Friday, 29 January 2010

Run To Work

Run to work: I had been planning to do this for months together, but never executing. My office is 10 KM from my home and I have cycled, motorbiked, taken the bus, but never run. And being a runner first and all those other things later, I had to ... well ... run to my office.

All my previous plans involved carrying fresh clothes the previous day to work, dumping them in my drawer, and then running the next day (carrying just my access card and keys in my pockets). For some reason, it never panned out.

Yesterday, for no particular reason it suddenly struck me that I could actually carry my change of clothes in the small Wildcraft bag, which I got as part of the Bangalore Cyclothon. I had run with it before and found it to be quite comfortable -- it doesn't bob up and down while running. Just that the choice of clothes had to be thin. So I packed a cotton pant, a dri-fit t-shirt, my wallet, towel, comb, cell-phone, and keys into the bag. Next morning (today), I took the bag and ran to work. Period. It's that simple.

I finished the 10K in 53:22. Now that I have done it and know how it's done, I'm sure I will be doing it again.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Going Forward

In which we look at what lies ahead.
  • It's been 1 week since Mumbai marathon and I have recovered. It took 5 days for the pain in my legs to go and for me to walk without a limp. With the pain gone I did couple of runs over the weekend and they went pretty well. The next race which I'm running is going to be the half-marathon at Auroville. I'm going to be trying for another sub 2 hour timing.
  • The 3 weeks of tapering and 1 week of recovery has left me with more poundage than what I would have liked (which though expected is not welcome). Hopefully I can lose all that before I run Auroville.
  • One of my goals for 2010 is to do a sub-20 minute 5K. I plan to start training from next week. I don't have a concrete plan defined, but the goal is to systematically and progressively shave off 30 seconds (at least) from my best 5K time (23:52) every month.
  • There is a plan in progress to cycle all the way till Nandi Hills on Sunday (31st Jan) and then back. The ride will be around 120 KM long (or more). Let's see how that goes.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Mumbai Marathon 2010: Race Report

... And that number once made will be with me for the rest of my life. Maybe it should go on my tombstone. After all, two sets of numbers designating birth and death dates say little about a person. It is the in-between that matters. The number I am making now is pure. It will define the limits of my animal nature -- it will be the measure of my imagination, achieved by gut and spirit. It can't be bought, traded or achieved through leverage. All other honors are paltry in comparison.
-- Bernd Heinrich, "Why We Run"

Figure 1: Mumbai Marathon 2010 Timings

Yes, I finished it! It was a tough race, but I enjoyed every bit of it. It was my first full marathon and I ran it according to plan. My goals were as follows:

  • Finish -- Pass
  • Finish in 4 hr 40 min -- Fail
Although I ran for a 4 hr 40 min finish, I'm more than happy with my result of 4 hr 50 min -- off by 10 minutes.

On race day, I woke up at 4 AM; got ready and reached the holding area at 6:20 AM. The temperature forecast for the day was 32 C, but the real feel, I was told, would be around 39 C due to the humidity. While nearing the start line itself, I had started to sweat. The past 3 days I was in Mumbai it wasn't this hot. Taking that into account, I was pretty sure that I had to go with the 6:40/KM pace or maybe slower.

The race for the open category was flagged off sharp at 6:45 AM -- which you could see from the clock on the majestic gothic facade of CST. The starting 5 K was pretty uneventful, the pack of runners was going forward comfortably. When the inclines at Peddar Road came, at around the 7 KM mark, I slowed down, but was able to overcome them comfortably. It was at this point that the half marathon leaders crossed us -- the half marathon runners were running in the opposite direction; their start-point was Bandra and end-point CST.

Following Peddar road we reached the stretch along side Haji Ali. The sun had just started coming out, and its faint rays streamed through some gaps between buildings. More half marathon runners crossed us, amongst them was Gul Panag.

At around the 12 KM mark or so, a pack of elite male runners -- all from Africa -- crossed us. The elite runners had started 1 hour later than us.

Everything was going well till the 20 KM mark. The real test started after that -- when the sun started coming out. The first place where the sun really started to make its mark was near Bandra fire brigade. There was no cover, but there was crowd cheering us on. There were slum children who stood at the sides, asking for high-fives -- which I duly gave. The road from Bandra Fire Brigade lead us to the much awaited highlight of the race -- the Bandra-Worli Sea Link.

