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Getting cross

After my last post – you know, the one where because I was exercising again I was a serene angel of peace and calm and not cranky whatsoever – I feel bad about writing this. But I have to be honest. I am sitting here all cross and angry and… OK, OK, I’ll admit it:

Jealous.

A while back someone wrote to us at this blog asking for tips on Cruce de los Andes; the annual 3-day race through the Andes from Chile to Argentina, which takes a different, crazy route each time. Last year Maria and I, as M&MRC, completed it together. We did Equipo 90 (Team 90) proud and it was an incredible three days, documented here.

Anyway, as I told our enquirer, I hadn’t had a look at where Cruce was going this year. Other life stuff had taken over. We were both in new places again. And I couldn’t bear to see what I’d be missing out on.

Llegada_1Then yesterday came. February 5th: this day one year ago was when we ran over the finishing line on day three of Cruce de los Andes. Can it be a whole year? Time has flown. We have run many more steps since (and some of them together). But we haven’t run anything as important or special as those we made a year ago.

DSC_0448So, curious, today I look up Cruce and see what’s going on. Again, it looks like a very special race. They haven’t started yet. The favourites are there, on the website and Facebook. Everyone is gathering in Pucon, Chile… WHAT? The race starts in Pucon! Only one of my favourite places in the world! And just the other day were discussing volcanoes over dinner and I was telling people about climbing Volcán Villarrica. Oh how I would love to be there…

And the routes! Amazing! A few less kilometres (although we know those Argentines can’t count very well!) AND less inclines! AND more volcanoes (now that Maria and I are experts at them and the slide-down-snow-technique)! I could go on, but there would just be more, annoying !!!

The sun has just poked its head out from behind the grey, miserable clouds it’s been hiding behind all day. The rain has stopped. Are the Running Gods trying to tell me something? Laura, put on your trainers and go for a run. Join them.

But I sit here, reliving, refreshing, recounting. I want to join them, I really do.

But there, not here.

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To break the fast, or not?

Maria has been studying nutrition for the past three years and she is going to make a fabulous nutritionist and dietician when she completes her studies shortly. Why? Well, of course, she knows her stuff, but it’s not just because of this. It’s also because she is a big pain the arse.

Let me explain. Maria understands that we need fuel. Some people need it more than others. Men need more fuel, generally speaking, than women. Those with physically demanding jobs might need more fuel than sedentary souls. And if you run, well, you need fuel for that, too. To train, you need fuel. You can’t go on a road trip without filling the tank. Humans are the same.

The problem is that I have always been rubbish at this: eating to run, thinking about good training foods. It’s not that I’m one of these skin-and-bones food hating

Are you enjoying that, Laura? It’s FOOD!

exercise freaks. No Sir, I love food. And I love running. Just combining them is difficult for me; making them work together. The first day of Cruce de los Andes (our 3-day, 106km trek/run from Chile to Argentina), was eight hours of climbing up a volcano, trekking in snow around it and running the steep slopes back down again. We had prepared peanut butter rolls to see us through, as well as energy bars and fruits. I know I had a banana on the way up, probably because Maria said it was time we ate something (we were about to start climbing through snow). At the top I was done after a bite of the peanut butter sandwich. “Eat it,” Maria said. “Just finish it. You need something.” Slowly, so slowly I chewed. And don’t even get me started on those gels and energy bars and balancing calories… I’ve been running in the mornings back in London and I always have the same food dilemma. I’m not someone who wakes up ravenous. While Martin has already gobbled tea and toast, I’m just boiling the kettle, waking my insides up. I’ll always have breakfast “in a bit”. So, I don’t eat before I head out running. However, what this means is that I’ll feel I’m running on empty for the last part of my run. I know this. And I have tried eating before I go. The reverse happens. I feel sluggish and slow at the start, and I hate that as well.

So, I am open to suggestions and nagging. What light snack or breakfast works for you in the morning before a run? What options do I have? I am ready to try them. You’ve got a carte blanche to be as big a pain in the arse as you want. I’m listening. Finally.

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!

