Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Firefoxed


What looked like an eternal search for a road bike finally ended and I bought a used Firefox Pro 2200 on 20th Nov from this guy called Ramesh from BBC.
Chikka ride to Chikka Tirupati
Chikka Tirupati happens to be a favorite with a lot of biking friends who like in the Kormanagala part of town. Some 20kms from Iblur junction, it’s the perfect get-your-bums-on-the-saddle ride.
Satish, Anil and I rode from home, started as early as 5 in the morning. The new bike responded very well and biking was easy. Anil turned back from Forum and Satish and I were joined by Satsang and Dharam at Agara lake, where we were hoping to meet a bigger (slower) crowd, but that was not to be.
We rode down Sarjapur road, stopping briefly at Sarjapur. The roads were decent – good in parts, but not so bad overall. We reached Chikka tirupati by 9 or so. Dharam cleaned up a Udupi restaurant on the way back. Satish and I decided to take an alternate route which took us to Varthur lake and then rode all the way back on Ol Airport road and back. Towards the end I had begun to cramp and we struggled through the traffic. It was not a bright idea to take this up immediately after the Ultra. The trip-o-meter read 104kms by the time we were back home by 1:30. It was not one of the memorable ones.
Bike Hash 08
14th December 2008 and Mysore farms off Sarjapur road was the lovely location for the last major run of the year at the Bangalore Hash.
Corollary to Murphy’s law:
If something has to go wrong, it will pick the last run of the year, the one that you will hare and all hell will break loose!!
I should have guessed something fishy, when the beautiful farm (some 50acres of coffee and palms) off Sarjapur road is called Mysore farm. When we have 20cycles from Firefox (the sponsor) plus 30 doodhwala bikes (Hercules, Atlas, etc) from a ‘Modern’ dukan in Shivajinagar and some 125 jobless hashers sign up!
It couldn’t have been easier to hare this though. (if you are still wondering what haring is, read this report of last year's bike hash). Jugy, Private soreass, Rekha and I were the hares and we did all of the haring still smugly in Jugy’s suv…
In the middle of nowherenagar, some 100cars pop up and park on all our chalk markings that was supposed to lead the walkers to the water hole…
The Beer van did not turn up in time for the start, lost its way and had to directed just in time before the bikers reached there.
We managed to lose a few walkers as the sun came blazing down and it was quite an effort to shepherd the pack. Our own Desi Santa came in with goodies for the horrors and lunch was breads, peas and cheese was washed down with the amber liquid…
Abnash did the shutter job, as usual. Click here for pics…

Firefox feedback and pics will be posted soon…

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Bangalore Midnight Marathon 2008

The good news is The Bangalore Midnight Marathon 2008 seems to be happening (with just 2weeks to go, I dont think the organizers can screw up much).
You can register at http://www.toimidnightmarathon.in/ or call 08041126004
The last edition of the midnight marathon was in May last year. Report's here.

Update: Site will be up only by eveing on Monday (I spoke too soon, eh)
Update(02Dec): Site is up. Cheerz!
FInd the Route Map below:


Update 05/12/08


Friday, November 28, 2008

Bangalore Ultra 08 – Is the running getting dirty?

*Legs, after the run Photos courtesy - Anita & Manjula
The Bangalore Ultra 08 happened on the 16th Nov. And for a second time, I ran a distance of 75kms finishing strong in 11:04:20. I was exhilarated at the finish – the finish was so much like the kinds that I had been dreaming about for the last few days.
I was left with some 26mins to finish the last 3.5kms to be able to come in under 11hours. I realized I could only do this if I ran most of the distance that was left, still trying not to think of a possible crampy finish. I ran the flat stretches, walked the only uphill and kept a steady slow pace till I saw the 1km mark. I walked a bit trying to muster strength to take me to the finish line. As I entered ONV, I stepped up the pace and sprinted to the finish. I was exhilarated.

And that is where the similarity ends between the Ultra this year and the Ultra last year. And before I get into the worry-beads let us talk some mundane matters.

Although I had trained much better this year, (including my own kanakpura marathon and a 50k at GKVK), it was not the best pre-marathon preparation. My cousin’s wedding on Friday ensured that I was kept on my feet all day and a college gang reunion of sorts on Saturday left no room for the resting rituals.

The Ultra long day
3:30am: Mom heated up some milk, while I frantically search for my heart rate monitor, in vain. Dharam offered to pick me up at 4 and I join Bhasker, Rajesh & D in trying not to get lost on our way to Our Native Village (ONV). We reached there with a good hour to go for the 6:30 start. Paid a quick visit to the ‘Asha tent’ just outside ONV – the tent was well stocked (all down to puliogere rice!) to support Santhosh who was on his way to complete a 24h run. Read his run report here and come back if you think what I did, still matters.

6:00am: My Super-nephews wish me luck
Extra dose of Vaseline – check
3 Gels on person, 3 more in the bag – check
15 Endurolytes in 3 packs – check
Water bottle – check
1 pack of sunscreen – check
All other stuff in the bag, stuffed and zipped up – check


Tring tring – damn, what timing. I cursed under my breath as I rummaged through my stuff for the darn phone. Damn, does it have to be in the pocket my jeans and does it have to be first thing that I put into the bag!
Its my sis, and I say “Hello”. At 6 in the morning and totally out of the blue, a very sweet sleepy voice replies; “Hi Manoj, All the best”. It is my champion nephew, Rishabh. He's only 6yrs old, but he already knows a thing or two about competition – last week he had won a Gold and Silver (and with that a Championship Shield half his size!) at the Karnataka State Roller Skating Competitions. Aryan, the younger brat also added his wishes to mama! When I was down, out and alone in the 5th lap, their wishes flashed in my mind and I ran with them, for them for awhile. I owe a lot to those brats!

6:29am: Lap 1, 12.5kms in 1:30:34h
I was still greeting many of the familiar faces in the 50k, 75k & above category in the semi-darkness and before I knew it, the race had started. I had set a personal target to finish each loop of 12.5k in 1:30hours, reaching the 75k in 9hrs. The plan was to walk the uphill and run the flat and the downhill sections at a steady pace.
I was tempted to begin to walk as soon as I was out of the resort, the path was an incline, technically. Athreya and Nischal were ahead right from the start and I made no effort to keep pace. Rajesh (of the Jaago re fame) had decided to stick with me since we were targeting similar lap times. We had reached the half way mark on time and finished the loop bang on target. Sabine was at the finish line, her usual shrilly scream egging us on.

8:00am: Lap 2, 12.5kms in 1:32:45h
I had started my regular intake of gels and endurolytes – alternating between the two every 5kms or so. Pretty uneventful lap this one, just that the distance was covered in about target time.

