La Ultra, the High 333 km. Yes, it is POSSIBLE

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Date – 26 Aug 18. Time – 3.15 PM. Place- Right on top of Tanglang La (17500 ft approximately), the highest pass between Leh and Manali. Three of us; self, Ritu (my wife) and Rigzin (my second crew) completely drained both physically and mentally due to three sleepless nights since 23rd Aug. We arrived at the top, amidst cheers of La Ultra volunteers and organising team. Winds on top were picking up and temperature sliding down. There was no time to give Hi 5s and celebrate summiting of third Pass in three days. Journey was far from over. We had 2 hrs 45 minutes to cover 2500 ft descent spread over 19.5 km. ”Will we make it to Finish Line by 6.00 PM”?, was the only question on our minds, including Maj Ajay Beriwal (an Army doctor who paced me to the top). I was confident that 19.5 km in 2.45 hrs is easily doable. Anyone who can run a half marathon in decent time will think so. After a few sips of fruit juice and handful of nuts / dry fruits we set out to complete the last leg of this epic journey. I needed a speed of 7.5-8 km/ hr to make it safely to Mori Plains (Finish Line of 333 km). I never had any doubts that I would not make it. Around 2 km ahead, down along the curvy route I could see Ashish and his team moving at the same pace as I was. Munish and Mandeep were nowhere in sight. Probably by now they were already celebrating the success of Indian Ultra Running. And what a moment of Pride!! We must have had first Indian completing 333 km by now (either Munish or Mandeep). Mere thought of it made me step out faster and longer so that I could be part of this amazing journey of Indian Ultra runners. Body wanted to move, mind said, “yes, move on and finish it”. But suddenly legs refused to lift higher than a few inches and move farther than a foot with each step. Though it was all downhill but the altitude was still 16000+ ft. Lungs were not getting enough oxygen, muscles were fatigued and numb. Team Ashish disappeared slowly after a long curve (he would ultimately finish just about 30 seconds before the cut-off). I could see Brigid, a volunteer from Germany at La Ultra, trekking/jogging ahead of us and signalling to me to move faster. I wish, I could.

After around one hour I had covered only about 7 km and I knew things were going to be tougher. Rigzin came out to pace me when the crew doctor who was pacing me decided to take a break. But she found me irritatingly slow. She complained, “sir आप भागते ही नहीं हो। पहले आपको पानी पीना है फिर थोड़ी देर में break लेना है। How will you finish”? And she was right. I did not know whether l should eat, hydrate or take a break. Mind was numb and mere sight of my crew running along with me irritated me. They have been motivating and running with me for almost three days now. But my mind wanted a change, change in style of motivating and pacing. चलो, भागो, आप कर सकते हो। बहुत अच्छा कर रहे हो, थोड़ा सा कर लो और, इतना सारा तो हो गया” was working fine with me till about 250 km but these words were getting on my nerves now. My wife, seeing my pace during those two hours wanted to kick me hard (you know where) but she knew she too didn’t have the energy to do so!! At around 10 km to finish line I saw Chetan coming towards us. I still had one and half hours to complete. Chetan said, “just after the next turn you will find 5 km mark”. Some relief, it was!! And he started jogging with me. I thought I was going to make it as time was around 4.45 PM. I increased my pace to give it one last push. Winds had picked up, temperature was down to 4-5 deg C, sun was hiding behind brown and barren hills but despite the best efforts road seemed never-ending. The elusive 5 km mark was nowhere in sight. Finally saw that 5 km mark at 5.25 PM!! “Oh my God!! Was I sooo slow or Chetan hid the actual distance to boost my morale”?? Anyways, target had been revised. New target was almost 6 minutes/ km pace if I was to finish!! I didn’t know whether to give it my best or just forget it. I decided to take the challenge. But the Finish Point seemed to be moving further and further with every ticking second and every ‘baby step’ I was taking. Sadness on the faces of my crew was evident. Some tears were already flowing down (mine were still under control)!! Ultra running teaches you to control your emotions!! I increased my speed a bit but we all knew it was not enough. Turn after turn and still we could not see the Finish line. Desperation and sadness was all around. So close yet sooo far!!! Time was around 5.54 PM and we still had around 2 km to cover. From here only person who could make it to Finish line by 6.00 PM was Kipchoge!!!

