Thursday, May 26, 2011
Sunday, March 06, 2011
Pic above :Click on the link above for a photo-movie preso
A journey mostly begins with a destination, but perhaps it offers very little insight into the destiny at the inception. Three years ago, when I met a group of my friends who were running to lose weight and collaborated on the first half-marathon, little did I know where the journey would take me. As it turned out it took me on an
exploration of the exciting world of endurance running, its myriad forms of running and its sub-cultures, the obsession with everything from shoes to apparel to finish times and completion of 9 full marathons and a number of sub marathon distance races. The most recent exciting discovery has been the running sub-culture of trail running and the testing of limits in human endurance through what is called ultra-maratho
n distance running ( 50k,50 mile,100k and 100 miles).
With over 8 road marathons behind me, I was looking for a different challenge, perhaps even a different perspective to running. The trail running culture appealed to me. It was a smaller group, it took you close to nature, and one
trail was never ever the same as the other because of mother earth’s design of the forest landscape, and most importantly I found the trail running community to be friendly folks, and a lot relaxed in their approach to running. There it was, trail running had got me hooked. I had a run smaller distances of 18 miles and 16 miles over the last few years, and a 50k was something that appealed to me as a standard progression to “ultra” trail running.
Back in Dec, my running buddy Jeff sent me a message on Facebook to see if I would be interested to run the 50k. Jeff is a seasoned trail runner and was shooting to do his first 50k as well, he reasoned that theMS 50 were a good starter 50k race considering it was moderately technical(a trail runner’s lingo that means if the trails are challenging) , so I readily agreed the 2011 MS50 scheduled for the 5th M
We left to Laurel,MS on Friday and reached just in time to pick up the race packet that evening. The race packet was being distributed in a little building amidst an Agricultural office of some sort. There were about 40-50 folks from what I could count. Many there were planning to run their 50-mile run. We met Jeff and Bridget at the race packet center and then head out for dinner. It was nice to catch up with them, both are ardent runners and their son is an elite runner, winning many races in the Memphis running circuit.
Race started at 6 am. Our drive from the hotel to the start line nestled amidst the Longleaf forest about 15 miles away was uneven
tful because it was mostly dark, but I sensed driving on the gravel roads inside the forest, this was going to be exciting and different. Roopa accompanied me to Laurel, and it gives me a lot of comfort when she is around, she is great as my only support crew, the girls were back at home with their grandparents, so I missed my cheering squad. We got to the start line area by about 5.30 am, it was still pre-dawn dark.The start area were lined with various tents, including the race organizer’s tent , and I could see people scampering to get ready for the race. The start line was a few yards away from this point. The race comprised of two loops, yellow loop and the blue loop. The yellow loop was the 20k and blue loop was the 10k. For the 50k we had to repeat the yellow trail two times and then one time of the 10k, simple math, but body physiology does not work very mathematically I thought.
As I lined up on the start line amongst
the shuffling feet and splutter of drizzle on my cap’s visor, I could feel a sense of calm that comes from total surrender of the unknown. I have never run more than 26.2 miles, and this was going to be 5 more than the most I have ever run in a single attempt. Besides it was the off road trails, less prone to getting into a rhythm and hence consumed more energy. As these thoughts played around , the whistle blew, and off we were.
The start of the trail were closely packed with close to 140 of the runners starting the 50k or the 50-mile, the 20k runners were scheduled to start at 8 am. The trails were pine covered soft broad trails for about 1.5
miles and then it narrowsed to a two-track mud trail. The trails were wet, with many parts holding puddles of water. Initially as it always happens, most of us tried staying dry on the feet, but that slowly disappears as our inhibition drops, and then you see everyone splashing through the puddle. It gets a few moments to be a child again presumably. Its fun to run trails if you think of oneself as a child, it simplifies the run, uncomplicates the mental process. It starts becoming a wild adventure when you embrace the many uncertainties the forest trails throws at you.
At many points in my first go around of the yellow loop, saw many runners either passing me or vice-versa, there was a constant flow of traffic. At the end of first go-round, I was glad to see Roopa waiting to hand m
e over the Endurolytes replenishment. I consumed the Endurolytes caps every hour, and perhaps that mayexplain the total absence of cramps in my entire 31 miles. I also made it a point to eat a piece of banana and some chips at each aid station. Stuck to water, no Gatorade or Heeds, and felt good, didn’t have to deal with an overwhelming sweetness that comes with it.
