Good morning folks
I trust you had thee most splendid of splendid weekends.
Here is a quick scribble-up of the week-that-was…
D(esafio) H(uarochiri) – D(id) N(ot) S(tart) or D(id) N(ot) F(inish)…
When I said my back was hurting, the Nipper put a plaster on it! This was the key moment
I wrote this headline on Thursday. My back was in such a state that I really thought racing was an impossibility. This spiralled a bit out of control in my head, because if I didn’t race Sunday, it would impact the whole season (which has only just begun! Ever the drama queen). I’d put all the pressure on myself, as it was a year since I first ran this race, and marked my first full year on the fells here. With training looking like an unhealthily erratic ECG, any form books were thrown out of the window. Nobody likes to miss a race, but nobody likes not finishing either.
On top of this, it’s a Championship race and a good opportunity to see everybody, plus I’d paid my brass!
What to do???
This season has been a case of injuries interrupted by training (rather than vice-versa). Up until last October, when I had been just ambling along doing whatever training, I was fine.
The moment I started to try and organise some kind of schedule and step it up, the wheels fell off well and truly (and keep falling off!)
My right knee and back seem to take turns to stop the show. I couldn’t run all week, but “tried it out” on Friday and Saturday and decided to go for it.
All the clichés were out “You’re only as good as your last race” and as my last race was pretty crap, I was a bit worried that my season might just descend into mediocrity/nothing, so why not channel all the anger and frustration into one race!
The start was in Cocachacra, a mere 37 miles up the Carreterra Central, which took about 4 hours to get to, (a bus, a “colectivo” taxi whose shockers were all shot, but took the route with the most speed-ramps, at speed and a final combi up to the hills!)
I had hoped to get away by 1pm, which actually became 5pm, so connecting in Chosica was a close-call (the buses stop early evening and I would have really been left in limbo!) The Cobradora (conductor) asked if I was racing and then followed my longest conversation with a cobradora!
I arrived to the Stadium (free camping, next to a railway line) where we enjoyed an open-air Peruvian Premiere of “Brit Rock
” (cheers Al, much appreciated).The usual fireworks, freight trains, all-night-horns and packs of barking dogs continued into Sunday morning…
Plum pitch in the goalmouth!
Race day dawned and my back was killing me!
With heaps of time to the “Off” I gave myself a strong talking to and decided to just go for it.
12-ish miles, starting at 4700ft above bath water with 3600ft-ish ascent (I struggle with KM conversions), a fast start, a stiff climb through head-high plants, a fast bit of level/downhill track and a very technical descent (a bit like ball bearings on gravel) to the finish.
I tucked in behind my mate Marcos, it was like running through a vertical hayfield jungle!
The recent rains (and huaicos, of which devastation and rebuilding was very evident) had made the slopes turn green, a machete would have been useful…
It was hot and I had gone as light as I dared to go, 2xgels and no water, (there is water on the course). At the top of the climb, there is a good track dowhhill. I know this bit well as I’ve been down it on the Clunk many times too. In theory it would be a good stretch to make some ground, but at 8000ft+ it feels like you are sucking through a (blocked) straw and the harder you push, the sicker you feel. Then onto the tricky bit, down, down, down the tight hairpins (crap when you’ve got size 13s and the bends are about 3 strides each).
Then there is an amazing singletrack “balcony” path, one stumble here and you’d tumble a thousand feet! Finally down through a string of one-horse/donkey villages and a freefall to the finish. I gave it my all, absolutely everything. Never run/raced that hard in years.
I owe a big THANK YOU to Nicolas and Max for the lift home, you guys saved me about 12hrs travel time
To be honest, after thinking of pulling out on Thursday, I’m glad I grew a pair!
I’ll just need some kind of hoist to get me out of bed tomorrow morning at 5:20am (and a little bit longer to hobble to work)…
Drying out a tent in a diddy flat can be fun!
Last weekend we headed south for a wedding. It wasn´t quite plain sailing (then again, it never is!)
The quickest way down south for us is to take a “colectivo”, a bit like a yellow tardis on wheels, a tiny minivan than somehow shoehorns 8 punters + driver into its claustrophobic interior. These little hornets ply the route down the Panamericana to a dusty town called Lurin and back, charging just over a pound each-way. The drivers are (without exception) very grumpy and not to be conversed, nor haggled with. Two colectivos had just one seat each left.
What could go wrong?
I was ahead of Lina and arrived at the last stop in no time at all. Lina had all the details of the digs. I waited, and waited, and waited, and waited.
Then I realised that I´d forgotten my phone.
By chance I had another (blocked) phone, so at least I had her number. So after using a small fortune of small change in a very hungry payphne I discovered that in my pushing to get out of the house and on our way, Lina had forgotten her shoes and had to go back home. I should go on to the hotel, so after relaying the directions down a very crackly line, I ventured on. Following the racket of a Mariachi band (next door), I waited for the others (Lina, James D, Erika, James B and Irma).
The wedding was at 4:30pm, so we were all a bIt under the cosh timewise, but we made it and it was a really good Do. The ceremony was on the beach (itself) and the fiesta in an amazing beach house. The only hiccup was that we soon ran out of beer, so several looking for Off Licence expeditions followed, including almost being run over by a mototaxi, who had the whole road and then shouted “Cuidado” (“watch out!”) as he narrowly missed my toes, whilst riding the most dangerous vehicle in the world!
