Sunday, May 21, 2017

TCS World 10k 2017

In case you came here wondering if I ran this - Yes, I did. I ran the 2017 edition of the running festival of Bengaluru 10k, in a personal best time of 39:07
However, despite a good strong finish, with negative splits, I am somewhat unhappy about missing a podium finish. I finished in the 4th place in my age group, yet again, making this an agonizing 3rd consecutive 4th place finish in the last 3 10k races that I have participated in.

Happy about:
  • Of course, the PB - faster by 26secs from last years' 39:33
  • My sister coming out to support me today, a long drive from Mumbai, sleepless nights notwithstanding. She shouted out over the din of traffic at CCD at the start and then at the finish. Thanks!
  • Staving off a challenge from D from the 7th km on, sprinting the last 200m to beat Ath to the finish line
  • Negative splits, some tremendous amount of grit to stay on pace and finish the race - I had (like on all my tempo runs) to overcome lots of voices in my mind to stop and let this be
  • I made up 13 positions in the last 750m to finish within the top 50 overall
Unhappy about:
  • A third 4th place finish, this time the gap to the podium as narrow as 7 secs!
  • About not being to use the race day adrenaline to translate to race day performance
  • Somewhat wavering focus. Only when I saw D over my shoulder, did I pick up my feet again to push pace
  • Pre race breakfast, perhaps a bit too much - oats and 2 large bananas, heavy-ish feeling for the first km or so
Pics courtesy Marathon Photos & Geeks on Feet

 The push in the last few hundred meters will remain in memory for a bit...
 It was tough to take on Ath in the last 50mts or so, both of us were bent over and gasping for dear breath, when my sister walked across the barricade to check on us at the finish line.

I am glad its over and I can now get back to focusing on podium of those longer runs. Wish me luck!! 

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Tirupati by steps

The week that was:
I passed one of those age-wala milestones earlier this month. Shreya and I were planning to climb the steps up to Tirupati temple for a while now. Her being in Chennai presented a good opportunity to do this.

There were many pieces that were falling in place in our general personal-professional mosaic, and when things cleared a bit my week looked like this:
·         Tuesday – 350k Bullet ride to Chennai
·         Wednesday – Rest day!
·         Thursday – 150k ride to Tirupati, Darshan, ride back
·         Friday – 350k Bullet ride back
·         Saturday – Train to Chennai
·         Sunday – Return with family back to base

Don’t rationalize this itinerary, I had to do the bullet ride, and a chance to do a bullet ride with my dear wife on my birthday to Tirupati was worth the effort of the yo-yo week.

Tirupati temple visit climbing Alipiri Steps


There are plenty of information on various website out there, to help you plan the climb.
What they don’t tell you:
  • There is no “Information Desk” at the bottom of Tirumala (the start point of the Alipiri Mettu). Be prepared to get bits of information from security, luggage handlers, auto drivers, et al – and only in Telugu – use a lot of “Ekkada undi”
  • If you need your bags to reach the top, you have to check them in at the start of the Alipiri Mettu. The security is tight, you will not be allowed to check in if there is metal, etc. My saddle bag, with some bike spares did not make it through. In any case, once you check it in, you will have to collect it once you reach the top and then stove it in lockers in another counter. Budget for time and effort for this.
  • If you do not need your bags (worked for us), you need to deposit luggage at Bhodevi guest house, where there are lockers provided, free of cost. But we were harassed for ID proof photocopy, and insisted for Aadhar card (yeah, it is outside bounds of Supreme court). Be prepared to walk about half a kilometer to the guest house (in the heat, with the luggage) from the Alipiri mettu start point.
  • The bike and car parking is also near Bhodevi complex, near the bus stand
  • You can use footwear, but I recommend against it, purely for spiritual reasons
  • You don’t need to wear a lungi or dhoti. Shirt and pants are perfectly fine – all the way
  • Free lunch is served at the temple complex between 11am and 3pm only and then later in the evening
  • And the big one – Once you are done with the climb and reach the top step, you have to walk on a carpeted footpath till there is no more footpath left. Then you have to a BUS! Yes, you heard right, you have to wait for a bus to take you to the start of the queue to enter the temple. These buses are run by TTD and made to look like chariots!
  • You still have to get into a queue (special darshan queue for padayatris). Be prepared for long waiting time (in our case, we entered the queue at noon and were out after the darshan by 4pm. But could have easily been longer.
  • There is no free transport back to the Alipiri gate

In his book, The Power of Habit, Duhigg talks about how the cue-routine-reward cycle. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.

