Just a couple weeks ago, over the course of three days and 23 hours, I set a new women’s speed record on the Annapurna Circuit. It was one of those spontaneous ‘that’s-a-terrible-idea-but-heck-why-not’ projects: I came up with the idea on a Monday and started the record attempt at the crack of dawn on Wednesday – not even 48hrs later (if you want to hear the full story of how that happened, check out my trip report here). Of course that is not how I would commonly recommend going about a big high-altitude run, but I had a few strategy elements in place that helped me onsight the trail with minimal in-the-moment preparation. Take a look below if you’re curious about my approach to this 200+ kilometer endeavor.
Training and acclimatization. I am generally terrible at maintaining a disciplined training regime so at lot of my fitness happens on the go: as a mountain athlete and photographer I am always out in the field, and in this case I had just completed guiding a three-week trek to 21,247ft Mera Peak complete with shlepping a big pack and logging long days at altitude. Training needs may be different for everyone but acclimatization is critical no matter how fit you are – without the Mera Peak climb I would not have been able to do what I did on a whim.
Strategy. Having access to Seth Wolpin’s and Patricia Franco’s existing FKT trip reports and GPX tracks was invaluable in figuring out where to go and how to pace myself. This was my first multi-day ultra event, so I was most worried about finding a way to balance sleep with big miles. In the end I decided I needed to rest at least 5-6hrs every night to avoid physical and psychological fatigue; the strategy worked out well.
Kit. Most people who tackle the Annapurna Circuit carry sizable packs that include a subzero sleeping bag and ultra-warm layers for 17,700ft Thorong La pass. I knew I needed to keep things minimal if I wanted to have a shot at going fast, so I decided against sleeping bag and most of my puffy layers. This is what I wore and carried.
Food. I only had a 12 liter running pack at hand, and had used up all my Backpackers Pantry meals and the majority of my PowerBars on Mera Peak – meaning the decision on whether to carry my own food or not really wasn’t a decision at all: I had no choice. I knew I would have to resupply at tea houses and food stalls along the way, so that is what I did. In addition to one liter of water I always made sure carry emergency calories in my pack (the 3-4 PowerBar gels that I had left, as well as a snickers bar or bakery item that I bought passing through little villages). I also found a jar of Nutella for sale early during the run and decided to buy and carry the whole thing to beef up my calories; by the end of the trek it was pretty much empty.
My typical daily intake looked as follows:
- Breakfast / morning hours – two pieces of Tibetan bread and two hardboiled eggs, pre-packed the prior evening to be able to hit the trail at oh-dark-thirty
- During the day – three to four snickers bars, two to three bottles of soda, bakery item (chocolate croissants or fresh apple pie… yum!)
- Dinner: black tea, egg chow mein with extra protein; pre-order and pack breakfast
All in all I carried between 10 and 14lbs – depending on layering and water status – and spent no more than $300 including all lodging, food, permits and transport to/from Pokhara. I was beyond stoked to be able to pull of the run without a hitch, and can’t wait to get back to the Annapurna region at a more leisurely pace to explore the many villages and side valleys off the main trail!
Written by Suzanne (Sunny) Stroeer. The detail trip report can be found on Suzanne’s website http://www.sunnystroeer.com/blog/2017/12/1/annapurna-circuit-fkt