More about me as a runner

2017 Target Events

  • 15th Jan - Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon - 3:49:54
  • 12th Feb - Auroville Marathon HM - 1:46:28
  • 29th April - Western Pacific Marathon
  • 15th October - Bangalore marathon - tentative

Blog Archive

Sunday, February 26, 2017

A fastish HM at Auroville 2017

The hectic weekend of  nearly 800 Kms  on the road and irritating delays at the toll booths on the way back was offset by the usual awesome experience of the trail and organisation of the 10th Auroville marathon on 12th February. The icing on the cake of 1:46:28  HM  (my 3rd fastest ) and time spent with siblings made for a good weekend break!   After running the FM in 20092010 and 2011 and the HM in 2012 and 2013 I skipped Auroville in 2014, 2015 and 2016. In these years I ran fewer races due to injury. Auroville marathon is unlike other larger commercial races  - the entry fee is relatively low, there is no timing chip or even manual timing or finishers certificate and the finisher's medal is handcrafted.  That is , it is a special race where one runs for 'The joy of running' . The experience is highly recommended to those who have not yet run it. Personally I hope to continue to run it at least every 3-4 years.

We left on Saturday morning around 7:25am from Domlur and reached our breakfast stop of A2B between Hosur and Krishnagiri at 8:45am.  After a stop of lunch at Vasantha Bhavan in Tindivanam we reached Auroville at about 2:45. The road was mostly good though it was undivided state highway from Arcot to Tindivanam. 

post bib collection

After collecting the bibs and tea/coffee at the visitor center we checked into Hotel Shenbaga at 530.
Strolled down the promenade along the sea , had dinner at A2B and got back to the hotel by 9PM.
Next morning left the hotel at 5:25 am and reached the visitor center at 5:50am.

before start of the race

After using the restrooms inched my way towards the front of the starting line by about 6:10. There seemed to be over thousand HM runners and there were no corals. So it was a crowded , slow start for the first 500m. Till the morning of the race I had decided on my strategy or target pace. As nether of my brothers were targeting a specific goal that I could have paced them for the options were to do a moderate pace run between 1:55(the time at KTM 2016) and 2:00 or push hard to go below 1:50 and as close to 1:45 as possible. As I felt quite good after a couple of Kms I decided to go for the latter.  The 1st Km was the slowest at 5:17. Only a couple of other Kms were slower than 5:10 pace. With Gopal of the Samarpan gang for company from about Km 6 ran a steady pace race with a fast 4:49 21st Km. Very satisfied with the time. Was apprehensive of the couple of extra Kgs of weight(57 versus ideal of 55) and the left calf and sole.   Neither was an issue in the race.   The temp between 20 and 22c, lower than expected humidity and partly cloudy skies  also helped.

Chatted with lots of runners at the finish area while waiting for Chandru, Mahesh and Lakshmi.

After the pongal vadai breakfast and a few more photos we returned to the hotel at 1030.

Checked out at 1230 and started driving back around 1245. After a lunch break at Aryas(on the highway between Pondicherry and Tindivanan) and tea break at A2B in Vellore we reached Domlur at 845PM - tired but satisfied with the enjoyable run weekend!!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

SCMM 2017 - a tale of two races

My 12th marathon in Mumbai on 15th January 2017 was a race of two contrasting parts. Till the 30Km mark I  ran a strong and steady race at an average pace of 5:19/Km - hitting the half way mark about 30 seconds later than my target of 1:51:30.  Though sub 3:45 looked tough finishing around the time of SCMM 2016 (3:47:15) seemed feasible. However, things went downhill soon after specially in the last 5 Kms. After the 30th Km I clocked over 5:25 in every Km after with the slowest of 6:05 on the Peddar road flyover  (Km 36). As the average race pace dropped with each Km, the left calf and sole felt heavier and  both the physical and mental resolve took a tumble. Pace of 5:46, 5:57,5:50,5:50 in Kms 38 thru 41 meant that even sub 3:50 looked challenging. That thought gave me a  fillip to push harder for the remaining 1200m. The race clock crossed 3:50 as I turned the corner on Fort. Thankfully, I managed to sprint the last few hundred meters to cross the finish line in 3:49:54 - mixed with relief, fatigue, disappointment and a bit of nausea.  The detailed results are here.

In retrospect, not sure what to blame for this skewed performance. Certainly not the weather. At 20c it was warmer and a bit more humid than expected. However, it was partly cloudy till the finish time which meant even on marine drive there was no direct sun. Inadequate training and poor muscle strength  resulting in piriformis syndrome are of course the culprits.  In hindsight I should have probably targeted 3:47 and maybe run the 1st half a minute or so slower. The moderate pace runs post the marathon have shown that the left side is very weak. In 2017 need to focus on strength training and stay injury free in order to meet the sub 3:45 target in SCMM 2018.  And not to make the mistake of over training ever again. 

