RacingThePlanet Ultramarathon Blogs 2021

View All Posts 2021 From : Narayan Bharadwaj

Narayan Bharadwaj
Final Stage done and the beautiful finish to the cave city

21 August 2021 01:37 pm (GMT+04:00) Baku, Tbilisi, Yerevan

Yesterday was all fun and relaxation. My hamstrings were so tight I could barely walk. So I just lay around on my sleeping bag for many hours. Reinhold, the winner of the race, told me to keep walking so the muscles mobilize. I did that and felt way better!

We had a banquet at the campsite last evening and were served with Lobiani, the traditional Georgian bread with red bean or cheese, fruits and salad. Real food never tasted so good after so many days of freeze dried meals!! I was so exhausted I crashed at 8 pm and woke up at 530 am!!

The morning was gorgeous, it was foggy and the course to the finish line was mostly downhill. Thankfully we had some asphalt and I made a run for it!!

The finish line was on the entrance to the cave city in Vardzia. A stunning city built on the mountain slopes with caves those were used as monasteries for Georgian monks! A feeling of overwhelming relief hit me when I crossed the finish line. It was so good to earn that finisher's medal!

As I went through the race, I kept reflecting on what this meant for me. As someone said to me, there are infinite number of lessons to be learnt in a race like this, but what did I take away? Don't think of it as "lessons learned", as it is a heavy term. Think of it as takeaways from my perspective :

 

Embracing extreme discomfort

We live in our cocoon worlds- in the comfort of our Lexus, operating behind the comfort of zoom and superficial first world worries like a 7 minute traffic jam on a freeway. A race like this throws you into a world of extreme, and I mean extreme discomfort for days on end. The discomfort you experience physically, emotionally and mentally is nothing like I have gone through. The aches and pains your body goes through, the emotional upheavals you go through when you're in a self doubt mode and you're on own for 30 odd miles battling the demons in your head, the unknowns you experience on the course making you adapt on the spot...you can't fathom the extremity of these conditions! After an experience like this, you are conditioned to embrace discomfort in every possible way. That experience is not something money can buy. It makes you resilient and tough as hell.

 

Plan like nobody's business.....

The process of breaking down a massive challenge into logical components and planning on finessing each one of these is exhilarating for a nerd like me. There are a dozen pathways and you have to research, prepare and train accordingly. The journey is equally exciting as the destination

 

....but suffer with grace

You could plan to the last known element, but in a race like this as in life, you will face nasty, nasty surprises. So as great as your plans are, when you're met with ugly twists, learn to suffer with grace. This happened to us many times when the weather got ugly or oppressive or the course had nasty twists and turns. But you can't let these ugly turn of events make you rethink your original goal. Negative thoughts spiral quickly into an abyss and it's important to always be smiling and keep your chin up. Like my wife said to me,  "this is a mind game. So stay strong mentally and put one foot in front of the other ".

 

Lesson in mindfulness

Every step of the 250k calls for you to be extremely mindful. You cannot afford to miss one flag, look away for one second and trip on a rock, jump too quickly on mud only to slip...you have to be extremely mindful. The intense focus and mindfulness is almost zen like!!

 

We over complicate our lives....

A self-supported race like this gives you perspective. When you can live off of a backpack for days together and see the happy faces of the villagers living with Spartan infrastructure, you question the way you live.

We tend to over complicate our lives, acquire way too many things than we actually need and then figure out ways to get rid of those - often paying money to haulers to get rid of the excess! I've always felt that our purpose in lives is to act as transfer agents- transfer love to those who need it, transfer fortune to those who are deserving of it and transfer knowledge and education to our future generations. That purpose has become clearer to me as I see how simple can life be and how we can get rid of our excesses which could actually be life changing for others.

I didn't mean to pontificate, but these are just my raw observations as I reflected over the 250k I was with myself!

Finally, the real reason I did this race which I didn't want to mention earlier and jinx it; it's for the Apple of my eye, my daughter Riya whom I love with all my heart to actually show you and not bore you with a lecture every day -as you enter into the final two years of your high school and get ready to face the real world - know that no challenge is insurmountable, every uphill climb will end and with a positive attitude, tomorrow will always be a better day. If daddy can do something like this, you, who are million times smarter than him can take on any challenge in life and come through the other end smiling!

With all the love in my heart....

