Thursday, November 01, 2018

A beautiful tough 50k at Malnad, 13 Oct 2018

Last year (2017) my JLBR friends and I trained for the Malnad ultra, planning to do the 50k. I had not formally joined the group though; Santhosh gave me a schedule to train to and I hammered the runs out. The race was on 07 Oct '17; just about a month before it, I don't know what exactly happened; I felt dispirited, demotivated; I dropped out of running the event.

When one looks back on these incidents after a while, its not such a big deal; life continues. But at the time, and for a while thereafter, it was like dragging a heavy ball and chain. I remember going on a training run with Chandra, Mani, Krishan, Srini, Vinay, Nanda and Sharath (Santhosh was elsewhere with many Ananya kids I think; this was on 19 Aug 2017; yes i keep the pics!). It was a good run, I felt strong, and yet... I recall Chandra saying "man, you were ready to go". Well.

Left and below: at Nandi Hills, 19 Aug 2017.

So, filmy-style, I said to myself that I must do Malnad this year; long short story: I did!

We have a pretty large JLBR group this year! Awesome, more fun. Santhosh, with his trademark Google-sheet-like-efficiencies slotted us into broad groups based on our targets - crazy runners (oh sorry, that's all of us, scratch that). Malnad runners (Sharath - 80k, Ravi G, Sudhir and myself, 50k), Bangalore Ultra 50k runners (Ambuj, Benji, Ramya, Ravish, Ritu, Sourav), inter-city crazies (Chandra, Mani, Krishan) and Srini P all by himself in Pune in his own slot (amazing!).

As always, the training of course is the key, the heart of it, indeed, the whole point. As we all know, running imitates Life quite accurately : you get what you put in.

Base phase, at Kanakapura 1, July '18
With many initial lingering doubts, my compatriots and I (the one with the doubts) jumped into the JLBR training season in June this year.

Shocking mileage - first run 3 hours, followed by 4 hr, followed by ... Hello, Chief? All okay? ... was the oft-recited-mind-thought (dare not actually ask him that huh ). Well what can I say; if you stick at it, the body adapts well; after the initial killer month we were "adjusted" to this kind of mileage and rigor. Chandra's ST sessions of course greatly helping us remain fit (when I could actually do it!). In the initial 'base phase' we peaked at a 5 hr long run (and 40 min hilly tempo). 

At Turhalli forest
The second training phase, from August onward, made even tougher demands; 5, 6 and even 7 hour runs at exotic (read 'killer') locations like Nandi Hills, Turahalli forest, K2, Pipeline Road.

A quick Ooty trip in Aug resulted in a 3 hour run in the hills there (love 'em!). One Sunday (26 Aug '18), Mani and I ran (5 hrs) in Turahalli forest; it was fantastic running with him! A 6 hr run in Nandi Hills on 01 Sept '18 was just superb, will remember it for a long time; great weather and company too! (Santhosh, though, was in Hyderabad supporting the kids).

Nandi Hills, 01 Sept '18
A trek, Switzerland
I joined Dilshad in Switzerland in the first week of Sept (she had just finished a conference there); was initially nervous about missing out on training but it was luckily a 'rest week' (no weekend runs but had to do the other runs!). We stayed in a lovely area, did some super treks too! She helped me complete some of the training runs; one memorable place was a beautiful forest!

A wooded area, Switzerland
We (the Malnad boys) hit our peak training run in mid Sept; how could we help but feel  confident with all those miles in our legs! Of course, one cannot expect no challenges; sure enough, just around eight days before the race, I got severe lower back pain and could hardly move. Man! Our physio Shobha helped me, taping my back 2 days before we left. I also got a good deep tissue massage - that too helped a lot; felt a lot better.

Turahalli again, 7 hr run (15 Sept '18)!
L-R: Ravi G, Sharath, Sudhir and myself
Then, the day before we were to leave for Malnad (11 Oct), I had an all-day conference (and ran a 3 hour tech workshop). Got home late that evening, very tired, back hurting, and feeling a bit down. Shadows from the previous year's ditched trip crawled back into my consciousness; I just told myself to take it one step at a time;  importantly, never take a decision when tired at night: sleep on it! That worked; the next morning I was fine, ready and raring to go!

