Atacama Crossing - Stage 4

14th place

After stage three I was very happy as I had finished strongly and in a great position. I wanted to continue running strongly and started out with that in mind. The first part of the day was through rolling, rocky dunes and eventually came out at a small town where the first checkpoint was located. I thought that I had been running well and was in about 5th or 6th position when I reached the checkpoint. I stopped to empty some sand out of my shoes and a whole group of about 7 runners came in and most went through the checkpoint faster than me.

The next section was completely flat over sandy desert. It was great running and one of the only places in the race where we could settle into a rhythm and run. I moved to the head of the group with Xavi (Spain) and we ran very well together. This section was long and hot and I was really looking forward to the next checkpoint which never got any closer. I took my time again at the checkpoint, this time filling up with extra water as I knew that the infamous salt flats were coming up next. In the checkpoint, the group who I thought we had moved ahead of started to roll in and most of us left together.

About to head into 10km of thick, muddy salt flats (Source: 4Deserts)

Next we moved into the salt flats. I was going well and pleased with how I was running, but the salt flats again sapped my strength. The varied salt would change from being a path that could be run on to crusty salt that was almost impossible for me to run on. I also seemed to walk much slower than the other competitors and this is where I lost a few places during the stage. It was demoralizing to lose places and the heat combined with how much I was beginning to dislike salt flats put me in a poor mood. I wanted to finish the stage and kept going with only that in mind. The amazing perspective of the salt flats means that the furthest thing you can see is 6km away so even though I could see a checkpoint and other competitors in front of me they were easily 15 to 20 minutes in front!

Salt flats (Source: Eric Rohnacher)

Salt flats (Source: Eric Rohnacher

At checkpoint three we left the worst of the salt flats and ran along a jeep track road through the flats. It was only three kilometers to the finish and this went by quickly. Again I could almost see the finish, but with an understanding of how far I could see it was not so bad and I could better estimate how far the camp was. I didn't lose any more places and ran all the way to the finish. I finished 14th and lost a little time, but I held my position overall.

Final section of mushy salt before camp (Source: Yasuhiro Yomota)

The best part of the stage was arriving at the finish and learning that there were two large pools of water that we could swim in. The water was so cold and it was an absolute treat to be a little cleaner, a little cooler and to do something different after a day of running. All the camps were great, but this was almost unbelievable!

A beautiful camp with two "swimming pools" (Source: Joel Meredith)

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