On Saturday night  I went to bed at 9:45 after a light dinner of idlis and lemon sevai at Madras cafe . Woke up at 3am with the alarm. Like the last few years I got picked up outside Acharya Nagar by AJ's father around 3:55am. We were in Chembur station platform at  4:05. There was a minor anxiety as the timing of the train to CST was not clear,. However, around 4:15 the train showed up taking us to CST by 4:50. The buzz and energy levels at CST on a marathon morning is a unique feature of SCMM that I thoroughly relish and cherish. It's difficult for someone who has not experienced it to relate to. 

The entry into Azad maidan (there were  separate Qs for those with and without bags) and check-in at baggage counter(where we bumped into D)  was smooth.  I lost AJ and D when I went to take a leak. By about 5:30 I was among the runners crowding the holding area. Met Satish here but lost him on the way to Coral A. The start was chaotic - runners were let out of the holding area a bit late and scrambled towards their corals. Coral A (for sub 4 runners) seemed very crowded.  I could cross the start line only a minute after the race had begun. Vishy, Pankaj and Shilpy started around the same time and pulled ahead. I was quite appalled to see the 4:15 pacer ahead of me around the 3Km mark. While pacing is still at a nascent stage in India, the organisers and the pacer co-ordinators need to realise that not every runner is cut out to pace and must have a stringent screening criteria apart from just past race finish times. On the other hand the 3:45 pacer seemed to be doing a good job running at a fairly steady pace a couple of seconds faster than the required average pace. I mostly ran alone though alongside Ankitha and her pacer till about 10Km mark when she pulled out.  Around the 8Km mark on the Peddar road stretch I overtook Pankaj.  And went past Vishy in the Peddar road stretch on the return. (Shilpy ran a very strong race like several other friends  - Sid, Pani, Bobby, Neera, Nirupaman.. and earned a place on the podium ). Though Satish and I finished a few seconds of each other we never saw each other on the route or in the finish area.   Overall for me the 1st half was very enjoyable and the last 10Km was a real struggle. 

Thankfully, this time the finishers did not have to climb steps to get into Azad maidan. After collecting my bag , the medal and refreshments and greeting a few runner friends I headed back towards VT station as I was mentally too jaded to hang around in  Azad maidan. Due to the Sunday 'mega block' got a train only up to Kurla and then took a Uber to Govandi to get home by 1230. 

The Indigo flight to Bangalore that evening was full of runners analyzing their runs and the ifs and buts. At that I felt that maybe I needed to take some time off and even skip Auroville. Now that the race is a week away my plan A is to run an easy first half (57m) and then depending on how the left side feels finish between 1:54 and 2 hrs.  Plan B is to take it really easy and finish around 2:15. Will probably decide only on race morning. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

12 hours to the 12th one at Mumbai...

SCMM has been a fixture on my running calendar since the HM I ran in the 1st edition in February 2004. All subsequent editions have been held in January - usually on the 3rd Sunday of the month. Despite the familiarity of the routine and the course (in which I PB'ed in 2013) the mix of excitement and anxiety experienced in the days and hours leading to the start line has also remained a constant. The SCMM is by far the largest and best organised road full marathon in the country. It has also grown leaps and bounds in size and attracts serious recreational runners as well as professional runners from around the country. It looks like over 6,000 runners have registered for the FM tomorrow . Across all categories over 42,0000 runners are expected to hit the roads of Mumbai!

As usual I arrived in Mumbai on Friday evening. For the first time the expo and bib collection point for outstation runners was at Richardson and Cruddas in Byculla  - it has usually been at the WTC in Colaba except one year when it was  at BKC. The bib collection process is usually very smooth and quick at SCMM. This year it was an even quicker process despite the venue being quite crowded with runners when I got there at half past 12.  I went to the back office and collected my 'special bib' with zero wait time (Thanks to fellow Bangalore runner Sunil for guiding me on this). I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from Procam in the last week of December asking for 3 choices of bib nos between 201 and 999998 as a token of appreciation of having run the marathon for 11 years in a row. I got allotted my 1st choice , that is, 1111. (My other choices were 1001 and 345).  And  this bib no.  will be blocked for me for the next 3 years!!

