Stage 5: And Miles To Go Before I Sleep
“First you have to know what you want, defined in terms of the end result. And then you have to physically move towards it, without defining the hows. At which point, the thing you want actually starts coming to you, on its own terms, from a direction completely unexpected.”
I don’t even know where to begin.
Each day has progressively gotten easier but that 72km after having already covered 125km – hardest.thing.ever.
The route rolled through the foothills of the Himalayas with some very steep climbs. I set out with a couple of the Aussie guys I’ve met here and pushed a pretty solid pace. Much of the climbs and descents in the first three legs (of eight) were quite slippery; even marked with caution tape. It became quite hot early in the day and we were running out of water between checkpoints.
The photo opportunities were again amazing and had me wishing I had a panoramic camera. Leg 3 had a steep descent into checkpoint 4 and I couldn’t maintain the pace; knowing that I would need to save my left leg for the remaining 44km. Yeah – imagine how it feels to think about that after you’ve taken 7 hours to get through 26km…
“Kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight.”
I got through the 5th checkpoint at about 5:00pm – already a 10 hour day. I tried to move as quickly as I could knowing there was about 30 – 40 minutes of daylight left. The final 35km of the stage were in the dark. The downhill of leg 5 was steep and difficult to manage with just a headlamp. Whoever decided the best way to build a road was to arrange paving stones in a vertical format needs to have a chat with me.
Fortunately the rest of the 30km was comparatively flat. Running / shuffling wasn’t much of an option but I still stuck my head down and set a pace that had me covering 9km every 80 min.
“If you were supposed to give up, you would have already. You’re supposed to keep pushing.”
“Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be, For my unconquerable soul.”
The final 20km are a bit of a blur. It is remarkable how hard you can push yourself. I didn’t stop at any of the final 2 checkpoints because I couldn’t afford to stop moving. The fatigue, pain, level of discomfort and frustration of knowing that the incredibly unhealthy meal you are salivating for that would normally help you get through the last part of your run isn’t a possibility for three more days are crushing.
Seriously. For 19km all I could think about was sitting at Vera’s Burgers with a turkey burger in one hand, a lamb burger in the other, and a double order of fries.
Most of this section was rocky road except for one patch of about 30′ that was freshly covered in straw. It was begging me to lie down. At times I just wanted to close my eyes for half a second but I knew it would be over if I did. Several times during this section tears welled up again.
Pushing through the last climb the final 3km wound around a mountainside before descending into camp. 14:45 minutes after I started I crossed the finish line of Stage 5 – battered and bruised but not broken.
“Let your legs carry you. Let your heart guide you.”
While I have tried to put to words the experience of the last few days there is no way I could have properly captured it. The agony of Stage 1 seems forever ago, the doubt of being able to start Stage 2 is still in the back of my mind, the loneliness of Stage 3 probably saved me, Stage 4 was about being patient, and Stage 5 was an experience unto itself, tomorrow Stage 6 will complete everything by bringing many more questions.
This has been a learning experience the depth of which I am unlikely to understand for many more months. As opposed to learning more about myself I have discovered how little I actual I know. For this opportunity I am grateful.
Thanks for all of your support. I beg you to take a risk and bite off something that makes you think you cannot handle it – whatever form that takes for you. I will certainly be there with encouragement and support.I look forward to updating tomorrow after the final leg. In meantime, over 72km you get a lot of cravings that just aren’t satisfied by:
- 4 Hammer Gels
- 1 Elevate Me Bar
- 1 Coke
- 1 Mountain Dew
- 1 Sprite
- 1 package of freeze dried couscous
- 1/2 a package of candied smoked salmon that some other blessed sould carried for 160km before gifting to me
- 2 random German chocolate bars
As for what’s on my list now:
- Fish & Chips
- A veggie sandwich loaded with sprouts and covered in hummus and tzaziki
- Pizza Hut lunch buffet
- Keg sliders
- Bison pot pie
The list could go on forever.
One more update tomorrow, 197km down in just over 39 hours.