Sunday, November 13, 2016

Bangalore Ultra 2016 - 75K

I have been waiting for the Bangalore Ultra for a year now. Walking out of last year's race was a decision that has nagged me. So I had set myself a minimum goal of completing the distance, even if it meant walking all the way. Little did I expect that I'd end up quite a bit of that.

I had had the chance to repay my pal Anil by driving him to the race venue and back as partial payback for his favour at CIM and M2B in the last few years.

I have completed several runs of 30+ km this season, thanks to the prep for Malnad Ultra incl. a practice marathon at Lalbagh on my own 2 weeks ago, which had given me some sense of what'd happen in the heat. I was quite confident of my training to get thru 50 km at least. I was hoping to complete the race in about 7:30 hours, since I knew I could get thru 50km in 5 hrs, aerobically.

This year, the 75km started at 6 am which meant an extra hour in the heat for all of us. I went thru the first lap in 2:15 or so, 5 min faster than last year. I thought I was slowing down and deliberately dropped stride length in the 2nd lap and still ended up with a slightly faster pace and went thru the marathon mark in ~3:50. I had a fig each at the 25, 35 and 42 km mark and expected to feel hungry by the 50km mark, based on my practice runs. I had one banana at about the 40 km mark.

I also had a piece of ginger at the 35km and 40 km mark, in order to preempt nausea if any. I had drunk the electrolyte drink (Enerzal) at every 4-5 km. I had not drunk much water to avoid any chances of hyponatremia. This is exactly what I have done in training.

Encouraged by the time at the marathon mark, I had a peanut butter sandwich at about 44km. This didn't seem like a bad idea at the time. However by about 52 km or so, I was feeling quite bloated. I asked the medical tent for help and they gave me a Pantodec which did the job of removing the gas in about 30 min. However by the time I made the turn on my last lap, my lips were dry and I was feeling thirsty every km. I stopped again at another medical tent and they recommended I lie down for a bit and drink some more water and electrolyte. I puked a bit when I had 1 glass of electrolyte. One of the medical team then called for a senior who checked my tongue and concluded I was severely dehydrated and asked me to drink 2 glasses at once, lie down and wait. In about 2 min after doing this, I puked everything I had in the last 2 hrs or so, incl the PBJ. The medical team was quite spooked and despite my reassuring them that this (puking) is something I have done before and that I was not feeling nauseous, they gave me an injection to prevent nausea (and hence more vomiting). After about 45 min of this and some dark comedy (the doctor crashed on a scooter while trying to rush to the aid of someone who was in medical distress at a different location), I finally left the medical tent. By then several fellow runners had stopped to enquire if I was fine and then carried on.

I ended up walking almost all the remaining distance except for a jog for the last km and finished in a little under 10 hrs. It is more than sobering to see 50km in ~ 4:50 hrs and the remaining 25km in almost the same time. But I'll definitely take it ahead of last year's DNF. There are a few positives - I didn't have any GI issues, pre or post race (although the PBJ leaves a big unanswered what-if about what may have been, during the race), no cramps (I did have some tightness in the right hamstring which I kept trying to get rid off by stretching a few times) and no falls during the run. One thing to note is that walking 25km, esp on a loop course, even if it is 12.5km and back isn't easy (although Praveen Arora makes it seem ridiculously easy - he did ~90miles in 24 hrs, walking ! ) I have improved zilch at running in temps above 25 deg C, despite logging enough mileage in the last few months. I am really happy that I have one less thing to worry about next year - having never gone thru 75 km in one go.

Thanks to RFL for another splendid event. I shall be back again.

Thanks to a lot of people and congratulations to several extraordinary athletes at the Ultra, incl my friend and partner, A who breezed thru his 50K. I was telling A and some others who asked that the run was unforgettable in a sense I didn't want.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Malnad Ultra 2016 - 50K

From the moment, Anand, the race director contacted about an event he was planning to organize in the Western Ghats, sometime in Nov 2015, I have been quite excited about running in the event. The race that he meticulously planned with a great team backing him, came about last weekend.

