RAGBRAI training 2015

IMG_1491 Ride leader Gary waits while I take some photos

I have about a month left to train for RAGBRAI. Last night I did a 22-mile ride during which I felt a little worried about not being prepared enough. Then I realized that I’m probably right where I need to be, and that a lot can happen in the next four weeks.

After a six or seven week hiatus from working with my personal trainer (during which I went to Nepal and then Merlefest) I’ve been working with Matt consistently, even upping my sessions from two to three a week especially for RAGBRAI training. And I am feeling (more than seeing) results: I feel a lot more powerful in my hips while I’m cycling. I spring up from sitting in chairs more easily. My shoulders and back feel strong. When I walk, I feel very tall and straight, no listing to one side–as a matter of fact, I actually feel taller. In short, I’m not too far from strutting around like I’m a total badass. (That usually comes after completing RAGBRAI!)

To do for the next month:

  • Ride most days of the week;  body needs to get used to doing it day after day
  • Aim for a pace of 15-16 mph rather than 12-13 mph;  faster finishes will mean more rest time
  • Seek out more hills (remember, I live in Indiana);  RAGBRAI day #1 has 4100 feet of climb

Here are some pics from yesterday’s ride in the bucolic Indiana coutryside. On Tuesday evenings we usually ride past the Farmers Institute, a Quaker meeting house that was originally a college.

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25 March 2015, Tikhedhunga & Ghorepani, Nepal

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This is a typical tea house room

First night in a tea house (Tikhedhunga) was not overly restful. Our room was above the dining room, which was noisy until 9 or 10 pm…then the entire building shook as people climbed the stairs & doors squeaked & banged open & shut.

Woke up after an hour or two of sleep with a sore throat & runny nose. Don’t feel too bad (yet) tho. Amrit just brought me a cup of hot lemon.

Today is a hard day. 1300 meters of climb up stone steps. I will just go slowly, rest when I need to.
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Later (Ghorepani). It was the hardest fucking day of my life.

P1010242MILLIONS of irregular stone steps going up, Up, UP. Donkeys being herded down to get supplies–they’ll knock into you if you don’t watch it. Always stand near the wall or bank when you hear donkeys coming, NOT the cliff.

The trek was endless. We climbed & climbed for hours before we got to our lunch spot. Then more hours to get to our tea house. The post-lunch trek *was* better than the morning, but not by much.

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Photos cannot do justice to the rugged reality of Nepal’s stone “staircases”

Things I have a hard time fathoming:How people live up here in the mountains & have done so for centuries & probably millenia. There are schools up here, fer crissakes. I feel like I am getting a glimpse into an ancient culture (with wifi).   During today’s downpour I ended up in a hut where a woman had built a small wood fire & was heating water. No electricity in the hut, & there were beds in there was well as the kitchen.
What would it take to clean up Nepal? Pollution, trash everywhere, burning the trash makes more pollution. But approaching lower Ghorepani there was a rubbish bin attached to a tree & there was rubbish in it (& remains of a fire beneath). If Ghorepani can clean up, maybe it’s possible.

24 March 2015, Tikhedhunga, Nepal

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Apil & Amrit

Trekking Day One
Guide = Amrit
Porter = Apil
~3 hour hike today. We have stopped for lunch and are waiting for food. Trail is mostly dusty, not too steep yet. It is hot but will cool off as we ascend.

Trekking in Nepal is like RAGBRAI–hot as hell & one damn hill after another.

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Amrit, Katy, & Apil cross the bridge at Nayapul (“new bridge”), the starting point for Annapurna treks

Later, at Chandra Guest House in Tikhedhunga. Met Michael, taciturn German from Dresden (not so quiet, just can’t speak English; opened up when I started speaking German).

Mary from Canada doing all kinds of volunteer work. She spent a month in Sri Lanka working with handicapped turtles.

I had a little traveler’s diarrhea last night & wondered if my body was a little nervous about the trek. This morning we met Amrit & drove to Nayapul. It took about an hour & a half & I kept hoping the driver wouldn’t stop (i.e., didn’t want to trek to begin).

We enter the Annapurna Conservation Area

We enter the Annapurna Conservation Area

The trail was steep (for me) in many places. My best strategy was just to stop for a minute if my heart was beating hard or I was out of breath–amazing how just a few seconds’ rest helps. I keep thinking about RAGBRAI & how I got stronger every day. I hope & expect that to happen with this trek.

