26th July,2010-I get a call from my trekker friend Drushti,asking me if I’d be able to join her team to participate in the night adventure race called Enduro3(O3 for ozone).I think for a while,refuse the offer thinking that i have become a fat pig in the last two months,not having stepped on the tread mill for that duration.But the offer is tempting and I finally relent.The next day,forms are filled out,fees paid and we part after making plans for the D-day.
I jog 2km the next evening,to test my stamina.Its not as bad as I had thought,i say to myself,at the end of it.I promise myself that i’ll run more the next day since i still have some time to prepare myself.Drushti and Jyoti(3rd team member,.in fact,the team leader) have meanwhile,gone for checking out the route .I cant join them due to my college schedules.
I fail to fulfill my promise,and report at the racing venue on 30th july,with my team-mates,at 5.30pm.I have spent that day organising an ACM event in the college with my friends.So when i finally manage to extricate myself from the still undecided details of the event,its already 4.15pm and i am yet to have had my lunch.I decide to have it on the way to katraj and rush to the bus stop,where my comrades are waiting for me.
Changing ricks and tumtums and trax,we reach the venue just in time for the reporting.On the way,i find that all 3 of us had been rather frugal while packing our backpacks in order to lessen the burden on the backs during the race.So that translates to me having nothing to munch upon during the ride.I content myself with Dushti’s ghar ke theple and an apple and try not to think of hypoglycemia,which i experienced very neatly in the same race exactly a year before.
The venue is a familiar sight.Experience helps.A year back,here i was,with 2 of my close buddies,reporting for the K2S race in the intercollegiate mix category,tensed with the sight of arrival of every new team,trying to work out the strategies in my head all the time,tying and untying my shoe laces time and again..in one word,i had been nervous.
This was hardly the case in july 2010.I simply had not got enough time to think about what was going to happen in the ..race.My whole day,i had been running errands and now i just wanted to sit relaxed for a while and…EAT..i stretched and warmed up my body and then sat down on the grass.It was fun to watch the familiar hustle bustle of NEF(National Education Foundation-organisers of the race) volunteers looking dapper in their smart red tshirts.I and Drushti were trying to placate Jyoti who had been thinking that it was nothing less than her duty to get acquainted with all the rival teams and try to get a “judgement”.She was a hyper wreck and quieting her down took most of our energy.I could not believe that this girl was in the winning team the previous year.Or may be it was because she had been a winner,that the race was such a big deal for her.Everyone seemed to know her and she everyone.
We would be competing in the all girls category.Thankfully,we were flagged off at 6pm sharp.We had decided that we’d be running initial few meters so as to gain a lead.In a race,overtaking breaks the morale of the overtaken team.We wanted to remain ahead so that we’d have a psychological advantage.The route starts from a temple and the first patch is a slope up a ridge.In the queue,we had been the last team.But running,we managed to secure 2nd position;but the running soon began to show its effect in the breathlessness that came over us.We managed not to stop to catch a breath and continued walking ahead.We were climbing a steep slope of the first of the 14 hills that we would be climbing in this 19km long race.Jyoti was ahead,with me and drushti panting behind.We were still some gap behind the 1st team and in the next 15-20 mins,we still hadnt managed to close that gap.By this time,we were atop the first hill and had started running down the ridge on the other side.
and there..i sat down…i couldnt get up because both my calves had become stiff because of cramps..the lack of preparation showed its ugly head and my cramps resulted in us losing the lead on all the remaining teams.about 3 mins and a reli spray later,i managed to get up and we 3 started running up the slope of the 2nd hill.I was feeling terrible..for the loss of time i had caused to the team.Though both of them kept telling me that this wasnt a big deal at all,the guilt started engulfing me.I was relieved of my backpack by my girls and that helped me start running faster.
The cramps went as suddenly as they had come and after 10-15 mins,i started feeling confident about going faster.We had passed first passage control point at the top of that godforsaken hill and now we had the task of getting back our lead.
