Tag Archives: ultra marathon

Tips to Follow for the race day

Mumbai Marathon is round the corner and there are many who participate in this event. Personally, 2018 would be my fifth year of running Full Marathon at Mumbai Marathon. So if you are planning to run this event (whether full or half), or any other race here are a few useful tips that you can follow on the race day. 

  1. Reaching early, a few minutes before the race

My advice would be to wake up a few minutes earlier than usual in morning and give your body a chance to fully wake up. Before a run, I give myself almost one hour to fully wake up on the race day. Please don’t arrive too late as it creates a lot of stress and chaos. (I have experienced this situation too). Most of the roads leading to the holding area are closed for vehicles. Hence, if you are getting your vehicle along please factor in the time to walk from the parking lot to the holding area. Sometimes you will find parking too far away from the venue.

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Wake up early and reach the venue early to avoid chaos. Target reaching atleast 40-45 minutes before the start. Often there are long queues outside the washroom in case if you want to visit. 

Consider taking Public Transport or you can even UBER it to the venue to avoid any form of parking related stress.

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Most races around the world have special public transport arrangements for the race day. It is the best way to travel to the start point. 

2.  Set an achievable target

Plan your race either on paper or in your mind and go as per plan. It is good to be optimistic when you are going strong in the first few km. But, don’t go too fast because there is a lot of excitement around you. Set and achievable target and stick tick to your own target.

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Stay Focused and stick to your plan. Don’t get carried away by those running around you.

 

3. Divide the entire distance of your run into a batch of few kilometers each

I love do this personally. Let’s say I am running a 42.195 km. I divide this whole distance into four 10 point something kilometers. I break my target into smaller four targets and focus on the small targeted distance at hand. Puts your stress off to a great extent. Instead of obsessing about each of the 42 kms, I divide it into segments-like 4 segments or 6 segments, whatever you are comfortable with. “That makes it more manageable mentally. 

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It helps to divide the entire distance of your run into small achievable targets. It somewhat helps the run look more manageable.

 

4. Hydrate well and do not hesitate to visit the washroom if you need to.

You sweat when you run. Hence, please hydrate well during the run drink as much water as your body needs along with taking adequate salts. Please avoid ‘not dinking water for fear of having bathroom breaks’ logic. It is not water, but the food that you eat the night before or day before will impact your bathroom situation before or during a run. My advice will be to pee as close to the race start time as possible.

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drink lots of fluids and visit the washroom as close to the race as possible

 

5. It is advisable to carry your our hydration

I carry a bottle in hand for every single marathon. Some intelligent person once told me ‘never depend on the organizers for your hydration and nutrition. Yes, you have paid the money as a registration fee, but things can go wrong on the part of the organizers too. You don’t wish to suffer for their errors, right?

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Carry your own bottle! Some intelligent person once told me ‘never depend on the organisers for your hydration and nutrition.

6. Don’t come to a complete stop when you get to the water stations.

It breaks the momentum, sometime it becomes difficult to pick up when you come to a complete halt. Try slowing down a few meters earlier when you see a water station and run at that pace till you reach the water station and then stop there.

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Slow down before coming to halt

7. The golden rule is do not try something new on the race day.

No new apparel or shoes during a marathon. The socks should be the type you wear in other races. The shoes should be something that you have done long runs in. It is not a day to experiment with a fancy new tee or shorts either. Wear something which is used even if it has holes. Also, you might get some fancy eatable on the route. Eat them only if you are used to having them on training runs. Otherwise it may lead to a bad tummy.

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Don’t try anything new on the race day! This applies to food, clothes, shoes, everything. I have run marathons in even tees and shoes with holes.

 

And Finally, Enjoy the experience. There is nothing more awesome than running in a new place or even for that matter in your own city. Just simply enjoy the experience than being too much into the run and obsessing over your time taken to finish it. Look around; soak in the surroundings, the energy, the weather. It is an experience and it feels beautiful to go through it. And at the finish line, do not forget to smile and pose.

