The Pengzhou Outdoor Challenge was a 3 day stage adventure race held in Chengdu, China. Like all trips overseas adventure racing this trip had its challenges…
Day 1: Hot hot hot!!!
Day 1 was a good day for the team. We were consistent and strong throughout and ended up in 2nd place, just 28 seconds behind 1st placed Raw Adventure and with a good gap back to Thule Adventure Team in 3rd place. The day was quite short, about 3.30 hr, but the heat was the major challenge. The last 8 km run of the day was very tough… It must have been close to 40 degrees, we were running on the road and I thought I might spontaneously combust before the finish… But as always, after some team suffering the finish line was reached. It felt great to tip cool water over myself and once the core temp was back to normal I actually felt pretty good. A short, fast day of racing limited by the heat. I was rearing to go for the next day of racing!
Day 2: Birthday Celebrations
A river run, a mother of a climb on the Mtb, a biathlon, a flying fox and then a GPS orienteering stage to finish. Another good day. I felt really strong for most of the day and we finished in second place, once again behind Raw Adventure (roughly 4 mins). Today’s highlight was finishing to the tune of happy birthday for Sam, with cake and a cold beer to follow.
Day 3: Spewing
On the eve of the 3rd day of racing I woke at 3 in the morning and proceeded to violently empty my body from both ends until race day dawned. I was ruined. No energy and an extremely crook guts. I’m guessing I just got unlucky with something I ate… It would have been an average day if I had been able to just lie in bed, but there was racing to be done. On the start line I knew it was going to be bad. I felt like death warmed up. The gun went off before I knew it and I was straight into survival mode. I was keeping up for maybe the first 10mins, then the towing began. My poor team mates had to work so hard, but there was nothing I could do. I felt so thirsty, but I couldn’t stomach water… A horrible feeling. I had no energy, but couldn’t eat. We began to be passed by teams and all offered a supportive word on the way past. I dived deeper and deeper into my own little world. It took forever to reach the end of the Mtb stage and I had definitely gone downhill. My gut was so uncomfortable. Onto the 2k run. It felt so long. I had to stop to empty the bowels. Horrible. A flying fox took us into a lake where we swam to shore – or make that Marcel dragged me to shore. Next was the kayak. My lowest point of the day. I teaspoon paddled at the start, trying to offer some assistance, but that didn’t last long. I was dying! I ended up lying in the boat trying to recover some energy before the last run. Suddenly the violent vomiting returned, this time with the rich colour of blood. It was at this moment that I really began to think “stuff this”. Thoughts of pulling out entered my mind. Lying in the boat, spewing blood while Sam paddled his heart out for the both of us was a unique moment in my life… One I hope never to repeat. Reaching the shore, Marcel suggested that maybe we should pull the pin. I really appreciated this gesture, but also thought and said, in slightly more expletive language, I’ll have to politely refuse your kind and very appealing offer. I suggested we finish, but not push the pace any more. It would be hard enough to for me to get to the end. The longest 10k of my life. Depressing, painful, uncomfortable, emotional, funny, sad, so so gutted. Crossing the line I managed to feel some pride as well as immense relief. The pain and suffering would be less form here on. We had done it.
I’m so lucky to be part of such a special team. They had my back all the way and that’s what kept me going. Thanks guys! They also packed and cleaned all my gear in the following 12hrs while I slept and slept some more. I was tired. So, so tired. We ended up finishing 9th in the overall standings. A really gutting result for us.
I would like to tie this story off here, as surely that was the end of the drama, but there is so much more to add…
After a long and uncomfortable bus ride to the airport and a day of waiting, my flight to Shanghai was delayed due to thunderstorms. I missed my connection to NZ by about 40 mins in the end. I was not happy to say the least, but to tired to react much. My world still revolved a lot around toilets and being in close proximity to them. I was also very low on energy. Upon arrival in Shanghai I was directed to the help desk. No one spoke English and I had no idea what was going on, especially in my state. This is where my luck finally changed and I met David, a young chinese dude living in Auckland who spoke both chinese and English!!! He was on my same flight from Chengdu and also missed the same connection to Auckland. He did the talking and got us sorted. More bad news. We were delayed by 48hrs! A whopping 2 whole days! Onto a bus and onwards to a hotel, we finally got to bed at about 3am. I didn’t even care anymore, bed felt like heaven.
The next day David and I went exploring Shanghai. I was so stoked to have him. I think without him I would have just set up camp in my room, but he helped me get motivated and out. He woke me up when I fell asleep on the train and we had reached our stop and did all the translating that made things run smoothly. It was a great day looking around and I was stoked to have made a new friend. I was still feeling quite average and the big day exploring took its toll. The next day I slept and slept, all day. Finally at 8pm on my second day in Shanghai it was time to go to the airport!!! I was so excited to be checked in. I was craving home so badly! The guy at the counter took his time, remarking that we should have flown 12 hours earlier… What the heck… David and I had been told there was no flight… Oh well, what could we do. Checked in and ready to go I still wasn’t fully convinced we were going home until we pushed back and were actually flying to NZ!
What a trip… It’s fair to say China took the win on that one… I took a hiding… but as they say, it’s all character building stuff…
Thanks to everyone who sent me kind messages of support and followed the race. It’s truly appreciated.
As a wise and highly muscular robot of a man once said… “I’ll be back”
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