Sunday, 30 September 2012

Hunting the Greater-Spotted, Hyper Maravilla in Deepest Virginia

The Maravilla mating dance. Photo courtesy

The dawn light makes eerie shadows from overhanging trees. The dawn chorus of random insects and birds tries to disorient my senses, but intense focus on my task makes me block out those distractions.

Early on the Japanese Samurai, Shinji Nakadai, is my hunting partner, but after we catch the rare Brazilian jaguar (Iazaldir Feitoza) I set off in pursuit of more elusive game. Occasionally I hear howling or screaming in the distance, possibly some kind of mating call. It's difficult to judge the distance but I have no trouble following the beast's trail. Sometimes I catch a brief glimpse in the distance of white spandex or is it my mind playing tricks?

I soon realize that on my UROC hunting trip, the over-energized Jorge Maravilla is my primary target. Other thin and determined-looking specimens occasionally attract my attention, but the sport is with the Maravilla. The whoops in the distance taunt me but never get closer - does he know I'm chasing?

This persists for hours as I gradually wear myself down and can't believe the Maravilla is always "3 minutes" ahead according to wild-eyed natives. Surely the rocky terrain will slow him? No. Maybe the endless tarmac will wear him down? Never! I start to think he can't be caught, that he's just toying with me. I should have set a trap on the way out to ensnare my nemesis when he returned.

Then finally it looks like the last climb of the day will be my opportunity to take down the amiable, Cheshire-grinned cat. The road winds upwards for an eternity and at each turn I see my prey. Occasionally his glance backwards tells me the Maravilla is running scared. After over eight hours of stalking, it looks like I may succeed. Yet the gap isn't closing. It's like a race through treacle, painfully slow yet at maximum effort.

As I see the end of the hunt, signified by a large inflated hoop and a clock, I also spot a blur of Ecuadorian-Californian magic go into the safety of the locals' arms. It's been a duel - one I'll never forget. But a mere minute denies me my coveted prize.

8h25m of effort ends with sightings of two Western cheetahs sitting and drinking (Max King and Sage Canaday), both limping from the day's efforts. These animals are natural sprinters but stepped up to the endurance challenge in impressive form. Yet I suspect this is just the second of many hunts with the Maravilla (the first was through the High Sierra with the roles reversed at Western States where I fended off the challenge from the world's happiest feline).

It's memories like these that I know will stay with me forever, ingrained into my mind by the searing heat of a day-long battle. Hundreds of stories come out of every similar event with duels and partnerships that last minutes or hours. More can be found (as well as results) at irunfar and the race website.

Photo courtesy Bad To The Bone.

L-R: Me, David Riddle, Jorge, Nick Clark, Dave Mackey and Scott McCoubrey. Photo courtesy Bad To The Bone.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Knowing Jorge from just before his climb to Ultra stardom, your description is dead-on perfect. How someone could be happy for so long and in so much pain is beyond me. Nice job Ian!

    EDIT: I deleted this post and edited it to get rid of the silly "you're" instead of "your" grammatical error I made.

  3. Lovely race report - more need to be done in this style!