What a great race!
I’m still very impressed by the beautiful landscape of the region around Manaslu in the Himalaya and the gorgeous local people I met during each stage of the race.
All in all it was really a hard and tough 7 stage (and 12 days in total) race with in total 220 km and 13000m of ascent in an altitude between 800m to 5,000m.
The first stage we ran 25 km from Arughat to Machakhola and passed several little villages on a steady up and downhill trail. I came in third place only 7 minutes behind the famous athlete Anna Frost from New Zealand.
We ran 39km with a total ascent of 2800m.
Once again it was a a steady up and downhill run with tricky passages throughout . I crossed some long hang bridges, jumped over little stones that covered the big sand river bed, and finally smashed myself over a big downhill rock step landing hard on my knee. I’m used to these kind of falls and normally they end up with just a little scratch. But this time my knee was bleeding heavily and I felt a strong pain. What to do? Just kept on running without worry for the injury. I continued in a strong running pace, sometimes struggled to find the right way. It was a warm hot sunny day and I was sweating profusely. Because of this I lost a lot of electrolytes and my system started to answer with cramping legs. I finally started eating a lot of salt sticks, bars, “biberli” and a nice caffein shot for the last 5km. When I reached the finish line after nearly 5 hours I realised how bad my knee actually was! My compression socks were soaked with blood which also covered my whole knee. From then on that nice mixture of positive hormones (Adrenaline, Endorphins) left my body I suddenly felt a searing pain in the knee. I was not able to bend it anymore and could only start on moving with a limp! It felt really bad and I became worried about how and if I was going to finish. The race doctor gave me some pain killers and the next morning the knee was swollen and looked like a foot of an elephant! I tried to bend it without success. How could I manage to run with that bad knee? At that point I was feeling pretty down emotionally but I wanted to give it my best shot.. Due to my career as a long-time handball player I knew how to deal with bad swollen scratched knees so I went to the starting line and as soon the race started I put the pain to the back of my mind. I could manage it to run flat and uphill passages fast and downhill passages very slowly because it was so painful. Finally I made the third stage together with overall 4th placed runner Claire Price.
This stage was very beautiful and we came across a lovely Monastery at Hinang where we had an impressive view to the 7500m peak of the Hinang itself.. At an altitude of 3,000 m we could feel the cold icy air as soon as the sun disappeared. We had the great honour of staying the night in that Monastery which is normally forbidden to trekkers.
The stage began with really a bad accident for my fellow contestant Seth from Seattle. He started very quickly and passed through the door of the monastery but unfortunately knocked his head on the huge wooden entrance. Unfortunately this left a big cut on his forehead which the race doctor had to fix with several stitches…the race was not over for him, but he could not go continue running.
Anna, Claire and I continued the stage together and helped each other to race strongly up to another Monastery 4,000 m. We finally reached Sama together and were all very happy to race in such a good company.
This was the hardest part for me. We had to run up to the Manaslu Base camp: from 3,500 up to 4,500m that’s a distance 5 km. it was as steep as hell and I was really struggling because of the altitude. I went up breathing like a steam train and at this point many other competitors overtook me. I felt so sorry for myself and all I wanted to do is to sit down and breath but I get going and finally made it to the top. I took some time there to take some pictures. I ate a gel, drunk some caffeine and got ready to rock it downhill. With all my mountain downhill experience I have I pushed myself really hard to fly and jump may way downhill . As always I tried to take the direct falling line and watched out for every short cut that came my way. I finally came down in 42 minutes just 3 minutes behind Pfudojee Lama Sherpa. For the first time I could bring back all the pressure on my knee and I felt really good!
The night on 3,500m it was very cold and I felt restless which had an effect on my recovery and health. I had stomach pains and started to feel ill.
This started with a little race for the local kids what was really nice. Andrew, a fellow competitor from Australia had organised some drawing booklets for the kids and gave it to them as a present with a big smile. For us the race continued with a 8 km short running section to Samdo. Because of my bad stomach I had to handle this stage with a good pace and was happy to reach the little village at 3,850m. The next day was a rest day to help us get better acclimatised. Because of the strong running days behind me, my body had not adopted to the altitude quickly enough and I felt uncomfortable.. On the resetting day we had a nice, slow hike up to 4,500m and I rested on a little peak for 45 minutes to adapt a little bit more. For the first time I felt in such a peaceful state of mind which had been missing in the last few days whilst rushing through the villages from stage to stage keeping up a good position.
That night was colder than ever and my bad stomach turned into bad diarrhoea. I guess my immune system was a bit over the limit because of all that new circumstances. In the clean and healthy environment I normally experience the immune system has nothing to really to work on. Making excuses wouldn’t make it better. I just had to make the best I could out of this situation.
The next day over the Larkya La pass on 5,100m was also rest day because everyone was struggling so much with the conditions.. I started very slowly in the morning at 5:15am, but I was still not feeling alright. My batteries were running low and my lungs were working overtime. My mind switched off after 30 minutes and It felt as if I was moving at a snails pace.. To make matters worse I had to pass several sections of frozen riverbeds and slippery rocks which cost me lots of energy. I met Richard, Renee and Geoff and we all ran together until the first check point at a tea house on 4,200m. I drunk some hot black tea and recovered fast. As we went on the rocky trails the environment suddenly changed into a snow covered area. The sun was shining brightly and I started to feel better the higher I got! It was weird! As soon as I felt snow under my feet I was alright and l could feel a new energy rushing through my veins. I went through Larkya La pass finding myself alone between some prayer flags moving slowly into a gentle breeze. It was so quiet and peaceful and felt really good. I spend some moments up in that beautiful area before I started the downhill section. It was really steep and I was happy to have my poles with me. I skied down as best as I could always on the search for the best running line and felt twice as normal. I enjoyed it so much. I met Bruce, Mick and Michael and was happy to give some advise to the beach boys from Australia and NZ! We managed to get through this part of the course together in one peace and kept on walking strongly until we reached Bimtang. Another cold night meant I put on every layer I could find as I prepared myself for the final stage. With a 21minute advantage over Claire, I reminded myself that this was a race and not a hiking adventure.
In the morning the atmosphere was really relaxed and the race director Richard decided that the top 10 runners would start 20 minutes after the main group. We cheered on the others at the starting line and decided that our group should run in a “Tour de France” fashion. The atmosphere on the final stage group was a very social experience with us encouraging each other all the way to the end. It was such a nice last 26 km run! At this point we looked out for each other especially because some of us decided to hit the ground again.2km before the final finish line. I crashed again over a funny tiny stone and hit the other knee! With a bloody knee and tears of laughter I was given some strips and bandages from my great running mates! How hilarious!!
I made it 3rd overall and was the 2nd woman across the line. What a great, tough, hard and emotional race!