Sonya Looney Yak Attack Nepal Race Report and Interview

Race Coverage

Stage 6: Taal – Chame 15 mi, 4500′ of Elevation Gain

DEATH MARCH! My GPS fell off at the start because I didn’t put it on all the way and I had to turn around and go back for it. I had to come from the back of the field which was frustrating and went harder than I wanted to get my position back. We had a really tough, steep, fast hike to start. I pushed as hard as I could. My heel was hurting and it was wet to start. I was having trouble turning over my easy gears, but I was bound and determined to ride as much as I could. I knew there’d be tons of walking already, so I tried to pedal. Once again, I was riding further back in the pack than I had been and was being asked again if I was alright. It was both flattering and demoralizing. There was a ton of mud and it was really bumpy. There were a lot of donkeys to dodge. Today was the longest 15 miles I’ve ever done!

It just seemed to go on and on forever. The hikes all required carrying the bike on your back and were narrow and very steep.

Here is a little video I made of my stage 6 interviews.

Chandra made it look like childs play. The man balances the bike on his head (and passed me laughing saying, “this is tough”) I love it!

The hiking was all stepping up rocks on steep inclines with cliffs on one side. It was tough, but really beautiful.

Carena caught me at the top of the hike a bike and we rode together catching Gareth and Jens. It was the first time we rode together all week – I enjoyed it. With about 2 miles to go, I rode away. The roads are now cobbles. We got a lot of fantastic views of the mountains today. They are really sharp and jagged. The ride today crushed my soul! I was so glad to make it to Chame. My head/sinus cold is getting much worse. I cough constantly and my head is a mucus farm.

Jeff started feeling run down today at the finish. He was laying in bed so I took his bike and my bike down to the river to wash them. Paul(Matey Mate) saw me struggling trying to carry 2 bikes down more stairs, so he came and helped me wash the bikes. I was really thankful for the company and for the help. I laid in bed after that feeling like I had no energy as well.

I noticed that I felt worse after laying down, so I went for a walk by myself in Chame. It was really beautiful and I could really feel the mountains in me.

I was so glad I went for a walk and had time to walk slowly and enjoy it on a slower paced level.

Suspension Bridge

It’s crazy to think that you have to go forward to finish, you can’t get “picked up.” We are very isolated. If you need to go back, it’s a couple days journey of hiking to get to any road. I’ve mentally been having to break down the days left into bite size portions in order to mentally process it. I wish I could give up and stop trying to be “fast.” I wish I could go slow and look around more, but I can’t do that. The teahouse is a little nicer, but the bathroom is the worst so far – the worst rancid urine smells. I have to wear something over my face or I’ll almost throw up in there. My back and knee didn’t hurt today – that’s a step in the right direction. If this heel blister and sinus cold would go away, I’d be back in fighting condition! Santosh and the Nepali guys all make this weird noise at me, like “Eh-heh!” It’s funny, but really weird.

Tomorrow is a mostly rideable day to Manang which will be good on the blister and then we have a rest day there. It sits at almost 12,000′. I can’t wait for that! I’m so excited for the rest day. My clothes will be so dirty tomorrow. My leg warmers are covered in mud and I can’t wash them because they won’t dry! The teahouses are not insulated at all. It’s 50F inside and the sun hasn’t gone down!

Little things that would be nice creature comforts to have:

  • a way to dry clothes so I didn’t have to wear a dirty chamois for 3 days in a row. Battery powered hair dryer or something? I bet that’d still take forever. Dry, clean clothes would be lovely
  • more down clothes/more warm clothes. I’d have these if I wasn’t limited in weight. I’m wearing most of my warm clothes all the time and I wish I had maybe one more jacket
  • My CTR shoes for the hiking days would have been priceless. It definitely slows me down in my carbon soled race shoes. They don’t grip rock so well
  • more socks!!!! Dry, clean socks.
  • more kits. Clean shorts and jerseys (again, couldn’t because we are weight limited)

Invaluable item: hand sanitizer

I should have trained a little different. All my hike-a-bike training was for Thorong La with my harness. That’s only a small portion of the race. In hindsight, I wish I would have done steep hikes and carried my bike on my back. I was glad I climbed the stairmaster at the gym carrying weights once or twice a week- that helped. Other than that, I did what I could to prepare and I wouldn’t change all the climbing up the frigid winter roads. I did so well in my training, and yet I feel that I am completely falling apart in this race. I don’t understand. Maybe I went too hard at the lower elevations? Maybe it’s because I’m sick? I normally get stronger in stage races, but not this one. I’m definitely in survival mode now. 4 more stages to go.

Tomorrow, we head to Manang.

Yak Attack Stage 6 Gallery

Yak Attack Stage 7 »

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