Trichy – to – Rane Engine Valves (& back) Self – Supported 75km Ultra Run

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!

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15 km CTC Chennai Swimathon 4/3/’17

I felt my right foot miss a step, heard a pop from my bent – over ankle, and experienced a gush of pain that doubled me over. I cursed myself for successfully spraining my ankle just two weeks before Annur Marathon. Now I had no hope of long distance running in the next two months. There was mild swelling and tenderness over the ankle but I was able to bear my bodyweight while walking. Mine seemed to be a grade I ankle sprain.

To help you get a general idea of ankle sprains and how to grade them, here are two illustrative diagrams:

Then came the memory of my friend Ramu’s invite for the CTC’s Swimathon on March 4th. Being a doctor I knew there was a fair chance of swimming by then, if I give my ankle adequate rest, ice and physiotherapy before the said date. But things didn’t go as well as I had planned and the pain from the grade I sprain kept coming back at work whenever I got up and switched places . 

I don’t know what hit me, but as I was looking to register for the swim, I noticed there was a 15km swimming category along with the 5km and 10km categories in the competition and I signed up like a madman on a hunch even though my ankle hurt in certain awkward positions and extended range of motion during plantar flexion. The maximum distance I had covered in a single day during a swim was 7km and that was way back in 2010. This was definitely going to be interesting.

Two weeks went by and I had managed to hit the gym twice a week, walk 10km once a week and had visited the swimming pool twice every week, with mild jogging for a kilometer or so, whenever pain was absent.

The pain slowly withdrew three days before the event and I tapered my activity to be fresh for the swim. Prayers were said, not just by me but my family members as well, because they couldn’t fathom how I could complete such a distance which I hadn’t done during my days as a state level swimmer in 1999 , now, without any practice and that too with a messed – up ankle.

March 3rd: The days flew by and the time had come. I finished my work at my hospital then visited Apollo for a visiting consult before leaving to Chennai by car, with my wife and mom. The venue was the same as the CTC ‘s triathlon (refer previous post) and we checked into Hotel Holiday Inn, which was nearest the venue on OMR road, after dropping my wife at her parents’. I wouldn’t recommend the dinner I had to anyone else preparing for a Swimathon, but I crammed myself because I knew the next day would easily burn off everything I ate in a period of three hours max. So, in went three butter naans, chicken gravy, spicy chicken salad and chicken dosed with pepper and salt, followed by curd rice and mousse. I was worried if I had enough space for my 330 am snack which would determine my actual performance during the swim.

March 4th: 3:30AM

I did manage to get up and swallow two banana oatmeal muffins before sleeping till 430AM, following which I brushed my teeth, washed my face, changed and I was on my way. Mom would join me later at 8AM and Sanju, at 2PM.

Owing to unavoidable circumstances, my friend Ramu who had intimated me about the Swimathon couldn’t make it. I arrived at Ottiyambakkam Open Water Swimming site at 5AM sharp , filled the disclaimer form, had my BIB number (158) written on my arm with permanent marker to help me remember it (we had to shout our number on completing each loop for the officials to keep track of our progress) then located the baggage counter where I undressed to my swim shorts, and donned my swim cap and goggles.

The warm – up session for 15 km, 10km and 5km races started at 550am and we went through the usual exercises to loosen our joints and increase our core body temperature to prepare us for the gruelling event, followed by a group photo.

6AM:

I felt a strange calm envelop me and I told myself I just needed to focus on finishing 15km , within the 10.5 hours cut off time. Nothing else mattered, including placing. There were only 13 participants en toto for the 15km event out of which 5 people downgraded to 10km because they felt they could not complete it. Now, here I was, swimming in a 15km event which hadn’t even been introduced into the Olympics, which in itself is a privilege. All I had to do, was focus on finishing.

6:12AM:

I got into the pond, which was surprisingly refreshing and not freezing. The time had come, and I said a quick prayer asking God to spare me from cramps, which is the worst enemy of all swimmers and to give me energy to complete 15km in one piece. For those who don’t know this small water – body, it’s in Ottiyambakkam, Chennai, around 3km from Navalur on the OMR highway via Agni College.

