Running for Rangers (R4R) are a group of individuals who run ultra marathons for the welfare of wildlife rangers in East Africa. You can read more about the charity here. In early June 2016 the R4R team took on the ‘Jungle Ultra’ – 230 kilometre multi-stage footrace through the Amazon jungle.
Journey to the Jungle
We stood in the early morning chill outside Hotel Ruinas in Cusco whilst our bags were packed onto the roofs of the waiting buses. We would soon be heading to our base camp known as Cloud Forest. ‘Are those guys smoking?’ asked one of the medics pointing at Sambo and Jamie having an early morning fag. Clearly this field of ultra runners was not entirely elite!
The journey to Cloud Forest lasted four and a half hours. It was a scenic drive along river valleys and over steep mountain passes. Sambo, our esteemed and self-proclaimed ‘El Capitano’, reflected on what dusty people the Peruvians were; an early judgement, possibly influenced by the dirt roads we were on… I felt pretty ready with five months training under my belt (see training schedule at end of the blog), but I’d never done anything like this before, so there was no shortage of nervous energy in the system. We were all desperate to get started – plenty of bouncing knees around.
At Cloud Forest Camp, Kris King, the race Director, showed us where we were headed on Stage 1 – a 6,000 ft drop into the Amazon basin below. This was going to be epic!
53 runners gathered for the race briefing at Cloud Forest. Kris King, the race director, took us through the emergency procedure; ‘If you press the red button on your GPS tracker, the race organisers and medical team will drop everything to locate you. You will officially be out of the race. DO NOT be tempted to press your mates’ red button as a joke’. Adam, the chief medic, spoke next and explained that he and his medical team were there to help us make it to the finish line. That said, he also reminded us that the medical team had the final say and could pull runners off the event for medical reasons. I was glad to see such a large number of medics. I didn’t realise it at the time, but these guys and girls were awesome – not just at managing our blisters, but also in helping to fill our water bottles and lift our spirits at checkpoints along the trails.
Kris King delivers the race briefing to an attentive, excited and slightly nervous group of runners!
We met some of the other runners in the afternoon; an eclectic mix. Calf tattoos of previously conquered races were clearly en vogue. Conversation flowed easily as the medical team checked the contents of our packs to ensure we were carrying sufficient food and medical supplies. My pack weighed just over 11.5kg without water and 14kg with water. I had allowed for between 2,000 and 2,500 calories of food per day (depending upon distance). I had hoped to be a few kilograms lighter, but perhaps this would come with experience.
Sambo tried unsuccessfully to shed his medical kit on the premise that ‘laughter is the best medicine’. As the sun set we ate the last of our non-dehydrated food and settled down for the night. I took a melatonin pill to help me sleep and put in my ear plugs to drown out the snoring of the runners in nearby tents.
Stage 1 – ‘Cloud 9’, 38kms
We awoke to cloudless skies. After months of preparing for this day, it was finally here. The young brass band from a nearby town, let’s call them ‘Juan Direction’, came out to play at the start line; their rowdy and relentless rendition of the macarena provided the only incentive we needed to get going (and quickly).
I decided to take it easy on this stage, partly because of the pack weight, but more because I was concerned that the 6,000ft drop from Cloud Forest into the valley below could cause shin splints – something I had had a small taste of in my training. My goal was to finish the event, so I needed to avoid picking up an injury on Stage 1.
At the bottom of the steep descent we reached the first checkpoint. The checkpoints were manned by the medics and were between 8 and 10 kilometres apart. We had to leave each checkpoint with 2.5 litres of water. Immediately after this we had a little taster of the hills to come with a 1,000 ft climb up to the mountain road. This was followed by a 30 kilometre run/walk along the road, past a handful of beautiful waterfalls to the end of the stage at Cock of the Rock camp. My total time on the trail was 5 hours 30 minutes.
