From the other side of the world

100 Yuan

An e-mail diary of my trip to Nepal and
Tibet for the 1998 Fila Everest Skymarathon.


Watch the 1998 Tibet Everest SkyMarathon on YouTube

Update #1

2 flights down;-)

Sent September 24, 1998

Hi All,

Sitting here in Detroit. All goes well! So far the only problem was my flight out of Colorado Springs was delayed 45 minutes but I learned that even though I had to switch airlines in Denver I could still check my baggage all the way through. Good tip that saved the day because there would have been NO way to get my bag and recheck it in the time that was left.

Trying to download the Colorado Springs Business Journal stuff so I can post it to the web — for those that don’t know that is my “real” job;-)

Next stop Amsterdam.


Update #2

Doing the Du

Sent September 27, 1998
Hi All,

The globe hop is done — at least for now. I have two more nights in Kathmandu, Nepal before I head up and over to Lasha, Tibet. Trip was uneventful other than just the unrelenting length of it. Well actually I did turn in someone for smoking in the restroom on the flight to Amsterdam — a $2000 fine and possible jail time for that jerk:-)

I was very optimistic about maintaining contact after how easy it was in Detroit. However I could not get reliable connections outside of the country. The computer connected at 12,000 bps in Amsterdam but would not stay connected. Not sure what the MCI rates are so I only tired 2X. Same goes for Delhi but I tried 3X. Tried forcing a slower connection (2,400 bps) and pulling back on the send/receive FIFO buffers of the 16550 UART. Just a bunch of techno ga ga that resulted in the same disconnect after 20-30 seconds. My guess is that trying to connect to a modem that far away is just a no go. Curious to know if any of you have ever pulled it off.

Postscript: the five calls mentioned above — all of which disconnected — cost $52.57 with taxes, access fees, service charges etc. etc. etc. After I got the bill I called MCI to get a credit. They just kept repeating the same thing over and over: “Sir, a connection was made.” I told them that I could understand being charged if these were voice calls because at least I could have been saying something while there was a connection but because they were data calls nothing was accomplished. The connection on most of them was not even long enough to start a file transfer! After a long time of what felt like pulling teeth, and getting transferred to a supervisor, they only gave me a $12.29 credit:-(

Now I am using the Hotel’s local ISP.

Its 10:30 a.m. Sunday the 27th here which puts it at 10:45 p.m. yesterday for most of you there. Or is that tomorrow for me? Never noticed the 15 minute time zone before and wonder what it would be like if we had them in the US? A stupid thought but such things cross your mind as you pass time — I have never had a 12 hour 45 minute layover before. Well at least not one where I was forced to sit in the airport. You need a visa — not the credit card — to go into Delhi and you can only get them at your originating country. So sit, I sat. Well, I did do a run up and down (and up and down...) a flight of steps just to keep the running streak going:-) Did another 20 minute “streak” run in the hotel gardens last night when I got in.

So far I am right at 19 hours of flying time with another 19 hours and 20 minutes of layovers:-( Also there is an 11h45 time difference. Good thing I have not been sleeping so well at night lately because now my old nights are my new days:-)

Hope to send more later but I am fried right now so writing is kind of hard.


PS Amsterdam has found a neat way to cut down on the number of messes in the men’s toilet area. They put a little sticker of a fly in the john. So you stand there and try to knock that puppy down the drain for a while before you catch on to the whole gag. I was bummed because even as tired as I was, I still managed a good aim! Of course I then laughed so hard that I peed all over the place;-)

Update #3

Still going

Sent October 1, 1998
Hi All,

I have made it to Lhasa, Tibet. The flight was just under an hour and we flew right next to Everest. The announcement went like this. “Off left side is Mt. Everest. It cloudy now so perhaps you see next time.” This produced a 50/50 combo of laughter and boos. Fortunately I have flown by Everest 5 times now so I have seen it. The best time was not when it was clear however but when it was a layer of clouds and just the top stuck out! But in all honesty I think those that see nothing but clouds get the best deal! As big as it is, it just looks so small when viewed from 35,000 feet — especially next to all the other insanely big mountains. Before I saw it, it was MUCH bigger and held a certain mystique in my mind.

