Following my previous stints at Javadhu and Chennai for the ultra and triathlon & swimathon respectively, it was time to move up the ladder and start preparing for a half triathlon (3km swim, 90km cycling and 21km run).
I don’t know about others, but increasing my running distance always helps me to perform better in longer ‘tri’s. I usually equate 1km of swimming to 8km of running and 1km of running to 3km of cycling. Going by this formula, I came up with the idea to prepare for both the Javadhu Hills 75km ultra as well as the Half Triathlon coming up in the next two months – that is to run 75km and see if I could finish within 11 hours (which was the cut – off at Javadhu).
It was February and we still had time to prepare for both events. I contacted Srikanth(who accompanied me to Javadhu last year) and Mr. Venkat (a senior finance professional from the IT industry, in his fifties who is a veteran runner) and we set the date for our 75km self – supported ultra run at 25th March 2017.
The three of us had run from Trichy to Tanjore Big Temple (60km) previously, and I was pretty sure crossing that distance wasn’t a problem. It was the remaining 15km that posed the issue. We each took up tasks of getting water, electrolytes, energy gels and bars. I arranged for volunteers (Mani and Deepak) to help, up till 7am following which Mr. Venkat and his brother – in – law arranged for a car to keep our refreshments in.
Two cyclists volunteered to join and one (Shree) wanted to ride ahead to finish 130km, while the other (Yoga Raj) planned to ride by our side.
The preparations were soon over and the big day came. Gopesh came to send us off at 2AM. Our departure from my home was marked with the sound of dogs barking at the six of us as we proceeded to break the stillness of the night with our activity.
These were the landmarks anticipated:
1. Manikandam (8km from home)
2. Boothakudi Toll Plaza (21km)
3. Viralimalai (30 km)
4. Rane Factory (36 km)
5. U turn at 37.5km
6. Return: Rane factory (39 km)
7. Return: Viralimalai (45 km)
8. Return: Toll Plaza (54 km)
9. Return: Manikandam (67 km)
10. Home, sweet home (75 km)
We kept a steady pace of 6’40″s covering 8km or more per hour, me in my Adidas ultra boost, Mr. Venkat in his Asics shoes and Srikanth doing the barefoot – party, with Mani following us flashing his bike’s headlight for us to see ahead and to offer us protection, till we reached the Toll Plaza at 420AM.
Mr. Venkat had pain in his feet due to shoes being too tight and Srikanth had headache due to lack of sleep, following which both of them slowed down for a while. Deepak soon replaced Mani and came to illuminate the way while offering electrolytes, water and snacks every 3km. Mr. Venkat boldly decided to go barefoot and both of them caught up with me pretty fast by the time we crossed Viralimalai.
The car had arrived by the 36th km and at the 37 & a 1/2 km, we stopped for ice cold water from the thermocol box that Mr. Venkat had thoughtfully arranged to retain the cooling of the water and electrolytes. I glanced at my watch – it was 7 AM – not bad at all, considering we were running 75km that day and we had already finished half of it in 5 hours. I knew the return would not be this easy and tried not to think about it.
I slowed down pretty much immediately after this, and the other two took the lead. The sun, had by now really come up, wishing all of us a hot and dry morning and we were really feeling the heat. We asked for the car to stop at every 2km from then on and we sipped water, ate biscuits, drank cold Gatorade/Tata Glucon with ‘Rrun’ energy gel whenever we needed the kick.
I caught up with the others and we had soon crossed Viralimalai again, by 830AM and reached the Boothakudi Toll Plaza, marking a total of 54.5km as complete.
We collapsed on the sidewalk, sipped cold water, ate biscuits and drank electrolytes and were on the move again. Mr. Venkat developed shoulder and rib pain and had to slow down his pace after the 56th km. I attribute the wonderful pace that we kept from half the course up till this point to him and he decided to drop out by the 65th km. I wondered if I would be able to perform the same at his age.
We soon reached Manikandam and with just 8km to go, I was experiencing mixed emotions. My mind was in robot – mode, but my body wasn’t listening to it. A group of kiddies joined us at this point and turned my performance around for the next 3 km of running.
I was in half a mind to drop out at the 70th km, but it was Srikanth who motivated me saying ‘Javadhu’ would be tougher and we had to complete 75km today so we would know if our timing was adequate.
“Just two more pit stops”, I said to myself as I continued to jog. I kept my mind totally focused on the run , inhaled steadily for three steps , then exhaled while taking the next two steps, managing to surge ahead. Mr Venkat again decided to join us for another 5km to top off his run at 70km.
The last pit stop was a short but welcome break after a steep bridge that really tested my endurance. In five seconds I was out of the car and bolting back on the highway, knowing home was just 1.5 km away. My spurt of energy soon died out though, and I started to walk, waiting for Srikanth to catch up.
Both of us resumed our run soon and we sprinted the last 100 meters home, to complete 75km in 10 hours and 48 minutes, around ten minutes before the Javadhu – cut – off – time.
I knew I needed to do stretches but my mind was reeling as I continued to sip water from the car. My legs were buckling and I suddenly discovered I wasn’t able to walk. The others had sugarcane juice from a vendor while I retreated upstairs to get a warm bath.
We had seemingly done the impossible – ran a 75km run in the scenario of a hot summer and completed at a fair time. Srikanth and sir had been practising hard but my ankle had just recovered and it was totally by God’s grace that I managed to cover this big distance.
Special thanks to Shree, Yogaraj, Gopesh, Mani , Deepak and Mr. Narasimman (Mr. Venkat’s brother – in -law who drove the car and assisted in hydration).
I will be seeing you on this blog after July 1st to tell you all about my first half iron triathlon!