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Monday, May 7, 2018

Mount Everest Marathon: Prep Talk

I know I haven’t written much lately…with the release of the book I have been overwhelmed with marketing tasks that are all new to me…so unfortunately the blog has been silent.

But what a way to get started up again with the Tenzing-Hillary Mount Everest Marathon!

This year will be the 16th edition of the event which takes place each year on May 29th to commemorate the first successful ascent to the summit of the highest peak on earth, which happened in 1953 and thus we’ll be running on the 65th anniversary of the great day!

I will fly from Munich over Abu Dhabi to Kathmandu on May 14th, then fly to the tiny Himalayan village of Lukla on May 16th where we begin the climb.

A brief word on Lukla. Its is frequently referred to the home of ‘the most dangerous airport in the world’. Arriving and departing aircraft must use a single STOL (short-takeoff-and-landing) runway. There is low prospect of a successful go-around on short final due to the terrain. There is high terrain immediately beyond the northern end of the runway and a steeply angled drop at the southern end of the runway into the valley below.

We’ll be a small group with a guide to lead the way and Sherpas to carry our gear, and we’ll need ten days to reach Everest Base Camp, including three days of acclimation halt along the way. We will stay in tea houses in small villages, drinking yak milk (no) and boiled water (yikes!...I am bringing a bottle filter). With extra costs for WiFi, battery charging and showers. I have high-altitude and anti-diarrheal meds, antibiotics, probiotics, and anti-bacterial gel.

Our target is South Base Camp is in Nepal (whereas North Base Camp is in Tibet) which lies at an altitude of 5,364 metres (17,598 ft) above sea level. The oxygen concentration in the air there is at about 50% of what it is as sea level, which is why the rescue helicopters are incessantly flying in to retrieve climbers afflicted with high-altitude sickness.

Once we reach base camp, we’ll sleep two nights there in tents on the glacier in temperatures hovering above and below the freezing point depending on day or night.
All that said, after the treacherous flight, the high-altitude climb and not freezing on a glacier bed, I’ll be happy once I make it safely to the starting line of the marathon.

At 7am on May 29th we’ll start an official marathon of 42.2 kilometers (26.2 miles) back down the mountain. Ok, but just to make this clear. ‘Down’ the mountain is deceptive. We will constantly be alternating between climbing and descending, with a loss of 4,579 meters and a gain of 2,777 meters! So, forget about the 4,500 number just now. A technical trail marathon with a 2,777 meter climb is about as tough as it gets. I figure I’ll need about double the time that it takes me to run a flat road marathon… at least.

The best part of it all is that I will be making the trip with Beatrice! My tent-mate from the Marathon des Sables, also known from her namesake Chapter 3 in Ultramarathon Mom.
So, how does one train for such an endeavor? Well, living at just a few hundred meters above sea level doesn’t afford high-altitude training, nor do the weekends that I spend running in the Austrian Alps at 1,000-1,500 meters. High-altitude chambers and oxygen deprivation masks are pricey, so I am trusting the traditional route (and some hefty dose of prayer) and sticking with anaerobic training which, even in the flatlands, can help the body to optimize it’s oxygen consumption, so plenty of hill intervals, long intervals and tempo runs appeared on the training plan in the months approaching the race. Of course a weekly long run is always in my schedule to keep me going for hours on end.

I will try to post some photos on Instagram and Facebook when and if I get access to WiFi.
Wish me luck!


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