More about me as a runner

2016 Target Events

  • 17th Jan - Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon - 3:47:15
  • 31st Jan - HM (2:00 pacer) The Wipro Chennai Marathon - 1:58:43
  • 6th March - 10K at Contours Women's Day run
  • 8th May - FM at Green Europe Marathon, Trieste, Italy - 3:49:25
  • 12th Sept - Kaveri Trail Marathon HM
  • 16th October - FM at Bangalore Marathon
  • 13th November - 75 Km at Bangalore Ultra - Tentative

Blog Archive

Sunday, July 31, 2016

On Interval training

It is 5 weeks since embarking on a 16 weeks structured training for the Sriram Properties Bangalore Marathon on 16th October 2016. The only formal training program that I have used the Run Less, Run Faster program from FIRST.  The program is quite intense and controversial in terms of effectiveness - however it has worked for me and helped me progressively improve my FM timings and qualify for Boston in the 2012-13 running season. The program consists of 3 specific runs and 2 days of cross training every week and is also referred to as the 3 Plus 2 program. The 3 specific runs are Intervals, Tempo and the long run. I plan to do a post on each of these 3 runs in that order.

The first training run of the 16 weeks program was a 3 x 1600 m interval run with 400 m rest between intervals which I did at Kanteerva stadium. The last time I had done intervals was in March 2014 - It had  been such a long time that I  forgot the usage of the auto lap feature of  my Garmin 310XT  for tracking the time of the interval. Apart from the fact that it felt great to run on the tracks of the stadium after such a long gap , I was pleasantly surprised to find, when I uploaded my Garmin reading, that I ended up running  6:35,6:43,6:48 versus a target of 7:07(probably due to slow walking between intervals resulting in a fairly high rest interval)!!  Of course, the program recommends not to go all out in the early intervals and to try and maintain a uniform time across all the intervals.

Of the three runs prescribed by the FIRST program the interval training is my least preferred. About 5 years ago when I first started doing them I used to hate and dread them. After a couple of years of consistent training I got over that and felt comfortable but never fell in love with it. And now at the beginning of another such cycle I am thinking is it really important to do intervals? Will the additional effort (and self flagellation) result in much better timing? These thoughts led me to re-read about the benefits of interval training and document them.

Interval training is also variously referred to as speed training and track repeats. This consists of running relatively short distances of between 400 m and 1600 m at a pace typically faster than 5 Km pace on a repeated basis interspersed with brief recovery periods of walking or slow jogging. This helps improve VO2 Max, running economy and speed. As an example run at an intense pace for 1 Km followed by a recovery walk/slow jog for say 2 minutes and then run a hard 1 Km again.  This could be repeated 5 or 6 times. The recovery phase is a really important part of interval training.  The stop-and-start pattern trains the body to recover quickly between bursts of faster running, which, over time, will gradually increase the ability to run faster for longer. This provides a mix of both anaerobic and aerobic training. During the high-intensity phase, the body burns mainly carbs for energy, but during the recovery, it burns mainly fat to produce the energy needed to help it recover from the intense effort.  It is important to establish a good running base before attempting interval training as it would otherwise increase the chances of injury. It is also essential to warm up before and cool down after intervals training for about 10 minutes .

Runners use these terms repetitions and intervals interchangeably, but there is a difference between the two. In both cases you run over a specified distance and the runs are broken up by a recovery jog or walk. The distinction between intervals and repetitions relates to the jog or walkbetween each run and to some extent the length of the run.In an Interval session the time spent jogging / standing rest is kept constant ranging from 2 to 3 minutes — usually too short to allow complete recovery. Therefore a session could be expressed as: 5 x 1000m with 2 minutes recovery (walk or jog)

With a session like this you would have your recovery near the start of the next run so that runners can do their own recovery in preparation for the next run. As the fitness level improves  one would look to reduce the recovery down and maintain the pace until you got the recovery down to 60secs as a minimum.

 The goal for interval training is to “accumulate” time spent running at a very high level and increase the body’s ability to adapt and eventually run at a sustained, higher anaerobic pace for longer periods.

