Sahyadri Hill Ultra 75kms – The tale of take off, shirt off and show-off!

And now this……

Well, this doesn’t happen often or may be has never happened before. The on demand shirt off scenes after finishing ahead of all in the 75km category had its own charms. And bawraybanjaray did everything right in freezing these endlessly cherishable moments. Being associated with Pushkar and his team at many ultra events and hands down, they have always surprised me with some out of the world clicks on the run route. 

Be it the day heat or the bone chilling colds, nasty rains, sleepless nights, in the plains or the mountains, on feet and on wheels or in the sky,  bawraybanjaray was always busy hustling and sprinting alongside us with those heavy equipments without having the runner change its natural course of action to capture the best of the best glimpse of oneself. From Darjeeling to Solang to Jaisalmer to Pune to Leh to Arunachal to Lavasa and many more, these guys are indeed going place and you know why – They are the best of breeds that leave no stone unturned to get the exclusive collection of your photographs and videos.
So, what’s in the bag at this newest ultra at lavasa city. Read more to find more…
Ultra runs are bound to be adventurously painstaking but this was one of its kind. As we stroll by the roads in Lavasa, this over planned and under-constructed man-made city was a debut destination for vratantans first ultra event.

With couple of hours away from the Pune-Mumbai express Highway, the not so good state highway leads you into a nature’s blanket that made me feel very artificial in terms of the surroundings. 

With handful of runners making an appearance in the first edition of this event, running was likely to be a solo act on the deserted roads. With bib collection done just a day before on Friday, the wait for the 7am start time on Saturday had now begun. 

To cut short the wait on the results, the finish was a podium for me in the 75km category  and was very much elated to bag a Swarovski trophy and a memento that felt all worth for the grueling efforts put in the Zombieland of Lavasa. 

In Pic – Vikas Solanki – The driving force behind the event.

Vikas and I had a conversation while I was at Mawla Ghaati Ultra and learnt about his event at Lavasa. I registered for a 100km at Lavasa and then changed the category to 75km, thanks to bumpy runs at the Mawla. Hence, making that call on reducing the number of kilometres mattered a lot to reduce some stress and build that comfort zone during the strengthing period before I head to Lavasa.
Training wasn’t that productive for me as running in hot and humid climate of goa plus the nonstop rains later during the months was overly exhaustive. With rains, the usage of vaseline had increased to neutralize those friction points and was a important factor to be considered when wet top to toe. Lavasa climate was considered humid too and rains were making their presence felt. 
The start time of 7am for all the categories i.e 100miler, 100k, 75km and 50km. This was to accomodate attendance for runners traveling from Pune that very morning. This indeed gave the stationed runners a respite and could cuddle in a good night sleep. 

And if I imagined it right, the entire route seemed like a rolling hill.

Within a couple of kilometres, the longest climb of the route had begun. This took us to the first checkpoint at the 10km mark. The challenging climb was witnessed more between 4-5 and 8-9kms range. And as you reached the top, the rains were getting stronger. And yes, the checkpoints were 10kms apart and with public demand during the bib collection and briefing, water was made available at every 5kms mark manned by volunteers. Post the downhill towards the next checkpoint, thoughts of climbing the initial hill again in the last 25kms were getting aggrevated and the wait for it was further adding to it’s misery with the body fatigue percentage at the end of 50kms.

I was tailed by another 75km runner , 300-500 meters apart and it subconsciously kept me pushing as much as I could but had decided to ease out if it’s gets too tiring down the line. That initial climb to 10kms took me around an hour ten minutes tops before I could feel the release of tension in my legs. The down run wasn’t easy either as the rains had caused the road to me filled with moss that made it slippery. We were asked to run on the left side of the road and tourist did frequent in this 10km range and Lavasa is know for its weekend gateway scenes. 
The timing mats were placed at the start line and checkpoint made the effort to note done bib numbers of each runner crossing the mark. An 8 hour cutoff time for 50km was set for all the categories but was of less worry back then. The sun had surfaced from the clouds at the next checkpoint at 24-25km but it last only for a while. The humidity remained constant and was glad enough to have avoided the compression tights that I usually prefer to keep my back intact and away from injuries but running gets equally difficult under such climatic conditions.

