Sunday, November 20, 2011

Coasting on East Coast Road again

One of the motivations to be keep myself fit is that it provides multiple opportunities to be alive to all those places I travel. In yet another cases, a chance chat with Dr. Subash at a Chennai hospital and before long I knew his biking pace and he my PR on a marathon! A few text messages later, I was frantically looking for a bike to join Doc & his friend, Nav on their Sunday morning ride to Mahabalipuram.

Thanks to Venkat, who put me on to Suresh who owns the Cycle mart near Kodambakkam. Suresh was kind enough to lend me a Bianchi Camaleonte Uno Sport Hybrid bike for the ride. All that was required now to get on saddle up, at 4AM on 13th Nov, Sunday.

The plan was to begin riding from Thiruvanmiyur, Nav’s place at 5AM. Doc offered to give me a ride from his place to Nav’s place.
We started a little late at quarter past 5, hit the highway soon and fell into a steady 26kmph on ECR. We hit into some cycling traffic from Reaxion, an organized ride on ECR. Doc was on a BSA kruze and Nav was on a GTR, road bikes both.

We stopped to munch on our snack bars just after passing the bridge across the river Vettar, having covered the first 20k in about 50mins. The next break was a quick one too, at the U-turn point at Mahabs. The road is flat and we stuck to the left shoulder of the road and pace-lined each other right through.

It was on these breaks that I was told (and nonchalantly) that my co-riders were erstwhile, part of the state pro-rowing team! That explained the brisk pace we were pushing.
Nav reminded us to keep focus and average 25kmph for the return leg. We did just that for the last leg, finishing the 82km distance in about 3h:17m, just as the sun was casting these shadows down!

Well, it was not close to an Ultra effort (I was missing the Bangalore ultra this year), but was a truly refreshing experience. This continues my thirst with the lovely ECR, following the relay run to Pondy. Details of the ride here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Spirit of Wipro Half Marathon 2011 - Race report

Within 2 weeks of testing waters at Mysore Celebration Half Marathon, I ran the Spirit of Wipro (SoW) Half marathon. I had been training for the SoW 10k, but Wipro decided to host a Half Marathon for the first time and the response was encouraging. There were 125 registrations in all, and arguably 115 at the start line.

Over the years Wipro has been adding to this event and making it bigger. Last year had a coach help employees train for the run, this was the first time Wipro was taking at stab at the Half marathon distance. There was a medical test – Blood, ECG and Peak Flow test. I scored 85% of predicted values on the Spirometry Flow-Volume test (anyone knows how to interpret these results?)

I knew the course till half way mark, having run this race the last 3 years and finishing on the podium in the previous 2 editions. I did a recce of the other half of the route. It is a out-and-back course, starting on Sarjapur road, Karmalaram, Gear School, Varthur road. The course was nearly flat with a 1-2% gradients in the first couple of kms and similar gradients in the 12-18kms.

This run was also special because my sister Madhu and nephews – Rishabh and Aryan were also taking part in the 4k run.

The run was flagged off by Anurag Beher who then jumped off the podium to join the runners (that’s the first time I have seen that happen). I was soon in the lead making my way into the fog headed out on Sarjapur road. It was after 5k that I was challenged first – 2 guys (Dilip, the eventual winner & another, a 20 year old) just strolled past me, or so it seemed. They were in the zone – matching strides and running in rhythm, effortlessly. I was myself beginning to warm-up and was able to hold the 4:30 pace.

My plan was to hold on to 4:30 min/km pace till the U-turn point and then to slow down slightly to keep the next 10k in 4:53 min/km pace. This would take me to my Personal best and I would finish under 1h:39m. I was on target till the U-turn point. By this time, Dilip was way ahead and building the lead and the young man had stopped – I was in second position now.

With about 3k to go, I ran into the 10k lead pack and with 2k to go, the entire populace of the 4k runners crowded the road. There was no stepping up the pace, I was barely able to stick to a sub-5 pace. I passed the boys – Rishabh and Aryan.

I finished in 1h:39m:06s to claim the second spot. Dilip finished 3mins ahead in 1:36 and Sanjeev came in 3rd in 1:42
The post-race event was not as great as last year’s, the drum jam of Roberto was cut before it reached its crescendo and Vasundhara Das’s performance was uninspiring.