Lots of “Free Tibet” shirts on the tourists around here. For me it has a slightly different meaning. After being in the death pollution zone of Kathmandu it is me that begins to feel free once in Tibet. Lhasa is still hell but there is some running to be had as opposed to the three 20 minute “keep the streak going” runs I do in the hotel gardens in the DU. Even better will be the running once we leave Lhasa! This is when I finally begin to relax and enjoy the trip.

Some of the other runners are already downing diarrhea medicine like it is candy. No problems yet for me:-) I even ventured out and bought a few carved wood, bone and soap stone elephants today. I got the one carved out of soap stone for only $5. It is truly amazing how someone must spend soooo much time making these things and yet they end up being sold for next to nothing. Even more amazing is the mark-up that occurs once these things ship around the world. Last week, before I left, I saw one almost exactly like it in the “Tibet” store on Bijou Street in Colorado Springs selling for $150.

E-mail is proving to be an impossible find in Lhasa so chances are this will turn into one big update and get sent from Katmandu. Everyone here who has heard of E-mail claims that Lhasa is “off line” right now. They may be back up any day now.

One of my favorite runs is on a section of land set for future city expansion. Basically they built a little island on the river and put a road around it. There are no cars or people there yet so the air is almost clean. It is a 20 minute loop that is surrounded by awesome views — including the Potala Palace — with the whole valley surrounded by 16,000' mountains. The only problem is the hour of running getting there and back. Today I went by something that smelled so bad and so strong I almost doubled over and got sick. I stayed upright only so I could run away from whatever it was.

Taking some rest time in the hotel room — I am trying to heal a sore groin and keep out of the pollution.

The run this morning was too much! Too much stress, too much pollution, too close to getting sick. Of the 1h30 spent running I felt good about 20 minutes of it. The rest of the time was dodging cars, bikes, people, sheep, cows and garbage piles. Tonight I ran in the halls of the hotel for 30 minutes. The 6th and 7th floors were deserted and served as my safe haven. I did a small loop — 181 footsteps in about 62 seconds average — down the hall, up the steps, down that hall, down the steps, 29 times. I felt relaxed and breathed easy for a change. After my run I headed out on the balcony to check out the view but started to cough from the pollution almost immediately.

Met up with the main group today. Tomorrow is the Potala Palace tour. I have done it before so will skip it and sneak in another training run. Day after tomorrow is the Cooper test. The next morning we leave the physical, spiritual and garbage capital of Tibet.

Good nights sleep:-)

I ran 1h30 today while the rest went to the palace. I was running easier yet it was much faster. Good signs that the rest paid off!

Still two days to go in Lhasa. It looks like I have found an internet connection:-) If you get this, obviously I did!


Update #4

On to the race

Sent October 9, 1998
Hi All,

There were no more e-mail connections until I got back to Kathmandu so if you want to skip all the rambling the race took place on Wednesday, October 7. Otherwise I warn you now you may find this long and/or boring so don’t hold it against me:-)

  • Friday, October 2, 1998

    The Cooper test went well! For those that do not know the protocol is simply to see how far you can go in 12 minutes. From this the team doctor can estimate the best pace/heartrate to use for the marathon. We went in 3 groups on the university’s 400 meter cinder track. I did my warm-up during the first run and passed all the runners doing their test. I did my test with the second group and lapped all but one person — missed him by 15 meters. Did my cool-down with the 3rd group and ran easy with the leader of it. I managed just shy of 9 laps or right at 5:20 miles at 11,980 feet. I went 60 yards farther than ’96 and 100 yards farther than ’94 when I set the current course record for the upcoming marathon. Even better is the fact that of the 10 or so Cooper tests I have done this one felt the best. Heartrate stabilized at 173. This leaves Martin Rodriguez (past winner of the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon with a 2:04:50 Ascent PR) as the only unknown. He did not do the Cooper test because he has been having stomach/diarrhea problems. He seems to be doing better but the doctor felt it best he skip the test.

