Monday, November 26, 2007

Kavery Trail Marathon

17th Nov, Saturday

20:30We wanted to do it ourselves because there must be a thick layer of Peanut Butter and Jam, others outside make it too dry.” On that cold night at Fort View, Shagun and her boys were packing a rare ingredient into the PBJ sandwiches for the run the next day – energy and enthusiasm.

21:00 Bopanna and A2 come back after marking the track with some 20kgs of chalk powder. The biting cold, a pitch dark 11km trail and lack of warm clothing had stretched the marking to 4.5hours of hard work. They have made sure that every km is not merely marked but also displayed laminated signage with quotes to pep the runners. But they barely have enough time to get their blood flowing back into their veins here.
In the meantime, in Bangalore, there are innumerable things to be taken care of – from how to handle baggage to answering parking queries to arranging for snacks and Runners world copies to coordinating the 5 buses that were to leave at 4am in the morning – A1, Atul and team have their hands full.

21:30 Bopanna reviews the emergency medical procedures with the Sanjeevini Ambulance and the paramedic - the specializations at the nearest hospitals at Mysore and Srirangapatana, the routes to be taken and preparedness on basic first aid.
Shagun team has just finished off packing those PBJ sandwiches into 3 air-tight boxes, neatly labeled indicating which aid-stations they should be used at. 30 loaves of bread and 8kgs of peanut butter and jam!!
The supplies van was stacked to capacity – everything from 600 bottles of water and 500 bananas to ice boxes to garbage bags. When you organize an outstation run, even printouts and toilet paper rolls have to be thought out in advance.

21:45 Everyone around seem to have forgotten one important thing – Dinner. My own 120km ride from Bangalore had left me starving. Even as we loaded some carbs – rice and potatoes, A2 is busy on the phone, patiently giving directions to a runner on how to get to MG Road to Cubbon Park! The guy got it somewhat, on the third attempt and then he went through it all over again. Well, not everyone is gifted…
Over dinner Bops was still double-checking all the minute details with the rest of his team. A2 and I finished off dinner with boiled sweet potato that my mom had lovingly packed for me.

22:30 As I headed out to my own room at a nearby lodge, Bopanna was giving a final thumbs-up to the lunch menu for the following day. The rest of the team was to wake up at 4am so that they could be at the run site by 5.
These guys had started running at the Kauvery Marathon long before the whistle was blown. Fabulous job RFL!

18th Nov, Sunday – Race Day!
When you don’t pay attention to the details, the Kauvery Trail Marathon can very easily turn into a disastrous Kauvery Trial Marathon, as it did for me. Read on…

06:45 I ride the 1km from my lodge to the run site. The first bus carrying the full marathoners is already at the start. The air was crisp, the sun was up and mist rose from the surface of Kauvery – it was a dream start. The second bus arrived a little later even as we joked, chatted and strategized.

It was an important race for me, my third full marathon, and the first one that I had religiously trained for. I had set out not only wanting to finish but impress, should have known better to keep vain pride zipped up at the baggage counter.

07:30 Even as I dodged past the crowd at the start, the sweet smell of sugarcane fields filled up my lungs. I was raring. I was anxious about my knee bruise. Yes, in what could have ruined my race altogether, I had skidded off my bullet at Marathalli trying to avoid a speeding cyclist just 3 days before the race. The bruise on my knee was just beginning to get the shade of pink. I was lucky to be running this one. But it felt great that morning and never once thought about it again. I would have greater problems to worry about.

08:20 I crossed the first U-turn, 10kms in 50mins!! I was way too fast than what I had planned to do. The idea was to run at 6min kilometers for as long as I could, I was doing 5min kms at that point. I would have to slow down. I threw quick answers to puzzled farmers who wanted to know what it was all about.

09:20 I reached the end of first lap in 1:49hours, my best for a half marathon. The group of half-marathoners, yet to start their own race, were all applause. I refused electral at the water station and asked for plain water to consume with a powerbar Gel that I was carrying. I was making my first mistakes, the lack of electrolyte intake would eventually become the nemeses of my race in the last 10kms.

10:00 I crossed the 26km mark in 2.5hours. I was now doing exactly 6mins per km, timing every marking that I passed. I was pleased with the effort so far and looked forward to a 4:15 hours finish. I passed the 9.5km water station (30km) in under 3hours.

10:30 There was a slight nagging cramp developing in the right calf muscle. I crossed the U-turn a second time, happy that I will not have to do it again. The front runners from the half-marathon, Hari and Pradeep passed me here and egged me on. I thought of stretching a bit to ease the cramp, as I raised the calf, I cramped so badly, I landed palm first on to the ground and screamed in pain. I had forgotten my bruised palm and it had its way of grabbing attention. From there on, it was struggle.

