Thursday, December 06, 2018

IAU Asian and Oceanic 24h Championship 2018 - A Report

As the dust settles down on the greatest event in my running career, some thoughts on the week that went by. I have split this up into sections to make it easier for you to read - Pre-run, Organizing, the race, My race, Post run, Lessons and Sponsors.


We had put together a full team – 6 men and 6 women. Upon insistence of our team manager, Sunil C, almost all of us had reached Taipei on Wednesday, a good 2 days in advance. Also, we had a team physio, Dr. Sitaraman with us. The team spent large parts of the extra day in scouting for restaurants. I had carried my own rice cooker and prepared most of my meals in my room. We had a team meeting at the gym in the hotel, mostly still debating Ultra-running 101, than fine tuning strategy – Nutrition was perched on top of that list (more on this in the “lessons” section).

The excitement started building up as the other teams arrived at the hotel on Friday – the breakfast area of the hotel looked like a mini athletic village. Nadeem Khan, president of the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) was stopping by at all team tables, and so was Dan Lawson, the legendary Brit runner. By this time, our own Godfather of Indian Ultra, Nagraj Adiga was with us and helped settle some nerves.

The bus arrived to pick us up at 11AM and to take us to the event venue. On the schedule for Friday, was Registration, technical meeting and opening ceremony from 1PM to 4PM, followed by welcome dinner at the hotel at 5:30. We spent a lot of time ambling around the track, lots of pictures, then scouting for food at the University food court and listening to seemingly endless introductions & speeches (translated into Chinese or English) at the opening ceremony. 

Marching in India colors under the Indian flag to the opening ceremony was truly the highlight and a very proud moment.

Musical notes on the Zheng, lucky charms invited us at dinner, followed by long speeches and longer lines for dinner. I loaded myself with rice and porridge as we headed out to sort out our nutrition. A sub-group went shopping to pick up common food stuff – breads, peanut butter, bananas, oranges, chips, coke and sprite.

Another group made a clinic of the room that I was sharing with Doc – taping and foam rolling. I hit the bed early, pushing out my prep till the next day. I woke up at 5am, made a pound of peanut butter sandwiches, soaked my feet in Epsom for a while, cooked a puliogere breakfast, got ready by 6:45, to board the bus to the stadium.

Some 30mins before the start, there was yet another opening ceremony, bi-lingual endless intros and some more short speeches. With the Ex-President of China flagging off, this was very important for the organizers. Our timing chips were given and we were getting ready, the sun beating down at us at the start line.

The race (Overall)

There was an elite field in the Open category – Ivan Lopez (who has run 273 this year), Dan Lawson (elite Brit ultra runner), current Swedish record holder Johan (look up Big Backyard ultra). In the international category, Ishikawa from Japan was the favorite to win. All the stars were keeping very steady pace in the inner loop right from when the guns went off (about 1 dozen of them). It was brutally hot, only part of the track had some shade. The timing tents (there were volunteers manually counting off each loop of the top 40 runners) and the support tents (one per country) were on one side of the track. The port-a-loos were on the other side. There was a medical tent at a far end as well. There was one common support station with water, nuts and coke. But none of these were used more than the water sponges, runners generously poured the cold water overhead to fight the 29 deg heat.

I got to see a lot of action, some of the highlights:

  • ·       The Spaniard Ivan keeping steady pace, same form, right to the end, including during his running leak breaks
  • ·       The Japanese planning, right down to shirt change (without stopping – he handed out his shirt at the start of the support area and received the change at the end, bibs pinned and all)
  • ·       Some very senior members (in their 50s, 60s??) in the Aussie team – I have hope.
  • ·       The super-brisk walking sexagenarian Monglian who was putting us runners behind comfortably
  • ·       The ups and downs of the Ultra – there were gory scenes at the medical tents, bodies stiffened up, BP, sugar levels going down, heart rates shooting up, etc. etc. But more importantly, how they all managed to get back on track
  • ·       A note on our own Ullas Narayana – what a delight it was to see him go by. Not once did he make it to the tent, not once. I didn’t see him amble around even once, his only walk was to the port-a-loos I guess. He took all morning to get into rhythm, but when he got it, he kept going, cranking it up lap after lap. I want to freeze that image and get there someday. What an inspiration!
Our women did reasonably well too, Hema came in 12th overall with a gritty 172k in 24hrs.