The pond/lake is 150 meters long and since we had to cover 15km, we needed to finish 100 laps (50 loops)

615AM to 8AM

It was soon 615AM, and the race started. I preserved my strategy of doing mainly the ‘breast – stroke’ to prevent my ankle from getting aggravated, with a few strokes of ‘freestyle/front-crawl’ thrown in to keep up the rhythm and to prevent overload of the muscles used during the breast – stroke. The crowd was huge but aside from a few kicks and punches from other participants, nothing went bad for me. I had soon completed 3.5 km by 8AM and made my first fuel – stop at the 3rd km mark. The volunteers were at the water’s edge with plates and gave us bananas, Electral and ‘kadalai mittai’.

815AM TO 1145 AM:

I was feeling pretty confident when I had crossed 5km and was going strong, when the inevitable happened. I was shouting out my number for the officials when someone from my side kicked my right (injured) ankle. There was a burst of pain – I closed my eyes and floated for a while before slowly proceeding with freestyle. In a minute my ankle felt better and things were back to normal – power of prayer!

I spotted mom at the 6th km, waved to her and proceeded with breaks every 1.5km. I had soon crossed 7.5 km (half the distance) by 1030AM. A much – needed toilet break followed at 1145 AM with mom helping me out of the pond.

A few shots of the event:

(Youngest participant in the 5km race)

(Lifeguard at the other end of the pond)

(Lifeguards from Bay of Life on surfboards watching with an eagle’s eye)

(Volunteers(and sometimes tired participants) hung on to tyres that were tied together through a rope to the other end of the quarry)

1145AM to 2PM:

Following this, I felt very refreshed and zoomed past many who had crossed my distance during the break. By the 10th km, I felt early signs of my body giving in to fatigue.

I continued to follow my fuelling strategy but for every 1.2 km (4 loops) instead of every 1.5km(5 loops). This kept my burning tummy at bay, with adequate refueling via mom’s banana oatmeal and Electral from the volunteers. Bananas had unfortunately run out by then and I had to make do with ‘kadalai mittai’. Both Thomas Habel and Vinolee (two of CTC’s best swimmers) and Mr. Anil Sharma had lapped me several times by then.

There was, by now, a mild stiffness in my left calf, which, as a long -time swimmer, I knew , could be a sign of cramps – to – come. I switched to doing more freestyle and used only half my usual power for kicks.

2PM to 250PM

“5 loops to go!” It was awesome to hear it from the officials but my body was in robot – mode, much like what happens when I spend prolonged time in cataract surgeries – the mind automatically takes control. The tightness in my left calf increased, despite my increased consumption of Electral, and by the 14th km I knew cramps were coming on.

I fuelled one last time, with three loops to go, and increased the power in my arms in as relaxed a state as possible, to compensate for my poor kicking. Saw Sanju and Aunty during the last two loops and waved.

The last loop would probably have seen my best timing, with a finishing touch of 150 meters of freestyle. I breathed out in the water to lower my heart rate, then proceeded to be helped up by a kind volunteer. The time was 250 PM and we had started swimming at 615 AM – a total of 8 hours and 35 minutes.

I sat down, dazed, sun – burnt, partially dehydated, but overjoyed to have clinched the title of ‘Finisher’ of one of the world’s longest distances swam in an official competition.

Peter, the hero of the day and the founder of Chennai trekking Club, came by to give me my medal after starting the 3km event. 

It was a memorable moment for me to meet my role – model, and to pose with the two ladies who have encouraged me to pursue my passions, with special mention to mom who oversaw my nutrition needs during the swim (since the bananas had run out by the 10th km, I would have definitely cramped up earlier if not for her banana oatmeal)

Post – event:

Mom answered worried calls from relatives, assuring them I was indeed safe and sound and had completed the event well within cut – off time. I gobled up ten banana ‘adais'(wheat and sugar thrown in with bananas and cooked), had ‘Tang’ then proceeded with total rest till dinner time. I ate up food to fill my still – ravenous gut during dinner, as expected and slept soundly that night.

The following morning saw us depart from Chennai at 10am and reach Trichy at 330 PM. 

