Ryan Sandes aka. the ‘desert runner‘, is currently not running in the hot dry deserts around the world, but has traded the deserts for the Amazon Jungle Stage Race. Ryan will be running the 2010 Comrades Marathon as a Celebrity entrant.
Here is a personal report by desert runner Ryan Sandes, how he’s doing in the Amazon! We will keep you informed as to his progress on this grueling race Jungle Update – Ryan’s Diary entries, in preparation for the start of the race.
I have been in Brazil (Alter do Chao) for a week now and I am slowly getting used to the heat and humidity. No one speaks English here and my Portuguese is non-existent. So I have had some interesting times, especially when it comes to eating out in restaurants. Basically I choose anything on the menu that is not too expensive and I hope for the best… Luckily I have not had to eat anything too dodgy yet! I took a bit of strain on my first few runs and I started to wonder if I had lost all my fitness on the two day journey to Brazil. It felt like running at high altitude and I could not get enough oxygen into my lungs. I seem to have adapted a bit better to the conditions now and I went on a run in the jungle two days ago which was awesome except for seeing one HUGE snake and getting bitten by a few hornets, Flip the hornet bites are sore…I thought I had been shot in the groin and butt! I very quickly thought to myself I would rather be running through the Amazon jungle counting hornet bites on my butt than sitting down at a desk counting how many toilets need to be ordered i.e. being a Quantity Surveyor. After my jungle run I did realize one thing and that is the Jungle Marathon is going to be probably the toughest race I have ever done. The accents are brutally steep with some really technical descents and you are continuously jumping and climbing over fallen trees. It is very humid under the jungle canopy and at times I felt claustrophobic. But I am really starting to get excited and apart from a bit of a glute / hamstring issue I am ampt to start the race now.
Jungle Marathon Day 1: WOW what an awesome run but probably the slowest and hardest 15km of my life. We started off and after 200m we already had a river crossing and straight after that it was into the jungle. I felt good and pushed the first leg and paid for it on the second and third legs… I bonked on the third leg and felt like I had no energy from the intense heat, but I pushed through to finish feeling good. The terrain consisted of hills, more hills and rivers and swamps. At one stage I was up to my chest in a swamp and the next minute I tripped and found myself fully submerged in black mud! I got over my fear of snakes very quickly and there were times when I would have been quite happy to be bitten and put out my misery :)! Otherwise all is good apart from a bit of a twisted ankle. Now for day 2 and more punishment but also more beauty. Our camps are in some of the most insane places I have ever seen in my life and the whole experience feels like a dream at times. The boat trip up the Amazon to the start of the race was awesome and waking up this morning was surreal except of course that I was about to start the hardest multi stage race of my life.
Jungle Marathon Day 2: The start this morning was delayed by two hours as the medic evacuation boats were not back from Santarem yet… Four people had to be evacuated yesterday from the heat and the harsh conditions took it toll on most competitors. Yesterday afternoon was like a scene out of a horror movie and people were dropping like flies…but the Jungle Marathon medics did a great job making sure everyone was looked after. We started off along the beach and then after a few hundred meters it was up into the jungle for the ‘swamp’ stage. It was not long before I was chest high in black mud, fending off ticks and human eating ants! I took it a lot easier today to start off with and felt good and then pushed the last stage a bit to open up a few minute gap on the second athlete. So all in all it was a good day at the office apart from two swollen ankles. Keeping it short and sweet so I can get back in my hammock.
Ryan completed the 24.5km stage in a record time of 2hours and 41 minutes. Ryan Won stages 1 and 2, and currently has a 10 minute lead over the second placed runner.
The third day (14th October 2009) was the longest stage so far: almost 38 km. The course combined the concentrated elevations of stage one with the swamp crossings of stage two. Although overcast early in the morning the sun soon came out and the humidity was so high that there some light rain in the afternoon. Before the competitors set off there was a reminder of the signs of dehydration and how to manage salt levels from the medical team. They then set off straight into the jungle The magic sandman has done it again – Ryan Sandes has won stage 3 of the 2009 Jungle Marathon. Ryan has built up his lead over 2nd place runner, Fredson de Silva Sousa Raimundo, of more than 24 minutes and has just under an hour lead over his arch rival Salvador Calvo Redondo. Ryan completed the 37km stage in 4hours and 57minutes. The Race Director’s assistant says that Ryan is in incredible spirits and feeling great
Jungle Marathon Day 3: I woke up this morning with sore ankles and thought OH NO, but today was the opposite of that. I started off today quite easy and then at the second check point I decided to push on a bit… it was a risky move as it is so hot and humid here that if you bomb out in the jungle you do so in style. It is really hard to pick yourself up again and it feels as if all your energy has been sucked out by a vacuum cleaner. The risk paid off and I finished the stage strong (37min ahead of second athlete) but a little tired and shaken from seeing three snakes. I remember climbing up a hill on all fours and seeing a set of eyes looking at me from a large hole in the ground. I would like to think it was a large lizard but I did not hang around to get a closer look. Thanks to everyone for the messages of support, they help me keep going when everything says stop! Off to the hammock…
On Day 4 (15th October 2009) is Ryan Sandes still in the lead after stage 4 of the 2009 Jungle Marathon with his arch nemesis Salvador Calvo Redondo still in 3rd place. He is getting mentally prepared for the long stage of 89km tomorrow.
