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Monday, May 16, 2016

TCS World 10k 2016 - A Report

Becoming a better runner

After my successful failures at SPBM and Bangalore Ultra last year, I was looking to get the joy back into my running. In Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance, Prisig, says “You want to know how to paint a perfect picture? It’s easy. Make yourself perfect and then paint naturally”. Borrowing that thought, to be a better runner, I decided to focus on the better part this year, and the run naturally.
And then with a young family, being flexible is paramount. I do 3 quality runs each week – an interval, a tempo and a long run. So when the Golden gate 50k trail run came along, I had my mileage behind me. I have built up towards a 40min tempo now. And no matter how good or bad my tempo days are, I end up doing anywhere between 9.6k to 9.8k, never a 10k.
I signed up for the TCS 10k, paying the huge registration fee - @ Rs. 125/km or Rs. 30/min of running, this is my costliest race. Little wonder why TCS world 10k is one of the richest races in the world, no kidding. I was hoping competition and race day fervor will get me under 40mins.
Barely a week before, we had returned from a family holiday in Tokyo, with lots of walking and almost no running.

Race day
The 10k had all the overheads of a marathon, except the distance was so much less. So there was carb loading (I surely over did that), sleep jitters, potty trotty, crowds, getting there, all that song and dance. It was a well organized run. I had no trouble getting out of the blocks from the ‘A’ corral.

Running blind
I knew I didn’t want to wear a GPS to keep track of my pace real-time. I do that with most of my training runs these days, in an attempt to tune into the internal sense of pace. In a wiff, I decided to not carry a stop watch either. It would just save me the trauma of mathematics while on the run – “ok, that is the 6k mark coming up, 22:58 on the clock, that is 3:5x mins/km… ok, I just passed the 6k mark, now the time is 23:40, the avg pace is…”. Who cares. In a 10k race, if you are in doubt, pick up your pace. The strategy for a 10k race is start fast, faster middle and even faster finish.
photo courtesy: Abhijith Rao
I must admit, during the run, I was tempted to ask a fellow runner or two, “Time yest-aaytu?” And a couple of times, when I felt that I was slacking, I picked up my legs.
The fun part was as I turned into the final 300mts stretch to the finish line. You turn out of Cubbon park and can see the large timer at the finish line. With no way to tell, if was under 40mins or over, I strained my eyes (yes, I should have been straining my legs) to see the first digit – 3. But with still some 250mts to go, I can’t be rest assured. Then I focused on the seconds – 05 and counting. Yes. I will get this under 40mins!
There is mixed opinion if running blind helps improve timings, but for me, I felt less bound, more free.
A runnersworld article on some experiments on this - I managed near even splits - Timing India link

The effort earned me an overall finish time of 39:33, 48th position in the Open category, 4th in my age group and a PB by over 2mins, worth the price, I guess.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Golden Gate 50k Ultra

6/Feb/2016 - 50k Ultra

I will make this one a picture blog (a.k.a shameless plagiarism). There was some deep Chautauqua on comparisons and on parenting that was brewing up. But it will have to wait for more inspiration.

I signed up for this trail run knowing that there was a 2200m elevation gain over the 50k distance. For the uninitiated, Nandi hills is a gain of 400m over 7.5k

Some steep 8-10% gradients, there was no running these. I just stuck to brisk walking using my arms a lot. (My trapezius ached the following morning more than my calves). I managed to even pass a few runners while on my walking breaks!

If were to explain the course, it would go like this...
But since I am being a lazy bum on this post, I pasted this from the "Best Bike Rides San Francisco" book.

You can also see this video taken by Phil Wright (he finished the half marathon in 1:45 or so)

As for myself, I ran the downhills quite strong, right till the very end. With spectacular views like these to behold, I totally enjoyed those downhill sections.
(This pic courtesy coastal runs - the organizers, from Sausalito, encountered once at about 24k and again at 44k or so.)

Some splits (for whatever it is worth) - 10km 1:05, 20km 2:10, 30km 3:09, 40km 4:27, 50km 5:28. Given that the course was run over 2 loops of 20k, with a 10k loop in between, the 20k-30k loop1 (59mins) is similar to 40k-50k loop2 (1:01). Not so bad, eh.

