Samantha Gash , Lisa Tamati , and Jason Rita were at the banner of the start line, quick photos were taken and the count down was on, 10, 9, 8, etc. 3, 2, 1.. Bang! There off and running of the 2nd La Ultra-The High, current elevation 12,545 feet. As all the runners took off on a slight uphill grade they were all excited and running and about 1/4 mile down the road and around the first corner Ray was taking a fast pace to lead the pack, followed by Samantha and the others. Molly and Lisa soon walked and would use the run walk strategy early on. All the crews soon loaded up and off we went to catch our runners, it's like the Badwater start line, Don't all rush out of the start to catch your runner a mile or less down the road but we all did, haha. Molly was set for a while and we enjoyed the other runners as they all moved down the road back towards Khardung Village where we stayed. As the runners spread out and we approached the village we quickly ran back to our place we stayed, visited the Poop Monster one last time and moved through the village. Molly was doing great and enjoying her morning.Day 1: All the racers, 6 of them, Molly Sheridan, Ray Sanchez, Sharon Gaytor,
Once passed the village it was easy sailing as Molly proceeded closer to Khardung La mountain, the weather was nice about mid 60's, light winds and partly cloudy so it made running quite nice, crewing you could feel the coolness in the air standing around and we were all waiting on more sun shine to warm things up as we continued to climb in elevation. We were given a detailed Altitude Map and distance chart for the race and one funny thing on the map was the location of"Boulders to Shit" 12.8km from the start, LOL!! Good thing we were all okay and headed right past that area on to North Pullu, 26.1km (mile 16.2). Once we reached N. Pullu it was quite busy with other tourist and race people, I saw Samantha's 2nd team car and spoke with Nic for while as we got some tea/soup/food and Molly prepared for the next 10 miles up to the top of Khardung La, current elevation here is: 15,193ft. We all left out of N. Pullu feeling good but 5km up the road things turned a little different for Molly.
Approaching Buddha Statue/Park (30.3km/18.8miles) Molly's stomach was starting to feel uneasy and was starting to feel a little sick but was pushing on, there would be many times over the next 24 hours where stomach problems would try and take her down. Around this time Jigme and the driver had asked if they could help pace so they were out walking with Molly at different times. As we got closer to Khardung La and the road became more steep with numerous switch backs and now all dirt road I decided to jump out and start pacing as Molly was moving pretty slow and just not feeling well and with about 10km to the top she needed to get there as soon as possible. No sooner than I started pacing she had stomach issue #1 with a basic purge of all lunch consumed at N. Pullu and electrolytes. She said she felt better once her stomach was emptied but this not becomes a delicate situation as to try and find nutrition that can go back in without getting purged, calories are needed! Also Molly's hands had started swelling and we were trying to determine the electrolyte imbalance vs. H2O situation. The traffic now on the road was much greater and many diesel trucks were coming by leaving a cloudy of exhaust fumes we tried not to inhale but was mostly unavoidable, sometimes there was a convoy of trucks and you just had to stop on the side of the road and let them all pass and try not to breath, but again, you are at 16,000+ft so it's pretty hard not to. As the K-Top drew closer Molly's pace slowed with short bursts of picks up and of course there was #2 stomach purge.
At around 39km/24mile, (17,089ft) there was a road blockage as the road was being worked on from a bulldozer and had everyone waiting in both directions, Jigme was able to talk to the bulldozer driver and he allowed Molly and I to pass on foot so we didn't have a lot of down time, the Mothership came through about 20 mins later. Earlier, Bailey and I had taken some Dimox meds for the altitude as we knew we were going to be going up and over the mountain slowly, the original plan was to give Molly a camelbak about mile 23 and have her run up to K-Top then we would crew her and she would continue to run down the other side till about 16000ft, and then we would take the camelbak and she could continue with hand held bottles, but leading up from N. Pullu she was very fatigued and with the stomach issues there was no way she was going to carry a pack so we changed to plan B and as long as everyone felt okay at the elevation we would continue our standard crewing duties. Approaching the top to Khardung La was pretty difficult and although I felt good I could tell it was work and I had only been pacing for 6 miles! My goal was to get her to the top as soon as possible and once she reached the top it was very busy with tourists and traffic. Again, the top is 42km/26.2miles, 17,600ft.! We quickly got Molly some soup and Bailey was quick on the crewing duties with food and tea for both of us. I was ready to jump back in the mothership and head down as I needed a break, Molly underwent a quick medical check and all was okay, she was feeling very fatigued and her stomach was still not with the program. I traded places with Bailey and the mothership and I moved down the mountain a mile or so ahead as Bailey was now on pacing duties, they both started running at times which was good because the faster you get to lower elevations the better everything works!
Earlier in training and acclimation we had gone up to Khardung La and run down about 4 miles and this is the same section Bailey was now on so the mothership moved to the same spot and waited, about 4 miles from the K-top, approx. 49km/30mile, 16,400 ft. we waited and as I recovered feeling much better Molly and Bailey arrived, Bailey was taking a break and now Molly would be on her own for a while to get to South Pullu. Molly had stated that one of her goals was to get up and over Khardung La with the least amount of energy but as fast as possible, but with the stomach issue I knew that had robbed valuable energy which would soon show its face. On of the deceiving factors on this course, in this section, is that you can see all the switch back going up and down so at this point in the race we can South Pullu check point but its still 4 miles away on the road and as you run down you can easily look down the mountain and see it, sucks! Molly kept running and by now we are close to the 7pm check in time and she is working to get there asap. We eventually drive to S. Pullu (55km/34miles) 15,400ft. and tell everyone she is coming in just a few minutes and arrives at 6:45pm, feeling tired, fatigued and stomach STILL not wanting to cooperate! She once again eats some soup and some other little bits of food and off we leave from S. Pullu heading to the city of Leh.
