Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Day 3 - some Drama, The Finish!

Rumptse, 161km/100miles, 13,675ft. The past 5 hours have been in the rain and getting here was the first main goal. We Arrived! The plan was to take up come rest in the cottage, eat some warm food and dry out and then make our way up to Tanglang La, the 2nd 17,500 mountain climb of the race. It's 11:30pm and the original time to have left here recommended by the RD was 10pm! We are obviously well behind that but Molly is feeling good, tired of course and is looking for the short break we planned on.

When the Mothership picked us up back in town Bailey had informed us that all the runners, well, 2 of the runners, Lisa and Samantha and there crews, Jason was already on the other side of Tanglang La and Ray and Sharon were on the way back to this camp from finishing and would be her shortly, so this posed an immediate problem, no further rooms were available for us to rest, so we were told they would have 2 tents pitched for us when we got there. After being in the rain and outside for some time now I immediately spoke freely and said, Fuck that, we're not resting in tents outside! Also, Bailey had said that all the food had been packed up and they were unloading it out of the truck for us and reheating it, sure! We pulled into the cottage and sure enough there were the other runners crew cars and two tents were being set up. We all jumped out of the mothership and went inside to a dining room area and the food and tables were there, about this same time Ray and Sharon arrived and the medical team was checking them and debriefing so it was a little hectic in the room. Several of us started eating and most everything was cold, at this time I didn't know they had just brought back the food and no wonder it was cold. Anyway, Bailey and I got Molly some tea and food for ourselves as well as Jigme did and we all started eating.

The reason the other runners were here was because it had started snowing up on Tanglang La, which we could see from afar as were getting closer to Rumptse, and the race officials said the conditions were bad and for safety reason pulled the runners from continuing up Tanglang La. The race officials didn't plan on everyone being at this cottage at one time, hence, no room for us back of the packers. The race officials had made an agreement with the runners that they would let the snow pass and not return till 4am, I think it was just after 10pm before they got pulled because I remember one of the other crews saying they were down for 6 hours! When we got there there was also talk of extending the cutoff time due to the weather but word came quickly that this would not be happening, 60 hours remain. During this whole time the clock is ticking and although we are getting some rest/recovery/food we had been talking and had decided that staying here was NOT an option for us at this time in the race and with Molly pushing the time limits we needed all the time we had so we had to get moving up the mountain.

While we were eating some race officials came to us and asked if they could speak with Molly outside. Molly said she would be right back and walked out. I sat there a little perplexed and my gut feeling was WTF! why are they talking to her alone? I quickly turned to Bailey and said I don't like that they pulled her from us to speak to her, I think they are going to try and bully her or something, and being as she is not really in a frame of mind to handle complex conversations I think we should go! Bailey replied, Yeah this is Bullshit! Let's Go! We got up and walked outside the door and sure enough, the setting appeared like a bully session as 3 race officials were standing there talking to Molly and her in the middle. They all looked at us like deer in headlights and I just remember saying something like, What's up? We're all part of the team, or something like that. There whole concern was the safety of the road conditions and the snow, stating that 10k up the road the snow line had started and that's where the conditions go worse. They also tried to instill the 4am agreement on us saying that was the deal made, Molly was quick to jump on that one saying she made NO Deal about 4am and no one came back to inform us of the agreements being made! We've been here 45 mins so far!

Finally, after talking some sense into the race officials, we had stated to let us go to the 10km snow line and if its unsafe, deemed by our driver as he would make the call for our safety, then we would return to Rumptse but allowing us to get at least 10km more up the road gave us a better chance of completing the race within 60 hours. After just a few more minutes the race officials said they would discuss it and get back to us. We all got back in the Mothership and were waiting just a few more minutes, now its been 50-55 mins and still wasting time. Finally, I said we Have To Go! Let's Find Out What's the Deal! Molly jumped out and tracked down an official who was talking to a medical team member and it was agreed upon that she could continue to the 10km line and deem safety issues, was in good condition and any finish within the 60 hours was official, as it had been said now, that because she didn't make Rumptse by 10pm she would be unofficial! That sent her blood boiling and was actually good motivation for the climb to come, turns out that unofficial talk was just talk and she would be official if she made it within 60 hours. After all this mess, now an hour later, we hopped in the Mothership, back out to the road and off we started up Tanglang La.

