One of my favorite time in Muay Thai class is the interval work. Lately, we’ve been doing 30 seconds, 15 secs rest, 6 rounds of each technique. On a hot and humid temperatures of Saigon, doing intervals are painfully brutal. The seconds tick by on that 10 seconds rest then it’s go time again. Heart rate spike up into the 15 seconds then pure burn to the end, repeat. By the 4th round, your mind starts to counteract the body and wants to give up but there’s 2 more rounds.
I start drooling saliva about the 3rd round. I don’t know why but I see saliva dripping off my mouth. Gross.
Yes, 30 second rounds are tough and hard but nothing is harder than reaching 18,000 ft above sea level with 200 meters more to go. The body begins to shut down yet with will power you push on until the pain starts to numb. Everything is tunnel vision and all you can think of is that last part of the pass. The hardest pass we’ve climbed on a mountain bike was Khardung La. The climb starts on the edge of Leh, Ladakh India and gradually ascends around long winding dirt road. The road winds around the mountain like a snake and what is seen to be near is actually still far. Atmospheric pressure can be felt at around 17,000 ft and our lungs were burning as we pedaled through the muddy road. Every inch of the body hurts from lack of oxygen. Breathing was labored as if a plastic bag covered my head. Tears rolled down my face as I looked back to see how Doug was doing. The altitude causes uncontrolled emotions and thoughts as I ascended. Sometimes, joy overcame my spirit like a high then suddenly other weird sensations. The last 200 meters approach got my already high heart rate even higher. Damn. I got off the bike wobbling around like a drunk as I felt the altitude and hard effort on my whole body. I balled my eyes out as a relief that we made the toughest pass we’ve cycled on. 6 hours ascend to the pass.
The toughest pass we’ve ever done on foot with a 40lb pack is over Kongma La at 17,985 ft. It’s the most difficult pass of three on the route to Everest Base Camp. The approach to the last 100 ft up to the pass was a bitch of a climb. Already oxygen deprived and an exhausted body, until this day I still couldn’t believe we made that scrambling section. Every time I looked back to check on Doug, my pack would pull me backwards. It took some time to find a stable grip on the rocks to scramble without it peeling off. A section that is not part of the route, as we later found out. Inch by inch, we moved up carefully. My legs were shaking. I wasn’t sure if it was from fear or just the hard effort of scrambling through the rocks. We had no choice at that point but to continue on. My arms were burning because letting go can be a harsh consequence. My legs were starting to cramp. We finally made it up and we both cried like babies. Yet, it wasn’t over. If there is a face on the ascent, the other side is also a sheer face of shale rocks then crossing a fogged up Khumbu glaciers. There was one moment where I wondered if we would make it to the other side. Ice glaciers falling off the cliff and the echoing cracking sound as it peels off was unnerving yet I found it majestic. 9 hours to our destination, Leboche which was just a few miles from Everest Base Camp.
The next day, my head felt like it was going to explode. I had a deep throbbing headache all night long. I kept on thinking about the movie, Scanners where the guy’s head exploded into shreds. We still had to ascent to Everest Base Camp. I have an early stage of AMS but told Doug to keep going. It’s the first time I’ve ever shunned every doubt I had about making it to base camp, everything that made me think that I cannot do it. My vision was getting blurry from the pressure in my head and I started to feel numb all over my body. How is it that I was so fucked up but suddenly feeling on top of the world as we stood on Everest Base Camp while a Sherpa took our picture. Each step I took on the way with my head down, my heart and mind whispered…”I can do this.” Tears run down my face. Doug teared up. Quickly, I literally ran back to Leboche to descend…I will spare the gory details of what my physical condition was the next day. I was able to trek down to Periche to get some medical attention and recovered.
That’s what is in my head when I do intervals. There is a method to the madness and it’s called pacing. Most of all, it’s about believing in yourself. Believe that you can make it. Remove the doubt out of your head and push on until you finish. The body will make it, if you put your mind to believe that it can.
30 seconds, 15 seconds rest for 6 times is a total 3 mins – 3 mins x 3 techniques…9 mins.
9 mins of mental training to believe in yourself.