For interval workouts, a general guideline for the amount of recovery time between runs should be equal to or less than the time spent running. For example, if we’re running  800m intervals in  4 minutes, then the recovery time would be 3 minutes. The lower the recovery time the greater the benefit if the interval training if the time goal is met in all the interval repeats.

In the case of track repeats the recovery time is higher so that there is sufficient time for recovery and the interval distance time goal can be hit for each repeat.

This article and its follow up articles give details of the physiology and science behind interval training.

Fartlek which means 'speed play' in Swedish is an unstructured form of interval training. Unlike  interval work, fartlek is unstructured and alternates moderate-to-hard efforts with easy throughout. After a warmup, you play with speed by running at faster efforts for short periods of time (to that tree, to the sign or for a few minutes) followed by easy-effort running to recover.  The goal is to keep it free-flowing so you’re untethered to the watch or a plan, and to run at harder efforts but not a specific pace.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Green Europe Marathon 2016

As mentioned in my short previous post  my first marathon in continental Europe on 8th May in the middle of a 2 weeks holiday was a fabulous experience. This post is a detailed report of the race and my experience.

We(myself, wife, brother and his wife) landed in Rome on 2nd May - a slightly cold and windy Monday morning. We spent the next five days doing all the usual sightseeing in Rome, followed by Florence and Venice.  Apart from some light stretching I managed a decent 8Km in Rome on 3rd May and a fastish 7Km in Florence on 5th May. On the afternoon of Saturday,7th May, my wife and I arrived in Trieste after a 2 hour train ride from Venice. After checking into Hotel Roma close to the central station we walked down to the Hotel Savoy Excelsior  near the harbour and collected the bib by 4:30. 

 After a couple of hours of sightseeing around the Miramare castle on the Adriatic sea coast and early pasta dinner in a restaurant by the Grand Canal and we were back in the room a little after 9PM. Went to bed by 10:15 PM and had a reasonably sound sleep(waking up a couple of times to go to the loo) till about 5:20am. After my usual intake of bananas, almonds and salted pecans left the hotel at a little after 630 to take the shuttle bus to the start point from Piazza Della Libertà a few minutes walk away.

Met Manas, an Indian runner living in Udine, and his friend from Thailand while getting into the shuttle .Reached the holding area at the Grand casino, Lipica in Slovenia by 7:15am. The temperature was about 13 C. Though sunny it was quite cold in the shade. Used the washroom (to do 'pipi') of the casino, checked in my bag(with trackpant and windsheeter) by 8am, warmed up for about 20 minutes and moved to the starting coral in the 3:30 to 4:00 section just behind the 3:45 pacers.

The race was flagged off about 5 minutes late. It was ideal running weather(14 c and sunny)  and fantastic route  - wide asphalted road with greenery  of forest or fields on either sides and  zero traffic or pollution. In fact, I did not see a single vehicle or person for the first 10Kms or so except for race volunteers. After

Starting in Lipica at 395m above sea level the route takes one through Lokev(km5-444m) for about 9.5Kms in Slovenia.  I started strongly and crossed over from Slovenia to Italy to hit the 10Km mark in just about 51 minutes  helped by the rolling hills and excellent weather.  In the Italian segment we went through several small towns/villages going up and down - Basovizza(Km 12-375m) , Banne, Padrciiano, Tebiciano, Prosecco. 

The locals ran in the shade on the side of the road while I ran in the sun in the middle of the road. The stretch from 17K to 25K that included portions on a highway had some steeper gradients and my pace started to drop from an average of 5:10  that I managed to maintain till the halfway mark (1:48:27). Nevertheless I felt reasonably strong at Km 25  and had visions of a PB below 3:40 and definitely a sub 3:45  if the pace did not drop too much. However, things changed dramatically from Km 30 - the 13% fall within 300m leading to the Adriatic sea was a killer. I had not anticipated such a steep downhill and was not prepared either mentally or physically. Consequently, I had to slow down considerably to control myself.  At the end of the downhill my left calf and sole got completely screwed up and also started feeling stitches in my right hip. I lost momentum and the legs refused to move. The pace dropped significantly to between 5:30 and 6/Km from Km 30.