Finally, my stop watch showed 72:00:00. THIS WAS IT! Ah, Oh,,, We could not make the cut off! By now many members of the crew had joined us for the last mile. Running changed to jogging, jogging to slow jogging and then I decided to walk and reflect upon my journey of last 72 hours. We jogged the last 100 mtrs towards the Finish line. Someone tried to hand over the Tri-colour to me but I had no sense to hold it and run. I just wanted to thank everyone and hug my crew.

That’s when I thought to myself – Life is not about how long you live but it’s all about how well you live during this journey. Similarly, La Ultra 333 km may have a cut-off time but it’s not at all about the time one takes to finish this journey. It’s all about how well we covered this distance and how well three of us lived those 72 hours. All the sadness and disappointment disappeared for a moment on crossing the finish line, meeting other three finishers and excellent crew members of La Ultra. There were tears, cheers, joy, clapping and lots of hugs. Sun was setting somewhere behind the mountains but the disappearing sunrays were giving the message, ‘Sun has given its best during those 12 hrs and will shine again tomorrow morning with same vigour and energy!!! Every day is a new day.

Final Moments captured!!

How much is 333 km?

The first and most important thing one has to remember before attempting 333 km at La Ultra is that 333 is neither 111×3 nor 222+111. It is much more than that, both physically and mentally. Having done 72 km, 111 km, 222 km during the last three years and now attempting 333 km, I have learnt that every distance, if one has to cover with utmost sincerity and best efforts, is equally tough and demanding. My first ultra run at Ladakh through Khardung La (72 km in 2015) was as tough and demanding as 333 km through Khardung la, Wari la and Tanglang la. Of course, for 333 km body and mind has to endure for three days which made it an unique and memorable experience.

Never Thought it was POSSIBLE, Never Thought I would Do it

When I finished 222 km in Aug 17, I was asked if I would run 333 km. I had stayed non-committal and in my mind I had decided not to attempt 333 km as it did NOT seem possible.

I never began serious training for 333 km. It was always weekly mileage of 70-80 km during the last 10 months. Of course, I had the opportunity to run Paradise trails ultra 101 km in Goa in Nov 17 and Run the Ran 161 km in Gujarat (Dholavira) in Feb 18. Both these runs are beautiful, unique and extremely demanding, both mentally and physically. Having qualified for Boston marathon during TMM 18 I was thinking of doing well in FMs and HMs so that I could give my best at Boston 2019. So there were no plans to run any ultra after Feb 18.

Memorable run at’ Run the Rann’- Feb 18

Unplanned but That’s How it Began

Indian Navy team for La Ultra 111 & 222 km was being formed. No one thought of Navy’s participation in 333 km though two of us, Lt Cdr Amit and I were qualified to attempt 333 km, having finished La Ultra 222 km in 2017.

In the last week of June, in spur of the moment I decided to run Mashobra trail 80 km Tuffman event. It was a weekend race. Delhi heat was too much to bear. (I had moved to Delhi permanently and family was still in Mumbai). So I took the night bus to Shimla on Friday night and landed at Mashobra next day. Managed to finish 80 km in 10+ hrs.

On reaching Delhi I came to know that many friends from La Ultra 2017 were attempting 222 & 333 in 2018. So I too decided to register my name for 333 km. Though training was inadequate and having come to Delhi only a month back I was terribly missing the running community, humidity and routes of Mumbai. Delhi heat made it almost impossible for me to train for La Ultra. But I somehow managed to maintain minimum training standards.

Having observed runners who ran 222 & 333 km during the last two editions of La Ultra, I knew that to do a good 222 or 333 km run one must spend at least three weeks in Ladakh, acclimatizing, training, running and trekking at a height of more than 15 to 16000 feet.

Delhi To Leh – Beginning of an Epic Journey

So with some training plan in place I left for Leh in the first week of Aug.

After spending around 30 hours getting acclimatized, small walks and small jogs were undertaken around Leh. I was very fortunate to have a very good friend; Ironman, excellent Yogi, artist and equally good dentist Dr Aditya Sahu as my room mate, who not only kept my spirits high but also shared many interesting gossips of Running World!

