RacingThePlanet Blogs 2022

View All Posts 2022 From : Narayan Bharadwaj

Narayan Bharadwaj
Rest day and crossing the finish line!

21 August 2022 10:41 am (GMT-06:00) Central Time(US & Canada)

Spent the rest day doing just that...eating, sleeping, chatting with friends, stretching and most importantly experiencing traditional Finnish sauna at Camp Ronola on a gorgeous lakeshore!

 

Got up in the morning ready to charge across to the finish line and bring it home after 156 miles / 250+ kms. The course was mostly through the forest and the final few hundred meters were on soft saw dust making me feel like I was flying!

 

Crossing the finish line was so fulfilling! We were then shuttled off to a really nice hotel in the ski resort town of Levi where the party went on until late in night. Groups of us were pub hopping, singing out loud in karaoke bars and got wasted before we hit the (real) bed early in the morning! The race is over!

 

I feel like I have found some purpose to hang on to in my mid-life as I chase this,  what I once thought was, an impossible goal! Last year's 250k in Georgia was my first ultra and trail run ever. I finished in the bottom 10% of the pack despite it being a narrow field of racers. I had very little experience and some training.

 

Over the past year I've dialed into the art and science of trail running and meticulously unraveled a plan to get better. Through a combination of structured training, physical therapy, strength, conditioning, mobilization, nutrition, feet care, gear selection and mindset hardening, I finished in the Top 40% this year despite the field being thrice as much as last year. Personally it is very fulfilling for me to see that the efforts I put in have paid off handsomely!

 

Sure, I did not get a podium finish, but this is just my first anniversary of taking to ultras and I did WAY better than last year. More importantly I finished without a single injury, black toe, blister or chafing! So much so that my tent mates made fun of my baby feet ?. I like where this mindfulness has gotten me and this is a lesson for me to apply this approach in other facets of life!

 

The intensity of training is not easy. I'm not a professional athlete. I work full time, I don't care for sponsorships and I do this for fun. So this is a huge demand on family time. It's not fun disappearing every weekend for hours on end in back to back long training runs. I would like to thank my family for supporting me in pursuing this passion.

 

Thanks to my coaches Tabor and Eli Hemming. Both of them are world class athletes and coach some star athletes. I'm a novice, but they've never made me feel like one! Tabor is the current US mountain running champion and I'm glad that some of that aura rubbed on to me!

 

Thank to all your support, we managed to raise $2850/- for Hope Lodge Nashville, a home away from home for cancer patients. ??

Until next time.....

Comments: Total (4) comments

Dan Lader

Posted On: 23 Aug 2022 06:47 am

Congratulations Narayan "Beast mode"... very impressive accomplishment, and looks like you had so much fun doing this, which is most important... I am very proud of you, and am sure Laz is, too... Way to go "Baby Feet"...1 - Dan

Joy Gilpin

Posted On: 22 Aug 2022 12:37 pm

WOW! Congratulations on all fronts. Knowing your affinity for data and ROI, that jump in finishing placement must have made that finish all the sweeter! Safe travels home.

Uday Devalla

Posted On: 21 Aug 2022 05:39 pm

Congratulations on completing Lapland my friend!!!! Heck of an accomplishment!! While the blog was great..look forward to hearing the stories!!

Mary Gadams

Posted On: 21 Aug 2022 08:45 am

Well done, what an amazing accomplishment. You'll be soon hitting the podium at races if you want to! Great effort, #respect. It's been great following all the racers across Lapland. So great to have good weather. Safe travels back to TN. Mary
Narayan Bharadwaj
Stage 5- The long March

19 August 2022 08:43 am (GMT-06:00) Central Time(US & Canada)

The much awaited or dreaded long March is done!

The stretch of 50.5 miles had seven checkpoints placed along the course mixed with single track forest trails,  wetlands, dust roads and gravel.

The course started off for the first 7-ish miles through a gorgeous forest trail where it was cool and wonderful to be in! As we moved through from one Checkpoint to another the course got worse eventually ending up in a black top, asphalt road!

