Despite giving it my all, I was a million miles from completing Andes to Amazon today. Andes to Amazon was possible, but it required everything to go right, and that is what I enjoy about the endurance challenges I have taken on – the excitement of not knowing whether you will get the job done, or whether the result is being taught a lesson.
The plan was to climb 5,987 metre Mt Cotopaxi and then run to the Amazon basin. I did neither properly. Due to restricted holidays I had not allowed any contingency days for the climb, and looking at the mountain from 3,800 metres it was clear the shift on the hill would be tricky. Dark cloud domed Mt Cotopaxi, whilst wind clouds flew past above the volcano. Given the crevasses and route finding difficulties we had hired a local guide. At 5,650 metres with zero visibility and massive winds in places he advised us that getting to the summit safely was not possible, and we turned back.
I had begun not to feel well on Cotopaxi, but thought it may be the altitude. However at 4,500 metres on the way down I started to get stomach cramps, and the urge to find some toilet roll. Running 50 km at altitude, running off into the bushes every couple of kilometres was something I was dealing with, but I just could not keep any food or fluid down and became dehydrated and had the head spins. Although the volcano and most of the very high altitude was behind me I was in no fit state to run another 100 odd kilometres.
I always learn more from when things do not go right then when they do. This is the first major challenge that has totally got the better of me, and the key lessons are:
1) Build in some weather contingency in the big hills, and if time does not permit this take on a different challenge
2) Although I was being deliberately vigilant in avoiding dodgy food, I clearly was not thorough enough
So Ecuador is an incredible country and Andes to Amazon is I think possible. Their pharmacists are very helpful as I have found out tonight. A lot of my friends have been incredibly helpful in setting the expedition up, with Donnie joining me on the mountain, and acquiring the Imodium. Arnaud Le Maire as ever does a fantastic job sorting my website, while Ross Lawrie helped sort updates where internet was non-existent. A huge thanks also to Merrell UK for proving top quality kit and for their support.
I will leave Ecuador frustrated but wiser. Although I had run days on Scotland 2 Sahara with a stomach bug, running 50km is very different to 100 miles at altitude with a stomach bug. Although I feel terrible and ill tonight, hopefully tomorrow is a new day.