With Aditya – Running on the Streets of Mumbai

Training at Leh

A few days after I landed at Leh, rest of the naval team too arrived. After two days of acclimatization, some running practice in and around Leh, we commenced our trek to Base Camp of Stok Kangri. It took us two days to reach the BC. On reaching BC our team climbed further towards Advance Base Camp and gained a height of about 17000+ ft. Proper acclimatization and height gain of this nature is extremely necessary if one has to participate in a grueling race like La Ultra. Though such treks and climbs are very tiring as one has to keep moving for 8-10 hrs with 15-20 kg load on the back, but recovery is very very fast. Three days’ trek was followed by couple of days’ rest at Leh which were utilised to visit Sangam and Gurudwara Pathar Sahib ji. Now, literally we had left no stone in Ladakh untouched and unturned, including the holiest one. As last phase of training, our team moved to Start Point of La Ultra to run the entire 111 km route over the next 2.5 days.

Training Runs- Leh to Shey and Back

Training Runs in Leh City- Team Seeking Blessings of Lord Budha at Iconic Shanti Stupa Post Training

Acclimatization Trek to Advance BC of Stok Kangri

At Advance BC of Stok Kangri-Purrrfect Acclimatization

Trip to Gurudwara Pathar Sahib to Seek Blessings of Guru Nanak Dev ji!!

A Trip to Sangam to Witness Some Adrenaline Pumping Rafting (above and below)

Group pic with Team Captain, Capt. Rajesh Wadhwa (Standing, Second from Left) – A Picture to be Framed!

Group pics of Indian Army and Navy Teams- Some of the Best Runners at La Ultra are from Indian Army

Training on 111 km Route

We moved to Khalzang village on 14 Aug. Team set up camp slightly further from the Start Line of La Ultra in the afternoon and commenced running at about 6.00 PM. We completed around 23 km on the first day, 38 km next day and around 50+ km on the last day. I had to miss some part of the run due to upset stomach. Capt Wadhwa was the only one who ran every inch of the route. Team ran with national flags on 15 Aug and were cheered by many tourists and locals along the route. We set up our night camps at Rafting point near first cut-off point on 14 Aug and at North Pullu, slightly ahead of second cut-off point on 15 Aug. Team reached Leh on 16 Aug. Mental blocks and fear of unknown vanished from our minds during those three days. Everyone had seen the route including all the inclines and declines. The team was now more confident and more than ready to do a good run at La Ultra.

Route Familiarisation- At First Cut-off on 15 Aug morning

 

Official Briefing, Journey to Start Point and Flag-off

An elaborate briefing for all the participants was conducted two days prior to flag off. This is where we met some of the best runners from Indian Army and civil world.

All the runners were shifted to a beautiful resort near start point a day prior to flag off. Day of flag-off was spent leisurely, chatting, plucking apricots, checking gears for the last time, undergoing mandatory medical checks, clicking official and unofficial pics/videos and packing drop bags.

Mandatory Medical Checks on D-day – Maj Ajay monitoring BP

Finally, the runners were shifted to Start line at about 5.00 PM on 23 Aug.

Proud Naval Contingent with Naval Ensign in two pics below- Shano Varunah. (10 minutes before Flag-off).

Four Submariners – 4 minutes to Flag-off. Diving Now…Diving Now. ‘Depth’ 333 Kms, Inspect Compartments!!

I Love You Ladakh!

It was very heartening to see the entire village lined up at start line to cheer the runners. They had made special arrangements for offering tea and snacks to all of us. Such a lovely gesture and such nice, simple people of Ladakh!! That’s why I love Ladakh. This year, unlike earlier editions of La Ultra, the race started at 6.00 PM. There was enough daylight available and temperature was also comfortable. So it was a perfect start for all of us!! Just miling and smiling.

With the ‘Coolest and Strongest’ Jeet. Thanks bro for Pacing!

Journey Begins and Goes on Regardless

Many of us reached the first cut off (20+km) with one to one and half hours in hand. I still remembered having reached North and South Pullu cut-off points last year during my 222 km run only a few minutes before the cut-off. So objective this time was to stay ahead, in control and save time rather than energy. As dusk made way for night, temperature started dipping. I had started the race in half sleeve t-shirt. At first cut-off I took out my head light, gloves and additional jacket. Though one gains considerable height from Start to North Pullu, it’s all gradual and not very tough. Of course, lack of sleep and cold make things difficult. Maintaining a good pace and still feeling fresh I reached the second cut-off (North Pullu) at about 2.30 AM (with 1.30 hrs in hand). This is the most crucial and elusive cut-off point, road to which seems unending. Since it’s your first day of running in almost zero temperature at midnight at a height of 14000+ ft, body needs time to accept it. If one has physical and mental endurance he/she should aim to save at least one hour on reaching North Pullu. A cup of hot soup and quick massage by crew members and I set out to embrace Khardung La. As always, sleep deprivation, time of the day (early morning) and height gain made climb to Khardung top very challenging. I always try not to run this stretch and this time too I covered those 15 kms walking/ brisk walking.