Comments: Total (4) comments

Rashmi Bhaskar Mukherjee

Posted On: 23 Aug 2021 06:37 am

Dear Narayan, Many congratulations! You should be very proud of yourself as I’m sure your family are n your friends and colleagues! Such an inspiring achievement. Love the fact that you have reflections n not lessons learnt. It’s brilliant that this race was about mind and mindfulness about the inevitability of ambiguity n all carefully laid plans being upturned but also dealing with it gracefully. About keeping it simple n lastly - about resilience. I am unsure if I’ll ever be able to push myself physically as much as I’d like to - but I definitely want my 9 year old who’s more resilient than I am … to read this and draw from your experiences! Well proud of you! Many congratulations to you n the family!

Riya N

Posted On: 22 Aug 2021 02:42 pm

So proud of you daddy!!! I can’t believe you did it! Very excited to see you soon :)

Vaman S

Posted On: 21 Aug 2021 11:06 pm

Dear Narayan - Congrats !! You have always been an inspiration to us all !! Your positive attitude has made you accomplish this unbelievable race and more to come ! Wishing you god speed and the very best for your future endeavours! Keep inspiring us all ! Take care ! Vaman

Sam Fanshawe

Posted On: 21 Aug 2021 12:47 pm

These takeaways are exactly what the races are about! You are spot on with everything - and to have been driven to get through it by your daughter only makes it even more special. I can only imagine how proud she is of you. One day she should race with you or volunteer at a race that you do ....
Narayan Bharadwaj
Stage 5 done - The agony of the long march!!

20 August 2021 03:09 pm (GMT+04:00) Baku, Tbilisi, Yerevan

 

Yesterday was the dreaded long march of about 45 miles / 72 kms. The course to CP1 and 2 was moderate with some climbs. So I made really good time by my standards.

CP2 to 3 was rated as VERY DIFFICULT and it proved every bit to be just that! The climb to Abuli fortress with an elevation gain of 3878 feet at an elevation of 8859 feet was the most brutal ever. The climb was over 3 miles long and with barely any tracks on the top of the hill to climb. Once we got to the fortress it was rocks and boulders all the way. One misstep and you risked breaking a bone or twisting a limb. It took me forever to get out of it. Then the downhill was painful as I was making sure  my calves didn't burn up. We were still over 35 miles to the camp site and I wanted to make sure I don't bust anything in the last leg! I was so glad to reach CP3 after this massive effort!

 

CP3 to CP4 was pretty uneventful and I wanted to get to CP5 which was the CP where hot water was available to make oneself a meal and rest in a tent if required. I had the company of Mark who is a resident of Singapore on the course to CP5.

Once we got to CP5, a can of coke awaited us! A can of coke never tasted so good after 30 miles under the belt! After a quick meal Mark and I set off to cover the final 15 miles to the camp. The course, though flat was rough as it was muddy and dark. I was exhausted by the time we covered ten miles and made it across to the finish line with great difficulty!

Today we just chill and relax before we do the final 10k to the base of Vardzia cave city. It looks spectacular from up here and tomorrow is all downhill switch backs. We then get on a bus to Tbilisi and the hot shower and a bed awaits at the Marriott!!

It's been a long and painful 148 odd miles and every fiber of my body hurts so bad, but my soul has never been happier from realizing how much I have it in me to push myself to take on this challenge!

Comments: Total (9) comments

Siva Krishnan

Posted On: 26 Aug 2021 06:25 am

Congrats NB ! 🎊🎉🎈Impressive, unparalleled ... very proud of u to demonstrate to us the value of a determined mindset ! Rest, recoup and resurrect buddy ..Best wishes

Malin Timbs

Posted On: 21 Aug 2021 03:15 am

Way to go! What an adventure! You’ve prepared and worked so hard for this. Excited to see you finish strong!

Malin Timbs

Posted On: 21 Aug 2021 03:15 am

Way to go! What an adventure! You’ve prepared and worked so hard for this. Excited to see you finish strong!

Rajan Nair

Posted On: 20 Aug 2021 10:24 pm

You're the man, Narayan....Wow..I mean simply Wow. No words...All you guys who did this race are wired differently. You have to be to have the resolve and determination to finish this race. Glad you are well and feeling strong. You have a lot of carb deficit to make up :-) Enjoy this moment and make it a lifetime memory.

