Thursday, August 30, 2012

Airtel Hyderabad Marathon 2012 - A Report

First, the Marathon Organizing team scorecard; followed by my own race report.

What the Organizers a.k.a. Hyderabad Runners did well:

  • Good course – set like a dumbbell, the full marathoners do the extra loops around the start and end points, the half marathoners ran point to point. A to B runs are always refreshing, but poses a challenge to the organizers – traffic blockage, water stops, medical aid. But when you organize an A to B course, you are placing the runner before yourself. Contrast this to a 2.6k course, run up and down, 10 times!
  • Great set of volunteers – At each water station the volunteers owned the race. The runner was made to feel special. There were some manning traffic, others running alongside to supply water bottles. They were on cycles, riding up and down, enquiring if you needed water, biscuits or fruit. A few of them placed themselves firmly in the middle of the road, between traffic blocking cones to make sure traffic did not get into the running barricade. There were a few just standing in the rain and putting their hands together when I passed. When a herd of buffaloes threatened to stop me, they sprinted ahead to help the cowherd clear them off the road, just in time. I can go on with this list, they made every passing kilometer seem easy…
  • Well stocked water stations – Gatorade, water, bananas, sponges, relaxant spray were handed out by eager volunteers They set the bar high in the 2009 edition that I ran (read here), and they easily better themselves this time around. A++ for the Hyderabad Runners (HR)

Three and Half – my race report
Training – High on Jack Daniel’s formula
Three years ago, I clocked a three point something (3:50:01) for a personal best running the hills in Hyderabad (report here). Although I came close to breaching that time in Singapore in 2010, it was Hyderabad that again handed me a Personal best. I wrote about the journey (the training) and not the destination (the race), in my report of a failed previous attempt. This time too, it was the journey that needs to take credit. Thanks to Navin, I followed a high-mileage 24 week training program based on Daniel’s running formula.
Some stats from the training:
Start date – 8th March 2012
No. of weeks – 24
Number of workouts – 98
Total distance run – 1392 kms
Total time spent running – 131h:51m:04s
Total calories burnt – 96931 calories

There was no EPO for me, but I did manage to get my RBC count up by doing some high altitude training. Visit this blog next week to know more…

Pre-race and race strategy
When I told him of my plans in Hyd, he said “what eet ees” and that is how Risky hosted me at his place in Hyd. I ran a 5k around his My Home apartment to get a feel of the conditions – which seemed like Bangalore – overcast and cool.
We rode most of the marathon route on Saturday, to the Expo where bibs, goodie bag, timing chip and tees were distributed. I must have psyched Risky with my pre-race OCD – stuff as much carbs, salt and water.
We spent a couple of hours pouring over the elevation profile, race course map and our own first-hand experience of the course, from what we had seen in the morning. I drew up target 5k splits for both of us; based on the elevation, adding 20 sec/km to my average pace of 4:55 min/km for uphill sections and minus 20sec/km for down hills. The target 5k paces were so complex, I had to write them down on my bib. To add to an exam eve like nervousness, I actually felt like I was making ‘chits’!!

A 2:45am wake up call, 2 bananas and 30min bike ride later we were at the start point. I deposited my bag, picked up a banana and reached the starting line. I heeded to Athreya’s advice about warming up, and jogged easy for about 5mins before the start.

0-10km (49m:16s) 
The start was on time, uncluttered and within 200m or so, I found my space. Sampath, who I had shared my training routines with, had finally decided to suspend his thesis work and join me. A much gritty and stronger runner, I was hoping for him to pick me up during the final stages of the race. The course was flat (around Hussain Sagar lake) but I struggled to keep even keel. When the street lights allowed me to glance down at my watch, we were either going too fast or too slow. The target for the first 10k was 49:10 and we had done it in 49:16 – On target! It also meant we passed the start point near iMax before the half marathon start, thus missing the crowds.

10-20km (48m:52s)
10k to 20k had some steep uphills as we made our way past KBR Park towards Banjara hills and Jubilee hills. I had had so much Gatorade & water by this time, I had to take a p-break. Sampath and I attacked the long downhills too and were running at over 16-17kmph. So much so, we even managed to keep pace with the elite half marathoners for a bit. The strategy paid off and we made up for the lost speed during the uphills and clocked under 49m for the second 10k, about 100secs faster than target. 21.1k – the half way mark was done in 1:43:10

20-30km (49m:37s)
This was the most difficult and very crucial stretch of the race. For one there were climbs of 40m over 4kms from 20-24k near the HiTech city and another 70m climb between 25 to 29kms – the Gachibowli flyover. The Gachibowli flyover seemed like a pile of work at office – while you drudgingly make your way uphill, the pile / hill only seem to grow! And to make matters worse, we were running in to a strong head wind while on the flyover. Sampath slowed down to gulp some Gatorade handed over by a willing volunteer and he never caught up. I was looking for cover, tried to stay in Sampath’s slip stream in vain, also tried running along the edge of the flyover in hope that the wind would be less effective there. I had to dig deep to keep going and kept telling myself that this is what I had trained for.
And when I labored over the crest near ISB and saw this long downhill, did I sprint or what. I ran like there was no tomorrow… 

30-40km (53m:27s)
The target for the last 10k was 51:40s. But given my record in the last 10k of my past marathons (see comparison chart), I would take anything under 60mins for the last 10k. As I began the last quartile, a steady drizzle turned stronger. The course looped around ISB and the University, on undulating country road. This stretch was very beautiful indeed. When I reached the water stop just after the 35km mark, I had run 2h:52m and soaked to the bone. I stopped here at the water stop and used muscle relaxants.
I remembered the University stretch from the 2009 race and was looking forward for it. 

With the rain clogging my glasses, I was witness to a bizarre incident of a runner ahead of me, doing an Armstrong - hitching a ride on a passerby’s bicycle! The only thing that you give back as a runner to the sport, is to be honest & true. That is possibly the only tenet that the sport stands for - the distance is true, the pain is true, the high is true. I quickly dismissed this event so as to not affect the wonderful race I was having thus far.

A couple of more brief stops for the spray must have cost me the couple of minutes that I was off target here. Even as I entered the stadium towards the finish, I was doing an impressive 5:20min/km pace.

I sprinted towards the finish line to open arms of Rajesh Vetcha – a key member of the organizing team, to a Personal best of 3:31:33
(photo courtesy Anju KP)
I was placed 8th overall and 7th in the Men's category among approx 240 finishers.

What went right:
  • The long threshold runs during the training
  • Attacking the downhills, not letting even a single one go wasted
  • Run organized by the runners, for the runners took care of lots of nuances
  • And, last but not the least…Shoes presented by Shreya, socks presented by Sunil (how can a race report not mention the sponsors!)