Our Men’s team did exceptionally well. On the back of a great individual performance by Ullas (250k), aided by determined personal best efforts by Sunil and Meena, Indian team managed to go past the Mongolian & the host team to cling the Bronze. Ullas himself beat a strong field, clawing his way from the back to pull off a spectacular show, with the individual Bronze.
These were the first medals in an international Ultra event for India ever!!


The tent was a busy place for the 30mins after the finish, runners were lying around, support crew was packing up. We all somehow managed to get to the awards arena. There was a dance show, a musical, more introductions and more speeches (in Chinese and English again).

It was a great feeling to get on stage to receive the team Bronze medal and bought tears when the flag went up as the national anthems were played. I was very sad and very happy at the same time, I was on the team that made history!


“Jiayou”, “Jiayou” (sounds like Jaa yow) – the student volunteers from the Soochow University were urging you to “Keep fighting” every lap. Whenever a runner passed the timing tents, they erupted with Jaiyous.

The organizing was spotless. Each team was assigned three student volunteers. Ours (Hank, Amber and Joan) were with us right from when we landed at Taipei, till we boarded the flight back. Each one of them stretched beyond their responsibility to ensure we were comfortable.

Every detail was meticulously planned, it helps that Soochow University has been organizing this for 18 years now. It is a Gold Label venue for the 24h race and kept up to its reputation.

The International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) had a large presence at the event, the President Nadeem Khan and Robert Boyce were on the track at all times. There is talk to bring some of these events to India and I can’t be happier for Indian Ultrarunning.

My Race

Ok, what happened to Manoj Bhat??
Early onset of cramps, my nemesis. I was running well. I had done about 40k in the first 4hours. Between 4 and 8 hours, I had taken a few physio breaks. My Garmin showed 74k in 8hours (the official count was 71k or so). But by the time the sun went down behind the hills, I had started to walk about 20m every loop to keep the cramps at bay. It worked ok, I was able to keep moving, but my pace had come down to about 7.5k per hour. I could only get to a 100k in 12hours, off target by about 10km.

There were pains that came and went – first the left feet, then the left knee. But the one that started hurting my walk, was a pain in the right arch of the feet. I was forced to lift my right feet off the ground and place it down for every step of a walk. I got to 125k in 16hours, but even a 50k seemed impossible in the next 8hours. I became obvious that I wouldn’t be able to get a PB or contribute to the team in anyway. My best contribution was to keep out of harm’s way, to allow for the support team to focus on the other who would matter.

And, I did. I kept to a self-sustained walking mode for a few more laps. Then decided to call it off altogether. After about 18hours, I took my timing chip off, walked away to the awards area for a restroom break, then found a cold bench, stretched my legs and took a nap.

In my meek defense, I got back on the sidelines to do my bit with the statistics towards the end – adding up the laps and passing on the info the team to help it stay ahead. Then to Ullas as he approached his 250k milestone. And that is how I ended my race. It comes very close to being my worst personal performance ever.


The most important one is planning nutrition. One needs to have a detailed nutrition plan with schedule for intake of salt tablets, Gels, solid food, water and electrolytes – down to each hour. The support team has to be sensitized to this plan.

Everything on the plan needs to have been tried in training, including solid food. (I had a slice of peanut butter sandwich which didn’t go down well. I had to eventually induce vomiting to get it out.)

As for the team, in order to organize the support better, AFI must mandate a certain specific brand of salt tablets & electrolyte drink. As for solid food, runners must be able to pick from a set of 3-5 options only. Gels can be personalized, but my suspicion is that it will still vary between 2-3 top brands. 
This way the support team may be able to be more pro-active with support, than being reactive. In fact, they may be even able to stave off injuries, because they will be able to gauge the situation better.

Personally, I am guilty of having started on salt tablets too late which may have hastened the incoming of cramps. Ullas pointed out that my choice of compression pants, may have trapped the heat in. I wasn’t detailed enough on my nutrition plan – peanuts alone will not do.

My big takeaways – 100mile weeks in training is possible (with loads of help from family, of course). And thanks to the inspiring performances, 220km in 24h does seem human.

My family stood steadfast during my training and have been my pillars of strength. My sister baked some great Nutribars and shipped it for my race. To all of you and my well-wishing friends, I owe better.

Support team matters - Sunil, Sachin, Narayan uncle and Doc were steadfast in their support. I wish I was more organized and helped you help me better. Thank you for your selfless support!!