One thing I enjoyed in my training for this event was the ability to chat as you go. This really helps crunch out the kilometres. The same rang true during the event and I enjoyed the banter on this stage with Sambo and Jacqs. I did however soon realise that I’m no good at speed marching. Walking is a big part of ultras, therefore the faster you walk the better. I should have done more fast walking in my training.
The Cock of the Rock camp had hammock stations (posts to tether our hammocks to), toilets and cold showers. We were provided with hot water to add to our freeze-dried meals, saving us from having to carry stoves. As I arrived into camp, Pete called out a message of support from my wife and daughter that had some through on our team satellite phone. It was great to hear from them and know that they were tracking our progress.
The Hennessy Hammock was one of my best pieces of kit (see full list at the end of the blog). It was lightweight, mosquito proof and the fly sheet kept my sleeping bag, ‘borrowed’ airline pillow and kit dry at all times. With Pete’s carabiner modification it could be put up and taken down with ease – awesome! After a cold shower the pop-up medical station opened for business.
I’d gone through my training relatively blister free, so I couldn’t believe that I already had 3 blisters just from the Stage 1! James, one of the volunteer medics, taped up my blisters ready for the next stage. It was a good time to compare injuries – one runner had fallen on the steep descent and knocked a front tooth out AND lost two toe-nails. Another had sprained an ankle and was out of the race. R4R’s Matt had also gone over on his ankle, but thankfully not badly. Hollie Sheep had suffered with a stomach bug, but had pushed on through. As I climbed into my hammock I reflected on Stage 1 to the sound of raindrops on my fly-sheet. Despite the hills, I had a fair idea that today had only been a warm up day…the tough stuff lay ahead.
Stage 2 – ‘Amazonia’, 34 kms
All the stage distances were approximations as it’s hard to record accurate measurements with forest/cloud cover and endless kilometres in rivers. Today was a shorter day, but as we came to realise, distance doesn’t mean a whole lot in the jungle – terrain is everything. I was a bit slow getting ready and made it to the start line with only a few moments to spare. One of the Peruvian runners was even slower and turned up long after the stage had started. Unlike me though he managed to overtake most of the field and finish high up in the rankings! These local runners were nothing short of impressive. Today was our first taste of real jungle. It was a little more humid, but still less than Dar es Salaam in Tanzania where I had done 95% of my training. It also became increasingly damp underfoot the further into the jungle we ran. And then we reached the rivers…
Instinctively I tried to avoid the puddles and keep my feet dry for as long as possible. One fella went a step further and removed his shoes for the first river crossing, but we soon realised that trying to keep our feet dry was an exercise in futility! You soon realise that you’re going to spend the majority of the day with wet feet, whether you like it or not.
I ran alone for most of the day so had to be vigilant keeping an eye out for the red tape that marked out the route. A few people went wrong, including some of the R4R team, but thankfully getting lost was rare. I felt good on the stage, once again not pushing too hard. The quads were a bit sore from yesterday’s big descent, but apart from that the blister tape was holding firm and the rest of the body felt good.
I did at one point stack it down a hill and it took me about 5 minutes to get back up to my walking pole on slippery clay. This brought back memories of my skiing holidays! Had I been with another runner it would have saved me the extra effort. The same could be said for accessing my spare water. When you’re alone this involves removing the front pack, taking off the back pack, grabbing the water and then putting it all back on again; if you’re with another runner, they can simply pass you what you need from your pack without you having to take it off. Moral of the story; get some mates!
I really enjoyed Stage 2. Total time on the trail was just under 6 hrs. The trail ran through a scenic valley and the flora and fauna were spectacular. Some of the butterflies would stop us in our tracks they were so beautiful.
