Thanks to the deshvaasi, and the happy circumstance of my husband being free to drive me over, the arrangements were better, much better, this time around. So that was fine.
But the training? Ugh. That was a bit of a problem! The tetanus shot I took about 10 days prior to the race was not as cool as I remembered from childhood. It hurt me for many days [yes, it was in the ass, the fat fleshy ass still hurt from the injection]. My long runs were a distant memory [the Mumbai half on Jan 15th was my last good long run]. I had long given up on intervals. My trippy antibiotics event at Maldives was a more close memory. My legs felt like lead, truly. They have not felt this bad in a long while. The shoulder pain was (is) still troubling me. Despite how bad it all sounds, it was not bad enough to cancel the plans, especially given the arrangements, and that mentally, I felt very enthusiastic, especially since the Auroville forest is so lovely.
My legs don't like rest, usually. They get stiff. They hurt, if I don't run often. So I don't really 'taper' - although I am beginning to also feel that such things as taper are not relevant for a mere half marathon, really. I have found good results [in terms of feeling strong, if not actually being able to meet my time goals] by being very disciplined in terms of my running the week before the race - a nice long run on the Saturday/Sunday prior; at least 2-3 days of proper running [meaning 40 mins - 1 hour] during the week; abs & core. This was difficult to do this time around as I was not feeling physically too great. But I did somewhat ok.
Atom and Guns creamed me on the Sat long run. My leaden legs were no use, at their speed. I had a work event but had to give up after a point and come home and take a nap. Monday was gone as I have an early morning lecture. Tuesday was dedicated to catching up on sleep. On Wednesday I shook off my lethargy and ran for an hour. On Thursday I also got down and did some abs. On Friday I psyched myself up for the race, got out and ran a good nice peaceful run through the area. The mind games were on but in an overall sense I was happy.
Saturday was hectic as hell. The monster had a gazillion things going on. I had enough co-ordinating everything and getting lunch down the hatch. Before I knew it, we were off. The husband driving us over, and me hoping I had taken everything, most especially, my shoes. My precious shoes. This was also the point at which my period decided to show up. Yeah, great timing, as always. 'Is that going to be your excuse' asked my one and only supporter later that night. 'Hell, no!' I said. Its nothing I have not done before.
We went and picked up the bibs, Gun, Deshvaasi, Gun's uncle, and I. Jokes all the way. I ran into my entire convoluted posse there - all the Chennai Runner people, the dolphin all the way from Mumbai, the kids from the campus, we all drank coffee. The biggest (est) surprise was that airspy was there. Airspy is my friend from so long ago. She was there for a work event. The poor dear waited patiently for me to show up and pick up my bib. And we drank coffee together amidst the entire gang there in the Auroville canteen. I remembered all those days 15 years ago when airspy and I would get up to our crazinesses. We are going to run together in Bengaluru soon and add some more crazy to our list.
Sleep was not to be had. The dinner was good but quite slow. The monster had to be fed as she was dawdling and it was late. We got back to our room (it was one of those eco-friendly - ish places with palm tree fronds and a really funny shower thing. We has to sleep inside a mosquito net). I read for a bit. At 3 am a persistent rooster started screeching. At 4 am, it was continuing to do so. I dragged my ass out and brushed and tried to hide in the bathroom when people called me to check if I was ready. I ate a coffee Gu as we could not get hold of coffee. I started on my gatorade bottle as well, what to do? No coffee!
It was super dark. Guns kindly drove us to the venue talking about hot tea. The place was abuzz with enthusiastic people milling about. Thankfully, since this is not a gigantic race like the other ones, lines for the loo etc. were not a problem. I ran into the monster's school friend, who found it hard to recognise me under my hat. Some girl started everyone on a nice round of warm-up stretches and stuff. With music. That was fun.
6 am, on the dot, we were off, but not with much fanfare, really. Not even a Start/Finish arch. It was still dark at that time so had to pick my way carefully. I was going to run alone. Atom, who is my pacer, skipped this one. Guns is, well, too fucking fast. I had my music. Roots were threatening to jump at me, I reminded myself that I am a mountain goat. The first 3 k were not great. I think it was 17 mins when I saw the marker, which was a bit off from my intended pace, but not much. Anyhow the legs felt good but not great. Weather though was just fantastic.
