Thursday, 20 October 2016

My First Full Marathon: Shriram Properties Bengaluru Marathon 2016

Hi fellow runners....
Here goes my experience of running my first full marathon at Shriram Properties Bengaluru Marathon, 2016, which was their 3rd edition. Any FIRST is always a special experience and is etched in your memory for lifetime. If Half-marathon was a 'Graduation', a Full-marathon seems to be a 'Post Graduation'. There are many like me who have been comfortably running half-marathons, but now want to rise to the next level. I am writing here whatever worked for me, and what did not. I am sure many budding FM runners will take home certain positives from this race report. For experienced lot, it may be few more new insights.

Preparation (Training)
It was in Feb 16, about 8 months back, when I decided to take a plunge into FM. Till that point of time, my training was mostly aimed at HM. Having experienced a nasty heel injury during a HM in Aug 2015, I was taking time to recover as well. During my interaction with fellow runners in Hyderabad Runners group, I came across the concept of HR based training or MAF training. So, I started the HR based training from Feb 16, keeping FM in mind. This is also the point where I started my interaction with my Coach Michael. I pegged my average HRs between 135-140 for weekday runs and between 141-145 for long runs during weekend. The weekly mileage was around 60km. I won't describe the HR based aerobic runs further, since there is plethora of information available on web. As things went, I slowly increased my mileage to 70-75 per week after three  months, that is, from May onwards. In 3 months, I lost around 2 kg weight too.
Initially, I planned to do Airtel Hyderabad Marathon-2016 for HM distance, just to do a baseline check. But, as things turned, it couldn't be done.
During training, I did two baseline checks for 5km distance. First one, in May 16 (timing 21:16) and second one in Jun 16 (timing 20:50).
The intensity phase started in Aug 16 and lasted till Sep end. For the first time, I loved this part and was a nice change from monotonous aerobic running phase. In particular, Sep saw lot of action on hills. My coach loves hill training and made me do a lot of variety on hills.

I tapered for 2 weeks. First week, mileage was brought down to 45km. Second week, to about 26km. The coach included a small 30min jog a day prior to the event to get the cobwebs of travel off. There was a mini tempo too, just 4 days away from the event to set the rhythm right for Marathon Pace (MP). I must say that in the spirit of a tempo, I ended up running a little faster than MP, which should be avoided. 4 days away from event is not the right time to push the pedal. The 2-week taper has been summarised below:

Pre-Race Events

1.   Carbo-loading.  There is insane amount of wisdom available on web and from fellow runners on this issue. I found that it is very easy to get confused. Also, most of the nutritional information had western touch. My coach too is also not very fond of this concept. I chose only what I could manage and was available to me. The carbo-loading, in effect, starts automatically once you start tapering because we are running less and without intensity. A week prior, I started finding things I should be eating. So, Mon, Tue and Wed went off without making any special efforts. It was all home food, whatever gets cooked. Special emphasis started from Thu onwards. As a general rule, I found that I should be having more than 400gms of carbohydrates per day. I started entering my food entries into an online food diary, so the nutritional information has been taken from my entries in The day-wise menu is given below:

2.  TravellingChose train intentionally as mode of travel so that legs can be rested and one can do some useful reading. It was an overnight travel to Bengaluru. Stuck to home food brought along without risking on train food. The Friday dinner and Saturday morning breakfast given in the table above has been done in the train. Kept sipping water even when getting up in between sleep, since I don't get continuous sleep in travel. Reached Bengaluru on Saturday morning. Did a cab, headed straight to a friend's place (instead of a lonely hotel room). It's better to stay destressed among friends than just thinking about race all the time. So, in all, the travel went well in a relaxed, well-rested manner.

3.  Expo. Skipped this part and got the bib picked up by a friend in order to stay relaxed and well       rested.  

4.  Early Dinner. Made sure that I have my dinner by 7:30pm to give my system adequate rest. Did preparations for the morning so that there are minimum hassles in finding stuff in kitchen. Also, prepared the race kit and kept in ready to wear condition. Hit the bed at 8:30pm.

