After the ritual 4am wake up and preparations, it was time to mentally prepare one's mind for today's trails and prepared to get the muscles in motion once again as the watches were started at 7am. The fact that very little sleep was had was soon forgotten and the body remembered quickly what it had to do and the mind was soon focused on the challenge ahead.
It was going to be tough and the altitude gain a challenge.
Today's trails threw us into the wet lush forests of Bhutan, filled with aging trees, lingering moss, moist air and foliage of every shade of green possible. It was like wandering through an enchanted forest and waiting to witness a group of fairies appear from behind the moss.
We trudged through trails where we were at times ankle deep in mud and keeping shoes clean was no longer an objective.
We climbed narrow gullies, wedged tightly by the rich earth with fern and foliage brushing against you as you dared passed. I appreciated the coolness, the shade and the caress of every tree, fern and raindrop.
There was the possibility of leeches but when one is so deep on setting one's foot in front of the other, it no longer became an issue and leeches could be left to worry about later once the finish had been reached.
I continued to scramble along vague trails, dodge rocks and jump puddles but I could no longer enjoy the nature as much as I wish I could. The camera rarely made it out today. As I continued to climb further up I began to feel more and more the affects of altitude.
My pace became slower, my breath faster and the nausea was over powering. I lost sight of runners in front of me and behind me and I was alone and for the first time concerned for my safety. I was dizzy, delirious and couldn't walk in a straight line. If you have ever suffered altitude sickness than you would know it's worse than being drunk...almost to the brink of unconsciousness and you have no control of your body and it's functions.
I paced myself, I stopped, I breathed and a stayed focused...one step in front of the other....up up up up...one foot in front of the other......
I was soon thankful that a companion runner had caught up to me. Howard was an angel and after taking one look at my condition, decided to give up his position and pace and walk with me to ensure I was safe, especially as we wound ourselves around narrow trails that hugged the side of the mountains.
The trees along the route were often large, towering and ancient and were often confronted with the blazing colour and splendor of wild orchids. I wished I was in a better frame of mind to be able to take in the wonderful beauty around us......it was a struggle.....I cried........I called out for my mum.....I cried some more but emotions aside I remained focused at the goal at hand.....
Eventually we reached Check point 2 where Howard left me in the hands of the medics....After a rest, a couple of nausea tablets and the knowledge that we were heading for a descend, I collected myself and began to head on forward.
This was the first time I doubted myself in this race not because of my physical and mental inability but because I was fighting the demon of altitude sickness. But the warrior within was determined and I wasn't going to pull out. I had too much riding on this experience..........I didn't want to let myself down, my family, my friends and of course all those who had supported the KICK Cambodian Children's Fund project. It may have been a debilitating challenge but it wasn't going to let my spirit of determination detour me from completing my journey.
As soon as we reached the summit, I ran like the wind down the mountain trying to leave the elevation behind me and with every step I felt better.
Quickly dodging rocks, tree roots and pot holes, it wasn't long before I wasn't struggling for breath and I could run in a straight line.
It's the challenges like these within these adventures that I embrace the most......it's what determines you as a person.........it's what lifts you above from ordinary and pushes you past your limits...it's where you discover a new inner layer of yourself and where you become reacquainted with the Warrior within ...........we all have a warrior within......some lay dormant more than others but the power of evoking the warrior within is living life and truly discovering one's capabilities and true identity.
It was with great relief that I finally reached the final destination, tears of joy and gratitude.
I didn't want to feel this way for stage 3 so after seeing the medics I took some altitude sickness tablets on the hope that I would feel better running tomorrow.
Today was a different challenge..............a challenge to fight from within the obstacles that are out of our control but can affect the outcome....and I won!!!!!
We are all on an adventure...running the same trails and race but we are all on our own inner pilgrimage, each one of us drawing from the experience in different ways..............fighting our our demons and fighting for our own accomplishments.....regardless we are all extraordinary!!!
'The greatest achievement is to stand up to failure'