Since Molly's blood was boiling and she was over all the drama she had a great pace and we starting moving quickly, yes, still in the RAIN! It's now about 1am and the rain would turn to snow and back to rain over the next 12 hours, so everything from here till the finish was in the rain/snow, well maybe the last 1 hour was not in the rain. When I came out to pace shortly after Rumptse it was great to see Molly fired up! Don't tell her she'll be unofficial when there is still time on the clock! Don't tell her she can't complete the distance! (actually Yes, tell her!! because she was motoring up that mountain in the rain!) When we hit 10km it was still raining and there was no snow, the driver said it was clear and we could keep going until it changed, if it did, which it would start snowing in the early AM but not enough to make conditions unsafe, just cold. Within 10km we were at 15,692feet, already climbed 1,692 feet since Rumptse! and still had more to go as the top of Tanglang La is 19.5 miles from Rumptse.

As we approached the 4am time for the other runners we knew we would soon see car lights coming and by 4:30am we saw them and as they passed us and slowed down to shot encouragement and great excitment it was nice to finally see other runners in this race and knowing that Molly had now closed the gap on them. They had gotten word that she came through Rumptse long ago and was on the way up the mountain and later I would learn that they were happy for her and stating that was the best thing we did was not stop at Rumptse and sleep with the cockroaches and spiders that crawled in the rooms! The early morning light was trying to break through but the heavy clouds and now snow where keeping it from lighting up which was a good thing because by this time Bailey and I had a run in with the Poop Monster due to the cold food and determining it was the noodles we both ate, ughh!! Climbing Tanglang La was much different than Khardung La because of the overall pitch of the mountain. Khardung La was more steep and the switch back were shorter and steeper getting you to the top quicker but Tanglang La was longer pitch, resulting in longer, less steep switch backs and so it took longer to reach the top and we were up at the higher 16000+ feet longer! Both Bailey and I had taken diamox early in preparing for this but now we were both fighting some severe sleep deprivations. (One funny thing before we got to Rumptse, it was raining like crazy and Molly was just in a low spot, trudging along step by step. We were approaching the Mothership and from about 50 yards out, I see Bailey waiting for us, but all of a sudden I see a blinking/strobing light! I tell Molly, hey check out Bailey. As we looked at her, the strobing light flashing, she busts out the Robot moves and starts dancing and pop-locking! freaking Hilarious!! and such a perfect time as Molly needed the amusement! After that while it was still dark we would good with the strobe light from the headlamps and do the Robot for Molly)

As the morning came I had been calculating our pace and everything was looking good to finish within 58-59 hours but still we were not at the top of Tanglang La. Bailey and I had been switching out frequently but this turned out to be a bad thing because just as you got settled in the car it was time to come back out and getting cold again was worse than just staying out there, and besides when you went into the car you were pretty much down for the count, so we had to adapt our rotation and just stay out longer. Once we went over 16,300 feet I had a seriously hard time staying awake, pacing or sitting in the car. We were about 2-3 miles from the top and although it is highly recommended that you do not sleep at this elevations I could not stay awake and neither could the Jigme and the driver. I was working hard and trying to get Molly to the top but I knew I didn't have it in me, I needed to rest/sleep, go higher or go lower, something! The last 1.5 mile you can see the top of the mountain but there is a seriously long double switch back to get there, when Molly saw this she was seriously NOT HAPPY! haha, at this time Bailey and I had switched out and I told her we would head to the top and wait. Once at the top we got some tea and I was walking around taking a few pictures, I actually felt better than being a 1,000 feet below, weird. After a while Molly and Bailey appeared and we took a great picture at the Tanglang La sign and of course Bailey and I planked at 17,582ft! Molly was super excited and happy to be at the top, 192km/119.5miles, and now it was all downhill for quite some time and mostly to the finish.

