Thursday, May 28, 2015

Non-premium rush...

On a rather rushed visit to Blossom's, bought

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
Pyramids by Terry Pratchett

Ended up spending a little more from my pocket to supplement the coupons I redeemed. Blossom continues to get unaffordable with very few books below Rs. 200. I think the owner keeps raising the floor price for books by Rs. 50 every 6 months or so. While that mayn't be a bad thing for his survival, I keep wondering when it will exceed my purchasing power :( 


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Coaching for running events in Jun-Sep 2015

Some of you may remember my excited announcement in Mar about my partnering with Athreya to coach runners from mid-May. Well the time has come.

This Sat (23 May 2015), Athreya and I will host a general Q&A about our coaching at Cubbon Park. We plan to meet at 7 am at Queen's Park in Cubbon Park. If there's no issue in our assembly and most people are fine, we might just move to the bandstand (very close to the high court) at Cubbon Park if needed.

We think the session will last about 1 hr. We will each spend 15 min or so discussing by turns - my Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge and his sub-4 finish at the Bangalore Ultra and then start the 30 min Q&A.
We plan to start batches for Hyderabad, KTM and other races in the Aug-Sep period. Batches for events in Oct and beyond will start later. 

We invite anyone who is interested in getting coached by us in this timeframe (regardless of whether you plan to run events or just on your own) to attend. It does not matter if you have never run before. In fact we would encourage beginners/would-be beginners to attend.

Although this isn't a closed session, we'd prefer if you mailed and confirmed your attendance so that we have a sense of the attending numbers.

We look forward excitedly to this weekend.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Update on CNF fund raising

I am quite happy to share with you that my campaign to raise funds for CNF yielded about $1500. While this is 25% of what the entire program needs, this is still big enough to make a dent, to paraphrase Steve Jobs.

Thanks to everyone who supported the effort. It really brightens up a lot of lives including mine. 

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Books from the US trip

As with my previous trips, I picked up a bunch of books from my latest US trip.

No shortcuts to the top by Ed Viesturs
Gold in the water by PH Mullen
Showdown at Shepherd's Bush by David Davis
Maps and Legends (Reading and Writing along the Borderlands) by Michael Chabon

Chi Running by Danny Dreyer
Let me tell you a story by Red Auerbach and John Feinstein
Levels of the Game by John McPhee
Nobody's Perfect by Anthony Lane

AntiFragile by Nicholas Nassim Taleb
Maphead by Ken Jennings
Stiff by Mary Roach
Why We Run by Robin Harvie
How Soccer explains the world by Franklin Foer

Also picked up a few books on running incl. Yasso's, Bill Rodgers' and Amby's books


Friday, May 08, 2015

The Big Sur Marathon 2015

I had signed up for the Big Sur International Marathon 2015 ( mostly to experience the cheap thrills of getting a 3rd medal in addition to the two individual medals for each of the Boston and BSIM races.  Further I had never run two marathons less than a week apart. So that was another incentive.

Far too many people I know, had already raved about the BSIM route. And anyone who’s been marathoning for a while would know that Big Sur is perhaps the world’s most scenic marathon. Any one of the Bixby bridge or the scenes from the road to Hurricane point or the stretches before Carmel would qualify as a picture worthy of a photo calendar (unless you were born in the 70s-90s, you may not get this expression. A poor alternative to that would perhaps be “instagram-worthy”)!

I had been pondering my tactics for the Big Sur race post the race at Boston. As I had not exactly been gutted at Boston, at least from an energy system standpoint, I had been tempted to revisit my earlier plan for Big Sur – which had been to take it easy, take a camera and soak in the sights and generally have a good time. I spoke to two friends and my coach, all of whom warned me off the tough course and how difficult it was to run it, let alone run a BQ on it. I had been hoping to run a BQ at Boston, although it was unlikely I would use it for the 2016 race. I had begun wondering if I tried hard at Big Sur, if I could run, say a 3:08:45, which would give me a BQ.

