“Miles from Nowhere”

I always wanted a big family and on this trip I discovered I have one. The amount of support I’ve received is nothing short of overwhelming. You’ve said it with your words and with your $$. Please know not a day has gone by that I haven’t stepped outside the circle for a moment and given thanks.

Friday was a long day indeed. I don’t think anyone slept the night before. We had to get up at 5 and have our bags packed and ready to go by 5:30. They were being sent down by the yaks for an evening arrival in Namche. I’ve had so many little cuts on my hands and nothing seemed to heal up there so every encounter with a zipper was a dreaded event, but it always got done. We filed into the “lodge” for pre-race breakfast of what else but PORRIDGE. I am cleaning out my cupboard of anything oatmeal or mush related when I get home.

We lined up at 6:15 and awaited the countdown. My first mistake in judgement was adopting the herd mentality and actually thinking I could start out running across the sandy scree and hit the hill with the Nepali’s. It didn’t take
long to feel the impact of my decision and I pulled to the side gasping for air and wondering if this was what a pulmonary explosion feels like. I never stopped but I did have to walk for about the next 10 min before I could breathe again. Well, that was out of the way so now it was a matter of navigating the “trail” which was extremely steep up & down. Loose rock and sandy scree which made slipping
inevitable. My main objective was to not get hurt so I was
very cautious maintaining more of a speed walk. After about
the first hour climbing out of Gorak Shep we hit Aid Station
1 at Lobuche. Out of there the terrain got trickier and
trail less defined. I was so busy watching where I put my
feet that when I did look up I had no point of reference and the trail seemed to have disappeared. This had been my fear
all along and now here I was only 2.5 hrs into it and I was
already off course. Red is my new favorite color as it was
only for Raj’s red jacket against all the colorless gray
that gave me a direction to head for. I knew then I had to
forget about getting lost and let my instincts take over.
Otherwise I would be too distracted by fear and any part of
this that might be fun would disappear.

I was slow over the ice and crossing the rivers by landing on the right rocks was a little nerve wracking but you get a rythmn going after a while.

I still had a bad bronchial/ chest infection and the coughing was exhausting and hurting my ribs. The irony of things being what they were I had a blister pack of lozengers in the back pocket of my tights. The sharp
packaging was rubbed up and down on my tailbone by my
backpack all day. I didn’t know how raw it was until I got
into a hot bath last night. Minor but annoying. I can’t wait
to feel all my energy back.

I ran the sections that were runnable. Some of the runners seemed to run downhill with wild abandon. There were many falls, stitched legs, shoulder injuries etc. I decided I couldn’t afford any of that. The first time I really struggled was on the hill from Pangboche up to Tengboche. It was a long, steep climb. Having just gone down it days before I hadn’t remembered it would be so difficult. Next came the Sanasa hill, a true ass kicker! There really isn’t any way to train for this at home. You spend months and some people spent years getting in peak condition for this and by race day you are just totally “worked.” It’s comforting to know that we have that “bag of tricks” we can reach into in tough times; a bag that doesn’t show itself day-to-day but it’s there none the less. I’m as sure of that now as I am of anything.

People keep asking me what’s next. I’m looking forward to nice flat run out to Blackies and back with Seabiscuit. Tennessee Valley will feel like walking through a mall after this. Maybe I will enter a 30K or something just to feel the difference this trip has made.

I was lucky to get a ride out of Namche yesterday on a helicopter back to Kathmandu. Photos are on Facebook. It meant I didn’t have to walk to Lukla today and risk not getting a flight out tomorrow. Planes can’t go in or out of that airstrip unless the weather is clear and hiring a helicopter is very expensive. Laying in a fresh,clean bed last night drinking as much water as I could my thoughts were moving like a pinball. Every thought and feeling hit a bumper and shot across multiple realities. It will be good to get home.

I went through my emails today so please know I’ve read every one of your messages – to me and to each other. Adam, did you run through CM with a head torch?? Great visual and wonderful sentiment.

As I started to write this there was one song that came to me and really captures how I feel. I tried to attached it but I wasn’t successful. Anyway it’s MILES FROM NOWHERE by Cat Stevens. It’s on my iPad and it rocks my heart. If you get a chance listen to it. Then close your eyes and we can share that moment. It’s that powerful.

