Monday, August 22, 2005

Sweet Sixteen

Everything snapped into place for this near to perfect 16 mile run. Routinely drinking water, swallowing energy gels and my new find Ultima Replenisher (tastes bad, works great) kept me sailing right through. Total time 3hr 5min (slower than my usual 10 min pace- but hey! Who is counting).

One side note, In this huge energy gel/sports drink industry, why can’t somebody come up with a product that actually tastes good ?

Monday, August 15, 2005

14 Miles- Not yet 18 but no child’s play

The elation from my 10 miler lifted me through the next two weeks. As expected my fitness was improving constantly and with that came an increase in speed for my short and medium runs. Also my new Heart rate monitor took most of the guesswork out of running at the needed intensity. But with the increased fitness and a general feeling of joie de vivre crept in an uncalled for overconfidence... I pushed myself harder… ran faster. My 11 mile run was uneventful and as was my 12 miler. But after running the 12 miles at a much faster pace than I'm used to, I woke up the next morning with an inflamed Achilles tendon and a bad ankle- both on my right leg.

By now I was used to a constant barrage of niggling pains and thinking this might be something that will heal before my next run, I didn't pay much attention. My next short run of 4 miles started off ok. But half way through when typically I'm all warmed up, the point at which most of the minor pains typically vanishes, my Achilles tendon felt very sore and my ankles showed its presence in the form of throbbing aches. Common sense dictates that I should have aborted the run at this point, but as is often the case- common sense ain't so common. I plodded on... and my run was progressively becoming a nightmare. I hobbled back indoors after one of my worst runs in recent history. To cut a long story short- this grounded me for the next 7 days. At the end of which I tried a quick 4 miler again and my leg seemed ok. After a rest day I tried 6 miles and my leg went back to its injured state. Now I was worried, not to mention depressed. I decided to play it smart and dropped running for the next 2 weeks. To keep from completely vegetating, I played squash a few times. End of two weeks my 4 mile run was completely fine and I thought it was time to test my leg with a long run.

By now I was getting tired of running on the streets of Sunnyvale. After some web searches I found references to Alameda Creek Trail that starts from Fremont and is a paved trail all the way to the San Francisco bay (about 12 miles). That seemed perfect and the start of the trail was a mile or so from my buddy Srikrishnan's (aka Sriks) appartment. Sriks was also looking for company to do his long runs and so we hooked up to run together. His long run for the day was supposed to be 5 miles- but having slacked the previous week he wanted to make up and decided to run 6 miles. Mine was 14 miles, so the plan was that we will run together for 3 miles and he will head back to complete his 6, while I push on for 7 miles and heading back to complete my longest run so far.

At the back of my mind lingered the thought that I haven't done much running the last 3 weeks. Pushing away all negative thoughts we started our run at 6pm. It was a crisp cool summer evening with a lovely breeze coming in from the bay. The trail was very scenic and we were busy taking in the lovely smells and sights of the varying areas as we ran. Before we realized it 3 miles had crept up and it was time for Sriks to turn around. I continued on as the sun started dipping lower in the sky and with its departure the sea breeze decided to take up new vigour. Brrrr!! The chill it brought on didn't bring down my vigour (not yet). I was near 9 miles when Sriks reached home and decided to enquire on the progress of my self inflicted torture. After telling him I should be near the starting point in 50-60 minutes, I realized I was running low on Gatorade. I called back with a request for further supplies and continued running. At 11 miles I had run out of all fluids and was feeling the first signs of dehydration- puffy lips and mild disorientation. By this time to add to the general feeling of my gloominess the setting sun had completely disappeared and what was just an hour back, a gorgeous trail, was now dark and intimidating.

Forcing myself to think positively I continued to run with diminishing energy. At around 12 miles my mobile rang again, the sound cutting through my state of daze and kind of waking me up. It was Sriks who was now at the trail entrance waiting with Ice cold drinks and some energy gels. Hearing my voice he figured something was wrong (I must have sounded really bad) and he started running with Gatorade in hand to meet me at 13 mile point (2 miles roundtrip) for him). I was immensely touched by this and to the casual reader who wonders what the big deal is- I shall give a bit more context. His is a very recent entry to the world of running. His training is just a few weeks old and he has never run more than 5 miles (and that was a few weeks back). His run of 6 miles is in this context a pretty good stretch goal and typically (having been there) these long runs drain the individual. The legs are sores, sometimes the knees hurt and the biggest problem the mind is tired and drained. Yet he didn't think twice about running once again just after finishing his long run. To me that says a lot about his mental strength and his spirit of camaraderie.

Running really slowly now, I was peering ahead into the now impenetrable darkness. As I neared our meeting point I was getting desperate, by now I was running because one foot managed to put itself ahead of another despite me. All of a sudden I heard a holler 'Mano'- It was Sriks. I still couldn't see him but suddenly I could feel my tiredness lift. My legs felt lighter as my pace quickened. My feelings were akin to that of a desert traveller without water seeing a oasis. As I ran faster, I could see Sriks in the distance waving the Gatorade as I ran upto him. It took all I had to not collapse- I grabbed the Gatorade with both hands and gulped about half a liter in one swig followed by the foul tasting energy gel and some more drinking. After profusely thanking him, we both set off to finish the last mile. Thanks to him- I finished the run and ofcourse the run finished me too. Total time spent running 2hr 40min.

I was shivering when we got home. Occasional goose bumps and a general feeling of nausea kept me from jumping with joy at finishing my 14 miles. Lots of water, a bit of dinner and a couple of hours saw me back on my feet. I was not sure why I struggled so much- It could have been any or all of several factors. 3 weeks of inactivity, 14 miles may have made me hit a bit of the dreaded runner's wall and of course not having enough fluids during the run.

14 miles older and 14 miles wiser- I now get ready for the subsequent weeks where I will run 3 long runs of 16 miles and two 18 milers.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


10. My Doctor tells me running is bad for the knees.

His doctor meant- "running is bad for *his* knees". His knees have even forgotten what they are after all those years of couch potatoeing.

9. Whats the distance you have to run for this.. this... marathon thingy...

Pprobably genuine, so make a straight face and give it to him. But this question is really a setup for the next one...

8. Really??? I'm sure I remember it being 26.2 Kilometers...
Got to ridicule him... "Yeah.. but, they changed it last week to 26.2 miles".

7. These days everybody is running one. In fact, I might try one myself...

It irks more when this comes from a person who counts picking up the remote as strength training and moving to the refrigerator as a walk. ..
"You might first want to think of the entire 26.2 miles in your mind... if you are still not out of breath...."

6. But you don't look like a typical marathoner

".. and you don't look like a typical human being. I'm sorry!! was I mean...?"

5. If you can't win, whats the whole point of running?

I break into a lengthy sermon on how running is like life/the universe/everything. After 30 minutes when he looks convinced, I laugh out loud and say I was just kidding and ask if he really bought all that crap.

4. What are you running away from?

Dude has just picked up 'The road less travelled' and thinks of himself as an amateur psychoanalyst. Tread very carefully.. its best to lead him on. I Look around nervously.. constantly mumble something incoherently.. I say that people are watching me all the time...

3. Isn't 6 months too much training time...?

First making sure he has never run an inch before, "how many months did your training take".

2. If you trained harder, you won't have to stop for water.

"Yes, when you are training for your run to hell!!!"

1. Marathon? Thats just running isn't it? I hear a Triathalon is a real challenge.


PS: I just chose the male gender because its easier to pick up one and not try to publish the entire thing for a neutral gender or establish both male/female.