Friday, February 27, 2009

Hash Bash at New Lanark

It was Run No. 1187 of the Hamilton Hash, Run No. 1465 of the Edinburgh Hash, 14th trail weekend for the Bras and Pants H3 on Sunday, 22nd Feb in the cotton mill village, New Lanark in southern Scotland.
No, the brasandpantsh3 is not a “
consortium of pub-going loose forward women” but is the “Brewery Runs Around Scotland & Pants because you are panting for a beer” Hash House Harriers… Read on…

I missed the train to Edinburgh on a Saturday morning by 30secs and as I cursed the fat-b!%&#-behind-the-counter for issuing my tickets late, made my way out of the Metro trying to look for a cheaper than full-fare (44£) option. Not the best way to start the weekend you would say.
But Edinburgh changed it all – the train ride itself offered some wonderful views, on either side on the window ;) From the moment I stepped out of the Waverley station into Princess street, I was surrounded by historic spires, parks, castles and museums. Even a non-event like walking to the hotel turned to a memorable experience.

I took a tour bus in the evening and visited the castle and the Scottish Parliament. The locals were friendly and were more than willing to help a ‘slumdog millionaire’ find his way around. One couple even offered that I should try a Falafel and recommended an Israeli place for me to try one. All this while, though, I was still working under the assumption that I would somehow find my way to this little village of New Lanark the following morning for the run.

In hindsight, I would have never made it, if I hadn’t seen a mail from Sheryl Valentine (!!) from the Edinburgh Hash offering to drive me to Lanark. Without leaving anything to chance, she offered to pick me right from my hotel lobby all the way to Lanark. We stopped briefly at the Gillespie home to pick up Alan. While Sheena (aka Sheryl) treated me to some coffee, Alan showed me around his vintage car collection – a 1936 Talbot, 1960s MG, and a Jaguar – all tenderly housed in his garage. It turned out that they had visited India in 2004 and run with BH3 as a part of the prelude to the Goa Interhash. She fondly remembered how the cops had stopped the traffic for some 200 hashers who had turned up then.

We drove for nearly three quarters to reach New Lanark. The hashers were from all around the place – the EHHH, TNT Hash, Hamilton Hash and the Aberdeen Hash. The brewery run had left most of them in various state of sobriety and drunkenness and one with a black eye even.
The pics tell you the story of the run – fantastic trail along the Clyde walkway taking us through the World Heritage site - cotton mills, a hydroelectric power station, the spectacular falls of Corra Linn and the Corra Castle.
It was looking very touristy till we saw flour going right down a steep, slippery path, right into the river!! A few of us did try to work our way around it, but the Hamilton hares had made sure there were no shortcuts. With my shoes worn over my neck, I stepped into the freezing cold waters of the river Clyde. My feet frozen and shoes dry, I made it to the other side. We ran some more till we came to the Bonnington dam (?) passing a few more falls before heading back. It must have been about 7-8miles in all. It was teeth chattering cold in the circle. The GM Megasaurarse and the RA cuckoo ensured that we stayed there long enough for the cold to reach our bones. I was given a down down for being foolish enough to come to a hash run from half way around the globe. I did have my share of true ales – the Burton Bitter & the Biere Speciale while the RA with his bunny cap went on with his stories.
Sheryl Valentine led the circle to sing all the songs (incl. the nipples on the tits one for the harriettes). Many of them were new to me. We went on then to the On Inn in the village, a warm place called Clydesdale Wetherspoons Inn for some Guinness and lunch.
There were so many things that should have fallen in place for me to make it to the run, many thanks to Sue, the Speedbump for all the directions and to the Gillespie couple – Sheena and Alan for escorting me to and back. I had to really stretch out Alan hospitality to take a lift right back to Waverley.

Pics of the run are at

Videos of the circle are here, here, here and here...

On On...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tale of two marathons

I completed the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon ’09 in Jan this year and the Auroville marathon in Feb, within 5weeks of each other. The two races contrasted each other so well and the lessons so important, that even though this post is dated you may find it worth a read.

*click on the image to see a clearer view
The Stats:
18th Jan 09
Time of start: 6:50AM
Time taken: 4:50:09hours

Auroville Marathon 09
15th Feb 09
Time of start: 5:01AM
Time taken: 4:01:06hours

The Training:
SCMM – Hard work
Unlike last year, when I had just 4weeks after the Ultra to train for SCMM, this year I had 2 full months to focus on recovery and put in some speed training. I started the training easy and was satisfied with the progress on the speed runs. I even managed a 30km run in 2:40mins during training. I planned the tapering very meticulously - loaded on carbs, increased my intake of salt and kept myself well hydrated. The train journey to Mumbai also ensured that I kept my feet up and rested well. I pretty much went by the book and was confident of a close to 4 hour finish. The slight fever didn’t seem like a big deal.

Auroville Marathon – No work!!
There was less than 4 weeks between SCMM and Auroville marathon. The recovery from SCMM was more mental than physical. It took me a full week to get out of depression and disappointment. On more than one occasion, thoughts of downgrading to a half marathon crossed my mind. The UK travel was hanging like the sword of Damocles threatening to prevent me from entering the race. The last thing that was on my mind was carb loading. The only training I did was to hare a Hash run the previous weekend with Shantanu and Prats, staying on my feet for nearly 8hours. I had no hopes of doing any better than 4:30hrs. But, with 3-4days to go, Athreya, my ‘running mate’ for most of this year, promised to pace me for a sub-4 finish. I agreed to stick with him for as long as I could, but it was more wishful thinking and prayer than practical.

Race day – 0-21.1km:
If you look at the graph above, you will see how close the timings were for the first 20km – 1:45hrs in SCMM and 1:47 in Auroville.

SCMM – 7am start
Having run the same course last year, I knew what to expect – both in terms of the route and the conditions. I borrowed Nitin’s Garmin once again this year and stuck to the average pace of 5:22min/km, having set the target finish time of 3:40hours.

Auroville – 5am start
I had to wake up as early as 3:30am to catch the taxi with Sriram and Ramya from French Villa in Pondi. It was a much smaller crowd than SCMM and still very dark when we assembled for the roll call. Among other things, the goodie bag contained (very thoughtfully) a torch to see our way for the first one hour during the run.
It was a winding and uneven trail, but mostly flat. Athreya and I started out at a steady pace. And with just a small two-dimensional circle of the torch light there were many moments when the ground was suddenly not where you expected it to be under your feet. It kept us slower than normal pace. And in between long pauses, Athreya told me about his marriage plans with Reena. It kept the mood upbeat. Suddenly, SCMM seemed like a thing of the past. By the time we completed one loop, 21k in 1:53hrs, Athreya was struggling to keep the pace (well, I thought he wanted to get rid of me to be able to run with Reena)

Race day – 21k to 38k
SCMM – Hitting the wall
I was running well, keeping a 5:40min/km pace. I had caught up with Prateek and was keeping company with one Roni from Finland for a few miles. It was then that Rachel overtook me, looking really strong. Rachel (who runs in Ooty) and I were on the same train from Mumabi. (Roni finished eventually in 3:49 a few minutes behind Rachel who finished in 3:40hrs). It was around the 22k mark that I began to slow down, somewhere near Shivaji Park. The virtual runner on the Garmin started to get ahead. I had taken nearly a full hour to run 9k - from 21 to 30k mark and I was struggling. I had hit the wall and was making all possible excuses to stop – to take endurolytes, at aid stations to nurse phantom, non-existent cramps & nature calls. I had finished 30k in 3hrs and was about 3k behind by then. My target was to finish atleast 33k in 3hrs and I was slowing, with little hopes of making up the lost time. And then I lost motivation to keep pace. I gave up and suddenly didn’t care about the finish time anymore. My Gramin stopped working at 33k and I failed to notice it till the 36k or so. My collar bone had started to hurt and my whole upper body felt weak, there was nothing wrong with my legs. But I had given up. I completed 38k in 4:10hrs with zero motivation to go on.

Auroville – Running through the wall
After the SCMM, my only target was try to run for as long as I could, if possible run right through the wall. (I have never really experience the wall as something prominent though, maybe that is what it is). I wanted to run for 33k atleast and then ease off the last few kms. By 22k, Athreya had dropped off and Deepak Mahasvade, who normally is ahead of me had caught up and was a few paces behind. I began to feel good enough to keep the pace going.

What happened then was magical. I started to see figures on my Garmin that I had only dreamt about - 30k in 2:45hrs, 32.5k in 3hrs, 35k in 3:16hrs. By this time, I was confident I had run through the wall, if ever there was one. I passed many half marathoners and stopped every time to tell me how this ‘other person’ was running, I still couldn’t believe that the ‘other person’ was me. Each time I looked at the Garmin, it was a personal best for me. The many volunteers starting from about the 30k mark egged me on shouting out that I was 5th, 6th overall, etc. I was so buoyant that I was asking how everyone else around me was feeling, getting surprised responses few volunteers at the last water station. It also helped that I had cut a lot of corners during the course of the run and had managed to save up a few hundred meters.

