Sunday, May 13, 2018

Decathlon Pre-race 10k

I have been base building for the last 5-6 weeks, steadily increasing my weekly mileage. The girl with fazed ponytail relentlessly popped in each of my sojourns to my FB wall during the last couple of weeks.

Notice the "Special Prize: Finish 10K in 40 minutes or less and win a Kalenji's Run comfort grip running shoes worth 3999/-"

I succumbed, and despite no speed work since Nov, I clicked on the "Get Tickets" and paid up. I have been reading "How Bad Do You Want It? Mastering the Psychology of Mind Over Muscle" and what better time to try this than now.

I ran some 1k intervals on Wednesday and it went alright. I started out a 10k tempo on Thursday, but gave up quickly. Ok, this will have to be Mind over Muscle on race day.

I'm one of the first ones (even before the staff) at the appointed 5am at Decathlon, Ok.
There is no timing chip in the bib, Ok.
There are some 10-20 pro-elite looking guys, Ok. After all, I am only competing with the clock today.
There is some buzz around "shoes for the 1st guy" or "shoes for every sub-40 guy". I have read the terms correctly. Ok.
Run starts 15mins later than the scheduled 6AM start. Ok.
My laces come off, I lose a minute, struggle to keep pace on the flat course along country roads, U-turn comes in 19:11, still in contention. Ok.
Pace falls to 4:11 or so for the next few kms, push myself to finish in 39:08. Course shorter by 400mts. Ok.
I run some more, pick up my medal & certificate and inquire with the organizers, "when do i pick up my shoes?". "Did you win? No? Shoes are only for the top finisher" NOT Ok. NOT Ok. NOT Ok.

The next 39mins was the true test of endurance. Decathlon had clearly goofed up the instructions that went to their communications team. The FB page didn't mention the fine print - "Note: In case of multiple sub-40 finishers, shoes will be awarded to the top finisher". This after-thought-condition, seemed to be updated only on the Decathlon events page and not on FB.
This Decathlon is in Chikka-jaala, translated in kannada, chikka = mini, Jaala = web / maze, coincidence?
I had to use all the pervasive techniques I have picked up (esp. as a dad), pushy at times, playing dumb at others, throwing my weight while saying i didn't want to throw my weight, etc.
There were some athletes who had come from Haryana on a general compartment train ticket, to run this for the shoes. There were other local aspiring good athletes as well, some 10 of us under 40mins. It helped my case.
Then finally, after the n-th huddle, (by which time the 5 idlys had settled down), the organizers relented and pointed to the shoes in the running aisle. I picked this up, before the others got there.

As, I left there, I overheard in hindi, "Do hazar ka, do le sakte kya?"

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The strength saga

The new routine:
4:55AM – I wake up (groggy) to the “Morning Flower” alarm tone. I set this up around mid-night, as I crawl into the other room, so that the alarm doesn’t wake up the kids.
5:25AM – Cycle 2k to the gym
5:35AM – 100 jumping jacks, 30 squats, 30 push ups, 10 pull ups, parallel bars and other looseners for warm up
5:45AM to 6:20AM – 6 exercises for specific muscle groups, 3 sets each (1st set to fatigue, 2nd about 8 reps, 3rd about 4 counts or so).
6:30AM – My Cinderella hour comes to an end. Time to put on the baby-sitting hat, just enough time to squeeze in some bridges, toe-touches and crunches.

My last detox experiment, Panchakarma virechana, left me quite emaciated and reached never before lows on the weighing scale. I gave in to the “oh, you look weak” rants from family and decided to put on some weight. I was done with running for a few months, and decided to hit the gym to gain some muscle.

I scouted around for a local gym. I checked “A Hip Gym” out – the ones that send out flyers with models with ripped abs and other assets; Air-conditioned, biometric access, fancy equipment and costing an arm and my bony leg. My mom suggested a gym that her student (from primary school tuition days) had started. NAK’s gym was perfect – high asbestos roof, with plenty of windows for light and ventilation, enough dumbbells, barbells, a multi-gym, squats & leg press stands, etc. A place where you leave your footwear outside, make a silent prayer as you enter and sweat it out. My kinda place.

