Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Kaveri Trail Marathon 2011 - Weather Benign

Well, Kaveri Trail Half Marathon bloodied me last year, since it was my first ever trail marathon and I cramped badly from 13 kms onwards and came home battled and bruised in 2.35 hours. That was last year, 2010. So I was determined to go back to the Kaveri trail and do a better performance than last year. It was not a revenge but this is what all marathoners do, I believe, when they don’t get a good performance in a particular track, they go back and try to do better.

With that intention in mind of doing better this year, I dutifully registered for the Kaveri trail marathon as soon as it opened. But before the registrations itself, we had done the group train bookings for more than 10 persons from Mumbai There is a great camaraderie in travelling together for marathons, as I have experienced since last year. We get to exchange notes with other runners during the journey and believe me all we runners talk about during the train and air journeys is nothing but running all the time. In Hyderabad, we had Kavin as our official host being a telugu spokesman for the group. In Bangalore and Mysore we were lucky to have Srivatsan and Vikas as our language hosts. More of that later.

In August, I had done the Hyderabad half marathon in a time of 2.27 hours in a beast of a course. Since I knew the Kaveri trail I was sort of mentally prepared as to what to expect this year from the trail. The trail remained the same, only the weather behaved better this year compared to last year. I wanted to do better than last year’s time of 2.35 hours, no other expectations of a personal best half marathon.

The train group dwindled to about five members being myself, Anand, Milton, Hari & Manoj. Srivatsan & Bhasker were flying separately. The 24 hour train journey took its toll on us despite having a third a/c accommodation. The train from Bangalore to Mysore however was a beautiful journey, only 2 hours, comfortable seating and quality food was served in the Shatabdi. Srivatsan joined us at Bangalore and immediately made us comfortable with his language skills in Kannada, talking and negotiating everywhere. At Bangalore station, we also met facebooker Panneer Selvam, he was doing a full marathon.

Since we were arriving into Mysore by mid-day on Saturday and the bib collection was at the Young Island resort that day itself, I had requested Ashwin to help us out somehow and he graciously agreed to keep our bibs at the resort on the race day itself. However, Vikas, a local Mysore boy was also travelling to Mysore from his work arrangements that day and he readily agreed to collect our bibs from the resort. He was also running a 10km at Kaveri, so that was indeed a great help as we were saved the tiring journey to the resort on the Saturday. It was a great help to have the bibs and chips on Saturday itself as we were able to pin the bibs on the tees and also fix the chips on our running shoes, saving last minute botheration at the race venue. He also invited us to his house to be his guest. Later that evening, we went to the famous Dasaprakash restaurant and gorged on some delicious local snacks. Besides, Anand & Bhasker made provisions for post race tipple. The dinner at Ginger hotel was also quite sumptuous and delicious.

We had, again through the help of Vikas, arranged a vehicle to pick us from the Ginger in the early hours on Sunday in order to take us to the venue and bring us after the run and also ferry us to the Mysore railway station. So everything was in place for the race day.

Since all of us had already tied the bibs to the tees and fixed the chips on our shoes, we decided to leave the hotel for the race venue at 5.00 a.m. The race venue was about 12 kms from the hotel. Bhasker’s event the full marathon was to start at 6.15 a.m. followed by the half marathon at 6.45 a.m. We reached the venue comfortably ahead of the race time and set about meeting other runners from Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and other places, notable being Ashok Nath, Suneela Katikala, Suresh KP, Sujit Kolke, Pramod Pai, Rupal Shah etc.

Bhasker set off with other full marathoners exactly at 6.15 a.m. to the sound of a conch horn. While the half marathoners gathered nervously at the start, many eyes were looking upwards at the skies to detect any signs of impending harsh sun and also probably seeking the blessings from the upper reaches for a safe and comfortable marathon. The half marathon started exactly at 6.45 a.m. with the sub-2 hour runners positioned ahead of the others.

I started cautiously by ensuring proper footing at the start and also not stumbling upon other runners. A couple of runners badly twisted their ankles in their anxiety to get going which made me nervous. I was coming out a bad ankle week with only one run during the week on Wednesday, a gingerly done 4 kms and so was testing the ankles to gauge their performance. Feeling comfortable I upped the pace after the initial kilometer. Saw Srivatsan surge ahead as also Unmesh & Sujit who was wearing a VFF. Around 3 kms I started developing stomach cramps which was unusual because I had never experienced this before and that too so early in the race. I thought back to what I had eaten, whether it was too much and started weighing the reasons for abdominal cramps. Then I immediately cut the pace and started breathing deeply and kept at it for about 3 kilometers during which time the cramps slowly went away.

