Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Bangalore Midnight Marathon

The Bangalore Midnight Marathon
19th May 2007

I finished the half marathon at 3am, clocking a not-so-impressive 2:22 hours, creating history in what was arguably the first ever midnight marathon.
The marathon was to be the acid test for the success of my
knee surgery in Oct last year. My initial target was to just finish in one piece, I started getting ambitious during my training with RFL. After a 90min, 16km practice run during training, I set a sub-2 hour target for the D-Day.
There were 4 runs organized, the IT run (5.5km), half and full marathon and a corporate relay run. The IT run, started at 630 in the evening and had a large enthusiastic participation. This was the first time I have witnessed the start of a shorter run and I was amazed by the energy on the course. There were people of all age groups, running, walking, sprinting, even breaking into a dance step when they passed the Dollu kunita drummers. My colleague, Srini, who had signed up with more enthu than practice, finished in an impressive 40mins.
The atmosphere was festive at iGate grounds. Food courts, flea market and live performances from a lot of local bands. The Dollu Kunita, fire eaters and stick men added to the festivity.
I slipped into office for a couple of hours of sleep before getting back to the venue for the half marathon.
I now train with ‘Runners for life’ for the marathons and we were nearly 50 of us running the half marathon. RFL had thrown a pasta party at Brigade Bistro the previous night and the excitement was in the air. The pasta, desserts, plenty of aloo and rice ensured that I was carbo loaded. Had to make a lot of adjustments for the midnight version, finishing dinner by 4, and getting a good amount of sleep through the day were crucial.
Conditions during a midnight marathon are very different. The circadian rhythm, which brings you up during the day and down during the night, is working against you. Moreover, running in loops accentuates the mental fatigue caused by the lack of sleep.
The full marathon started at midnight and was flagged off by the Kannada actress, Ramya who ran real fast to the starting point. The half marathon started at 0030 and the iGate CEO, Paneesh Murthy did the flagging off honors. Since the starting point was not the same as the finish line, there was a pseudo start and a crowding up at the start.
My first lap of 5.5km took me 35mins, throwing me off target at the very beginning. I pulled one back, 30mins on the second lap. At 1:40 on 3 laps with one last lap to go, I knew this I was not going to improve my timing on this one.
The weather was oppressive, humidity was more than I had expected.
A CNN-IBN interview: (To be read with a Forrest Gump tone)
As I passed iGate a second time, I found a long red object also being stuck up my nose. And a soft feminine voice was asking me, “Why do you run?” A question as fundamental and profound as that, and I had like 1sec to come up with an answer. By the time the next question came up, “Any reason for running the midnight marathon?” I had my wits back! I said, “at least you don’t have the sun for once”. They liked the reply so much, that it came up on TV, a lot of times (I presume) on CNN-IBN. So if you saw some creature with a brain band, jumping up and down in front of camera on Sunday, that was me.
The video is available on this link
here, watch it while it lasts.
I was contemplating for the next 10mins about what all I could have said in those 4secs that could have changed my life. Either I didn’t think hard enough, or nothing can change my life, for I kinda drew a blank.
Anyways, as I was running with all these thoughts, passing a cursory glance at the onlookers and suddenly recognized Freya, Abhi and Vodka from RTMC in the crowd near a U-turn. The next time I passed them, Abhi was loaded with a camera and Esha had joined them. There were quite a few cheer groups and I should thank these people who came out to cheer some weirdoes run in the middle of the night.
I began to feel a slight ankle pain on the last lap and forced me to walk the incline. In the end, I managed only a 2:20min but with, for the first time, no knee pain when I finished. The ACL surgery has indeed been a success.
Minute maid was available for free for everyone at the finish line. Well, that is just a new drink from pulpy orange. Medals were given to HM and FM finishers.
Fellow RFLers had done better, but the no. of guys improving on their personal best were few. RFLers bagged the second and third position in the women’s category. Manan from RTMC, who was running his first HM finished in 2:45 hours.
The next 25kms I did in 45mins riding back on my thunderbird, reaching home by 5am. Thanks to the training this time around, post-run recovery was a no problemo. It was a great experience in the end and a night to remember.

Four months to go for the Bangalore Full Marathon on Sep 16th.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Sunken Spirits at Cloud Valley

I am drifting about wildly in a swirl called the ‘quarter life crisis’, trying to find some direction to my life. The mood has definitely been depressing during the last few days; I am simply not able to get rid of the lump in my throat. The group ride to cloud valley at Coorg, set in this gloomy backdrop, was an attempt to clear up some of the obscuration.

