Both Thunderbolt AR and Rootstock Racing finished this morning, the Australians taking 6th place and the Americans 7th, both remarkable results in their different ways.
Thunderbolt made a huge navigational error at the end of the first trek, putting them right towards the back of the race but managed to work back up the field. “Then we made another mistake to mess it up again,” said Angus Rodwell. “We were trying to follow the path on the trek heading towards the temple checkpoint but in the dark there really wasn’t much of a path to follow so we turned back. We found some hay bundles covered in a tarp and slept on the hay with the tarp over us. In the daylight we found we’d been on the right track ... there just wasn’t much of a track!”
Rootstock may have passed them here but as Josh Street said “The sleep helped us push through to the finish.” Mark Lattanzi of Rootstock said, “We were clambering up the canyon wondering if this was right and decided to push on, while Thunderbolt turned back.”
He added, “No one said there was canyoning on the route, it was just a trek route to follow, but that section would be described as canyoning anywhere else. It was also a dry canyon and we’d thought we could pick up water but there was none and we were in trouble, we just had to carry on. There was nothing up on the ridge, then we saw a red flag at the trail side and it marked a sink hole with fresh water which saved us.”
“We slept before the canyon at a farm house and it was such a special experience. The family welcomed us, put us in room they keep for guests and put down mattresses. They bought water and bowls and wanted to wash our feet, I think as a ritual to honour guests, but we tried to explain it would be too painful. They wanted to feed us too but we said we just needed a few hours sleep. We were strangers and they couldn’t do enough for us.”
Rootstock stayed ahead of Thunderbolt on the trek, taking a route through the valleys and villages and Brent Freeland said “that was without doubt the best trek I’ve ever done”.
Thunderbolt had a more unpleasant encounter on their trek when Hugh Stodart was bitten on the calf by a dog. “Two big farm dogs blocked the trail,” he told me, “and they looked pretty aggressive so I stopped. Then another came up quietly behind me and bit me. It was pretty fierce and I had to back away using my trekking poles. Luckily it’s not too bad and I’ve had my shots so it should be OK.”
They subsequently passed Rootstock on the ride to the finish and Mark Lattanzi said, “That ride was ... “ Before he could the find the word Freedland jumped in with; “a disaster!” Despite a difficult time on the ride on their 3rd night on the course the team made it to the finish and that they did so at all was remarkable achievement given Brent Freedland had a diagnosis of asthma just 3 months ago.
“I’d been coughing for months and then have had bad reactions to the medication, “he told me, “so it’s not really being treated right now and I’ve just had an inhaler with me to use every 4 hours. I hoped to be OK but the first ride through the traffic in Manali didn’t help and in those early stages we were the last international team. At the start of the first trek I was gasping and wondered if I could do it. It was a very low point.
“The altitude and the dust didn’t help and by the end of that trek I was in a bad way and had something of a personal crisis, unlike anything in my experience before. I think it was a good thing for the team and for me, and we moved on with the team supporting me.”
Mark Lattanzi interjected, “You carried my pack too when I was ill and weak for a while as well, so we all supported each other.” That about says it all really.
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