I was chicken to run anything longer than 50 km since I have other events in this time frame, esp the Bangalore Ultra, whose ghost haunts from last year. Before the Cauvery trouble derailed KTM, I was looking at the FM at KTM in Sep, the Malnad 50K in Oct, the 75K Bangalore Ultra in Nov and the FM at SCMM in Jan. Before the Bengaluru Marathon changed its date from the announced date of 23rd Oct, I had also planned the FM there too.

Now that KTM has got pushed to Nov, I had no events from the TCS 10K in May. My training had also suffered some interruption due to dengue in July. I had trained quite hard for the Malnad Ultra doing repetitions of the Nandi Hills loop as well as several runs over 30km, some of it on trail surfaces. The way I saw it, the event had twin challenges - esp after A had done the routee recce, elevation gain and surface. Nandi Hills took care of the elevation change and I did some repeats of the Cubbon loop on my long runs as well as Thu runs where I ran only about 16 km on some days in the last few months. I thought I was adequately prepared and based on my training runs and some other hard runs such as the Ooty Awareness Run earlier this year and Javadhu last year, I felt that a sub-5 hr finish was possible. Little did I know how off I would be.

The night before I travelled to the event, my scooter got hit by a bus, which caused significant damage to the scooter and mercifully zero damage to me, except my wallet due to what I will end up paying for the repairs. The latter really messed with my head as I set out for the race as I am not exactly flush with funds and any accident where you are the victim leaves you feeling violated.

Some snafu on the transport connection at Birur didn't exactly calm my nerves. I have spent so much time discussing the pre-race events since one'd mindset during the race can get influenced by events outside of the run itself. The weather was quite warm the day before the event and I had even spoken to Anand, on behalf of several people who felt we could start the race perhaps an hr earlier than the scheduled 9 am, to avoid some of the heat. However too many things were set and once we got to the pre-race dinner, we could see the difficulty with shifting times and the start time was unchanged.

On the race morning, most of us who were at a resort named The Last Resort, were first ferried in the wrong direction by a driver as confused as the rest of us but were rescued by another alert driver in a bus in the opposite direction. This actually provided some comic relief since we had over an hr's buffer to the race start time.

I had taken muesli from home and ate it on the bus while we went one way and then the other. Once at the start, all we had to do was wait for almost 45 min to the start. Before that, we cheered the 80K and a few 110K runners who passed the 50K start. A looked good as he gently went by.

Our race began about 10 sec ahead of time!

I caught up with A, checked how he was feeling and then went on my way. Sampath J (distinguished from Sampath Kumar who won the 80K) kept asking me about my target time. I had no specific time I was willing to disclose but I wanted to pace the run on effort. Besides Anand's suggestion on treating the event as a run and not a race, was still fresh in my ears. There were no prizes after all and all finishers got the same medal.

Sampath J (SJ) and I ran together for about 6km or so, having lots of conversation. SJ is a very fast runner, who I have run with several times in the past and is great company, since running isn't necessarily his primary interest (he does treks/mountaineering at high altitude quite often and is also a member of an Ultimate Frisbee team). At that point we had passed all but one of the runners we had seen at the start. All of the runners ahead of us had been estate workers, most of whom were doing their first runs, perhaps over half marathon distance. When we hit the first uphill, I continued and was a bit surprised to see SJ drop a bit behind. At this point, I had only one runner (also an estate worker) ahead of me. I passed him too at around the 7.5 km mark. When I got to the 9.5 km mark or so, I was the first runner at that point and the water stop wasn't ready with pre-mixed electrolyte. Kieren (the boy who's already a legend in Indian running circles, also the running manager for the 80K and 110K events) was trying to be apologetic, but I stopped him and told him I was really in no hurry (esp with Anand's suggestion still fresh) and I understood what went behind getting these things going. I mixed my own drink (and would so at every water stop till about 32K) and then carried on. By the time I left the water stop, the bald estate worker had caught up, but then he needed a stop too. I realized I had spent over 30 seconds at the stop.