Ryan Nicholson

Posted On: 20 Aug 2021 08:37 pm

Narayan, way to conquer the challenge with persistence and grit. You have truly inspired everybody following this difficult trek of yours. We are proud! Enjoy that 10k, and your journey home. God bless you man! Ryan

KVS Krishnan

Posted On: 20 Aug 2021 03:31 pm

Narayan, you continue to inspire me every day through your blog as I am preparing for my full marathon this November. When i read your experiences every day, I keep telling myself, if some one can do this, a marathon run is certainly possible for a novice like me as well!! Keep conquering these miles, my friend. I will be rooting for you - KVS

Linda Bomar

Posted On: 20 Aug 2021 01:27 pm

Dittos to Balaji's quote, Narayan. It is very gratifying observing you meeting the impossible with grace from the cheap seats. Carry on. xo

Balaji Venkatachalam

Posted On: 20 Aug 2021 12:13 pm

Awesome, Narayan. I can feel the experience through your narration :=) Good luck and best wishes for the last 10k and see you soon as the hero who showed us how to set goals and go after them! Take care..

Balaji Venkatachalam

Posted On: 20 Aug 2021 12:13 pm

Awesome, Narayan. I can feel the experience through your narration :=) Good luck and best wishes for the last 10k and see you soon as the hero who showed us how to set goals and go after them! Take care..
Narayan Bharadwaj
Stage 4 done and the incident with the mutt!

18 August 2021 09:11 pm (GMT+04:00) Baku, Tbilisi, Yerevan

Stage 4 was HARD but somehow got it done.

The course to check point 1 from the camp was through a village. When I was passing through the village, a dog took off from its house and started chasing me aggressively. I stuck out my poles and the dog started biting it. The lady in the house was watching this like it was some sort of entertainment. I looked at her and pointed to the dog as if to say "Rein in the damn mutt". Then she uttered something in Georgian and the dog went back.  The rest of the course was gradual hill ascent which was still taxing.

 

CP2 and CP3 were designated as Difficult courses and they ate me alive. Getting through to CP2 was difficult with so many climbs. From CP2 to CP3 which was about 10.5k we were met with strong winds combined with a painful climb for the first 3k. The rest of the course was all downhill but it was all rock and dirt making it extremely challenging to navigate.

 

CP3 to CP4 was moderate but the sun started beating down heavily and the final few miles looked like they were never ending! Finally got to CP4 and we were taken by a shuttle to the camp site by the lake.

 

About 25 hard miles done today and I'm very nervous about the long March of 48 miles tomorrow.

 

Let's see what tomorrow holds. Send some good luck my way!!

Comments: Total (2) comments

Joy Gilpin

Posted On: 18 Aug 2021 07:27 pm

Beware of dog, wow! Great luck for your final push!

Ryan Nicholson

Posted On: 18 Aug 2021 07:21 pm

Damn dogs 🐩. 48 miles brother. Chant “I am. I can, I will!” as long as you must. Power of positivity will see you to the finish line. I BELIEVE in you. WE ALLLLLL BELIEVE IN YOU. Fight brother fight!!!
Narayan Bharadwaj
Stage 3 done - With a start in Niflheim!!

17 August 2021 06:08 pm (GMT+04:00) Baku, Tbilisi, Yerevan

The day started with the trifecta of every runner's nightmare - wind, rain and cold. The first three miles were just sheer misery  as we fought through the ugly forces. Felt like I was running in Niflheim, the Norse cold hell!

 

After we reached CP1, the course to the next CP was designated as  "Difficult". Little did I realize that it meant climbing up a hill with maybe 25% grade ascent!! Thankfully training kicked in and I did three things - slow down the pace, take shorter steps and lean forward so the weight of the bag pushes you forward (the third one is a tip that the current leader Reinhold gave me when I was chatting with him earlier). It worked pretty well and I was able keep my heart rate at just about threshold level. There were a few gradual rolling hill climbs after that and after we got through those, we were greeted by Georgian army at the Tabaskuri pass check point!

 

The course was pretty downhill from there but there was barely any road. It was just rock and stones and to navigate that was a bit challenging.

 

Made it through into the village where the camp is set in a football field. Excited local kids running around the camp site is a lovely sight to see! The sun is shining and today has been good. About 23.3 miles done today.

 

I'll continue take one CP at a time and see what tomorrow has in store!

 

Thank you for your continued good wishes.

Comments: Total (5) comments

Linda Bomar

Posted On: 18 Aug 2021 01:39 pm

Geez, Narayan! You are so bad ass!! Wishing you Valhalla in the days to come. Hang in there and come home healthy and happy. We need you!

Teddi Horan

Posted On: 18 Aug 2021 01:30 pm

Narayan, Wishing you dry conditions and sunshine while you journey through the next few days!