My goal this year is to do try and do a sub 3:45 or at least as close to the 3:47:15 of 2016 as possible. Despite the injury woes in September and October I feel in good shape and would be disappointed if the time is slower than 3:50(of course the variables during the race are often unpredictable and beyond one's control).  Given the cool weather I expect to start at an average pace of 5:15 per Km for the first 10 Kms, slow down a bit and get to the half way point in about 1:51:30(at average of 5:17 per km) and then try and keep it between 5:20 and 5:25 per km for a sub 1:53:30 2nd half . 

In any case I am looking forward to another great experience of running on the fantastic Mumbai route - meeting fellow runners from around the country and cheered on by the fantastic crowd of Mumbaikars!!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Hoping for the tide to turn..

An excellent 1:51/21.1K run on 31st December to end the 3rd consecutive year of injury plagued, below par running is hopefully an harbinger of the turning of the tide in 2017. After a low of just one FM in 2015, two FMs and the Bangalore Ultra in 2016 was an improvement.

Following is a summary of the year's events:

SCMM 2016  -  17th January - 3:47:15  versus goal of 3:50
Green Europe Marathon  - 8th May - 3:49:25 (original goal was 3:50, later changed to 3:45)
Bangalore marathon -  16th October  - DNS (goal of sub 3:45)
Kaveri Trail Marathon (HM) - 1:55:07
Bangalore Ultra (50 Km) -  5:58:38 - downgraded from 75Km with a goal to complete around 6hrs

After restarting structured RLRF training including the intervals in July after a break of over two years, things were going very well till the minor tear in the right calf muscle in September a few weeks before the Bangalore marathon set me back to ground zero. Consequently had to skip the Bangalore marathon , downgrade Bangalore Ultra to 50K and abandon plans to run Comrades in 2017. After about 5 weeks of rest, physiotherapy and strengthening  I managed a few tempo and long runs post the Bangalore Ultra.  Managed to keep the weight in the 54 to 56Kg range through the year.

The 2017 goal is to to stay injury free and work towards hitting BQ-5 at  SCMM in January 2018. I intend to continue to focus on strength training.  The only two races confirmed so far for 2017 are:
 a)  SCMM on 15th January ( sub 3:45) and
 b) HM at Auroville on 12th February ( sub 1:44)  

The other potential races are a FM in the east coast of US in May if the vacation plan works out , 12 hour stadium run on 30th July  and 50 Km at Malnad Ultra on 7th October. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

KTM 2016

The 10th anniversary  Kaveri Trail Marathon  run was postponed from 17th September to 27th November due to the curfew in Bangalore and Mysore caused by the Cauvery water related unrest between KA and TN. Unlike the Bangalore Ultra, where I have started every year, my participation in KTM has been intermittent - four out of nine. Having registered for the event in July I decided to take it easy post the recent injury and the 50K at the Ultra just two weeks before. The goal was to enjoy the trail and complete in around 1:53- same time as last year

Drove to the venue with Captain and Amrita on 27th November . Got picked up at 2:45 and reached the venue by 5:40 after picking up Nari and Vasu enroute. After checking in my bag in the holding area went to the start point with D. Felt quite cold and decided to run with two layers. Just about 50 or so FM runners took off at 6am.  Given the choice of events now available to runners  and the change of date the participation level in both FM and HM was low.

Udupa Murthy and I runversed till about 14Kms at a steady pace of about 5:20/Km.  The stomach pain which was on and off till then became quite unbearable and I slowed down while UM went on ahead. My stomach seemed to have got massively upset. With steadily increasing pain with gritted teeth I dug deep to complete the last few Kms of the race finishing in a little over 1:55. And rushed straight to a potty in the finish line. Overall , while the trail was as good as ever , I did not enjoy the race this time. Parts of the trail seemed to have been flattened/widened - is the trail likely to be paved in a few years? 

After a relatively light breakfast left for Bangalore with Pradeep, D and A at about 11am reaching home by 2PM.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Bangalore Ultra 2016

My 7th 50Km finish at the Bangalore Ultra 2016 on 12th November 2016 in 5:58:38 placed me  5th in my age category and 13th overall.  At the first Ultra in 2007 the shortest distance was 52Km. In 2010 I ran the 75Km distance. And then last year I DNF'ed. While this was my slowest ever 50Km finish I was very happy  and satisfied that I completed  in under 6 hours . Few weeks before the race I struggled to run a 5K in 32m and reconciling to the possibility of a DNS. While making up my mind to run the ultra I was mentally prepared to take 7/7.5 hours to complete it. The first  half was perfectly on target in 2:41:46 at 6:28/Km pace. As it became quite warm and the right half and glutes started hurting the second half became tough. I ended up walking a lot after 32Km or so. At times walked more than ran a Km - so most of the last 15 Kms were at a pace of between 7 and 9 mins/Km . Managed to dig in and 'sprint' the 50th Km in 6:20.  As always I thoroughly enjoyed the experience - the wonderful trail, the well stocked aid stations(salted peanuts being my perennial favourite) and the sight of familiar and not-so familiar runners pushing  and/or enjoying themselves. The right glute was quite painful during the ride back; however, overall recovery was quite fast with a couple of short easy runs during the week.

