Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Is every city in India better than Chennai for running?

I spent the last week at Hyderabad and Vizag. In Hyderabad we were in the Hitec City area. Since it was a Christmas holiday the dominant theme of the holiday was alcohol. So running was not really something I focused on much. But I did get out to run two evenings - once I ran through Hitex - an exhibition area and once just outside the place I was staying in.

What struck me the most were that the streets were so clean and well paved. Maybe because this area is so far out that regular Indians don't live there. Most of the people who live there are sofware types who have travelled abroad and have been confused by the way things are done elsewhere. These people think that garbage has to be put INSIDE garbage bins. I'm sure they will soon realise that that is not the Indian way and garbage needs to AROUND garbage bins.

The roads are also clean and brightly lit. Probably because the roads are less than a couple of years old.

Anyway the running was light and easy. Couldnt do much. Hmmm - wonder if the three quarter bottle of whisky inside me had anything to do with it.

Until next time.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Working hard and the right way to tie Shoelaces!

Been working a lot these last couple of weeks. The prospect of the recession is creating a sense of fear and urgency. So I've been focussing a lot on my company's ability to execute and deliver on what I think are our priorities these last couple of weeks.

As a result my running has taken a bit of a back seat. The last I ran (before today) was last Sunday when I ran with Chennai Runners. Did a slow 11K. Went from the usual starting place - Dimensions Gym - to Besant Nagar Beach. At the beach I did 24 pull ups and 24 dips in sets of 8. Came back to Dimensions.

It has been such a long time since I ran long and slow that certain unmentionable parts of my body were hurting on the drive back. Following that I resolved to really get back into running again. But 'tis the season to be jolly. So a lot of alcohol was moved around and processed this week.

Managed to get out this morning and go to the MCC. Hammerred out a really fast 4 laps - a tad more than a mile. Felt really powerful. I think sprinting has taken my running to another level altogether. Though stamina wise I think I need to throw in a couple of long runs each week. But in terms of just plain running action and feel, I find I'm running a lot more on the balls of the feet rather than heel-toe. And the quads and glutes are responding with a powerful kick.

So it all looks good for now. Planning to run again tomorrow morning with Chennai Runners. Probably do the same 11k route.

Found an interesting article on Runner's World about the right way to tie shoelaces. Didnt even know there was such a thing.

Long article but well worth reading and learning!

Until next time

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Disappointments and getting back to training

So I just got a kick in a butt from a friend about updating my blog. Here it is, Shumit.

The major development is that my meet which was scheduled to be tomorrow (Dec 7) has been postponed to Feb 15th. I was pretty disappointed. So much so that I actually ate only junk food for 2 days. (I have to watch this carefully - I think I may have some psychological problems associated with running and keeping fit)

Anyway, I entered this week feeling really tired and worn out. My legs were hurting and my mind was bruised from all the sprinting that I was doing the last several weeks. The rains made it more difficult because I would feel guilty for missing work outs. The sprints were getting laborious. I don't think I was getting faster but I certainly am lighter. I think my kick has now become a lot more powerful. But basically I was tired and fatigued.

So I decided that this week I was going to rest. I slept in the whole week - waking up at 0700hrs - previously I was waking up at 0445hrs.

When I heard that the meet was postponed, I generally let go and ate a lot of chocolate. That was good.

Finally I went out running this morning. Huge difference. I ran upto Pachayappa's college from home - it took me about 3.5 minutes - and I was not panting! So the workouts must have helped.

Today's workout was 450m jog and 10 pull-ups - repeat 5 times. I then did another 3 laps and 10 knees to elbows. I finished up with 3 sets of 10 x 10m shuttle runs.

Felt really good. I'll probably take a few more days off and completely recover before I start again - may be mid next week.

Until next time.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Star attraction!

There's been a spate of six packs in the film world ever since Shah Rukh got his. The question on the top of my mind is - Why the hell didnt these guys do it sooner?

I mean its so obvious that a star has to look his or her best and the six pack has been around for ages in Hollywood. And not just the action stars by the way.

My take is that unfortunately our stars - the Shah Rukhs, the Salmans, the Aamirs, the Bachans, etc. are just not athletic. Take a look at Matt Damon in the Bourne movies. He's got a six-pack - but he doesn't look like crap - the way Shah Rukh Khan looks in my previous post on this.

