I wrote a 3000 plus words race report before this one but lost it. I had gone to Sikkim after the race and due to high altitude effect, my laptop hard disk crashed. I also lost a documentary, I made on Bhatti Lakes Ultra with the help of my new GoPro Hero 4 Silver. SHIT HAPPENS!!
Let’s start the story then. I reached home on 26 September with a terrible viral fever. I was coughing, sneezing and had very high fever. On top of that my mom was in hospital for a treatment and my dad at home also had the same viral as me. I was in dilemma whether to run this race or not. I overcame the decision and here is the link to my last post.
Anyway the decision was made to run on the day of my mother’s cremation. She died of Dengue. It was an emotional moment when I asked my father, if it’s okay to run for mom. I broke down while saying so and got a bear hug from my dad. He said, go for it and your mom also wanted you to run it.
It was 30 September. I had few more days to recover from the viral fever. On 1st October, the bib collection at Lodhi Sports, Mehrauli was there. My pacer, Princy Bhatnagar, agreed to meet me there and have a chat about my race preparations. He had not run the race but was a veteran pacer for this race. He knew the route in and out. Before reaching the race briefing Princy had already informed the Race Director, Kavitha Kanaparthi, about the mishap at my home. She was concerned about me and said that we would understand if I don’t run the race. With a lump in my throat, I said I will run. For my Mom!
There I met another fellow 100km racer, Sidharth Tripathy. A non stop chatter box. He had left a comment in one of my post few days back. This was the first time I was meeting someone who recognised me by my blog! I reached the race briefing full an hour late. I had to ask my doubts separately to the RD. My one man crew, Sushmit Guha, also dropped in after some time. This guy is a childhood friend of mine and he agreed to crew me, not realising what he was getting himself into. The three of us, myself, crew and Sidharth planned to do a recce of the route to the race location next day.
On 2nd October morning, I took my dad’s car and picked them up. The journey was event less and found the location with some difficulty. When we reached there, we found the Globeracers team was setting up the start point for the 220km runners, starting the same afternoon. One look of the place confirmed that the next day is going to be a hot one. There were only acacia trees and bare, broken tarmac road to start the trail. Me and Sidharth went for a short 5km run. This was my first run in 2 weeks and I could feel the doubt of even completing 40km the next day. Anyway, we came back home and I expected some rest during the day because next day I was running this monster of a race.
The thing is that when somebody dies in the family, then every known person comes to the house to pay respect to the deceased. My mom was an important member of the community in Gurgaon. I never before knew the bonhomie and cohesiveness, a community enjoys. But on that that day, 2nd October, my only concern was to sleep and rest but that was not possible because of the constant arrival of the well wishers.
My dad was not keeping well since the time I came home for the race. My brother, alongwith his wife came back from US on my mom’s death. My wife also joined me from Bagdogra. On the morning of 2nd, my brother took my dad to a doctor for a blood test. The test results came in the evening around 8. I had already packed my race kit, eaten my dinner and was preparing to head off to Sushmit’s place to sleep. The result confirmed Dengue. We were shit scared and immediately took off to Delhi to an Army hospital. There, another blood test was done and they confirmed that the platelet counts were coming back to normal. It was 12 at night when I finally hit the sack. I got up at 2AM to get ready for the race and left at 3Am. Some sleep for a 100km race.
The start point looked like a sleepy hamlet. We reached there at around 4.15AM and it was quiet. Within next 5 minutes, it became chaotic due to a couple of runners who were experiencing an orgasmic revelation prior to the race. After the Blood Pressure, weight and sugar check, the RD summoned all the runners running the 100km and 80km to the start line. And just like that we started on the word go at 5AM.
My plan of the race was to finish the first 40-50km before it gets warm. It was pitch dark when we started and I wore my brand new head lamp for the first time. I started out at a comfortable pace, slower than my training runs. I also realised on starting that I forgot to bring my wrist watch. I will run by feel, I thought. The route is a 10km in and 10km out of the trail around an abandoned mine called Bhatti Mines. There are also several lakes around this place. The route is mostly thorny, sandy like the beaches, slippery and rocky.
0 – 20 km
It was cool when we started. I had seen just a 2.5km stretch of the route last day so was on the lookout for the route markers throughout. The first aid station at 5km came quickly and I refilled the bottle and ate a peanut butter sandwich and took off. Gotta start eating early. The next 5km were tricky. The route kept getting worse with rocky patches, sandy beaches and thorny peaches! Hahaha..it rhymed! Anyways, there were small upslopes and lot of undulating ground. It felt forever for the next 5km but the aid station came again from where we had to do an about turn and run the same way back.
I did the first 20km in around two and a half hours and was happy with the effort. I was conservative in my approach and was mentally psyching up for the hot weather in a couple of hours.
20 – 40 km
The route kept me busy because of locating the route markers. They were not hard to spot because of the fluorescent colours but it was hard to concentrate. I thought I will zone out during the race but the trail kept my mind on track and plus the ever increasing heat was making me think about my nutrition and hydration aspects. I kept sipping water, eating Sneakers at 10km intervals and eating potato chips and jam sandwiches.
During the race I met this American girl, working in India, Elisa Neva who was running 80km. We got talking and lost our way for a bit, but then came back on the trail. So, there is a possibility to lose the way during the race.