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Don’t forget to pose for the cameras

My 17 questions to the first Indian participating in the super challenging Spartathlon 2016

 

When I started writing this blog, I thought of writing stories that have inspired me to do the stuff that I do and make me say ‘why will I do it again’. But, there are also stories about people that I have had the pleasure of knowing. It is some of these stories that I would like to unfold for many.

I really admire those who have the courage to try out something big on their own. And one such courageous person is Kieren Dsouza. I am always heard saying this, “Kieren is one of the finest ultra runners that we have in India”. And I totally mean it!!

I met him at the time when I was doing my first 100 km race in Nilgiris. Kieren had also participated in a 100 km race there and had finished it in a little over 13 hours. Killing those hills stretching over- 100 km, in 13 hours, I was massively impressed with this guy sitting on the table next to me, at Hyderabad Biryani House in Ooty.

And over the years, I have met him during many running events and have seen him grow and become better at what he already does so well. He has ran a spectrum of races from Bhatti Lakes, to Stadium run to Mont Blanc, and have done them really well!!!

In fact, very recently he finished the tough 111 km La Ultra High in a crazy time of 15 hours 30 minutes. Considering the altitude, this is bloody insane!!!

Just to give you a teaser on how this guy trains, during a training run before La Ultra High, a friend of mine Shailja Singh Sridhar was pacing him for a 60 km run on her bike and this fellow did a full marathon (42 km) on a training run in 3 hours 23 minutes. A pace many can’t imagine on the flattest of the surfaces during a fully supported actual marathon.

To me he completely redefines the perception of ultra runners being slow runners in India.

Now getting to his next event, he is participating in Spartathlon.

It is one of the few runs I aspire to do someday. And I am sure many like me want to, too.

But, currently I am so happy and proud that our Kieren will be on the start-line at Spartathlon 2016, this September.

So, what is this Spartathlon? And what is the fuss about?

This is how it is described on their website:

SPARTATHLON is a historic ultra-distance foot race that takes place in September of every year in Greece. It is one of the most difficult and satisfying ultra-distance races in the world because of its unique history and background.

But, I will tell you as a runner, you should know it is a race between Athens and Sparta over the distance of 246 km. And you have to do this distance in 36 hours- non-stop (ouch)

Now to begin to tell you what a beast of an event this Spartathlon is, well, it is one of the most difficult races to qualify for:

To qualify for Spartathlon, you have to achieve one of the following

  1. Finish a 100-km race within 10:00 hours (men) or 10:30 hours (women).
  2. Cover a distance of 120 kms (men) or 110 kms (women) in a 12-hour race. (We have seen even in our most well controlled stadium runs, with all the hydration and nutrition facilities at your beck and call this has been tough to achieve)
  3.  Finish a 100-mile race in 22:30 hours (men) or 24:00 hours (women). (oh my god, that means no sleep??? )(And kindly note: from next year -2017- on, the qualifying performance for a 100-mile race is changing to 21:00 hours for men and 22:00 hours for women)
  4.  Finish Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run within 24:00 hours (men) or 25:00 hours (women)
  5. Cover 180 kms (men) or 170 kms (women) in a 24-hour race. ( two who managed this miracle can totally apply)
  6. Finish a non-stop 200-220 km race within 29:00 hours (men) or 30:00 hours (women).
  7.  Finish UltraBalaton 2015 (221 kms) in 31:00 hours (men) or 32:00 hours (women) (note: the Ultrabalaton edition of 2014 – 212 kms is covered by criterion
  8. Finish a non-stop race longer than 220 kms or Badwater within 41:00 hours (men) or 43:00 hours (women). (Note: from next year -2017- on: the qualifying performance for a non-stop race longer than 220 kms is changing to 36:00 hours for men and 37:00 hours for women. The qualifying performance for Badwater is changing to 39:00 hours for men and 40:00 hours for women. Finally, from 2017 on, Grand Union Canal Race has its own distinctive qualifying performance of 34:00 hours for men and 35:00 hours for women)
  9. Finish Sakura Michi 250-km race in 36 hours
  10. Finish Yamaguchi 100 Hagi-O-Kan Maranic 250-km race in 42:00 hours (men) or 43:00 hours (women).
  11. Cover a distance of 280 kms (men) or 260 kms (women) in a 48-hour race. (next year’s target maybe)

*Source: Event Website

 

And you thought the qualifier was tough. Then please check out the crazy sectional cut-offs.