    The last real food was tonight’s dinner. From here on out things go downhill fast. I brought 48 Power Bars, 10 lbs. of pasta, a pan, and a plug-in burner so if it gets too bad I am set:-)

  • Saturday, October 3, 1998

    We left Lhasa at 9:15am. 7 hours and 50 minutes later we arrived in Gyangtse and our next hotel. We stopped for a 20 minute lunch otherwise it was drive, drive, drive — good thing I had an empty water bottle;-) (Um, that is the water bottle served as my bathroom). The road is dirt and it is in bad shape from the recent rains. However we only had to get out and push the bus one time:-) We did 260K in 7 hours and 30 minutes which works out to a whopping 34.6 k per hour or 21.5 mph. That should put into perspective the quality of the “main” road in Tibet! We got to go over a pass that was 4,974 meters high or 16,318'. It was awesome! A huge lake sits a couple thousand feet below and is a very neat — if not fake looking — blue. The fact that this puppy is 85K (52.8 miles) long just made it all the more breathtaking. I am told it is called Turquoise Lake but I thought that was in Leadville, Colorado!? We have not come this way since ’93 and instead have been taking a shorter route. I can not claim the view was worth the extra 4 hours but it was better than I remembered plus it was a much better way to come for the newbies:-)

    Thirty minutes in the hotel and my head is still bouncing around from the bumpy ride. I go for a great 40 minute run which cleared my head. I LOVE it here! The views are incredible and because we are now in a small little city (Gyangtse — 3rd largest city in Tibet) I am out of it in less than 2 minutes and running in some super clean air. There is a huge monastery up on a hill which will serve as my beacon to find my way back. Lots of locals working the fields getting ready for the next winter. This is just too cool! As I run next to a river the kids along the way yell “hello” — perhaps the only word of English they know — and run 50 or so meters with me before they start walking and laughing. This is a welcome treat from the kids in the cities who seem to know two words: “hello, money.” I am starting to relax now — it feels so good to get away from Lhasa. From here until we get back to the DU is my fun time and for sure my favorite part of the trip:-)

    Exchanged enough foreign currency so that I could get two of each bill China has. 100 yuan, 50, 10, 5, 2, and 1. At 8 yuan to the dollar it only took $45 to get the complete set and this left me with two extra 10s and four extra 1s. The cashier kind of looked at me strange because I kept giving her back old or torn bills. Finally I said “for picture” and she got the jest of what I was trying to do and gave me some fairly new looking bills:-)

    Got a slight tummy ache after the meal tonight but while I was writing today’s stuff (above) it went away:-)

    Night night...

  • Sunday, October 4, 1998

    We did some site seeing today before we left Gyangtse. Which is to say that we did an organized tour because in reality the whole trip is site seeing — just one incredible view after another:-) We went to a fort way up on a hill that the Tibetans tried to hold back the British. Eventually they all jumped off a cliff to martyr themselves. We then headed over to a monastery that I had not seen. Managed to sneak a quick photo of one of the Buddhas. These things — about 9 or so in this monastery — are 20 to 25 feet tall and are covered in gold! Incredible the poverty outside the monastery and the ungodly (unbuddhaly?) decadence on the inside. But then again I have seen some pretty snazzy looking churches back in the US of A with homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk just outside. Wrong time for a religious spiel so onwards, or rather outwards. Besides, all the incense in these places makes me nauseous so I can’t hang around very long anyway.

    At 11:20am we got on the road for a relatively short drive (2 h 45 mins) to Shigatse. I guess the main reason for the short hop is we get to stay in a better hotel complete with a bathtub which I managed to use 3 times today:-))) At any rate, Shigatse it the 2nd largest city in Tibet so we have covered the top 3. However after Lhasa I am hard pressed to call either Gyangtse (#3) or Shigatse cities. Whereas it would take an hour and a half — if not more — to run from one end of Lhasa to the other I could do Shigatse in perhaps 10 minutes if not less.

