“You don’t have to be a hero to accomplish great things—to compete. You can just be an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals.” ― Ed Hillary
It’s the middle of the night and I’m lying in bed, kept awake from a cough that’s persisted since coming down from Everest base camp a few days ago. To make matters worse, I think I’m starting to feel the onset of dysentery that’s had Romney bedridden for the last 24 hours. We ate the same thing, after all, so why wouldn’t I be? Good timing for her, since she’s accomplished her objectives and will be heading home in the morning. For me, however, I’m a little over a day from beginning one of the harder bike races on the planet. Hopefully, all of my discomfort can be chalked up to nerves.
When I look at my prep for the Yak Attack race, in comparison to what I’ve done in the past, I can’t help but get nervous. I’ve trained a fraction of what I used to when I raced bikes all the time. Yet here I am, about to mix it up with a bunch of serious racers on training schedule that’s featured about an hour a day on average. My head tells me I can pull it off, but until my body follows suit, I won’t really know.
I probably shouldn’t worry about fitness, since the Yak Attack can force you out for any number of reasons. Besides the obvious mountain biking obstacles, like crashing and equipment failures, you’ve got third world cuisine, strange diseases, dodgy water, Spartan accommodations, and many days, and more importantly nights, at very high altitude any one of which can force you to be carries off the mountain by a yak, such as what happened to professional racer Jeff Kerklove last year.
Not that I’ll see much of it from my perspective of eating everyone’s dust, but the race itself should be outstanding. There’s even a chance someone could beat the locals (Yuki, from Japan, comes to mind though I wouldn’t bet on it). The field is loaded, with 11 countries (at least) represented, that includes a professional adventurer followed by a film crew as he tries to tick off all the hardest challenges in the world, a stack of professional riders, a slew of eccentric, adventurous types, the crème de la crème of Nepalese cycling, and another bloke named Steve Edwards. We did a group ride the other day and everyone is flying. I know the the Yak Attack is more about adventure than racing but with all the talent here there’s no way it won’t be heated.
My only objective at the moment is to survive day one. I’m not feeling very good and I don’t think I’m the only one. Once the race settles into a rhythm it should be easier. We all suffer well or we wouldn’t be here. I think it’s the waiting around that’s making everyone crazy.
Anyway, it’s good to be back in Nepal with a goal instead of just touring. It’s not mountaineering but, in a way, more adventurous as the Yak Attack is a new kind of adventure with an unknown quality. The last time I was in Nepal one of my heroes, Sir Edmund Hillary, died. If you read this post from then you’ll see it was an oddly serendipitous thing. Now I’m back with what I hope will be an Ed-worthy adventure in store. My goal, like Ed, is simply to “knock the bastard off”. That said, if I can break 30 hours it’ll mean all of the prayer wheels I’ve been turning haven’t been for naught.
This is so strange. This is a man who was profoundly influential on my life. The first thing that inspired me to climb was the book High in the Thin Cold Air, by Ed Hillary. On the cover was Amadablam, the mountain that inspired me to climb mountains. In fact, I was writing a blog on this topic, still unfinished, just this morning. I read everything that Hillary had written prior to ever lacing up a pair of boots. Hillary always reminded me of my dad. And here I am, in Nepal, Hillary’s true home (he was the New Zealand ambassador and did a ton of work on the schools here) and most likely even drinking Everest beer, with Tenzing on the label, when he dies. Life can be poetic in the oddest sense.
This will likely be my last post for a while. We might find an internet connection over the next 4 days. Then we hit the mountains and will be limited to 10 kilos of stuff, which must include enough gear so we don’t die of exposure at 18,000’. When things get grim, I’ll focus on one of my favorite quotes from Sir Ed.
“I don’t remember much about those seven days (stuck in a snow storm on Cho Oyu) except that somewhere around day 4 or 5 George (Lowe, Kiwi not ours) came over, stuck his head inside my tent and said, ‘You know, Ed, some people wouldn’t think this was fun.”
vids: the first is from our training ride this week, courtesy of nepali tea traders. the second is from 2011, which i’d heard about from andre, 60 years young and back for his second yak attack. it’s a little tedious but starts picking up at minute 18:00. “i never want to see another mountain bike race in my life…”