It all got very hazy and we finished around 1/2-ish (?)
Plans for a decent nights kip was scuppered by a neighbouring party (non-stop Latin Jungle tunes) in the next street continued until 11am the next day. Noise is not just exclusive to Salamanca!
I have made some pronunciation blunders here, but this week highlighted that I have a l-o-n-g way to go…
My regular reader(s) (if both are reading) will know that noise is a bit of an issue here in my daily Lima life. It is incessant and ubiquitous. By law building work is not supposed to start until 7:30am, but a brick delivery and cement hose monster on Saturday at 6am seemed to go against that!
When I worked at the Brewery, every day I took a pair of little yellow foam earplugs out of a box, before entering the shop floor. Why oh why didn’t I stuff a handful (suitcaseful) in my suitcase when I came out here???
I have seen a snazzy pair of professional (DJ) ear protectors which retail at over 200 quid, dream material. But to dream, one must sleep and here that is a problem.
I have asked at numerous “Farmacias” (Chemists) for what I thought was ear plugs. “Tampones de oido”, I used to get a very puzzled luck and then told “No”.
On the verge of giving up, I asked one more time this week and was told “Tampones, no. TAPONES, Si!” (An easy mistake to make!)
Yes, yes, yes! Success at last. I paid around 3 pounds for a pair (well over the odds), but I would have happily paid 300 quid! The thought of a good nights kip was too much and they certainly did the job, the first night.
The second night they might as well have been made out of candy floss as tehy have deformed beyond use. It was nice while it lasted.
On June the 4th 2004 I arrived in Lima for the first time.
I had been inspired by the book (and subsequent film) “Touching the Void”.
A well-known story of two British clmbers; Joe Simpson and Simon Yates and their
bold and intrepid epic on Siula Grande, a first ascent on a remote mountain deep in the Andes. I seriously recommend you to read &/or watch it!
So, after a miraculous and unexplained upgrade into First Class, I landed in Lima expecting to be surrounded by soaring peaks and llamas. Quite simply I hadn´t donw any research at all. (I did see one Llama, but no soaring peaks). I quite quickly settled into Lima life back then; younger, single, zero responsibilities and with a few bob burning a hole in my pocket from a house sale in the UK.
I went around South America and then New Zealand, Australia and Indonesia (briefly), then came back to Lima under the naive intention of “having a go”.
It was a very steep learning curve, I had few friends and no contacts, but I found work (basically accepting any/every job I was offered) and survived, and although at times my paltry budget led to a meagre diet (I lasted on a food budget of pound-a-day for the first 6 months), I survived!
A risk? Brave?Not really, as if it all went pear-shaped or I got sick of living on Supernoodles, I could have just flown back to Blighty. Although Lima is a big, bad city, I had a job and a roof over my head.
Now, if I had followed my original dream (of living surrounded by montañas and llamas), I might have ended up north in the department of Ancash (Touching the Void territory), that would have been brave and it would have involved a lot more risk than living in Lima (maybe less personal risk, but if something goes wrong up in the Andes, you are a l-o-n-g way from anywhere!
This is the story of my mate Charlie. A man who gave up his life in the city, to follow his dream in the Andes. A huge risk and a massive adventure.
If you have 45 minutes spare at some point, watch THIS VIDEO
, the man is a legend and a hero in my eyes
Continuing on the theme of heroes and legends…
In 2011 Lina and I went to the Hope Valley Film Festival, a tiny little event in the Peak District (when I was limited to doing not-a-lot with a bad back, hmmm…)
It was an event that changed our lives, as we first saw the Mongol Rally film there and the first person I spoke to at the Adventurists was Mr Joolz, a really, really funny guy, who loves life.
(He was also responsible for getting me hammered on horse milk vodka, at the Mongol Rally finish line, but that’s another story).
The old Mototaxi Junket that was sadly fell by the wayside, but the phoenix has risen from the flames in a different form, THE MONKEY RUN!
What could be more fun than crossing the Andes and down into the Amazon on the World’s most diddy and underpowered bike?
Mr Joolz was in Lima this week, so we met up for a cuppa and a chinwag, I had classes so no horse milk vodka this time sadly…
I can’t get time off for this intrepid adventure, but if you can, check it out!
Joolz, my Tea Saviour! I owe you
RIP Ueli Steck.
Sad news from last week.
The climbing world lost a good man.
Climbing can be dangerous and what he specialised in was cutting edge stuff.
Ueli Steck died in an accident on Everest.
RIP Robert Persig.
The literary world lost a great writer last week too.
Robert Persig wrote a classic book called “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, which was rejected by 100 different publishers, talk about persistence.
Not really about Zen Buddhism, with not a lot about bike maintenance either!
This was in my pile of 10 books which I brought out here, so I’ve read it about 3 times.
Not light reading, but well worth a look!
And for my next joke, I have got 5 weeks to get fit for this!
A 50-miler in the Andes, taking the 8hr overnight bus there on Friday and coming straight back after the finish, to go straight to work on Monday.
I blame Charlie!
Have yersen an awesome week.Cheers
Johnny, Lina and the Nipper