I took the opportunity to show the kids around the campus and my workplace, overall it was fun.
In the end, this was how the pacing chart compared against the actual:

I now have 3 Half marathons close to 1h:40m
 The Midnight Half Marathon in Dec 2010 in 1:38:58
 The Mysore Celebration Half Marathon in Oct 2011 in 1:40:28 and
 The Spirit of Wipro Half Marathon in Oct 2011 in 1:39:06
(Analysis inspired by
The comparison chart for the 5k splits is an interesting chart – the Mysore HM is the closest I have come to a negative split. Clearly, the last 5k needs to be worked upon. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mysore Celebration Half Marathon

In keeping with my goal of training to run faster this year, I have forced myself out of the regular marathon circuit. An opportunity like this one for a Half marathon, I grabbed with both hands. While most marathons now have the basic hygiene (registrations, timing chips and support), they rate low on fresh courses/routes and providing value for money.

This inaugural Mysore Celebration half marathon as a part of the Dasara celebrations coming at a registration of 700 bucks, took care of both.

I am having mixed results with the speed training, the mile repeats are stuck between 4min/km to 4:18mins/km pace and there is no significant improvement in the 400 – 1200m repeats either. I am sure like most things, this will take time coming.
But, completely agreeing with Amit Seth, that the interval training is like falling in love with each bit in isolation and hoping that the parts will add up to a beautiful whole.

Pre-race and Mysore Dasara
In a sudden turn of events, Shreya and I decided on Friday evening, to visit her aunt in Mysore for the weekend. And as luck would have it, Mysore was hosting its inaugural half marathon as a part of the Dasara celebrations. Some worming through websites and a few phone calls later, I knew I had a small window to register on Saturday. So, that’s how I turned up on 2nd October, Sunday in front of Mysore Palace with Neera, Bhasker and other running buddies from BHUKMP for the half marathon.

The registration for the race was well handled. The t-shirt was smart and “life is calling” did a very good job of handling the last minute registration too. I only took about 15mins from filling forms to picking up the goody bag.

The Start
6:45AM in front of the Mysore Palace was the perfect location. What was not perfect was the flag-off. The runners were asked to get into the pen from 6:15 and were restless by 6:45. The chief guests were minister Ramdass and actress Nivedita, who arrive about 15mins late, then there is a speech by the minister while the runners were ignored. When the speech was done, the minister and his team of touts and guards had to do a mock run for the press. When we finally thought the drama was done with, there was still the climax – with the press & photographers’ blocking one side of the start area and the politician’s gang on the other, a nonchalant puppy was spotted at the start and the actress had to rush and pick up the puppy, much to the delight of the waiting press. They had their breaking news!

It finally got underway at 7:10 or so, the elites scampering for their 3 feet of space. Bhasker, Neera, Nitin, Siddesha, Ravi and Richard were at the starting line, having driven from Bangalore that morning.

The race
The rest of the race made up for the goof-up at the start. It was a good course through Devaraj Urs road, Hunsur road and then into the Kukkarahalli lake and Manasagangotri. Traffic was managed well, with cops and volunteers and intersection keeping the somewhat-more-patient-Mysore traffic out of the runners’ way.

I started well and was keeping under 4:40 min/km pace with the elite women athletes, running along Devraj Urs road with the sun beating on our necks. But I lost tempo in a couple of kms and had to slow down. The 1-2% gradients of Hunsur road also kept my pace under check – I was struggling. After the first 5k or so, I managed to regain my rhythm. When I looked up my pace again, I incorrectly read 13k in 1:06, which was way off my target. I held on through the lake bund trail and then the elevation loss in the last 5k helped keep the pace. When I heard a volunteer say I had 500m to go, I looked at my watch, which, to my surprise read 1h:37m. I sprinted to the finish line to clock 1h:40m:16s

I had reasonably good splits. My 5k splits were 23:06, 23:38, 24:39 and 24:52. Timingplanet that did the timing for the race recorded the 7k splits at 30:22, 35:26 and 34:28. I came in 23rd overall and 19th in the men’s category. Almost all of my RFL pals came in at 1:43, with Neera bagging the 5th position in the women's category.

