Atacama Extreme 100: Part One

Atacama Desert

May 20-21, 2017

Races in the United States typically begin in the early morning hours and other than getting to the race for pre-race check-in, I had little thought on what time the race was starting. It started at 4pm. I was not ready…mentally.

My hydration pack was filled with the list of required items: red flashers, flashlight, reflective tape, mylar blanket, whistle, compass, rain poncho, hat, neck cover, sunglasses, gloves, batteries, blister kit, mirror, and sunscreen.

I had half the list dangling from my pack and the rest stuffed into my windbreaker that was tied around my waist.

The race begins.

It was still in the 70’s, when the race began. Within the next couple of hours, I slipped the windbreaker on and a pair of gloves.

As the sun went down, the highway appeared like we were in the Twilight Zone. Statues of Virgin Mary kept a vigil over memorials that lined the highway, with most of them giving off a faint blue glow from the lights provided by the living.

Sometime in the middle of the night a light snow coated the ground. I followed another runner, a doctor of psychiatry from Mexico bragging about knowing the race director and his girlfriend. I don’t now where she was going with that. Then again things seem more annoying as a race wears on.

All I was thinking was, “Lady, you still have to finish the race!” Were they going to help her buckle up?

I distanced myself from her. I was in no mood for her antics.

I had a very limited grasp on the language and the aid station volunteers didn’t speak English. After pointing at my aid station fair, they would in turn repeat back, “Patatas fritas?”.

“Si, si…patatas fritas,” I replied. They gave me an understanding smile and a snack sized version of Pringles so I could continue on my merry way.

I had been running for more than 12 hours. I made it to the 50 mile checkpoint and felt like there was little else that could deter me from finishing.

Coming up on the 50-mile checkpoint

But of course there are obstacles.

It occurred with a sand dune, which looks small and unseemly, but If you look really close you’ll see a couple of specks…those are people.

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. Thanks for stopping by! Stay tuned for Part Two.