I took me around 3.30 hours to reach Khardung La top. It is advisable to go slow while climbing from North Pullu to Khardung top so that body acclimatises well, if not already acclimatised. It is also most challenging time as you have been sleepless for more than 22 hrs, early morning temperature is almost zero and you are gaining height. It is extremely important that you fight that urge to take a nap till you reach the top and start going down towards South Pullu. Nap, if you need it, must be taken after you have gone down considerably. Though I don’t consume chocolates or coffee while running but stretch like this is the right place for consuming coffee or eating your favourite chocolates.

I still remember how I managed to reach South Pullu last year, just 4 minutes before the cut-off and no one was sure if I would make it. My wife was almost in tears. However, my arrival at South Pullu this time was very very comfortable. I was there at 9.15 AM, 01 hour and 45 minutes before the cut-off. This was a huge relief for all of us.

Once my crew was in sight and I knew that next cut-off was 24 hrs to complete first 111 km. We were relieved and relaxed. After a quick bite of breakfast we headed for Leh (Shanti Stupa) which was finish point of 111 km with 24 hrs cut-off for 222 & 333 runners.

We covered the entire route to Shanti Stupa easily.

Racer and Pacers (for both 222 & 333 km) – With Rigzin and Ritu

Training together, Running Together – My Pacer at La Ultra and for Life!

Day 2

After half an hour rest, quick lunch and a round of massage by my crew we resumed our journey to Karu. Though experts advise to take a nap at Leh but since none of us was sleepy we decided to move on regardless. Journey to Karu and from there to about 3 km before Serthi junction was uneventful, boring, monotonous and mentally tiring. It’s flat road which passes through small, sleepy villages. Out of two, one of my crew members was with me on road most of the time. The scariest part of this stretch is when you reach Karu town shortly after midnight and roars of stray dogs along with Indus river gushing past sink your heart. Temperature here further dips by a couple of degrees. Though it is a big town but not a single soul could be seen there at midnight. Of course, Army jawans guarding the gates of Army bases in and around Karu were alert and awake.

Unlike last year, road from Karu to Serthi (10-11 km) was in much better shape this time.

Around 3+ km from Serthi junction I had a glass of water and took handful of dates and then along with my wife continued to jog towards Serthi guest house. Though it was my second year running on this route, I had absolutely no idea about the exact route to Serthi guest house and we were relying on our driver’s knowledge.

First Fiasco

As we both moved ahead driver of our crew vehicle decided to stop there for a brief nap. We thought he will catch up in 10-15 minutes. We reached Serthi junction at about 2.30 AM. But there was no sign of our vehicle. Though we had run this route last year too but we were totally clueless about location of Serthi guest house, next cut-off point. At Serthi junction, at 2.30 AM in sub-zero temperature without water and extra clothing, not knowing where to go or what to do we were waiting for the vehicle to come and guide us. Even our mobile phones were in the vehicle.

One option was to go down (back) 03 km and wake him up but then we thought it’s not worth it. He should be here in next 10-15 minutes. But time was almost 3.30 AM and there was no sign of our vehicle. We were shivering and waiting. We spotted the bib of one of the 222 km runners on roadside and realised that he had reached there and gone elsewhere to come back and resume the run from there. In fact, I would have also left my bib there, gone back to wake up the driver and come back to this point in the vehicle to resume our run. (It is allowed by the rules). But at that time this idea did not strike us and we both (husband and wife) continued to wait, curse, suffer and shiver together!!!

Nightmare Ends

Luckily at about 3.30 AM we saw crew vehicle of 222 km runner Nischint Katoch and followed him to the guest house. Let me tell you, I found Nischint the strongest and best runner amongst all of us attempting 222 & 333 km distances.

We reached the guest house by 4.00 AM but our plan of reaching Serthi early and taking two hours nap till about 5.00 AM was ruined. WE NEVER THOUGHT THAT TIME LOST WAITING AT SERTHI WOULD PROVE TO BE SO CRUCIAL IN THE END!! But this kind of mishaps can happen with anyone during such kind of adventures. I am sure other runners too faced similar situations during their journey and they overcame them bravely.

