Fraser Smart: Battling the Himalayan 100
The Himalayan 100 Mile Stage Race takes place over five days at a dizzying altitude, peaking at 12,000 feet. Described as the most spectacular race in the world, runners possessing extreme mental determination and unwavering grit travel from all over the world to attempt such a crusade.
Fraser Smart made a mental commitment to take on the Himalayan 100, an ambition he worked towards for over ten years. Chatting to us from Pontrenesia where he is preparing for the Engadin Ultraks Race, he shared with us his experience battling the Himalayan 100 in his Aussie Grit Apparel.
“My wife finished third in the race in 2006 and I had been unable to participate then due to major surgery and the after effects of chemotherapy. It was at that time that I committed to taking on the race.
“I hired a trainer, Travis Macy – a well-known adventure racer, and for the first time in my life managed to fit a proper training schedule around work.
“I participated in a few mountain races in the lead up to the race – Engadin Ultraks, Matterhorn Ultraks and The Ben Nevis Ultra, and was lucky enough to be able to work remotely for a month beforehand to train in the Alps.
“The race is a five-day stage race covering 100 miles on the border of India and Nepal. The distance isn’t really the challenge; the elevation, mountainous terrain, rough trail conditions and cumulative fatigue are what give the race its character.
Day 1 – A relentless, long uphill day.
Day 2 – A 16 mile out-and-back, with a lot more climbing and descending than might be expected. Competitors wake shortly after 3am to see the sunrise over four of the world’s five highest mountains, a highlight of the race.
Day 3 – The Everest Challenge Marathon, a standalone event with athletes travelling from all over the world to compete.
“Staying healthy at altitude with unusual food is a challenge and I hadn’t been 100% for several days. Consequently, I decided to take it steady and despite leading after a few miles, I was overtaken by ‘Flying Phil’, a much faster road runner.
“The race headed out to a hilltop village, turning back for four miles before heading downhill. This section was a continuous descent of 6,000 feet, initially smooth and pleasant on wide trails before heading into several miles of huge ruts often 10 or 12 feet deep.
“I love descending so I was in my element and I was delighted to pass Phil in this section (about a minute after he startled a red panda).
“Continuing downwards, the trail turned into two miles of concrete steps to the bottom.
“I developed a limp here – subsequently confirmed as a stress fracture in my left shin, and I ambled on to complete four undulating miles to the beautiful finish in Rimbik.
“The narrow down hill road snaked between colourful buildings into the town, with the sight of the cheering Himalayan 100 crew waiting for me.
“The next runner finished six minutes later, so all of those anxious checks over my shoulder were for nothing.
Day 4 – A short day, down into the valley and a few miles up the other side.
Day 5 – A spectacular, long climb to the summit from the previous day’s finishing point followed by a long descent.
“And finally! The finish, where we first started in the village of Mane Bhanjang, appears with all of the school children lining the road waving flags on the way to the finish line; an emotional moment for sure, and one I’ll never forget.
“I finished second for the five days overall, behind Flying Phil, although frankly, that was much less important than the camaraderie and new friends made.
“I tackled the Himalayan 100 wearing Aussie Grit Apparel. Often, I’ve been sadly disappointed by the comfort of ultra-running clothing. After five days wear and after testing extensively in the Alps beforehand, I was really pleased not to suffer from any chafing, unlike most of the other competitors.
“The quality of the materials and the flat stitched seams really do deliver on the marketing promise. Best of all, the gear doesn’t wear out too quickly either so after a wash, everything looks like new again. I cannot recommend it highly enough to multi day runners.
“My next challenge is the Matterhorn Ultraks race in Zermatt. The views of the Matterhorn are simply breath taking and the 4km, 900m descent at the end is challenging on tired quads,”.