Kumar, the instructor, immediately noticed my muscle (or the lack of it), he immediately set me a target of gaining 2kgs per week, with a calorie surplus diet, loaded with as much protein as my eggetarian diet would permit.

I took to it like duck to water, the next 12 weeks, I hardly missed a workout. I followed a 4 day cycle:
Day1 – Chest + Biceps
Day2 – Upper Back / lats + Forearms
Day3 – Shoulders + Triceps
Day4 – Thighs + dead lifts

In six weeks I was up nearly 5% of my body weight, my biceps had put on nearly 1 inch. I was up to 4 eggs/ day, sprouts, spirulina powder, nuts and general binging on reasonably good food (not to mention the protein-farts that came with it).

In the next six weeks, I continued to add protein, 6 eggs a day, and was still on the getting-big trajectory. I pumped 50kgs on the bench press, squatted 40kgs, leg pressed a 100, and dead lifted about 130kgs towards the end of this 12 weeks journey.

10 Jan
16 Feb
30 Mar
Weight (kgs)
Chest (in)
Waist (in)
Biceps (Left-Right) (in)
Forearm (Left-Right) (in)
Thigh (Left-Right) (in)

Muscle memory is an amazing thing, my strength training routines came back to me instantly, wiping out the 13yrs since I had stopped gymming. It was pleasantly surprised to see how the body responded to a completely different load & regimen, the testosterone were at new highs.
(don't miss the insert in the picture from 2005)

While I was on my weight gain mode, my cousin S, attacked the curve from the other side. In 10 weeks, he burnt 10kgs, working out 2hrs a day, starting his workout with repeats of running a flight of 20 steps, up and down, 100 times. Yes, one hundred! He went on a 1400 cal/day diet with no room for junk.

For me, weight training seemed like an excuse to goad up my eating. As I write this, I am ramping up mileage, back to eating from the kitchen scale and letting the running-high take over…

But is strength training really going to help my running – only time will tell, research seems to think otherwise-
Come back to find out.
Thanks for reading and leaving a comment! Cheers!

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Co-orgy at Coorg – Nash Hash Report

Once every two years Nash Hash sees the best of the weirdo hashers from across India and South Asia land at a unsuspecting resort or two.
This year, a resurrected Bangalore Hash House Harriers (BH3), with Pervert Producer and team decided to take on the mismanagement.
Shreya (a.k.a Loan Shark) and I (a.k.a phatphatia) jumped on the chance and quickly registered.

165 hashers registered for the event, including nearly 10 right down to the wire, and a stowaway, who paid his rego at Virajpet!

Day 1 of the event saw most of the 165 hashers boarding tempo travelers from Bangalore. We got on a bus with hashers from Bombay Hash. N1 and N2 remember the bus ride the best.
After copious amounts of Old Monk, we started our leg of the relay run around noon. Our team, the Green Lanterns, did some damage to Hash spirit, by running competitively and winning the relay.
Lunch was organized with Faasos biryani travelling all the way from Bangalore in transport sponsored by Big Basket and served through a live counter at the Periyapatna sports stadium some 240 km from Bangalore! The relay continued after lunch with last team running more than their share of 8.5 km segment thanks to good mismanagement.
The convoy reached Club Mahindra Virajpet and settled into our beautiful spacious rooms nested in a valley. The dinner and party was at the party hall, rising from the lawns and towering over the entire property. Magnificent sight it was. We shook a leg or two, but retired quickly.
The marquee run was on the 27th and the run site was near the Harangi dam reservoir. I was volunteered as a FRB (Front Running Bast*rd) hare and left early to get familiar with the trail. Loan Shark was the lone shark with Lilliput 1.0 and Lilliput 2.0 for the full 2hr bus ride.
Once they reached there, they were escorted by Half moon, first to the water stop and then to the Coorg Lagoon resort for lunch and circle revelries. The imagery of Hashers littering around the hills and meadows in search of the trail near the waterfront (where chalk / flour could be confused for seagull poop) will be etched in my memory for long. Lilliput remembers little more than the trampoline and hammock.
We got back pretty late for the kids to enjoy the play area or the pool at the resort, but we partied till we could. Loan Shark (again “lone”) reluctantly left the party to tend to the kids, while I phatphatied till Sexobics, our Dj, could play no more, of course with my hair down. The next gen hashers (dude and sexobics daughters) set the floor on fire with their groovy dancing and singing.
28th January saw the recovery run start at 9:00 a.m. with the Lungi Treasure hunt, with hashers looking for tokens that were strewn in the plantation area of the resort. Lone Shark and the kids spent some quality time in the pool while appa was up in the trees looking for treasure. At the circle, LitHerBum was crowned the Lungi Queen and Nash Hash finally wound up at 11 a.m. And the buses trundled homewards with hashers having happy memories of 3 exciting days.
We finally got back home late in the night, just having enough time to pack for our next road trip to Coimbatore…