It was an eventful journey – one that I will remember not for my performance but for God’s immense grace and mercy for helping me finish 15km of swimming without even practising a 1km swim in the previous month, due to my ankle.

This is Vinod, signing off, before I meet you on my next adventure.

Jawadhu Hills 50 km Ultra Marathon

It was another beautiful sunny day after a great leg workout, when I decided to look up the list of marathons that I should plan to run after July.

According to the Indian marathon calendar, there was an interesting race in Jawadhu Hills (which according to Google Maps, was near Vellore and just 5 hours away by car). Deciding to investigate I clicked on the link, and up came three challenging choices – 50k, 75k and 100k (the 25km race category was full). I weighed my options and decided that if I could complete the Wipro full marathon in 4hours 45 minutes, this should not be an issue either.

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Now came the next challenge – how should I go about training? I’m primarily a fitness trainer who wants to be proficient at all sports. I knew I couldn’t sacrifice the gym (check), running? (Definitely check), swimming? (Maybe once in two weeks – check), biking? (I love cycling, so yes – check that too). With further help from my running partner ‘Barefoot’ Srikant, we managed to log in a 50k one month before the race. So my training schedule consisted of a minimum of 42km running per week, 60 to 100 km of cycling per week, two or three days at the gym for a triathlon – designed – workout and swimming once in two weeks. I couldn’t remember when I had last put in so much of blood and sweat into exercise – probably only in my college days in 2002? Thanking God for my stamina and muscle memory, I analyzed myself. I knew I was in no shape to win a 50k race. But to complete it within the 7 hour cut off mark? Yeah – seems ‘doable’.

I had never been to a race this big and hence the need for an inventory. Whenever I had free time between patients, I used to think about what I needed for this race. I didn’t think I needed much, except for a sleeping mat, bedsheets, pillow, torchlight, running gear, water and pre – & post – workout nutrition. Drenched in ego of running marathons for the past three years(a total of more than 18 races), I never bothered to write down what I needed and hence – forgot the energy bars.

The 6th of August came up pretty quickly and it was time to leave. We hired a driver since I knew I would be in no shape to drive back. The Abarth Punto took us on a great journey. We stopped for tea in between.

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The foothills were beautiful and I found myself wondering – if just this looks so awesome, how much more beauty are we going to see up at Jamunamarathur?

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We rode up well – laid roads and had a safe journey to the top all the while taking in the sight of wonderful greenery everywhere. Our destination soon arrived – St. Joseph’s School. Opposite the school was a parking area where people had pitched up cute looking tents.

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Srikant and I went into the school, located the bib counter, got our bibs from friendly, energetic volunteers and proceeded to locate a vacant classroom which we could use to sleep. We found a few empty benches, put them together, laid the sleeping mat on top – and that was that.

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Night time came, and with it the burden of mosquitoes. I was glad I had bought a huge tube of ‘odomos’ cream, which came in handy for us. Our next mission was to charge our smartphones. Since we had come ahead, we managed to find a lone plugpoint at the entrance (there were none in the classrooms). Dinner was amazing and we enjoyed a second serving of chapathi, chickpea and curd rice. Soon after, we went to bed after pinning our running bibs on our race t – shirts, but sleep refused to come, while my mind was making vain calculations as to how to run my 50k to finish in good time. Srikant was attempting the 100k race and so, I walked with him to the start point at 3AM for their flag off.

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Following this, sleep came in very short intervals and before I knew it, it was 445 AM. I made my way to the men’s bathrooms and to my dismay , saw a line of 8 people waiting in queue. After waiting my turn, then hurrying back and shifting my sleeping gear to the car, I made it to the start point at 529AM – Just one minute before the race was started.

Dawn was breaking, and I figured I didn’t need my torchlight after all, as I pushed it deeper into my satchel, tilting my cap and adjusting my coolers that were hanging on the rim of my t – shirt’s neck. It was a tough race ahead, but I wasn’t going to let it get the better of me.

I wasn’t blind to the beauty of the trail and managed to take a few shots of God’s own art.

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My usual half marathon pace is 1 km in 5 minutes and I figured it would be wiser to run at a 7 minute or 8 minute pace. Soon, I had crossed 25 km in 3 hours – now for the difficult part!