9:33am: Lap 3, 12.5kms in 1:36:18h
Loop 3&4 were the crucial ones; for me because I seem to have a cramp threshold around 30k, for Rajesh because we were approaching his max distance limit and it was important the weather remained as overcast as the early hours had been. There was still a possibility of the sun coming out with a vengeance.
We were accompanied by Anita Bhargava on this loop. Her partners from the previous loops having ditched her, she was looking for some slow runners to keep her company. She kept our mind off the running during that loop. She was strong, despite her nagging hamstring injury she went on to finish her 50k.
We had passed a struggling Nischal and a very upset Dharam. But Prats had taken off, she was on her way to the podium finish – 50k in 6:07h, way to go!!
With 3kms to go to finishing this one, we caught up with Santhosh. By this time, he had done nearly 17hrs of running. It is difficult to describe such tranquil. I passed him many times during the 11hrs, never once did I see the calm leave his face. It was as if he was above all pain and suffering, above anguish and agony. I don’t know about Godship, but am sure this came very close.
Santanu had gathered a mini army around him and we all ran together for a few kms. By the time we finished the third loop, Rajesh and I had built a slack of 10mins.

11:09am: Lap 4, 12.5kms in 1:58:32h
By the start of this lap, my big-toe nail had begun to throb, but I had settled well into a good rhythm of run-walk; perfect because the uphills were well spaced to give me long running stretches and well-timed walking breaks. I was with Jugy when we passed the 42k mark somewhere near waterstop3. Some 5:20h for a marathon distance, but with 33k still to go, 42.2k was just another milestone – it came and went. Rajesh was a minute behind me when he finished his 50k in 6:38hrs.


1:09pm: Lap 5, 12.5kms in 2:14:32h
I took a good 10min break before starting out again on the by-now lonely trail. I needed to put on my knee support and at the baggage counter, Shantanu was godsend. He helped me take off my shoes to put on the knee supports and helped them back on. Taking off shoes has the potential to jeopardize the rest of the run, you could pull anything. Thanks mate!
This was the slowest loop, intentionally so, if I may add. If I could get done with this, I knew there would be no looking back. And with more than 5hrs left, I had begun to feel more relaxed and lazy.
On the first walking break, I passed Nischal walking back on her 4th loop. She had a swollen foot, serious injury was suspected. She was heart-broken and understandably so, she had trained hard for this day.
At the U-turn, there was one man who was about a km behind me - Sunil. I have run with Sunil for a couple of years now mostly at the Bangalore Hash. Some girt that man has! Despite being nearly twice my age, he maintained pace with me right through till the very end.

3:22pm: Last Lap, 12.5kms in 2:11:39h
I briefly ran with Santhosh and Doc on this lap, but they were way too fast for me. Santhosh was into his 21st hour and he looked very strong! I turned around at the 6.25k mark, and met Sunil exactly where I had seen him on the previous loop – he was making the same pace as me! It was after the 4k waterstop that I got my nth wind. I looked at my watch with 3.5kms to go. I had 26mins to make it under 11hours. Only one way to make that possible – run most of the distance. Luckily the return leg has just one uphill, I could do it if I ran the flats and the downhills. I ignored the last water stop and ran a short way uphill (I had never done this in any of the loops so far). I took a walking break at the 1k to go mark, I needed to finish strong.

5:34pm: The Finish
I am proud of my finish. I picked up pace after the last water stop and kept it till I reached the entrance to ONV. As I turned in, into the resort I steadily stepped up pace and sprinted (well, almost) to the finish line. I have never finished any race that strong (SCMM 08 comes close thou)
A minute later I looked at my watch, I still had a minute to go to 5:30. I thought I ran it under 11hours and was delighted.
The official results had mysteriously added 4mins :(

Time to wash some dirty legs:
About why Ultra ’08 was a small step backwards
(some of this may be ‘doc’tored, rx with a handful of salt)

* Lack of enthu build up on the RFL site. Even during the last week, there was hardly any excitement on the site. A far cry from the training, diet, pacing discussions of last year.

* Running legends missing in action – Madhu was down with flu for a long time throwing suspicion on his participation. We missed Sabine’s shrieks on the trail, Doc was not running with RFL (&RFLers??). Meghana & Suds were absent. The whole volunteering ecosystem of last year was missing, where we had volunteers just pacing some runners in the last laps; how cool was that!!

* Manipal’s angels were missed a lot. Images of those volunteers in the 12th hour still cheering me as I passed the 3rd water stop near Kuteeram last year are once I still cherish. This year, the medics were not prepared for the runners to last that long.

* The results show that despite an increase in the no. of participants, the no. of runners who finished 50k+ distances – is it still the race “for the runners by the runners.”

But it certainly didn’t leave a bitter after-taste, thanks to:
Santhosh – who showed us that there are no limits
Team Asha – how to win a race without taking a single step
Sunil – who showed us what resilience is
DK – (finished 37.5k at his seventy, not seventeen!!!) who showed me how long one can run
Jugy – who showed us what a good trail can be
A large part of RFL who still make the best footrace in this part of the globe!!!
Links copied shamelessly from Anita’s site
~ Anita’s view thru a lens

~ Santhosh’s 156 km effort and his work for Team Asha - Must read!

~ Vikram Chadaga - Must see the Video!
Ps: Did I forget to mention I came in fourth in my category :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ultra Tense

Two weeks before the Ultra, on the last long training run, at GKVK with Dharam and co., my half-size-too-tight shoes finally decided to bring the curtains down. I had to pop a pain killer to ease the numbing pain in my toe. My toe nails will stay colored for a long time to come. Eleventh hour change to running shoes?

That Friday, I woke up from sleep, trying to loosen a stiff calf, ramming the heel against the floor. I had a cramp. I looked at my mobile for time – it was 530. Damn, I must have been running in my sleep all night. I must not have had enough water – or was it the cold?

No. 9 on the To-Do list before an Ultra says “Be Positive”. Over the last week, things had been a mixed bag at work, and I have been returning to an empty home. I have now moved out of my parents’ home to sharing a 2bhk with Doc, closer to work.

Doc had not been keeping well. He had to pull out of his 24-hour run plan. Madhu, who brought the whole ultra running to Bangalore, was down with flu, Meghana had to pull out, Sabine was not running. No. 9 was not happening.

But, with one week to go, I would silently clench my fist, with more prayer than conviction, “I can, I will”.

Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams.
- Paulo Coelho

Monday, October 27, 2008

Rocket Sparkles Bomb at Bangalore Hash

Run No. 481, Diwali Hash – A Report
Disclaimers: If you got here looking for info on recent bomb blasts, I condemn the blasts, but you have come to the wrong place
If you are looking for the Bangalore Bomb shells, you need to go as far away from me as possible to be able to find them
The Hash is not what you thinking it is, read all about it here and get back.