Sambo named one ‘falusi butterfly’ as it had the same colours as a dolphin fish. I had warned him not to lick that frog a few kilometres back…
There was a beautiful river near to the camp which soothed our aching limbs and allowed us to wash our kit. Afterwards we lay about and chatted in the afternoon, keeping cool in the shade under our hammocks. Every one of the R4R’s team had made it to the end of the stage and spirits were high. We argued hard over who deserved to carry the cow keyring signifying ‘bitch of the day’, the naked man keyring signifying ‘cock of the day’ and the BatLlama bib signifying ‘baby of the day’!
At night it was a pleasure putting on the compression socks and elevating the swollen feet in the hammock. However getting out of both the sleeping bag and the hammock itself for a midnight pee was a serious chore! I was up at around 11pm and inadvertently stepped into a nest of fire ants whilst peeing. What followed was a form of urine-showered jungle Riverdance on aching limbs…….!
Stage 3 – ‘Logging’, 30 kms
As with every other stage, Stage 3 started with a morning briefing from Kris the race director. It was a general heads up about what to expect in terms of river crossings, hills, cut-off times etc.
The first part of the stage was a gentle jog for about 4 kilometres along a flat track, before we crossed a large river on a zipline. At the far side of the river we found ourselves on a logging trail, which is where this stage takes its name from.
For most of the day we followed logging trails. These are deep rutted lorry tracks which are full of mud and water and in most cases impossible to run through. Under the water and mud were stones and old logs, presumably relics of vehicles that had been stuck, so we had to tread carefully to protect our ankles.
I was in the pack today with Jamie, Harry, both Holly Badger, Hollie Sheep, Keith and Sambo. At one point Jamie (pictured below at the front of the pack) managed to stir up a hornets nest into the team of runners behind him. Everyone was stung, apart from the culprit who was immediately declared ‘cock of the week’ on the spot and made to carry the little wooden keyring as his mark of shame! Holly Sheep was ahead of me and let out a shriek each time she was stung – I think I counted five shrieks – she was being stung as she ran. I decided to take the Zen approach and stayed dead still, until one bugger landed on my knee and stung me anyway. So much for that, I joined the others in a full sprint, swatting as I ran!
Pete, Matt and Jacqs were well ahead of our pack today. Pete was consistently the fastest of the R4R’s team, but on this stage Jacqs was lightening quick, proving what she is capable of.
The last 10 kilometres of Stage 3 were a gradual hill climb along a road. I walked and ran alongside Keith and listened to him talking about his work against the illegal trading of ivory and rhino horn – fascinating stuff. The kilometres flew by and before we knew it we were on a steep descent into the village of Santa Rosa. When we arrived in the late afternoon we were met at the stage finish by some Peruvian children who put beaded necklaces around our necks. My total time on the trail had been 6 hours and 52 minutes. My blisters had been at me on this stage and I found myself regularly having to stop at rivers to wash out the grit from my shoes which was rubbing against them. Many of the others were in the same position. Harry was starting to have issues with the arch on one of his feet, but was still moving along nicely.
Once my hammock was tethered to the goal posts on the local football ground, I headed down to the river for a dip to soothe the aches and pains. I felt bad for one of the front-runners who had pulled out of the event today with severe dehydration. The damage had been sustained yesterday when he had run out of water between medical checkpoints. He hadn’t fully recovered before today’s stage. I saw him at the first medical checkpoint and he was in bad shape, shaking and throwing up.
Back in camp rumours were rife that ‘The Lull’ – tomorrow’s stage – was one of the toughest stages on the ultra-marathon circuit. Clearly things were about to pick up a gear!
15 minutes after getting into my hammock for the night, the final runner made it across the line. He had been on the trail for close to 12 hours, having walked a number of hours in the dark. This was to be the last stage for him, but he had done himself proud. It’s the guys at the back that have it hardest being exposed on the trail for significantly longer than the front runners and with less time for recovery between stages.
