Sélectionner une page

Dean Karnazes est un copain, 1ère partie.

7 novembre 2019 | Portraits

Par la rédaction, avec Dean Karnazes et Gaël Couturier. Photos © Organisation / The North Face, Conscious Design, Rigel, Oleg Didenko, Егор Камелев, Joey Csunyo, Boudhayan Bardhan, Jan Kronies, Raphaël Menesclou on Unsplash.

Pour ceux qui ne le connaissent pas, Dean est un type hors norme. Titulaire d’un MBA, il a un jour quitté son job de bureau très bien payé pour se lancer en tant que coureur professionnel dans le trail running et l’ultra trail. Dean a tout connu : la gloire, les victoires et même un top 100 des personnalités les plus influentes au monde par le magazine Time en 2006. Il est à lui tout seul une part importante de l’Histoire de l’ultra running Américain (et donc mondial – si si). Il vit près de San Francisco et, comme dit plus haut, c’est un copain. Dans cette première partie, il nous parle d’une des courses qu’il vient de finir, la Blackall 100, un 100 miles australien, en pleine chaleur, humidité et vilaines bêtes. Tout ce qu’on aime (Charles-Alex, aka lebossdeL’OréalàSingapour, cet article t’es dédié mon mano ;-).

Dean Karnazes
Dean Karnazes

Blackall 100. Australie. Hein ?

J’ai fait des courses sur les sept continents. Au moins deux fois. C’est difficile de m’impressionner du coup. J’ai bien bourlingué question ultra running. Et ça n’a pas toujours été très beau. C’est pourquoi quand en 2018, au départ de la Western States Endurance Run, un australien me parle de la course et m’invite je reste septique.

– « C’est sur la Sunshine Coast mate! ».

– « Ouais ouais, cause toujours, mais moi pas connaître mate. Fais-moi un email et on en reparle ».

Pas le temps, pas le moment, pas l’envie. Bref. Mes miles ne serviront pas à traverser la terre entière pour aller en Australie. Pas cette fois-ci. Surtout qu’en Australie les enfants, il y a quand même pas mal de trucs qui peuvent vous tuer. Tous leurs serpents sont mortels, toutes leurs araignées sont mortels, presque tous leurs moustiques sont mortels. J’exagère à peine : le site web de la course parle des précautions à prendre et des choses à faire (et à ne pas faire) en cas de morsure de serpent. Gloups. Donc. Non. Merci.

Dean Karnazes
Dean Karnazes
Dean Karnazes
Dean Karnazes

Et puis j’ai réfléchi.

Très vite. À tel point que je me suis retrouvé dans un avion pour aller faire la 6ème édition de la course. Malgré la gentillesse des organisateurs et le talent de vendeur du directeur de course, Brett Standring, j’étais toujours septique. Parce que je ne fais jamais les choses à moitié, j’ai commencé par être malade dans l’avion. Le vol était long. Très long. San Francisco l’Australie ça fait faire un joli tour du monde. Arrivé sur place j’étais toujours malade. Tant pis. La course s’est lancé. Avec moi dedans. Le site de la course, chargé d’histoire pour les aborigènes était on ne peut plus mystique. L’endroit était sacré, tout le monde le sentait. Au sol, des centaines de branches d’eucalyptus. Plus loin Al, un vieil aborigène bénit tous les participants, un à un. Les feuilles  d’eucalyptus sont brûlés. Jusqu’ici, tout va bien. C’est une joli présentation, une chouette cérémonie. C’est vrai que ça donne envie. La course se lance enfin.

