Thursday, January 19, 2017

Maximum city, Maximum run, Maximum fun

Warning: I am very verbose in writing. Hence I tend to write very loooong blogs. As in the case with all my blogs, this blog too is very very long and I would request you to not read it or skip the paragraphs and read only those that would seem interesting to you.

Pre-SCMM blogs: I have written in great detail about my 11 months of preparation and 3 months of training for SCMM 2017 in earlier in case you are interested.

SCMM: 15th January 2017:

Last weekend before race day: There was a lot of excitement and best wishes the weekend before race weekend. Since I had been nursing a niggle in my right ankle and had not run a single run during the three weeks of tapering post the 34K long run, I ran on Saturday. We had a race plan discussion meeting post the run which was very good and the points that Santhosh and Srini V touched upon were most important, even though they had emphasized upon the same points repeatedly right through our training, and stayed with me all through the week and through my run. Sunday, the discussion was more about at what points the RH volunteers and supporters would be stationed. Full marathoners would have RH cheering at 7 different points, which is quite a lot!!

At the Expo
Chandra always makes very elaborate plans for the RH aid stations at Mumbai. It is really astounding to see so many folks travel all the way to Mumbai, some children too, and stand for seven long hours in the hot sun, cheering us and handing out water and bananas to us. Since we knew the kilometer marks where the folks would be standing at, we look out for them constantly and I took bananas from them regularly. I really don’t know what we have done to deserve such care and pampering. It must be the collective good karma of many past lives that is giving rich dividends to us now. Chandra also takes great pains to organize the pre-race dinner and post-race lunch for us and believe me when I say this, I urge all the folks out there to train with RH and run SCMM just to be a part of these two events. Even if the race day turns out to be a no show or the worst disaster, these two are worth all the training that we go through and all the sweat (there is no blood as we are so well taken care of).

Bib collection: Ashok and my daughters along with my niece had driven to Mumbai on Friday and I
Bibs collected
took a flight to Mumbai on Saturday. Since it was a very early morning flight I did not have anyone with me and managed to catch a short nap on the flight. As I was carrying only a backpack, I got out of the airport very early and met up with a friend of mine and we went to have breakfast at my favorite Ramakrishna Hotel at Parla East station. I was supposed to meet Kavitha for breakfast and she arrived at Ramakrishna with Ravi and her son and post breakfast we took a local to Dadar and from Dadar central to Byculla to collect our bibs. Unknowingly we got into a handicapped compartment and met runners from Bhopal who gratuitously gave up their taxi to us at the Byculla station and we arrived at the bib collection and took many photos and had a whale of a time. We met
Pre-run dinner at Bombay
many other RH folks and Ashok and my daughters. Finally we headed to our hotel and took rest. Post lunch Kavitha and me had to come back to the expo as I had been given a men’s XL t-shirt. The organizers told me that they did not have my size and promised to courier mine to me in 60 days.

Pre-run dinner: The pre-run dinner at Bombay Blue was one big RH party and the atmosphere was electric and I just soaked in it. Post dinner when we returned back to the room, Kanchen, Kanika and I decided on our morning wake up and toilet timings and slept early.

Start point: As per previously decided, all of us marathoners met near Welcome Hotel at 5.00 am and started walking towards the start point. Jyothi handed me and Kavitha our small bottles of out hydration packs filled with her famous liquid curd rice. We stuck together but kept loosing and finding other RH-ers time and again. At the start point we were quite at the back and bumped into Abhi, the official 5.45 pacer and took quite a few pictures. All the 'fast-ies' had moved ahead and it was just Jyothi, Kavitha, Dilshad and me along with Parag, Raghu and Abhi. Abhi had a fan already who wanted to run with him and he was talking to her rather kindly J. Dilshad told her that we were all four hour (4.5 Hr & 5 hr) finishers and were just running slow today and I had a sense of déjà vu and wondered what’s with these Parsis?  Another Parsi (Zahver) had nonchalantly misled another runner in Hyderabad 2 years ago J. We were the noisiest lot and it was a wonderful few minutes of high decibel mirth and enjoyment.
Abhi - the official 5.45 bus pacer
 0K – 18K: The start was bang on time at 5.40. We kept walking to the start point and crossed the timing mat at 5.50.AM. We felt calm as we ran towards Flora Fountain, past the Oberoi hotel, to Nariman Point, past the Air India building. A gentleman with a hat on was playing an acoustic guitar and singing “hai apna dil to awara” while his wife played the tambourine.  We soon reached the Marine Drive where people were setting up the stages and music for the dream run which was to begin at 9.00 am. I kept watching out for the kilometer boards and missed the first couple and sighted the first one only at 3K and was pleasantly surprised to see that we were devouring distances without even realizing it. It was still dark. But the path was well lit and there were no incidents of people falling etc. No one had any headlamps. I did see a number of runners help themselves to water and electrolytes at water stations from the third kilometer onwards. We took our first salt pill at 6.5 km and second one at 15K as we reached the Bandra Worli Sealink. The sky was still cloudy and the sun had risen and we were treated to a glorious sight of sun dawn and sun rise through the Marine Drive and the sealink. It was very calm on the sealink and we were sticking to out run walk pattern of 6 min run and 1 min walk.

We suddenly saw some lead motorcycles and a media bus pass by us and knew that the elites were around the corner. We saw the elite runners whizz past us on the sealink. First it was the men and then the women. Their silent footsteps and long strides was awe inspiring. They were so fast that even if you blink your eye you can miss them. The men runners had two pacers ahead of them and I was quite surprised to see two men pacers for the women runners. The men were sticking together and ran like a pack. But the women had scattered and there were quite a few who had fallen behind. There was one seven feet tall European runner who had fallen behind but was still going strong. There was another who had fallen behind and was struggling. The atmosphere on the sealink was very quiet and the sun had not yet come out in full force due to a heavy haze. A media lady asked me what was written at the back of my t-shirt and asked me to pose and took many pictures of my t-shirt. I had poured some water on my neck and back by then and wondered if the picture would turn out all right.