Just before starting
So, on 12 Oct, us four boys set off in Ravi's trusty Maruti for Malnad! A nice drive and we were there (though we were all staying in different areas). The next morning (if you can call it that at 3.30 am), off in the bus to the start point.
On the bus

Sharath, the brave warrior doing 80k, set off half an hour before us at 6.30 am. The race director, Anand Adkoli, drolly told us how easy a course we were going to run; I have since learned, when at the Malnad Ultra, to take the word "run" quite lightly. We did have some prior warning; the website publishes the elevation profile. It does look scary indeed, but we were in for a treat: its even harder than it looks, with steep elevations, descents and rugged terrain under one's feet!

The Malnad Ultra is a pretty 'technical' trail; one would not advise novices who have a run a marathon and ne'er a trail to "lets just give it a go". (Consider this: among the 522 50k starters this year, only 313 finished). The other unfortunate thing: food, especially of the type most of us are used to having on the run, is not plentiful at the aid stops. Santhosh insisted we train with our hydration packs and carry along some food; turned out to be really key. Nevertheless, it was a great experience, an adventure! Once on the run, I really enjoyed it: the natural beauty of the Coffee Day estates, the surrounding Western Ghats, the flora and fauna of the region. I met a few folks, always a great feeling.

Almost at the summit
We made our way to the summit - the highest point in Karnataka, apparently. Beautiful views all around. This was still early in the race (17 km) and I was feeling good. I saw Sharath on the way down from the summit; that was cool! As usual, he looked fully composed, smiling and strong.

The way the course was (this year at least): initial 6 km (forest) road, then all trail all the way to 44 km, where we loop back on the same 6 km road to the start/finish point.

By around 20k itself, my legs started feeling a bit wobbly, what with the trail's ruggedness, uneven rocks and roots, just waiting to trip us up. It dawned on me that there's a reason folks say this is a tough event!

The Summit
The day got hot, really hot. Well, better than rains and slushy mud I think... I am simply in awe of how Mani and Srini P did a 110 km here last year in slushy conditions. Had to keep sipping water and nibbling at some food, though one doesn't really feel like eating much. But it makes a crucial difference! I did try and make up some time on the downhill sections, I ran quite fast! In retrospect, maybe too fast at too early a time... my legs felt absolutely hammered by around the 27 km mark. Santhosh had briefed us that it will be tough, to just keep moving forward, walking, crawling, whatever! So did that...

Around 33 km into the run, we arrive at the lowest point (elevation-wise): a beautiful natural lake surrounded by hills. It was about 1 pm by now and really hot. I hung around the lake for 5 minutes and then got going again, thinking, Ah, I'm now a lot closer to finishing.

True in theory; in practice, one of the toughest climbs is from the lake here up into the hills for a long while !
Getting to the aid station at around the 43k point was a huge relief. I felt the toughest part of the run was from maybe around 23k to 44k; unrelenting elevations and descents, hot weather and a technical trail to navigate on foggy legs and mind.

After the 44th km, it almost felt easy! We were back on the forest road. Well, almost easy, but not quite: the road itself winds uphill at quite a degree; reminded me keenly of the Nilgiris 50k I did in Nov '16. Nevertheless, I could run again; in short bursts at least - the 'gravitational tug' of the finish line was appealing! Ran the last kilometre or so to the top, finishing in just under 8 hours; I felt elated that I was done, and, more, had successfully enjoyed the whole experience.

I met Sharath again; he was going out for the remaining 30k; needless to say, he was and did just great! Sudhir came in soon after, followed by Ravi. We ate, made our way to the bus (guess what, we had to hike up a km to the bus, what fun). The next day I turn 50; quite appropriate, huh.

When training, I had often thought that Santhosh was putting us through crazy amounts of running; looking back, we couldn't have done it otherwise. Thanks, Chief.

My view is that running is one (tough love) way to "find yourself", overcoming challenges and perceived limitations that don't actually exist. Thanks, family - Dilshad, Sheroy, Danesh, Darius and my dear parents - for indulging me and allowing me to pursue my ultra running passion; I appreciate it! Honestly, the support from family and friends makes all the difference.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A beautiful run: the Nilgiris Ultra 50k 12 Nov 2016

An electric charge coursed up my spine: running an ultra, in the Nilgiris!?  Wow. I was hooked.

But first things first: last year (2015), from October, I trained hard for the Auroville '16 full marathon. Santhosh (Runner's High Chief) built me a custom schedule and I went all out; not only for the marathon but more, for the all-important JLBR training season 2016!
Well, man proposes...  My aunt Farida Abraham, principal of La Martiniere Girls School, Lucknow, sadly passed on 12 Feb '16. Dilshad and I cancelled our travel. With the timely and fantastic help of RH friends, we ran our runs in Cubbon Park (BIG thanks Srini P, Chandra, Abhi, Vinay- all so kindly there to help us!!).

