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Reaching The Inner Sanctum Of The Pain Cave: Day 4 Of Racing

Anne-Marie Dunhill / 24.11.2018

Patagonian Expedition Race, Day 4

Imagine a concentrated mass of joy and good humor and you can picture DAR Dingle!  Following DAR Dingle into CP-03 at Rio Nutria, I was struck by their outrageous sense of humor. They were coming off the 47km trek through the turba and walking at a surprisingly brisk pace. 

Listening to their banter on the way in to the CP and as they were preparing their transition, I thought that someone should have put a mic on the team for the entire race and we'd have a cure for the blues; they are uproariously funny. 

Sitting on the soggy ground, preparing his kit for the next mountain biking stage, Noel O’Leary looked around at the gear he’d spread out and said, “I’m covered in so much mess, much like my gear room at home!”

He went on to say that they’d enjoyed the section but that the navigation had probably been the most challenging of any expedition race he’d ever done, including GODzone. He said that his team had pitched their tent by the side of the river and slept for three hours and that they’d seen the lights of the Brazilian team Selva. 

Ailise Deane said that she’d been having a really good time so far; “I’m saving all of my complaints for later on in the course, then I’ll just vomit them all out," she joked. Caz Bullard added that they were having quite a lot of fun with good banter in the team and that Noel’s navigation was “spot on.”  

As they were finishing up packing their bike boxes, Noel said that they’d seen a lot of people sleeping on the hill and Ailise started singing, “And Jack and Jill went up the hill...and Jill forgot the pill...” and the entire CP broke out in uproarious laughter. 

As well as having a sharp wit, Ailise is one of the strongest AR “pack horses” I have ever seen. She’s tiny, less than 5’2" and her pack was nearly half her size, and she handled it with ease. The winds are strong on the exposed sections along the coast but when we saw the team riding later on in the day, she had no difficulty with the pack. 

We came across them on the coastal road where we were positioned to take photos and they were still bantering merrily away. Above the howling wind we heard them joke when they saw us photographers, saying “Sniper at one o’clock.” An utterly delightful team.

Back at CP-03, two other teams came in close together; Patagonia4Barth and Selva. Patagonia4Barth was in at 15:36 and Selva at 15:52. It is interesting to have two teams racing so close together after the difficult first two sections. But the “best” is yet to come, and teams were wise to stop at this CP and pay close attention to their foot care after hours in the soaking wet turba. 

Olivier Decamps of Patagonia4Barth took his shoe off to attend to what looked like a fungal infection, which is apparently common on this race. Celine and Frederic Decamps are husband and wife and Olivier is Frederic’s brother, so it’s really a family affair.

Celine said that she’d really been enjoying racing with her family, “Frederic is my husband so I know him by heart but I’m discovering my brother in law in a completely different light. He is so attentive to every member of the team; I’ve got great team mates.”

She asked to send a huge “bisous” to their three children back home and to tell them that their parents love them. Message delivered.

The team captain, Olivier Renard, was slower in transition and it looked as though he was suffering more than the others. He asked for tape for chafing on his lower back, which the volunteers at the CP applied. This is the second time that Olivier and Frederic have raced PER; they also raced the 2016 edition.

Selva looked on good form, they carried out their transition faster than Patagonia4Barth and the boys were cracking jokes as they prepared their bikes.  Mariana Pontes had finished putting her bike together and eating and attending to her feet  long before the others and she curled up in the hollow of a tree for a quick nap.

The Brazilian team Harpya XP Investimentos arrived at CP-03 at 18:35. 

If the eyes are the window to the soul, Paula Barros’s  mirrored volumes of suffering. She appeared to be so deep in the pain cave that it would take a team of speleogists to extract her.  Walking slowly in to the CP, she quietly asked if there was water there. She said that she was ill and feverish, and that it had started on the first section in the mountains, with a hacking cough. She’d started antibiotics at that time and hoped that it would clear.

The team took their time in this transition, to allow her some time to rest. Camila, one of the volunteers at this CP, attended to her as best one can in the wild. It was unclear for some time if the team would continue but she extracted herself from the pain cave long enough to get on her bike and the team left the transition under the light of the full moon. All in the CP felt her pain, admired her courage and wished her well.

The Italian team Freemind Italy were the last team into CP-03 and they took their time in the transition. The CP tent in which they sheltered to eat was full of delicious smells as they prepared their food. 

Marco Ponteri is the owner of a chain of Italian restaurants and he’d had been carrying in his backpack a small plastic bottle of olive oil from his mother’s olive grove back in Italy. He proudly shared it with us. Thick golden nectar on day-old buns. It was delicious. It was one of those surreal moments that seem only to happen in adventure racing; fine dining on the last wild race!

Once they’d left the CP, after 23:00, they CP closed and the RD transported the last of the bike boxes to the next transition area in a trailer attached to the back of his van. The van was crammed full of racing bags, two race volunteers, two race photographers and one SleepMonster.

Although the time cut-offs up until this point had been flexible, they are now proper cut-offs and teams that fail to make them will be taken off the course. It has been four days of racing and it is hard to believe but the most challenging sections lay ahead, especially the 89km trek. Teams that had paid proper attention to the feet at this CP will pay impressive dividends on this stage.

At the time of this publication, there are now five  teams on the largest trekking section. Teams can expect to cover 89km between PC-04 in Río Canelo and PC-05  in Estrecho Magallanes. Readers might enjoy opoening another tab at this point and pin pointing this area; passing through Brunswick Central, it’s spectacular.

There are three teams further back in the field, still on the mountain biking section.

At the moment, Bend Racing are in the lead but Columbia VidaRaid are pushing hard to hunt them down. East Wind continues their steady progression in third place and DAR Dingle are in a solid fourth position. Terra de Gigantes Selva are in fifth, followed by Patagonia4Barth, Freemind Italy and Equipe Harpya XP Investimentos.

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About The Author

Anne-Marie Dunhill
Anne-Marie is our Senior International Reporter covering World and European Champs and major races worldwide. She is a fluent French speaker and her insightful interviews of racers and organisers are a vital part of SleepMonsters editorial coverage.

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