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Backlogs including - Bullet through Kerala, Auromara 2010, The Great Tibetan Marathon photo blog

Friday, August 28, 2015

Bengaluru Marathon 2014 – flashback

Oct 19
She had just had a purple poppins, like a 2 year old would have her candy, with no care in the world for those sticky little fingers. But we are parents, we care. “Let’s wash your hands”, I said as I lifted her off on to the stool. She reached out to the tap and tried to open it. I helped her. She playfully held her hands out to the jet of water. She must have got her sleeves out, I thought. I said, “ enough enough”, now get down and handed out the towel that we normally let to dry out on the kitchen shelf, to her. She wiped her hands off and put the towel back in its place. But before she got off the stool, to her “game” again, she turned around, and straightened/tidied that towel, making sure all its edges fell correctly in place. Then she ran off…

Bengaluru marathon 2014, I have set the towel on the shelf, as for the straightening/tiding up, it didn’t happen.

Some frontline media screamed otherwise, but for me, it was a beautiful race – the Inaugural Bengaluru marathon 2014. Coming after nearly 6-7 years, and perhaps the first one to be organized in the right earnest, after the first Bangalore Marathon in 2005, it was close to my heart.

Nagaraj Adiga was championing this so well, garnering the runners, the running groups, the press, the sponsors, the police, the volunteers from not only Bangalore, but other cities too, to make it happen.

For me, getting to the start line was a challenge. I flew out of the bay area (from the middle of a proposal submission) some 22 hours on the flight, landing just 23hours before the start of the race! From runway to the start line – how to beat the jet lag before a race, coming up soon.

I was getting to the start line with lots of mileage, a 50k Ultra in the bay area, two half marathons raced at my personal best timing. I knew I could get to a PB, under 3h:27m. Sid Jr and I had 3:20 in mind when we started off.

It was a good course, mostly flat, with a couple of long low gradient uphills. Going by the split pace, I can see that Sid & I stuck to a 3:10 pace (4:30/km) till 25km. But which time, we had gone past Ulsoor lake, back on Old Airport road, past the half marathon U-turn point at Domlur, and up Indranagar 100ft road. And just as we past the Domlur flyover, on to the Koramangala inner ring road, the best of the race happened – army jawans lined up the road, in full uniform and in their regimented manner applauded the runners as they passed by. I first thought there would be about 10 of them and acknowledge them with a brief wave of hand. But the line would never cease, there were hundreds of them, lined up all the way till end of the road. It was simply unbelievable and gave a tremendous boost.

Somewhere after the Sony world junction, the uphill towards Forum and then back up from Adugodu took the tool and the pace began to dip. The group of enthu supporters at Sony world (Sindhu, et al) and the army troops’ unabated support only seem to make it worse on the return.

By 35k, I was well over 5min/km pace and by the time we hit cubbon road at 38k, I was asking Sid to carry on and begging for a walking break. I did take a few from there on, running more than walking, which cost me about 3-4mins. 5k Split paces – 4:31, 4:31, 4:28, 4:36, 4:35, 4:48, 5:19, 5:50, 5:51

Sid finished in under 3:20, I managed a personal best of 3:22:57 and was delighted with the result. I came in 30th overall, 16th in my age category and with some gas left.
It was also special because my parents did their first 5k in an organized event, my dad even did some running.

…but that towel, certainly needs tidying before I get off that high stool, and when it happens (hopefully this year), it will be for my dear daughter, Neha!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Lipton Bangalore Marathon 2005 - a 10th anniversary tribute

It was as much a landmark event for Bangalore as it was for me; the Lipton Bangalore Marathon was the first time the city (and I) woke up to an event where participants cover 42kms on foot. Corporates put up banners & water booths and cops stop irate commuters on prominent roads.
I got to writing this report because this marathon is cherished deep in my heart. Yet, this is the only one that hasn’t been frozen via a post on my blog. This is the 10th anniversary of the marathon and a perfect excuse to pen this down.

How it all started for me?
I get this question very often. The gym coach at BEL gym, Mathews always insisted on one round of warm up around the BEL ground before a workout. This practice stayed with me while I was at IIML. As a tribute to the beautiful campus @ L, a batch-mate and I decided to run 10 rounds of the 2.6km loop around campus in March 2005. We flew the final round with our shirts off and shouting hysterically.

