A wall apart: In memory of a friend

October, 2016 · By admin

I will miss that broad smile behind the wall. Every time I walk past his house like I’ve done for the last 38 years I expect to see him, have a chat and carry on. But now only blank wall, a run down car, a rusty bike and a dim light in the window greet me.

Last week a child hood friend passed away. Depression is a silent killer. Unfortunately none of us really knew how bad it was. Until the last few days he spent in the ICU trying to beat numerous failed organs and fighting numerous illnesses.

We always regret not having done anything, not having seen this coming, but things aren’t always in our control. At least he’s in a happier place now.

The year, as it was run…

November, 2015 · By admin

A year where some things went well and some not so well. Six months of training, 2 PBs and lots of learning. At the beginning of the year I’d never have imagined that the year would go as it did. I don’t have any regrets, just more confidence in myself in nailing goals I set for the coming year. So this is a mix of race reports and learnings, which I hope will help other people in their training.

My running season started pretty much March end, when I started training for TCS 10k. I had approximately 8 weeks to train and I didn’t have a plan as such. I decided to train for KTM and do races along the way as tune-up races.

The general plan was to increase my base mileage from 30 odd miles to about an average of 50-55 miles. Do more runs at target race pace or even faster, more number 20+ mile runs and strengthen my core.

TCS came and went and I was really happy with a PB on 39.30, dipping under 40mins was something that I failed to do the last couple of years. So definitely I must have been doing something right.

Javadhu Ultra was an unplanned race. I’m glad D convinced me to run it, I love trail and it had all the elements you could ask for in a race… super support, great company, a challenging course and hot weather! During my training for Javadhu was when I upped my mileage. It was not a gradual change that I would have liked but more of a 45 to 65 mile jump. My legs handled it pretty well and I was happy I didn’t end up injured.

From then on I kept up my weekly mileage to average around the 55 mile mark. My typical week consisted of a mid to long run (16-20mile), a track session (longer intervals) and a mid week 12-13miler.

I’ve never really raced a half – at least not in the last 4 years. AHM was my first half that I was racing. I was a bit nervous as I had no idea what pace to run it at, given the terrain. I decided to run at 6:50 /mile for the first half and if I felt good I would run the second half at 6:45-6:50. Fortunately this year it wasn’t as hot as the previous year, and I was thankful for that.

The first half of the race went well and I managed to do it in ~43-44 mins. My legs weren’t feeling as tired as I thought they would feel at the pace. This motivated me to push myself in the second half to finish in a time of 1:26:30. All along the run I tried to keep the first two women finishers in sight and I guess that helped in keeping a steady pace. What impressed me about AHM was the organisation: well marked course, well managed (no traffic) and super volunteers. There’s this one incident that really made the race special. I was running past an aid station and I asked for Electral / enerzal, but none of the volunteers had any ready, so I ran past. After about a 30sec I hear someone running beside me , handing me a cup… it was truly touching to have a volunteer do that.

The build up to KTM went as planned. KTM being KTM I should have known wasn’t going to be easy. I may have been a bit over confident going into the race on what time I could finish it in. The aim was to try getting the run done under 3:05. It started typically like most years that I’ve done KTM, bright with a cool breeze and not a cloud in sight! After the first half that I managed in ~1:31, I knew I wouldn’t be able carry on this pace for much longer, though I was still hopeful. My legs were tired. I managed a ~2:19 around the 20 mile mark and then felt the first onset of cramps in my calves. Cramps don’t come all at once (as many of you have experienced). They creep up on you – and stay there and make their presence felt ever so often. Just when you think they’ve gone they debilitate you and you have to bow, kneel and apologise to them! I didn’t let them get to me even though I had to run-walk for most part of the 5 odd miles. I finished with a half decent time of 3:13:40. A minute better than I had done in 2011. So that was a good news. Also I didn’t have any gels this time around, which was great.

The Bangalore Ultra was 8 weeks away and I had once tune up race – the half at the SPBM. I was hoping to at least do better at the half as it was relatively flatter course and hopefully better weather. My half went better than expected. I was gunning for a 1:25 and managed a 1:24:30, and managed to come 5th in my age group. To be in the top 3 I’ll now have to train to do a 1:21 or faster half, which may be attainable give that I have a year to train for it.

Bangalore Ultra, the course record was 3:50 and I thought it was achievable (again) with the training I had done. I went into the race a bit tired and sleep deprived from a hectic work week. I didn’t feel very confident, but your body sometimes surprises you.