The way back was as treacherous as the way we had come – steep inclines & declines and loose stones that poked into my shoes. I resorted to the usual run – walk strategy, jogging in level areas and declines and walking up the inclines. For inclines that were too steep and needed momentum, I jogged up them slowly with all the strength I could muster.

The kind souls at the aid stations every 3km were the only ones who helped me to keep going. Soon, 34 km were completed and I had three hours left to finish in cut off time (7 hours). My mind wanted to do it, but my calves, hams and feet were begging for mercy.

I dug around in my pouch, found the Dolo (paracetamol) I had kept for emergencies – I’m sure this constituted as one! I walked at a fast pace till the pain had reduced, then went back to running – walking. I met a good doctor from CMC medical college, Vellore on the way, and he inspired me to run faster. Dr. Henry was 46 years old, and was apparently running much better than I was when we reached 38 km.

The trail soon turned into roads and I thanked the Lord for not allowing my feet to be poked anymore. The ice compresses at the aid stations were like heaven, that we rushed to, every three kilometres. However much salt and sugar we took, we ended up feeling dehydrated at the end of every 3km. We couldn’t afford to drink too much water either – as a heavy tummy will interfere with running.

Soon we had crossed 42 km(full marathon distance) in 5 hours 15 minutes. We pressed on, and soon enough, the pains were back again. As a doctor, I knew it would be highly irresponsible of me to pop another Dolo, so I resorted to walk this one out. Even as I walked I crossed many who had overtaken me previously. I tried the 100 steps walk and 100 steps run technique but even that failed me in the last kilometre.

As I struggled into the school’s ground entrance, I somehow found the energy to push myself again. The result was a trot, but enough to get me over the finish line in 6 hours & 20 minutes, well within the cut off time of 7 hours, amidst cheers from volunteers, audience and other participants. I was immediately given the medal I deserved and sent to the recuperation area. After a few warm down movements and stretches, I made for the aid station, gave myself an ice compress, letting the cold water run down my hair, neck and parched lips. By God’s grace, I’d made it and was still alive to tell the tale.

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After a bath, I left this wonderful place rather reluctantly. I had witnessed the beauty of nature and the most difficult run of my life – worse than my 21k in Leh and my 42k Wipro in Chennai. We had lunch on the way back and were soon home.

As I sit in my clinic during my free hours, writing this blog, I still feel a remnant of the pain in my legs, and that doesn’t make me wince anymore. So, what’s next? The 75k?

The Fiat Abarth Punto – Budget Sports Car?

I was skeptical while I watched my beloved Maruti Ritz drive away. The Fiat Abarth Punto that was to replace my Maruti would arrive within the next two days, thanks to an amazing exchange offer from Fiat CAI, Coimbatore. The Punto Abarth, being the car that it is, is not available at all Fiat outlets.

Moving to flashback mode:

Rewinding to one week back: Hailing from Trichy, Tamilnadu, India, I watched out for the Punto Abarth at Fiat showrooms for three successive months, then visited ashowroom personally, only to be told that it might not arrive in Trichy. The next step? A call to Coimbatore from one of the Fiat representatives in Trichy, helped me to take the next step to book the car from 200 plus kilometers away. For all those who do not know what ‘Abarth’ is, it is the same for Fiat, as ‘AMG’ is, for ‘Mercedes’.  In other words, ‘Abarth’ is the performance division of Fiat. The test drive vehicle soon arrived – it was white, with red stripes, not my favourite combo of colours, but all that took a backseat when I drove it – the result of which, made me finalize my decision to part with my Ritz.

 

Fast – forward to present time: though I continue to harbour fond memories of my smooth Maruti Ritz, the Fiat Abarth Punto has now definitely taken the main rank.

THE EXTERIOR:

In shining black armor, with red stripes, with scorpion logos on the roof, alloy wheels and abarth badges, the car exudes Italian taste and design, which is literally mouth – watering for car enthusiasts who spend a huge chunk of their wallets modifying their cars to look this way, after getting bored of their stock versions.