Once again as we descended I was in that I cant Stay Away zone and looking to get below the 16300ft mark and sure enough once I did I was much more awake and ready to go. We had seen Lisa Tamati and her crew come by and she had completed the race and was heading back to Rumptse/Leh and speaking with her was great and exciting giving us that needed energy to make the final push as the crew, later I would learn that she actually got out of the car when she caught up to Molly and walked with her for short time giving her encouragement, thanks Lisa! When I took back to pacing we were moving along great and knowing that Samantha was just a short ways of head of us and actually being able to see her and her crew on some of the down switch backs gave Molly a little boost of energy to run. The rain was still coming down and pretty much all mud and puddles so I have basically stopped trying to avoid wet feet and just make the shortest route around the corners. By now we are somewhere about 210km/130 miles all is feeling great! Molly is happy and knows that she will make the finish with time. Its a great feeling knowing all the hard work that has occurred in the past 50 hours! Get to a what I call a Tent City about 10km from the finish, the locals came offering some sandwiches and soup but Molly's stomach is not in the mood for any of the kind offerings. I grab some tea and we quickly head off down the road as we are close, Bailey is out pacing now and I am still calculating our time to make sure. Once we reached this fork in the road, we moved left and as the road seems to go completely no where in the distance, which is actually a major psychological blow as you are so close but yet no where in site is the finish. This are is called Morey Plains and the name is perfect because all you get is More and Morey of plains in sight! haha. The good thing is now were about 15,300ft and feeling much better.

On the last 3 miles, Molly wanted all of us to walk together and so we all enjoyed the highlights of Morey Plains, the last 58 hours and all that we just went through. It was an amazing time out there all together for that last hour, holding hands as we walked, laughing and recalling the Werewolf sightings that Molly had, the sign that I thought was a port-a-potty, the Robot dancing, the Wave we all performed and the dogs chasing Molly and Bailey with Molly armed with pebbles and Bailey with boulders! Finally, we could see around the bend and there was the finish line! We had American Flags that we each held and as we approached the finish I had my video phone rolling.

The last 100 meters! The finish line banner was now so close! The great race director, Rajat Chauhan, brought us a prayer flag La Ultra sign and we draped it around us, everyone clapping, cheering Molly! Then it was the last run and we all took off in a jog to finish it out! We crossed the line all together, hand in hand, just like we had in 2009 at Badwater! 58 hours 56 minutes, 222km/138 miles, TWO - 17,500+ft mountains! Molly had finished! It was great cheers, congratulations and photos and a joy of accomplishment, together, we all did it! The ISAGENIX DREAM TEAM had success when others had counted us out, when others believed Molly was too far behind to make it, when others thought it couldn't be done if you were not to Rumptse by 10pm!

Once we finished it was quickly back to tent city for some quick food and then we headed back to Leh, which meant going back over Tanglang La and all the way through course since Leh. It was already evening and once we started driving back we all quickly feel asleep in the car, at first, all of us were proper and trying not impede on each others space but a while later and we were all one unit leaning on each other and bouncing from side to side down the roads. The drive back was actually pretty fast as I know the driver was in a hurry to get back and that was super okay with me, I woke up a couple of times to see where we were but watching him maneuver down the road was not a pleasant sight and my eye lids weighed like 10lbs each so I went back to sleep. Once back at the hotel we quickly unpacked and Molly and Bailey went back to there room and I to mine where a warm shower was wonderful and the hardness of the bed was actually welcomed! I was still so tired that falling asleep quickly was not a problem and now I was experiencing a sore throat.

stay tuned till the post-race day post and thoughts on the race itself, race officials , etc.!!


1 comment:

molly sheridan said...

John,I love your blog! You mentioned so many details that I wanted to forget, like dogs chasing us and severe sleep deprivation! HAHA! I'm going to go read it again as I sit here in my jammies on my cozy pillows!