Part 1: the swimming
Having my homework made, I got to Kathmandu with a list of 10 swimming pools suggested by the expat community. Taking a closer look at the city map, the Mahindra police club seemed the most preferable option, since this was only a 30 min. walk from Thamel, where I was hosted by Maaike and Chuda. However, the road towards it wasn’t the most joyable; it seemed as if 1 million people had to take the same road, half of them in a bus or motorbike constantly honking. However, arriving there I paid the 300 NPR (ca. 2,5€), was pleased to see I got the whole 25m-pool for myself and put my big toe in the water. Brrrrrr this was REALLY cold! I swam about 200m before saying to my private lifeguard: tomorrow, I come back with my wetsuit (I had foreseen this, since I already learned in Kenya pools in warm countries can be really could)!
So I came back, but even then it was still cold, not at last because my wetsuit didn’t seem to be that watertight anymore. After 2,5 km, I needed to get out to warm myself. A couple of days later, I could go to the swimming pool with a rented bike (see: Part 2: the cycling). Finally a bit of speed in doing the daily displacements! Though, arriving in the street of the police stadium, a big procession on the occasion of the council elections were held there. It was quite a Sisyphus job to reach the swimming pool carrying a bike through the crowd. The next day, I wanted to swim again but then the army even was blocking the road to the swimming pool against the protesting Nepalese people. Thanks to my skin color, I guess, they let me pass through anyway. But once reaching the police station, I was told swimming was impossible today. Nothing else to do but walking back the 30 min. and do a home-work-out instead.
Meanwhile I was training my immune system, taking a cold shower every morning, increasing the duration by 5s/day, a lesson I learned at my last course in Belgium, since the Dutchman Wim Hof had proven this to be possible. I don’t know if it is because of that – actually I doubt it seen the worst diarrhea I had ever had in my life these last weeks – but at the end of my stay in Kathmandu I was already able to do a >3 km swim training.
Part 2: the cycling
I had foreseen not to be able to cycle that much, since bringing my bike to Kathmandu was very expensive. So I was very pleased to notice a spinning bicycle at the internship clinic and even more pleased when Tenzing said I could use it to train (thx, Tenzing!). Besides that, I did anyway wanted to see some of the – according to tourist brochures and websites – beautiful Kathmandu valley by mountainbiking. So I decided to rent a bike and join a group of Nepalese guys who went cycling every Saturday. It was told to me they would start at 7 at a bike shop but I should be there at 6.30 a.m. Eventually, it was 7.30 when we left and I noticed the group of riders did not look that fit and all of them wore 4 or 5 layers of clothes. And indeed, we started of with a littlesnailhallway (slakkengangetje) and very soon there was a first stop to take some group pictures. About ten minutes later, there was a second stop to take some tea. Finally after 2h and a couple of stops more we reached a really nice hill. While most of the guys decided to drink tea and smoke a cigarette halfway the hill, I did some interval training by climbing the hill 3 times. Later one, we took some more stops e.g. to take a ‘bath’ next to a temple. After all, we were back in Kathmandu 5h after we left, I think I sat in the saddle for 2h and about 40min. at something to be considered as a training pace.
So next weekend, I really wanted what I got here fore and decided to do a private-guided MTB tour in Kathmandu valley, though I might cost some money. Himalayan leaders convinced me, and I was really looking forward to it. They promised me the 3 things I searched for: nature, nice trails and a fit guide. After all, I got none of it. There little or no nature ; the road was mostly asphalt and the guide was terrible, I had to wait for him the whole time. At Nagarkot, at the top of the hill, I even had 30min. in advance and then the guide wanted to drink something and… smoke a cigarette. I had enough of it van and decided to turn back alone with the help of a map and the local people. Luckely, I had only paid a deposit for the bike and not the guide… Himalayan leaders could whistle after the guide’s payment!
Part 3: the running.
