Don’t Over Think It, Just Do It! How I survived a 50km Race

It started when my husband decided to run an ultramarathon in Nepal. It was a lifelong dream of his. Then, friends of mine — all happen to be female– decided they were going to run the race, too.

The day arrived when we would travel to Nepal — that is when I meet the sixth person in our group who flew in from the US.

Little did I know that my encounter with this woman would change my life forever.

How I Survived 50K Run: How It Started

It’s 14 Hours before the gun goes off and the hardest physical challenge I’ve ever faced is upon me.

I’ve done zero training for this race, meanwhile, the group I am with, along with my super fit husband, have been training for several months.

What the heck was I thinking?

Am I that crazy to think that I am capable of completing a50 kilometre race with never having run more than 21km in my life?

I was so caught up in their excitement, the thrill of being in Nepal, that I lapse in judgment. Now… I truly want to believe that I can do it.

I want to prove it to myself that I can — mind over matter– but the smallest things shake my confidence–like the 8km run we did yesterday left me more sore than I anticiped.

How I Survived 50K Run

At registration a fellow racer asking how many miles I “logged in” before the race. I am in way over my head and panic is starting to set in.

With my stomach in knots and my heart racing every time I think about the decision I made, to calm down I keep telling myself I am a trained athlete; once an athlete always an athlete.

I have the mental stamina so I’m halfway there.. Yoga has given me my leg strength, breath work and mental training.

I can do this.

The day of our arrival in Kathmandu, Nepal we met the final person in our entourage, Stephanie. An incredible force of energy this woman is. An extremely active woman entering races left and right, travelling halfway around the world on expeditions, nothing can stop this woman.

Less than a year ago she was fighting for her life having suffered from breast cancer — now she’s off to run 50km at high altitude on hilly terrain.

After knowing her for just a few hours, she wondered why I too hadn’t signed up for the 50km race. My response, “it’s not my thing.” After digging further, she knew I was somewhat fit, but in the company of experienced runners, I certainly wasn’t going to be the novice bringing the entire group down.

Then the persuading began. The nail in the coffin that I had no comeback to was “hey I’m cancer girl, if I can do it, you can do it.” What do you say to that? And so I was locked in. Committed. Even my husband, who knows my fitness level, told me it was okay to back out and wasn’t too particularly encouraging. Still, I had verbally committed so I could not back out.

It’s 4 am on race day and my mind is alert and clear as the midnight sky.

I blink my eyes open laying in bed for a few minutes to soak in the reality of today. I’ve accepted my decision and now I’m charged to take on the great land of Nepal, 50km and all.

We make our way to the starting point. It’s actually quite warm for 5:30 am so runners start to adjust what they will take on the run, leaving warmer clothes behind. Me, I always get cold so I opt to keep all my gear, a decision that saved me. After sorting out our gear and putting on last-minute tiger balm (as if that’s going to help), we leave our drop bags and gather at the start.

Last minute hugs and well wishes amongst our team, my hubby gives me a big hug and kiss as we part ways for the next 12 hours, so I thought.

The Race

There goes the whistle and off we go.

Chloe, Stephanie and I fade to the back trotting along in the dark. Just four others are behind us, lighting the way with their headlamps. Take deep, long slow breaths I say. Remember your pranayama. Smile, you’re here to have fun. One kilometre in, my legs start to feel the burn. “Breath,’ I tell myself — just get through the first 5km, which are always the worst.

Heading into the second 5k, I’m feeling more energized, my legs are warmed up and I no longer feel as if my thighs are on fire. My partners in crime Chloe and Stephanie are rock stars, cheering me on the entire run. Every 15 minutes I get a “how are you feeling?”, “You’re doing great!” or “You’re amazing!” which keeps me connected, energized and pumped to keep going.

Not only are these ladies champion motivators; they are experienced, runners and hikers. We were completely prepared with the proper gear, nutrition and hydration. Chloe had her watch set so every 30 minutes we were ensured to have our nutrition of homemade granola bars, electrolytes, the ever-popular sport energy beans and an occasional salt pill.

A surprise awaited us at 37km, one that you want to take note of, the energy of all energy miracles to be revealed later. Stephanie had us covered as the DJ, speakers and all. You can never be over prepared as we were soon to find out in the next 5km.

We make it to the first checkpoint, 13km. That wasn’t so bad. I’m feeling the tightness in my legs, lactic acid accumulating, but my body and mind still in shock from actually accepting this challenge. After we have some water and a few bites to eat, we rest for a few minutes before heading up the first major incline of 12km.

We begin the incline, walking quickly through the steep parts and running where we can. The sun has risen by this point and the grey skies are more evident. A few drops of water fall on my shoulders and then a few more. Still wearing our windbreakers, we are okay at the moment. Then before we realize it, we are running in a full rainstorm.

Our bodies warm from running, the chill from being drenched isn’t so bad…yet. A few kilometres later, we stop for a moment when we find shelter, realize we are freezing and re-evaluate our gear.

Thankfully in the morning, I removed the thick fleece that I was wearing and I never took my gloves out.