Race Day
1.  Waking Up. It is natural to have less or discontinuous sleep before race day. It happens all the time with me. Woke up at 1:00am to make myself pre-race meal to be eaten 3 hours before the race. Headed to kitchen, drank lukewarm water with honey. Prepared oatmeal with jaggery for taste, one peanut butter sandwich, chickpea with coconut oil and jaggery alongwith lemon water with rock salt. Though I was not hungry, but finished all. Prepared a small cup of tea for myself to remove the hangover of less sleep. Cleared motions. By now it was 2:15am. Wore the race kit. Me and my friend were to go on bike to the start point (14 km away). At 2:45am, cleared motions again. Prepared and drank Pre-workout drink from Unived Pre-workout satchet. Woke up my friend, wore a jacket and additional lower below to save myself from morning cool breeze. We set off at 3:15 and reached race venue at 3:38. The entry was to open at 3:45. Since only runners were allowed inside, took off my jacket and lower, handed over to my friend and went inside. Bad decision since i later realized that jacket and lower would have helped me warm up faster, instead of feeling chilly.

2.   Warming Up.  The strategy was light warm up and stretching. So, I kept walking around the track outside stadium for good about 15 mins. In the meantime, cleared motions for the last time. Followed it up with alternate toe touches, side jumps, shoulder rotation, hip rotation, lunges and some kicks. Some light jogging for 200m was enough to seal the warm up phase. Headed straight inside the stadium. It was 4:25 now, another 20 min to start. Made one last pre-workout drink from a satchet. Drank, though I was not thirsty at all. People around were doing all kind of warm up exercises to get psyched up. But I chose to just walk. I found a few known faces from Hyderabad and clicked a few selfies. Thus, I succeeded in avoiding getting unnecessarily psyched up. The entry gate opened at 4:40 and the whole bunch of FM runners headed towards the start line. There were a few people in the stands cheering us. DJ was doing his best to set the ball rolling. There was a quadcopter too monitoring our progress towards start line. In all, the mood was good. I was quite relaxed and ready to go.

The Race

The race was flagged off at exactly 4:45am as scheduled. It was a good decision by organisers considering the current climatic conditions. There was a minor deviation in the route from last time as per experienced runners. I had made my planning chart according to the previous year's route. Nevertheless, at macro level, such planning always helps. MP of 5:10 mins/km was planned by me. A max variance of 30% was allowed based on gradients. The planning sheet was as follows:

So, a target finish of about 3:40 was planned. I had discussed this strategy with a fellow runner Romil (aka Delhi Rommel). Instead of carrying the split chart, I decided to remember roughly the 5K splits I need to give. That's how it was all planned. I am accordingly giving out the race as it went in 5k splits.

Split-1: 0-5km
This stretch was all about Cubbon Park with lots of turns. As planned, I was to take it easy instead of rushing. It went as planned. Rhythm set in after 3kms. There was not much crowd to wade through. I cut corners and ran tangentially wherever it was possible. It took 24:50 and feeling was awesome. The best part was self-control right at the start.

Split-2: 5-10km
This one was lot straighter, mostly on Cubbon Road. This is where I saw elite runners coming from opposite side. Went as planned with consistent pace. Because of good energy reserves, didn't notice any serious issues with elevation in this stretch. It took 25:09 and overall the 10k effort could be achieved at 5 pace, so far 10sec better than MP. So far, so good!

Split-3: 10-15km
This stretch was mostly on MG road and adjoining Ulsoor lake. No elevations here. I was at 12km point when 1 hour into race finished. As planned, it was time to gulp in energy gel. I am not used to gels, but it did no harm to my GI system. Though this practise i don't recommend. Good if we are used to gels in our practise long runs. Drank some water after gel at the energy station near Ulsoor lake. To this point, I wasn't really feeling thirsty or energy deficient. But you can never under-estimate a FM. Thus, next gel was planned after 2 hours run, wherever that may be. Hourly one gel was a thing I was trying for the first time. This frequency too one needs to practise beforehand. Our bodies are different and hence one solution doesn't fit all. So, this split was done in exact 25:00. No issues even till here. So far, the aid stations and presence of volunteers was a regular sight. There were NCC cadets too placed to help us.

