Tuffman Shimla – Race Report

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Tuffman Shimla done and dusted!

Late post! Had this race done two weeks ago… finally, got time to sit down and pen down few things about the race…

First of all, the race. Distance covered – 30km… Time took – 4:10 hours… Difficulty level –  ‘I am giving up’ tough!

Every year, I do a run in hills to prepare myself for some of the toughest races in the coming season. Lasy year, I was at the Bir hills for the Bir-Billing half marathon where I finished third.

This year, I decided to try out one of the Tuffman races (series of ultra runs in a number of tough race routes across India – from desert to hills to beaches to islands). I signed for the Shimla race where they had the race categories of 20, 30, 50 and 80 km. And since the race is in June, I can escape the horrible Delhi heat at least for a weekend… After much thought, I decided against the 50k and registered for the 30k, mostly because I was underprepared for the 50k… Though I’ve done many full marathons in the last two years, a 50k run in the hills would feel more like an 80k or something…

After the long bus ride from Delhi to Shimla, settling in the beautiful bamboo cottages in Mashobra Greens felt more like a vacation. I had spent some time walking around the place and clicking on some beautiful pictures…

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Mashobra Greens

The Race

Well, I did finish first in the women category with a time of 4:10 hours… that would sound ‘too much’ for a 30k run… And that says a lot about the route… It was never easy with an elevation gain of about 1700m.

Breaking it down further… the first half of the run had more descent than ascent… The best part was the 5km -10 km steep descent. We all went down almost flying… I never had an idea then how difficult it would be to climb that back… It was not just difficult; it was hell! That would be the right word to use… That climb back from the 20 km point to 25 km was the longest ‘climb’ of my life… Even vehicles passing me struggled in the ascent… imagine the human legs!!!

I wanted to give up…

I wanted to quit…

I thought I’d never finish…

I cursed the moment I signed up for the race…

The weather was not on my side that day… There was a rain forecast… but, instead, we had scorching sun over our heads… Anyway, I kept walking/climbing… I made sure I never stopped anywhere… The moment you stop, you are never going to get back on!!!

It was a relief when I crossed the 25 k mark and when the climb was over… Since then it was more like a run/walk to the finish line…

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Elevation profile!

At the end of the race, I was all worn out and drained… also, my knees were hurting real bad! Well, finishing a race will change your perspectives on life and pain… I was soon eager for my first ultra… From ‘I will never do this again’ to ‘let’s raise the difficulty level’ was something! Trails work on you in strange different ways!

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It’s not where you take the trail… it’s where the trail takes you!

That was my mountain treatment for the summer… Experienced some tough hill runs, made new friends and now ready for more tougher runs coming up later this year!


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Trying to crack an ultramarathon run…

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Ultramarathon run, by its definition, is any distance run longer than a full marathon (42.195km or 26.219 mi). So, if you are a marathoner, occasionally running 42.2, why is it hard to finish an ultra run (usually starting with a 50k)?

The simplest answer is most ultra runs are not flat road races and the key is to run slower and longer. The term ultramarathon is synonymous with train-running. So, the difficulty level is higher compared to road races.

For 2018, I have listed finishing an ultra on my bucket list. It is a 50km run along the western ghats – a trail in the beautiful coffee plantations of Malnad. So, with 7.8 km more than my usual Marathon distance, would I be able to finish it in my marathon pace or slightly more than that? I guess not.

What are the difficulty factors?

First, it’s a trail run, with lots of elevations.

Second, it’s going to take a lot of time before I can finish.

How do I train for it?

Hill repeats. Yes, lots of hill training. I have included few of them in my training plan. But, living in a city like Delhi it is not possible for me to train on hills. Thankfully, I have a couple of events in the coming weeks with good elevation gain. They are going to be my training runs.

And how should I prepare myself for long hours on road? Train to be patient… For a regular road/rack runner (like me), it is difficult. While training for an ultra run, you need to forget about the pace, you need to forget about the PR for the race… just need to train to have more hours on road, lean to slow down and walk… I am increasing my Sunday long runs by time than the distance (we all love to log more distance than time).

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Sunday long runs – longer time on the road

In short, it’s all about surviving long hours on road, running slowly and enjoying the beautiful scenery around (most iconic ultra runs happen in scenic locations). Can’t wait to get into that ‘ultra runner’ club.


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365 days of running!

 

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Towards my 1:45:10 finish during the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (November 2017)

 

Yes, I did it… completed a year of running without missing a day.

All started with the ‘100 days of running challenge’ last April. The idea is you have to run for 100 days without missing a day and run a minimum of 2km each day. I completed the challenge registering 950+ kms in 100 days.

