Running 50 Miles in the UltramarathonMon, 7th Sep '09, 3:00 pm::
I am 39,000 feet high up in a plane connected to the Internet. I couldn't wait to get online so I could write a few words about my race and I'm glad American Airlines has Wi-Fi now. As my track sheet says, I stopped after running 50 miles out of the 100 miles that I signed up for. After four months of intense training and considerable preparation, I ended up with a DNF - Did Not Finish. Ever since I ran my first mile in April, I had been dreading the acronym DNF. To me that sounded like failure and lack of preparation. Till the day before the race, I was terrified of ending up with an embarrassing DNF - oh the shame! And then I ran 50 miles for about 24 hours in 10,000 feet altitude and 35F temperature through mountains, jungles, and canyons paved with loose rocks, tree roots, and extremely steep slopes.
One of the greatest feelings in your life is completely and absolutely surprising yourself about your own abilities. The fear of DNF is gone and replaced by the sheer excitement of what I was able to accomplish when the odds were so severely stacked up against me. I live at sea-level in Florida, run on absolutely flat, paved, marked trail in 100F temperature with high humidity. The Grand Teton Race trail was the complete opposite and I was in no way prepared for such rocky trails and high altitude. I knew I was not training appropriately but till I actually saw the mountain trails in person, I had no idea how unprepared I was. But I couldn't give up. I was here to run an ultramarathon and I was not going to stop until I did. After 50 miles (80 kms), my feet couldn't take it anymore and I happily DNF'ed.
I have blisters on all of my ten toes, both heels, and sides of both feet. This sounds bad but the best thing is that other than my soles, I have absolutely no fatigue, muscle pain, or weakness in my entire body. This makes me extremely excited because that means my body can take 50 miles and a lot more without any engine troubles - I just need better tires. I was glad to feel completely healthy (except for my feet) because that means my exercise regimen in Florida was good. During the race I managed my food, electrolyte, and fluid intake well, I was in full control over my mind and actions, and even after 24 hours, I could have kept going.
I know I did not get a medal for finishing this time but I got more than enough encouragement to keep on running from the tons of wonderful athletes, ultramarathoners, volunteers, and race organizers. They pushed me throughout the course and kept my spirits and energy high. My friend Arthur was my pacer and flew up from NJ to make sure I kept moving forward and helped me with everything from gear, nutrition, and medical assistance. At the same time, my friend Vishal in India, Tamara in NJ, my boss Eric in Florida, and my parents and sister in India kept tracking my progress and sending me encouraging words. My family, friends, and coworkers encouraged me before, during, and after the race and that is more than I can ever ask for.
The one person who probably suffered more than me during my entire training was Juliet. For the past four months, I refused to do anything fun on Friday nights because I had to wake up early on Saturdays. Every Saturday morning I would go out running and leave her alone at home with all of the house and pet chores. Every Sunday I would sit around and be lazy so I could "recover from my long run." She encouraged me to keep training no matter how little progress I seemed to make early on. She bought most of my gear, set up the food and drinks for my runs, and even came out a few times to train with me on some of my shorter runs. And during my race, every time I returned to the base aid station after a loop, Arthur would tell me Juliet called up and said she sends me her love.
After the race, everyone asked me what my next ultra will be. Ultrarunners are serious addicts! They made lots of suggestions, especially races that I can train for while living in Florida. I would absolutely love to do more races but I don't know if I can anytime soon because of the huge time and money commitment that even short races take up. I'm taking a break from running for at least a week or two so my feet can heal up. After that, who knows. I want to get back into kayaking again and probably build something fun like our aviary in the backyard. My school starts tomorrow and I have a pretty big project at work that I need to concentrate on. I don't know how the other ultramarathoners do it but it is definitely not easy to train for one race after other. One thing I know for certain is that I loved the wonderful experience I had during this race and would most definitely do something like this again in the future when I have ample time to train. Thanks everyone for the love and support. Next time I'll bring home a medal.