Matt Kendall

Posted On: 17 Aug 2021 06:49 pm

Great job my friend and hero Narayan ! You are doing great and moving forward. You are well on your way to completion. Proud of you buddy! Matt

KVS Krishnan

Posted On: 17 Aug 2021 04:07 pm

I agree with Rajan's comments, but you are acing it, Narayan. Your posts are simply inspirational and interesting. Another day gone, another stage conquered! Keep going, I am rooting for you!!

Rajan Nair

Posted On: 17 Aug 2021 02:18 pm

Simply Amazing Narayan!!! Three days gone. Two to go. Reading your posts I get the impression that the running is the relatively easiest part as you are trained for it. Its the rest of the stuff that makes it challenging. Great job in adapting on the spot and making it through these challenges. Wish you the best for the next two days.
Narayan Bharadwaj
Stage 2 Complete and the story of how it cured me of my OCD

16 August 2021 08:42 pm (GMT+04:00) Baku, Tbilisi, Yerevan

Phew! At 28 miles (45 kms) today was a long and messy course! 

The course took us through muddy and slushy tracks in Georgian villages and through a few water crossings! My OCD about clean shoes is a joke in my family. Today that OCD was cured in total with the amount of mud that I gathered on my shoe. It was slow and painful as I didn't want to slip and risk a fall!

We also went through a never ending uphill ascent, though gradual. I tracked about 4.5 miles of painful ascent and every part of my body is screaming murder! I suffered! 

However, stage 2 is done and tomorrow is shorter at 23.3 miles. But it has a difficult section and we will see how I hold up.

Thank you for all your support and kind words of encouragement. It means a lot!!

Comments: Total (10) comments

Narayan Bharadwaj

Posted On: 20 Aug 2021 11:29 am

Hi Brendi-Maria Reinhold has been such a pleasure to interact with. Please tell Reinhold to leave alone the races meant for humans, because he's just a beast!! I've never seen an athlete like him! So accomplished yet so humble.

Ryan Nicholson

Posted On: 18 Aug 2021 07:16 pm

3 words Just. Keep. Going Incredibly proud of your mindset….one step at a time will get you to your destination. Mad respect, Ryan

Joy Gilpin

Posted On: 17 Aug 2021 07:36 pm

Muddy shoes are a drag...but growing tolerance for the intolerable is always impressive. Everything about this journey is an exercise in tolerance and tenacity. What qualities to keep cultivating. AMAZING adventure!

David Hirata

Posted On: 17 Aug 2021 05:56 am

Way to go Narayan--your perseverance, positive attitude and sense of humor are inspiring! Wishing you strength today. On a side note: thanks for recommending Gamarjoba tours to me as I hold down the fort here in Tbilisi. I liked my tour so much, I signed on for a second one, and will have to see if Emily is up for one when she finishes the race. Looking forward to toasting both of you in a few days!

Brendi-Maria Hugo

Posted On: 17 Aug 2021 05:46 am

Dear Narayan Just starting the race, takes real courage! It's crazy, amazing, exciting, unbelievable, did I mention Crazy? :-) My husband is out there with you, I tell him the same thing. Good Luck, enjoy the rest of the race! Brendi-Maria

Harish Kamath

Posted On: 17 Aug 2021 04:28 am

YOU are AN inspiration. Amazing stories coming out :) . Good luck.

Harish Kamath

Posted On: 17 Aug 2021 04:28 am

YOU are AN inspiration. Amazing stories coming out :) . Good luck.

Rachael Harris

Posted On: 16 Aug 2021 09:45 pm

You are amazing!! Can't wait to see you kick stage 3's butt too!

Riya Narayan

Posted On: 16 Aug 2021 09:24 pm

You are doing so good! This is so cool. Glad you can finally live with muddy shoes.

KVS Krishnan

Posted On: 16 Aug 2021 06:17 pm

Narayan, I have one word to express - You are Insanely Inspirational !! What an accomplishment!! Go for Glory, buddy ! I am rooting for you.
Narayan Bharadwaj
Stage 1 complete with full Drama

15 August 2021 08:25 pm (GMT-06:00) Central Time(US & Canada)

Mike Tyson once said "Everybody has plan until they get punched in the face ".  Today was that day for me! Make no mistake, I completed the 24 miles of stage 1 but it was with great difficulty!

The course today was broken up into checkpoints. From the starting line to CP1, we had to traverse through the Algeti national forest which was dense. Many parts of the forest were covered by leaf beds which were on slopes. To add to the misery, it also rained last night making the ground slippery.

Since it rained last night, I was worried that my sleeping bag which was attached to the bottom of my backpack on the outside might get wet if it rained while on the course today. So I wrapped my bag in a plastic bag and attached it to my backpack with bungee cords. This proved problematic as the bag was slipping and not sitting securely.

