Sunday, July 22, 2012

Plan B - Manaslu (8,156m)

It has been a rather unsettling week. All my climbing plans were turned 180 in a day, when China decided to close the border with Nepal, preventing any foreigner to access Tibet. After 7 months of training and preparation for Cho Oyu (8210m), all my planning has been wiped out by a political decision which I cannot oppose. It was hard to swallow and for few days I have been living in a state of shock. After a first moment of despair, a plan B was quickly drafted, keeping the dates of the expedition unchanged and tackling a beautiful giant, known as “Mountain of the Spirit” or Manaslu (8156m).

There is a darker side to the beauty of Manaslu: it is one of the more risky 8000ers to climb. As of May 2008, there have been 297 ascents and 53 deaths on the mountain, making it the 4th most dangerous 8000m peak, behind Annapurna, Nanga Parbat, and K2.

Do I worry? Of course I do, but I must be strong and remind myself that in most cases winners and losers go through the same challenges, and what makes the difference between them is the way in which they react what doesn’t go as planned. Anyone who has summit a peak know how close they have been to quit, to turn around, sometime even close to die. But rather than dwelling on it, spiralling downward into negativity and losing energy, dissipating strength and faith, they have kept calm and raised to the challenge, progressing one step at the time, one meter at the time, until finally they have moved to a safer, more comfortable position.

For the first time since I have commenced my gruelling training routine 7 months ago, I have had good vibes about my mental fitness. For the first time, I managed to keep training even when my body was shutting down, even if my body was screaming to stop. I have not interrupted my session tricking my mind by removing any thought from the task I was performing and visualising Manaslu. And as I was training, I was thinking that no matter how hard it will be out there, I will not give up. When my legs couldn’t take it anymore, I thought about the months of hard training I have endured, I thought to the late nights training and to the early mornings, in the freezing cold of a long and dark Melbourne’s winter. I don’t know exactly how this thing work, but I lost myself in my thoughts and kept pushing. And when the session was finally over, I was almost surprised at the ability to take so much pain for such a long time, struggling to believe I managed such a big session. The feeling was the same on my summit day on Mustagata, when I lost myself in this strange state of mind, blocking out the pain of the climb and getting to the summit without oxygen.

Looking at some pictures of Manaslu in the comfort of my room, you ask me, my friend, if I am scared. Yes I am, very much. But fear will keep me alert, will keep me alive, I will get used to live with her, I will embrace her and turn that energy into something that will propel me on top of Manaslu.

Stay close to me, my friend, because I need to know that I won’t be alone up there, when it will get cold and scary. I need to know you understand that I am chasing a dream and while it may sounds a bit crazy, it give me so much joy to touch the roof of the world, to be where few have been before.

Keep following me and I will bring the thought of you at 8156m


Friday, April 27, 2012

Late April

Early morning, and outside is dark, cold, windy and it’s raining. Winter has just arrived and it is hard to find the strength to hit the road for a 20km run. Yesterday I had a hard session, running stairs for almost 2 hours, and in my legs the lactic acid is still burning. But today is the 25th of April. Today is a special day in both my countries. In Italy is the “Festal della Liberazione” while in Australia is “ANZAC Day”. In both cases the day marks an important event for the country during the World War. And in this day we celebrate the brave soldiers who died in war, to give us the freedom and the life we enjoy today. I think of these "kids on the front line" of war, between life and dead. They must have seen a few gloomy, cold, rainy days and sure enough they must have been tired too. But in war there is no time to rest. And so the ANZAC spirit got me out of my bed, I put my runners on and hit the road at a good pace. The more the head wind, the more the rain on my face and the more I decided to push. And as the miles passed under my wet runners, and the more my mind travelled far away, on a much colder place called Cho Oyu

At the 5 km mark my mind was arriving at C1, at the 10km mark my mind was at C2. With 15km gone and I was at C3 waiting in a tent for the final summit push. By the time I had been running for 1h it was time for the final push. I took a deep breath and increased the speed to 16.5km, at 3m40s/km. The heart rate indicator was on 178bpm and the legs felt heavy but I had no options but hang in there for another 15 minutes. The eyes were wide open, but all I had in front of me was the top of Cho Oyu and the thought that I was 127 days away from commencing the adventure. In my heart I know will be get on top of Cho Oyu because I want it more than anything, and it is as simple as that. This is the ANZAC spirit, the spirit I bring with me in every training session and I will bring with me during my expedition, because when you have nothing left you dig deep, you hang on to your pride, you hang on to the memories of how much you have invested into your preparation and to the thought that giving up is not an option. 

