Sunday, March 02, 2008

2008 Napa Valley Marathon

The Warrior
The body is like a child being led:
Doing all that it has been asked to do.
The truth is that we fight with our head,
Even more so when life starts to unglue.
The race is long, six miles after a score,
And it will take all you have to finish;
Much courage you will need, then a bit more,
For the demons of self-doubt you'll banish.
Trust in the training that got you this far,
And in that Rock that lives in all of us;
So believe in you as you go to war;
You are an Army of One: The Dauntless.
Look within you for courage and you'll find
It's limitless, much though it may be mined.

I wrote this poem a couple of years ago and it was so apropos this past weekend when the 6 people I coached through the winter either discovered the Rock within them or acquainted themselves again with their courageous Self.

Anu, Kshama, Bharti, Lily, Lila and Raj had braved rainy and chilly weekends while ramping up the miles en route to their tryst with the Napa Valley marathon. Race day had arrived and there was no place to hide. Not that they wanted to. Au contraire. A tad nervous, they champed at the bit all of race week.

Saturday, March 1
We left Saratoga around 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 1.

(Starting out from Anu's home)

On the way, the need to answer the call of nature saw us in the order line in Vik's Chaat cafe in Berkeley. After feasting on delicious Indian chai and falooda kulfi, we hit the road again and did not stop until we reached the Napa Marriott, around 3:30 p.m.

Rajeev Char, Shridhar and Madhu had reached much earlier, picked up their bib numbers and were ensconced in their hotel rooms by then.

The Expo was fun. I ran into Catra Corbett who was in the Atalanta running apparel booth. I also met Norm Klein and my ex-coach and friend Tom McGlynn (2nd place in last year's Napa marathon in a fantastic time of 2:21). I duly introduced Norm to Tom.

The original plan was to eat dinner in Pasta Prego at 6:30 p.m. I changed that reservation to 5:30 p.m. We all trooped into the pasta place and were soon imbibing (some of us) Pinot Noir and wolfing down delicious bruschettas and excellent pasta.

(Pasta dinner in Pasta Prego)

It was then back to the hotel where we checked into our rooms and then had a quick meeting before hitting the sack. Vinod Herur had come in just after I checked into my room and he and I watched TV until about 10:30 p.m. before falling asleep.

Sunday, March 2
The alarm went off at 3:50 p.m. I need almost 45-50 minutes on race morning before I am ready. Breakfast was a sesame bagel with peanut butter and jam accompanied by coffee.

I had settled on my fluorescent yellow Ohlone 50K shirt topped by a sleeveless cycling vest. I felt extremely cold until the race got underway but warmed up soon enough and the outfit proved to be just perfect.

We left the hotel at 5:15 a.m. and were in the Vintage School parking lot by 5:35 a.m. A walk of a few hundred yards brought us to the long line of runners waiting to board the shuttle. A few minutes later our own bus took off for the Start.

The ride was soporific. It felt good to doze for 30-40 minutes. The day was going to be long and every bit of rest before the race was welcome.

We all went and stood in a port-a-john line. I talked briefly with Brad Niess, a fellow ultrarunner. He is one of those cheerful runners you like instantly.

The race started soon after. I lost a glove right away while trying to take pictures of my team. I realized this almost a third of a mile into the race. I circled back to see if I could spot it but to no avail. I chucked the other glove into a pile of gloves and decided to suck it up in case my hands felt cold.

I soon caught up with the rest of the team just before the Mile 1 marker.

(The first mile)

11:20 for the first mile. A bit too fast. I had decided to run with Raj all through the race. I would run between him and the others for as long as I could and then settle down with him. He had been suffering from ITB pain brought about by tight quads and his race was the one I was most worried about.

(Anu and Bharti)

The early miles flew by in a flash. Lisa Weiss approached me around mile 2 or 3 and we talked for a few minutes. She looked good. I had last seen her in the Lean Horse 100M in August, 2007. We talked about the races we were planning to do this year. I left her to speed up in order to reach Anu and Bharti. I ran back to Raj soon after.

Bharti and Anu disappeared from view. Lily and Lila vanished soon after. Raj was going great guns by now. Consistently churning out the miles in 11:00-12:00 minutes/mile pace. I had planned for him to go through the halfway mark in around 2:40. I wanted him to start slow and then pick up later if he could.

The first third of the race went by easy enough. Every 45 minutes I made sure he took a Power Gel (the one with 200+ mg Sodium) and had him alternate Gatorade with water at the aid stations.