As luck would have it, while I was in the forest, the bag slipped and unhooked from my backpack and rolled down a ravine. I watched in horror as the bag went deeper and deeper into the ravine and finally settled down at a depth of about 200 feet. Without the sleeping bag I'm toast! The tent has a floor covering but without a bag and a mat or pad it's not possible to sleep! So I decided to go down and retrieve it. In the hurry to get the bag, I forgot that had the backpack on my back and started going down the ravine with my backpack. I retrieved the sleeping bag and got up with great difficulty. This setback early in the stage really messed with my head and I lost nearly 30-45 minutes in this process, not to mention the mental disturbance it caused by 

CP2 to 3 was a brutal climb the likes of which I've never experienced. I stopped so many times and considered if this is really for me. To add to the misery, my calves and inner thigh started cramping. I quickly figured that I need to top up my electrolytes and within minutes of taking the dosage, my cramping stopped.

 

Once we crossed CP3, it was all downhill from there for the most part with some elevation gain but nothing terrible. I was super excited and finally turned on my music!

 

I had to keep telling myself to go conservative on the pacing strategy and to not push it. Finally made it through all the CPs and got to Camp 2.

 

Had a huge dinner - Maggi noodles and Chana Masala from backpackers pantry and now ready to hit the bed!

 

I got through today, Heaven knows how! Tomorrow will be another day, hopefully better!!

Comments: Total (7) comments

Prathibha Varadarajan

Posted On: 16 Aug 2021 02:05 am

Wow ! What a first day ! But then what’s an adventure without testing twists and turns. Keep going.

Riya Narayan

Posted On: 16 Aug 2021 01:06 am

Wow! You are doing such a great job! You inspire me every day to be a better person, and I know you are going to finish strong! Keep it up!🥳

Riya Narayan

Posted On: 16 Aug 2021 01:06 am

Wow! You are doing such a great job! You inspire me every day to be a better person, and I know you are going to finish strong! Keep it up!🥳

Joy Gilpin

Posted On: 15 Aug 2021 11:07 pm

Amazing tenacity! We are sending you our team's spirit!

R Munday

Posted On: 15 Aug 2021 05:40 pm

What an amazing adventure you are living! Stay Strong and Good Luck! Remember “The person who starts the race is not the same person who finishes the race.”

R Munday

Posted On: 15 Aug 2021 05:40 pm

What an amazing adventure you are living! Stay Strong and Good Luck! Remember “The person who starts the race is not the same person who finishes the race.”

Yasmina Ganse

Posted On: 15 Aug 2021 05:26 pm

Oh dear! What a first day! But great fighting spirit, well done getting back on track. I can only imagine how well that dinner must have tasted :) Hopefully you'll be able to pack the sleeping bag inside the backpack in a few days, when some of the food is gone (it is easier to push it down unpacked). Well, now you know what it is all about, you've tackled this nicely, just keep going, one CP at the time :)
Narayan Bharadwaj
Hello from Camp One!!

14 August 2021 09:49 am (GMT-06:00) Central Time(US & Canada)

Well! The comfort of the bed in Marriott and exotic Georgian food disappeared quickly as we reached Camp 1 yesterday after a 1.5 hour bus ride.

The bus ride on itself was uneventful - some roads with 9% grade but other than that we just went through small towns. Abandoned / Unfinished - That was the overwhelming impression that I formed when I looked at the homes and the buildings along the route. Most of the buildings looked gutted out, crumbling and dilapidated. Windows broken, doors barely hanging in there, roof crumbling!! The ones those were not crumbling were unfinished. I don't remember seeing a single painted home all along the route !. Just blocks of concrete stacked on top of each other and an old Opel Astra or some Jerry rigged motor assembly parked outside homes. The whole scene looked like an abandoned nuclear test site with structures blown out and barely holding itself together!

Even in Tbilisi I noticed a number of sites like these but I thought maybe they were under construction! I'm however intrigued that this "abandonment" is at a much larger scale. The Presidential palace built a few years ago with a dome that reminded me of the gorgeous dome in Reichstag in Berlin is abandoned. Apparently only one President lived there and nobody uses that building anymore! So it's just sitting empty!! Another modern building which was constructed as a concert hall - a very "interesting" glass and steel structure resembling two horns, is also "abandoned". I wonder what's the underlying reason! Any how....