Dean Karnazes
Dean Karnazes

Les premiers km se font sur le béton

Je n’ai pas le temps d’être déçu car les trails arrivent finalement assez vite. Forêt d’eucalyptus, forêt vierge, arbustes aux épines acérés, cascades d’eau naturelles, torrents et petites marres…Un régal. Ah. Et des côtes aussi. La Blackall 100 n’a pas de montée à n’en plus finir non, mais une succession de côtes courtes qui vous détruisent les jambes tellement elles se répètent. Autant vous dire que ces montagnes russes à l’australienne ont eu raison de mon mal de ventre. Malgré mon sourire crispé sur les photos, j’ai bien cru que je n’allais pas m’en sortir. D’autant que les premiers ravitos n’étaient pas très garnis. J’avançais donc à l’eau. No choice. À partir de ce moment là les choses se sont gâtés. La température montait et l’humidité me suffoquait. À un moment, il s’est même mis à pleuvoir. La course était déjà assez difficile comme ça. Je sentais l’enfer poindre le bout de son nez. Au ravito n°4 j’ai commencé à m’endormir. Le décalage horaire, le manque de sommeil, et mon état de fatigue lié à ma déshydratation s’en donnaient à cœur joie. J’avais la nausée. J’étais délirant. Il me restait encore la moitié du parcours.

Dean Karnazes

Pas de DNF chez moi, merci bien

Clairement, je n’étais pas venu pour finir DNF. Pas sans drame (un vrai) en tout cas. Je me suis remonté le moral tout seul, j’ai décidé d’aller au bout. Ou de finir sur un brancard. Pas moins. Au ravito n°4, je me suis gavé. Ils avaient de tout. J’avais le sentiment d’être devant le buffet du petit déjeuner du Ritz Carlton. Tout était frais, tout sentait bon, tout était fait maison. Des patisseries, des cookies, des brownies, du sans gluten, d’autres brownie mais avec des noix cette fois, et d’autres brownies avec des M&M’s à l’intérieur. Il y avait aussi du « banana bread », du pudding à la mangue, du gâteau à la fraise et de la tarte au citron meringuée. Bon, j’avoue, je l’ai peut-être rêvé ce ravito en fait. J’étais délirant. Souvenez-vous. À côté du sucré, j’ai trouvé des tas de petites quiches, toutes faites avec amour. Elles étaient salées, aux œufs frais. J’ai cru mourir. C’est une image. Mourir de plaisir je veux dire. Il me restait encore 40 km à faire. Les bénévoles avaient beau être magique, la pluie continuait son travail de sape.

Dean Karnazes
Dean Karnazes
Dean Karnazes
Dean Karnazes

Le terrain devenait de plus en plus glissant

Avec le soleil qui se couchait les ombres de la forêt se montraient toutes plus malsaines, plus dangereuses les unes que les autres. Et je ne parle pas des bêtes. Ni du brouillard qui s’était soudain levé. Des petits arbustes me cachaient le chemin. Se concentrer sur chacun de mes pas pour ne pas trébucher me demandait des efforts insensés. Ça me rendait fou. La terre rouge était rendue si glissante par les heures de pluies que je tombais à plat ventre dans une grosse marre de boue. Ma hanche droite heurtait un gros cailloux, ou une racine, et mon bras droit s’écrasait dans les graviers. Il y avait du sang. Et puis j’avais un mal de chien. Je devais ressembler à une grosse salamandre qui vient de prendre un bain de boue parce que quand je suis arrivé au checkpoint 5, ils m’ont tous regardé d’un drôle d’air. Ils m’ont assis, ils m’ont rincé, ils m’ont nettoyé. Ils ont aussi allumé ma lampe frontale, aidé à enfiler mon gilet fluorescent et ont commencé à soigner mes petites blessures. Là aussi la nourriture proposée me faisait trop envie. Je comprenait que la compétition faisait rage entre chaque ravitos et chacun des groupes de bénévoles pour proposer la meilleure nourriture. C’était donc la guerre en fait. Pour moi, pour eux, pour tout le monde. Il me restait encore 30 km à parcourir. Pour être tout à fait franc, je ne me souviens plus tellement de ce qui s’est passé ensuite. Je me suis allongé, je me suis endormi. Je suis reparti. J’ai re-couru.

