Thursday, August 18, 2011

India Recap!

I am official back from India and I have blogged the days as I was there so here are the first few days to get you going on the story and trip leading up to race day. First of all it was an AMAZING TIME!! The race was super amazing and Molly finished in 58 hours 56 mins. A come from behind story where she was really struggling and most didn't think she would make it, a Rocky Story for Sure! but more on that later.

The culture and change of pace from the US life was very eye opening and I really appreciate everything I have or don't have here in the US because it's so much more than most have there, anyway.. read along.

The Plane Ride and Delhi, India (Friday July 29/30th)

After getting packed on Weds before leaving on Fri I would be taking two full 50lbs bags, clothes, protein shakes, bars, beef jerky, and peanut butter seemed to be the main stay of food items as well as Isagenix products.

Friday morning came fast and once checked in with some minor adjustments to my slightly over weight bags to avoid further charges I was set to go. The flight to Newark was uneventful other than the fact that the dad/owner of Pawn Stars was on the flight and dressed exactly the way they show him on the start of the show, old school style but sharp.

My bags were checked all the way to New Delhi so once in Jersey I got some food and looked for "The Situation" or Snookie but no luck. After a 4 hour lay over I was boarding the plane. Once on the plane there were 3 of us in the row, with me at the window, but luckily once all peeps were on board the middle guy moved to the last row, this turned out to be really nice and just over all more room! Don't get me wrong, this Continental 777 is HUGE and I was surely impressed. It was nice to have a wide variety of movies for free where ass the flight to Jersey they cost $8 but there was nothing I really wanted to watch.

Before we started to take off I had already loaded up The Lincoln Lawyer and being as it takes a long time to fully load a 777 I was easily 30 mins into it when we rolled away from the gate. As we were taxiing down the run way suddenly there was a light flicker in the cabin and a sudden loss of power and a sound of engines shutting down. We soon stopped and the Captain announced the 777 had lost power to a generator and we could not fly until maintenance came out to our location and fixed it, no estimated time of this. I was a little bummed because they had just said that we were early leaving and it would be 13 hour flight but now who knows. After about 20 mins the Captain states they've fixed it and in about 10-15 mins we would be on our way and we were only to be #18 in the take off line! So another 30 mins later, almost 1hr 15 mins later we are in the air and guess what? Lincoln Lawyer movie is done! 1 down. Next up The Adjustment Bureau, then Quantum Solace, Jonah Hex and then I tired so I took a little snooze.

I woke up after about an hour and started watching Music and Lyrics with Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore and noticed that we were flying near Iceland. It was pretty cool following the flight path on the map and see we were flying straight over the top of the world to the other side. After Iceland it was north of London, Berlin and into Russia! As you can see I was super excited to fly next to Moscow and then through some of the other northern countries taking careful note not to fly into Afghanistan and Pakistan.

A huge down side to flying at night was the fact since we were crossing the time zones so fast we fly through day time but because it was our USA night time the plane had told everyone to close the blinds so people sleep, well.. Okay for a while I was cool with it but we fly through a whole day in the dark plane and didn't see shit! I would crack my shade but the sun was so bright in the dark cabin I didn't want to be the assface that woke everyone up! But also we would be landing at 9pm and so I didn't want to sleep that much bc I know everyone else was gonna be screwed when they got to there hotels/homes.

After a while a few others cracked there shades and I joined in. My brain was happy to see day light as well as my Arcadian rythem cycle.

The plane ride finished out okay and once landing in Delhi the first thing I noticed was the blast of humidity that slapped me in the face, 90%+, ughh. As I made my way through customs and on to baggage claim I saw a couple of other people who looked like they could be associated with the race and besides when a guy is wearing a Death Race coolmax hat you know he's involved. After quick introductions he was one of the runners and part of the medical team. They were staying at a different hotel so plans of hopping in with them were spoiled. I looked around for any signs of scheduled pick up and was hoping to see someone with a Dr. John sign as I was wanted to have someone like that waiting for me but no such luck and a gut feeling told me I was pretty much on my own. I headed outside to the taxis and pre-paid for the service and was loaded in a car but the driver didn't really know where it was so asked me in his really thick India accent if I could get the phone number. Well I didn't really want to find it be it would cost me $2.29/min plus data fees to Google it but I had no choice and as I searched for it the realization that I had entered the India New Delhi 500 but drove in both directions!! Omg it was the craziest thing I've ever experienced or seen.