Come March 2016 and I join my old friends, the amazing JLBRs. I run hard, and well; but… I come up short: by May I drop out (my excuse is work). It still stings, it still hurts. Am simply in awe of their commitment: let me tell you - they are truly incredible. (Not to take away from the others of course!)

Santhosh wisely advises me to listen to myself, to just relax, something will come.  And guess what, about a month later, it indeed does: it seizes me - an electric charge coursed up my spine: running an ultra, in the Nilgiris!? Wow. I was hooked.

In short order, a plan is drawn up, courtesy the good Chief. I have to commit, and train, on my own, on hilly terrain. Not easy but nevertheless- I had after all earned my RH nickname ‘Single Malt’ right!? :-) Dilshad supports me one hundred percent and pushes me when I feel down, as I inevitably do.  

I carefully log my training in great detail; knowing that Santhosh is watching is a great boost (and a scare :)) [As an aside, see Why you need a Running Group and Coach]. At first, it just seems too hard- I do technical corporate training's (go Linux!) and software consulting work for a living; training before or after a whole day of work on my feet is hard. Initially I waver. But, I stick to it and by early August, turn the corner. Hard tempo runs after long on-my-feet workdays become a reality and I find I can do it! I now believe.

Blood, sweat and tears yes?  Yes :-) literally. Cut my thigh (not too much but a little blood, on the infamously big Kanteerava steps one morn). Sweat- obviously.  Tears- ah, some things are best left unsaid :).

Kanakapura '1' location: 22k with the RH gang!
The Nandi Hills runs
Did my first (for this season) Nandi Hills run on Independence Day. 30 km. Turned out to not be such a good idea- there was some bike relay/race thing going on. From early morning, pretty much all we heard (Dilshad accompanied me, in the car) was the roaring of bikes up and down the hill. That day I could race the cars going up as there was a huge traffic jam on the upper region :) haha. Dilshad patiently tracked my pace and nutrition, noting what I ate and when. Paying attention to what I can eat and when is something I learned to focus on this season.



On the Monday I had run Nandi 30k, the same week on Sat at 5.30am was the 34k long run at Stonehill with RH. I did feel really fatigued on this run. Mind games - I wanted to stop at a max of 32k and kept telling this to folks I’d talk to; still, somehow forced myself to do the full 34k distance.  Felt good about that. In effect, did 80km that week!

The following Sat we went and ran the half marathon at Hyderabad! Enjoyed it.
Hyderabad AHM, 21k, 28 Aug 2016

Then, from now on, the (800m/1600m) intervals were done on the Cox Town flyover near my home. Oh yes, I again got used to lugging my own water, bananas, etc with a backpack. Felt good after a while, and necessary.

A marathon on Pipeline Road
Come Sept 18 and guess what? A full marathon on Pipeline Road is prescribed! Very tough, of course. Dilshad was there the full time, thank God! That was a huge help, mentally. I covered the approximately  4.5 km hilly road 9 to 10 times! 1st lap and 2nd last lap I turned right and did about 2k there.. overall good but I felt quite terrible from about 25k to 35k. Rookie mistake - I think I went out way too fast in the beginning. In fact, at around 34k, I was really hammered; Dilshad walked with me a bit, and later drove beside me blasting music from the car; it lifted my spirits and pace!

Pipeline Road, 42k, 18 Sept 2016, with Sheroy & family

My family (parents, kids, aunt) showed up while I did the last 5k or so; that lifted my spirits! My older boy Sheroy ran the last 4-5k with me, with the younger chap, Danesh, and niece (Tashu) running a kilometre too! Felt good on completing it in 6 hours. Dilshad is fond of telling friends that she read a book while waiting for me :-). I appreciate it, thank you dear!!

A run in Kolkata New Town, 8k, 27 Sept 2016.
Very hot and sultry!

Nandi Hills, again, and again!

On the 1st and then again on 8th Oct I ran Nandi Hills, 32k and 36k respectively, this time alone (as Dilshad was now deep into her maiden full marathon training). The second, and a partial third time up, are always very tough. I get appreciative nods from the cyclists going up and down! Those runs taught me a lot about running hills: there’s no specific run-walk time pattern, it’s linked to the slopes, etc.

My parents were kind enough to drive up as I was finishing the 36k; such a lift! Had coffee with them after. I swore, I’ll never go to bloody Nandi Hills again! And then of course, we RH’ers ran it a couple of weeks back (17 Dec 2016 :-). So much for us runners and our swearing “I’ll never do this again!”.