Dean Karnazes
Dean Karnazes
Dean Karnazes
Dean Karnazes

Le sol était jonché de grenouilles, la forêt faisait des bruits de fou : il y avait des cris, des sifflets, des branches qui cassent. J’ai vu des chauve-souris manger des fruits, le feu de l’arrivée au loin, le chant des bénévoles. Après avoir passé la ligne d’arrivée je continuai à me demander ce que je foutais là. J’avais fait le job. J’avais rempli la mission. Il m’avait fallu plus de 15h. Le vainqueur ce jour-là, un champion de MMA nommé Ryan Crawford avait mis pile 10h, une heure de moins que l’an passé, réalisant un nouveau record au passage. Pas mal. Cette course c’est un vrai truc de combattant. Tous ceux qui finissent sous les 18h sont qualifié d’office pour le tirage au sort de la Western States. Je me suis donc re-qualifié. C’était ma cerise sur le gâteau parce que franchement, le plus important pour moi ce jour-là c’était l’accueil des Australiens. Ils m’ont bluffé. Ces ravitos c’était du feu de dieux aborigène ou je ne m’y connais pas.

Dean Karnazes

Que ceux qui rêvent d’apprendre l’anglais se lève !

Voici le texte original de Dean Karnazes. Faîtes un effort, vous en ressortirez grandi #sauvages. Bon, nous on a pris un peu de liberté par rapport au texte original. Et on l’assume.

« Having raced and competed on all seven continents of earth, twice now, it takes a lot to impress me when it comes to trying out new events. I’ve seen a lot.  And not all of it has been good.

Thus, you might imagine my skepticism when some bloke approached me at the start of the 2018 Western States Endurance Run ranting and raving about his event in Australia, the Blackall 100.  Come again? “You know, mate, the Blackall 100, on the Sunshine Coast!”

“Sunshine Coast?”

“Of Australia, mate!”

“No, actually, I don’t know the Blackall 100 on the Sunshine Coast of Australia. But it sounds just dandy. Why don’t you send me an email or something.”

It was your standard blow off. He seemed like a nice enough fella, though a bit zealous, but I wasn’t about to fly half way around the world to try some wacky, poorly organized race across the Australian outback. No, I’d save my frequent flyer miles for elsewhere. Besides, there are lots of things that can kill you in Australia. Basically, every snake, spider and bug has the ability to kill you. The Blackall 100’s website provides snakebite info, which you know spells trouble. No, I wasn’t taking any chances.

So when I found myself on a flight to Australia for the 6th annual Blackall 100, I was as surprised as anyone. The race director, Brett Standring, did send me that email, and he proved to be a charming guy (and one helluva salesman). Still, there’s more to being a great event than just hyping it up. I maintained my skepticism.

Dean Karnazes
Dean Karnazes
Dean Karnazes

Of course, part of the challenge of this race was the long flight, in which I managed to pickup some sort of stomach bug. Long flights and illness are not so uncommon. What is uncommon is running a 100K while being sick. But when you’ve traveled halfway around the globe to a race, stakes are raised. The gun went off and away we runners dashed.

Though allow me to digress. Everything leading up to the start had been world class. The race is staged in the Blackall Range on the Sunshine Coast hinterland, which was a gathering place for indigenous people for thousands of years, and the race is themed to honor this sacred site. The pathway to the starting festival is lined with eucalyptus branches and it leads to a large, open and natural gathering place, where we race participants were blessed by “Uncle Al” (an elder whose ancestry is from this area) with a ceremonial burning of gum leaves. So far so good, but staging a nice pre-race gathering is different than staging a great race. We’ll see.

The first couple kilometers of the race were underwhelming. We largely ran on pavement and along a concrete footpath.  But soon things changed. It began with the emergence of these towering purple trees called Jacaranda. The colors were mythical, almost too vibrant to be real. Soon we exited the footpath and entered trail. And that’s when the real experience began. We ran through massive eucalyptus forests, we ran past lush, ferny grottos, we ran through subtropical rainforest, filled with all kinds of spiky Dr. Seuss plants of the variety only found in Australia. We ran by waterfalls, streams and small ponds. All of it was captivating and enchanting, even the climbs (of which there were plenty).

