Saturday, November 26, 2011

Culture shock

As the three of us ran into the finish line together - Beat, me and our new Canadian friend Patrick - I absorbed the strange familiarity of the scene. Beautiful Nepali children twirled in rapid circles, world flags flapped in the breeze, and the November sun cast brilliant light on the 8,000-meter peaks towering over the valley. A race official draped a medal over my neck as an old man dabbed red paint on my forehead. We had come a long way in one week. Farther than I could yet understand.

Contrasting the celebratory scene was a memory from the night before the race began, in Camp One just outside of Pokhara. I stumbled out of my tent for the fifth time that night and sprint-shuffled to the toilet, making it just in time to experience the startling sensation of purging a nearly clear liquid out of two ends simultaneously. I have had the flu and intense food poisoning before, but I had never before been so sick to really experience what it's like to have a body reject itself. As I stumbled back to my tent, I became so weak and dizzy that I had to lay down in a rice paddy, with my head resting on a clump of grass. They sky was white with stars, surrounding a sliver moon. The snowy mass of Annapurna South seemed to glow in the starlight. "If I don't start the race tomorrow, they won't let me continue. I won't be able to see any of it. Any at all."

I don't remember much about stage one. I remember Beat coaxing me out of the tent to the starting line and force-feeding me Hi-Chew candies. I remember sucking down sips of water at the first checkpoint and gasping as I struggled to keep it down. The race volunteer looked so concerned I thought for sure they were going to pull me out of the race, if I didn't quit myself. I remember wanting to quit. I remember Beat pulling me up the first mountain by holding one of my trekking poles as I limped along behind him. I remember vomiting water and Hi-Chews right in front of two Nepali children. I remember taking stone steps one at a time between rests with the other sick back-of-packers. I remember the Annapurna skyline in the sunlight. Actually, I guess there's a lot I remember about stage one. It was a difficult challenge unlike anything I've ever taken on.

I didn't want to gut out the first stage of Racing the Planet Nepal but I did. I'm so glad I did. It was an incredible experience and as the time comes I'll have much more to say about it, and of course tons more photos. More to come.

19 comments:

  1. I'm looking forward to hearing about your experience - I've been checking back to see when you'll post! Hooray!

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  2. Anonymous8:11 AM

    the mind is stronger than the body , you've proved it

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  3. Been worried and thinking about you all week. Looking so forward to your story. Glad you are okay.

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  4. Can't wait to read (and see!) more, good to hear you were able to pull through.

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  5. You've got guts, girl! I can't wait to read more!

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  6. Helen1:20 PM

    I've been following the race all week. I now understand why Beat has been with you all the way. You've been horribly ill before, so I can't imagine how you managed to go on.The pull of the mountains? Perhaps, but you continue to stun with your gutzy efforts!

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  7. Yowser. Glad you started.

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  8. Karen4:46 PM

    The definition of true love. When one of you completely drops their race plan to be with and help support the other. Knew one of you must have gotten the sickness that overwhelmed the race. So glad both of you were able to start and to finish. Can't wait to hear about it.

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  9. Holy....Glad you are safe. You look victorious, even with fewer fluids!

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  10. Jackie10:44 PM

    True, genuine love is hard to find. I'm glad you found it Jill. It must be so nice to be able to share your passion and at the same time spend all that time together and still get along!

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  11. Hey Jill, I can say after 4 years of international travel I had a feeling that you might get sick from the food.

    Those countries, including India and Egypt are difficult ones to visit and not be affected from the food, cultural difference and the infrastructure. It took me a couple of weeks to adjust when I arrived in each country.

    But glad you state the race and the area is beautiful.

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  12. Oh by the way, the best way to recover is down Yogurt and Bananas all day long and the next day you should feel better.

    I did this every time I had a problem with the food.

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  13. Yikes - what a baptism of fire to start with! I'm guessing the next bits must have felt survivable by comparison. Glad you're both safe and finished, although sorry it was such a nasty start. Can't wait to hear the rest!

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  14. That completely sucks but is yet another reason why I don't really get the allure of RTP vs. doing your own trek (if you were doing your own trek you could just wait a day)... but I'm glad you rallied and managed to have an awesome time.

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  15. Anonymous4:13 PM

    Jeez Louise, you are one tough cookie! And I evidently sound like my mother. Glad you made it, and looking forward to the post-purging installments! As a writer, do you find yourself comforted through the crappy bits by saying, "well, at least it'll make for an interesting story!"? Hope you're recovering nicely,

    Jenn

    (sorry if this double posts - my internet is on its last legs)

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  16. The race doctors speculated that the strain of illness I caught was a virus, although of course that's just speculation. But there was something that spread through camp like wildfire, affecting at least half of the racers with similar symptoms (although different levels of intensity.) Almost all of the people who dropped did so because of illness, not injury. I most likely caught it from another sick racer on the bus ride to camp one. It certainly wasn't altitude and it's also unlikely it was caused by food poisoning, according to the doctors. It was much more flu-like, with fever.

    Danni - I thought the same, but it would be difficult to organize a private trek here. People do it of course but RTP does offer a high level of assistance - including medical assistance - that inspires confidence in a developing country. I realized after the first day that even healthy I would feel pretty intimidated traveling alone, or even just with Beat, in this region. So you have to weigh the good with the bad. I was impressed with the RTP organization. It was really well done.

    And Jenn - yes. We are still in Pokhara and Internet access is limited. I'm looking forward to blogging the story next week but for now I am enjoying playing tourist in Nepal.

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  17. Anonymous9:32 PM

    Looking forward to hearing about the touristing adventures, too ... one of the highlights of my life was staying with a Tibetan family in the Tibetan portion of Sichuan province. I haven't made it to Nepal yet, but maybe someday! Failing that, I'll just console myself with other folks' photos and writings! Have a fantastic time -- and glad you're feeling better.

    Jenn

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  18. Danni .. could see how u think that but there's much more to the event. Its a very immersive experience. We could have been better prepared for this as well ... I didn't get sick the 2 previous times and thought we could stay ok bc we only eat our own food. Anyhow its a great event sick or not.

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  19. Danni .. could see how u think that but there's much more to the event. Its a very immersive experience. We could have been better prepared for this as well ... I didn't get sick the 2 previous times and thought we could stay ok bc we only eat our own food. Anyhow its a great event sick or not.

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