18K – 33K: At around 16K Jyothi was slowing down and I always find it difficult to run with smaller strides as my ankle hurts more with smaller strides. The wonderful person that she is, she sensed that I was struggling to run slow and told me to run faster and ahead of her and I started running at my pace ahead of her and at each walk break we would catch up with each other. At 18K I separated from her and started running continuously at my own pace. We passed each other at 18.5 where there was a loop we had to take before exciting from the Bandra-Worli Sealink and she told me to go ahead. I passed Padma Srinivas too at this point and another runner from Bhopal who we had met on the Mumbai local train when we were going to collect our bibs.

As the battery of my Garmin does not last for more than 3 hrs, I had not switched it on but use it just to see the time. So I started looking out for the kilometer boards. As we exit the sealink, we enter Mahim which was lined with the street kids who were cheering us loudly and I tapped the hands of as many street kids as I could. Their constant “aunty mujhe” or “arre! aunty miss kar gayi” egged me on to high five as many of them as I could.  I missed the 19K, 20K and the 21K board and was pleasantly surprised to see the 22K board at 9.06 at the Bandra fire station Flyover. I was very happy to realize that I has completed 22K in 3 hrs and 6 mins and decided to complete each kilometer in 9 mins. I was crossed Nanda at Hinduja Hospital after a few minutes and informed him that Jyothi is just behind me. I crossed Siddhivinayak temple at 9.23 and the 25K mark at 9.25. Ashok had been waiting for me at the 33K point along with Abhishek. I estimated that if I keep the 9 min pace I will reach them at 10.40.

I kept nibbling bananas, biscuits, small pieces of sandwiches, small bites of chapathis, Jyothi's liquid curd rice, dates, almonds, raisins and took my salt pills at the scheduled times and sipped water regularly. I even drank two packets of the ORSL ddrink provided by the organisers. Due to this I did not get the head ache I get during long runs neither during the run nor post run. Small sips and small bites regularly was the key. By now I was seeing that many aid stations were getting empty. But the people were still well stocked and were still handing out stuff. I had missed grabbing the wet sponges at quite a few places and saw an aid station with one last sponge. But I was beaten to it by another runner and she grabbed it. But as I ran past her she offered it to me and said that you use it and give it to me. When I returned it back to her with just one squeeze on my head she told me to squeeze on the neck and shoulders and told me “ there’s plenty for both us us. Use it generously so that water enters your t-shirt on the back”.

Once I crossed the 30K mark I saw Kavitha and Dilshad ahead of me. I decided to keep them in sight and continue with my 8.5 min/km pace.I found that I had done many kilometers with less than 9 min pace. I met Nagraj Adiga and Naveen Tangiah here and Naveen's ever smiling face and a sweet hug and 'you are lookign really strong' re-energized for a few more kilometers. I was able to maintain my race plan and met Vinay at the 32K mark. He asked me how I was and I told him what I was doing and that I was feeling good. He told me that Dilshad was up ahead and whether I wanted to catch up with them. But I was reluctant to increase my speed and told him that I had them in my sight from the past 2 kms  and even he advised to just maintain my pace and not speed up now. I reached Abhishek and Ashok who were at the 33K mark in between 10.35 and 10.40 and we started from there. I told Ashok tha I was doing good and asked him to just make me run as much as possible. He told me to do a 500 steps run and 100 steps walk and I told him to reduce it to 300 steps run. We passed Kaiwan and Dilshad after a short while and also met Parag, Kavitha and Raghu. Raghu had been on the 5.45 bus and had had a bad fall at 17k point and was continuing his run after a delay of 10 to 15 mins. Kavitha joined me and Raghu and Parag went at their pace.

video
33K – 41K: Things were going fine and I was tiring a bit. But with Kavitha and Ashok I was able to maintain some run walk pattern. Just when things were going according to plan and smoothly, we entered the dreaded Peddar road. We decided to walk the stretch completely. We saw Mukesh Ambani’s dreadful Antilia building and wondered which of the buildings had Lata mageshkar’s flat. We completed Peddar road with a walk and saw that I got slowed down slightly after this stretch and struggled to run for a couple of kilometers. We kept walking and the six hour bus passed us and the pacer urged us on to walk and told us home is the place to chat and we have to run here. I was quite surprised to see that we were well within a 6.10 or a 6.15 finish. I kept urging Kavitha to run ahead and get a sub-6 finish. But she just wouldn’t listen. She said ‘I will have none of this. I am going to finish holding hands with you as that is more important to me than getting a 10 minute less finish”. I really have to thank my stars that I am surrounded by such gems of people. I even saw a very elderly hunched lady standing with her daughter and grand daughter cheering and I went and thanked her and gave her a hug.
Once I was back on the Marine Drive, I started feeling exultant and euphoric. It was all I could do to not start celebrating right then and there. But since we had five more kilometers left and I was still struggling to run, the celebrations had to wait. After we crossed the Marine Lines station the police vehicle passed us making loud announcements in Marathi and I thought that there were asking all the
medal pedh pe nahin milte, unhe paana padta
hai, pyar se, mehnat se...lagan se -
Dangal
non runners to get out of the streets. After a few minutes we saw cars whizzing past us and then I realized that they had announced that the traffic would be let and that the runners should run at the side. Immediately we saw that they were bringing down the cool zone station and all the aid stations were being packed up, boards and kilometer markers were being removed at great speeds and efficiency. But since the roads are wide we did not have any difficulty in running. We were also prepared for the eventuality of not finding water and had trained with our hydration packs for exactly this and were mentally prepared.
My struggle to run continued but I slowly started telling myself that the end is very near and that I must somehow run. I started feeling better after I crossed the 40th kilomete mark. I said to myself that it was now or never and I pressed on. Once I exited the Marine Drive and ran past the Ambassador Hotel, I knew that I had won. But I hadn’t. It took my weary feet another fifteen odd minutes to get to within the sight of the finish line. They had removed all the directions signs and kilometer markers by now and we were just following the runners ahead of us. Thankfully they
had stopped the vehicles at one of the junctions we passed and we could cross it easily. Credit must be given to the Mumbaikars as we did not see any unruly honking or motorists fighting with the cops as is the case in Hyderabad, Chennai and Namma Bengaluru.


