Friday, 14 November 2014

Himalayan 100 Day 3 The Marathon

Day 3 - The Mt Everest Marathon (not to be confused with the 'other' Mt Everest Marathon in Nepal which goes to base camp and probably a bit harder!)

26 miles Sandakphu - Rimbik (via Phalut) - Out and back rolling for 18 miles at 3600m altitude, then final 8 miles descent 2000m


1.  Running at altitude sucks. It makes you feel sick, gives you a headache and makes you cry. Have I mentioned that already?! well it does.

2.  It has never taken me 10 hours to run a marathon before. 

3.  The red pandas might well be in abundance in this area, but they were certainly hiding from us today. 

4.  Descending 2000m over 8 miles makes your quads hurt.

5.  26 miles in 'Mr Pandey miles' is actually more like 28 miles.

6.  The Mt Everest Marathon is the most epic, painful and overwhelming thing I've done. It's up there with childbirth. 

Marathon day. The longest stage of the event and the 'big one' according to everyone who's ever done it before. 

Up at 5.15 for a 6am start. We'd been warned not to take part today if we thought we might not be back before dark, and to pack head torches as a precaution. That would mean the slowest runners would be taking 12 hours or more to finish.. ummm. Right then.

I hadn't managed any breakfast as I was feeling so nauseous due to the altitude and frankly I was desperate to get back down to some decent oxygen. 

There was a more serious tone to the startline this morning. It was chilly - around -1 degree and there was a ground frost. Anticipation hung in the air and nerves were jangling. We all knew it was going to be a tough day on the trail. 

We followed the same route as yesterday out to Molle for the first stage of the race. Which on one hand was breathtakingly amazing, as the views of the mountains seemed even more spectacular this morning than they were yesterday.  But on the other hand, was utterly miserable as we knew exactly what lay ahead.  Feeling sick from the start I kept bursting into tears. I was tired and everything hurt. I could barely shuffle and the lack of air made every slope feel like a mountain - it was just so hard. 

The one regret I've got about this trip, was that my hubby wasn't there with me. Having shared experiences is what we're about and I just wished he'd been there to see the mountains and share in my pain and triumph. That morning I really could have done with his support.

But I was here alone and had to toughen up and get on with it. Luckily by now Richard (the Geordie dairy farmer), Zoe (former rower from Bristol) and Karen (nursery school teacher from NZ) and I were a merry band and we stuck together the whole day. Without them I don't think I'd have made it. 

We soon reached Molle and headed out to Phalut. This section of the route was an amazing ridge running above the plantations and forest. Still very challenging with lots of climbing. Mt Everest and Kanchenjunga mountains were now long gone. With a touch of the Cumbrian Lake District about the terrain, it was now very different to the majesty of the mountains, but still awe inspiringly beautiful. Cue more photos and more tears. This was turning into one hell of an emotional journey. 

Back to Molle at 18 miles and suddenly the track dropped into the jungle and started to descend rapidly. The terrain changed dramatically and we continued to drop through military check points and small villages. It just kept going down and down and got more and more rugged, with lots of clambering and using our hands to climb through ridges. 

The checkpoints throughout the whole event were incredibly well organised and offered biscuits, water, bananas and cold, salty boiled potatoes. And they were there every couple of miles through the whole race. Amazing. Yesterday the potatoes made me gag, but today I must have been desperate as I devoured cold, salty potatoes like they were the last food on Earth. 

Onwards and more descending and by now the temperatures had risen to around 28 degrees and the heat of the sun was burning. A sharp contrast to the minus 1 on the start. Suncream came out and we were beginning to feel more than a bit dehydrated. 

The scenery was now a mix of forest, jungle and tea plantations. Just beautiful. Mr Pandey had warned us that this section was very remote. We clambered through the undergrowth and deep ravines following the red arrows marked onto the ground by one of Mr Pandeys' team at around 3am that morning.  

On and on it went and then gradually we came upon civilisation. Small and immaculate houses where cows and goats wandered freely. Cockerels crowing and children laughing and running around on their way home from school. Brightly coloured houses one after another, some with flags, some with chickens, but all immaculate and adorned with flowers.

We'd been thrown into the depths of rural India and it was incredibly beautiful, serene and peaceful. The simplicity and happiness of the people who live there was obvious for all to see and quite humbling. Cue more tears.

The route continued down and through the village. By now our quads were screaming - we'd been going 8 hours (yes you read that right! 8 hours) and we were all hot and exhausted. We asked the checkpoint how much further and he said 5 miles. What?!?!  We'd been at the 20 mile point about 2 hours ago. Surely that wasn't right? but the next checkpoint confirmed it and we trudged on willing it to end.

We were now in a village called Rimbik and the hills and tea plantations rose above us. We'd dropped right down, there was oxygen in the air and the nausea and headache disappeared. If we hadn't been so wrecked we'd have been able to pick up the pace and push onto the finish, but it was all we could do to put one foot in front of the other and occasionally break into a little shuffle.

We crossed the famous wobbly wooden Shrikola Bridge - feeling a bit like a scene in Indiana Jones movie - and pressed on. 

This is a really stunning part of India and one I'd love to return to with my family. Whether you want to trek, mountain bike or just hunt the elusive Red Panda (not literally of course), I highly recommend it.

Now on the road, we were able to shuffle slightly more quickly, but every single part of our bodies ached. I was hallucinating about salty chips and pizza and couldn't think about any thing else other than lying down.

Eventually the finish line was there. More cheering from the others (some of them had been back for hours). It had taken us 10 hours to complete what turned out to be more like 28 miles and there were still a few others out on the route. It was without question, the most epic and exhausting day of my life. 

The Sherpa Tenzing Guest house in Rimbik was our home for the night. A trickle of a warm shower proved to be heavenly and after an amazing meal of rice, pasta, nepalese bread, chicken, dal and an seriously good folded apple pie (no chips or pizza though!) served by Sherpa Himal (who couldn't do enough for us) I finally got to lie down and crashed out (after about 5 minutes of foam rolling and trigger ball work - yes I'm that committed) wondering how the hell I was going to walk tomorrow, let alone run...

My top products of the day:

1. LED Lenser SEO 7R Headtorch - Amazing bright light and thankfully even though I didn't actually need it during the marathon (although it would have easily been up to the job), but had been very handy at night up in Sandakphu. 

2. Rocktape Kinesiology Tape - Had it not been for my kinesiology tape I don't think I'd have made it. My hip and foot were both taped up and it worked wonders.

3.  Trigger Point Therapy Ball - This was probably the most important item I took with me. Released my hurty hip each night and worked wonders on my Glutes. I don't leave home without it.. just ask any of my clients!



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