Nature is an unpredictable beast. I’ve been in Pokhara (Nepal) for seven days now & have yet to sight the beautiful Annapurnas. A thick fog has descended over the mountains & the town for the past 10days – visibility has been minimal, weather bone chilling once over 2000 metres & persistent rain As a soon to be competitor in a 250km event in this region I am understandably nervous about running for six days in these conditions. I also feel empathy for the race organizers who would not have expected these additional weather conditions.
November in Pokhara is supposed to be one of the better months for trekking with minimal precipitation. Many of the locals have expressed their surprise about the ongoing rain saying it is completely out of character. That being said the weather forecast predicts sunny skies for the duration of the race, with temperatures in the mid 20s. That would be brilliant weather for racing but more importantly it should mean that the fog lifts and we get to see the incredible snow capped mountains that Nepal is famous for.
One of the greatest treats of this pre-race period is that I have spent the past 10 days with two of my best mates – Jimmy Serpless and Ryan Bennett. Jimbot and I have studied law at Monash University for the past few years and I have watched him complete his first half and full marathon, AND now I get to see him complete his first Ultra. The guy always has a beaming smile on his face and I know whoever gets the chance to run alongside him during the course will be lucky to share in his positive energy and witty banter. RB is my Sahara tent mate and one of the most humble people I know. Although you wouldn’t know this by having a conversation with him or looking at his gear he is a truly speedy competitor. He placed second in his first ultra in the Sahara Desert last year with a heavy pack having little concept for the benefits of racing with lightweight gear. In that race RB carried for six days a heavy jacket simply because it was one of his favourites. Both of these lads joined me for La Ultra: The High in India this past August. It seems our friendship has the continuing thread of squat toilets and chapatti with jam. We spent the past few nights acclimatising and trekking on sections of the race- course.
As an interesting side note we needed to purchase trekking visas as we headed out to parts of the Annapurna circuit. On the visa form under the gender box there were three options – male, female and third. All confused by what this “third” box meant Jimmy asked the visa processor if it meant a transsexual. With a muttered voice he responded that “third” was for ‘lesbians and gays’. Hmmmm – still clearly confused he explained that ‘lesbians and gays had a protest a few years back, asking for this third category to be added.’ I am still trying to work through the rational behind this.
Anyway….The three good sould of RB, Jimbot & SG head to higher ground to prepare our minds & bodies for this challenge we are about to embark on. As we ascended for 2hrs up a staircase we played tag team with an elderly Nepalese lady carrying a heavy backpack wearing flip-flops. She maintained a steady pace the entire way, never breaking for rest as we did & hardly breaking a sweat as we certainly did. It was a great reminder of the tortoise & the hare – which we were the hare finishing after the slower yet consistent tortoise.
This experience didn’t enhance nor decrease my confidence for the race. What it did do however was make me aware: aware for the relentless & never ending steep steps, aware that long sections of the course will be more of a trek than a running race, aware of how cold it can get at night. Knowledge of this course will enable all three of us to prepare mentally for the challenges to come. We are about to head to the ritzy pre-race hotel. It is a far departure from what we have been experiencing the past few weeks and to be honest I would be far happier to stay in the small, cozy and family based guesthouse that we have called home.
I have an amazing tent group once again – Jimbot, RB, Nico (great friend from Chile), Maurice (New friend from Chile with a great race attitude), Sebastian (Hong Kong resident with killer calves) and Gareth Andrews (another great friend from Australia). It will be fun times amongst the pain. I hope to write a cheeky post after the check in!! Big love to my wonderful family and friends.
Thinking sunny thoughts.
xxPocket Rocket signing out