Photo credit: Ravi Kaklasaria
I have run a long race - starting from the post-surgery rehab last October, the dip-stick test at the Midnight marathon, to packing 60-89kms a week for the last 6months, I have run it long, long and hard.
The Bangalore Ultra was really not a run, it was a collective dream of a dozen lunatics who fantasized brining Ultra marathon running to India. More than 100 ordinary men, with slightly less degree of lunacy, decide to live that dream for months.
This is no melodrama, in fact it is far from it. Every other week, we went to RFL to take our weekly dosage of pain for months in row. There was wonderful camaraderie as we followed each other’s progress or otherwise.
In the week running up to the D-day, there was fear, apprehension, excitement and anxiety churning up a weird concoction in the tummy. It was like I was taking an important exam, but only in this case, all I could do was eat well and rest while I waited.
On Thursday morning, I was the first one to collect my Bib and T-shirt. I was the last one who had registered to run the 78kms distance. Bib No. 017.
At the rooftop pasta party at Bangalore Bistro, we added a tinge of humor to an already heady mix of emotions, while we stuffed ourselves with cartloads of pasta.
My mom cooks potatoes and sweet potatoes, cuts down on chapattis during the week leading up to the marathon, this time I switched to boiled rice (or brown rice) which is higher on nutritional value.
Sleep came in bursts the previous night. I remember having woken up thrice, at times, even alarmed that I would wake up late and miss the run.
I was riding my faithful silver bullet to the venue with Sudhir. I didn’t care much about how I would ride back. If I were in shape to finish, I figured I would be in shape to ride back home. I refused to think about what would happen otherwise.
I started at 4:30AM, picked up Sudhir and was at the venue at 5:30. The race started precisely at 6, flagged off by Nisha Millet. She was such a sport, I saw her run her two loops as well. Flagged off by the runner for the runners!
How to use some gray matter while running
I have always liked to take a sprinting start to avoid the elbowing and generally like to lock into a good pace early. But this time I vowed that I would not do less than 1:40hours on each loop of 13kms.
This was impossible even at my slowest pace, I would have to start walking right from the beginning. I also promised to stick to a low heart rate – less than 140BPM for at least one loop and keep it very low for the first 4 loops. I let everyone pass, resisting the huge temptation to lock into a faster pace. I just put my head down and told myself, “I haven’t started running, my race will start only after 4 loops (52kms).”
And when in doubt, follow your heart
I stuck to my HeartRateMonitor reading, when it goes up above the target for the loop, regardless of the time, or gradient or cheering pretty Manipal medicos, I walked. Whenever the svelte Nischal passed me, I factored in a few missed beats as well.
I stuck with it keeping the BPM below 150 for the third loop and about 155 for the fourth. But by then, there were other things that needed my attention.
After 4 hours of running, the clouds cleared up, I had to pull out my goggles and sunscreen. I told myself, the next 4 hours would be tough. 1 liter of water per half-loop of 6.5km, about 1 PowerGel every loop after the first, 1 Endurolyte capsule for every 1-1.5hours of running (so much math, that I need a secretary to run with me next time around). For now, I had to make do with what was around.
I have mixed experiences with running mates, but this time I had no luxury of choice… laggards can’t be choosers. Someone passed me around then and asked me, “which loop?” I had no clue. All I knew was I had 7more hours to run. I ran the second loop with Sanjeev and Jai…
… then I caught up with Sudhir.
Woah, it will take a while to explain this giant of a guy. Let’s save time and check him out here. We both were doing similar pace and we decided to keep it going as long as we could.
I had to hard sell the Ultra to Lingu (an outstanding salesman at IBM himself) on Friday. The half marathoner was pushing it all the way to 52kms. I met him on this penultimate loop. Sudhir, Lingu and I set the pace together for a long part of that laborious afternoon. Lingu finished his 4 loops in 7:xx hours.
