Monday, January 21, 2013

SCMM 2013

The splurge on 31 dec and the continued stress at work was not doing me any good. The key is to switch off work as you enter home was not working. Perhaps it was not just me. My entire team was facing this.

Easy to say.. Hard to practice. Running had often provided me with an avenue close to meditation, but something did not work this time. It showed up when I gave up Pune Marathon at 32KM-Leg pain! Then I timed 3:30+ on a Pune running event to prepare for SCMM. The leg pain came back.

Bottomline. I was not mentally or physically prepared for SCMM. I started tapering on the racecourse with 10 km runs at weekend. I stepped on the weight scales and noticed the battery had drained.

One of the things that worked: we now had a large team from our company that was participating in SCMM 2013. This was something I dreamed of, but it had seemed so hard to realize. The positive spirit/ companionship were back.

We collected the bibs on 19th from WTC. Lunch at nearby Kamat hotel. My bib read the number as 703 and category Veteran! I felt older than my age but I met more senior and better timers at the expo. I had joined the veteran group of super performing old (by age) runners. We travelled back to Hotel Manama and had a nice afternoon nap. Evening snacks at Suvidha (The famous Kamat place) and Lassi at Cannon.

We took some time loitering around CST to find a banana vendor for early morning snack.

Woke up at 2:45AM for the natures call. I dreaded the Hyderabad marathon post 32 km in case I did not find any loos when time was pressing. I ate two bananas, a cup of coffee and a slice of bread at Manama canteen. Tied the timing chip to my foot. There was a slight throb in the thumb and I tried to tape it. The feeling was not comfy as the thumb slipped on the smooth floor. I removed the plaster. We were set to go. Nitin negotiated with the Manama manager to buy in an extra hour. We were to vacate the hotel at 1PM.

We walked to Azad maidan at around 5AM. I could see lot of vibram 5 fingered runners; occasionally few barefoot runners as well. The tribe is increasing!

I was in group C. I joined the crowd to give way to the finer runners. 5:40 and the race started. I walked to the start point and then started off with a small jog. The group was slowing me down and I feared treading on my bare feet so I increased pace to needle my way to the front.

It was a cold morning. As cold as Mumbai can permit. I started looking for a cubicle to relieve the bladder. The night watch at Oberoi was pleading the runners to not use the sea side and there was a booth ahead. It was another 2 kms and I found a public place. The first time I joined a queue of men in front of a “Ladies toilet” and my bare feet entered the yucky place.

The run along the Churney road was easy and the small “dreaded” flyover was easy. I started to see half marathoners on the other side of the road. I ran along the sea link to meet two other bare foot runners. We had a common view. Barefoot always attracts attention and barefoot runners often do not feel heroic about it. It’s the runners with boots that astound us with their stifled and hot feet with added weight.

I crossed the 20km point at Bandra. Another cubicle and I rushed to empty my bladder again. I was overhydrated. The 25 km point was no big deal. But after this I had developed some pressure and it was not the bladder this time. No cubicles. Crowd cheers, “ You are doing well Mr Veteran.”

Cadbury bars appear..Almonds /raisins/ dates..Why do Mumbaikars spend so much for the marathon crowd. They are not watching. The crowd on the side is a part of the marathon.
I should do the same for my city?

A small girl chirps, “ Look that man does not even have slippers.”

“Cheer up Mr 703.” Mumbai crowd is very good at cheering! Point 28km. The pressure is now causing pain and I must find a loo. Ahh..There is one between 28 km and 29 km

Split@27 Km 02:53:45 at an Avg Speed of 9.32 Kmph

Mr 703 enters the loo . Barefoot adventure. The scene is not to be spoken abt for the readers benefit.

I come out and run to the 28 km line.

Split@28 Km 03:02:55 at an Avg Speed of 9.18 Kmph

I was still in positive mode as Neepa who headed the 5 hr bus is still long way from me. Sub 5 is the target! The route is known and I continued to run fine till the flyover near churney road.

Everyone around me is walking. I pulled out the energy gel pack and squeezed the coffee like fluid. It helps! I start off into a slow jog. As I descend the slope I look back. Neepa is right behind me. Oh no! I cannot do a negative split on slope as my ankles and knees rebel. I try to take it easy.

Neepa overtakes followed by sub 5 team. I start my run/walk/run.