The Jeff Galloway of RH - Vinay
The finish:  I saw the mark 1000 mts written in white paint on the road and told Kavitha that we are just 1km away. I still could not run well and Kavitha asked me to hold on for the last 200 mts. Someone shouted 200 more but Kavitha warned me that it was still 600 more. At about 300 mts we started slow running and kept seeking each other’s hand as we did not want to loose each other. Once we took the left turn we started sprinting towards the finish line. We had planned to hold hands as we crossed the finish line and we did just that. We hooted as we crossed the finish line. I just could not hold in the sob that was threatening to erupt right from 25k in anymore and I burst out crying and even Kavitha burst out with me. A lady yelled to clear the timing mat and we dragged ourselves to a side.  We sighted my daughters and niece who were busy cheering us and filming us. My younger daughter was sobbing too. I hugged each of them and then saw Dilshad finish with Kaiwan in tow. Soon Ashok also finished his unofficial 9k.
Collecting the medal was one long walk and my tear dam burst open again once the volunteer put the medal around my neck. They were so alarmed that they gave me two post-run nutrition bags. Ashok rescued me immediately and they heaved a sigh of relief because wherever you might go in this world, no one knows how to handle a sobbing woman J. My daughters took more pictures of me with the medal. Meeting Abhi and Vinay was great as it was his run walk strategy and Jyothi’s encouragement that had got me this far. A few quick stretches at the recovery zone and we were off to the hotel to freshen up as we were very eager to meet everyone at the Irish Pub for the post-run lunch.

What next: It has taken me all these days for it all this enormous achievement to sink in and slowly I am feeling a sense of loss and lack of purpose. Many people say that that they need a break from running and that they will take a season’s break. For me running is the break from life. Running for me is cathartic and a wonderful release.  I run because I find peace and solace in running. For me movement is bliss. It is a great feeling everyday that I have to run and I really do not know what to do on rest days. So, I guess, I will just continue to run.


Monday, January 9, 2017

Marathon Training for SCMM 2017

Training for SCMM 2017

The seed of my dream of doing my first Marathon and that too at Mumbai was laid in my head way back in 2014-15 after I complete my first and second half marathons at Mumbai and Hyderabad respectively and I wanted to proceed further to a full. But I had a lot of doubts and apprehensions about my abilities about which I have written in detail here and also the post covers in great detail about my preparations to start getting trained for the Mumbai full. My running partner Jyothi and me had already been into 11 months of preparation to start training for the full marathon which was another 4 months away. So in all it has been 14 months of dreaming and training for the biggest event of our lives.

WARNING: This blog entry is rather long and in case you wish to, you can skip to the last few paragraphs of the long runs and skip the initial build up entirely.

I had completed the registration for the SCMM 2017 in August 2016 after my HM in Hyderabad with the AHM timing. The email for the registration of marathon training program with Runner's High arrived in my inbox on September 9, 2016 and I went ahead and registered immediately and even made Ashok transfer the amount right away because I did not want Santhosh to drop me out of the program because I had not paid on time or I had not filled the form on time. He can be quite red-tape-ish about these things and gee!, we are supposed to be a recreational group of runners who run for fun and health right? And here we are made to stress about filling forms in triplicates and quadruplicates and making payments on time or else!!!! There were dire warnings about filling forms and paying not being a guarantee for entry into the marathon training program which caused sufficient amount of anxiety to keep both Jyothi and me on our toes.  
Week 1: 19 Sep – 25 Sep: 8k @ Cubbon park:  We had our first training session of 8k at Cubbon park on Saturday and 4k and strengthening on Sunday. After the strengthening session we had our marathon training program info session. I had already chewed all my nails on my fingers and even though I practice yoga regularly thrice a week I am not flexible enough for my mouth to reach my toes. So chewing my toes was not possible :) and hence I even though of asking Jyothi and my other running buddy Dilshad to hand over their hands to me so that I could chew their nails :). But the info session turned out to be the most memorable day of my life. Points like 100% attendance, commitment and dedication, regular strength training  and  also running at a slower pace than we do for 21K initially to remain injury free were stressed upon. Also Coach George told us to enjoy the training and have great fun. Chief Santhosh and Srini V both praised Jyothi and my efforts to get into the marathon training program which sent us into a dizzy spin and gleeful merry-go-round. Our post run breakfast was a huge celebration of our getting elevated to marathoners. Dilshad joined our group and brought in a lot of enthusiasm and energy with her which increased the fun factor. Dilshad and me have run many runs together and we know each other very well. Even the silence between us during runs is very comforting and one look at each other and we know what we are going through or what is wrong with us. We called our group the Awesome Threesome.
Week 2: 26 Sep – 2 Oct: 14k @ Byalkere Peacock Reserve: We were being welcomed by all the
Week 2 - 14K @ Byalakere Peacock Reserve
marathoners at each training session and they kept giving us tips on what to do and what not to do. The most oft repeated advice was not to go out too fast too soon but to conserve energy in the beginning. We would be repeatedly told that it would be long and hard but it would be loads of fun. We even had to sign a contract on 3rd October that we would be regular and committed and do everything told and instructed without fail or any slacking on our part to remain injury free. Being injury free and finishing the marathon
Week 3 - 18K Cubbon Park
became the most important aspects to focus upon. We were joined by Kavitha Ravishankar who is an accomplished athlete and a very fine runner. Her pace is way above our pace. But she still chooses to run slow as she wants to run with our group. She brought in a lot of calm and poise into our group. We became the Fantastic Four now!!
Week 3: 3 Oct – 9 Oct: 18k @ Cubbon Park: Since 18k was a distance that we had done innumerable times before it was without any incidence. After my Hyderabad HM I had reduced my running speed a lot and hence it was at very easy pace and relaxed.
Week 4: 10 Oct  – 16 Oct: 21k @ SPBM @ Kanteerava Stadium: Ou group started
Week 4 - 21K SPBM
the 
#SPBM #BengaluruMarathon. Fantastic Four joined by Bond Raghunath to make the team Famous Five! Since we were such a fun and chirpy group many people wanted to join our group. Even Parag tried to join us. But later both Raghu and Parag were asked by our coaches to run at their pace and not get slowed down by us. We started slow and stuck together. Later we were stopped by Times Now reporter to make a statement but they did not have their equipment ready. They wasted 10 minutes of our time. Later Dilshad and Kavitha went on their own and Jyothi and me stuck together. On our return loop the Times Now! Team stopped us again and asked us to make a statement and this time since they were ready we gave them some sound bites. We lost 5 minutes again. At around 18K I separated from Jyothi and ran at my pace and completed the run.
Week 5 - 16K Decathlon
Week 5: 17 Oct – 23 Oct: 16k @ Decathlon - The Fantastc Four at it again!!! It was tapering week after 21k at Bengaluru Marathon. We ran 16k in 5 min run and 1 min walk. We ran at a slightly faster pace than we normally do. We finished strong and felt that we can do 10 more.
Week 6 - 23K Cubbon Park
Week 6: 24 Oct – 30 Oct: 23 K @ Cubbon Park - We were supposed to do our long run on Saturday. But since Jyothi was travelling she asked us if we would do with her on Friday and the Fantastic Four got together and did it with her in great style. We started at 5.10 am at Cubbon Park. I always love starting early as I get the whole place for myself. There are less people around. People are scared to start early because of the instances of dogs attacks and molestation cases in the past. But I find that the park is well lit and dogs are used to runners by now and since we are in a group, it's absolutely fine. Traffic was allowed in at 8.00. But by then we had only 4k more and the Press Club and Queens Park side has no traffic. So we had an absolutely great run. Learnings: (1) Don't forget to eat a banana every one hour. Eat something solid after 15k. Today I forgot to
Week 7 - 25K Byalkere Peacock Reserve
eat and once again the Kit Kat man Yagnesh saved the day for me  (2) Use more body glide 
(Y)
Week 7: 31 Oct – 6 Nov: 25k @ Byalkere - My first 25k!!! Yay me!! For the first time I felt like a real marathon trainer as our start time was 5.30 am officially for the first time. It felt very good to be starting early as Marathon trainers. 
Had a tough run. Jyothi had a knee injury after 10k and she dropped out of our pack and did her own run walk routine and completed the run. Combination of strengthening and Yoga during the week created too much fatigue in me. I started very strong and steady and we were bang on schedule till 19k. After that I started slowing down and I could not keep pace with Dilshad and Kavitha. From 19.5k to 25k I tried to keep them in sight by trying to do a 100 count run and 50
Week 8 - 28K @ TheBangaloreUltra @HennurBambooForest
count walk. Ran the last 500 mts and finished well.

