Sunday, February 27, 2011

Antarctica Marathon Update: 1 Day to Go

Dear friends and family -

(Read online at

Just one day to go before the race. Thank you to everyone who has donated so far. I think we've already raised $6000 or so which is wonderful for this double marathon of Antarctica and Los Angeles. Here's the link again: (you may have to copy and paste it into your browser.)

We are currently sailing from King George Island to Robert Island - both of which are part of the South Shetland Islands. Two days ago, we made the crossing of the Drake's Passage which was fortunately very calm as it can be super bumpy and windy. I had a bit of seasickness but nothing major that just lying down (and taking Zofran!) couldn't help - fortunately no trips to the bathroom were needed. Happily since yesterday we have been in the more sheltered areas so the seas are much calmer and medication can be skipped without discomfort. Rebecca has had none of the symptoms but has been fighting her bad back. One of the fellow runners does therapy work and has helped her which has been quite nice.

The running organizers are on King George Island today setting up the course; we won't know the final conditions until our briefing later tonight. Then tomorrow morning at 8 AM local time (we are currently PST + 5 hrs or GMT - 3 hrs), we board the Zodiacs for shore. The race starts at 9 AM. 98 runners are here of which 83 are running the marathon. Since the course is two loops, the half people get to stop after one go.

I have been given a "seeded" number as someone to watch out for in the final tally. I'm number 3 by virtue of my 3:31 time at Adelaide last summer. My friend Martin who I met in Casablanca in October is number 2 due to his 3:03 at that marathon. Mike from Denver (who is here with his fellow runner and wife, Vicky, and their non-running young kids Sarah and Gavin) is number 1 with a 2:41 marathon last year. Mike is an orthopedic surgeon, so I guess if he ever gets injured, he'll know how to treat himself. There is also someone here with a 2:50 marathon recently. I actually find this aspect of thinking about time in this race to be somewhat silly given we don't know the conditions (other than likely to be muddy and windy) and no one I have met seems to care for more than finishing. Of course, I'm sure some of us will care when the start hits us. I think Ross from New Zealand is one to watch given he is primarily a trail runner and this is definitely a trail run. Ross and his wife and fellow runner Shelly ran the Everest Marathon last year which involves 14 days of hiking to acclimatize before running the race itself. Although nowhere near as audacious as that type of event, hopefully my time in the Santa Monica Mountains will have prepared me for the rough terrain. I have not been as crazy as some of my fellow runners who have been doing laps on the boat.

The trip on the boat has been great. Everyone is super nice, and there are wonderfully comfortable places to hang out. I'm writing from the Oceanus Lounge on deck 4 and there are about 30 other people here reading or on the computers. We have expensive but decent internet access (dial up speeds so key is to really shrink photos before sending them). Rebecca and I secured the Owners Suite which is fantastic and includes a sitting area, king bed, jacuzzi tub and a private balcony. We are on the top deck at the very front of the ship. Really, compared to previous events, we have it easy. The boat we are on was a last minute replacement due to the planned boat running aground in October. Thom Gilligan (yes, we are going to an island with someone named Gilligan) told me they are not likely to have as nice a boat next year.

As you might imagine, everyone is sort of wired the same way on the trip. With a boatload of runners - and ones that like long distances and adventures - we have more in common than differences. Still, with participants from Europe, the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and India, we have much to learn from each other. That has been great and given we are 10 days together on the cruise, you get more than enough time to meet everyone. Meals are open seating, so each meal is another chance to talk to new people.

Yesterday, we made our first landing and saw gentoo and chinstrap penguins on Aitchoo islands. I've included a couple photos with this email. Landing involves getting dressed up in water proof pants and heavy boots. We then board Zodiacs for the few minutes journey to shore. Then we get to wander in and among the wildlife. Out of bound areas are marked with flags. Despite us being told to stay about 5 meters away, the penguins are free to walk up to you. You can't touch them, but they will come peck at your boots. Two were jumping after the strap from my backpack. Super cool. You are literally right next to them. (Fortunately, the smells don't translate into the pictures.)

After the race, we sail the 100 miles to the Antarctica Peninsula for 4 more days of landings and adventures.

Ok, that's it for now. Please do check out my Indy in the Classroom Adventure Logs for more on the journey. I am really enjoying writing for that site.

I'll report back after the race! Try to dream fast thoughts Monday AM.



Laird Malamed
Twitter: runlairdrun
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