I ran on, doing reasonably well. I knew I was slowing down when two or three people passed me. I knew I was doing okay when I managed to pass them back. I had in my sights another girl - she looked short, was wearing a maroon cotton tshirt and dark pants. Her running motion looked conservative and strong. I decided to just keep her in sight. The first 10-11 km went that way. I pretty much missed all the kilometer markers but knew I was doing a decent pace. And I was fairly okay, breath-wise. The calves felt a bit iffy, but in a nice way, like they were working and not chilling out. Since I could not see the distance markers, I moved away also from the timer mode of my watch to real time.
'The monster should be up by now' (7 am)
'They should have left the hotel now' (7:15 am)
'Guns has probably finished by now' (7:20 am)
'Wonder if I can catch up with the red tshirt' (7:21 am)
I hooked myself up with some Gu at some stage. I believed in its powers. I overtook red tshirt. But as I did, some other girls overtook me. I wondered what the real runners do when someone overtakes. I just feel sort of loser-ish and let a deterioration of a couple of seconds off my pace. Then I tell myself that thats absurd. I should determine to keep them in sight and take them over later. Then I just sort of forget about them and focus on other stuff. Hmm. Whatever, doesn't matter so much, does it?
I hit 15 km in 1:24 (ish). See, this is usually a turning point in a race for me. In recent times, at Delhi, I found myself feeling STRONG at 15 km. Atom was giving up at that point (a little bit), but I was feeling STRONG. At Mumbai, I found myself DYING at this stage. Srgntpepper was feeling strong, but I was DYING. At Auroville? Well, I was not dying for sure. I was not feeling supremely strong or anything either. What hurt the most? My ass. Seriously, my ass hurt. My hips hurt a bit because of the bed at the hotel being a bit funny and the monster kicking me through the night. Legs felt fine. Breath was good. But my ass hurt, or maybe I imagined it did.
'This is where the real race starts for you, Kenny'
'Think that the starting gun just went off, and you are in a 6 km race'
'6 km and change'
'Yeah, that change is important now, is it?'
'Just fucking show me what you got, for 6 km, Ms. Smartypants'
'I know I just lie down and EXPIRE at 18 km, I can show you that'
'No you won't. Think of it this way. Move on from km 17 to km 19'
That somehow worked. Maybe 'cause I was missing all the km markers, pretty much, before I knew it I was at km 19. Which was marked and which I saw. I had pretty much hydrated and fed myself throughout the race, although the arrangements were really good. My gatorade bottle was consumed. My Gu, likewise. I snagged a piece of orange sometime [rather clumsily, sorry, volunteers!]. I took a couple of sips of water once [reasonably nicely this time]. But all that was done and gone by this time. I was resisting the temptation to look at my watch. I did so not want it to say 2+! But I was so very sure that it did.
Anyway I managed to convince myself to up the pace from then on. I might have actually done so, not very sure [since I dont use a proper timing device]. Of course I was supremely tired. I was done with appreciating the course [its a damn fine course, in case you want to ask, really spectacular]. I wanted to see the husband. I wanted to hug the monster. Thats all. I wanted them at the finish, as they had promised.
I think I was at the 21 km mark when I HAD to glance down and saw it - the dreaded 2:00.
'Oh hell. Where is the finish?'
'Why isn't there an arch?'
'Do I even care anymore?'
'Like hell I do!'
ZOOOOM. I found myself sprinting all out at this stage. Take that, tetanus shot. Take that, rope burn. Take that, antibiotics course. Take that, you dead leaden right leg, seriously, are you warmed up now? Take that, husband mine, watch me SMOKE. Monster, you too. SMOKE. Its a bit silly to do this in this race because everyone is all cool and suave and not here for the glory but to enjoy nature and so on [and so forth]. But what the hell, I saw the dreaded 2:00 on my Timex, I had to do something in reciprocation....
Then I forgot to press the button down on the watch when I finished [so I don't know my time, exactly - its 2:01-2:02, I guess]. I couldn't find ANYONE. Normally, I don't care. I run alone most of the time. I think I have run with someone, the entire distance, just once, that was Chennai in Aug last year. I have a couple of people I know in a race, some ahead and some behind. We find each other eventually. But first I go get myself a drink. No, not a beer. Just some electral or similar. But this time? They were SUPPOSED to be there, these guys.
No matter, I found Guns a few minutes later. He had done 1:38, which is a PR for him [uff, what a time, thats SMOKING, yo!]. He was also wondering where these guys were [his spouse and child were to show up too, along with my posse]. We caught up with them finally, found that as rightly predicted, they were running late, and had missed our finish, and, feeling a bit deflated overall, hung around for the others in the gang....