Sending love…

Ready to RUN!

We arrived at Gorak Shep today. It was very tough going. Lots of climbing over glacier moraine and scree. We are at almost 17,200 ft and it feels like it. Coming up I would have to stop about every 8 minutes and rest, breathe. Occasionally take some water and ofcourse snap some photos. These are the highest glaciers in the world and they are magnificent. I’m so glad I have not experienced the AMS symptoms that have plagued so many. Yesterday they had to bring a woman down from Kala Pathar on horseback she was so sick. This is the last place I would want to be ill.

Everyone is looking forward to the 6:30 start tomorrow morning. We are all done with the dirt, food, cold, generally difficult conditions. We all had our final medical checks this morning and got our race numbers – always an exciting time in any event. We are required to start off in 3 layers consisting of tights or whatever you will eventually strip down to, a fleece layer and wind/waterproof top. Hat, gloves, whistle, headlamp, extra batteries, survival bag and off we go. Seems like a lot but considering the early morning conditions its understandable. I have sent a couple of pictures to my colleagues and asked that they upload them to this blog. They will do a far better job of explaining where I am than any words ever could.

I’m still concerned about getting lost on the way back to Namche. Frankly, this is nuts and we all agree on that. Adventure racing is a totally different sport and I am embracing it on every level. Attitude at altitude – that sums it up. Keeping positive is as important as anything else. I’m sick of being dirty, sick of dirty clothes. lips and nose are scabbed out, hacking cough won’t go away, blah blah blah. It will all disapear when I cross the finish line.

Thanks for all your comments – sorry I cannot reply back. It’s amazing I have technology available in these parts – we are all connected in many ways. Your comments on this blog and Facebook move me forward every time I read them. I can’t believe I will be home next week – no more sleeping bag!!


One step at a time

It feel like such a long time since I’ve had communication. We have covered a lot of ground since my last entry. I spend a good part of each day thinking about what to write once I have the opportunity – finally that time is now. The effects of travelling in this part of the world are dramatic in many ways. The “romantic’ idea of trekking in the Himalayas is quickly dispelled after a few days/nights inhaling dust, waking to ice inside your tent, eating canned fish, potatoes or rice, porridge, eggs and tea, tea, tea! Everyone has contacted the Khumbu cough which is a dry hacking number that lives deep in your chest. I’ve had it for a week and now it’s been joined by a sinus infection that has given my nose the same cracked, crusty look as my lips. This is why you are not getting any photos:) At least I have not experienced the unpleasant effects of Accute Mountain Sickness, many in our party have. So far only 1 fellow has had to abandon the race and go back down to Namche.

Maybe it’s because I have been here 3 times before and knew what to expect that has saved me from some of the downside others are feeling. This is a tough trip, physically & mentally but we are all focused on getting to race day.

We have been incredibly lucky with the weather. We have had clear blue skies each day allowing us to trek with incredible views of Everest, Ama Dablma, Nuptse, Lhotse, Thamserku – stunning. There is no other place in the world where sound does not exist. I like to walk alone a good part of the day for that reason. We have covered almost 80 miles and climbed up to 16,000+ ft. You are going straight up or straight down and any misstep will have dire consequences. Thus you focus like a laser on every step. Knowing that we are walking part of the marathon course really gives us pause to wonder “how the hell am I going to

a.) finish before dark

b.) not get lost

I keep visualizing myself crossing the finish line. We will all be relieved when this is done. We are sleeping in Pheriche tonight then climbing up to Lobuche for 2 nights and then Gorak Shep for the night before race day. If you are following on google earth check out these areas. They are freezing, desolate glacial areas on moraine and scree. Why do I love this?

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. PUI – I think about you everyday and wonder what our marketshare is:)

Thanks for all your support and comments. There is no greater reward in life than that feeling of finishing what you started. It’s 3:12PM and I need to go find my down jacket.

Sending you joy and gratitude,


OMG! What a world we live in

After 2 crazy days trying to fly out of Kathmandu to Lukla we finally arrived yesterday. For any of you who are familiar with the Lukla airstrip you know what an experience that was. If you don’t know Google world’s most dangerous airport. It was an E ticket ride all the way.

