Tuesday, February 20, 2007

End of one marathon and another starts

Its been months since my previous blog the last training run my 22 mile run before the Silicon Valley marathon. Few weeks before that I had quite a scare- my knee gave way and I was limping literally for a while. Anways to cut a long story short- I took it easy on marathon night and ran an easy pace and finished the Silicon Valley marathon without much difficulty. I didn't push myself hard and I had a comfortable run without cramping. I did suffer a bit from knee pain that hadn't healed 100%- nothing a few pain killers couldn't relieve though. I did give a full sprint finish- something I had hoped to do at my first marathon in Portland, but couldn't. I was a happy man.... not for long.

Big Sur, the course that seduced me to start running marathons in the first place still remained a dream. I dreamt of running down Highway 1.. everytime I drove down from Carmel to BigSur, I drooled. Realistically, I realised its a difficult course, by all accounts it has 18 hills and most of them after a 500ft climb to Hurricane point at mile 13.

Training started earnestly- myself and Suresh started hitting the hills at San Antonio Rancho. He also convinced me of the benefits of cross training, combine this with our kind of independent arrival at the decision to do some speed training and stamina climbed faster than mercury in summertime at Rajasthan. Every rose has its thorn and mine is Asthma- which decided to knock its door.

At this time - a bit beyond the 50% point of my training, I'm happy to say that the worst of the Asthma is behind me. I still have to run 15miles., but at the same time I didn't waste more than 3 weeks of training.

So here is to more training and a sucessful bigsur run---- cheers!!!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Run the SV marathon? Answer to the meaning of life?

Answer to the meaning of life is 42 (Hitchiker's guide to the galaxy- Douglas Adams) and answer to the first question is a resounding "Yes". I will run it and most probably I will finish it- albeit a bit slowly.

The reader may be left wondering to both my answers and may be tempted to think that this guy is one cocky son of a gun. So let me give some context and develop the rather longish material for this blog as we go along. For those who have no patience- you have no business being here!!

Things have happened since I ran the half marathon at Napa. Good things... as the months went by, I ran 15 miles and then 19miles. I ran in trails infested with snakes (I even jumped over one)- and for those of you who don't know about my phobia for snakes, I really really hate them (probably mutual) and I'm really really scared of snakes, darkness and my wife (I'm ofcourse just kidding about the last- I'm not really really scared of her). Running in trails in the dark and having them infested by snakes is enough reason for me to stop running- but even those two factors didn't stop me.

Lest you think, these came by easy. I must confess to being as gifted at running as Carmen Electra is at acting- you get the idea. I had to really work at it from every aspect- biomechanics, stamina, discipline... all missing but slowly acquired. So when the 23 mile run loomed over the horizon- I didn't take it easy. I planned ahead enough to make an Army General proud. Now, I know what you are thinking-- Hey! didn't you finish a Marathon before? Yes! I did- the operative word being finished. But I did very little running post 18 miles on that particular day. So this was a big day for me. So getting back, we (myself, Suresh and Sriks (in absentia)) planned the number of cars we will need, where they will be located along the trail and what each will contain.

Come run day we were equipped with enough sports drink to hydrate the US Olympic team, potatoes that equals the annual yield of Idaho and a stash of the most important often forgotten ingredient- salt. We started amidst much fanfare (atleast in our minds).

The first 6 miles was filled with jokes, laughter and the strong pitter patters of our rhythimic strides. Unstoppable we were like an army marching.

6 miles, we hit the car trunk and satiated our budding thirst with some ice cold sports drink. Not bad- a good start. We head west along the trail towards the next water spot at 8 miles. Our mood is still jovial but the talking has subsided a bit.

8 miles- never being one to say no to water. I stop for some Honey stinger gel and cool refreshing water from a very dusty rusty water fountain. At this point as I get back to the trail- I'm trailing behind. So I pound it out- running faster than I should to catchup (something I will be forced to regret later).

10 miles- We hit the second car, time for a quick picnic. More gatorade, boiled potatoes (with peels) and some gourmet salt. Salt never tasted better-- Yum. I'm feeling a bit beat, after my speed antic in the last two miles. I take my camelbak, we won't have any more access to fluids until mile 18, when we return back to this spot.

The long stretch to 18 miles- I take it very easy as the other two take off. I realise my folly in trying to go as fast as they did and make peace with my pace (did that rhyme?). My legs recover slowly but going fast early on takes its toll- I slow down considerably. Its times like this- when I'm alone in a trail and when I'm on the fence between wellbeingness and tiredness that I carry on long conversations with myself. I analyze my need to run fast- what point did I really prove? Had I really trained to run so fast? Did I really feel I needed to show the rest that I can run as fast as they do? I realised that the answer was a bit of all the above. Once I realised that, I started enjoying the run. I quickly forgot the speed I was running in- all I knew was that I was running at the limit of my endurance and by doing so I was pushing my boundaries. I was a happy man.

14 miles and turnaround point came. The bay looked beautiful in front of us- the fog filled bay showed a whisper of San Mateo bridge. I quickly gave Sriks a few salt tables and we had some honey stinger gel. The two quickly moved ahead and I was again left to me, myself and Irene. It was at this point that I had my first minor setback- I started wheezing. Either that or a bit of asthma started to manifest. My breathing took on a musical aspect- whistling tunes and notes. If I could forget that it was my lungs, it was actually fun- if I ran fast the tune had a fast tempo, slow it down and it was long beautiful notes. It is my lung and that left me a bit out of breath. Its funny how when something goes wrong that you start to notice other things that quickly bog you down. The sun suddenly felt like it was bearing down on me-- I looked up at it accusingly.
Me: Hey! cut that out will ya?
Sun: eh?
Me: Ya you!
Sun: Gives a very frustrated shrug! Its 60 F for Pete's sake... any colder and you will freeze your marathon butt off
Me: Whatever.

Now you know what I mean by conversations in my head don't you? Running long distances is a lot like going through various phases of life- all in a few hours. Starting the run is like being a child- its all fun and games. 6-10 miles, the teenage years- You are going strong and feel nothing can go wrong. 10-15 miles is like the 20s 30s- you have got over the immense teenage optimism and for the first time have a glimpse of what lays ahead. Unaffected you are sure it will all work out. 15-20 miles is like the 40s-50s, you have the first sign of trouble and realise you have to conserve a few things if you want to continue on. I will tell you more about what the 20-26 miles feels like.

18 miles is around the corner and I head off the trail back to the car. Its the end of the road for Sriks who has to get back home and setup a party for his 2 year old girl. Man this guy is a multitasker if there was any. We laugh joke and drink some more sports drink. With some much needed help I refill my camelbak, eat potatoes with salt. By now the salt tastes amazing and I mean it when I say amazing. Time to say bye, Suresh had already left for mile 22 and I decide with a heavy heart that I need to continue too.

18-20miles- Mind games galore. I will try and give an analogy of what it felt like for me to run miles 18 to 20. Its like I'm in charge of fighting a battle with moody children as my soldiers. They are enthusiatic when we started out- but when tired- they rebel like crazy. You have to make deals with them for every step. At this point your knees want only thing- to be attached to a dude in lungis squatting on a fence that lines a bridge over a creek, smoking a beedi. They don't want to be running miles after miles and they don't give you hints about it- they let you know in loud words as Pain!

knees: Oh! I can't take it.
me: Sure you can. Don't worry! we will run only till mile 20. After that we stop
knees: really? really?
me: ofcourse! you think I love doing this. Cross my heart and hope to die

So your knees run with renewed vigour at the new deal you made. But your lungs and heart were not part of the deal. So they protest... Hey your legs are running too fast! I can't keepup. So you quickly tell your legs to slow down and your lungs and heart grudgingly do what they do... Grudgingly! (the audacity they have).

Miles 20 -22: No mans land. Your knees don't have brains- thats why they are your knees, they don't remember you said you will stop at 20. They just know that they are tired again. You make more deals-- 22miles and we are done. Cross my heart and hope to die..

When they say that during long runs, Pain is a companion- they weren't kidding. At some point everything pains- and those that don't have any right to pain will pain anyway just to get in on the pain extravangaza. Its all painful- its actually so painful that you get used to the pain. Pain just becomes a background noise. Remember when you are listening to music and you initially note each beat, each varying tune. Time goes by and you weren't paying attention- you don't even realise there was music running until the tape runs out and there is silence. The silence hits you!!!! At some point between miles 20 and 22, there was a brief moment when nothing pained and it was like that silence. I suddenly missed the pain. The pain was reassuring atleast- it told me everything was doing what it should be doing - but with no pain- I had no idea if things were working fine. I suddenly longed for the pain to come back.

I suppose I don't really have to elaborate on the analogy between old age and miles 20+. Its obvious- every part of you is weary. You continue running only because the idea appealed to you at sometime in the past.... you run living that memory. You know its all going to end soon at the FINISH line.

Now there are many things that have been researched and I propose a new theme- "The effect of the finish line on a marathoners limbs". Basically the finish line appears as a pale dot in the horizon as it gets bigger and bigger, you can feel your energy building up. All the fatigue is gone- as you feel yourself surging ahead. I really think this should be studied and made into a commodity and applied to other fields. Imagine the equivalent of the finish line to a college grad cramming for his exams- maybe something to prod the youth to cram ahead with renewed vigour? I don't know, but it seems that there is no limit to the possibilities of the FINISH line effect.

The parking lot is just around the corner and Suresh is waiting there for me. He looks like he just finished a walk in a park- this guy is amazing. As I loop around and get in there I see Shoba there too- she looks at me like having spotted a ghost. I must confess to perspiring a lot (perspiring being a well placed euphemism). I lose about 5 lbs in these long runs (all water)- so I'm sure I don't look my best after such gruelling runs. Sriks had called ahead and obviously informed them that I had a bit of Asthma early on. I stop- catch my breath- drink- and tell them (all in that order) that everything is fine. We chat a bit- congratulate each other on running 23 miles (yes we ran only 22 - but we calculated that the various detours had gives us about 0.75 extra) and departed for the day.

So now you know- I'm not cocky when I say- I will run the Silicon Valley marathon and most probably finish it too. The much awaited taper down starts and it couldn't have come at a better time. With the fall prime T.V lining up- I just can't wait to hit the couch with a glass of brewsky safely tucked away.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Manolog- Week 8 & 9 (Napa to Sonoma half marathon)

Finally getting some traction on my training. Last two weeks filled with some pretty decent mileage- 20 and 23 miles respectively. Most of my injuries are vanishing and finally after a long time I have no pain after running. Absolutely elated at this unforseen development. I also know that I can easily blow this new found luck by increasing training intensity- so making a conscious effort not to run any faster than a 9:30 pace.

Week 9, exactly half mark of my training program- ended with a Napa to Sonomo half marathon run (http://runcarneros.com). I got attracted by the description of the race- running through the vinyards. The starting line had about 1500-2000 people anxiously shifting legs and forming long lines in front of the few portapotties. Those who didn't have have the luxury of waiting- decided to relieve their bladders by giving the vines an organic shower. Soon the loudspeakers announced the imminent start of the race and quite a few gents/ladies (including yours truly) emerged from the stalks. The race started unceremoniously and I shuffled along.

Thanks to my weekend runs at Los Gatos creek trail, the heat this morning didn't bother me much. Ran strongly for the first 4 miles, until the excess from previous nights dinner started to shift ominously in my stomach. A sensation that I knew could only be relieved by - ahem! - crapping. With no porta-potties in site, I reduced my speed for the next one mile and ran slowly scanning the horrizon. By mile 5, I couldn't take it anymore- without revealing too much details, lets just say "I had a field day".

Feeling immensely relieved but having lost about 5-8 minutes, I started running slightly faster. One of the problems of this course- absolutely no spectators till mile 12. It didn't matter much to me- but if thats important to you, then this is not the race for you. Several houses had garden hoses and overzealous kids spraying us as we ran by. One really funny kid along the route was shouting thirsty in a voice that emoted thirst beautifully. A few laughs and we were on our way- soon we neared the finish and I started cranking out a 8:30 pace and finished strong. Overall pace 10min/mile- I'm satisfied.

Will I run this race again? I'm not sure, lack of porta-potties until mile 7 is a big negative. On the other hand the course is beautiful and the medal is awesome. So the answer is a maybe.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Running the Grand Canyon

I opened my eyes to a rather dull Friday. Thats rather strange because Friday's are the equivalent of a cute receptionist in a modernistic office. They indicate that a weekend is coming up and its all gonna be alright. But not this friday- I had to go to AAA and get maps for our upcoming trip to the Grand Canyon on Sunday. I was still worried about the stubborn injuries I was accumulating and all this while I pretended to be a marathoner.... this was definitely not a good Friday.