Shreya and I rode back on the bullet with her brother and cousin on another bike putting the ghosts of Coorg to rest. Confidence was restored on the bike and the biker…

Photo courtesy - Bala

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Coorg to Coast Ride – Cycling and More

When Shreya and I signed up for the CAM ride, we knew the cycling part. When the weekend was over we knew that “more” meant incessant rains, insane descents, falls, water falls, hills, rubber, awesome roads, aweful roads and lots more.

Cycling and more (CAM) organizes rides in the Malnad area and manage transport of bikes, food, accommodation & support. All you need to do is saddle up and ride. It was a full bus load of cycling enthusiasts boarding the bus from Bangalore to Bhagamandala in Madikeri on Friday night. The plan was to start the ride on 6th Saturday morning and ride about 100kms on day 1. Then to rest at Kasargod for the night and ride another 50kms on day 2 to Jalsoor, Sulya and then board the bus back to Bangalore on Sunday.

I was suitably warned by Vikrath & SriHarsha from CAM that the first section of the road, well, is not road really. I decided to push ahead with my road bike for this trip. I did read the instructions and changed my brake pads, thankfully.

Day 1: 6th Aug 2011 Bhagamandala to Kasargod
There was one constant throughout the ride – that was rain, heavy drizzle to downpour. So while you read the ride report, unless otherwise mentioned, it was raining!

The bikes were un-loaded from the Cantor at the KSTDC guest house in Bhagamandala, while we had breakfast and geared up for the ride. Yes, it was raining steadily. The initial couple of kms was an uphill – about 100mts in 5kms. The downhills and patchy roads began as we entered the Talakaveri wild life sanctuary. The route was brilliant, water falls, dense forests and rains of course. But I couldn’t take my eyes off the road or relax those fingers off the brakes, one moment.
I thought of this ride as an answer to “God, I need a break”. But, He had other plans and said, “Take two brakes – front and back & hold on to it like you hold on to your dear life.”

Shreya was doing well till she pulled the brakes and noticed they were not responding! So skkidd she went, into a pile of bamboo shoots and thorns. Luckily she walked away with no serious bruises or broken bones. Vikrant, in the support car, helped fix her a new pair of brake pads and she was on her way. It was laudable that she continued to ride despite the fall till the lunch break.

For me, it was how long I could push without a puncture. And sure enough, after 28kms, just as I was taking off after a photo break, I noticed the flat. I had a spare tube, found a reasonably dry spot under a massive tree and began the routine of fixing the puncture. It took me about 15-20mins to fix the tube, by which time, my veins had 3 punctures! Those wormy leaches had hunted down my warm blood and I was bleeding profusely from my feet.
Since I wore those ‘Hawai chappals’ for the ride, I was easily able to spot the bright pink, as the oozing blood mixed with the rain drops. The punctures fixed, the leaches taken care of, I resumed the ride from behind the pack, with the sweep cantor breathing down my neck.

Lunch was near the Udayapuram turn, after we had done about 55kms. Shreya decided to ride in the Cantor for the rest of the day. After a short lunch break, I decided to up the pace and attack the hills. The first one was a 200m climb in 4kms and then the hills began rolling and the roads much better. I averaged 20kmph for the 28k distance till Bekal fort via Kanhangad. Shreya soon reached there and we spent some quality time in walking around the fort. In case you forgot, it was still raining!
Photo courtesy: Srinidhi

The ride from Bekal fort to Kasargod (our overnight halt) was on patchy, scaled roads and right along the coastline. I reached Speedway Inn with 97kms done for the day. After parking the bikes safely, it took us nearly an hour before we could park ourselves in the rooms. Dinner was at a modest Udupi hotel and the room served as a drier to salvage whatever we could from the wet monsoon day ride.

My lower back was sore or what!

Day 2: 7th Aug 2011 Kasargod to Jalsoor
We started from Speedway Inn at 7:45AM, the plan was to ride East towards Jalsoor, Sulya. I started out ahead of most of the MTBs and stayed up in front right through on fantastic roads right up to the breakfast point after Cherkala. After the Uppit-Kesaribath breakfast I managed to keep good pace, again on fantastic roads. Today I had done away with my raincoat and was enjoying the light drizzle.
Photo courtesy: Ganesh

Somewhere after the Adhoor temple, on that empty speedy road, amidst the din of the crickets, I was suddenly aware of forceful companion riding alongside. When the canopy cleared, I almost fell off the bike when I first saw her. The Payaswini river was flowing alongside in its full glory, the recent monsoons having filled her wide course to the seams.