On On

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

2017 – the year of reading!

I used to be a voracious reader while in school, and had (to my parents’ amusement & pride) had asked for second hand books as a birthday present during Class VII. Tinkle, Amar Chitra Katha, Phantom & Mandrake was my parallel universe. I had loved my Enid Blytons, Hardy Boys, Three investigators and Famous Fives. I graduated to Robin Cook, Authur Hailey, Jeffery Archer, John Grisham & Michael Crichton as I finished my engineering. From then, things went downhill – an odd book here or there, didn’t count much for someone who had mastered the art of reading while walking to the bus stop and back, who read during dinner when the TV was also on, in a crowded bus, etc.

But thanks to D, who religiously puts up a list of his reads for the year on his blog, the reading bug resurfaced. But of course, my life is revolving around kids, and their love to tear up books. But then, phone displays also got bigger this year. 5.5inch length of the phone = width of a page on a book, voila!!

I downloaded an app, FB Reader, got myself ebooks (pdfs & epub formats) from open content online and I was good to go. But, hey, how do you read from a phone, it doesn’t have the same feel as a book, right? But for me, the option of quietly reading up a few pages as I put the kids to sleep or snooze with them, to be able to read from a “night” (dark background with white letters) and dim the display to sleep at night as the kids sleep, and the convenience of having a book (and few) around whenever you have 5 mins to spare, far outweigh the “feel” factor.

The evidence is here – I have finished 18 books this year, maybe more than the last 5 years combined. As you would have guessed, many of them are running related, but I also like behavioral economics and added some fiction as well. To cherry on the cake, is that some of this seems to have rubbed off on my better half. She has overcome a mental barrier and does a lot of reading on her daily commutes now. Between us, we hope to turn a few new leaves, as far as our reading habit is concerned, in 2018.

Please do drop a note in the comments section below, if you have any book recommendations or even otherwise.