Nandi Hills training runs 2 and 3, 32k and 36k, 01 and 08 Oct 2016. Whew!
With my parents, Nandi Hills, 08 Oct 2016, right after the run

Nandi Hills training run 3, 36k, 08 Oct 2016.
A last 28 km long run at the Kanakapura '1' location to round off the training; I’m now ready! Am not yet confident of completing the Nilgiris Ultra 50k run in the 8 hour cutoff time, but am happy to just give it my best shot. So off we go, to Ooty! Such a blessing to have all of us - my parents, in-laws, wife and kids - go along.

The Run - Nilgiris Ultra 50k, Ooty

Briefing the previous day with Kavitha Kanarpathi (Globaracers). It’s an out-and-back route - the headache is that the first 25k leg is about 80% downhill, so I knew that coming back up was going to be a real party! (We even did a route recce the previous day in the car, which turned out to e a good idea).

The morning of the run - Sat 12 Nov 2016 - was very cold of course (11-12C). I thought of my JLBR buddies doing the Bangalore Ultra the very same day!

Dilshad decided to do her 28km training run too!! Hats off to her! We started off well, gentle pace initially. First 5k, leaving town, there were some ups and downs. I went ahead at about 3k. Met other participants; it’s a lot of  downhill on the first 25k, so did a good decent pace. I managed to do the initial 25k in about 2:50 (wow, did not expect that). The scenery was so beautiful, the air so clean, clear and crisp. By 7am the sun was bright and clear, a cloudless sky, perfect running weather!

Of course, the 'real' race began now :-) Going uphill for long stretches (sometimes >5-6k) proved very hard...  I really struggled from about 35k to 45k. Very happy to see my parents, later again with Dilsh. They were my crew!! And what a help that was. I found the race getting really tough from around 35km; its still a bit too far for the gravitational ‘pull’ of the finish! But I knew that I just had to hang in there; soon enough, I’d feel that pull! The run support was pretty good - food, water, etc - all in place. I like how they minimised wastage and used no plastic at all.





NU 50k: very scenic, very tough, very satisfying!

Earned this one!
So: am now just 5 km from the finish! My folks and Dilsh drove just behind me for that stretch - it’s such a huge help mentally. I felt deeply happy and at peace with the universe those last 2 to 3 km - actually felt blessed. Did my PB (under 7 hours), ended up fourth place in 50k (among just 11-12 participants :)! A superb experience. Happily exhausted, elated. What a feeling!

Of course, needless to say, I just could not have done it without all the support I got from my family - especially Dilshad, parents and kids, my coach Santhosh, my running buddies, the Runner's High community. A humble and sincere big fat Thank You.

The Nilgiris Ultra, organised by Globeracers, has distances of 25, 50, 75 and 100km. So, who knows?

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Why you need a running group and coach

Several running friends and acquaintances I know train on their own. I used to too.
Not to say "this is wrong and this is right" - who am I to judge after all.. But. 

It's just easier when you run with a group and have a coach. I don't just mean the technicalities and logistics of it - how much to run (in time or distance?), when, how much on which day, how to vary your training (with intervals, fartleks, tempo's, long goal-pace, easy recovery pace, strength training , etc), - though that's very important. How will you get support on longer runs (water, electrolytes, food)? 

A group, more a community really, nourished by good coaches and members, is something I and so many friends have been lucky enough to enjoy for many years now: I run with Runner's High in Bangalore, a brilliant example of what a good community is like and can guide us to achieve. Not just in running.

My coach, Santhosh P, furnished me with a schedule to train for the upcoming Nilgiris Ultra (50k). Without it I'd be stabbing in the dark as to how exactly to approach and train for a challenge like this. More to the point, there were so many runs on which I'm sure I would have convinced myself to just "take it easy" or even just skip. But knowing that he's watching my running log goes a long way to ensuring that I do it, stick to schedule. (That's perhaps really the most important thing: stick to schedule and it all falls into place). Consistency is key. 

Some random thoughts on the Why of Running

To be taken with a healthy dose of humour please!

Why do we run?

Ah. The never-ending question - from folks who do not (yet) run, of course.
I don't have an answer.
Or do I have too many? (Please take a peek at my Favourite Running Quotes post).

I just know that it helps in many ways - physically, mentally, spiritually. How exactly, you say (suppressing  a grin at how easily you've got me stumped)?? Just try it, I say (suppressing  the same).