The Navy band is playing at the Choupatty sea shore. The road is not so good and I have some pain due to the unevenness. The road is not hot and that is a blessing. I do feet stretches to relieve taut muscles. An helicopter roars and I start running again. I take the left to CST station. I am still on the walk/ jog schedule. A bit of lost hope at completing sub 5 as the truth sinks into me during last 3 kms retardation. I do not feel like to challenge my feet as I need their help when I get old. “No Injury” is the goal.

As I run towards the finish line someone in the crowd cheers “Run Parag”. It must be a mate from Pune running. I ran through the photographers into the maidan to pick up my goody bag and finish medal.

As I SMS my time to Sujit (its been a tradition, as he always finishes before). Then I join him in the shade. Sujit has made a great progress as he completed it in 4:25 his PB.

We see an old sardar, none other than Fauja singh. Young marathoners have their arms around him. To me he does not look 110 but around 80+.

The source of my inspiration is from the older mature runners beyond my age.

-Mr Veteran (703)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A change for good

It was 7PM when the door bell rang.

“Prasad! Its good to see you. What is up?”

“ Let’s go to Sinhagad. I am carrying two hammocks.”, chirped Prasad. “Its fun to do something unplanned.”

I was surprised as Prasad, never divulges the full intent in first talk. He had a grand plan.

“ Do you have a good torch?”

I fished out one from my drawer. “ But I haven’t eaten anything.”

Prasad, “Let’s eat at some place on the route and then climb.”

Over a Mutton Biryani, Prasad started to divulge the plan.

Then Prasad began, “You remember the Khan kada wall. Sanjay and Surendra have put a bolting station.”

I knew that they had opened a new route, but I had yet to see where the hammocks would come in. Prasad explained, “We shall descend the wall from the top. At 70-80 feet from the top of the cliff, there is a bolt station. We shall clip the hammocks to the bolts crawl inside and go to sleep.”

I marveled at the idea. Firstly, it meant rappelling the face in total darkness. Swinging and attaching the hammocks to the bolts and spending a cold night with around ~80+ feet below us.

It was a crazy idea, but expected, from my old friend. Though we always talked about our expeditions and climbs, we had not ever climbed together. He had drifted away with a group of excellent climbers and had bagged many peaks such as first ascents of Mt Matri and Mt Panwali Dwar. He and Surendra had narrowly escaped an avalanche on Mt Shivling.

We biked to Sinhagad. Prasad climbed to the top of the cliff with the gear and started the descnt. I was guiding him with my torch. With couple of swings he setup the first hammock and then the second one. I tied the torch to the end of the rope as he pulled it to his hammock.

I started my descent. I wore a Jummar for self anchor and the seat harness. The plan was to keep hooked to the top rope and wear the harnesses throughout the night. The Hammock had a tightly closed lip and I shoved my Leg inside to open it wider. I snuggled in and soon found the discomfort. My shoulders were crunched inside the boat shaped canvas against the rock wall.

Prasad was smiling at me from the other hammock. He was in a very jolly mood. I decided to digest the situation for the night. I remembered that I had decided to have a pee, but had forgotten in a hurry. I buried the thought. It was 9PM. We started singing in chorus and soon I forgot the drop underneath. We started talking about our old treks, laughing at the crazy situations we had been.

“Prasad! How about some music?”

“ You carried a tape recorder? That’s great!”

I pulled out a cassette from my knapsack and the night went alive with the music, with choral support from Prasad and me.

It was almost 1AM when a booze party picked up in a shed near the carpark area. Booze is prohibited on the fort and we decided to create some disturbance. I shone my torch on to the group and hooted. The people were very surprised to see the light from middle of the cliff but could not make out the hammocks.

At 3AM, to make things challenging, Mother Nature decided to provide us with a cold shower. We were clamped to the face, but we had a tiny protection from the overhang above. Drenched and unable to move in the hammocks we waited for the first ray of the sun.

We rappelled down after removing the hammocks and the gear. It was a great night. My fear for the face was killed.

Prasad asked, “Would you be willing to join the Kamet Expedition? Let’s go for the meeting and you can decide. Balya has agreed to lead.”

I thought about the circumstances. This was a siege style expedition contrary to my experience. I would be a misfit in the team. But I had the opportunity to climb with Good climbers from Mumbai and Pune. I would also get a chance to be with my hostel mates, Surendra and Moreshwar. I did not see any chances of teaming with alpine style climbers. I had run out of choices and this was a good offer.

Kamet experience would be the closest to a mountain of 8000 mt and I decided to waive aside my scruples for Siege style climbing.