Stage 4 ‘The Lull’, 36kms
We woke to the sound of heavy rain on our fly sheets. The planned start time for the stage was 06.00, but we quickly realised this wasn’t going to happen. All the runners crammed into the town hall for freeze dried breakfasts and to await updates. There was a chance that the torrential rain overnight would cause the stage to be curtailed or cancelled. Kris had medics and Peruvian advance parties reporting back to him on conditions. Thankfully a few hours later it was confirmed that the stage would go ahead.
It was a late start, about 2 hours later than planned. Within the first 200 metres of the stage we were already in a river! I questioned why I had bothered drying my socks in a plastic bag at the bottom of my sleeping bag at night. What a waste of time, specially as my shoes were still wet from the day before. I wore the same clothes every day of the race; there’s nothing quite like putting on wet muddy clothing in the morning!
This was definitely the most scenic stage of the race with multiple river crossings – some in boats, others on rafts and lorry inner tubes. There had been one large mudslide where the advance party had put ropes in place in order that we could traverse it. This stage had a cut off point. If you didn’t reach the cutoff point by 3pm, you would be short-coursed to the finish. This was to avoid having runners in the jungle at night.
Out front and early in the stage Pete took a tumble off a log crossing. He hit his head on the way down and suffered a fractured skull, but this would only be diagnosed in London a week later. He still had over 100 kms of the trails ahead of him which he ran with a concussion. Absolutely superhuman effort!
My favourite part of the day was an open run along a black beach beside a wide river. It was raining lightly, a nice cool temperature, and a brief chance to take in some of the scenery. Often we were in thick jungle, without much of a view, so moments like this were special.
My Olmo 20L rucksack had the advantage of having lots of external netting for storage. In the picture above you can see my mattress rolled up on the bottom; it’s more like a reflector that you might put on a car windscreen, but keeps you warm when the wind whips up and blows between the hammock and the ground. You can see two spare blue water bottles in the yellow netting and a white tag attached to the bag which was an allergy and medical record for the medics. I am carrying hiking poles which fold into 3 and can be strapped to the front of the pack. These were extremely useful in the rivers and on the hills. I’m also wearing gloves because on the hills, especially the downhills, we would regularly grab vines and trunks without looking…
After the black beach the trail re-entered the Manu National Park and its virgin rainforest and I caught up with Holly Badger and Harry. We ran together for the remainder of the stage which was a series of very steep hill climbs and descents all under thick tree cover and mostly in rain.
Harry had kindly donated a pole to Holly Badger which meant that both these ‘one-polers’ provided a lot of entertainment on the slippery descents. It’s a great feeling when you are laughing hard at a time when you least expect it – Harry’s unplanned downhill skiing on one leg is an image that will stay with me for a while…
We reached the cut-off with 1.5 hours to spare and then entered a special stage called ‘King of the Hill’ – a hill-climb race. Having seen the speed of some of the front-runners we decided to take it easy which was just as well as the hill was relentless! Each time you could see white cloud through the trees on the horizon you would think you were at the summit, but the trail would veer hard right or hard left and continue steeply upwards. It went on and on for what felt like hours; false summit after false summit. I took it in turns to lead with Holly Badger, just to break the monotony. She was having issues with one of her knees, but was not complaining and just kept on pushing.
The views from the top of the hill over the forest and rivers below were special, but we only took them in briefly at the checkpoint, before descending into the final camp at Villa Carmen Biological Reserve on the outskirts of the small town of Pilcopata. It had been a short stage but it had taken us close to 9.5 hours, reaffirming that in the jungle distance means nothing. As my blisters were being taped I asked the medic if he could strap the top of my left foot as it had been niggling a little on the trail. He told me that it will likely just a bit of tendinitis and that strapping wouldn’t help. I didn’t give it further thought, but it would come back on the next stage to bite me.