Concerted efforts from Peter made it possible for AFI to be affiliated with IAU and made it possible to send Indian teams to these events. They have created the platform for us to make use of. Thank You.

A big shout out to our sponsors NEB Sports, IDBI Federal and Adidas India. Of all the team that were there, ours was the most sponsored. The insistence of the sponsors to send a full team (with lax qualifying criteria) to gain the experience, shows their commitment. The outcome would have been so different if it we weren’t accompanied by the team Doctor. Many thanks for all this.

Ultrarunning is the fastest growing sport and India is a hotbed of talent. I do hope that the sponsors continue to support the sport to help India get on to the world stage.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Getting on the Indian national team

Luck (Success) is what happens when opportunity meets preparedness.

The Preparedness

My Preparedness graph has started about 13 years back. All the mindless running seemed to be preparing me for this, the Universe seemed to have a plan, in hind sight. Mindless running, why? – My brother-in-law reminded me recently of my “training run” for my first marathon – run from home (in Hebbal) to electronics city, some 30+ kms away. Those were days of no GPS watches, no Google maps, no dri-fit tees, no compression socks. I had carried some glucose powder, cash in a waist pouch and a 1 liter bottle, not even knowing how far this was. I remember reaching Forum mall and wondering how much further E-city was!
The Bangalore Hash prepared me for even worse – many times, we wouldn’t even know how long the run was, not that we cared. Distance? Pace? Heart rate? VO2 Max? – didn’t know any of these.
But I guess I am boring enough to have kept this going for a good 13 years and thanks to my running buddies (some reminded me of a possible qualification to the Asian) I pushed myself to finish well at the Bengaluru Stadium run.

The opportunity

The opportunity graph only started from 2 years back.
The International Association of Ultra runners (IAU), the international governing body of ultra distance running and the International Trail Running Association (ITRA) conduct World Championships in various format of Ultras - ranging from 30k trail runs, 50k, 100k, 12hr, 100milers & 24hr Ultras. Thanks to the effort of a few concerted individuals, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) became a member of the IAAF, IAU and ITRA, last year. Through the AFI, Indian ultrarunners now have the opportunity to participate at the World and Regional Championships.

The Athletic Federation of India (AFI) has sent 3 teams to date – to the 24hr Ultra at Belfast, a 100k Trail run in Spain & the recent 100k World Championship to Croatia.
The training

Sooner after completing my Stadium run, I was scouting the IAU website for upcoming races. I got excited with the announcement of the Asian & Oceanic Championship (A&O) and shot an email checking India’s participation. I dropped my plans to race at SPBM marathon and decided to focus on LSD (long slow distance) runs for a change to take part in A&O. I chatted with the IAU Chairman, Jacek & our own experienced Ultra, Kieren – both gave me the same advice – the weekly mileage had to go up to 150-160km.
In the meantime, AFI invited applications from eligible runners for the A&O. I waited till Ganesh Chaturthi to submit mine – I had met the eligibility criteria (185km+) but had very few other Ultras to show fitness, although my event was less than 2 months back. The next couple of weeks till the team was announced, I ran with my toes crossed.
An email confirmed my participation, I was the 5th member of the team of 6. A very proud moment.

I ran a couple of good training runs in preparation. I ran the Hyderabad Ultra 50k, after having run a 25k before the start of the race. I finished the undulating course within the top 10. This was also followed by a press meet and a chance to meet the Badminton legend – Gopichand. I also ran an overnight run at Bangalore Kanteerava stadium, thanks to Godfather, Nagaraj Adiga for organizing this.

In 4 weeks, my Garmin showed an impressive 500km in training – the volume is highest I have ever trained. It did have its share of niggles – first the psoriasis then the lateral peronial muscle. Notice the needles in the pic, some dry needling took care of some. But I am as ready as ever now and look forward for the event.
Stay tuned in.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Pacing the fastest bus at SPBM 2018

48yr+ Ex-Navy runner: Sir, I will stick with you no matter what. It will be a miracle if I finish in 3:45 today
Runner: My last year was in 4:15, this year I will just run with you to finish
All runners in the bus in chorus, repeat after the pacer: “I am strong”, “I am relaxed”. “I am strong”, “I am relaxed”. “I am strong”, “I am relaxed”.
Frequent shout outs for attendance, reminders for eating, hydration and pace, a story here and Pj there… that’s how the 3:45 bus chugged along.