Surya - my claim to fame is that he was my classmate in school! - looks like a body builder. Which is good on a body builder on stage. But for an action star I'd rather have a body like Matt Damon or one of the many guys in the Fight club. Personally I thought Brad Pitt in both Fight Club and Troy was a bit over done.

But my point is simple - there's a difference between an action oriented physique and a show oriented physique. Bollywood doesnt yet get it. (Eg.: Kamal Hassan has 250 inch biceps that pair very well with his 500 inch waist - and he keeps showing it off at every opportunity as well)

Until next time!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Raw speed and everything is raw!

Today I started my raw speed training phase. I spent all of last week getting ready. Last week's workout was mainly conditioning weights. Of course, more weights than running because of the weather. But I basically conditioned with a lot of high rep/high speed kind of weight training for the shoulders, upper arms and legs. So today I went in to the track at SDAT with some strength built in. However, I also went in with 5 whiskies and several unhealthy cocktail samosas as my energy source. Bad, bad, bad.

Todays workout started with a 10 minute warm up jog - the entire work out today was on spikes by the way. The main deliverable for today was 150m x 2 x 3 with full recovery between sets. No recovery between reps - just the time it takes to walk back the 150m. Shumit gave me company and ensured that I finished the workout.

I hit 150m on the first rep and was already winded. The second rep ended at 120m with several muscles screaming for a complete shutdown. After that first set, I made the mistake of chatting with my friend and that also hampered my recovery. The second set was similar. First rep good, second burnout at 120-130. By now a boy who was watching us joined in. He kept screwing up my rythm by running across me from his lane (far one) to the closest lane to the field.

Anyway after the second set I was all ready to throw in the towel. Shumit however ensured that that didnt happen and pushed me to finish my quota.

Thanks Shumit!

I managed to run the last two with a great deal of rest before I started the final set.

Came home, showered and took the family out to brunch. From the time we left the house my thighs have been screaming daggers. Never felt this whupped before. Fortunately today is a holiday and I can get some sleep.

Until next time.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Missed a workout this morning!

Wanted so much to run today. It was supposed to be Rolling sprints – 30m jog + 30m Sprint + 30m Jog + 30m sprint 4 mins repeat thrice.

Several factors contributed to the missed workout.

One – party last night. A friend of mine was celebrating her birthday last night and I had to go. I didn’t want to drink at all – but I had to drink – probably about 5 small whiskies. Came home and hit the sack at 0100 hrs. Not a good idea when you are trying to manage your weight.

Two – no car. My car had gone to pick up my parents from the airport so I was wheel-less.

Three – I am very frustrated with my work at the moment. I have a bunch of crazy political issues at my biggest client weighing me down.

So even though I woke up at 0500hrs this morning, I just didn’t go out. This after I thought I put in a pretty good day yesterday. Did almost everything according to plan. Except one task which has to turn around and bite me. Anyway hoping to undo some damage this morning.

In the meantime it looks like I will have to travel to see my grandfather who is on his deathbed. So I have a bunch of things going on right now.

Ah – the joys of rat-racing!





Sunday, October 19, 2008

New Schedule for Speed

Got myself a new schedule for speed work this month (Actually November 1 - 30th). Im pretty excited about it.

Been weight training for the last several days focussing on shoulders and arms for the drive. My shoulders feel powerful and I feel like I am actually converting that strength into movement below my hips. My weight has reduced slightly - hovering around 73kg. My fat around my stomach seems to be the same though. While I feel my shoulders and chest somewhat bigger, there is definitely a layer protecting my stomach.

I got the new schedule from my trainer and put it into my calendar yesterday. The plan is to also eat exactly right for the next 4 - 5 weeks. Taking some advice from Josh Hillis! So I have this paper schedule on which Im going to mark off If I have eaten right or not. So lets see how it goes. Planning to cut back severely on alcohol. I think it might just work.

Until next time.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Another day without Running

So there it is. Another day without running.

This time I blame work. I had a crazy slew of emails yesterday that really threw me out of whack the whole day. Some guys just don’t know how to send emails. I ended up having to make several phone calls and return emails just to keep what is probably a minor situation into becoming a major one. Anyway today is another day and should be better. Ive noticed days usually get better after being really bad.

I know I now sound like one of those motivational emails that flies around.

I also however feel, my workout yesterday was far more strenuous than I realised. It really took a lot out of me. And considering the fact that I was coming in from a 2 week hiatus, it was a pretty comprehensive work out. I will probably just do a few stretches this morning and get set for a fast and furious  start tomorrow.

Until next time.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Resting to pick up speed!

I’ve got to write a book about ‘Rest’. Im doing so much of it that I must be really good at it.


My break from working out started two weeks ago when we headed out to Nagercoil for a holiday. Decided I would rest completely. Took my running shoes along and managed a short run around the place where I was staying. Got into Scot Christian College that is next to my host’s house and ran inside their campus. Not a great campus but the view around the horizon with the hills was fantastic. Then I played a game of the most awful tennis of my life. Fortunately the guys I was playing with were indulgent and excused several of my moves on court. By the end of the game however, I had picked up a little of the game. My old tennis muscles seemed to be there somewhere hidden.


That was two weeks ago. I came back got on a round of anti-biotics because of an ant bite that blew up my left arm like a balloon. For a while I enjoyed presenting my profile and saying “I’ll be back” like the Gubernator! But it got a little to irritating with the itching and all. So the last week was spent wallowing in self pity about how I was weak and drained by the powerful drugs.


Effectively killed two weeks of October. But I have been eating well. 5 boiled eggs and fruits for breakfast, brown rice for lunch and various types of proteins for dinner – roast chicken, panneer rolls, etc. Not much alcohol. Losing some weight.


Tried out my legs today with a one mile run and then 4 x 100yard fast strides. Felt good. Went into the gym and did some weight training for the arms and shoulders. Used very light weights and fast movements – about 25 to 30 reps each set. Barbell presses, dumbbell flyes and bicep curls. Finished up with a slow walk.


My shoulders are a little sore and I expect they will be very sore tomorrow. But I think I will be able to do atleast a 5 k tomorrow.


All of October and November will be speed work in preparation for December 7th. Let’s see how it goes!


In the meantime, Josh Hillis continues to impress. Check out his latest article on lingerie and animal ears :-D


Until next time.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Quick Update and Chennai Marathon

I was all set to run the Chennai Marathon's 7k - until today that is. Been a bad week with taking care of some personal issues. Didnt run at all this week and I dont think I ate correctly either.

I do know my metabolism is revved up like an overheating engine. Last weeks sprint and speed weight sessions have been driving my burners way up. So I think I will sit this one out. This coming week is going to be a lot of fun because Im planning to push to the next level and drive up intensity and weight on my work outs. If I could just complete a full 400m sprint after the 100, 200 and 300 I think I will be a very happy man!

Until next time.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Running with Usain "Lightning" Bolt!

I've been focussing on the sprinting for a bit. Getting ready for a meet in December. A friend of mine in his blog quotes the great Emil (Zatopek) -

"If you want to run, run the 100 metre race. If you want to experience something, run the marathon"

Really? Come on!!

I just say look at Bolt horsing around at the 80m mark and clocking 9.69 and you will know that there is no running in the 100. Oh and just try training for it. A couple of my friends - Shumit and Hari - from Chennai Runners did a sprint work out yesterday. I focussed on starts and the first 30m (we only had about 50m on the straight). The work out was ok, nothing to really write about.

But last night I watched the Bolt burning the track in Beijing. New TV - so it was a sight to see. For a bit I felt all of them were flying. If I remember correctly all the qualifiers made it in less than 10 seconds.

Anyway, bottomline was watching my friend Usain inspired me to look at how the beast can run so fast and hang on for the entire 100. I concluded that it had to do with Speed Endurance. I also concluded that I have not sprinted a distance greater than 100m and so must absolutely suck at 'speed endurance'.

Also in my last meet I had run the 400. I got off the start quite strong, but absolutely bonked at 350m with my calves cramping up like cricket balls behind my knees.

What do I do about it? I work out an ambitious Speed endurance work out for this evening. I head out to the track at 1700 hrs and focus on my work out. The plan was 2 miles warm up, then sprint 100, 200, 300, 400, 600 and 800, cool down with a 2 mile jog.

Warm up went well, but my feet felt like lead from yesterday's work out. I was quite surprised that a few 30m sprints could do that. Anyway, after the work out I managed to get out a 100m stride, followed by 100m, 200m and 250m sprint.

One of the goals of speed endurance is to the train the body to handle a large amount of lactic acid. Its called "bathing" the muscles in Lactic acid - some sick dude must have come up with that creative term.