Stage 5 ‘The Long One’, 70 kms
Having got in around 17.30 last night, hearing the alarm at 04.00 was unwelcome. I suppose it wasn’t raining, so I took some consolation from that. Today was the ‘Long One’ so we needed to be at the start line just before 05.00. Psychologically, having made it this far, I was now confident of finishing the race. We still had 70kms to cover and no doubt Kris would throw all sorts of terrain at us, but the main thing was that we didn’t have to run tomorrow, so we could really push ourselves to the limit. Unfortunately for Matt, he was literally crawling to the start line. He was now more blister than foot and was knocking back painkillers to dull the pain. I have to admit I had real concerns as to whether he would finish. The rest of the R4R team were tired and bruised, but were in better shape.
We ran along a road for the first 10 kms passing through Pilcopata in the dark, where the entire town was up to cheer us on our way. The pace was good – it’s important to knock out quick kilometres on good roads, especially knowing that the tough stuff is lurking around the corner. We quickly settled into our various groups and stuck with them for the day – Pete ran ahead of us, I ran with Jamie, Sambo, Hollie Sheep and Jacqs, and Holly Badger, Harry, Matt and Keith followed up behind. Like Jacqs, Keith had often slowed his pace in order to help others in the team. One this long day he stuck with Matt for over 20 hours. It was this selflessness among team members that helped the full contingent of R4R runners make it through the event.
Yet another zipline river crossing marked the end of the road and the start of the ugly stuff. We were in and out (but mainly in) a river for the next 4-5 hours. It was impossible to run on slippery stones under the water. We literally waded along trying to keep our balance and protect our ankles. On a couple of occasions the water got so deep that we had to take off our packs and hold them over our heads. Some of the front runners, Pete included, had stuffed their packs into their dry bags and floated on them down the river wherever possible to save their legs. Genius. It never even occurred to us! Occasionally the red tape would lead us out of the river and our spirits would rise, only for it to direct us straight back in. Progress was extremely slow. The ankle joints and knee joints were taking a beating.
In the river I felt my left ankle tweak a few times in a certain position – it must be the tendinitis. When we got out of the river and were able to run again it felt sore and started to swell. I realised that this would slow me down. When we hit the 42 km, Jamie and I high-fived to celebrate our first ever marathon! I had purposefully not trained any further than 35 kms as I wanted my first marathon to be in the ultra, and Jamie hadn’t run further than 20kms. Who says you need to build up to an ultra?!…
After a long open stretch, we arrived at a checkpoint just across a wooden bridge. This was today’s cut off point. Once again we were well within the cutoff time. Jim, one of the medics, popped a blister under my little toe and squeezed it dry. He taped it up and I was good to go. We knew there was one ‘hill’ on the event and it was immediately after this medical station. With full water bottles we set off once more. The graph below shows the profile of this ‘hill’ which was recorded by one of the female runners, Suzie Chan.
50kms into a stage a hill like this really hits hard! The climb was slow but steady, but the descent in the rain was tougher as the path was effectively a mudslide. We made good use of our gloves, poles (those of us who had them) and backsides to get us down. It was an extremely slow descent – my guess is well over an hour. In the back of your mind you are always conscious of going over on an ankle on tired legs, so we had to keep our concentration levels up. Occasionally someone from the team would call out to all the others to ‘check-in’ and make sure that everyone was okay. This was usually met with a series of grunts – we were all just too tired. It was now well into the late afternoon. By this stage the front runners had long completed the stage. We were conscious of Keith, Harry, Holly and Matt behind us….would they make the cutoff?
Despite the celebrations back at Pilcopata, the rest of us still had a long way to go. We finally reached the bottom of the ‘hill’ as it was getting dark and spent 10 minutes in an open area alongside a river trying to work out which direction to head. Jamie and Sambo were putting their tracking skills to the test when, thankfully, a Peruvian appeared further downstream with some glow sticks. He was steadily working his way up the trail lighting up the way and he directed us out of the river and onto the road which would eventually lead us to the finish.
