Peru adventure: Step 3 Machu Picchu~

Wow, where do I go from here? We left the jungle, spent a night in Iquitos, which is interesting and very much a frontier-town. We enjoyed margaritas (not great) and pisco sours (better) while chatting with a very friendly Dutch ex-pat who was in Iquitos writing a book. Cool eh?

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It was a very noisy town, tons of motos and tuk-tuks roaring around. We took one to the airport the next morning, headed to Cusco and eventually Machu Picchu! Flight was very bumpy which scared me, I hate turbulence. Once landing in Cusco, it became very apparent that both Ian and I had picked up a stomach bug- I blame Iquitos for mine, his was worse with a fever (jungle fever?).

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We then were greeted by our driver, who took is the 1.5 hours to the town of Ollantaytambo, where we would hop on the Peru train to the town of Aguascalientes, which is the landing base for people going to Machu Picchu (if you are not hiking it).

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The drive was fine, despite our stomachs revolting… And then in town, we got the train and it’s actually quite nice! And it freaking better be, considering how much $$$ it costs for a 1.5 hour train ride to Aguascalientes. Once in Aguascalientes, I was stunned by how quiet the town is without any cars or anything. From the jungle to the mountains, Ian and I were a bit shell-shocked, and quite frankly, pretty sick.

We holed up in our hotel room (which was super noisy and weird, with like three beds in it…) but mostly clean? Had a miserable night of no sleep, and were up bright and early at like 6am to try to eat (nope) and get on the bus ($$$) to Machu Picchu. The bus takes 30 minutes of winding up hairpin turns to the mountain. It’s kind of scary too.

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Once up to Machu Picchu, we hauled ass to run to get into Waynapicchu, the ‘younger mountain’ that we had permits to hike up. They only let 200 people hike it per window (7-8am, and 10-11am). I can see why, it’s freaking rough at the top and it was so cloudy and foggy I couldn’t see how far, exactly, the plummet is!

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We huffed and puffed our way up Waynapicchu. I climbed on my hands and knees. It was cool but yeah, not doing that again.

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Once we came down, we then hired a guide to take us through Machu Picchu the right way. Well worth it, I think. We saw so many cool things, including a wild chinchilla! The views are breathtaking. If you do one great wonder of the world, I highly suggest Machu Picchu. It is a pain in the ASS to get to, but worth it if only once.

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“I wish I could recommend the experience of not being killed to everyone” Gut Buster Mt. Washington Race Recap!

And another quote by the esteemed Tim Kreider.

Yes I'm wearing my barn jacket. My other one was soaked through!

Yes I’m wearing my barn jacket. My other one was soaked through!

But on to the race!

The Gut Buster Mt. Washington…dun dun dun!

Yes, this one was not recommended by my husband, and I deliberately avoided talking about it at work or to anyone because I knew they would tell me I was making a bad decision. I have a bad kneecap and it gives me trouble and running down a suicide hill would definitely count as making a terrible decision.

So, I just didn’t mention it, and I ran it on Saturday.

And was it a bad decision? Nope! Would I do it again? Very debatable…

It was tough. It was rough. Am I glad I did it? Hells yeah!

The first inkling of trouble was when we got to the ski hill and it was absolutely freezing, pissing down rain and blasting wind. I started shivering immediately and my teeth were chattering. I signed up for this? WTF? I felt sorry for the poor volunteers at the registration tables, those folks looked absolutely frozen. It was, according to the Mt. Washington sign, 11 deg at the base of the mountain. BRrrrrrr.

Keeping in mind it is August, and everywhere else it was 20 deg and if not sunny, then only mildly rainy. Jesus.

The race director- who is a total moviestar- spent a lot of time warning us about the hazards on course…slippery rocks, lots of rocks, rain, wind, steep conditions, ”scrambling” sections, oh and the course that was going to be 6km is now 8.5km- yayyyy…????? In my mind I was like oh god, there goes my pride and all of my bones right now. What kind of stupid impulse made me sign up for this freezing torture?

Anyways, before I could back out, we were out and running up the hills. For awhile I was feeling ok- I was passing people, feeling good, kind of smug really about passing even though I started at the bottom of the pack. Then we all kind of had to backtrack because everyone got lost immediately and missed the first of the flags. Whoops!

So, on we went until we reached 3km of the supposedly 5km uphill- that’s when the bad boys really started, and everyone was walking/trudging grimly uphill. This is when it started feeling less like a race, and more of a trudge, ha.

We got to a peak (note- I said ‘a peak’ not ‘the peak’ or ‘the summit’) and I was thinking oh yeah great, this is going well! Until we kept going and I noticed we weren’t going downhill. We were going up again…to the next peak.

Uh oh…

I gamely jogged across a really bizarre foot path of sorts made of huge boulders -slippery- and then trudged up some truly difficult scrambling sections. I was using momentum to heave myself up the scramble, wedging my foot in a rock, grabbing for a chunk of root or juniper bush to crawl up higher. At one point my foot slipped and I almost fell butt-first into the face of the guy following closely behind me. Phew, close one!