M&MRC Cruce Story #4: Frolicking in the snow

We continued our ascent while singing and enjoying the new surface we were trekking on.  The snow was covered by a bit of ash from the Puyehue volcano, but that didn’t get us down.  With each step we moved closer to the top and that much closer to reaching our goal.

Not far into the snow was the first hydration station.  They used snowmobiles to get Gatorade and buckets of water almost 2000 meters up the mountain.  We paused to drink straight from the containers before beginning our move again.  The water was ice cold, which was partly due to the cooler temperatures as we made our way up.

Suddenly we saw figures to our right running their way down.  How could this be possible?!  We were making good time, but we were also enjoying the sights.  There were others out there to win and they were already on their way to camp to make it in time for lunch and a nap.

We crossed another chip sensor and began our 9 km loop around the top of the volcano.  Due to the recent snowfall from the weekend before, we had fresh powder to have fun in.  This meant we would sink in a few inches before having to pick up our feet to move forward.  It was similar to the extra work involved in running in loose sand.

As we progressed, we chatted with people that we had met before and others that were going at our pace.  Laura even managed to find someone who’d been to Hunstanton, the tiny town she is from.  She was in shock to find someone that knew of the place much less been there and the fact that they’d found each other while on top of a volcano in Chile.  What are the odds!

We passed a photographer so we had to take advantage of the opportunity as we love our jumping photos.  When else were we going to be 2200 meters up a volcano after running 20 km to get there?  Moments like those, must be documented.

Even though we were at the top and we assumed we were done with the uphill battles, we were not.  After multiple times of swearing we’d done the last incline, we hit the chip sensor and the descent.  We skied our way down the slippery slope with our running shoes and tried our best not to fall over.  We laughed at our attempts to find the best way down and skidded from side to side as if we were really were skiing.

The edge of the snow was near, but there were still kilometers ahead of us to be able to say we crossed the finish line on Day 1.

Note: Last night there was a special on ESPN Run about Cruce de los Andes.  We mentioned this before, but now it’s official…we’re famous!  We made the cut and even the US flag on our tent appeared.  We’ll see if we can get a recording or at least the parts we’re in up here soon.

M&MRC Cruce Story #2: Settling in

Our bags had been scanned by the Argentine authorities to aid in a smooth border crossing the next day and we lay in bed with our alarms set for 4:30 a.m.  We questioned why we were put on the 5:15 a.m. bus as some weren’t off until 10, but it proved to be worth it in the end.

Entering ChileWith the sun still tucked away, we woke up and had the breakfast our hostel left out for us the night before.  We walked over to the school were registration took place and boarded one of the many buses lined up in the street.  We worked our way out of San Martín and along a curvy, dirt road before arriving to the Argentine border.  The bus couldn’t cross so we got off, went through the first of what would be 4 immigration encounters and proceeded to wait in line for the bus that would take us across the Chilean border.

While waiting in line, we met Daniel and José from Rosario, who promised to share their mate with us once on the boat.  This was crucial as we’d opted not to bring mate and it was chilly waiting beside the road in no man’s land.  So we chatted with them until making it to the location of Camp 2 where breakfast was served.  We collected our bags after the dog had thoroughly sniffed them out (while almost taking a wee break on several) and boarded the barcaza to cross the Pirehueico Lake.  It was a 90 minute ride where we met the dozens of other runners that were on the Rosario running team and shared stories and drank mate while enjoying the beautiful scenery.

We arrived to Puerto Fuy to see hundreds of blue tents placed along the lake’s shore.  We found ours (EQUIPO 90!) and started making ourselves at home.  We met Equipo 86, who we mentioned in another post and ate lunch.  There were racks of meat grilling by the bonfire and a line for pasta, rice and a mini salad.  We then surveyed the camp before taking a dip in the crystal-clear water of the lake.  Most were winding down and preparing for siestas so we decided to follow in suit after such an early morning.  The other participants had yet to arrive and we were thankful that we got one of the early buses and were settled in at Camp 1 while others waited miles away for their transfer.

Our nap lasted a good 3 hours and our fellow neighbors couldn’t believe with all the noise and excitement we’d been able to do it.  They prepared one way while we prepared by getting some much needed sleep after all the traveling in the previous days.  We dined once more before the Chief of our Lives gave another speech preparing us for the adventure that lay before us.  We were hours away from the start of what was truly an experience of a lifetime.