We started overtaking whichever team would come in our way(not meaning figuratively..only literally) and by next half an hours,we had got back our number 2 position.It seemed as if the girls ahead of us would never give us a chance to break even.But this was still very much the beginning of the race and we were far from losing our hope.So we 3 trampled on and ahead…
The next couple of hours,we just did not stop..not for even 30 seconds..we stopped only to sign at the time and passage control point on the way and that too,only one of us would stop and others would keep running ahead.We had clearly established a lead on all except the team ahead of us.They had by now ,gone out of our line of vision.So the only thing on our minds was to go on as fast as possible and cover as much gap as we could.
The route is a well cut trail.It involved climbing up a hill,walking along its flat top then climb it down on the other side only to climb the next hill.This happens 14 times and the only thing you have to do in order not to lose the route is to keep on following the straight tail.No bifurcations are to be taken,no traverses are to be made.We have to hop from one hill to to another.We would invariably feel tired on the up slopes,we wold curse under our breath..on reaching the top,we would break into a fast trot..slopes were the easiest and fastest for me.The trekking experience till now comes in real handy on the slippery,treacherous slopes.
We went on like this for i dont know how much time.The sun had already set and the darkness begun.The Pune-Bangalore highway was scintillating in the valley to the right of us.The valley to the left was engulfed in fog and gloom.
It was the moment i wait for,when i go into the mountains.It was just the 3 of us,very much on our own,walking in the silence of the hills,in the cool,damp air,drizzle on our faces,only the torch light to lead us ahead.There were so many points where we had to check and recheck if we were indeed on the right track.There was no sign of the girls ahead and we had left behind other teams since a long time.This is my most memorable part of the race.
Conditions remained like this for around 1.5 hrs..light shower,our LED showing us the path,us trying not to slip of fon down slopes,us trying not to stop on up slopes,us trying to run wherever possible and us finally realising that we had run short of water and energy bars.It was awesome.I was elated and excited.My cramps were a thing of the past and i was feeling good leading the way for a long time.I jyoti and drushti had this unwritten understanding between us.That we’d keep each other in sight and that i’d keep on runnin ahead,while the backpacks were carried by turns among us.It was a good team,even though i had never met jyoti before the race.Drushti was good at running on the flatland,jyoti was good o nthe uphill slopes while my strength lay in running down the steep slopes without slipping off and finding and checking the route by going ahead.This worked and we were in our element by the end of the 3rd hour.
Only one problem remained.the team tht had been ahead of us was still out of our visibility range and we were afraid that at the end of the race,it would be quite impossible to close such a big gap.We had resigned ourselves to getting rank 2.Now the only aim was to give our best minimum time,That was the thing that kept us on the move.
One should never give up in a race,however bleak the chances might seem.For when we reached the 3rd last time control point,we came to know that we were now the first team to reach that point.The girls ahead of us had obviously got off track somehwere and that was the reason they had not been visible to us for some time.
We hooted and screamed at the good news but we still found it impossible to relax.We still had around an hour’s route to go and who knows,may be those girls might catch up with us or may be we ourselves might got lost.
Thus we went,running in the kichad,with one of the 3 torches not working,making sure the route was right,singing the victory song in our heads..screaming at each other for even a moment’s delay..the win was very much tangible now..
There remained just one slope to climb down ..from talai garden to the base of sinhagad…its the longest one in the trek and also somewhat steeper and more slippery..and its so full of creepers and bushes that sometimes,u just go on on ur instincts and judgement of the route.
9.55pm and we reached the last time control point at sinhagad base.end of the race and we had WON!we had completed the race in 3hours 55 mins.The girls’ team i nthe intercollegiate category was only 3mins behind,having somehow caught up with us at the 2nd last time control point..but among the all girls category,we still were the overall winners.
(the story is altogether different in mix category…the CME guys take the majority of the trophies home in something like 3hrs 20 mins or so…and they have to climb sinhagad too…though the 1st in tht category was a civilian team..)
what a night!one of my unforgettable ones!
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