The Coastal Challenge Day 5 – Pain

Yesterday I pulled a muscle. Didn’t give it importance at the moment. But now I only have one word to describe this day: agony.

The English dictionary (or at least the part I master) is not expressive enough to describe the way I felt today. What you understand when you think of agony is the commercial diluted version, the one people are capable of managing. What I had was the pure uncut “don’t look at it because you’ll go mad” type. If you’d be able to distill average agony and you’ll repeat the process several times, this is what you’d eventually get.

Today’s route, “Mist and mangroves”, was the longest distance wise, at 52 km and 1800 m elevation, but it wasn’t technical so it should have been slightly easier than day 3. Again woke up at 3 am and left camp at 5. To get to the start point, we took a minivan and a ferry.

The race was off and I was running. I started feeling the muscle I tore (on the shin) more and more. That muscle seems to be quite important when you put your foot down. With it hurting, my running was more like a hopping motion. Slowly, the people that I used to run alongside in the previous days were beginning to disappear in front of me, leaving me in the company of new faces.

After a few kilometers, the pain started to become stronger. Actually, it wasn’t stronger in isolation, but having it on repeat every 1.5 seconds was taking a toll on my nerves. I started dreading every step.

Running was difficult, but still I tried running on the downhills. It was a long day and I didn’t want to get caught by darkness. Uphills were the most manageable. Unfortunately, today was mostly flat. Not only did walking hurt, but I couldn’t walk at my usual pace and had to settle for something mediocre. It was shaping up as a long day.

Up to km 30 we were going on dirt roads and wide jungle trails. Because of the pain, I thought several times at quitting, but by then I was already one third in and I wanted to finish the contest.

From km 30 to km 43 we hit the trails. First through the jungle. The vines, uneven terrain and hidden stumps were making me trip often, landing on my hurting leg and forcing my shin muscle. I would be cursing out loud in the jungle. Then I hit the beach. The sand was absorbing the shocks, but it was also slowing me down to a crawl. Because of the distance, most of my muscles were barely performing and my feet were swollen.

After what felt like forever, I got to the 43 km checkpoint. Here somebody with a boat helped me cross a river. First time I see (or hear) about such a thing at a running contest. Ate half a watermelon, restocked on food (I was running out) and went on my way.

Time seemed to pass slower and slower. With no GPS, my mind would be estimating how much was left, estimates which, at their best, were completely off.

The final kilometers were again on dirt roads, with me hoping that each new bend in the road would be hiding the finish line. My muscles had nothing left and I was surprised to see I could still put a foot in front of the other.

Exactly at sunset I came in sight of the finish. My time was 11h42′. Right after crossing the line I went in the ocean (with my shoes on, to protect the blisters). Due to exhaustion, my body didn’t have energy to keep me warm (despite the tropical weather and warm water) and I started shivering. Recovered a little after having dinner, although my feet still felt raw and battered.

Because of the long day I went to sleep later than usual. The good thing was that the night felt cooler, possibly the coolest since start. I don’t know if it actually was cooler or it was just my body finally getting used to night temperatures. Or maybe my body just surrendered to the fatigue and allowed me to sleep.

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