From then till about the 16km mark, when we came to what had been announced to us as one of the highlights of the race, the Summit, I saw no other runners. On the path to the summit, I saw what appeared to be a tourist in a white t-shirt (who I now know as Tapas), given how he was walking leisurely on the narrow path. As I got closer, he turned back and I was surprised to see he had a bib on, one for the 50K! At this point, I made a move since I knew I couldn't make any move on the steps to the Summit and quickly went past him. I was the first guy at the Summit and since that was a mandatory checkpoint, I was also informed by those making notes of our bib nos of the same fact. From this point on, I was told the same at every stop till I finished! I must confess that till about 40k, when I asked the water stop volunteers if they knew someone was ahead or how much behind me the next runner was, I didn't really check if someone was close or not. All the info was just fed to me by enthusiastic volunteers/photographers. I met SJ on my way down from the Summit and hence knew I had < 1km on him. I slowed just a bit b/w 17K and 21K since I was keen to not be caught soon, since the hard running up the slope had caused me to hyperventilate. At the halfway mark, a photographer stopped me since he wanted to take pics! I must admit I was simultaneously flattered with the attention and nursing mixed feelings about slowing down for pictures. Soon after the half marathon mark, I tripped on a stone on the trail and fell face down. My bib ripped from the safety pins, my left knee (already dodgy!) hit the ground and one of the safety pins caused a bruise across my chest*. I picked myself up and after checking that I hadn't broken anything and had suffered only minor bleeding on the knee, I continued. The left quad began to spasm a bit from that point on, since the knee had suffered a direct impact but at that point it wasn't much of a bother, esp if I slowed a bit. I also realized a bit later that I had dropped the piece of ginger (I had kept one handy to avoid nausea during the last segment or post-race) during my fall.

When I checked the elapsed time at the 25K mark, ~2:21 hrs, I knew that I'd be challenged to hit my 5 hr mark since the last 5-6K finish was uphill. It didn't bother me then as I wasn't really checking splits every km. At about 22-23 km, we had to go on a loop of the estate and one of the boys who was at the water stop before the one he was supposed to be, ran with me for about 2km and ensured I didn't lose my way or any time trying to decide which way to go. After about 6 km, I got back to the point where he had met me. He chatted with me for a bit and told me he was finding it difficult to hold that pace. I told him it must be because he hasn't trained. Almost everyone who talked to me on the course asked me where I was from incl this boy.

After this loop, I asked the water stop volunteers if someone had passed after me. They told me that just 1 runner had done so. That gave me anywhere between 3-5 km on the next runner. I didn't know if it was Tapas or SJ. I was expecting it was SJ since he's fantastic downhill and I don't know Tapas.

When I encountered a rather steep hill at the 29km mark or so, I began walking almost without hesitation since my left quad was hurting and left adductor was threatening to pull, like it had during SCMM. Walking helped a bit. The next segment was more forest than coffee estate and at about the 32km mark, I had my only moment of real confusion and agitation on the route since there was an unmarked fork, but with someone manning it. There was the parent of one of the runners and I asked him which way to go. He asked me if I had done the hill. I had no clue since I had run up and down several hills all of which looked similar - typical coffee estate slopes. He reassured me that if I had run a hilly loop of ~6K to get there, I had covered it and I should take the path downhill from the fork. Moments later, my Garmin which showed 32.7km at that point (my Garmin had been drifting by about 0.1-0.2km every 10km and was ahead of every race marker except at the 18km mark, where it was just 0.24 km ahead) vs the race marker of 32km and I was quickly placated. This juncture also provided an emotional high since a bunch of villagers heartily clapped for me and almost everyone at that water stop (it was one of the major food stops on the course) cheered for me. I was back in the forest at this point. Other than monkeys, some of which seemed to heckle me at some point, I saw a doe which provided another moment of hilarity. It darted across my path, just before a hairpin bend only to meet on the path on the other side of the bend and then darted back to where it had just crossed me moments before. It is useful to remember that most animals are as surprised as you are when you see them in the forest, especially if you chance upon each other. I had been hoping that I didn't see any cobras on the route and was glad when I reached the finish line without seeing a single cobra. However at several points, I was startled by various items which seemed like snakes to me. One such item was a portion of a silver coloured cement sack, which had sunk into the ground and glistened just like a snake's skin does. For someone already expecting to get spooked, this was one such!

