June 22, 2018
My brother has been an avid participant in Devils Circuit ever since its inception. He tried a few times, I must say, rather unsuccessfully to take me along, but I was just too afraid of mud and dirt. Back then, I had no idea what I was missing out on.
I was always an athlete back in school and college and hit the gym religiously after that. But, in the absence of actual obstacles, nothing can entirely prepare you for race day at Devils Circuit.
On any regular day, a person focuses on one group of muscles for exercise (such as legs, core, arms etc.) or does a mix of all, or, taking it some notches higher, does HIIT (high intensity interval training). Multiply these by ten, and that’s the amount of effort it takes to make it to the finish line on the DC! And the cramps and sore muscles that follow the day after… phew!
On the face of it, there were 15 obstacles. But the track itself was a challenge. Having witnessed quite a few people struggling, I knew that one had to keep their eyes glued on the track. It is one thing to practice running in stadia and parks, but it is entirely another to run on a treacherous, rugged terrain.
I have been good at sprinting and tasks that require bursts of explosive energy. My problem lay in sustaining that level. And stamina can be built only with regular practice, and hence began the running schedule. From being able to complete only two laps (one lap=400m) without stopping, I slowly moved on to 20 non-stop and improved my timing also along the way. I alternated between running/jogging one day, and cross-training/strength training the next day. In the initial period, my training in mixed martial arts too helped a lot. It was from MMA that I learnt the importance of good technique. Being strong is good, but it’s not good enough if one can’t channelise it in the right manner. For instance, you may have a solid punch, but if you don’t know where to land it, or how to swing it, it won’t be as effective. Also, you learn an integrated, not isolated way of exercising. Again, in a punch, you don’t rely on the fist alone, but also your forearm, all the way back to your shoulder- this provides momentum, strength and distance to your attack.
So, whether it was climbing a rope, or scaling a wall, or crossing a pole, or the tarzan swing which gave me nightmares and more bruises than I can count, I had to work on my technique. Other than the very basic exercises and their many variations, I focused even more on plyometrics and hanging exercises. Monkey bars, dead hangs, hanging knees to elbows, hanging toes to hands- these were incorporated solely for Devils Circuit. But I realised that these should be a part of routine workout too. So, thanks to DC, my exercise schedule is now more varied and wholesome than ever! My mother proved to be my biggest support. She brought home long poles and thick ropes for me to practice. She even created a crude, but thoroughly accurate tarzan swing in the garden!
I must add that the whole process wasn’t easy. It takes a huge amount of effort to remain committed to a rigorous schedule. And with law classes and exams, even more so. The period of December ’16 and January ’17 was particularly harsh for me. Though I improved my running, but I was marred by injuries in both elbows. The right arm, being dominant, pained even more and bore the greater brunt. This was when I realised that I had been disregarding the ‘rest component’ of my workout schedule. At no point should one overwork themselves.
The races/events were all fun. From reaching the venue early morning to departing soaked and dirty, it was a mixed bag of sleeplessness, exhaustion, adrenaline rush, appreciation by strangers when I completed a particularly difficult one, the blaring music. Oh, how these past few months have flown by! I’ve made new friends, seen new places, taken home a rich trove of experiences (and often wounded, bleeding arms and fingers).
You can’t get “used to” the track at DC. It was different in every city- from the deluged one in Chennai to jumping over tree roots in Bannerghatta (Bangalore), to the sharp plant stalks in Ahmedabad, to the uphill track in Goa that had everyone panting, the trench-ridden ground in Noida and the shocking unevenness in Mohali, it did not fail to surprise.
The brain freeze got spectacularly tougher each time. For a first-time participant, a scream is normal. I shrieked too. But as soon as I thought that I was now mentally used to it, it graduated from being ice cold water to slabs of ice floating in the water and then packed with ice cubes with the density of packing increasing to such an extent that it became impossible to exert physical force against it. And the sharp edges cut hard (ouch!).
All in all, I have had an amazing albeit challenging time throughout the season. But the sweat, blood and tears were all worth it. As much as the excitement and thrill of being the winner, it was the fact that I came out stronger and tougher than I ever was, that makes me look back at this whirlwind of a tour and smile widely.