The sun mercifully kept away during the initial stages and feeling the cap which I was wearing to be more of a hindrance to me, I immediately removed the cap and hooked it around my right hand which was also holding the water bottle. I was taking a swig of water at each kilometer and more also in between because there were plenty of water stations provided by RFL along the route. Each station was also equipped with bananas, oranges, biscuits, and medical aid.

I reached 9 kilometers comfortably during which time the water canal was on the left side of the runners. At 9 kilometers, there was a short bridge and a gradual climb but with full of gravel stones so one had to be careful at this stage because the full marathoners and also some of the half marathoners were returning back from the 10.55 kilometers mark. After 9 kilometers the canal came on the right hand side of the runners, but it was shorter in width than on the left hand side.

I reached the turn off point at 10.55 kilometers comfortably and turned without any stoppage whatsoever feeling strong. Started the return journey feeling strong and navigated the downhill at after 11.0 kilometers carefully. From 11.0 to about 14.0 kilometers I was going very strong by overtaking other runners and getting into a ritual of reining in the runner just ahead of me and so on I overtook many runners. Also during this stage, I was careful because last year at this point, the calf cramps started hurting me badly. Luckily the sun was still behind the clouds though the humidity was a factor. For Mumbai runners humidity was not a threat as we are used to running in extreme humidity.

In the meantime came across runners from RFL, DM & Facebook on the opposite sides so hollered out to Sahine, Gopal, Bhasker, Milton, Panneer Selvam and others. Srivatsan was pacing himself just behind Milton, so I thought there is going to be an interesting battle between the two.

From 14.0 kilometers onwards, I thought I should take it easy until 18.0 kilometers and then give it all out effort. In hindsight I feel that I should have kept the momentum going at this stage. The sun started peeping out at around 18 kilometers but would immediately go away behind the clouds probably doing recompense for its last year’s brutality. At 14 kilometers Bhasker passed me on his second leg and despite my hollering out, he was in a trance like state, determination furiously writ large on his face. So much was his focus that he missed out all our cheering and encouragement at the second lap.

The going became slow and steady in the last 3 kilometers and started pushing it through in the last couple of kilometers to come home in a time of 2.25.22 hours. The time was an improvement of 10 minutes over last year’s time.

Met Ashwin Bala at the mat followed by Arvind Bharati who was doing the announcements. Gracefully acknowledged the medal hung around my neck by a volunteer.

Before me the stalwarts Milton Frank, Srivatsan, Anand, Unmesh had already arrived. So we waited for Bhasker to arrive and since we were expecting him to come in less than four hours, Srivatsan & Anand took off their shoes and Milton with his shoes went into the track to bring him home. They met him at 500 metres distance, a little disoriented from his fall at 41 kilometers due to wrong direction given by a local. But the champ that he is, Bhasker immediately put stride in his legs and sprinted down to a first position in the veteran category in a time of 3.57.58 hours. Earlier Milton frank was declared the third place winner in the men’s veteran half marathon. Later on, Rupal Shah came in fourth in the women’s half marathon in veteran category.

So, RFL Mumbai runners again struck gold at a running event and this is becoming like a welcome habit these days. After the fantastic show at Hyderabad, this was another superlative performance at Kaveri Trail Marathon.

After tending to Bhasker’s bruises, we all dutifully went to the Young Island resort to have our post race carbo loading as well as collect the prizes for the podium finishers. Prize collected to a tumultuous applause and brunch taken, we headed back to the Ginger to refresh ourselves and indulge in the post race tipple.

All of us were travelling to Bangalore in the same Shatabdi train before dispersing our different ways by air or train or staying back. Bhasker was in his elements during the train journey and provided ample entertainment to the passengers as well as the ticket checkers who were in splits at his repartees.

Myself and Milton travelled together in the Udyan Express accompanied by a brick kiln distributor and a garment trader. While the brick guy was in shudh Hindi, the garment trader improved his English and Milton his Hindi by conversing with each other.

The most crucial element in this year’s event was the benign weather at least for the half marathoners. The full marathoners did bear the brunt of sun’s fury for some time, but then again it was playing hide and seek behind the clouds.

The arrangements by RFL were fantastic as usual with ample food & water counters, timely on the dot start, timely prize distribution etc. Kudos to A3 gang of Arvind Krishnan, Arvind Bharati, Ashwin Bala along with Nikhil and his team for this superb organization.

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