February 20, 2011
This post is part of a series of live race updates from southern Chile, the location for the 2011 Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race.
By T.C. WORLEY
On a perfect summer night, the GearJunkie crew (the race team and the GJ media team) along with fellow racer Marcelo Catalan from Brazil walked the broken sidewalk of Punta Arenas, Chile. I could smell the ocean as we walked toward the center of town. After a barbecue of chorizo links, chicken and a huge chunk of beef, all grilled over hot coals, we were walking to settle our bulging stomachs.
In the town’s central square stands a large monument to Magellan, the area’s first prominent European explorer. Word has it that if you kiss the foot of one of the monument’s characters, you will have good luck and will return to Punta Arenas again some day. We liked the sound of that. “To the foot!” we cried. Earlier in the week, I greedily ate Calafate berries — also believed to bring you back to Patagonia. While normally I couldn’t be less superstitious, I was willing to give it a shot.
It’s easy to want to come back here. Without the normal cares of home, a guy can truly relax and enjoy the experience — life forms a new bubble in which fresh air, cool water and your feet moving over pristine wild land replaces blinking text alerts, phone calls and deadlines. The Patagonian experience is the closest I’ve come to nirvana.
The racers feel the same way. Though blisters carpeted the bottoms of their feet and their limbs and faces were swollen, they all gushed about scenery, saying things like “That was the coolest paddle I’ve ever done” or “I wish I could show you the glacier we saw on that last trek.”
The whole lot of us were privileged to be able to experience what we did. Both to have the opportunity, but also the health and working bodies to propel us past roadside overlooks and bus tour stops. The further your legs took you into the wilderness, the better the experience. And the further you pushed your body, the more empowered you became. I have to admit, I am slightly envious of the toughness earned here by the finishing teams. These racers will face many hard things to come in their lives, but they will always have a firm footing knowing with certainty that they can last longer, and fight harder than most.
Expedition racing breaks or makes a person. Seeds of doubt on the course can sprout quickly in the fertile soils of pain and fatigue. Allow them to set roots and your race is over. Push back at the agonizing pain, those demoralizing chills and defeating weather, and you are rewarded with a warrior mindset. You can do anything!
As I watched teams haul themselves to the lip of the volcanic crater in eastern Patagonia that served as this year’s finish area, I saw many ravaged bodies. But I also saw in their eyes a satisfaction that ran a mile deep. This race is a life changer. Some will leave having been spit out of the race early by cut-off times and will return home with a vengeance. Some, like Team GJ’s Chelsey Gribbon, will lose sleep trying to figure out how she could have pushed just a little harder and been the first girl across the line this year.
The race will live on in all our thoughts for the next few weeks. Many of us are still traveling home as I write this — in fact, I am in an airport right now. Though I’ve missed flights, lost baggage and skipped sleep and several meals, I’m pretty relaxed about it. The cares of the world are still lost on me, at least for a few more days.
Knowing we had faithful followers sharing in this amazing adventure made it all the more rich. Keep an eye out here for Gear Junkie founder Stephen Regenold and other GJ team members’ stories and gear reviews over the coming weeks. We have a slideshow of images coming plus videos from the race to be uploaded on the blog. Thanks so much for following along on GJ this past month. Ciao!
- Race Updates
- Patagonian Photo Gallery
Take a spin through the 2010 Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race photo gallery.
- Meet the YogaSlackers
GearJunkie.com has teamed with three members of the YogaSlackers adventure group for the Patagonian Race. yogaslackers.com.