The moment of truth for a runner happens at the start the line. This is the place where you realize that you must put one foot in front of the other as a method of transport to the finish line. The training is done and the test begins. The trail will not lie. The story will not lie! Torres del Paine was ‘the place’ that provided an ideal backdrop for my wild adventure.
Due to the incredulity of the mountains and landscape, Torres made it possible for me to connect nature with emotion. So, I have a fear! I always feel this and I think that it makes me alive. If you’re not doing things that scare you, you’ll never find out how great you can be. Even today, I continue to feel butterflies in my stomach. I recall thinking that I’ve done all that I could to get here, and now it‘s just about having fun on the trails that lie before me.
And now it begins! It is 7am at the Hotel Las Torres with a temperature hovering around 7C. The good news: no rain and no wind. Behind the start line, I can see more than 100 trail runners from all parts of the world: Chile, USA, Canada, UK, Argentina, Brazil. My ritual: to start the race behind everybody.
A few moments before the race starts, I breathe deeply, find a special sound and think of my daughters Valentina and Rebecca.
The challenge of the ‘W’ circuit, required the routing of numerous up hills and down hills, crossing of many small bridges made from wood and the need for precise footing over the countless stones and tree roots.
Oh my God, there were so many that I had stay mentally focussed to make all the necessary decisions during the race. At the 4 km mark, I found myself running behind a Brazilian competitor. My legs felt strong and my head pushed me hard. I kept focus by concentrating on putting one step carefully in front of the other.
When up hills began, I slowed myself but felt good, while on down hills I would increase my speed. At 12 km, I recognize that only the top 10 competitors remain ahead of me. These positions are usually reserved for the professionals and I’m astonished by this information, but tried to not let it add pressure on my mind. I then catch sight of some runners ahead of me. They are the sixth and seventh males. This knowledge meant harder running for me, demanding significant balance and concentration to jump from rock to rock and root to root.
At each aid station, I would stop for a quick minute to eat and drink something, fill my backpack and get back on the trail. Near me, an American and a Chilean were running so fast and I ran with them for about the next 15km. At the aid station called “Refugio British”
I took the American guy and at 29 km’s, I passed the Chilean on a hard uphill. At this time in the race, I remained in the 6 position and only 10 minutes behind Fernando Nazario, last year’s champion of Ultra Trail Torres del Paine. Definitely my trail skills grew up!
After passing through “Refugio Italiano” and running the next 6-9 km’s alone, I saw that the map showed me being close to “Refugio Paine” (aka the finish line). To be honest, I thought I took the wrong way. I was in such a hurry and not feeling comfortable.
Sometimes I even thought about turning back to the last aid station to see what I might’ve done wrong and thought it wasn’t fair!! My Garmin indicated 39km, so when I saw the volunteers next, I asked if I’m right or wrong. They said you’re right and that I had to run until the GREY point and then turn back toward the finish line.
I tried to see my wife but was unable to. In that moment, there was a mix of emotions inside of me; happy that I was going the right way, although sad because my wife may not get to see me. In all honesty, I found myself walking the next set of hills which is all part of the game.
Finally, the last check point appeared and rewarded me with the best panoramic view of the day. It was so f’ing beautiful. I’ve never seen glaciers and icebergs so close before. I saw the front runners ahead of me. One by one, they say “good job”. I ran the last 4km fast.
Deep down in my heart, I never expected to see this happen in my lifetime. Tears run down my face and I cross the finish line in 6h:23m, securing the 6th position overall and 1st my age category.
Yes the others races were also special! My first ever ‘Vertical KM’ race, I placed in 1st position and also 1st in my age category for the 25 km distance. My cute wife also competed in both of these races, finishing 2nd in her age category and 3rd overall in the 25 km distance.
I’m a different runner now! I dedicated these races to my coach Marcelo Sinoca, who taught me a lot about trail running. To me, Torres del Paine represented everything one may look for in trails, spirit and mountains. In terms of scenery, it’s just amazing.
Special Thanks: Fred my canadian friend and Lucia.