Woke up at about 3a m after about 4 hours sleep. Left Ranka at 4:15am to reach Vishy's place in Koramangla around 4:30am. Picked up Rinaz from Sarjapur road and headed towards Hennur road off ORR. Due to misguidance from Google maps ended up turning into Hormavu road.Fortunately we realised the mistake early(thanks to a closed railway crossing) and corrected course. As a result we made it to the venue at about 5:45am . By the time we got ready and walked to the holding area there were barely 3 minutes left for the race start.  I handed over my bag to A2 for checking in at the baggage counter and rushed to the start line(ditching V and R).
few minutes before race start
At exactly 6am the 50K and 75K runners took off - about 150 or so. I started with Rishi, Amrita, Naresh and Sunil. The last 3 pushed ahead by the time I completed my first Km in 6:25. Rishi , who had a shin issue and was not planning to run the full distance, stayed with me. We ran a fairly steady pace runversing on various topics. A little after the 10Km mark Rishi turned back while I continued at a similar pace.

Selfie on the run
Rest of the run I ran mostly alone with Amrita and I crisscrossing each other frequently. There was a cold nip in the air when the race started and the weather stayed pleasant till abut 730am after which it started warming up. Towards the end I thought it was much hotter compared to last few years probably as it had not rained in the weeks leading up to the race. The route was very dry unlike the slush of the previous years. Have fallen on the route in the previous two years I was cautious and conscious this year.

Had lunch with podium winners Naresh and Amrita  before heading back in Naresh's car at about 130 or so reaching home at 330 PM via Ramamurthy Nagar and Koramangla.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Counting down to the 10th edition of the Bangalore Ultra

The country has come a long way in running and ultra running since 2007 when the 1st edition of the Bangalore Ultra  was held at Our Native Village in Hesarghatta.  The number of ultra running events and the participation has grown in leaps and bounds including 24 hour and 36 hour runners. Nearly 100 runners from India travelling to South Africa to run 89Km at Comrades marathon in May 2015 would have been unimaginable 10 years ago. The Bangalore Ultra ,arguably the oldest Ultra in the country, has played a very significant part in this growth of the ultra running community in the country. It has provided opportunity to numerous runners to push beyond the marathon and do their longest ever distance - 50K, 75K, 100K and beyond.   The 10th edition of this pioneering  and usually well organised event is now less than a week away on Saturday, 12th November.

I am among the (handful of?) runners who has been lucky enough to be at the starting line of  an ultra distance at every edition of this event.  The first 5 editions from 2007 to 2011 were held at the trail in Hesarghatta with the 1st one having 4 loops of 13K for a total of  52K. Since 2012 the event is being held at the bamboo forest off Hennur road.  Between 2008 and 2014  I completed the 50K every year except 2010 when I ran 75K - my longest distance to date in a timed event. 2015  was heartbreaking - after overcoming injuries and a last minute lower back strain I was thrilled to start the race hoping for a 9th consecutive finish. Unfortunately, I ended up with a DNF due to a fall during the race.

When due to  a right calf muscle tear not recovering quickly enough I had to reconcile to a DNS in the Bangalore marathon on 16th October I downgraded from 75K to 50K at the Ultra with the possibility of another DNS.  However, relatively less discomfort in my right calf during and after couple of slow runs/brisk walks wearing the compression socks (bought  along with a calf support sleeve from Decathalon based on advise from Doc Y and coach D) ) , gave me the encouragement to go ahead and  attempt the 50K at the ultra on 12th November.   A 3:05/25Km run on 29th October and a 4:15/37K on 5th November gives me confidence that  a 50K run/walk in around 6 hours is doable. The plan is to do the 1st loop in about 2:45 (average pace of 6:30 or so) and then take it from there depending on how the legs are holding up.

It is a bit of a risk as the right calf has not fully healed. The rationale to let the heart rule over the head and extend the streak to the 10th year is  that I am anyway unlikely to be able to race hard at SCMM 2017 and can take a few months off to recover after that.   As always I am looking forward to enjoying the trail and meeting other runners along the way!!