While you do that, here’s my list of book from my year of reading:
1.       In search of meaning by Viktor Frankl – I have visited the concentration camps at Auschwitz in Poland. The book says the story in an unforgettable manner and introduces logotherapy – a great read.
2.       When breath becomes air by Paul Kalanithi – I read this book as one of my vivacious aunts was fighting a losing battle with cancer. The later stages of the book made me cry like a baby.
3.       Marathon woman by Katherine Switzer – This book and Zatopek’s book set in the evolutionary stages of marathon running was easy to relate to, given the similar set up in which I took up training, racing, etc. myself.
4.       Anywhere by home by Anu Vaidyanathan – This was one I didn’t like at all. The book had her stubborn attitude on display from start to end.
5.       Living with a Seal by Jesse Itzler – This was recommended by a friend and I actually read the hard copy of this one. It was thoroughly refreshing and helps break a few boundaries we have to exercise. Itzler brings out his out of box approach to exercise in this endeavor.
6.       Jaya by Devdutt Patnaik – I already knew Mahabharat from Amar Chitra Katha, I had read this a few times over in my childhood days. So I didn’t find anything new in Devdutt’s book. I was hoping for some of his interpretation, but barring the first few chapters, the rest fell into routine narration.
7.       Art of Learning by Joshua Waitzkin – Hmm, honestly can’t remember enough of this one.
8.       Racing weight by Matt Fitzgerald – Nothing that I took back into my running from this one, except some broad principles.
9.       What if: Serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions by Randall Munroe – I liked the concept, but it was somewhat high transmission for me.
10.   Ready to Run: Unlocking your potential to run naturally by T J Murphy – Good read. It lists some 12 standards. I particularly picked up a few stretches to improve my own flexibility.
11.   Today we die a little by Emil Zatopek – This was a peek into the mind of a truly competitive running legend.
12.   Sapiens: A brief history of humankind by Yuval Noah Harari – I loved reading this (maybe because I took forever to finish this). Right from the foraging sapiens to agricultural & industrial revolution had good nuggets of information and perspectives. I only wish he had dwelled a bit more on the future, about bioengineered humans and amortal cyborgs
13.   Why we Run: A natural history by Heinrich – This is considered a classic, it’s an amalgamation of Heinrich’s expertise in biology and passion for running. I didn’t share the same passion for biology and the book felt a little flat for me.
14.   Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked by Adam Alter – It explains why smartphones make dumb kids. As a parent, it reinforced what we already practiced about keeping laptops and smartphones away from toddlers.
15.   A man called Ove by Fredrik Backman – The story unfolds and with it our admiration for the protagonist. Fast paced, refreshing characters, some great story telling, I was actually sad that the book ended when it did.
16.   The Oxygen Advantage: The Simple, Scientifically Proven Breathing Techniques by Patrick McKeown. The author has a lifetime of experience in breathing and helping children with improving breathing. I tried to use the breath holding techniques in my running, ignoring the stares that I get as I run past inquisitive walkers with my nose closed!
17.   Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler – If this is your first book on behavioral economics you will like it. But I have read a few of this genre, there was nothing new that this book had to offer.
18.   Moonwalking with Einstein  by Joshua Foer – With some serious commitment, the author goes from covering the US memory championship as a journalist, to actually winning it. Although it opens your mind to the powers of how you can train it, as the author self-confesses, it does tell you how you can use these techniques to help remember names (which is my big weakness)
19.   Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens – Yet to complete this, but you can imagine the amount of stories that Big Data can throw up (even in work-related contexts), especially when you combine Facebook and Pornhub. I can already see myself using some of these anecdotes at work.
What did you like in 2017? What do you recommend for me? Share your thoughts in the comments section please.

Monday, December 25, 2017

My Panchakarma Virechana Experience

I lay down face up on the bare bed, stark naked except for a cloth barely covering my privates. My hands are stretched far out to one corner, warm oil drips onto my starved and somewhat weakened body, from legs to the torso to the arms. Then, in pressurized machine like manner, he massages up and down and in circular fashion swishing the oil and squezzing my organs. As my skin stretches and my skeleton offers meek resistance, I close my eyes into submission...

For a couple of years now we have been trying Ayurveda – during Sh’s pregnancy, to battle my daughter’s asthma and incessant coughs and colds; with good success. Our confidence in Ayurveda’s holistic healing approach and our friendly neighborhood Ayurveda doctor (Dr. Nayana) has only grown since.

I tried to apply Ayurveda to cure a skin eczema that I have been having for the last 12years or so. The steroid based allopathy medicines don’t get to the root cause.
After a few months of some mild medicines and kashayam, my doctor suggested I “treat” myself to a full Panchakarma Virechana detox program to get rid of any Pitha dosha that may be causing this. It was the most I have spent on myself in a while, but I decided to give it a shot.

The best part of the whole exercise was the suspense factor. The doctor modifies the phases as per the reaction to the current & previous phases. It pans out one step a day. In my case, I was in constant consultation with my doctor on Whatsap. So it was more one “ping” at a time. I had no idea how the massage phase would be, no clue on the purging process, etc, only knew that it would go on for 12 days.