    Did a small warm-up to get to the edge of town and then ran a marked 8K on the road at my hoped for marathon pace. 4 minutes per K or 6m24 per mile pace. This should bring me in just under 2h50 which could be a bit optimistic because currently we are only at 12,795' so we have 1,555' to go. My best on the course is 2h56 in ’94 so we shall see. Quads are still a bit sore from all the concrete in Lhasa.

  • Monday, October 5, 1998

    My simple words can not do our commute to Tingri justice. The short story is that it took us 14 hours and 50 minutes to go 293K or 182 miles. That works out to 12.3 miles per hour. Let me explain! We left Shigatse at 8:20a.m. At 9:40a.m. we got stuck in the mud. Well not just stuck — that bus is probably still there! We got help from almost every passing truck that came by but it just kept getting worse and worse and the best part was all of the other vehicles that got stuck trying to help us get unstuck. Now at one point there were 37 Tibetans (yes I counted!!!) working on the problem with shovels, picks, etc. but no matter how much they dug the bus would just sink until the bottom of the bus was sitting on the mud! These people made a pretty penny helping all the other vehicles get unstuck however:-) I passed some time by teaching the Tibetan runners who have joined us some English phrases: “The bus is stuck in the mud, the driver is crazy!” We even had a rap version of it where we would use are coat zippers as instruments. After 3 hours and 30 minutes of this comic relief we piled into the back of the truck that was carrying our baggage. Now I had not planned on my bag becoming a seat — nor did anybody else — but it was flattened and one of my 7 elephants is no more! Even my pan looks like it got hit by a train. We were in the back of this thing for 2 hours and 50 minutes. This is a Chinese army truck — a big puke blue/green thing with an even bigger cloth cover on the back — so basically we were riding through some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet and the only thing we could see was the dust that the cover so effectively failed to let escape. As always, I had my heavy duty painter’s mask with me but that did not help for the major problem of this truck ride — we were tossed around like a human salad. Sometimes we would all laugh but there were other times where it just plain hurt:-( In a small town after lunch our group leader whipped out the $100 bills and we hired 3 jeeps. So at 4:45p.m. we proceeded to drive to Xigar. Not our intended destination — Tingri the race site. However our hired drivers did not have the permits to cross the Chinese check point. It is not even a border and despite the fact that the drivers were Nepalese they are not allowed to go from one part of their own country to the other without permits!!!??? This drive was sooooo awesome I can only say WOW! One of the ways I pass the time on these drives is by ridge running. Well tracing the routes I would take in my mind anyway so perhaps I should call it ridge tracing. We passed by many crystal formations in the mountains and I even managed to get a few on one of our pee breaks. At one of the passes we stopped and I managed to squeeze in a enough of a run (about 15 minutes) to at least keep the streak going because it was becoming obvious that we were not going to make it to Tingri by 6p.m. since 6p.m. had already come and gone. Coming down off this final pass we could see Everest looming large in the distance. This was one of the best views of it I have seen! It was getting dark but Everest was still in the sun and at the same time a huge full moon had just come up! Everest just stood out not unlike the way Pikes Peak stands out. Yes, I know, many of you would cringe at the thought of putting Pikes Peak and Everest in the same sentence but I have seen Everest many times from many places so you will just have to go with me on this: Most everything in the Everest area is already at 17,000' as far as the “base” goes so you are seeing about 12,000' of mountain beside a couple of other REALLY big mountains all surrounded by a zillion big mountains so as big as Everest is a lot of times it kind of gets lost. Pikes, as you know, is 8,000' of mountain next to nothing so it just looks pretty darn big! If you follow me on that great, otherwise I guess you will just have to trust me or chalk it up to my personal bias — not just for Pikes but Colorado in general:-) That being said, the combo of the full moon and Everest still in the sunlight was just awesome. Soon however Everest was out of site and the road turned to mud and once again the travel became very very slow. We got into Xigar at 9:00p.m. and sat another 40 minutes while we hired 2 more jeeps to take us the final 1 h 35 mins to Tingri. I would have preferred Xigar because that is where we have always stayed and where I have found all of my fossils. However by staying in Tingri we will eliminate the 3 h 10 min roundtrip drive on race day. It was only after we got to Tingri that I learned that this place has electricity for 3 hours a night and the bathrooms are 3 holes in the ground outside and down the sidewalk a ways. I managed to fill about 3 water bottles my first night because there was NO way I was doing that routine 5-6 times a night. (Before I go on and since this is my second mention of using water bottles as toilets: These are the water bottles that the water we buy comes in — not water bottles like you would put on your bike. Just thought I would clarify lest some of you wonder if you ever see me with a water bottle:-) Anyway, we got to Tingri at 11:10pm or 14 hours and 50 minutes after we started the 182 mile trip. Now out of fairness we only had 10 hours and 10 minutes of actual driving time so that brings our average up to a very bumpy 17.9 miles per hour!!! Again we are talking the MAIN road in Tibet!!! The people that do Lhasa to Kathmandu as a bike tour are looking smarter all the time! While everyone else went to eat I jumped in bed. I have eaten tons of Power Bars and can not count on getting much sleep tomorrow — the night before the race — so the plan here is to trade a bad meal for a good sleep.

