On her return to India post the 100K World Championships held at Berlin, Nupur sat down with us to share her race experience. Nupur spoke about her learnings from the intense training & racing experience and also described what was an almost cinematic ‘race-day’ for us. Further we spoke about her racing & fuelling strategy along with her future plans.
Nupur clocked a time of 8:52:12; although not the performance she had trained for she still managed to pull through and cross the finish line at 57th place overall. It was her first time representing India where she was part of a team of 4 Indian women.
Nupur, what were your expectations going into the race?
Expectations were very high as one would guess. It’s no small stage, I was part of the Indian team at the World Championships. Wearing the Blue with India on the back is such a huge honour and responsibility. It was my first experience of running at an international level with so many runners. I felt goosebumps at the start line with over 500 runners from 45+ countries, the bests from each. All lean, toned, and crazy fit; being alongside those runners felt like an achievement in itself which it is. The image that comes to mind is when in ‘Chak-de-India’ the Indian team looks at international athletes with all wide eyes and lost faces.
Can’t thank NEB sports, AFI and Ageas federal, Adiga sir enough, for making it possible and putting their trust in us.
How do you think you did and what are your learnings?
I am happy with my performance. I didn’t get the result I had hoped for but still it was a great run with many learnings. Like most ultra-runs for me even this one was filled with so many mixed emotions. It started with great joy and exhilaration in the beginning, running along the fittest athletes from around the world, I even got carried away for the 1st 2-3kms running at a way higher pace than what I had planned. But, then I was back to my rhythm maintaining a steady pace for the next 5-6 hrs. Everything felt perfect- good weather, flat course, runners for company and the cheerful crowd every few kilometres. Unfortunately, the last 2-3hrs turned out to be sort of a nightmare, when things came down crashing on me.
For context, I had trained very hard and religiously for this race. A very structured training probably for the first time with the guidance of Coach Ash Nath. After an amazing 7-8 weeks of training, and the last long training run at race pace, I was at my fittest and very high on energy. But then started this nagging pain in my heel, which actually turned out to be plantar fasciitis. With just 3 weeks to go, I took it very easy, did some strengthening exercises and gave it time to heal before the big race. I avoided runs completely and only cycled to train. The motivation and fitness at least in my mind crashed and the pinching pain didn’t go away anyway. After a consultation with Dr. Chandan Chawla, I found a hope that I can still do good in the race without making the condition worse. He suggested me to run with a pain killers if need be (not a recommendation). I had mentally prepared myself to just go out there and do my best and face whatever comes…
I gave it my all, and feel happy to execute the race I had in mind to some extent. After all it was a big platform, and I had to try. Definitely, there’s a huge scope for improvement in terms of execution and I’m still learning.
Can you describe race day for us? What was it like?
Race day! I could not have asked for better conditions, perfect weather – cold, cloudy, misty, flat tar road and so many runners to keep me on my toes throughout. Every time we crossed the aid station areas, it felt amazing to hear all the cheering and hooting, the running community in such races is so refreshing. The course was a 7.5km loop; approximately 3km straight to & fro and the last 1km passing the aid station and finish line area.
The Indian women’s team felt strong, with a good chance of coming in top 5 as a team. Jyoti took the lead from start on, running a phenomenal race. If only the rest of us could have backed her up with a good timing…
Talk to us a little bit about the race strategy that you went in with…
With my coach, we had set eyes on a sub-8 or an 8.15, being very realistic with a solid training block to back it up. I was on a high and with the doctor’s confident words, I was all in to give my best.
I felt super strong on race day and perfectly executed the race plan that I had in mind and the one I had trained for, for the first 6hrs. The first 4 hours I ran steady, maintaining a pace between 4:45-4:50 min/km and a HR within 155-158 bpm; taking it a bit easy for the next 2 hours by slowing the pace to 4:55-5:00 min/km and then pushing it all, in the last 2 hours.
In terms of nutrition, I had an hourly calorie intake goal of 250cals through gels, hydration mix, boiled potatoes and dates. Since here the loops were smaller, I was to cross an aid station every 38-40 mins, and I had planned to take breathers of 5-15 secs every loop, giving me enough time to replenish without missing. I was taking swallows of gels through a small bottle at aid stations and a small salted boiled potato with a 250ml hydration mix pouch to carry. There was a water station at the other end of the course where I took water on the go. I also took few dates, coke and another caffeinated drink towards the end.
The nutrition worked really well for me, without any gut discomfort throughout. I started my run with a pain killer in the morning and I had planned on taking one 5 hours into the race.
Once the effect of the dose wore off- the heel pain, calf strain all my aches along with fatigue and tiredness multiplied. At this point, my pace came tumbling down, it became harder and harder as it progressed. The crew was bewildered/ surprised when after 70km every time I reached the aid station and I told them- I’m sleepy wake me up! They helped me with coke and another caffeinated drink.
I am really happy to have managed to still finish the race in a decent time and have another great experience to learn from. Yes, it is disheartening when our hard efforts and training do not reflect in the results that we had hoped for on race day but that’s how running is with its ups and downs, a humbling reality of being an athlete.
What were your meals before, during and after the race?
Pre- The race was to start at 6:30 am and we had to leave the hotel at 4:30 am, which meant waking up at 3:30 in the morning. As per my plan, I had a bowl of overnight-soaked oats with nuts and seeds 2 hours prior to the start. I also had the Elite Beet- 420 mixed in 250 ml water.
During- During the race, the only whole foods that I had were potatoes and dates.
Post- Immediately post my run I consumed a 500ml of the Elite Recovery Mix along with some bananas as we were a long way to a proper meal.
Will you be attempting an ultra-distance anytime soon?
I am not planning an Ultra distance immediately, but maybe in the next 4-5 months. The 100K target is yet to be achieved- a sub 8hr finish. I will come back for it when I feel fit and ready again
What is the bigger picture for you, what are your future plans?
As of now, I am still recovering from the damages that the 100K cost me. During the run, subconsciously to avoid the heel pain my gait must have changed and I happened to have sprained my calf. On getting back, I contracted the viral too and the post symptoms are making it hard for a faster comeback. Running is still a little difficult, I am getting back to my rhythm slowly. My next goal would be to do better at the marathon distance. Doing a sub 3 marathon being the next big target.
Next race on your calendar?
I haven’t finalized a specific event yet. Coach and I are still figuring that out. Depending on my recovery moving forward I’ll plan the next race.
Lastly, any message/advice for athletes who want to train for an ultra- distance like a 100K.
Ultra-running is more than just the ‘Number in distance’. I personally don’t like ‘the more, the grander’ concept instead I believe in bettering my performance at each distance and then going longer. That way, I learn more about my strengths, fears, and nutrition. My body gets time to adapt thus avoiding unnecessary injuries. With this, there also comes unwavering confidence, which is applicable to both races and in life.
Read more on Nupur:
1. Ultramarathoning- The Mental Game with Nupur Singh
2. About Nupur: https://www.unived.in/athletes/nupur-singh/