Jungle Marathon Day 4 We started off today with a 200m swim across a river… faaak swimming with a pack is not so easy!! My heart-rate went through the roof from the swim and only 20min into the run did it get back to normal – respect to the ironmen. Today was quite a flat course and it was nice to be able to run at a constant pace the whole way. I ran most of the way with Mike Wolf of the North Face and we crossed the line together. It was a relief to get the stage out the way with no set backs and now for the long stage tomorrow – its going to be brutal! I am hoping to run the long stage with someone, maybe Mike as he has been ripping up the 50 and 100 milers in the States. It going to be a long slog but I will be taking it slow and steady and taking no chances… We start of the stage with another 250m swim and then 49km of jungle and 43km of trails! 49 competitors have dropped out of the race so far mainly to heat issues… so the rumble in the jungle has been hectic. My feet do not have any blisters (must be my shoes – Salomon S Labs!) except for a bust toe nail from kicking a few roots. My ankles have had a break the last two days and my legs feel good so I am ampt for one last big push tomorrow! Thanks to everyone for the messages – they are a huge boost! FINISHED THE JUNGLE MARATHON
Ryan Sandes has done the super impossible YET again and has won the 2009 Jungle Marathon – proving he has what it takes in the deserts and the jungles. Ryan’s overall time was 26 hrs 33 min with second place going to his nemesis Salvador Calvo Redondo – who was almost 2 hours behind Ryan in a total time of 28 hrs 49 min.
I have just crossed the finish line of the Jungle Marathon. I survived the Jungle!! It is an awesome feeling to win again and I am super stoked. The 2nd competitor (Salvador of Spain) was just under two and a half hours behind me and Mike from the States behind him. I ran the whole stage today with Mike and we took it quite easy, not that I could have gone any faster. My legs felt TIRED!!… and had no gas in them. Salvador passed us about half way and stormed on to finish about two minutes ahead of us. Running into Alter Do Chao was and insane and the town square was packed with people, journalists etc. I was handed an SA Flag a few hundred meters from the finish line and got instant goose bumps. I had trained really hard for this race and bust my balls in a few training session but I could finally see the rewards as the finish line was approaching. Crossing the finish line I felt my dream come true of winning the Jungle Marathon! So proud to be South African!!! I am off to drink some beer now – its been a month since I last had a beer:) Thanks to all for the message of support – I could have not done it without you! Thanks to my dream givers Salomon and ProNutro! And thanks to Hammer Nutrition and Oakley for their awesome product.
Day 6 Update – Rest Day I woke up this morning with competitors still crossing the finish line and felt really relived to have finished the long stage. The number of hammock’s in the camp are less than half from the start of the race and the number of casualties has reached more than 50%. Competitor’s feet are starting to look really sore and manky covered in a mass of blisters and most of the athletes in camp are hobbling around. Looking back it has been an awesome week, one of the hardest and most exciting of my life. I am super stoked with the way it has gone and my more focused training sessions since Namibia seem to have paid off. The bitter taste of Namibia is slowly starting to leave my mouth and my smash and a stock cube this morning tasted like ice cream and chocolate sauce. It is one last push tomorrow along the beach for 32km and then real food and lots of beer. I do not want to count my chickens before they hatch but it looks like I have this one in the bag. I have more than a 2 hour lead on my category (international) and a 45 min plus lead on the local guys from the Para region in a separate category. The Para guys are some great athletes but I think they may be a bit pissed off that an international guy is leading going into the last stage. My legs have felt great the whole race thanks to the help of Chris (Physio), Sally (Biokineticists) and Ian (Coach). A huge thanks to Salomon and ProNutro for making the race possible. My feet have not got one blister thanks to my Salomon S LABS!! Thanks to Hammer Nutrition for the fuel and Oakley for the eye wear. I lost my eye wear in a swamp on the second day so there must be a super cool anaconda floating around the jungle with a pair of Radars on! Thanks to Kelly for doing an awesome job at getting my results out there and updating my blog – I hope the spelling was not too bad. To everyone a huge thank you for all your support and messages, I have said it before but they kept me going for 7km with no water and feeling totally out of it. Back to the hammock now to rest up for tomorrow.
Thanks to Ryan Sandes for this awesome report from Brazil!