Sunday, May 21, 2017

TCS World 10k 2017

In case you came here wondering if I ran this - Yes, I did. I ran the 2017 edition of the running festival of Bengaluru 10k, in a personal best time of 39:07
However, despite a good strong finish, with negative splits, I am somewhat unhappy about missing a podium finish. I finished in the 4th place in my age group, yet again, making this an agonizing 3rd consecutive 4th place finish in the last 3 10k races that I have participated in.

Happy about:
  • Of course, the PB - faster by 26secs from last years' 39:33
  • My sister coming out to support me today, a long drive from Mumbai, sleepless nights notwithstanding. She shouted out over the din of traffic at CCD at the start and then at the finish. Thanks!
  • Staving off a challenge from D from the 7th km on, sprinting the last 200m to beat Ath to the finish line
  • Negative splits, some tremendous amount of grit to stay on pace and finish the race - I had (like on all my tempo runs) to overcome lots of voices in my mind to stop and let this be
  • I made up 13 positions in the last 750m to finish within the top 50 overall
Unhappy about:
  • A third 4th place finish, this time the gap to the podium as narrow as 7 secs!
  • About not being to use the race day adrenaline to translate to race day performance
  • Somewhat wavering focus. Only when I saw D over my shoulder, did I pick up my feet again to push pace
  • Pre race breakfast, perhaps a bit too much - oats and 2 large bananas, heavy-ish feeling for the first km or so
Pics courtesy Marathon Photos & Geeks on Feet

 The push in the last few hundred meters will remain in memory for a bit...
 It was tough to take on Ath in the last 50mts or so, both of us were bent over and gasping for dear breath, when my sister walked across the barricade to check on us at the finish line.

I am glad its over and I can now get back to focusing on podium of those longer runs. Wish me luck!! 

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Tirupati by steps

The week that was:
I passed one of those age-wala milestones earlier this month. Shreya and I were planning to climb the steps up to Tirupati temple for a while now. Her being in Chennai presented a good opportunity to do this.

There were many pieces that were falling in place in our general personal-professional mosaic, and when things cleared a bit my week looked like this:
·         Tuesday – 350k Bullet ride to Chennai
·         Wednesday – Rest day!
·         Thursday – 150k ride to Tirupati, Darshan, ride back
·         Friday – 350k Bullet ride back
·         Saturday – Train to Chennai
·         Sunday – Return with family back to base

Don’t rationalize this itinerary, I had to do the bullet ride, and a chance to do a bullet ride with my dear wife on my birthday to Tirupati was worth the effort of the yo-yo week.

Tirupati temple visit climbing Alipiri Steps

There are plenty of information on various website out there, to help you plan the climb.
What they don’t tell you:
  • There is no “Information Desk” at the bottom of Tirumala (the start point of the Alipiri Mettu). Be prepared to get bits of information from security, luggage handlers, auto drivers, et al – and only in Telugu – use a lot of “Ekkada undi”
  • If you need your bags to reach the top, you have to check them in at the start of the Alipiri Mettu. The security is tight, you will not be allowed to check in if there is metal, etc. My saddle bag, with some bike spares did not make it through. In any case, once you check it in, you will have to collect it once you reach the top and then stove it in lockers in another counter. Budget for time and effort for this.
  • If you do not need your bags (worked for us), you need to deposit luggage at Bhodevi guest house, where there are lockers provided, free of cost. But we were harassed for ID proof photocopy, and insisted for Aadhar card (yeah, it is outside bounds of Supreme court). Be prepared to walk about half a kilometer to the guest house (in the heat, with the luggage) from the Alipiri mettu start point.
  • The bike and car parking is also near Bhodevi complex, near the bus stand
  • You can use footwear, but I recommend against it, purely for spiritual reasons
  • You don’t need to wear a lungi or dhoti. Shirt and pants are perfectly fine – all the way
  • Free lunch is served at the temple complex between 11am and 3pm only and then later in the evening
  • And the big one – Once you are done with the climb and reach the top step, you have to walk on a carpeted footpath till there is no more footpath left. Then you have to a BUS! Yes, you heard right, you have to wait for a bus to take you to the start of the queue to enter the temple. These buses are run by TTD and made to look like chariots!
  • You still have to get into a queue (special darshan queue for padayatris). Be prepared for long waiting time (in our case, we entered the queue at noon and were out after the darshan by 4pm. But could have easily been longer.
  • There is no free transport back to the Alipiri gate

In his book, The Power of Habit, Duhigg talks about how the cue-routine-reward cycle. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.