Week 8: 7 Nov – 13 Nov: 28K @ The Bangalore Ultra @ Hennur Bamboo ForestI had to run alone as our Fantastic Four group got split this week. Kavitha ran on Saturday with the HSR group at the HSR lake, Dilshad also ran on Saturday at Ooty as she had gone to support Kaiwan for his 50K run at Ooty Ultra. Jyothi ran at Cubbon Park on Monday due to her knee injury. I missed my buddies a lot. The Hennur Bamboo Forest where The Bangalore Ultra is held is beautiful and I love running here. I have done two 12.5Ks in earlier editions and this was my first 25K. The past two years, I used to support the 24 hrs, 100k and 75K Ultra runners as a part of their support crew and hence would not sign up to run 25K. But this year, since I have to train better, I was glad to do. I completed 25k of Ultra and then did a 1.5k out and back. Ran with a 5 min run and 1 min walk strategy using Coach Nanda's watch. Run went very well and I ran a strong 1.5 km in the end to finish 25k and felt very great. The gravel and stone filled stretch on 1.5k and back for the 3k extra to complete the 28k was very tough and I walked the entire distance as I did not want to injure my knees or ITB.
Week 9: 15 Nov – 20 Nov: 21K @ Cubbon Park – It was tapering week for us after the 28K. Jyothi and me ran together. Kavitha and Dilshad ran separately at their own paces as they had been asked to try different paces by our coaches. I had been travelling a lot and lots of piligrimage and sightseeing had me fatigued. So a slower pace was good for me. Post run, it was the monsoon season breakfast and party and we went to lady Lothari Hall for the sumptuous breakfast and I was pleased to learn that I had got the attendance award yet again. I wished that I had got the most improved runner which I have been craving for since so many seasons.
Week 10: 21 Nov – 27 Nov: 30K @ Decathlon – Longest run that I had run till date. Jyothi did her 30k at Cochin as she had gone there for Ajath's wedding. Dilsh, Kavi and me did ran at Decathlon. It was a run organized by Decathlon Sarjapur and we started at 5.30 when their aid stations were not yet ready. We did not have water for 11 kms and I had forgotten to carry my small water bottle and my pouch. Asad, who was patrolling on his bike saved the day for us by giving us water and salt pills. I got a head ache at 19K due to lack of water and salt pills and also my bowel problem started around this time due to which I had to slow down. Dilshad went at her pace at around 12K and Kavitha tried to stay with me till up to 18K and then went at her pace. I tried to keep her in sight for as long as possible. The bowel sensation reduced after a couple of kms and reappeared again after sometime. Thus it played hide and seek and I had to alter between running and walking. I tried to keep a good pace as much as possible. Finally I had a very good run and had a great time together and finished strong. The splitting headache worsened after I got home and I had to take two paracetamols at home. Learning: Carry your own hydration packs and try to be self sufficient in your runs.Especially since you are a slow runner and the aid stations might run out of stuff by the time you cross them towards the later kilometers.
Week 11 - 25K Stonehill International School
Week 11: 28 Nov – 4 Dec: 25K @ Stonehill International School: It was again a tapering week. I was scared about my bowel problem and hence did not have my usual pre run snack of chapattis lest I get the sensation again. I had been travelling between Mysore during the week and back to Bangalore during the weekends for the runs the past three weeks. My bowel issue had been playing on my mind and waking up 30 minutes earlier than usual, drinking warm water and all the other usual tricks did not seem to work for me and I could not clear my morning ablutions before leaving. I had to battle it again during this run. Jyothi and me stuck together up to 17K or 18K. After that she had to slow down due to her knee paina dn I had to continue at my pace as a slower pace means that I cannot run but have to walk. I also got a pain in my right ankle after 22K or 23K. But I was able to complete strong by changing the pattern in which I was placing my foot.
Week 12: 6 Dec – 11 Dec: 32K @ Byalkere - Longest run that I have run till date. 32K. I had not run my
Week 12 - 32K @ Byalkere Peacock Reserve
Tuesday run and had just walked on Wednesday due to my ankle issue. By now I was regularly complaining to our marathoners whatsapp group about my ankle problems and everyone knew about my issues and were really concerned. I was regularly consulting the physios and they had given me the rest, Ice, stretches and strengthening solution which I was following diligently. Ponki bought my excuse for not doing strengthening as I was of getting pain during strengthening and agreed that I would do only stretches and not strengthening. But no such luck with Suzan. She said that it was all good pain and it was the only way to make my ankle stronger before January 15 and that I had to do it. I have to thank the physios from the bottom of my heart for taking my innumerable phone calls patiently, answering all my paniky questions calmly and in short assuring me that it was just a niggle and not an injury and would go away.
The Fantastic Four had a good 32K run. We started together and ran together up to 5K. Then Kavitha and Dilshad went at their pace and me and Jyothi ran together. We ran at our steady pace and we're bang on our target time up to 28K. We slowed down in our last 4K. But we finished strong. It was great to have our Chief Santhosh run along with us for about 1K. It's a huge morale booster and we act like small children wanting to please our head master and dying to get a ‘good’ or a ‘star’ from him. Srini V's weekly guidance and Thursday emails were most helpful and helped us to shape our run to a level where we did the distances with confidence and without stress. I got back my ankle pain again at around 19 or 20K. Again I had to change the landing of my foot and also reduce the run time and increase the walk time. But we had a strong run and completed in style. I was able to sprint the last 500 mts which was most surprising.
Week 13 - 24 kms @ Nandi Hills
Week 13: 12 Dec – 18 Dec: 24K @ Nandi HillsHill training to conquer Peddar road. This was my third run in Nandi Hills in three years. And you would think it gets easier and easier. But no such luck. Every run is hard and difficult and the challenge is what makes it so exciting and satisfying in the end. Since I had pain in my right ankle I had avoided the Tuesday run again. Wednesday was the train workout which is my favorite. I took a faster train since I felt that my ankle pain had reduced and improved. This must have been a huge mistake.
I wore an ankle brace (crepe bandage) to give support. The Nandi hill run was 6 kms up and 6 kms down and two loops. Due to a new rule, vehicles are not allowed entry up the hill from 10 pm to 6 am. Hence, even though we started at 5.30 am, due to the heavy pile up of vehicles which had come to Nandi Hills to view the glorious sun rise, we could not run for the first 2k and it was a slow walk
Marathoners Buddy Group Breakfast @ Ballal Residency
up the hill. We started running from 2k onwards. It was very cold and the warm up itself took some time.
 The first loop was fine. We could see the beautiful sunrise and the misty view from the mountains was a glorious sight. 5k to 6k was steep and we had to walk it up. But second loop was tough and my ankle started to pain from 15k and I had to do run/walk from there. The run down was the toughest and I could not run the last 4k and has to walk. I even got my bowel distress after 18K and I had to walk due to this too.
We had our marathon buddy group breakfast at Ballal residency on Sunday and it was a riot and we were one boisterous group among all the prim and proper Sunday breakfasters and brunchers.
Week 14 - 34K @ Stonehill International School
Week 14: 19 Dec – 25 Dec: 34K @ StonehillAnkle pain continued and I avoided both the Tuesday run and the Wednesday run. It has already been three weeks since I have not been running on Tuesdays. I forgot to take my crape bandage in the morning. I asked Ashok to get it for me. I should have tied it after 10K. But I did not which was a big mistake and my ankle pain surfaced again at 12.5K. I tied the crape bandage at 14K.  I was able to run with Jyothi till 22K. Later, I joined Dr. Naveen Nagar and ran at a faster pace up to 27K. After that I was on my own and did a run/walk. It was a very tough run. I walked the last 4 kms completely. We got the much needed heat training for Mumbai as I finished by 11.00 am.
Week 15: 26 Dec – 1 Jan: 16K @ Byalkere – Tapering weekDue to my ankle pain I did not run on Tuesday and Wednesday. I also walked only 10K instead of running 16K. Ashok came and joined me for the last 2K and we walked together.
Week 16: 2 Jan – 8 Jan: 8K @ Cubbon – Tapering week. My ankle pain had reduced and I was able to run well. Jyothi and me stuck together till 5K. But I could not run after that and had to run slower on my own.

