Tuesday, 1 January 2013

The Ultra Experience

I didn't even describe in gory detail my Hyderabad Full Marathon experience this year..oops..last year. So I guess I am allowed to go on a bit about the latest thing I ran. Just in time to welcome the new year & bid goodbye to the old one, on 30th December, 2012.

Try not to tell my mum about this. I ran a 50km Ultra from Alwarpet to Mahabalipuram. Yes. Thats 8km more than a full marathon. 8km more than I have ever run in my life. I ran for six hours. Thats almost an hour and a half more than I have ever run in my life...

The Shahid Ultra is a regular Chennai Runners feature in December. The date is usually earlier in the month, but was postponed to 30th this year in honour of the now world famous Wipro Chennai Marathon extravaganza 2012. It involves running from the usual CR gym at Alwarpet, past Kotturpuram, on to OMR and then to ECR.

On ECR you go on and on till you reach Radisson Blu in Mahabs. The Radisson Blu guys love us and provide us ice, towels, iced tea, shower stalls and a sumptuous breakfast. The ever enthu CR folks - a handful who don't run - volunteer and drive around on ECR serving as mobile hydration & fuel spots.

I declared after the SCMM in Jan that I would run the Ultra fully this year (last year I ran 28kms, starting from the Uthandi Toll Booth and ending up in time for hot breakfast at the hotel). I felt good enough in the first part of the year to not regret that statement. The second part of the year was terrible and I couldn't seem to catch a break.

They call me Drama Queen, and I guess I am that person who is never satisfied with her preparation or performance, but this time I was genuinely worried. I had that foot pain (no, not Plantar), I am definitely 1 kg heavier, my core seems to have disappeared somewhere, I fell sick several times with colds, coughs, stomach cramps, and so on.

I don't even dare look at my workout notebook too closely  - yes, I have moved to writing this stuff down in a diary. Ever since I started strength training somewhat seriously and feel the need to write down names of the exercises and reps & weights. The notebook makes me feel worried, and fat.

But I had promised KP that we would run. Rocket was going to run with us. Krishna had promised to support us by driving around and giving us whatever things and encouragements we needed. I had decided to use the Run Walk method, in a bid to ensure that my legs stay safe for SCMM - I have loved the Run Walk whenever I have done long runs that way.

I did a strong 28km last week. Then went off to Bangalore and ate a lot and felt cold and anemic and sick. My mum started yelling at me and asking me if I am eating Calcium supplements (I am not). I promised her that I would eat multivitamins (I didn't buy them yet). We had a house party, I slogged for it.

I drank a little (not much thankfully) on Friday; and slept at 3 am. On Saturday I woke up late and cleaned up and stuff and took the child to Landmark. I sat in uncomfortable chairs feeling tired but proud of my little one spelling 'Quatrain' and 'Clairvoyant' & so on with consummate ease. She came in fourth (missing by a whisker, and spelling 'Nauseous' perfectly). I drove back home.

We had family visiting. Power was cut all over the area. I returned to a fully dark home. I was calculating furiously when I had to sleep to get enough rest. Food in the fridge had gone bad. The kids were getting antsy. It was raining. Mosquitoes were feasting royally in the absence of GoodKnight power....

I didn't think about much. We dropped everyone off at my in-laws place, and the two of us decided to eat out so we could charge our mobiles (which were dead). We argued loudly about our respective parenting styles and I tried hard to eat extra but couldn't. Slept at 10 pm (power had returned by then) only to wake up at 11 pm amidst very loud banging of some sort.

Counted sheep to fall asleep again till the alarm went off at 2:45. Got ready, felt fine, hitched a ride with Rocket's kind husband, and then that was that. The enthu of the CR carried me through after that. We started running at 3:30am. The pace groups split almost immediately. We silently passed through the dark city, chatting only desultorily.

Soon we hit ECR and plodded on determinedly towards the goal. We used a 5:1 run walk during the first hour, a 4:1 run walk during the second one, 3:1 during hour three, and 2:1 after that till the bitter end. I expected cramps and pain and much suffering. But I was just fine. I look at my garmin data and feel super happy - consistent throughout.

We started off as a group of 6. Two pulled back at the Uthandi toll booth. The four of us stuck together very well till almost the very end. After the toll booth, it became my task to call out the run and walk breaks. I used my voice till I could, and then just recoursed to raising my hand to indicate to the others. Finally I just stopped when the 2 min period finished and hoped the others noticed...

I check on myself periodically during long runs. Mental faculty - was great throughout. I could count, and was counting steps like crazy. Feet felt fine, despite the rain (thanks to vibrams!!). I wore a cap and sunglasses when the sun came out so my eyes and head were happy. Thanks to my friends driving around, I consumed orange slices, banana pieces, gatorade and water in sufficient amounts so stomach felt perfect.

I have never done anything so crazy in my life I don't think. I don't usually give myself the option of not finishing something I start, but you never know, right? Weather is a big unknown, and even after all these years, I still don't know enough about my body. Whatever it is, I am very glad and grateful and happy to finish off 2012 on a strong note...