His left ITB soon started bothering him. He decided to send his breath and energy to the affected area. We reached Kartik and Naren just after mile 9. I handed them my vest and Raj handed them his jacket etc. We asked them to round up some Advil and hand it to us the next time they met us.

Soon after I stopped by the side of the road to help a large German/Swiss/Austrian runner with his ITB pain. Raj took that opportunity to stretch before continuing on. I had already helped a Japanese runner with his ITB issues a few miles before this. A couple of women, from the San Francisco Running Club, passed by and asked if we needed Advil. I quickly asked for one, thanked them profusely and caught up with Raj who happily gulped it down.

The halfway point was reached in 2:40! Perfect. Now time to buckle down and execute some more.

Hao, another ultra running friend, was along the course encouraging Raj and me. That felt so good!

Madhu and Bonnie caught up with us. We ran together for a mile or so until they both made a beeline for the portable toilets lining the road. Madhu had been kind enough to give Raj another Advil before that.

Raj was feeling great by now. We were doing some fast splits - sub 12:00. Around mile 18 we passed an Indian runner (Kumar) who was cramping severely. I gave him a few salt tablets and he recovered soon after to finish well (I met him after the race).

The final climb in this race comes between mile 19 and 20.3 It's flat after that all the way to the Finish.

We caught up and passed Kshama soon. She was not doing well. She almost threw up by the side of the road. She had determination writ all over her face though so I knew she would be OK.

Just before we met her I had painted a scenario for Raj. This is what it was - I told him that I could possibly get him to the Finish area in just under 5:23. He could then wait until the race clock showed 5:23 before stepping across the Finish line. Anu, his wife, had finished her first marathon (Victoria, Oct 2003) in 5:23.

That is why I was torn between staying with Kshama or going ahead with Raj when we caught up with her. I chose the latter. I reasoned that he needed me more in the last 5 miles than did Kshama. She was doing her 5th marathon.

With a mile and a half to go, we passed the indomitable Helen Klein. She went on to break her own WR, set in CIM in Dec 2007, by a whopping 13 minutes (she finished in 5:46). Raj, in the meanwhile, had befriended a runner named Fiona. They both crossed the Finish line together in 5:23. Mission accomplished.

So what happened that my team had to dig deep?

Kshama's blood sugar dropped abysmally just after the halfway point and never recovered enough. Nausea compounded her difficulties.

Bharti, in spite of taking a salt tablet every hour, cramped up quite badly in the last 8-10 miles. She walked, ran a bit, walked, ran a bit and eventually finished in a wonderful 5:09.

Lila and Lily both felt tired around mile 20 and had to dig really deep to continue.

Anu, the Queen of handling pain (she has a very high pain threshold), came down with a urinary infection (blood in her urine etc.) around mile 18. Her neuroma pain also returned. The double attack did not defeat her though. She fought and fought and finished a couple of minutes behind Lila and Lily in 5:15.

Raj battled his ITB pain and emerged victorious too.

Lisa finished just behind Raj and looked good all along the course! Way to go my friend.

(Lisa finishing strong)

Vinod Herur ran a simply electric 3:31:27 (he missed qualifying for Boston by 28 seconds), a PR by 4 minutes. Rajeev Char also knocked off 7 minutes from his previous best to finish in 3:49.

Madhu bettered her previous best of 6:02 by running strongly all through to finish in 5:46. Shridhar finished in 6:25.

Warriors all!!!

Big thanks to Kartik and Naren for helping us all so much during the race. They were simply awesome.


KShama said...

Thanks Patelu for being you. You are such a gift and I am always grateful that you are in my life. Tons of love and hugs.

Rajeev said...


Thank you for your words. I too am grateful for having you in my life.

Rest up for Fiji. :)


Anonymous said...

Awesome performance !, well written report ..:)


Rajeev said...


Thank you very much.


Alan said...

Rajeev - great report and I love the photos during the event. Congrats on another fine race/report.

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

Sounds fun to be able to help lead a group. And run yourself--congrats.

Rajeev said...


Thank you sir.


Rajeev said...


Thank you for stopping by at 3:13 a.m. :))


anil said...

Congrats to all. Excellent Rajeev.. keep up your lively spirit always, makes a hell of difference especially during races :).


Gurpreet said...

Hey Rajeev, I know this comment comes really really late, but this is when i am reading your blog :-) awesome account, i think i loved the poem the best.. its really beautiful and inspiring.


Rajeev said...


Thank you very much! How is the season going? Which race(s) are you going to run?

Wish all the Asha runners good luck with their races.