Journey of 136 kilometers
Embarking a new journey is all about getting the mind and body in tune.
It had been a while since I had attempted something challenging - When was the last time I did something for the first time? Vagamon Ultrail 90K though just six months, now seems years ago.
Early Feb 2019, I made a decision of joining PaceMakers. Running alongside a legend, Kothandapani Kc Pani Sir was always a dream. All these years, the schedule of my boys never allowed me to travel to stadium on weekdays and had to do good by running locally. Although I have been running for nearly 7 years, the plan and pace in the weekly training sheet seemed very daunting. Tuesdays were the most dreaded days with intervals training. Once I even dropped a whole liter of milk from a jar post mile repeats, that’s how tired I get! I was the slowest in the group, but that never bothered me, but what kept me going was, if the rest can, so CAN I.
PaceMakers is a very focused and well-planned group and unlike the ones I know, not commercial. Also what makes a difference if our coach runs along with us and when I say, I am exhausted, Sir understands. He also gives room for failure and is very approachable.
In just four months and the company of my Bus, we call ourselves Bus #53, my 8 pace was now an easy 5:30. TCS and Bengaluru 10K were both my personal best timing. A NEW found 53:27!
When the Stadium Relay Teams started forming , I approached sir with a thought to Run a 24 hours run. Something I had never attempted. Back in 2016, I had completed a 12 hour with a happy 86k!
Initially sir was hesitant about the boredom of running on the 400 mts track, but never about my ability. Quickly I made a training plan and got it approved from Sir.
Bus #53 was just watching the turn of events and promised to be by my side.
Yoga - 10 hours a week had to squeezed in, I have been closely working with my planters fasciitis. The Pranayama practice was definitely helping in focusing the mind. Breath is the only connection between mind and body.
Eating was taking priority too. The first three weeks was Clean Eating. I took it to the next level of ‘Raw Food’, only to realise I was spending a lot of time eating, rather chewing. My Smoothie recipe book got more creative too.
As an ultra runner, I was already in the habit of eating smaller meals at regular intervals. I started adding whole grain, more veggies and fruits. Dates and honey were my only sweetener. Occasional Cider catch-ups with friends to cool off.
Tuesdays were the only day I still continued to train with PaceMakers at the stadium, I was happy with my improved pace and did not want to lose that.
Rest of the runs were evening and night runs. Praveen Harnoor offered great help on training runs. Unconditional support, always arriving early for the runs and pushing me until I finish the distances.
Evening Runs are fun too!
Meanwhile I was coaching a team of six for their maiden relay team and I always had them for company for evening runs.
We did a night run on a weekday, the aim was to understand how the body felt after a long day’s work. The route was a 600 mts track of the apartment, safe and easy. Started the run at 6:30pm and ran until 8:00pm. Then took a 90 min break to fix dinner at home and finish mom duties. Back at 10 pm Praveen joined. An hour later Sreenivas, Sree, Shashank, Rajat and Tejas joined in at regular intervals making the night run enjoyable. I managed a 50 kilometers but the fatigue was too much to explain. At km 40, I was too sleepy. Stomach was churning and electrolytes were making me nauseating.
I was glad not only to do a night run and clock a 50k but also learn a lot in the training. I needed coffee to keep me awake.
2 am picture never looked better.
The longest I was on my feet was for 19 hours during the MT Everest Extreme ultra, hence this seemed doable but running on a 400 mt track, and starting the run at night, opp of the body clock. That I was not sure of?
Closer to Race day, Ashwin got me an amazing opportunity of being on air on Indigo 91.1, this did a lot of good for my confidence. I was able to actually strategies my race. Play it in my mind.
RACE DAY - 20th July 2019
Come race day, I had multiple errands on hand, helping Darsh with his SAP project for school, which included manual stacking of old new paper for 3 hours. Cooking for the boys for lunch and dinner as well. I did catch a 3 hour sleep and quick shower and a large bowl of overnight rolled oats with pomegranates.
By the time I had reached the stadium the 12 hour relay had started and the BIB-A were blazing. Received my BIB bag from Murthy sir, then quickly completed my medical tests and was ready for the flag off. I started the race at 6pm on Saturday and hoping to comfortably be on the track until 6pm on Sunday. I had laid out my nutrition on the left most part of the hydration table at the PaceMakers tent. Took the blessing of Pani sir and started my journey.
Week before the race, many friends had asked me about the strategy. It was always the simple one – do not go too fast, do not go all out. Keep eating and hydrating and stay in the zone. Rest when you must. And that is exactly what I did!
Apart from the pacemakers relay team – 11 teams in all, my own DFit Running team – Apart from the pacemakers relay team – 11 teams in all, my own DFit Running team – Deepa’s Minions were on the tracks. This was exactly how I had visualized the race. Run the first 12 hours with these blazing runners and then ‘just hang in there’ for the remaining.