I have spent enough time on my bullet for the reward to be a craving, which is hard wired in my basal ganglia.
I went into auto mode, it was delight simply to get out the jackets, the saddlebags, the gloves. I checked the oil levels & tweaked that accelerator cable to be sure, didn’t want a repeat of that Chennai ride when I jammed cams-rocker-tappet, all for the lack of engine oil.

I started by 5, the roads till Mudbagal could easily take much more power and more speed. Of course, even having a high beam would have helped.
My intermittent fasting ensured that I could skip breakfast and ride all the way. It felt good to get an eventless ride and I quite enjoyed it. The euphoria continued the following morning. With S on the pillion, we took to good roads from Chennai and cruised along. 

One stop for breakfast, and we reached Alipiri gate in about 3hours.
But with no information kiosk at the gate, we first parked, changed, then checked in into the transportable baggage counter, then walked to the bhodevi complex, then ran around for the photocopies, then locked our bags in.

By then time we hit the first step, I was already sweating profusely and was already 8:45 or so. The first 2000 steps were the steepest and went up one hill, and then it plateaus, get into a bit of a valley, then climbs a bit more. TTD can do with using the public address loud speakers to narrate stories about the Lord.

We reached the TTD temple complex (the end of the carpeted footpath) in about 3hours. By noon, we found our way through well marked directions via Padayatri special queue. By noon, we entered a “compartment”, after having to deposit our phones. We were offered hot bisi bele bath inside. Although the notice board outside the coupe said that the estimated time for exit was 4pm, we were allowed to continue into the temple by about 2. When the queues join near the inner sanctum, we were all squeezed like sardines.

Those 10secs or so that you get the darshan as you walk in the sanctum made good all that we had to endure to get there.

In the melee, I had lost one of our biometric tickets – 3 ladoos loss!
We picked up our phones, got into private taxi that got us back to Bhodevi complex. You can’t be in Andhra and not have Andhra meals. We ate our fill of rice and pappu before we turned back to Chennai. The last 50kms of the ride was messy, dusty, trafficy and in the night. All that time we lost in mis-information could have made the finish a lot sweeter.

I totally loved the ride back.

In the end, it was a mix of adrenaline, romance, divinity, lowdowns & sweat – a snapshot, summing up the last 37 years!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Overnighter at Rishi Valley

At the end of my Ultra running season last year, Ranga put up a suggestion in my running group BHUKMP to do an overnighter at his alma mater – Rishi Valley School. Nested in Madanapalle near Chitoor, amidst stony hills, the lush green 400 acre campus seemed like a perfect outing for the kids.

The morning duties takes much longer with the kids, we left mid-morning. Although the roads were good, the 150+ kms seemed to take forever. It was brutally hot, we managed to reach the campus just in time when the rest of the folks were headed to the campus mess for lunch. We had simple, but delicious and healthy lunch, seated cross legged on mats and low tables. The lunch was tastefully prepared.

The guest house was earthy and cool, perfect for resting after the drive and meal.
In the evening, the entire gang headed to the nearby Cave Rock hill overlooking the campus for a hike. Rishi valley is nested in the middle of a few hills – Cave Rock hill, Rishi Konda, Peddu Konda and Horsley Konda. We decided to take the stroller along for a bit for my daughter, with my one year old on a sling. Within a few mins, we had to lose the stroller due to the tough terrain. Soon enough, my daughter tripped over a stone and refused to take another step.

So we climbed then, with my son on the back and my daughter on the front clinging on the superdad. Cheenu, who studies in the school, was our guide for the trek.

We had company of a friend’s mom who at 70+ climbed the hill wearing a saree. Its only after you climb the peak that you get to know the difficult part is getting down!!
Thick dry thorny shrubs were all we could get for support as we scrapped our behind on sliding rocks. Balance was precarious as we shifted kids from hand to hand and the sling from front to back. We missed the “cave” of the cave rock on the way down, but made it down in one piece.

The evening was spent in listening to one of the teachers talk passionately and answer a whole lot of questions on life and philosophy of Jiddu Krishnamurti, the founder of the boarding school.