All taxis and vehicles honk! No matter what. There is no stay in your lane and signal or Yield the right of way. Its beep beep, move over, first come first serve to the road space and forget about a double yellow line to divide the oncoming traffic, if there passing oncoming its a game of Chicken! No joke! After finding the phone # the driver called and got directions and I finally made it safe but barely after our almost lose game of chicken at 50km, 2 right hand turns from a left lane cutting in front of traffic, 2 ran red lights and passing my hotel by half a block on an one way street and just backing up on the side! WTF!!

My visual perception of the country so far at night was very populated, over crowded, and poor. There was many people just hanging on the sides of the road or in the middle of the divided highways talking and being with friends, like its there Saturday night thing to do. Lots of construction was being worked on with night lights and I quickly noticed that there were very few women present or visible on the streets and zero driving.

Arriving at Hotel Beyond is an interesting look bc right at the front door is a medal debtor that you and your bags pass through. The security is quick to help with my bags and up we go in this elevator that is literally 4x5. How I know because I reached my arms out both directions and I could touch both sides. As the doors opened I'm in the lobby of a nicely decorated place and I quickly ran into molly. As there checking for my room, the say I do not have a room and will have to call the RD that scheduled the accommodations. I retreat up to Molly’s room while we wait to find out what's happening and about 10 mins later I'm told I will be sharing a room with Ryan from NYC that is crewing for Samantha Gash. It’s all good and off I go to settle in and shower up. After a little talking, meeting Samantha, Ryan and I are lights out.

Its now Sunday morning and we have a schedule group run with the locals at some park and are up at 4:30am to leave by 5am. The sleep was short but it's exciting to be going on a run and meeting the other runners. An Australian but living in Dubai. It’s super humid again and only feels a slight bit cooler when we arrive at the park. Normally there is a 5-10 person meet up but today there is 100+! Lots of introductions and we are finally briefed on the run. It will be a variety of 4 distances 4k, 8k, 15k. I really wasn't prepared to run 15k with the type of humidity and water I would need so Bailey and decided we would run 8k. As the run started it was a fun group that quickly strung out along the morning roads of Delhi, soon we were running down Embassy row which was cool because all the Embassy’s were here, the landscaping was really nice but the humidity was quickly sucking the fun out of it. Bailey and I made the turn around and headed back walking more now than the out. As we walked we say the US Embassy on the opposite side of the road and although I wanted a picture I didn't want to play frogger crossing the road so I took a picture with my born country of Germany Embassy sign.

Finally we made it back to the park and just waited for the 15kers to return and drank Gluterade, a similar product of Gatorade with added Glutamine. I thought it was good and since it was so humid my body took to it quickly but Baileys quickly rejected it and ended up in the bushes puking.

After the puking incident we went to a breakfast at another hotel and this place had armed security at the gate with barricades and then another metal detector with an x-ray scanning machine just like the airports! These precautions are because lots of diplomats stay at theses hotels and then want top security.

After breakfast it was back to our hotel, shower and nap time because at 3pm we had an afternoon early dinner with the whole race team. Great food was severed in courses and even Budweiser was poured!

After dinner a quick packing session, but I had not really unpacked much and off to early bed and up at 3am for taxi ride to airport to fly to Leh.

Monday, Aug 1st.

After riding our chartered bus to the airport we were passport and grouped checked at the door just to get into the airport, then once in line it was a group check in weighing all the bags as a whole and finding out our little group was over the weight by 38kg, which meant pay 3800Rupies($96US) or 4000R($101) for two people to upgrade to Priority class and receive a higher allowance for weight for the group. Molly stepped up and paid the hundred bucks and got us all on board and she and Bailey enjoyed some perks.

We took off at 5:30am and flying to Leh was about 1 hour and the view is amazing of the snow covered mountain tops and approaching the city of Leh is very ahh struck. You can see the entire little city and patches of green and desert surround the area as well as a strong presence of military personnel. Arriving at 11450ft several of the racers and personal could immediate feel the altitude, I was feeling nothing and didn't realize we were at that elevation.