It was now almost dark and we broke out all the night gear and lights and even decorated the Mothership with glow sticks. I started running with Molly again and if I remember correctly we had another stomach issue purging all the food she had taken at S. Pullu. Damn! Again, no ingested calories and stomach is just not wanting to play the game. The night drove on slowly and getting down into the town of Leh was very slow as severe fatigue from lack of nutrition, stomach purge and overall effort of climbing 17500feet has not taken its toll. Bailey and I had made a plan to switch out and I was going to go with the Mothership into Leh to refuel, get some food and come back, it was about 9pm. I left Bailey and Molly on there own and off we went to refuel.
As the driver, Jigme and myself approached the city I noticed we turned off the main road and soon stopped at what appeared to be the drivers house, he jumped out and Jigme took over driving. I asked what was going on and he said that the driver had to get some warmer clothes, food, and meds because his head was hurting from the elevation. An interesting thing about the locals for the race, they were used because of there natural ability to acclimate to the area since they lived there and wouldn't have any issues with the altitude but once we started the race I noticed that these two would walk from the car during crew stops only to figure out they were smoking. Later when we were up closer to K-top, approx. 16500feet I tested my pulse/O2 and there's and Holy Shit if mine wasn't better than both of theirs! My O2 was higher and my pulse was lower, it was crazy but just goes to show even if you live there and you Smoke, your not as good as people that don't smoke and train for altitude! After dropping off the driver we got gas and its here where I caught up with Samantha and her crew, she was feeling sick to her stomach as well and they were trying to find the rest area that was set for crews to take a break and steak out for runners. After chatting with them it was back on the road and Jigme stopped at the pharmacy to get meds for his headache too and then off to get food. I was starting to freak out a little because we were coming up close to an hour being gone and still no food. I went to Oh, La-La cafe, our favorite spot since we got to Leh and the owner was great enough to pack up some spaghetti and pesto pasta for us along with coke and sprites and we headed back to pick up the driver and get back to the girls, as it had been almost 90 mins now. During this time I was pretty stressed out and telling Jigme that we couldn't waste time driving all over and making stops and then there was some issue with the cell phone he was trying to take care of and this only stressed me out more, poor guy, as earlier while he was driving up Khardung La he wasn't used to the stick shift of the mothership and actually stalled the car 3 times in a row on a hill causing us to roll backwards and making me freak out! There were cars and trucks behind us honking and I kept yelling at him to give it gas to not stall it but he interpreted that as Yes, it has petrol, not Push the gas to prevent it from stalling. This was the first time Bailey saw me freaking out and assumed I was definitely suffering from High Altitude Sickness! HAHA!
We made it back to the girls and just in time as Molly was desperately needing to lay down and just give her body and stomach a break. We stopped on the side of the road about 70km/43miles, 13,160ft. and she went to sleep for about 30 mins. Myself and Bailey went to the back of the car sitting outside eating the pasta and recapping the last 90 minutes. After we ate Bailey and I jumped back in the car and went to nap as well, the driver grabbed his sleeping back and crazy as he is laid down in the middle of the road in front of the car about 25 yards. The road/check point at South Pullu has been closed for the night so no further vehicles are allowed past the S. Pullu but since we are lower or before Pullu, there is still a potential for vehicles and sure enough, about 10 mins into sleeping I wake up to honking and headlights and there is a truck facing us stopped because the driver is laying in the middle of the road and he didn't want to run him over. After a few more honks he wakes up and gets out of the road and lays behind the mothership near the side of the road and goes back to sleep, we laid there another 10-15 mins and then Molly woke up and said let's try a little more.
She walked at a good pace even though her stomach was really bothering her and just so upset, I was hoping we could get her into Leh and then stake out for the rooms but we only made it another mile or 2 before she said she couldn't go anymore, we were still 3km from the city of Leh and it was after 1am. We made staked out and headed for the cottage for sleep, this took about 20 mins to get there and once there Molly and Bailey hit the beds and passed out very fast! I decided to take a shower and after I cleaned up I found a blanket in the closet, laid it on the floor and went to sleep.
Sleep was only about 2 1/2 hours and the alarm went off at 4:50am. We were all up, loaded and heading back to the stake point, Molly said she was feeling much better and her stomach wasn't upset. Back at the stake point she started off walking and feeling good so she started running, the Sun was already coming up and as were on the edge of the city heading in she started running. Mothership pulled forward about a mile down the road and on this stop Molly yells out for me to pace her as she was just chased by a pack of dogs and they scared the crap out of her! I got my things ready, still trying to wake up myself and off we went as she told me the story of the dogs chasing her, quite scary! As we entered the city and heading for the Main Gate in Leh, mile marker 50, I was glad to be running in the early morning with her and chatting about the day before!
To be continued on Day 2...
In thinking back about Day 1 and what went wrong with the stomach issue was hard to pinpoint but after breaking it down I concluded with the help of the medical team that being at that elevation for extended periods and breathing the amount of Exhaust fumes Molly and the others were subjected to caused some upset. Its basically poison! and the body can only handle so much of it, once the stomach purge set it in it was a matter of damage control, Samantha and Lisa also experienced stomach issues and they were all the last 3 to get off the mountain and spent the most time here. Overall the only precaution to take is to try and limit the amount of ingested fumes and work as fast as possible to get up and off the mountain. The 2nd day brought much more running and enjoyment to Molly, as by this time many of the race crews/directors had worries that she was not going to make the overall race cutoff, but Molly is a Rocky!! so again, stay tuned for Day 2 and Day 3!