It was now night, we each had our head torches on and we settled into the final 20 kilometres. I was hobbling, my left foot getting more swollen by the minute. I couldn’t bend the foot up or down. I spoke to Sambo and told him that I was conscious of slowing the others down. I said that they should plough on. I was 100% confident that I would finish and I was happy to do this at my own pace. He told me that was not an option; ‘we will finish this together’. We pushed on in the darkness towards the final checkpoint. We played games, told jokes and even listened to a bit of music on someone’s phone to take our minds off it all.
At the final checkpoint, James who was one of the medics, ran up to me and told me that we were only 1.5 kms from the finish. I was confused as I thought we had at least 10 kilometres to go. Sometimes we had been misinformed at checkpoints, so I questioned him – ‘are you absolutely sure?’. He was. I nearly kissed him! Some of the medics joined us and we walked together across the bridge and into the Pilcopata town square. We all linked arms and walked towards the finish together. There wasn’t an actual finish line but I remember someone asking Kris ‘are we done?’….after 5 days on the hoof it was a joy to hear him say ‘yes, you’ve finished – congratulations guys!’
We arrived around 9pm, 16 hours after we had set off. The band, the bunting and the crowds had long since left the square. Only Kris the race director, plus a small handful of runners and Peruvian’s were left. Pete was there to see us in which was great. We had heard on the trail that the last 4 people to make it through the cut-off were Matt, Keith, Holly Badger and Harry. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing – how the hell had Matt made it that far AND within the time? He could barely walk to the start! They had made the cutoff time with only 2 minutes to spare – incredible given the total time for the stage.
At 11pm Holly Badger and Harry arrived and 2 hours later, 20 hours since they had started, Keith and Matt arrived into the town square. Those that still had some energy and whose feet still worked walked across the bridge to meet them. I waited in the town square. There were hugs all round, an emotional moment – all 10 of the Running for Rangers runners had made it to the finish line on what is considered by many to be one of the toughest ultra marathons out there! Out of a field of 53 runners, only 20 completed the full course and the full compliment of the R4R team were among them.
Most of us were pretty glad the event was over. Between us there were foot blisters, black blisters, hip chafing from the packs, swollen feet, damaged tendons, a fractured skull, concussion, blood poisoning (we would only find this out later), sore knees, sore heels etc etc. All of these were inconsequential though – we had achieved what we had come to achieve! Pete gave us all a few minutes on the satellite phone to call our families back home. The bill was being footed by Sean who was one of the R4R team who had sadly not made it to the event as he had contracted malaria just before. I chatted briefly to Mum and then to Charlotte – these were emotional conversations!
We had a day to relax in Pilcopata which included an awards lunch in the Town Hall. Luckily for us ‘Juan Direction’ turned up to perform the macarena in an enclosed space at top volume in a number of different keys! We ate a fish that resembled piranha and awards were handed out to the Peruvian runners who had been extremely quick. The rest of us would receive our medals in Cusco.
It was great tucking into bottles of coke, boxes of biscuits and basically anything we could get our hands on in the village! We went out for dinner that night and had chicken and chips which went down a treat.
The next morning it was a long drive back to Cusco for our final awards ceremony where we had plenty of beers and received our medals.
I would like to express huge thanks to Joe, Peter, Samantha and Simo for all the training tips in Dar es Salaam. To my Mum, Paula, who’s support and adventurous spirit helped me immensely. To my wife, Charlotte, and daughter, Isla, for their love and support. Running for Rangers for warmly welcoming me into the fold. Raging Bull for providing our team shirts. Most importantly all the donors who kindly donated their hard earned money to our cause. To Mikkel Beisner for the awesome photographs. To the Beyond the Ultimate Team led by Kris King. To Adam and his team of medics who were awesome. To the Peruvian’s who marked the trails and opened the course, often in the middle of the night in preparation for each stage. To my awesome teammates for their support and endless banter. And to the Rangers on the front line which was the real reason we had come together to do this.
