Sunday, 15 April 2012

Marathon in a Kamandalam…

Abrupt transition to barefoot running and the painful consequences have been shared with my readers without sparing any of the gory details. Looking in retrospect on my running career so far, my decisions have always been abrupt. I ran my first Ultra of 50K in my alma mater when I was only one Half Marathon ripe. I have now started believing that there is a divine plan in this and I trustingly take each step without much thought.
            When I started running on the highway on a regular basis after the Bangalore Ultra in November last year, forsaking the Gym’s treadmill for good, plan was to increase distances gradually. As I have chronicled earlier, the only disadvantage in running on highway is choosing the mid-point from where to turn back. Wherever you decide to turn back, you still have that much distance to cover to reach base. There is also the issue of carrying supplies like water and eatables. These two factors, largely, impact the planning for increasing distances. As a result, I have been stagnating at 30K for a long time, so much so, the distance was in the danger of being named ‘Vishy’s constant’. While I was experimenting on barefoot, knee guard shedding and like, the distance was stuck at 30.
Today I attempted what should rate as foolhardy even by my standards, having read about my friend and partner in crime in the Ahmedabad to Dakor run, Piyush Shah, running a marathon every week, I decided to attempt the 42K barefoot on one ‘Kamandalam’(it is a name for the utensil holy men used to carry for water, empty 500ml Gatorade bottle from SCMM 2012 in my case) full of precious water. Looking back now after having done the run successfully, the attempt was not without backups, I could always trust the highway driver friends of KSRTC buses to give me a lift if I am stranded with injury. As for running out of water, I could recoup at Temple at KM7 or the Masjid at KM10 or the village at KM10 and KM 21 the mid-point. Even though these areas are reeling under severe drought and water shortage, I could trust the famed land of milk and honey and known for its ‘Atithi Satkar’ to at least refill my water bottle, even if the quality of water could be suspect. I can’t say I had all this planned out before starting.
I started at the usual hour of 05:30 after Biscuit (my four year old Labrador for the uninitiated) had been given his leash-less morning walk. I felt good as the right foot, even if slightly painful, was matching the left foot stride for stride. I completed the first 3 KM of the minefield for bare-foot without many pokes to my tender sole. I met the usual morning walkers coming from the opposite side. While taking the biological break at KM3, I rationalized that I could decide whether to go to the 21K mark after I reached the usual 15K distance and after taking stock of my physical condition at that point. The slight stitch in my right bum had eased out by now. I mentally promised myself not to stop for picking cotton as the longer run would get me in trouble with the Sun while returning. After KM6, I could not resist a white ball of inviting cotton almost at the edge of the highway; I broke my pledge and pocketed it, and like an inveterate drunkard promised myself not to slip again. The line of coloured pots between KM 8 and 9 was unusually long today and it saddened me no end as usual. The hollowness of all the economic prosperity and ‘India Shining’, when we can’t afford to provide clean drinking water to a large part of our population makes you feel impotent.
I crossed the Masjid with a wave at the Moulvi, Peerzada with a wave of the hand which was promptly and cheerfully reciprocated. I was itching to tell him that I was attempting a full marathon today. Kusugal village at KM 10 was deserted today and I missed my young friends. The loiterers outside the Petrol bunk beyond KM 10 waved to me. I did not find Gangadhar or the bunch of talkative old women today. I took my second biological break at KM 11. Sun peeped out from behind a cloud threateningly. Still no water break, can I stretch it to the half-way mark of KM 21 like I do at KM15, fingers and toes crossed! My feet were holding fine despite encountering a few oversized pebbles on the way. The right sole was a little tender. Could this be my Achilles heel for the attempt?