The first few miles went way too fast. I was chatting with Henrik and didn’t realise that I was going way too fast. After Henrik (he had just run a 60k technical trail race the week before) politely left me to chase Lewy (the beast!), I started to slow down, though the avg. pace didn’t seem to go down all that much. The showers the previous week had left the course quite slushy in parts and hard to run on (why I love trails). On the way back, of the first loop I saw that Henrik had slowed down considerably. I knew he must be really tired as I knew what he was capable of. We ran again together for a while on the second loop. By this time I could feel my legs getting tired. It was like watching a re-run of ‘Return of the Cramps’! I regretted not running the first few miles slower than planned, but now that the damage was done, I had to finish. I tried changing my gait slightly, took shorter steps to minimise impact. It helped to a certain extent, but I had to walk in parts.

I was so happy to finish! 4:03 wasn’t too bad for the rubbish pacing I did in the first half. Super organising by RFL, yet again! The green (or blue?) aid station trash cans were a sight for sore eyes from a distance.

So a good year for most part. Happy with what I’ve achieved and look forward to 2016!

Learnings from the year:

  1. Should run longer runs at race pace
  2. Should strength train more often – at least twice a week
  3. Never swallow a salt tablet without water – the chance of choking are very high (esp. at 25mile marker)
  4. Continue to to more trail running
  5. Finding the right shoe – My Mizuno Hitogami’s have served me well, having a wider toe box has not given me any blackened toe nails.

Workouts that helped me (or think they did):

  1. 2 mile repeats
  2. 1 mile repeats
  3. 3 mile
  4. 90s repeats on hills or flyovers
  5. Tempo runs of  6-10 miles
  6. Mid week 12-13 miler at 70% effort
  7. Shorter races to help as tune-up races

Strava link

*Photo credit RFL

The wearables

April, 2014 · By admin

A morning like any other, my wife and I set out on our daily run. Standing at the apartment gate doing a couple of stretches, from across the street we hear a strained “Sar! Sar!” (A localization of Sir). Looking up I saw Ravi – who irons our clothes walk briskly across the street, with a big grin on his face. He came up to us and shows us a rather large watch on his wrist. “See Saar, I’ve got a watch like yours, I can make calls from it!”. My wife and I looked at each other and I had to break it to Ravi that our watches didn’t have the feature to make calls or send messages, but only told the time and distance, speed and so on.  Ravi looked quizzically at us like there was something wrong with us – almost like what’s the point of wearing that fat watch if it’s only going to tell you the time (never mind all the other features that are crucial to runners) ! That said we quickly got going on our run, and left Ravi staring at his watch with wonder.

Mid 1980s, I sat glued to the television as it roared “Atomic Punch”… “Rocket Missiles”,  Johnny Sakko screamed orders into his watch while his Robot obeyed his commands. On Sundays Captain Kirk of the Starship Enterprise spoke to his watch “Beam me up Scotty”.

Wearable devices, at least as an idea (until recently) have existed for decades. Devices such as hearing aids have been around for even longer. Of late we see the emergence of Google glass, (rumors of) iWatch, bluetooth ring, Samsung galaxy gear and so on. This is just the beginning of a more internet-connected world, where all wearable devices will be able to interact and share information with each other.

What probably draws us to wearable devices is its’ simplicity – taking an everyday object and enhancing its features. We’ve got used to using them so they don’t seem like something extra that we need to carry around. If you were to carry two or even three mobiles you would think twice.  The technology used is still in its infancy no one has really come up with that one gadget that attracts the masses. They are still more tech gadgets than fashion accessories (though this is currently changing).

At present there has been an explosion of fitness and health bands and this will continue to be on the rise for a while. It is contagious – when I run I’m constantly looking at my watch, what pace am I currently at.. is it too slow, should I be running faster? And when I happen to forget it, the same questions keep popping into my mind – I do miss it. We’ve turned into a people obsessing  about calories burnt, heart rate, blood pressure – rightly so with all the stress and poisons we live with and breathe. My parents being diabetic would benefit from reminders to take their medication – a smart phone would solve this if they remembered to carry it with them, hence wearable device would make it that much more easier. There are infinite possibilities for creating health related gadgets – but why restrict it to humans. Our pets could also benefit. Many a time we have no idea how our pets are feeling – if a ‘wearable’ collar could communicate with our phones as to how our pet was feeling, the data could be sent to our vet and help with the diagnosis.

Samsung has already built a ‘Smart Home’ prototype, where users manage all their connected devices from a single application. The fashion industry has also started to embrace technology. Francesca Rosella of CuteCircuit  had given her models the power to customize their outfits with a swipe of their iPods, which caused the garments to do things like shimmer, change color, and even play video. Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak comes instantly to mind – though Hyperstealth, a successful Canadian camouflage design company have already come up with Quantum Stealth, a material that renders the target completely invisible by bending light waves around the target – imagine being able to enhance this with smart devices.

Going back to Ravi staring at his watch – wearables are penetrating a larger audience, they will become more affordable  and are almost certainly going to change our lives in the years to come.

Thanks for listening.