I blacked out.
The next thing I know is opening my eyes in the intensive care unit of Medical Trust Hospital, Cochin, an hour later. Surrounded by half a dozen beautiful angels in scrubs, I thought I reached heaven.
Well, not yet.
Before you tell me this is what will happen if I try and bite on a lot more than I can chew, hear me out:
- I had finished the same event last year.
- I had prepared better than last year.
- As compared to the parties and the travels, I was a regular at the gym this year. I never missed a day since I started in June.
- I had switched from my mass gaining routine to stamina training about 7 weeks ago. That was showing massive improvements to my stamina.
- I worked on my running speed using HIIT.
- Unlike last year, I had proper running shoes this time.
- I had given enough rest during my taper. My last long run was a week before the event.
Running in my Woodlands gave me joint pains on my knee last year and that lasted for a week. So I invested in a pair of Adidas running shoes. I got the Adidas Lite Pacer. They are really light weight at just over 190 grams each (as I remember when I weighed them a few months back) and are quite durable and really comfortable.
Although I did make one mistake while selecting them. My normal shoe size is 10, but 10 felt a bit lo0se while I tried it on. So I went for a 9. The shoe is a perfect fit for normal use, but during long runs the feet warms up and expands in the shoe and it gave me runners toe. Last year it was joggers nipple, this year its runners toe.
This came to me as a surprise after a run one day during practice. My nail was black and it was hurting and I had no idea why. It looked as if I had hurt my toe in between a door but how could I not remember something like that? Some research online said I had runners toe and further reading told me that the choice of my shoe was of the wrong size. Apparently I should have gone for the 10 or even a 11.
- Buy shoes the same size or one size bigger than normal street shoes.
- Trim toe nails perfectly before long runs.
- Keep your feet dry. Wear non-cotton socks. They have running socks for this that keep the moisture away from your feet.
I need new running shoes for my next event. And I have to learn how to choose the right one.
Last year I was advised not to run on the last three days leading up to the race. This year I did my last long run 6 days before the actual run and then went for a short run two days after and relaxed for most of the week eating well and massaging my legs. I watched Bhaag Milkha Bhaag for motivation and was ready for the race.
The day before the race, I packed my bag, went to Cochin and collected my Bib, ate right and went to bed early.
7.Dec.2014 – Race Day
I was up at 4:15 a.m, had my first banana and went in for the most important challenge of the day – to poop. Aced it!
I watched a few of my favorite motivational videos, had two more bananas and was ready soon.
My friend Muttu drove me to the starting point and I kept sipping rice soup on the way. I could see the elite runners warming up and instantly felt a chill of respect go through my body.
I walked in and realized that I had forgotten to fill up the back of the Bib where you are expected to fill in your name and emergency contact. I remember asking myself if I should go through the pain of unpinning them off my shirt and filling it up. I finished last year without any trouble, so I won’t probably need it anyway.
But I finally found a pen from a news reporter and filled it up anyway. Rules are made for a reason. He asked me a few questions but I don’t think he caught my name to quote me in his newspaper.
I wanted to pee, and stood in line, but someone told me that we were being moved from the holding area to the starting point and I ditched the plan to pee. My bladder wasn’t full or anything.
Mr. Mohanlal was at the starting point waving his hands at all his fans. I just looked at him and tried to hide the fact that I was starstruck. I also found Deepak Joseph, a batch mate from college amongst the runners.
The race started.
I tried to run at the pace at which I practiced, but the runners next to me were moving much slower than I was and I had to navigate my way for the first few kilometers to keep running at my pace.
Note to self: Next time move to the front of the entire group before the start of the race.
I started feeling like I was on after about 4 kilometers but I was falling behind on the splits I had in mind. And then at about 55 minutes my stop watch turned off somehow. Now I had no idea of my progress for a few minutes and I just kept pushing.
Looking at the split from the timing chip, I was precisely sticking to my time. If I had gone the whole way, I would have completed in under 2 hours. Now we have to see if that is true the next time.
The story that spread amongst some of my friends is that my mind turned off when my watch turned off. I still had a way to track my time because I knew the current time and I knew the time the race started, so I could do the math and still track my progress.
At about 44 minutes into the race I saw the race car and the leading group from the elite runners running the other way. They weren’t even sweating much. Boy! what a sight that was!
I remember finishing 15kms and then pushing myself and finishing the 16th too. I was exhausted and my legs were failing on me and I remember wondering why. I asked myself if I should stop but decided not to and thought it was normal. The sun was up and the race was still on and I kept pushing.
The next thing I remember is being on a bed in a hospital with fuzzy vision. Based on the time I last remember and the time the hospital have on their record, I was out for about an hour or more.
I was disoriented. I remember calling out my Dad’s name and number. I thought I saw blood on my right arm, but later figured that it was medical tape. I remember realizing that I wont be able to finish this year.
