I had an unfinished business with Malnad Ultra and I wanted to settle it this time. First time when I participated in this event, it was back in 2018. It was my first ultra ever. I had trained a lot for it but still, I finished with cramps and a complete drained out body. So I decided to go for it this year.
This year, I did not have any plan to participate in it, but then it was coinciding with my travel to Chennai. To add to it, one of my friends, Raman, was training for it and he put this idea in my mind. So I decided to not only participate but to make a V-log too. However, I hardly had 20 days to prepare for it, because of few other responsibilities, including lot of travelling.
All this busy schedule and less training days somehow made sense with my whole “settling the business” thing. Last time I had trained a lot and ended up in cramps. So this time, I decided not to train(as much as I should’ve) and do it with ease and in lesser time. (Here I want to make a point that I had been running throughout the year and recently, I had participated in Solang Sky Ultra. So I had some mileage in my legs. It’s just that I didn’t train specifically for it, I just trusted my body)
Finally the plan was made, I reached Mudigere, met my friends and we were set for the race. Raman and Anitha were doing 80k, Raghavendra, Praveen and I were doing 50k.
80k race started at 6:45 AM. Raman and Anitha started at that time.
At 7AM I was at the start line with my camera in my hand, ready to take on the race. Little did I know that it’s not only me who wanted to settle the business here, but the organisers and the event had their own plans too.
Gun went off and we were on our way. As always, initial few miles worked as a good warm-up and I settled in my easy pace. At around 7 km, reached first major uphill, took a u-turn, came down and entered the forest area. Saw elephant’s foot prints at many places. For a long time I was running alone, worried and hoping that to be on the right path. Luckily, after a while spotted few 80km people climbing up a small hill. It gave me some relief and I continued on the same path.
At close to 15th km, came out of jungle and witnessed the most beautiful part of the race. From here, downhill started with a little technical section and I enjoyed it to the fullest. I started gliding down.
The 'U' Turn
While we were going down, some 80k runners were coming from the opposite side. I speculated that there must be a u-turn and was hoping to see Raman too. But he didn’t appear. Meanwhile, one of the 80k runners said something about the 18th km mark but I couldn’t get it.
We kept running and finally reached the 18th km mark. Few steps ahead , there was a tree. The guy I was running with, said that the 80k runner, who crossed us, told to take a u turn from this tree. There was no sign there to instruct runners that they are supposed to take a u turn here. Then it struck to me, may be Raman missed this u-turn and went ahead. I started shouting his name and blew the whistle hoping that he might listen and come back, but he didn’t. Instead, 2 other 50k runners who were ahead of me, did. Apparently they had missed this u-turn and went ahead. I could see the frustration on their faces and in their words. Can’t write exact words here, because of the obvious reasons.
At last I started returning, met Praveen, he told that Raman was coming behind him. Poor guy had missed the route somewhere else.
Back to the race. After some time I entered the forest area again. Some part was full of bushes with no visible trail, some was well paved path. Enjoyed this part, got company of few other runners. It was gradual downhill, so I managed to over take them and maintain the lead for a while.
Akkad - Bakkad
After covering around 22 km, road section began. Long, straight, empty road. I kept following it. Didn’t see any marking for a very long time. Organisers had told us that wherever it is needed we’ve put marks, specially at junctions. I did reach a junction, but couldn’t see the marking. Got confused and literally had to do akkad bakkad to choose which way to go.
Took left, saw two guys coming from opposite side. They said it’s the wrong route. Poor guys had covered 1.6 km in that direction and were returning. I, on the other hand got lucky. Continued with them towards the right direction, reached the aid station after climbing another major uphill of the race. By this time my thighs had started giving indication of cramps. Had some salt, oranges and water at the aid station. Somehow escaped the cramps and continued running. Overtook few 50k runners in this whole process.
Moment of Confidence
At this point, based on my calculation, I was at 6th position. I had actually not thought about finishing at any place. My target was to finish strong and before 6hours. I was on my target pace.
I kept running at my set pace, and reached another aid station. Could notice that 5th place runner had just left and I could see him. After having my stuff, took off from there and joined him eventually. The guy was from Navy, running his first Ultra. We shared the route for some time and both of us could feel tightness in our legs. After running together for a while, I managed to overtake him and now I was at 4th position.
The fact that I was performing good without any specific training gave me confidence that my body is capable of enduring pain and overcoming it.
