"Goddamn it! His parka doesn't fit me!"

- Steve Roper, after reaching the body of Irving Smith in the Lost Arrow Chimney

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Tudo bom!

Yesterday I returned from another fun week in Brazil. After a few things learned from last year, Joan wanted to give another try at the Brazil 135 ultramarathon, this time with the aim of finishing it under 40 hours.

But first, I traveled in advance to São Paulo, to spend a few days touring the city, where I tasted the amazing food (sushi & temakis included!), the good beer, a couple of runs around downtown, the art cinema at Reserva Cultural and the great vibe of Avenida Paulista all day round.

Joan arrived to town on Wednesday morning, then in the afternoon we met with Allisson and a few friends and drove all the way to São João da Boa Vista, where the race starts. On Thursday morning we attended the lengthy pre-race briefing and met a bunch of friends, then went to the supermarket to buy supplies and headed back to the hotel to prepare everything for Friday.

Race started at 8 a.m. on Friday, the ambiance was great and the weather was a bit cloudy, which almost guaranteed some rain during the day. Joan made steady progress from the start to the top of Pico do Gaviao (km 45), the highest point along the course. Meanwhile, Edinho (our hired driver) and I followed the Caminho da Fé on board of his 4×4 truck, providing Joan with food and fluids along the way. Our main goal was to keep him moving as much as possible to avoid losing time in unnecessary stops, the plan went really smooth.

Like last year, I started pacing Joan at Serra dos Limas (km 77), where he had a quick lunch of pasta, we were 1.5 hours ahead of last year’s time. Night caught us a little before arriving to Barra (km 84), where we didn’t stop at all and continued towards Crisólia (km 99). Another fast meal and a switch to Hoka’s took us about 10 minutes to leave Crisólia. We did great progress and trotted much of the course, which felt a lot better with the cushy shoes on. By then, it had not rained at all and the sky was now crystal clear and full of stars.

We entered Ouro Fino (km 106) exactly at midnight. While Joan continued moving, I refilled our water bottles and grabbed a bit of snacks and a Coke. We were out of town in no time and steadily approached to Inconfidentes (km 115), where we arrived at 1:45 a.m. of Saturday, exactly 3 hours ahead from last year’s time. We made a 10-minute stop to grab more water and eat some sandwiches. Since it was still very early in the night, I continued pacing Joan towards Borda da Mata (km 137).

At 5:25 a.m. we arrived at the checkpoint in Borda da Mata, Edinho was already there with the all the supplies in place. Joan was getting an upset stomach but he still got some food and fluids while Edinho gave him some massage in his legs. I continued pacing for another 5 km until sunrise caught us, then jumped into the truck and wished Joan luck for the rest of the day, my duties for the night were done. We drove towards Tocos do Moji (km 153), where we waited for Joan for about an hour.

While I got a brief nap, Edinho noticed that one of the suspension bars under the truck got broke during the drive. He immediately started looking for some mechanic to help him fix the problem as we wouldn’t be able to continue driving along the dirt road in such state. Meanwhile, Joan arrived at 9:10 a.m. and I had to tell him the news, which troubled him a little since we were making such great progress. I told him to not worry at all and to focus on keeping himself moving, then assured we would catch him along the course in no time.

After I dispatched Joan, Edinho arrived with the mechanic and quickly assessed the problem, we moved truck to his shop so he could start fixing it. While I had another nap, both men did an outstanding job in repairing the bar, soldering the piece and adding a few reinforcements which would allow us to continue without troubles until finishing the race.

We found Joan in the middle of a very hilly section, the day was kind of hot and he was struggling with the idea of failure due to the truck’s issue. The look in his face quickly morphed into happiness when he saw us arrive with the fixed truck. We waited for him at the top of the last hill in that section, where Edinho excelled at preparing some soup and sandwiches for brunch. We continued towards Estiva (km 175), where Joan arrived at 2:10 p.m., 7.5 hours ahead from his previous time, in a much better mood and ready to tackle the last two sections of the course.

Edinho and I made the next stop at the top of the highest hill on the way to Consolação, a bunch of clouds now covered the sky and lots of rainfall could be seen in different places in the horizon, it was evident that it would catch us at some point soon. Joan passed by while we slotted a Nutella sandwich in his mouth, then I prepared myself for pacing duties again. Though it was still early in the afternoon, Edinho and I thought it was a good idea to resume pacing since we were basically 30 km away from the finish line and some company would be nice through the upcoming rainstorm.

Rain caught us while entering Consolação (km 195), which Joan quickly passed through while I briefly stopped to pick up our rain jackets and headlamps. With gear in hands, I had to fly about 1 km of downhill to catch Joan, who was about to enter a short section of paved road. Edihno escorted us along this section and through the rain, which got worse with every few meters we gained.

Once again at the dirt road, the storm was in full blast, we were soaking wet and starting to get cold due to our wet clothes. Another brief stop at the start of that section allowed us change into dry and warmer clothes. Joan picked up his Goretex jacket and swapped the Hoka’s for the Salomon’s since the road was really muddy and kind of slippery. Edinho moved forward, stopping after one of the big hills in that stretch, about 5 km ahead. Joan continued moving while I quickly went ahead to refill the water bottles, then Edinho passed us again and promised to meet us at the top of the mountain. The rain stopped and we enjoyed the early hours of the night accompanied by the hordes of frogs who chanted all around.

We tackled the last long downhill towards Paraisopolis (km 217) in almost no time and met Edinho at the rocky street that leads to the main plaza and the finish line. We crossed the line at 10:49 p.m. or 38 hours 49 minutes and 49 seconds after departure from São João the day before. Joan was ecstatic, that was a little more than 8 hours off from his last year’s time. The mission was accomplished and everyone did its part in nearly perfect way, but of course the weather and course conditions helped a lot.

We had our own private awards ceremony as usual, then stayed there for some time to phone home and wait for a few more fellow runners to arrive as well. After a well-deserved shower and a some slices of tasty pizza, we hit the sack and slept like rocks until 9 a.m. of Sunday.

On Sunday morning, after a good breakfast and packing our gear, we said goodbye to Edinho and many good friends around Paraisopolis plaza, then jumped into Allisson’s truck for the long drive back to São Paulo. Once in São Paulo, Joan and I spent the evening having drinks, good food and doing a last walk around the Jardim Paulista neighborhood. It’s always fun times while being in Brazil… Tudo bom!

Rest of the photos are here or in the slideshow below:

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