SCMM 17- Endurance Running- First Year

Last Sunday, January 15, I ran Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon- my first “major” public Marathon. Awesome effort by the Organizers, Volunteers, Mumbai Police- truly world class event. Special call out to all the Mumbaikars who were out on the streets in swarms cheering the runners- You guys Rock!

I was targeting sub 4 finish; missed it by 3 minutes- clocked  4:03:27. This blog is about how I prepared for SCMM and why I missed the sub 4 finish.

Split 1: No New Years Day
Let me step back a bit and share why I took to endurance running.  In my earlier blog 10 commandments to Hack Your Health I shared how I got in shape- reduced from 98 to 68kg and ran my first half marathon on September 15, 2015. It took me 18 months. I continued my cycling, yoga, running routine remaining of 2015. By December 2015 I had started running about 25km and week, that included a 12-18km weekend run.

In the last week of December 2015, like every year, I was working on my resolution for 2016. I had done reasonably well with my 2014 and 2015 resolutions and wanted 2016 to be as good if not better. I thought why not run 3 half marathons every month? It sounded a crazy idea for some one who had just taken to running. After a few days of thinking I decided to set that as my 2016 Goal.

36 half marathons was a huge challenge for for someone who had just taken to running and I needed a start that would be super motivating. I thought why not do some unusual the new years eve? No party, sleep at 9, get up at 4:30 run 21 on January 1?

I did exactly that. Got up at 5:00, laced up and did 21. While I was running people were still returning home from NYE parties all very happy, all high! I was also high- a different high, though.

To my delight I ran 21 in 2 hr! My first! I was super excited and over beer that weekend I thought why not target 42 half marathons in 2016. Why 42? Couple of reasons-
1. I would turn 42 in 2017. 42 half marathons in a year would give me bragging rights
2. 42 = 2 x 21!

The goal was reset to 42 half marathons.

When I was over the 2hr half marathon hang over my first reaction was “what have  I signed up for?” No NYE Party was fine; 42 halfs mean no Friday night outs, no Saturday beer brunches! OMG!!

January 1, 2016 Bhaskar Thakur 21K Run

 

Split 2: You are Under Running
I continued my weekly 3 run schedule in the spring and summer. I fell sick in April and had to take 6 weeks off. By June 2016 I was consistemtly doing 21 under 2 and had completed 18 of the 42 committed half marathons. Pune had good Monsoon in 2016 and I chanced across Matheran Endurathon and Durshet Forest Marathons. I had heard runners go to different cities for races, however, I had never done that. I discussed the idea of running 2 half marathons with my wife Shweta. She does not like to run in the city, however she love trails.  We signed up for both half marathons.

Matheran was a beautiful yet challenging 25 km trail run. Beautiful? Ask anyone who lives in Pune or Mumbai how mesmerizing Matheran is in monsoon. Challenging because in was mud, muck, gravel and gradient.

To add to the challenge we had to hike up 5km to the start point- we did not get accommodation near the start point as we signed up late.

The race started at 7am and I was  completely drenched at at start line. We ran fully drenched for almost 3 hours across hills, muck and thick forest.  I finished strong that day. Hiked back 5Kms to the hotel and drove back to Pune. Awesome day! I had done 25km run and 10km hike and the beautiful drive! Not bad.

 

Durshet was a different story. The trail description goes like ” Durshet Forest Marathon is in the Sahyadri range beside the river Amba. The rough terrain and the soothing rain makes it an experience to cherish. 
Tough terrains, a track mixed with steep uphills and downhills and the rain to make the running trickier.
The final part to the higher areas of the forest and grasslands begins with a rocky uphill climb, which after almost 7 kilometers of run proves tough for the most, again the rewards of the toil are laid out in abundance by nature. The uphill trail leads to open grasslands and the overwhelming beauty of Sahyadri mountain ranges around the valley. The efforts is more than worth it.

I was all pepped up after Matheran to take on the Rocky uphill climb of Durshet. Packed my gear August 7 and started driving to the hotel around 9:00am.  The roads were flooded and the drive from Pune to Lonavala was more like riding a speed boat. Few minutes after Lonavala my car broke at the hairpin turn- we were going down hill and car had no acceleration or break. I somehow manage to park the car with the gear and called up the support. Rescue came in an hour or so however that’s a story for a different blog.