The camp site is just gorgeous - something like a scene out of a Tolkien novel set in middle earth. I was almost hoping for a Hobbit to spring up from somewhere! After eating dinner we brought from the city I crashed at 9 pm on my sleeping pad and my sleeping bag. It got chilly and it was actually very pleasant!

I share the tent with my new best buddy Mike and Clarence Chan, an accomplished Chi Running Master based in Singapore. I was kicked to learn that Clarence lives in Bedok in the east coast of Singapore where we used to live!

We set out tomorrow for the race and are doing the final kit check today! I'm looking forward to the course as it is simply stunning!

 

More to come....

Comments: Total (2) comments

r nicholson

Posted On: 15 Aug 2021 11:07 am

Sounds like an adventure you’ll never forget. You’re in good hands out there. Glad to hear you rested well the first night. Do what you do….don’t give up..press forward. You got this!

r nicholson

Posted On: 15 Aug 2021 11:07 am

Sounds like an adventure you’ll never forget. You’re in good hands out there. Glad to hear you rested well the first night. Do what you do….don’t give up..press forward. You got this!
Narayan Bharadwaj
T-2 in Tbilisi

13 August 2021 03:01 am (GMT-06:00) Central Time(US & Canada)

Finally made it to Tbilisi after 3 flights and almost 18 hours door to door. 

Tbilisi is a very unique place at the fascinating intersection of religion (Paganism, Roman catholic, orthodox Christianity, Judaism and Islam) and culture (Ottoman, Mughal, Greek and Georgian). I took a guided tour of the city and learnt so much about the Tbilisi and Georgia on the whole. My tour guide is a Masters student in International Relations which was great because she had the perspective I was looking for from a geopolitical angle. I soaked in the sights of the city but also quizzed my guide endlessly about the Soviet Era and the generational conflict in the post-Perestroika Era! It was a day extremely well spent! 

 

I also met Mike Williams who is a legend in his own right having completed so many RTP races and several other 100 milers and 250k stage races. Mike and I hit it off instantly from the moment we met at the airport and I now understand when my friend Sumanth said that the camaraderie of this group is infectious! 

 

When the tent assignments were released,  both of us were kicked to find out that we were assigned to be in the same tent! I'm very excited to have Mike's insights and friendship as I navigate my rookie attempt! 

 

We also met Beth Whitman, another very accomplished athlete and travel expert!  The three of us had a great dinner followed by a walk to the peace bridge last night! 

 

We are off today to camp 1 and will spend a couple of nights there before starting off on the 15th. 

 

As I reflected on the past couple of days and the friendships I'm starting to develop, the distance I'll cover maybe 250k in the next few days but the friendships I'll make along the way will last for a long, long time! 

 

 

Comments: Total (2) comments

Narayan Bharadwaj

Posted On: 13 Aug 2021 08:08 am

Hi David, Thanks for your kind words. I look forward to meeting Emily! The name of the tour agency is Gamar Joba. https://gamarjobageorgiatours.com/ Hope you have fun while we are out on the course!

David Hirata

Posted On: 13 Aug 2021 06:14 am

Good luck to you in your RTP experience Narayan! I love your insights and writing style and look forward to reading more. My wife (Emily Stonehouse) is one of your fellow trekkers and since I’ll be holding down the fort here in Tbilisi, I have to ask if you recall the name of day tour company? Sounds like you and I have a similar interest in this place, and that your guide was perfect. Best wishes to you as you do your final prep!
Narayan Bharadwaj
Why Georgia?

08 August 2021 12:52 pm (GMT-06:00) Central Time(US & Canada)

One of my favorite songs from one of my favorite musicians is "Why Georgia?", by John Mayer. The song is about John Mayer's fears about pursuing new paths and moving out of his comfort zone from Atlanta, GA (therefore the "Why Georgia?"). Over the past year since I signed up for RTP Georgia, I couldn't help connecting with that song more times than I could care to remember! So this is the story of my "Why Georgia" :-)

 

I'm often met with bewilderment when a conversation eventually veers into my training (what are you training for?) and into RTP Georgia. A friend of mine, utterly flabbergasted asked me, "Boy, someone must be paying you a lot of money to run this 250K carrying your own food, supplements, bedding and all other supplies". I told him it’s the other way around! He responded with, "But, why?"

 

That led me to question why I really signed up for the race. Though I am not really a complete introvert, I haven't really enjoyed playing team (or any competitive) sports from my school days. As a school boy, a combination of appearing diminutive, being bullied around in cricket and other sports led me to develop an aversion to playing active sports in general. I slowly picked up running as it was an individual sport and allowed me to live comfortably in my headspace without the scars of group dynamics that I faced playing team sports!