Then I felt good, ok that MUST be it!

We were even going a bit downhill…And then..back uphill?

Yeah, the run wasn’t done with me yet. At the brief downhill section, I got passed by everyone. I suck at going downhill, and rock at going uphill. And now we were really and truly heading to the summit. Cold wind and rain blasted us tirelessly, and we were socked in fog. It was a eerie experience, and I was all alone. It felt like I was the last person left on earth, running through a frozen apocalypse!

I kept going, and kept my head to the ground. I couldn’t see well because the rain was fogging my eyes, and the wind was making me tear up. That was when I missed the pink flags and cruised for awhile on a road. I enjoyed the cruise downhill until I noticed a suspicious lack of flags. Curses! I saw a guy quite a way away to my right running through a meadow and I shouted to him if he saw the flags- he yelled back yes!

I had to backtrack to the meadow, and I picked up the flags again. And I got passed by a few more people…Darn those downhill sections, I have to be the only person that can’t deal with it!

I jogged, walked and slipped my way down the mountain. Lots of small slippery rocks made it tricky, there were a few little boards over running water, and some logs just waiting to grab your ankles. Still, I was keeping at it.

And then, I cruised the final small gentle rise and headed down to the finish line. It was in sight! I have to say, this was the first race I’ve had enough energy to wave at Ian when I ran through the gates, haha. Cold, soaked and happy, I was glad to be done my first and only trail run up a mountain.

We both finished with respectable times, Ian finished 7th and I finished 4th in our ages groups. Ian even won the last door prize- a really sweet Nike running shirt!

Consider my gut busted: Guest post and race review and recap of the Gut Buster Mt. Tzouhalem!

Thanks to my husband for generously sharing his race experience with me! Here is his guest post- I did NOT do the Gut Buster, hills are not my friend! Without further ado…

Consider my gut busted.

A different type of race

A different type of race

This year saw an explosion of running for Sarah and I. While we have long been into casual running of medium distance, maybe once a week, and an annual crack at an organized race, in 2015 things got serious. The winter was all about road racing all over the island. And although I wouldn’t say we dominated the winner’s podium, we made some very favourable personal progress in being awesome.

So with new found momentum in running races I sought to find new avenues to flaunt my skills. Enter the Gutbuster Series. The first was scheduled for last month, but I had a last minute conflict that kept me away. So last Saturday I turned up at an idyllic orchard at the base of a mountain totally unsure of the intensity level I should expect. As it turned out, intensity was at a new level.

Off we go

Off we go

This should maybe not have come as a surprise. I was to run up a mountain after all. And my familiarity with the climb, pulled from childhood memories growing up just around the corner, should also have caused me some concern. In another year I may have been more wary, but fresh off my second half marathon, a mad dash up the side of a very steep mountain seemed positively reasonable.

Spectating is hard work too!

Spectating is hard work too!

About 2 kilometres in, my perception changed. Then on the left the “short track” peeled off and I cursed aloud the vanity that caused me to sign up for the 13km loop. It costs $5 more! What possessed me to dole out more for this torture?

Not long after that everyone was walking. I was close to using my hands like claws to pull myself up. Instead I was bent double, with both hands on my knees, pushing down to give support to each step. I’m not sure that it helped, but it was enough to keep going. I don’t have the actual numbers, but a quick review of a map shows that we climbed almost 500 meters in maybe 3 kilometers. When we got to the top there was an amazing view of the Cowichan Valley. I caught a glimpse of it as I gasped and whimpered and stuttered forward along a crazy ridge that while no longer vertical, had enough climbing that I was very slow to recover.

No climbs for this dog

No climbs for this dog

Around 6 kilometers (and I’m guessing here) I heard shouting up ahead. It was a volunteer who had biked up – and she was shouting encouragement. “This is the highest point!” she called, “Whoop whoop!” I cheered back, or tried to but my mouth was dry and my lungs were empty.

After that the entire race changed. I went from racing down a logging road to racing along a narrow deer trail amongst waist high salal, no room for passing. This was where my skill in trail running took over. And when I say skill, I kind of mean recklessness with a dash of local experience. It was fun and my lungs and legs began to work properly once more. I was surprised nonetheless on the terrain the trail plunged through. Without flags to mark the way, we would have been lost as it wound through every type of trail, nevermind the fallen logs, wash out, boulders, scree or holes.

The decent was a different kind of madness. It rattled my gut. Just as steep as the way up, I didn’t do my knees any favours. Yet I made up time and knew the end was near. After a final (and exasperating) steep segment right near the end, I was back at the orchard and done.

Strong finish

Strong finish

My legs hurt for a couple days after, and I was a long way from placing with the top finishers, but it was a great run. After running flat roads, straight and to the point, mixing it up by hauling ass up a mountain and through the woods was actually just what my running needed. Now I know what to expect next year.