With about 4kms to Jalsoor, I rode past the suspension bridge across the river. I reached Jalsoor right behind the Cantor to the applause of the ‘cheerleaders’ riding in the Cantor. I had averaged 22kmph for this superb stretch of 32kms, which was the best of the entire tour.

I had a quick bath by an open well and got into dry clothes. While we waited for the others to trickle in and the bikes to be loaded into the Cantor, I got a big lesson in Customer Service from the tea-stall owner Venkatarama Bhat. In the middle of this little rubber growing town, this barista had more wisdom than many managers in large corporations back in the city. Well, that is a story for another day perhaps.

We were treated to lunch and Gudbud at Sulya. The return trip was sprinkled with movies, bakras, mafia and wild jokes. It was past the mid-night hour when we crashed for the night at home – High & Dry!!!
Photo courtesy: Venkat

The Garmin log of my ride (for all the dirty details) visit the activity log here

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Great Wall of Mumbai – The marathon report 2011

It was to be third time lucky for me at the Mumbai marathon…

I have family in Mumbai now with my sis moving there last year - Rest, Pasta, positive feeling taken care of. I had trained less and rested more since my last marathon at Singapore – a technique that had produced good results at Auroville in 2009. I had the perfect pacing partner in Dharam, an experienced campaigner, who knew the course like the back of his tanned sweaty palm. The weather Gods were behaving themselves – Mumbai was 8 deg cooler than usual. The organizers, Procam had paid heed – the race start was advanced to 6:15AM and there were 2 water stations in the previously arid Sea-link…
So, I must have run a flawless marathon, right?

But as Coach JoeEnglish puts it in his “The (non-)Mythical Flawless Marathon”, “It isn’t that marathons don’t go well all of the time. They do. But for a marathon to go flawlessly is a rare happening. When the weather is perfect and the course is great and the people are awesome. And when the pacing is done just right and the nutrition works and the hydration is spot on. And and and. . . when it all works, it is an almost mythical experience.”
On this occasion, I was deprived of this mythical experience. After having run the first 30k in 2h:38m averaging 11.5kmph, I had to take nearly 8 massage breaks to ease cramps in the last 12k. A distance that would normally taken 60mins, took me well over 100mins to cover. I finished with my shoulders drooping, my head hung low.

My 5k splits give the full picture:

Shreya had a great story. The run-up to the race day was not the best for her too. She had severe stomach pains on the evening before the race. She had more than made up her mind to get into an ambulance after the 10k mark. I was prepared to hear the worse when I received her call first thing post-race. That, she was sitting someplace near the exit / toilets and refused to talk about the race over phone, made me fear a dreaded DNF against her name.

… but Voila!!! She completed her half marathon in just under 3hours. Oh, and how she enjoyed it. She made friends with a couple, who were brisk walking their way through every km mark. And while she jogged along (& sometimes danced to the live bands playing), she obliged many Samaritans & kids who were offering chocolates, cool drinks, chikkies to the runners. One cute kid with outstretched palms into the blazing sun pleaded, “Just take one candy Aunty, Please, it’s good for health.”

There were plenty of positives as far as the marathon itself was concerned. What Procam missed in execution they made up with intent at least. There seemed to be more water stations this time round. I saw a volunteer also hand over sponges (that it was dry was another story). There was a water spray zone, but was rendered ineffective by Mumbai’s heat.
I am proud of my running friends from RFL. All (yes, every single one of them), had a fantastic race, if not a Personal Best. Sunil, Anjana, Bhasker easily beat my expectations, Dharam, Nitin, Rishi, Amrita, Meher, Shantanu, Jaggi, Nari, Vasu, Chandra… the list is endless.

Quoting again from JoeEnglish:
There is a problem with all of this in that running the perfect marathon includes both internal and external components. The runner can put together an absolutely perfect training program and then show up to a 100 degree broiler and have their hopes dashed before they begin. But that’s why the occurrence of a nearly flawless marathon is even so much more rare. Because all of the stars really do have to align to produce one. The external factors, such as weather and crowds and jet-lag and the theft of your running shoes the night before the race, all of have to themselves work out — and all of this is in addition to you executing the race properly.
As for me, the Great Wall of Mumbai still remains to be conquered; will someone get those stars to line up, please...