Waiting for our luggage was interesting and congested with only 2 luggage belts and about 200 people waiting with luggage carts. After our luggage arrived we all had to wait as there was a ceremonial celebration for the race arrival so I broke out my pulse/O2 monitor and it read 90%O2, pulse 77, with normal being 98%, 64. Although I could not feel the difference in altitude the numbers showed there had been a significant change. As we walked out of the airport it was simply amazing, there was monks praying and some people playing music with women holding flowers on the opposite side and the smell of burning incents. As we walked through to all our taxis it was definitely a realization that we were in Leh.

The drive to the hotel was pretty cool but mostly because I am seeing new things and a country side, the drivers here are a distant cuzions to the drivers in Delhi and its a little more laid back but still lots of horn honking. Arriving at Hotel Ri-Rab we unloaded our luggage only to find the whole welcoming crew from the airport here playing music and waiting for us. We all were greeted with an official Leh culture white scarf as we walked in and escorted to the back patio of the hotel for early coffee and tea, its

7:30am and I have suddenly forgotten its Monday morning.

After coffee it was organize the rooms for crews and runners. The race director had wanted to cater to the runners this year so they reserved rooms at a hotel next door to Ri-Rab and once Molly found her room, two single beds, so Bailey roomed with her. I settled in a few doors down taking a room for medial personal because they all had decided to stay in Ri-Rab together. After a long story about all theses rooms there was a meeting called to state that Only Runners could be in the other hotel and all Crew had to be in Ri-Rab and this was due to the negotiated costs the RD had with the hotels. We were all a little bummed bc as all runners want to stay with or next to there crews. So I had to move to Ri-Rab and Molly paid extra for Bailey to stay in her room. Mine turned out okay as I got a whole room to myself and once unpacked it was home for the next 16 days!

Now that all the hotel confusion/drama was over we went off to walk around the town and do some window shopping. We went to this Temple where Molly knows a Monk from last year and there was some sort of spiritual celebration occurring and many people sitting around outside the Temple praying and inside it was completely packed. We tried to get inside but it was just too crowed so after a few minutes we left and went to lunch.

After lunch it was nap time and then a Team medical meeting, followed my dinner and sleep in a bed harder than the ground!

Tuesday Aug 2nd

Ray had found a river rafting tour and since I've always wanted to do this might as well do it in the Himalayan Mountains! He and his gf, Gloria, myself and Catherine, aka, Cath, all went. The ride took about 45 mins and it was great seeing the other side of the Leh and outside, although I was sitting in the far back of the SUV vehicle it was difficult to see out or take picture. There was 8 of us in the raft with 2 guides and after a few stoke and paddle instructions we were off and rafting, hitting the first rapid and water coming in all over the boat and soaking everyone! At about 58* it was awesome! After a few more rapids and looking at the river/mountain side we were in a calm part of the river and one of the guides jumped in! Followed by another tourist. Then Ray got all excited and said "if I jump in your next!" And knowing me I was in, so I said You first! Splash Ray was in! Then I jumped in and feeling water splashed on you at 58* is much different than a full body dunk and I was quickly reminded of water temperatures at IMCd'A and Rage! Brrr! Back in the boat the other guide broke out the dry bag and took pictures for everyone but I had not brought mine so I will have to grab copies from Ray or Cath. Then Ray asked if I wanted to jump in again for the camera so over I went!! Anything for the camera! Haha. (river name)

We finally finished out the trip and then was drove to have lunch and then back to the city.

The day had been mostly overcast and cooler than the day before with a little more wind so it was pretty nice.

At 4pm we had a race meeting to go over the next 12 days of acclimation and events leading up to race day. This is also where we found out that all runners/crew will be leaving hotel 2 days before start of the race to go camp at 15500 ft. And we needed to bring all our race/crew gear that we could need! Let alone be sleeping in tents and yoga mats in low-mid 20's temps! Exciting but not really esp. before the race!

Molly is a little off the schedule they have planned this year because she is repeating her acclimation period from last year so after speaking with the RD he was okay with it because the Race officials have been very adamant about mandatory events. After the meeting it was dinner and bed time.

I took my other single bed in the room and put it on my bed and it was much better than a hard floor and I actually slept 7 straight hours.

Weds. Aug 3rd.

