I COULDN’T SEE ANYTHING INSIDE HER EYE. Her other eye showed signs of severe Non Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy which meant she needed prophylactic green laser in the said right eye.
The left eye wherein no view was possible presumably had vitreous hemorrhage which meant the abnormal vessels from her retina had already bled out, which in turn meant it would be impossible to administer laser at present. We would need to wait for the blood to clear, or try injections to absorb the bleeding vessels.
Either way, she had only a 50 % chance of good vision. I explained her the prognosis and she was devastated. “If only someone had told this to me so clearly previously”, she groaned as she left.
THIS BRINGS US TO THE LAST DAY OF OUR ADVENTURE FOR AWARENESS OF THIS DEADLY EYE DISEASE.
The alarm rang with resounding finality signifying the last day of the 5 day challenge. The “Gates of Hell Ultra Triathlon” definitely had brought out the best in all of us.
Over the past few days, I had swam 15km and cycled 940km. Today would be the last and final day.
I checked my knee which I had banged on the platform – there was some tenderness on the medial aspect over a 3mm diameter area. I yawned and checked the time – it was 345am. The support crew would arrive in fifteen minutes. I rushed and got ready.
I emptied the paper bags with ten bananas and oranges into the car, then packed the ice bag with pre refrigerated ice packs before placing fruit juice cartons and energy drinks inside it.
The crew had arrived and by the time everything was ready it was 425am. I wished Balaji, Ajay and Jeeva a very good morning and they took a video marking the start of the last event of the challenge.
Ajay and Balaji, both accomplished 10km runners finishing in sub 40 minutes timing, would accompany me for twenty km, taking turns to be with me until I had completed the full distance.
The injured knee meant I could not do 120km as planned. Hence I decided to try 100km instead and reduce further if necessary. The forecast was rain on and off and I estimated around an hour of the same. I decided to cover 7km each hour and planned a suitable cut off for the same. If 100km was the target distance, cut off would be around 14 hours.
I limped for a while then decided to try jogging on and off. With Ajay by my side, encouraging me, we set off at 8 pace per km. We had tea and distributed eye awareness pamphlets at the 7th km.
Focusing on running, I managed to localise the pain in a pinpoint area so that it did not flare – up. It however returned with vengeance whenever I sat down to rest and got up from a seated position. The core of the matter was, as long as I was running, I was 95% pain free – and that’s just who I am.
Before we knew it we had covered 23km and reached Kallanai.
We had another cup of great tea here and proceeded forward. My knee was much better now and we were keeping a steady pace of 6:30 per km or less.
We took breaks every 4km to sip water and have fruits. Balaji took over from Ajay and he accompanied me till our breakfast point here.
We soon reached Thiruvaiyaru in 3 hours and had lunch (which wasn’t actually lunch but halwa and coffee, under Ajay’s recommendation). The rain had started by then and it was a great combination – being wet, enjoying the aroma of sweet and coffee, while looking out into the busy street at regular traffic going about their busy Monday jobs.
En route to Kabisthalam, we came across a friendly dog which gave us company rather than chasing us.
Running in the rain was an awesome experience by itself. The pain was forgotten with the cool feel of water drops on our faces which came complimentary with a gentle breeze.
We were getting closer and closer to Kumbakonam, which was 30km ahead of Gangaikonda Chozhapuram (our initial destination)
Kabisthalam welcomed us with coffee at Balaji’s sister’s and a great stretching a.k.a chiropractic session courtesy of Balaji. The coffee was a great boost, which was served with egg puffs though I tried telling her we may be too comfortable to run with puffs inside our raging tummies.
Back to my calculations again, I estimated we had 12km to Kumbakonam. My knee was aching again and we decided to complete the run at 90km near Kumbakonam bus stand. Since we had updated the distance, the cut off time would also have to be dropped from 14 to 13 hours – which did not give us much time since it was already 415pm and we had to finish by 530pm to finish at 13 hours as planned.
Normally this would have been a cinch, but with knee pain and four days of triathlon added to the mix, maintaining even 7.5kmph was a challenge. We set off, and I tried my best to keep the pace at 5:30 or below, taking breaks every 3km.
Ajay emptied the energy drink and sprinted his last km to complete full marathon distance and got into the car. Balaji and I passed him and continued to run at 5:40 pace. It was getting difficult to breathe and I had forgotten my knee pain now. I looked at my mobile – 4km to go. Ajay gave me the other can of energy drink. Taking a swig, I set out behind Balaji as the pro continued to run at 5:20 pace.
My knee had gone numb and all I was thinking of was keeping pace with the champ. Balaji has been trying to get into the Territorial Army – and in the process had honed his skills to finish a 5km at 3:40 pace or below. Running at 5:20 seemed like a breeze for him and it was all I could do to keep up.
“Sir, just one km more sir” the 25 year old encouraged me. I nodded and kept looking ahead. I could sense all the people of the town of Kumbakonam looking at the pair of us, as Balaji’s bare feet struck the ground softly and quickly moved to the next stride.
I don’t know how he managed to run on the road riddled with potholes with his bare feet but he did, and he seemed to be running faster with every kilometer. I looked at my phone. Strava showed the distance as 89km – just 1km left!
Balaji must have realised the same, because his speed increased – he was now steadily taking me to 4:40 pace. I ignored the people staring, the regular traffic everywhere. My vision was now a tunnel – focusing on the guy in front and keeping pace with him.
And before I knew it, we had reached 90km! I slowly jogged to a halt and shook hands with Balaji, then with Ajay and Jeeva who closely followed in the support car. We took a few pictures, an awareness video, took pictures at Kumbakonam railway station, then visited a popular coffee shop.
We then left for Trichy – Balaji in a very tired state having run his highest mileage of 30km in one day. Both of them slept soundly in the back while I kept talking to Jeeva as he was driving back home. We had dinner at SRM Hotel as soon as we got back.
We arrived home at 11pm and I thanked the crew profusely – I’m pretty sure I would have managed only 70 to 80km alone.
With that we now come to an end of the 5 day Diabetic Retinopathy Triathlon a.k.a #gatesofhell . I hope the public learns about the seriousness of this condition and takes proper measures to safeguard their eyesight.
This is Vinod, signing off once again till our next adventure.
STAY HEALTHY, STAY BLESSED.