The initial goal was always the 30kms mark and then the marathon distance followed by the 50km check point. Time and again, I have mentioned about breaking down mammoth goals in to shorter ones. This works out well and takes that lid off the steamer. You can judge your tiredness at every short sprint and understand how much more can be done. The thresholds can accordingly be pushed once you in that zone of relentlessness. 
The run had us explore lavasa in all three directions, running on the spectacular brigde frequented by tourist is a eye catcher. The security patrol privately owned in this city were doing rounds too. The event volunteers were doing a splendid job in directing the runners and providing support whenever required. Carrying a phone in water proof cover is a must during the rains just incase there is an emergency and want to reach the organisers to bail you out of any situation. Since this was a sparsely populated city, reaching anybody in need did not take a lot of time.
One of the tricky stretches of the run was between 26 to 39 and back, the reason being the unevenness of the under constructed road and the chips protruding out from the tar could have been a spoiler if not catered well. The chips literally had started hitting the foot everytime you landed in it. The road crossing were pouring with rain water too. The idea of having a backup for shoes and clothing can work well for runners who opt for a fresh beginning with dryer gears. The drop bag facility was at the start point that could handle this requirement. I personally did not choose to change despite being drenched but continued to use vaseline whenever needed to avoid the burns and skin rashes. Also, being a nature friendly place, you often come across cattle herds and have to be watchful to not make them feel endangered. 

And this route which can prove mildly technical needed to be covered twice to make up for the last 25kms after climbing the first hill again. You are well instructed at the aid stations too of what’s coming up next so you are covered that ways to build your strategy on the go. 
I crossed the 50km mark and with not much time being spent, I grabbed my refills and some snacks to eat especially my favourite orange and salt which I intentionally stuff my side pockets of the hydration bag. I always got the hydration bag off me within 20-30 meters of the point for refills and helped me save some time at checkpoints. This helped in maintaining the trance state of mind which may be dented due to longing breaks. 

The stations were equipped to support you with all the requirements for an ultra run. By now, the humidity did increase and despite the rains, respite was only served post pouring water on one self.
The route was well marked with arrows to ensure no one gets lost. 

The only target in the last 25kms I had were the two climbs, one towards the 10th km and the one after the bridge near 18th km or so. The rush could be felt in my body of wanting to get done with the run as soon as possible. The clothes were still wet and the rains at the highest peak did not budge either. With the fatigue developed, the challenge doubled but the spirits were high at the same time. This could have been because of the lead I was able to maintain till the 60km. The idea was never to win a podium but the feeling only developed after seeing the light at the end of the tunnel knowing that this could be pulled off in a manner to keep those motivation and confidence levels to a all time high, guess we call it the runners high. Indeed addictive!

Your love for elevation gains will be will be met at this event too. This could also prove a perfect training ground for folks in Pune and as Vikas mentioned, this was often visited by runners for trainings. I could not agree less from what I had seen so far. The city also host a lane of eateries which can be at your disposal during the intermediate training breaks. 
Now, with just 2-3 kms left, I see Vikas on a patrol and I remember asking how much more though the distance was well known but the fact that someone confirms it to you just gives a kind of pleasure of getting closer to the end of what we started the day with. The 75km had a cut off of 12hours and having been able to finish it in 9hours, my thoughts started circling around the Swarovski trophy that the team had flaunted a day before the run. I could finally lay my hands on it.

And just as I finished and was named the first one to complete the 75km category run, a feeling of sigh prevailed. 
With appreciations and congratulations pouring in, the hugs made me felt the belongingness to the running community. Travel and run has helped me meet numerous individuals and organisers. This very process helped me gain insights of running and it’s boredom that can hit you and yet you overcome with the adrenaline rush. The ability to draw the line of overdoing and just doing the right things is all that matters during these highly demanding ultra runs. 

In pic Vishwas Sandhu – Director of the hell race series, was the dark horse completed the 50km category. This was the first time I have ever seen him run. Commendable effort. 

Neeraj is two minds trying to gauge his injury and still thinking of doing the 25km run that was scheduled the next day. Get well soon buddy.

Akash, the miler tiger.

More results here
Networked with a few more

Voluteers surviving the rains to support the runners. Thankyou.

Thankyou Vikas, Mukesh, Aziz and team to make this event come to life and give runners an apportunity to testify the limits that one can address and act responsibly towards future goals. 

Congratulations to Angad and Uttam Kumar.

Congratulations Mahejabin, winner of 75kms category female.

Strava tech stats:-

The certificate:-

Event website
The run was run and the awards was fun, but the perfect icing on the cake is impression you leave behind. Vikas didn’t hesitate to express his feelings and I could not admire less for making me feel stand out of the crowd

Quote of the day
“It’s not all over, till you have the courage to comeback.” so keep coming back.. because you are never gone!