I woke up feeling sick to my stomach. This was most likely my fault for running for sixteen and a half hours on minimal nutrition, but I blamed "the bug ... or a new bug." I shuffled miserably around camp and refused to eat. I sorted out the rest of my freeze-dried meals that I hadn't yet given away or thrown away and threw them away (and yes, the only freeze-dried meal of my own that I actually ate in seven days was the demon Thai Chicken before the race even began.) Our camp was located near the shoreline of Bengas Lake, a popular tourism spot, so we were surrounded by small restaurants. Beat coaxed me up to what was a common sight in the cities of Nepal — a single-counter store with various chips, cookies, ramen and soda. We shared a small bag of "American Sour Cream and Onion" potato chips and a Sprite. Very soon afterward, digestive distress ensued. I rushed to the toilets, and then returned to the tent to marinate in my own misery. As the sun rose over the hillside, the temperature inside the nylon oven climbed to what must have been 130 degrees. I lay in my sweat-drenched underwear on top of a Ridge Rest and moaned.
A few times, Beat came to the door of the tent to coax me out. "It's too hot in here. Come outside."
And then, twenty minutes later: "You need to get up and eat something."
And then, another twenty minutes later. "Seriously. You have to get out of here."
"Just give me twenty more minutes."
"No, you have to eat something now. You ran for sixteen hours yesterday and you need something to recover. Seriously, this is how kidney failure happens to people."
Fish and garlic? It sounded awful to me, but I couldn't go back to the tent to lay down without stewing in my own brain proteins. I had to find some way to kill the daylight hours. Eventually I agreed to head down to the restaurant to sit at a table and drink soda, especially after Beat threatened to make me eat the Kathmandu Curry (he ended up eating it himself for lunch.) The lakeside restaurant was tiny, with a family of four taking orders, chopping potatoes, selling sodas and grilling fish on a barbecue barely large enough to hold two foil-wrapped fish. I ordered a small plate of fries and Sprite, and Beat ordered the fish. I agreed to try it, and then I ended up eating half of it. It was pretty fantastic ... more proof that I just had over-sensitive endurance stomach and not an actual illness. Although I would have benefited more from downing a couple thousand calories in electrolyte and protein recovery drink, the fish did me a world of good.
As for the race, Beat and I finished 108th and 109th out of 220 starters and 170 finishers with a time of 48 hours and five minutes. I was 16th out of 50 starters and 38 finishers in the women's category. Out of Americans, I was 22nd of 51. And out of American women I was first of ten! (See, I knew I'd get myself on the podium if I whittled the categories down enough.)
But beyond all the small details of the race was the simple yet deep satisfaction of having completed one of the toughest — and yet most culturally and personally enriching — journeys of my life. In time I would reflect on the thresholds I had crossed, but for now it was time to simply celebrate and bask in the warm sunlight. We hugged new friends and toasted glass bottles of soda and beer to a race well run. I hoped in time my body would forgive me for the relentless struggle through weakness in pain. Pizza was a good place to start.