Had a pretty nervous and restless week leading up to the Ultra on 15th November 2009 - sensing a few aches and pains and a mild sore throat. The gloomy weather also added to the lethargy. However, the weather became a bit better toward the end of the week and the excitement of participating in the 3rd Bangalore Ultra became palpable as I interacted with a number of fellow runners while collecting the running bib on 14th afternoon.
As has now become the norm for any long run I woke up on 15th November a few minutes before my alarm rang. Partha and Sridharan reached the Domlur signal as planned at 4:20 after picking up Rohit from Diamond district. Due to the discussions we were having while driving and the construction work happening in the area we missed the right turn to Hesaraghatta and had to drive up 3-4 Kms before we could make a U-turn and return. We were fortunate that we decided on Saturday evening to advance our departure time by 15-20 minutes - else we may not have reached the venue on time. We managed to get there barely 20 minutes before the start time. The direction banners with the ultra logo enroute were quite helpful . We crossed a few runners runnign with torches - these runners had started their race at 5am. The energy and the comraderie at the holding area was amazing - lots of familiar runners and many new ones too!
The race started bang on time at 6am after a few announcements from A1, A2 and Atul of Runners For Life. I started at a moderate pace - my goal was to do the first 25K(2 loops) in about 2 and a half hours and then do the remaining 25K in as close to 3 hours as possible. It was perfect weather for distance running and stayed that way through out the day - partly cloudy, breezy at times and intermittent ligt drizzle - what more can one ask for of the weather gods? The route is 6.25K out and back - the number of loops varies depending on the distance one is running. This provides a great opportunity to see and cheer other runners multiple times during the run - a unique characteristic of the Bangalore Ultra. At about the 2Km mark I sighted Honda San and other 100K/75K runners on their way back. And what an incredible race Honda had - completing 100Km in 10:23 in what seemed to many of us effortlessly.
I completed the first loop in under 1:15 and the second one in just about 2:30. In the second loop I ate my energy bar. I ran a bit with Saptagirish and also with Rohit. I met Amit from Delhi runners and Masao Nakayama who had come over from Singapore to run the Ultra. A stretch of the route in the forest route was wet due to overnight rain and one had to be careful. Also, once the 25K and 12.5K runners hit the trail the route was cramped for space in sections. Though it was great to see so many runners coming all the way to run these different distances and it is great for promoting running and also for RFL's business, opening up the 12.5K distance at the ultra is a subject of debate and diasgreement among distance runners. I started to slow down a bit in the third round as my stomache was hurting. Nevertheless, I pushed on the cheering from other runners helping me quite a lot. Unlike the last two Ultras I was more focused on timing this time and did not stop for too long at any of the aid stations - which were as usual well stocked. However, apart from the 3 bananas before the start and the energy bar during the run I did not eat anything else. I mostly drank only water - only in the 4rth loop I had some electral. By the time I started my 4rth round I was quite confident of comfortably bettering my previous year's time of 5:50. And felt that the target of sub 5:30 was achievable. I managed to push my tiring legs and wavering mind to finish in 5:22:29 - 2nd in the senior men's and 7th overall. I had to immediately dash off to the loo - as A1 said when I crossed him towards finishing the 4rth loop- a price well worth paying for sahving 28 minutes off my last years time! Rohit finished shortly thereafter completing his first run beyond 35K in an excellent time of 5:40:30. I was quite happy with the race and the event overall. Not having digital clocks at the start point was disappointing and the food was a huge let down again.