It’s 6:45 p.m. and I am so tired from 3-4 hours of trekking. Tomorrow we have “5-7 hours” on the schedule. I wonder how I’ll feel tomorrow night?

Buff on the trail. Look out for buff patties!

Buff (water buffalo) on the trail. Look out for buff patties!

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Approaching the Himalaya

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The road ended not far from here. After that, all business must be conducted by foot, donkey, or the occasional helicopter.

Sunday, March 22, 2015. Bhaktapur.

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Katy and Neppal walk up, up into the old section of Bhaktapur

Okay, Nepal is either UP or DOWN, all the time. There is no flat. I am not in Indiana anymore.

There are feral dogs everywhere. They are mostly street dogs, not pets (altho some people have a pet dog). Not particularly poorly behaved, and not seeking any human attention, either. Food, maybe. I imagine this is how dogs have lived with humans for millenia–alongside but without too much involvement. Some dogs are ill or injured and some simply look ragged and flea-bitten. Andy (of iTrek) said years ago a Dutch GMO successfully lobbied for legislation preventing the killing of these dogs, but did not include any kind of sterilization program. Anyway, learning about the street dogs cleared up questions I had when reading in Lonely Planet that the dogs in Kathmandu barked all night–I doubted pets would be so pervasive.

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Bhaktapur Durbar square

Anyway, Nepal thus far:

  • beautiful
  • trash everywhere
  • reminds me of Japan but with far less infrastructure
  • people, dogs, cows, cars, motorcycles, trucks, bicycles comingle on the roads, all seemingly oblivious to the next (and somehow it seems to work)
  • there seems to be construction everywhere
  • lots of tiny solar panels out in the country
  • no cats

This temple was destroyed by the earthquake

Visiting Nepal is yet another opportunity for me to recognize how EASY my life is.  My clean neighborhood.  Abundant utilities (i.e., no electrical outages on a daily basis;  clean running water in my house).  A clean–sterile, even–job with heat/AC.  Expensive (relatively) hobbies like knitting and cycling.  Major appliances. Leisure time.  On & on.

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Something cool-looking

Neppal explains something

Neppal explains something

Katy on the patio of Hotel Paradise, Bhaktapur

Katy on the patio of Hotel Paradise, Bhaktapur

Temple of the Pilot Guru

Temple of the Pilot Guru

Today we accompanied a group of iTrek staff on a volunteer mission to clean up a terraced picnic area at Ghyambedanda, near the temple of the Pilot Guru. An amazing amount of trash of all sorts, including a lot of broken glass, was picked up by our group. I complained about the broken glass and our Nepali friends said guys get drunk and then break the bottles (eyeroll) (see, people really are the same the world over). Ironically, most of the trash was then burned, including the plastic bottles, cups, and spoons, contributing to the smoggy haze of the Kathmandu valley while slightly beautifying the landscape. (Trash will turn out to be a pervasive problem in Nepal. I believe littering was de riguer in the USA up until the mid-Sixties, when “give a hoot” educational campaigns helped clean up the country, so I guess there is hope.)

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I have no idea what was done with the glass

Trash, trash, trash

Trash, trash, trash

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Handsome Nepali men clean up!

Afterward a group of us hiked back to the Paradise Hotel. For me, it was a strenuous hike and much steeper than just about anything I’ve experienced at home. I suspect the Annapurna trek will be hard for me, and that I’ll be able to do it, as long as I got as slowly as I need to (just like RAGBRAI). (Later: my toenails were a bit long on this day, with the result that my nails rubbed inside my boots and made my toes hurt. This was easily remedied, but my right big toenail eventually turned a soft shade of purple but did not fall off.)

I photobombed the pic these guys were taking, and they were great sports about it

I photobombed the pic these guys were taking, and they were great sports about it

Ganesh

Ganesh

Friday, March 20th, 2015. Delhi airport, 3:00 a.m.

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Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan Airport has beautiful marble floors throughout

Waiting for an Air India rep to bring my boarding pass to Nepal and tell me what to do/where to go next. I should’ve applied for an Indian tourist visa-on-arrival for TODAY and then not used it til our trip home.

Got separated from Katy here due to differences between our Indian visa statuses & luggage destinations . Hope we meet up again at the gate. [Of course we did.]

Started reading a book about an American man’s Annapurna trek & thinking about harrowing bus rides I’ve taken (esp. in India) & future bus rides I hope aren’t so scary.

Wondering what the initial assault-on-the-senses Kathmandu will be.