Anyway, after the 250m sprint, I can assure you I was bathing.I could feel acid on my shoulders and also in my throat. This was accompanied by an urge to throw up. I decided I'll beat Bolt next year. Experience that Mr. Zatopek!

So I finished up with a 2 mile jog and cooled off in the pool for about 15 minutes.

So much for my 'endurance'. Anyway, fortunately I caught my weakness fairly early. The plan is to burn the 400 and 100 in December. Lets see if that actually happens!

Until Next time.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Magic 21 today!

I had fantastic 21k today. I started the day somewhat disappointed because I woke up only by 0700 (4 whiskies too many last evening).

So I decided I would go over to the MCC and probably swim for an hour or so. Today was supposed to be my long run day. I usually wear only bath slippers when I go out to swim, but today I decided to wear my shoes. Once I reached there I just couldnt resist a warmup run because the ground was glorious and the sky was overcast.

I ended up running the first 4 laps in 8 mins and then slowly finished another 6 in a total of about 25 minutes. Thats approximately 5k. So I decided I'd hit the ergometer in the gym. I pulled off 5000 meters on the ergo and at a pretty hard effort.

By now I was pretty pumped up and hit the cycle for a 30 minute 10k. That done I jumped into the pool and completed 50 laps (25 m length) to give me a 1k in about 45 minutes.

So that was a total of 21k in 2hrs and 15 minutes! Way better than my 2:21 at the Bangalore midnight half last year!

I must have burnt a gazillion calories today - which of course Im going to quickly put back on later this evening! But I'm still kind of high from today's work out and am thinking that I am pretty much getting ready for the ECR 20k on July 20th.

So until next time.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Sore from crossfitting

The day before yesterday I didnt feel like a long work out. So I decided to do a bit of a crossfit/running combo.

My combo was :-
800m hard run
100 squats
5 pushups
75 squats
10 pushups
50 squats
15 pushups
25 squats
20 pushups

Took me 22 minutes to complete the entire circuit. Its todays later now and I feel like I've been hit by a bus. Fortunately, today is an easy run day.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Running and Einstein's Special theory of Relativity

I always knew that running made you live longer. Its health benefits have long been the subject of numerous medical studies. And there is abundant proof lying around. Today however, I realized that there is proof in Quantum Physics as well.

I've been reading "The Dancing Wu Li Masters - An overview of the New Physics" by a literary genius called Gary Zukav. One interesting chapter in that book explains Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity. It is based on what Einstein calls an undeniable fact - the constancy of the speed of light. That is, the speed of light is the same irrespective of the speed of the source or the observer. Apparently this has been proved as far back as 1887 by the Michelson-Morely experiment.

Anyway, Einstein's theory, which embellished George FitzGerald's and Hendrik Lorentz's work on Michelson-Morely experiment, states that when an object is moving it contracts and the clock it uses to track its time changes rhythm.

Apparently this has been proven too.

"In 1972, four of the most accurate atomic clocks available were put aboard an aircraft and flown around the world. At the end of the trip, they were found to be slightly behind their stationary, earthbound counterparts with which they were synchronized before the flight."

Foot note: The clocks were flown around the world each way (east and west). Both general relativistic and special relativistic effects were noted. (J. C. Hafele and R. E. Keating, Science, vol. 177, 1972, p. 168ff.)

- From The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav p. 141

How does this apply to running? At this point, my conclusion is somewhat simplistic. But hey this is my blog and its my opinion. So let me pedantically state where I am going with this.

As we run our bodies are in motion. And as we move…..yes, our clocks tick slower than if we are at rest! So every mile we run, our clocks actually slow down and our aging process actually takes longer. Now if we were always in motion (as indeed we are - zipping around the sun on our mother ship earth and flying out of control in our solar system) it wouldn’t make a difference because we wouldn’t know that our clocks are ticking slowly. And the basic tenet of relativity says that time and speed are always relative to the observer and to his or her inertial frame of reference.

Now because we run and stop periodically, our clocks can be compared to other clocks, whereby the differences in time can be noted. For instance, in the 1972 experiment referred above, if the clocks on the plane were not compared with clocks on earth, the pilots in the plane would not have known that they are actually younger than the rest of the world by the difference in the times of their clocks and the earth clocks.

My conclusions in a nutshell:

a. The more you run, the slower you age.
b. You must stop running at times to compare with other clocks - to know that you are actually aging slower.
c. The faster you run, greater that savings. (My long distance runner friends - here's more credence to speed work!)
d. Try to run in an east-west direction. ( Ok that was just for effect)

I think I have been walking around under the eucalyptus trees too much. Feeling a little light headed - or is it because of reading some vague psycho babble?!

