Looking Hot (And Feeling Cold) On The Annapurna Circuit

Squinting in the sun above Manang.

I’m a week into my trek on the Annapurna Circuit and my legs and spirit are still holding up. I was a bit worried that after climbing to Everest Base Camp I’d be sick of gorgeous mountain views and not being able to wash my hair (so sexy!). But this region of Nepal has been keeping me entertained and I’m getting used to the basic accommodations. (Though I must admit, I’ve been having dreams about sudsing up with Head & Shoulders shampoo.)

Today I’m in Manang, a village in the Manang district that measures in at 3600 meters. Low enough to breathe comfortably, but high enough to get winded walking up a steep hill. About 500 families in this village consider the peaks of Annapurna II, Annapurna III, Gangapurna, and Chulu East to be their neighbors.

Days are warm(ish) here–I’m hiking in pants, a t-shirt, and a light sweatshirt, but the temperature drops dramatically at night. I sleep in thermal long underwear and keep the case for my contact lenses snuggled in my down sleeping bag with me. (Waking up to frozen contacts is not fun.) Still, I’m thankful for this experience.

Speaking of being thankful… I’ll be missing out on my favorite holiday this week. Have a slice of pumpkin pie for me!

Countdown to the Thorung La Pass (5416 meters): 4 days!

Photo Update: I still haven’t been able to upload pictures, and it looks like I won’t be able to until I’m back in Kathmandu (fingers crossed) or NYC. I promise, they’re worth the wait!

Everest Base Camp, Baby!

Giving out hugs at Everest Base Camp.

Standing at the bottom of the world’s highest peak, 5364 meters above sea level, makes you feel pretty small. But it also makes you realize how significant you are in this world.

Last Sunday I made it to Everest Base Camp in one piece with a big smile, and not even a blister to complain about! (Photo to come ASAP.) It’s taken me a while to process the experience and internet connections in Nepal’s Khumbu region are spotty and expensive—which explains why this post is a week late.

Climbing up hills that on any other part of the globe would be considered mountains was physically tough (duh), but it was mentally challenging too—something I really wasn’t expecting. I found myself relying on running mantras to get me through hours of grueling ascents. I repeated the simple-yet-effective, “I feel good,” when I thought I couldn’t go any further.  (Thanks, Tim Catalano!) And at one point the words “I run marathons. I don’t quit!” floated through my head. That’s when I remembered how truly loved I am.

In all three of the 26.2’s I’ve completed, I’ve had the endless support of my family and friends. I couldn’t have crossed those finish lines without them. So up there, just a few meters away from the base of a mountain half a world away from the people who mean the most to me, I tapped into those connections and felt a sense of warmth and love. It was exactly what I needed to pull me out of the oxygen-deprived stupor and convince me to keep moving my feet.

Today, I’m heading to the Annapurna Circuit where I will encounter 18 more days of hiking at elevations up to 5400 meters. And you can bet I’ll be soaking in all of the good vibes you send my way. Love and Namaste to all!

My Hamstrings Love The Himalayas

I’m spending a day in Namche Bazaar at 3440 meters to acclimatise to the altitude–and I need it. It’s hard to take a full breath here, but in a matter of hours it will be easier. It’s amazing how adaptable the human body is. Soon I’ll be able to process oxygen more efficiently, allowing me to climb even higher.

I can’t wait to see how this affects my running when I’m back in NYC. Like pro distance runners who sleep in hyperbaric chambers, I’ll be able to go faster for longer. And thanks to all these intense ascents I’m getting constant strength training–my hamstrings, quads, and glutes are firing like mad.

Running here is hilarious. My Nepali guide Subarna didn’t want us over exerting ourselves today, but I raced the assistant guide Pimba 100 meters along the Namche airstrip (7-seater planes can land here) anyway. I beat him in my hiking boots and all! I was laughing so hard though because it’s difficult to get any speed and I had to concentrate to keep my breathing steady. My travel mates thought we were nuts, but cheered us on regardless.

I’m lucky to have such a fantastic group of trekking companions. We’re a motley crew of Australians, Irish, Brits, Japanese, and Americans with lots of stories and laughs to share. They make the 6+ hour hikes feel like a walk in the park. We’re polite, happy, and get along now, but there is the potential for us to go “Real World” on each other as the pressures of the climb increase.

Five more days (and 1924 meters up) to Everest Base Camp!

 

Big News: I Canceled My Entry In The New York City Marathon

Bigger news: I applied for a visa to Nepal. Even bigger news: I’m going to Mt. Everest.

I’m not going all the way to the top—my nose is too cute to risk losing to frostbite, but I will be embarking on a 37-day trek to Everest Base Camp and the Annapurna Circuit in one month (from yesterday). I have a lot to do between now and then: Organize my gear, break in some hiking boots (I’ve already gotten some funny looks while walking the dog in them), buy a headlamp, figure out if I need a new waterproof jacket, read a guide book or two… I’m excited! And I’m looking forward to sharing my adventure here with you, blogging as often as I can from the trails.

In the meantime, Grete’s Great Gallop half marathon is this weekend. Even though I’m no longer using this race as a marathon tune-up, I’m planning to run strong. I fell off the workout wagon last week because of a chest cold, but I’m feeling better now and I think I can still aim to do well—and hopefully PR—this Saturday.

Are you running a fall marathon? Have you ever been to the Himalaya?

(Fun fact: There is no such thing as Himalayas. The correct term is Himalaya, which means “the abode of snow.”)