The location was Chandy’s farm, off Kanakpura road. “If I only I could own a place like this”, was the common exclaim as you enter the farm. It’s got this nice lawn that leads up to the farmhouse on a hillock with a pool alongside.
The rains had been beating hard on Bangalore for the entire week and it was not only the market caps that were being eroded. The gloom suddenly cleared for the Diwali run and it was cloudless on Sunday evening as I drove with Athreya and Prats to the farm.

Raw sex, the GM and hare for this one, had promised the FRB (Front Running Bastards) are going to enjoy this one. The usual hash signs made way for Rocket-Sparklers-Bomb.
When you saw a rocket on the trail, all FRBs ahead of the lead hare had to turn around, retrace the trail and wish “Happy Diwali” to everyone else, right till the walkers sweep hare. We amended the rule to add a tight hug to the ever-so-smiling walking sweep hare, page3.
A Sparkler meant, wait and sparkle till every last one on the trail passes you while you sparkle. And a bomb was good news for all the horrors (aka kids) on the trail. The FRBs run to the sweep and pick up sweets for all the horrors on the way back.
It was a refreshing change from the usual hash runs, and yours truly was one of the first ones to turn around. The signs were timed to perfection and a few of us re-trailed n-no. of times and “Happy Diwali”ed the walkers many times over. The toffee incentive worked well for Chiku, perched firmly on pappa Ravi’s shoulder never once missed wishing “Happy Diwali”. It went from Happy Diwali to Ale Ale to Happy Christmas and New year’s by the time we finished.
The water stop was also refreshing - Sangria served with sliced apple and pine apple kept us high till we reached the circle. Chats, hot Jilebis, Pav Bhaji waited for us while the draught took precedence.

In the twilight, alongside the aqua-green pool, the stars twinkling again, with the aroma of the cuisine filling the air, we sang our hearts out to the hash hymn

Swing low, sweet chariot
Coming for to carry me home
Swing low, sweet chariot
Coming for to carry me home
I looked over Jordan and what did I see
Coming for to carry me home
A band of angels coming after me
Coming for to carry me home…
ON ON…

Photos here

Friday, October 24, 2008

KTM 08 - Only one way to go - Down

*note the salt deposited on the cap in the snap above!
The sun is beating down heavily – I can feel the burn on my shoulders, I pour some more water from my sipper over my back; I won’t be needed too much water from here on. Running is euphemism to describe what I was doing, I was barely running. I tired not to think of the cringing faces my running pals, 3 strong runners not being able to continue.
At a distance I could see a metal glitter through the hues of green. Am I hallucinating? Or is it really the last water stop. I looked at my watched, it read “12:00”, it had been 4:20hours on this blazing trail. As I approached the last bridge (or was it?), I am forced to ignore the “hello-how-are-you” screams from the kids who were enjoying their swim in the Kaveri canal. Even the mere thought of a dip would can aggravated the cramps now. I can’t wait to fill my lungs with the stench of the carcass that floated in the canal close to the finish.
A van comes into view and then the rest of the runners waiting at the finish. I can feel a sudden rush, a spring in my tired feet and almost immediately the lurking cramp. With every passing breath, I am telling my other self, “relax manoj, relax manoj”.
I can now hear the applause from Sindhu, Rishi and others at the finish. The finish line passed from under my legs and I stop. My weight shifts to my right leg and stiffens. I cramp hard, drop on my butt, level my back along the dirt road, cover my face with my starched cap to keep the brutal sun out and close my eyes.
Yet another 4:35 marathon was behind me…

"You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can't know what's coming." - Frank Shorter.
Goal: “I will run 60kms at KTM for 6hours, running at 10kmph pace for as long as I could.” – this was what I had announced. I had done a 51kms in 6 hours a fortnight before this, and a 4:29 Kanakpura marathon a month back.

Carb-loading: The pasta party was at ‘Herbs n Spice’, nice name, not so nice pasta. On Saturday, while I was at home resting, I decided to cook ‘some’ pasta myself, ended up cooking half a kilo of pasta – even the friendly neighborhood dog was carb loaded!!

Race-Day: I had crapped, packed and crashed by 830 in the evening on Saturday. The bus was to leave Queen’s park by 4am! At 130am I woke up with a start – I thought I had overslept and missed the bus. Ate some boiled sweet potatoes and bananas before I left home at 3, got chased by dogs as I picked up Nischal on the way to the park. The early dogs did not get Nischal’s sandwich, neither did the early runners get the bus!
And just when we decided to give up KTM and run in good ol cubbon, the bus came – 4:45!
Quiz time: How do slow down 30marathon runners?
Answer: Load them into a bus and tell the driver to hurry
Q: How do you slow them some more?
A: Don’t tell the driver the way and let him overshoot – twice!
Q: How do you slow them even more?
A: Don’t worry, the sun will take care of the rest

The Race:
The trail is beautiful, with the canal flowing on one side and paddy and sugarcane fields on the other. The clean air is a treat for the lungs and brings with it smells of paddy hay, moist mud and fresh sugarcane – so strong that a lung full will give you a few carbs.
Other runners who had not taken the bus had started at the stipulated 630am, thereabouts. We started at 7:45 and in about 10mins I started to feel the sun. Athreya and I had decided to keep the 10.5km per hour pace. We finished the first 10.5km on target in 1hour and made it to the half way point (21km) in 2hours. We passed some of the early-start runners in their last lap. Ashok was clearly ahead, some maths and he looked good for a 3:30 finish. He finished in 3:21hours. He was followed by a phirang girl running strong, Ravi and then Priyankar.

Athreya and I also noticed some others who we did not pass. We hadn’t seen Sunil, Jugy, Pradeep. We stopped when we saw Meghana, her 3/4ths pulled up half way, exposing a fresh bruise. She had fallen flat (eeiks!!) as she was finishing her 21km, and had begun to walk the second half.

The 10km runners passed us in a hurry. I saw many friends trying this for the first time – Meera, Vijay, Sriram, Ramya, Sumi. That was the only time I saw them, a few secs is the time I get to spend with friends? Unfair!

By 25km mark Athreya had suddenly fallen a couple of steps behind and silent –he was trying to keep himself from throwing up. We reached the water stop at 30km in exactly 3hours. It brought back memories of KTM’07, where I had done exactly the same pace for the first 30 and taken a good 2hours for the last 12!

Athreya could go no more, I joked if I could borrow his still fresh legs. By the time I went to the U-turn point and got back to the 4th water stop, it looked like a medical camp in a war front. Santanu was struggling with cramps in his back, Pradeep was in distress over his legs and Athreya with a stomach upset. The ambulance at the station was not carrying ‘common’ salt! I gave Shantanu a light massage and some endurolytes and got him to get back on his feet.