The highlight of the next morning was breakfast of Ragi Idli & vada sambar (mini vadas floating in sambar that goes with Idli) for breakfast at the student mess. Coming after a forgettable, hot and exhausting run up to Horsley hills made it doubly delightful. While some chose to go to the nearby sliding rock, others decided to take a shorter trek to Horsley hills via the pipeline route.

Overall a fantastic outing – a first trek for my little one!

Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 – year of the salad

Somewhere by the end of last year, I took upon myself to keep a tab on my weight. Sustainable weight reduction is perhaps a bigger benefit to better running, than form correction / gear / training or any other. Runner or not, who doesn’t want to rid of that excess fat.
Now in the eleventh hour of my intermittent fast, not sure if a food post is the best way to keep my mind off the rumbling in my tummy. Nevertheless, I will try to share my diet journey.

Step 1 – Measure

I was new to this whole calorie counting thing. When I started, I had no clue what a 20 calorie or 2000 calorie meant. No idea of how much I was eating. My sister is a dietician and she gave me some Diet 101 advice to start with – eat more frequently, reduce portion size, have protein for recovery, drink plenty of water, yada yada. I guess I only followed the “eat more frequently” part of the advice.

When I grew more impatient, she put me on to a diet log – MyfitnessPal App. You can’t improve what you cannot measure (remnants from a six sigma training?). A brief on the App itself. It is fantastic – simple to use, database with many Indian foods to search and add. Personal tip – if you are eating home-cooked food, look for home-cooked options in the database. If you don’t find something you are looking for, try its Tamil name. You can also scan bar codes on food labels to add directly. It also gets you to set goals based on your profile. Nowadays though, after ArmourUnder bought them, the ads have gone up.

It’s a great first step because now, you get a feel for the calories. Give yourself 4-6 weeks of logging your meals & snacks in, and it gives you a fair idea of how you are doing. To begin with, I made guesstimates on my portion sizes. Things didn’t seem to add up. It finally took a kitchen scale, to convince me that I was over eating by about 10-15%. It’s funny when you put your rice on the weighing scale before you add it to your plate, but you will get over it.
Ok, you probably don’t need all that to tell you that you are over eating. What next?

Step 2 – Substitute
This is the fun part – how to have the cake and eat it too.

Like you, I don’t like to compromise on my eating. But at dinner time, when the app says, I have 200 calories left to keep it under my goal, you have put to put on your thinking cap. This is approximately how the numbers stacked up for me –

Morning coffee with biscuits 200
+ Breakfast 650
+ Lunch 850
+ Evening coffee with biscuits 200
+ Dinner?? – 300 (??) = 2200 target

A snack here, some nuts or a sweet? and dinner was deep red. Well, I did add my calories burnt via exercise, but despite that, I found it challenging to meet my daily goals.
I made 3 major substitutions over the next few months with almost no change taste or prep time or effort or energy levels
  1. No added sugar (save 100 calories)
  2. White rice to brown rice (save 200 calories)
  3. Replace dinner plate to a smaller one. Reduce portion size, but get more helpings if needed

I moved from 3 biscuits to 1 with coffee (sugarless) in a smaller cup. I was eating more whole foods – fruits and nuts. I began to eat less “out of a pack” or processed food. Began to look at the label (while continuing to scan the barcode for the app) a lot more.
The initial success – of being able to keep my race weight was motivating enough to try more.

Step 3 - Discovering Salad

Vegetables and nuts started creeping into my diet gradually, a little here and a little there. The big leaps happened during my business trips to the US. US trips are easy to pick up that excess baggage. On one such trip, I decided to only eat healthy. I was already running high mileage and was talking about by diet experiments with all and sundry. Got some great advice from a vegan ultra runner while on a trail run in Texas. My options were limited to soups and salads, and I loved them. I didn’t miss rice.

Back home, I started out with salad as an evening snack to help cut down my dinner portion. A 6 or 7pm salad would conquer my tummy, leaving no space for dinner. Still, out of fear of hunger, I showed down that too.

Then I took that leap of faith. I increased my salad bowl, moved it to dinner time and cut my rice to just one small cup of curd rice. No diet without curd rice is sustainable. Of course, a little extra salad dressing helped.