Glimpse of the Podium
I was keeping an eye on my watch and I was well within my target, rather faster. Although I had no hope of catching another runner, but to my surprise, I did spot one and started following him. After a while I joined him and then overtook him. Now I was at 3rd position, which was not at all excepted.
However I would have enjoyed this feeling only for 5 minutes that a runner, Paras, who I didn’t expect, overtook me and was actually going pretty strong. I consoled myseld by thinking that finishing 3rd was not my target. Even had I fineshed 3rd with a time of 5:40-45 it would’ve been a shame. But on the other hand I didn’t loose hope and kept my pace steady. We both stopped at an aid station, I rehydrated as quickly as possible and started running before Paras and built up a good lead. But again, not for long.
I reached a junction with no marking, got confused. This time, instead of taking risk, I played safe and waited for the guy to join me. Once he did, we both decided to take left. Thankfully saw one mile-marker which assured us that we were on the right path. I had gotten lucky one more time. We started running at a decent pace and covered a good ground. Soon my body started breaking, I was finding it hard to maintain the pace. I knew he would be feeling the same. But now it was only about who gives in first. After pushing for 3 km I finally stopped and started walking while he kept on running. I made peace with this and accepted that he was a better runner.
The Last Suprise
Anyways, it was straight road, and I could see the mile markers for both 80k and 50k at regular intervals. I kept running straight, reached a junction, saw the marks going left. Took the left and continued running, this time I saw mile marker only for 80k. This was strange, but then I thought that I did see the mark at the junction, there is no chance that I’m on wrong path. Continued again, reached another junction. It said take right for 80k route and left for 50k, I was assured that I’m on right path.
Took left and reached another aid station. Just for the confirmation, I asked the guy, how far is the 50k finish line from here. He said 12km. I was like..whattttt!!!!! I reconfirmed, he said it is 38 km mark and it is still 12 more km. I told him I have already covered 48.5 km. Everyone started saying then you must have taken wrong turn, I told them there was no chance of it. Then they advised me to take that 12km route. I asked them the shortest route, whether or not it is a race route, it doesn’t matter. They said this way you won’t get the medal. I was so pissed that I told them I don’t want the damn medal, just tell me the shortest way I want to finish the bloody thing.
Gang of Lost Runners
After wasting around 10mins there, I started returning on the same path. The moment I turned back, saw Vinay coming towards me. I asked about the distance his watch was showing, it was same as mine, 48.5km. I told him the whole story, he too confirmed from the people at aid station. But it was of no use. We both decided to return.
We would’ve covered few meters that we saw many other 50k runners who were close behind us coming towards us. Few of them had already missed the route couple of times before too because of wrong markings. They were furious and couldn’t believe that they had missed the route again. We all were waiting at the junction and deciding what to do. Before we could start again, we met two volunteers. They told us that they made a mistake at the previous junction, and they are sorry. In my head, Chandler’s words started playing..” ohhh he is sorry..I feel better!! “
Anyways he told us to to go 2km back, reach the junction and take left. So we did the same, had to cover 3km instead, to reach the junction. Now they had marked it with words, “50k finish route”. Took left, covered another 1.5km and finally reached the finish line. What could’ve been a 5:20 hours finish, became 6:35 hours struggle with 6 extra km and added frustration.(The actual race route was 46.5 km, we ended up doing 53.5) In the end, the settlement ended in a tie I suppose. But deep inside me, I knew that the event had the last laugh.
While having lunch I got a chance to talk to the race director. I told him about the wrong markings even at the easiest places. Although he couldn’t have done anything about it at that time, but he was humble enough to accept the fault. I appreciate him for that. Apart from it, the food was too good to be real. One of the tastiest post run meals I ever had.
This was the event in which I used gels for the first time ever. Obviously I tried it first in one of the training runs and I must say that I didn’t feel a thing at all. No so called push or sudden burst of energy.
Had my first gel at 14th km, second at 25, 3rd at 35 and last one at 46km after missing the route. At the aid stations I kept having little salt, orange and water. It helped me get away from the cramps. I also had electrolyte tablets mixed in water at regular intervals which helped a lot. Had 3 small Snickers too throughout the race. Had one Redbull, started using it from 38th km, one sip at a time. Like every other time, it did workout pretty well and kept me going.
Finally my long pending business was over. Not exactly how I wanted it though.