(Starting to Run)
But hang on: "trying" running, for many, would mean something like running once or twice or a few times at best, feeling the discomfort and hating it.

It's like anything else: it takes a lot of time, work and patience. Before you even start to get a glimmer of how amazing it can be!

Many people say, we started running but, y'know, got this and that injury, and decided to forget it. How can you blame me??

Right. Only,  here's the thing: don't run to get strong, get strong to run. Injuries will pretty much vanish.
Also, take it really easy - slowly, gently. Training for a marathon comes after training for and running a half-marathon, which comes after training for and running a 10k, which comes ....... you get the idea. Start with a 5k goal okay.

The How-do-the--do-I-respond-to-that Questions

Q. Do you win?    
A. No.                    :-)

Q. What's the prize? 
A. Pam Reed was asked by David Letterman what she got as a prize for winning the Badwater Ultra (135 miles in seriously hot weather etc etc). She said, a belt buckle. He was amused, to say the least.
I got a medal for finishing my marathon (or whichever event), that everyone else who finished also got. (Quizzical look - no money? My advice: let it pass).

Q. So you ran that 21k (or 42k, 50k, 100k, 100 miler, whatever) without stopping?? (WOW, now I'm impressed!)
A. Er, no. I had to eat and sit a bit. Also, I'm not an elite athlete.
(a light dawns in their eyes, Ahhh thank goodness, (s)he's not that good after all!). Annoying, man.

A friend once saw me running and later said, but you were so slow! (Yesterday's tough 25k does not enter their body or consciousness, no). :-D

Q. So, you don't even come close to winning. It's very difficult. So WHY do you run?
A. See above. And:

You know, deep inside, what that long difficult training run brings you: true happiness. Happiness is not to be confused with comfort; quite the opposite in fact. We're truly happy when we're pushing ourselves to achieve something difficult. Growth and comfort do not go together.

Declare Victory.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

100K at Bangalore Ultra 2013

The scene - 
It's a sunny Sunday, around 9 am, 13 November 2011. Srini P and I are running together. Yes, you got it, it's the B'lore Ultra '11 and we're doing our first 50k. Srini says, You know (hey, cut me some slack, poetic license and all), this is jack shit. We do this, then train for and do 75k and then train for and do a 100k (!!!) and Then we can call ourselves real runners. Hm. I was a teeny bit too flabbergasted to reply.
(Disclaimer: all you folks are real runners indeed, please don't get too carried away with our BS).

But life moves you along, more so when the passion to run (fast, slow, walk, crawl, it really doesn't matter), a community called RH and a gentleman named Santhosh P is deeply involved.
So, fast forward to 2013 and we're living this dream (Srini lives it even bigger with a 24hr run at that! Bugger :-) ). Yeah, it rocks! It's still sinking in.

Cliched as it sounds, the real experience was the incredible training we JLBR'ers (that's the aptly- named-by-Chief Jobless Long Boring Runners. I know, you've heard this too may times already; it's really for my future reference when I'm an old bugger and can't remember) received via Chief Coach Santhosh. We more or less still followed the hallowed "4 days in the week" training regimen, a hallmark of RH, with the wee difference that Tuesday tempo runs were usually for an hour, Wednesdays' tended to begin at 4.50am at Kanteerava stadium running (or trying to) up and down the big steps, Saturday's were Adieu family, so sorry and all that, but am not goin' to be around too much today (4 hour runs became 6 hours, then 7, 8 and culminating at 10 - 12 hours, followed by a decent amount on Sundays).
Life was hectic. It's too much. Stop. Says the body. Says the mind. Says the spouse. Say the children. Say the parents. Says Us.
But. We go on. Idiots.
Oh, almost forgot. RH's Superwoman (yes, Chandra), literally kicks the sh*t out of us on Thursday nights (starting at 9pm) and Sunday evenings for fun. Boot camp she calls it; I privately called it a lot else and frankly did not turn up as often as the rest, what with family commitments, work, etc. It paid off though, big time.

To add to the fun, am running through a PF injury (the heels and feet hurt, like heck at times). Running the rocks (believe me, am not kidding) in Billekal Betta does not do wonders for my PF. Ah, Billekal Betta. I also had the dubious distinction of trying out outdoor toilet facilities on a 40 degree slope at the same wondrous location, sans modern luxuries like soap, etc. Yuck. I know. Joy. Manju's tablets saved me that day. Or, at Thulir, running under a decidedly hot sun, Santhosh takes his merry gang up a hill that has stones ranging from the size of pebbles to the size of one's head, strewn around in random disarray, and does not seem to have a summit. The one time I curse the boss out loud. The stream at the top (tales of with which he lures us up there), is just not all it's cracked up to be. :-) (Yes, Chief, I remember.)