Let me explain about some of the accommodations. The Ri-Rab hotel reminds me of a hostel but each room has a bathroom. Basic two single beds in all rooms, even in the other hotel. There is a satellite TV, a small dresser and a built in book shelf. The bathroom is one room all tile with sink, toilet and shower, no separation of curtain or divider. Luckily, I have an actual over head shower head but the runner’s hotel has a hand held sprayer to use for the shower. Also we have a standard toilet with toilet paper, although I did buy my own in town for $1.25US and its not Charmin but its not bad either. Other place in town have simple a squatting hole and a wash pitcher to clean. In Delhi out hotel had a sprayer at the toilet and paper with a small 3" step dividing the shower stall.

All water must be bottled water and things like coffee or teas are all filter. No using tap water to brush your teeth.

Washing clothes which I have done already as to not accumulate stinky stuff is done in a bucket provided in your room and air dried. I brought a Wal-Mart camping clothes line and pins so I strung it up in the bathroom.

The hotel has a smell of older mustiness to it and no pictures in any rooms only the hall ways.

Food has been much better than I expected: coffee, tea, milk, corn flakes, granola, eggs, and all fresh vegetables. The curry used can be spicy so you just have to taste test before you eat it or don't order it. There's Italian places and Chinese as well and lots of vegetarian dishes that so far have been really good.

Pulse O2 this am is 92% and 58. Much improved over the last 2 days.

I was scheduled to participate in a Lactate threshold test but the medical team didn't have enough testing strips for the study and being as they determined that based on my triathlon and running experience I was basically conditioned as one of the runners here at La Ultra so I was excluded. The study is to determine if a trained athlete acclimates better than a non or lesser athlete based on lactate thresholds and hemoglobin counts, now I still will be able to have my blood hemoglobin count measured.

After Molly and Bailey did there tests we went up Khardung La which is the highest motor road in the World at 17529 feet! (Although its some how measured at 18,380ft but not according to GPS.) The drive up was amazing and scary at the same time as the road is narrow and barley wide enough for one vehicle let alone a huge truck similar to a 24' Uhaul but raised up about another 2' off the ground. These trucks are transport vehicles carrying commerce over from China and visa versa as this road is only open 2 1/2 months out of the year and snowed in the rest of the year. So the traffic is high and when meeting these trucks oncoming its a matter of finding Literally every inch of the road to squeeze by let alone deal with the exhaust fumes that don't dissipate very quickly bc of the lack of O2 in the air at this altitude.

Once we got to the top you could immediately feel the difference in lack of Oxygen and your Heart pounding in your chest! Just walking around I was thinking, HFS, and the runners have to run/walk up and over this pass (the road up to Khardung La is actually the down run of the course as the runners will start on the other side approximately 42km from the peak of Khardung La)

We stayed up at the top for about an hour and pulse Ox measured 71-73% O2 and 96-101 pulse Standing Around!!

I walked up to a little temple about 50 meters from the road and had to stop and rest on the stairs as my heart rate was really beating hard. After taking some pictures and buying a mug from the Highest Gift Shop in the World we headed back down to Leh and passed Sharon (Australia) runner who was running down from the top and doing very well.

Once back in town we had dinner and it was pretty much bed time as tomorrow the group would be going on a hike to Stok Kangi mountain.

Thursday Aug 4.

Up early for breakfast and preparing for the day which would turn out way unprepared due to lack of communication from the organizers of the day.

The group was heading for Stok Kangri mountain which we would hike up to a couple of the camps. Overall the summit of Stok Kangri is 20,177ft and covered in snow, so it for serious mountaineers and its said that at the summit on a clear day K2 can be seen!

Our group was only going up to 14,271ft and would take about 4-5 hours, of which I found this out when we got to the start of the hike at Stok Village, 12139ft. We were supplied a box lunch which included a veggie sandwich, 1 hard boiled egg, Tropicana OJ box, cookie and Nestle Crunch bar, but each of us had to carry our own as well as any water. (I didn't think to bring a camelback as I didn't see a need for it but damn I which I had it now as I carried all my stuff in a triathlon draw string bag) I grabbed 3 - 33oz waters and we all headed off.