The alloy wheels sport 195/55 R16 tyres, which may be disappointing for enthusiasts who like wider tyres. Research and feedback from the staff at Fiat reveal safe exchange for 205 section tyres, for the same alloys. So, if you own an Abarth or a plain Punto, you now know what is safe for these alloys to work. What may spoil the ‘race – car – appeal’ is the massive gap in the wheel arches. Though the ride height has been dropped by a huge 30mm to 155mm its’ a real shame because there’s still too much blank space above the tyres. Its’ better in a way though, because reducing it further would make the underbody vulnerable on Indian roads.

The lights on the bumpers, with surrounding red stripes look elegant and pronounces the presence of the already sporty car. The exhaust pipe, sticks out a little bit, and may be a negative for some, though I really don’t care much for it.

Brands such as Fiat, Ford and Volkswagen celebrate the solidity of their cars, and the Abarth Punto lives up to the reputation. After being used to Marutis, the doors feel as heavy as a battle tank’s. The reassuring thud on closing the doors, and the warning when not closing them properly, further ensure you have a safe drive.

 

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THE ENGINE:

The  4 cylinder, twin-cam 1.4-litre engine has a turbo mashed into it to elevate… the ummm… glamour. With a peak power of 145 PS and 212Nm of peak torque, it is definitely engines like these that shows us what the ‘Fiat’ legacy is truly capable of producing.

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THE INTERIORS:

The inside of the beast, is very much that of the humble 90 bhp Punto Evo, except for a few tweaks. The clocks in yellow, lightweight racing pedals, the Abarth logo on the steering wheel are good additions. It would have been awesome to have slightly sportier seats with a more prominent stitch and an embroidered Abarth logo to make this cabin look complete. You get similar creature comfort levels as the Punto Evo. You get air bags for both driver and for those riding shotgun.

The stereo system from Fiat is pretty good, with Bluetooth and USB functionality. Reverse parking sensors are available from Fiat, and can be installed safely. But if you are looking for rear – view cameras and electronically adjustable wing mirrors, you are out of luck.

The seating is a bit awkward, with a steering that doesn’t adjust for reach, and shifting the seat forward to get better accessibility to the pedals, may end up getting the steering in your face. It takes a few days to get the seating position in an ideal manner for long – term comfort, which may be irksome for few.

The dash is pretty cool, with regular info on distance covered, average fuel consumed per 100 kmph, etc. Steering has audio controls and features for Bluetooth connectivity to attend phone calls via the car’s audio system.

The rear seats are decent with adequate leg room, but could have done superbly with airbags.

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The boot sports a capacity of 280 L, which is higher than the Maruti Ritz’s capacity of 236 L and the Maruti Swift’s hilarious 204 L. This car also comes with foldable rear seats to accommodate more luggage, just as with the Marutis.

Maruti, Honda and Hyundai users may be disappointed with the lesser no. of cubbyholes and practical utilities in the cockpit. But then, bear in mind, if you are thinking of buying this car, you have to get rid of the ‘practical mindset’. This car is purely for the enthusiast, and not for people who like driving fancy cars with gadgets at a budget rate.

THE DRIVE:

But forget all that. We all know why you are reading this article. How does the beast ride? How does it fare on the road? Does it perform like a budget sports car, or just like a fast peppy car that ‘economical’ brands build?

The key, offers facilities for central locking, unlocking and also for opening the boot. For someone who had a humble Ritz, the key looks pretty stylish to me, especially with the cute Abarth logo on it.

I start the engine, and am surprised, though not totally disappointed with the refined note, rather than the expected roar from a 145 bhp beast. Most racers would complain sorely about this, but I personally prefer riding in a car that will surprise others with its performance, rather than the noise from the engine. You know the proverb – “Empty vessels, make more..” – you get the drift.

The transmission, is thankfully manual, and responds well, but feels a bit rubbery with longer throws, to which one can get adapted with time.

The car moves forward pretty quickly in first gear, and for those who are used to slower hatchbacks, this may be a disadvantage when driving in traffic. Exercise caution – keep your foot readily hovering near the brake pedal. Slot the car into second gear, and you can sense mild turbo lag up to 1800 rpm, after which it rockets forward, putting all other hatchbacks within the 10 lakh range to shame.

