Vagamon Ultra 60km – An impromptu start to the year 2024

So the day I see the post from Vagamon Ultra letting know that travel and accommodation had a vacancy

I excused myself from daily chores to drop in a email to the team to enquire about entry to available category at the event. The 60km was available, but I was of thought of doing a 30k instead and aim at a luke warm start. Gave it a thought and only criteria I considered to sign up the 60k category was that this race contributed towards the UTMB index

So to begin with, the goals had to be clear. This as indeed going to be a training run. I aim the UTMB 100k Australia and all the prior events set the foundation and boost the confidence within to what? Ofcourse, bell the cat ๐Ÿ˜บ by half yearly. 

Having run the event in past, the drive from Bangalore to Vagamon could be tiresome. Hence chose the bus and train modes to make the journey merrier. The travel , registration and stay package managed by the Soles of Cochin team cost me approximately 8000/-. The bus and train can add another 3000-4000 to the expense. The return bus ticket back to Bangalore seemed expensive compared to the train ๐Ÿš‚. After all, this sounded too adventurous in terms of travel and run than having the time for an extended rest before and after the run. Nevertheless, I was honestly up for this hustle. 

Thats Shridhar attempting his first Vagamon Ultra 60kms. 

The 10 hour ordeal in 2022 edition had me thinking If I was up for it again. Well, I just started manifesting the distance 1st Jan 2024 onwards. December has been a laid back month for running and in no time up for 60km category is definitely going to be training schedule. 

Breifing a day before the race

I wished to get a 33km bib but all my efforts went in vain and I had to stick to the 60ies. Testing time I suppose. This was purely going to be mind over body. This could be yet another specimen of what we call as running out of you comfort zone and here is the result of it:

The elevation gain looks irratic because I see it vary from 2200 to 2600 across many runner stats. Not knowing the know how, rather not spend too much time on brainstorming the same or may be gps satelites were on a break. 
Buying the package deal at Vagamon Ultra comprising of stay, travel and food may work for solo travellers wanting to socialize to an extent and also share some space with a many experienced runners in either categories. But that makes travel a bit cumbersome when having to stick to a strict schedule and less flexibility for the benefit of all despite which you will end up at 10pm in bed on the race night which is a big no no for me as a runner. I would personally prefer to be in silos and just walk my mind through all that I intend to do on the rave day than having to juggle between chores till you get assigned a stay where you would rest for a minimum of 5hours before the event. 

The stay for runners was amazingly spread across a 40 acre property at Orion County. A cottage could comfortably host 2-3 runners with multiple restrooms, living room and a outdoor seat out. Having the bed to myself was something I cherised and could have a sound sleep after a tiresome day. The 4am wake up alarm worked well for a 5:15am pickup to rush to the start line for some breakie and warm up. 

Dinner scenes night before the race morning 

The race was scheduled to begin at 6:30am. It was bright by then and head torch is not really required for the run incase you were wondering. The only gear mandated was a litre of water for some self support on the route. 

And as always, the start within few hundred meters leads to a short climb. The trails are not laid well in the initial stages of the run but you would not take a lot of time to pass through it and hit the road. By 3rd kilometre you are to take a immediate left that leads in to yet another trail path and this is where it all begins. The weather can be a little cold at the start but in 4-5kms you can feel the warmth beneath your jackets. Another hour and you are to face the sun, so carrying a pair of sunglasses is a must. 

You tend to enjoy the rolling route till the 20th kilometre. A climb post that gets a little tricky and is the only stretch that can leave you in haste. The over grown grass makes you aware of each footstep. A twist here and there is expected due to the small boulders on the route. The volunteers are proactive enough to warn you about slippery junctions that takes you down to the pine valley. 

With Raman at the highest peak at Vagamon

Just when I got down, the trails lead to the pine valley. This was runnable indeed and the route was a part of the 33km category going ahead till the finish. By now the wait for the next aid station had already begun. The hunger levels were out of the roof and was sure to get some curd rice at the checkpoint and by now it was my official lunch time too. The team was kind enough to also publish list of eatables that were provisioned at each station.

With zero energy left in me, I took some time to sit peacefully at the 42km checkpoint. Some refills and the food – what a bliss. I couldn’t thank enough. 
Now with 18 more kilometres left to be added to the kitty, one km at a time is all I knew had to be overcome. I stuffed my shorts with orange with salt and along the way had it at regular intervals. At few crucial points there were just water station not manned by anyone but was at runners disposal for refills. The heat was really getting on our nerves and a dip in alongside water streams were very helpful to balance your body temperature and ofcourse your heart rate. 
This repeated activity of covering 1km at a time lasted till the end of the race. Also, this was the a debut event run for the Nike Pegasus Trail 3. I wasn’t really impressed with the grip of the shoe and occasionally fall prey to the slightest slippery surfaces. 

The new carbon poles from evadict were tested too. They were definitely light on the arms and continued carrying then from the start to the end of the race.

Btw, these poles are not available in India. If you happen to fly to asian countries, don’t forget to first book via decathlon app and then pick it up from the respective store. I picked these poles from Malaysia while I was there to attend the North Fest Malaysian Mountain Trail Festival. It costed me around 5000 INR. 
My last edition costed me 10 hours 20 mins to finish the run. This year, I managed to finish it in 9 hours 39 mins. Having looked at the finish results, the DNF percentage seemed higher and was around 37%. A total of 80 runners of of 128 had made it to the finish line. The rest were either disqualified at the checkpoints or had given up due to dehydration and harsh weather conditions. 

I was quite glad the rains didn’t make an appearance during the run like last time. This could have made the journey to the end even more difficult. The last thing I wanted was zero grip through the slush and falling your bottom of on the trails. That would have been painful. The water proof jacket was advised too just incase the rain gods had gotten wanky and knowing the weather forecast, the rains were expected around 3pm or so but it just didn’t deter.

On a personal note, a 33km category at the start of the year in the trail could have been a good started but guess what, the registration at this event often closes soon. Hence this need advance planning and this being right after the new years eve, the recovery is crucial if you have been belting miles in December events too. The last event I had run was the SKF GOA 20 miler. The rest period for the year had begun post this event and getting back to an ultra distance category needed to wait for sometime till I get my feet moving in shorter km category event. Since I couldn’t fetch a 33km run, every km after 33km was only about pushing your mindset of doing more every kilometre and was some element of motivation that needed push every second was something new that was learnt. Doing the 60km distance was not new to me but doing it unwillfully was also not the agenda. I therefore converted the entire idea of running this event as a training run. I was much releived with that thought and could only think of completing the run without any injuries and so did I. 

Strava stats
Event page
Quote for thought:-
The magic you are looking for is in the run that you are avoiding.