It’s 1am and I’m sitting in my hotel room in Geneva, currently en route to Nepal, staring – okay, admiring – the bags of food I have carefully prepared for the week-long race next week in the Himalayas. In fact, I’m admiring them so much that I’ve cracked into my ‘extra’ bag of goodies already. Sigh, it happens every year. Once I see those little ziploc bags of crushed up potato chips (with added salt), saran-wrapped balls of peanut butter, and chocolate bars broken down into perfect little 100 calorie morsels, the temptation becomes too much and I dive in, eating my snacks days before I’m meant to. It isn’t until I am licking my fingers with crumbs of junk food creeping up both sides of my cheeks that I start to panic whether I will be able to find the right kind of food to replace what I’ve eaten at airport shops and convenience stores along my travels.
But let me backtrack a bit. This is my fourth RacingThePlanet event (250 km self-supported footraces), and while it is easier in some sense to prepare for these races as a ‘vet’, you never really shake that feeling that you aren’t as prepared as you should be, no matter how many times you do these things. In fact, I think I was the most prepared for my first race in Vietnam back in 2008. I can remember lying awake at night running through a million questions in my head: will my quads give out? My knees? What happens if I pass out on the course? What if I eat all my food on the first day? Will my backpack hold up? My sanity? How much salty versus sweet food should a bring? Will I be too cold or too hot? Will I be able to sleep at night? Compression socks or toe socks? The never-ending questions provided just enough of a sense of panic that I made sure well-ahead of time that I had everything I needed to give me the best chance possible of finishing the race.
Well, now that I’ve been around the Vietnam/Namibia/Australia blocks a few times, I seem to have lost the kind of panic that would spur me into action. Instead, I have coasted along for the past few weeks convincing myself that I would pull everything together when I needed to, and hey, I’d done this before so it should be easy, right? There was so much going on in my fast-paced New York life that there was always something more important to do than worry about whether I had a lightweight pocket knife or a red flashing light to put on my backpack.
This was all fine until the horrible troll that is otherwise known as the reality-check fairy paid me a visit last weekend. I’m sure you are all acquainted with her. As you know, she usually likes to visit very late in the evenings when your thinking is clearest and you can easily gain perspective on things (note the sarcasm). I had just left work after a very long day and was walking home towards the East Village, when she came up right behind me and started whispering things into my ear:
Steph, weren’t the new running shoes you ordered over a week ago supposed to have arrived already? How are you going to break them in in time now?
And Steph, I thought you needed a warm but lightweight jacket? You don’t have one in New York. You had better hope you left your patagonia top with your friends in London, or you’ll be freezing in Nepal. No time left now to test out new gear.
What about those raidlight bottles you ordered from France? The new nozzles are horrible and spill water all over you as you run. How on earth are you going to stay hydrated if you don’t find a way to get the old model?
Despite my best efforts, I was unable to quiet the horrid reality-check fairy and the worries started to mount. Unfortunately for one of my close compatriots in New York who has not yet witnessed this pre-race process (read: chaos), when I vented some of my concerns he made the very innocent mistake of simply asking me why I had not started preparing earlier. Oh dear.
The past week has been a mad flurry of buying, ordering, and coordinating gear from New York to London and now Geneva in order to make sure I have every item on the mandatory equipment list covered….
FOOD: This is probably the most important thing to prepare ahead of time. Runners are required to carry 14000 calories for the week (a minimum of 2000 calories per day), but exactly how you divide up your rations is up to you. I like to separate the food out into separate bags, one for each day, so that all of the decisions about what to eat are made ahead of time. When you are tired and hungry mid-way through the race, this is not the best time to be given the choice of how much of your week’s rations you should eat. I look at how much altitude and distance is covered each day, and then I ration out the relative amounts of calories accordingly. I generally load up on calories for the beginning few days as this lightens the pack, and of course save a large amount for the long day (75 km as opposed to 40 km), which is on day 5. The sixth day is usually the ‘rest’ day, assuming you finish the long day in one shot, and as a result I usually portion out much less than the 2000 calories for that day. The final day is only 15 km and for this I save just a couple hundred calories. I know at the end there will be pizza and beer waiting (a RacingThePlanet tradition that they have kept going at all ends of the earth), so I can afford to be a bit hungry. Then there is the decision about how many calories to get through solid food vs liquid, salt versus sweet, electrolytes… Needless to say, there are endless choices to make. I would tell you the rest but they hey, a girl’s gotta have her secrets.
CLOTHES: I’m still working out what I should take with me to wear. I am bringing a range of options with me to Nepal and will make my final choice based on what the climate feels like to me when I get there… and what I see other people doing. I try not to follow others too much and just go with what I think might be best, but it always helps to check out the scene. The temperatures will be ranging from 75 and 80 during the day (23-25 celcius for my canadian readers) but down to freezing or worse at night. This makes it particularly hard to pack for.
TOILET PAPER: Yes, for the first time, RacingThePlanet is placing toilet paper on the mandatory equipment list. This is something I do not have experience estimating. In fact, if anyone does have experience estimating how much tp they use in a week, I might worry. But this is clearly a critical decision that, if done poorly, would have disastrous consequences. I may attempt to do some market research over the next couple of days. Anonymous quotes welcome.
Other odds and ends I have picked up in airports include sunglasses, gloves, lip sunscreen, alcohol gel… These things may not seem important, but if you don’t have an item that is ‘mandatory’ on the equipment list, you are out of the game! I made a error in assuming I could get safety pins from airports (apparently razors are okay to sell, but not tiny pins?), but luckily some London-based friends who will be competing in Nepal are coming to the rescue.
Well, before I get tempted to eat more of my race food, I had better get to bed. 2:15 am and a day full of meetings tomorrow before heading back to London and then out to Kathmandu via Delhi. So much for following coach’s advice to eat well, sleep lots, and do some odd runs. OOPS!
More later. Happy to have you following along! Please see links below for how to follow me on my journey… and I would love to hear from you during the race!
Stephanie aka ultrarunnergirl.com
To follow my blog during the race: http://www.4deserts.com/blogs/np_comptetior_blog.php?pid=MTQzMA==&blog=116 (I will not have access to ultrarunnergirl until afterwards)
To send me a message!: http://www.4deserts.com/beyond/nepal/email
To receive breaking news: http://www.4deserts.com/beyond/nepal/breaking_news
“Amid the mighty competition, all eyes will be on top contender Ryan Sandes (29). The South African made history in 2010 when he was the first person to win all 4 Deserts races. Ryan recently won the Leadville 100 in the United States. Other strong contenders include Sean W. Abbott (29) and Ryan Bennett (28) of the United States. Legendary Marshall Ulrich (60) who was hailed as the “Endurance King” by Outside Magazine, also competes in one of six teams. Marshall will speak at the Royal Geographical Society in Hong Kong following the conclusion of RacingThePlanet: Nepal.
The women’s field is also compelling with several past champions competing including: Sissel Smaller (51) of Norway, winner of the female division of the Atacama Crossing 2006, who counts summiting Mount Everest amid her list of accomplishments; Mirjana Pellizzer (48) of Croatia, who earned the title of 4 Deserts Female Champion in 2010; and Canada’s Stephanie Case (29) who won the women’s division of RacingThePlanet: Vietnam in 2008.” – RacingThePlanet