Preparation phase – 3 days

This was perhaps the easiest. I had to take digestive medicine Chitrakadi Vati for 3 days and have easy-to-digest home cooked food. Curd and fruits were proscribed.

Snehakarma or Oleation Phase – 3 days

My previous experiments with intermittent fasting & bullet proof coffee came handy here. You start your day by consuming 15ml to 50ml (increasing quantities – Shodana Sneha) of medicated ghee on empty stomach, sip warm water periodically and fast till noon, to aid the absorption of ghee. Ghee is actually euphemism, don’t imagine anything as tasty. My burping was not much but brought out the pungent taste back to the mouth. Diet for the rest of the day was only watery rice gruel (Ganji). By the third day, the boredom of not eating as per your regular schedule and the food you want got to me.

Abhyanga (massage) and Swedana Phase – 3 days

 This was the first time I had massage of any kind. Despite all the running, I have so far stayed away from deep tissue massages that are very popular with runners. The oil massage (with special oil – Shatavari + Chinchadi thailam) was an experience in itself. Taking your clothes off with just a komana to cover your vitals is in itself a quantum leap from my comfort zone. 40mins of Abhyanga, breaks more mental barriers than physical, I guess. 
I felt frail as I got off the massage table. The body is but on rent, take care of it enough to lead a happy life, don't be too attached to it, it is on rent after all.
Swedana / sweating follows for 15mins in a steaming chamber. I liked the Paanamrutha after the massage. The relaxation of the massage comes at the cost of dietary & sleep restrictions. Rice is ok, No Urad / Toor daal, no fermented foods, no coffee / tea – rules out a lot of staple food. Pongal with tadaka & tomato rasam (without daal) were my treats. I figured if you take a deep breath of coffee decoction and drink green tea, it comes close to actually drinking coffee. And, don’t relax too much, so you fall asleep - Sleeping during the day is prohibited.

The core of it all – Virechana Phase – 1 day (thankfully!)

This is the actual purgation process. The idea of the previous phases is to loosen the Kapha rooted in the organs, gut and intestines. The idea of Virechana is then to purge this out of the system via the anal route.
I was told that on this day, after the massage, a kashayam is given and within one hour, the urges will start. One would have urges for about 15 times during the day. You are only allowed to sip warm water till evening when the purgatory process is over. Simple, right? But the actual day was quite miserable.
The massage, medicine (one bowl of chamanprash like porridge) and a glass of diluted kashayam were actually nice, quite contrary to what was to come.
Within about 30mins, the medicine started doing its thing. The urges came in 30mins intervals to start with, then more frequently. I joked that the timing chart looked like my 5K split timings, precise to start with. S said it was closest to an edema-like feeling I will ever get. Jokes apart, by noon, I was already into double digits. By 3pm or so, the very idea of going to the bathroom was nauseating. Surprisingly, the last thing on my mind was hunger – I had lost the wish to eat, anything! By 4pm, the doctor gave the go-ahead for a bath and eat some Ganji. Finally by 5pm or so, after some 16 purging sessions, I was done and hopefully, the Kaphas have left as well.

Samsarjana / Recovery phase – 2 days

For the next couple of days, my weakened digestive system should be given time to recover slowly. More dietary restrictions, starting with Ganji, then moving to Pongal, rice and rasam for the second day. One the third day, I am allowed to eat fruits and get back to regular diet.

I am yet to figure out if this cures my skin eczema issues. My initial reaction is relief that I am nearing the end of this. I certainly feel light, I have lost 4kgs in this period. You are what you eat, there is no doubt about it. Do I recommend it? Yes.

Do challenge your body to move out of your comfort zone, and if the purging process comes with the multitude of benefits that it claims, you have more reason to do it.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Wipro Chennai Marathon 2017

A few days before the Chennai marathon on Dec 3rd, I had a cousin Dr. G pay us a visit. A great conversation ensued and it felt like my 50 year old self had time-travelled, paid a visit to give some wisdom to my 30 year old self (yes, that is what literary freedom is for. You are allowed to understate). I shall try to put my Chennai marathon experience through this kaleidoscope.