I didn't stop for long at the overnight Checkpoint. Made myself a quick mushroom risotto meal and moved on. The final 20 miles were grueling as it was through gravel and fine stones. I teamed up with Estelle from South Africa and Rafeeq from Houston, TX. So we paced each other well and kept trucking. My tank was empty by mile 45 and I couldn't even muster to take in one more drop of water by that time! We did manage to sight a few reindeers and were so glad to reach the camp way ahead of my goal time!

 

There's not a muscle in my body that isn't aching, but there's hot shower and change of fresh clothes from drop bag 1. Given the bag I've been living out of, a shower and change of clothes sounds like Ritz Carlton! The campsite is on a beautiful lake and the view is spectacular. Look forward to resting today before a short 8 miler tomorrow to the finish line!

Comments: Total (3) comments

Naresh Ponnapa

Posted On: 20 Aug 2022 02:26 am

Phenomenal Narayan - full of admiration for you guys. The “toughest “ leg of the ultramarathon is now done and soak in the last lap. Have charted an exciting trail for you in Coorg - but the distances you cover will take you round the entire district! Get some well deserved rest.

Naresh Ponnapa

Posted On: 20 Aug 2022 02:26 am

Phenomenal Narayan - full of admiration for you guys. The “toughest “ leg of the ultramarathon is now done and soak in the last lap. Have charted an exciting trail for you in Coorg - but the distances you cover will take you round the entire district! Get some well deserved rest.

Joy Gilpin

Posted On: 19 Aug 2022 03:48 pm

WOW! That is a lot of miles - congratulations on your well deserved rest and fresh gear!
Narayan Bharadwaj
Stage 4 - Time to bank some energy

17 August 2022 09:40 am (GMT-06:00) Central Time(US & Canada)

Ahead of the long March tomorrow I decided to pull my efforts back a bit and leave some energy in the bank. I didn't want to feel sore at the end of today's 25 mile and was very mindful about the effort.

 

So from the get go, I took it nice and easy. Most of the course was runnable and on dirt roads , so I was consistently logging in 14:30-15:10 mins/mile vs the 12 min miles I  put in earlier in the race But I went by effort and RPE rather than pace.

 

The climb up from CP3 to Camp on the Akaskero fell was fantastic. It was a hard climb, but the views on top were totally worth it. I even managed a sighting of reindeer herd with a white fawn ?. The downhill was tough as it was slippery, steep and full of roots! Managed to take it slowly and got to the camp safely!!

 

Reached camp after 6 hrs and 45 mins and stretched out well. No soreness as the effort was mild.

 

Long March tomorrow. A bit nervous but will take it head on!

Comments: Total (1) comments

Joy Gilpin

Posted On: 19 Aug 2022 03:58 pm

That is a great day - 25 miles in the books and it ready for the last HUGE push. Enjoy!
Narayan Bharadwaj
Stage 3- A tough day!

16 August 2022 04:36 pm (GMT-06:00) Central Time(US & Canada)

After a relatively easy stage 2, today brought on all kinds of challenges - technical trails, VERY narrow single track, unstable duck boards, uphill climbs, nasty gravel roads! You name it!!

 

Camp to CP1- Trail mix!

Started off on an Asphalt road leading up to the forest for 4.4 miles. I was hoping to make good time here but was able to run uninterrupted only for the first couple of miles. When we entered the forest, we were faced with very narrow single track trails which slowed me down considerably from my pace for the first two miles! I think I still made good time and reached Checkpoint 1 in a respectable time.

 

CP 1 to 2 - The stairway to heaven!

This was the gradual climb to Koivakero fell through single track trails and duck boards.

 

The single track trails were barely a foot wide and combined with the high grass it made it very difficult to run.

 

The duck boards on the other hand were very unstable in many places. In one of the crossings it was literally like a scene from a Shaolin movie. You stepped foot on one end of the board, the other end lifts up. You have to wait for it to settle down before you walk over it or risk falling into the Marsh ?

 

But the struggle was worth it as the views from the top of the fell were stunning! We reached the next CP all downhill from there.

 

CP 2 to 3 - Road to hell (that Chris Rea riff has been ringing in my ears!)

Apparently this was an old postal road except there was no discernible road! It was a forest track and filled with Marsh croasings without any duck boards. It meant that you had no other way than to get your feet wet through the disgusting mud and marshy surface! All my hopes of making up time here were dashed to the ground!