There was another moment of anxiety at some point between the 35-36 km marks when I came upon what seemed to be a fence identical to the one I had seen about 2 km before. I thought I had missed a turn and ended up in a loop of 2 km. I decided to be more careful about looking at markers at this point but needn't have worried since the next marker at 38km showed me all was well. From there till the 40km mark, I could see the water stop at the 40km mark, since it was located on a beautiful section of the course, by the side of a water body, in an almost dream-like setting with calm water on one side and a neat path on the other with ready refreshments. An ambulance came from behind me at this point and in response to my query told me that the next runner was perhaps 5 km behind, since none was to be seen. Still, I expected to get passed before the finish as I only wanted to survive without incident. I haven't forgotten that I have puked during or after every one of my 50K events. Strangely I have not puked on my training runs of over marathon distance incl a 50k I did on the road last year. While the photographer at this point was very encouraging, my legs weren't feeling great, since both quads were cramping, resulting in some adductor pulling once every few hundred meters. And they weren't relenting even if I walked, however slow. While I felt a bit disappointed, since I had led till this point and was sure I would get passed in the next 10km as I was walking, I also knew that if I was suffering, it was likely that some of my fellow runners were too. My goal then was to try and finish running. So I'd save my legs up till the last km or so, by walking and then running to the finish.

I realized at some point on this section, that I didn't even cross the marathon distance under 4 hours. I was looking at a finish in ~5:30 hrs, since I was walking at about 15min/mile and I had ~6 miles to go. At about 44 km, I began seeing and hearing vehicles above and I knew in about 2 km, I would be back on the road, when the surface wouldn't be a challenge. Once I hit the 46 km mark, I began running a bit, since I hit something of a flat/downhill section which felt odd since I didn't remember much about the first few km, but they were certainly not uphill when I had run down!

At about 48 km, I actually looked behind and saw that there was no one behind me. The ambulance came by and confirmed that fact. All I had to do was continue. There's enough photographic evidence of my walking and suffering on this last section as I think the photographers had little to keep them occupied :)

In the last km, I could actually see a lot of vehicular traffic in the distance and several people on the road incl. some people on a motorbike were taking videos of my running and encouraging me to the finish.

Once I was within sight of the finish, I ran the last 100m or so, trying to get a good finish line pic and everyone waiting there cheered the first finisher!

For the record, I finished in 5:19:21 hrs.

My first reaction was one of relief. I quickly drank about half a litre of curd, since my wife had gone sightseeing and taken my bag (with my food) with her. After recovering, I spent quite some time conversing with several people all of whom wanted to know various things about training for the event and my life in general, incl. why we were all in an event which had no prizes/rewards of the monetary variety !

I remember some things from the event with mild bewilderment - I had exactly 1 gel (the one that came free for all participants) and that too at the 40km mark or so. I had only the electrolyte drink at every water stop, except one. I had 3 dried figs, each about 3-4 km apart, starting from around the 29km mark. That's pretty much the only nutrition I had during 5 hours. I can't remember exactly but this is perhaps the first time I have finished first in any running event at this distance. It is also one of the few times I have actually run in an event with a moustache :)

It is difficult to describe my exact feelings about the event. It is easily the toughest run I have done but it also ranks amongst the most beautiful routes. The sense of calm and isolation on the trails is something I would pay for. The fact that I have mostly recovered from the run in ~48 hrs is proof of how much good trail running is, for the body. The Malnad Ultra is a fantastic advertisement for all that and much more.