Though Fiat claims an 8.8 second climb to 100 kmph from 0, my drives so far have best produced a decent 9.45 second ascent, to the peak, which is the best among all the budget hatchbacks at present. The Apollo Alnac tyres hold surprisingly well, with front wheels scrabbling to put all the power and torque down. If you are going to be drag racing, do not be overwhelmed when you hear the tyres screeching for grip, when you take off from a standstill on the runway!

The short, lower gears offer no let – up in power, thanks to the well spinning turbo. The 6,500rpm rev limit comes up in no time and each upshift placed correctly, takes you to powerband nirvana. The car easily touches 170 kmph on highways with relatively less traffic.

The steering is nothing short of amazing. From the moment you grip the wheel, you know you are in safe hands – as long as you keep your presence of mind, and concentrate on driving! The absence of traction control, puts the car entirely at the driver’s hands – this is not at all worrying, since the car grips the road well, and takes each turn with grace and precision, without giving any feel of insecurity. Though there is a bit of under – steer due to the massive amount of torque, this can be avoided by braking early, lowering the power while approaching the turn, then accelerating through it, while gripping the corner. Following the above tip, will give you excellent results, especially in winding ghat roads.

The brakes are absolutely smashing, and even bring the car to  a safe standstill from speeds as high as 140 kmph.

MILEAGE: If you are thinking of buying any hot hatch, you should probably ignore this factor. BUT, the Abarth performs surprisingly well, delivering as much as 11 to 13 kmpL. This is possible, because the car can potter around at 40 kmph even in fourth gear, and shifting to fifth gear for extended 50 kmph drives gives even better results.

PRICING & SPECS:

The car costs RS. 10 lakhs plus, on road and is available only as a singular model with petrol version.

Engine

Fuel Petrol
Installation Front, transverse
Type 4-cyl, in-line, 1368cc DOHC turbo-petrol
Power 143bhp at 5500 rpm
Torque 21.57kgm at 2000-4000rpm

Transmission

Type Front wheel-drive
Gearbox 5-speed manual

Dimensions

Length 3989 mm
Width 1687 mm
Height 1505 mm
Wheel base 2510 mm
Ground clearance 155 mm

Chassis & Body

Construction Four door hatchback, monocoque
Wheels 16-inch alloy
Tyres 195/55 R16

Suspension

Front Independent, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Rear torsion beam, stabilizer bar

Brakes

Front Disc
Rear Disc
Anti-lock Yes

CONCLUSION: This car is definitely a sportscar, well within the budget range. Those who say that its’ too expensive for a hatchback, probably have not driven it.

WHO IS THIS CAR FOR?

  • THE DRIVING ENTHUSIAST
  • Those who want to compete with the likes of BMWs and Audis, but are cut off by a budget of 20 lakhs
  • Those who earn enough money to pay for petrol three or four times a month, without needing to own a fuel bunk.
  • Those who are interested more in driving than additional car gadgets and accessories.
  • Those who look for adrenaline rather than practicality.

Review for ‘Adidas Adistar Boost’

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INTRO

Before getting into details, let me intro myself to those who are new to my blog. I’m Dr. Vinod Nathaniel – profession being ophthalmology, and my first love being – fitness! Over the past twelve years, I have packed on pounds of muscle, shed loads of fat, ran sprints, long distance events, and have also given my share to bodybuilding and weight – lifting competitions. However, since I used to be a state – level swimmer since age 3, I realized that as I grew older, I needed to shift back to my athletic base. So here I ‘ am, back into long – distance running (though I badly miss lifting weights at the gym). My love for branded shoes started six years ago, and I ‘ve had my share of Adidas, Nike and New Balance. However, I stumbled upon something new from one of the above brands a few weeks back, that has taken my running world by storm, and here I’am to tell you about my fascinating tale.

Two months ago, when I was researching running shoes, just like I thoroughly go through everything I purchase from features to reviews, I came across two awesome professional running shoes that caught my eye. One was the ‘Nike Flyknit – Lunar’, and the other – (yeah, you guessed it) was the ‘Adidas Adizero Boost’. I had the hardest time of my life choosing between the two, and after much thought, I went for the Adidas.

