Nepal Action Asia 3 day Ultra Marathon – Ghorka Valley
Participants came from far and awide, but mainly international expats living in Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo and a few traveling from United States and Europe for the Nepal Action Asia 3 day Ultra.
After a crazy 5 hour drive on a road, but smoother and and a few less road holes than the previous Langtang 2011 Action Asia Nepal event, participants arrived at Gorkha just before a magic dark orange sunset to greet competitors for the race briefing.
Race Director Michael Maddess promised participants in the long 100km category a 38+ course with 1712m elevation gain, 1716 elevation loss (min 532m, max 1392m) for day one and an extra “killer 2km stair climb” added around the 30km mark for fun.
The day one course took all participants from Gorkha up a 1km steep staircase at the start to the famous Gorkha Palace (Gorkhali temple) viewpoint (1392m elevation) with mountains in view (Annapurna, Manasalu, Ganesh Himal). Dirt roads and single track followed until the village of Ahale which housed the first water checkpoint with locals boiling water to reduce the use of plastic bottles. Then the short course participants returned on lower dirt single track and dirt roads to Gorkha with the long category continuing to Ghyampesal (1115m) (17k) at over 1200m elevation. A downhill sweeping dirt road passing local Nepalese traditional villages (Shikhare, Sarkigaon), crossing the Masel Khola (600m) before reaching the checkpoint 3 at Sikha village then a brutal 2km staircase climb thru local farm village houses thru Lapse, reaching Nayasal (1190m) then Shortpipal (1275m) and descending to the Gorkha Bisauni Hotel (1150m) finish line.
Breaking 4 hours French born HK resident Romain Riche from Team of Paris Lafuma came 1st across the line in 3 hours 46 minutes.
“It was great walked fast up the hill to the palace which had incredible views, then top of the ridge very nice, very fast downhill after…villages were very nice to pass as fast and flat, nice views with snow in background on huge peaks, no problems on technical sections as liked, smooth track to cp2 and nice people cheering me on, river section was great down then tried to slow down for big climb as was a big climb going up 2km. Kept it easy on last section as slowed down to conserve energy near end. Will try to take it easy on day 2 depending on how I feel as a bit tired after today” said Riche.
Next across the line was Welshman and HK resident Adam Wooliscroft. “Yes 2nd today. A bit nervous due to steps at start as normally steps are not my thing, but what I do find in the cooler temperature compared to Hong Kong because of my build, I have a lot more speed, so I did the steps quite hard, found it quite comfortable, the course was just a delight for me as slightly flat or slightly downhill so very fast, I was aware that Kami was close behind me, so she was fast and expected her to catch me on the hill, but guess due to cooler temperatures marched right up it. The hardest part was the long contour to the finish as hadn’t saved any energy as saved it all for the steep earlier climb (around 30km into race). The water stops were fantastic as I came in as people were clapping and cheering even as the 2nd place person which felt great with a lot of positive energy so loved that. I liked some of the villages as people really got into it slapping my hands as knew by me doing it, people behind me would benefit. The scenery was incredible. Absolutely incredible. The mountains in the background. The only thing is when you are going fast and want to stay fast it’s hard to stop and take photos and you know you’re jealous of the slower runners who will stop to take photos and get this great memory of the trip while I’ll just get a few photos which isn’t quite the same, but that’s the tradeoff I guess. Maybe one day I’ll hike one of these, but not quite yet. Tomorrow sounds hard, so feel comfortable, but would like to take a few more photos. Want to remember this event” said Wooliscroft after the first day finishing 2nd overall in 3 hours 56 minutes.
North Face runner Kami Semick won the Womens in 3 hours 59 minutes and said “What scenery. Didn’t expect this. Body feels good” said the overall Women’s winner after her first day on 38km.
Torrie Leckie and Linda Friener were next across the line in the Women’s 100km category finishing in 4 hours 42 minutes. “Boring course. Just kidding. Stunning scenery” joked Tori gazing out at a stunning orange sunset at the finish line just before the race briefing with numerous participants taking photos with their mobile phones of the sunset.
At the race briefing participants were promised a more difficult and punishing day 2 with 2356m elevation gain, 2387 elevation loss with 3 huge climbs for the 100k category with 469m min elevation and 1266 max elevation.
With such a long day a 3 hour 30 min cut-off time was imposed before checkpoint 2 at Arukul in the Darudi Khola before the 2nd big climb up to Goredanda and beyond (1320m after 20km) to try and get all participants back before dark which sets in around 5:30pm or earlier in valleys.