Ravi and Vijay my buddy ultra-runners were on their maiden 12 hr run. I decided to stick with Ravi for a while, talking about the next set of races for the year. We spoke of a 100 miler and the training. The vital element of nutrition and recovery too.
Pinnaak Bob gave good company, although he kept complaining of my 6:30 fast pace. Then I stuck with Praveen Shetty and Devi Prashanth Shetty whose pace was matching with mine. Of course it was a joy to see Manoj Bhat sprinting in the inner most loop of the track.
Close to 11pm, Darsh came along with Praveen and Suma with a big Jar of home made smoothie. That truly felt good. Darsh was happy to see the stadium lit and all the excitement. He had not witnessed such an event.
In Six hours, I had completed 50k and took a 15 min break to eat and drink and stretch a bit. Deepti Karthik had walked in with her leg in cast with little Aryan to cheer all the runners. A few chit chats with her and again I was back on track. I now decide to run the remaining 50k in 7 hours or more as I wondered if the first 50k was fast. Krishna stood like a one-man army supporting me at every lap. My entire PM family cheered for me. Sudhir Shetty was exceptional. He almost had cheered me for 100 laps! On the far corner was my own team of runners who encouraged me along with a few JJs. That soon died off for obvious reasons!
Time flew by, rather I never had a dull moment to look at the time of the day, night I mean. Every two hours new set of runners would come and go off the track and you just continued running. I was in the ZONE…
At the break of dawn the 12 hour relay runners had completed the race, which meant that a new set of runners were now starting. These small joys kept me going. By 7:41 am, 13:41:xx into the race I had complete a 100k. My Garmin never looked better.
That feels good!
The Stadium relay works on number of laps and not distance or Garmin data. In addition, the GPS signals inside the stadium are messy. They literally bounce. I was now waiting for the lap count to be announced. When It came in, I was short by 6.5k. Plus the qualification criteria for women was a 110k and men was 125k. Pani sir who had been waiting all along with Ashwin and few more PaceMakers said I should not rest up until I completed 110k. Now that was something I had not mentally prepared for. I wanted to sleep. Anyways, my coach word stands and I continued to run after a Sattu and jaggery drink. I was now feeling hungry too. Around 10 am I was done and exhausted. I did not have energy for anything and just crashed om the mat in my tent.
Celebration time - 100K
Gyan from the boss!
Like an angel came Sharada ma’am and Sir, they came all the way just to cheer me. Ma’am offered a Reike healing that I could not refuse. I just fell into a slumber. Thank you, ma’am, for the caring touch of a mother and soothing touch of a healer.
Thanks You are small words for all the love and care.
Now Sudhir and Jagdish were my crew, cheering and hydrating me. I must have troubled them a zillion times for not wanting to run but rest. Devi gave me a good stretch before he left. During the course of the day lots of my loved ones came along. Never a dull day.
Pradeep and life lessons.
Krishna and Uma crewed me around 2pm like guardian angels, exactly the time when the back of my knee started hurting and walking was more painful than running. To run I didn’t have the energy. I quickly jumped to Krishna’s suggestion of taking a physio break. As Uma gave me a gentle back massage, I ate curd rice. It felt food.
Back on my feet and walked for 35 min and ran some too.
I love this Pic, thank you Jagadish
It was 3:30pm when it started to pour. Raincoat on and kept the walk -run 7:30 pace. My Run family stood to cheer!
I still recollect looking at the time, at 4pm, I started picking up pace. In about 20 loops I was in the zone. I must admit of ‘being in the zone’ came many times in this race and so glad I experienced it. It brought me back to a quote from Eat and Run by Scott Jurek
“The longer and farther I ran, the more I realized that what I was often chasing was a state of mind--a place where worries that seemed monumental melted away, where the beauty and timelessness of the universe, of the present moment, came into sharp focus.”
The last hour of the race was my favourite, clocking 9 strong Kilometer and the last lap in 2:02.
The last Lap!
Tears of joy rolled down my cheeks at the stroke of 6pm on the 21st of July 2019 for all the love and support I had witnessed in the last 24 hours.
A 24 hour Maiden Race – 136 kilometers and an Unforgettable feeling.
My Son, My Pride
“Every single one of us possesses the strength to attempt something he isn't sure he can accomplish. It can be running a mile, or a 10K race, or 100 miles. It can be changing a career, losing 5 pounds, or telling someone you love her (or him).” ― Scott Jurek
Thank you for being the best!
As I sign off, any one with good training and amazing support can do an Ultra and I am a living example of this.
My heart is filled with gratitude to all those who supported me in person and virtually through wishes and prayers. Venu, Shamala, Chandana, Guru, Navya Arshi love you all!
NEB Sports Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. for always being there in my journey.
Jagadish JD for the lovely captures... thank you :)
I owe it to each one of you!