Monday, March 15, 2010

Land between the lakes - 50 mile Ultra


This was the fourth race in the list of races that I signed up for, at one shot, couple of weeks back. After successfully completing the Frost bite half marathon, Mercedes Benz Marathon and Black Warrior 50K, it was time to conqueror the last one which was a mighty giant by itself and it appeared as if it’s just waiting to devour me. It's a good thing sometimes to commit yourself to something without much planning.
On our way to LBL:
Amanda, Taylor, Diane, Kim, Jeff, Harrah and I headed towards Kentucky after work on Friday evening. The drive was really pleasant with occasional showers. I was so tired that I slept through the whole drive. The cabin that Diane got for us was really gorgeous.
(View from our cabin)

We dropped our stuff and headed to collect our race packets and then to Pattis 1880s Settlement, a local restaurant. The food was really delicious but I really liked their “Flower Pot Bread”.

Diane and I had signed up for 50 miles while the rest decided to run 60k, Marathon and Half Marathon. I still wasn’t sure about the massive task that was waiting for me the next day. We headed to our cabin and called it a night.

Race day morning:
I hate race day mornings. That’s when you get, “what the hell am I doing here, wish I could just get more sleep”, such thoughts. Hastily I pulled myself from bed and grabbed a bagel and coffee. It was still cold outside but being just a few yards from the start line, we took our own to time to get there. Little did I knew about the the pain that I was about to go through and that I won’t be returning to the cabin until evening for sure.
Off we started:
Jeff’s advice was constantly ringing on my head, “Keep up the pace, have a constant steady pace”. 50 miles, 80.5 kms, a 4 loop course, elevation change of about 4000’ and the course filled with sections containing exposed roots and rocks. It was single track trail and the first loop was pretty much crowded with half marathon runners. The first loop of the race went great and also the density of runners started reducing. This particular race being a 4 loop course, the mile markers had three different distances, one for each loop. It’s bliss to not have the mile markers sometimes.
Cut-off:
This race also had a cut off where I had to start the fourth loop by 1:45PM. It was 1:15PM already and I still had about 4 miles to the start of the 4th loop. I better meet the cut off else I am out of the race. Either I can push myself and make the cut off or choose to go home by running the 60K. I wasn’t ready to settle down for the 60K for sure. I ran an 8 min/mile pace. 60K runners on my were really co-operative and let way for me on the trail. Pushed myself really hard for the last few yards and made the cut-off with still about 3 mins left. By this time I was lying down flat on the paved road looking at the sky. The volunteers were really helpful and got me some supplies.
The last loop:

Now that I have met the cut-off the volunteers mentioned that I am good to start the final loop and finish the race. Pain unbearable and was so very sore. Lying down for long wasn’t a good option. After devouring two bananas, picked up a can of Coke and started the fourth loop. 7 hours into the race and still to go. The trail and mile markers started looking familiar, of course I ran though them three times by now. My Achilles and Ham strings were having some trouble. I could see an evident swelling near the arch of my left feet. A pain as if someone is piercing with a needle.
I haven't seen a single runner in a long time. It was just silence. It started getting cloudy and the wind was really chill. The worst I expected, rain! It poured out. I would have enjoyed running in the rain any other day but definitely not today. The trails started getting slippery and I fell probably a dozen times. Every step that I took either got me to slide or to fall down face off. I was completely covered in mud from head to toe. Every step felt like I was stepping on pieces of broken glass. I kept pushing myself until the road came to my view which means I am just 4-5 miles away from the finish line.
The final stretch:
The pain was uncontrollable and my body was screaming to stop but my mind was constantly pushing. I can’t give up now. The goal is within reach and in fact it’s almost there. The last few miles during a marathon or ultra definitely break any runner and it my case and it shattered me to million pieces. Almost 10 hours in to the race and still going. I could hardly feel my lower body. Couple of tears rolled down my cheeks when I hit the road but the heavy downpour didn’t make it evident for those who were supporting me. Kim, Amanda and Diane drove by to cheer me up.
A long stretch of road to run and 2 miles seemed like an eternity. I tried to forcing myself to think of the moment of crossing the finish line, for having a 50 mile ultra, buckle being handed over to me, bragging about my finish with my friends, etc. As much as I was trying to motivate myself, on the other side, my body was waging a war, to put me to a full stop. I was crawling by now but when I ran through the bridge, I knew that the finish line isn’t too far. Finally the intersection came in sight and I could vaguely see the finish time clock. Diane accompanied me the last few yards. My friends, runners and volunteers were cheering me up. Pain? what pain, I felt nothing, absolutely nothing. A few long leaps and I crossed the finish line. The RD awarded me the Belt Buckle. My first ultra buckle, my first 50 Mile run.

I was totally out of control the new few minutes and I never thought this would happen to me. While Diane hugged me to wish for my success, tears started flooding my eyes to the point that I started crying almost like a baby. Why, I don’t know. Something that just happened involuntarily and I just couldn’t control it, not a bit. This has never happened before. I was really proud of my success. You’ll know whether you can accomplish a feat or not only if you attempt to try in the first place and I was glad to know that it was something I could do and something I did.
Time to recover:
Uncle Jeff congratulated me with his warm hugs as soon as I entered the cabin and handed me a glass Chardonnay to celebrate. Hot shower felt heaven. My wounds started surfacing which was hiding under the dirt all day. After shower it was more food, more wine and of course, more Tylenol. Next day, taking every step was pain unbearable but it comes with the territory and I have no eternity left to recover, why because I’ll have to get ready for my ‘Oak Mountain 50K’ Ultra marathon.

5 comments:

Guru said...

Congrats da.It is a great achievement da. Keep Running!!! Atleast once i will do a half marathon , you inspired me so much. I can realize ur Body vs Mind struggle and finally u overcome that.

Navin Sadarangani said...

Good stuff dude. 50 miles is a huge amount of miles and you've been clogging runs one after the other, this one must have definitely not been easy taking all this into consideration. Kudos dude!

Anandaraj Ramalingam said...

Amazing one. A good inspiration to novice like me....Amazing, i can feel what you have undergone and achieved.

Sky is the limit mate!!

Karthik Padmanabhan said...

Totally Awesome Naresh! I'm a bit speechless right now and can't imagine how that finish must have felt like. Terrific and keep going!

Jason Hibbs said...

Well...I think you are INSANE! Just kidding...but you do have to be a little crazy to run in an insane event! Congrats! I'm truly amazed at what you've achieved. I would struggle with just one mile. I get out of breath just walking outside to check my mail!