Monday, 10 November 2014

Himalayan 100 - Race Day 2

Sandakphu - Molle 20 miles

Out and back rolling route all at 12,000ft


1. It's impossible to sleep at altitude. It's cold, you can't breathe properly, you feel sick and your heart rate hammers about 20 bpm higher than normal 

2. I LOVE the food here.. they make the BEST porridge 

3. The early morning view of sunlight on Mt Everest and Kanchnejunga is quite possibly the most incredible thing I have every seen. A sight I will never, ever forget 

4. Altitude causes a colostomy bag to blow up with air... which is VERY annoying. And don't even get me started on the logistics of trying to use a squat loo whilst wearing compression tights.. I'll leave that one right there.

5. I do not like running at altitude. FACT.

Race Day 2

After a fitful nights sleep, we were up at 4.45am (again) to catch the early morning views of the mountains. Walking out of the lodge at dawn to a ground frost and seeing first light on Mt Everest for the first time in my life was an epic 'once in a lifetime' moment. Everyone was milling around, taking pictures with whispered gasps of 'oh wow!' and the feeling was of peace and awe. Utterly stunning.  The 5 highest mountains in the World are Mt Everest, followed by K2, then Kanchenjunga (in India), then Makalu and Lhotse (both in Nepal).  From where we were staying in Sandakphu, you can see all of them apart from K2. Quite literally breathtaking.  

L-R  Lhotse, Mt Everest, Makalu (closest and highest looking)

First light on Kanchenjunga
Lhotse, Mt Everest (directly behind flag) and Makalu
After we'd all recovered from the spectacle, taken our pictures and got ourselves fed and hydrated, we remembered that we had more running to do today! we weren't just here for the views after all... 

Todays' route was supposedly the 'flat' route (compared to yesterday anyway) - just 20 miles and out back to Molle - simple. But as soon as we got going I realised that it was going to be harder than we thought. The terrain was seriously rocky with totally un-runnable sections. There were some short super steep hills and it was a roller coaster of up and down the whole way.  But the altitude was the biggest problem. At 3660m, it was high enough to feel breathless, nauseous and headachy, but not enough to cause serious illness. Just high enough to be annoying and slow you down. I felt tired, emotional and struggled from the start. In sharp contrast to my run yesterday where I'd felt so strong.

Still with my 'beardy friend' Simon from South Africa, we ran the whole way together and hooked up with 'Geordie Richard' and rower Zoe from Bristol. The amazing views and fantastic company soon took our minds off the nausea, tiredness and breathlessness. We'd started the run at -1 degrees and now the sun was out it was about 25 degrees and I was feeling burnt which wasn't adding to my comfort level.

The route goes through pine forest and along a beautiful trail ridge with Mt Everest on one side and Kanchenjunga on the other and with views of the tea plantations down in the valley. It's hard to describe, but quite probably the most stunning thing I've ever seen. I probably added an hour to my time jut by stopping to admire the amazing views and take more photos. Any excuse for a rest!

Geordie Richard :-)
The route was only 10 miles out and then turn around and run back (so 20 in total), but it felt much, much further. The effect of no sleep, altitude and having done 24 miles the previous day I guess...  As the route was 'out and back', it wasn't long before the leaders came flying past on their return leg. Lots of 'high fives' and hugs as they shot past! They made it look so easy. How is that even possible?! I'd given Washington DC David some treatment on his knees the night before (including using a SIGG water bottle as a foam roller) and he gave me a huge kiss as he flew past.. 'you're an angel!' he exclaimed. I guess his knees were feeling better. Which was more than could be said for my hip which was beginning to niggle.

It wasn't long before the mist rolled in and the views disappeared. All I could think of now was finishing this thing and having a lie down - and I was beginning to hallucinate about pizza. I managed a final strong push to the finish along with Zoe and Simon. Quick bowl of soup (no Pizza!), into warm clothes (it's amazing how quickly the temperature drops) and then we were summoned to a 'pre-marathon' briefing with Mr Pandey and gang - tomorrow sounded scary.

The 'Mt Everest Marathon' is on day 3 and part of the overall 100 mile stage event, but can be done as a 'stand alone' event if you wish. Some of the walkers were also planning to take part and one guy had flown in from El Salvador just for the marathon. And Adam was also planning to swap his seat in the jeep, take a break from behind the lens just to run this stage - he decided it was too beautiful not to. Whilst the trip and event is marketed as the 'Himalayan 100', it's far more flexible than it sounds. You can just participate in the marathon or come along as a walker. It's possible to run one day, then walk the next or just take a rest in the jeep. Although of course for most people, the challenge of completing the 100 miles is the goal, the flexibility and possibility of just doing sections, makes it far more 'doable' and opens it up to a wide range of abilities.

The marathon sounded tough and we'd been warned not to attempt it if we weren't feeling good or if we thought we might not be back by dark!!! (what!? we were starting at 5am).  The route goes out to Molle (which is where we'd just been), onward to a place called Phalut, then back to Molle and drop down into Rimbik. I'd calculated that the route dropped 2000m over 8.5 miles. Bloody hell.. think we'll need abseiling equipment!!

Anyway.. after the briefing we were treated to more delicious food, then back to the lodge for some more foam rolling with the mice, bag packing and a night of no sleep. Tomorrow was the big day. The marathon lay ahead. Given how I'd felt today, now I was really scared...


1. Sweaty Betty Long Sleeve Run Top. A fantastic technical fabric, lightweight and flattering. Breathable and really comfortable. Great for layering, popping on when the temperature dropped and easy to squish into my backpack. My favourite running top of the trip.

2.  CEP Run 2.0 compression socks. I wore a pair every day. Helped keep my calves in one piece and aided with recovery. Can't run without them and have an addiction to pink ones!

3. SOS rehydrate. The BEST hydration drink on the market in my opinion. Higher in electrolytes than any other drink, it's classified as a medical level oral rehydration solution. Tastes great, not too sticky and sweet and impressed the Dr and Gastroenterologist on the trip.. perfect for this sort of event where you need high levels of fluid and electrolytes at altitude. Easy to pour the individual sachets into my drink reservoir on the run too.

4. Skins Compression Recovery/Travel tights. Vital piece of kit for multi-stage racing or just to aid recovery. Sleep in them, travel in them, not too tight, but enough compression.. helps your legs recover. Essential.

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