It appears that Team Stray Dogs GoLite may have had a difficult day yesterday, June 20th during Stage 4, which was a relatively flat course that took them over a rocky river bed for the first stretch, through a canyon, a leafy section through a village, under a bridge, through a dry river in a canyon, and into camp at the base of a side valley. This 29-mile stage took them 11:33, much longer than the top four finishing teams of the day who finished in 6:05 to 7:27. However, it appears that the Stray Dogs are still in fourth place overall in the team competition, with a total time of 31:33.
According to the unofficial results on the race Web site, No Limits remains in first place at 20:58, WSPA second at 23:42, and Saigon third at 24:22. Behind the Stray Dogs in fifth place is China at 33:08, Canada in sixth at 33:42, and Who’s Damien in seventh at 33:50. The remaining three teams range from 37:07 to 44:13. It appears that teams Canada II and Tantra are out of the team competition as apparently one member each as withdrawn from competition.
I did get a message from Marshall dated June 18th at the end of Stage 2 from Langer Village, where they had stayed with local families. He reported that “Things are going very well. Bob, Mace, and I have been having a great time. It was a little hotter today and when we finished we were a bit more tired, but doing very well. I think we are around 63 place and fourth team. The members of the first place team were separated by an hour or so, so I don’t know if they will penalize them, but we feel we are doing well and our best.”
I did notice that the original times posted for some of the teams in the early stages were different for different members of the same team, thought that was a bit strange, but figured it was a typo. However, now it appears that perhaps some teams were not traveling together, which is against the rules. I’m not sure if any penalties were or may be applied, but for now it appears that Racing the Planet has given the team the slowest individual time for each stage. Hmmm… what’s the *right* thing to do here??? I’m open to comments!
Anyway, Marshall also reported that “The scenery continues to impress all of us!” and, regarding their stay in the Tajek village, “What a treat! The people are awesome and welcomed us into their homes. As I sit here I listen to the traditional music playing and it is mesmerizing. We went down and washed in the river which was unbelievably refreshing.” He also mentioned “What a great group of volunteers and people participating in the race.”
There is some Stage 5 news available, but no team results as of yet.
In an attempt to keep people from getting too spread out over the 50-mile stage, there was a staggered start to Stage 5 on June 21st. The slowest 50 teams started off from Camp Shepherd’s Canyon at 7 a.m., with the remaining 113 competitors (which should have included the Stray Dogs) starting at 9 a.m. Competitors climbed up the side valley – a steep 656-foot climb that brought racers to the top of a mountain pass at 7,052 feet with a beautiful view. After the mountain pass, the course descended into a canyon with many river crossings, some thigh deep and others too deep to cross, so the racers rode donkey carts across the river between checkpoints 20 (17 miles into Stage 5) and 21 (distance unknown).
“Donkeys are the transport of the desert,” wrote Mildred Cable and Francesca French in their 1940s era travel memoir, The Gobi Desert. And, in 2007, competitors can attest that Cable and French’s statement is true … still … 75 years later. In fact, donkeys have played a crucial role throughout this year’s Gobi March. At the camp at the end of Stage 2 in the Tajik village, about 10 of the long-eared, whip-tailed beasties hauled water and gear to checkpoints in the high pass. Four more Eeyore-look-a-likes carried water to checkpoints for the long stage. And a pair of the sure-footed animals are trailing the last racers into the finish line of the long stage, with their guides picking up armfuls of pink course markers swept from the course. Thus, donkeys will complete the Long Stage … and without a stitch of Lycra on their weary haunches.
After the donkey-river crossing, there was another climb up to a sandy plateau. Temperatures reached 91 degrees and, reportedly, when there was no wind the heat was stifling. Checkpoint 23 (approximately 37 miles into the stage) was made a mandatory 2-hour stop for all competitors for safety reasons, due to the extreme heat (hhmmmm…. 91 doesn’t sound that extreme?) and the overall length of the course. Tents and hot water were set up at Checkpoint 23 for those who wanted to take a break, and competitors were allowed to sleep there until 6.30 a.m. on Friday, June 22nd (remember, they are 14 hours ahead of CO time). Glow sticks were attached to all the course markers for those who traveled through the night.
The final stretch of the course went off the plateau and arrived at Camp Vista Qi Pan, which is perched at the edge of a stunning gorge. At 9.01 p.m. on the 21st, almost exactly 12 hours after starting (including the mandatory 2-hour stop), Mark Tamminga crossed the finish line, followed by Lucy Brooks and Stephen Hilton. Stephen was holding his shoulder carefully, as a fall during the day had caused an anterior dislocation of his shoulder, which had to be relocated by medical staff at Checkpoint 22, 31 miles into the stage. Ouch!
Regarding YOUR messages, Marshall said, “It’s great to hear from everyone. Crash and Splash e-mailed me, Juli Aistars, and Tom Triumph.”
I’m sure there have been many more messages since Tuesday as well. THANKS to all of you who have (and continue to) send messages to the Stray Dogs!
THANKS again for checking in!