High on Ultra - 75k!
It was two years since I last ran the Jawadhu hills and returning back to the trail was nostalgic. Way back on 2015, running my first 25K in the hills was like opening a whole new world, a new exciting experience. My weekly mileage for the past eight weeks or so was a consistent 60-65k and having done the TRORT route, Thurahalli forest and Shevroy Hills gave me a good comfort. Yes, my constant planters pain in the right heel was on the only thing troubling me. Saturday, a little after noon set out, the road to Atipet is excellent. As one approaches the Jawadhu Hill ranges its beautiful dwindling roads. I relived riding my Grey two years back all the way. Bib collection, meeting fellow runners and exchanging notes is my favorite part of any event. Ashok, Niranjan are always comforting and definitely encouraging. Dinner was delayed, which is understandable considering the quantity needed and accessibility of the location. The clock struck 9 and I was into my sleeping bag, the plan was to wake up under the bright galaxy of stars, yes we slept on the terrace of St Joseph Govt School. But there was other plans already, minutes later, it started to pour with an intent to never stop. Hurriedly we all carried our stuff to the class rooms below and decided to tuck in a cosy corner. It poured through the night, I was thinking of the puddles we would have the next morning, but thinking of the bright side, it would bring the temperature down too. Jawadhu Hills being in the Eastern Ghats gets really hot and humid by 8am! Its a 2 am start, this had been bothering me for weeks now, yes I am scared of dark!
The highs of a ultra !! The start line at 1:45am seemed like celebration, rather Diwali, with so many headlamps shimmering, loud cheering and power hugs. Peter was crisp with his briefing and 2:03 we were off into the woods. My fear for dark kept me running faster just to have some company. Sometimes, I would just wait at an aid station for the next runner to show up and continue. This went on until daybreak and by then I had hit the 25K mark. Now we hit a bit Tarmac and the next 5K I got some speed. 6k before the U turn was when the real challenge started. The previous night’s downpour had made the red mud sticky and that stuck to the shoes making them heavier with each step. This was like a scene from Forest Gump. The 37.5K mark brought a smile on my face, the fatigue of the climb, the fear of the dark had all diluted. I quickly refilled my hydration vest with energy bars, RRun into my soft bottles. Ajay was taping, Ashish was getting a sandwich fixed, I looked at my watch, it was 7:20am and decided to head back HOME :)
Aakriti, Vikram and myself enjoyed each other's company for a few miles The way back saw some crazy inclines , cobble paths and slowly the warmth of the sun on my face. Yes, I had put back my headlamp and pulled out my sunglasses from my drop bag. The return is always fun as you get to see runners cheering, Hi fi and photographers too! In an hour I was at the 25K aid station, the one I had crossed at daybreak. That means it was 50K done, just One third to be Conquered. I was feeling good, legs were splendid. I got to chat with Aakriti for a bit. She was doing fantastic and on track for the 100!
Instant smile at 30 degrees when you see a camera :) By 11am I had hit the 60k on my Garmin and the Sun was at its best. Hot and humid and fierce. I got into a rhythm of 400mts walk-run-hydrate. This worked well for me. Crossed plenty of 50k runners and this is definitely motivating. Suddenly a rush of air whiz pasts me, that was Sampath, completed his 75k and back to finish his last 25k. We munched on trail mix together and off he disappeared. Oh My, its a joy to watch him run. You must see to believe. My other favorite trail runners are Attreya and Vipul. They are so easy and comfortable, like gazelles leaping in a mountain. The finish line came in faster than expected with garmin reading 76k in 11:24 and with so much energy left or should I say, euphoria.
Crossing the finishing line Peter, you make running so much of a joy, your energy flows through the volunteers too. These guys actually camped through the night at the different aid station points, stocked them and served us endlessly. I did miss the ‘Cloth Bib’ hope you bring you back next time. Signing off my first 75k that will always remain close to my soul.....What can I say when its to be first among women and finish ninth overall! “Running is never easy and its challenging. Its that kind of good discomfort that cleanses you” ~ Scott Jurek