I passed some infectious motivation to A1, “Pain is temporary; Quitting is permanent” as we crossed. Was I telling this to myself or to A1?

12:17 The finish. The next couple of hours were the longest hours I have ever run and the worst. As I passed the ruins of the temple on the trail, the whole pack of 10km runners came into view. This was really the fun crowd - runners in bright colors, flashy caps, in ecstatic, boisterous mood. Should have been in a better shape when those pretty little things passed by ;)
In the next 4kms, my inflated ego took the beating, even as some stronger legs continued to pass by. This is the toughest part of a marathon, the mind gives up and there is a strong negative emotion. This time, the reserves came in the form of Jani and Raj, who were running the 10km. The walking and chatting helped shift the pain from the cramped calf, but it is vain pride that weighs you down heaviest in those final kilometers.

In his book, “Every Second Counts”, Lance Armstrong says “The experience of suffering is like the experience of exploring, of finding something unexpected and revelatory. When you find the outermost thresholds of pain, or fear, or uncertainty, what you experience afterward is an expansive feeling, a widening of capabilities.” True, I agree, but hey, I would rather do that “revelatory exploration” alone, it hurts real bad in the head when you are lying down, squirming in pain and yet trying to put on a placid face.

Thanks to Jani and Raj who stuck on with the cramping me till the very end… thanks so much.
And as if to complete the task of destroying my vanity, with the finish line in sight, Navin who passed me gave a congratulatory pat on my posterior and how difficult it was to take it, I had to limp to stifle the cramp. The natural Kauvery canal Jacuzzi at the finish helped massage sore joints and reinvigorated me for the rest of the afternoon.

I registered a finish in 4:47hours easily surpassing my personal best of 5:35 in last year’s Bangalore Marathon.
The winner was clearly the team at Runners For Life - over 3000 man-kms were covered in all by the 140runners, a fabulous performance in tiring conditions!!!

The Postmortem:
It took less than 2hours for the calf muscles to ease that cramp and 3-4 days for my bruised ego to recover somewhat. Suggestions and analyses flowed thick and fast over lunch at Fort view and on the mailer group for a few days after. I did my own reading too (more here) and reaffirmed that it was the lack of salt / electrolyte intake to blame for the faux pas. See, it wasn’t me!

Slowing down is probably good, it does help you to pick up some friends for the longer race of life.
(Applause Applause… come on, that’s mine… no plagiarism on that one, honest...)


Prashant Kumar said...

Wonderful narration.. it was a pleasure reading.. makes us readers and mere runners feel tons of gratitude and respect towards all those in the organizing team who spent hours to set this up.. and must say that despite the cramps and all, your timing was remarkable.. keep it going.

manoj said...

Thanks.. and yes, the RFL team truly rocks!!

Nischal said...

Hey Bhat,
This was actually just a trial are going to ace the chin up!!!

D said...

had half a mind to write, "you write better than you run."

but considering you have been such a sweet guy and such great running company in addition to having kicked my bhat (;) this was all a build up to this!) several times, stuck to ->

as long as you are alive, there's always another day. and if you are not, the race is over anyways :)

i have immense respect for the fact that you have come thru knee surgery to run such a kick-arse race. relax...

there's a long way to go. in fact, if anything, take it easy, as someone famously said, life is too short to be taken seriously.

enjoy the ride,... ok, ok, the run too...

Naveen Javarappa said...

Good stuff. Run, Forrest, Run!

Rishi said...

This seemed like straight out of a movie..:)..well written man...and a mail coming to u soon..about tips..please do oblige..

Shreyas said...

Since I heard the live audio version :P, I glanced through it maga but looked out for the God's quotes! Hence, the comment as well - can you please forward that collection of quotes you prepared?

manoj said...

@Nischal & D
Thnx guys.. Enduralyte its going to be at the Ultra!!

Thanx for the donation. Time to change the quote macha

Still waiting for the mail as well as some posts on caniwrite buddy!! Nothin interesting in Japan, eh?

Thanks..Quotes on the way! Considereing writing about our Hesarghatta ride??

Anonymous said...

congratz for finishing.
but, i am disappointed...very very disappointed...i sincerely looked forward to getting some more pieces of info to complete the half moon to full eid ka chand ;)
one marathon happening here now in the next week. i think lodde is going full swing at it.

Monica said...

Ah. Good times. The quads sang as I read that race report :)

You know what hasn't changed 5 years hence? This from your blog - "A2 and I finished off dinner with boiled sweet potato that my mom had lovingly packed for me." Tomorrow morning, A2 will be polishing something yum that he got access to, thanks to his food sniffing out superpowers.