Check Point No Distance from Athens Final Point Closes Distance for Sector Max Time
0 – 22 81 KM 16:30 FRIDAY 81 KM 9:30 HOURS
22 – 35 124 KM 23:00 FRIDAY 43 KM 6:30 HOURS
35 – 43 148,4 KM 03:30 SATURDAY 24,5 KM 4:00 HOURS
43 – 52 172 KM 07:30 SATURDAY 23,5 KM 4:30 HOURS
52 – 60 195 KM 11:00 SATURDAY 23 KM 3:30 HOURS
60 – 75 245,3 KM 19:00 SATURDAY 50,3 KM 8:00 HOURS

*Source: Event Website

 

NOW you know why am I making a big deal out of it…

I caught up with Kieren and asked him these 17 questions that I need to know answers for before he ventures out to conquer Spartathlon:

1. Why did you choose Spartathlon?

Well, Spartathlon is one of the biggest races out there. From what I have heard, it is easily the greatest foot race on earth :), so I can’t wait to experience it.

2. When did you set your eyes on it? 

 It’s been a few years since I was aware of the run and dreamed of doing it someday. It got a little more real when I qualified last year and really real when my entry got accepted.

3. You just completed the La Ultra High 111 km challenge and that too in a record time. How was that race and how are you recovering for this next big challenge? 

 La Ultra was great, the weather was great and things pretty much moved smoothly during the run. I feel I am getting along ok. I have a couple of long runs planned in the next few weeks so I will get a better idea then.

4. Spartathlon has a very difficult cut-off qualifying time. Which race was your qualifier and how did you achieve your qualifying time for this race?

 So, I did the 100miles at Bhatti Lakes Ultra last year. That was my first 100 miler as well. I did not really think much about Spartathlon before Bhatti, as I was not sure how I would be able to do the distance. Once I finished, I realized that my finish time was fast enough to qualify me for Spartathlon.

5. It is in September, less than a month to go, how are you training for it? 

 As of now, being in Faridabad, I am trying to make good use of the hot (high) temperature. I have stupidly hurt my back a little and have been resting for the last few days, but I will get down to business from the weekend again :). I plan to train three times (thrice) a day; run twice a day and cycle in the afternoons, mostly spending a good amount of time in the heat (as I find the heat quite hard), and a good deal of strength training.

6. What is your ‘real target’ and what is your ‘optimistic target’ for Spartathlon? 

 Well, my optimistic target is to finish and real target is to finish well :). I have read a lot and chatted with tons of people who have run the Spartathlon, they all warn me to take it nice and easy till the 81km mark as it has a tight cutoff of 9hrs 30min. So that is what I plan to do, take it easy till there and then try and last the rest of the distance of 145km 🙂

7. It is a race with a lot of sectional cut-offs. Which one looks the most challenging to you?

 Well each one would have its own challenges depending on where I am in the race. 81km in 9hrs 30min is fast, and then you have 246km in 36hrs, which is also fast so all of them are going to be challenging.

8.You have ran so many ultras, both in India and internationally. Which one has been your toughest? 

 Well, the toughest is the one that I am yet to complete, whether it is Spartathlon or a run after that. From what I have done, they all have had their own share of up and downs.

9. During ultras, what is the strategy that you follow? For eg. I run the first half much faster than then second half. I run much well in the sun than at the night. So what is your strategy? 