    Long paragraph for a long day!

  • Tuesday, October 6, 1998 (day before the race)

    I woke slowly! The cold crept in while we slept once the generator for the power was turned off. Well the generator would not have made a difference because it only powers one light bulb per room so change that to just “the cold crept in while we slept.” However, so as not to waste a sentence let the first version serve as a reminder that the electricity does not come from the local power plant. We are at 14,350' now and no matter how hot the sun makes it in the day — hot as hell — it gets very cold at night. I started the day with some psyche tests where we were asked to find certain symbols among tons of symbols. After the test we were asked to right down which symbol was the hardest to find so to keep things interesting I made up my own symbol and said it was the hardest to find because it was not there. Kind of stupid I guess but after yesterday’s “fun” I decided to lighten up a bit — the trip has been a hard one and a bunch of athletes are starting to look worn around the edges. If in fact they are not puking!

    Then a quick check of our oxygen saturation and heartrates. Most of the saturation numbers came in about the same however my pulse at 52 was 24 beats lower than the next athletes, Martin, who had a 76. After many years I have learned that numbers can fool you and often mean nothing, but in the dark mental times before a race any positive can be a life saver! Bottom line 52 is a good number at 14,350'.

    Next we went for some photo shoots. I managed to get the camera guy to shoot some extra ones for me with Everest in the background:-)

    After lunch (they cooked pasta) I did the course drive. I already know the course well but if Martin turns this into a dogfight I want one less thing to worry about. Besides, I took a wrong turn in ’93 and ’96 so perhaps there really are some side effects to running with no air;-)

    Rest of the day will be spent just kicking back and relaxing.

    Hugh Jones, the 1982 winner of the London Marathon in 2:09:24 just finished measuring our course. The Skyrunners organization brought him over to validate the course so that they can submit this as an official record! It turns out that in ’94 and ’96 we were 460 meters short of 26.2. On the grand scheme of things this works out to just under 2 minutes which I think was pretty darn incredible when on considers the terrain on which we run the course on. On the downside this means I am going to have to run about 2 minutes faster just to get a course record. Skyrunners are really wanting a new record and were psyched after my Cooper test and I feel the pressure to deliver. My goal pace should accomplish this but this just cuts the margin even closer. Martin too has been studying my splits from my 2h56 in ’94.

  • Wednesday, October 7, 1998 (race day)

    I wake up a little quicker today. Of course that is due to the fact that there was not a whole lot of sleeping going on. Managed to fill 5 water bottles throughout the night. I also had my first little run in with Mr. Diarrhea and had to make the trip outside and to the hole. This morning’s production was already better and I should be fine by the 11:30a.m. start. Some plain toast and crackers should take care of it.