Split-4: 15-20km
Nice stretch again. No elevation challenges, straighter road sections in Murphy road, Swami Vivekananda Road and the 100ft road. It was a good downslope after 19km, but didn't go all out; resisted the temptation. At 20km, gulped some water in and picked up a banana being offered. Could eat just one bite as it wasn't very ripe. Should have checked before taking. I was quite conscious for energy intakes, though I was feeling fine. A small twitch in the right shoulder gave a little scare, but holding the right fist tight ensured it eased out eventually. A ripe banana into the system should have been nice, but it wasn't to be. Did this split in 24:57, though better time was always possible. But at the far horizon, I could see the gradient increasing. Seemed like a flyover coming. Correct decision to hold on, get some more air volume in.

Split-5: 20-25km
This stretch was mostly on Inner Ring road. It had a flyover right in the beginning, which slowed down things. It had the army's ASC centre on the right side. At around 23km point, one could see army jawaans lined up to cheer the runners. It was nice to see their josh. Also, saw fellow stalwarts coming from opposite side, that is, Menon, Ghanshayam, Anubhav and Jagan. Cheered each one of them. The turning point was at 24.6km, so decided to gulp in second energy gel immediately after the turning point. It was 2hr 3mins till here. Took some more water in after the gel. This slowed down things in this split. It was now for the first time that body started giving feelers for energy demand. The split was done in 25:56.

Split-6: 25-30km
I think from this split onwards, things started getting a little uneasy. So, I could feel that energy source is slowly changing over from glycogen to fat. It also meant that intake should have been more frequent given the pace aimed at. Still, a few fellow runners were running good and we were happily struggling together. A sight of them reassured me that the energy deficit phenomenon is universal. Also, now I could feel even minor elevations slowing me down. Garmin was frequently buzzing to remind me to accelerate a little. Being a slopy section, it took 26:48 to complete.  It was also for the first time that after 29km, I poured a small glass of water down my spine to cool things off.

Split-7: 30-35km
It was fine till about 32km. After that we were on Swami Viveknanda road and MG road in this split. There were no cramps still, nice feeling! And the 32km watershed moment also had arrived to start another mini-marathon till finish. Things wouldn't have been so difficult, had the traffic was controlled better and a tsunami of runners running other distances wouldn't have surprised FM runners. I found most of these runners lazily walking, taking selfies, chatting away to glory unmindful of the fact that FM runners need some way to go past them. Henceforth, it was all zig-zag. The amount of advantage I could accrue by running tangentially was lost in this split. It was a small lane coned out for ALL the runners. Surprisingly, volunteers were not to be seen and mile markers were hardly there. I remember taking one glass of water at around 33km point, poured it over my spine once more. Also, I didn't notice any medical station, though I didn't need it. The congestion on this stretch, especially MG road, should have been anticipated by organisers. My running buddies were all lost during this split way behind. I saw a runner who has been ahead of me simply walking on MG road. I guess many FM runners lost motivation in this stretch. I also heard a traffic police cop shouting at his highest decibel on volunteers trying to stop traffic at a busy junction. Very poor sight indeed! Evidently, this split took 28:05 time. Lost lot of advantage here. Wanted to push, but couldn't! Gulped my last energy gel at 35km,that is, approx 3 hours into the race.

Split-8: 35-40km
This split saw MG road finishing and re-entry into Cubbon park. But, the number of runners just won't go down. I overtook many, but it was an endless effort. The zig-zag running continued and really made this split as my worst. Also, now frequent turns and loops started. Took water at 38km for the last time. The split took 28:44 time to complete, not a great feeling!