During the race, I had made a policy of carrying two bottles always with me. One bottle would be plain water -- which I would sip or pour on myself -- the other was electrolyte. At the starting of the sea-link, both my water bottles had run out. Fortunately there were some people (Note: People, not race-volunteers) who were giving out electrolyte solutions. I grabbed one and ran. A few paces on, there was a water-stop from where I picked up a water bottle. And thank god I did!

The sea-link is a magnificent, imposing, majestic structure. It's huge, it's long and it's beautiful. When you run on it, towards your left you can see the entire Mumbai skyline. When you look down, you see fish trawlers and sparkling water. Ahead of you, there is the endless engineering marvel.

Unfortunately the sea-link ended up being a killer for most people.

The entire stretch from there to the end of the sea-link, around 4 KM or more, didn't have a single water-point. And imagine this was at a point when we were past the half-way mark and the sun was bearing all its energy on us. It was no surprise that from the very beginning of the sea-link, I started seeing people cramping, stretching, walking. Fortunately, I didn't.

The sea link ended somewhere near the 28 KM mark. The heat was still relentless. A helpful temperature gauge told me that it was somewhere near 31 C -- at least the weather forecast was right. The stretch of road from the end of the sea link, till Haji Ali was mostly without cover. It was not only physically exhausting but also a psychological damper. I took multiple walk breaks between the 30 - 35 KM mark.

The crowd was really helpful at this point. Cheering us, giving us water, feeding us fruits and biscuits. I'm so grateful to all those people who came out and helped us crazy runners.

Nearing the 35 KM mark, came the dreaded incline of Peddar road. But interestingly, I didn't really feel too bad. Peddar road was one stretch which had shade and I guess I was energized by eating all those oranges. I walked-jogged the first incline, but ran the whole of the second. I was really feeling good at this point.

That was until I reached the starting of Chowpatty beach. I was running comfortably in the shade provided by the buildings, when I hit a turn and lo behold in front of me was a near endless road bathed in the sun. A deep psychological blow. I muttered an expletive and strode on. It was getting really hard at this point -- the mind repeatedly asking me to start walking; to take a break. I had to fool myself telling me to run till the next signal and when I would hit that to run some more, and then some more.

Multiple milestones went by. People on both sides saying that it's only a little more. 3 KM to go, 2 KM to go and then finally 1 KM to go. That final 1 KM was the longest. 600 meters left and I see the finish line.

I had always dreamt of a sprint finish. I was physically exhausted. Both my head and feet were on fire -- something which I had only experienced in Delhi before, while playing basketball in peak summers. But I managed to dig something from deep within and increased my pace. Garmin read 4:00/KM (~ 15 KM/H).

I crossed the finish line.

Pain in the purest form is what you experience at the end of a marathon. Tim Noakes, of Lore or Running fame, says that it's just below child-birth. I was feeling all of that. At that moment I just wanted to get out of the heat.

When I didn't see any of my running buddies at the finish line, I just rushed into some shade. My logical brain wasn't working; it was all animal instinct taking over (you know, the Limbic System).  I was in need of water and food. I was more or less in a daze -- there was a guy munching something and I asked him for food. That kind-hearted soul offered me part of his sandwich. Sandwich-guy if you are reading this, if you ever come to Bangalore I owe you a treat. Following that I went into CST station and ended up finishing 4 bottles of flavoured milk, 1 500 ml slice. It took me around an hour or so to regain normalcy.

And being true to Mumbai, I took the local train back home.

Looking back it took me around an year and half to train and run my first full marathon. It would not have been possible without the support of my family and friends (includes my running circle, school and college circle, and work circle -- not taking names for the fear of missing someone) and most importantly all Mumbaikars!

P.S: Rakesh, I forgive you.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Mumbai Marathon -- Pre Race

The race is upon us and this time the shit gets serious! Jan 17th becomes the day of reckoning. I will be running all the 42.2 KM of what makes up the best marathon in India -- The Mumbai Marathon.

This will be my first full-marathon.

Figure 1: Mumbai Marathon Route.