Thanks to everyone who made the experience memorable - the volunteers, fellow runners and local people who cheered for everyone and some who even joined for a few km.* I actually saw this only well after the race when I took off my singlet after the run

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

5 years

It has been about 2 weeks since I completed 5 years of working on my own. I started a series of annual posts, trying to recount what the year has been like with this post.

As I was telling some friends this morning, in the first three years, I was often told that by people that they admired my decision to quit a comfortable job, etc and that they wish they could do it sometime. In the last two years, this has changed. Now, most people who discuss my decision to quit my job are surprised that is possible to make a living out of doing what I do. I suppose this is partly due to the number of people with similar backgrounds who are now working for themselves. I am still not aware of anyone who is an engineer and a management graduate, who quit a consulting job to coach people to run.

Another sobering realization is that I am now less inclined to work for myself than I was in Sep 2011 or for that matter 2012 or 2013. This is perhaps due to the fact one of the main goals of quitting my job then was to have a lifestyle that supported training hard, etc. Since I qualified for Boston and got a place to run in the race in 2015, I don't have any major life goals that are consuming passions like Boston was. I do want to run Comrades sometime but I am in no hurry. I don't think it helps that I am 5 years older now. I was also unmarried till 2013. So the variables have all moved.

I have now set myself a certain financial target to be hit by Apr 2018 (when I turn 40), failing which I may go back to sucking up and working for money. Besides one line of reasoning I gave myself when I quit in 2011 was that I could always try to get back to working for money even when I was 40, but I couldn't perhaps have as much fun as I did in the last 5 years.

One of the reasons this post is a little late is that I was sort of race director for a running event in Chikmagalur over the last weekend. I have already renamed myself D-factotum to commemorate that occasion. This was something new to me and quite a demanding assignment and one that I am happy to report went without incident with a lot of happy people.

So I continue to mark each year with something new and I am learning something new. There are a lot of fundamental items in my life that I am examining with fresh perspective, that would shock some of my friends from over 2 decades if they only knew what I was thinking today.

A big part of the gratitude for the interestingness goes to my dear wife, who has been a great source of support for my passion. While she labours away in her cubicle, I am usually taking one of my morning naps!

I have read much less than I have in the previous years, but I will discuss that in my annual post on books. I resumed solving the ET cryptic crossword and have done so for every day of 2016 and intend to keep it up till end of the year. My running stays ok. I started swimming this year and it has been a source of much pleasure. Quizzing has been worse than even 2015 but I am not that bothered by it as I am by the diminished reading. I have also written much less as the no of posts on my blog shows. I don't tweet as much or post on FB than I have in previous years, either but I have been more "social" in the real world and I am happy about it. About 3 months ago, I was knocked back by dengue for about 2 weeks. That was a scary time although it is less scary now than it was to get dengue 5 years ago or so. It also served to highlight how lucky we can be and how it doesn't take much to upset our lives. But then again, it also helped underscore that being mostly healthy is quite nice too and almost nothing can take its place.

It has been an interesting journey so far and I hope it stays so. Thanks as always to a lot of people who have made this possible.

As in the previous years, if you got here, say hello, write in and let me know how you have been.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Training for KTM, Bangalore Ultra, other races in Sep-Nov 2016

If you are looking at training for a running event (5K, 10K, half marathon or an event over that distance) in the next 16 weeks or so, read on.

Check out Drava for some details on our running and coaching. Since May 2015, we have coached several runners in groups (for companies) and individuals for events ranging from the 5K to 50K and beyond.

Our coaching is based on a runner-specific philosophy. We use approaches which work for the runner. So we coach people from 3 days a week to 5 days a week. Our runners in the last year have run times ranging from 1:36 hours for a half marathon and 3:44 for a full marathon to 2:42 for a half marathon and 5:48 for a full marathon. We don't care whether you are fast or slow and want to run fast or slow. We care a lot about you being uninjured and happy while you are running. We aren't concerned with whether you want to run for a specific event or not. We have multiple trainees who are not training for any specific event. However it helps if you have a coherent goal - whether it is time bound or distance bound.

