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December 12, 2006

50 k in Sunmart

There I was at the start line of the Sunmart Endurance Trail Runs with the rest of the gang: the runners - Sanjeev, Gaurav, Santhosh, Ganesh and Vinod, the support team - Ashwini, Arvind and Roopa. It was a very cold morning and we were all dressed warmly. We pitched out chairs and bags in one of the huge tents Joe, our coach, had put up for the Rogue team. Soon it was 7 AM and the 50 milers took off. It was such a small group of people, less than 300 people! I waited in the tent area till about 7:20 and then we headed to the start line for my race. I was bundled up in tights, a full hands shirt under my new red Team Asha shirt, gloves, and ear band. About a 1000 people were running the 50k. A few pictures, some cheers and off we go.

The 50 k was split into 3 loops: the first was 10k, then two 20k loops. The first loop was an out and back trail. There were so many people on the narrow trail that it felt a little cramped and I was still not warming up enough. I kept going and met a bunch of people I had been training with on the loop. It was nice to see friendly, familiar faces and I was soon done with the loop. I ran up to the mat to record my timing; was surprised (and happy) that I ran quite fast and stopped by the tent to refill my Cytomax and other fuel. And was very glad my IT Band had not yet acted up.

As I started my second loop, I ran into the 50 milers who were returning after their first loop. I first met Joe, then Santhosh and was wondering if I would see Gaurav before the common trail ended. I was just turning at the fork when I saw Gaurav. I felt nice meeting them all and that added a spring to my step. I kept going. The trail was beautiful and the crowd seemed to have thinned out somehow. It was still cold but I was glad for the cold, it is so much more refreshing to run in the cold. I soon reached Amy’s crossing, the sissy water stop. Despite advice on the forum not to stop there, I briefly stopped and got an apple slice. It was yummy! I had never had an apple while running before and I loved it. So after the treat I started out on the boring out and back jeep road. The only thing nice about it is that you can see people for about 2.5 miles. I bumped into Joe, Santhosh and Gaurav again and met Vinod almost at the end of the out and back section. That gave me another kick and I kept going.

I had lost all concept of distance and had not bothered to find out exactly how the water stops were spread out, so was relying on my watch to figure out distance. The next couple of miles went by and then I started to feel my IT Band flaring up! It is funny how it always takes me by surprise. I know I have this recurring problem but its almost like I naively believe the problem will not surface when I am running. Well, so after all the initial surprise (and irritation), I had to figure out how not to get bogged down by people passing me. This again is silly. I know and understand intellectually that this is my race, I am competing with myself – my body and most importantly my mind. But it took me some time to get over a low that so many people were passing me. I tried walking, stretching and jogging but to no avail. My IT Band has decided to go on a strike! So I decided to enjoy the view and loved the part of trail by the lake. I soon got to the last water stop, which is about 2.8 miles from the start/finish line, and picked up some potato chips, banana and my new found love, an apple slice and kept walking. The trail was beautiful and winding and I was watching some 50 milers zipping past. It is such a nice sight to see someone running gracefully! I tried to think of the people at the start/finish line. Savi said she would be there with her friend, Sandhya and was game for running about 9 miles with me. I tried jogging again but my IT Band was relentless! So back to a walk. I was soon at the start area and saw the gang there! Itisha, Sharanya, Arvind, Arun, Ashwini, Venkatesh, Murali…wow!! This totally picked me up. Ashwini and Roopa fed me some boiled potatoes (yummy!) while Itisha filled up my bottle with Cytomax – was very touched with all the support. I checked about Sanjeev and Ashwini said he finished his first loop in 2:45, which sounded good to me! He was trying to make it to the 8.5 hour cut-off for 37.5 miles.

I started the last loop with a very positive frame of mind. I told myself I had finished close to 19 miles and felt quite good except for the IT Band of course. Sharanya was running with me. The plan was for her to run with me till mile 3 and then Savi would give me company. Their company was what kept me going in the last loop. Sharanya told me to try accepting the pain and then run with it but again, the problem was intellectual comprehension without a sincere attempt! I tried jogging but shooting pain refused to leave. So I just decided to walk as fast as I could. We kept chatting and walking and were soon at mile 3. Sharanya decided to accompany us for the rest of the distance, so it was now three of us. I was behaving myself and walking fast since there were two other people with me and I did not want to throw a tantrum, which I very well would have, had I been alone! Since it was the same loop as last time, I kept finding familiar trees and turns.

At one of the water stops, I realized that I had only 6 miles to go, ie, I was done with 25 miles. The thought that I had almost finished a marathon gave me quite a high! I tried running about 3.5 miles from the finish but could not keep it going for long. So back to fast walk. We were soon at the last water stop and I picked up my standard chips-banana-apple snack and took off immediately. I had decided not to spend too much time at the aid stations. Soon after, Joe passed me. He was finishing his 50 miler and I looked at my watch, wondering if he would make a PR / beat Joyce’s record.

Sharanya kept telling me to finish in style, i.e., running / sprinting for the last mile! I tried bargaining and we finally agreed on 50-100m! More walking and we are getting close to the finish. I soon saw Vinod heading on his last loop with Murali. That gave me a boost and I tried jogging. Soon we were at the turn, the final stretch. I saw Salil, Divya and Dwarak cheering me on and started running (at least that’s what I think…I might have been hobbling fast, who knows!). Soon I could hear Team Asha at the tent and also saw Moogi and Joe cheering me on. My vision was starting to get blurry, I could feel tears welling up! Savi ran with me to the finish and she was cheering me loudly. And just like that, we crossed the finish line…I had run 50 kilometers!! I was quite overcome with emotion. Hugged Savi and headed over to get my medal and blanket and walked to the tent to meet everyone. What an experience!


Anurag Hitchcock said...

you just get home to india beta.. then see, i will catch up and match all ur medals, blankets and cups :)
good job by the way...good good :)

Gaia said...

thanks brother! :)

me thinking of running the chennai marathon in feb. they apparently say the marathon is open to men only..

vini said...

Good going da :) I continue to be very impressed....and show those chennai men how a marathon should be done!

Anonymous said...

so, are you planning on a sex-change operation??? :P

or is this ur first hunger strike? i see the clouds of revolt- i smell fireeee :)