Coming Up!

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

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!

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