1.       Invest in your health – I try to keep working towards a running goal and pick up healthy habits along the way. This year has been one of consolidation of some of these habits – along diet, sleep & mileage. Moving away from “English” medicine to getting back to traditional kashayas and Ayurvedic medicines and home remedies.

I signed up for the Chennai marathon, to run this after a gap of 5 years, in a bid to fill the void after the Bengaluru marathon. I was looking to extend the benefits of a good training season this year, keep my weight in check and take another shot at a Personal Best.

I had 6 weeks to train, but was struggling with congestion in the chest for most of this period. The weather had turned quite cold and the rains were incessant.

2.       Live your life, Live in the present – I wear multiple hats; each day I’m an amateur athlete, a cook, a maid (what is the masculine for this?), a chauffeur, a business analyst, a father, a son and husband. I break stereotypes – we don’t have a maid, a cook, a driver, a baby sitter (do you know professional cuddling is one of the highest paid jobs?). We upkeep the house, cook & do the dishes, the laundry, the pressing, a wipe down the car ourselves. I even do my own haircut (and now my son’s) for the last 10years. Don’t let anyone tell you how you should lead yours. Don’t lead the life that your mom wants you to lead, your kids, your spouse or your boss wants you to lead. Live your life.

As always, I took the train, an open/unreserved ticket in the general compartment to Chennai on Saturday morning. I love the vibrant energy that is in a Gen compartment. There is no room for pretensions here, no flab, stripped down to the basic need of getting to the destination and whatever comes with it. Super crowded, not crowded, adjust-ments, suborn fights, smiles, laughs, stories, new perspectives – all of it at a cheap ticket cost. (See, no mobile phones and no tablets)

Right from the 4am start, I tried to run mindfully. I’m also mindful of my breathing nowadays, after reading ‘The Oxygen Advantage’. I only breathed through my nose, except for the last km or so during this run. I kept an easy pace, although a bit slower than target, almost right from about 15km or so, I tried not to worry about the finish time.

For most of the run, till 36km, I kept pace with the lead woman runner (in black stripes tee in the pic) who had a couple of bicycle escorts, made sure I wasn’t bored. I had 2 Fast and Up gels for this run and constantly fed myself bananas and chikkies. The HMers merged with us at 32km, I must have lost focus on my form about here. From 36km, I slowed down a bit to keep off some cramps. In hindsight, I should have tried to run through it, I had nothing to lose. Another day, perhaps.

3.       Count your blessings – I finished the marathon in 202mins, 2mins over my target. But I try to focus on the 180mins that I ran well and not on the 20mins that I didn’t run so well. I feel His love and blessings. I tried to smile, wide, ear to ear on many stretches during the run. Amongst other things (like a good running pic), it helps with running economy, you tend to use oxygen better. I ended up finishing 26th overall. After the finish, a colorful medal and good hot breakfast (of idly upma, Pongal, sira and sundal), I was able to run up the steps (on the double) to the train station to catch the local to the parking lot. Again, I took the evening train back to Bangalore that very evening (was lucky to hop on to a sparsely crowded train and stretch my legs).

4.       Build relationships / Connect – Any marathon is a great occasion to catch up with the running fraternity. I met Suresh, Partha, Bobby, Sampath and Vatcha after the run, in addition to many familiar faces during the run itself. Chennai runners (the club) – the soul of the Chennai marathon, volunteering at every water station made sure there was a lot of cheering and motivation en route. I love the support that I get as my in-laws putting all sops to make me feel comfortable, pre-race and post.

5.       Make a bucket list – Next year, I will make an effort to build some bridges, I plan to invest more in relationships. I’m not where to start, but I will try to put a bucket list up!

Thanks Dr. G, to have made the effort to drop in and spend time.
Coming Soon - Long Hair and Lean Muscle. Stay Tuned!!!