Only in Ecuador, I think to myself as the race director explains that we will be dealing with an active volcano during the competition. Tungurahua Volcano started spewing ash into the sky about a week ago, dumping it across the countryside and piling up in sections of our route.
We are less than 24 hours from the start of HuairaSinchi (Part of the AR World Series), which translates to â€œthe windÂ´s strengthâ€� in Kichwa, but what really worries us about this race is not the wind or even the volcano, but the sustained high elevations throughout the majority of the race.
At the highest point of the 318 kilometer course unveiled last night, the route reaches 14,435 feet and drops to 108 feet in the last 100 kilometers, passing through a tremendous variety of ecosystems. A good 80 kilometers of the race doesnÂ´t fall below 11,482 feet. They promised us that we will be cold and we will suffer.
IÂ´ve lost plenty of sleep thinking about these numbers after I agreed to compete in the Elite (All Mens) Category as Team Adventure World Magazine, signing up the others before they had a chance to say no.
When I look back on our adventures over the past couple years: being chased by a wolf, hypothermia in Montana, and the landslides in Colombia, I canÂ´t imagine that anything could prepare us for HuairaSinchi.
Unfortunately, just a week before the race, Goat got a foot infection, forcing us to find a replacement at the last minute. Fortunately, a local from Ecuador has agreed to run with us, leaving us with just one huge chore before the race.
Acquiring the mandatory gear for the adventure has proven a huge challenge. The largest size shoes I can find in all of Quito are 10.5, a whole size too small, and the only thing I could find were a pair of rubber boats which are just going to have to see me through the 100 kilometers of trekking. JJ was able to score a pair of â€œFastâ€� brand tennis shoes for 12 bucks from a Chinese import store. We also had to buy an altimeter and rent a bunch of climbing gear, and by the time we were able to check off all the equipment from our list, we felt very poor.
At the end of last nightÂ´s meeting, the race directors explained to us that it happens to be Carnaval this weekend, and that we should not be afraid if locals throw water balloons, buckets of cold water, or even eggs/flour at us. â€œIt is a tradition here in Ecuador,â€� they assured us.
Despite the disaster that currently is our hostal room, everything seems to be coming together: our bikes are in good shape (after having to replace a cracked rim, and two hubs), our support crew includes an Austrian supermodel, the race looks like an unforgettable epic adventure, and our morale is high.
The race starts tomorrow (21st) at 8AM, from the town of Patate, and we are going to be using our SPOT Messenger to track our progress throughout the race by transmitting a GPS signal to a Google Map every 15 minutes.Â Click on the SPOT Logo to follow along.
The www.huairasinchi.com.ec website is going to be updated during the race with news, audio recordings from teams, and photos of the race. Be sure to check it out.