The ride started the usual RTMC way, bullets pouring in at town hall till 630, and more guys joining in all along till Bidadi. The initial plan was to ride to Madikeri along Virajpet with the breakfast point at Bidadi. Anil’s 500 which was ridden by bladyphul packed up even before the ride had begun and then a few of us, including the new mod, Centhil, overshot the breakfast point at Bidadi. We finally stopped for poori, dosas and pongal at the coffee day outlet.
To reach Madikeri, take a right off Mysore road, a little after Srirangapatana. Another right turn after about 5-6kms will take you to Hunsur. From Hunsur you can either take the route via Kushalnagar to Madikeri. Or you can ride about 30kms longer route via Nagarhole forest, Titimati, Gonigoppal, Virajpet to Madikeri.
Going against our earlier plan, we took the Kushalnagar route on the (ill)advice of a local. There were bad stretches of potholed roads adding to the traffic on the ghat section; the ride was anything but footrest scrapping. When we regrouped at Madikeri, we had our first casualty. Arun aka naayi roast and prasy had a minor fall on the ghat section, no broken bones, just some dented fuel tank. He managed to dent it in the area where the two thighs meet each other, the tank and the seat ;-)
To reach cloud valley from Medikere, you need to ride along the lush green ghat route to Cherambane and take a left turn off Mithra wines. Cloud valley is an estate about 2kms from there.
At 230pm, the starving riders were treated to sumptuous meal. The non-veggies freaked out on pandi and koli curry, I settled for the pulav and daal and some very refreshing RC beer.
Meander to Misadventure
When the evening came, Prashee suggested we ride down to the river bed. 6 bullets took off, mindless of the dark clouds brewing up. The off-roading experience was awesome. We had to ride down a muddy lane leading right into the river bed, and ride across in silencer deep water. When all the bullets were over on the other side, the skies opened up. In coorg, when it rains it pours. Within minutes we were drenched completely. A lot of the slope we had used on our way down started to slide into the river and we decided to ride up whatever was left of it, before it became too slippery. Imagine this, a bullet is stuck half way up in slush, the rear wheel is high on rpm and spraying a thin sheet of slush around… and the rider needs help to push through. I got a first hand experience of what it feels like to have mud in your balls, rain in your eyes and ride like a maniac.
When we reached base, we were a sight to see!
Madikeri, like any other town, shuts down early. Pimpley and Prashee kept us transfixed with anecdotes of their rides even as the electricity flickered on and off. I had an early dinner and slipped into a slumber even as the story telling, the partying, singing and dancing continued well into the night.
I can’t curse myself enough for sleeping till late and missing a wonderful opportunity to ride at the crack of dawn with vijayraghavan and sam, in the mist to Talakaveri. I woke up at 8, not discerning if the thumping was in my head or in the frontyard.
Uday and Hem, our hosts at Cloud Valley, were at the top of hospitality ensuring that we were comfortable. Breakfast of Puttu and chutney, went in easily, round after round.
With naayi roast, having to fix a puncture, the start was delayed slightly, and we left the estate at 11.
A series of disaster events followed. First, the group was split, we got lost, and as we were back tracking, Tiger’s earthing wire burnt out, leading to one hour delay before we could get back on the right road. If that was not bad enough, naayi roast, who already had more than his share of bad luck, had another major fall. The rear tyre of his thunderbird, burst while he was doing good speed, sending him and prasy crashing on the highway. Although he riding gear protected him, prasy and the TB could not escape the impact, fractures, bruises on both of them.
The Highway is no more mine
I had left the larger group by this time and after a samosa break at Hunsur, had made it almost non-stop to Mandya. Mysore road had heavy traffic of cars and bikes all the way to Kengeri and to add to this were the sand laden trucks, spraying sand as you pass by. Maybe it’s a good idea to throw some paint pellets on their windscreens when you overtake them. Back home, my apartment’s interiors are being done and I had to get back early to be able to meet up with the carpenter. I rushed back without a break and was home by 530.
Although, there were some memorable moments on and off road on this ride, the mood as I hit the sack that evening, was no less depressing than what it was when I started.
Hot baths are good cures for depression. I should have just tried that in the first place. Sometimes it takes a tankful of fuel before you can think straight.

photos courtesy Centhil (aka Bakery)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Heading West to ShravanaBelagola

Date: 05 May 2007
Distance: 150kms from Blore
Route: Bangalore > Nelamangala > Kunigal > Yediyur > ShravanaBelagola

To bring in a refreshing change in style, I shamelessely indulge in plagarism, straight from Shreyas Blog My batchmate at L and bitten by the travel bug off late, holds no bars in showering those praises on my bullet. Check out the post here.