All of these thoughts became moot, once I caught a cold around Thu evening. I swear that in all my planning, I had never considered falling sick before a race. That was to be expected though, after a wet race day at Boston and a reasonably hard effort, which must have taxed my body fat reserves, simultaneously with the expected lowering of immunity after such a long run. Even at the time of writing this post (2 weeks later!), I still have a voice which could fill in for a voiceover on radio. By Sat afternoon, I had a fever which kept coming and going and I was feeling miserable, since it meant I would now be lucky to finish the race. And my wife was concerned I might die or something.

I lowered my expectations to a 3:25 finish or so and decided I would run the 1st half in about 1:40 and then try and lose not more than 5 min in the 2nd half since the legs would be complaining about the steep hill towards the end of the first half.

Race morning was smooth and mercifully not wet, unlike Boston. I lined up right behind the elites at the start (Big Sur has a delightfully understated start). After the usual introductions and the anthem, we were off. Shockingly my right calf became tight after the 2nd km itself! I just shortened my stride and was fine after that. But this also meant I would not run too many sub-7:30 miles. After a fast first 4 km, I began to settle. I couldn’t manage the first 4 km well since the course is downhill and my breathing with a cold, didn’t help me judge effort accurately.

The first big test in the Big Sur is actually mental. At about mile 9, you begin to see the 2 mile long slope from mile 10 to mile 12 and it climbs about 500ft. You can see the entire road from the bottom right of your horizon to the top left and you can see some runners all the way. Brave is the man whose spirit doesn’t weaken a bit from this magnificent sight. And this is if you haven’t died due to the incessant headwinds from about mile 5 to mile 12 or so. It is not without reason that the highest point of the race is called “Hurricane Point”.

I did ok on this long stretch deliberately dropping pace but it wasn’t enough. After a breezy mile 13, my legs began to show some signs of the run on Mon. I never ran much faster than 7:30 min/mile after the 18 mile mark, mostly since Big Sur is a very unforgiving course. Arun had insisted that I sample the strawberries at mile 23 and I did. They were heavenly.

The respite from the course is provided by the breathtaking sights on the course, mostly to one’s left , as one runs. The Pacific coast, is a bit rocky but spectacular. Most runners spend significant amounts of time, taking pictures and selfies at several points. I didn’t.

There were also several bands which were great. I did focus mostly on the running. I was also keen to not get hypothermic at the finish.

Once I crossed the 24 mile mark, at which there’s another hill of almost 100 ft, I knew I would finish reasonably fine. But I ran gently till I was in sight of the finish line. Then one of my fellow runners and I, raced the last 100 yards or so and I held his hand as we crossed the finish line together.  I really loved this part of the experience. I finished in 3:31:56 and was quite delighted about it, as I didn’t feel awful at any point, even during the few instances when I was barely running uphill.  It might also have to do with the fact that I had few expectations from Big Sur, in the first place.

I quickly went to the B2B tent where I got my special jacket for completing the B2B challenge and the 2 medals. Over a quick round of refreshments, I caught up with some fellow B2B runners and soaked in their experiences too.

The race and post-race experience was phenomenal. While my quads were a bit sore from the hills, I was overall much better than I was after Boston.

I even managed to attend the post-race party and meet some incredible athletes, as well as imbibe some nice wine, thanks to the awesome organizers.

When I look at the B2B results, I see that 60 of the 71 athletes who were faster than me on net times in the B2B challenge, were faster than me at Boston. So there’s obviously loads to improve at Bog Sur itself. I am still surprised at my Big Sur finish. While my 3:17:11 barely put me in the top 20% at Boston, my Big Sur time put me in the top 5% at Big Sur. That may have more than a little to do with the fact that Boston has a higher depth, but still.

I am optimistic that I will come back and run Big Sur as a standalone race and train much harder. I know I can do better with fresher legs. Strangely all the hill training I did for Boston helped at Big Sur.

I was also looking at this experience to assess how I will react to ultras. It is humbling at this point to note that the answer is “not too well”.

There are a lot of thoughts in my head at this point, but for now, rest and recovery are top of that pile.

There are also some personal matters that need my attention. They’re part of the reason this post was delayed.

Till the next experience, here’s data from my B2B experience

Thanks to everyone who supported me on this quest.

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