(Day 7 and 8 video here)
Day 7, trekking day, Samdo to Rui La pass (4,998m) to Dharmasala (4460).
|Morning at camp|
|Tibet in the background|
|Heading back down into Nepal|
We lose a little time at the bottom waiting to regroup, and as it’s well past noon. It’s pretty clear that we have a long day remaining ahead. Pushing on at a faster pace, we descend to the main trail in about 2 hours. It’s already about 3pm however, and we have to climb 500m over a few kilometres to our destination. The sun sets behind a ridge and it gets instantly cold. I make it into Dharamasala at around 5:30 with just enough light left for me to be able to clean the exploded sun-screen bottle from the inside of my main bag. On a normal day that might be enough to kill your spirits, but on a day when you have lunch in Tibet at 5,000m, you can roll with the punches a bit.
Two of the group, Fiona and Jade are not feeling well with clear signs of altitude sickness, and Ben will be keeping a close eye on them for the night. The lodgings are very basic, and hygiene is suspect. This lodge is only recently, and seasonally, set up and the route overall is much less developed than the Annapurna or Everest routes, so the food and facilities remain a challenge. We get to bed with a plan to get up early to tackle the high pass.
Day 8, Stage 7, Trek from Dharmasala over Larkye La pass (5,160m) to Bimtang, followed by final stage of race, 20km run to Tilije.
We wake early, just after 4am. This is common when tackling high-passes, to allow a long day to tackle the altitude but also so that ice and snow on the high ground is more solid under foot in the cold early hours. I’ve slept ok. Life with small children makes you re-evaluate many things, including sleep. While many people seem to be suffering, and overnight my camelpack water container has frozen, I’m still finding that I’m getting more undisturbed sleep on this trip than normal.
Unfortunately, Fiona and Jade have not improved much overnight and a helicopter is called to take them back to lower altitude asap. Two others are also suffering, and have opted to get support over the pass in the form of a horse. We huddle in the food hut, waiting for breakfast of porridge. There isn’t much water on offer, so I drink what I can in tea form. I’ve only a litre of water, but I figure this is enough to get me up and over the pass.
No gong this morning as the trek section is not timed, we just set off when ready. I follow the line of headlamps up out of the campsite taking it pretty slowly as we rise. Not long out of camp, Chris is suffering from altitude and is vomiting on the side of the trail. Together with Lisa and Quentin, he’s part of the team that are producing a documentary about the event. Quentin is filming him in his low moment – you’ve got to admire their dedication to their art!
|Prayer flags at the top of the pass|
At the top I see Ken, from Cayman Islands, and Jarmo from Finland. Ken has me capture the moment for the Cayman press, while Jarmo is still pushing on his quest to be the only obese person to complete a multitude of ultra races (when we get down, we find he has a piece covering him in the New York Times).
I don’t wait too long, and push on into the new valley that opens up. What follows is a long walk to Bimgtang, our lunch spot before the final leg of the race.
After some noodles and chapatti, I nostalgically put on my runners for the last 20k. The clock starts again when leaving Bimgtang for Tilije so I register with the checkpoint. I think I’m about 12th in the running, but between the distance covered and my triple time sick day, I’m not too concerned about the placements. It just feels good to complete the full distance and get home without any injuries.
The last 20k are in wonderful scenery, through forest trails along by a river. Somehow, with the end in reach, and tired legs from the long trek, this section feels more forced than others but enjoyable none the less.
|Yaks en route|
I reach Tilije to find the finish line with ballons (thanks Robyn!) but no-one in sight. It takes me some time to find the other finishers huddled upstairs in the lodge jollily eating their fill of momos and other delights. Big cheers for people as they arrive in.
There is mobile phone network again, and I get a call from home – bad-reception but enough to tell them that I’m ok, and to get a “Well done Daddy!” from my daughter that warms the cockles.
Back to earth
The next few days are taken up getting back to Kathmandu, and slowly re-engaging with the world. The first ride on a jeep is horrific, after 8 days free of motorized transport, with most of us feeling the urge to get out and run instead. The group starts to disperse, with superwoman Lizzy first to leave, continuing on the Annapurna trail solo. For me, with work immediately on return in Kathmandu, real life re-enters quickly.
It’s been a fantastic trip, the first time when I’ve really felt the ‘flow’ that comes with multi-day running. I feel physically fine after all the mileage – all I need is a good scrub in a hot shower. That’s the great benefit of trail running, with every footfall different the work is spread around your body. No repetitive injuries on the knees or ankles that can come with long distances on flat roads.
Throughout it all though, I’m aware that it’s both an indulgence and a privilege. My wife has been taking care of our two kids back home, and work will be piling up on my desk – it’s been a very therapeutic abdication of adult responsibilities for almost two weeks. Time to put aside the runners and re-engage.
38 runners started overall. Of the 18 that finished the full course, I came in 15th, with a total time on the clock of 38 hours, 14 minutes. I'm very happy with that overall. Ups and downs, throughout. I'm proudest of my 9th place finish on the 40k of day 2 (slight correct to the 8th mentioned in the video!), while the 9 hours from my sick day glares at me. But on the whole I was fortunate - had that been a different day, I would have skipped side trails and not completed the full course. Had the drugs not worked, I would have been going home.
Feels great to say that I completed it, and just happy to have enjoyed the course, the scenery, the company and come home in one piece ready to run again.
Hats off to Richard and Dhir for the superb organisation. Yes there were some teething problems, but it’s an inaugural race after all. Overall I’d highly recommend the Manaslu Trial Run, and I’m glad to see dates going up for 2013. It’s not for the faint-hearted nor the unfit. Accommodation is basic and hygiene in the sites is not top-knotch – but the flip side of that is a very undiscovered and unpopulated trail. If coming, make sure you’re comfortable with long distances and above all get some work in on hills and long-climbs somehow – stairs just won’t cut it!
(Link - back to days 1 - 3)
(Link - back to days 1 - 3)