I have some 30 ingredients that go in, at times. A bunch of veggies – tomato, carrot, bell peppers, cucumber, radish, beets, potato, broccoli or cauliflower, peas and corn. Greens – lettuce or spinach. Then there are sprouts, beans, Rajma, chick peas. Flax seeds, chia, walnuts or groundnuts, some raisins. For protein there’s Quinoa, Soya chunks and boiled or scrambled eggs. A mayo based dressing, vinaigrette, lime, honey, salt and pepper. All mixed with a spoon of coconut or olive oil or topped with cheese. It’s fun to try out different stuff. I try raw (food processor chopped) or steamed veggies, also baked sometimes. I sometimes start with a tadka, with some coconut for a simple Usli / Sundal.

Ps: the pic is just representative. I have not become a professional chef, not just yet.

I love the process, chopping, boiling, mixing it up and eating!!! Burp!

Step 4 – Intermittent Fasting
From food to no food
Somewhere along the way, I added a 24-hr fast to the fray. For a few months, I regularly did a water-only 24hr (actually 20 – 32hr) fast on Ekadashi, the 11th day of the moon, every fortnight. This was a challenge, I didn’t enjoy the headaches that came after about 20hours. I had to move around my running schedule to accommodate this. When my Ultra calendar got busier, the day long fast stopped.

I read about Intermittent Fasting (IF), the variation where you go 16hr fast, followed by a 8 hour eating window, everyday! The trick is to have an early dinner (by 8pm) and then skip breakfast, directly into an early lunch at noon. I started a couple of months back with 14-10, not willing to let go of my breakfast. But now, I skip it altogether. Most days, I have a bulletproof coffee – black coffee with coconut oil (no kidding, look it up) at around 10. I also manage to put in my morning runs on empty as well, with no noticeable dip in energy levels.

But I do eat almost all the time in my 8 hour window, more fruits and veggies, nuts and good fats. I am trying to get processed flour / maida out of the way. My wife has started fermenting vegetables, with lots of help from Ms. AR and now my sister is leading us into the baking world. I just baked my first banana-walnut cake with Wheat and Oats last week.

The thinking cap is being substituted with a Chef’s hat. My growling stomach has gone silent, now to ease into my last 3 hours of fast for the day!!

Have a filling 2017.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Malnad Ultra 2016 - Picture blog

Malnad Ultra was in held in great trails in pristine coffee estates. I had to put out the report before the photos came. But when they did come, they were so out of this world, I had to put out a photo blog. Many thanks and all credits to the wonderful photographers and their bazookas volunteering on the trail.
At the starting line

 The initial descent, with Shyam

Getting off concrete after 7k, with Amit & Shyam

Cruising through Rajagiri Estates

Sampigehutti Estate falls - watering down

Posing at the Summit of KathleKhan overlooking Bhadra reservoir

Feeling high after cheers from Byrekhan school kids

Shout out to the photographer

Lake at the edge of Bhadra - starting to get competitive?

Early evening, passing S at Dodkhan estate, moving into 3rd

Returning to Lalbagh Estate, still plenty of daylight

...and the finish, behind the leader, Ath

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Pacing at SPBM 2016

Bangalore runners, many of my friends and their Facebook walls get into this mad frenzy during the annual running festival – The Shriram Properties Bengaluru Marathon, every year. This time though, I had committed to doing the Malnad Ultra, just a week before. There was no way, I was celebrating this festival.

The race director, Nagaraj Adiga, did not want me to miss out on the action. I volunteered to pace the slower runners. He let me pick, I choose the 5:15 bus. Pacing / Pacers are a common sight in large city marathons. The pacers have 2 objectives – 1. run at an even keel (or as per pre-published pace strategy) to finish +/-30secs from the time target and 2. Use experience to motivate runners to stick to pace and help them finish.

Adidas, one of the sponsors, was kind to sponsor shoes, shorts and tee shirts for the pacers. We were given specially designed pacer pack to hold a flag (with the target timing) off our backs.

Pacing in the GPS age:

I have seen pacers and used them as markers during my Singapore marathon way back in 2009. In those days, GPS was not as popular, many runners used the help of experienced pacers to finish in target times. Almost any runner has GPS, a watch or on a mobile. Most watches have virtual partner features, which is essentially a virtual pacer, doing a constant pace. So, what value does pacing bring to a runner.
I found out.

