Thursday, December 14, 2006

Sugar, Mighty Sugar and the California International Marathon

Shetal & Shridhar's Sonnet
The alarm went off at the preset hour
And the body dragged itself out of bed;
Coffee, muffin, Gatorade and shower
Ere, like a sheep, to the bus it was led.
Huddled against the cold in a warm bus
With two who were doing their first such race;
Such courage from them! Totally wondrous!!
Just plain joy and eagerness on each face
As they took the first steps on the journey.
The long miles went by slowly but surely,
Their attitude as upbeat as could be.
Even late, with legs tired and achy!
Such sterner stuff these heroes are made of!!!
To them my running cap I do now doff.

It was 10 a.m. Saturday (Dec 2) morning and I was somewhere in between Selene's silvery caresses and Apollo's call to arms when the phone rang. The part of me listening to Apollo was wondering whether Rajeev Char had left for Sacramento. He was to run the California International Marathon the next day.

The phone rang. It was Rajeev Char, on his way to Sacramento, asking me about the 50K I should have been running in Woodside instead of lying in comfort on my bed. I informed him about my eventful Friday evening and night and the fact that I had gone to bed at 3 a.m. with no chance of being able to get up at 6 get ready for my race.

I suddenly had an inspiration! I asked him to register me for the marathon the next day and told him that I would be up there by 5 pm. I was out of the bed like a flash! I had a purpose now!! Time to gather my running gear and hit the road.

On the way there, I realized that it would be a cold morning the next day. I stopped in a bike store in Davis and purchased leg warmers. I reached the downtown Holiday Inn at 5 p.m. as promised. Shridhar Rajan, a friend of ours from our Muscat (Oman) days, was attempting his first marathon the next day. A 2006 Team Asha runner, Shetal, who had to be taken off to ER around mile 24 of the Silicon Valley Marathon in October, was also attempting her first marathon.

We trooped off to a nearby mall, ate dinner and were back in our rooms by 7:30 pm. We set all our gear out on the table and went off to sleep around 9 p.m.

The wake-up call came too soon. I would have liked another hour in bed but that was not to be. Early walking around with the leg warmers made me leave them behind. The 4 of us were soon on the bus that would take us to the start (near Folsom Dam). We reached around 6 a.m. and decided to remain on the bus to keep warm.

Pradeep Das found us just before the start. We were carrying his bib number and chip. The gun went off promptly at 7 a.m. Rajeev and I had decided to run with Shridhar and Shetal. Pradeep and Vineeta Singh ran with us on and off through the race.

We had a party out there! I was distributing sugary ginger cubes and mango slices and we were availing of all the eats at the aid stations - oranges, pretzels. The first Half went by uneventfully for Shridhar and Shetal. We ran it in 2:45 i.e. crossed the Halfway mark at 9:45 a.m.

It was around mile 16-17 that Shridhar started feeling the effects of low sugar. Both Rajeev and I had forgotten to carry money with us and were unable to buy cans/bottles of Coke for Shridhar and Shetal. I suddenly saw a diner on the right. I darted inside, grabbed 15-20 packets of sugar and was soon forcing 6-7 of them down Shridhar's throat! 10 minutes later our man was on a roll. His energy level was up and he looked more cheerful and ready to take on the last 9-10 miles!

Shetal started experiencing Achilles pain around mile 20. I had her do a few exercises by the side of the road and they seemed to help her a bit.

Both of them showed tremendous courage and determination. The initial cold had now been replaced by a beautiful Fall day, cool and sunny. Rajeev and I were making sure that the 2 of them were taking in enough electrolytes.

The 4 of us got separated around mile 21. I decided to stay with Shetal while Rajeev went ahead with Shridhar. The last 5 miles were spent walking. Everytime Shetal tried to run, the pain got worse. So walk our way to the finish we did in 6:16!

Flat soda or raw sugar - wonderful when all is lost and you need to jumpstart your race! I've used it in numerous races and watched its effects on another runner this time around.

In my next ultra I'm going to carry packets of sugar for the much needed boost I know I will need in the middle and waning miles.


Scott Dunlap said...

Way to improvise! I once drank an entire honey bear at a bike race since I had forgotten my wallet.

I loved your pic on the cover of Ultrarunning Magazine too! At least I think that's you...


Rajeev said...


Yes, that's me (thanks to Don Lundell). :)

Chihping Fu 傅治平 (超馬阿爸) said...

What a race! I'm impressed that you helped each other and finshed through the run. I hope I can do CIM next year.

Thanks for the tip. I'll put some sugar in my drop bags and fanny pack next time :-)

I love your picture at the ultrarunning magazine. I'm afraid it's not available in book stores :-( I should have subscribed to it!