In July I fall ill with a pretty bad virus (emergency room and all). During my recovery at home, I succumb to self-pity and telling Dilshad "I'm useless, I can hardly walk, forget running. I don't want to run again" etc etc. She says, Darius says, No, what rubbish, but am happy being morose. Santhosh, speaking with me on the phone, realizes that am physically much better, and comes over. Over breakfast he coaxes, cajoles and is stern - "Run/walk tomorrow, even if for 15 minutes". I agree, but halfheartedly. I do it though, the next morning. 45 minutes on Tuesday. Confidence returns. The fellow's caring and a genius.

Don't get me wrong. It's not just me; all of us suffer through, and enjoy, stuff like this when we run, especially the longer distances. Am just more noisy and cranky about it. It does become part of the beauty of the process, it does make one stronger.

"That’s what running does to lives. It’s not just exercise. It’s not just achievement. It’s a daily discipline that has nothing to do with speed, weight, social status, sexual orientation, political affiliation, where you live, what car you drive, or whether anyone anywhere loves you. It’s about the slow and painful process of being the best you can be. That’s why the first step out the door is always so hard. That’s when we choose between settling for average and being a superhero version of ourselves.
– Martin Dugard (To Be A Runner)"

"Call it discipline, determination or whatever you want… the means to long-term goals is one of running's great life lessons. Running has taught me that adversity is better faced head-on than avoided. The hill in front of you won’t go away, but it’s easy enough to put it behind you if just press harder for a while. That lesson isn’t taught enough, and too many people never realize that sacrifice is a requirement of life. You either sacrifice today to reach tomorrow’s goals, or you give up your dreams in favor of the fleeting comfort that’s distracting you. Call it discipline, or call it determination; without it you won’t get very far. 
- Dave Griffin"

The camaraderie we share is just amazing. It keeps us going, moving forward. Thick and thin. You know. I feel lucky, very lucky, to be a part of this awesome bunch.

Race Day

Not too much to say here, you've heard it before. 
I do want to mention a few things: first, as has been pointed out by all the others as well, without the meticulous planning and support from our amazing RH support crew, we just could not have pulled this off. Santhosh's parents, Rashmi, Asha A, Anupama, Susmitha, Shyamala, Shalini, Dilshad, Siddharth, Anish - wow. Hats off! 
Same goes for our brilliant pacers - Navin Thangaiah, Paroma, Ravish, Kanishka, Rajeev, Pani, Siva Paturi - wow again. Heartfelt Thanks. The Physios - Susan and Shobha; I was stretched and made whole again!

The RH folk who kept turning up on race day to encourage us! you guys perhaps don't realize just how uplifting it is. Superb. Thanks. Ajay G paced me too for a while, Sourav massaged my shoulders. Ahhh. A shout-out to RFL's A2 (Arvind Bharati) as well! He stood alone at the 1k turn-around point for a long while, noting our names, etc. 
Rahul Warrier, Jay, Bipra, Ankush, Madat (and, am sorry, sure am forgetting so many more), encouraging us on, bringing a smile to our fatigued bodies. In fact, Rahul's email ("Ultra-ness") was so impressive- I forwarded it to family to give some measure of why we do stuff like this (can one really explain it?).

Another funny thing: on race day, my PF injury actually seemed to diminish! A large part due to the physio's and Vinay's timely advice (just 3 weeks prior): strengthen those calves and stretch 'em. Helped so much. But guess what: the Gods decided to challenge me some more: not 15k into the run and I get ITB pains; it moves from one leg to the other, happily (!?) toggling between them. WTF. Anyway...I just followed Asad's amazingly strong mindset and ran/walked/crawled regardless.

Chandra, of course, was just so strong. Consistently stronger than the rest of us 100k'ers. Covering the first full (42k) was quite hard actually. Around 50-odd km down, Vinay slows. But we know; he's a deceptively strong guy! And, no surprise- by 75k he's well ahead and finishes before us (I finish last among them in fact, taking a whole 19 hours!). Santhosh, we know, he's stronger than strong; it helps so much, we can literally draw strength from him. Mani. OMG. He's a seriously good runner and proved it beyond all doubt. The same goes for Srini P of course. Inspiring, Brilliant stuff. Privileged to run with all these guys (and gal). Abhineet speaks with me on the phone (Anish's) at around 10pm; thanks dude, very helpful.