Both stayed nice in dry in Chloe’s dry bag. Thank goodness for the dry bag! My singlet, however, is completely soaked as is my hair. As instructed by my teammates, I reluctantly take off my singlet, ring out the water, wearing my jog bra and windbreaker only, allowing myself to dry. I am freezing, but it is the smartest move of the day.

The weather continues to be a problem.

My extremities are starting to feel the bite from the cold breeze flowing past our soaking wet bodies. My hair is dripping, and my bright yellow windbreaker, that is obviously not waterproof, clings to my body. We continue up the hill walking and then running where possible. Shaking from the chill, we sing, move our arms vigorously, clinching and opening our fists as if we are in an 80’s aerobics class.

We pass many runners on our way up the mountain, some sprinting down the path, others a bit more cautious. We pass the three other runners on our team, all a bit dazed, but thrilled to be on the decline. “The rest stop is a few kilometers away,” they say, giving us a bit of encouragement, but knowing we had well over 6km more to go. The last few kilometers are quite dreadful and never-ending. Frozen toes and fingers we push on to the halfway mark.

Halfway There!

Elated to reach the top and the halfway mark, I’m thrilled and relieved to get a short break and something warm in my belly. Some are warming their toes up by pouring hot water over them. Others drink noodle soup to take the chill off. I am more concerned with my knees, which are starting to become a real problem.

They are throbbing and on fire. At this point, I wonder if I am permanently damaging my knees. With half the race to go, I convince myself that the cold is part of the problem. I try to sooth them by dousing them with stinky analgesic spray and eating some warm broth as a distraction. Refueled, back down the mountain, we go.

Surprisingly the downhill is the worst part of running hills, but of course, if you’re a runner, you already know that. I walk the downhill portion at this point, speed walking the remainder.

Once the rain clears, I throw on my fleece and gloves and start warming up. More tunes by the lovely Stephanie to get our energy back on track.

We reach the bottom of the incline and a bit of relief and excitement fills my body. 37km finished! The most I have ever run in my entire life! I am thrilled to be here, right now, and know at this very moment that I CAN finish this race. There is no doubt in my mind.

To energize us for the last 13km, Chloe has a nice surprise for us, a lasagna burrito. “What’s a lasagna burrito? Sounds rather heavy for a 50km race,” we say.

“Trust me,” she says. Who am I to question anyone, I’ve never done this before. So, of course, I indulge in the naan wrapped beef lasagna a proven carb loading strategy, says Chloe. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! It’s a bit too amazing that I think I indulged a bit too much. Feeling 3kg heavier, we head to our next checkpoint, 4.5km away.

At this point, we take some quiet time turning inwards to our breath, soothing the mind and re-energizing our legs. We reach the checkpoint and quickly turn around and head back to the last checkpoint, now just wanting to finish. A bit of giddiness ensues and skipping is involved with a few more tunes from DJ Steph. Checking our time we are well ahead of the 12-hour goal we gave ourselves and possibly below our new goal of 10 hours. Head down, we trek on.

The Finish

We make it to the last checkpoint– only 4 more kilometres to go.

Suddenly my knees hurt more than ever. Of course, they do, knowing I have only 4 more kilometres to go. I struggle with my mind trying furiously to ignore the pain. I take a few minutes to re-group. Stephanie charges on to the finish line while Chloe waits for me to pull it together.

Knowing that my prize is so close and with endless encouragement, I plough forward with Chloe by my side. We decide that we must run across the finish line pain or not. I agree.

I think by some cruel joke they miscalculated the distance for the last 4km as it feels like an endless road. Each turn we hope to see the big white banner, but each time we are disappointed. Chloe stops by the roadside, joins in a game of cricket with the locals (and school’s them, I might add!), giving me a much-needed break.

Then, there it is, we see it, the big white banner and tiny figures just beneath. We aren’t certain at this point until we hear the insane screams from the other four team members cheering us on. Immediately my eyes well up with tears knowing that I’ve done it, I’ve really done it.

Chloe and I look at each other — now is the time.

I take a few big breaths and then we start to run — my knees are numb. No control over my legs. I see the amazing group of friends waiting for us at the finish line and charge towards them.

Tears stream down my face. An extreme rush of emotions flows through my body. I’m in pain. I am elated and filled with joy. My chest feels like it’s going to explode.

The impossible just became possible.

I’ve seen this many times in other athletes whether on TV or live, but this time it was my turn. I took a risk and that risk paid off.

 

Reflection

Yoga training gave me the physical fitness, mental stamina, and breath awareness– and my two partners in crime fueled my energy bank.

I was able to cross the finish line running, crying and elated..

I grew leaps and bounds that day, conquering fears burrow deep down– ensuring I would never have to face them.

The Band-Aid was ripped off. I never felt so incredible.

I was reminded of something that I had forgotten a long time ago– getting out of your comfort zone is terrifying yet so gratifying no matter the outcome.

Anytime I look fear in the eyes again, I will think of this day and how I burst through the doors and came alive in the mountains of Nepal.