When my selection to the Asian Championship was confirmed, I wrote to India’s favorite race director, to see if I could pace a 3:45 or 4:00 hour bus for the full marathon at Bengaluru Marathon. His one line email reply came “3:45”

A pacer / pacing bus is widely used in big city marathons to help runners (even elites) to finish within a specific time. So, I had to ensure that I bring home the bus in exactly 3hr:45mins and any runner who wished to finish in this time, had to simply tag along. The pacer is expected to manage the pace variations (due to course, conditions, etc.), motivate his/her bus to finish in time.

After the stadium run, I have cranked up my mileage – running over 150k every week and it was a 155k week leading up to the race day. With a 3:20 personal best timing, a 3:45 is still challenging. I was very nervous as I went about the final week. A trip back from Chennai, a Big Fat wedding in the family – sleep deficit and calorie surplus.
What also happened during that week was, I got my new Garmin Forerunner 935. So, no concerns on tracking pace or other vital stats, I still had to run hard to be in the zone.

The race went on as per plan, clockwork precision, thanks to the Forerunner. I had set up my 935 to a 5:00 to 5:20 min/km pace. There were about 10 of us when we started and spread out about a minute apart by the end of first loop. I deliberately kept a slightly faster pace for the first half, we had banked about 5mins at halfway.
Photos courtesy: SPBM
We did some talking, some goading, some positive reinforcements along the way. The flag and the holding jacket survived without causing too much discomfort. I kept urging the guys to stay with me till about 38k or so. After about 33k, as we go on to MG Road, energy levels of the group started to sap. I used some of our buffer. After about 38k, we could have still pulled off a 3:35ish finish. But I held back to sweep the slower guys in my bus and get them along. I got into the stadium with 3:43 on the clock, with nearly 7 from my bus finishing within a minute or two.

My energy levels were very high, I didn’t once feel the distance or the pace. After the finish, I hunted around for breakfast, loaded with free samples of protein and electrolytes, peeled off the timing tag and headed out for another lap. The 45min delay did more harm than good, and all the food didn’t go down too well. Nevertheless, I managed to complete my quota of another 18k, 60k in 5:47 for me.

The last time I paced in 2016, I had mixed feelings, this time round, it was a definite high.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Bengaluru 24hr Stadium Run - the Day i lived a Dream

(Be forewarned: Long post, keep your 6 pack handy)

First the format:
The 24hr runs are just that, you run as much mileage in 24hrs as you can. These runs are usually run around a block or a stadium, with each loop no more than 1 to 1.5kms, usually flat. This craziness is blessed by the International Association of Ultrarunners, there are World Championships, and countries send their elites to win position in the team event.
The Bengaluru 24h stadium run is in its 5th year, it is run in Kanteerava stadium, it’s a 400m track. We were allowed to run on track 2 (36h and 24h were on track 2 and 3, 12h were on track 5 and 6 and relay runners on track 7), to count 410m per lap. What support was available
  • ·       Water station (with water, jaggery, electral and bananas)
  • ·       Food counter – breakfast, lunch and dinner inside oval
  • ·       Resting area (with beds), Medical area (mandatory BP & weight check every 6hrs), baggage counter (runners can access these at any times) and Physiotherapy section – all inside the oval
There is a DJ playing music all along, once every 2hrs the runners laps, distance and ranking are announced. On the top of the hour, every hour, as the runners pass the timing mat, they change direction.

So that’s it! You just keep running in the track designated to your category, till you run out of time or spirit.

I could have had a better week leading up to the race day. I had returned from a week in London the previous week, which has upset my sleeping & eating patterns. I had taken the Friday off from work, but ended up working late into the night. My grand plans of sleeping for most part of Saturday also ended up with just a 2hr post-lunch siesta.

At 5PM on Saturday, 4th Aug, some 30 of us lined up on lane #3, ready to start our adventure and stay on track for 24hrs. We joined the 30+, 36h runners who by now had 11hrs on their feet already!!

Part I (5PM to 9PM)
My plan was to start slow, get slower, finish slowest. I wanted to stay between 9 – 10kmph pace for as long as possible. There was still a couple of hours of daylight left, I took my first food break almost immediately. But the breads and paav on the food counter didn’t appeal to me, I asked for some peanuts to be kept aside for me.

