I was unsure of making it to the start line of the 9th Bangalore ultra on 7th November till late previous evening. While I managed to avoid a DNS, it was disappointing to end up with my 2nd ever DNF (the other one was my first FM attempt in Pune in December 2002). And very very sad that my streak at the Bangalore Ultra (seven 50Kms and one 75Km) came to an involuntary end . Having been part of a team involved with the planning and execution of the first ultra this event had a special place for me and I was keen on running it for ten consecutive years; now that is not going to happen , at least for a while.
It has been a terrible running season jinxed with one injury after another. The LHS glutes/hamstring/numb sole issue morphed into stress in the hamstring/ITB. Then right hip/abdomen pain for which I underwent ultrasound. Soon after that a pain just below LHS knee .I had not done anything beyond 32Km since SCMM in January 2015- the one 32Km run was at the end of June. A few days after the HM at SPBM 2015 I did a 3:45/35Km run - this is approximate as I could not use my Garmin - it having been completely discharged. Nevertheless, this run gave me the confidence to register for the ultra which I did just about a week prior to race day - probably a day before registrations closed.
Then barely four days before race day I sprained my lower back during a strengthening exercise at Manipal hospital(department of sports and exercise medicine). The pain was so severe that I was quite unsure whether I would be able to start the race or not.
Anyway with a combination of painkillers and complete rest the back sprain seemed to heal well enough for me to decide to do a slow 50Km . With a few hours to go before the start of the race I got a call about the pre-ponement of my flight to Mumbai that evening which again almost derailed my plan to participate in the race.
Anyway eventually I made it to the start line. Left in S's car along with SS at 4:30am and after picking up A at BEML gate reached King's county by 5:20am. It seemed like a longish walk to the holding area from the car parking. A quick visit to the port-a-potty , a bit of warming up and then meeting and greeting of fellow ultra runners till the count down to the race.
Having not run or cycled for a few days I started the race very apprehensively. S took off ahead while SS and I ran together. Just after the 2Km mark I shouted out to a Chennai runner who missed a turn and was heading in the wrong direction. A few minutes after that (maybe I was distracted by the banter around that, it's tough to recollect exactly) I went by the side of a bunch of sticks lying on the ground and hit a tree stump and fell on the ground with a loud thud. Though muddied considerably I was lucky to not injure either my hands or my legs . SS helped me wash my hands and as I re-started running slowly I sensed a not too severe pain in the ribs area of my chest.
This is the 3rd consecutive year that I have fallen in the ultra route- however the previous two years it was in the 2nd loop. This year's early fall shook me up and my already non too strong mind started worrying whether I should run the whole race with the pain in chest if it lingers. As always it was good to see many familiar (and new runners) on the trail. Due to the rains in the days before the race the route was treacherous in portions and one had to make turns to circumvent these sections. So certainly not ideal for a PB. Which of course was not an issue for me. Till about the 10Km mark SS and I ran together trunversing on various topics including waste segregation and composting. SS turned back to pace N for his 75K race while I continued at a pace between 6:15 and 6:30. From then on I pretty much ran alone at a steady pace. While the pain in the ribs did not increase it bothered me and my resolve to complete the run started to weaken because of the long trip ahead. I completed the 1st loop in about 2:45 and went straight to the medical tent. The doctor iced my ribs and also sprayed it. He suggested that though unlikely to be a fracture I get it X-rayed anyway considering I was going to be away for a week. I vacillated agonisingly for a while as to whether to complete the race albeit slowly with a run/walk combo. After about 500 m into the course I just lost in mentally and decided it was better to quit. Except for the dull pain in the ribs I was physically in very good shape - in fact the legs were not tired at all. Just did not have the motivation to complete. It was not an easy decision for me to break my streak in the ultra. And this also meant that for the first time since 2006 I would complete just one FM in a calendar year.However, given my physical and mental state it was probably the right thing to do.
Had a sumptuous breakfast while catching with fellow runner and old friend Gopal. Saw A completing his 50Km in just over 4 hours and D stopping after 50K due to gas in his chest. Rode back with D and his wife and got home a little after noon. X-ray showed no fracture in the ribs - which was good news that also evoked a twinge of regret for not having completed the race. The silver lining is that the emotional attachment of a streak at the ultra is now broken and I can look at other possible events in November.
Apparently the race timings have got delayed and messed up again which is disappointing and will likely impact RFL's reputation. With high registration fees all aspects of the organisation(pre,during, post race) are expected to be done well specially for an experienced outfit. And runners do have lots of choices now.
8 days after the ultra I ran an easy 7.5Km on the treadmill - had very dull pain in the ribs but felt quite fine a few hours after the run. Hope to fully recover in the next few days and looking forward to pacing for 2:00 HM at The Wipro Chennai Marathon on 13th December followed with a sub 3:50 or so FM at SCMM in January.