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.

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!

 

Last minute details

I would say last minute thoughts, but we all know that post would just include different synonyms of the word excitement.

As I write, Laura is waking up to catch her taxi to the airport to take the first official step towards Cruce.  We texted today as each packed and hopefully have everything we need.  Although we do have Tuesday to run around and get anything we might have forgotten until now.  I turned my apartment upside down as I couldn’t find my vivisac (a sleeping bag liner) that I knew was somewhere.  Thankfully I found it at the bottom of a bag that I would have never expected it to be in.  Now it’s just fitting everything into a reasonable sized bag.

This evening, I went out for my last training run and it was a hot one.  It made me wonder what weather conditions we’re up against in the mountains.  It snowed on top of the dormant volcano we’ll be crossing on Day 1 so hopefully it won’t melt before Friday.  I’ve never run in snow so that would add nicely to the whole experience.  It looks like we’ll have good weather the rest of the days as well if there aren’t any changes.

Laura mentioned before we are Equipo 90.  Now they have informed us that we have a team page that can be used to follow our progress.  So if anyone would like to see how we’re doing or leave us an inspiring message, check it out here.

Now it’s just figuring out how I’m going to focus at work tomorrow.  Only 4 more days!

Running free

It’s a given: that snowy mountain tips, running packs and those blue Columbia t-shirts are behind our eyes every second of the day. Counting the nights before planes/buses/hostels/tents. Wondering, anticipating.

Today I went on my last official training run. Maria and I might head out before our Tuesday night flight, but then again, there’s a roof-top pool, jacuzzi and sauna to throw into the equation, so we’ll see what wins.

When I woke up this morning, I thought about everything before this very point. Things like running socks, filling the camelbak, blister plasters and planning routes all jumped before me. What I hadn’t thought about in the last couple of weeks was the actual running.

How ridiculous, you may say. But with major events like these and the training and sacrifices, pain and joy involved, sometimes you forget that you’re just a runner who likes to don their trainers and hit the road a few times a week. You forget that, before all this, you wouldn’t be held to ransom by gear, weather, weight, food, drink, time and miles. You’d just get out there and run.

So that’s what I decided to do today. No camelbak, no watch, no new route: just the old hills, me and my trainers. It was refreshingly simple and pure running happiness.

There might be moments of unhappiness during Cruce de los Andes; there might be moments when the weight feels like tons; when we’re wearing the wrong thing; when the blisters are screaming; when the clock is ticking and we feel like we’re getting nowhere.

But above all that, we’ll be who we always are. Two friends, two girls, two runners. Let’s keep it that simple.

I see Cruce everywhere I look

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At 7 days until we stand at the starting line, I can hardly contain myself. Nerves, anxiety, excitement, impatience and much much more. Cruce is on the tip of my lips and always hidden somewhere in my mind. I spend hours of the day checking to see if there is news on the website (like the fact that we will be canoeing at some point!) and refreshing the Facebook page to see what others are saying. I’m obsessed.

Yesterday I watched from the bus as two girls ran down the street. One in a Cruce shirt from a previous year and both with their packs. I immediately wanted to hop off and talk to them. Today, I was riding home from work and came up behind a girl cycling with a pack. As I got closer, I realized it was the pack I just bought. I thought to myself, “Ah, so that’s what size it is.” When I went for my run and saw 2 guys running together and one had on a blue shirt. I thought maybe, just maybe they were a Cruce team. So I picked up the pace until I got close enough to see that his shirt. Unfortunately, it said Merrell and not Columbia.

I can picture it anywhere. I see anyone running with a pack and assume they must be training for Cruce. I listen to friends talk about random things and somehow relate it back to our adventure. Focusing at work or on school applications is next to impossible.

I can’t believe it’s almost here. Laura arrives in 4 days and I really wonder how we’re going to sleep. Not only haven’t we seen each other in 9 months, but there’s so much to left to discuss. We’ve obviously covered all the important stuff, but we could talk for days about nothing so just imagine what all we have to say about this!

I’ll do a practice run now as it’s almost 3 a.m. and I’m wide awake with the excitement.