With another 9kms to go, I was looking at a 4:15hour finish. Running alone in the last leg is a such a drudgery and I wished I had company. I met Meghana walking up her last lap – bruised more in the mind than on the knee. It was so humbling to see all the training that we had done in months being charred by this heat. It was nearing noon now, it would only get worse from here.

I shared my salt tablets with Nischal and then had to borrow some from Meghana. But the cramps, I was not able to keep at bay. I struggled to the finish line.

Oh before I forget, did I tell you what happened after I cramped at the finish? As I lay there nursing the cramp, I stocked myself up with more endurolytes, gels and water – thanks to the RFL volunteer who helped me with my bag…up on my feet in 15mins and off back on the track to do 5kms more…

Links to other reports

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Spirit of Wipro 2008

Quick Stats

Distance: 10km

Time taken: 44:51mins

Overall Position: 5th

Avg. beats per min: 184

Max. beats per min: 197

I couldn’t have asked for a better welcome to the “Spirit of Wipro” than this. Within days of my joining Wipro, the registrations for the Spirit of Wipro were thrown open. My eyes lit up with the prospect of a podium finish and did a quick competition analysis. After some archival digging and emails, I learnt that the winner of the last year’s version was Sathiya who had finished in 42mins. ‘Doable’ was my first reaction, despite a 47:54min finish at the Sunfeast 10k run this year.

It was a challenge for two reasons. One, I hadn’t been running since the Tibetan marathon. And two, although they are both running (put the right foot in front of the left and then the left foot in front of the right story) there is a huge difference in running a marathon and running a 10K race. They are different sports altogether. While I can run 10k in 50mins and continue to hold that pace for another 10, I have no clue how I can pull off 5mins from the 50mins!

Wipro had got in reluctant drivers to ferry us runners to the corporate office on Sarjapur road. There were hundreds of wiproites - some of them for the spirit-of-the-tee-shirt. Chetak had decided to scale down his distance and picked up a bib for 4km.

The campus looked beautiful in the semi-darkness. The 4km marathon (how, how can a 4km run be a marathon. I write a lot of garbage, but this is something that is worth carving on any runners headstone, Marathon = 42.2kms)… The 4km ‘run’, started a few mins before the longer run (not the longer marathon!!).


There must have been about 100 of us running the 10km. It was heartening to see a lot of senior management in the crowd. I was lucky to be ahead of the pack, we still had to wade our way through oncoming 4km finishers for the first couple of kms. I maintained a sub-5min/km pace for the first 5kms – reaching the half way point in about 22mins. The idea was to save up till the last 3kms and pick up pace then. I was in the top-10 when I turned around. The last 2kms was a steady downhill and I knew I could pace well, if only I save up. When I crossed a railway line, with 3.5kms I over heard a race official talk into a walkie-talkie, “7 and 8 are in”. I was 8th close on the heels of a strong, lanky, German marathoner (yes, the 42.2km runner).


I kept pace with the guy and moved up a few paces. With 2kms to go, I was 6th still tailing him. I picked up pace steeply hoping to shake him off my back; the tactic didn’t work coz we were together again with a km to go.

I remembered Pre from the “without limits” movie to keep me running ahead and fast. I did manage to finish a few seconds ahead of my competition. I came in 5th overall finishing completed used up and out of breadth in 44:51mins – a good 3mins off from my PB.

I met fellow RFLers - Anjali, Naina and Harsh after the run. Anjali and Naina had podium finishes… congrats congrats!!!

Saturday well spent, another Personal Best!! Cheerz!

Other SOW 2008 run reports:

http://www.wipro-campusarena.com/site/the-spirit-of-wipro-run-2008/

http://urswaroop.blogspot.com/2008/09/spirit-of-wipro-run.html

http://www.indiaprwire.com/pressrelease/environmental-services/2008090812804.htm

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The GTM Journey

GETTING THERE
Its official now… the trip happened so long ago, it is nearly making into history books of class II. I will only update what I can remember, snippets, fragments of my memory...

One fine day in March, I call up Nischal and over the next 15mins I had made up my mind – I was running the Great Tibetan Marathon. With Athreya, Sudarshan, Meghana and loads of other running buddies planning to make the trip, I almost automatically advanced my plans of running it next year.
The Getting LehD group happened and with it mileage discussions, high altitude training plans, ooty shooty, Sudarshan’s autocratic planning, Prats on-line inputs and my own go-with-the-flow involvement. With Meghana throwing a fab farewell party, we were ready to go.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Great Tibetan Marathon

Quick Update Had a whale of a time Getting LehD. Finished the marathon in 5:20:01 hours. Official Results here



Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Getting LehD

Photo courtesy: Leona
I am off on a long break to particpate in The Great Tibetan Marathon
Participants in the photo (from L to R): Leona, Me, Sudarshan, Suresh, Anjana and Athreya
Others from Bangalore not in the photo: Ashok, Ravi, Chavvi and Nischal

Wish us Luck!!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Hampi Heritage Half Marathon

I have been often accused of having a very predictable chronological narration, this time I break away from that… Let’s liken this ride to a mug and attempt to first this mug with the memories from this ride…

Step 1: Take the mug and proceed to fill it with some large pebbles
Mrugharajendra Mutt, Chitradurga:
The place had a pristine tranquility to it, one that is capable to absorbing large amounts of tumult.
I deposited my footwear in an unguarded pigeon hole and walked into the Mutt in my military cargos. At 7 in the evening, I was in no great hurry; I had traveled 300kms since morning – visited Lepakshi and Chitradurga fort. I took my time to read off the Kannada board “Sri Jagdguru Murugharajendra Bruhanmata Samsthana”.

The smell of incense and vibhudhi filled up the meditation hall. It looked more like a church with single large photo of Basavanna on an elevated platform at the far end of the hall. The Bridavan of the seer Mrigarajendra was the most peaceful – a bhajan played repeatedly and time seemed to tick in slow motion. I sat down in padmasan, closed my eyes and started to chant the Omkara, oblivious to the others walking in and out. I wanted to spend at least 10mins in meditation, when I opened my eyes again, nearly 25mins had passed.
I didn’t pray for anything in particular, but I was blessed with a very moving experience. The Mutt provides dinner as prasadam to all devotees and I was shown the way to the dinning hall. But even before I could enter, there were some hundred little kids who appeared out of nowhere and queued up in front of the entrance in gaiety.
A ‘teacher’, told me about how there were 170 orphan children residing and studying at the Mutt. I moved to the end of the queue, I was surely better fed than them not to queue up.
I sat down facing some 50 kids in the opposite row – the multitude of thoughts in their heads and the manifested reactions, gestures, actions, expressions was unbelievable. While we were served Ragi mudde, rice, sambar and butter milk, some kids envied the size of the ragi balls on the others’ plate, some played nudging games with their neighbors, some passed on excess rice to others (plus poured out sambar too), some stealthily examined the guests and some others simply gazed dreamily.
And in your own head you worry about seemingly important things – career moves and wooing woes, crude shocks, bottom fishing and bleeding portfolios, traffic jams and how-to-nudge-that-moron-off-the-road. This one experience was enough to absorb all that turbulence.
The meal not only filled my stomach, it filled my heart too!!