To Second (Worry) La and Back

After quick 30-40 minutes nap, (though we all were slightly weary and sleepy) we decided to head for the next Summit of our journey, Wari La which is about 30 km up at a height of 17400+ feet. Most of the journey to Wari La is on good road and has gradual climb. Last 3-4 km are tough as route becomes rough and climb steeper. Last stretch of 02 km to Wari La top seems like 20 km. However, with so much time in hand we made it to the top well within cut-off. This is where most of 222 & 333 km runners saw each other for the first time after the flag-off.

Running up to Wari La – in 2017 for 222 km

Lunch Break – Ever Caring Crew, Rigzin. We are sooo Grateful to her!

Worrisome Moments after ‘WorryLa

I don’t know how, but most of us had to sprint down to make it to 222 km cut-off just in time. It’s very very tricky route and despite having sufficient time in hand almost everyone was running against time to complete 222 km within 48 hrs. Most of us completed between 47.30- 47.45 hrs. It seems everyone miscalculated the journey to Wari La and back!!

Ready for the Last 111 kms- Complete Carbo Loading and Awesome Physiotherapy

Despite having lost one hour in the morning we were charged up and happy that two third of the distance was over. We were welcomed into coziness of Serthi guest house. It was time to take a good massage and physiotherapy. For the first time in my running ‘career’ I saw two small blisters on my feet. This happened because I wore brand new pair of socks and probably some sand went into my shoes. Blisters were quickly and nicely treated by the doctors. Thanks to excellent massaging and physiotherapy by Major Ajay Beriwal, my legs and entire body felt extremely fresh. This was also the place where after two days we could eat a complete meal consisting of hot soup, rice, daal and some Ladakhi delicacies. We call it ‘ Carbo Loading’.

To Lato Guest House via Karu

Now the next big target was Lato village via Karu town. So at about 8.00 PM we were ready to resume our journey. Other 333 km runners were still resting/recovering and their crew members very very busy planning every kilometer and every hour of next 20-22 hours. We had made no such plans (in the hindsight I think we should have done it). We were also mighty impressed with the crew teams of other three runners. Very experienced, meticulous and dedicated!!

Second Fiasco

We were feeling fresh and enough Carbs had been loaded by all of us. We were off to a good start. Everyone was fresh and well rested. Here ‘We’ means my crew and I.

However, our driver decided to disappear once again!!! This time my wife was in the vehicle and Rigzin was running with me. Our mobiles were again inside the vehicle. Time was around 10.00 PM. I had given very clear instructions to driver to stop every two kms and wait for me. It had been almost 45 minutes since we started running and our driver and vehicle were nowhere on the road. We both were actually running at good pace. We were not sure whether we were on the right track. But we kept running for another half an hour as it was a straight road to Karu. Luckily we met race organisers’ vehicle en route (Mark Woolley was in the vehicle). Time was around midnight. Using their mobile phone I called my wife. To my horror, she told me that driver had diverted the vehicle to a tea shop in a small village as he wanted to have tea. I was literally fuming!!! Somehow I managed to maintain my sanity and controlled my anger. It was extremely unprofessional behaviour but nothing much could be done at that stage. Imagine at midnight driver elopes to a remote village for a cup of tea with your wife in the vehicle!! And you are running on the road sleepless for more than 50 hours and temperature dipping to almost zero!!!

ADVENTUROUS, isn’t it??

My New Crew on Leh-Manali Highway and Severe Sleeplessness

Anyways, somehow we effected an R/V with our driver and continued our journey. Yes, I forgot to mention that at Serthi Chetan Sehgal (la Ultra team) told me that he would stay with me till Lato guest house. They probably realised that our crew strength was inadequate and both the ladies needed some respite and rest. It gave immense relief to all of us, especially my crew because now they both could rest/ sleep. Karu onwards Chetan took on the responsibility of pacing and keeping me awake. Journey from Karu to Lato is on the national highway (Leh-Manali). It’s nice flat road with very few inclines. However, Indus river flows right next to the road and sleeplessness and drowsiness sometimes took me very close to the river bank. But the noise of gushing, roaring river kept me awake and alert. It was third night of sleeplessness!!!

Chetan maintained pace with me through most of the night. I took 2-3 quick naps of 15 minutes each while he patiently waited for me. Towards early morning he told his vehicle driver Tony to pace me while he drove the vehicle. The biggest advantage of all this was that both my crew members could get good sleep of 4-5 hours. Ever grateful to Chetan and Tony for this!!

