Friday, October 24, 2008

KTM 08 - Only one way to go - Down

*note the salt deposited on the cap in the snap above!
The sun is beating down heavily – I can feel the burn on my shoulders, I pour some more water from my sipper over my back; I won’t be needed too much water from here on. Running is euphemism to describe what I was doing, I was barely running. I tired not to think of the cringing faces my running pals, 3 strong runners not being able to continue.
At a distance I could see a metal glitter through the hues of green. Am I hallucinating? Or is it really the last water stop. I looked at my watched, it read “12:00”, it had been 4:20hours on this blazing trail. As I approached the last bridge (or was it?), I am forced to ignore the “hello-how-are-you” screams from the kids who were enjoying their swim in the Kaveri canal. Even the mere thought of a dip would can aggravated the cramps now. I can’t wait to fill my lungs with the stench of the carcass that floated in the canal close to the finish.
A van comes into view and then the rest of the runners waiting at the finish. I can feel a sudden rush, a spring in my tired feet and almost immediately the lurking cramp. With every passing breath, I am telling my other self, “relax manoj, relax manoj”.
I can now hear the applause from Sindhu, Rishi and others at the finish. The finish line passed from under my legs and I stop. My weight shifts to my right leg and stiffens. I cramp hard, drop on my butt, level my back along the dirt road, cover my face with my starched cap to keep the brutal sun out and close my eyes.
Yet another 4:35 marathon was behind me…

"You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can't know what's coming." - Frank Shorter.
Goal: “I will run 60kms at KTM for 6hours, running at 10kmph pace for as long as I could.” – this was what I had announced. I had done a 51kms in 6 hours a fortnight before this, and a 4:29 Kanakpura marathon a month back.

Carb-loading: The pasta party was at ‘Herbs n Spice’, nice name, not so nice pasta. On Saturday, while I was at home resting, I decided to cook ‘some’ pasta myself, ended up cooking half a kilo of pasta – even the friendly neighborhood dog was carb loaded!!

Race-Day: I had crapped, packed and crashed by 830 in the evening on Saturday. The bus was to leave Queen’s park by 4am! At 130am I woke up with a start – I thought I had overslept and missed the bus. Ate some boiled sweet potatoes and bananas before I left home at 3, got chased by dogs as I picked up Nischal on the way to the park. The early dogs did not get Nischal’s sandwich, neither did the early runners get the bus!
And just when we decided to give up KTM and run in good ol cubbon, the bus came – 4:45!
Quiz time: How do slow down 30marathon runners?
Answer: Load them into a bus and tell the driver to hurry
Q: How do you slow them some more?
A: Don’t tell the driver the way and let him overshoot – twice!
Q: How do you slow them even more?
A: Don’t worry, the sun will take care of the rest

The Race:
The trail is beautiful, with the canal flowing on one side and paddy and sugarcane fields on the other. The clean air is a treat for the lungs and brings with it smells of paddy hay, moist mud and fresh sugarcane – so strong that a lung full will give you a few carbs.
Other runners who had not taken the bus had started at the stipulated 630am, thereabouts. We started at 7:45 and in about 10mins I started to feel the sun. Athreya and I had decided to keep the 10.5km per hour pace. We finished the first 10.5km on target in 1hour and made it to the half way point (21km) in 2hours. We passed some of the early-start runners in their last lap. Ashok was clearly ahead, some maths and he looked good for a 3:30 finish. He finished in 3:21hours. He was followed by a phirang girl running strong, Ravi and then Priyankar.

Athreya and I also noticed some others who we did not pass. We hadn’t seen Sunil, Jugy, Pradeep. We stopped when we saw Meghana, her 3/4ths pulled up half way, exposing a fresh bruise. She had fallen flat (eeiks!!) as she was finishing her 21km, and had begun to walk the second half.

The 10km runners passed us in a hurry. I saw many friends trying this for the first time – Meera, Vijay, Sriram, Ramya, Sumi. That was the only time I saw them, a few secs is the time I get to spend with friends? Unfair!

By 25km mark Athreya had suddenly fallen a couple of steps behind and silent –he was trying to keep himself from throwing up. We reached the water stop at 30km in exactly 3hours. It brought back memories of KTM’07, where I had done exactly the same pace for the first 30 and taken a good 2hours for the last 12!

Athreya could go no more, I joked if I could borrow his still fresh legs. By the time I went to the U-turn point and got back to the 4th water stop, it looked like a medical camp in a war front. Santanu was struggling with cramps in his back, Pradeep was in distress over his legs and Athreya with a stomach upset. The ambulance at the station was not carrying ‘common’ salt! I gave Shantanu a light massage and some endurolytes and got him to get back on his feet.

With another 9kms to go, I was looking at a 4:15hour finish. Running alone in the last leg is a such a drudgery and I wished I had company. I met Meghana walking up her last lap – bruised more in the mind than on the knee. It was so humbling to see all the training that we had done in months being charred by this heat. It was nearing noon now, it would only get worse from here.

I shared my salt tablets with Nischal and then had to borrow some from Meghana. But the cramps, I was not able to keep at bay. I struggled to the finish line.

Oh before I forget, did I tell you what happened after I cramped at the finish? As I lay there nursing the cramp, I stocked myself up with more endurolytes, gels and water – thanks to the RFL volunteer who helped me with my bag…up on my feet in 15mins and off back on the track to do 5kms more…

Links to other reports

1 comment:

Shantanu said...

awesome account!