While approaching KM15, I was running in a zone and did not think twice before crossing the usual half-way mark. The die was cast. I crossed the bridge after KM15 after a rough stretch of road strewn with pebbles. I remembered by earlier failure of locating KM 16 stone. Missing a KM stone makes you realize how important the encouragement of each KM mark in a long run. The road after the bridge was narrower but more importantly smooth on the soles. After what seemed an eternity, I crossed KM 17. I met a few buses with enthusiastic drivers waving at me. I was itching to tell them that I was doing an FM today. You really miss crowd support on such solo runs. I took a walking break at KM 18, still no water break. I crossed the fork announcing the way to Hebsur Railway station after KM 18. I marked this place for giving up and catching a train if I did not feel good on the way back. I crossed from under the narrow Road Over Bridge with trucks forcing me to take a walking break on the edge of the road. There was no kilometer stone after a long time of crossing KM 19. I crossed a bridge on a culvert and I could see sign of village life with men proceeding for their morning constitutional. KM 20 was missing, I entered the village square having a mandapam with a Gandhi statute with the KM stone announcing Hubli KM 21. I took a long swig after capturing both the pictures (Gandhiji and KM 21) for posterity. I took a long swig of water and walked back for sometime much to the curiosity of the people in the square, but, knowing from my earlier experience of people of Kusugal at KM 10, I can say that it’s better not to approach them for a few times. I will interact with them after they get used to me over next few Sundays (Yes, I had made a promise to repeat this madness every Sunday!).
 The Sun was out in full glory and I dreaded the prospect of a HM in the sun. My first target was to reach the familiar point of KM 15, somehow I felt that the distance after 15K would be manageable. I met a man waiting for a lift from some private carrier at a little distance from KM21 on the way back. He asked me if I was coming from Hubli, when I said Yes, he sought to know if I came from ‘Madhura colony’ (KM 2). I could not resist gloating Keshwapur (a full 2 KM further). He must have crossed me earlier in so many vehicles whose drivers are on waving terms with me. There was no traffic when I crossed the ROB after KM 19. I met the family of KM 10, who used to enthusiastically greet me on many days and who was missing today, crossing me in a vehicle beyond KM 18 after the fork in the road leading to Hebsur station. I did not even think of the option of giving up the run and taking a train. The children greeted me enthusiastically. I kept running looking for the bridge after KM 16. I wanted to reach KM 15 without a break. I crossed many horses grazing between KM 16 and KM 15, they must belong to the sheep farmer who were camping in a field nearby.
Presently, I reached the familiar point of KM15, much to my relief and to a welcome long walking break. Liberal swigs had brought the water to the halfway mark in the bottle, I had to run the balance 15K with fuel on reserve switch. I had completed 27K in a little over three hours. I was on course for a 5 hour finish. I stopped once more to pick up another boll of cotton between KM 14 and 13. The climb between KM 13 and KM 12 was a bit tough on my feet, I was tiring. After the continuing climb even after KM 12 (my original distance of 30K done) I felt drained. I continued to goad myself to use the slope into KM 11 and promised myself a water break at my original sunrise point on the bridge after KM 11. I had to cross the cart (bullocks of which were originally scared of my red cap) which I found very bothersome as it involved change of direction. I took a biological break, a water break and a longish walking break after KM 11. I was not very enthusiastic in reaching KM 10 as my friends would surely not be there to greet me. I was running low on water but crossed the Masjid in a breeze. I did not want to break my rhythm. I would take a call at the temple about recouping water. Some part of my brain kept challenging me to try and complete the run without a water recharge. I took a sip of water at KM 8. I could afford two more breaks with the available water if I drank miserly. The straight stretch between KM 8 and 7 dragged on interminably. My next promised water break was at KM5. I reached KM5 with a lot of struggle, I took a biological break and took a small gulp of water. I was now on my last two gulps and more than almost 35 minutes of run left. The downward slope for the next 2 kilometers was welcome, but, being a Sunday the tonic of school kids (I was not even sure if summer vacations had started) would be sorely missed. I ran in strongly to the HDMC limit at KM3. Now was the home stretch, even if, pebbly. I walked a little stretch after KM 3 which had lot of pebbles and forced myself away from thinking of a water break. I wanted the last gulp to be a safety reserve till I finished the run. I crossed the Gym with headless chickens and Reliance Fresh in a breeze. Now I was into my last kilometer. The dairy stores owners welcomed me with a wave. I finished the last half a kilometer strongly, but, I could not beat my watch to the 04:45 mark. I finished the run in 4:45:24. I gulped down the last swig as soon as I reached the gate of my colony. I drank 3 bottles (2.25 ltr) of water on reaching home. I played 20 questions with my wife on the distance run, she guessed it on the 7th question. I ran into the bath to avoid her murderous glare. I hope I can do the next Sunday run in my new top! So another milestone breached, I can’t wait to post it on Dailymile and invite concern and wrath of Bib-Bala.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Making some bones about it…

