Monday, July 11, 2005

Back to 10 miles and beyond...

Fast forward to current (or perhaps to two months before current)... its May 2005. I have solved most of the problems associated with running 4 times a week. According to the training schedule that I'm following, my long runs increase by about a mile ever week and it starts at 5 miles. I have to say that my first attempt at 5 miles was not entirely sucessful... everything conspired against it. It was 11am by the time I started and being one of the warmest days of spring- I heated up too soon and by about 3 miles I was soon able to sympathise with a jacket potato in a nice hot oven. To cut it short- I couldn't take it beyond 3 miles and I aborted the run and walked back home. It would be a serious understatement to stay that I was feeling dejected-- nay, I was feeling horrible and my self esteem took a new low.

In anycase, I continued with my training schedule and having a hide that competes with any self respecting pachyderm- I ignored my failure and tried to tell myself that my 5 mile run was a sucess. It worked, the next week I ran 6 miles for my long run without too much difficulty. Ofcourse, that it was evening when I attempted this run and that it was about 60F helped a whole lot. Also, a note to the reader: When I say "I ran without too much difficulty"- I actually mean, I ran without killing myself. There is a lot of low to moderate and sometimes a little more than moderate pain that I put up with during this long runs. I take each long run as an oppurtunity to learn to ignore these pains... so far this has worked for me.

6 miles takes me about 60 minutes to run- I run at about a 10 minutes a mile pace. Yes, I'm not in the league of Carl Lewis and I suppose I was never under any such impression to start with. One of the subconcious reasons I probably took up marathon training was maybe the realisation that I could never run at a respectably fast pace. Anyways, to get back to what I was saying... a starting time of 60 mintues for long runs leads one to the question: How does one keep ones mind occupied during these long runs? Here my marathon training book comes to the rescue: The book recognizes that, while a marathon is obviously a hard physical exercise it also is a hard mental routine. I learnt several mental techniques to keep myself occupied and feeling positive during these long runs. But the best technique I liked was- mental disassociation. Being a past practioner of yoga and meditation this caught my interest really soon. The idea is to disassociate oneself from the process of running- but at the same time to try and be aware of the fact that one is running. Thoughts flow in and are not held-- they continue to flow out; this is not too different from transcedental meditation. After following this technique- my long runs were no more a problem I was able to breeze through my 6 mile jaunts.

It was now June and it was time for my yearly vacation to my hometown- Chennai, India. Having trained all along in a cool and dry environment; Chennai proved to be just the opposite- hot and humid. After getting over the initial jetlag and 2 further days of acclimatization. I attempted to run in Chennai.... It was a real ego buster.... after about 2 miles, I was cattle fodder. The humidity took my perspirations to a whole new level and that just broke me. My cousin Shashwath and my Uncle Ramkumar, both seeing my sorry state of affairs, took pity and volunteered to carry water for me during my runs. The plan was that they will accompany me in a bicycle with the much need elixir of life- H2O. It worked great- I ran one long run of 7 miles and a few moderate runs. For my last long run of 8 miles in Chennai, they were not available and my dad, mom and nephew Dhruva (all of 13 months old) volunteered to be my camel back. This run proved to be very challenging with my then training condition.. it was a very humid and warm morning when I started out. The first 5 miles were uneventful- I stopped once for some electrolytes and continued on. Dehydration started taking its toll at about the 6th mile and I drank tons of fluids- but it bloated my stomach way too much. From the 6th mile to my goal of 8 miles was sheer torture.... I plodded on nevertheless. When I stepped back in to the safe confines of a roof and 4 walls, my condition was not too different from that of a drunk man. I showed all the signs of severe dehydration (in spite of drinking ample liquids and electrolytes) and heat exhaution. I was disoriented and was blabbering (more than normal). It took about 30 minutes of more fluids and further salty snacks to get my bearings..... But, I had finished my 8 miles in Chennai. This was my last run in my home town; next week I was returning back to California.

After that taxing 8 mile run, my 10 mile run in california was pretty much uneventful. I just needed two water breaks- running in 90% humidity had made me very tough and I was pretty much able to breeze through the 10 miles here. Meera, came along and gave me ice cold Gatorade for the two breaks and I was pretty much done. I had my first incident of runner's stitch at the 9th mile- but it vanished as fast as it came.

After a break of 2 years or so... I was back to 10 miles. I was mighty proud of myself to come back to this goal, and I was not going to stop there. Each week was goint to see me go more than the previous week by atleast a mile-- sometimes by 2.

Next update:18 miles- my training's end and the begining of my actual marathon.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Marathon training- It all began...

After being sedentary for most part of a decade, I took up running as a way to lose some blubber. The first few runs were pretty close to disastrous. A slow jog for a block or so would leave me desperate for breaths not unlike a fish out of water. In the beginning I tried to run everyday and yes- my distances did increase. What I didn't count on was that my injuries piled up to the point that I had to back down. I tried running every other day and that worked much better. Painstakingly the distances increased and slowly I could run about 2 miles and I was convinced that I was a long distance runner.

A year or two passed, I picked up squash and that along with running boosted my stamina a lot more. Soon I was running 6 to 7 miles and I started dreaming of touching my first 10 miler. On my 30th birthday, I did just that and I was completely elated. Now I was seriously moving some respectable distance and my thoughts started leaning towards training for a marathon.

A nagging shin pain prevented me from running everyday. I still was running pretty much how I felt like- there wasn't much structure and I don't think I was listening to my body that much. No warmups and no cooldowns. Still I managed to run twice a week and would log in about 10-12 miles on average- no more. Each run would be followed by horribly painful shins. To add to my woes, sometime around that I started developing a bad back pain, running became painful and I slowly started skipping my runs to a point where I was not running at all. Two years went by...

A couple of months back I picked up a book, Ultramarathon Man -Dean Karnazes . After reading it in one sitting, I was completely energized. Here is a guy who has run 262 miles and his experiences with running inspired me so much that the next day I ran again. This time I put up with the back pain the first mile and found that it diminishes after warming up. Ofcourse the last two years were not completely sedentary, I was still playing squash and my overall fitness while not earth shattering was not abysmal either. I could eke our 3 miles and after my runs I didn't look like something the dog brought home. I thought this was a good time for me to begin marathon training. After reading a ton of reviews, I chose 'The complete marathon guide for the non-runner'. Impressed with the book, I began my training.

This time I wanted to focus on the two main sources of problems in my past runs- shin pain and back pain. I chanced upon an article on heel strike- I started analyzing the way my heel strikes the ground. My running style was pretty much- Heel hits the ground first and then the ball of the feet. I tried the other way around for a bit- land on the balls of my feet then the heels touch the ground and again kick off from the balls of my feet. Although this gave me a sore calf, there was absolutely no shin pain. Interestingly after developing this style I noticed that my backpain started reducing. I was probably onto something here and I started focussing on an elaborate stretching regime before and after my runs. Stretching combined with abdominal strengthening and focussing on my running form seemed to take out bulk of the pain of running. I was on my way now with 4 runs per week- 2 short runs, 1 moderate run and a long run.

Next- Road back to 10 miles and beyond...