Our next batch of trainees are training for the following events
  1. Kaveri Trail Marathon (it is in its 10th year!)
  2. Berlin Marathon
  3. Malnad Ultra (the first edition)
  4. Amsterdam Marathon
  5. Bangalore Ultra (also in its 10th year)
  6. New York Marathon

and other events.

We have trainees around the world. So remote training is a possibility too.

We intend to commence batches for KTM from 30th May 2016, 16 weeks from race day. Do take a look at our site for more info on our coaching philosophy, fees and other details. There's also a link to a questionnaire for prospective trainees on our site. Please do fill it up if you want to explore training with us. One of us will get in touch with you soon after you have done so. We already have a few people signed up to start training with us for the above races and we have a limit on our intake. So if you are interested, do get going on having that discussion with us.

Happy Running!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Mirchi Duathlon 2016

I was a participant at the inaugural Mirchi Duathlon at Bangalore this morning. I had changed plans on Friday evening after having initially decided to not go. After a disappointing performance at the Goa Tri last month, where my team missed 3rd place by 15 sec due to my tanking on the run, I was reluctant to race since I haven't begun my regular running yet, with my current attempts at learning to swim 5 days a week. My swim coach had advised me to back off running since my body tightens up a fair bit after the run, despite foam rolling etc. So I have tamely done 3 runs a week, 2 of them in the evening to maintain some mileage till I resume my usual training from next week. When a friend, A2 called me about the event, I told him I had to first check with my teammate from Goa, S, who I had first approached and then apologized to saying I wasn't in shape. I am still not in shape, but A2's intent in attending the event was not to be a contender for the prize money. He wanted to know if I could team up with Sarvesh, a young cyclist. Once S said he didn't mind my chickening out earlier, I reluctantly registered for the event, having other misgivings about waking up on a Sunday morning, ditching my precious long run and driving for 2+ hours for a total run of 6 km.

I have left a post on the event page about several shortcomings in the event. So I will keep that out of this post. I will confine this post to the fun I had despite those shortcomings.

The event included a 3 km run, followed by 16 km cycling and ended with a 3 km run again. The run and cycle segments overlapped only at the start point and were done on different routes.

Since we got to the venue before most of the organizing team did (when we got there, the barriers were being erected and some of the volunteers were still getting their t-shirts before getting to work), I did a dry run of the run route to get to know the route profile. That helped me plan the pacing since I was perhaps the only one who did it. So I knew the start was uphill and the return was too. I also knew that one could see the competition at several turns since the route was out and back.

I started the first run segment with a clear idea of some mega studs in the fray, people I know are clearly better athletes than I am (and in at least 1 case, will ever be). I had told Sarvesh that I expected to run a 2-3 min deficit to the lead runners and even if he made that up (which he was likely to on the cycling segment), I would lose it again on the last segment. So he should just ride hard and safe and do his best, while I would try and do mine. At about the 2.5 km mark, I had managed to reel back 2 runners and that's how the first segment ended for my team - with us in 6th position or so. Sarvesh just destroyed his bike segment and delivered us into first place at the end of his segment, putting massive pressure on me to not let the team down, like I did in Goa. He said that I should have at least a 2 min buffer on the next team. I took off at a ridiculous pace with the sole intent of not conceding more than that on the last segment. When I hit the first U-turn, I could see the next participant coming out of the starting arch and he was about 200m behind me. So I had less than 2 min (~250-300m). After about a km I could see the 3rd runner too and he was catching up fast. Since I had seen him finish well ahead of me in the first segment, I knew he could catch up quickly. When I hit the 2 km mark or so, I saw N (who was then 4th and closing fast), easily the fastest runner in the field. His team was undermined due to some ill-luck on the bike segment. I was hoping he wouldn't make up the 2 min or so, I had on him in the remaining km. At the last U-turn, the one 250-300m from the finish, I saw that the 2nd runner was very close and began flailing my limbs all over in a desperate attempt to somehow not get overtaken by more than 2 runners. I had expected to get overtaken by the runner behind me by the finish since he'd finished right behind N in the first run segment, showing that he was a very good runner too. At this point I had to scream my way past some of the individual event participants who were finishing really slow and were in my way but didn't know it. Most of this shouting & flailing, in hindsight, was due to a mix of my being overwhelmed by the feeling of impending disappointment and frustration from letting my team down in what I term Goa redux. There was also the feeling I would end up shitting in my shorts due to a mix of excitement and hard effort under fatigue. This was undesirable on at least 2 counts - My team was going to lose positions as I finished and my finish line pic would have me in soiled clothes!