Following were the shoes’ basic stats

(courtesy: https://www.runnersworld.com)

Weight: 11.8 oz.
Profile (Heel): 33.0 mm
Profile (Forefoot): 23.7 mm
Drop from heel to forefoot: 9.3 mm

Claims:

Features & Benefits:
  • Revolutionary new midsole: Designed to stay the same density from 1 mile to 600 miles and on
  • Seamless techfit upper: Maximizes comfort while reducing potential irritation on top of the foot
  • GEOFIT collar: Allows for a more secure yet softer feel around the ankle and Achilles during the running gait cycle
  • Dual TORSION SYSTEM: Provides stability and better surface adaptation through midfoot phase of gait cycle
  • FORMOTION: Freely moving heel system that provides a much smoother, balanced and natural touchdown
  • PRO-MODERATOR skin on the medial side: Additional guidance throughout the gait cycle and eliminates the risk of midfoot irritation
  • Boost technology: Unique energy capsules energizes your running stride for more efficiency independent from the temperature and ensures maximum comfort

My story with the ‘Adistar’ BOOST:

When I walked into my local Adidas sports store and asked for a ‘Boost’, the dealer gaped as if it were a dream come true that someone in Salem, Tamilnadu was willing to buy this model. I asked for the more economic version ‘Energy Boost’ first, but after wearing them and comparing them with the ‘Adistar Boost’ I realized the awesomeness of the latter, as it possessed not just cushioning like the ‘Energy’ version, but was also extremely light weight (This surprised me ‘cos cushioned shoes are usually on the heavier side).

I tried my light weight ‘New Balance’ on one foot and the slightly heavier but cushioned ‘Adistar Boost’ on the other, and tried a mild jog inside the shop. Though I didn’t notice a huge difference, I did notice a certain softness in the way my ‘Boost’ – clad – foot landed. I knew I was smitten, and I got the shoes for a good deal of Rs. 14k, which was, according to most of my friends, on the heavier side – but is that statement really true? Lets find out.

As I mentioned in a previous article on how to select shoes, you have to choose the right shoe depending on how your foot lands (foot strike), how your ankle joint moves (over – pronator/supinator) and what kind of event you ‘re going to participate in the most. The ‘Boost’ is for the ‘neutral’ runner, who exhibits mild pronation (inward ankle turning), but lands with a midfoot – to – heel – strike. The most beautiful thing about this shoe is you can use it for any kind of long – distance – running over most terrains (because of the cushioning). Be aware though all you chronic trail – runners, if you are doing all or most of your running on trails, you might want to get a shoe that is more directed toward trails.

Day 1

My initial experience with these babies was on the treadmill. I had just wasted my joints two days ago running 15 km with my ‘New Balance’ shoes at a 5 min/km pace, and I didn’t want to try anything too strenuous. I couldn’t wait to try on these shoes for a short 5k run on the tread. Choosing a relaxed pace, I jogged, and half – way through, I realized I wasn’t wearing a knee – band!! I looked back down to make sure, and sure enough, my knees were bare, and I had forgotten my knee band (without which I would’ve definitely obtained knee or shin pain with other shoes). I also felt a little energetic during the run, and even after. Wondering whether it had something to do with the heavy price I had paid for the shoes, (which affected my psyche into thinking about positive effects) I set aside my half – baked conclusions, and decided to put these shoes to a harder test two days later.

Day 4

Two days flew by, and to my dismay, I had left behind my knee – band (again!). Deciding I had no other option, I went ahead and set a 10 km target on the tread, and started to run at a 5 min/km pace. After running around 5 km I decided to attempt to adapt a running style similar to the one I used with my previous ‘New Balance’ mixing up a very mild intentional pronation of the ankle. In just three minutes I realized this was a drastic mistake since the shoe was definitely built to take up shock to your body in a different way. I quickly returned to a neutral running style, and everything came back to normal. As I ran I pondered about the ‘springy’ effect all the writers online kept bragging about – I didn’t notice much; maybe my imagination? I finished at a decent time that day, not unlike any normal timing with my older shoes. The only thing that went in favor of these babies was that I had absolutely no knee pain whatsoever.