This done, when I returned to Bangalore, mild publicity about Bangalore’s first marathon didn’t miss me. Having done the 25k already, the half marathon was no challenge. I signed up for the 42km, full marathon. Yes! That is how we scaled up to a full marathon back then.
A week or so before the marathon, I ran from home to my pal, Salil’s place in electronics city. Armed with a bottle of water & a pack of glucose I know I had taken all morning to reach his house. That was the all the training that I did to run my maiden marathon!
I don’t have much recollection of the Expo, bib collection or any other pre-race brouhaha. RFL was doing spreading the word back then too. But unlike the stalls in the Expo of these days, A1 simply handed out pamphlets while he was himself running the marathon. I remember thinking “who drives all the way from Hebbal to Ulsoor to run 10k”.

Race Day

It was a 6am start, about 200 odd runners for the full and the half marathon, a handful of runners from KAA. The run was well organized for a first time event – traffic was blocked for about 3 hours or so, water stations looked good and around for about the same time. The course was a no brainer – run from Kanteerava stadium > RajBhavan road > up Sankey road > Hebbal flyover > ring road towards whitefield > ‘U’ turn at the beginning of Banaswadi flyover and back! Basically long, straight stretches with no cover whatsoever. In peak Bangalore summer in May, when you run till noon, it’s like running on a pan.
But it was neither the heat, nor the lack of support (didn’t know there was supposed to be one), nor the long uphills or the bad traffic management that got to you. It was the distance!

I was running with a knee support (do you ask why? Haven’t you read this or this?). When I passed Hebbal, 10km point, my dad was there to see me. My knee started to hurt as I ran over the flyover. Hebbal was the U-turn for the half marathoners. Once you went past that, you were qualified as the guy who had chosen to suffer.
The ring road stretch was never ending – no tree cover, the sun was beating down and after a point, I think we had trucks for company on one side of the road (not totally sure). But just the sight of a 2k long uphill did the trick for me. Even before the U turn, I was asking runners who were returning “how much further?” and I had started to run-walk by then.

After the U turn, I caught up with a member of the state rowing team and I thought I should just stick along. But he had his girlfriend offer him a ride even before we hit Hebbal on the return (which he declined). He simply refused to carry on after Mekhri circle.

I must have taken about 4 –  4.5 hours to complete 30k till Hebbal. A team of 4 from Dell (the co-sponsor) ran in sadhu costume, and managed to stay with the beard, wig and the costume for the entire 42km. I ran past one of these ‘Sadhus’ at the Hebbal flyover. My ‘rowing friend’ finally called it a day at Mekhri circle. The “do not cross” tapes to keep the traffic out were well breached by now. I recollect making my way up to what was remaining of a water stop near Raj Bhavan. The volunteer who was waiting for his ride to the stadium had packed up and reluctantly pointed out the route to me.
As I entered the Kanteerava stadium, only picking up the medal and certificate was on my mind. There was a volunteer who saw my plight and led me up some stairs so I could pick up my medal. Getting down the stairs ranked high up on the most difficult things I had done in my life.

Turned out the volunteers who wrote the certificates had left, so I was asked to collect it next week. My dad collected on my behalf, they asked him my timing and wrote it out on the certificate for me. Life was simply simple, no.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Running by the Bay

Business trips are great opportunities to explore virgin locales on foot. I particularly relish the surprise that a trail / course has in store for me. While I do manage a race or two (last one being an Ultra), on my last travails, however, in an aberration, I only ran trails recommended by my friends in the Bay area. I ran almost round the clock and that added spice to the spread.

Bay Trail @ 6PM

This course was recommended by the Hotel receptionist. She stepped out of the hotel lobby to point me to the side of the road from where I could start. I passed a few "Keep Out" sign boards, the course taking me on a hillock with a few of the Hamilton hanger & the bay beyond. Ran down the hill into the bay trail.

Los Gatos Creek Trail @ 7AM

 When I mentioned my weekend-long-run-itch to NJ in San Jose, he led me to this one. I ran around 11 miles on this trail while my friend biked. The trail was much longer than what my legs could carry me for those 1.5 hours.