    The plan is to take 5 Power Gels with me and space them out over the approximately 3 hours. Otherwise it is going to be straight water and lots of it because we have aid stations at every 5K and even closer sometimes. I am going to eat my first Power Gel at about 8K (5 miles) because I think I often wait too long (15 miles or so) and it then becomes much harder on my stomach. The team doctor agrees with my theory but convinced me to move my first one from 5K to the now planned 8K.

    Well better stop typing lest I miss the start. Be back in a few:-)

    DONE! 2:52:57, the win, a course record and an official world marathon altitude record recognized by AIMS:-) I can not imagine a much more satisfied feeling! Although I have won 5 of the 6 key races I did this year they have not been in the hoped for times or at least up to my potential as indicated by my training. This justifies in my mind all the hard work!

    I took the lead at 2 minutes and never was challenged. I set the high/low limits on my pulse monitor at 155 and 160 and played “ping pong” as the alarms sounded. Although I have worn a monitor a lot this year (my regular watch broke) I do not like to let it dictate my pace. However this race in particular is the perfect race to let it do so. The slightest variations in terrain can send the pulse up or down 10 beats without you even noticing it. More importantly, by the time you do notice it is too late. The small 5 beat range I selected meant I had to concentrate a great deal!

    Martin was about 45 seconds back at 5k. This was our first aid station and I grabbed a bottle and drank half of it on the run. At 8k I ate a Power Gel. The plan worked! It went down very easy and did not cause any problems like most of the other times. At the next aid station I was at 40:02 which was 9 seconds ahead of my ’94 split despite the fact that they added the 460 meters to the beginning of the race so I was flying. However I only gained 15 more seconds on Martin. After some more water I hammered the next section. This is a two loop course and it is slightly uphill on the way out and so I really could move on the slight downhill on the way back. “Slight” is the key word here because it is perhaps only a 50 meter drop over 10k. However at 14,350' it is amazing what an effect this can have on the pace. After only 12 more minutes I added another whole minute on Martin so I was now at 2 minutes. I also took my second — and as it turns out last — Power Gel and again it went down great. At 20K I had a five minute lead and that was the last time I worried about that. I was at 1:18:50 so I was over a minute ahead of plan so in hindsight I may have pushed too hard to get away from Martin. My main worry now was that my groin was getting stiff. I concentrated on keeping more of a shuffle stride to lesson the impact on it. On the uphill on the way back out I was able to press the pulse up over 160 for a while but then I stared to have a slight bad patch as I realized I still had about 1h30 of running to go. I quickly decided I would “simulate” my Garden of the Gods lunch run with Paul and Jim. I convinced myself that I had to run only 20 more minutes before I met them and this would get me to the 27K point. I then ran “with” them for the next 5K to finish the uphill portion and put me at the 32K point. I actually held an out loud “conversation” with them that was pretty funny and I caught myself laughing. I did not need to finish “our” run however because with only 10K to go and most of it slightly downhill I was psyched and did not need to play any more games. I was feeling strong enough that I did not feel the need for any more Power Gels and in fact this would be my last water. I was still perfectly on my goal pace (2:08:04) but unfortunately my groin was tight enough that I could not push the slight down hill like last time. However this is the best I ever felt in this race and I was able to cruise in and enjoy it. Martin faded badly to 4th and the second runner was 33 minutes back! There was some serious dying going on out there on that second lap!!! My record was all the more sweet because of the longer course and the fact that when I set it the last time a Kenyan runner was with me for all of the first lap and I was pushing hard to leave him on the second lap. This was a true solo effort.