By 7PM, I was done 50 laps (20.5km) languishing at 15th place. The race leaders had taken off, and had 3-4kms on me already. By 9PM, the night chill was setting in, I had my first round of dinner (Bisi Bele Bath BBB & curd rice). I had done 37.5km in 4hours, still 11th in rankings, the leader had 7km over me at this point.
With a very strong field, including the national record holder for the 24h and others with 180+ finishes in the past, I had taken off the baggage of the podium finish, right at the start.
As the daylight faded, I paid a quiet good-bye to the Sun, “see ya tomorrow”.

Training notes:
It’s easy to prepare for the first 4hours, essentially find your comfort pace and do multiple of these over the weekends. On a weekend, if I ran, I ran for no less than 30km / 3 hr runs.
This was the easy part.

Part II (9PM to 3AM)
This phase was crucial, it was important to keep a steady pace, but also manage eating & keeping sleep away. It was chilly night, the winds were strong, but luckily, there were no rains. At 10PM, 11:45 and again at 1AM, I had 3 more BBB and curd rice. 4 dinners, already a Personal Best!

I always felt I had eaten too much after each of these breaks, I had to stave off side stiches each time. From then on, I stayed on a staple diet of Black Coffee!!
My running buddy, NT, had dropped in by midnight. I had moved up to a close 2nd position by 11PM. In 6hrs, I had done about 55km, bang on target. NT stayed on till my 4th dinner, urging me to keep rhythm. I hadn’t started walking too much and was taking it 20mins at a time. My scheduled water break was every 20mins, alternating with water and electral. I was also eating on the top of every hour and taking a portaloo break just after the mandatory direction change.

The plan was to go on this schedule for as long during the night as possible. What I didn’t expect was to be at 76k in 8hours. By 3PM, after 10hrs on my feet, I was done 92kms and I was already on top of my world. I knew I was having a good day and how! In my last 12hr stadium runs, I had managed 93k and 102k. I knew I was on track to break these quite comfortably. 100k PB in 11h:20m – a new Personal Best (PB). I took a 15min physio break after 10hours to celebrate - Saturday night physio party was full on!

So by 5am, in my first 12hrs, I had done 105km, in second place by a thin margin. A 12h PB!

Training notes:
How does one run all night? You train for it, of course. I had run an all-night training run, running a 5k loop from my home, my security serving as a water + snack stop, and peeping into my house every 3hrs for a meal. I had run long after the Saturday night party embers had died and even the high alert security guards had gone off to sleep. I had then gone about the rest of my day as if nothing had happened (more or less). I drew great confidence from this and many other training runs I had done.

Over the last few months, I had put my family, parents, in-laws, cousins through my idiosyncrasies in prep for these runs – Home2Nandi hill runs, runs at noon, Chennai to Mahabs run, and many across town almost round the clock. Thank you all…

Part III (5AM to 11AM) (the next 6 hours)
As the sun came up, I felt a great surge of tear-eyed gratitude for all that was happening to me. I picked up my phone & earpiece and listened to Vishnusahastranamam briefly. But I didn’t get to the end of it, I felt singing along messed up my breathing. So, I paused it, went back to my bag, picked up a cap in stead and got ready to battle the sun.
I still wasn’t taking long walk breaks and running as much as I could, at the easy pace. I was focusing on 2-2 breathing to keep me relaxed, all along. By 7am, I had done 119km, chugging along with about 15kms in 2hours. By 9am, I was still doing 7 – 8kmph (idly chutney breaks included), still in 2nd place, 1 lap behind Amit, who was by then fading away.

When the announcement was made at 9AM, there was a new race leader after 16hours and 135kms (329 laps, mind you).

By 10AM, NT came back to the track and when I went pass, casually enquired about my distance. I could see the disbelief in him when I shouted that I was 141k strong! I was more in shock at these numbers than anyone else.
After 18hours, I was still in lead, with a lead of 8 laps over Pranaya at 2nd and another 7-8 laps over a very strong looking Rajesh at 3rd. I had settled down in a run 2.5 laps + walk 0.5 lap rhythm.

Training notes:
I don’t think you can train for these. The only teacher is the drudgery of the mundane tasks in life. Corollary to Bowerman’s quote “if you can find meaning in this kind of running, chances are, you will be able to find meaning in another absurd pass-time: life”. Go do your chores, the endless pile of laundry, the infinite toys to clean-up, the un-ending tasks at work, day after day, do it - it will come handy one day!