Stanford Dish Trail @ 4PM

"A runner hasn't really run at Stanford until he or she has done the dish loop.", says the opening lines on the Stanford Running Club site. The trail on the foothills behind the famous Stanford Quad and offers great views of the entire area including the main tower.
If you survive the steep (really really steep) uphills, you do pass the two large satellite dishes, giving the run its name, pointed at whatever scientists look at. I got 150m climb in a short 5km loop. Now you know why I stopped to take pics!

Redondo Beach @ noon

So on the Martin Luther King weekend, I drove down to LA (and nearly into a Chevy Camero) and then up via the beautiful coastal CA1 highway with views of Big Sur and the coast. My hosts at Torrance SH & VS suggested the Redondo beach towards Manhattan Beach for a run. I picked a hot Saturday morning and drove down with VS who joined me for a the first half. The running path was broken near the piers with their food-courts and watering holes. And oh and we did rent a Surrey bike and biked on Huntington beach to top it up for the long weekend.

Baylands trail Sunnyvale @ 6AM

At 6AM on a virgin baytrail, with crickets for company and no one else, running on a bund with water on either side, it was eerie and I jumped a few times when some ducks (?) hustled in the bushes. At the end of the run, I did shout "yahoo", which is perhaps what my cousin SS who works for yahoo had in mind (the bright lights on the horizon in the pic below is Yahoo)

Guadalupe trail San Jose

This was a tad boring - it was an exposed trail, a creek running alongside, didn't run. The only reason I did this a couple of times was because it was way more appealing than the treadmill at Double tree Hilton!

SFO terminal

This was a bonus. Turns out my Garmin was while checking my baggage in - see how much my bags moved at the SFO terminal

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Je suis Cyclist

A short note on the title - In the days of limping to normalcy that followed this incident, I couldn't but help draw a parallel of this "traffic terrorism" to the Charlie Hebdo shooting. The below is my silent protest against how badly cyclists are treated in the city...

Quick update: The bad news - the only way to fix the tear of my torn graft is a second surgery. The good news, is, for now my surgeon has suggested to get back to running, the surgery can wait... for now!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Scorecard - Indian marathons vs. abroad

Over the last 5 years or so, I have managed to garnish my largely-Indian races with a few from abroad. While they have not been popular races, I have managed to squeeze in a 50k Ultra, 2 marathons, a half, a 6miler and a 100k bike race.

As has been the practice in the last couple of seasons, I include a shorter distance race during my marathon training. I missed a chance to race the TCS World 10k this year and then ran a below par 5k at the Urban Stampede. My progression in the Half marathon distances has not kept in sync with the full marathon Personal Best timings (PBs). The timing of 1:35 to win the Spirit of Wipro race in the 2012 edition was an aberration in a series of 1h:40m finishes.

And along the 16week training for the maiden Bengaluru marathon, I had a chance to score a personal best HM timing twice – once in India and once abroad within a few weeks of each other. A good op to stack an Indian marathon against an overseas one.

"Picking a "best" marathon can be like finding a good piece of chocolate in a sampler box of candies: you either take a plunge and pay the price for it, or you rely on someone else who has eaten a piece before" - anon

I will compare these 2 races keeping the details out to make it more generic for someone looking to compare an Indian race with those run abroad.
    • Burnham Beeches Half Marathon, in August 2014, in Berkshire, UK (BBHM)
    • Spirit of Wipro Half marathon, in Sep 2014, in Bangalore, India (SOW)

I will share my experience along a few KPIs for races
  • Cost & Ease of registration
Most Indian marathons are cheap, going from about $10 to about $25, barring one or two outliers. These races come with a race tee shirt, a timing chip, support on the course, medal, downloadable certificate & post-run breakfast. Some runs also have massage facilities that you can avail for free after the run.
A marathon outside can set you off by about $50 - $100 or more, you may have to also budget a few dollars for post run snack as well.

