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 - 5:58:38
  • 26th November - Kaveri Trail Marathon HM

Blog Archive

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!!

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!!