10 November 2017


View of Pikey Peak with clouds sticking to one side of the ridgeline.

Stage 2 started in in the town of Bhandar and finished just below Pikey Peak summit after 23.9 km or 14 miles in Jase Bhanjyang. We had to ascend 3,486m or 11,500ft and descend 1,796m or 6,000ft including summiting and descending Pikey Peak. 

View from Pikey Peak summit.

Just based on those elevation numbers, all runners expected stage 2 to be one of the tougher stages, if not the toughest stage. We still had a stage with more distance and another stage with serious descent, but this stage included not only nearly 12,000ft of vertical gain, but also the highest point on the entire Everest Trail Race course wih Pinkey Peak at 12,400ft.

View from Pikey Peak summit.

I had completed my first stage in 14th place overall after getting lost for about 20 minutes, but without any injuries or even niggles. My feet had held up so far, i.e. no blisters or hotspots, and I was able to get some rest. Immediately upon finishing stage 1, I had put on my CEP recovery compression tights to start my recovery. These tights were one of my optional items that I felt would help me recover more quickly during a multistage event like this one, especially concerning the amount of ascending and descending we had to endure. These tights were definitely worth their 160g in weight. 

View from course looking back at Pikey Peak.

While on the subject of rest and recovery, running was only one part of our daily routine during the Everest Trail Race. Over the course of 6 days, I would only spend 3.5 to 6 hours a day running. After each stage, I would immediately get out of my running clothes and get into my recovery/camp clothes. I would usually spread out the running clothes across our tent roof in an effort to dry them followed by a quick bucket shower in the wash tent. Sometimes this water was actually warm, but most of the time it was cold my the time I got there. 

Pikey Peak.

Sherpa and race staff would serve up hot tea or coffee along with some cookies for all finishers in the mess tent. There would also be soup, pasta, rice and potatoes to replenish and refuel immediately after completing a stage. In short, we were treated exceptionally well, which is really not what I would have expected beforehand. Thanks again to the over 160 staff that consisted of local Sherpa, porters, cooks and guides and staff from Spain and Italy. My experience in Nepal would have been greatly diminished without the tireless efforts and support of all of them. Everyone was always there to lend a helping hand and tend to our every need.

Dinner would generally be served at 6:30PM. By that time, runners would usually have completed the race stage. Every meal served was largely a reflection of local foods, i.e. vegetarian diet with a focus on carbs. This made it fairly easy for me to stay on my vegan diet. There were only a couple of instances were I could not be 100% certain whether something was actually dairy free, but that is something someone must be willing to accept when participating in any endurance event.

View from Pikey Peak approach.

Dinner was the time we'd usually discuss the stage we just completed as well as the stage that lay ahead. By 8PM, most of us would be in our tents ready to get some rest before the next stage. My sleep pattern was pretty inconsistent. I would wake up just about every hour most nights, but I always felt well rested every morning. I had heeded advice I had found online and brought ear plugs to minimize ambient noise from both wildlife (mostly howling wild dogs) and fellow racers (snoring and chatting:-)

Climb towards Pikey Peak through forrest.

Starting with stage 2, runners would start every stage but the last one in 2 waves, a 7AM start for the bottom 15 runners from the previous stage and an 8AM start for the other runners. Wakeup calls by the Sherpa would take place at 5AM and 5:30AM respectively accompanied with hot cups of tea. It's probably the thing I will miss the most from this experience:-)

By 6AM, most of us would have assembled in the mess tent for breakfast. There would usually be lots of options including toast, jam, cheese, eggs, serial, muesli, potatoes, etc. along with hot coffee and tea. I all but eliminated coffee from my diet during the race as I generally like some non-dairy creamer in my coffee, which was not available. Tea was a much easier option for that reason. Even though I am a heavy coffee drinker (5-6 cups a day), I thankfully had no signs of withdrawal:-) I did drink a total of one or two cups during the 8 days in the Himalayas. Tea just tasted better here.

Farmer's home along the course.

At 7AM runners would usually line up to receive their first rations of water and fuel. This would be a liter of water along with 2-3 gels and 1-2 energy bars. My reliance of provided fuel choices was a bit of a risk factor and it did end up affecting my ability to get enough calories. I just could not stomach the bars and had to rely solely on the gels provided. Considering the amount of effort required every day, this was not enough fuel, but I managed for the most part.

