Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A couple of marathon to my name - finally!

You are stupid and inexperienced if your first half of the race is faster than the second half.
You are untrained if you cannot run above zone 3 for a full marathon.
You are stupid if you don't plan your hydration and nutrition for a race that takes more than 3 hours.

Waiting for opportinity

I hadn't run a marathon till October 2014. But I had done one in Lalbagh garden in 2012 on my own. But generally, I don't have the motivation to go out and run such a long distance without the right atmosphere. Bangalore didn't have any such event except the oddly timed mid-night marathon, which has very unattractive course. I also don't have the time and energy to travel to other cities to do one. So, when Bengaluru Marathon (www.bengalurumarathon.in) was first announced, I jumped in immediately and I was one of the early birds to register getting free tees.

2014 Bengaluru Marathon

I set a 3 hours target for this marathon. This is a stiff target, specially considering my lack of experience. I had done only one half marathon and that too was a slow one that took 92 minutes. So, running a double distance with more or less the same pace was a big challenge. But I practiced decently well, running thrice a week, two months before the event itself, most sessions spanning about 90 minutes and covering a distance of mostly 20 km. Two months of training is a lot for me, because I train for two weeks for most other races I participate.

Surprisingly, my work schedule that usually goes easy became hectic in the run up to the event. I also registered for the first Bliss In the Hills, which is a 1200 km cycling through mountains with elevation gain of near 15,000 meters. Bliss In the Hills happened too close, just the weekend before the marathon. So, I didn't have any room for recovery, leave alone additional training. I did try a 10 km run in between to test if I was ready for a 42 km at that condition. I pushed for a 45 mins 10 km and that probably drained my energy more.

Anyhow, I ran carrying a bottle of gatorade. No nutrition and not enough hydration. Out of grit, I pushed myself hard and finished in 3:32:49. I felt really bad about it and I decided to run the mid night marathon. I registered, but something else came up and I couldn't run.

2015 Bengaluru Marathon

I wanted to do well this time. But again, I couldn't train. I was without the support of my father-in-laws, who used to help with my kids study and school pickup and drop. I was in a water tight schedule to balance work and family. When my in laws returned in mid of September, I had to cover up my work as well. So, no training at all. Meanwhile, I decided to ride the Bliss In the Hills again with my Cleated Warriors team-mates, specially Ganapathy, who was my companion in my first 600 km ride in 2011. I did manage to run a 5 km. Ride Nandi repeats on one holiday. Accompanied wife for 17 km to practice for her first running event, half marathon in the same event. I also got to ride to Basavanabetta on Bakrid holiday. So, basically I was relying on my Bliss In the Hills ride as my training for the marathon. This ride is also a trial ride for something big coming on my way in the near future. Anyway, I finished the ride strong taking all the time I was given! I had two weeks gap this time before the marathon. So, I ran another 5 km and then another 10 km between - both in office treadmill.

Target 3:10

I was ill prepared. But I set myself a target of 3:10, but was going to accept even a 3:15 under the circumstance. My plan was to do 4:30 a km pace all throughout. I mixed three sachets of enerzals of 50g each in a bottle and mixed water just to make it liquid. Plan was to sip it and drink water from the aid station. It was working well. I also got to run with a bunch of around 6 runners who were running at my pace till the half way mark. Towards the U turn, it was up slope. A couple of them went ahead of me and the rest went behind me. I was still doing good but I knew that my energy was going to drop as I didn't have any nutrition. I didn't even bother to see what was there in the aid stations, but I think, there was no food until towards the last 10 km. Or did I not look carefully? Anyway, I continued. My bottle was empty at around 28 km mark. I relied on the aid stations for my 3:10 target. The target was still in sight though.

The mad crowd of half marathon

Half marathon was flagged off 65 minutes after us. So, at my pace, I was going to catch scores of them as they progress their second half. There was hardly any space for me to run straight. I still managed through. Then came the biggest problem. Each aid station was heavily crowded and it was almost impossible to grab a glass of water without stopping for a considerable time. At one station, I grabbed two bananas and I felt much better in energy level. I gulped some plain water in another station. Still, it was way below the required amount. I was running low now, with very low pulse rate, trying to simulate a higher heart rate. Hands and legs felt the lack of blood flow - a kind of numbness for the lack of a term in my dictionary. I started walking a few meters every 500 m in the last 4 km. The target was then revised to 3:16, then to 3:17 then to 3:18 and finally to 3:20. Finally I saw the last 500m sign post and I pushed.

A 3:20:21 finish. I was hoping for a prize, even if a 5th one in my age category of 35-40. When the result came out, I was 6th, two minute behind the 5th person. To my surprise, age category of 30-35 had lesser competition compared to 35-40. The older category of 40-45 was even tougher than 35-40. That is what mid-life crisis does to men! They are crazy and they are tough (LOL).

I will still do a sub-3 hour marathon sometime in the future, hopefully in the 2017 event as I plan to skip the 2016 one. A target in mind will at least keep me motivated to go back to the event at least. All I need is a two months training and some light nutrition on the course.

Keep running!

A shot at locally tailored iron man triathlon

What: A locally tailored ironman equivalent triathlon event (3.8 km swimming, 190 km cycling and 42.2 km running), organized by Chennai Trekking Club.

When: 15th December 2013

Where: Chennai

Official Finishers

Deepak did bike and run, but had to skip swimming. He continued mainly to give me companion.
I always keep looking for challenges as and when it happens around and when the fees are not exorbitant. I don't mind paying a bit higher fee if I can save the travel time and cost.