 

I really stepped up my running after we moved to Singapore as the trails, parks and running paths were very inviting. Plus, it didn’t hurt that we lived 200 feet away from the beach, so stepping out of the home and into the running route by the beach was quite literally a breeze! When we moved to Franklin, TN in the South-central US several years ago, I continued running, but in the curiosity to explore the town, I started running a half marathon (13.1 miles) every weekend taking different routes around the town! I was and still never a fan of the big "Rock & Roll" type of races (remember? Lots of people!!), so I didn't run many "official" big name races.

 

As I inched into my 50s - one starts to reflect on how far life has come along and the path ahead. Clearly, a few thoughts emerged:

  • I started my career working for some of the largest companies in the world and had seen enough of corporate BS over the 30 years of so of my career across several geographies. It was the same everywhere because people are people! I was tired of the rat race, bureaucracy and just sheer loss of individuality in mega corporations. So I decided that from my career perspective, it was time I started thinking about my own legacy. I was not interested in fancy titles, corner office, private jets, the "size of the portfolio" and other accoutrements that come with traditional career advancement. I was interested in making an impact in my field of work, leaving my mark and a legacy behind without the trappings of a mega-corporate life or bureaucracy.
  • After having worked for nearly 30 years, you develop a sense of quiet confidence as you live through many business cycles, challenges and unexpected scenarios! So nothing "scares" you anymore and you have a reasonable sense of confidence that you can get through any situation or take on any challenge at work and come through the other end relatively successful and unscathed (yes, you also learn how to side-step landmines!). So I started looking for challenges on the personal front that could, for the lack of a better word, "scare" or intimidate me. Of course there are unknowns in every situation, but the unknowns in a 250K race are nothing like I have ever experienced remotely. I have run 50K or maybe 60K in one run, but 250K, even in a stage race was "scary". So when my friend Sumanth Cidambi, a finisher of multiple RTP races, egged me on to sign up for RTP Georgia, it got me thinking that maybe this is it! The enormity of the effort, the so many unknowns and just the extraordinary caliber and accomplishments of the other participants was enough to make me feel intimidated!
     

So I guess that’s my "Why Georgia?". The challenge of taking on something of unknown dimensions with no previous experience and the exhilarating journey of preparing for it. Maybe I will get tired of stage races and long-distance running challenges after a few, but life is so rich there will be no dearth of challenges to take on in the years to come!

 
PS-Food update: In keeping up with the "Nothing new on race day" principle, my diet yesterday was on freeze dried meals and race day food. Since I'm in the tapering phase, I skipped the supplements (gels and perpeteum), but the freeze dried meals seemed to sit OK in my stomach! So that can be checked off now too!

Comments: Total (3) comments

Chelsea Matthews

Posted On: 12 Aug 2021 01:35 pm

I so enjoyed reading this! I definitely connect with healthy amounts of scary leading to some of the richest experiences in life. I'm excited for you and wishing you the best of luck in the race!

Matt Kendall

Posted On: 10 Aug 2021 02:27 pm

Go get them Narayan! You are going to do very well at this. YOu have trained so hard. Will be following you.

Yasmina Ganse

Posted On: 10 Aug 2021 07:29 am

Getting "scared" surely makes one feel wonderfully alive :) You will have such a blast!
Narayan Bharadwaj
First time and absolutely terrified!

04 August 2021 10:46 am (GMT-06:00) Central Time(US & Canada)

Phew! Only 10 days away to the race! The course details are here

The total distance of the course is approximately 250 kilometers / 155 miles. The approximate distances per stage can be seen below:

Georgia Stage Distances

I signed up for RTP Georgia motivated by my buddy Sumanth Cidambi who is a finisher of several RTP races. However, the enormity of the undertaking dawned upon me when I clicked the submit button for registering the race!

But I did what I do best which is to plan the HECK out of anything I undertake and check all the boxes! So I went about writing down all the things I need to plan for meticulously:

  • Training
  • Equipment
  • Nutrition
  • Hydration
  • Electrolytes
  • Mental health
  • Travel & logistics
  • Mobilization and stretching

Training

My goal for training was to execute on the training plan twice since I had well over 10 months to prepare for the race. So I started with the 24-week "Intermediate" training plan available on the RTP Expert Advice section of the website. After I completed that training plan, I wanted to step up the training and train with an ultrarunning coach. So I signed up with Malin Timbs who has run several hundred milers and is a participant in the grueling Western States Endurance Run 100 miler! She put together a customized training plan after understanding my goals, course profile, my fitness levels, running form etc. I've been following that plan and am now in the tapering phase. I've stuck to the plan mostly, but may have missed a few days and worry endlessly about it. But my coach tells me that I worry too much and I should be fine (fingers crossed)

 

Equipment

The equipment list provided by RTP is great. I also supplemented that with the first-hand knowledge from my friends Sumanth and Yas who have done RTP races. I meticulously tracked down the weight of each item and have a pretty good idea of what the overall weight is going to look like. So I started acquiring all the equipment over the past year and packed the bag a month ago to make sure I had enough buffer time to purchase anything I may have missed. 

