I’ve been struggling on figuring out how to send some of our biking gears from California to Ladakh, India. It’s not easy since Leh is in a very remote place in India. It’s much easier to send our stuff from California, US to Delhi, India then either have someone bring it on their way to Leh or have a courier service deliver which can be costly. Some bike gears from home will really be helpful in our training specially bike shorts. We’ve been wearing running shorts and not sure how long those will last. We also miss using bike pedals and bike shoes instead of using our trail running shoes on flat pedals. It would help a lot. Now, how to get those to Leh is not as easy as I thought.
We’ve been in Leh at 11,900 ft for about two and a half weeks and so far, it’s been good. Our training high and living high strategy in itself is tough. I can’t imagine riding the mountain bike over 5 passes above 13,000 ft in 8 days.
The advantage of being in Leh or Ladakh in general is that our bodies would be acclimated before the race. We didn’t plan on racing when we got to Ladakh but since the opportunity came through a series of events in Nepal, it would make sense to race Manali-Khardungla. It’s going to be a good experience for us but it’s also going to be our toughest endurance race. Why not race the highest motorable road in the world, right?
That’s how we roll…
There’s still a lot of things to learn about living at high altitude such as Leh. For instance, food. It’s really important for us to get enough vitamins and minerals as well as all the macro nutrients in our bodies, like fat, protein and carbohydrates. Leh is very vegetarian and it’s really hard to find protein source such as meat. We’ve been vegetarian and vegan for many years in the past and based on our experimentation, not having a balanced meal can screw up the thyroid function as well as Iron level despite all the claims that enough Iron is found on non-heme or vegetables and legumes. The heme source of iron is really critical in hormone function and has a more denser iron level than non-heme. This was discovered on all my blood tests during my vegetarian/vegan days. The thyroid is critical in maintaining metabolism in the body and in our age, it is even more crucial. I am not a doctor, these results and decision were based on many years of training with a conscious effort to understand how our body responds to training. Our reason for being vegan/vegetarian was more for health reasons not so much animal rights.
The Dalai Lama also had some health issues being vegetarian. According to the Lama we met in the mountains of Nepal, the Dalai Lama was advised by his doctor to eat meat once a week to be healthy. He even tried soy products but it was not helping. Also interestingly, the kind of meat the Dalai Lama eats is a “non-slaughtered” meat so for example, if a cow fell off the trail and died that meat is “non-slaughtered” and okay to eat because the animal was not harmed. I wonder how often that would happen? The Lama we talked to met the Dalai Lama and have been following his studies. Whether it’s true or not, we are not sure until we ask the Dalai Lama himself.
In Leh, slaughtering is prohibited (or at least not often revealed). Harming any animals in the city is also a no-no. Meats come from Delhi or Srinigar and usually frozen. There is a big population of dogs, cows and donkeys since there is no spay or neuter in Leh.
Going back to living high, based on some studies living high at altitude requires a normal level of iron in the body in order to acclimate well. Chemical reactions in the body also reduces bone density and muscle loss is accelerated specially if the body is subjected to high amount of endurance training. A lot of things happen to the body at high altitude and adjustment to the changes will require some work.
So, a few things happen – body becomes increasingly more alkaline, release of CO2 is increased, hormones react differently and the body is coping up thin air by increasing blood hemoglobin but all of that will take time to adjust.
We have ridden 100 mi per week for two weeks now and the body required some rest in between rides. It’s still a work in progress but we are moving in the right direction. Listening to the body is important so increasing mileage will be tricky. The terrains in Ladakh is high, dry desert and ascends quite fast in a short distance. I’ve been posting all our rides on Strava to log mileage and ascents.
I still have that question in my head, “What will it take for us to finish the Manali-Khardungla stage race?”
I guess we will find out in July!