"I may soon author a research paper titled ‘Why do planned trips never work and unplanned ones rock?’. Yet another weekend trek plan to Kodachadri hit rough waters and it seemed I was destined for two days of wholesome sleeping and growing fatter. But, I chose to fight destiny (aha!).
A 11:00 am call to Manoj, a 11:10 am confirmation from him and the destination decided and a 11:30 am exit from my house. This was going to be my first trip with Manoj, the eternal tripper and also a constant inspiration for my own jaunts and fitness-enhancing activities. I reached his place by 11:45 only to find his Thunderbird idling, all set for a 150-km ride to Sravanabelagola."

"‘Not very imposing’ was my first thought. For some reason, I had always pictured the statue to be much, much taller, thanks to the TV coverage. I was slightly disappointed but nonetheless it is a magnificient structure, sculpted out of a single piece of rock. Few more rounds and snaps later, we started the walk down. Much faster this time, we (ok, I) regained our strengths through couple of Cornettos and by 4, we were heading off for the ride back home."

For more of these fotos, simply click here.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

One night on SkandaGiri

All week long I tread the customary life… I crib, I swear, I binge, I ogle, I flare and during this weekend, I FORGOT.
At 2:30am, as my feet firmly perched the loose mud and rock, even as the backpack slipped down to the ground, I forgot my mediocre life, some 800ft below me. My limbs forgot the strain of the 3 hour trek to the top. I forgot my orientation as my eyes closed, leaving my bare chest to brave the gust of wind, threatening to blow me off the cliff. I forgot time, I forgot pain, I forgot myself and I, was at peace.

Back to Basics is the informal group of ‘Mafoi’tes, ex-Mafoites and friends who attempt to get back to basics over weekends. As a friend of a ex-Mafoite (read Raghu), I got invited (I have this feeling thou, that it was my bullet that got invited, Raghu needed the ride more than the rider).
At ground zero, confusion was rampant. The meeting time changes from 6pm to 6:30, the meeting point changes from opp Columbia Asia hospital to Sanjay Dhaba, the no. of trekkers go up to 22. And with a group as large as 22, even a dinner stop at Sangeeta dhaba meant crisscross of calls among the 2 bullets, 3 bikes and 3 cars, stoppages and more stoppages. Roti, daal, egg burgi and fried rice were served in buckets at Sangeeta dhaba.
To reach Skandagiri, proceed on NH7 towards Devanahalli and Chikballapur, take a left turn (at the Vishveshwaraih statue) towards the Town Police station. About 1-1.5 km take a right turn at the municipal hall, another 5-6kms will take you to Om Kara Jyothi Ashram, in all about 60 odd kms from Bangalore.
We reached the ashram at 11pm. Bhaskar struck a deal with a localite Govinda to guide us to the top. The group was an unusual mix of fit and not-so-fit guys and gals. We were trekking in the night with torches and moonlight. A small sub-team of Bhasker and others lost their way and could only join us because of the mobile network.
The trek itself involved climbing up mud and loose rock and some serious steep rock climbing too.
I was kinda irritated with the behavior of the larger group, chattering loudly and polluting the soothing silence the hills have to offer. In stark contrast to my previous trek to KP, where we made it a point not so much as to even speak, the campfire was not considered at all.
I took off ahead with the ol’ guide for a brief stretch and fell back sometimes all in an effort to find the silence back. As the night grew on, an ancient fort came into view. We trekked around the fort to the top, to a temple, the breeze welcomed us. I stood for what seemed like a infinite length of time taking in as much as I could. My shirt was off by now, with my arms outstretched, I only needed a pair of wings (or better still, a Kate to complete the scene a la The Titanic).
Leaving the others to fight out a campfire, Raghu and I settled into our sleeping bags to make most of the couple of hours left for sun up. (I like the sound of ‘sun up’).
I woke up at 530 hoping for a cloudy sunrise. With my chotu tripod and the Nikon S10, I captured some good pics of the sunrise. Cameras snapped to frame the spectacular landscape; we started the descent at 7am.
We descended following a steeper, shorter route. Raghu, Divya, Ssomething (right, I forgot her name too) and I were together for most of the climb down. We managed to find our way down, amidst shrubs, thorns, dead ends, strained calf muscles and broken toe nails.
Raghu and I had a quick breakfast of bread dipped in jam and took off quickly to cover the 70kms home. My butt settling on the leather of the bullet’s saddle was the most pleasurable feeling in all morning.

Fotos are available at: