Saturday, August 29, 2009

Lean Horse - My First 100 mile run

It’s been a tradition, since I paced my coach Rajeev in the last 10 miles of his first 100 mile race, the 2006 Rio Del Lago 100M, that I pace him in the same last 10 miles of his subsequent Rio Del Lago 100M races (2007 & 2008).

Being part of the crew for those 3 years and watching him from close in those 3 years of pacing, I realized that there was no way I would wake up at an ungodly hour like 3 a.m. just to wait shivering at the Start line at 5:30 a.m. with headlamps to attempt to conquer such a huge distance.

We, the crew members, would drop him and his friends off just before the Start and I would say a silent Thanks to myself that I was not in their shoes and that we were headed back for a few more hours in a warm bed!

Around the end of 2008 something inside me shifts. I realize that I was so caught up with reinforcing the belief in me that I would never be able to finish a 100 mile race that I was robbing myself of any remote opportunity of even considering an attempt at that huge distance. I think about it a bit more and realize that I AM intrigued by the possibility of doing a 100 miler (why else was I reading so many Ultra marathon blogs?) and it is time to face my fears and try and conquer them. The biggest fear was the amount of training such a race would take and whether I was capable of managing all my other priorities in addition to the increased training load.

Raj, Rajeev and I come up with a game plan and a race – the 2009 Lean Horse 100M on August 22. My family and friends rally by my side and promise to help in any manner they can. Training begins!

August 15-16, 2009
A week before, I head to Estacada, Oregon with Raj and several dear friends to a retreat with Esateys on her beautiful 250-acre ranch( Esateys and Rafael are two guiding lights who came into my life and helped transform it in 2007. Ever since, I have attended a lot of their seminars and retreats.

I am amazed at how things have fallen into place and we are all here. To say the retreat takes me into a completely new level of understanding of myself and life is an understatement. I feel renewed and love fills my heart in this beautiful serene place surrounded by Esatey’s powerful energy. The retreat reinforces my conviction that the 100 miler is an opportunity that has come my way to help me go further within and connect with myself at a deeper level.

August 20-21
On the flight with me are Rajeev Patel, Raj, Bharti Dudhela and my son Nishad who miraculously announced yesterday that he wished to come too. It is nothing short of a miracle that he got a ticket.

(On the flight to South Dakota)

We see 37 people on standby for the flight to Denver en-route to Rapid City. This is one of the many miracles that is yet to come throughout this wonderful journey.

We are all happy and I feel surrounded by love. Back home my dogs and Malhar, my 12 year old son, are being cared for by dear ones Suchoo, Anil, Vasudha, Anju, Lily, Vandi and Mohan.

In Rapid City I feel a deeper sense of calm descend on me and Bharti, ever sensitive to my energy, remarks on it. I know that the Universe is a safe, loving place and all I am here to do is experience life as is.

I go to bed early on Friday, Aug 21, after writing in my gratitude journal and doing my practice of a Hawaiian Healing technique called Ho’oponopono ('oponopono ) taught to me by Esateys.

August 22
I wake up feeling fresh and calm and happy. After reading all the loving emails and letters and cards filled with messages of encouragement and warmth that I have received, I get ready and we head off to the start.

A beautiful sight to see many runners. The energy in the room is mixed: anxiety, anticipation, excitement, fear, impatience, love, joy and calm. The mantra I repeat (I am Sorry, Please Forgive me, I Love you, Thank you), and will continue to repeat all through the next few days, keeps me in a strange detached, calm loving space. My crew (Raj, Bharti and Nishad) are excited and are shooting a video. Rajeev, the ever attentive coach, checks my shoes. Joe Judd comes over and hugs me as does Bonnelle and her husband Jeff. Rajeev introduces me to Theresa Verburg, a local runner who had run this race as her first 100-miler in 2008.

(Hug from Bharti just before the Start)

The race finally starts and I am filled with joy. The air is cool and the scenery through town beautiful. The runners are warm and supportive of one another and we talk to quite a few of them. Walking the first mile is what is sensible and I allow Rajeev to tell me when to walk/run. This will be the norm for the entire 100 miles. I follow Rajeev’s lead.

(Around mile 3)

We approach the much dreaded hills on Argyle road. I have been acquainted with these hills and I greet them silently. Rajeev’s famous words “make hills your friends” echo in my head. I send love to these hills and begin the 11 mile section where everyone walks the uphill and runs the downhill. The hills remind me of life and I recognize that my body enjoys the up as much as it likes the down section. This changing contour allows me to use alternating groups of muscles as opposed to the flats where only one set of muscles are employed thereby. I wonder why I ever dreaded hills before. The ups are not only welcome because of the downhill, a pay off, but they are inherently of value. IS that not what this world of polarity is trying to teach us? To embrace and enjoy the “difficult” times as much as the “joyous” times as they teach us about the vicissitudes of life? I feel love for these hills that have given me this chance to enjoy the magnificent scenery, breathe the clean, fresh air and feel the strength in my body. I also realize that what looks like a huge climb from a distance is not so steep in reality. Reminds me of the fact that all of life is a big illusion and one’s imagined fears are way worse than actual problems.

We are close to the Argyle aid station at mile 16 and a first-time 100-miler, Francine from Canada, is with us. She is a very sweet, strong woman. It is here that my executive left brain takes over and starts directing me to ensure that we are making good on time. It commands “Anu, enough of this being in the moment, feel good state. You have a job to do. Are you maintaining a good pace? Remember you need to always be below 18 minutes a mile to complete 100 miles in 30 hours.” Now begins a completely different kind of journey for me. I notice we are keeping a pace of 15:30 min a mile pace- good considering all those hills but hey, we have to keep this up which means little time in the aid station.

(Nishad escorting us to the first Aid Station, at miles 16.5)

Nishad runs towards us as we head up the hill to our first crew meet. My heart wells with love at the three of them dressed in yellow to match Rajeev’s and my colors. They help with ice in bandanas that go around the neck, buttermilk (thanks to Nattu Nataraj for this wonderful life saving tip), change of clothes and fixing my shoe. My shoes have holes cut in them to help avoid blisters but the gravel gets in, in spite of a make shift cover designed by Raj and Rajeev. My concern about time is mounting and I am aware of a growing anxiety. Rajeev reminds me that it is just the beginning of the race and that pacing is all important- rushing will not help.

We set out and about half a mile later I begin to feel the surroundings close in on me. I have acute tunnel vision and my breathing alters into sharp gasps. My mind chatter goes up exponentially. My brain tells me that I need sugar while registering that my right ankle has some pain. It is interesting to note that I have three parts of my brain doing different things. One part keeps the goal of keeping the pace around 15:30 minutes a mile as priority. The other registers pain and panic and instructs me to ask Rajeev for gel as it’s clear I have low sugar levels and the third continues to send love to my body and gratitude to the Universe.

Rajeev instantly recognizes a shift in my “aura’ (his words) and asks me what is going on. I tell him about the panic and mind chatter (forgetting the pain in the ankle as it is barely noticeable now). He asks me what I will do after I have the gel. “Surrender” I say and he makes me say it louder and louder.

Rajeev is an exceptional coach. He is always able to notice shifts in moods, gait and breathing patterns. Ever alert he is also an expert in knowing how to help runners solve any issue whether it is in the emotional, physical or psychological domain. What is fascinating is that he is ever flexible and alters his plan based on the person he is dealing with. He knows I respond well to spiritual suggestions and understands that the issue I am grappling with is of control and anxiety over outcome. His suggestion that I announce to the Universe that I am surrendering works wonders. My panic subsides and I am able to pull myself back into the moment.

(Having the Cool Off ice bandana adjusted)

It is now getting hot and as we move through aid stations, I am glad that I have such an outstanding crew and extraordinary coach next to me.

Mile 25 and beyond sees me quieting down while Raj joins us, in the blistering heat, on his bike. His loving, reassuring presence is beautiful. I am deep within myself now marveling at every step I take. All around me runners are walking and Rajeev tells me that it is best to walk at a fast pace during the hours of 12-4 p.m. as the running will get our core body temps up very high. He assures me that we will run once it cools down. I have a blister and it is nagging at me. I tell Rajeev about it and he does blister surgery.

It is important to keep track of pain and blisters because if ignored they can force the runner to come a screeching halt. Pain is our body communicating to us that it needs attention. Is this not true of emotional pain too? Yet, we choose to run away from emotional pain time and again making it only get bigger. I know that I have a tendency to ignore physical pain, so much so that I cannot feel much pain usually. This is the time to change that tendency and really listen to my body. I am aware of pain as I walk after the blister surgery- raw skin being rubbed against the side soft the shoe. Love and gratitude I send to this wonderful body. Before too long the pain is gone and I am back to a steady pace.

Ah! The old enemy returns… the Ego rears its ugly head and I witness the nagging worry about the outcome returning. It brings along with it a flood of thoughts and analysis regarding our pace, the cut offs to be met and whether my Garmin is accurate or not. Noticing my constant glances at the Garmin Rajeev asks Raj to take off my Garmin and shut it off. I am flabbergasted! I am no longer in control???? My entire being revolts against my coach as I struggle to regain my composure and calm my mounting anxiety. Rajeev calmly asks me to trust him and explains that my need to know the pace is tiring me and will sabotage my race. He asks me to try to be in the moment and surrender. This is one of the most difficult of tasks for me. I know I am a control freak and information calms my mind down. The mind is a monkey mind and it feels secure if it believes it has all the data it needs to ensure a certain outcome. The mind protests loudly that it has to be in charge as if knowing the pace will allow me to run faster in the heat and keep that pace up for the next 18 or more hours. All logic deserts me and I find myself feeling lost. I imagine we have slowed down further.

We reach the Harbach Road aid station at mile 36 and Rajeev expresses his frustration. This is perhaps one of the most challenging 100 mile runs he is doing. Rajeev, being the most giving person out there, has taken many first timers across just to help someone achieve their dreams. In fact, all of yesterday, every single ultra marathoner I met at the race expo told me that if there was anyone who could help a newbie succeed in their 100 miler, it’s Rajeev. This 100-miler is different as he is dealing with a runner who is head strong as well as a dear friend. I do believe Rajeev too is very invested in the outcome of this race but is wise enough to stay in the moment and not give into the demands of the Ego. I feel hurt and like a small child who has been reprimanded. We leave the aid station and I notice I am low in energy and physically feeling off. I attribute this to my not having any clue as to mileage and pace and to the spat. Here is when the Universe comes to my aid and reminds me to chant my mantra of Love and Gratitude. All anger leaves but nausea hits. I allow myself some tears and it is a huge relief to get rid of the stuck energy I have been carrying with me ever since the Garmin was taken away. At the same time I begin to vomit. I have taken in too much salt we discover. One and a half bottles of buttermilk (gulped them down in the last aid station (I did not inform Rajeev) and one Succeed salt tablet that Rajeev gave me. I have ingested over 1300mg of salt in one shot! No wonder I was feeling awful!! One has to admire the human body - it does everything to keep itself healthy and complete the task at hand.

The next few miles are beautiful. It’s cooling down and the purple and orange flowers dance in the breeze. The nausea abates over the mile as I keep vomiting every few steps. I recognize how fortunate I am to have such a wonderful husband and buddy in Raj and a great coach in Rajeev. Both of them do not hesitate to tell me the truth ever. They always give me honest feedback at the risk of incurring my wrath. To me that is the essence of a real friendship and a true relationship. Most often it is difficult to speak our minds with friends or family and spouses even when we know that we have their best interests in mind. How often we choose to ignore or reassure someone that they are doing the right thing or empathize and encourage their victimhood so that we can continue to be liked? More often than not one is most invested in not rocking the boat or being the target of anger and thus one chooses to remain silent rather than risk the friendship. However, the true friend is one who fearlessly speaks up to help a friend see how they may be keeping themselves in pain and suffering. I am so fortunate I have many such friends and here are three of them during my race ready to kick my butt if needed.

(Starting the long downhill, around mile 42, to the turnaround in sight of Crazy Horse)

We come to a section that is largely downhill and my body is eager to run fast. Raj bikes down and Rajeev and I run fast. The wind , the sight of smiling and motivated runners, some climbing uphill as they have already complete the 50 miles and are turning around, and the joy of using muscles that had lain dormant for many miles is exhilarating We pass Phil Rosenstein and Tom, new friends and most lovely people. Suddenly I feel like I am the road. An odd feeling it is! I hear the crunch of shoes loudly, I feel white (the trail has white gravel) and I feel some pressure on my body. Not painful at all, just an awareness. Have I become the road? I have no idea but this feeling is unique and lasts for what seems a while. I can’t even process that somewhere in all of this is Anu who is running like a woman possessed to make it to the 50 mile turn around so she’ll have plenty of “money in the bank” (quoting Rajeev) i.e. extra time to do the last 50 miles. I understand now that this is the experience of “oneness” that I have read about.

We reach the 50-mile point in 13:38 into the race i.e. at 7:38 p.m. Rajeev and I high five each other with joy. We turn around and run to the 50.8 mile aid station to eat. I have made it with time to spare. My coach had said we would and, as usual, he is right. How glad I am that in spite of all the mind chatter I have allowed myself to be guided. To surrender is to really live, be it surrendering to the moment or to the teacher/guide/coach. All my experiences in learning , be it music, personal training or athletics, have showed me that the best way to learn is to surrender and respect the one I have chosen as my teacher. It is one thing to do my own research and give input to the teacher and quite another to second guess the teacher and sabotage my learning. This ability to surrender has allowed me to learn with an open heart and mind. This is something I have learned will get me quicker to my desired goal – merely observe the mind chatter but surrender to the teacher.

Bharti and Nishad begin to pace us from mile 50.8. It is dark and beautiful. I feel renewed energy flooding my body and very confident of finishing. I am able to witness my erratic thoughts with detachment. We are running now with nothing but a circle of light to show us the path. A long climb of 2 miles begins. I feel cocooned by love. I have been receiving a ton of text messages from dear friends back home. Their love is like food to my soul and spurs me on. Bharti is amazing! She is totally in sync with me both in matching my steps to knowing when to offer words of encouragement. She has her Garmin on and, every once in a while, whispers the pace in my ear, reassuring me that we are doing 14 to 15 minutes a mile on the uphill. The connection between us has always been magical. She has been by my side from the moment I started training - this includes the 24-hour run a month ago where she ran 53 miles just to keep me company. I am humbled by her generous heart - she has come all the way to crew and has been taking care of my every need for the last few days. Her calm, loving presence fills me with peace and serenity.

On the hill Lynnor Matheny’s friend Sherry Meador passes us – she is looking strong and shouts encouraging words at us. As we continue I notice that my knees have started hurting. I send lots of light and loving energy to my body. This process of thanking my body, asking it to heal and sending it love always works. The pain dissipates but I know that I have to acknowledge what my body is telling me. I begin to run rather shuffle at a slow pace of 14 or 15 minutes per mile pace and the pain disappears. I shuffle for the rest of the miles until the 60 mile aid station.

I firmly believe that the Universe was on my side as the increase in pace helped us greatly. There was a error in the mile markers and we discovered later that the sections from mile 60 to 76 were off by at least 1-2 miles. Rajeev is puzzled as well. I turn to Bharti and ask her to call home and tell Veena (the great Reiki Master) to send me healing energy as well as to ask my dear group of friends (we call ourselves “Weekenders”) to focus and send me strength. She is unable to get a connection as the phone connections are awful. She reassures me she will keep trying.

August 23
Meanwhile her foot that has been injured for two weeks is hurting. Brave soul that she is she has still run but decides to stop temporarily at the 60 mile aid station. She has run 9 miles so far in the night with a head lamp and carrying water. Nishad, Rajeev and I continue to the 64.5 aid station where Raj joins us. I become aware after a while that something is amiss as I realize that even with our increased pace we are not reaching aid stations at the correct time. I sense Rajeev’s concern but remain quiet. The 5.5 miles from the 64.5 aid station to mile 70 feels like more like 6 miles. At mile 70 we sit down briefly to eat as Rajeev is very hungry and I feel a burning sensation on my right shoulder. This usually is an indicator that emotional pain is surrounding me. Sure enough as I turn to the right there are two gentleman sitting next to us. The gentleman sitting further to the right is teary eyed and surrounded by his family. I have no idea why he is sad and cannot hear what his buddy tells me when I ask. I send him love and slowly the sensation goes down (we find out later that they had decided to drop out at the mile 70 aid station). Such strong physical sensations once again confirm to me that we are all interconnected even if it seems otherwise.

Raj joins us now and Bharti drives the van to the next aid station at Pringle to await us. Pringle is supposedly 6 miles away. I am tired and am unable to eat much as my stomach has shut down. Having been 6 times to answer Nature’s call already I know I cannot eat solid food anymore without risking severe diarrhea. We start out and I continue the shuffle/run. Nishad is most supportive and, with admiration in his voice, tells me I am amazing . He says “I have barely run 19 miles and I am tired. Look at you Amma, you have run 70 and you are still looking so fresh”. This young man ends up running 25 miles with a back pack and two bottles uncomplainingly at night. His love is precious and I am flooded with gratitude to be having such a beautiful experience with my son, husband and loving friends. Running at night is ethereal and a must have experience. I am glad Nishad is experiencing the joys of night running as well as the fulfillment of service by crewing early in life.

He is to tell me after the race that he is glad I do not give up “selfhood for parenthood”. That makes me a better parent according to my 14 year old son. Such a reassuring statement!!! I grew up with parents who continued to nurture their passions and talents while tending to my brother and myself. Coming home from school to be greeted by my mother singing with her friends or alone was a common occurrence. My parents participated in musicals, athletics and were socially very active as well. This exposed me to a whole new world and also allowed me to be independent. Fixing my lunch was never a big deal. When Nishad talks to me I am transported back in time and I realize I am here today, attempting a 100 mile race because of those courageous parents. Memories flood me and great insights hit me. Wow!! My body feels re-energized when we pass Louise Mason who states that her pedometer tells her that we are already past mile 76 and the aid station is nowhere in sight. We all concur that it looks like we will be running a 103-104 mile race. While this would have freaked me out ordinarily I only feel calm. My body seems to be buzzing with energy while thunder and lightning fill the air.

We reach the Pringle AS at last and I go ahead while Rajeev and Raj fill up bottles and get me a sandwich. We choose diarrhea over bonking from low sugar. When Raj joins me he tells me that Bharti has miraculously gotten through to my loved ones back in California about 15 minutes ago and they have all been sending me energy in the past few minutes. WOW!!!!! This proves to me the fact that we are all connected and ONE. That is what that buzzing was all about back there in mile 74 or so. My ability to receive with an open heart allowed me to access love and energy. I believe we always have positive energy at our disposal. It comes to us whenever we ask for it. It is our inability to receive graciously that blocks us from harnessing the infinite energy, power and abundance that is always available to us. Our egos tell us that we should be “Givers” and not “Receivers”. This artificial boundary we set up leaves us empty and blocks the gifts of love the Universe constantly sends to us.

My wonderful friends have sent me a gift and I can visualize Veena sending me Reiki directly to my knees. Rajeev has asked me to run the miles from 70 to 83.5 in 4 hours - basically a half marathon in 4 hours because he has had to recalculate our speed. Off we go at a quick pace. I am drinking, checking in with my body that seems very strong and continuing my love/gratitude chant. Breaking down the miles into half marathon sections works beautifully for me. My brain allocates energy accordingly and I recall all that Rajeev has taught me. He has always stated that when we break down long distances into manageable chunks we feel empowered. Additionally, he has taught me to talk to my brain and body and instruct it to recruit new muscles when I am tired or to renew itself. A constant communication with my brain, mind and soul keeps us working as a unit. “We are a team” I tell my body and spirit and “we are going to finish strong after which you will get the rest you so deserve”.

Rajeev has always believed in sending love to his body especially when some part starts hurting during a run. He is forever in gratitude for his life and as we run together I know that Raj, Rajeev and I are together filled with love and immense appreciation for this entire experience. Inside of me is a conviction that I will finish the race within 30 hours. I do check with Rajeev to see if we are on track but a deeper knowing keeps me calm and focused. Thanks to Veena I am able to walk now without my knees hurting. The walking is a welcome break and I do not feel as famished as I expend less energy. We run walk and slowly the sun starts to rise. The beauty is indescribable and Raag Bhairav fills my mind. Slowly we reach the Argyle Road aid station at mile 83.4. The hills await us. We have made it from mile 70 in 4 hours.

We waste very little time as I change out of tights and long sleeved top to shorts and orange Dri-Fit top. My shoes are discarded for Tevas. As we walk towards the hills I feel pain in my Achilles tendons. I take a deep breath and talk to myself. I ask myself am I tired? Yes! Am I in pain? Yes. Am I suffering? NO. Pain is inevitable in a 100 mile race. Pain is inevitable in the journey of life. Suffering, however, is optional.

The hills are calling out and I am ready to go. Bharti is all geared up too and she will run from mile 83 to the end after crewing all day and night. Raj and Nishad follow us in the van.

The sun comes up and it is hot. I love these hills and find myself again in a new body. We go up marching fast and running down even faster. I am reminded of the sensation I used to feel as a little girl racing down a hill feeling as light as a feather. Such joy it is to experience these hills!! Raj rolls towards us and shouts “Esateys has sent you a message. She says she is carrying you right now”. No wonder I feel weightless!!

Raj is so full of energy one can’t tell he has run almost all night with us. This man, the wind beneath my wings, is a beautiful human being. He always teaches me that love comes in many different forms and all it requires is a pure heart. Raj has very little expectations when he gives and is able to receive graciously as well. Whenever I think of how we connected the words of the song in Sound Of Music comes to mind “Somewhere in my youth or childhood I must have done something good”.

The miles are rolling by and apart from asthma hitting hard I feel very alive and good. The heat is increasing as well but my body knows to expect it and I am certain it will cope beautifully. Whenever I expect something to happen my body seems to respond appropriately. It’s interesting to see how the body is so susceptible to suggestions. It is also very helpful to know this about oneself. As Henry Ford said “If you think you can or think you can't, you are right.”

I am in the Zone now and I think back to how this journey began and everything it took for me to commit to such an undertaking and all it has taken to stick to the training. Then I go back still further and, like a movie, I see so many of the events, people, situations, every turn and every step that has led up to this - me choosing to run a 100 miler and now at mile 97. I realize that all of life is inter-connected and that for me to be where I am today every single person I have met has played his or her role. This is such a huge realization that it is as if my brain explodes with light. Even the milk man in India played a role by getting me the milk that nourished this body… I have no doubt that this achievement of mine is not mine alone it is a shared achievement. In fact, nothing achieved in this world can be one person’s achievement alone. This fact is so logical and so simple that I wonder why we go to such lengths to pretend to be humble. Gratitude for every single being on this earth whether they are known to me directly or not fills me.

No doubt it was my legs, my brain , my body that did the task but to say it was me and me alone is akin to saying that I am an island. No wonder we are one and there is no escaping this fact!!

The last climb has arrived and I suddenly see myself slowing down. I have to savor these last few miles. The dust and heat notwithstanding it is a beautiful sight. Bharti and I walk up slowly as we pass Ulrich the Walker. He is such an inspiration!!

I am indebted to all these wonderful athletes who care to blog, speak, and share their accounts of what they do. It is because they have chosen to take the time and effort and, most importantly, not fall prey to the egoic idea that it is wrong to be proud and speak of one’s achievements that I have benefitted.

Marainne Williamson speaks to this so beautifully : “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

In my experience true pride, taking ownership of what one has done, is an act of self acceptance and love. Once there is true pride, true humility naturally follows. Only when I have truly acknowledged myself have I then been able to see that my success is also due to everyone else.

Mile 99 and I go inwards and focus on walking, breathing, and being very present. I am almost home … Rajeev runs ahead to ensure someone other than Raj is in charge of the video to record my finish. I see Raj and Nishad, wearing “TEAM ANU” T-shirts, running towards me. I am almost there. I am suddenly overwhelmed with joy, tears, love, gratitude, exhilaration... even disbelief. We turn the corner and there is sweet wonderful Joe Judd recording the moment and my beautiful wonderful team all wearing their “Team Anu” T-shirts smiling and cheering me on. I stop to hold hands as I wish to go through the Finish with all of them… The clock says 29 hours 13 minutes as I go through the Finish. What an indescribable moment!! I am in everyone’s arms. Lots of tears. Rajeev, my most outstanding coach, cries like a baby. It has been a long journey for him. Bharti, Raj and Nishad act like they have finished the 100 - beautiful souls.

I am surrounded by runners. Lynnor Matheny, Laurie Woodrow, Ray Greunewald, Teresa Verburg and Phil Rosenstein are there to lend me moral support. I had become seriously dehydrated and I spent almost 2 hours on a gurney alternately sipping some soda and salt water in order to rehydrate. I am floored. These are runners who did not finish the 100 mile race but were there to offer their support to a first timer they did not know 2 days ago!

(L to R: Sherry Meador, Lynnor Matheny, Phil Rosenstein and Raj in Rapid City airport)

Some say that running 50 miles is 2-3 times tougher than running a marathon and that running 100 miles is at least twice as tough as a 50 mile race if not more. One has to put in hours and hours of dedicated training each week, some of it course and conditions (like heat, cold etc.) specific, and all of that training can come to naught in a race as long as 100 miles when, at 40 miles or 80, something goes awry and one is forced to quit. The above mentioned runners stood at the Finish line, encouragement and genuine joy on their faces, hours and hours after they had stopped in their own race just so they could cheer the last people coming in to a successful finish. It takes caring and immense generosity of spirit to stand there and know that you could have been the person finishing had it not been for the problem that caused you to quit.

I have run marathons and done triathlons but have yet to find a sport in which there is more support for a fellow competitor than ultra marathoning.

I ran the Lean Horse 100M for a cause I deemed worthy. It’s the League of Creative Minds Model United Nations (LCMMUN). Their Web site is

The League of Creative Minds was created to provide an entry way for middle school and high school students interested in public policy, international world affairs, leadership roles, public advocacy, diplomacy and investigative journalism.

I would appreciate your supporting LCMMUN by donating at

Rajeev's race report can be read at

Race pictures are at

Here are the answers to questions some of you asked me offline:

What kind of cross training did you do ?
I did Core Strengthening 3 times a week with a personal trainer who has worked before with ultra marathoners. Whenever I could, I incorporated spinning and yoga into my week.

Given that you are a vegetarian, what kind of food did you end up consuming during the training?
I did eat (more like swallow!) egg white omelettes on days that I had to do my long runs or
races. Regular intake of Vitamin C and B-complex helped me recover faster. Leading up to really long runs (20+ miles) or ultra marathons, I would start hydrating a bit more days in advance. At times I would hydrate using G2 (low sugar version of Gatorade) or just water with salt (Salt Stick or Succeed salt tablets) added to it.

During my 24-hour run in early July, I tried a buttermilk drink, by Karoun, as a source of protein+salt during the run and it worked wonders for me. It did not fail me during the 90+ degree heat in the 100 mile race either. The buttermilk also had a cooling effect on me and settled my stomach. It's a comfort food as well and made me feel content.

Nuts, tofu, lentils, yogurt, milk, soy milk are all examples of the protein foods I would consume. Most important is that I tend to eat 6-8 small meals everyday and drink lots of water. I am also not very hung up on avoiding fat. My belief is that I need to feel a sense of contentment after I finish a meal and if that means adding a dessert or having some butter (ghee) I will do it. Additionally, getting my vitamins, protein etc. from natural foods rather than bars etc. helped greatly.

What was your sleeping pattern like?
My sleeping patterns are dictated by the need to drop off the children to school 35 miles away. As a result I am usually in bed by 10 p.m. at the latest and wake up on weekdays by 6:30 a.m. This helped ensure that I got a solid 8+ hours of sleep every night. If I ever felt very tired I would try to steal in a nap of 30-45 minutes in between during the day.

What was the time commitment on most days?
My typical running week involved 4-5 runs. Weekday runs were between 4-6 miles while weekend runs would generally be in the 12-20 miles range. I did four 50K races in 6 consecutive weeks. This was in order to train the brain and body to run when tired. Rajeev also had me run around a track for 24 hours in order to fine tune my nutrition and hydration. The 24-hour run also helped identify what I needed to do in order to not only stay awake for 8-10 hours in darkness but to get used to running with a constant circle of light, from the headlamp, in front of me.

I even ran 19 miles of the 12 Hours At Cool night run in order to learn what nighttime trail running felt like.

Above everything else, I made it a point to listen to and honor my body. If I felt unusually weak or tired, I would take a day or two off. This ensured that I did not get injured or over trained.


  1. Awesome Report Anu - congrats again and I'm glad you finally got down to writing this event report. Now you can relive the experience forever in your writings.

  2. Congrats Anu ! Very inspiring. You truly enjoyed the entire race and not just crossing the finish line !

  3. Wow! Anu your writing is as beautiful as you are. What an experience!!!! What determination! May God always keep you happy & healthy. Love you.

  4. Anu, you are such an inspiration. Thanks for being Anu.

  5. Anu you are truly an amazing person. You did 100 long miles. An inspiration to us all. You go girl!

  6. Anu, you are awesome; congrats and thank you for a wonderful race report. you are surrounded by love, and know it.

  7. Anu...Congratulations again...on a report from the heart on your journey on your feet!! Truly inspiring...the writing and the race...luv Deepa and Ashwin

  8. Wow! amazing Anu. Very beautiful chronicle of your internal journey too.. lot of beautiful realizations.. Thanks for sharing, it really helps.

  9. Awesome & Beautiful! That's how this blog is and that's how YOU ARE:)) This is all so inspiring. I'm not saying I will ever run like you did....but I am just inspired by your thought provoking words and maybe I will afterall do something special in my own way. Thank you.
    Love, Sushma

  10. I loved this transition "no way-->way? -->way!" how we all go through this transitions in different aspects of our lives. The most amazing part of it is how you convinced your self into "way!" phase and set out for Grueling training schedule. could you have imagined doing 3 50ks in a span of 5 weeks, and ofcourse taking care of life's commitment.!

    Very encouraging Anu how you have accomplished this dream, and in the process you have encouraged a lot of us. Congrats to your Team as well, you all did a brilliant job in unison on a tough day and course.

    Hats off to you my friend.

    Wishing you many more successful adventures ahead.
    anil and rashmi

  11. What a great summary of your amazing 100 miler. Wow! Simply mind blowing. I am in awe and so very proud of you. Suchu

  12. A very inspiring narrative Anu. You are blessed in both in the love from people and also in opening yourself to receive all the love. Thank you for this blog entry

  13. Thank you each and every one of you. Your comments make me so inspired to keep writing. It took me a while to get this blog written because I did the whole "no way, way?, way" dance about writing as well. Ah! old habits die hard but they do die : ).

  14. Anu,

    We are proud of you and your accomplishment!
    It shows you have done work, both physically and spiritually too.

    The inquiring minds want to know what was your diet, as you are vegetarian and what was your cross training.

    Paul & Anu Mahal

  15. Hey Anu dear thanks for your constant support and encouragement. I have just added a foot note that addresses some of the questions you have.

  16. Hi Anu,

    I am sorry I am leaving a comment, I can't find your email. I am writing you in the hopes that you want to participate in an e-book we are writing about ultra runners.

    We want to tap into the collective craziness (we mean that as a compliment:-)) of this community to challenge and inspire other people to make their own life an ever-greater creative expression of their own goals and dreams… without limits.

    Progress so far: We have currently contacted more than 250 ultra runners and received more than 60 answers.

    We would ask you to answer a question about your experience with ultra running.

    If you'd like to participate please shoot me an email at


    All the best,

  17. Great reading this....feels so inspiring.....nice way to go to bed reading wake up with a positive you and hugs coach.....