We got under way on Day 1 of the trek and heldover the first night at Phakding. The group is starting to gel and as we learn more about each other all I can say is I am with some of the most accomplished endurance athletes in the world. There are several who have completed 300 mile+ races, The Marathon des Sables (Marathon of Sands), the Iditarod either on foot or bicycle, The Great Wall Marathon,etc. You get the picture. There is an awesome couple from India who are in the Guiness Book of World Records as the ONLY couple to run a marathon on all 7 continents in the same year!! But as the husband clarified for me it really only took them 9 months!! They include Antarctica and the North Pole as 2 of them. He highly recommended I choose Antarctica of the 2.

We set off this morning on a 6 hour climb up to Namche Bazaar where we will stay for 2 nights to acclimatize. You can seriously start to feel the effects of altitude today. Much of the trail (there is only 1) is very steep and narrow and…BUSY. We passed or were passed by many yak trains. You have to give those guys as much rook to pass as possible and remember to stay on the uphill side of the trail. Those horns are sharp. I had the pleaseure of having a train of probably 6 carrying lots of baggage pass me on a long extension bridge high above the river gorge. As soon as I find a card reader I’ll upload the photos from my camera. Words are inadequate.

As I listen to the people I’m with for 27 days talk about their achievements I am struck by how incredibly humble they are. We are all drawn to a race like this for similar reasons. These are World Adventure Racers and everyone’s ego is checked at the door. We have come  from all over the world to challenge ourselves, mind, body & soul. It’s very clear that everyone’s first concern is for the health and safety of each other. Do I get lonely at times, absolutely. But I am slowly moving into the present and finding it more comfortable as I let myself become open to all that this trip has to offer. Any loneliness is being replaced by being in one of the most beautiful, humbling and awe inspiring places on the face of the earth. We got our first full on view of Everest today. I sat on  rock eating an orange looking at that black granite jagged peak, the highest point on mother earth and all my emotions surged to the surface. There are some things we are not meant to forget and re-experience as if they were yesterday. That was the most delicious orange I’ve ever had.


Patience really is a virtue

We are leaving for Lukla early in the morning so this will be short. 4:00 AM wakeup and enroute to the airport at 5:30. We were told in no uncertain terms that does not mean 5:33. We are booked on 5 flights to an airport in the mountains where no planes have been able to land for days at a time for a month. Lots of people have been stranded there and food started to run out weeks ago. I have my dried cranberries stashed at the bottom of my pack! Somethings aren’t negotiable.

To meet the 12 kilo limit for our bags I had to stuff my small back pack to the gills. It’s the same one I’m wearing on the marathon and I never really trained with it. Well now I have another chance. It must weigh as much as a small duffle. Packing is definitely an art & I’m not artistic.

Our “fun run” was, well, fun if you call running flat out on a steep downhill trail covered with rocks, slick mud,and sharp turns fun. Actually we all did have fun. The ones in the “fancy dress” as the Brits call it (means costumes,)had
Degree of difficulty that I stayed away from. I learned you are far better off as a pirateornorseman
a degree of difficulty to their run. What I learned is if
you have to race downhill on rutted out trails filled with
large rocks then you definitely want to be a pirate, not a saffron robed monk or a donkey with inflatable legs. There
was a lot of tripping and fair amount of bloodyarms,legs&
costumes at the end.I got close 3 times but self corrected
before going down. It was not a forgiving trail and a fall
Could derail the main event in a few weeks.
The donkey crashed when the hind legs interfered throwinher off balance

could have serious consequences. The donkey got it the worst
when the inflatable rear legs interfered with each other.
Jenny (donkey’s real name) is in the British Military and doing this as part of her training. She ended up wth 16 stitches and 5 internal. She’s togh. Got stitched up right there and is deemed fit to continue.

It’s now the next day and we have all been in the airport for hours waiting for our flights to Lukla. That airport has not been open for days and there are people who have been here for 3 days – the controlled chaos gives you time to have a chat and for me grab a computer in the “cyber cafe” so I can finish this posting. I’ve gone through  alot of Purell today! This computer must have every type of germ imaginable on the keyboard. No complaints though.