I had overtaken the 3:45 pacers at Km 2 and now at 33rd Km they went ahead of me, I tried my best to keep pace with them but both physically and mentally I seemed to have lost it(like SCMM 2015) and just could not pickup pace.  The magnificent vistas of the blue sea water on one side from Km 30 with mild winds did not help perk me and I averaged a miserable 5:59 for the last 12Kms to finish barely under 3:50.  There were times in this leg when my pace dropped below 6/Km which has rarely happened in any recent FM. I was  disappointed that I could not at least better the 3:47 from SCMM 2016 as I had trained better and felt in greater shape. 

Focused hill training would definitely have helped- something I need to add to my training. I did not study the elevation map of the route well though I had got in advance from the rogansiers and this complacency was probably the main reason for the below par performance. The sunny weather with temperature between 14 and 19c was ideal, the course was scenic and the organisation support was faultless with water stations every 5Km apart.  Some other factors that may have contributed was the slight sore throat/running nose, too much sightseeing time on the feet in the preceding week and high intake of sugar and carbohydrates(pizza,pasta, bread, croissants, pastries etc).  The whole experience was still very enjoyable - unarguably the most scenic road race that I have run so far. The finishers medal was not great and the refreshment of just a pear and carbonated water was disappointing.

Collected my bag from the baggage counter which was a little far off from the finish area and reached the hotel around 1:20PM. After  a quick shower , checkout at 2PM and refueling up  with a rich Italian gelato headed to the station for the next leg of the vacation - slightly disappointed, quite tired but nevertheless happy and satisfied. Being able to do a sub 3:50 on a reasonably challenging course with no structured training and no intervals training since March 2014 gave me the confidence that I should be able to do sub 3:45 later this year or at least in SCMM 2017!!


Saturday, June 4, 2016

A quick note after a long haitus..

Over four months have sped by since my last blog post. I have thought of writing several times -   just have not been able to make the time to do it. In fact an overhaul of the blog is overdue -  It appeared in my annual list of goals in 2013. 

When, in December 2015, we started planning a vacation in Europe from 1st to 14th May 2016 I decided to try and run my first marathon in continental Europe the weekend of 7th/8th May. I knew for sure that I would be going to Italy and returning from Paris(we were travelling with my brother and his wife). And a third yet to be finalised country in between. Using the European marathon calendar here  I found Prague Marathon as well as a few marathons in Italy that weekend. Prague is supposed to be a very beautiful run. However, being one of 14 IAAF Gold label  runs it  was already sold out(has a limit of 10,000 runners). After researching the various options in Italy I zoomed in on Green Europe Marathon in Trieste, a city on the Adriatic sea coast in Northern Italy close to the Slovenia border. It seemed a very pretty course and was not too much out of the way from Venice en route to Salzburg in Austria.

I resumed my marathon training (that is long runs of 30K+) in Feb end. The training went quite ok - though March and April were very busy both from work and personal perspective. A nip in the left leg from a street dog while walking to work causing me to take Tetanus  and anti-rabies vaccinations was a bit of a setback. 

The two runs in Rome and Florence the week before the run went well despite lot of sightseeing time on the feet and the slight cold and running nose. Race day experience on 8th May was fabulous despite disappointing finish timing. After a great 1st half (sub 1:49) I started to struggle a bit around and then the pace literally went downhill from Km 30. I finished in 3:49:25 - 5 minutes slower than target. Nevertheless, thoroughly enjoyed the route - hope to post a detailed report by the next weekend. 

With the running season in progress my goal is to post regularly now on  - with at least one general post a month not related to a specific event ; and the v2.0 of the blog by Jan 2017!!Only time will tell whether I will be able to achieve this or not.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Wipro Chennai Marathon(TWCM) 2015 - 31 Jan 2016

The Wipro Chennai Marathon got postponed from 13th December 2015 to 31st January 2016 due to the devastation of the floods. I had signed up to be a 2:15 HM pacer to use this as a training run for SCMM 2016  and enjoy the experience of an event  reputed to be well organised by friends from Chennai runners group. I was a little unsure about participation when the event got postponed to 2 weeks after SCMM 2016. However, decided not to miss this opportunity to run in an event in Chennai after a long gap of 13 years - having done my first Full marathon there in January 2003.