I have recently switched to barefoot running as my faithful would have followed from my Blogs. After my infamous episode of the encounter with the angry thorns, the swelling on my other foot refused to go. I made the ultimate sacrifice of staying off running for three days, but to no avail. Even though the X-ray showed everything in order, time to go to the bone merchants again. The Doctor pronounced a Bone scan and my conservative Doctor brother concurred. This was purportedly to rule out a stress fracture or a hairline as the knowledgeable call it. They assured me that the radiation exposure was less than what a normal X-ray gives. So I got one scheduled for the Good Friday. Hope was that all would turn well. Good news was that I need be on empty stomach for this test.

After a solid breakfast (I haven’t got to normal calories even after quitting running for the last three days), I left for the Scan centre. My wife offered to accompany, but, I manfully asked her to be with daughter who had come on a break from college. The building said Nuclear radiation center and looked spooky and right out of a Robin Cook novel. Only saving grace was the hustle and bustle outside complete with the South Indian snacks smells wafting from nearby Kamat Hotel. I walked in by the stairs and the ramp alongside reminded me of the serious cases which must be coming here. It was all deathly silent inside. One young man was assiduously cleaning the table top with a wet rag. I could hear the sound of a young child from inside the room. Note these two characters as both have a decent meaty role in this episode.

I went and showed the attendant (his name is Basavaraj as I found out later) the prescription from the Railway hospital. He politely asked me to sit and told me that the Doctor and Radiologist will come shortly. He told me to drink lots of water after the radio isotope injection. He seemed to be the Mr. Jeeves of the Scan center, he having completed wiping the table moved on to sweep the rooms. In the interim he carried on conversation with a young couple, the lady had come for suspected hyperthyroid. She had lot of doubts about the size of injection and whether it would be given on the neck (next to the thyroid). Basavaraj patiently explained the process, solicitously asking them if they have had breakfast. They said they had not, but, not wanting to lose their seniority in the waiting list they said they would break fast after the procedure. The husband was being quite frivolous about dismissing his wife’s concerns. I just thought how he would have behaved if it was him to have undergone the procedure instead. Men are sissies, and I accept it manfully. They however, like to appear manly and the wives humour them.

Shortly the doctor arrived at around 11 AM a full hour after my appointment, apologizing about her baby not being well. I told her she could see the serious ones, particularly the child, before me and I could wait. I was feeling guilty about competing with people who were there due to no fault of theirs while I was a case of masochism (as Bib-Bala would say). The Doctor was arguing with the parents of the young girl (must be less than a year old by the look of her) about their not having brought the child’s case papers (she had been referred from the Govt. hospital). Much about her later. While the lady with the suspected hyperthyroid was with the doctor, I gleaned some background from Basavaraj. He was a second year Arts dropout and was very much interested in medicine. He had joined this place recently and coming to know that I am from Railways, built bridges with me by claiming many uncles and cousins in various railway establishments in Hubli. He also stated that he was studying computers in evening classes. I wished God to ‘Lift Karade‘ him. The Doctor then called me. She was quite young and asked me to tell her as to how my foot got injured. I set off on ‘Barefoot running’, realizing that I would hold forth on this subject indefinitely, I told her the gist of (the interested may read my previous blog of my encounter with the angry thorns) my injury to my left heel and my overcompensating with my right foot. She showed polite interest in my barefoot experiment and sought the reason for going barefoot. I told her the gist that it is easier on the body (except the soles) and more importantly the pocket.