The weather was overcast when we started and it may have drizzled with a few splatters of first go around. In the second go around on the yellow loop, the skies came down upon us, accompanied by thunder. I was hoping that one of the many tall pine trees in the tail wouldn’t suddenly get hit by lightning. The cre
eks were fuller and water was now coming up to the knee, and I enjoyed wading through them. For one it was a child like pleasure of doing it, but more importantly it soothed my feet. My feet did not tire, versus how I normally feel when I run road marathons, my feet feel nasty. This was a welcome change.
At many times during my yellow loop go-arounds, I actually chose to slow down and enjoy the rain. If you haven’t open your mouth and stood under a downpour, its should be on ones list. It’s a blissful experience. Imagine not being inhibited, and letting pure aqua refresh your mouth, its one of those senses that is hard to explain.
Pic Above: Jeff and I at around 25 mile point
It took my about 30 minutes more to complete the second loop. As I approached the completion of my second 20k loop, legs were protesting. Doing an additional 10k at this point seemed daunting. Luckily for me Jeff caught up after staying back to run with Bridget and as he passed me, pulled me along as well. My 10 k was an example of what ultra runners often describe as need to dig deep to keep going. I did, and let the mind run the show, disregarding a protesting set of muscles to continue pushing a steady pace. And it worked; my discomfort subsided as I managed to keep a steady cadence in the last 10 k loop. There were some unexpected inclines in this phase, which I chose to run versus the previous loops where I power walked.
After 6 hours 42 minutes of embracing the slushy trails, I hit the finish line, elated, and glad it was conquered. It was good feeling to have gone beyond a marathon distance.
I learnt later in the day that the forest service had to ask runners to vacate the trails after around 3.30 pm because of intensifying downpour, leaving many of the intending 50 milers to settle for a 50k finish. In summary, it was an enjoyable experience and I hope to build on this to try a few other more challenging trails in the years to come.
Happy Trails out there!
The below link is a video created by a fellow 50k finisher, paints a great picture about the race.
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
If I were sum up my experience leading up to the Marine Core Marathon, I would say” cautious optimism”, with merely one 20 mile training run, and over 3 weeks of lay-off from running due to my calf injury. I entered the Marine Corp start line feeling much like an injured recouping Cheetah who thinks he can run faster and longer than the fastest antelope because he just devoured a dead one for the last meal.
With that being said here is a report. The start line was about a mile long, and I couldn't get to my corral. It was jam packed , and with streets that seemed narrower that what I had seen in a similar sized marathon in Chicago for upto over first 10 miles , I had to weave through the slower runners to get ahead so the target pace could be maintained. That was a big lesson, always start with your pace group in big marathons, if not you will have to work way harder to get ahead to a similar paced runners. There were a few hills, but overall the course was pretty un-daunting, when I compare to Little Rock or Atlanta. All until the 21st mile, my pace was on target to complete the desired goal of sub 3.55, and then I hit the wall. Not entirely surprised considering the volume of my training, but disappointed that the supplements and the other mumbo-jumbo didn’t help ( that’s the Cheetah metaphor!) , and the voice inside went “ Dude , marathons is all about training . PERIOD”. I has to zip it and agree to that, while my tired legs carried me through the finish line in 4 hours and 8 minutes.
Here is the profound part. While a lot of us runners obsess over our finish times and splits , in the end it boils down to the mere privilege of being able to complete a marathon, which in its 26.2 miles offers a simulation of our many life’s triumph and tribulations. There will always be people who are faster and some who are slower, and sometimes you surprise yourself by doing better than planned, but what matters is what you gave to the pursuit, and I confess I gave this run all I had, and rest my case.
The race course was beautiful; weather was a perfect autumn day. It was a memorable experience to run around the National Mall area, the Washington Monument, the museum district, the capitol and beautiful parks. My other running compatriots from the gang ( Suds,Pasha ,Sudhakar and Pramod) did well and reportedly enjoyed their experience of the race. My verdict, a highly recommended race to run!
( Pic above: At the expo..)
( Pic above : With Rohit and SI at the starting line)
( Pic above : With Rohit and SI at the starting line)
Monday, October 18, 2010
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Monday, April 26, 2010
I figured, one must change focuses to conquer new mountains. It renwes the spirit, keeps one on the edge. While running is still a big part of my life, its not an exclusive central theme. Over the last few years, training for marathons provided a new meaning and energy , and I have many summits to climb in running. But I wanted this blog to be about more than just running. The changes made here reflect that change in perspective, so I am free to ponder on all topics and thoughts. The ultimate mission being, be in quest of bliss, sort of like the runners high in non-running activities as well.