Malnad ULTRA 2022 – 50kms, 26th Nov 2022, A test before the biggie!

First things first, it’s time for me to upgrade my blogging to a different app or rather launch a website that documents all my communications to the outer world. It’s been a bitter hard experience with this app that made me loose my entire blog that took me a week to relive the moments and pen down all that I had write about the run.

So here we go, I just bought and should be live with content by next year. Something to celebrate amidst the fiasco that just occured and have to redo all the efforts again.
Malnad ULTRA 50kms category and not the 100km, why so? For obvious reasons, one can’t do the loop of 50kms again, that’s a bore and second, I have to put my left leg down with IT band injury to test and some trail training and see how it reacts. 
The result? No pains whatsoever and no discomfort on the route. This was indeed a test before the biggie – UTMB Thailand 100k Trail (Cliffs100).
Read more here
I fell prey to the injury at the Hennur Bamboo Ultra 50km run. The fall happened at 4.5kms and ran with the injury until the 50th km. Well, not slowing down guess was not a wise decision and I found myself limping for the rest of the week. Recovery was the way ahead and visiting a physio was a no brainer, so with just over a month left for Malnad ULTRA and showing no hurry in expediting the recovery from the injury was something that is recommended. Giving a miss to the event was also an option if I lacked the strength and if the pain aggravated ahead. A solid 6 day session after the analysis was prescribed to see how it goes. The release sessions were indeed painful and left me in pain towards the end of day. 

A slow progress to strength training and a short run was next. A slow 5k did not do any harm and a subsequent 10k and a few trail hikes were put to test just to see the outcome. Well, all turned out well so far and I was ready to take up the next challenge, hmm only time would tell. 
Work was also at its peak during this month of the year and hence the plan to drive down to chikmagalur just a day before the event day took turns to decide. An early start from Bangalore leads us to a 11am pitstop to the bib collection center. Was glad to have escaped the queue that just happened to build post our bib pickup.
Anand – The Race Director does the honors of route briefing and so do others to make sure we leave our homestays in the wee hours to make it to be at the start point in time. And yes, this mattered. 

Our stay – Silver Shadow Homestay was a humble abode, nothing fancy and best suited for no other than a day. This stay does not offer food and only caters to stay rooms for 4 or 7 bed dorm setup.

The start time of the race was 7:30am, too late for an ultra and this is the peak hunger time for me :(. A 4am wake up alarm and yet another drive to the venue which legit took 1 and half hours through the Jeep trails. Important point here, when you reach Attigundi, do not follow the Google map to the venue. You can blindly follow the milestones and the direction arrows setup by the organisers. The route is bumpy, slushy and if you are driving a lowrider, you have to be doubly careful to not thud the bottom of your chassis on those tricky Jeep trails.

Carpool will work best but do not overload. We indeed had a few runners shift from a car to mine and carry on the journey to the start line. Just in time, 15mins to 7:30am and With no time left to eat any of the delicious breakfast that was served in the morning , all that we could get our hands on were a few bananas and off we had to go to the start line.

The first 5 km can be treated as a warm up. The downhill offers an ice breaker to understand the bigger picture. You will be dripping with sweat in no time. By now, you do realise that 7:30am is the pretty late a start and its time for a short meal. The aid stations were placed at every 6-7kms. The route was also marked at every km. Seeing every km covered can give you some respite but at the same time, it can also make you feel bogged as you made aware how many more to go. 

You respective category route marking is quite evident. This was something new that I experienced at a race. Certainly works well, when you want to set shorter goals and gives you immense pleasure in achieving them. 
Met Bala at one of the initial route marking and hydration point to help navigate the runners ahead

Post the initial 5km, the route is quite a climb with few rolling hills till the 21st km. This is when you get out of one coffee trail and cross the tar road to cover the next. A 3-4 km loops takes you to the 25th km and you are back on the same tar and trail road and to your next checkpoint at 30km. 

Owing to the hot weather conditions, a steady pace is all you need till the first half atleat and use your rest of the reserves during the second. The strategy you follow must help solve most of your problems when you study the elevation map. So far, be it cold or hot, the hydration, munchies carried so far for me have been the same. The menu hasn’t changed yet. My ammunition mainly comprises of energy gels, electrolytes, areated drink, energy drink, sugar candies, chocolates and make the most of the aid stations whenever required.
The aid stations were well equipped with all that you need to keep your hunger in control. A miscommunication may have made rounds as I heard runners not getting lunch at one of the checkpoints as expected. I have been up for these additional challenges that you may come across regarding the fuel you get aid stations and hence highly bank of being self sustainable. I primarily used the aid stations at Malnad ULTRA for literally pouring water on myself because it was that hot and humid. Water with lemon and salt, Orange with salt was another go-to that I will never deny in such conditions. 
When done with the initial half of the route, you may have a breather till the 40th km with few rolling climbs here and there but mostly exposed to sun. You will tend to loose company if you had any during this part of the route. It could be either you falling back or going past the runners who are not able to take the heat and the dehydrated bodies end up demanding for more rest times. My idea of cooling off my body is to pour a glass or two at every aid stations and survive till the next and has worked well so far.
The journey continues and post the 40th km, you can expect a sub 2 hours or less to make it to the finish line depending on the kind of fatigue training you have undergone. This is another important aspect of ultra running that I have come across of putting the body through controlled stress post busting the existing threshold of tiredness. The ability to recover and run would definitely comprise of rest periods, nutrition, hydration and that much needed stretch when need be to keep muscle contractions in control. So far, I have been experiencing it due to lack of water and salt and hence is very important to replenish yourself at regular intervals.
As you reach the finish line, a water stream that you cannot avoid, I mean you literally cannot avoid soaking your feet in the water level as it is almost knee high and at the other end you would not mind just taking a short break and relieve yourself from all the heat. This one falls just below a kilometer I suppose and I cared less about it since it was the one of the best moments you would cherish till the end of the run. That’s nature at its and for your best. Make the most of it. Trails give you that pleasure when compared to the Tar road runs.
Now that you make it to the finish in style and make all the pain go away in a jiffy the moment you cross the finish line. The pleasure is immense and finally deserving that much needed trail test for my fresh injury. This gave me the perspective I really needed to prep myself but yes, it will still depend on how much I hold well on the big day.

Met Coach Kay at the finish line and did grab the apportunity to discuss at length on the approach that one needs to take to achieve that longevity and retain a considerably amount of consistency with regular breaks for recovery and strength sessions. Point noted, on taking a few major events at par and treat the rest as training runs and keep that confidence building in you rather than wearing out all the juice and fall prey to injuries. Well, a lot still needs to be thought about to continue the journey ahead.

Coach Kay heads the Ooty ultra and Bison Ultra and is all worth the visit. 
This wasn’t a medal, instead was a bit different from the usual – This was a buckle.

Some strava tech stats

And some flex:

And another

This event did contribute towards some social reconnects after a long time.

And the results:

Quote for the moment:-
“Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.” “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.”