Once we get to Lukla we immediately start walking to Phakding for the first night. There are several unsteady suspension bridges to cross so I hope we aren’t trekking in the dark. We are all anxious get into the mountains. This is a very fit crowd who are not used to sitting around. We have a 100 mile trek w/ the side trips so we cannot be delayed too long without it adversely effecting the trip. All our supplies and equipment are waiting for us in the mountains. The hotels in Kathmandu are full so going back there to spend additional nights right now is not an option. There is no Red Carpet Club :). We will roll with it. One fellow already had a nasty reaction to a cup of coffee (I had one too) and they had to find his bag for a change of clothes. You can’t take your mind off where you are for a minute.My time is up, I’ll be back as soon as that’s possible. Trouble uploading photos to Picasa for use on this site but will keep trying. I have some amazing ones to share. Thanks for all your comments and msgs. Please know I do get them and they are much appreciated. I hope everyone is well and one last thought – PUI you guys ROCK!!


The common bonds that unite us

One of the advantages(and possibly the only advantage)of being the only woman making this trip alone is that I get my own room,and when we head up the mountain I will have my own tent as well. That might not sound like a big deal but after you’ve traveled for 33 hours and finally arrive it’s very nice not to have a snoring stranger in the next bed. I know this not from experience,although who would argue the point, but from listening to the conversations at breakfast this morning. As each time zone entered the dining room a comment was shared about the sleeping arrangements. No one is used to having roommates anymore and I admit I’m very happy on my own. To everyone’s credit no one is complaining and that speaks well for how this group will perform once these “shared comforts” are left behind.

Trips like this are a built-in opportunity for personalities to clash. The physical discomfort, pre-race anxiety, western meals replaced by monotonous trekking food, 17 different cultures, etc can challenge even the most embracing personality. It doesn’t appear there are any big egos in the
group and that’s a relief. Quite the opposite we all seem to be enjoying the 3 major reasons that brought us here:
love of running
charitable giving
love of travel

We have been assigned into 3 groups. We had a post-dinner meeting last night which was an overview of what to expect over the next 3 weeks. This morning we met in our groups for further details, a medical “exam”, and equipment summary/
exchange. I dragged my 4 Season top of the line sleeping bag all the way here and had it immediately dismissed as woefully inadequate & possibly dangerous for the places we will be camping. My “new” bag which I had to rent only compresses to about 2x the size which is a concern. We are only allowed 12 kilos on the flight to Lukla and for the
porters to carry up the mountain & that is not a lot of gear. Anyone thinking of this as a vacation would be surprised to say the least.

This morning we are going for a 10k fun run and I’m curious to see where 75 people can take more than 2 steps without being hit by a car, motorcycle, rickshaw or Tonka truck. The signs of new affluence are evident in the increased number of vehicles clogging the dirt roads but no where else. No signs of better housing, healthcare, sanitation, or fewer beggars. The garbage problem is beyond description as is the stench that accompanies it. I have to remind myself that what smells like death to me is life to an entire country. Buddha and Vishnu smile down on these people in their own way. Yesterday while walking through town I saw 2 pigs crossing the river and they were enormous! Way bigger than any of the cars or trucks, or cattle that roam the streets. The river is so filled with garbage that even the mighty swine – standard bearer of filth, looked pathetic in it’s wake.

When have I laid it all on the line to make my dream come true?

This is a tough one. How to thank so many people who have made the last 7 months the adventure of a lifetime. “We” are going to fill that plane in a few hours! I’m not sure how many seats are on a 777 but I feel like discreetly putting your names on each one. I’m sure my bags are over the weight limit, they are so filled talismans and other symbols of love and safe travel. They are all going with me. Last night Barb sewed colored threads onto the sleeve of my favorite running top w/ each color representing the people and animals closest to me. Such a little thing when you look at it but huge in every other way.

Thursday night’s sendoff party was amazing for me. Thank you M-A for organizing such a wonderful time, loved your speech, I love you. Thanks to everyone who came and to those who couldn’t the real party will be when I get back.

I have raised over $12,000 through donations to the Everest Marathon Fund! That is just phenomenal. Those of you who donated by check – I have added your names and donation amount to the Giving site. Please take  a look.