Its been a long journey for Jyothi and me to reach this point where we will be running our first marathon. From Nov '15 to Jan '17, it's been 15 long months. I remember reading somewhere that it took Vasco Da Gama 592 days to reach Goa and Roald Amundsen 602 days to reach the South pole. It will take Jyothi and me 431 days and 6.30 hrs or more/less to reach the SCMM Finish Line. But, reach the finish line we will!! We might have to run/walk or crawl. But we have to reach that finish line.


Week 17: 9 Jan – 15 Jan: 42K @ SCMM Mumbai – To appear after Sunday….to be continued…..watch this space for the post!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Dream of Running a Marathon in SCMM 2017

Dream and Preparations for SCMM 2017

At some point in life we're all faced with a decision of whether to take a risk.  Whether we succeed or fail, the act of taking a risk will stretch us and give us faith in ourselves and the confidence to do even more. Maybe we're meant to do things that scare us so we can build greatness in ourselves.

I had been facing such a dilemma right through 2015. I wanted to move from half marathon to marathon but did not have the faith and confidence in myself that I would be able to do it and also lacked the courage to take the leap. I had been discussing about this with my rowdy gang and none of them were ready to make the transition due to injuries and various reasons and compulsions. Finally I decided to do it on my own.  I thought that I would risk trying to go that far so that I can see for myself how far I can go. I just decided to not stop myself but just let myself try. Once that decision was made miraculously I had new running buddies and a new group to run with!! It just goes to show that we have to just keep walking and it’s only when we continue to walk that we meet new travelers. Life is like a flowing river, each new bank brings in newer people and newer experiences.