There is a river here that is flowing very strongly and lots of little break away streams running all over. We had to cross several of these on the way up and it was rock hopping time. Quickly I realized I should have wore my trail shoes but yet again it was said that this was "an easy trek, on easy trails, Shoes-anything is good" but I guess in the printed material I should have 2nd guessed the any shoes is good statement. It was totally not meant for road shoes and every minute I was wishing I had my trail shoes. As the trail got away from some of the stream crossings but still near the river there were a few serious climbs that were short and steep in grade that really sucked the O2 out of me and then there was many many stretches of nothing but big rivers rocks about 6-12" or giant river rocks that we were walking on, basically in the dry part of the river bed.

After reaching out first mini-camp at mile 3.3 and 13,191ft I was definitely feeling the lack of air while hiking and I had to slow down. After resting at this mini-camp with a few of the front hikers we all left to the next camp and immediately we were in a switch back climb that was pretty freaking steep, reminded me of Caballo climb steepness at Jemez50k. I got dropped and took my time getting to the at 13,550 in less than 1mile! After the climb up we had some gradual downhill and I was able to run a little, the first since we started and caught back up to two of the others. Then it was back in the river bed for the rest of the hike to 2nd mini-camp of 5.5miles and 14,100 and this is where we had lunch and stayed about an hour, it took me 2hrs 50mins to here. I was a little concerned bc it was hot and I only had 1 bottle of water left and I know going down would be faster but again it was hot. When the organizer got here he said the last base camp we would hike to is 30 mins more and asked who wanted to go, I did, but knowing I only had 1 bottle of water and 30mins and back to where I'm at now plus 90mins down meant 2 hours and that didn't sound like a smart thing to do for me, plus I was starting to feel a little bit of tingling in my heels and I knew that was from altitude so I said I was heading back (later I found out the next camp was only 10 mins away and there was a huge camp with all supplies! I was pissed that the organizers didn't state or clarify that as I would have gone and been okay, despite the tingling)

I headed down with 3 of the others but I started going fast and I was quickly alone as I attacked the runable parts. I got back to the 1st mini-camp and most of the others were here as they chose not to go farther. I said hello and informed them who was behind me and took off down the trail. Again it was hot now so I was drinking a little more than I wanted but I knew I was on rations and I hate feeling that way but still 3 miles out I had to conserve. The run back was actually quite nice and I enjoyed my solitude in the mountains, it was the first time I've ran since we got here and I was feeling good, even my hamstring issue was feeling good.

As I made it back to start in 1hr 15mins I was happy to get water as I drank down 33oz quickly and sipped on another one waiting for the others. Finally almost 90 mins later they showed up and off we went back to the hotel.

That night was dinner with Ray, Gloria and Ray’s crew as well as Cath and then back for bed. I was feeling pretty tired so I was glad the day was over.

Friday Aug. 5th.

I woke up early being as I had slept about 9 hours and as I laid in bed and moved around I was feeling fatigued and sleepy, I immediately knew I was not recovered from the Stok hike/run yesterday and being as Molly and Bailey were heading up to Khardung La (17500ft), as well as others runners/crews, I elected not to go and stay at the hotel and rest all day. This was a pretty easy decision to make because of the fatigue and tiredness I felt I knew my body was not recovered and I had no business being up at 17500ft!

As we were all waiting around for the taxis to take them up the mountain, Samantha Gash asked if I could stretch her while we were waiting, Samantha is a very accomplished young runner who became the first Female to conquer all 4 Desert Crossings (Chile, Sahara, Gobi, and Antarctica, yes, its considered a desert). As explained Fascial stretch therapy more in-depth and working on her hips she immediately experienced an adhesion release in the joint capsule and it was super exciting for me as the doctor as I have not felt or heard one as strong as hers! After working through all the left side I had her walk around as she could immediately feel the difference so I enhanced the stretch session with some lower leg calf stretching and now she was really happy and sad! Happy that her left side felt so good and sad bc it was time for her to go and the right side would have to wait till this afternoon!

So they went on ahead without me and had a great time walking up the back side of the race route and taking pictures, no worries though bc I went back to bed and slept another 2.5 hours, almost till Noon! I woke up feeling only a little fatigued but the tiredness or sleepiness I was feeling earlier in the AM was gone. I spent the rest of the day hanging around the hotel and garden area with some of the other crew members from Samantha Gash's team, showing them the TRX and just talking. It was really nice to just lounge around and I knew my body needed the rest/down time.