As I was driving amidst the typical madness that the Friday commute can present, my mind was wandering aimlessly about the Grand Canyon. Something about it that I had read a long time back and can't remember. The monsterous looking guy in his monstrous truck cut sharply in front of me- as I opened in my mouth wording a profanity in silence, I froze... I remember the itsy bitsy detail about the Grand Canyon that I had read long back. It was about folks who run rim to rim (and crazier folks who run back). Rim to Rim the distance is about 24 miles, You start say in the North Rim (elev. 8241 feet) and run down to the canyon bottom elev. 2440 feet and then run up to the South Rim (elev. 6,860 feet). The thing that got me really excited was the distance- 24 miles, definitely doable. The altitude is surely going to be a problem, but I think if I train enough hills, that will also become doable.

The more I thought about it the more excited I became. Soon I was sweating profusely from the mere excitement of the thought. I can't remember when I last got so excited by an idea this way... Maybe I'm onto a good thing... only time will tell.

So the Friday was good afterall.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

06 Bay to Breakers-- Smacking tortillas

In the Guiness book of records for the highest number of participants in a footrace (110,000 in '86).
Will be 100 years old in 2012.
Many of the participants run the race in some really wierd costumes.

All attributes of the Bay to Breakers an annual race that toils its way from the bay (San Francisco's financial district) to the ocean accumulating 12kms along the way. It starts as irreverently as it finishes, with 100s of tortillas experiencing the exhiliration of flight for ephemeral few seconds before they lose the battle to gravity, smacking the about 40000 (this years approx count) unsuspecting participants. For the average runner in the midpack, the race starts very slowly and it takes about 10 minutes to reach the start, there is a little bit of loosening (I'm using that word very generously) as we start to jog and predictably bare our teeth and claws to a nearby camera crew.

The toughest part of the race is at around 2.5 miles when we approach the Hayes street hill, a 215 feet climb at a supposed 11% grade. I bravely ran up the hill all the way, atleast on paper- in reality, if a run can be compared to a lion's roar my climb was more like a kitten's meow. After that it was pretty much downhill (in altitude) to the finish, barring minor ups. At around the 4 mile mark we entered the beautiful Golden gate park (interesting trivia: The Golden gate park was carved out of hopeless and sand and shore dunes - source wikipedia). Running through the park surrounded by 1000s of costumed runners was pretty psychedelic. The numerous bands that dotted the course were fantastic and the weather was holding up pretty well. I ramped up to something near an 8 min/mile for the last big push and finished strong.

For the bean counters- my official numbers:
Gun time: 1:23
Rank: 5313
Chip time: 1:13 (my estimate- giving 10 minutes to get to the start).

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Manolog- Week 3

Weight: 157 lbs (sigh! no change)
Miles: 13 miles (3+4+6) Slacker!!!

Bit of a low week, had to skip a run to see if niggling pain in my right leg backs off. Has been better on/off after that.
Running Revolutions (@campbell) rocks. I went in for a pair of new shoes (my old one put up a fight and wanted to retire- No Pension!), they had me stand on a gizmo to see the shape of my foot and decide if I have high or low arch. After that the lady at the store asked me to roll up my pants- there were a few cute chicks and so I showed my rock solid calfs with glee :). After that she hung a bottle of beer in front of a treadmill and told me if I could reach it - I could down it (just kidding). Best thing was my legs were videotaped. Reviewing it was fun, my footstrike had definite pronation (wow! I didn't know that).

Next week I'm running the bay to breakers. One of my fellow runners at Sanjose fit asked me if I'm going dressed up as some kind of creature. I didn't think much about my reply and between hard breathing, I replied- "I'm going as myself".

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Top things you deal with after finishing your first marathon

- The pumped up message that your marathon guide blares at you has you thinking you are a hero until it all comes crashing down when you look around to see the number of 60 year olds at the race.
- Finishing the marathon was not really a life changing event- the book lied.
- 26.3 miles and you wouldn't have finished.
- Hunched old women had finished their marathons ahead of you - walking.
- You gain back your pot belly in the first week of rest after the marathon.
- You don't want to run again ever. When you finally decide to go run- 3 miles is a chore again.
- Training for your second marathon is much tougher than the first. You find yourself in rooted in terra-firma this time around.
- You start off training for your 2nd by saying you will finish an hour faster. 3 days later you settle back to just finishing your 2nd. 1 month later you postpone the date to a later one.
- You write a blog about 'Things you deal with after finishing your first marathon"