Until next time.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Running in Kodai - May 2008

In Milhaven, Kodaikanal, my friend Mary's house. What a place. There is a lot of history in this place. Wife and I are in the outhouse. Its cold. But its quaint and extremely other-worldly.

We've been here two days now. Arrived Saturday evening.

I went running in the morning both days. Yesterday I went out early - around 0600 - and hit the road towards Pillar Rock. That was two km away. I crossed that and went on past Guna caves - about another 2 - 3 km. Along the way I saw a gateway to a trail going into the casuarina groves. Many of the groves here are part of the National Afforestation Programme. So the trees are all planted in straight rows. But they are massive and magnificent. I took off from the road and decided to the follow the trail to see where it lead. It looked like a wood cutter's trail. There were several trees that were cut along the route and the trail itself looked like a set of wheels had been through them. I presume the wood was loaded onto a jeep of some kind to be carted out to civilisation.

The run was hard. Especially the climbs. So I did a jog-walk-run combination until I reached the trail head and started a short trek in. As always, the woods in the hills weaved their magic over me. I simply loved the feeling of being in the midst of so much nature (even though it was a planted grove).

Check out this picture of the pristine beauty of oru natural resources maintained so beautifully by our extremely eco-friendly tourists!

I spent about 30 minutes following the trail. By then it was 1hr 20 min since I started the run. So I headed back and reached Milhaven in about 30 minutes. Mostly downhill, So I was able to really run without feeling much strain.

Today I decided to do some running drills. I found a stretch of road right at the entrance of Milhaven - going past to a place called Rock of Silence. It had a good 65m downward slope before it turned into a steep climb. After a 10min warm up I completed 5 overspeed drills on that 65m stretch. I really felt my legs free up by the 3rd repeat. The 4th and 5th were blazing. After I finished that I turned my attention ot the 30 m driveway into Milhaven. It's 30 meters at an almost 20 degree angle upward. I managed to complete 4 starts up that driveway. It felt like the 100m drive phase for an extended 30m. It was a killer. After that I finished up with some light high knees up the drive (20m only, 6 repeats) and some stretching. Burnt some 900 calories. So I know I worked.

Looking forward to tomorrow. Not sure what I will do though.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Taking a break....again!

Here I am taking another break. Right now its not injury that's holding me back - just a lack of motivation.

Its bloody hot and you have to start your run at 0500 if you want to escape the heat. Traffic is another pain in the glutes. Madras is so industrious that roads are full up by 0600. Running at that time is treacherous. Even so just getting up at 0345 for a 0500 run is unthinkable.

Anyway, Im off to Kodai next week and I hope to do some decent running there. No running for me for the next one week. No exercise either. I'll come back with a post on how much weight have gained. Already at 75kg and gaining fast.

Until next time.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

23, March, 2008, 0530 Hrs. ECR, Chennai. Pain. Incredible pain. Its dark and its raining.

Pounding the asphalt. My legs feel like stumps of pain wrapped in cloth and canvass designed by Reebok. Passed a few people who were torturing themselves. My iPod wasn’t doing much to dull the pain. The playlist was more than a year old and I can sing the playlist without the Pod being on. Motivation was not at what you would call "at a peak". And it was only 15 minutes into the run. Oh God, another 2 hours of this!

Its Friday morning and I am feeling peppy. Haven't slept too long. Up late fooling around with my new toy - Microsoft OneNote. Incredible piece of software, a story of its own. I had been training for the Bangalore Midnight Marathon where I decided I would do the 21k. But I recently found out that it was moved to September. What a bummer.

I fixed up with my neighbor for a game of Squash at the Madras Cricket Club - and I was going to beat him. I was feeling pretty strong. The first game went 9-0 in his favor. Then an interesting pattern started to develop. Every game after that - for about 8 more - the score stayed more or less the same. The Great Sandy was getting wasted at every turn. No amount of jumping or stretching made a difference. To the game at least. Having not played for 6 months, I realized what age can do to a man who is foolish enough to return to a game and think he can beat a guy who is in top shape and fine form.

At end of about an hour and a half, I had been brutalized to the point of numbness. I reached home that morning after breakfast - fortunately it was a holiday - and rested. Thinking of Sunday. Recalibrating my endurance clock hoping to align my mind to the upcoming ECR #6.