And did not regret the decision a bit - thoroughly enjoyed the experience of a very well organised event despite it being a very hectic weekend. Felt quite nostalgic during the run as parts of the route (OMR Road, Marina beach)overlapped with that of my first full marathon in Chennai.  

On Saturday 30th Jan morning I was at the CPT ground in Tarmani around 11:15am for the pacers meet and bib collection. After meeting fellow pacers as well as other runners and a quick briefing from the organising team members(Praveen and Praveen) and some group photos I left around 1PM or so.
The HM pacers from BHUKMP

Pacers with P&P
My brother Mahesh, with whom I was staying in Ayanavaram  had to be at the start area by 3 am on Sunday to manage the baggage counter. Though I managed to catch some sleep between  930 PM and 130am as we left home around 220am I felt it was  a little  too much sacrifice of sleep for a HM. Like any race the buzz and energy at the start point made one forgot such small inconveniences. At a little past 3 am there were already hundreds of runners - both full and half marathoners and the pacer balloons were being inflated. The FM runners were flagged off at 4am by Ram Viswanathan,a co-founder of Chennai Runners, after a warm up session. Soon after that, the HM pacers pinned their pacing balloons. While in the starting area and as the countdown began  the pacing wrist bands I had with me were in demand and got exhausted. Fellow 2:15 pacers Shahul , Sid and myself decided  that Shahul will lead with myself in the middle and Sid in the rear of the pack of runners targeting 2:15. 

The strategy was to run at a slightly faster than the 5:38/Km pace to get to the half way mark in about 56 minutes and the 17K point in about 1:35 and then encourage the runners to push as hard as they could  to the finish depending on their energy levels.  I started the race with Rajesh Vetcha of Hyderabad Runners and a few others who were targeting a 2:15 finish. While Shahul mostly stayed ahead , Sid and I alternated positions as we went along. I had forgotten to carry my Garmin to Chennai and borrowed my brother's device for the race. While I checked that the device displayed the current pace and average pace in its data fields I forgot to check whether it was set for  a  lighted lap count display and  was also unaware off the fast pace alert.The alert kept going off every few seconds as soon as I started running and to my dismay the lap count display did not come on. This meant I  could not see either my current pace or average pace on the device for most of the race as it was dark till we were past the 17K mark. Nevertheless, I managed to stay around the target pace and got to the half way mark in just under 57 minutes. The weather was quite pleasant, the aid stations well spaced, the traffic control was good and the route was mostly flat except for the Adayar flyover. Till the turn around point of 13K I had several runners with me including one from Isha Vidhya running in a dhoti and kurta. Between about 14K and 18K I lost quite a few of the runners despite my egging them on. With daylight breaking through there were only a handful of runners with me including a couple of French runners as we climbed the Adayar flyover on the return.  At this point Shahul stayed behind to try and sweep a few more runners.  I , along with a small bunch of runners crossed the finish line in the chip time of 1:58:43 just under the goal of 1:59. Sid and I finished pretty much together and Shahul followed 20 seconds later. Keeping them both in sight enabled me to stick to my goal pace without the Garmin's help.  It was gratifying to have several runners come over and thank us for helping them meet or nearly meet their goal. I thoroughly enjoyed a very well organised race. Two things could have been slightly better a) Could not sight many Km markers along the way - they could have been more prominently placed  b) In the Marina beach stretch leading up to the turn around point the water stations should have been on both sides to avoid chances of runners in the two directions bumping into each other.

minutes after the finish

After catching up with many runners in the CPT grounds  including old time Chennai runner Hari, thoroughly enjoying the hot breakfast from Adayar Ananda Bhavan and hanging out with my brother and an ex-colleague for sometime I made my way to the main road to take a cab back home around 945am. At that time I noticed that the traffic in full flow, the hot weather and the service roads clogged with hundreds of 10K runners  made it very challenging for the slower(5:30 to 6hr) FM runners to navigate the home stretch to the finish line.