So, when CTC conducted their first equivalent of half ironman in Nagala in November 2012, I immediately registered and convinced Peter that I wouldn't drown even if I had to spend a whole day in water! I had done a half marathon by then (Kaveri Trail Marathon 2011) besides two 25 km Bangalore Ultra (2010 and 2011). I had also done a 1000 km brevet by then (June 2012). Yet, Peter wanted to see my swimming in one of the swimming pool (Velachari?) a few weeks before the event. But I was too busy, but managed to convince Peter. I participated and completed with a lot of goof ups in nutrition and hydration in an apparently one of the hottest climate I had ridden a bike and slush and bad roads. But I managed (relieved).

Then comes the announcement of the ironman equivalent announced for Dec 2013. Peter was kind enough to accept my registration without much convincing this time. By this time, I had also done a 100 km running on trail (Bangalore Ultra 2012, 5 days after the Nagala half iron triathlon). I also convinced my 1000 km riding partner and Cleated Warriors team-mate and close friend Deepak.

I looked for companion for the drive to Chennai. Darshan and Yatheesh were already planning to drive in XUV500 and they were kind enough to accomodate me and Deepak with a rear bike rack to be installed. Darshan did all the driving. They were supposed to do half iron distance.

Darshan also managed to get accommodation in IIT Chennai guest house through his father-in-law. What a wonderful gentleman Darshan! We reached a bit late there, but we all managed to catch some sleep while I took breaks to eat a couple of bananas every now and then. We reached the starting venue on time.

Swimming

People will laugh at me if I tell them that I know swimming. What I know is basically to float. Well, a little better than that because I had swum in river currents all my childhood. But I typically keep my head up, splash a lot of water, don't rotate body, legs and lower trunk sink below. In short, it is a lot of drag. So, my ability to swim near 4 km is just grit. Thankfully, water was not sea water and I didn't mind drinking it once in a while during the struggle. There was some confusion on the distance and number of laps. Sunil Menon who was a semi-pro in triathlon measured the distance and that saved me from an extra 300 m or so.



I came out of the swimming in about 2h30m with totally lost balance (due to too much head rotation). My friend Deepak couldn't swim the distance and had to stop in the start itself. But he was willing to do the biking and running parts to give me companion. So, he waited for me and helped me in getting ready for the bike leg. There was a long delay in the transition, more than half an hour, as I tried to regain balance and grab some bananas. I was low on hydration and nutrition due to the poor swimming technique.

Bike

I wanted to try out cleats in this event. So, I installed cleats. I also borrowed an aerobar from Suma, a Cleated Warrior team-mate, who was already half ironman finisher a couple of years ago. In the first couple of km, I had a cleated fall! I couldn't get up for almost a minute. Then, I also realized that the aerobars were too close to each other for my comfort. So, I ended up not using at all. I made it a point to drink a little extra gatorade to recover from the dehydration and also ate regularly at the aid stations. I sensed some cramps in my calves. The biking look was such that half of the loop had open headwind and the other half which is supposed to be tailwind was not so open road and thus we couldn't get much of the tailwind. In the headwind section, all I did was to hide behind the broad body frame of Deepak. It was hot and humid even in December - you know Chennai, though it was cold enough in the night. Towards the end of the biking, my body and legs recovered fully and I was all set for running. At the end of the bike leg, we lost about an hour searching for the start of the running as we headed in a wrong direction. A lot of phone calls and asking locals, we found the way back to start of the run.

Run


Running is the easiest part for me. Having said that I bloated my stomach with plain water in my Nagala triathlon and I had to walk most of the distance in 2012. So, I was careful this time during the bike segment itself. We took sweet time to change clothes, pose for photos, drink line juice, eat oranges, etc. Finally Deepak and I started running. It was on a trail, uneven at many places, but superb weather, cool breeze. Kandappa Sir (https://www.facebook.com/kandappa?fref=ufi&pnref=story), who is a cycling enthusiast himself, biked along us with a flash light and carrying our water bottles in his bike. Deepak had done countless marathons (around 35 of them if I remember correctly) and I hadn't done one. But I had done a 100 km in 2012. So, both of us were confident. Our aim was to do an easy 10 kmph pace. But we ended up doing almost 12 kmph in the first hour and we cautioned ourselves to conserve. We took small breaks for every loop of 6 km. We covered the next 10 km too in an hour. Soon, Deepak started feeling something not right in his stomach. It was not side stitch. It was not exactly pain. It was not bloating. He tried to explain, but not something he had experienced in his long list of running marathons. We slowed down every now and then but avoided walks. Soon, we started walking too. We were still confident of finishing within 17 hours (official ironman events cut off time) though CTC has set 19 hours for us. But we started doing more of walk than jog. Time ticked fast and distance moved slowly. Deepak was feeling bad that he was slowing down me. But I was not willing to leave him, specially when I know that we could use up to 19 hours to finish. He had helped me so much in the biking besides waiting for 3 hours for me to finish swimming. So, we carried on chatting and walking while Kandappa Sir was also patiently admiring our comradeship. In the last 300 m or so, I wanted to sprint off and do a dramatic finish and the shutter bugs missed me in the dark as I approached them too fast (LOL). I took somewhere 18 hours from the time I entered water. Kandappa Sir was relieved from duty after almost 6 hours. Thank you sir. We will never forget your patience and support.


We called up Darshan to pick us up while we chatted and cheered others who were coming in later. After some freshen up and some sleep, we packed the bikes and bags and Darshan and Yatheesh did most of the driving. Thank you guys.

Thank you CTC, the most energetic, volunteer driven organization of any kind of sports. I have never seen such a strong organization.

Note: I was actually not planning to write a blog until I do a proper ironman event. But it is unlikely to happen and so I decided to pen the only one that is the closest I have done.