The Geeky Stuff
I hadn’t expected there to be any ultra runners in Dar es Salaam, so I couldn’t believe my luck when I met Joe, Peter, Samantha and Simo. Joe took me under his wing and, having himself completed a number of ultra marathons, was extremely qualified to help me. I didn’t know where to start, but Joe designed a training programme, taught me about nutrition and hydration and ran with me on most of my training runs. I was able to tap into his infinite wisdom on all things running, saving me endless hours of trawling through websites and books. Peter is also a seasoned ultra runner with a lot of experience in multi-stage events, and he helped me get my head around what to expect. Peter completed a 100 mile event in South Africa shortly before I left for Peru. Not only did this put my challenge into perspective, but it helped me realise just what the body can endure. Samantha and Simo also joined me on many runs. I owe a lot to these four people for keeping me motivated for 5 months and for helping me to always look forward to the next run!
The schedule was simple:
3 or 4 x 10 kilometre runs per week (all around 6.30 minutes /kilometre)
1 x day of leg & core strengthening
Long run on the weekends (15kms building by 10% each time to 35kms with backpack)
After 8 weeks the schedule included one evening of speed training – 4 x 1 kilometre ‘sprints’ with 2.30 minute resting periods. This was interchangeable with the ‘Cooper Test’; running for 12 minutes as fast as possible. It made a nice change from the longer runs, but it hurt!
In the final months before the event I split my long weekend run into two – usually 10-15 kilometres on the Saturday and then 25-30 kilometres on the Sunday. This was to acclimatise the mind and body to running on tired legs
In the 5 months of training, I ran in Kenya, Tanzania, UAE, Zambia, South Africa, England and Ireland. 95% of my training was in Tanzania in 75-100% humidity. Pouring with sweat within just a few minutes of a training run was par for the course. I messed up my hydration on one run around Pande Forest, just outside of Dar es Salaam, and felt weak for 2 days. This made me realise that if you seriously dehydrate or over-exert yourself in a multi-stage event, it’s game over!
During the event I ate between 2,000 and 2,500 calories per day (depending upon stage distance). I also drank no less than. 1.5 litres of water and electrolyte every 10 kms:
X-Treme Freeze Dried Breakfast – 800 cal
Vitamin C tablet
Earl Grey Tea and powder milk (thanks Mum!)
On the Move:
Gu energy gels
SIS energy gels
Probar Energy Chews
Probar Protein Bars
Trail-mix (nuts and dried fruit)
Biltong (1 bag per day)
GU and Nuun Electrolytes
GU Recovery Drink
Oral rehydration salts
X-Treme Freeze Dried Dinner – 800 cal
To ‘cook’ the freeze dried food = open bag, pour in hot water (organised every evening by the race organisers), close the bag and leave for 10 minutes. Consume.
My top 5 pieces of kit were:
Mountain King ‘Trail Blaze’ aluminum trailpoles – a godsend in the rivers and on the hills, especially the slippery descents
Hennessy Hammock – easy to assemble and pack and surprisingly comfortable. The flysheet worked well in the rain
Injinji socks – I’m certain that these kept my blister count down
GurneyGoo (anti-chafing cream) – not even a hint of a chafe. I wish I’d also used it on my feet to prevent blisters
RAB Neutrino 200 sleeping bag – warm, light, compact and comfortable
The most disappointing items of kit were:
Raidlight Olmo 4L front pack –bounced around on the trail, even when pulled tight
Hotel slippers – utterly useless in the rain. Flip flops would have been a wiser choice
Oakley Sunglasses – you don’t need sunglasses in the jungle! Extra weight, minimal benefit
Note: I ran in Salomon Wings Pro shoes which were generally great. These are designed for medium pronation runners, offered good toe protection and kept the achilles happy. However, the lace system put a lot of pressure on my anterior tibialis tendon and ultimately caused it to flare up in my left foot on the final stage. This may have been due to over-tightening of the laces, but regardless the shoes don’t make the top 5 list as a result.