20km, 1h19min was the final time, for my morning training session. The rest of the day progressed with a shower, light breakfast, and a little rest before the afternoon training session, with 2 hours of weights at a low intensity in the gym. Thank you joining me and my thoughts during this session of training on ANZAC day!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Early April

The only time trial of the month has come and gone. It was a half decent result: considering I have lost at least 2 minutes for a little injury to my hamstring. The important news is that I am getting stronger and I am getting used to heavier training sessions. The hamstring injury is mild and will not keep me away from training for very long.

With the month of April I will commence swimming, and will be increasing the weight lifting and strengthening program for my upper body. It will be a difficult month of training and my body will need to step up and extra level to keep up with the new routine.

On more exciting news, I have had a live interview with a local radio and it was a case of “first time” for me. The objective was to promote my expedition to the local Italian community, and ask for financial support. However, I totally forgot to mention the need for financial support and ended up missing the point. A part from that it was good fun to be in an unscripted live interview from studio.

Finally I have completely sorted out the logistic of the expedition and what is left to do is to buy few little additional pieces of gear: the main items are all ready to be packed away and during the Easter break I will have a general inspection and ensure that everything is fully functional.

I am left with 5 months to go and quite frankly I wish my climb was much earlier, as I cannot wait any longer! Talk to you at the end of the month for further updates!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mid March update

After a long time I am resuming updating this blog. It means a new adventure has started. I have been working hard to build a solid base, 33 days of solid training, 357km on the road, 5,200kg lifted, 15,203 steps climbed. I have now moved to the second phase of the preparation. In this second phase I increase the intensity, and try get stronger and faster.

Fatigue and muscle soreness are good companion of this trip, which is, most of the time, run on a very lonely road made of sacrifice, dedication and sometime set backs. I have not been able to complete my last training session, and today, in my rest day, I try to regroup, to refresh my body but most important my wounded spirit, to start faster and stronger than ever tomorrow morning, at 5:30am sharp.

If you want to climb big mountains, you need to be able to accept failure, to accept set back and find in yourself the energy not to give up, ever. I accept I will feel sore, I will feel sick, I will feel tired, and while I failed yesterday, tomorrow I will be back giving my best once again because this is the only way I will condition my mind and my body to the hard task of conquer the beautiful “Turquoise Goddess” as Cho Oyu is known by the locals.

I am aiming to post updates on a fortnightly base, but I leave asking you to think about the power of will and determination, and what you can achieve in life, in any field, if you only set your mind to it. Don’t let any task in life intimidate you, worry you, beat you. If you cannot complete it today, take a break, regroup, think about how you can improve and go back to challenge yourself once again.

Climbing a mountain is so much more than getting to the top of it. Climbing a mountain is a way of life.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mid January update - still resting

Tuesday early stroll, 10km, light pace. Easing into a routine, not pushing yet. Wednesday morning run, 25km. Thursday afternoon session of hills rep – 45 minutes high intensity, 300m stretch at 6%. Not easy to find harder hills in Melbourne CBD. Early morning run, along the Yarra, 7km, gentle pace. Recovery session.

It's not training yet, but it feels more and more like it. Cannot wait for 1/2/12.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2 weeks to go

Waiting anxiously the commencement of the training sessions, on 1/1/12.
At the moment I am working on the logistic details of the expedition. Visa shouldn't be a problem (like it has been for Mustagata). I am fairly comfortable about my gear, although I need some additions. In particular I very happy about my new Suunto X10, which will be extreemely important for navigation in whiteout conditions. In addition, I am tossing up about getting three or four large 4 litre Russian Oxygen bottles. Haven't decided yet. Thughts anybody?