Anyway, I was running quite decently. I still had remnants of the viral fever and kept coughing now and then. I finshed the 40km by around 5 hours. It was 10 AM and already pretty hot. There was no shade on the trail.
40 – 60 km
I ran the longest training run of 50km for the race. Now this was the stretch where once I reach back the starting line I would have done the longest run of my life. So, I was bit sceptical whether I would be able to do it or not. Well, I did it nevertheless but when I reached back at 3 PM, my blood pressure had fallen down to 100/70. I was feeling light headed and hungry. I had some lunch of rice and dal.
At 60km, my sister-in-law with her husband were there to witness me doing this crazy race. I felt great to see some familiar faces. My crew, Sushmit, told me he has been getting calls from my wife, father, brother and some some uncles about my progress. He was updating them accordingly. I was surviving and it was hot like a furnace.
I changed my shoes(the soles had come off), socks and T-shirt. While doing so, a gentleman named Coach Ravinder approached me and asked me how I was doing. He had come to pace a friend of his but he was no where to be seen. So, he asked me if he can pace me. I replied in affirmative. Nothing better than have someone to run along on this hot and sunny day. That’s the spirit of being a runner.
60 – 80 km
I filled up my bottle with some electrolyte and we took off. After running a kilometre, I started feeling nauseous. I couldn’t focus on running and my eyes were closing on their own. I kept stopping after ever two steps and Coach kept encouraging me to run. I didn’t want to disappoint him. I didn’t want him to think of me as a sissy Army guy. I sat down a number of times under the thin acacia trees. I think he understood my plight.
When we reached the aid station at 65km mark, he rubbed ice all over me and told me to have mega sips of electrol. I told him that I am going to lie down for 10 minutes. My head was spinning and didn’t have an ounce of energy to continue. After 10 minutes, I managed to get up and continue. The resting and drinking electrol seemed to help me. A kilometre or so, I was a changed man. I just took around 6 km of trail to get out of my misery. And what misery it was!
I kept running with the Coach. He, later I came to know, ran an running academy and trains runners. I was very lucky to have him run with me. He paced me very professionally and kept guiding me as to when to drink, eat and walk. By the time I reached the 80km mark, I was fried. Maybe I ran the last 15km quite fast. Upon reaching there, I found my original pacer, Princy Bhatnagar, waiting for me. Coach massaged my legs and helped me stretch a bit before I took off for the last 20km.
80 – 100km
I was thinking of dropping out. I was mentally tired. Having a pacer is a boon when you are tired. They guide you, coax you and sometimes kick your ass hard to keep you moving. The second aid station was removed keeping the safety of runners enroute. The trail at night was a jungle. During the 40 – 60 km stretch, I had seen a fox and a Nilgai. After the race, I came to know that there were sightings of leopards in that area.
It was a relief not to go till the second aid station as the route from first to second aid station was tougher. It had got dark and we switched on the head lamps. It was a pitch dark night. The moon was, I think, in the fourth phase. Princy and I chatted all along. He kept pushing me. We talked at length on a number of and getting to know each other. He is around 10 years older than me. But we became good friends by the end of the race.
The stretch of 90 – 100km were the toughest. My achilles tendon was playing up. I had started hobbling llike a zombie. My only aim was then to just finish the damn race and within the cut off limit of 18 hours. Princy told me even if I crawled the last 5km, I will make it before the cut off but you need to run, soldier.
I crossed the finsh line at 17 hours and 8 minutes and was declared second. That was some race. I took the medal and went home. Sore but satisfied.
I couldn’t have done the race had it not been for my mom. The constant reminder of her death and her wish to see me run this race kept pushing me. Also, Sushmit was there throughout to support me with my things and also hear my grumbles when he went out on a walk to photograph the race. Thanks buddy for helping me out.
By the way, apart from a couple of photos downloaded from the Facebook page of Globeracers and Bhatti Lakes Ultra, rest of the photos were taken by Sushmit.
Good things about the race
Well, I love lists. So, here it is.
- It was very well organised.
- There was personal attention given to each and every runner.
- Well laid out food at the aid stations. Everything imaginable and required was present.
- It was well covered by the photographers.
- Constant mobile support throughout the trail.
- Well planned medical support.
- Trail was marked adequately. However, there are chances of getting lost in case you are not careful.
- Some sort of protection support from police on the trail can be requested.
- A small token or prize for the podium finishers.
- Some publicity in the city and nearby areas can attract more viewers, though they may get bored and fried after a while.
- After race report or coverage in local and national dailies can help promote ultra running.
Globeracers gave me an experience of the lifetime. I thank them for that. Kavitha, RD, while giving away the medal told me that we are a family now. Thanks for letting me in. I loved it throughout.
A write up on Bhatti Lakes Ultra by Sidharth Tripathy. It is an excellent read.
Equipment used(I bought most of the stuff from Decathlon)
Shoes – Kalenji Kapteren Discover.
Waist pouch – Wenzel Mountain Trails.
Handheld water bottle from Kalenji.
Hat – Kalenji.
Sun glasses – Orao
Headlamp – Oxylane Geonaute.
7 GU gels which I used during the hotter part of the race.
Till then, stay fit and keep running.
PS: I going to compile all the training logs and the race report in an e-book. How does that sound? Will it be of any help to new ultra runners. Let me know.