I think I left my clock at the court. My shins turned sore a day later.

0600 Hrs. The Pain is a dull throb. Cant feel my feet or ankles. Dodging puddles, lorries and call-taxis.

Shuffling along, I reached a runner from Muscat who came to Chennai to endure this ordeal with 30 other masochists. There is some feeling in my legs now. Keeping company, chatting, getting to know him. My iPod is off and my mind is occupied with something other than pain. There is a little light but the puddles on the road still make for treacherous running. The traffic is picking up steadily. Two water points have passed. The volunteers are so dedicated.

Something about the human psychology that says that suffering in a group is better than suffering alone. This is found to be true across cultures. There is an age-old saying in that ancient language Tamil.

"Gumbal-oda Govinda"

A powerful invocation to the great God Vishnu, where sufferers claim kinship with each other and the lord.

Chennai Runners is one such motley crowd that believes in group suffering. Running every other day almost across different parts of the city - mostly CP Ramaswamy road or Marina and thereabouts. When you run 20 k you can cover many neighborhoods.

Ram is a Chartered Accountant whose brother Hari runs here in Chennai and is a part of Chennai Runners. Ram was one of the first few people who ran together before the group called itself Chennai Runners. He works for a Waste Treatment plant in Muscat and is in charge of integrating several of their disparate IT systems. It took me all of 15 minutes or so to get to know one more person.

~ 0630 hrs. I'm overcome by a lightness of feet and its working on my mind. Images of Robert Cheruiyot, Steve Prefontaine, Paul Tergat and Haile Gebraselassie flash past me.

Just turned back at the 10K point. The pain in my shins is gone. At least for now I cant feel it. "Harder to breathe" by Maroon 5 is bursting out of my iPod. Oh so appropriate. Adrenaline coursing through my body, I feel like a champ. I finally start to run. The strides come easy, as a breeze hits my face. The weather's perfect. Post rain, there is a sparkle in the air. The day has been washed and polished with the tenderness of a person polishing his new car. Shiny. Slick. And crisp.

Maroon 5 are belting out a racy beat and Im keeping time with my feet. My right sock is soaked, but I can feel nothing more than a dampness. There are a few runners ahead of me. Soldiering on, sweating. Honest sweat has no smell they say. There was no dearth of honesty here.

I've shifted to a higher gear. Moving like the wind. Breathing in the ozone. My right foot is my only connection to reality. But I do need an anchor and there seems to be an endless reserve of energy somewhere. A new fuel source has been tapped and plugged into. And it's high octane.

I am catching up with some of the runners in front, passing one or two.

Its been about two weeks since Shumit got me to meet Karthik at his place in Ayanavaram to go running around that area. After hearing that the Bangalore half was postponed to September, I was really not motivated to get up early. Shumit however wanted to get out of a funk. So he insisted that we run on the Tuesday before the upcoming ECR #6. Reluctantly I dragged my self out of bed to find a message from Shumit that he wouldn’t be running because he got into bed with some mosquitoes the previous evening.

Karthik and I hit the road at about 0600 hrs. I did a 4-mile tempo.

The tempo run is primarily a work out to build speed endurance. It trains the body to accept a high degree of stress for a long period of time. I hit my comfortably hard pace after the first mile. Maintained an 8 minute mile for the next 4 and finished with a 3 km slow jog/walk combo.

I've been using a Runner's World routine to train for the Bangalore midnight. I have adapted it to my style and pace. Incredible source of training info. I've realized that tempo runs and intervals runs are what make the difference between running well and just running. Tempo runs build your liver's capacity to store glycogen for those bursts of speed that you need while racing. Think of turbo chargers in cars.

~0700 Getting close to the finish. I can feel God in my right foot.

The sock is soaked and so is my shoe. Feels like lead. My heart and lungs are performing at well below their capacity. Screaming for speed. My legs are woefully over worked and fight back with a ferocity I haven't seen in a while. I want to break out and run. Darth Vader's theme from the OST of Star Wars is bellowing into my ears.

Did Darth Vader change his mask as he aged?

"Rebel ships are attacking the right lower periphery of the empire, my Lord".

"FOOL", the metallic voice of darkness booms. The inconsequential slave of the empire crumbles to his death as Lord Vader crushes his wind pipe with the Force. A flick of the dark lord's hand and a squadron of TIE fighters leaves the Imperial bays to attend to the skirmish at the right lower periphery. The stars are cold and silent as the fighters scream to the battle zone. There are many stars. I can see them.

