Stage 3 - Shorter yet Tougher
Stage 3 was the shortest so far at just over 30 KMs. The race organizers had modified the course layout today after several racers took wrong turns the previous day. There were still incredible inclines but the organizers told all the participants in a pre-stage meeting that some of the most challenging climbs had been taken out. This was actually no small consolation because the revised course was still incredibly challenging and as usual... covered in Sapa's horrendous mud.
Leighton and Kim continued to have strong personal efforts, with Kim reaching base camp first this afternoon. Both racers have seen enough mud to last them a lifetime. Each seemed to cherrish a shorter course that got them back to camp early enough so they could rest during the late afternoon and evening.
Tilden is continuing to prove his doubters wrong and is still in the race after completing the 3rd Stage. He was the second from the last to arrive but his placement is not his concern, rather focusing on finishing is his personal goal. Unfortunately, Tilden's good fortune of having no blisters during the first two stages has evaporated and he arrived into base camp with new blisters on his toes, most likely caused from the severe and muddy declines that places most of his body weight on his toes.
What made this evening so special was that rather than sleeping in tents, as we had done the previous four nights, tonight we are staying as guests of local villagers. Many of the villagers in our small town supplement their farming income by offering Home-Stays to tourists. Tonight all of us are enjoying sleeping in a traditional house on stilts, with four wooden walls, a roof, and most importantly a soft matress to cushion the tender bones of many of the competitors. Day break tends to come early during this race, so most have bunked-in for the night. The next stage will take us to the small village of Ta Van, where they are having one of their largest festivals of the year tomorrow. Should be a nice treat after a hellish run.