Nandi Hills Run 2015
NOVEMBER 2015: In November 2015, during the Bangalore Ultra, when Jyothi was going for her second loop of her 25K run, having completed 12.5K by then, I ran/walked about 600mts with her and she told me about the run/walk strategy that the Jeff Galloway of Runner’s High, Coach Vinay had taught her and we both made a pact that we would attempt to run the SCMM 2017 together with this method. With this began our great journey of Dream Marathon SCMM 2017. We have read and heard about the great expeditions of the world like Edmund Hillary’s to Mount Everest or Vasco Da Gama’s or Christopher Columbus’s expeditions or the great race to the North and South Pole etc. I think of our journey is no less than these as we were about to discover new strengths and resources within ourselves and also it required enormous amount of preparation in terms of physical and mental abilities, clothing, equipment, nutrition, hydration, recovery etc.

What was our HM finish time then? 3hrs or more!!!! 
Were we very strong runners? NO!!!!! Did we have a strong finish for our HMs?? NO!!! 
Were we struggling in our HMs? YES!!!! 
Did we have a negative split in our HM? NO!!!!!! 
Then what were we thinking, dreaming of doing a Marathon? I really don’t know. Maybe we were not thinking at all. We were just dreaming!!! :)

What was our reason or motivation to want to run a Marathon? I, for one, was sure that I just needed to put a tick against my ‘run a marathon’ entry in my ‘101 things to do before I die’ list. Also I had a timeline for it. I wanted to run my first marathon before turning 42 as at least for once in life I wanted my age to be lesser than the distance I ran. Bit due to various reasons I could not achieve it when I was 41. Hence I was determined to do it at 42 so that my age would at least be equal to the distance. I called it 42@42 and I was about to turn 42 in June 2016. So, for the first time in my life I had a dream and clear time frame for it. I finally had a goal for which I was ready to work hard towards achieving.

NOV ‘15 to Feb ‘16: Jyothi and I signed up for the Winter 2015 and Summer 2016 seasons with the
Byalakere April 2016
sole aim to reduce our half marathon finish times and getting stronger for SCMM2017. To run the marathon in Mumbai it must be noted that not only do we have to get a confirmation from SCMM organizers for our marathon registration but also we have to get the qualification from Runner’s High to train for marathon. I think the Runner’s High criteria for qualification is very strict and it is more about commitment and dedication than abilities and capabilities. This is what I have understood and inferred so far. SCMM confirmation comes in October or November and Runner’s High confirmation comes in September. And, of course, there are no prizes for guessing which is the more difficult confirmation to get!!!!

Jyothi and me started our winter 2015 training with a 6 min run and 2 min walk plan and increased our run times by 5 or 10 seconds every 2 or 3 weeks. Later we started reducing our walk time by 5 seconds as well, while simultaneously increasing the run time by 5 seconds. We were so engrossed with our time and pace that we were questioned by Srini P as to why we are obsessing so much. By Jan ’16 our run time had come to 8 min and walk time had come to 1.5 min and with  this Jyothi ran her half in SCMM ‘16 and I ran it here in Bangalore at Decathlon as a part of our training run and we both finished in 3 hrs. After having achieved our first milestone we started thinking big and believing that 42K can be done.

Mar ‘16 – May ‘16: Before registering for the Summer 2016 training of RH, Jyothi and me spoke to Santhosh about wanting to do full in SCMM 2017 and he asked us to speak to the Marathon Guru
TCS 10K  May 2016
Srini V. It was such a big relief to get Santhosh’s approval. Not once did Santhosh doubt our ability to finish 42K even though we might have had several doubts within ourselves. We had a long and lengthy discussion with Srini V at Cubbon Park in February 2016 and he gave us a complete go ahead to do it and assured us that we will be able to do it. He told us about what were the expectations he would have of us and gave us a list of targets we had to achieve. We had to improve our 10k timing in TCS 10K and our 21K timing in KTM. We had to give 100% attendance and nothing less including our Tuesday run on our own and Friday strength training on our own apart from our group runs on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. We had to maintain an excel sheet of our training including our sleep times and food intake. We maintained our logs and Srini V examined it each week and gave us his feedback without fail. This continuous monitoring kept us on our toes. He is so precise that he would ask us why we had failed to make our entries even if we missed making one. Srini V’s belief in us inspired and motivated us to dream bigger and go for it! Pay the price and our rewards will be bigger!! Thus our TCS 10K timing improved and we had successfully crossed the second milestone.

June ‘16 – Aug ‘16: Jyothi and my first HM together was in Runner’s High’s very own annual event Ananda Yana’s pre-Ananda-Yana-run at Decathlon. We both ran the run very strong and improved our HM timings considerably. Jyothi did it in 2.48 and I did it in 2.52. For my SCMM 2017 dream I
Stonehill - 1st May 2016
had the additional challenge of not having the timing of any timed race in 2015 which is required to sign up for SCMM. Ashok was keen to run in the Hyderabad HM as he had till then not done a single organized race ever, even though he had been running for over a year and a half by then. We both signed up for Hyderabad HM 2016. There was a lot of debate and bargaining with Srini V about whether I could do both Hyderabad and KTM back-to-back with a gap of just 3 weeks. Srini was concerned that I might get injured as post KTM our running mileage would increase considerably from November ’16 onwards. Post SPBM in October we would be running 21ks and more every Saturday for 8 to 9 weeks. But I assured Srini that if I achieve my timing in Hyderabad to sign up for SCMM, I would run KTM at training pace and not push at KTM and he gave me his ‘go ahead’. Ashok and I both traveled to Hyderabad in Aug ’16 and had
great runs in AHM-HM. I got 2.44 hrs, my PB for HM in AHM and ran my strongest ever HM and came back very delighted feeling a lot more confident to embark upon our marathon training. I thank my stars that I ran in AHM and completed my registration for SCMM with that timing as KTM was postponed due to the Cauvery riots. Of course I would have had the opportunity to do HM in SPBM and register with that timing link, but it would have been another 2 months of uncertainty and anxiety as to whether I would be able to get the SCMM registration confirmation or not.