I finished in 5:28:33, coming in 10th overall and 3rd in my age category. This pic was taken by a teenager, Andrew, who hitched a ride from me from Stanford Univ and ended up winning the event.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

My dad, my pillion - ride to Udupi

Bullet Bhats (pun intended) 'coz we just did this last month - 850kms over 2 days riding at riding speeds of 80kmph over some winding roads.

My Dad is a wonderful father. Don't blame me if I bring in some of the parenting Chautauqua into this post.
It is quite a difficult line to draw, how much to hold on to, and what to let go. He has always had this balance figured out. He let us (me and my sister) make our decisions, to choose what was right for us and stand by those decisions, never once being over scrutinizing or over patronizing us. He let go, so important part of parenting.

I look around and find these hyper obsessive parents, forever (and I mean forever) deciding what's good for their children and what is not. The layers and layers of over protectionism seem endless, fuss about this, safe guard from that, firewall this, keep them away from that.

"We are incapable of loving another unless we love ourselves, just as we are incapable of teaching our children self-discipline unless we ourselves are self-disciplined.  It is actually impossible to forsake our own spiritual development in favor of someone else’s.  We cannot forsake self-discipline and at the same time be disciplined in our care for another.  We cannot be a source of strength unless we nurture our own strength.  I believe that not only do self-love and love of others go hand in hand but that ultimately they are indistinguishable.” ~ Scott Peck"

So, when I asked him if he was up to riding with me to Udupi to attend a cousin's wedding, we deliberated about the timing and if it will cause unnecessary anxiety in the family. And then when I pressed on, he was pillion, that reassuring hand on my shoulder, like so many instances in my life.

The last time my dad rode pillion on a long ride was on my first long ride to Trichy, way back in 2005. Read this.

There was also the betaal (the vampire from Vikram & beetal) that had refused to leave my back. About 2 years back, I rode to Chennai (almost), unknowing to me at that point, with almost no engine oil. What followed was a seizure, towing, over haul of the tappets, rockers, some piston damage and serious dip in my confidence on my bullet. Thanks to some incessant spark plug issue, the beetal didn't leave my back since then. The only way to answer the question - take the leap, ride.

I slid in my tool kit with spares into the saddle bag, not wanting to hit into any electrical problem. We started at 6am. And right as we hit the ring road towards the highway, was that a missed beat?? The mist and fog hit us as we headed towards Yediyur. We stopped at Bellur cross for breakfast of idlys and heavy dose of nostalgia.

Next stop was while we were on Shiradi ghat, the bridge on the highway which had served as the starting point for the famous Yedikumeri railway trek back in my college days.
As we crossed the ghat section, I sighed a relief, now we were in tow-able territory, the betaal was still hovering around.
And electrical problems are like on a switch, one moment you are cruising, the next an abrupt stop; dead.

We reached Udupi at 1:30, rode straight with jacket & boots to our native village Brahma Vishnu Maheshwara Kaanangi temple. There was a function underway and we helped ourselves to some sumptuous traditional meal.

The next morning we attended the Nirmalya Puja at Krishna Mutt - a visual that remains etched in my memory. The wedding done, lunch and some packed food later, we were ready to hit the road once more.

We started at 1:30 and were home at 9, with a couple of breaks.

And somewhere on the well laid roads from Hassan, riding towards the full moon, in its glory, the reassuring hand on my dad on my shoulder, the beetal seemed to finally get off my back... in the most appropriate way, we put a "bullet" right through it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

100k Ultra - My baby

As we prepare to welcome our second one into this world, I wanted to do something special, just like the last time.
If you have been frequenting my blog, you probably know that my greatest skill is in putting one feet in front of the other. I decided to do it a few times and signed up for the 100k Bangalore Ultra.

And just like the gestation phase, when you sign up for an ultra, there are things that people don't tell you about how much it hurts, how your plans can go awry, how it all ties up in the end, and how much, you life is going to change (for the better of course).

All systems were GO. The all too familiar grind of the last week taper – one easy run, rest, sleep, sweet potatoes, pasta, salt, more sleep.