Almost as soon as I wore my pacer flag at the warm up area, I was approached by wannabe full marathon finishers. At the start about 5-10 of them stuck together and we started the bus. My plan was to stick to 7:30 pace all through. “Runeversations” happen mostly during the first half. I shared a few of my stories and tried to engage most runner in sharing theirs. There was a mix – mostly first timers, some well trained, some not at all, some afraid to go faster, others already too fast for their pace.

The Pacing Dilemma

1. Training truth vs race day morale
Being the slow bus, I had many runners who were inadequately trained. During the Q&A that was going on, it was difficult to say the hard truth “Train hard, race easy”, without affecting the morale of the runners.

2. Slowing down vs Pacer goals
During the later stages of the run (perhaps, when they need a pacer most), when some of them dropped pace, I could only egg them on, without slowing down my pace. I whish I could have slowed down, prodded them some more, and picked up pace. But alas, my pacer duties forced me to stick to my pace.

The heaviest casualty for my bus was during the Indranagar 100ft road. After that undulating stretch, I was left with just a handful of runners. Then a couple of them wanted to speed up. So, by the time I got to about 32kms, I was looking for new recruits, except one.
The course markings were off by about 500m, and I did some miscalculation at around the 36k mark, which got me running at a fast clip for a bit. This, however, helped me correct for the longer course.

Once inside Cubbon Park, I egged along a few runners to pace along for a strong finish. I finished with the clock showing 5:14:49 or so, on target!

It sure was a good experience and although I was running 3min/km slower than my marathon pace, it sure was tough. I am happy to have contributed in some way in the finish of a few fellow runners. For the first time, in over a decade, I completed a FM in over 5 hours!

And, on the third edition of Shriram Properties Bengaluru Marathon, here’s an open letter to the organizers, NEB Sports:

The Bengaluru marathon is very close to my heart, since it is in my city. A big thank you, for all the efforts in making this a great event. Having run the last 2 editions and pacing the 5:15 bus this time, some feedback from my side:

1. Route - On the return, the stretch from 100ft road turn (on old madras road) till Trinity circle was not good. Traffic was not blocked, we had one thin lane to run, traffic is heavy, fuming buses, etc. You should avoid this, by considering returning via Old Airport road to Trinity circle and then left turn into MG Road. That way runners will not need to cross Trinity circle (both while going out from MG road and then coming back).

2. Traffic - On some stretches (MG Road, Old Madras Road) traffic was not blocked on one complete side. We used only one lane on one side of the road. In most marathons that I have run, both India and overseas, traffic is CLOSED. No compromise. If you need to bring it up to Procam standards, you have to find a way to totally block traffic. Even in Marine Drive, Sealink, etc, the traffic is blocked for the whole 8 lanes. It is very uncomfortable to run when you have buses fuming smoke on the other lanes, accidents and shouting at traffic police is happening on the other side. Affects the morale of runners and leaves a bad memory

3. Aid stations - Much better than last year, where I did not find gatorade or electral for most of the run. This time electral was there for most part, except a few water stops towards the end. The bananas were not ripe. I loved the peanuts and chikkis.

4. Post run food - Bisibele bath was very spicy. Rava is not great on nutrition, Pongal and curd rice would have perhaps been better options.

I am happy to put my thoughts on the course planning for next year. I thought I should share my thoughts, since I am sure I will be heard :)

(ps: the feedback has already been responded to)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Malnad Ultra 110k Report

8th October, Saturday, I ran for 13h:45m to complete a distance of 110kms. First, some housekeeping stuff:

Total distance: 110kms
Trail type: 50k paved, 60k trail
Total ascent: 2850m

The course - Set in pristine nature, amidst coffee estates, unsuspecting mini villages, country roads and mud trails, Malnad Ultra is a dream Ultra marathon course. It includes never ending inclines (and declines), long ones, steep short ones, ones that top off with spectacular views, ones that curve into more inclines – all kinds of them. The symphony of chatter from all kinds of birds - the piercing peacock call in the morning to the chirping crickets in the evening and sometimes just the eerie silence at night. The shades of green – of coffee plants, of silver oaks, of vegetation draping the misty endless hills. The lasting memory is of the women and kids from the villages in loud cheer as the runners approached them, giggling, clapping, jumping up and down, what joy!

I folded my hands, closed my eyes in a silent prayer to Lord Krishna close to the “Summit”. Everything that you do, just faded away in front of such magnificent creation.