Sep ‘16 – Oct ‘16: We continued our training and we did our 21K at Stonehill to compensate for the postponement of KTM. We had our info session for Marathon training at Cubbon Park and it was the best day of my life because our running Guru Sri Sri Sri Swami Runaananda Maharaj Santhosh and Marathon Guru Srini V praised both Jyothi and me and applauded our commitment and efforts and we were on cloud nine for at least a week and walking on air. When someone shows this kind of belief in us, it helps in building our self-confidence and self assurance. I think I must have boasted and raved about this for at least a week and told everyone from RH and everyone into running about this that I now had the qualification from Runner’s High


I will continue with my Marathon training in this blog as I do not want to make this too long. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Hum hai Hyderabad ke Nawaab!!!

What is it that makes a great run? Is it getting a podium finish? Is it getting a PB? Is it getting a fantastic t-shirt? Is it the travel and the great time that we have with our running buddies? Is it some or all of the above? Different strokes for different folks. Right?

For me a great run or a great race would be where I finish strong and come out smiling. When I have something left in my tank to sprint the last 100 to 200 mts. 

My main motive to register for the Hyd half was to be able to register for the Mumbai Marathon as I did not have any timed half marathons timing link of the past year which I require to register for the Mumbai marathon. 

On race day, Ashok and me reached the People's Plaza on Necklace Road much earlier and found parking in the Imax parking lot. Since we were very early Ashok wanted to listen to some songs on the car music system and we sat there for sometime listening much to the amusement of some other runners who were in the parking lot as well. We then walked in to the start area and searched for RHers. The Hussain Sagar lake is a beautiful sight to behold as the sun had not yet risen as yet and it was dark. There is abeautiful Buddha Statue right in the middle of the lake which was lit by some green and white colour lights. The loud music and the electrifying atmosphere was enough to give an adrenaline rush and a heady feeling right before the start. 

We found Kaiwan and Dilshad and after exchanging hugs we started searching for other RHers whom we were supposed to meet at the baggage counter. They were all busy clicking groufies and selfies and we joined in to click many more groufies. I was glad to meet the boisterous HSR crowd, Rama, Priya, Usha, Hitesh and others. Again I was so glad that Dilshad would be running with me as we had run Mumbai Half together way back in 2014 and done fantastic timing. Dilshad had told me that she would help me to get my time for Mumbai Marathon registration and boy! was I glad for that!! I knew that if I just keep her in sight and stick with her I would be able to do it. Thank you Dilsh for being there with me throughout.

The MC on the stage was introducing the pacers and Dilshad and me were wondering whether we should take the 2.45 bus or do it on our own. We decided to try and stick with them and see how things go. The crowd was very boisterous and the lady on the mike did not have to do much to pep up the crowd. The loud cheering and clapping for no reason, the hugs, the high fives and the music and the noise was enough to pump us all up. She asked all the move to the holding area, but our group continued with their photo sessions. They will put high profile models and movie stars to shame with their posing and their pouting. I wanted to shout to them in Hyderabadi Urdu "Hai!! yeh potta pottiyan pozaan marne ich aaye hai Hyderabad ku?". In the meantime the sun rose to a glorious orange on the lake and it was a beautiful sight to behold. I was reminded of sunrises in Mumbai. 

Finally some of us saner ones put our foot down and urged them to get moving and we finally reached the start area. We were supposed to be in the E or F corals, but there were not many beyond the C and we stayed at C holding area. The speedsters moved to A or B.

It was a really good time to be there because we saw all the marathoners pass by us at that time. They had done 9k or 10k around the Hussain Sagar lake by then and would be going into the city from here on. We saw Siddhesh Hanumantappa speed past us and shouted out his name. It was really inspiring to see them breeze past us so strong, pumping fist in the air and hooting. Each of them got huge rounds of applause from all of us and no one bothered about the announcer's announcements. And before we knew it the race had started and we all gave each other final high fives and hugs and started. Since it was really crowded, we had to walk to the starting mat and it was a good 6 minutes by the time Dilshad and me crossed the mat and heard the continuous beep which signaled the start for us.

The AHM is one of the best organised races in India and is definitely comparable to SCMM in terms of aid station support, crowd support and attention to details paid by the organisers. Each aid station is managed by very courteous and friendly college students and are well stocked with biscuits, bananas, water and electral. This time around, I had packed our Namma Bengaluru weather in my bag and taken it along with me. So it was a beautiful 23 deg C at the start of the race and there was a cloud cover which kept the sun at bay and the humidity was very manageable. There has been good rain the previous night and the roads were still wet and I took all these as good signs and a way in which the universe was telling me that today is my day and that I am going to have a great race. 

Dilsh and I started slow and bam!! right at the 400mts mark comes the Flyover 1: Khairatabad flyover. We spotted the three 2.45 pacers and decided to stick with them. There was a lady who we thought looked too serious (no gender bias here). So we picked a guy who was loudly cheering and pepping the runners. The third pacer was behind us. We kept to this formation throughout the run. We were going real slow, the initial 2 kms and Dilsh struck up a conversation with our chosen pacer and told him that we are aiming to finish within 2.45 and he was very encouraging.

The Hyderabad city is like a bowl, the Hussain Sagar lake being the lowest point in the city and the city going upwards from that central point on, in all directions. So the city is full of Jublilee Hills, Banjara Hills, Kachigudas and so many more gudas, Panchagutta and so many more guttas and Flyovers. In my opinion, Hyderabad must be the flyover capital of India or even of the world. Just when you think you have safely crossed one flyover comes another. But the roads are wide and tree lined. They are all six laned or eight laned roads. They must have tarred the road specially for the Marathon as there wasn't a single pothole on any of the roads and also the city was exceptionally clean without any garbage. Khudos! to Hyderabadis for this!.

The route was lined with people in many places cheering us on. There were school children, army personnel, citizens and runners lined up shouting 'All The Best' right on top of their voices. There was music, folk artistes performing, bands and singers at regular intervals. Even Airtel had its own stage and singers performing at a couple of places. There was a particular lady who was standing right on top of a very tough uphill shouting out 'you can do it'. I even told her that she had chosen the right spot to cheer us on and thanked her for it. But then again i wonder whether she was able to understand what I told her with all my panting. She might have got the gist of it or the spirit of it. The college students at the aid stations were ever attentive and used to rush to us with water, electral, pain spray or bananas and biscuits. We made sure that we drank water and electral at every aid station and also took our salt pills at regular and pre-determined times.