The Blackall 100 doesn’t feature any particularly long and protracted ascents; instead, it’s a series of never ending rises and declines that breaks you down. By kilometer 20 I was already feeling the burn. I hadn’t been able to keep any food down for the past two days and I was already nauseas and dehydrated. This was going to be a long day, if I could even make it through the day.

Coming into Checkpoint 3 the food along the course had been only ho-hum, your typical ultramarathon aid station fare. Not enough to tempt a man with a stomach bug. Checkpoint 3 was a bit of an upgrade, still nothing close to what I was hoping for. I stuck with water and ran through.

But I really needed to eat something. Temperatures were steadily increasing and the humidity was suffocating in some areas. My body was depleted, and these were tough conditions. Worse, it had started to rain. As first it was just a trickle, but soon the heavens parted and a thunderous downpour followed. Keeping pace on some of the rooted and rocky trails was hard enough, but the mud and rain made it even more difficult. My race was slowly unraveling.

Then it got worse. On the way to Checkpoint 4 I started falling asleep. The jetlag, sleep deprivation and time zone changes were crushing me. I staggered onward, nauseous and delirious. This was not the race I had planned.  I’d scarcely covered half the distance and couldn’t keep my eyes opened any longer.

Dean Karnazes
Dean Karnazes

But I hadn’t come halfway around the world to DNF (well, not without some dramatic story a least). So I made the personal commitment, right there on the trailside at kilometer 48, that I would either finish the race or end up on a gurney. Those were the only two options. Framed in that context, I continued trudging onward. It was a reckless strategy, made in a comatose state of mind, but at least the rules were clear. Finish the race or, well, let’s not think about the or. . .

Arriving at Checkpoint 4 was like pulling up a lifeboat alongside a deluxe, five-star cruise ship. The buffet was legendary. This was not a Checkpoint, this was Sunday brunch at the Ritz. Every imaginable food choice was available, all homemade and fresh. There were fancy pastries, a wide variety of moist cookies (including a gluten free section), brownies, brownies with nuts, and brownies with M&M’s.  There was banana bread, mango pudding, strawberry shortcake and lemon meringue pie. Maybe I was hallucinating; it was all like a dream, a sweet, sweet dream.

Though sweet is not what I craved. I needed something of sustenance that would stick to the innards. And I found it in a selection of miniature Quiche patties, each made individually and with loving care. They were moist and salty, made with real eggs, not the tasteless factory-raised variety we get in America. I could spend all day foraging around this Checkpoint. But there were still 40 grueling kilometers left to cover.

The volunteers were tremendous. The rain continued pouring down in torrential bursts, but that didn’t slow them down. They were members of the Brisbane Trail Runners (BTR’s), they told me, and they prided themselves on having the best food at any Checkpoint. I thanked them and headed out. It would have been all too easy to sit down and fall asleep.

The next ten kilometers proved hazardous. The terrain was slippery and wet, and the lowering sun was casting eerie shadows. The rain and humidity created a ground fog that distorted the surroundings and made it hard to focus on any one point. We ran under a canopy of eucalyptus trees with smaller shrubs lining the pathway. Sometimes these smaller bushes entirely blocked the view of the ground. I kept my eyes fixed on the immediate trail two feet in front of me. I tried to stay focused, executing every footstep with precision, but it was no use. The thick, red clay soil was too slick, my senses too dull, and down I plummeted face-first into a large puddle of ruddy water. My right hip contacted something solid, like a rock or a root, and my right arm landed in what felt like a pit of gravel. Both were bloodied and bruised.