 

CP 3 to Camp - The gravel grind!

The course note said that the final 6.9 miles were through dust roads. So I was hoping to blaze through this. Unfortunately it was a nasty dust road with gravel, stones and of course dust. I wiped off so much dust from my face after crossing this road into the camp!

 

Overall a tough day to do 25 miles / 40 kms and even the front runners were slower today! All considered I am happy with the effort I put in and the time I made. Tomorrow (another 25 mile/40 km day) promises to be easier ahead of the long March (50.2 miles / 81 kms) the day after!!

Comments: Total (0) comments

Narayan Bharadwaj
Stage 2- Execution done right!

15 August 2022 06:16 pm (GMT+02:00) Helsinki, Kyiv, Riga, Sofia, Tallinn, Vilnius

 

I was very pleased with my effort today. I read the course notes and made the below plan:

 

First ~13 miles on gravel roads surrounded by dense forest and a gorgeous lake. My plan was to hit 12 min/mile and get this in, in about 2:30

The next 4.1 miles were designated as difficult through the forest single track with roots and rocks. The plan was to use this section for recovery and hike it out!

The final 7.1 miles were supposedly downhill. My plan was to observe how steep those downhills would be and pace myself accordingly without destroying my quads bombing the downhill!

 

I hit the first 13 miles on gravel road reaching Checkpoint 2 in exactly 2:30 as planned.

The next 4.1 miles through forest turned out to be only two miles of deep forest trails. So I banked some time running in the first 2ish miles and hiked in the forest as recovery. It was beautiful to walk in the forest on duck boards and on single track trail.

 

The final section billed as downhill came up as such only after more than two miles of torturous, slow rolling climb. Once I hit the downhill, I  made good time and reached the camp.

 

I stretched out and recovered for quite a bit and feel strong! It was a good day!

 

Tomorrow is another day!

Comments: Total (3) comments

Narayan Bharadwaj

Posted On: 19 Aug 2022 04:06 am

Hi Jon, of course I remember you and so great to hear from you! Thanks for the kind words! Since Georgia, I've been training for a year with the US mountain running champ and her husband who is no 2 in men's. They are simply the best as you can imagine! I'm glad the training is coming together really nicely and my adaptation and recovery has been on point so far! I'm not in the podium but I'm very happy with the progress in just one year! I really don't think about 8 hour days when I'm out on the course. I go from one CP to another and have a rough goal in mind to get to the next CP. I then calibrate my pace based on the elevation and terrain. You don't want crash and burn uphill or twist your ankle on roots, plus you want to stop and take it all in too, not just run run run! Have fun at Atacama. My buddy Mike will be there and so will Reinhold! It'll be a good group! Good luck!!

Jon Ingalls

Posted On: 17 Aug 2022 11:53 pm

Hey Narayan ! This is Jon Ingalls - volunteer from the Georgia race (my wife Beth was in the race). So cool to see you here and see you on the video interview. Your progress is amazing (and) I have to say you've really gotten good! I'm training for Atacama in September. So tell me, how are those 8 hour days out there on the trail. I expect to be about the same pace plus or minus. Keep going! --Jon

Joy Gilpin

Posted On: 16 Aug 2022 08:44 pm

Plans executed as expected make for great days! Rest and recover!
Narayan Bharadwaj
Tough stage 1 completed!

14 August 2022 06:09 pm (GMT+02:00) Helsinki, Kyiv, Riga, Sofia, Tallinn, Vilnius

Stage 1 was the textbook definition of technical trails - we had a healthy dose of everything! - rocks, uphill, downhill, roots, water crossings, duck boards, dirt road - you name it!!! I did stage 1 with my friend Sumanth and finished it with him!

 

Start line to Checkpoint 1- Drain that Swamp!!!

 

Within 500 meters of the start line we were faced with a nasty Marsh that we had to cross. The Marsh had a very narrow duck board  which was submerged and had moss on it! The first few who walked on it slipped and fell into the ice cold water! The rest of us quickly formed a line and crossed in single file very very slowly. No waterproof socks can help when your legs are in ankle deep water! The rest of the course to CP 1 was easy and we made good time!

 

Checkpoint 1 to 2 - Rock 'n Roll!