Step 2: Take some more large pebbles and fill drop them into the mug
TungaBhadra Dam Canal:
Where is this lady from? Where is Germany? Why are you running? Where are you from? What money do they use there? Is the ‘Gandhi’ money used in Bangalore also? Do foreigners have lots of money? How many rupees can you buy with one dollar? How much have you studied? Where do you work? How much money do you make in one month? Have you seen Indian cricketers? Is Dhoni better than Tendulkar?
Insatiable appetite of this 12 year old left me groping for answers. Chandrasekar and Dhoni (I could get his name inspite of asking twice, I called this cute kid “Dhoni”) joined Sabine, Athreya and I on the return leg of the TDB canal run. About a dozen RFLers ran along the TBD canal on the Saturday evening – the day before the Hampi Heritage Half Marathon, a distance of about 15kms, against some gusty, ballistic winds threatening to blow us off into the canal.
Chandrasekar and ‘Dhoni’ bombarded me with an endless battery of questions, left me diving for cover. I countered them with my own and learnt Chandra went to a village school, studied 9th std and wanted to take up science after his class X, but Dhoni dropped out in 5th std and worked at a quarry for the money. The lure of free lunches or even the free bicycles that they distributed this year was not incentive enough. Should this budding curiosity only be left to some random runner to satisfy? Surely there is more we can do…

Step 3: The Mug already seemed to be filled?? Time to pick some smaller pebbles and pour them into the mug; There is still more room here…
Ride to Lepakshi:
I set off on Friday, 17th morning, quickly getting off the highway, towards Doddaballapur – Hindupur SH9. The road opens into some spectacular landscape almost immediately. Riding alone into the breeze, the thump of the bullet fighting the howling winds to reach my ear drums, the familiarity had a strange home-coming feeling to it. It was only after some 100kms when I reached Maakalidurga where the road hugs the railway track like a DNA double helix, that I realized that the road was taken before – the penukonda ride!! Remember the 24 Karat Action??
I reached Lepakshi at 10:30 after passing through some rib-tickling places – TondeBhavi and Auto Nagara. By then all the pores had opened up and I was ready to soak in any amount of gyan, I took the services of a guide!
Perfect ingredients for a 1-day ride: Good roads, easy ride, lotsa history and biology (Padmini is described as the most perfect form of feminine excellence!!)
I offered my prayers to the deity, Veerabhadra and the 5 lingas, a more realistic form of Padmini was top of mind.

Chitradurga:
I took a longer route via Madakasira-Rolla-Agali-Sira-Chitradurga and was able to reach Chitradurga only by 4:30 after a brief stop at Ravi Bar and Restaurant outside Sira.
Had just enough time to visit the Chitradurga fort, where the guide Channabasapa built stor(e)y after stor(e)ys, the Palegaras who built the fort couldn’t have built more!
Riding around the Chitradurga fort in fading twilight is enough to send down some shivers and must have been truly impregnable in its times.

I also visited Chandravalli lake and Ankali Fort, walking down eerie steps into the subterranean dark chambers with a candle, being told about the swami’s who performed penance, was straight out of a Indiana Jones movie.

Step 4: More small pebbles to fill the mug, please
Cycling around the Hampi Ruins:
I reached the Hotel Mayura Bhuvaneshwari at Kamalapur outside Hospet on Saturday morning. Rajesh, Leona, Reena and I went around the ruins near the Krishna temple, Virupaksha temple to reach the over-hyped “Mango Tree” for lunch. While they had all kinds of cuisines – Chinese, Tibetan, Vietnamese (joking!!), they missed out on North Karnataka meal. How can one substitute Momos for some authentic Jolada Rotis (Jowar Rotis)??

Step 5: There is room for more small pebbles, right?
The First-Ever Hampi Heritage Half Marathon:

Thanks to Sabine, Sam and all of Sam’s relatives - Babu Mama, Santosh, Prashanth (and the phat-phati full of cheerleaders), we had a wonderful itinerary covering some 35 places!! We started at 6:15 from the hotel and spent a very memorable 5hours running, taking pictures, listening to Sam as he helped us with the history, marveling at some of the ruins. Our supplies phat-phati ensured that we did not run out of fluids. Upon Sabine’s insistence we managed to complete 21kms. How often do you run a 21km distance and manage to travel from 1 CE all the way to the 14th and 16th century? It was a fantastic experience.

The cherry on top was still to follow, we were treated to some finger-licking Jolada Roti and Badane Ennegai lunch at Sam’s house at Malapangudi after the run.

Step 6: Just when you think you nearly filled the mug, take a fistful of sand and pour it in… there is still room for more!!

The lone lush green tree rooted the red fields
The early morning air washed clean from overnight rains
The dump-all-luggage-in-hotel-lodge, visit the fort, lake, caves, mutt and then forget the name of the lodge at chitradurga
Race with the thunderstorm from Chitradurga to Tumkur
The inflation catching up with Lakshmi Tiffin Room, Chitradurga – Rs.3 for extra cup of sambar!!

Step 7: And when you finally agree with me that the mug (likened to the trip, you remember) is finally full, proceed to pour in some Kingfisher Beer. The Beer sizzles through the remaining spaces making the mug truly full.

In pouring rain and soaring spirits, we downed mugs and mugs of the bitter fermented fluid, making pretext of carb-loading (the quintessential pre-race ritual), making RFL jokes, polishing off pakodas and masala peanuts, cracking pjs, matching every pitter patter, the rains made outside.

Moral of the story: No matter how full the ride/run may seem, there’s always room for a few Beers!!

More poses here and here

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Thalli Ho - A different High

Bangalore has suddenly gotten into the grip of a ‘wow’ weather, it has this multiplier effect on the outdoor fun experience.
With the training for The Great Tibetan Marathon in full swing, I couldn’t have asked for more. I finished off a 35km run at 11am, last Saturday with the sun still behind the cloud canopy.
The Silver Bullet has been catching a thick layer of dust for awhile now (thanks also the oil leaks from all possible seals). With the Hampi ride right around the corner, a test ride with RTMC seemed like the best way to optimize (that’s Manoj, the consultant) the conditions.

Vodka aka Harish Shivaram had thrown open an invite to do a recce of the area to the south of Bangalore. There were 8 of us in all – vodka, Abhi n Kavita, Prateek, Santosh and others, started off from Shoppers Stop at 630 RTMC time.

As soon as we got off the Banerghatta road, I settled into a neat relaxed mode. It was a truly chillax ride, perfect for a lazy Sunday morning. We snaked through villages and wrong turnings taking breaks at will, stopping to relish the breezee countryside, slowing down till the goats cleared the roads, waving to wide-eyed kids, chai breaks, scaring cattle away, Abhi even giving a loving tick on one calf’s rear!!

The winding well paved roads opened frequently into some amazing greenery. Check the hues of green on this one.

We got back to Aishwarya Parkland (!) on Banerghatta road by 1pm to some Beer and lunch! Perfect weekend!

Directions (thanks Vodka):
Bannerghatta Circle - Anekal Entrance Fork – Anekal Bus stop - Thally Road (Right Turn) - Thally Outskirts (Left Turn before town) - followed shortly by a right turn - Hold steady course – Maralwadi town centre - Take "straight road" to Thattekere - Ride through Thattekere, and join highway to Jigani – turn right - Bannerghatta Circle.
If you tried following these directions, remember you didn’t read it here!! ;)
Photus here
An earlier FSR ride report here
Abhi’s version on bikeszone here

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Two Hills - What thrills!!

When I started off to Sabine's Birthday 'party', I thought I would simply have to ditto the previous Nandi Ride/Run, how mistaken I was.
With the International Airport opening that 24th morning, I was ready for some ill treatment on the Highway to Nandi. Ananth and I started off a 4:45 am from Hebbal Flyover and very closely followed my earlier timings to Nandi Hills.
Madhu had promised to take us on a virgin trail provided "as long as you keep the trail details only between people who respect the sanctity and cleanliness of the outdoors."

Ananth and I took the exact 2:02 hours or so to ride to the Nandi Base camp and as usual waited agonisingly for the others in their cars to turn up.

The run up the Nandi Hill twin, BrahmaGiri (according to a foundation stone on the top) was more like a power walk for the last couple of kms. Just standing there totally exposed to the strong, crisp morning breeze was refreshing. There is a temple with a pushkarni filled with croakers on top. Sabine couldn't have asked for a better birthday celebration as she cut lots of FitKit Biscuits (like 10 of them) and passed it around the 20 odd runners!!

Ananth and I left the group and made our way back to the parked bicycles. With the usual Ghanne ka Ras break at Chikkajala we reached Hebbal in a good 2.5hrs.

Camp Gee Dee

BH3 Run No. 468

Sunita describes the camp in her blog here.

Tucked away, next to the Banerghatta Wildlife Sanctuary, far far from the madding crowd, is a small slice of heaven called Camp GeeDee. The topography is excellent and of course the human hand has helped to add a lake or two, making it one of the most exciting place to be, especially for the nature/bird loving brigade and solitude seekers.” – Sunita Raghu

What a place this one was, I was quite unprepared for it, the intention lost in all the Hash Humor. My already battered bullet took a serious beating on the rough roads leading to the place. When my mood is exuberant, I imagine my bullet to have wings or something... I had wings for sure, borrowed from my angels who are around me these days ;)

The ride took me right around Bannerghatta forest to the camp site. Pradeep, Athreya and I were the FRBs huffing and puffing on the false trails and uphill trails. The Beer flowing, the breeze cooling our soaked bodies, the sun going down under the dense forest, the Hashers playing to the Swing low hymn - What a thrill, I say


Check these links for more on Camp Gee Dee
Photo courtesy: Sabine, Sunita Raghu and Barbara




Monday, May 26, 2008

A Sun Feast Run and Paul Tergat

If you thought Bangalore played host to another Marathon, you are in majority but wrong. It is nowhere close to a marathon distance that we ran, some 15times shorter. Only a long distance runner will tell you effort(20K) is not equal 2*effort(10K).
But as I ran up Kamaraj Road in scorching heat, I overheard a BMC worker lady telling her son, “neenu voodo marathonu”, “you too should run a marathon”.
This is what the 10K run really achieved. It got droves of people on the streets to run the 10K open or the 5.7km Majja Run. With Procam event managing, the hygiene factors were in place – sufficient water stations, medical aid, chip timings and media attention.
The running scene is fast changing in Bangalore, Nike joined with RFL to conduct running workshops to help runners train for the run.

Pre-run
Inspiration shot from Paul Tergat
Paul Tergat, the second fastest marathoner, the first man to go under 2:05 in a marathon, was in the city for the run. Thanks to RFL,a few of us got to meet Tergat in flesh and blood. I ran the distance of 15kms from home to Nike, Indranagar and got my sweaty tee autographed. He went on to answer many of our questions on running – why do you run? to what shoes you wear? to How we should train to be able to raise our running a few notches. It was fantastic – a great inspiration.
The pre-run pasta party was at Bangalore Bistro right after the Paul Tergat meet. I had managed to shoot myself in the foot setting an ambitious “40min finish” for the 10K, I had to alter it to “40s finish” to save face.

The run – A Sun Feast

The Bangalore Sunfeast Open started at 9am. I was there at Cubbon Park before 7 to see the start of the elite athletes’ category. they sped past within a few seconds. I also faintly noticed the rise in the temperature, by 9 when we gathered at the start line, it was scorching hot. And what a gathering it was… I had to use up all of my lane-changing skills to get past the crowd at the start. It was a full km before some sunlight started finding its way through the crowd.
By the time we reached Cubbon Road, it was a full 5 course Sun Feast only. With no cover for the next couple of kilometers till Ulsoor lake, I was melting away quickly. I poured water generously on my head in a desperate attempt to cool down.
I completed the first 6kms in 28mins, already 2mins behind plan. I was able to step up pace only at the 8th km mark and I was glad that I was totally out of breath by the time I crossed the finish line netting a total time of 47:54mins.

I did a la Virgin Mobile Ad (where this girl has a “Call Me” on her tee) to spice up the run. While it surely didn’t get the desired response, it sure did get a lot of laughs, comments and suggestions. More from Anita and Rajni.

But elsewhere, it looks like my prayers are finally being looked at!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Non-Stop Nandi



3:30am hit snooze button, 4am on saddle, 6am Non-stop to Nandi, 45mins frustrating wait at the Nandi base camp, long convoy of cars at last, 6:45am start, picture-postcard scenery, 26 freakin runners, spectacular cloud covered peaks, easy-first-4-tough-last-3kms, U-turn, 53kms milestone to Bangalore – some day all the way, club talk – couch surfing and wwoofing gyan from Anupam, pass bird-watchers with bazooka lens, hi-hellos to Madhu, Rekha and others from BBC who were biking up Nandi, foreign bikes – treks / Merdias have taken over the base camp, hydrate and moov, steal biscuits from Leona, on saddle for return leg at 9, sugarcane juice at Chikkajala, tender-coconut at Jakkur, home by 1130.
95kms of cycling in 4.5hours, 15kms Nandi run in 1:50 hours – ‘die’athlon?