A large out of control Imperial freighter with the ominous markings of "Chennai - Pondy ECR Express" almost sideswipes Darth Vader's Imperial destroyer and brings me back to earth.

Gautham is in front of me and there is no end in sight. Is it past the next bend? Why don’t they have a sign? I see a check post. Is this the last check post before the finish? Not sure. There is a bend after the check post. Traffic is more and also faster. There is more light.

13 miles is not a lot but it can be enough. It calls for training that is specific, consistent and scientific. And there are no short cuts. I had greatly underestimated my opponent in the Squash court and over estimated my ability to recover.

Though the whole concept of the half marathon has been given its fair share of respect. I severely cut back on alcohol and am reaping other benefits. I feel more energetic during the week. Certainly a lot lighter and I believe I have lost some weight too. The grounds in the MCC are shut because of the India - South africa match scheduled for the end of the month. So I had to hit the road to run.

The runs have begun to grow on me again. After last year's focus on sprinting, going back to long distances is a pleasant change. Its just such a pity that Chennai does not have too many good running routes. The ECR Runs of Chennai Runners are becoming quite popular and are getting more organized each time. We start at MGM run out 2.5, 5, 10, or 15km and turn back to MGM for a great south Indian breakfast, chat and relive the experience. It’s a great community.

0730 I have reached the check post and crossed the bend. I can see the sign - "MGM beach Resort" it says. It looks like "You've done it!". But I wasn't seeing clearly. The rebel alliance has been defeated and Lord Vader's imperial forces have driven the rebels back. The battle has ended but the damage is heavy. I decide to take stock and walk to the entrance of MGM. As I walk I feel an upsurge. Steve Prefontaine hitting the 3 miler tape in Oregon. Racing like the wind. The crowd is going wild cheering him. He is sprinting to beat not just the competition but the greatest adversary of man - Himself.

Steve's Soul entered my body. I am Steve. The finish line is merely 450 yards away. There is high octane fuel in the tank. The right foot is sore - but still kicking and boy is it kicking. I can hear the crowd go wild. The Oregon crowd strains the barriers set up along the MGM driveway, cheering for their hero Steve. I get into my kick. "STEVE, STEVE!" the crowd chants. The strides get longer and faster. Firm and powerful. Wind in my face, the sun in my eyes. There is the subtle shift of weight from mid-foot to ball of the foot as I gently lean into the sprint. My right foot screams but holds. The rush is too good to pass up. There is the crisp whip crack of minimal foot contact on the tarmac. Like running on hot coals. Fast feet. Im floating. My heart and lungs are working, pulling oxygen and glycogen in equal bursts. The machine is whipping out horse power driving me ahead. The crowd is going wild.

I burst into the parking lot and hit the finish point exhilarated. Goose bumps on my face as the cheers slowly die out and the crowd disappears. I see my wife and friends waiting. Hari is clapping. Was he in Oregon sometime? I jog slowly for a couple of minutes and catch my breath. As the rush slowly drains out, I feel a high coming over.

"Many runners have had the opportunity to experience a state of euphoria while running. While the actual state that they feel varies immensely for each individual there is a common feeling associated with the term "runner's high". When a person is asked about runner's high they typically will say that it a pleasant state that a runner might experience after a certain distance. This in fact may not be true for only runners though. Skiers, surfers, football players and wrestlers all have "highs" or moments when they feel they are working to their maximum potential and feeling on top of the world. Runner's are not the only types of athletes that experience intense emotional feelings." - someone called Sarah Willet in Lehigh University

Date: 23, March 2008
Run: ECR Run #6
Distance: 20km
Route: MGM Beach resort - 10 km towards Mahabs, turn back and return to MGM.
Environmental Conditions: Rainy in bits, mostly cool. Bad road conditions. Excellent atmosphere.
Time: 2 hrs, 20 min
Classification: Comfortable.

Until next time.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Two marathons later!

Ok - technically, neither event that I took part in was a marathon. But they were both part of larger marathons. One was the Chennai Marathon and the other was the Auroville Marathon.

At the hastily disorganized Chennai Marathon, I took part in the 3 KM race where the total participation was a whopping 4500 people. This compared to a dismal 30,000 (yes, thirty thousand only) the last time the CM was organised by the Rotary Clubs of Chennai, was astonishing.