I had a meeting with the young fella/felli (a.k.a growth scan) the previous evening. My daughter gave a reluctant good bye, “Don’t run, appa.”

I rode my bullet to the venue, picked up the racer kit (1 bib in a bag only), dropped off my chapatis for the 5.6k On The Run (OTR) baggage, some nuts and figs for the 0km OTR baggage, packed salt tablets from D, picked up a torch and was all set to go at the 5AM start.

The physical part. Although I had planned to stick with D, he took off at a slightly faster pace at the start. Thanks to advice from Santhosh & Navin, I had no intensions of chasing him down.

I caught up with Himanshu’s torch light, chatted up a bit, got some gyan on Ultra running. He had won the recent Javadhu hills Ultra 75k. We passed and out passed each other a few times till about 50km. On his advice and my own comfort level, I had started to walk for 5 mins for every 45mins or so of running. In an Ultra, he said, if you are in doubt, go slow. You have plenty of time to make up. Wise words, esp. since he eventually went on to win this one.

Although my 5k OTR was not available till the second loop (and I missed it on the way out), I made sure I ate the PBJ sandwiches frequently. Then had chapatis and banana every 2 hours.

In order to keep my nemesis, cramps, at bay, I had electoral every other km, but would have been wiser to stick to 1 endurolyte tablet/hour pattern. At 45k medical tent, I went straight in hoping for a pre-emptive stretch, but the medico was not in sight. Luckily, Lavanya (who was cheering) chipped in to help & she and Jaggi got me going again. 50k came in 5:30 and I was feeling good. I caught up with D, reloaded my salt tablet supplies, got some time at the medical tent for stretches and carried on.

Now I was getting into phase II, time to stick to a rhythm. I tried to keep to 25-5, run 25min, walk 5min. I had stopped a few times to do about 3 half suryanamaskaras, to stretch and it seemed to put off the cramps. The first time it hit me hard, some 58k or so – my left calf turned to stone. Sanjeev (by then heavily complaining about his own race) Chennai runner came up from behind, eased me on the ground and gave my legs a vigorous shake, massaged my calves, helped me back up on my feet and trotted off. He went on to claim a podium finish for his 75k.

Another couple of kms had me sit down on a mud heap for a tight thigh. And then again, it hit me bad on a bare stretch of trail, at around 65km. I slumped down straight into high grass by the trail side and was getting the knots off my calves. A bewildered Nari came along, helped me up. I remember telling him to place me in shade. But luckily as I got up, I felt ok. I decided to walk the rest of the loop, albeit briskly. From then on, there was no more lying down on the trail for me.

When my Ultra guru said in his advice, “split the run into 3 halves”, I should have expected it to be some complex mathematical puzzle. But the last “half” was just simple mathematics. I finished the 3rd loop, 75km in 9h:38m. If I could make another 1km in 22mins, I would have gotten back into the forest trail for another 10k. But I decided to take a much needed massage at the medical tent (and made to wait a bit, since I needed to see the Dr. Niranjana). I was the first one at the U-turn for the curtailed route now.

This meant that I had to put in 25km on a 1k-and-back loop on part tarmac and of course all walking (which is what I had resigned to, by now) at ~9-10mins/km for 12 loops!
Simple math: 10mins a km, 6kms an hour, multiplied 4 times = 24kms in 4hours. Clap Clap Clap.

The clap clap was provided by the hyper-enthu “Runners high” tent, who lived to their name. I stretched Navin’s generosity in getting him to serve me Pongal from the RH tent, twice! And Santhosh and Srini for sounding off the math every time we passed.

The mental part. There are a few things that helped me finish this:

God/Krishna – I thanked Him over and over and over again for the wonderful opportunity He had given me, for the life, the wife, kid(s), the family, the friends, for everything. (I may have missed my dear blog visitors, but I say it now – Thank You).

Mindfulness – I tried to be “in the moment” most of the 14hours. Not thinking forward to the 65th or 99th km or 10hrs or tomorrow. Being in the now. Feeling the air that I inhaled, the beautiful trails, the sunlight, the butterflies that went around, the winds howling at times.

