Sonya Looney Yak Attack Nepal Race Report and Interview

Race Coverage

Stage 4: Gorkha – Besi Sahar 38 miles, 5000′ of Elevation Gain

I had really bad sinus drainage last night and couldn’t sleep. It felt like syrup in my mouth and I was thirsty. I took some sinus medicine in the morning, but it made me feel sick all day. I’m worried I’m getting a sinus infection because this is how it normally starts. I felt nauseated at the start and my head was cloudy. The start was a long, dusty downhill. I felt sketched out going mach 5 down a rocky, dusty dirt road with no knowledge about what’s around the corner. When it was time to pedal, I had no energy and felt weak. The course was undulating and painful. One steep hill after the other. The road was really rough with large rocks. My body was being beat up, my legs felt like crap, I felt nauseated, and it was hot. To make it worse, my sinuses were out of control. Stringy snot everywhere. I thought for sure that I would lose some time today. I did my best to power forward and tried not to judge. My crotch was hurting really bad from the hardtail beating from the last 4 days on the rough roads. Bam! My butt is chafed too and it hurts… this is what they don’t tell you about stage racing. There were lots of buses and trucks on the road. They said there was a “tarmac” or paved section and I kept looking for it and expected it to feel like easy miles – a welcome break. It was 18 miles long and it felt like forever. I’d look down at my Garmin and see I only went 1 mile when I thought for sure I had gone 5. Much to my surprise, I started catching people. I didn’t understand how I could be moving forward given how bad I felt. I kept looking for that finish line. I knew the name of the town we were supposed to finish, but the GPS line ended before that. I trusted that I should keep going to the town. Fortunately I was right. Today was the first day I started straining my ears to hear Snow Monkey’s finish whistle. I was so relieved to hear it. It was the first day I didn’t feel like riding once I finished. I was spaced out, my eyes were blinking fast, and I didn’t feel stoked like I had in previous days. I bought a cold coke in a glass bottle from a little hut. We rode up to the hotel. Our room actually had its own bathroom (with an actual toilet) and for the first time in awhile, I got to enjoy a HOT shower. Funny how little creature comforts like a toilet you can sit on and some hot water go a long way. I am still shocked by the amount of pollution and trash…. and how often the power goes out. We ordered lunch and it took over an hour. Paul Bolla went back into the kitchen to discover that the cooks hadn’t even started the meal. He showed up to the table delivering food and said that he cooked it! I couldn’t believe it. I went and peaked back into the kitchen. It was very tiny, like something out of some movie. You could imagine them killing the chicken in there! I guess in this culture, you’re allowed to go back in the kitchen and help. Jeff had Tibetan Bread which tasted like a sweet pretzel and I got some Chapati Bread which is like a tortilla. We also had good, spicy chow mein. We went to the village and got water, pineapple juice, and Snickers. Gandhi (the doc) gave me some different sinus medication to try and some ibuprofen for knee that had been hurting since I got off the plane. I’m frustrated that it still hurts and I don’t understand why sitting on an airplane would make it hurt so much. It hasn’t stopped me in the race, but I am concerned about hiking on it. The wind is Besi S. is howling.

Today was the day we had to send things back to Kathmandu and cut our bags down to 10 kg. It’ll be interesting to see how I survive the next week on the bare bones. It was actually pretty stressful to get rid of stuff. I don’t like going into the big mountains with minimal stuff. 22 lbs is nothing. I’ll make due. I like our little crew of people at this race.

The beds here are really short and hard. My feet hang off the edge – I wonder how Peter and Paul are doing. They are soooo tall! It’ll be interesting to see what things will be like tomorrow when the terrain changes. I’m mad I didn’t bring my CTR bike shoes. They would be much better for the hiking stages and rocks to come. Hiking in my stiff, slick shoes is going to be tricky. I have about an hour lead now in the GC, so hopefully I can maintain that. I know I won’t be a fast hiker. Why did I spend my whole prep obsessing about Thorong La? I should have been thinking of the other hiking days and what I’d need for them. Oh well. I’ve been enjoying not being connected via my phone and the internet. It’s not lonely because I have all my friends in the race here although I do think of everyone at home often. So we are at 4 days, ~98 miles, and 21,500′ of elevation gain so far. I think tomorrow and Stage 6 will be the toughest for me with the hiking. I’m dreading the DH stage(Stage 10) with how I’ve been beaten up on my bike so far! I’ll never ride a 26″ HT in a long stage race again! What was I thinking? Well, maybe it’ll be worth it in the end after all the carrying. I need to hammer it out on the bike and maintain on the hikes. I may carry my boots for stage 6 since it’s supposed to be 33% rideable, but I’m not sure if it’ll be worth carrying the weight and stopping to change. I’ll be carrying my bike instead of using the harness.

My anxiety about the race makes me want to hurry up and get it over with, but I’m trying to enjoy the present moment. I think doing events like this, but not having to go as fast as I can would be nice. I feel like I’m missing out on the scenery. I actually do not always enjoy the stress of racing because I just want to ride along and enjoy each minute and soak it in. I don’t want to be in a hurry here, but I can’t put a number on and not race. It sucks – my big ring shift pins wore out from the grit after 2 days so I don’t really have a big ring to use. I guess the worst case is I have to turn my bike into a singlespeed if the shifting stops working.

Right now, I am hearing the high pitched laugher of kids playing in the street, the sound of a bike being worked on, and the Welsh guys talking to one another.

Dinner was some kind of pasta dish. I still felt sick, so I didn’t eat… hopefully I feel better tomorrow.

For some reason, I don’t have a lot of photos from this day…

Yak Attack Stage 4 Gallery

Yak Attack Stage 5 »

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