Day 2 of our 5-day ultramarathon was a 32 km / 20 mile out-and-back run, along the ridgeline that is the border between India and Nepal. The weather was exceptionally cold – we had passed a freezing night up at Sandakphu (3600 m, nearly 12,000′), with the wind battering our huts and occasional rain squalls. I wasn’t even sure whether today’s stage would go ahead – but it did.
Most of us had to wear all of the running clothes we had brought with us, as well as some of our camp clothes. I really don’t do well in the cold – I chill very easily – so I decided to play this stage very safe and not risk anything (there were still three more days to go). I didn’t want to run and get sweaty, and then get chilled out there on that windy ridgeline. So I dressed for hiking.
But once we started, I felt like running. The cobblestone road wasn’t as uneven as it had been on the way up – many sections were very runnable hard-packed dirt. And, following the ridgeline, we were going both up and down, starting mainly with a descent. It was hard to make myself not run… so, a kilometre or so in, I stripped off most of the layers I was wearing (I had worn my day pack, not my little running pack, just in case I needed to do that). That long stop put me right at the back of the pack – but I gradually worked my way back forward and caught up and passed a few of the other back-of-the-pack runners. (I had some motivation… it’s hard to photograph a race when you don’t see anyone…)
OK, again, here are the pictorial highlights. If you want the full race report then check out SleepMonsters.
I’m not sure whether this is truly the Himalayan wild horse, or Kyang – it doesn’t look as white in its underparts as a normal Kyang – but the subspecies down here on the India-Nepal border is different from the main one that occurs further north, through much of southwestern China. If anyone knows, please leave me a comment! (They can also interbreed with domestic horses – maybe this one is a hybrid? It does have the stature and white muzzle of a Kyang).
Anyway, all in all, for a day on which I started out very nervous because of the challenging weather conditions, I was very pleased with my result. I finished in 5:30, not a great time for a 32k run I know – but remember, it was my first day up at altitude, we had cumulative climbing of about 1000 m, and I had set out planning to hike it because of the bad weather, and expecting to take 7 or 8 hours. And the big thing is that I came in feeling really good, ready to tackle the next day, which would be our longest of the whole race: a full marathon distance, the first 29 km of it up here on these high exposed ridgelines, and the final 13 km a super-steep 2000 m descent back down to the jungles.