Monday, April 2, 2012

Team EnduroLimits: Hiccups and Reassurances

This blog has moved to; i am however, pasting it here as well for anyone who logs in here by force of habit.

"Oh, crewing?! I know crewing. When you are running at Brazil-135 or thereafter at Badwater, I run ahead of you and keep teasing you so that you run faster and finish in the least possible time," said the nth person I was speaking to. "Well, not exactly." I interjected. What you are talking about might be included in pacing by expanding the definition of pacing, but this is not crewing. Pacing is a small part of crewing. Crewing is much, much more." "Oh yes! I know," this person went on. Obviously my interrupting him had not been taken too kindly. "Now shut up and listen." That was my mind ordering me. "Oh yes! I know," he repeated "Even when I am not running with you, I will still have to be with you as a part of the race. Only, I will be sitting in the car till my turn to run with you comes again. We'll be in a group, won't we? I'll be a party. How many people in the crew?" "Six" I answered since I was asked, struggling to not say one hundred and ninety so that it would sound like a nice, big party that this guy wanted. "Oh, Great!! This should be fun. You pay for the trip to Brazil and the US, right?" By now, I was desperate to get off the phone. I had answered n-1 calls before this and it took all the patience that I had to politely round off the conversation and end the call. Everything was telling me to hurl the choicest of abuses and hang up.

The passage above is a general description of the calls I got in response to an earlier blog post of mine where I had asked people interested in crewing to contact me. (So disgusted was I by the phone calls that the few emails that came in also did not get answered.) Finally, realization struck that those who might be good crew weren't going to call. a list of 12'ideal teammates' was drawn up and they were contacted. Eight of them accepted, four declined. There hasn't been a need to approach another four in place of those who declined. There are one or two persons on the list; just that I have been too caught up with other things to call them up and get them on board. The crew of eight is, for now, a team of nine. It was decided that the name of my blog was best suited as the name of the team. So Team EnduroLimits it was. The members are:

Kavitha Kanaparthi (Crew Chief)
Brijesh Gajera
Anand Venkatraman
Nikhil Shah
Yogesh Chavan
Sandeep Srivastava
Vivek Prasad
Rajesh Vetcha
Vishwas Bhamburkar

My job is the easiest. I do what I do everyday, which is run long distances, climb stairs and (maybe I should get down to listening to some teammates after all) go to the gym, cycle, and do yoga. During an event, I start running at the start line and do not stop moving till I have crossed the finish line.

Once the tam was in place, began the real challenge. The stages of team development as described by Bruce Tuckman - forming, storming, norming and performing all played out perfectly. That was expected and wasn't the challenge at all. The challenge was to sft through the nervous energy and the emails and to find a method in the madness. As emails flew thick and fast about everything, the website, my blog, the functions of the team, allocation of responsibilities, the IT strategy, setting up group emails, setting up documents et al, we were also learning about crewing - all of us. Expectations were being revised, newer aspects were being introduced and, to use management jargon, the KRAs (Key Result Areas) for Team EnduroLimits were being defined. In the midst of this, the idea of doing a 200k to start off the training sessions came up. Originally scheduled for the 10th of March, we decided to postpone it.

Cut to 20th March, 2012. The run was on, scheduled to start on the midnight of the 23rd and had a time limit of 48 hours. There were going to be only two crew members, Nikhil and Yogesh, as also Kaustubh and Kiran, but since the latter two were not a part of Team EnduroLimits, they were not included in the calculations for the training run and how it would go. After all, the run had to be about the performance of Team EnduroLimits and so, taking Kiran and Kaustubh's contribution would not give us a proper report of the performance of Team EnduroLimits. As I spoke to Kavitha, she told me to enjoy the run. Both of us were of the opinion that a 200k was a near impossibility. Even a 100k was far-fetched. A 50k was more realistic. Again and again I had to keep telling myself that I had to enjoy the run witout looking at the distance.

As the run started, I ran the first 50k, crawled the next 50k and called it quits at 106k. Why? Simply because we made a lot of mistakes, expected, unexpected, forced and unforced. It was a new team. And out of that new team, only Yogesh and nikhil were crewing for me. Neither of them had any prior experience of crewing. I relied on them the way I would rely on an experienced crew, forgetting completely that they were doing this for the first time. Increased salt intake right from the start (so that even if we forgot later, it wouldn't cause me any trouble) saw me battling stomach issues at around the 50k mark. Not having enough rest (the concept of rest in course of a 200k ultra is very different from rest during a marathon) saw me struggling to keep up with even the minimum pace required and not having coolers with us in that heat ensured I had boiling water and energy drinks. I quit at the 106k mark when I realized that I had run the latter 50k on just about 4 liters of total fluid and my continuing like that would only invite a total collapse.

On the other hand, a lot of things worked out fantastically well. There were regular updates on the run. I was being given feedback from team memners who were not running so had the advantage of a detached viewer. There wasn't one dull moment during the entire run. Nikhil christening me 'Running Baba' who wouldn't talk, but would only give my blessings to fellow runners, Yogesh's dirty jokes, Kiran's embarassment when I pointed out things which were blasphemous due to misprints and the general chatter with Kaustubh made the run a great one.

Team EnduroLimits might be new, but we're learning fast. The errors of this run will not be repeated. The run was a test for the crew. Their commitment to the team is very visible. So is the willingness to learn. And the humility to accept that mistakes were made.

The internal discussions of the team will certainly make for a juicy blog post. But that remains an internal discussion and is not open for public debate.

This brings me to the end of this post. The next one will be a report of the 100-miler at Thar which I attempt on Friday, 6th April.