Reached home at 11am - it took a while to get a cab  and move out of the area due to traffic congestion. After a sumptuous lunch I took the train back to Bangalore tired but very happy and satisfied with a wonderful run experience -  my 3rd HM event  in the 2015-16 season (after KTM and SPBM) !!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

SCMM 2016

The much anticipated race on 17th January 2016 went well - I comfortably achieved my goal of a sub 3:50 finishing in 3:47:15 - 6th in my age category. Really thrilled with the (negative) splits of 1:53:59 and 1:53:16 - first time ever in a FM!. Though a bit fatigued at the end I was able to maintain my pace in the last 10Kms - my slowest Km was 5:27 (apart from 5:33 in the 1st Km) which included the Peddar road flyover stretch on the return. In fact, I was in such a state that I did not even realise when I crossed the flyover. I got quite energised after turning from Marine drive towards Churchgate and ran the last 2 Kms at 5:15.

Few minutes after crossing the finish line

After hanging around the finish line with other runners went into the Azad maidan (and unlike last year one did not have to climb up crowded steps to get in) to collect the checked-in baggage, medal and refreshments which was'nt great. 

The anxiety level really shot up the afternoon/evening of the day before the race  - ate quite a bit of myriad food - almonds,pecans, biscuits, salted peanuts etc. Had a hearty dinner of 4 phulkas and curd race and went to sleep by 10PM. And as always  woke up at 3am a few minutes before the alarm went off.  Like last year Amit Joshi's father dropped us at Chembur station just before 4am and we took the 4:17 train to CST. We were joined by Bharath another Bangalore runner.

with Amit and Bharath enroute to CST from Chembur
After 2 levels of security checks we were in Azad maidan by about 5:10 or so. After checking in my bag, warming up a bit and going to the loo reached  Zone A of the starting line about 10 minutes before start of the race.  Met Ashok and a few other runners at the start point. A few minutes after the start Satish and I were together. Did the first Km quite slowly in 5:33. We ran together till the sea link which started around the 15th Km this year due to some tweaking in the route. We hit the 10K mark in about 54 minutes and ran most of the sealink stretch together (the sealink was from Km 15 to 19 this year due to some tweaking of the route) at a steady pace. However, I lost S towards the end of the sealink and ran the rest of the race pretty much alone. I ate my first date cake around Km 11 and the second one around Km 25. The litter bins after every aid station was a good improvement - also saw lot of volunteers collecting litter along the route. As always the spirited support and cheering of the crowds was amazing - one of the unique attributes of SCMM which motivates runners to come back year after year. And Mumbai police did a fabulous job in managing the traffic. The organisers ensured that the HM or dream run runners did not hamper the FM runners in their home stretch. I crossed the finish line with my Garmin reading 42.85Km - so in a sense I did a sub 3:45 FM. 

Runners had varying views of the weather this year. Personally I thought it was not as cold as last year at the start and not too warm or humid when I finished - the weather was pretty much flat. In hindsight, I could have a pushed a little harder in the last 5Kms. Anyway no regrets. Considering where I was at the start of this season - having not run any FM since Jan 2015, no interval or tempo training since March 2014  and with only a couple of serious 32Km+ runs in November/December I am very satisfied with the time and look forward to a much better, injury free season ahead!!. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Turn around at SCMM 2016 ??

With just about 12 hours to go for my 11th FM at Mumbai , as usual, the anxiety level is going up. As per my family members I was extremely tense all day before taking the flight to  Mumbai on Friday evening. This is an event that I have always aspired to do well. And have been fortunate enough to have my timing improve Y-O-Y from 4:42:38 in my first FM at Mumbai in 2006 to my PB of 3:37:20 in the 2013 edition. After that race I have run 4 FMs and all of them have been slower than 3:45 with the last two being slower than 3:50.  The anxiety is compounded by the fact that for the first time in 10 years I have not run a FM for 12 months , that is, SCMM 2016 will be my first FM since SCMM 2015. 

