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
  • 13th November - 50 Km at Bangalore Ultra
  • 26th November - Kaveri Trail Marathon HM

Blog Archive

Saturday, October 15, 2016


As hundreds of runner friends countdown the last few hours to the Sriram Properties Bengaluru Marathon on 16th October I am brooding over the second DNS(Did Not Start) of my running career to add to the two DNFs (Did Not Finish).  DNS is when one registers and trains for a race and is unable to or decides against participating due to travel or injury etc. DNF is when one starts the race and is unable to complete the targeted/registered distance due to circumstances during the run. 

For the record my other DNS was when I fell sick and missed the Hyderabad marathon in 2009. The two DNFs are my first FM attempt at Pune in December 2002 and the 9th Bangalore Ultra in November 2015.

Participation in SPBM 2016 was ruled out when the right calf hurt during a slow 5K run a little over a week ago. While it is depressing as my training was going very well and I was looking forward to a sub 3:45 at my first FM at this event skipping it will enable to have some decent runs during the rest of this season. With no running since the end of September and probably for another week I downgraded from 75K to 50K at the Bangalore Ultra in November and decided not to run the Goa River marathon. A cascading effect is probably Comrades will need to put off for a couple of years.

While many injured/non-particpating runners like to go the expo and interact with runners and/or volunteer during the event I prefer to just stay away from it. I just don't feel like explaining my injury to other runners -  miss participation just by going through the pre and post run FB updates of friends. Besides I want to keep my record of volunteering only for non-commercial runs.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Tempo training

The tempo run is the the second of the 3 weekly runs prescribed by the FIRST 'Run Less, Run Faster' training program - the other two being interval training and the long run .A tempo run is also known as a lactate-threshold, LT, or  Anaerobic threshold, AT or just threshold run. The tempo run pace is 'comfortably hard' - slower than the pace of interval runs and faster than a long run pace. One rule of thumb is about 15 to 45s slower than 5K race pace depending on the distance of the tempo run. The RLRF program specifies the pace for each of the 15 tempo tempo runs depending on the target marathon pace. 

LT is the point at which lactic acid (a by-product of glucose metabolization) begins to accumulate in muscles. An accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles leads to the fatigue and soreness that runners experience when running hard.  Increasing the LT by doing tempo run can reduce the accumulation of lactic acid which results in an ability to run faster without suffering muscle fatigue. Tempo runs are also helpful for developing the mental toughness and stamina needed for racing.

The lactate-threshold or anaerobic threshold run is for about 40-60 minutes duration at an intensity at which lactic acid accumulates in the blood stream faster than it can be cleared away - this is usually at 80-95% of maximum heart rate. Increasing the anaerobic threshold allows the body to run at faster and faster speeds before fatigue and lactic acid take over.Maintaining a specific and consistent pace is the most important aspect of a tempo run. The RLRF program specifies tempo runs of 3 paces  - short-tempo pace for  5K distance, mid-tempo pace for  up to about 8K  and log-tempo pace for distances up to about 10K. 

The tempo interval is a variation which are tempo runs interspersed at regular (say, 2Km or 10-minute) intervals by 30- to 60-second rest periods. This pattern diminishes the psychological difficulty of the workout while preserving the aerobic benefits, allows greater volume  and may help guard against excessive speed. 

Personally, of the 3 workouts prescribed by the RLRF I used to enjoy the tempo run the most - medium distance at medium intensity (intervals being short distances at very high intensity/effort and long run being long distances at relatively lower intensity) . However, in the current training cycle for the Bangalore marathon I have struggled a bit with the tempo runs specially the mid-tempo pace run - missing the target pace by a few seconds for some of the Kms. 

It strikes again...

The 10 x 400 m interval training and 13Km long tempo pace run in week 12 of the 16 weeks 'Run Less, Run Faster' training for the Bangalore marathon (16th October) went very well increasing my confidence of going sub 3:45 and even perhaps close to 3:40. And then it happened.  Ignoring the slight discomfort in the right calf towards the end of the tempo run I was hoping for a 5:20/Km,32Km to round off the week and start tapering for the race. Was terribly disappointed at having to abandon the run after about (Garmin having died around Km 3.5)  23Km (in 2:08) run due to increasing pain in the right calf.  In hindsight it was good that I 'listened to the body' and resisted the temptation to push on to 32Km. 

After complete rest of 4 days and frequent icing I barely managed a  painful 28 min/3.5Km run/walk clearly indicating that the damage was worse than what I had originally thought. And a visit to Dr. Yash Pandey confirmed that - he advised complete rest from running, cycling and lower body strengthening for another week. The Tier 1(low grade) calf muscle tear is likely to have been caused by overuse/fatigue and/or muscle imbalance. An injury like this builds up over a period of time and and can manifest itself a later time and in a muscle that may not be the weakest one. At the end of a week's rest a decision is to be made whether to attempt a 21-25Km run this weekend and this will help decide between DNS on 16th or an easy long training run or attempt a sub 3:45 ( this is unlikely as it could increase the recurrence of the injury and jeopardise the rest of the season).

While injuries are an integral part of a runners life , each occurrence often causes depression and frustration even for experienced runners who are well aware that it is a passing phase. The mental angst is compounded if it is at the beginning of a season when the training for the first event  has been going well after several seasons hampered by injury!

To minimise the chances of injury one must avoid getting carried away and running  too fast or logging much higher mileage than what the training plan recommends. I have  been guilty of both in this cycle. Strengthening the weaker muscles is extremely important specially so for older runners. When one does get struck with an injury it is important to not run through it , consider consulting a sports doctor sooner than later,  take adequate rest  while maintaining a certain fitness and weight level by cross-training and get back to running distance and pace gradually - all this will, of course, depend considerably on the nature and severity of the injury!!

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) !!