Nutrition

Besides tracking my daily micro nutrients, I am going to rely on freeze dried foods for my big meals during the race. For the supplements during the race, I have been experimenting with various gels and bars and eventually settled on Hammer nutrition products. I have been using those over the past several months during my long runs and have conditioned my body to accept those as supplements!

Hydration

Similar to nutrition, I started being mindful of hydration both on and off my training runs. I started hydrating every 20 minutes to make sure I was able to retain just enough water and not too much. Over the course of the past year, I'm now comfortable with the levels of hydration. I am super mindful of my hydration levels off training and I track my daily hydration quite seriously :-) 

Electrolytes

These are such a huge part of the overall race planning exercise. I once again experimented with several electrolyte products, but eventually settled down on Hammer Nutrition's Endurolytes capsules. The chief nutritionist from Hammer Nutrition worked with me to put together a personalized plan for supplements and electrolytes which worked out great. I've been using those during my training runs and now have a good rhythm to figure out when I need to top up or dial down my electrolytes based on how my body feels!

Mental Health

Learning to be comfortable with oneself for hours on end in one's own headspace is so critical in endurance runs. So I started practicing these in my long runs (4-6 hours) and also learnt Transcendental Meditation techniques to relax my mind and body. These are hugely helpful to tune yourself internally!

Travel & logistics

I started planning for travel as soon as I registered. Created google flight fare alerts for Tbilisi and snagged a terrific deal as soon as one landed! I also booked my hotel stay months ahead to make sure I am comfortable in my own setting. 

Mobilization & Stretching

I signed up with a Physical Therapist who trains endurance atheletes. She helped me strengthen my hips and quads which go to strengthening my knees (who would have thunk!) and also put me on a stretching routine. I have been strength training separately with a personal trainer for several years, so that anyways took care of my upper body strength and mobilization!

So I've done all I can by the book, but I also know the saying in the Ultrarunning world, "Respect the course". So I am going to take one checkpoint at a time and then one stage at a time to attempt to complete the race with humility. Fingers crossed! More to come...

Comments: Total (8) comments

Keith Gayhart

Posted On: 07 Aug 2021 10:09 pm

It sounds like you are superbly well prepared. Time to sit back and enjoy the ride. See you in Tbilisi.

ryan nicholson

Posted On: 06 Aug 2021 08:49 pm

Here to follow the beast execute his plan with precision. No doubt you will succeed on this adventure Narayan. Good luck!

Beth Whitman

Posted On: 05 Aug 2021 01:22 am

I smiled big when I read the title of this. I was just telling my husband today, "I feel nervous, unfocused and like I'm going to throw up." I think my main concerns are around packing and whether everything is going to fit in my backpack AND actually make it to Georgia. Ultimately, I'm sure it'll all be fine. See you next week!!!! Beth

Satya Ranjan

Posted On: 04 Aug 2021 06:30 pm

Awesome. Go for it. Look forward to more updates on this.

Narayan Bharadwaj

Posted On: 04 Aug 2021 04:51 pm

Hi Sam, Thanks for your kind words. Please feel free to share. This is my own amateurish version of prep, but if it can help someone, please share it by all means! Hi Rajan, Thank you for your kind words. Can't thank you enough for your support, encouragement and tips along the way!

Rajan Nair

Posted On: 04 Aug 2021 04:39 pm

Narayan, Awesome job preparing for the big race. If preparation is half the battle, then you are already well on your way. Wish you the very best. We will all be rooting hard for you...Look forward to the posts and updates. And lots of pictures...

Rajan Nair

Posted On: 04 Aug 2021 04:38 pm

United States

Sam Fanshawe

Posted On: 04 Aug 2021 04:31 pm

Wow, that is impressive meticulous preparation. I am one of the event directors at RacingThePlanet and am going to share this on our social media, if that's ok as this is so useful for others starting the journey. We are excited to cheer for you during the race!!!