The downhill has come O lord

For the last 7 years of  running I have made improvements every year. Slowly moving from one  goal to another. I started with a modest Airtel Delhi Half marathon in 2008 at 2 hrs 50 minutes to my personal best of 1 hrs 41 minutes in 2015.

So why this year had to be any different.

But yes different is what it turned out to be precisely on the 20th November at Airtel Delhi Half Marathon 2016

Just previous year I had clocked 21kms at 1hrs 41 minutes which my personal best. I wanted to better my record and get over the other side of 100 minutes. But some things are  not to be. Not only I failed to cut the 100 minute mark I also slipped my personal best by 1 minute to finish the  half marathon in 1 hrs 42 minutes and 15 seconds.

Now this is not a bad time by any stretch of imagination. It just stopped my improvements over timing in the tracks.

I started the race with some lofty goals in my mind. Yes may be this is one where I will beat the 100 minutes mark that everyone Half marathoner wants to achieve ( We would love to boast that we finish half marathon in double digits- 99 minutes or less).

No such pleasure this time.

I know its not a big deal. The run was not to win any medals. Every runner knows that there are no prizes to win in the end . Its race against yourself.

And this is precisely I have failed.

The other area where I have failed is in making the same mistakes over and over. I ran the first 5 kms faster than I had ever run in my life sometime clocking as fast as 4 mins 36 seconds to a Km. This really pushed my heart in the red zone from where I never recovered. This made me struggle a lot in the last 7 kms of the race. Close to 50 runners overtook me towards the end of the race. Yes I was counting.

So what are the lessons.

Wait for muscle soreness to get over. Wait for another 12 months. Airtel Delhi Half Marathon we will meet again in 2017 and we will see if we are getting any older or not.

May be I should train more regularly and learn to pace better or else like they say- This is the beginning of a slippery slope my friend.

 

 

 

 

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2016 Mumbai marathon and Indian style loo

2015 Mumbai marathon: 4hrs 16 minutes. 2016 Mumbai Marathon 4hrs 16 minutes.  Can you spot the difference.

No you cannot. But I can.

I took a train back to Delhi. I was able to use the Indian style potty. And man that is the difference.

For those who know me and how I train for runs will know that my strategy to train for races is very simple. Train as little as possible. Rest a lot between runs. And whenever possible avoid a potentially long run. For half marathon this works perfectly.  But for longer runs like full marathons this means disaster.

Last year after the Mumbai Marathon I limped for a week. I was in excruciating pain. This year it was completely different. Other than couple of blisters I had nothing to complain about. I ran the whole course barring few meters of the dreadful Peddar road incline. I was fine after the race. And I’m fine now. I feel like I can do another full marathon in a weeks time.

So what was different this year. I did even less training than last year. I avoided all the long runs barring one 28kms in Jahapanah and that too very close to the race. But there was one important difference.

I ran without a watch.

I didn’t wanted to but circumstances so happened that it was a question of either spending money on the watch or running without it. A friend suggested that why don’t I try running without the watch. With a lot of hesitation I decided to go with his advise.

And Man what a run. I didn’t let anyone push me including myself. I ran at a pace that felt natural and easy. Till the finish point I had no idea if I was running slow or fast. Everyone that I know in the runners world overtook me but I was not concerned. I really enjoyed the run and may be that has made the difference.

I had a goal of running a full marathon under 4 hrs this year. I always have goals like these. But these goals can wait. For now let me chuck the watch and enjoy the run.

 

 

Why I’m going to quit running full marathons

Full marathons are tough. Full marathons in Mumbai in January for Delhi runners is tougher. We train at sub 10 degrees temperatures in Delhi and then end up running 42 kms in Mumbai heat.

This marathon was no different. It was hot and it only got hotter during the later part of the day. As usual I started strong and kept a good pace till 21kms or so. Then I caught the 4hr bus. The pacer was good but running a bit fast. She took me and her brood for another 10kms or so and then the famous leg cramps got me. After that it was a struggle. I was doing walk- run till the finish line. But to be honest if it was not crowd support ready to help you with salt, food, water and spray I would have quit the race.

Even though I finished the race and got my personal best of 4hrs 16 minutes, I was tired, miserable and very fatigued. Partly it was my fault. My longest practice run was about 31-32 kms and that too only once. I rarely put any effort in muscle strengthening.  I also never get any sleep the night before the race in anticipation of the big day. And this time to add more flavour to this already dangerous cocktail I added three large rums too 🙂 May be that is what added to the cramps

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In the end it was not worth it. There was a real danger of getting seriously injured and thereby effectively closing the chapter of running in my life. And I anyways don’t enjoy running more than 20kms at a time. So I’m most probably quit running full marathons until I can get serious about trainings before the run and stop drinking at least 1 week before the race.

As they say in full marathons, there is no cheating. You get what you put in.

A thought for the guy who finish last : Airtel Delhi Half Marathon 2014

We all run our own race. We train. We set an aim and then we try and meet it.

21 Km for seasoned runners is not a long distance. Some of us know precisely how to time our run, what to wear and what to eat and how to pace ourselves. But a lot of runners who have probably never done more than 10-12k register for Half Marathon and they complete it even if they finish last. And there are others who just can’t run faster and will take their own time to complete the race. Most often by the time the traffic is already open and most of the people have left for home, even the event organisers.

For us time hungry runners our personal best keep us pushing for more and more. But I often wonder what is the last man running for. There is no glory at the finish line. No ” personal best” or under ” 2 hrs” status updates to be put on the facebook. In spite of that they give their best and finish the race even if they finish last.

My salute to the guys who finish last and don’t give up and keep on running and complete the race. You are the true flag bearers of running- the race is in our head and we will finish it.

 

What was Paula Radcliffe doing in Lodhi Gardens

Paula has a unbeatable world record in Women’s Full Marathon 2.15.25 in 2003 during the London marathon. No one has been able to catch up with her for the last 11 years or so.  She has also won many Big city marathons and  other races including european 10000 Mts . And guess what we we had the pleasure of meeting this super women  and ask a few questions to her thanks to the Delhi Runners Group and Reebok Running squad

Paula is currently in Delhi  as the Brand Ambassador of Airtel Delhi Half Marathon which is to be held tomorrow.  It was really nice of her to take some time out and come and meet amateurs like us never mind she was bit late. May be acclimatising to the Indian Standard Time 🙂

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Paula explained her training schedule which includes running 160 miles a week. She had a good tips to share post race runs which was to eat carbs and protein 20 minutes after the race.  For recoveries she shared that she sticks to ice baths and massages. She is really thin and strong. I guess running close to 270 kms per week does that to you.

She patiently answered all questions never mind that some of the questions were really basic for a elite runner like her.  Overall it was really nice to come face to face with a world record holder. I It was a first for me. I was in my chappals and Pyjama  and desperately trying to catch her attention. I wanted to ask her about her most challenging race experience but cat got my tongue. Sadly I could not get a selfie with her.  May be runners with proper attire only 🙂  or I will have to wait for a podium finish tomorrow 🙂

But one this is sure. Some of Paula’s  fast paced running has rubbed on to us. Don’t be surprised if the DRG group does 10 minutes faster tomorrow. One disclaimer. I’m not it in DRG, not yet.

After the interaction myself and Ashish headed home and a few runners went around Lodi Gardens running with her. Its not everyday that you get to match the pace of a world record holder.

Well done Reebok and DRG guys. Thanks a ton.

You can read more about Paula at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paula_Radcliffe

My Airtel Delhi Half Marathon account and one day in advance

I’m so confident of this that I have scheduled this post to appear exactly a day in advance.

1) Start of the Marathon: Hmm.. I’m strong. Yes be focussed. Arey Yaar loo kahain hai. Its too cold and I need need to pee. Can I eat one more Banana?. Oh Did I go to Potty at 4 am.

2) 3 kms into the race.: Aaj to yeh race phodne waala huin. I’m doing 5.20 mins to a Km. Good good. This garmin watch is good. Oh.. woh ladkee aage nikal gayee. So under 1.40 to pucca ho jayegee.

3) 7kms into the race: I’m so lucky that I can run. I don’t want to run for any timing. I love running.  Let me just enjoy. Oh. Another lap at 5.60 Mins. This means I will finish under 2.

4) 10 Kms in to the race:  Well its do or die now. Ojha said always do a reverse split. Let me try and run faster. Yaar sab aagey nikal gaye. Where is the gel that shruti gave ?

5) 14 Kms: Where the hell is that gel ? I need some energy. Aaj to saali lag gayee. Hmm Potty feeling. I should have not eaten that banana.

6) 18kms: Bhai kya torture hai, I can’t run this long. What is the bloody point? . Koi medal to milne waala nahin. Yeh Ethiopian kya khaate hain? . Arey yaaar sab ladkiyan aagey nikal gayee

7) 20kms: Bhaag le thoda tej. Itna mar mar ke bhaaga hai finish to strong kar le. Laga le beta Jor. Bus aakhree 100 mts hain. Bipasha hai ya gayee?