Lato Guest House

In between I saw Munish Dev jogging past me. I tried to keep pace with him but could not.

I don’t remember when Mandeep went past me. Most of the time my eyes were half shut while running from Karu to Lato!! If I remember correctly, Ashish reached Lato guest house immediately before or after me. On reaching Lato I was told that Munish was going very strong and had left the guest house almost an hour ago!!!

While I was stretching outside the guest house, we saw Mandeep not being able to bend his legs and was supported by his crew to his room for a session of physiotherapy and stretching. I must say, at that moment I was really worried for him. But hats off to doctors / physios in the La Ultra team and Mandeep’s extremely meticulous and dedicated crew that within 15-20 minutes he was back on his legs and ready to conquer the last challenge, Tanglang La. While I finished my breakfast after a quick washroom break (there was no time to take a quick nap!!) and excellent massage / physiotherapy by team La Ultra, Mandeep was ready to fly towards finish point. He is a tough, extremely dedicated and very strong ultra runner. When after about 30-40 minutes I came out to commence the last leg of this epic journey, we found ‘Team Ashish’ moving around in the guest house and Team Mandeepp had left around 15 minutes earlier.

Physically, like all of us Ashish too seemed to be tired, exhausted and drained, but in very high spirits. His crew, including his brother (Col in Army) were around him giving him much needed motivation and support.

Lato to Tanglang La Top

After saying ‘hi and bye’ to Team Ashish we left the guest house knowing fully well that Ashish would catch up with us sooner than later. His walking style is excellent. He walks with long and steady strides while going uphill. These ‘walks’ were much better than my ‘runs’ under those conditions.

Short break at Lato was rejuvenating and first 10-12 km towards Tanglang La are on flat road. We covered them well, meeting locals, chatting, jogging or running most of the distance. Total distance from Lato to top is about 45 km and other 19+ km to finish line from there. After about 13-14 km Ashish and his crew caught up with us. At this point the climb towards top had commenced and I had started walking. Ashish was also walking but with much longer and better strides. Though there was no chance of meeting Munish till we reached finish line, even Mandeep was out of sight. He had probably almost caught up with Munish as they both finished within four minutes of each other, Munish being the first one.

Race Director had told us that the last Pass would be the most elusive one and seems never ending. His words were seeming real and genuine now!!!

The Pass was on our right side but we were moving and climbing to left through winding roads and steep slopes. Gradually, Ashish started moving out of sight. I would see him once or twice again before meeting him at Finish line.

This was the time when we all felt the ‘heat’ and had some doubts about finishing within 72 hours. Till this point and even on reaching Tanglang top, I was pretty sure that I would complete well within 72 hours. Lack of a good pacer & motivator and additional crew members was being felt by all of us. Because all three of us were in almost same physical and mental state. Here Major Ajay Beriwal, one of the doctors of La Ultra crew joined us along with another doc whose name I am forgetting now. They both took the responsibility of pacing me up. I must say Ajay’s style of pacing and motivating was unique and excellent. We took one kilometre at a time and targeted the distance and time. There were fast kms and ‘not so fast’ kms but no slow kms. Both the doctors kept our spirits and ‘josh’ high till we reached the top of Tanglang La at about 3.15 PM. It was the leadership of an Army man! I tried to follow Ajay as much as I could. And with two doctors with me I could take the risk of moving faster than what my body permitted me. I have no words to thank Chetan, Tony and both the doctors for the support they provided us from Karu to Lato, for the final climb to Tanglang La and beyond that.

Last 19.5 kms

There was no time to celebrate on reaching the summit of last La. Immediately we were on our way down towards the Finish Line which was some 19 kms down.

Major Ajay, I was told, became slightly unwell because of very quick height gain and exhaustion while pacing me.

Sadly, Ajay could not accompany us for the last 19-20 km. Though other doctor remained with us for some more time and we tried to maintain the tempo. Height at that point was still more than 16000 feet. Though I was going down slope but muscles and lungs were crying for a little more oxygen and rest. Despite all our efforts legs were refusing to lift and move more than a couple of feet with every step.

Going Down to Morri Plains-Last ‘Few’ Kilometres

Sun was going down and so was the hope of making it within 72 hours. Target of 333 km was finally achieved but of course not the way we all would have expected it to. I don’t know whether we were sad or happy. Probably, happier than sadder as this was one huge leap in ultra running in India.

