Thursday, March 11, 2010

Recap of the trip to the Toughest Adventure Race in the World by Daniel

Jason, Chelsey and I have finally returned from Patagonia. We're all picking up various pieces, successfully avoiding the post-race blues. Recovering from races is a mental and physical process that we're all getting a bit more used to, but there's always chores to do. Physically the recovery has a couple of important parts: stretching to get back lost flexibility, drinking to deeply rehydrate, and (yay!) eating to replenish important energy reserves. I'm doing well on that front, but sadly, my right ankle still kinda creaks like an old screen door. I should have taken that as a sign that I shouldn't have gone running with my housemate Erik the other day, but it was so nice out!

Mentally, recovery is a much less well-understood phenomenon. During races and long trips there is such intensity of purpose and immediacy of action that normal life just seems… dimmer. I love my job and I know Jay and Chelsey love theirs, but slowing back down to a sustainable pace can give you whiplash if you don't do it carefully! So, it's nice to have time with friends to replay and retell the experience.

The Patagonia Expedition Race had the best decompression stage of any race I've ever done. For 32 hours, all race finishers sat on a boat with nothing to do but eat, sleep, and talk for hours with the other finishers and race crew. Sharing the wild tales that everyone had was relaxing and exciting at the same time. Finally there was time to talk to the camera crews, the reporters and get their stories too! Being able to sit on the deck and watch the patagonian wilderness effortlessly float by was icing on the cake.

Once the race was over, it was time to start phase two: bus to Bariloche and climb, then bus to Santiago and fly back home. We had to bus this leg because unfortunately, we didn't book the flights we thought we had… Once securely on the bus, we read and ate and slept our way through 30 hours, two border crossings, our final destination, and a meager supply of food. We were not allowed to get out in Bariloche, said final destination, because we were in a 'directo' (I'm pretty sure we had no other bus choices). So, we climbed aboard another bus in Osorno and backtracked to Bariloche, to the tune of 6 more hours and one more border crossing. At least the scenery was awesome!

Well, all that bus travel was worth it, after a pleasant bed and a shower, we hiked and cheerily talked about the race, and Jason and Chelseys upcoming life together. Once in climber heaven (frey valley), we played around and utterly failed at taking it easy. Sigh. Once we ate ourselves out of tent and home, we hiked/ran back down to the bus (we missed it). Once in the town, we reveled in the touristy oddness. Bariloche is a spanish-speaking caricature of a swiss mountain town: all chocolate shops and picturesque mountains, no cows. We strolled the streets, practiced spanish, and tried not to laugh at the silliness of the whole thing.

Our first night back, we were awakened by our beds swaying silently underneath us. It took us a while to put it together: earthquake. In the morning, we found out it had been a doozie that took out, among other things, the airport we were to fly out of in a few days. We spent the next few days switching between two extremes in the human pleasure scale: dealing with airline representatives on the phone, and eating gourmet chocolate and ice cream. The airport we were to fly to was not only damaged and closed, but unreachable due to multiple bridge collapses; we decided to try to change our travel plans. Nobody was cooperative, directing us around and around in a circle until we decided to camp out in the airport until they flew us home. To our total surprise, within hours we were on a plane to Buenos Aires, to Miami, to LAX. We arrived delayed by only about 4 hours: amazing. Lucky again.

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