Eric Honeycutt

Accomplishment

After 3 days, over 110 kms (more details on that later) and 21+ hours moving, M&M RC has completed Cruce de los Andes 2012!!  The sense of accomplishment is overwhelming and we randomly get smiles from cheek to cheek as we realize what we’ve just done.

Although it’s hard to put into words what we’ve just done, we’re going to slowly post about our experience and share as much as we can about this amazing adventure.

Stay tuned for stories, pictures, videos and quotes from Equipo 90!