Day 8

The final test for the ‘Adistar Boost’ was today, when I subjected it to maximum pounding on pavement in the streets of Salem, on the very course where our oncoming ‘Auro 5 K for Glaucoma Awareness’ was going to be held on March 16th. This was not just a run to scout the route, but to also put these shoes through their pace and to see what these so -called professional shoes could do that my older ones couldn’t. After a warm – up walk and run for 1.5 km, I was all set and met Mohan (my constant ‘Marathon – companion’) at Mahatma Gandhi Stadium, Salem. Together we started running, immediately proceeding to a speed of 10 kmph, then rapidly accelerating to 12 kmph, then 13 kmph. At a speed of ten, these shoes were just like any other. But wow, I soon realized the more effort I put into it, the harder these shoes tried to return the energy I spent!

Soon I was surging ahead, and by the end of 3 km, Mohan started to fall behind. I realized I had dropped my pace unknowingly, and increased it back to 13 kmph, and there was the same wonderful ‘BOOST’ effect, which propelled me forward. It was as if the shoes knew I was trying to go faster, and gave me the extra ‘oomph’ I needed at a slightly lesser amount of energy. Added to this, was the fact that there was no knee or any kind of joint – pain whatsoever. I finished the 6 km run and looked at my mobile app – I had completed the 6k run in 28 minutes with just moderate effort.

How did the shoe FEEL?

The ‘Adistar Boost’ has some really nice cushioning, and they’re pretty light, and responsive. They feel a tad narrow when I put them on, but I don’t notice any ‘narrowness’ – feeling when I’m running. In fact, the ‘upper’ of the shoe sits snugly around my foot, and the whole shoe fits perfectly, while providing just the right toe – space.

Important tip:

Always get a half – size bigger ‘Adistar Boost’ than your average sports shoe. If you normally wear 8 1/2, then get a size 9 ‘Adistar Boost’ for the right fit.

The price factor:

To answer another important question: ARE THESE SHOES WORTH IT?

If you belong to points 1.,2., and 5.,

(given below in the criteria – for – shoe – selection under conclusion)

these are the best shoes that money can buy. Whereas there are good shoes for a slightly lesser price range, if you are interested in getting the ‘Boost’ technology for the pounding that you give your feet, I’d suggest you invest in one of the ‘BOOST’ versions for a professional experience.

WHY is Adidas charging so much for a pair of shoes?

For running shoes, a higher price is usually indicative of higher quality. A higher price is sometimes a result of the extensive research that goes into the manufacturer’s trademark technology. Constant improvements in the material used for shoe construction, the aerodynamics of the shoe design, and the development of durable soles with adequate cushioning power provide benefits to runners and may make higher costs seem worthwhile. However, for buyers who have a tight budget, overstock or outlet stores with lower prices may be a better option than traditional shoe stores or department stores.

CONCLUSION:

Who should NOT buy these shoes?

1. Athletes who take part in sprinting events/ 800 m/ 1500 m events

2. Light weight athletes who take part in 5k/10k (rarely even 21k)

3. Those who are on a tight budget.

Criteria for selecting the ‘Adidas Adistar Boost’:

1. Slightly average to heavy – weight athletes who compete in long – distance – events (5k or higher) at least four to five times a year.

2. Those who love running, but have their share of joint – issues.

3. All professional marathon runners with a neutral strike/movement

4. ‘Heel strikers’ who need proper cushioning in the rear compartment

And the last but most important:

5. A well – sized – wallet /bank – balance/ loving friends (courtesy goes to Mom for my shoes)

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FOR THOSE WHO ARE NOT TOO THRILLED WITH THE 14 K RUPEE – PRICE RANGE, TRY OUT SHOES THAT WORK VERY SIMILAR TO THE ‘ADISTAR BOOST’, USING THE LIST IN THIS LINK:

http://www.runnersworld.com/shoemine/results?gender=M&manufacturer=114931&model=159516

HERE’S TO ALL YOUR ENDEAVORS!

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Cheerio now, I got to go. Will keep you guys updated about the upcoming Auro 5 K Run on March 16th!