Later in the afternoon, Jason, another runner was dealing with some low back pain and so I used one of the local benches and hooked up my FST straps and put Jason through a lower body Fascial stretch therapy session! I had to make some serious adjustments bc the table was so low and I had Barry Walton, who is here filming a documentary on the race and is the maker/filmier/producer of "Profiling HURT", a great video which I purchased last year before my failed attempt and only 27 miles at HURT100. Barry was filming the entire stretch session asking a few questions here and there and getting me to explain what I was doing. It was a great segment and later I will have a copy of it!!

A while later Samantha returned from her training day at Khardung La and I finished stretching her and she was feeling great.

Earlier we had decided to walk up to a pace called Shanti Stupa, its where a temple is built high on a mountain (557 steps from the road) and there is a Shrine that the call a Stupa. When the Stupa is constructed a list of prayers are enclosed and offered to Buddha the Gods.

This Stupa is huge and many thousands of prayers are enclosed.

Last year when Molly was here she met the Superior Lama that built this place (he is really high ranking and close to the Dalai Lama) and as he was speaking to the crowd he borrowed a guitar and started to place music but stopped quickly bc the guitar was out of tune so he quickly grabbed his guitar and place French Classical music for them, well this year when Molly saw him again she talked to him and he remembered her. We took pictures with him and chatted briefly as he asked where we were from, Las Vegas! And he said he wished to come view the Beatles Cirque d'Sol show! How awesome is that!! We watched the sun set and took pictures around the Stupa and then went back down to the temple to find (him) again and ask for a blessing.

As we were sitting in the temple he came in and sat, which is in the corner in this little bench box type sitting area for him. Molly moved over and asked him if he could give us a blessing for being safe during the week and during the race. He sat there a few seconds thinking and then said he didn't understand asking for a blessing because we are already blessed; we are blessed by the Stars, Moon, Sun, Air, Water etc.. And we are blessed because we are here in Leh, safe. Wow! Some easy wisdom there. Then he proceeded to tell us that Life is 50% Choice and 50% Destiny and it is the Destiny that most humans have trouble accepting.

The story continued as he looked at me and spoke about Karma, that if you have had your wallet and credit cards stolen (I have, some broke into my car a few years ago and stole only that!) Then in a past life you stole something from some else! Holy crap, heavy stuff. After just a couple of other things he stands up and says follow me, so we all stand up and he walks behind this curtain with a door and Molly goes in, Bailey and I stand outside the door not knowing and he says Please all come in.

We walked into this little room and he shut the door behind me and locked it and asked us to sit down on some carpet/small bench but basically on the floor. I was still a little unaware of what he was going to do and I as looked around the room I realized this was his private chambers, with a day bed, table, radio w/cd player, pictures of the Dalai Lama, and other personal belongings.

Then as he walked to the corner of the room he picked up a guitar and went to the sit down as he started tuning the guitar. OMG he was going to give is a private playing!!! After a few tune ups on the guitar he looked at us and said Spanish Classical music this time.

I would have NEVER thought or has it happened that music has brought to tears to my eyes but as he started playing the sound was so BEAUTIFUL I was completely filled with happiness and peace with the joy of tears in my eyes! I just listed and still couldn't believe that I was hearing this but the sound was so magical that it let me feel deep within for myself and Dez and nothing else really mattered. The song lasted longer than I expected and when he finished it he began a 2nd song which also beautiful and a little more up tempo. I guess he looked at all of us in a mystical trance and figured he better snap us out of it. The song was shorter and I vaguely remember it but the sound of the first one I can still hear when I close my eyes! He finished and we applauded and he thanked us and as we stood up to walk out we were all really happy and just a little beside ourselves trying to process what just happened! That was our blessing and other than finishing the race that 10 minutes was worth every minute I spent to get here. (It would have been a great thing to have video of or pictures but it just wasn't right and I actually didn't even think about it at the time bc it was so special)

We all walked out and back down the 557 steps pausing to talk about our feelings and experience, it was truly amazing. We had dinner back at the hotel which was not that great and decided that really none of the dinners had been good there. I liked breakfast bc they have cereals, toast, coffee and sometimes omelets or scrambled eggs, almost like continental breakfast.

After dinner was sleep time as we had decided to go back up to the Stupa at 5am to see the chant and music they play and watch the sun rise.


No comments: