Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Q&A on the 12hr Stadium Run 2017

Thanks for the overwhelming response to the FB survey asking for the questions you needed answered about my stadium run this year. With great difficulty I have shortlisted 4 questions (of the 4 asked 😉 ) to address in this post...

Q1: Would like to hear from you about the secret behind such enormous reserves of energy which sustain your pace for such long?

“One of the beautiful things about running is that it is direct and elegant. The formula is simple: put one foot in front of the other. It doesn’t take much to figure out that if you want to improve sprint speed, you run faster. If you want to improve distance-running performance, you run farther.”
― Bernd HeinrichWhy We Run

The last 2 months, I bumped up mileage to over 100km a week, with back-to-back long runs during weekends. It helps to have Nandi hills in your backyard - You can read that post to give you a flavor of the training for this one. For me, I have to put in the miles to have the confidence to dig deep on the race day. 

Q2 (3,4,5?): What runs in your head? What are you thinking over these 12 hours? Is it only the end goal that keeps a runner going? Or is there a methodical thought process that works with the legs and the body?

The thoughts are really all over – the biggest ones are body sense (how you are feeling), the mathematics (how long / pace are you doing, what is the target left, etc.), the water/electrolyte & food intake.

Then there are many other thoughts – about family, friends, about life in general, about the gifts that God has provided. I even did a few laps chanting out “Hare Krishna” mantra. I also periodically did a few positive affirmations – about how strong I felt and how the cramps wouldn’t come.

Allow me to break it down:

6AM to 10AM 100 laps – 40k
The conditions were great, I had Santosh warn me about going too fast after about 3hours or so and I slowed down. I had my breakfast, set dosa rolled with chutney and had this on the track while on walking breaks.

10AM to 1PM  67 laps – 27k
It was beginning to get hot by now. 50k in 5hrs, 58 in 6 and 67 in 7. Some cramps were beginning to come now and I had worked myself a run-walk pattern, walking for about 50mts every lap. Sometime now, I told Santhosh I would try and walk for the next 2hrs to conserve some energy. He advised me to continue to run-walk. I decided to keep a pattern – run the straights and walk the bends. At the mandatory medical check, I was a 110 sugar levels & 90/110 BP.

1PM to 4PM 47 laps – 19k
The sun was at its glory during these few hours. I continued to run the straights and walk the bends (almost till the very end). And poured water on my head almost every other lap to cool me down. I did well to grab a plate, got some curd rice and eat while I walked. I added 3 loops with curd rice, before the race director, Nagaraj asked me to get the plate off the track!
I kept telling myself that I trained hard for this. There were occasional pulls and I went to the physio tent twice or thrice, told them specifically which area to stretch and was out within 5-7mins each time.

Q3. What were you telling yourself in the last few hours when your body is begging for rest?
4PM to 6PM 42 laps – 17k
I had gone back and forth about wearing my Garmin forerunner (GPS watch, for the uninitiated) for this run and finally decided to go with it (thankfully). The battery did a personal best as well – it lasted all of 12hrs! At 4PM, my Garmin showed 88km. Jaggi warned me that there could be a difference in the laps, the announcements were not too frequent to be relied upon. I checked with Nagaraj Adiga (the race director who never left the track) and he said I had 214 laps (~86k). To complete 100k, I needed another 36laps in 2hours – stiff target but doable.

So, the last couple of hrs were really very mathematical, counting down, making sure that the muscles were still relaxed. I did not want to get ahead of myself and kept to the easy paced run-walk routine. During this hour, my boss, Ravi had come over to cheer me. My family and my best pal, Tima joined at 5. Bobby informed me that I needed 16laps in the last 1 hour. Lap after lap passed, before I knew I had 6 more to do in 30mins. When I checked with 15mins to go, I was on my 249th. It was a surreal feeling, I looked skyward and ran the entire 250th lap, with my forefinger pointing up! I had this!

The next lap, I informed my co-runners on the track – Jaggi, Praveen, Santosh, Chandra, Mani, Vipul, Rahul, Apurba, that I had done a century. In the last few hours, it had become our combined goal. I pressed on, running the last 15mins for the podium. With still some 2 slots (and about 30 runners) yet to start the 12hrs, it could be a tough fight to the podium, although on this slot, I had secured the first spot.

And like last time, I pushed myself for the last few minutes to squeeze in just another lap. I finally finished 256laps, my Garmin showed 105kms in 12hrs. Cheers all around!

The morning after
The Sunday felt like you were the Indian team, waiting for the England vs. Bangladesh match result to see if you made it to the semi-finals. It was a close contest to the podium, and Gaaju was a worthy competitor till the 11th hour (quite literally). I managed to get to the 3rd place overall with a narrow 5 lap lead (now who is laughing at the dude who carried his lunch on the track?)

Q4. Don't you place key body parts like knee joints and feet let alone the heart under undue stress of running such long hours and over such a distance?

Only time will tell, better than any medical test or research. My first Ultra was a 78km run in 12:07 was ten years back. The report makes a good read, many points relevant even today - And since then, I have added another 25000kms on those knees, recovered from another torn ligament ( and added many personal bests.

I said this in my little “speech” while we collected medals on the stage, reiterating what Coach Beedu said when he flagged off our run, “What good is it to go to your grave, not knowing what your body was truly capable of achieving”.

I don’t know if we are over-doing it (talk about running the 48hr event). Not sure if all this will add years to my life, for now, it sure is adding life to my years.