Dean Karnazes
Dean Karnazes

Pulling into Checkpoint 5, I must’ve looked like one of those slimy mud salamanders you see on the nature channel. But the volunteers didn’t seem to mind. They took me under their care and washed me down with water and sponges. I’m sure I was babbling nonsensical gibberish, but they seemed to know exactly what to do. They helped me get my headlamp on and put my reflective vest around me. It was now getting dark and I would need these things. Then they started to bandage my wounds. But I was afraid it would take too long and the clock was ticking. The clock is always ticking during an ultramarathon. Despite it being a long race, seconds can matter.

“I must go,” I said. “I can’t stop or I may never get going again.”

“Are you sure you don’t want some food?” one of the volunteers asked.

I wasn’t hungry, at least I didn’t think I was, until she showed me the food table. OH. . . MY. . . GOD. It rivaled the last Checkpoint, though with a different flair. I grabbed a white-chocolate macadamia nut cookie and stuffed it in my mouth. The thing was amazing. I grabbed another and crammed it in the other cheek, using both hands to wedge it in. Crumbs rolled down my chin. I nabbed two more cookies and stuck one in either pocket.

“This food is,” chomp, chomp, chomp, “unbelievable.”

“We’re the Nutrs,” the volunteer offered.

“The what?” Food flew from my mouth as I talked.

“The Noosa Ultra and Trail Runners,” she explained, “The Nutrs. And our food is the best!”

This was war, I guess, between the Nutrs and the BTR’s for the best Checkpoint food. Though it was a good war, the type of battle any ultrarunner could appreciate. Perhaps never in the history of humankind had warfare been so fattening.

With cookie-laden pockets I set back out. There were 30 kilometers left to cover and it was going to take steadfast grunt work to get the job done. My body told me to lie down and rest; but my rational mind—at least what was left of it—said to just keep plodding forward. “ARRR!” I growled. This was my own private war.

To be honest, I don’t remember much of the last few hours of running. I recall more rain, more humidity and more hills. Time warped and transmuted. There were frogs on the ground. They weren’t moving, just staring with their big, bulbous eyes. I heard strange noises, whistles and chirps. The bush was coming alive. Gothic looking fruit bats darted across the sky, like miniature pterodactyls searching for prey. I remembered the flames from Uncle Al’s ceremonial fire lighting and the way they illuminated the darkness with bursts of yellow and orange. I saw those colors projected on the foliage as I ran past, though it was only my headlamp providing the light. The rainforest was on fire. To keep myself alert, I sang old Aussie songs, either aloud or in my head, I’m still not sure. “Kookaburra sits on an electric wire, jumpin’ up and down ‘cos his bums on fire. . .”

Dean Karnazes
Dean Karnazes

And then the finish chute appeared. It was setup inside the main race lodge at the finish festival. I’d somehow made it. I’d somehow gotten the job done. After crossing the finish line the massive Blackall Bell was waiting to be rung. And ring it I did, just as every other competitor had done before and after me. It made the most beautiful of sounds, one I doubted at many points today I’d ever be hearing.

Getting to this spot had taken me a bit more than fifteen and a half hours, but reach the finish line I did. Sometimes that means more than anything else. The men’s winner—MMA fighter Ryan Crawford—managed to crack ten hours, bettering his previous year’s time by over an hour and setting a new course record in the process. Veteran Jessica Schluter was the top women. This was her fifth Blackall 100 and she’s been on the podium every year.

Anyone finishing in sub-18 hours qualified for Western States, and many runners were racing with that hope in mind. Dreams were made on this day, and dreams were dashed. Given the conditions, there were a high number of DNF’s. Personally, it was a nice bonus to qualify for Western States, but the race experience itself was the real prize. The Aussie spirit looms large at the Blackall 100 and for an outsider it was all very captivating and magical.

Would I ever return? Heck yes! There’s plenty to see and do on the Sunshine Coast and I’d welcome the opportunity to run the race again. Would I do anything differently? Yeah, I’d bring a bigger backpack. A man could live like a King off that checkpoint food ».

Dean Karnazes
Dean Karnazes
Dean Karnazes

Dans la même rubrique

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This