Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Bangalore Ultra 12.5 km 2013

MY ULTRA STORY
It's all personal, every bit of business. Every piece of shit every man has to eat every day of his life is personal. They call it business. OK. But it's personal as hell. 
- Mario Puzo through Michael Corleone in The Godfather
For me the 12.5k in Bangalore Ultra 2013 was personal. I had a point to prove to myself that I can do it. To understand why I will have to rewind and take you through a flashback to the last year's Ultra 12.5k which I will not do here. My saga and my sob story of last year's Ultra is all here http://draft.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=181885437573362202#editor/target=post;postID=4874353547741586006;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=2;src=postname  

THE ULTRA MARATHON DAY - FROM THE EYE OF A CREW MEMBER

The pre race day or the day of the Ultra Marathon is a day that I cannot forget. Rashmi, Anu and I had volunteered as support crew and our shift was from 8:30 to 11.00. We arrived early as we did not want to be late with the breakfast for our Super Heroes. About an hour after we arrived we welcomed the first set of Super heroes Srini P, Mani and Asad led by the Captain himself. It was such a beautiful sight to see the pack gliding in megestically into the RH tent. They all looked so fresh and I wondered whether they had run at all or were they about to just begin. They were so quick and efficient in their eating and left as quickly as they came in. The second pack of Chandra, Kaiwan and Vinay came in next and again they were quick to leave.

A link to a video uploaded by RFL on their FB page of our cheering https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151760500117636&set=vb.321307937635&type=2&theater

We were left in awe and in a daze. We spent some time cheering all the other runners and waited for the
better halves of the runners to arrive. The better halves arrived right on time and we were supposed to leave. But we were so engrosed in the whole process that we did not have the heart to leave. It was as though some invisible force has taken over us and was not ready to let go of us and we were also bound to this compelling force. We decided that we would wait till the runners come once more and then we would leave. And we were treated to the glorious sight once more. The pack led by the Captain zooms in and this time the better halves and Santhosh's parents took over. Chandra had her son
as her man Friday. Next the second pack arrived. It was a beautiful sight to see them being pampered by the better halves and children. Vinay's son filled his cap with water each time to wet the cap. Chandra's son force fed his mom every time she came in reminding her about the way she used to force feed him as a baby.

We had been told by Santhosh to go back and rest during our support crew meeting as we were running the next day and so with steely resolve but with a very heavy heart we left the venue. Pani decided to stay back and we left our hearts and minds behind but only took our bodies home. The rest of the day was spent in annoying Pani continuously by making iccessant phone calls and demanding updates from him. In fact Rashmi and Anu could not sleep all night wondering how things were going on.

THE RACE DAY - My Tryst with the Ultra Trial.

We arrived at the race location at the nick of the time as we had to wait at the Hennur ring Road junction for
the RH train. The people who had informed us that they would join our train had managed to reach the location without us and we had ended up waiting without necesity. We had to park the car at quite a distance and it was a good 10 min walk to the venue. As we walked into the RH tent it was good to see a sea of familiar RH faces. A lot of hi's and hi fives were going around. 

We quickly kept our bags in the RH tent, gave tea and coffee to whoever demanded and joined the other runners to start the race. The hold up area was as usual very animated and noisy with exited runners and we could not hear a word of the announcements. RH folks were busy clicking photos and we posed for a few. Suddenly the count down began and the flag was waved and off we went for 1.5 hrs to 2 hrs of running and funning.

The starting 1 km was open skies. But the weather Gods had cast a beautiful cloud cover just for us and there was the cool chilly Bangalore winter morning breeze. As we trudged along we all remarked about the glorious weather. The crowd thinned after the first right turn and we had space to start running. I got into a rhythmn and I was doing good time. Once we crossed the 1 km aid station we entered the thick bamboo forest area. The trail is very beautiful from here on. It is covered on both sides with bamboo trees and creates a canopy under which we run throughout the course. There were a few puddle which we had to negotiate around. There were a few RH cheerers here cheering us on.

The entire run seemed like our RH weekend long runs. I kept crossing RHers every second. We were continuously waving at each other, saying our 'heys' and hi five-ing continuously. I felt like a celebrity who was being recognised and acknowledged by everyone. On our return back I met up with Ramakrishnan and stuck with him for some time. Somewhere about this point my thighs started feeling like lead and I had to take walk breaks continuously. At the 10km point Rama assured me that we were doing our usual time and were well within our Byalakere timing. I kept taking walk breaks and Rama kept going ahead and I kept catching up with him at every aid station. He would patiently wait for me and give me encouraging assurances. We passed the RH cheering squad here once again and they urged me to run and not walk. Finally at the last aid station I asked him to cruise ahead and that I would follow. 

I decided to ignore the heavy feeling and run at a slow pace. I had read things about running with the mind
when the body refuses. I wondered how the RH super heroes of yesterday carried on for 16 to 24 hrs despite excruciating physical pain and discomfort and mental fatigue. I willed my legs to carry on but they refused. I continued this run walk and lo! behold!! I saw Madat screaming, shouting wildly and waving his hands. I stopped in front of him and started complaining and told him that I could not run anymore. He said 'come on! I ll make you run' and literally made me run fast. We reached the RH screaming cheering crowd. I heard many people scream my name. But despite that I stopped again and told Madat "leave me, I think I accelerated too early. Now I cant run'. But he pulled my hand, told me 'I will not let you stop' and made me run. Again I stopped just about 150 mts shy of the finish point. Even those 150mts looked like never ending to me and the finish was looming large ahead of me but seemed too far away. I heard someone shout 'move your hands' and I moved my hands. Madat said "forget about your legs, concentrate on your hands". I ran with him doign just that and Madat dragged me to the end and told me to race to the finish line and race I did!

I crossed the finish mat and stood in front of the volunteer who was putting medals around everyone. She was congratulating the runner ahead of me. When it was my turn she looked at me and asked 'are you ok maam?' with concern. I shamelessly just gesticulated to her to put the medal around me. I was blank for sometime till I went to the RH tent and found everyone congratulating me and hugging me.

THE OSCAR AWARD ACCEPTANCE SPEECH :)

One more run completed very well thanks to RH and the fantastic coaches. Special thanks to Chandra, Kaiwan and Srini P who has been amazing in checking with us on our progress regularly and giving us tips and feedback. 

Our car pooling group makes it possible for me to reach the venues on time and more importantly to not miss any runs because if I come up with excuses to miss a session I always have to check if the excuse will hold its salt with the group. 

Our buddys of the buddy group who always motivated me to run and some of them took it upon themselves to make us slow coaches run faster by constantly motivating us on Wednesdays. 

And our crazy girl gang that is full of fun and laughter and makes every run a celebration and a party.

So the parddddy has just begun folks ..... Picture abhi baaki hai mere dost ...........

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Running is Like Cricket

Life is like a Cricket match. A bowler bowls a superb delivery which just missed the stumps by a whisker and you moan and berate the luck if you are on the fielding side or heave a sigh of relief and thank your luck if you are on the batting side. Next instant the batsman hits the ball to a beautiful shot and you are euphoric or despodent depending on whose side you are on and you either urge the ball to travel faster or the fielder to catch or stop the ball. Next moment either the firlder has fielded it very well or the ball had missed the fielder. Next moment either the batsman is out and the bowler is elated or the ball has crossed the boundary and the batsman is happy.

Life is full of such moments. The moments might look momentous and long and might look like they are insurmountable or you might not want the moment to end. But the days pass by so fast like a fast movie reel and before you know it many years have passed.

Running is like Cricket. The 10k is like the T20 game. fast and Furious where you run fast and hard and try to complete the distance in the fastest time possible. You do not have much time to brodd and contemplate much like the T20 game where you do not have much time to set right one mistake. One bad over for the batsman or the bowler and the game is lost to teh coresponding side. You cannot make up fot it. Same way, in 10K if you have started slow you cannot make up for the lost time and if you have started too fast and have burned out too soon, you cannot make up the time. Its highly unpredictable and on any given day the team that plays well on that day wins. This unpredictability of the format makes it highly exciting and thrilling to watch. 

You do not need to be a highly accomplished player to hit or bowl in a T20. A single over with sixes or a single over with 2 or 3 wickets is enough to make you a great bowler or batsman. Similarly a 10K is a distance that is runable by all novices and even couch potatoes can aspire to be runners. This makes it a very popular distance and attracts the most number of participants. 

The 21k or the Half Marathon or HM is like the 50/50 or the one day international or the ODI. It is not too short and not too long. It does not take too much of you time both in training and in the race and is a distance that is doable and yet is challenging and gets you out of your comfort zone. Similarly the ODI is not too short for the purist and not too long for the youngsters and has its own charm and fans. 21K needs a runners to be strong and able to run the distance. it requires that the runner has a certain amount of fitness and committment towards training. Similarly a ODI match requires the cricketer to be competent. there is scope to a certain extent for a mistake to be set right. A bad over can be made up by takign a couple of wickets and a few wickets lost can be made up by a good partnership by the next batsman There is even scope for increasing the total by pinch hitting in the end if there are wickets left just like there is scope for improving the timing by increasing the tempo in teh end if you have started slow and have conserved your energy in teh beginning.

The Test match is the format that all purists and old fans of cricket love. It is the true test of the high skill level and competance of the cricketer and the technique has to be perfect. 

TO BE CONTINUED.......

Training for the Bangalore Ultra 2013, 12.5K on November 10

I have a tryst with the Bangalore Ultra course on Nov 10. I have a point to prove and a bone to pick with this trial. It has mocked me and it has challenged me and I have accepted the challenge. It did not ridicule me or belittle me but even then I feel that I have to stand tall in front of it and say “ha ha ha! I got you!”

To explain myself better, I need to rewind and take you on a flash back. Last year when I ran my first Ultra, I had just started running or should I say waddling. I could barely run 50mts and had trained for 7 weeks and had bravely signed up for 12.5K in the Ultra. On the pre race day I developed a pain in my left knee and as I started the race, at around the 1K mark I developed a pain in my right shin. Added to all my woes, at the 2K mark I developed the worst nightmare of any runner, the nature’s emergency call, the urge to visit the loo immediately. I stopped sipping water or eating anything at the aid stations for the fear of having a serious GI issue.

With all these nightmares hovering around I was hardly able to run or waddle along. I walked hte entire distance. I was cursing myself for landing myself into this and was asking myself what I was thinking when I signed up for running. As each runner cruised past me showering words of encouragement and praise I gained some energy and courage to carry on. But the cource seemes never ending and the pain was excruciating. I was nearly in tears and only the appearance of my daughters, niece and my husband at the 500mts mark prevented me from bursting into a sob and somehow with the encouragement of Manju and Shruthi I reached the finish line.I was rewarded with a medal by a smiling volunteer which I felt that I did not deserve for I had taken 2:08 long hours to finish the race.

I resolved to transform myself into a runner and show the Ultra what I was made of! I continued training with Runner’s High and am training hard and have finished many 10Ks in the past 1 year like the Auroville, TCS and KTM 10Ks and so here I come with renewed vigour and fresh resolve to see the ultra in the eye and say that now I am your equal and now I can call myself a runner.

From my experience last year, the ultra trial is very flat with a slight incline from the 5km to th 6.25 km mark which is not very tough. There are some rocky patches. From the 3km to the 6.25km mark there was not much of a tree cover. Since it a out and back loop and the turn around is at 6.25 mark, it means that there is not much of a tree cover for about half the course or for about 6.5km. So I am prepared with a cap and water bottle to beat the heat.

My time was 2:08 hrs last year and this year I hope to complete it in 1:40 hrs. Hope that I am able to achieve my timing. With just 11 days to go I am really excited and looking forward to this wonderful run.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Running is a metaphor for Marriage.

Running they say is a metaphor for life. You get out of it as much as you put into it. You might think you deserve more and you might whine and crib. You might get angry at times and sore. But in the end, you realise that you have got what was your due and the euphoric moments and the times of happiness made it all worth it.

But in my opinion, (I know no one asked for it but hey! I am known for speaking even when no one is listening), running is a metaphor for marriage.

In India marriage is a misunderstood word. People usually refer to the wedding day as marriage day. But actually Wedding is the ceremony where two people are united in marriage. Marriage is the entire process and the duration of the union of two people in which they live together with the consent and approval of the families and friends. Matrimony, Nuptial and Wedlock are other words that recognise the social and legal acceptance of the union of two people. When I say Running is a metaphor for Marriage I mean this entire process of two people living together.

When you become a runner it is at first with a lot of apprehensions and doubts about whether you will be able to do it or whether you are cut out for it etc. But you enter into the fray because you saw someone running, or you got talked and brain washed into it like me or because your friends run and you don’t want to be left out, you heard great things about the benefits of running from your running friends, you saw your running friends having too much fun without you, your doctor or parents or relatives recommended it to you, the reasons can be many for why you started running.

You replace the word running with marriage and the reasons why you got married will turn out to be one of the above sentences J Ya ya ... there was love and all that..... but ultimately you signed the legal bond and tied the three knots or said ‘Yes’ or ‘Kabool hai’ for the reasons mentioned above. You get married because your friends got married, your parents forced you or your partner put his/her foot down, for security, for society, because that is what everyone is doing, because its the right thing to do, you are of marriageable age etc.

When you are running and the muscles heat up, the lungs scream and you cannot go anymore and you still carry on... you ask yourself why have I got myself into this? What was I thinking? Was I not happy and contented without this? I could have been sitting and watching TV or I could have been sleeping in bed for 4 more hours. Why did I get into this? Why do I put myself through so much torture? Do I need to carry on? You curse the world, you curse your coach, you curse your friends for putting you through so much torture and then realise that it was you yourself who got yourself into this in the first place. You want to quit and you want to give up.

You replace running with marriage. You ask yourself ‘why did I get married’? What was I thinking? Why did I have to do it? You curse your parents, you curse your spouse, you curse everyone who was involved, you berate yourself for being so stupid, you ask yourself what did you see in this? You tell yourself you could have done better or got better, you remind yourself about the various different things you could have done instead of getting married etc. You reach a point where you say you just cannot carry on.

But ultimately once you cross the finish line the joy and the euphoria of running makes you wear those shoes the next day gets you back on the track running despite everything you went through. It is the same as a lady giving birth to a child. No matter how hard and long the labour was and how painful, all is forgotten once she holds the baby in her arms. In that magical moment everything else is forgotten. The nine months of hell and torture and all the trials and tribulations are forgotten.


Similarly marriage is like the running where the road is ardours and full of surprises but ultimately the moments of joy and celebration is what makes it all worth it. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Why do I run?

Why do I run? I have asked myself this question many a times. And the only answer I can give myself is that I don’t know why I run. I don’t know whether I am hooked onto running or have become an addict. I can only say that I enjoy running for many reasons.

The sense of freedom:

Running is one activity where I feel free. I am not bound by any rules and regulations. Sure there are things like running with the correct form etc. But once you are on the trial and running, you are pretty much on your own. And I love this part of running where I am on my own. I get lost in my thoughts. Sometimes I am so lost in thoughts that I slow down or start walking and sometimes I would have run faster than usual. By the time I get back my mind to the present, I realise that either I have covered a good distance or I realise that I am walking and have to get back to running.

I am not bothered what I am wearing or what others are wearing. I am not bothered how about how I am running or how others are running. Of course there are these aspects like running in rhythm, running at a certain pace etc, but once you are on the trail all pace is the same pace. Sometimes the body complies with my request and runs a little faster and sometimes the body just refuses and I have to coax it and cajole it or even bribe it. But after a certain point there is pretty much nothing else that I can do but just carry on at whatever speed or pace that I can carry on at that particular time and on that particular day.

Running is one place where I feel that there are no restrictions. I don’t have to behave in a certain way, I don’t have to watch out for what I say or what I do. I am totally free to be what I am. I can let myself loose and be exactly who I am. That is why I crave for long runs and I am not satisfied with short runs. I look forward to the weeks where our mileage is more than the days where our mileage is less. On long runs, the solitude, the peace and tranquillity is for a longer duration and even though I am passing by runners all the time and saying hi! or waving at them, yet, there is a deep sense of being all alone with myself and completely in control of myself. It is here that I truly realise the meaning of ‘I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my ship’.

The Social Aspect of Running:

The other thing that I love about running is the socialising. Since I started running suddenly I have so many new friends whom I would not have met and befriended, but for running. After a certain number of years in life it becomes rather difficult to make new friends with the same temperament and tastes as you and it becomes even harder to maintain those friendships once they are formed due to various reasons. Unless we have a certain common platform, activity or occasions where we meet regularly, you cannot develop the depth of the friendship. But in running, friendships get formed instantaneously for no rhyme or reason. The beauty of running is that you are not tied down to running with the same person every day. Because once again I repeat the phrase, once you are out on the trial, whoever you come across becomes your friend. If you are running at the same pace, then it is inevitable that either you say ‘hi’ or the other person says ‘hey’ and then the conversation begins with ‘how much are you running today?’, ‘since when are you running?’. The panting and the puffing does not give much of a scope for a prolonged conversation, but even a nod of the head or a wave of the hand, if we have the energy left to wave, is enough to develop a ‘runner’s-bond’. Runners are the most sorted-out people. They have no hang ups and are easy on each other.

Runners, I have come to realise, are a different breed altogether. When you are a runner there is no room for pretences, falseness or deceptions. Because hey! you cannot lie about your running. It is out there for all to see. And each person’s running is their own that no one can take that away from you. You are as fast as your body allows you to be. You cannot put some artificial fertiliser to speed yourself up or some catalyst to get better time. Even that will not help you much. So, at the end of the day, because you are your true self the friendships are also easy. It becomes easy to work together.

The Fabled Runner’s High:

What is Runner’s High? Is there really something called Runner’s High? I don’t know what it is. But what I do know is that at the end of the run I experience a deep sense of having done something. I have accomplished something. I have worked for something to the best of my abilities and have earned what I worked for and what I deserved. This sense of fulfilment and achievement leaves me with a deep sense of good feeling and well being and for those few hours I am with a sense of peace with myself and peace with all those around me and at peace with the world at large. This must be the runner’s high because I have not experienced anything like this when I am actually running. So I have come to the conclusion that maybe for me it happens after I complete the run. There is a lot of science jargon involved in this which I shall desist from using. Suffice to say that those few minutes of euphoria is enough to make anyone run.


I do not drink beer and hence cannot vouch for many runners who say that beer tastes better after a run. But I have noticed that the coffee or tea that we drink or the food that we eat tastes better after a long and tiring run. Your body is so exhausted and full of endorphins that all the sensations are heightened and all the experiences are more profound during those few minutes after the completion of a run. You feel elated and on top of the world. This is the reason why millions all across the world have taken to running and continue running despite all the pressures in their lives and despite injuries and many other reasons that there might be for not running.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A runner I befriended on the trial


Many crazy things happen on the trail and on a run. many are memorable events. The selflessness of a fellow runner or a volunteer, something someone said that inspired you to run further, someone cheering you on as you were trudging along slowly due to fatigue or pain, many such incidents help us to carry on running . But I have had the most wonderful and surprising experience or encounter that I am writing today.

My first run was the Bangalore Ultra 2012 last November and as I was running, nah... whom am i kidding, as I was walking, I chatted up with a runner from Vidyaranyapura who trains with the Nike Runner’s club and we talked about the usual, when did we start running, how many races have we run etc. I reached the finish line and forgot her name and everything about her. 

Then I met her in Auroville in a similar way. On the trial, running and walking, and we said hi! and we both expressed surprise for having met again in the similar fashion, again and I asked her name again and we chatted up. Once I crossed the finish line, again I forgot about her in the melee and mad frenzy of cheering the other runners. 

Wonder of wonders, after seven months, after I completed my KTM run, this September, I saw her running up to the finish of KTM said hi! to her as she finished. We spoke for a few seconds, expressed our surprise again and parted ways. This time she sent me a Facebook friend request after KTM. Finally, now I know her name after three chance meetings.

One of my friends met a friend of hers after 20 years on the KTM trial. 

Running never ceases to amaze me and there are many stories that I need to tell and that are coming very soon. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Kaveri Trial Marathon 10km RUN – 14th September 2013

THE TRAINING and THE MOCK RUN for heat training

Our KTM training started towards the end of June and the training program was a steady build up towards the 10km Time Goal target that I was aiming at. I had done my time trial and got a 1:26 as my targeted time to finish my 10km run.  

Our Runner’s High coach usually takes us to Srirangapatna for a mock run a fortnight prior to the actual run on the same course. The run is started a bit late during the day so that the sun is up in the sky and blazing at us as we trudge along the trial in heat that we are not used to being the snobbish Bangaloreans that we are. We curse the coaches, we curse our families, we curse our friends and we curse our fate and stupidity for having believed that we are runners.

The mock run was exactly the horror show that we all had been promised and we all came back exhilarated for having survived the run and being alive to talk about it. I was thrilled to be awarded as the most improved runner and which is a testimony to the fact that from walking I have improved to running a decent pace with all the huffing and puffing. More than anything, it was an award that my running community had given me which I had coveted and will always cherish.

THE ACTUAL KTM RUN

I was very excited about the KTM run as it was the first time that I would be doing the KTM run and I was very curious about it and very excited. Everyone was talking about the horrors of the KTM and how it would be a nightmare due to the humidity and it is called the toughest trail run not without reason.

The start point is the Srirangapatna Bird Santuary and the end point is the Balmuri waterfalls. Since the trial is very narrow, to avoid crowding on the trial, the organisers have prudently made the start point and the end point different. It is an A to B race and we do not start from point A turn back at point B and return to point A. This is to the advantage to all the runners as we get to run on the trial that is the most
scenic, most pristine and the most untouched by human commercial activity trial in all of India. You do not find a single house, hut or concrete building or any construction for the entire 10km stretch.  

We arrived at the start point well before time and there were a lot of high fives, back slapping and hi, hello good morning etc. The start area was crowded with more than 800 to 1000 runners and we were wished good luck by the Runner’s High full and half marathoners who had come a day prior to their runs just to cheer us.

The speech was long but it was very interesting to me as it was the first time that I was hearing the young race director talk about the route, aid stations, history of the race and the course records etc. He mentioned Santhosh and Runner’s High to loud cheering and applause by the huge RH community present at the venue. I am sure that there were at the very least 100 participants in the 10K category from RH itself.

Usually I quieten down at the very beginning of the race. My mind calms down and usually the thoughts I have are always the same. I contemplate on the last few days of training, what I have gone through to get to the race line and the wonder that running is and how it has changed my life irrevocably. It is very interesting that it is usually the same sequence of thoughts with just the chronology changing a bit here and there. At that time, I remember very well, I thought that just the fact that a couch-potato like me who always made excuses for any kind of physical activity or exercise and who led a sedentary life style, is at this start line waiting for the flag to be waved, ready to run,  is a very big achievement in itself.

The training we have been through is something that I marvel at each and every week that I receive the mail with the training plan of that week. Each time I read about the ladder workout or the Fartlek or the speed workouts, I feel like an athlete training for the Olympics. Santhosh always mentions in his last pep talk mail that we must call ourselves athletes and I had not believed it in the first 2 or 3 seasons. But at that point in time I completely believed it because at that time I felt that I am already a winner as I am standing there waiting for the start gun in my head, waiting to run.

The start was three minutes late according to my watch. But when the chequered flag was waved, we all set out to a whoop from here and a hoot from there. The first few minutes was a walk due to the crowd as each of us tried to make way through the hundreds of people slowly plodding or jogging their way about. The Cauvery River to our left and the fields to the right with the trial in between is a sight to behold. There were stacks of sugarcane at several points waiting for the tractor to come and pick them up and take them to the market or the sugar factory as their destination.

There were many goats for company and they were unusually quite. Several villagers passed us by in scooters or two wheelers. Some were walking by us and some were standing and staring at us. Some village children cheered us on or joined us for a short distance running with glee and sniggering at the old city folks who have lost their minds and are running. A village woman who was riding pillion on a motor bike was telling the rider of the bike that these village folk must have paid an amout to come and run here and she was wondering how much we might have paid.

Some conversations my other friends had with the villagers:

When one of the runners overheard a conversation and replied in Kannada
Villager: Oh! You know Kannada, so you are from here
Runner: Yes we are from Bangalore and many of us know Kannada
Villager: Why do you folks run?
Runner: Because we do not do the household work and the field work that you people do. So we run to keep healthy
Villager: OOOOhhh!!! Heegooo unte (Translation: Oh my! Is there something as ridiculous as this)
Villager: Do they give you food or do you just keep running
Runner: They don’t give us food if we do not run
Villager: Bewildered look Come and pull out the weeds with us

Villager: Do you pay to come and run here
Runner: Yes
Villager: Did you also pay?
Runner: Yes
Villager: How much did you pay?
Runner: We all paid Rs.1000.
Village: Oh My! In our village no one will pay Rs.1000 to run.

Coming back to my run, as I started along I had it in my mind that I need to do a good time. I know Santhosh says that timing is not important and we need to enjoy the run and the beauty around us. But, in some unfathomable way, I had this notion that I must run fast and get a PB. So out went the tortoise and the hare story of Santhosh and in came my own theory that I must run fast in the first half of the race as I usually tire out during the second half and start walking. Added to this was the memory of the mock run where I had walked the entire distance from 6km to 10km. So, despite being reassures that the actual run will be better than the mock run as we have started one and a half hour early, I started running fast at the first instance. I maintained an 8min pace up to 4 km. I reached the 5km aid station well within my set target time.

I had worn the new fuel belt that my sister had sent me and I got a few admiring comments from many runners who were running behind. After the 5 km mark I slowed down to a walk and saw many runners run past me. I was disheartened that I was being overtaken by so many. I met Chandana and Ashutosh on the way and decided to stick with them. Ashutosh heard my loud breathing and huffing and puffing and advised me to take it easy and enjoy the scenery and the beautiful surroundings. But I had my own agenda. I had decided to race against time.

My fuel belt was my accomplice in my strategy to get a good time. I did not stop at any of the aid stations to save on those few minutes and walked past them sipping water from my fuel belt. Each time I over took Chandana and Ashutosh and they over took me during my walk breaks. This continued on and on till finally I lost them completely when I took a longer walk break. I have noticed that when I am lost in thought and forget myself and forget the fact that I am running, thats when I would have covered a considerable distance and suddenly I come back to the present and lo and behold! I am farther than I thought that I could have been. 

I reached the 9 km mark and decided to run as much as I could. But my body was refusing to run and  I had to really coax it, cajole it and threaten it into running. I came up to the bridge which is 600mts away from the finish line where we had to cross the bridge and take a detour of 150mts and come back. It was a very narrow bridge with a two way path and runners running out and runners running back in.

Alas! When I reached the end of the detour and turned back a bullock cart came by and we all had to stop to give it the right of way. After all we are the trespassers and are using the trial and the bridge that belongs to them. We have borrowed it from them for those few hours. We had to walk behind the bullock cart and the runners who had to enter the path had to wait for the bullock cart to pass and give them the way. It is a real compliment to the running community that not one runner complained about this or cursed about this reducing their time or spoiling their run.

Finally I got back on course having successfully completed the detour and not getting lost! At the 300mts mark I was struggling and walking to the finish. I saw Santhosh and he yelled “come on Asha, no walking, the finish is just around the corner and you have to finish strong”. There was a very steep incline looming large ahead of me. I told Santhosh “no santhosh, I cannot run”. He said “after the up you have to run”. I saw a very reasonable possibility in this option her had given me. I said “yes”. I walked with renewed purpose and strides up the incline and ran with new vigor and determination.

I blazed to the finish completely exhausted but feeling right on top of the world at having finished a tough race but came out with flying colours. I was breathless and trying to catch my breath as a volunteer came and asked me if I wanted water or Enerzal. I said I just want to catch my breath. After that I asked someone for water and someone else went running and got me water. Felt like a superstar to be pampered like this. I realised I had not collected my medal and went and asked the volunteer for one. He put it around my neck and I felt like an Olympian receiving her medal with the national anthem playing in the background. Must say that by these small attention to details the organisers manage to make us feel like champions which makes us come back to KTM year after year.

My phone beeped and I got my timing and was thrilled that despite everything I had got my PB. I might not be the fastest runner around, but with each run I am improving and with each run I am learning something new. Each run has become something important and an irreparable part of my life.

 When people say running is a metaphor for life I have not understood what it means. But running for me is something that I have found all of a sudden. I had not known that all my life I was looking for something to giev meaning to my life without even realising that I was searching for something and suddenly I find that running is fulfilling that need. Running has completed my search. Now a new quest has begun on the roads or on the trials during each run where I get newer answers and more questions.

Asha
--
PS:

Why did this post take so long in coming? Almost a month?

First of all I was not very sure about my writing capabilities, my command over the English language, my grammer, my creativity and skills in writing. I used to just write to compose my thoughts and give vent to all teh buzz going on in my head. But I felt that I should not torture people into reading my poor attempts at blogging, not that I was much of a blogger and waste other people's time in reading my ramblings and mumblings.

Also, I was not getting the words to express and write about my KTM run. All I could remember was the next day's cheering session and the fun that we had on our return journey.

But all of a sudden my friend asked me why I was not writing anymore and I thought why not!? I opened a new blog page and out came the words pouring all oevr the screen. I have not editied them and they are raq and direct. I apologise for any mistakes and errors and am open to any teasing and welcome any ribbing that I might get from everyone.

Cheers!
Asha
--

 PSS

I will post a few pics very soon! Promise!!

Asha
-----

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

TCS 10K 2013 Run - 19.03.2013


If anyone had asked me a year ago whether I would be running the TCS 10K in 2013 I would have laughed on their face. Infact that is what I had done to Pani and Rashmi last year when they had tried to persuade me to join their running group. It took all the persuasion and nagging skills of one 'Anupama Harish' to literally drag me into RH. (I cant thank her enough for this)

It was a glorious sight to see the Kenyan elite runners whizz past us and we cheered them on. At that moment I told Rashmi that today we are also Kenyans. As we followed Chandra into the 'C' hold up area we were treated to the sight of all the elite women runners warming up. I was amazed at their musles and abs and wowed to reach those fitness levels some day!. They were flagged off followed by the corporate challenge runners. The 'A', 'B' and 'C' gates were opened up and we all joined the hordes of runners amidst loud cheering. As we emerged out of the stadium we were greeted by the cheering squad and I high-fived all of them. It was great to see all of them together.

Organisers are demanding Rs.950 for the official photo
I soon lost sight of all the RHers and Rashmi and I stuck together up to about 2 km. After that we were trying to get to the right side of the road as we wanted to see all the runners who had turned around and were on their way back. I lost Rashmi at this point and was on my own from here on. It seemed to be quite smooth sailing and I was passing by 2km, 3km and 4 km board in good time. It was great to see Kanishka cheering loudly and I gave him a high five as I ran past him. The way back was a bit tough as it was a steady upward gradient and the going was getting tougher by the minute. Even though there was a good cloud cover and no sun at all, the weather was very sultry and the heat was getting to me. 

I kept gulping water and Enerzal at regular intervals and kept trying to recollect Santhosh's race plan in my head for some inspiration. It was very disheartening to see that there were no dustbins throughout the route. I kept the water bottles and the tetra pack with me for sometime in search of a dustbin. But soon I realised that there were no dustbins and had to throw them by the road side. By this time I had to slow down and start walking. By now most of the runners were walking and the pace had slowed down quite considerable. It was getting to be very difficult to run and I had to keep a constant 'excuse me', 'side please' to get past people.

The St.Mark's road section was a downwards gradient and it was an easy stretch. The narrow section of MG road in front of Chinnaswamy stadium was most impossible to run and we just had to walk. The Queen's road section was again easy and we were cheered loudly by the cheering squad and we entered our home ground, Cubbon park. By now the water stops had run out of water and I was desperately looking at the empty tables for water as I walked past High court.All the runners were running silently and it was beautiful to listen to the rhythmic tap tap tap sound of the feet of the runners and the chirping sounds of the birds. It was a welcome change that there were no traffic sounds and I was overwhelmed by the serenity in the atmosphere.

When I enetered Cubbon I was greeted by Manju and then I passed Sharath and asked him if he had water.
I refuse to pay money to the organisers for my photo
Sharath replied in the negative and I was touched when a fellow runner thrust an Enerzal tetra pak, that he had not opened, into my hand and said 'here take this'. I thanked him profusely and even offered to share with him for which he gallantly declined. I did not even ask his name nor see his bib number and realised this only much later once I had run past him. By now I was looking out for our very own Raghu's camera and seem to have missed him. Some of the people were warning us to pose for the official camera.

The familiar oft beaten tracks of Cubbon Library section and our warm up route were like home coming and there were many people with very interesting plackards like 'You are looking strong', 'You are flying' which filled me with immence joy. One of the guys was yelling 'Remember the breakfast you are going to have' which evoked much laughter in all the runners and another guy was commanding us to run not walk.

I got out of Cubbon Park gate and was about to accidently enter the handicapped and elderly runners finish area because one of the volunteers was directing a wheel chair athlete to enter there. Thankfully I saw the board and carried on. Very soon I hear Jai's voice shouting loudly 'Asha, come on run' and I was filled with renewed energy. He paced me and made me sprint the last 100 mts. He asked me to swing my arms and I swung my arms and ran at top speed right into the finish line. Because of him, I was able to finish strong. The RH cheer leaders were in full force and were cheering on top of their lungs. They were at the exttreme left and I could not high five them as I ran to the finish line.

It was chaotic at the medal distribution area and I felt that I am surely going to pass out here due to the suffocation. But the crowd was well behaved and there was no jostling and pushing even though everyone was impatient about the whole situation. It was a waste of time standing there and I thought it would have been better if they had just handed over the medal to us at the finish line.  

As I came out and hugged everyone, I looked back at all the friendships that I have stuck up, the laughter, the camaraderie, the jokes, the friendly ribbing and the elation of belonging to such a wonderful group of compassionate folks. Our success lies in our  team of coaches and physios and of course in our training program. I salute our coach Santhosh for successfully converting this out of shape couch potato to a (relatively speaking) Mean Running Machine. (no harm in calling myself that :D, you can all snigger and laugh for all I care :P).

I am highly indebted to all the wonderful runners who care and take the time out to share and write about their running experiences and its has been a trully inspiring  to have read their reports in the previous three seasons of Ultra, Mumbai and Auroville Marathons. I have benefitted a lot from reading those accounts. That has been the reason why I have been able to write this in my process of thanking everyone and acknowledging the role played by each and everyone in my journey. 

Running for me has been life changing and I thank our Guru Runaananda for making me realise how awesome I can actually be and for making Marianne Williamson's words in the book "A return to love" come true so many times !!!!!!!!

----------------------------- this is not the end ----------------------- its just the beginning ---------------------------------------------------

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Day 7: drive up to Gulaba Point (30 kms before Rohtang Pass)


Day 7: April 9, 2013

Day @ Manali

Comes a day in everyone’s life when it turns out to be the most action packed day of your life and many of your dreams come true. The Day 7th of our great Indian road trip turned out to be one such day.

We had planned to go to Rohtang pass. But we came to know at Shimla that Rohtang pass usually opens in mid May. But the road was open up to Gulaba point which is about 30 kms before Rohtang pass. The Army had opened the roads up to that point. We decided to go to Gulaba point. We got ready early and had our breakfast in the resort.

The drive to Gulaba point was very beautiful. The higher we climbed, the more breath taking the scenary became. We saw large orchards of Apple with the flowers in full bloom. The fresh fragrance of tall pine trees was all around us and the roads were laden with tall Christmas trees as well. Small rivulets appered out of nowhere at regular intervals and joined the mighty Beas. The Beas River was flowing fuller than it was lower down, having been fed by freshly melted snow and rains in the previous couple of days. We saw many sure footed and hardy Nepali workers climbing slowly but surely with heavy loads on their backs at the various construction sites and road work sites.

The roads are very steep and some stretches are god and some stretches are not very good. The tarring is not yet complete due to which the road is full of pot holes in those stretches that are not good. It takes a lot skill, patience, courage and guts to negotiate the curves and the steep climb efficiently. The signs are missing at many key points and so we have to keep asking the way all the time. There are many sharp and steep hair pin bends throughout the way. We lost our way at one point when we took a wrong turn and soon realised when we asked the way at the next point and took a turn back and resumed our journey forward.

After we had passed a certain point we suddenly saw snow very close to the road. We stopped and jumped out of the car like small children and went to play with the snow. During the drive throughout the route we found shops advertising skiing suits, gum boots, snow goggles, gloves and many such gear that you would require to wear to save yourself from the snow and the cold. We ignored all the shops and the signs and proceed further having decided to hire something right on top. But later we realised that it would have been a good idea to hire at the beginning itself because rates are cheaper at the bottom and very exorbitant at the top.

When we reached Gulaba point we were greeted by hordes of vendors trying to sell their wares or services. We hired fur coats for all the four of us. Ashok at first refused because he never feels cold and felt that he could handle it. But it was freezing and 4⁰ C and so he decided to take a coat. We also took gum boots as it is difficult to walk on the snow with regular shoes. There is also the possibility that the shoes and the socks might become wet and cold due to the snow and so it might be difficult to walk with wet shoes and socks later.

The snow and the beauty of the place is breath taking. The snow seemed to be very old as it was covered by twigs of the trees and there was brown and black dust on the snow that had fallen from the trees. A lot of tea and coffee vendors were moving up and down selling hot beverages to people and enticing people to buy their wares to fight the cold. But we had been warned at the resort not to buy any eatable or drinks here as they use the dirty water of the melted snow to prepare and we might end up falling sick.

There were many carts selling hot boiled or burnt corn. Many vendors were also selling hot Maggi and Parle G biscuits with hot Chai and hot coffee. We resisted the temptation to buy any of those. We hired two motorised battery operated off-road bikes and had a very scary and jolly ride up the mountains. Once we reached the top we were again hounded by vendors. We succumbed to a few. We took a horse ride. The horses are mountain horses and look very strong and are very sure footed. Its very difficult to walk on the snow as the snow is soft and our foot goes in many places. It happens to the horses also. Whenever their foot goes in, we tilt to a side. For people who are used to walking on flat ground knowing what is up ahead and being sure of where we are placing our feet, it is a bit of a scary experience. But if you are the kind who revels in the unexpected and enjoys a little bit of a thrill in life, all these experiences can be very enjoyable.

We wore the traditional Himachali dress and took photos. Amrita refused to wear those dresses and went away to try some skiing. We forced Ashok to wear those clothes and he posed for a few pictures very grudgingly.  We also got tricked into hiring a photographer when he approached us. He took some 42 pictures of ours and charged us Rs.50 per picture. After much haggling and bargaining he settled for Rs.30 per picture. Since we were busy posing for photographs, we could not try out skiing as we had to do some more sight-seeing and wanted to get back to the resort early and sleep early as we had a tough drive back to Delhi the next day.

The drive back was completely downhill and the steep inclines had to be negotiated skilfully. We visited the Hidimba temple. This temple is in a cave and has the feet of Hidimba, the Rakshashi princess who married the second Pandav Bheem and gave birth to the brave warrior Rakshash Gatodgach who fought valiantly against the Kauravas in the great war of Mahabharata. The feet are carved in the rock and there is a large iron lamp burning continuously. The cave temple has a massive wooden structure that has been built on top with a beautiful doorway and windows that have very intricate carvings on them. It is supposed to be a 400 year old temple and the cave temple is supposed to be more than 4000 years old. There are some skulls of animals that have been put up on the walls just like how we would find carvings of mythological stories or mythological Gods in the temples of the South.

We went to the Gatodgach tree temple which is close by. The Gatotgach tree temple is nothing but a massive Christmas tree with some skulls of animals pinned up to it. There is a large board explaining the significance and the story. We returned to the resort and began packing and getting ready to leave the next day and drive back to Delhi.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Day 6 : of the Great Indian Road Trip @ Manali

Day 6: April 8, 2013


We got the much needed rest at the Mahindra resort and got up early to start on our journey to Manali. Ashok had discussed with many people bout which route to take and they had all suggested that from Mashobra he should take the Shimla bypass road and take the highway to Manali. They all assured us that the roads are very good and we will have no problems on our way.

6:50 am                : Leaving Mashobra         :Trip reading       : 2828 kms
7:10 am                : Passing Oaksland Tunnel
7:16 am                : Passing Victory tunnel

Ashok keeps asking for directions regularly as he believes that it is better to ask for directions than to get lost and travel in the wrong direction and loose precious fuel and time. Since Shimla is a town full of turns, curves and forks, we had to ask directions every minute. When we came across yet another perpendicular intersection, we asked a yet another person standing at the bus stop and he told us to follow a tempo that was going just ahead of us as that tempo was going to Darla Ghat. We followed his advice and started following him.

7:30                        : reached Tutu                   :Manali 245 kms away                    : came on NH 88
7:20                        : Sarog

We reached a point where the road sign said Hamirpur – 135 kms. We suddenly encountered the vast sinuous Beas River flowing next to the highway in all her glory. The majesty of the mighty river was spellbinding and awe inspiring. It was a beautiful sight to behold and we were taking in the beauty of the river like greedy and hungry people. The highway and the river flow adjacent to each other throughout and it is quite a sight to drive next to the mighty river. Even in the middle of summer, the mighty Beas was flowing in all her majesty, fed by the melting snow of the Himalayas. The river is fill of beautiful round rocks that have been weathered by the river and her force through thousands of years. The soil formed finally after eons of weathering is a fine white coloured powder with some glittering mica mixed together and is a wonderful sight to see.

7:30                        : Gana Hatti
7:50                        : Talaghat
8:30                        : Darla Ghat

We stopped at Veeshnu Dhabha to have breakfast. We had the world’s best Aloo Gobi paratha. This Dhaba is run by an elderly gentleman called Daulat Ram Sharma and his wife and serves one of the tastiest home cooked parathas. The had a very tasty mixed vegetable pickle to go with the parathas which has goose berries, mango, garlic, chillies, carrot and a host of other vegetable to go into the pickle. It

made the tastiest combination and I bought two packets to take home. The only thing that prevented us from having too many parathas was the fact that we were driving through steep ghat sections and did not want to have an upset stomach during the journey and keep throwing up throughout the way. Now I regret why I did not have a couple more parathas.

Breakfast                             : Rs.320 including two packets of achar.

9:45                        : Chukala
10:30                     : Manali 160 kms away

The roads are bad upto Bilaspur for about 30 kms. After that the roads were became really good and the driving conditions improved a lot. The drive continued as our eyes feasted on majestic waterfalls, soothing apple orchards, temples, Gurudwaras, gorges, curves, the various moods of the Beas river and the sleepy towns with their active inhabitants. We encountered many Nepalis carry heavy loads on their bags on the innumerable road construction sites throughout the highway.

11:20                     : Sundar Nagar
11:30                     : Lunapani, Mandi District
12:15                     : Pandoh Dam                    : Trip meter 3000 kms                     : 123999 kms to 126999 kms

We came across a walkway bridge after Pandoh dam. We were very excited to see the bridge and stopped to stretch our legs. We tried walking across the cable stay bridge which was swaying. The local school children were walking across the bridge to go to their school and we were scared even to set foot over it. But somehow we mustered all the courage we could get and did manage to walk up to the halfway point and click a few photos.            

We drove on a massive dam that has been built to block the mighty Beas. Bhakra Beas Dam and Photography is restricted. The road is continuously dotted by small tea stalls and dhabas with slate stones topped roofs.

We also found a spot where we could climb down from the highway and reach the banks of the river. I wanted to collect a few round and smooth stones to carry home as a souvenir and also to give to anyone who wanted them. As I was walking down to the river bed my left leg got stuck to some metallic wires and I fell flat on the ground. When I tried to get up, I could not get my leg out as it was stuck in those wires.  

Amrita was walking behind me and she panicked and started pulling my leg out. But her small hands could not get my legs out of the wires and she started shouting and calling out Ashok’s name who was a little ahead along with Apsara. Ashok came running and saw the trip coming to an end once more when he saw me sprawled on the ground in an awkward angle. I told him to just help me to get my leg out of the wires and once my leg was out I stood up and burst out laughing seeing their concerned faces.

Once we got over yet another shock, Apsara, Amrita and I suddenly turned into little children who have been unleashed into a toy shop and are allowed to pick up whichever toy we want. We collected quite a few beautiful smooth stones and carried them to the car using Amrita’s hoodie as a gunny sack (her idea) and started our journey to Manali forward.

12:30                     : Aut
1:15 to 1:20         : We travelled through a tunnel from Aut to Thalot which is 2.8 kms long and is Asia’s largest traffic tunnel. It has a 4-lane well tarred road and is 10.5 km long 4.5 km wide with beautiful well paved sidewalks and good
Lighting. The tunnel has reduced the distance to Manali on the Manali – Kirkut highway

1:15                        : Thalot
1:35                        : Nagrein
1:45                        : Bhunter             : Manali 50 kms away
1:50                        : Mandi

We started smelling the scintillating aroma of Pine trees at many stretches. Many Apple orchards greeted and welcomed us. The trees had bloomed and we could see the Apple flowers in all their glory. It was surprising to see that the Apple trees are so short and stout. It is a wonder that a tree so small produces on an average 250 to 300 fruits every year.

We came across any small hydro electric projects that produce electricity on the river Beas. From this point on the road became a little narrower. On one side is the huge rocky mountains and on the other side is a deep gorge with the Beas flowing. We even passed a stretch where there are two gorges on either side of us and there is a small 10 feet road in the middle for us to drive on. It takes great skill and experience to drive through these roads.

We kept passing by many youth on motorbikes with orange coloured cloth or scarf draped on their heads. On enquiring I found out that they are saffron clad Sikh youth who were on their way to Manikaran which is a holy place of pilgrimage to Sikhs.   

1:55                        : Kullu Town

The Beas River was in full flow in all its strength here. No wonder the entire stretch from Kullu to Manali is laden with many River rafting shops beckoning the adventurous kind to try this highly adrenaline inducing sport. It looked very enticing and me and the girls wanted to stop and try it out, but, Ashok said that we will do it on our way back. So we moved on.

2:45                        : Katrain
2:50                        : Patil Puhal                         : 18 kms to Manali
3:15                        : Manali town
3:30                        : Snow Peaks Club Mahindra Resort

We checked into the resort and decided to take rest for the rest of the day. We had finally arrived at Manali and were raring to go to Gulaba point tomorrow to see and play with snow. Rohtang pass would open only in May around May 15 or May 17. But even Gulaba point would be good as it was just 30 kms from Rohtang pass. We will do skiing and play in the snow and have great fun tomorrow.

We spent the night in the resort at the fun zone dancing to some nice Bollywood hits played by the DJ, had some good dinner and slept a dreamless sleep and rested our tired bodies, fulfilled minds and gladdened hearts.

Day 5 of the Great Indian Road Trip @ Shimla


Day 5 : April 7, 2013

@ Shimla

Finally after our most adventurous journey from Bangalore to Shimla, it felt very good to be at one single place even if it was just for one single day. I was wondering that if for three and a half days I felt like this, what must people who have to travel a lot as a part of their work or sailors, defence personnel feel after a long amount of time away from home. It also felt good to be on terra firma instead of moving constantly.

We went trekking in the morning. The trek was led by a local guide called Rajan and he was a very informed person. He was very knowledgeable about the local history, the flora and fauna and kept a continuous chatter going which kept us all very entertained. The trail was very easy and not very steep except in a couple of places. We went all the way to the President’s Orchards and back. Rajan also owned a dhaba and we immediately jumped with joy on hearing this. We told him that we wanted to have breakfast at his dhaba instead of at the resort. He immediately called his house and made arrangements for the ingredients to be kept ready.

On reaching his house we found that his father was running the dhaba along with his mother. Rajan ran into the kitchen and started making the parathas. His cousin brother served the hot aloo parathas along with aam ka achar, nimboo ka achar and dahi. We were ravenous and gobbled up innumerable hot parathas. His father served us hot elaichi wali chai in glass tumbler and we asked for a second round of chai. The home cooked parathas were so delicious and healthy without unnecessary masalas or oil that we all had three parathas each.

The best part of the road trip is the delicious street food that we are eating continuously. After returning to the resort, we had some Ayurvedic therapy and massage sessions. In the afternoon we set out to see the Shimla town. We went to the Mall road. We had to park the Scorpio in the town in one of the parking lots and go to the Mall road by the lift that is maintained by the Himachal Government.  We had lunch at Baljeev’s Dhaba on Mall road and then went shopping at Lakkad bazaar. We get great stuff made out of wood at very dead cheap prices. I bought a lot of spoons, ladles and other kitchen appliances like a pestle and mortar, chapathi making board and rolling pin and many hair clips, key chains and other gifting items.

We returned back to the Mall road and I took a ride on a horse. It was a Jakkad Hanuman Temple which is very famous. They have a story that when Lord Hanuman was carrying the Sanjeevani parvat from the Himalayas to Lanka, a part of it fell on this spot and that is how the Hanuman temple got established at this place. The temple has a lot of monkeys around it which are very aggressive and are known to attack human beings, pick pocket them, snatch the items that we carry in our hands and scare people. We were warned both by the people in the resort and our guide to go empty handed to the temple.

The drive to the temple was very steep and there were some very tricky and difficult hair pin bends. Ashok managed them and negotiated the Scorpio with ease. The guide, Rajan, who travelled with us amazed and impressed and told Ashok that he is driving like a local which is supposed to be the highest compliment that they can give anybody. If you are compared to a local, it seems you have arrived in Shimla scene.

We heeded to the advice given and went to the temple empty handed. We had an uneventful darshan. We saw many monkeys at close quarters, but, none attached us. The guide, Rajan kept chanting Hanuman Chalisa as he is mortally scared of monkeys since his childhood when he was attacked by a monkey in this very same temple. He told us that since then he never comes to this temple and always takes all the visitors to the Sankatmochan Hanuman temple and came here only because Ashok insisted that he wanted to come here.

We returned back to the resort, had an early dinner and packed up our belongings and settled early for a good night’s rest as we were tired and needed to get all the rest we could get as we had a tough drive to Manali tomorrow.

Monday, April 8, 2013


Day 4 : April 6, 2013  


The previous night we had slept at 4:00 at a petrol bunk on Karnal road. Ashok’s non-stop driving from had helped us to cover up a good amount of the distance. Even then, we were supposed to have checked in at The Club Mahindra resort at Mashobra the previous morning. But due to the two breakdowns, one in Bangalore and hte other in Guna, we had lost one day and had to call and inform the resort that we would report the next day.

We woke up in our Scorpio at 6:30 am and after freshening up as best as we could we tried starting the Scorpio to just hear eerie deafening silence. It was a big blow to us and just when we thought that we had overcome a major obstacle, here we had another one staring at our face within a few hours. Just then two good Samaritans came out of the Petrol
Bunk office and told us that we had kept the lights on the previous night and slept. They had come to tell us but saw that we were sleeping too deeply and did not want to disturb us. They sweetly offered to push the car and assured us that with two pushes it would start. Push they did, with Apsara, Amrita and me joined in the fun. Just as they had predicted, with two pushes the Scorpio started and we were on our way. Alas! I forgot to take the pictures of both the petrol bunk and the two good souls and remembered only after we had crossed a good 50 kms.

1st Toll Stop         : Karnal                 : Rs.90

We stopped at Mayur Dhabha on Karnal Road. Had very good chai and got up to proceed with our journey. Our adventures were not yet done with us. Ashok threw the Scorpio keys to Apsara and she missed and it fell. When Ashok tried to open the door it let out the burglar alarm and the Autocop had got spoilt. Every time we tried to start, the Autocop would go on. The entire dhabha of people were continuing with their work totally unfazed and nonchalant to our predicament. I am sure being located on the highway, they must have seen every kind of auto trouble on this planet. Just as Ashok was wondering what to do and calling the Mahindra people in Guna and in Bangalore, I went to the petrol bunk next door and tried to see if there are any mechanics available there. There were a few puncher guys but no electrical guys. As I was explaining our situation to the fellow there, a milk man with large milk cans strapped to his bike gave me a card of a Car accessories showroom with the mobile numbers of the mechanic and Ashok called him. He told Ashok what to do over the phone and the car started. We all scrambled into the car and set out immediately. We decided not to stop anywhere as it would be extremely risky if that car did not start again.

2nd Toll Stop        : GMR Chandigarh to Ambala      : Rs.31

We could see the mountains and were thrilled to bits. We started cruising along on Chandigarh - Ambala road.

3rd Toll Stop        : Panchkula         : Rs.25
11:00 AM             : Himalayan Express Highway

The roads are too beautiful. 4-lane world standard road again by the Jaypee group. Both the Yamuna Express Highway and the Himalayan Express Highway are their projects and they have done a wonderful job of giving world standard roads to us. Driving on these roads is sheer pleasure and you do not experience any fatigue on these roads however long you drive. Hopefully they can lobby with the Madhya Pradesh government and build similar expressways in MP also.

11:30 am              : Solan

The view was breath taking and all the green, step farming and charming towns, quaint little villages and hamlets on the way were very beautiful. We were amazed at the cleanliness on the way and the Himachal Pradesh had done a wonderful job of keeping crass commercialisation at bay by not allowing non Himachalis to own property on the hills. Also, because plastic is not allowed and banned in Himachal Pradesh, we did not find any plastic bags, covers, Lays and Kurkure packets and plastic bottles. We passed by Solan ay 11.30 am. Solan is called the “Mushroom Capital of India. It is a beautiful city and we passed by the Jaypee University.

12:30 am              : Shimla

We reached Shimla and drove through the town. We were finally glad and heaved a sigh of relief for finally having made it to our destination after three and a half days. We passed by the Central Potato Research Institute and the HP Agricultural University both of which had some very beautiful garden and landscaping. The HP University is also beautiful. We passé the Mahindra Motors Showroom and were glad at the sight.

12:55     : Dalli Tunnel      : Mashobra 6 km

We reached the Club Mahindra Resort at Mashobra at 1:30 and checked in to great relief. The Autocop alarm went off many times nad we realised “Houston we have a problem” moment had arrived again. After having bath and freshening up we had very tasty and sumptuous lunch at the resort restaurant. Ashok called the local Mahindra Motors guys and asked them to send a mechanic over to rectify our remote key problem. As he had driven non-stop for almost 22 hours with just a 2 hour sleep, he was dead tierd and went off to sleep and asked me to deal with the mechanics. They arrived at 5:30 and disabled the Autocop and made the key manual controlled. We would have to lock and open manually every time and check each and every door each and every time we parked the car. But that option was much better than having the car’s alarm go on every time we stopped and also not knowing whether the car would start again. I asked the resort people to get the car washed and finally settled in to enjoy my short stay in Shimla.