    The recovery went fast although my groin is tight. I passed a lot of time taking pictures with the Tibetan runners. Unlike other years, some of them finished the whole marathon and a few did quite well. Over the last few days we have had lots of laughs trying to learn different words in each other’s languages. They even showed me how to write my name in Chinese and Tibetan. I gave them 5 pair of new running shoes and tried to convince them to wear them only for running so they would last longer but I am not sure if I got the point across. Or rather, I am not sure that they saw the logic of getting new shoes and being told to wear their old shoes with holes in them for most of the day.

    A great plain pasta dinner leaves me now writing this. Tomorrow is the big drive back to Kathmandu!

    I MUST SLEEP NOW:-) Well perhaps not — all the runners (except the Tibetans) just came into the room and are discussing why they all died on the second lap. The consensus seems to be the hell day in the truck two days ago. I tend to agree that was *a* factor. Even now my arms are still sore from bracing myself on the bumps and yesterday my stomach muscles felt like I had done a thousand sit-ups. However the *main* difference between me and them was that most of them got sick at some point eating the local food where as I stuck to my Power Bar and rice plan. Also I think they expose themselves to far too much local air on their daily pilgrimages to see the sites. That is a hard call to make however because in all honesty I approach this is a “job” and for them this trip is a chance of a lifetime. But perhaps because I approach it like a “job” I have been invited back 5 times now and I have seen in those 5 times more than they could ever see in one trip;-) I stand on a soap box perhaps but I am not sitting around upset about my race. I sincerely believe you can not have your cake and eat it too on a trip like this. You are here to site see or you are here to race. With a few precautions (no local food, almost always wearing my mask) I can do most of the site seeing and all of the race:-)

  • Thursday, October 8, 1998

    Drive to Kathmandu! The big news is we are taking jeeps instead of a bus — again probably because the bus is still stuck in the mud! This should cut the drive down tons and in fact we left at 8:20a.m. instead of the planned 5a.m.! We stopped on Tugla Lu pass. This is where we did the 1995 marathon at a relatively constant 17,060'. It is at the base of Shisha Pangma one of the top 10 highest mountains in the world. I hope they have this race again but it is doubtful. The expense and logistics of both of these races in Tibet is just to crazy! They are talking about moving the marathon to Lhasa so that we could fly in and out. Too bad because the current course is in one of the most beautiful and inspiring settings in the world.

    The drive was very long — 13 hours total — but one of the smoothest of the 6 times (up and down in ’95) I have been on the road. Another advantage to the jeeps was that we were much lower to the ground than on the bus so the 2,000' cliffs felt like they were whole 2 feet away instead of 2 inches. However the jeeps were much faster and several of us held our breath a couple of different times as we faced what we thought was certain death.

    When we reached the Tibet/China Nepal border we all had to pile into the luggage truck again for the 8k journey between “no man’s land” which lies between the two border towns. To fit us all in we removed the bike from the truck that Hugh had used to measure the course. I got to ride it down five of the strangest miles in the world. You go between two border cities that are just too crazy to put into words! Just picture two “gypsy/cardboard” cites filled with people trying to make a living by 1) converting money, 2) hauling luggage the 5 miles (most can not afford the luxury of a special truck and in fact walk the five miles) or 3) selling “last/first chance” souvenirs. The first and last 800 meters are the most polluted of the whole trip as far as garbage goes. The middle 4K are just awesome however and I must say the ride was the most fun I have in the five times I have come over! I flew by cars and trucks that were stuck in lines and/or mud. The whole way I think I only had to pedal 3 times:-) Again to put the road in perspective I beat the truck on this short section by almost an hour!!! At the end you cross the “friendship” bridge were they have a big red line painted in the middle of it — how appropriate.

    The rest of the drive I thought a lot about the race. I should have broken the 2h50 barrier. I think I should have kept pushing the Power Gels. The whole plan to move them forward was to start before I needed them. That worked great! I should have kept it up while I was feeling good however because I could have perhaps pressed it a bit harder at the end. I am slowly learning that when you do things in a marathon because you need to it is too late. You have to do things before you need them. My groin did bother me a lot but that is just pain — I was getting tired too. I told myself that I had the record and just failed to want to continue to hurt. Oh well, I am always hard on myself — it is how I learn.