Once the challenge is over, I had this crazy idea of continuing running. Running every day is not a difficult thing for me. My training schedule gives me 4-5 days of morning runs. But, since I hit the gym in the evenings and warm-up for at least 2km on the treadmill, it all working out.

The 365 days of running were injury-free. As someone who is dealing with arthritis, I know how to avoid injuries. One year of running also gave me my first sub-4 marathon, almost made it to sub-1:45 HM club (those 10 seconds!) and PBs in 10k (in a HM race; not in a 10k dash) and 5k!

April 28, 2018, was the 365th day and incidentally, it was the day of #100daysofrunning2018. Let’s see if I can make it to 2 years of running!


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Finally, a sub-4 Marathon

Yes, it happened… finally… finished a Marathon within 4 hours… 3:56:22 to be exact…

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Sub-4 finish in Mumbai

I was back again to Mumbai for finishing what I started last Feb. Immediately after the Mumbai Marathon of 2017, I realised I need to work on lots of things before I could break into sub-4; building strength for example. I joined a gym on Feb 1, 2017, and it changed my runs altogether. I surprised myself my stamina and endurance. So, I had high hopes for TMM (Tata Mumbai Marathon).

Mumbai is the Mecca of running. Every Marathoner in India wants to come to Mumbai during the third weekend of January and be part of this running festival. It’s not like Mumbai roads are the easiest to run to. It is not easy here; heat and humidity in the second half and the notorious Peddar road (known for its elevation)… it’s not easy. It is not easy to crack one’s personal best here.

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Finish line smiles!

But, I was prepared. And toughened up… running few rough Marathons last year was a confidence booster… a sub-4:35 finish in Hyderabad, 4:10 finish in Singapore… all those trained me to keep going through adversity!

For a sub-4 finish, one needs to run at sub-5:40 pace. My plan was to keep the 5:30-5:35 pace as long as possible. The Peddar road at 35th km, things are not going to be easy during the last 10k with the sun directly on your face. The plan worked out. I could maintain the 5:35 average until the 33rd km. From there the pave dropped a little, but, only slightly. At the Peddar road split, I was running at 6:09. The last 3 kilometres were the slowest; around 5:50-55. But, I had saved enough seconds for those splits… In all, the last 13 kms came at a pace of 5:48. Super satisfying.

But, that was not the highlight of the day. It was indeed the way I ran. I never stopped on the way! Usually, there will be a stop or two post-33 km for me. This time, it never happened; even @ the Peddar road or on the last kilometre when I was dead tired and a sub-4 was assured. I just wanted to do my best.

 

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There were two medals; finisher and inspiration. You need to give the ‘inspiration’ medal to the person who has inspired you to run… I have a long list of people, starting from my parents, who have inspired me. So difficult to pick one!

 

I came back from Mumbai all satisfied. Something got checked from my 2018 bucket list in January itself. Great start to the year!

2018 is not going be easy. I have some tough targets in mind… well, I enjoy challenging myself. New places to travel… new peaks to conquer… more records to break! Yes, I am ready!!!!


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My 2018 reading list

Already on the first weekend of 2018, and I have a reading list for 2018.

Every year I take up a reading challenge which includes one book series and few other books. ‘Few’ maybe 8 to 10 books. This year, I thought I’d change up the challenge a bit, making it a real ‘challenge’. So, here is 2018 list:

  1. A book series (of course)
  2. A book over 500 pages (current read)
  3. A book that can be read in a day
  4. A book of translation
  5. A play or poetry (out of my comfort zone)
  6. A banned book (that would be exciting)
  7. A book from my favourite author (did I say, Tolkien, :D)
  8. A book I’ve given up reading long back
  9. A biography
  10. A book suggested by another bookworm

So, looks like lots of reading in 2018!

Few bits about ‘HEAT’

That Theoretical Physicist

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As you know the Universe is made of matter and energy. The matter is made up of atoms and molecules. And it is the energy that causes (triggers) these atoms and molecules in motion. They bump into each other or vibrate back and forth and increased the atomic/molecular kinetic energy and thus creates a form of energy called ‘thermal energy’.

Any form of energy can be converted into thermal energy via various processes. Heat is the amount of thermal energy transferred during these processes. Let’s look into few examples:

  1. Mechanical energy to thermal energy: Consider bouncing of a ball. Everytime the ball bounces back from the ground, some of the energy of ball’s motion  (KE) is converted into heat (making the ball warm) and thus slowing it down.
  2. Electrical energy to thermal energy: Most electrical appliances heat up when we switch it on. We know that electrical energy is the flow of…

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Summing up 2017

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Well, 2017 was a great year for running. Clocked close to 3000 km on Strava; 2973 to be exact. It was one excellent year; a number of PBs, podiums and completion of new challenges.