This Pic Has No Title – Millions of Emotions Cannot be Expressed in a Few Words

Three superbly fit, strong and tough Indians have proved beyond any doubts that a distance of 333 km through this kind of terrain can be covered within 72 hours. Now we are waiting for the first Indian woman to conquer 222 & 333 km challenges and first Indian to complete 555!!

Finally, if someone asks me the reasons for exceeding the target by 20 odd minutes, I will sum up like this:-

Crew: You can’t do 333 km with only two crew members. We were the team with the least resources and members. By the end of second day all of us felt the need to have a couple of more crew members who could not only pace, motivate, decide on my eating, hydration, running and rest strategy but also give some good massage and physiotherapy. With two crew members you can do 222 but 333 is a different ball game. My crew felt helpless towards the end. We could all see the misery on each other’s faces during those last 10 hours. For three finishers of 333 km, I will not applaud the runners alone. Each member of their crew deserves a huge APPLAUSE! The teams achieved it together.

Crew at Work- Team Ashish (below)

Even I would not have reached the finish line but for unflinching support of Rigzin and my wife during those unforgettable 72 hours. We all were stretched beyond our physical, mental and emotional limits.

Emotionally and Physically Drained – Three of Us at Finish Line (above and below)

Second reason could be lack of training. I had not made up my mind till mid-Jun to attempt 333 km. Serious training started in end-Jun ie only less than two months before La Ultra. Shifting to Delhi in mid-Jun and not being able to cope up with the kind of heat and pollution Delhi throws at you, pushed the preparations back. Notwithstanding all this, there are reasons for every failure and success. There are no excuses for not working hard and success doesn’t come as a miracle. A failure makes us as strong and humble as an astounding success would make us. Failures are the stepping stones to reach the pinnacle of success.

Let’s work hard together for the next challenge life throws at us. Till then keep running and inspire the world around you.

Jai Hind

Author: runninghandas

I am an amateur runner with more than a decade's experience in running short distances (10 km), half marathons, full marathons and number of ultra distances too. For a living, I serve the nation in spotless white uniform. Through my blogs I will share my running experience in simple language with you all so that it may benefit everyone and inspire each one of you to achieve good health, happiness and might motivate and inspire many of you to explore the limitlessness of human body and mind.

21 thoughts on “La Ultra, the High 333 km. Yes, it is POSSIBLE”

  1. I was glued from the first word till the last.. Your writing made me experience every step that you took, every fear, every feeling, that you were able to put in words and even what you did not pen down.. felt the cold winds in my living room.. bravo commander.. our very own ultra man. Brilliant writing.. hats off to you, Ritu and your crew .. complete respect 🙏🏻🙏🏻

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much ma’am. So many words of praise coming from you is BIG inspiration for all of us. You have always surprised us with your grit, determination and unthinkable endurance. Keep smiling and miling, ma’am. Best regards.

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  2. Excellent account of the valiant effort. Sincere narration and pearls of wisdom washed with the water of truth and experience. Sunil, hats off. Let me know if you want me as your crew for 333Km. You shall overcome.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sir, very elaborate and descriptive.. could feel each and every word you have written.. missing cut off by just 22 mins brought tears in my eyes too..but hats off to you and ma’am for completing this nearly impossible run..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sir you ,your wife and Rigzin, those moUntains and your journey.i have lived this impossible Jourmey through your eyes..i may never be able to do what u did but i hv lived vicariously through your bravery and that of your team..JAI HIND.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Manisha ma’am. Your words have inspired me to work harder and inspire many more to dream and achieve what may seem impossible. Pursue your dreams vigorously and Universe will connive to make them POSSIBLE! Regards.

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  5. Sir, thank you so much for penning down your experience. It certainly made me teary-eyed but so very inspired. I bow to Rigzin, your wfe, you and all the other teams that attempted this adventure. This, in deed, is a giant leap for India ultra running scene. Jai Hind!!!

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  6. Excellent write up Sunil Handa Sir.
    Would be doing 55 km in La Ultra-THE High on their 10th anniversary edition.
    See you than.
    Jai Hind
    Regards
    SUHAG Bhupi
    9523229488

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hello Sir, what an inspirational journey of life you’ve had!
    I was totally glued reading this amazing blog so exceptionally written…..literally choked at places imagining the emotions that y’ll experienced…..
    A huge applause to your crew, wife and you Sir.
    Jai Hind

    Like

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