The nurses attached leads to my body (just like how Bond does in Casino Royale, the only difference was that he was doing it inside an Aston Martin DBS) and plugged wires into them. They already had the finger clip on me. They asked me to stay calm because apparently I thought I was still running and kept moving my legs.
The next 30 minutes or so were interesting. I was trying to figure out what happened. They asked me my age, but all I could tell them was that I remember turning 25 and then I told them my birth year. (I turned 26 this September.)
I could remember my full address too. I remember asking the nurses not to cut my hair to which someone replied, this is isn’t a barbershop. lol
Then I asked one nurse her name and asked her if she would tell me everything that happened to me when I was stable. She said her name was Anju and agreed to my request. I later found out that her real name wasn’t that and she told me that they aren’t supposed to tell a disoriented patient names since that could trigger undesirable memories.
I stabilized soon. My left calf muscle was hurting and my fingers and toes and my wrist had gone lean from losing all the water. My dad arrived and I saw my friend Hari outside when they opened the door. He came with my dad. I learned from my dad that it was a Navy Captain who helped me get to the hospital. Captain Satheesh Shenoy. He finished his race and later came around to check up on me. We later talked on the phone and I am planning to go visit him the next time I am in Cochin.
A few of my friends from Cochin also came to visit me although they couldn’t get into the ICU. Sajith and Sanjay were there even before my father arrived. Anand, Muttu and Vineeth came later on. Deepak, whom I met right before the start of the race also came in. Thank you guys!
The doctors examined me. They tested everything that came out of my body and did a bunch of tests. They fed me well and gave me juices to drink.
I got discharged the day after. The reports said I was normal. And I drove home with dad and my sister.
I badly wanted a shower.
Air Crash Investigation
So what went wrong?
The doctors said dehydration. But why would I be dehydrated after all the preparation and training and taking fluids during the run?
I have two answers. Overconfidence and pushing myself beyond what my body was ready for.
At about 15 kilometers I could feel my legs getting weak and my body getting really tired. I almost stopped at one point but kept pushing forward telling myself that “I don’t stop when am tired, I stop when am done”. In retrospect, I think I should have stopped for a minute. But then I finished last year and I didn’t stop then, so I had no doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t finish this year and that overconfidence got me in trouble.
Last year I finished in 2h 32m 23s. This year my goal was to finish in 2h or less. That’s what I practiced for. During one of my timed runs, I had completed 15kms in 1h 28m. And the splits that I was aiming for on the final race day was like this:
- 3km in 15mins
- 7km in 34mins (i..e the next 4km in 19mins)
- 10.5km in 57mins (3.5km +23mins)
- 15km in 1h 28mins (4.5km +31mins)
- 18km in 1h 43mins (3km +15mins)
- 21.097 in 1h 58mins (3km +15mins)
If you have watched a few episodes of Nat Geo series on Air Crash Investigation, you probably know that an airplane rarely goes down due to one single reason. There is always some blown fuse that prevents the check engine light from going off and the copilot forgetting to bring his reading glasses and the ground staff filling in the total weight of the luggage wrong and a combination of this blowing up some shit and the flight not getting enough lift during take off and crashing onto something. Well, here are the other reasons that could have caused my breakdown.
- Although I reached the venue 25 minutes ahead of time, I now feel that was not enough. Should have reached there at least 45 minutes to an hour in advance to settle into the mood. Note to self.
- I did not do a proper warm up. I did my stretches and that was about it. I did the same thing last year as well, but then last year I wasn’t pushing myself or running at my real speed from the beginning. I saw the elite runners doing their warm ups. I should have done mine too.
- I did not empty my bladder. It wasn’t full, but I could have pee’d. I actually tried to and stood in line to pee, but then someone told me that the runners were being shifted from the holding area to the starting point and I ditched the plan. Bad move. A few kms into the run I could feel my bladder filling up and that might have slowed down my intake of fluids.
- I naturally sweat a lot. I mean, after a nice workout at the gym my shorts literally drip all over the floor. During the run I was sweating badly and the sun came up in between and I should have had more fluids that I was taking. Last year I remember taking fluids from almost every water station they had, this time I skipped a few and only went to the ones that served Enerzal.
- During practice I never did the whole 21kms. Not even once. I came close, but apparently that was not good enough. Interestingly, last year I finished a 21 during the few weeks of practice that I had.
- I did not sleep well enough the night before. I kept waking up after every sleep cycle. But I wasn’t tired when I finally got up that morning and felt quite rested. But who knows.
I am perfectly alright now, thanks for asking. My body took a few days to recover and my spirit was never broken, so I am good. Started working out again this week.
The way I see it I was damn persistent even when I knew my legs were failing on me. I was not naturally persistent. That’s a quality I learned in my twenties. So I am proud of it. Look at me bragging about my failures!
Lesson learned: Its time to learn when to quit.
I will finish this one next time.