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