To cut the long story short the day before race day I got drenched in torrential rain for about 5 hours had no lunch and reached hotel at 6pm. I was shivering and in no condition to run. I couldn’t resist a couple of drinks with dinner.  Back in the room I set my gear and discussed with my wife plan for the run. We agreed to take a call in the morning.

I got up at 4 with a little cramp and had a hangover. Took a hot shower and decided to give Durshet a shot.  As I lacing up the thought of  rocky uphill was giving me chills. we hitched a ride and got to the start line.

The race was flagged off at 7am. First 2Kms was killing- I was running like a zombie (note to my self- Drinking the day before Race is a BIG NO!). I was almost about to give up however, I thought lets run for a few more.

Around the 3km mark there were villagers playing Dhol Tasha. The  drum beats did some magic and I got my rhythm back and was running the mucky trail gliding over small streams . I did a sprint of 2km and managed to get close to my 5km time target. It was business as usual after that.

Durshet is a unique trail. After running 7km there is a 3.5km steep hill and half marathoners have to do 2 loops of the hill.  It was tough, however I throughly enjoyed the 2 loops. I finished in 2:08:35– good time considering the trail and what I had gone through the previous day.

Back in the hotel, Shweta and I joined Sanjay (a runner from Delhi I first met at Matheran) for breakfast. Sanjay has done all credible marathons in India and is now doing the ultras. He did 50 in Matheran and 42 in Durshet.

Sanjay shared his plan for the next few months that included Goa Beach Ultra and Rann of Kutch. His advise to me was “You are UNDER RUNNING. You should have done the 50 and 42.That hit me.

On the way back to Pune I thought, I managed finishing Durshet in top 10% finishers after such an awful day, maybe I’m UNDER RUNNING. Before I reached home I had changed my resolution for the year from “running 42 half marathons” to “running 42 times 21km or more“. Call it taking Stretch Goals.

The following weekend (August 14) I did 30km solo in 3 hours and applied for SCMM17 (Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon), I was ready to shift gears. Thank You Shweta and Sanjay!

Split 3: The Training
After a few weeks I received conformation from team SCMM. I was super happy! This was my first marathon that had a qualifier and getting accepted was almost like winning the race. :)

I had 3 months to train for SCMM so I started looking up blogs on running marathon. I was consistently doing half in under 2 so most blogs suggested I was ready. After reading 25-30 articles and blogs I created a very simple training calendar for myself:

September:
Run 3 days: 45 to 50km/ week that should include one 25- 32km every weekend
Yoga 3 days.
Did that all of September. No events to report. No trophies. Sweet.

October
In October I decided to Run 30- 38 Km once a week. The training plan changed to:
Run 3 days: 50 to 55km/ week that should include one 32-38km run every weekend
Yoga 3 days.
Did that all of October. Signed up for PRBM- Pune running Beyond Myself (42km) to test if I was marathon ready.
PRBM 42 was on October 16. I reached Shaniwarwada around 5:30am and the race started at 6:00. I was cursing first 21. Was on target at 21 (1:52) feeling strong. At 30km after doing the Baner- University gradient my legs started feeling like logs- I could not move. I limped, I stopped and crawled for the next 4km. I knew I had hit the wall.

In plain English, “hitting the wall” in endurance sports is a condition of sudden fatigue caused by depletion of glycogen in the muscles. This was my first experience in a marathon. Finished the race limping in 4 hours 47.

The silver lining- I knew I could run marathon.

November
November was month to deal with the dreaded “wall“. After spending hours reading about “avoid hitting the wall” I knew I had to work on Nutrition and Hydration. Until October 16 I thought eating on the run would slow me down. I was so wrong. I also chanced across this article to run marathon sub 4.

I thought if I could do a marathon sub 5 without any food why not stretch the stretch goal? That day I decided I wanted to train for sub 4 for SCMM.

Again did a lot of reading. the final plan for November was no different from October. I augmented my existing plan with focus on nutrition. I started having breakfast before all weekend runs and started experimenting with nutrition and hydration on the run. I tried it all- Ragi Laddu, Bananas, Sweet Potato, Snickers, Yoga Bar, Gatorade, Salts.