Part IV (11AM to 4PM)
Ok, back to the stadium now – remember, your protagonist is still chipping lap after lap. By now, the sun is coming out of the shadows. My rhythm was now to keep jogging when the sun goes under and walk when it comes out. I was pouring water over my head to keep cool. I was getting loads of support from fellow 24hr runners, 36h champs. NT and Sunil were also constantly egging me on. Still keeping close to 7.5kmph, I had finished 162k in 20hrs, (my first 100miler), 175k in 22hrs at 3PM. I was still keeping the same slender lead over competition. Ok, now let’s cut to the chase, literally.

The last hour!
Shreya, my parents & kids came in by 4, the announcement was made - I was still in lead, 182km done and 8 laps lead. The bare-chested warriors - Pranaya and Rajesh were hunting me down, while I was almost celebrating my first position. In 15mins, Pranaya had lapped me twice and was running strong. NT came alongside and warned me, “if you don’t start running again, you will lose your place”. 45mins to go, 6 laps or so ahead, I went in for a last portaloo break. 

As I stood there, I felt fatigue waves rise from my feet up.
I remembered the golden words Santhosh has told me a few hours before “Forget the podium, it’s not in your hands. But if you have the potential, you have to give it your best”.

I stepped on to the track again and began picking up pace. For the next 40mins or so, I was on a mission. I picked out Pranaya and ran on his tail for a few laps. Then when I was “found”, I overtook him, upped the pace and kept going for 2 -3 more laps to shake him off. Offense was indeed the best defense, I wasn’t going to give away 23hrs of hard work to 1hr of complacency.

Graph showing the last 30km, the deep dips are the breaks, notice the no break last few mins. Garmin graph courtesy - Bobby 

As I increased the pace, I could feel the positive energy from all around me, cheering me as I ran by. I ran the last lap like a man possessed, pushing my chest out, sprinting to the limit of my capacity. In my mental image, I was Prefontane (that I may have looked like a scarecrow on a windy day, is another thing). I had covered 5k in the last 30mins, finishing the last lap at close to 4:20 pace, that’s close to 14kmph!

In all, I had covered 463 laps, 189.83km and was first at the 24h Bengaluru Stadium Run.

The morning after
I was treated like an elite at the finish line – personalized care, stretches, ice packs, near & dear ones showing loads of concern (if I could stand in one piece), etc. I picked up my trophy and made my way out quickly.

The next morning, I had a pain in the butt, literally and it wouldn't go away. However, I was able to limp walk and do the usual home-school-home-school-home-school-home routine on a bike the next day. By day 3, I was 80% alright.

A week on, I like the pain that comes back once-in-a-while, it reminds me of the Day l lived a Dream.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Of park runs and a Parkrun

A business trip, one which felt like someone decided to sponsor a 5000mi trip for me to get some 50mi on my feet. London was lovely at its peak summer (the Brits of course were complaining of too much heat, and melting roads and what not).

A short run on day1, recce of the Primrose Hill & the Regent’s Canal. The next day was all around Regent’s park, then a slice of the Hyde Park another day. The astounding sights of the Buckingham & Kensington Palace, the arches basked in the early morning twilight, with a hint of chill in the air.

I managed a couple of runs over 2hours, went half full-monty on my last long run around Hyde Park & Kensington Park, losing my way around and playing detective around Baker’s street. It is elementary, Dr. Watson!

It all came together at the Parkrun. My old pal & cycling inspiration, DLam, had me signed up for a local Parkrun at Hallow over the hill. At 9AM, with as best as the English weather can get, I set off chasing the lead runners, 3 loops around the park. This visitor, all the way from India, made it in 20mins (19:29) with some 4 runners ahead of me. I loved the chance to do another chatty lap with DLam. 4 laps, make that 400 for the next weekend!

The Parkrun is an interesting format, with a goal based, timed, volunteer driven, free event. Gives you a chance to test against yourself and an age-graded relative score.
Thank yous due to collective corporate incompetence for sponsoring the trip; to Mrs. A DLam for the beet-halwa and Tair-sadam; to DLam for the “chin-up and little finger stretching” to improve my pace.

I’m kicking myself for having missed a London Hash, but overall happy with some good, happy miles this week. A long one coming up, stay tuned!

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!