 

The difficulty level of this part of the course was marked as "Very difficult" and it proved to be just that, the entire distance of 15k! The climb to the Pallas fell was long and rocky. The downhill was equally rocky and it took us a long time to get across this stage.

 

Checkpoint 2 to 3- Back to roots!

 

Reaching CP2 was a relief but it was short lived as the entire course from 2 to 3 was full of roots. It was a beautiful forest but made it difficult to run without falling!

 

Checkpoint 3 to Camp 2- Take me home, Country roads!

 

This was an easy dust road and we made good time reaching the base camp! Long day but glad to have made it without any injuries. It was a gnarly trail and it would have been extremely easy to get injured! One day at a time!!

 

The camp is on shores of the beautiful Pallas lake and is very pretty! Tomorrow is 24 miles and looks to be mostly runnable trail! Will see how that goes!

Comments: Total (5) comments

Dan Lader

Posted On: 18 Aug 2022 12:00 am

Keep it up Narayan… fantastic start! Very impressive…!

JOY GILPIN

Posted On: 16 Aug 2022 08:38 pm

Celebrating the safe and swift miles completed! Take good care and enjoy the magnificent adventure. Cheers!

Uday Devalla

Posted On: 16 Aug 2022 04:55 pm

Sounds like a fun start and glad you did amazing!!! Looking forward to more updates.

Renee Munday

Posted On: 15 Aug 2022 01:08 pm

Sounds like an Awesome day that kept your blood pumping with challenges. I am sure you will discover strengths that you didn't realize that you had during each day's race. Good Luck!!

Rajan Nair

Posted On: 14 Aug 2022 07:00 pm

Great start Narayan!!! Glad that you were able to navigate this difficult leg safely and without any incident.. good luck for the next leg
Narayan Bharadwaj
In Lapland!

11 August 2022 05:23 pm (GMT+02:00) Helsinki, Kyiv, Riga, Sofia, Tallinn, Vilnius

Arrived in Rovaniemi yesterday after three flights (Nashville - Chicago - Helsinki) and about 12 hours of flying time! The sight of the twin prop from Helsinki to Rovaniemi threw me off a bit as I hadn't flown in one of those in many years! But it came through just fine! 

The descent into Helsinki and Rovaniemi screams unmistakably Arctic! The timberline was clearly larch, pine and fir for miles on end. Just dense, tall, lush vegetation so pleasing to the eyes! 

It was so good to meet Sumanth after 30 years at the hotel. We headed out for lunch and caught up. It'll take a long time to catch up. But we have all the time and 250 kilometers to ruminate! Grabbed dinner and slept for about 5 hours. Struggling to adjust to the 8 hour time difference! 

Met with Martha Jones this morning at breakfast and we were reminiscing about the Georgia '21 race we did together! Sumanth, Martha and I later headed out to Santa Claus village and the Arctic Circle. Great walk of about 8K. We visited the Santa Claus post office and did the touristy things ?

Mike got in late in the afternoon and the four of us went out for lunch. Looking forward to meeting Yasmina(Yas) later this evening after chatting and running with her virtually for more than two years! 

I really hope I catch up on my sleep and adjust to the local time zone before the start of the race. 

Repacked my food into ziploc bags and optimized my UD40. Really happy with how it looks and weighs now. I'm ready to run!!

Comments: Total (2) comments

Joy Gilpin

Posted On: 16 Aug 2022 08:50 pm

The Santa Claus Post Office is a world travel event in this household! Madden is losing her mind over that bit.

simone kiesch

Posted On: 14 Aug 2022 05:18 pm

Wishing you a great run Narayan, and the best of luck...
Narayan Bharadwaj
My journey from Georgia in 2021 to Lapland in 2022!

05 August 2022 03:00 pm (GMT-06:00) Central Time(US & Canada)

Boy! That one year went by soon! Seems like yesterday when I crossed the finish line at the awe-inspiring Vardzia Caves in Racing The Planet Georgia 2021!