I have never really thought of these things, I work from race to race and try and keep it simple – make sure you are not hurting at the 10k mark in a 100k race. So I try and start out at a pace I am comfortable with and one I can manage for a long duration. As for the day or night, it depends a lot – both has its pros and cons- the nights are cool, it does get a little boring as you can’t see much but if there is company things get a lot easier. The day brings in some light, it feels much better that I can look at the place I am running through, but then it also gets warmer. I enjoy it both.

10. How do you hydrate yourself? And what do you have for nutrition? 

 A lot depends on the temperatures, if it is cool I drink less, but if it is hot I drink more. I try and keep a simple strategy 1 liter an hour – 500ml of it is water and 500ml is RRUNN PRE/DURING. I have some solid food that is provided at the aid stations, gels from Unived, Unived RRUNN PRE and DURING Drink mixes. When it is hot I definitely take a salt tablet every hour or so.

11. What do you tell yourself when you are feeling low? 

 Hahahah, well I am normally cursing my self why did I not train harder, but then I move on and start focusing on short term race goals about getting to a particular point, or to run for X amount more etc.

12. What is the regime that you follow in the final week of a race like this one? Do you train till the last day? Or do you rest for 10 days before such a race? 

 Pretty much the last week is quite easy, nothing specific maybe a couple of 10km runs in the early part of the week and a few shorter ones closer to the day. I would also do a good deal of walking around. The last day is mostly rest, maybe a bit of walking 3-4kms.

13. Do you worry too much about numbers- pace, heart-rate, etc? Or you follow your body’s natural rhythm and take it forward? 

 Naah, I don’t really worry much, I mostly keep a check on how I am feeling and focus and getting into a good easy pace.

14. At what point in the race do you think the going will get tough? And how do you plan to handle it? 

 I have no clue about when things could get rough. I just hope I am make it at the 81km mark nice and comfortable. I have never done anything more than 160km, so at Spartathlon I am going to have a good 86km more to cover after the 160km mark. Nope, I have no clue as to when it is going to get tough, it could be before the 81km,  getting up the mountain at 160km or maybe after. Well, I like to keep moving during the run and I do not really like to sit much, so that is what I am going to do, focus on putting the next step forward.

15. Every race is a new learning. Can you elaborate with eg. some of the learning from your previous races that you would apply in this one? 

 Oh many-

Make sure I enjoy the parts I am running through (what better way to explore a new place than running through it)

Make sure I get in some food regularly. (Did not eat much during LaUltra, would have been better if I had)

Keep my salt tabs handy.

Ah, I forget this in every race but I definitely need to keep a cap (I had decide to keep a cap for the day bit of La Ultra and conveniently forgot it)

16. Ultra running requires a lot of sacrifice- food, social life, etc. the list is long. What has been your biggest sacrifice? 

 I have None really, I enjoy every bit of it.

17. One thing that you are looking forward to after Spartathlon?

 The next race and training for it :).

 

 

17 Reasons why I will run for 36 Hours, yet again.

I recently participated in a marathon, where the challenge was to run for 36 hours. YES, 36 HOURS AT A STRETCH. Now, I have participated in many events where the duration of the run lasted for about 20 hours. But, I have definitely have not run even a minute more than that.

But, the real catch was to run for 36 hours in a 400 meter stadium. Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore.

My mother thought my daughter has definitely lost her mind. And for the longest time she thought I was joking about the fact that I am going to run for 36 hours. Knowing me well, she knew I can not, absolutely cannot let go of my sleep. So she asked, ‘Can you rest?’ I said, oh yes for some time. And this is how it all began.  It began by telling my mind to not sleep for my usual 7 hours in the night and maybe cut it to a smaller time. 🙂

I was treating it as if running was that long was ‘ok, whatever, secondary’! In reality, it wasn’t.

So the drill was this: the run started on August 6 at 6 am and it ended on August 7, 6 pm. You had 36 hours and you had to go round and round on the 400 meter track for 36 hours. Every one hour is change in direction- clockwise or anti-clockwise. Hydration, nutrition, toilets, beds to rest, a team of docs, every one is right there. Every 6 hours was your medical check.