Due to a mix of good fortune and some teethgrinding, however, I still did get past the finish line in first place, mercifully in clean clothes! It is difficult for me to describe the day and what it means at this point - I got to see 2 splendid athletes among others, KKR and my teammate Sarvesh deliver great performances. KKR in particular, showed what a beast he is, providing a vivid illustration of anaerobic running after a monstrous bike segment. Sarvesh looked like he'd made a hasty trip to get some water from the cooler, when he gave the bib at the transition. As in, he looked a little out of breath, but he didn't look in any trouble! At least not nothing like someone who'd taken ~26 min to cycle thru 16 km thru a lot of messy traffic etc!

And of course, winning an event, mostly thanks to an extraordinary teammate, does wonders to the general mood. Running the 2nd segment faster than the 1st also enforces some faith in training and fitness in general. Discussing training, nutrition, books and life in general with a boy who's a little over half my age and an amazing teammate made for a good day in the life of a coach :)

Friday, March 11, 2016

When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air by the late Dr. Paul Kalanithi is one of the most moving books I have read in my life or more precisely, listened to, since I consumed it in audiobook form, thanks to Scribd*.

It documents the journey of the remarkable doctor from cancer diagnosis to his eventual demise, almost entirely in his own words. The extremely well read and well adjusted author quotes frequently from philosophy, religion and poetry among others, getting close to the reader's heart in more ways than one. And he was a runner :(

It is quite impossible to capture the welter of emotions that I went thru as a reader, while getting through the book. One is struck by the seeming injustice of such a fine, hardworking neurosurgeon cut down so early. One is moved to tears by his acknowledgement of his own ambition and vanity and his courage to admit it. The author's sharp sense of humour is no less stirring. But above all, the author just melts you down by taking you thru his vulnerability, ... "But now I don’t know what I’ll be doing five years down the line. I may be dead. I may not be. I may be healthy. I may be writing. I don’t know. And so it’s not all that useful to spend time thinking about the future—that is, beyond lunch”... As Abraham Varghese says in a rather splendid foreword, "...“see what it is to still live, to profoundly influence the lives of others after you are gone, by your words...It is a gift...”

The book made me reassess and appreciate the value of my life. One is left feeling rather blank by this statistical injustice of a bright, extremely loveable doctor being taken away from this life in his prime. I am overwhelmed while putting the book down - There's such delight while being in the company of someone so smart and the simultaneous sadness of the loss of someone who brought so much joy to so many people and will continue to do the same for perhaps everyone who reads his story. And this is compounded by the fact that cancer has struck the lives of several people I know in recent times.

All I can say at this point is that you must read it if you can.

* Scribd has since made the audiobook unavailable in India

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Training for TCS 10K 2016 and other events

My friend, Athreya and I started Drava in May 2015 to coach runners. Check out our website for some details on our running and coaching. Since May 2015, we have coached several runners in groups (for companies) and individuals for events ranging from the 5K to 50K and beyond.