Time-Table!
Date: 26/04/2008

Full album here

Bala's narration and fotos hyperlinked.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Anniversary Ride - Horsley Hills



Tarun Tejpal, in his Alchemy of desire, amongst many erotic scenes also finds space to discuss the ‘rat-race’ which he likens to a greased pole.

The office is a well greased malkhamb pole, with everyone slithering up and down the shiny wooden pillar. Right at the top, as in a ship, was a crow’s nest, a comfortable cupola where one man sat. The idea, I gathered, was to get as close as you could to the cupola and the one man. What happened then I has still not figured out. Quite clearly the man was not going to pull you into the cupola. You stayed on the greased pole. But, going by the ceaseless frenzy, something did change.
Matters were not helped by the cupola man’s conduct. Every now and then he leaned out and slopped some more grease onto the pole. It had the immediate effect of sending the ones nearest to him into a panic of slipping and sliding. Boot-on-face, boot-on-face, boot-on-face. All the way down the pole the climbers went grinding boot-on-face.
Then the frantic climbing began again.
There were some very smart people slipsliding away on that pole. Their clothes were dirty, their hands stained, their faces shone with grease, but in their eyes was a fervour. Their sights were set firmly on the man in the cupola, and the more grease he slopped on the pole, the more boot-on-face he unleashed, the more they became convinced that up there – in the cupola – lay the answers to the riddles of their life and career.
Some very very smart people. Faces shining with grease. Slipsliding away.


My colleague and batch-mate, Ashwin’s wedding provided a break away from this greased pole and I was saddled up to Chennai on Friday, the 18th of April.
Before I leave the greased pole behind, albeit only figuratively, tell me… is philosophical musing simply an excuse for inaction or worse… incompetence?
(save the dil pe matt le for the comments section only!!)

I started at 5:45 on Saturday morning from my cousin’s house in Chennai (Porur-Guindy road) to meet the Madras Bulls’ Arul, to ride some 280kms with them to celebrate the MadBulls 6th Anniversary at Horsley Hills.

We stopped for breakfast at IOC Nandini Restaurant, near Chitoor Bypass, better than most I have seen on this highway. The MadBulls ride with far more discipline than my own club, RTMC, we rode in a staggered formation, maintaining constant pace for long stretches.

To reach Horsley Hills from Chennai, one needs to take a right off just after Palamner (196kms) and head to Madanpalli (+53kms) to Horsley Hills (+30kms). The hill itself comes from like nowhere and a short ride with 3-4hairpin bends take you to the top.

We were a large group of bullets, we had to pit stop a no. of times. After traveling some 280kms to reach the Hills, to reach a place called “Harita?” was pretty sadistic joke. Harita? in Kannada means “is it torn?”, use your imagination to figure out what body-part it refers to!! We were to stay at Harita Resorts on Horsley Hills.

I loved the place: Harita is the only resort on top of the only hill around the region. It’s not much of a hill station, but the resort makes up for the lack. There is a decent pool, play grounds, good party area and well stocked bar. There are enough cottages to accommodate last minute travel plans. There is nothing much to do there, but if that is your idea of a holiday, its just 160kms from Bangalore!

What was disappointing was that the only event that was ‘organized’ was the party. Tam item numbers provided lungi-clad sweaty guys enough motivation to gyrate like some belly dancers, some even looked choreographed!!! This song is a must hear, it captures most of the spirit. Click to hear music file Thanks Dosai.


We left Horsley hills on Sunday morning at about 9am. I rode mostly with Anil and Hosey… it was a fantastic route, that took us to Chintamani, H-cross, from where we took right to get to Devanahalli and were back home by 1130.

Now get back to the greased pole, will ya…

Friday, May 02, 2008

Anniversary '18 in a hole' Run

It was a triple Birthday flavor this April - Mine at Coonoor, BH3 turned 18 at Eagle Ridge and MadBulls celebrated 6A at Horsley Hills.


I have ripped this report straight out of the HASH Newsletter, simply because it was so well written and comprehensive. (shades of laziness?)

Report on Run No 465 - 18 in a hole run at Eagle Ridge on 12th April 2008

Hares - BFG, K3C, Kamasutra and Raw sex

BH3 has finally come of age...and to celebrate our 18th Anniversary some of our most experienced hares laid a trail with 18 checkbacks!! In true mismanagement style, the beer van crew were not aware that the run was on Saturday...but they did land up in time for a slightly delayed circle and party.

We have had many runs at this resort, but this is the first time the run went over to the other side of the NICE road...it involved one crossing of the NICE road and thankfully the hashers did not damage any cars while getting across. The trail wound its way through a mango grove, skirted many fields, ran alongside a lake, went through eucalyptus trees and along the edge of a quarry...and in the process, runners often found themselves chasing the walkers. As the sun went down and sky changed colour, we managed to get everyone home and there was no need for a rescue party.

A short wait for the beer van was filled with time to munch some snacks and get the music going. The circle started as soon as the beer van arrived.

  • Hares were iced for mismanaging the run
  • This was followed by Dude, who is the 4th BH3 member to complete 300 runs - he was presented a collage by BFG
  • The many horrors were cooled down - great to have them here - and Nikhil even showed that he is a future Music mattress
  • Ex GMs were charged for volunteering to mismanage the SAIH 2009
  • Pushmush charged Kamasutra with guiding rather than misguiding the runners - a charge that got him to also cool his butt and get a special downdown
  • Virgins and visitors got their customary downdowns
  • Ex RA Duchess had sent a message for BH3 which was read out by BFG
  • Ronja of Eagle Ridge was acknowledged for agreeing to sponsor the dinner for the run
  • Shrieks was charged with annoying Ministers - and was christened 'Glorified Driver'
  • BFG then staged a 3 person 18th Anniversary skit which had Future suture enjoying a twosome of K3C and Kamasutra
  • Returners aphrodisiac, TFU and Dilip also got a chance to cool their butts as was OTR from Atlanta who stole someones shorts to use as headgear - we know where his brains are!!
  • The 18th anniversary cake was cut by our lovable hash aunt Meera, who has been hashing for more years than any of us
  • Rubher stamp and Perfect Asshole were iced for sartorial elegance
  • Athreya was also acknowledged for designing the T shirt at short notice - ON ON mate
    BFG led us through the hash hymn and then the party rocked...was great to see ages from 5 to 70 plus rocking together!!
    Here's to many more years of hashing...

Fotos here courtesy Abnash.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Kra...zzy Five on Kalhatti

Slow down and enjoy life. It's not only the scenery you miss by going too fast - you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.
Eddie Cantor

I almost knew none of them when I started off on this epic tour. But by the end of four days and some 300+ kms, we had competed, laughed, laughed our guts out, disagreed, experimented, hypothesized, quarreled, sweated, Beered and ‘paddled’ up more than just the Kalhatti peak… together.
Personally, it was my maiden long ride on a bicycle, made unforgettable by these specimens (Ravi, Pocha, Gaurav, Sriram) I found enroute!
Inspiring stuff… read on…

Beware: Long slow ride produces long slow rite-up only!