    Did a 20 minute run on the hotel track and then went for the AYCE (all you can eat) dinner. I had 9 chocolate covered doughnuts in honor of the doughnuts I missed on top off Pikes Peak while on this trip:-)

  • Friday, October 9, 1998

    Sitting here on the bed at 7:00a.m. getting ready to face two days of travel. I still have to get in a short run and go buy a few more souvenirs. I also want to get a set of Nepalese money.

    I have been debating taking out the “preachy” bit about the other runners after the race (see above) but when have I not been known for saying what I feel:-) It has been an incredible trip as always. I am not as bad off as usual but then again I still face about 20 hours of flying and another 24 hours of f___ing layovers. Even in the 3rd world it is like two worlds — the world of the cities and the world of the mountains. Together they make a complete package but I could feel the transformation between them. For me one is hell and the other is heaven. I do tend to start off rather negative while I am stuck in Kathmandu but once I am set free up high in the mountains I am awe inspired by that most incredible place. Perhaps one day I shall make the trip when it is not “job” related and then I may even have a different perspective of the cities. There is something to be said for them too I know — I just can’t take the chance of doing so while a race is on the line.

See you soon!


Update #5

Home again:-)

Sent October 12, 1998
Hi All,

Its me again just wanting to let you know I got back safely. Well actually I got back yesterday morning at 12:30a.m. so I have really been back for just over a day now. I needed some time just to “be” and let my tired brain soak it all in. It all kind of feels surreal to think that I was literally on the other side of the planet just a couple of days ago.

Thanks to all of you that sent me e-mail. It was great getting it while over there and your encouragement meant a lot! In fact much of what got me though the trip — and to some extent my race — was thoughts of home. I have woken up in my own bed two mornings now and both times there was such a beautiful sunrise outside my window. The leaves are still turning. The air is cool and crisp. Which is just to say we live in such a great place. I have traveled so much and to so many places over the last several years and yet I know that this — at least so far — is the most awesome place on the planet!!! No offence to those not living here in Colorado but I am sure — or at least hope — that you too find your homes your “most awesome place on the planet.”

Take care!

Go out hard, when it hurts speed up...

Matt Carpenter

Travel time

Flights, drives and sits

September 24
Leave for airport at 7:00a.m. after a 20 minute run
Colorado Springs to Denver — 28 minutes after 45 min delay
1h10 layover
Denver to Detroit — 2h14 — lost 2 hours
1h45 layover
Detroit to Amsterdam — 6h56 — lost 6 hours
September 25
3h40 layover
Amsterdam to Delhi — 7h58 — lost 3 1/2 hours
12h45 layover. Ran in airport:-)
September 26
Delhi to Kathmandu — 1h18 — lost 15 minutes
3 nights planned in Kathmandu
September 29
Kathmandu to Lhasa — 59 minutes after 2h20 delay — lost 2:15 minutes
1h37 drive to Lhasa
4 nights planned in Lhasa (11,811' altitude)
October 3
7h50 drive to Gyangtse (12,959' altitude)
October 4
2h25 drive to Shigatse (12,795' altitude)
October 5
10h10 drive, 14h50 total commute to Tingri (race site 14,350')
3 nights in Tingri
October 8
13h drive to Kathmandu — gained 2h15
October 9
Kathmandu to Delhi — 1h21 after 32 min delay — gained 15 minutes
10h42 layover
October 10
Delhi to Amsterdam — 8h:30 after 1h50 delay — gained 3 1/2 hours
8h45 layover
Amsterdam to Min. St. Paul — 8h35 after 33 min delay due to aborted take-off due
to “warning light” — gained 7 hours
2h10 layover
Min. St. Paul to Denver — 1h40 — gained 1 hour
2 hour layover. Ran in airport:-)
Denver to Colorado Springs — 16 minutes!!!
October 11
20 minute ride home, arrive at 12:30 a.m.

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