The previous time when we had run in Hyderabad in 2014, the Metro was under construction. But this time the construction work has been completed in many places.  Once we crossed the Khairatabad flyover it was a few ups and downs, but mostly flat up to the 4k mark where we took a U-turn at Somajiguda junction and entered the Panjagutta flyover. This was a 1k long flyover and from here we enter the toughest stretch. We have to cross Banjara Hills and Jubilee Hills with lots of uphills from 5k point to almost 10k point. Also, this is the most colourful part of the city with shops and restaurants on both the sides. These and the regular aid stations and the spectators cheering on kept us entertained and I found that I was running all the hills right up to the 8k point from where I started struggling at the hills but made up for the time lost by the downhills. Also, I silently thanked Chandra's Sunday killer workouts for enabling me to run so many of the uphills effortlessly. we sing 'maar daala Chandraaaaaa maar daala' to thank her all the time :) ;)

Somewhere here, at around the 7.5k mark we even crossed a major traffic junction where the traffic had been stopped on all directions. In 2014, our Rowdy gang group must have passed this point at a much later time because by the time we passed it we had seen the drivers fighting and abusing the traffic cops and a lady and a guy in a red Maruthi car had forcibly entered through the barricade. But this time around I saw that the volume of traffic pile up was still low and the tempers had not flared as yet when we passed it. The cops did a really good job of maintaining traffic and also around this point even they were cheering us loudly and calling out 'all the best maam' which made running the uphills a little better.

We then passed Madhapur and Hi tech city where we could see the completed Metro work. This section from 10k to 14k was also flat with some gradual uphill from 14k. This is the new Hyderabad. It is the IT hub of Telangana state and we could see many modern buildings that housed the IT industry with modern architecture, glass and concrete. We could see the Cybercity building Around this time Dilshad saw that I was struggling the hills and she told me to drink electral and take the second salt pill. We had done about 15.5 k in 2 hrs and I was pleased with our progress. I also ate a couple of biscuits at an aid station and felt that it gave me some much needed sugar kick. So, from them on I started eating a couple of biscuits and piece of banana at each aid station which I feel helped me a lot to keep up my energy levels.

A note on the green-ness of the event - while they used reusable plates and spoon to serve breakfast, the usage of plastic water bottles was huge in the stadium. throughout the route they used the usual disposable plastic coated paper cups. The volunteers were constantly picking up the trash and cleaning the aid station areas very quickly. They did a commendable job in keeping the place squeaky clean. When we took an auto rickshaw from the Gacchibowli stadium to IMAX parking after the race, we drove on the very same roads and they had been cleaned up by then and there was no sign that such a huge event had taken place. But despite all this it is very alarming to see the amount of waste generated. Could the organisers think of purchasing about 10,000 steel tumblers and reuse them or even rent them out later and earn through it. Could the organisers think of encouraging the runners to carry their water bottles and refill them at various points. These are serious issues that event organisers have to ponder upon for making future events more eco friendly.

There were also many downhills and outright flats which made this my best section where I was able to make up for any lost time by maintaining a steady pace. After this came the killer flyover no 3, the Gachhibowli flyover. It raises its monstrous head at the 19k mark by which time you are spent and  ready to die. I walked up this entire flyover. Dilsh was throwing concerned looks at me and I was trying to give her a weak but brave smile. The encouraging sign was that we were well within our time and also the pacers were within our sight. The third pacer was shouting out encouragement at us and pepping the runners. When we tried to walk on one of the uphill, he asked us to not walk but run up to a particular sign board at the turn around and then walk from there which was a clever move by him because after that board it was downhill. I mentally thanked him for knowing his city and the race route so well and also knowing the mentality of runners so well. 

From the 20k point onwards it was gradual uphills and flats. I was again walking most of the uphills but tried to do a fast walk here as I knew that the finish line was well within reach and also in good time.  This portion of the gradual uphill is very mentally draining and almost all the runners around us were walking. Once we came to the 500 mts mark, I started running. I entered the Gacchbowli stadium gate and picked up pace. I found Dilshad there and we both held hands and started running really fast. It was such a good feeling because everyone around us was walking and we were the only ones running. I was reminded of all the Tuesday tempo runs and the Wednesday workouts that we are made to do. It's because of these sessions that even after 20.5 kms we had it in us to sprint. 

After running about 100 mts holding hands, we had to part ways as there were some walkers blocking our path and I had to traverse around them to take the right turn and run adjacent to the stadium wall. Then it is a left turn to enter the stadium. I thought that the finish would be seen as soon as we enter the stadium but it was a good 100 to 150 mts later. But I was surprised to see that I was still running strong and crossed the finish line running. It was a very satisfying moment as I walked to the lady giving out the medals and she put a medal around my neck. It had been 18 months since my last official half marathon, my last one being Auroville HM 2015 and it was a really good feeling to finally be able to do one.

Later we met Kaiwan. he had completed his 21k and collected his medal and gone back to do another 4k as he had to do 25k on that day according to his training. But he finished 25k right behind us!!!! When we told him about how tough the hills and the flyovers were he said "what hills? what flyovers?? There are none!! It's not as tough as you all make it out to be". We did not have any energy left in us to hit him. I could visualise the next day's newspaper with the headline "a male runner attacked and hit by two other exhausted and delirious women runners at the Airtel Hyderabad Marathon". But I did not have the energy to act upon it and make it a reality. :) 

The HSR gang was at it again. Posaan maar maar ke picturaan letey. Kaiku ine aisi baataan kartey? 

After stretching I told the gang that I would go back to the gate to wait for Ashok. He came back fully exhausted and with cramps in his feet. But he was also able to finish. Then he gave some lectures to the organisers about ow bad the breakfast was and also advised them to give biryani for breakfast from next year onwards.

I thank the day that Anu dragged me to join RH and I thank all the coaches of RH, ever smiling and patient Physios and Chandra's strengthening sessions. The buddies of Cubbon Queens and our buddy group WTF Where's The finish which is full of absolute crack pots with the most popular and sweetest coach of RH - Nanda at the helm. Srini P's and Srini V's timely valuable advice. My family and friends.

Next what? Mumbai ka daud!!!!!