She explained that I will be given a small injection containing a radioactive isotope and a short scan will be taken immediately to be followed by a longish scan session after three hours. I entered the room, the radiologist was sitting in front of a computer with a very complicated looking radiation unit. He was looking like Dr. Spock about to get the room to fly into space. He looked at me and barely acknowledged me. She gave me a very small injection ( I now knew the hyperthyroid lady would have felt silly). Dr. Spock and the Doctor (the Old and the young, a la ‘Final Diagnosis’) had an argument about whether I should sit or lie down while my feet were scanned. I showed them both the poses and said I am comfortable either way. The lady won. I was asked to lie down while the robotic ring like apparatus hovered over my feet under instructions from Dr. Spock. The scan done I was bid bye to report at 2:30 PM. The Doctor said that she may not come in the afternoon and repeated that I should drink lots of water. She told me that the report would be ready at 11:30 AM on the next day.

I came back and hit the bottles (now don’t get me wrong, I meant cold water bottles from the refrigerator). After having consumed four bottles (1 ltr more than prescribed 2 ltr). I then had a good lunch and after a small nap and after emptying of the bladder reached the scan center at the appointed hour only to find no Dr. Spock. Basavaraj welcomed me with a smile and informed me that Dr. Spock had gone for lunch. My session started at 3:00 PM. After asking me about the water intake, he asked me to lie on the gurney. Basavaraj helped Dr. Spock strap me up to the table. He went to his console and the robotic arm came over me much as Biscuit (my four yr old Labrador to the uninitiated) sniffs me after I come back from office. The arm seems to be doing a thorough scan and was in no hurry. A full holiday meal to top a bladder full of water and the AC room put me to sleep. As soon as my head nodded off to the side. Dr. Spock walked up put my face straight again, much as a barber does while ministering to the short hair on the neck. I apologized and woke up. I asked him if he found the funny bone in the scan so far. He was not amused. Such fainting episodes happened thrice in the one hour scan, but, Dr. Spock was nice about it. Just when the cold room and full bladder was about to force me to ask for a biological break, he on his own asked me to empty my bladder and come back for further interrogation. After having scanned me from head to toe he pored over my feet inordinately. I could not decide whether Dr. Spock had a foot fetish or was he contemplating resorting to third degree to find out if I had a stress fracture. The machine got bored after some time and Dr. Spock decided that sufficient images of my inner secrets had been captured for the Doctor and let me off for good behaviour. I asked him if he found anything wrong with my foot. He said there is some concentration of the dye in both my feet, the right one more and cautioned me that the Doctor would have the final say. I came back none the wiser and the repeated phone calls from well wishers only made it worse. One thing was sure, I could not run on Saturday.

After paying my LIC premium (with a late fee to boot) I landed at the scan center promptly at 11:30 Am. The Doctor and Dr. Spock were going through my inner secrets only. She called me in. I shot the question, am I cracked? Much to my relief she said there is no fracture and that it was only trauma and would go away with rest and fomentation. I could have hugged her. She then got to talking about this and that. She explained that she could have got my report ready on Friday evening itself but for the longish procedure of talking to the referring Doctor of the General Hospital for the baby girl’s case. I asked her what was wrong with her. She told me that the child was born with severe jaundice and that her liver was badly damaged. The General Hospital Doctor had told the parents that the child would not survive. Not satisfied the parents had insisted on being referred to this place. The Doctor said that she also confirmed the diagnosis of the Government hospital only. Why I am telling this story is, the parents looked quite poor and for them the bill of Rs. 2,500(I checked up while coming out of the hospital from the rate list displayed at the reception) would be a lifetime’s saving. My heart went out to the parents. In this day and age when we hear stories of Baby Falak and abandoned girl children, the episode brought me a warm if sad feeling. May their tribe increase! It turned out that Dr. Spock's brother was a Station Master in the Railways. It's a small world! I got his name but still cannot remember it. Dr. Spock suits better. I entreated with the Doctor to be kind to Basavaraj and give him opportunities to study. She said he was a bright boy and had picked up work beyond his normal duties in a short time. I told her he would make a good receptionist and the center should encourage and help him work towards it.

I came back and reported to my Ortho that the report is clear, after going through the report he asked me to change my shoes. How do I tell him that I cannot, I was wearing the original equipment of the manufacturer, Gods own boots!

I am eagerly waiting to hit the road the next day, my way of celebrating Easter Sunday.