Excerpts from the Malnad Ultra Information Handout (loads of information in that one):

Average speed: 8kmph
Total time: 13h:45m
Rank: 2 out of 19 finishers
Split timings: Avg speed @ 30km 8.88kmph, @43k 8.9kmph, @80k 8.24kmph, @110k 8kmph

My own race - I had the perfect race.
Avoiding a Did Not Start (DNS).
My lead up to the start line was shuddered in uncertainty – my daughter needing hospitalization the previous week, slight delay in starting to Chickmagalur from Bangalore. I had to revert to plan B of riding a RX100 from Chickmagalur to Kemmanagundi on Saturday. I started at 3:30AM to cover the distance of 60km, it took me 2 full hours. I barely had time to peel off the layers of clothes, put the bib on, drop off my bags. A big shout out to Sripad, my cousin for helping me plan to get to the start…

The cheers of the 110k & 80k was getting louder at a distance, I reached the start point, still fumbling with my bib. I said a quick hi to Athreya and we were off.
I took the first available detour into the coffee bushes, for my  morning ablutions. When I rejoined the course, I was already DFL – Dead Freaking Last. I began passing runners one by one (something that I did for the next 14hours).

You will be saved the agony of a long post – I don’t remember much, it’s all mostly a blur even 2 days after, but for some highlights.

From the elevation profile, the course went mostly like this – 10k down, 10 up, 20 down, 10 up (to summit), almost 30 down to 80k mark, 10 up, 10 down, 10 up. The course gets you to Lalbagh guesthouse in 30kms, then loops a 50k course, then back up to K’gundi (30k).

My plan: My plan was to be easy for the first 30k to Lalbagh, be steady for the next 50k till Lalbagh (perhaps finish this in 12hrs) and then do what I can, in the uphill to Kemmanagundi.
I did not plan to take forced walking breaks, but had decided to walk all uphills; albeit briskly.

It’s good to have a plan, you need something to trash.
How wrong I was on the course reading. There was no 10 up, 10 down. It was just simple ups and downs, ups and downs, more ups and downs. But what was good was that the downs were runnable (unlike some of the steep downhills in the trails in the Cinderella trail run).

0-30km 6AM to 9:30AM
I just ran with a watch, the km markings were once every 2km (if you didn’t miss seeing them). I thought I was doing better than 10kmph speed. But only reached Lalbagh at 9:25AM; 3.5hours for the first 30km, I mentally prepared myself to finish only past midnight. I was slower than I expected, not according to plan.
By the time, I had eaten (while on walking breaks), 2 idlys, kesari bath and Khara bath.

30-80km 9:30AM to 3:45PM
This stretch was much better than plan and what set me up for my super amazing finish. Read on.
I don’t remember doing anything different. I had to stop once to stretch my thighs early on, at 35k. I slipped on a twig once, tripped on stones & uneven trail a couple of times, but luckily held my good.
There were long down hills, running a few kilometers at a time. I ran them steady, passing 2 ponds in the valleys. Then the long climb to the Summit. I passed Athreya in 1st place coming down, about 20mins behind him, with a few other 110k runners between us.

The Summit, overlooking the Bhadra reservoir was spectacular beyond words. I said a quiet prayer and carried on. I think I was there at the Summit by 11:45 or so, 6hours for 50km. Back on plan.
Photo credit: the wonderful photography team from Malnad Ultra

I took a detour into the DodKhan rest area to grab a quick Curd rice packet “to-go”, 56k or so. I polished off the yummy curd rice on the uphill in the next km or so. I loved the boiled eggs available on some water stops. Sadly, had to give the bisi bele bath a pass. At some point, I had so much food and cocoa vanilla in me, that my stomach went slosh slosh slosh, I had to STOP... eating.

The course led us to a serene lake, we run around this to the 70km water stop.
There something happened, my competitive side (very deficient side, that is) got switched on.
The volunteer there was making a note of bib numbers by category. I joked with him like in other water stops, but surprise surprise, I was 4th on that list. With only 70kms done, I had a long way to go.