Chant – I chanted the Gayatri mantra a few times (this got me into tears once) and did a few half sun-salutations on the course.

No-Quit-Attitude – Never once did I encourage the thought of quitting, no excuses of a keeping family waiting for finish / peevish about getting back home. I had ridden my bullet to the venue and would ride back once I was done with the 100k. As for the cramps, I had to get past them, had to find a way.

As I began to count down from 95km, somewhat glad that the end was near, but still wary that there was another 50mins of walking to be done. From 4 down to 3, Santhosh, Shuvi, Chandra, Sid Jr, Srini, Dharma – all passed on kind words. But as I walked up that slight uphill, for the 16th time that day, there was emptiness. Partly because RFL had this end for me in an obscure no-mans-land away from the start point and its associated revelries. And partly because there was no sense of achievement, I did it because I had to do it – this ultra was my baby, I had to deliver it.

Post partum
I walked past the timing mat 14h:18m on my watch, put my arms up in the air, walked to the aid station, drank 2 more cups of electral, walked the 1km back to the start area, passing my thank yous, picked up my medal, had a quick dinner and rode my bullet back home. Thanks to Shuvi who helped me with my bags to the parking lot, then with my bike and rode ahead ensuring that I didn’t lose my way back home.

It’s now been 48hrs since the finish, my legs are back to doing what they do best, putting one in front of the other…

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Also ran - SPBM 2015

Quoted below from a series of posts on sportscients on the great puzzle of muscle cramps.

According to a paper published in 1997 in the Journal of Sports Sciences, in which Professor Martin Schwellnus and some colleagues looked at the electrolyte-dehydration issue and that a cramp was the result of dysfunctional reflex control of the motor nerve as a result of fatigue and that there is insufficient evidence to attribute it to the often quoted electrolyte-dehydration theory.
  • Muscle contraction is initiated by a nerve, called the alpha motor neurone. The alpha motor neurone receives inputs from the higher brain areas (when you make conscious movements) as well as from the spinal reflexes
  • These reflexes are responsible for protecting the muscle against either excessive stretching or loading – they are the muscle spindles and Golgi tendon organs, respectively
  • There is evidence that fatigue causes increased firing from the muscle spindles, and decreased activity from the Golgi tendon organs
  • The net result of this change in the activity of these reflexes is that the alpha motor neuron activity is increased, and the muscle thus contracts involuntarily
If you didn't understand much of the above, welcome to my world of deciphering C-R-A-M-P-S

Let's cut the chase - I finished my 21st marathon on a glorious Sunday morning on 18th Oct, clocking my worst time in 3 years. I limped to a finish time of 3:42:05

I started well, with perhaps the best pacer for company, my running guru, D. Younger legs Shuvi was also showing promise to keep to the 4:30 pace.

D and I kept to our target pace as we snaked through cubbon park, onto cubbon road, ulsoor lake. I stepped the pace up on the slightly downhill sloping Indranagar 100ft road section. This was probably part of what brought the fatigue on early.
Then again and I scouted for gatorade at the Forum signal U turn, the gap between D & me widened and stepped up pace once more to catch up.

A little over a km later, I could feel a knot develop in my left calf. The Golgis were at it. And yes, my Golgi tendon organs had a sub-par day, sending my alpha motor neuron into an overdrive leading to involuntary contractions of my calves at around the 30km.

I stopped for a leak before the 30km mark. Did it expedite it - was that hypertonic? Do we need to resurrect the electrolyte-dehydration theory now?

Whatever it was, I refused to give into a feeling of depression. So, while I stopped to tend to my cramping muscles, I tried to poke some fun here and there. 

After having done 30k in 2:15 mins, I managed a lowly 9.5k in the next 1hr. The last 2.2k took me a staggering 22mins. (Read a similar story from my archive of SCMM 2011)
Even my fingers joined the party and started to cramp while I was trying to squeeze some gel out of the pack at around 38km!

Even as I entered the Kanteerava stadium gates, a small ramp down into the track would have seen me through. But, guess what, I cramped. Both legs this time. I had to be helped on the ground by a reluctant security guard and a spectator (who was a doctor thankfully). With the doctor tending me, I took about 3-4mins to get me all set to hobble the last 200mts to the finish line.
D finished in a 3:15. Shuvi had a bad day too and came in a few mins after I did...