My race was flagged off by golden girl Shiny Wilson Aunty. Another brush with greatness for me. I did several wrong things in this race also. I drank my usual chocos, boost slush in the morrning before arriving at the starting point. I unusually however added a spoon of raw coffee powder. It got me buzzed and wired. But the buzz wore off by the time the race started. So I was somewhat down when I took off. Managed to finish the race in 14.30 and placed 4th or 5th Im not sure. Suffice it to say I placed 2nd among the non-elite runnners. Which was not so bad. But it left me so winded and tired I felt like ran a half-mary.

Didnt do any more running that week and ended up in Pondicherry for the Auroville Marathon where I registered for the 11k quarter marathon as they called it. There were about 80 - 100 runners total. about 5 -6 for the full, about 25 for the 11k and I guess the rest were all halves.

It was very well organized and the run was through an interesting trail inside AV. Some really beautiful foliage and great greenery. I had my ipod on for about 30 minutes and was totally wasted by the 34th minute. I switched it off and started to really connect with the place after that. But I couldnt really Run much. So I did four 2min-run-walks. Followed that up with a 10 minute easy. At this point several slow runners passed me by and I watched them go. I was tempted to throw things at them but didnt have the energy. So I held my peace.

There were several water points along the way. In true AV style one of the water cups I picked up had rose water. Rose water?? These ashram types tend to take their philosophy a little too seriously I think. I gave the volunteers a polite smile, swallowed what was in my mouth and gave the cup back. Made a mental note to start a "Ban Rose Water" campaign as soon as I get back home.

By the 62nd minute I hade reached what looked like the finish line. I rounded a bend and reached a clearing. There was a big crowd and a lot of cheering. There was also a big banner. The banner said "AV Marathon Finish Line". Curiously though I found the letters backward. As I approached it I was given the crushing news that I had to take a sharp left before the finish and run around a VERY large hockey field before reapproaching the finish line from the other side! Anyway did all that and finished in a dismal 1:05:53 to much cheering.

Take aways:
1. Even 2 small whiskies and 2 pints of beer are bad for a 11k race.
2. AV is a beautiful - though artificial place.
3. There are great places to run around Madras if you keep your eyes and ears open for them.
4. I need to do a lot of long, slow runs. My aerobic capacity is good but mentally I've lost the ability to focus for long periods of pain and torture.
5. Its time I took part in a half marathon. My next race is the Bangalore Midnight where I want to do the half marathon. My training starts tomorrow morning - with a hard rest day. Dont know how I am going to manage one hour of doing nothing. But sacrifices need to be made!

Until next time.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Meeting Shiny Wilson

Two weekends ago I took part in a sports meet organised by the Rotary Club at the YMCA Nandanam stadium. It was a good meet for me. Picked up a gold in the 400m, 100m and an off-beat 20 yard backward running event. I also got the individual championship which was nice. The competition wasnt that great but the highlight of the day was meeting Golden Girl Shiny Wilson.

Shiny Wilson along with P.T. Usha dominated the Indian athletic scene for almost 20 years breaking all sorts of records at the Asian level. In fact, she was apparently the first Indian woman to break the 2 minute barrier in the 800m. At a PB of 2.45 Im almost there - arent I?

Anyway, I managed to get her autograph in my training log and got a good comment from her about my running style. That has practically made my year.

I prepared for the event like a lout. First thing I did was I didnt prepare. Like all overconfident bozos, I thought I could just walk into the event and run it. To top it off, I went running with Shumit the previous evening on the road. Bad idea. And we did intervals for about 40 minutes.

The next morning at the meet - which started at an awkward 10 AM, my 400m died at 350m. My left leg started cramping. 10 minutes of physio and two gatorades with added salt releived the pain but left me somewhat hobbled. I hadnt had a good breakfast thinking I needed to stay light. But there was not much energy left after the 400.

Anyway I managed to crack the 100 which was a little later and the backwards race was just a fun thing. The guy who was coming first tripped and I ended up being first. So it was plain luck.

A few quick observations.

1. Never underestimate an event if you are planning on winning. A winning effort is usually your best effort and that needs a lot of preparation.

2. Dont do any thing on the day before an event that you plan to win. See No. 1 above.

3. Shiny Wilson has put on a lot of weight.

4. YMCA Nandanam is a very badly maintained track. And thats sad.

Thats it for now,

Until next time...