Moving up to 3rd:
I caught up with Shaswath by 75k. He was doing good himself, going a tad slow on the uphills, but gutting it out. I was under severe mental pressure at this point – battling between not wanting to be competitive, but still wanting to be ahead of S. But I had settled into a good rhythm by now; breathing deep and steady, no specific niggles and happily no signs of cramps. I was having a salt tablet every hour and downing generous helpings of Cocoa Vanilla & Green Tea flavored energy drinks at each water stop.
Shaswath gave me a breather when he stopped to refill his bottle, I went past. Getting back to Lalbagh (80km), I was 3 mins ahead of him.
Photo credit: the wonderful photography team from Malnad Ultra

As I was getting into Lalbagh guest house, Himanshu in 2nd place was getting out of there, some 3 mins ahead.

80-110km 3:45PM to 7:45PM
I made a quick stop to pick up my head lamp at the baggage drop point at Lalbagh, picked up a boiled potato, poured water on my head (like I did at every water stop) and blurted out of there, sending my love to my family via Reena. At this point, with H (who had won the Bangalore Ultra last year) and Ath ahead of me, I was more concerned of S catching me up than me moving into 2nd place.

Moving into 2nd:
In about 5-6kms, H started getting to my sight. He was slowing, taking walking breaks on flats and running downhills. I was feeling strong enough to run some sections of uphills at this point. I was squeezing a few run paces in between long uphill walks.
I caught up, went past, acknowledge his greeting and never looked back.
Actually, I didn’t want to look back, to see how the others were doing. My goal was for me to finish strong. I never came into this race wanting a place on the podium. I brought back focus on what I needed to do, power walking the uphills, using the hills to rest the running muscles and vice versa.

Moving to the top:
At each water stop, I got updates that I was second and the closing gap with Ath. “10mins”, they said. But you know in India, 10mins can be anywhere between 2mins and an hour. I had no hopes (or wish) to catch up with Ath.
Some steep inclines later, I turned into the last 7km of concrete uphill road to the finish line. It was 6:55PM. By now I was running with my head lamp on for sometime now.
In that small pool of light, it was difficult to notice the uphills. I was feeling good and running some sections of the uphills as well, cutting corners, dodging headlights of oncoming vehicles.

The last 2kms slowed me down, it was bad potholed roads, difficult to discern the depth in the headlight. I missed a turn and went into the Bhadra sanctuary gate, but soon some people directed me back on track. As I stated up the last km, I saw a torch light ahead. Expecting it to be a volunteer, I shouted at that, to check if I was on the correct route.
When he turned, it was Ath. I caught up, he looked done, said he was giddy and had walked most of the last few kms. We walked together for another 200m or so. Then Kieran, the run manager and Reena ran back to us 100m to go. Kieran ran ahead to warn the finish line or our approach. Anand (race director)’s son trotted up with Ath. I held back an urge to sprint. It’s only fair that Ath takes the winning honors. I came in second, a few secs behind.
My race was over, you don’t need the 1st place to be on top.

A note of commendation and gratitude to the race director, Anand Adkoli and team, for bringing trail running to this paradise. A thank you to Gauri from activeholidays for providing me a bed for the night, so I didn't have to ride back to Chickmagalur that night.

So, how does one run these 100kms, all day runs?
There are no Short Cuts, I mean, NO short cuts. It’s a long 3 pronged answer:
  1. Diet – I have been cutting down on junk, no sugar, no flour. Salads (yummy ones) have long replaced rice for dinner.
  2. Exercise / training – All through this year, I have run. 5 ultra’s in all, finishing in top 10 in all of them. Many thanks to Shreya for tolerating my high mileage in the last month. On a weekend when they were away, I rode to Nandi hills, parked my bullet there. Starting running down at 4pm from Nandi hills, all the way to my house near RMV. Finished the 56k or so in 6hours. Slept a bit, woke up at 4am and ran back to Nandi. 56kms in 7hours. That was 112km in about 19hrs incl. sleep. Alone, self supported, along the highway. A week after my 12hour stadium run, I ran a tough 50k ultra (1800m ascent) in the US. The last 5weeks were 100k+ mileage, running in UAS campus from 8:30 to 11:00 everyday. You got to gut it out in training.
  3. Lifestyle – Lead a stress free life. Many thanks to my bosses at work for being supportive. At some point being spiritual takes the load off. I listened to Gitopadesham during training (thanks to Sripad)
 I feel blessed. Thanks for reading.

Receiving the finisher medal from Anand Adkoli, the race director

D's report
Ath's report