Participants were out of the door and on the bus departing from the Gorkha Hotels at 4:30am sharp heading towards Ghyampesal near Khanchowk in the dark with the light only coming out minutes before arrival. Talk about timing, the race set off at 6am with the first rays of light touching the peaks exactly at this time of Annapurna, Manasalu and Ganesh Himal all in view for runners doing the short and long categories.
The short course did the same route as the last half of day 1 long course running down 10km into a Daurdi Khola reaching Shikar(655m) and then the brutal 2k stair climb followed by single track and dirt roads up to max height of 1275m at Shorpipal before descending to the 1150m hotel finish with sweeping open valley views, almost thru the entire route keeping spirits high.
The long route took participants along a high ridge line thru Deurali, (1200m), Palkhu (1260m) 10km checkpoint, brisk temperatures, clear blue sky, sun touching the peaks, locals curious why so many people were running by their village house at such an early morning time, chickens chirping, birds singing, locals walking to the market and local bus station. Single track grass and dirt trails winding their down the valley to Chanaute (700m) on the Daurdi Khola, crossing 2 suspension bridges and 2km down road and rice paddies to Arukul (696m) and the start of the big climb up to cp2 at Ghoredanda (20km) (1295m). Local school children walking their daily route joined many runners for the 2km stair climb and passed the local school high up on the ridge earning extra clapping hands from students knowing these were not normal hikers, but a few insane particpants who signed up for a race.
Marshals from Action Asia and local Sherpa staff added to the vibe atmosphere motivating participants to keep pushing thru the pain with numerous school children cheering participants on thru the route in different areas.
Participants then trekked higher thru Goredanda up to Dandagau (13335m) before a jungle trek with sweeping views of Manasalu and Ganesh Himal in the distance with blue sky clear weather to Simre (27k (1095) the down to cp 3 at Khahare (590m) 30k) then 3k on dirt road following river khola to Naya Sungu (580m) before another suspension bridge crossing and beginning of last punishing climb up switchbacks, shortcut single track trails and eventually popping out at cp4 at Alidanda (39k)) (1090m). Still 5km to the finish line with more ascending dirt roads passing 1275m before descending to the Gorkha Hotel doing a crazy 44km in one day.
Day 2 winners in the Women’s 100km were Kami Semick, Joanne Eades, Linda Freiner. In the Men’s 100km it was Romain Riche, Adam Wooliscroft, Charles Wachira rounding out the top 3.
Worth noting the 60km category had a rivalry going on between the top Women and Men with 8 people all coming in within 30 minutes of eachother. Andrea Oschetti won the Men’s 60km for day 1 and day 2 while Lynsey Hughes won the Women’s 60k day 1, but Nath Darbon won the overall Women's after 3 days in the 60km.
Day 3 is traditionally a short day and the last day was a contour around the Gorkha valley starting and finishing at the Gorkha Bisuani Hotel with 701m elevation gain/667m elevation loss (min 897m, max 1212m) for the 17km course.
“It’s been amazing. It’s been quite an adventure seeing all the different villages and people. And incredibly hard. Physically. I didn’t know it would take so much out of me. My goal today going into the last day is just to finish. That’s been my goal every day. I’ve done it so far” said Dan Belson in the Men’s 40-49 category and doing his first ultra 100km.
“Yes very slow tactics today. Take it easy due to my knee. Enjoy it and run with the pack a bit more. I’ve got 26 minutes over next person from racing perspective so should be ok over 17km. Hence long term protect the leg and don’t push it too fast” said Adam Wooliscroft going into day 3 trying to hang on to 2nd place in the 100km category.
“We’ll see what my strategy is today. Shorter is more my distance. So I think I’ll go out and see if I can finish fast. If I can start fast I’ll see how it goes and how I feel” said a smiling Romain Riche at the start line before day 3.
“Beautiful , awesome, an adventure, particularly the stairs on day 2. Today my strategy is to walk the up-hills and run the downhills” said Joan Steidinger in the 50+ Women’s category in the 60km.
“Last 2 days have been good. A little painful, but good. Strategy is to just enjoy it. Let the body warm-up a bit and just enjoy it” said Kristina Kurcinka in the Women 20-29 100k category.
“Well it’s been very intense. A Challenge keeping up to Adam (joke laughing), but honestly I think we’ve done quite well, joints are feeling ok, but the aim today is too just take it easy and enjoy this” said Navin Desor hoping to finish the full 60k category and looking strong.