Last week in Belgium I did a lot of swimming and cycling and little running because I thought: you can run everywhere. It seemed that was a wrong assumption. Streets in Kathmandu were just too crowded, dangerous because of all the motorbikes and getting out of the center took > 1h by whatever vehicle because of crazy traffic. The only option to go running was between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. But even that didn’t sound like a good idea to me because the air in Kathmandu was that polluted, running would cause more harm than health. So, one day I wanted to go to the Nagarjun national park for a run. I experienced this was something different as the Palingbeek or the Vestingen at home, since the road up here was just one steep climb full of stairs, impossible to do while running. Nevertheless, even walking seemed a pretty good work-out that day. I decided that doing some running-specific physiotherapist exercises and some hiking in the wonderful Shivapuri national park would be my running preparation for the Himalayan Rush triathlon.
Chapter 2: The Himalayan Rush
Seen the far-from-ideal preparation last 4 weeks, the swimming experiment I did this winter (cf 2 blogs ago) and a somewhat cheaper registration fee (Still 100 USD + 25 USD for bike rental), I decided to go for the sprint distance and not the standard (2x sprint). Two days before the race, I arrived already in Begnas and immediately went for my first run in more than 4 weeks, planning only 30 minutes. However, I felt quite ok and I also had discovered a nice trail just next to the lake. So I decided to run a bit longer: one lap around the lake. However, I experienced Begnas lake was something different as Zillebeke Vijver or Dikkebus Vijver (near my home in Belgium). After about 40 min. running, the road got more and more up- and downhill and dissociated from the lake. So after 1h15 min. running it seemed that I was just over halfway one roundje around the lake. It was really hot and for the first time in Nepal, there were no shops along the road to buy some water or foods. One guy luckily took me 1 km with him on the motorbike, and rest of the lap I walked back home. So instead of the planned 30 min, I reached the Begnas Coffee House again after 2h30 min, just on time to eat delicious Dal Bhat (the national Nepalese meal) with my new family.
Waking up the day of the race, I still felt a bit sour from this unexpected work-out. When I went after my rented bike, I was offered a Trek-MTB for people who are 5 feet tall and above that, it was not one of the 3 types of bikes I had told the organization I preferred to race with. However, in Nepal this problem was simply fixed by changing the stickers with the participants name on the bike frame. I hope for the certain Maneesh, who received the Trek bike, that he is a midget.
Anyway, at the start line I really felt like wanting to race! Participants' field was a mix of Western people and Nepali. Some stringy young Nepalese guys seemed the greatest opponents at first sight, however their swimming warm-up showed this probably wasn’t their best discipline. One plump British guy took the lead start, but soon I took over and for the first time in my life reached transition zone in 1st position. The MTB track wasn’t really technical – good for me – but however on bad roads with bumps and a lot of off-road with too many stones, too much disturbing traffic but luckily also an amazingly cheering crowd! My tires were too hard pumped for the bad roads, however none of my opponents seemed to come close during the first km's. So I scared myself a little had (schrok mezelf een hoedje) when I discovered at the turning point halfway that 2 of the earlier described stringy Nepalese guys had approached to just a handful of seconds. Just before the last off-road part, they catched me and I had to go really deep to stay with them, since they had clicking pedals and the right tire pressure for this unpaved road.
Next, I came first out of transition, but very soon the athlete named Tharu passed me. He ran really quickly so I got to let him go. Though, he didn’t run really far away from me and at about 500m of the finish line I caught him again. The finish line couldn’t be nicer: the dam of the lake, about 400m long. Now I had the mental advantage and showed my dominance by going into this finish line first. I did a final attempt to win this race by an acceleration keeping in mind: “just run until you are dead”. It must have been that I didn’t run for the last 4 weeks, because I fell silent after 150m sprinting, expecting Tharu to overule me. However, also he kept his legs silent, so I knew he was just as dead as me. At about 100m of the finish line I did a final sprint, died again but unfortunately Tharu seemed a little little bit stronger.
If I would have had clicking pedals, if the 2 guys wouldn’t have been able to work together on the bike, if I would have been able to run in Kathmandu, if I would not have eaten so many coffeecakes in Kathmandu (softening circumstance: there was 50 percent discount after 8 p.m. in some bakery’s)... I might have won this race. However, I’m not thinking about the things I didn’t had in my advantage, since the chances I have in Belgium to train for triathlon, and to develop myself in general, are way much higher than the average Nepalese person has!