When one looks back on these incidents after a while, its not such a big deal; life continues. But at the time, and for a while thereafter, it was like dragging a heavy ball and chain. I remember going on a training run with Chandra, Mani, Krishan, Srini, Vinay, Nanda and Sharath (Santhosh was elsewhere with many Ananya kids I think; this was on 19 Aug 2017; yes i keep the pics!). It was a good run, I felt strong, and yet... I recall Chandra saying "man, you were ready to go". Well.
We have a pretty large JLBR group this year! Awesome, more fun. Santhosh, with his trademark Google-sheet-like-efficiencies slotted us into broad groups based on our targets - crazy runners (oh sorry, that's all of us, scratch that). Malnad runners (Sharath - 80k, Ravi G, Sudhir and myself, 50k), Bangalore Ultra 50k runners (Ambuj, Benji, Ramya, Ravish, Ritu, Sourav), inter-city crazies (Chandra, Mani, Krishan) and Srini P all by himself in Pune in his own slot (amazing!).
As always, the training of course is the key, the heart of it, indeed, the whole point. As we all know, running imitates Life quite accurately : you get what you put in.
|Base phase, at Kanakapura 1, July '18|
Shocking mileage - first run 3 hours, followed by 4 hr, followed by ... Hello, Chief? All okay? ... was the oft-recited-mind-thought (dare not actually ask him that huh
|At Turhalli forest|
A quick Ooty trip in Aug resulted in a 3 hour run in the hills there (love 'em!). One Sunday (26 Aug '18), Mani and I ran (5 hrs) in Turahalli forest; it was fantastic running with him! A 6 hr run in Nandi Hills on 01 Sept '18 was just superb, will remember it for a long time; great weather and company too! (Santhosh, though, was in Hyderabad supporting the kids).
|Nandi Hills, 01 Sept '18|
|A trek, Switzerland|
|A wooded area, Switzerland|
|Turahalli again, 7 hr run (15 Sept '18)!|
L-R: Ravi G, Sharath, Sudhir and myself
|Just before starting|
|On the bus|
Sharath, the brave warrior doing 80k, set off half an hour before us at 6.30 am. The race director, Anand Adkoli, drolly told us how easy a course we were going to run; I have since learned, when at the Malnad Ultra, to take the word "run" quite lightly. We did have some prior warning; the website publishes the elevation profile. It does look scary indeed, but we were in for a treat: its even harder than it looks, with steep elevations, descents and rugged terrain under one's feet!
The Malnad Ultra is a pretty 'technical' trail; one would not advise novices who have a run a marathon and ne'er a trail to "lets just give it a go". (Consider this: among the 522 50k starters this year, only 313 finished). The other unfortunate thing: food, especially of the type most of us are used to having on the run, is not plentiful at the aid stops. Santhosh insisted we train with our hydration packs and carry along some food; turned out to be really key. Nevertheless, it was a great experience, an adventure! Once on the run, I really enjoyed it: the natural beauty of the Coffee Day estates, the surrounding Western Ghats, the flora and fauna of the region. I met a few folks, always a great feeling.
|Almost at the summit|
The way the course was (this year at least): initial 6 km (forest) road, then all trail all the way to 44 km, where we loop back on the same 6 km road to the start/finish point.
By around 20k itself, my legs started feeling a bit wobbly, what with the trail's ruggedness, uneven rocks and roots, just waiting to trip us up. It dawned on me that there's a reason folks say this is a tough event!
True in theory; in practice, one of the toughest climbs is from the lake here up into the hills for a long while !
Getting to the aid station at around the 43k point was a huge relief. I felt the toughest part of the run was from maybe around 23k to 44k; unrelenting elevations and descents, hot weather and a technical trail to navigate on foggy legs and mind.
After the 44th km, it almost felt easy! We were back on the forest road. Well, almost easy, but not quite: the road itself winds uphill at quite a degree; reminded me keenly of the Nilgiris 50k I did in Nov '16. Nevertheless, I could run again; in short bursts at least - the 'gravitational tug' of the finish line was appealing! Ran the last kilometre or so to the top, finishing in just under 8 hours; I felt elated that I was done, and, more, had successfully enjoyed the whole experience.
I met Sharath again; he was going out for the remaining 30k; needless to say, he was and did just great! Sudhir came in soon after, followed by Ravi. We ate, made our way to the bus (guess what, we had to hike up a km to the bus, what fun). The next day I turn 50; quite appropriate, huh.
When training, I had often thought that Santhosh was putting us through crazy amounts of running; looking back, we couldn't have done it otherwise. Thanks, Chief.
My view is that running is one (tough love) way to "find yourself", overcoming challenges and perceived limitations that don't actually exist. Thanks, family - Dilshad, Sheroy, Danesh, Darius and my dear parents - for indulging me and allowing me to pursue my ultra running passion; I appreciate it! Honestly, the support from family and friends makes all the difference.