The Kaveri Trail Marathon is supposed to be one of the tough marathon courses in the country. It winds through farmlands and past a river. Rocks abound. The weather is usually very warm, and the entire trail lacks tree cover – absolutely NO tree cover. Whenever I spoke to friends, even the ones from Chennai, said that the weather and the sun were a big deal at KTM. Even the organisers, at the start of the race, warned everyone to avoid trying for a PB here, and to ensure good hydration.
I missed the KTM last year due to a stupid reason. I signed up for it, was ready for it as usual – in a half-assed unscientific type of trained way I run these races. But I had to go to Mysore (which is 12 km from race start) just a couple of weeks before or after the race, anyhow, for something to do with mum. I didn’t want to put the entire family out again by traveling twice. I kicked myself a lot for it, later, when I thought calmly about it. Then I rationalized it all by insisting that I would run four good half marathons a year, and that’s it. Not more.
Training went just fine. I just refused to think about the race. I ran my weekly mileage goals, kept my sights ahead, all the way into 2012, throughout. Lots of my friends went to Hyderabad, for that race. I didn't, again for the same stupid reason that I had work there just a week later and would hate having to go back to back weekends. Felt a slight pang when they told me of the fun they all had, but got over it. Because training is just as fun for me, and I have been enjoying a bunch of things about that.
Anyway, off I went on Saturday early in the morning. As usual some stuff came up in the last minute and monster's school was cancelled on Friday and my husband was busy and it was all crazy as hell. I would've hated my life and cursed myself a lot if I was thinking about the race. But since I wasn't it was just the usual, BAU scenario. I met up with the other guys on the station platform, and stepped into my seat there.
The ride in was comfortable. I worked a bit on my stuff. Aside from a tendency to chomp on food loudly, the people I shared my little seating area with were nice. Coincidentally, I was next to another runner. We exchanged a few pleasantries and went back to our business.
At Mysore, things were awesome. Weather was great. Uncle fed us (the deshvaasi, I convinced to hang out with me) lunch and we hitched a ride to collect our bibs. We ran into some other Chennai folks while we did that, had a cup of coffee and returned back. I was very happy to see that my running bib had my name on it. Nice touch! But still not thinking much about the race. My goals were made a month before - I wanted to run a strong race, and then continue to run after the finish line, at a slow pace if necessary. I figured clocking 25km was crucial for my weekely mileage goals at this stage, in addition to a piece of mental confidence thing I wanted to work on. In short, a simple goal of NOT DYING in the race - despite everyone telling me that this is a course on which everyone, even experienced runners (WTF! I am an experienced runner, seriously, sometimes my mind is so messed up..), do.
Pre-race evening carbo load, including beer, some nice conversation with my little cousin, and plenty of curd rice. In bed by 10 pm. Not even super excited. Or nervous. I slept well, again, strangely enough. I think it was because I threw out my usual time goal and gave myself a nice comfy one of 2:15. In light of the nature of the course. Deshvaasi asked me if I would set the pace. Hell yeah, I would, considering I was armed with my latest toy - a GPS watch.
"You didn't take your ipod? What will you run with?" my husband texted me.
"My Garmin. Get it? Its all set" I replied back.
I think I take my ipod when I feel a bit less confident mentally. Or its vice versa. I wanted to avoid it this time. Hear the birds instead, Kenny, I told myself a I packed.
I met some of my old pals from amchi mumbai and totally tuned out from the race announcements. Before I knew it, we were off. I made sure to hit the mat carefully as usual, and weaved through the usual mess at the beginning. Since this is a small race, the situation was not as irritating as it is in other places. I run with friends often but we never run slowly, abreast of each other, at the beginning, when everyone is in a rush to get out on the road/trail, so I don't understand why people do that. It bugs the life out of everyone behind you, especially if you are slower (EVERYONE is slower than someone else, I do know that, but there is a point wherein people are insensitive in this matter).
I saw my new toy was doing fine and telling me that my pace was good. Given my goals. I ran hard but did enjoy the scenery. My Kannada brethren were all over the trails - after all it was their farms on one side we were passing. I said 'Namaskaara' to many of them on their bullock carts and raised my hands up in salutation and made them smile. The turn around point was a bit confusing apparently. Actually by then I had new josh as I had seen the full marathoners on the other side, and the faster bunch of half marathoners as well, and had clapped and good jobbed and high fived so many of them. I was so happy and chilled out this time, I don't know why.
I didn't even touch my Gu - when my spirit starts to flag is usually when I eat Gu. The aid stations were excellent so I picked up some oranges (my absolute favourite) and a sip or two of Enerzal at some stage. It wasn't planned, I just went by my mood. I didn't even carry water like I usually do, as I trusted the organisation here to take care of my needs. I didn't have too many needs, however. I only started to wane at around 1:50 or so, by which point I was close to the finish. I would see the pace slip down on my garmin, and convince myself to up it again, and so on and so forth till the very end when I did the usual Kenny Sprint - which is another mantra. Whatever happens, Finish Strong. Unlike my last race, I kept my shirt on this time. :-) Found that I had hit the mat in 2:04 or so, which was super satisfying. Not just for this course, but because I have been feeling a bit slow of late - since Auroville in February which I did in similar time. I had also already run 27 km earlier in the week and was a bit concerned that with the train ride and everything my legs wouldn't be fresh. I am sure that the fact that the weather was actually nice and not boiling hot and sunny was an important factor!
Still, how fresh my legs were! My calves were a bit tight of course, but aside from that, I felt perfect. Almost energized. I ran a bit more on the perpendicular road, cut my timer chip off, and wandered back on to the trail. Deshvaasi came in (he ran barefoot!) and showed me the blood clots on his feet (, I fetched him some electrolyte and water, let him dip his feet like the others were doing, and back on to the trail. I intended to run till the 2km mark and then head back, but I gave up - once I found a friend and decided to get him to shave a bit off his finish time by goading - then when I went back again I just felt bored and started thinking about the return trip so I got back.
Food at the race was excellent and because I felt so fine I could manage to eat a lot of it as well, including very sweet ice cream. Then I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had come in second in the Women's Open category, and got to run up the stage and collect my certificate. Today they called me to tell me that they revised my position to third, due to some confusion. But still, PODIUM, BABY! I was ecstatic as were monster, husband and mum whom I called quickly. My friend, the rocket, who ran the full marathon, also came in third, which felt super great. I am so damn proud of her! We train together and it really feels like we are family. Or at least super close friends for the past umpteen years!
I came back to mum's place again and found that uncle had again cooked for us! And after a shower and some chit chat, managed to eat a pile of food again! Then, on the train back, I gutted down everything on offer - and believe me a lot of it was on offer! I actually felt a bit fat and waddly in the night as I lay down and thought about how after all these years of running I had won something meaningful in a race that I was just super chilled out about, and how it hardly mattered when I compared it to the feeling of strength and happiness I had as I ran, and of pure unadulterated enjoyment I carried with me over all those kilometers.
Overall, it was a super fun trip and it was great to meet all the friends and family that I met, and it was fun as always to have conversation with the deshvaasi. Mysore was beautiful and peaceful and calming like never before. As I always feel, it was great to go but its also good to be back and to move on to the next thing on my horizon....