Jungle Marathon - My Jungle

viernes, 8 de octubre de 2004

Hi, my friends.

I came back, alive, from the Jungle.
And, for sure, i prefer that environment than work. If anyone wants to donate few millions of euros (dollars also accepted) you'll make me really happy.

Let's see what i remember.

Obviously, running is an excuse for travelling and knowing new places and people. That's why we were three weeks in Brazil, not only ten days. I enjoyed a lot the country, people, places, gastronomy, arquitecture, girls!, food, the quantity of food... maybe it has been my best travel -to date- in my life. Everything was perfect, no problems. We were in Rio de Janeiro (including an 'agressive tour' for the favelas), Brasilia, Manaus, Santarém and Alter do Chao. Brazil is enormous, every part has its own esence; i chose different faces, as tourist capital (Rio), administrative (and modern arquitecture capital) Brasilia, most important city of Amazonia (Manaus), and more rural and friendly places (Santarém and Alter). In three weeks i think that is difficult to see more.
And finally... the jungle.

The jungle. Impressive.
First, a very boring boat travel of eleven hours, sunrise to sunset. We were not in the Amazon river; we were in the Tapajós, "only" 1500km long and finishing in the Amazon in the town of Santarém (750km to Atlantic ocean), where it can be seen the Encontro das Aguas the famous encounter of the rivers with different colors (the most famous is in Manaus).

Once established in the Base Camp (a little town called Itapuarama), after survival briefings (nausea, nightmares), 'last meals', and first crash from the hammock (it broke), we started the first stage, with surprise: 400m from start point we had to cross a river of 30m. That's why some of us made the mistake of start with shoes off running for the beach, swim, and put shoes on dry (the whole race was wet, every moment). I lost around 4', and four days later i found a thorn in my foot (was really hurting me and i thought it was a tendon) and had to push a lot firsts km to pass people and recover that minutes.

I don't know what happened to me but i killed myself; maybe humidity, big effort, not adapted to environment, i don't really know; also helped the up and down course (using hands!). But was incredible hard. The toughest 16km of my life, for sure. It took me 4h20', and suffering A LOT. I lost a lot of time with firsts guys of the ranking, and that night i didn't sleep well cause i was a little afraid of suffering, think i made 16km out of 200km. Mentally it was hard to think that way.

Second day was much the same, problems in my legs (cramps, hundreds), incredible tough course and killing myself again. In the middle of the stage i had to rethink what i was doing, just suffer and suffer, not enjoying nothing.
I was absoutely sure that i couldn't finish the race with that state of mind. The only solution was forget ranking, calm, and think only in 'today'. The clue was the long stage (86km), and i had big doubts about the possibility of being able to make that stage. I know myself and if with 16+21km i was exhausted, i never would be able to run 45km (jungle) and 41km more.

Third round was 27km, bit better because ups and down were softer, but all the time in jungle, in which is "impossible" to run. That's why some of us thought it was a mistake of the organisers let us thought this was an athletic competition. The name must be Jungle Challenge or Jungle Adventure, but not Marathon, it doesn't seem to be nothing similar to marathon or athletic.
Also we started to see some problems with organisation. We never saw the ranking; sometimes i am not sure if we would be able to be rescued in dangerous moments; the camps were... there were no camps, we hang our hammock and just that. It is incredible difficult to make this competition, but there were some important mistakes, and were focused in other things.

The terrain is 100% jungle (the last 2km of the fourth stage were the first we saw the sun and were able to run), narrow (you cannot pass anyone if he/she doesn't let you), so shadow, roots and trees to hit and jump(thousands; i count 202 hurts in my right leg... the second day), many rivers to cross (any distance from 2m to 250m), swamps (awful), etc.

Yes, you read 250m, because the start of the fouth stage (21km) was a crossing of a river (¡¡¡¡250meters!!!!); remember we were in an athletic race, we were tired, and had to carry a backpack. I didn't enjoy, also think it was dangerous, but now, it was very interesting how we were absolutely focused on the border. And after that, six or seven hours in the jungle. This was my best stage till date, with two english guys pushing me hard and at the end i could run and catch some tough guys, as Axel Dill, and was something really good for my motivation. In the start of the fourth, Fernando decided that was enough for him; i think he made the best decision he was bit injuried and low motivated (most important).

I was ready for the big one. The long stage. Well, i wasn't ready, but i had to do it.
Before the start four guys talked each other to make a tough group, including Axel, Chris (english), Ray (a canadian, Ray, as nice as tough) and a thin spaniard, at least for the jungle section. Prevoius night the race director decided to start one hour before planned... that meant to start at 0445h (wake up at 0330h), and another 'interesting' river crossing (120-150m) during the night...
After that, and three kms later of running fast... most of us were lost, turn 180º, lost time and energy; not the best way to start a 86km run.

The canadian was absolutely crazy pushing and pushing all the time; he killed me, but the group was strong, we were in good position; on the other hand, i suffered a lot, one of my biggest efforts of my life. I also got injuried (a tendon in my foot, something i know; it happens me always when i walk 3 or more days; i'm a runner, not hikker), and i was the weakest in walking. But after nine "horrible" (one of my bests remembers now) hours we were out the jungle for last time. I started some hours ago to suffer because of pain, and the best thing i could do when jungle was out (for our lifes!!!) was to run. A full marathon in front of us, and surprise (again), wide track, but made of beach sand, and beach itself. Incredible tough. I passed some other guys, i was bit empty, and with a swedish strong guy, some hours later and dehydratated, we finally found organisation pick-ups that gave us water... and told us we were lost.

We were as tired as the doctor told us to use the cars to come back the closest checkpoint; took 2h (in the cars) to make 6km (muddy terrain), took other lost, and later some other destroyed guys. We were not allowed to continue 'til next morning, lost all our chances in ranking, and (as told me), we were goona be penalised with seven hours.

The difference between 17-18h and 35-40h is dramatic; i could really advance a lot that day, i was strong, focused and motivated. I pushed a lot in the jungle, i continue in the sand 4h hours alone; we were confused by locals, a tape cutted by local kids behind a tree we didn't see; exhausted... the next morning was really hard to make 20km to finish that stage, really low motivated, and with big amounts of pain. I just wanted to finish; and also the last stage (25km through a long beach, very very hard, 500m water croosing 'til chest) was gonna be a suplice cause i was injured.

But, i had some "luck", i could run from start line to the finish line, some moments were very painful, but most of the time i could run. Pushed my self, passing people (even the overall winners), really motivated, i run formyself, remembering me that i could still enjoy this sport, and that i didn't forget to run. I think i finished that stage in fifth, and most important, i finished (bit strong) this very very tough race (for me, as least).

I'm a little confused about if i must/have/shall recomendate this race. Organisation mistakes (i hope) will be solves next year. Don't forget that you'll not run, and that it is more an adventure than other thing. And also that there are some risks (nobody was attack by animal, this was not any problem; well, we all were attacked by agressive bees in long stage, but just a 'little' pain -a lot first ten minutes-, a little fear, and know yourself if you become panic). Don't forget to swim in your trainings if you decide to "run" next year's Jungle Marathon. For sure, if you want to face a tough challenge, this is your race, but for me, sometimes, was a bit too much. At least, ten times tougher tha Himalayan-100, very very different, incredible place, absolutely demanding... as someone said, a race that make differences between men and child.

I think it's enough for today.
See you guys.
Keep in touch.

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