8) Race finished: Arey fir wohe puraana time. So disappointed. Friends telling  Koi baat nahin. Next time acche tayaari karna.  sab ne khud Personal best kiya hai

Har saal yahiee hota hai. This is life of marathon runner. And yes we don’t really care about our timing. We just ask everyone ” Bhai tune kitne mein kee”

 

Rise and Shine

Its not about hitting the snooze button in the morning. Sometimes you feel like you are losing it. One minute you can run 50kms in one go and the other you are not confident of ever be able to run a decent 10k.

Not all days are equal. Not all fingers are equal. Some days you feel like king and others you are not sure of yourself. So tomorrow is going to be another day. Will I wake up and wear vibrams and prove that tomorrow is going to be any different.  Will I ? Will I dance tomorrow.

Its 10.37 in the night. I should sleep soon. I been watching this video again and again.  Tomorrow is another day so rise and shine baby.

There is a 10km waiting to be conquered. Let all the dengue viruses come out of your sweat and be where they truly belong… under my feet.

What I learned in Bhaati Mines Ultra Marathon 2014

So first thing first. Ultra marathons are really long and runners are crazy. For instance one runner did 220 kms. I cannot even imagine what it is to run such a distance. Its like running to Dehradoon from Delhi. The other crazy ones were attempting 100km, 80km and 50 kms.

I’m from the hills, shimla to be precise. We have shortcuts everywhere.  No one likes to take the main road if its long even if it means you literally climb a incline to take the shortcut . But unlike Shimla roads there are no shortcuts  in running. The more you practice the better you do during the actual race. You just cannot run away from the running the miles before the run. You know this, I know this but somehow every morning I have this struggle and ultimately the bed wins and running is pushed over to the next day. I don’t like to train hard but I want to run better.

The second is about running in the company of someone. I think that makes all the difference. I ran about 40kms alone and after that I had the company of Dharshan and Swara. Dharshan talks a lot and this slowed me down 🙂

I finished Bhati Ultra miles 50 kms in 7hrs 29 minutes. I’m pretty disappointed to be honest.  To make matters worst all the girls finished ahead of me :(. I thought I could do this race in 6 and half hours. I guess I ” thought” wrong. Just to give some perspective of my time. It is about two hours more than the Aman Yadav who came first at 5hrs 17 minutes. On the positive side I have a ultra marathon under my belt. I’m also supremely grateful that I completed the run without any injury.  But for next time I will choose my runs carefully.

A fellow runner was running with a t-shirt that had this message ” Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional”.  This is NOT true. If you are running Bhati then don’t believe in this. Both pain and suffering are part of the race. The trail is tough and there is not even a inch of shade. There are some nice lakes around but don’t let that fool you. Acute pain goes through your body every time you land on a stone in your vibrams . I don’t know what took me through the whole race. Some divine intervention for sure because I was ready to give up at 40 and then suddenly I see Dharshan emerge from now-where ready to help me through the last 10. And then at the 5km mark was Swara who hitch hiked on a bike in the middle of the jungle with some unknown lad from the one neighbouring villages just to run the last 5km with me. The last 2 kms were the longest but then Dharshan shared something interesting and before I could realise we were at the end point.

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This  brings me to another profound learning. Runners always run to better their own records but we never fail to ask ” Tera time kya hai “. I’m myself guilty of this crime. Lately I have been obsessed with improving my time vis a vis others. May be there is something in us that always need a validation from outside that we are growing and improving. May not be the best thing but this is how life is.

For a long time to come Bhati will always be special for me. Beyond 42kms was a unknown territory but I finished it in the company of some of the most important people in my life. I don’t think I will attempt an Ultra Marathon again. Definitely not without adequate preparation. I’m getting old. Casual running and running half marathons is where my heart is but then sometimes my head interferes and I ask ” Tune Full marathon kitnee mein kee hai”. And that precise moment my  heart leaps and makes a commitment- Next full under 4 karnee hain.

But winters are coming and Ojha will say ” Ab subah kaise uthoge Nainwal jee”

 

 

 

 

Things that burst

On a fine saturday morning you are cycling with friends and feeling the humid Delhi air into your lungs and skin and ” Phut”, the tyre go burst. At first we thought its just a flat but somehow the sound ” phuut” suggested something meaner. Anyways me and Mohit Satyanand went through the agonising task of dismounting from our cycles ( we call them bikes by the way), removing the tyre and tube and then started even more agonising task of replacing the tube. But thank God I spotted a big cut on the tyre which saved us from further agony but launched me into another- Now I have to buy a new tyre.

For those who are uninitiated to the sports of road biking my fears will have no meaning for you. You must be wondering what is this big fuss.. go and buy a new tyre. Well my dear friend ” buying” is where the problem lies. Not only I have to now worry about the hole which this unnecessary expense is going to burn into my pocket ( a single cycle tyre can cost upwards 7000 INR). And to add insult to injury I also have to go through the mental process of which tyre to buy which as I will explain is not a easy process.

vred-fiammante-medSo I call sphere cycles to find out about tyre and the store manager asks me ” Sir do you want to buy a  tyre to race or to train “. Now that is what call a trick question- if you say race then he is obligated to sell you the best that his store can offer. And the best can be INR 7000 a piece ( Bridgestone car tyres cost  5k) . I responded with a calm voice- well mostly to hang clothes on as that is what my bike has been doing for the better part of the year, but yes I do cycle about 50 kms a week. I guess he sensed poverty and helplessness in my voice and hinted that he has a tyre that is best suited to my (financial) condition.

Now bike tyres not only come in different shapes and sizes but also in different colours . And colour is not the only thing that you have to decide. You have to decide on TPI, width, bead type and the brand. Now when it comes to technical specs of which tyre to buy there is a broad disagreement on many things. For instance some riders would swear by a 23mm width  and some would recommend going for 25 mm. There is an extensive body of literature and science around whether is 25 mm tyre will roll smoother and faster than a 23 mm one. Its all about rolling resistance baby :). However people tend to agree that 25mm is generally a more comfortable ride. Really…for whom. the tyre and the wheel I guess. I can’t imagine anything comfortable once you have mounted on a road bike seat.

The other point of contention is TPI or threads per inch. Some people look at TPI when deciding on a tyre- The higher the TPI, the thinner and lighter the tyre and hence faster than its poorer cousins. But higher TPI tyres are more prone to cuts from the side.

Now this is where things get interesting. Also on the offer are foldable tyres.  So basically these tyres can be folded and kept in your day pack for a rainy day. Technically they are called folding bead tyres. They are quite hard to put on the bike for the first time but a lot of people carry them in the their back packs just in case they get a burst.

In short there is a lot of  technology packed in a bike tyre no wonder why they are so expensive.

So once you have figured out which tyre you have to buy you can choose from a wide range of brands from Kenda, Btwin, Verdestein, Michellin, Continental Gator skins and Vittora to name a few. Off course there are price points for each of these brands which helps you decide. Most people would vouch for either Gator skins or Vittora or Verdestein.

Finally I  decided on Verdestein Duocomp. Its half the price than its more pricey cousin- Tricomp. I have heard Tricomp is a faster tyre but last I heard my clothes were in no hurry to dry.

More when by other tyre retyres.

 

Running the trails: Jahapanah City Forest

Hidden somewhere between Jamia Hamdard, Batra Hospital, Chirag Dilli and G.K 2 is the Jahapanah city forest. If you enter from the gate just opposite Don Bosco school you enter into a small deceptive park. If you don’t know that there is a forest inside I bet you will just do a bit of stretching and curse the person who told you that its a nice place to run.  And that is why Jahapanah city forest is Delhi’s best kept secret.

You run once in Jahapanah and you will fall in love with the place. The jogging track is well marked. There is water at the start point.  The track has shade at most places. Watching a peacock running ahead of you is a common sight. During summers the place is bustling with activity. People from all walks of life walk, run, chat, play inside the forest. There are at-least 3 play areas for kids with slides and other kinds of stuff.

I normally run the 6.6 Km loop clockwise in Jahapanah. There are days when I would just take a right turn at 3.2 kms and do a 5km loop instead. And there is this super short 2.6 km loop too if you are in too much of hurry . Jahapanah has some fairly nice inclines so its a good variety for runners in Delhi.

Today I was not in the mood to run much so I decided to check out the trails. I ran clockwise up to 1200 mt then took the first left trail.  I just kept on running and in another 30 minutes or so I had covered the entire periphery of the park and come out at the 3.2 kms mark.  On a lucky day you can Nilgai ( Antelope) but today was not my lucky day. I guess the overall trail is about 4kms or so. Its mostly nice but where ever it comes close to a settlement it gets dirty. There are at least 2-3 spots which are really bad.  There are also signs on encroachment at many places.  But overall its a nice break from the same old Jahapanah beat.

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I would not advise running alone as the trail is pretty lonely and there has been incidences of runners getting robbed. And definitely not during the evening because one can easily get lost too. However in a group they are a must to be explored and enjoyed.

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