Some lessons / a more assessment of "what could have gone wrong"

  • Tapering - I did follow the runs schedule as per JDRF (Jack Daniels Running Formula) to the 'T'. But I did add a 10min weights session (leg extensions & curls) on Friday. But otherwise, I had a home-alone week and didn't do much else all of the week...
  • Electrolyte intake - the lack of it, actually. There was no electrolyte drink on the course. Although Gatorade was one of the sponsors, the water stops did a good job of hiding it from the non-elites. I normally also had bananas during my training runs, I didn't have that too on the course.
  • Fatigue - I guess the 2 surges of pace (sub 4min/km) must have contributed to something
  • Managing cramps - There is no silver bullet on it, but it looks like not sitting to massage, but just running through may have worked. I don't stretch to shake off cramps, may be worth trying, given the vast majority of athletes who recommend this
Rest assured, next season, I will be after my gogli tendons and alpha motors real bad - voluntary or involuntary...

Friday, October 16, 2015

Sweet 16 - SPBM marathon training

As the race day dawns, there is a feeling of having lost a dear friend - someone who stuck with you for all your waking hours those last 16 weeks - yes, I am talking of my dear friend - "training for a marathon".

How I am going to miss those 16 weeks. I write this post because I have had the most brilliant and satisfying 16 weeks of training this year, as a run up to the Bengaluru marathon 2015 (SPBM 15).

I frequently end up explaining to my non-running friends about what I mean when I say I am "training". My running friends know I follow a schedule.

For the last few years now, I follow Jack Daniels Running Formula, a 16 to 24 week training program. With advice from running buddies, I alter 1 or 2 things from my past years to bring out another personal best (PB).

This year, I did 3 things differently:

  1. Reduce weight
  2. Raise weekly mileage (peak mileage of 100km / week)
  3. Include yoga, weight training, random hip & core workouts as supplement evening sessions
The "most brilliant and satisfying" bit in numbers:
  • 77 days of running (of the possible 112 days)
  • Average daily mileage of 15.5 km
  • Average weekly mileage of 75 km
  • 3 weeks of 100km, 4 weeks of 90km
  • At one point I went 27days with 1 rest day

I don't know at this point how the race on Sunday will pan out, it better be one that is worthy of the training!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Spirit of Wipro 2015 - to Pee or not to PB

Note on the sub-title: With no time to do this before the run start, I did a la Paula infamous pee break during her world record setting FM, or the more recent Mo Farah's pit stop on the way to his 5000m world championship. Yes, I took a loooong #1 break en route to this Personal Best HM effort. Hence to Pee or not to PB

public class MainActivity extends Activity {

   @SOW 2015
   public void RepeatRun( Bundle savedSOW2014 ) {
     Create.NewPB( NewPB = OldPB - 89secs );
     Set.Podium( Podium2015 = Podium2014 );
     Delete.CashPrize( Remove 2014CashVoucher );
     Replace.CashPrize( Yet_Another_Tee_Shirt );


I think I should stick to running and not running Apps.

For those of you who haven't jumped on to the App-band wagon, here's is a summary:

  • As a build up to the upcoming bengaluru marathon and more, I ran the SOW Half marathon (as usual - read my report from last year). I set a new Personal Best timing of 1:28:29
  • Came in 4th overall and 3rd among non-Wipro Open category
  • Ran my PB for the 5k, 10k on the way to breaking this. 5k in 19:16, 10k in 41:01
  • 5k split timings - 3:51, 4:19, 4:12, 4:23, 4:17 (1.1k)
  • Thanks due - Sanjeev for helping with the registrations, Gokul for providing the timing pins at the start line (big fiasco with having only 2 working pins to fix the bib at the start) and Ashok Nath who without saying a single word paced me for the last 2kms
I was running up one of those last uphills in eCity, Ashok catches up effortlessly, "come on, not much to go.". Me: "Dude, you are the last person I like to meet, now." "why?" "because, you will kick my butt." Thanks Ashok!