As we neared the end, Sudhir continued to keep me company… A lot of what transcribed is quite hazy, but sample this!
Me: “But it may get dark by the time we finish”
Him: “that is not a problem, I have a torch”
Me thinks: He carries a torch in his pocket for all of those 12hours!
Me: “Hey, can’t take your pic man, the battery has run out.”
Him: “No problem, I always carry extra batteries”
Me thinks: I didn’t even bother carrying an towel, too heavy!
Me: “Guess I am cramping up, let’s walk till the next aid station.”
Him: “No problem, I have Moov with me, let me know if you need painkillers.”
Me thinks: Damn you, there goes my excuse.
Me: “13kms is still 13kms.. am going to take it easy”
Him: “I feel I can take off, I think I will”
Me thinks: Must have packed some of that in his pocket too
Whether it was painkillers, camera, mobile phone, cash, torch, determination or girt, the pocket seemed to have a never-ending supply!
Just Keep ‘Moov’ing
The guys at the aid stations were fantastic. It is not so much the front runners who need the aid, it is the once who struggle at the end. And RFL really understood that well. After about 2pm, there must have been about a dozen ‘lunatics’ left on the trail. It was then, I began to notice the mobile help. The volunteers were on bikes carrying muscle relaxant sprays to help ease cramps. I always had generous helpings every time they passed. On the last lap, at aid station 3, they ran out of sprays. I tried Moov, it worked well too. The ointment mixed beautifully with the red mud and sweat around my legs to form a heavenly shade of red. I seemed to work. But if it was the right calf now that needed attention, the next moment it was the left quad, then it was the left hamstring, then the left here, then down there, up here too… ‘moov’ing simply wouldn’t end at all!
Hugs and Misses
2:05hours left to 6PM, last lap 13kms left, our previous one was 2:15 or so. It was a tough ask. I held Sudhir back on the onward loop, 6.5kms to go in about 1 hour. As we approached the aid station 4, the Iron man, Doc and Kirean passed us, we were not the only ones on the trail, yippee (I couldn’t exclaim too, I would risk a cramp). Sudhir was itching to go by now, and decided to leave me fight out the last few kms alone. I held back, the last thing I wanted was a cramp. When it comes, it comes hard… ask me how I know! I didn’t want to blog this story again. I was only about 2-3mins behind Sudhir thou. I passed doc even as he was quitting the race at the AS3 after his 100.4km run. Wow!
15mins to go to the finish 2kms away. On any day I would take 6mins to cover that distance if I pushed.
For a brief moment, the thought of finishing in 12 hours titillated me, my legs responded with a warning pull. I limped back to the ground reality. I said I would walk but not do anything foolish that would make me quit or finish any less strong.
Nobody roots for Goliath
Wrong!! With one km to go, I heard an uproar in a distance, I looked at my watch 11:59, Sudhir had made it. I looked ahead, I saw the 1km mark.
As I walked back to ONV, there was one man who walked towards me at a distance… A1, the man himself. I don’t think I cried, but I would have come very close to crying while we hugged. I felt like the last guy to be placed on campus, the whole campus waits for the moment and the party begins.
I entered ONV relishing the applause and soaking in the moment. It was H U G E…
Hall of Fame
I earned the title of "Longest Survivor on the Trail" and made it to the Ultra Hall of Fame
The morning after
I waited for about an hour at ONV, mostly walking on my feet before I put my sore bum on the bullet saddle. I rode back home feeling nothing at all…
I woke up the next morning with a stiff fanny, and lower back… gone by noon. It was Monday as usual.
It took a while for me actually realize what I had done. At the post-run party at Koshy’s Mahesh remarked, “It was all about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. 200 people stretching themselves.. imagine what it would do to the society at large.. all our limits are only in the mind…”
20 days of training left for the Mumbai Marathon 2008, is a sub-four marathon the boundary in my mind…
For now, Superman has to go… Up Up and Away!