SCMM – The long last mile
As I turned into Marine drive, my Garmin had stopped working; I had no semblance of time. The sun was up and killing me, I was barely running. It was then that Sunil passed me, I tried to keep pace with him, but the distance only grew between us and I stopped yet again. But in a few mins, I passed him and we continued to do so nearly till the end. I was myself, stopping at all possible aid station and using the relaxants on those phantom cramps. But my upper body was giving up and I could feel my forearms cramp for real. Even with the finish line in sight, I was unable to motivate myself to try and shave off a few more secs, off the total. I was at such depths of my depression.

In the movie, Spirit of Marathon, one of the runners profiled Ryan says “You know it takes a certain level of training to hit that marathon and when you can’t do what you are used to doing it, it affects you mentally.”

I had reached a state of mind that was beyond numbers or targets. To me, I had run a terrible marathon and that was all that mattered.

Auroville – Magic, there is no last mile
As I ran the last few kms, I pictured the finish, a jubilant me running to my waiting friends – Raghu, Raji, Sriram, Ramya and Tima. Around the 38k, Ravi (Ravi had finished SCMM in 3:40) passed me and I managed to overtake a very tiring and severely cramping runner. I was happy that I had not started to cramp yet. I had taken lesser Endurolytes than normal which makes me wonder if taking too many salt tablets contribute to upsetting the salt-water balance. As I neared the finish, I was tempted to shoot for the sub-4 finish, but I had reached a state of mind that was beyond numbers or targets. To me I had run my best marathon and that was all that mattered.

… And the lessons
Enjoy running – there has been too much focus on time, pace and mileage, some where I have stopping looking for the joy in running
Back to drawing board – if I like to be faster I need to get back to those tempo 5-10k runs.
Lift some weights, get back some strength

Friday, February 20, 2009

Newcastle Hash House Harriers Run No. 857

So I land in Newcastle upon Tyne on Tuesday evening after a 19hr flight – bored but excited. As I settle down in my small hotel room at Jesmond, I look up at the print out of important numbers that I had been carrying on me. Right down at the bottom of the list is a table which I had taken out of the Newcastle Hash House Harriers site. I walked up to a nearby public telephone put in recently exchanged 40pence and dialed for Keith “counterfit” Hudson only to reach his voice mail.
First day’s meetings got done early enough giving me sometime to check the distance and directions from Jesmond to The Victory at South Gorsforth. 1.3miles of walking distance, not too far at all. And with the Wednesday evening run starting at 7pm I had enough time to get running.
So off I go, asking around for directions to find the pub. I am dressed in a bright red Bangalore Hash Tee, black undershirt, shorts and complete with gloves and skull cap. But its not uncommon to see runners and bikers despite the 6-8deg temperatures.
There is no noise in The Victory when I enter and I check at the bar for a counterfit and receive a blank response. I walked out and waited. “you aren’t looking for the Hash, are you?” a bright young lady had walked up to me from inside the pub.
As I sat down chatting with Sue, the speedbump the hashers began to trickle in – counterfit, left hand job, incontinence, Obelix & Whatsarong. The run started at 10 past 7 with counterfit explaining the hash signs:
Circle is a running check, circle with a cross is a run-in check, square with a dot is a FRB check (the FRB strikes a pose as he waits till the last one passes!) and a T is a false trail. In 10mins time we were running along the river is some dense, dark, cold, slippery forest area with headlamps to help us spot the chalk. There were many checks along the way to keep us interested. In the 4-5mile run, we passed through four lanes, parks, the boulevard, a golf course, more dark, slippery forests and passed innumerable quiet, red-bricked houses with thatched roofs. Totem joined us mid-way during the run.

The circle was short and with so much cold around the butts needed no more ice and the Bud’s didn’t need no chilling. As I joined the circle in singing the down downs, I felt at home and already connected to the Newcastle hashers… So far but still so close…
I was treated to some fine pale Ale – the Timothy Taylor’s Landlord and the Pedigree at the Victory. The Landlord had an unmistakable mint herbal lingering taste, so different from the lagers of Bangalore!!
On On now to the Edinburgh Hash House Harriers…