Our coaching is based on a runner-specific philosophy. We use approaches which work for the runner. So we coach people from 3 days a week to 5 days a week. Our runners in the last 6 months alone have run times ranging from 1:36 hours for a half marathon and 3:44 for a full marathon to 2:42 for a half marathon and 5:48 for a full marathon. We don't care whether you are fast or slow and want to run fast or slow. We care a lot about you being uninjured and happy while you are running. We aren't concerned with whether you want to run for a specific event or not. We have multiple trainees who are not training for any specific event. However it helps if you have a coherent goal - whether it is time bound or distance bound.

Our current batch of trainees are training for the following events
1. Auroville Marathon
2. Boston Marathon
3. London Marathon
4. Berlin Marathon

We have trainees around the world. So remote training is a possibility too.

We intend to commence batches for the TCS 10K event in Bangalore in May 2016, 16 weeks for which start from 25th Jan 2016. Do take a look at our site for more info on our coaching philosophy, fees and other details. There's also a link to a questionnaire for prospective trainees on our site. Please do fill it up if you want to explore training with us. One of us will get in touch with you soon after you have done so. We already have a few people signed up to start training with us for the TCS 10K and we have a limit on our intake. So if you are interested, do get going on having that discussion with us.

Happy Running!


SCMM 2016 FM

I can't tell you how much I was waiting for 17th Jan 2016. Well, not the race as much, but the time period that begins immediately after the race. Not as much like an excited schoolkid waiting for summer vacations but more like an Indian engineering college hostelite, heading for that railway station, after the close of a semester. Plain relief. When you reach that state, it is a good sign for a break. I had decided on a break, regardless of how my race went and have plunged into with earnestness - initiated by a certain Bruichladdich!

As I have whined/recounted here and have no plans of dwelling on it, the period from 16 May 2015 to 17 Jan 2016 has been more of an annus difficiles than an annus horribilis on the personal front. The SCMM FM was an extension of that. And it wasn't for lack of trying. I ran nearly 3000km in the above time period in the quest to set PBs or explore new ground. It is almost as if statistics were having their share of my time to restore parity for that amazing year of 2011.

Anyways, here is the summary from my race. I ran splits of 1:32:30 and 1:56:55 to end up at 3:29:25. I had planned to negative split and the first half had felt smooth and easy. I was raring to go and waiting for the Pedder Road climb to make my move. Except, the move never came. Sometime around the 30km mark, my adductors started cramping incredibly making it difficult to walk even, let alone run. After having consciously DNFed at 50K mark at the Ultra 75, I decided to not be effete and finish the race, even if it wasn't going my way. And it really hurt, even physically. I took 16 min for the last 2 km. I can walk faster than that. And this, after aiming for a worst case of a 3:10!

When A and I were doing our recovery run on Tue, I remarked that I was already faster than my race pace on Sun. C'est la vie.

I have tried to not beat myself up over the result since I am not exactly sure about why it happened. I have had calf and quad cramps before. I have never had adductor/hamstring cramps. I think there may be some contribution from the fact that I haven't been in a gym since June 2015 but then I did run faster at BLR FM. I have loads of time to remedy that.

I don't think a 3:05 or a 3:10 is as daunting as it seemed to me in Oct 2010 when I began aiming for my first BQ. I have no races planned till Sep 2016 when I will try KTM and then Nov 2016 when I will try the 75K at the Ultra. I haven't decided whether to do the FM of HM at KTM, but I know that I will want to be there at the 10th anniversary of both events. And there's some exorcism to be done at the Ultra anyways. I may run the TCS 10K but mostly to go see my trainees finish, than to chase a time. Targeting the ultra means I will run on a high mileage base with not much speed training like last year and that works well for me. I'd rather not change that. See what that "minor" tweak of skipping weights did in the last few months!?

What hasn't changed in this year, is the love and support of those who were involved with my training and life in general. Thanks to everyone involved. I look forward to more of the same in the future too. I would not exchange this for anything.

In the meanwhile, as the Zen parable goes, "Before enlightenment - Chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment - Chop wood, carry water..."