“Go out a little slow and try to speed up before the end of today’s last day, try to take a few people, but I have about a 20 minute buffer ahead of the person behind me so should be fine and comfortably second. On day 2 about 8km in I was watching the leader and just took a tumble, hit a rock and fell over just before the river crossing. Just hit a loose rock and took a tumble” said Tim Wilson in the Men’s 30-39 competing in the 60km.
“Strategy for day 3 is trying to be on speed on the downhill if it’s not too sleep, on straight also keep up with speed, only be careful on the steep sections due to my knee as have support with my sticks so that’s where I’ll be walking. Last 2 days have been better than expected as my back has had no pain and everything else has been excellent. I have an excellent strong friend Sandro to pull me (joke). Landscape beautiful” said Marco Preseig in the 50+ category competing in the 60k.
On another stunning morning the weather cooperated again and participants started with blue sky, mountains popping thru fog in the lower valleys for another surreal feeling. The run started wth a 2.5k loop past the local hospital, 3km dirt road run to Gorkha college, running to viewpoint seeing all the nearby mountains of Annapurna, Manasalu and Ganesh Himal waking up with the morning sun, contouring above Rohatepani with 10km water cp at Reep village, before final short climb to Shorpipal (1285m) before descending to the Hotel 1160m 17km finish.
Finishing participants were first given a “Survivor” medal from Action Asia Events, then were greeted by the local Gorkha government officials, who put Nepal Khata traditional ceremonial scarves around finisher necks, symobolizing the pure heart of the giver. After the hotel staff applied red tikha bindi dots to their foreheads, to retain energy and strengthen concentration acting as a 3rd eye to the Hindi tradition.
“It’s been a total blast. Beautiful region, wonderful people, great race companions” said John Poulson in the Men’s 50+ finishing the 60km category.
“Really, really fun. I didn’t think I could do this so really excited. The people have been really fun, kids running with us and cheering us on, school kids everywhere and running with us on the route. Loved that. Views were just ridiculous. Beautiful’ said 100km finisher Mellisa Capone in the Women’s 30-39.
“Last 3 days have been phenominal. The trails are fantastic. It was a shame most of the time I was looking at my feet instead of the scenery but great contrast to the last Action Asia course in Lijiang, good spirit in the campsites. Enjoyed it thoroughly. Great 3 days and thanks Action Asia Events and team” said Rowley Aird in the 100km Mens 30-39.
“Oh it was fantastic. Sort of. First day I found tough, but then I picked up. Today just glad it’s all over actually as a long 3 days. Course was beautiful. The Sherpas were brilliant, fantastic. Really good” said Joanna Eades running in the Women’s 40-49 100km and finishing 2nd overall behind Kami Semick.
“Awesome, completely awesome as couldn’t feel better. Course was very well marked and a loved all the options we went thru on day 2 as gave some of us bigger participants a chance to finish. Coming back next year definitely. Maybe add a Clydedale category..ha ha” said Michael Vovk 100km category finsher.
Overall Women’s winner was kind to the locals. “I come for the events more to look at them from an interesting cultural event as like to see different areas and great trails. Great camaradie and great event this time in Nepal. Thanks so much for organizing this and fantastic experience with the locals” said kami Semick overall Women’s winner of the 100km with a 3 day combined time of 10 hours 58 minutes to also secure 2nd overall in the whole race.
Overall Male winner Romain did well laughing at the finish. “Feels great. Strategy didn’t go according to plan as started a bit too fast and didn’t manage to stay ahead. Saw people behind coming closer. So yes finished with Kami at the finish (same time). Very nice. Very impressed by the people in the villages. People waiting for us to run by, cheering us on. Nice. Views were nice. Nice views also on day 3 both sides (low clouds on 1 side of course and snow-capped peaks on other side), so yes Nepal Action Asia again if different region as like different areas” said overall race winner Romain Riche finishing the 3 day total of 100km in 10 hours 33 minutes for the Team of Paris Lafuma team runner.
A big thanks again for Katadyn for sponsorship donation towards shirts and water purifier prizes and to Swissbags for wallet prizes for age category winners. Himalayan Trails our local partner who helped so much, Sunrise Travel for headaches with flights solved in HK and all the Sherpas that worked so hard over the week to all the participants bringing books for the children of the Gorkha region. Huge thanks to everyone and especially the Action Asia Event staff who made it possible.
Look forward to another stunning area for the 2013 Nepal Action Asia Ultra Marathon to be posted on the website soon following other events in Lijiang, Mongolia and other upcoming destinations.
Full results at the bottom of Nepal 2012 page (click EVENTS on toolbar and scroll down to Nepal 2012).