 

First, a recap of how I got lured into doing the race last year :-) Way back in 2010, Sumanth Cidambi, a buddy of mine from college days had just started taking to long distance running (marathons and sub-ultra distances). I stumbled upon an article online about Racing the planet and teasingly sent him that article with a single line "Game for a run?". The rest, as they say, is history! Sumanth became one of the most ardent fans of Racing the planet series and became the first Indian to run across all deserts, plus races in Patagonia and such. This year, he is suiting up to run the coveted Last Desert, 250K in Antarctica. His story here https://thebridge.in/featured/indian-dared-run-ultramarathons-four-deserts/ 

 

So when both of us were on the verge of turning 50 a couple of years ago, we started doing virtual races - him based in India, me in the US. That sounded perfect for the COVID world we were in, in 2020!  We completed the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee (1000 miles in 4 months) and then put together a team of 10 to virtually run Circumpolar Race Around the world, 30,000 kms - running pretty much 10K daily for nearly two years (we just completed it a few months ago). Sumanth, being the good friend he is, wanted to repay the kindness by planting the bug in my head to join him at Georgia for the upcoming RTP roving race in 2021 as my 50th birthday gift to myself!! At first 250K sounded insurmountable, but I figured running was both a science and an artform. I've always run for fun - half marathon casual runs on the weekends and 5K pretty much daily, but never thought of moving beyond marathons. I started peeling the layers behind the science of ultras and figured that if I could solve for each of those layers, MAYBE, I could do this. I signed up for the race and trained for it.

 

Unfortunately, with travel and quarantine restrictions, Sumanth couldn't make it to Georgia, so I ended up being on my own. However, once I was in the race, I realized that trail and ultrarunning community is very close-knit and the camaraderie and bonding you develop is nothing like you ever see in any other facet of life - not at work, school or social cliques! I ended up developing lifelong friendships with some of the best humans I have ever come across. Mike Williams, one of the Top 10 finishers in the race and I have become closest friends and I feel like I have known him forever! I stayed in touch with the other participants via social media channels and Strava as we continued to cheer and encourage each other through our journey this past year! 

 

Someone asked me what is the one thing I look forward to in this race. I said to them that meeting with my friends is the absolute one thing I look forward to in this race! Just from the one year that I have run this race, I know at least 10-12 folks who will be participating in the Lapland race this year! I am so excited to be finally running with Sumanth in person as he is all set to join us this year in Lapland! Though we have kept in touch via phone calls, Facetime, chats and emails, we will be meeting in person after nearly 30 years :-)

 

In the one year from Georgia to Lapland, I've explored further into the science of running and also connected with the emotional side of it!

  • I participated in a 100K race on an urban greenway course of 10+ miles loops x 6 and dropped out after 33 miles (~53 kms) out of boredom and monotony. I also participated in a backyard ultra, just to experience the variety of the format, but realized that I am not cut out for urban or loopy races. I love the uncertainty of the trails as it calls for you to watch where you are going every step of the way, but they have to be a point-to-point or maybe an out and back course!!
  • I participated in a 50K race (Sky to Summit) last year in the Chattahoochee National Forest and completed it with a twisted ankle from a misstep I had on the course. I learnt that the variety and uncertainty of the trails kept me going. I wouldn't have been able to do it in an urban course!
  • I also participated in Strolling Jim (41.2 miles/~66 kms), one of the oldest ultramarathons in the US and got to rub shoulders with the great "Laz" lake and Harvey Lewis;
  • I also methodically peeled the layers to an ultra - gear, nutrition, electrolytes, training, strength, mobility, stretching, recovery, balance work and have been working on improving each of those areas in this past year!
  • I've been privileged to be training with Eli & Tabor Hemming who run Aerobic Monsters coaching. They are accomplished mountain runners and Coach Tabor recently became the US Mountain Running champion. Both Tabor and Eli will be representing the US National team in the upcoming World Mountain Running championships in Thailand later in the year! They have been great to work with and I have learned a lot from them!

 

That's my journey over the past year from Georgia to Lapland!! I want to say I am prepared for Lapland, but knowing Carlos, all of us fully expect some "gotchas" along the course. So as we say in the running community, I will respect the course and take what it has to give me!

 

Stay tuned for more updates!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments: Total (1) comments

Marco Grobbelaar

Posted On: 09 Aug 2022 10:44 am

Awesome story, Narayan. Looking forward to meet up at the race again and share some stories.