I have spent enough time on my bullet for the reward to be a craving, which is hard wired in my basal ganglia.
I went into auto mode, it was delight simply to get out the jackets, the saddlebags, the gloves. I checked the oil levels & tweaked that accelerator cable to be sure, didn’t want a repeat of that Chennai ride when I jammed cams-rocker-tappet, all for the lack of engine oil.

I started by 5, the roads till Mudbagal could easily take much more power and more speed. Of course, even having a high beam would have helped.
My intermittent fasting ensured that I could skip breakfast and ride all the way. It felt good to get an eventless ride and I quite enjoyed it. The euphoria continued the following morning. With S on the pillion, we took to good roads from Chennai and cruised along. 

One stop for breakfast, and we reached Alipiri gate in about 3hours.
But with no information kiosk at the gate, we first parked, changed, then checked in into the transportable baggage counter, then walked to the bhodevi complex, then ran around for the photocopies, then locked our bags in.

By then time we hit the first step, I was already sweating profusely and was already 8:45 or so. The first 2000 steps were the steepest and went up one hill, and then it plateaus, get into a bit of a valley, then climbs a bit more. TTD can do with using the public address loud speakers to narrate stories about the Lord.

We reached the TTD temple complex (the end of the carpeted footpath) in about 3hours. By noon, we found our way through well marked directions via Padayatri special queue. By noon, we entered a “compartment”, after having to deposit our phones. We were offered hot bisi bele bath inside. Although the notice board outside the coupe said that the estimated time for exit was 4pm, we were allowed to continue into the temple by about 2. When the queues join near the inner sanctum, we were all squeezed like sardines.

Those 10secs or so that you get the darshan as you walk in the sanctum made good all that we had to endure to get there.

In the melee, I had lost one of our biometric tickets – 3 ladoos loss!
We picked up our phones, got into private taxi that got us back to Bhodevi complex. You can’t be in Andhra and not have Andhra meals. We ate our fill of rice and pappu before we turned back to Chennai. The last 50kms of the ride was messy, dusty, trafficy and in the night. All that time we lost in mis-information could have made the finish a lot sweeter.

I totally loved the ride back.


In the end, it was a mix of adrenaline, romance, divinity, lowdowns & sweat – a snapshot, summing up the last 37 years!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Overnighter at Rishi Valley

At the end of my Ultra running season last year, Ranga put up a suggestion in my running group BHUKMP to do an overnighter at his alma mater – Rishi Valley School. Nested in Madanapalle near Chitoor, amidst stony hills, the lush green 400 acre campus seemed like a perfect outing for the kids.

The morning duties takes much longer with the kids, we left mid-morning. Although the roads were good, the 150+ kms seemed to take forever. It was brutally hot, we managed to reach the campus just in time when the rest of the folks were headed to the campus mess for lunch. We had simple, but delicious and healthy lunch, seated cross legged on mats and low tables. The lunch was tastefully prepared.

The guest house was earthy and cool, perfect for resting after the drive and meal.
In the evening, the entire gang headed to the nearby Cave Rock hill overlooking the campus for a hike. Rishi valley is nested in the middle of a few hills – Cave Rock hill, Rishi Konda, Peddu Konda and Horsley Konda. We decided to take the stroller along for a bit for my daughter, with my one year old on a sling. Within a few mins, we had to lose the stroller due to the tough terrain. Soon enough, my daughter tripped over a stone and refused to take another step.

So we climbed then, with my son on the back and my daughter on the front clinging on the superdad. Cheenu, who studies in the school, was our guide for the trek.



We had company of a friend’s mom who at 70+ climbed the hill wearing a saree. Its only after you climb the peak that you get to know the difficult part is getting down!!
Thick dry thorny shrubs were all we could get for support as we scrapped our behind on sliding rocks. Balance was precarious as we shifted kids from hand to hand and the sling from front to back. We missed the “cave” of the cave rock on the way down, but made it down in one piece.


The evening was spent in listening to one of the teachers talk passionately and answer a whole lot of questions on life and philosophy of Jiddu Krishnamurti, the founder of the boarding school.

The highlight of the next morning was breakfast of Ragi Idli & vada sambar (mini vadas floating in sambar that goes with Idli) for breakfast at the student mess. Coming after a forgettable, hot and exhausting run up to Horsley hills made it doubly delightful. While some chose to go to the nearby sliding rock, others decided to take a shorter trek to Horsley hills via the pipeline route.


Overall a fantastic outing – a first trek for my little one!