It goes without saying, Dilshad being there the whole day! helped so much. (In fact, she stayed well beyond her allotted duty time.) Every time we turned into the start/finish area, their cheering lifted me. Not to mention the hot food, etc. My folks, Darius and kids turned up at around 6pm; simply awesome to see them all. My 10 year old, Sheroy, say Why are you so slow?? Gulp. Kids. Darius runs with me for a's great to chat.

Paroma paces me for so many of those loops. Keeping up a lively conversation, making me run when I feel I cannot, shining her torch so I can see the rocky road in the darkness, reminding me to open my eyes! So does Siva P! Priceless. Thank you. 

Finally. It's 4k to go. Dilshad, Santhosh and Siva drag me along. I'm so grateful. 
Last loop! Around 800m from the finish I pick up speed...faster faster faster! I sprint through the finish line, Santhosh, Dilshad embraces me. Glad. Very glad. And tired.
I pay for that mad dash 20 minutes later; shivering and a touch of fever. But two Crocin's later am okay. Vinay helps me so much...the fellow can still drive back to the lodge after all this! Whew.

The whole season: an experience to cherish, one I'll never forget.

"If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they ate gone,
And do hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"
- Rudyard Kipling, "If".

From "Open", Andre Agassi:
--- There's a lot of go waiting for you on the other side of tired. Get yourself tired,  Andre. That's where you're going to know yourself. On the other side of tired. 
(Pg 155)

This is why we're here. To fight through the pain and, when possible, to relieve the pain of others. So simple. So hard to see. (pg 256).

A poem : pg 298
Though much is taken, much abides; and though 
We are not now that strength which in old days 
Moved heaven and earth, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts, 
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A couple of months: Auroville FM, a Surgery, an Award!

This post was actually written in April 2012.

As mentioned in my last blog post, I ran the Full Marathon at Auroville; this was on Sun 12 Feb '12. I had quite some discomfort during the first 10k, and put it down to a bad stomach. Turns out, I had a double hernia! Man, lucky I didn't know that while running :-)

So, upon returning to Bangalore, a few days later, I thought back and realized that I had this nagging abdomen kind-of pain even on earlier training runs. So I had a scan done and that's when I found out that this was the case- a bipolar hernia. Well, to cut a long story short, Dr. MG Bhat of Nova Medical Center fixed it- I had a hernia operation done (laproscopy) on 30 Mar '12. He's good and so am I now! :-)

Bangalore Runners, a recent company, headed by one of the best B'lore runners, Ashok Nath, ran an event "Applause" on Sun 1 April. Among the festivities, they awarded some "unusual" prizes as well- you know not necessarily for the fastest and best people (which of course is why am writing about it :).
And guess who won the "Most Improved Runner of the Year (Male)"? Yes, yours sincerely :-) Your humble servant. Hm.

I feel quite embarrassed actually, as I'm really not a fast runner. But, on reflection, that was the whole bloody point: I was not the fastest but I did indeed have a huge improvement in time- almost 45 minutes! between the KTM '10 and KTM '11 (Kaveri Trail Marathon, outside Mysore).
So I like to say that I improved from being a "really bad" to just a "bad" runner :)

Well, of course, from the last 15 days I haven't run at all. But guess what: I met the doc today, just now, and he said "start slowly again man. You're fine". Aha! Yes, I'll still go starting slow. Yes, dear parents and wifey, don't panic. :)

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Ananda Yana :: 02 June 2013 - A new Running Event on Bangalore's Running calendar


The Runner's High community is much more than just a "running club".
This year, we're organizing our very first own running event - Ananda Yana !!

Ananda Yana 02Jun13 pic

Please do visit the website, the Facebook page, and, most importantly, turn up at the event and  run/walk for a great cause.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

FM at Mumbai SCMM 20 Jan 2013

Hi folks,

A brief race report!
As pics say it a lot better than (especially my) words, I'll use the photos I took as we ran along...

I'll start at the race start.
Hooked up with my Runner's High buddies Chandra, Rahul & Praba. The atmosphere was electric!

At the holding area before the start.
The early morning weather was just superb. So much so that I had to take a leak  :-p  at a public loo at Chowpatty! Then had to catch up with my mates; that took some effort, esp on the Pedder road flyover.