Example of the technical terrain along most of the race course.

Stage 2 was kicked off by the first group of runners at 7AM. It was still pretty cold at that time, but just a few minutes later as the sun crested the surrounding mountains, it was warm enough to toe the 8AM start line in short sleeves without gloves or extra layers. I wore the same kit every day and only replaced my socks after 3 stages. I had worn through the bottom of them and thankfully brought one spare pair of socks meant to be worn in camp between stages. I had chosen Altra Lone Peak 3.5 trail shoes, which worked perfectly for this race. Even on this extremely technical terrain, the shoes provided the grip necessary and held up to the stress of ascending and descending all day. 

I used a pair of Smarwool socks starting after stage 3 that also held up great. I wore CEP compression calf (and arm) sleeves that kept my legs fresh and springy. Smartwool running shorts with a Merino wool liner and a Patagonia sleeveless shirt kept "funk" to a minimum over 6 days of running.

Pikey Peak summit covered in prayer flags.

Another optional item I had packed was one of my most treasured possessions, one of only 4 tubes of Nuun Kona Cola. Nuun is my preferred choice of Electrolyte replenishment and while I love all of their flavors, the Kona Cola flavor had always been my favorite. Since that flavor was no longer being produced, I had been saving a few remaining tubes for special occasions. The Everest Trail Race definitely definitely qualified:-) I savored the refreshing taste for the first 4 stages, when I finally ran out:-( I am glad to report that I also stayed completely muscle cramp free during the entire event.

Religious monuments along the course paying homage to the mountains, which are considered gods by many locals.

After having finished 14th overall the previous day, I figured I'd try to settle in somewhere below the top ten to find my running rhythm. After getting lost on day 1 I had opted to load the course for stage 2 onto my Garmin watch in an effort to avoid a similar fate. I had found someone's course data from the previous year on Strava and downloaded it to my watch for just this reason. Somehow, I STILL managed tog et lost during stage 2, but this time I recognized my error much quicker, only resulting in about 5 min of lost time. Either way, the beauty of Nepal and its people kinda make you relax and just enjoy, so a few extra minutes of time on the trails is actually a reward.

Gnarly trail section with Everest Trail Race course markers on plain sight.

Once again, I made sure to stop any and every time I spotted an inspiring view. As a result, I took an average of 50-100 pictures during each and every stage. This place is just too beautiful not to stop and make memories. Once again, I ran solo for the most part, but I fell in with Paul Martin and Ester Alves during the big climb up Pikey Peak. I slowly pulled ahead, but when I finally summited and stopped to take pictures, both Ester and Michele Petrone passed me. The summit was followed by a narrow technical descent that was initially covered by snow and ice followed by a steep descent with lots of loose rock. Both Ester and Michele put anout 10-15 minutes on my on this descent and I was unable to make up the difference, finishing 11th overall for the day.
Catching a first glimpse of the "big" Himalayan mountains. 

Our campsite at the end of stage 2 was just below Pikey Peak, at an altitude just around 11,500ft. I continued to be amazed at just how the porters would haul all of these supplies up to these extremely remote locations, usually on their backs, and all with a smile on their faces. The logistics of this race are absolutely mind boggling. 

Prayer flags and scarves were prominently displayed all along the course.

The entire race course was extremely technical.

Some of the more groomed terrain:-)

Clouds and sun working in concert to create beautiful images.

Female yak.

Clouds would roll in quickly and disappear just as quickly as well.

Pikey Peak summit approach.

Yup, there is a trail hidden in here.

Just follow the flags to the top:-)

Monument with intricate hand-carved stone plates.

Wait, no rocks?

Small village near one of the checkpoints.

The contrast of a 12ft race flag in front of Pikey Peak.

Former settlement along the race course.

View from basecamp #3 at the end of stage 2.

No matter what altitude, there was always someone working plots of farm land.

Pikey Peak summit.

Beautiful homes nestled along the race course and surrounded by plots of farm land.

Bascecamp #3 at the end of stage 2 just below 12,000ft altitude.

Impressive logistical effort by the support teams to set up these camps.

My friend and tent mate Philippe Richet from France and I after stage 2.

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