  • Pre-race fanfare

You cannot complain about fanfare when there is none. Both these were low key races, without an elaborate Expo (the sponsors and their paraphernalia). It made picking-up-the-bib a simple affair.
  • Conditions & Start time

Races in India are mostly in hot and humid conditions. Expect temperatures between 20-30°C, with average relative humidity of about 65-70%. Given these conditions, most races have start times that make breakfast seem like a mid-night snack. A 6am start for the SOW run, meant that my pre-race breakfast of oats, had to be eaten at an unearthly 3:30am or so.

Compare that to start times of 9:30 AM for the BBHM, with temperatures of 13-20°C. The start times allow for a relaxed breakfast and that all important potty. I got my money’s worth of the complimentary breakfast at Beaumont Estate, WIndsor and took a taxi to the start point.

  • Support on course - Water stations, medical aid, crowd support
Most marathons are well stocked with water, a sport drink and a fruit – and a mix of indifferent and engaged volunteers, both in India and outside. The smaller races that I have participated in abroad have the basic medical aid. The bigger races are a huge draw for support crowd. At BBHM, the route map had called out the local pubs for the support crew to hang out while cheering the runners. A thin line of supporters spread sporadically on the course, is all you can expect even in the biggest races in India.
  • Competition

I ran the half marathon distance in Aug at BBHM in 1:31:02 and was placed 65th overall in about 500 runners. At SOW in Sep, running the HM in 1:29:41, I came in 5th overall – about 343 finishers. Both these were personal best (PB) for me. While my sub-90 mins run received all the acclaim, this is at best an average performance for any race abroad.
The gap only becomes worse if you compare the best races in India (the likes of Mumbai marathon) to the top 5 marathons. Before we pat ourselves in the back for those podium finishes in the Indian races, we need to eat the humble pie – there is still a long way to go.
I did, however, like the gift voucher, deos & other goodies that came with the 3rd place (Open-Guest category) in the SOW run.
  • Post-race support
    • Nourishment

Indian races have decent post-run Indian breakfast which is included in your registration. If you have any specific preferences you should budget for it. Remind yourself to climb down from cloud 9, to find your way to the breakfast counter, then the medal counter & then baggage counter. These queues may take up more time than your racing time. At the finish line in the grounds of Caldicott school, there was literally no "free lunch" on offer. A sandwich / cake and a drink from the beeches cafe will set your wallet lighter by a few pounds (or dollars).
    • Medals / Certificates / Pics

Most Indian marathons give out a finishers’ medal; race pictures and timing certificates are big too. Every distance (5k, 6k, 10k, 21k) gets automatically upgraded to ‘marathon’. Don’t be surprised if you a well-rounded smiling group in track pants showing off shiny medals claiming to have completed the marathon in 1 hour. It is to be read as a 5k-marathon. The amateur photographers do an excellent job of uploading your pictures (watermarked and all) for you to download. Off late, they have been trying to monetize this as well.
If you are a ferrophile like me, when you run outside India, look specifically if the race fee covers a finishers’ medal. Most local races abroad don’t have any certificates / pics that you can download.

The idea of this post was to give a comparison of smaller races in India and outside. Hope this was useful. Some snippets on BBHM & SOW before I wind up this post (which was been in wip status for a record 77days!)

This was also a dress rehearsal for the Bengaluru marathon, I realized too late that I had left my socks behind. I had some gory toe nails to show off after the race. BBHM was my first race abroad for a Half marathon.

Mathematically speaking 2 half PBs is equal to 1 full PB, to find out, come back after in about a weeks’ time. (Yes. I mean it, the next update is before the next year)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Urban Stampede 2014

I have been running Urban Stampede quite regularly in the last few years. I have managed to keep a perception of being a fast runner in work circles and have found a place in the Corporate relay in this 4 x 5k relay race year after year.
While I have changed companies, the reputation has remained and with that, my place in the team. This year, (like last year) I was a part of the Dell ‘A’ team in the mixed category for the 2014 version on Aug 3rd. The two Racy Rai’s - Pankaj & Shuveshek in the team raised hopes of making it to the podium. Diversity has always been our weak link and this time was no different. It does call for a better effort in creating a culture of running in the organization to be able to sport a winning team. Wipro (my past employer) has moved leaps and bounds in this regard and are now very competitive in these races.

With Pankaj taking on the lead role and Shuveshek chosen to be the anchor, I was relegated to the third position after Sakshi.
The location for this year’s race was Bharatiya City – a gated community off Nagawara. As I rode to the venue, it was discouraging to see 10k runners running substantial distance on the dusty, polluted approach road. Especially with the real estate activity picking up on that section, the movement of trucks and buses ensured that the Sunday morning was not spared.
I entered the campus, hoping that the 5k runners do not have to brave these vagaries, but was proven wrong.
Siddharth Bahuja, a flier, had offered to pace both Pankaj and me. Pankaj finished in a respectable 22:20. I prepared myself to start with about 50mins on the clock. My turn only came at 58mins and with that timing, hopes of the podium evaporated, as the sun came out to add more grief.
I had asked Sid to stay just ahead of me to draft me from the head winds on the way out. In about 1km or so, we were out on the Thannisandra main road. Even if you somehow ignored the chaotic traffic on the other side of the road, it was impossible to ignore the long uphill sections. It didn’t help that you also needed to lose all momentum at the U-turn point.
It was the section between 2-4km that I lost the plot, perhaps the course-related issues were playing on too much on my mind. I mentioned to Sid post-run, that if were not for him, I would have stopped to take a breather. The time/km splits tell the story – 3:54, 4:08, 4:07, 4:08, 3:57
This was the 5th week of my 16-week training for Bengaluru marathon and served as a good time trail, to set goals for the rest of training ahead of me.

A 5k finish in 20m:13s will have to do for now. The Dell A team was placed 7th in the standings in the mixed category and I managed a 25th place overall for this lung bursting effort…

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Building a solid base for a season

My brief article made it to the RFL newsletter last month -
(Ps: it does have a national circulation, ok)

Allow me to begin with a story told by The Wall in many of his inspiring talks. Rahul Dravid says he likes to liken his formative years to that of a Chinese bamboo. I quote “You can take a Chinese bamboo seed and plant it in the ground, water and nurture that for an entire year. You will not see any sprout. In fact you will not see a sprout for 5 years. But suddenly a tiny shoot will spring from the ground. Over the next 6 weeks the plant can grow as tall as 90 feet. It can grow as fast as 39 inches every 24 hours. You can literally watch the plant grow. What was the plant doing in those 5 years, seemingly dormant? It was growing its roots. For 5 full years, it was preparing itself for rapid massive growth, With its roots structure, the plant could simply support itself for future growth. Some say that the plant grew 90 feet in 6 weeks. I would say it grew 90 feet in 5 years and 6 weeks.

Wait, I don’t mean you go dormant for the next 5 years, nor that you will take 5 years and 6 weeks to get to see results. But, even if it does take 5 years to build a base to what could be just 6 weeks of sheer brilliant running, then, it’s still worth it, isn’t it.

In reality, base building is not that hard, I find this phase the most enjoyable and most important before taking on stringent goals for the season. If you are a first time runner, give yourself a very gradual ramp up of mileage. You should begin by using the 2-1 or 4-1 run-walk pattern, where you run for 2min and walk for 1 minute. Ensure that you are able to hold a conversation (or run-versation as we call it in BHUKMP) during your running. Give yourself a week or two (of 3-4days of running) before you increase the running breaks or reduce the walking breaks.

For more experienced runners, while you are doing some weekly base mileage, it’s easy to get complacent. But do not compromise on 4-6weeks of easy paced runs. Get your weekly mileage up gradually, without any particular focus on pace. Use this time to focus on your running form, scouting for possible courses in your neighborhood for your tempo runs and intervals. It’s time for you to try out that new gear, shorts and skirts. Go shopping, find deals online to deck up for the season.

Easy runs are a good time to socialize with other runners. I love to explore the trails in the countryside running with the Hash house harriers during this phase. Setting up trails (or haring as it’s called at the Hash) is an excellent time-on-feet training.
Start planning your race calendar for the season and your training plan to get yourself prepared mentally as well.

At the end of the base building, you must be ready to set your goals for the season. Pick a race where you can do a time-trail to determine your current level of fitness and set goals accordingly.

To sustain injury free running for a long long time, building a strong base is a vital first step.

If you are still not motivated enough to make that investment, remember the bumboo, I mean… the Chinese Bamboo.