The year started with a bit of disappointment. Taken both Chennai Marathon and Mumbai Marathon challenge in January. Ran both back to back, ruining both runs. However, came back strong in New Delhi half marathon with a PB. Still, that was not good enough. I knew that I could do better. So, I decided to check into a gym and work more on strength training.

It was the decision of the year. Things started working better since then. A podium in Bir Billing for half marathon, few strong summer runs. And then came Hyderabad Marathon. I gotta say I was freaking out until minutes before the race. The fear of DNF and the stories of DNF were on my mind. However, I finished the run strong; not my best timings though. However, that was a confidence booster for the rest of the season.

Bengaluru came and went. Messed it up by overdosing with electrolyte; was cramped up from 28th km. But, did finish the race with a PB and a podium for age category. ADHM was a dream. 2017 I focussed more on the full marathon and ADHM was the only race I could break my HM PB. And I got my PB in style; 1:45:10. I never planned a sub-1:45 race; so, not at all disappointed over missing it.

The season ended with my first international marathon; the Singapore marathon. It was a tough one. However, I surprised myself with a PB – 4:10:10. I couldn’t be happier.

Though there were lots of ups, a number of boxes were left unchecked. For example, a sub-4 finish.

With the important lessons learned over 2017, I am sure I can check those boxes soon. 2018 looks promising. New records to break, new challenges to take up, new places to visit and run; I have already started filling my planner. Can’t wait!


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And a PB from Singapore

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Who dares to grab a personal best from one of the toughest marathons in Asia?

Well, that would be me. Clocked 4:10:10 and that ended up being my PB; shaved off 7 seconds from last PB from Bangalore Marathon.

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PB time!

Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon was nothing I expected. I expected a crash and burn situation. The place was humid; and too sunny from 7:00 am. With flag off of my pen at 4:40 am, I expected running in the sun from probably 25th km… which is crucial in a marathon because if you start slowing down from there, you can never pick the pace… that is usually the thing for me; experiences from Bangalore!

Well, nothing of that sort stopped me. The weather was surprisingly better on race day and I had a relaxing run. I could have pushed myself a bit more… but, I didn’t… fear of injury/cramps… I guess that is something I need to work on.

A good finish doesn’t mean the event was so enjoyable and all. The organizers tried their best to keep the runners comfortable. However, there were uncomfortable situations. The runners were made to stand in queues for more an hour (the lucky ones) to drop their bags and collect their bags. The pre-run queue was annoying. I started 6 minutes after the flag-off of my pen. The post-run queue was painful… I almost fainted of dehydration… Organizers apologised of course, but, my runners were left fuming! Also, the ladies were not happy with the event, finisher tee designs… too loose and I look like a hanger with those tees on; I will never wear them for any run :(.

Summing up… my last run of 2017 ended on a happy note… A PB is a PB! Can’t wait for 2018!

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Finish line smiles!


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ADHM… My YAY moment of the year!

 ADHM

It was that time of the year in Delhi. Post-Diwali smog and pollution debates and then came along ADHM… bearing the brunt of the ‘concerned’ health professionals… After days and weeks of uncertainty, it did happen!

2017, to me, was the year of Full Marathons. I have been training for it since February with weeks of training plans. Though I didn’t achieve my sub-4 target, I had hopes on this Delhi’s biggest running festival – a half marathon.

I knew I could break into the sub-1:50, but a 1:45:10 finish was not expected.  I even I surprised myself. I knew I had a cramp coming. I had that feeling since the Bangalore Marathon. It can come anytime and it will ruin my run! I was sure.

I planned to board the 1:45 bus thinking I can finish sometime around 1:46-1:47. I was certain, I won’t be able to race at the end. But, after all the ‘star sports drama’ (another story), I was all fired up. I was going at a pace between 4:50-5:00 min/km and when I cracked a PB for 10k, I was fired up. However, I was aware the cramp that may come at any time. I kept my pace; finished 18km under 1:30. What was left was a race until the end which I did.

In between, the shoelaces failed me. it never happened with my Nike before. There should always be a first time. I might have lost 7-8 seconds there. But, I didn’t matter to me at all. I could have slowed down anytime in between and lost those. The thing that happened after that is I raced and never slowed down during those usual slow-down splits: 18th, 19th! In fact, I raced the last 200m @4:41!

In the end, I ran 130m more; didn’t take the shortest route. Or else, it could have been an easy sub-1:45. That is good in some sense. It will keep me grounded and at the same time will give me confidence for the next 10 races.

I am excited. Excited for the coming races; excited for the Singapore Marathon, which is going to be tough and TMM, which again, is going to be tough and NDM.

Happy days ahead!