Nevertheless, I feel fitter and more confident compared to last year. With a couple of decent 35KM+ runs and a fastish HM(sub 1:51) in a hilly terrain 2 weeks ago I feel that a sub 3:50 should definitely be possible unless something goes terribly wrong tomorrow. And if everything goes 'perfectly' well then even a sub 3:45 may be possible. Anything slower than 3:52 would be very disappointing. To have a high chance of achieving 3:50 I am going to try an keep an average pace of between 5:22/Km and  5:25/Km to get to 21.1Km mark between 1:53 and 1:54. And the 35Km mark in about 3:08 and then push as hard as the body and mind will allow for the last 7Km!! 

The Bib collection process today was a bit of a bummer. After standing in a Q for over 15 minutes my bib could not be found and I was directed to a back office guy who in turn directed me to the separate Q for 'enduranz club' members. My bib states 8Y and running for having done at least 8 FMs in a row. I was quite unhappy as it should have said 10Y instead of 8- apparently Procam does not have data going that far back which is a pathetic excuse.

Here's wishing favourable  conditions for all running friends to have a fantastic run tomorrow.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Another below par year comes to an end..

With less than a week of 2015 left and the last long run for the year done here is a look back at what has been a second consecutive 'below par'  year running wise. At this time last year, due to continued injury woes,  I was unsure as to what events I would run in 2015. And it turned out to be a low in terms of number of races in a calendar year - for the first time in  last 10 years(since 2005)  I completed just one FM in  a year. That is, I have not any marathon in 2015 after  my slowish SCMM in January !!

Here's a summary of the year:

  • Struggled to squeak  through with a sub 4 at SCMM in January 2015
  • Skipped the TCS 10K in May due to injury  - thereby ending my  7 year streak - having run it from 2008 to 2014
  • Ran KTM after a long time and managed a decent HM time
  • Enjoyed 2nd consecutive year of pacing experience ( 2:15 HM ) at SPBM 2015
  • DNF at Bangalore Ultra - again ending a 8 year streak - having completed a 50KM+ in every edition since the 1st one 2007
Having ended the year with a total of just 43 marathons/ultras it is going to be impossible to meet my goal of completing 60 marathons/ultras by 2018, that is, another 17 in less than 3 years. Which means I am reassessing my long term goals. Comrades is postponed from 2015 to 2017 and now considering a 100K(60 miler+) in 2018. Would ideally like to get a BQ again in 2017 and run Boston and Big Sur in 2018. Of course, all these are too far away. I need to , for now, take ione year and even one event at a time. I have not given much thought to the goals for 2016. Having ended a couple of my streaks my thought is to explore a couple of new marathon races and try and get my timing back to close to 3:40 by SCMM 2017. So the 3 FM races I am looking at are:
Two HM events that I may consider running are The Wipro Chennai marathon on 31st January(postponed from 13th December 2015 due to the floods) and Auroville marathon on 14th February

The year started with continued strain in the left glutes and hamstring and numbness in the sole specially when running  beyond 20Km at faster pace. While the pain in the glutes went away after a period of strengthening the hamstring and sole continued to bother me for longer period. Other injuries this year:

- Pain in the right abdomen/hip when running
- Pain in the inside left knee just below the knuckle
- Injury to left wrist after falling from a cycle
- Lower back pull just before the ultra
- Right ribs/chest pain due to the fall in the ultra
- bruises in the left palm, elbow and left knee and hamstring from a fall in Koramangla at the start of a 29 KM training run

Fortunately the body seems to have  recovered now enabling me to manage a 3:18/ 37Km on 25th December running the last 3 Kms at 5:07,5:10,5:06 pace and the injury woes of 2014 and 2015 are behind me at least for a while. If I can keep my weight to below 54 Kgs(in spite of the inevitable eating and drinking during the vacation of next 10 days) and stay injury free I am fairly confident of  a good start to year 2016 at SCMM in 3 weeks. . And post that I hope to resume interval training after a break of 2 years to get to target a 3:40 finish by January 2017!!