But coming back to the biggest question mark on my mother’s forehead that said ‘WHY??’ in CAPS. Here is my ‘WHY’ and ‘WHY’ will I do it again with 17 reasons:

  1. It is an experience that you will not get on any ultra marathon. Now, typically most of the marathons (and I am speaking ultras) have a distance to cover in the given time. It could be any distance above 42 km. 46 km, 86 km, 101 km, 220 km, etc. Here, you choose your own distance within the time given to you and keep it as a target and then tell your mind ‘one foot ahead of the other, sweetheart and repeat’. That is exactly what I did. Having run not a km more than 100 km, I was targeting 180 km, managed 184 km in 36 hours (I  am glad)
  2. Everything is under your control. Since you are moving in circles of 400 meters, you have easy access to hydration and nutrition, every 400 meters. The organisers NEB sports and Nagaraj Adiga and his team had done an excellent job and we were given whatever we asked for. The list included the most bizarre food requests including ice-creams (seriously, who eats ice-cream during a run?) This hydration/ nutrition point was kept inside the innermost circle of the track and we just had to stop by to do the carb loading.
  3. There is no need to run with money to buy stuff on the road, no backpacks or hydration belts needed.
  4. there is no better test of your mental endurance than something like this- going round and round in circles, for 36 hours -again, SERIOUSLY!
  5. Ultra running community is like a family. We are these bunch of runners who run for long hours, share each other’s problems, running related experiences, etc. Essentially, we talk a lot. But the conversations are bound to inspire and make you a better runner.
  6. You can carry as many clothes you want and change clothes as many times you want. The track is your ramp. And the baggage counter, your dressing room.
  7. You get the best running pictures as there is someone or the other clicking you from some point in the stadium.
  8. You can learn a lot about other’s running style, their diet, etc. to take the best and leave the not so suitable. Hence, it is a fantastic learning experience.
  9. You get to know so much about your own running style, at what point in time do you need food, when do you need to hydrate, what makes you run better, which shoe is helping you, which shoe is making you slow, etc. It is a great time to experiment with your own body to understand it better.
  10. If you have been considering for a long time to run barefoot but couldn’t muster the guts to do so considering the dirt, dust, broken glasses and nails on Indian roads, this could be your time to do barefoot. I ran about 40 km barefoot and loved it. The track is super conducive for a barefoot run.
  11. You understand a lot about your sleep pattern during such a run. So typically, at times you would sleep to rest or even if you are not sleepy you want to just lie down and then gradually fall asleep. Or then at times your eyes are shutting and you really really have to sleep. Either which ways, sleep or rest is as important as your run.
  12. You know how to use your energy in a more conservative way. This will happen only by experience and knowing your body well. Your body will tell you when can you build a rhythm and run well without spending too much energy and when can you conserve a bit of energy to spend it in the forthcoming hours. For example, I can run really well in the sun. But, as soon as it is cold, I simply can’t run.
  13. You start appreciating the time spent with yourself, without phone much better on such run.
  14. you will not get the crowd support or cheer for any other ultra spanning over 36 hours time as you will get for the one happening in the stadium. This really helps. When you hear your name in the crowd suddenly your form improves (well, it has to).
  15. You get to know a quality about you other than discipline. This quality is persistence. You you were disciplined enough to wake up in  the morning, on weekdays and weekends for those long runs. But, it is nothing if you are not persistent enough to continue and go on and on for those 36 hours at a stretch.
  16. In case you are planning a long run in the near future, this can form a good well supported training run. If you haven’t planned, then you should within a month or 40 days of a run like this. Your training mileage will be easily taken care of.
  17. Your appreciation of time and what can you do with it is way higher. Suddenly, one hour more of work seems like a cake walk, when earlier it used to feel like a lot of time. And you understand the importance of what you have done only after 36 hours and one minute.