The only snafu so far (I hope) was when I drove up to the bank yesterday to get cash for my trip. I had $15 on me. Imagine my heart rate when I saw the bank was very dark and then realized it was Veteran’s Day and there would be no withdrawal of travel funds for Brent. Once I peeled myself off the roof I began the humbling process of calling for help. It must have looked like the most unlikely of drug deals as I met Mary-Alice, Janet, Barb in parking lots as they handed me wads of cash through the car window. Hey ladies, your checks are in the mail!

I have a camera, GoPro wearable video camera, iPhone and iPad so there’s a good chance you will be hearing from me :). I’ll continue these blogs as often as possible and will do my best to make them interesting. I really don’t think that will be a problem though.

Have a dream. Set the goal. Prepare. Release. Go!

See you on Dec 8.

The path has been cleared….

A dear friend just returned from Everest Base Camp last Thursday. While she was there she wrote “Brent Thomson Runs Everest! December 2, 2011” on a prayer flag and strung it where I will see it as I approach the area where the marathon starts. Just seeing the photo filled me with emotion, I can’t imagine how I’ll feel when I see the real thing. I can see  it constantly fluttering in those howling winds, yet I have no doubt it will be there when I arrive. She emailed me along her trek saying she was clearing the trail of obstacles for me. How amazing the power of friendship.

I am so grateful for the many friends and colleagues who have so generously donated to the Everest Fund. I have raised over $12,000 so far. That kind of money goes a long way in Nepal.

I have all my gear laid out in the guest room. I go in and survey the piles of clothes: fleece, base layers, Gore-tex, wind pants, polypro, lycra, hats, gloves, headlamps, down jacket, Yak-Trax (2 kinds), hiking boots, trail running shoes, gaiters, neck gaiters, socks, sleeping bag, survival sack, GU gels, water bottles, all the toiletries, 2 duffel bags and a small third one for the flight, 12 litre backpack to wear on the marathon, and plenty more believe me. I get overwhelmed and leave the room. But I keep walking past the door and looking in. As overwhelming as all the “stuff” makes me feel there is a certain excitement attached to what’s going on in that room. It represents a different world that I will be soon be in. When I think about the conditions over there it feels so dramatic and romantic. Then I run into one of my colleagues today who say’s “it’ll be just like winter in Minnesota where I grew up” and you know he is right. Frame of reference is everything.





Last cold weather training in Montana


I’ve been back in Montana this week and it’s given me 2 more days to train on steep, rocky, beautiful trails. Yesterday I took off with only a lightweight top, tights, no hat, no base layer, no gloves. The temperature was in the low 30’s and the sun played cat and mouse with me the whole way. I thought the steep uphill would surely cause me to warmup but that never happened and within the first hour my ear lobes felt like you could snap them off. Then I noticed the difficulty I had keeping my arms bent, not to mention pumping them back and forth as I ran the switchbacks. Continue reading

Turning intimidation to inspiration

Gorak Shep just below Everest Base Camp

The more I look at pictures like the one above and wander through my memories of past trips to the Everest region, the more I admit to myself occasional moments of anxiety. Feeling anxious is acceptable, self-doubt is not. I have kept to a strict routine since May. I have approached this in a methodical way down to the last detail. I’ve worked hard both mentally and physically to prepare. By all outward assessments I’ve done a good job and I’m ready to go. So why do I feel like I need to increase my training! Get “serious!” I started writing this at 5 AM this morning. The more I delved into my feelings the more unsettled I felt. Then it started to creep into other areas of my life where preparation is a huge factor. I started stressing on the regional meeting I’m having today, the 42 new emails from 2 different accounts that came in since I last checked 30 min ago. I even looked at my dog and thought maybe I don’t walk her enough (she’s the most over-walked dog in Tiburon.) When the spiral begins I get up and move around. I threw on my clothes and drove to Tennessee Valley still unable to completely shift back to a balanced place. As soon as I stepped onto Marincello Trail and started to run I experienced magic. My focus did a 180 from feeling overwhelmed to feeling joyful and free. I hadn’t run since Saturday and I think the days off gave my body a much needed rest because I shaved a full 5 minutes off my 8 mile run. It was strong and easy, everything felt in synch. I left my anxiety in the parking lot and when I got back it was gone.