Split-9: 40-finish
It was all inside Cubbon park. Pushed a little harder to better my pace and partially succeeded too. DJ at the stadium could be heard loud and clear. It made things look a little better, but I still didn't understand the concept of narrow lane being offered for all distance runners when the complete road was available to the organisers. A small, but separate lane for last few KMs for FM runners would have really motivated many to finish strong. More so, when no timing mats were in sight! Anyway, seeing the finish line is always such a high point in any race and so was it! I saw the digital timer reading 3:42 something, it felt nice!

At the finish point, there was an energy station. Immediately, drank two small glasses of enerzal drink being offered followed by some plain water. Received my medal. Thankfully, FM runners had a separate lane for this. Straightaway went to the medical aid station, got hold of ice. Applied ice all over my legs for 15 mins. Then, kept the ice pack for 5 mins on my spine. Called a medical volunteer to help me in stretching. That lasted for 5 mins. All this done and I was walking normally without any spasms, pains, sprains, injury etc. Saw a few people standing in line for some photography, spent some time there. Then, called up my dear friend Satendra, who was to come with my protein and post-workout drinks. I could spot him after 5 mins. Thanks to him that I could have my lean protein drink as well as post-workout drink. Though I took breakfast being offered, but it wasn't very palatable. Thus, left it! Satendra had brought my dry clothes a well, so changed over to them; but ensured that I have one pic with medal in the race dress! After all that effort, at least this pic was well deserved. I couldn't spot my running group from hyderabad during all this. Thus, no post race group pics done.

My Take-aways.

  1. It is important to plan all aspects of FM training- be it race per-se, diet, training, rest and recovery. Getting used to a particular diet is important. It is not easy. No template is universal. One needs to be at it and keep honing things to perfection.
  2. It was good that there was not much climate variance between hyderabad and bengaluru. So, no issues with climate adjustment.
  3. Race route recce was out of question since the city roads are so congested always.
  4. My race dress was not final. I was running in my full length compression pant for the first time for a distance more than 10km. It didn't disappoint, but getting used to takes time. I ran in cut sleeve T-shirt. Again, I am not so used to running in them. But felt comfortable in them. My race shoes are Mizuno Wave Sayonara2, but opted for Nike Free 5 for the race day because of more room in the toe box.
  5. 8 weeks before the taper was hard and focused intensity training. It is because of this component that I could sustain the rigors of FM distance. Again, there are many templates. I was more into hill running in the last 4 weeks or so, which helped me in gaining necessary muscle strength and endurance.
  6. Staying calm and relaxed in mind before race is ultra-important, especially, just before the race. I am happy that I could manage that. One way it was also because of quality of training and self-belief that it will all happen well.
  7. Keeping modest target is very important. Any improvement during course of race is always nice. I didn't keep any lofty targets for myself being my debut FM.
  8. It is important to decide on a practical and achievable MP and make a planning sheet beforehand to create a mental map of the whole course. This way one can stay relaxed and anticipate whether to push the pedal or wait.
  9. Getting quality sleep is very important. I personally lack in that aspect. Getting the best out of your work-outs is not possible without proper sleep.
  10. Add one more layer on top of race dress when warming up. It definitely helps. I missed out on that.
  11. Cheering your own buddies and even strangers is good. It keeps your enthusiasm high and helps you in relaxing. Also, your bonding with other runners increase.
  12. Nutrition is not all about 'macro-nutrients' only, that is, Carbohydrates, Fats and Proteins. One must lay emphasis on the amount of intake one is taking to get 'micro-nutrients' in. I monitored my diet over last 3 days to race to see to it that I consume reasonable amount of Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorous and Calcium. A whole lot of wisdom can be written on it and will write a separate post on that. I think this is one big reason that I had no cramps and my recovery was super-fast!
Concluding Remarks
It's a great feeling to have completed my first FM. I kept it simple - Don't expect too much too soon! This training season, I did get certain things right and some aspects need improvement. It's important to keep perfecting things which went right and learn from mistakes I did. I believe the learning should never stop. It's important to feel happy about running ultimately.