Having breakfast at 4:00am is no fun, you almost have to force the food, however it worked. I started running 35- 38 every weekend. It worked and a month after disastrous PRBM I managed to do a Sub 4 full marathon. I did this one solo.

There was no medal at the finish line, no finishers certificate, however I felt like a winner!

Every Sunday when I go out for my run I wake up Shweta and let her know I’m going for my run. When I come back she invariably asks me “how was your run?” and my answer is “Good”

When I reached home that morning Shweta asked me the regular “how was your run?” However, my answer was not usual. I said.. Mumbai here I come!

 

I took a break from training first 3 weeks of December due to other commitments. Started training on December 18.

December 25 was a big day for me. The day I was to run my 42nd 21 or More. That meant no Christmas Party, no wine! However, I was high after 41 runs so did not miss celebration a bit. I thought of doing another 42 however SCMM was due in 20 days so I thought to stick to the SCMM plan.

I did 32km on the 25th and celebrated with Oban Single Malt!

2016 resolution Done and Dusted. 7 days ahead of Schedule! 2016 was a horrible year for work. I believe Running kept me going. I had earned my bragging rights!

My last long run before SCMM was on January 1, 2017 ( 37 KM in 3:28). I was feeling all set for the Race day!

Next week I prepared my Race Day plan. It had 3 components Nutrition and Hydration, Timing Targets and Note to Myself-

Nutrition and Hydration
Breakfast: Ragi Laddu, Dates, Pre Run Mix
During Run:
1. 250 ml hydration every 30 minutes for the first three hours, alternate between water and energy drink available
2. Half Snickers bar every hour
3. Salt and Orange every 30 minutes after 15 Km

Timing Target:
Distance Time Pace
5 00:26:00 00:05:12
10 00:52:00 00:05:12
15 01:19:00 00:05:24
21 01:52:00 00:05:30
25 02:15:00 00:05:45
32 02:56:00 00:05:51
37 03:26:00 00:06:00
42 03:57:00 00:06:12

Note to Myself: Training is Done. Go Out & Enjoy!

 

Split 4: Race Day and why I missed Sub 4.
I reached Mumbai on January 14, collected my BIB, set up my gear, wished my fellow runners Rohan, Nikhil and Sareen luck and signed off early. The weather seemed perfect.

Got up 4:00AM, laced up, had my breakfast and reached the holding area. I was in lineup B as I had submitted my Matheran (25km) timing instead of Durshet (21km)- SCMM has lineup A thru D. I thought proof of having run 25 is better than better pace in 21 for lineup- maybe, I was wrong.

The weather had changed overnight- it was hot and humid at 5am – and I had trained in Pune’s chill. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus was all lighted up and mesmerizing and the energy of the other 5ooo fellow runners electrifying. I thought to myself Mumbai could have been worse, this is my first big Marathon, let’s just Run.

After the first couple of km one I reached Marine Drive I could the feel  of Mumbai. People cheering at 6am was simply amazing for a solo runner like me. I specially liked the Navy Band, their music was so peppy that I ended up doing a sub 4 minute km in the first 5- I avoid doing busts early in the race.

I was meeting my time targets till 28km when a mini cramp hit me (check out the blip in the pace chart below) however, I recovered and and made up for the time lost in the next 2km. Mumbaikars were cheering to go for sub 4 and that really helped. I was crusing at the 33Km mark all smiles and very satisfied. Then came Peddar Road section and my pace dropped to 8. Full 3 minute over my planned pace. I knew I was in for trouble. I even had another mini cramp. I grabbed some oranges and salt (many thanks to the Mumbaikars) an started to steady my run.

It was hot and humid by 8:45, I was trying to make up for the time lost.

By that time elites started to come in. It was some sight to see them run with that pace and stride. Simbu and Kipkorir were neck to neck and Kheta Ram was not far behind.

We were directed run on the side of the road and kept bumping into the last of 21k finishers. I felt like a car on Pune roads where few elites (BRTS) have half the road and bike riders have the right of way on the other half. Could never make up for Peddar Road time loss.

They say last 5km in a marathon is mind game. Your body has done what it could. In the last 4, I decided to go for negative splits and managed a mini dash in the last 2. I could see Shweta cheering at 40km mark and that helped!

Thank You Mumbai. Look forward to 2017 Marathons and More!