The training leading up to the event has been good, but there are some gaps which I'm worried about: lack of training in heat and humidity; very little hill-training. The race contains 4 hills, with the last one coming approximately at the 37 KM mark.

My pacing strategy is to maintain an even pace in the 6:40 - 6:30 per KM bracket. Which gives an average of 6:35/KM. All the inclines, I'm going to drop the pace to as much as 7:00/KM. My target goals are as follows:

  1. Finish.
  2. Finish in 4 hr 40 min.

I hope to take water/electrolyte breaks as necessary but I will not go without water for more than 5 KM. I plan to take food/glucose from the 16 KM mark onwards. To cope with the heat, I'm going to be wearing a cap and plan to carry a kerchief to wipe the sweat. Also, I'm going to run without music.

Most importantly: I will not go out fast at the beginning!

When I had started running seriously, around an year and a half back, I came across the term: taper-madness. I thought that I would be immune to it. Apparently not! Past three days I have been quite anxious.

Hope for the best! All you runners: all the best and see you at the finish line!

Monday, 4 January 2010

It's Resolution Time!

First off a very Happy New Year to all you beautiful chums who read my blog. Yes, all two of you!

2010 began with the makers of 3 Idiots and Chetan Bhagat bickering over the story-credit for the movie. Chetan Bhagat in his blog post, accuses the makers of giving him very little credit and that too at the very end. Interestingly the contract which the parties have signed says that's all the credit which Chetan will be getting. Is this a plain case of Mr Bhagat getting greedy after the film's success?

While this debate was raging 3 terrorists escaped from a New Delhi hospital on 2nd Jan. The same day when I woke up at 6:00 AM and looked out of my house to see a dreadful foggy morning. The Go-Air flight which I had to take to Bangalore took off 5 hours late. I spent those hours reading Dawkins' latest book "The Greatest Show on Earth" (which I managed to lose in the flight); chatting with fellow-distraught-passengers and watching the 3 Idiots' debate unfold on television. Meanwhile, the airline provided us with a lousy sandwich as "refreshment" (free food is always lousy).

The only reason I was a bit comfortable was because I had taken a TATA AIG Travel Insurance which covered flight delays -- 5 hour delay ... no problem ... if you pay me. Well turns out, that the insurance only kicks in if the flight is delayed for 6 hours or more. So no cookie for Rohit.

Anyway, back to the new year. A time for resolutions. And although I'm so tempted to go all contrarian,  self-righteous and say "You don't need a special day for resolutions, you can make them any day", I will resist. So what are mine? Presenting, in bullet points:
  • Watch Avatar 3-D. "Doesn't count", you say? Well, you don't know how much I have struggled in the past 3 weeks (why are there so many 3s in this blog post?) to get a ticket to watch the 3D version. People, get over it! LET ME WATCH!
  • Take up drinking again. Some day somewhere I will have a mug of cold draught beer in a frosted mug. The height of depression is to sit in a pub and have something called "Tropical Green" or "Spice Girl" and getting the feeling that everyone around is looking down upon you. So much so, that you feel this urge to explain it to the waiter, why oh why you are not having that delicious brew! Damn you Jaundice!
  • Do a sub-20-min 5K. Turning to more serious things. This is something which I'm not entirely confident whether I will be able to pull off. My current 5K personal best is 23:52. Shaving off those 4 minutes is going to be hard and painful. I'm planning to start training after the Mumbai Marathon.
  • Lose weight. This one, because it's so popular. Also so that I can achieve the above sub-20 goal.
  • Learn to swim properly. I learnt swimming when I was in class 9th, the old school way: "throw him in the deep and hope that he stays afloat." Every time I try to swim with my head down, I end up drinking a lot of cholrinated water (no, I don't think that's how I got jaundice) and blowing it out when my head comes out. So, I want to learn the freestyle properly and then maybe go into the other strokes. If I get this done, it also paves the way for me to do triathlons (run, bike, swim).
  • Learn a new skill. Contenders right now are Latin Dance (groundwork for which was already laid in late 2009) and Drawing .
  • Decrease unproductive time, while increasing productive time. Also known as "Be more organized", "Stop Procrastinating", "Don't be Lazy", etc. Because I can't think of any more resolutions, and something like this usually covers everything else.