RH Lovebirds #1 Neha and Ajay at the Sealink start    :-)
I like to think that we're all on a lovely running/walking tour of this awesome city. Best way to see it. Yeah.
Soon enough we reached the beginning of the Sea-link; it looked really beautiful in the early morning. And who do we find there? The lovebirds of course, Neha and Ajay! (engaged).

Needless to say, we all owe a huge debt of gratitude to them for their selfless aid.
Of course, they enjoyed each other's company and were perhaps oblivious of all else ;-)

Running the Sea-link was fun! With Chandra, Rahul and Praba, conquerors all!

The Elites! We let them go   :-P

Rahul and I had trained for and adopted a run:walk of 23:3 min (23 min run, 3 min walk); it worked very well for us and we pretty much kept to our target pace (almost) throughout.
As an aside: I find that many folks consider walking during a run to be "wrong"; please don't: a run-walk regimen can really help. Of course, YMMV (your mileage may vary): but do give it a shot, especially when you're new to running or the distance. We did all our water/food/salt tabs breaks during the "walk" part. You can do a suitable ratio: 7:1, 8:2, etc etc.

Sherry met us with some fantastic cold coconut water at the end of the Sea-link. Thanks Sherry!
Then, at around the 20k mark at the end of the Sea-link, the elite runners passed us. 
Rahul and I debated whether or not to let them and go; "okay chalo, this time let 'em go, we won't embarrass them". So we didn't. :-)    :-P

Rahul Warrier on Pedder Road. Yeah!

At the halfway point, Chandra and Praba asked Rahul and I to go ahead... we wanted to try and hit our goal (basically at 8kmph, do the FM in about 5:15). (Well, I ended up getting a PB at 5h20m, Rahul just 3 min behind. Happy).

The going got harder now. In fact I actually felt worse at this point (between 21-32k) than i did at the long run at Decathon, Bangalore. Still, I had great company with Rahul Warrier there!
Knew that it's just one of those things: there'll be ups and downs in runs like this; I just had to stick it out...

Of course, the Mumbai crowds and spirit is tremendous; it would regularly lift us and keep us buoyed up!
We meet RH #1 Lovebirds (A/N) again! Man, Ajay/Neha are amazing: they generously gives bananas, etc to other runners and then instruct them to raise funds for Asha! I think it's just great.

Back on Pedder Road, around 35k down, and we have mixed emotions- we know we're a lot closer but.... But. But. There's still a ways to go and 7k is not the same when you're running it afresh as opposed to at the tail end of a marathon! :-)

Okay this guy, Rahul Warrior. Yes, I deliberately spell his surname wrong as he's a Warrior !!!
This is Rahul's first FM and he's just amazing! I'm so impressed. Way to go buddy!!

We catch up, overtake and then jump off, a 5.30 "bus" heading to VT. (What's at VT today? Everyone seems to be heading there. Anything special?  :-)  )
We do this quite a few times leading up to the 38k mark on Marine Drive.
Now what? Now it's mostly a battle of the mind; body feels like an automaton, we run, walk, walk, run, walk, run, .. you get the idea :)

The heli just above the sea. Wow.

Dilshad calls me on my phone..I don't think i make much sense, But, it helps a great deal. 
Darius has finished his 21k in no time and is now apparently helping others, along with SIndhu. 
Just like so many of our amazing community. Good job!

The bands playing there really pep us up for a bit; I charge hearing "Rock On"! yeah baby.
A helicopter blazes at a really low altitude along the coastline. We're dead tired. It's loud. It's a party at which we're kind of fatigued. Still. It's awesome!

Rahul and I convince each other that we can make it to the left turn at about the 40.5k mark. We eventually do; Rahul tells me to go ahead, he'll follow along in a moment.
So I try, running faster than i thought i could (well, for a few seconds anyway). Ah. 1000m. I say "I'll just run!" but No, the body has some issue and does not agree. Okay. So i walk in a patch of shade just before 500m and then I do run! All the way to the finish. 
Even though I've done this a few times (6th FM), it always feels like Wow, am reeeeaaaally done now. Thank you very much FM but i've bloody had it with you. Full stop.
Until the next one :)
After! A PB of 5:20

Rahul, Chandra, Srini P, the coaches, all the RH folks in fact, thanks!!! Could not have done it without everyone (i am a coach too but believe me, am learning new stuff all the time).
Santhosh, am indebted to. Heartfelt Thanks.

Had a lot of fun!
Unfortunately, am not there at the Auroville event this year. 
Will of course miss all the fun there, especially my awesome "Shut Up and Run!" buddy group!!!
Am certain you'll do just great though.