Pre-Tour:
The chief had it all planned, or so we thought. The check list had on it items ranging from ‘bike’ (don’t forget that when you go for a bike ride, eh) to ‘cotton sling’ (were we expecting Mr. Goliath!!) Check the full list here.

Rekha and Donald pulled out of the trip owing to work-pressures and Madhu preferred to do the ride when things were quieter across the border.

So it left us 5 that Friday morning, the 4th April, to board the Volvo Airavata bus at 5:15 to Mysore. Ashish and I were on Firefox – Viper and Target (both borrowed) and the others were on Trek 4300. All, but mine, were 24 speed – which I noticed only when we started climbing…

Day 1:
With the bikes stowed away in the boot of the Volvo, I caught up with some more sleep. After a quick Mysore Mallige Idly breakfast break, we were off from Mysore at 8:30.

First stop was just after the Kabini river at Nanjangud. We had averaged a cool 28kmph for the distance of 21kms. We continued the good work and were at Gundlupet by 10:05 – 50kms in 90mins of riding. We passed some 20 odd Brits riding from through the western ghats on variety of Bullets (a pink bullet n all!) shepherded by Thunder Trails. And when they stopped for a break, kids flocked around these firangs begging for pencils and pens!
It was now about 3hours into our ride, and I started showing signs of inexperience. While on a long run, I would never miss my electral / salt / water intake, I totally missed it on the ride. It was a hot and humid day and I must have lost a lot of salt. My quads started to act up a bit. Sriram rode alongside me for this short stretch and exchanged my backpack with his own lighter one. It helped! But I was still looking forward for a longish break.
Our next stop was at Pugmark, a couple of kms before entering the Bandipur forest. We reached Pugmark at 1230 and rested our bums on cushioned seats (how would ye cagers know the pleasure!) We treated ourselves to fluids (salted!) and lunch till 2:00.

Rains!
We entered the Bandipur reserve forest with dark clouds threatening to open. Sriram and I did some water-proofing with plastic bags, my own windcheater and Sriram’s rain coat! We caught up with Ashish and Gaurav and we continued in pouring rains and gale. I was more worried for Ravi who had taken off on his own - lone tuskers may not fancy lone bikers!
By the time we reached Teppakadu at 2:35, Ravi had the feeling that a few seasons had passed. Apparently he had reached there during the rains and it seemed peak summer when we got there!
With only 7-10kms left to cover before we would reach Masanagudi, I began to relax. Sriram was getting into the groove with the “British-style bridge” and “listen-to-that-elephant-da-we-are-all-going-to-get-killed”.

Just as we approached Masanagudi, the forest cleared up offering an overwhelming view of the Blue Mountains. Our overnight stay was at this place called Quiet Corner at Mavanahalla, 3kms from Masanagudi.
Ravi and I left soon after to get some 2T Oil for the bike chain lubrication and some Amber fluid to lube our own joints.

Profiling Ravi the Ranjan Kumar
And sitting there in that dimly lit bar at Masanagudi, I heard Ravi’s inspiring story. A couch potato and a huge TV addict not more than 6months ago, saw his 2yr old son following him into the couch. I truly admire parents who teach their kids by example. He sold his TV, jumped out of home and in 6 months is a transformed man, leading a new life.
Since then, he bikes everyday to work, about 20kms one-way and he went on to wind the Enduro3, the triathlon race in Pune this year.
While he contrasted the two lifestyles, we argued on either side and it was not merely the Beer that made me heady that evening.
Such an inspiration, “Be the change you want the world to be.” No prizes for guessing who said that one!

We returned to Quiet Corner by ‘public’ transport – a M&M jeep, it was ‘public’ coz half of Masanagudi public seemed to be packed into the front seat alone.
That night, after dinner, Joy, a faculty at the missionary took us on a night safari. We spotted some sambar, bison (600kg of muscle, Sriram had found his match) and a lone elephant.

Day 2
Ravi, who had a room for himself, shared with us results of an overnight experiment. Good news, guys!
We lubed the chains and eased the idlys and boiled eggs in, ensuring that we gave time to even the last of the ‘early elephants’ to finish off. It’s their mating season apparently, and we didn’t want to be in a bad elephant joke, that goes “What’s got a trunk and does a doggy-doggy?”

Hatti Kalhatti
(Hatti: Kannada verb pl. meaning climb)
We were able to start the marathon climb only by 9. There was no time for warm-up and the ascent began within 15-20mins of the start. 36 hairpin bends over a distance of 20kms, climbing 1500mts in altitude. Kalhatti is one of the steepest climbs in the western ghats – 1.5kms ascent across 36hairpins.

Granny Gears to Granny Gait:
I was quickly onto granny gears 1-1, my 21 shimano gears seemed inadequate. The backpack and the heat weighed all of us down. I was able to last only 2-3 hairpin bends before I moved from granny gears to granny gait – bent almost perpendicular and struggling at the bends.

Gaurav fell behind from the start, he was troubled by a loose pedal. I didn’t see him till the very end of the climb.

It was truly fantastic, the attention we were getting. Many passing cars gave us a thumbs up, as did some workers patching up the road. We didn’t miss any of the vagina falls, bison crossing or the naked chick(en)s! And when we stopped for a break at the 19th hairpin Nagarathina Tea Stall at 11 for ‘pure salt’ biscuits, we were the cynosure of the tourists.

I left the others waiting for Gaurav, to continue my walk-jog-crawl-bike up the remaining distance. As I approached the top, I was accompanied some distance by Vincent, a sweet little girl studying 7th in a local school and then Siva who was pushing up his Hero Atlas cycle and was surprised to find me do the same to my phoren cycle.

I reached the check-post in Ooty at 12:35 and waited till the others caught up by 1:15 or so. It had taken us about 4.5 hours to navigate the distance and even Sriram admitted, “it is easily the toughest ride he had ever done, da!”

The proverbial last mile to the Lakeview restaurant was the toughest. But the inflated prices on the menu matched our inflated egos as we argued over the choice of restaurants.

We left to complete the 20 odd kms left for the day to Coonoor. We passed my personal landmark at Ooty, a wine shop on the Coonoor route, bringing back some memories. We breezed past the Lovedale valley downhill for about 15km. There was so much traffic on that route, when I was not looking ahead, I was looking behind my back.

Srinath Rajam was kind enough to offer us his house, “Anito” while we were at Coonoor. It was taking incongruity to new heights, when 5 sweaty, scantily clad guys walked into the aromatic palatial bunglow complete with trophies, exhibits, chandelier, piano and wall paintings. The bed rooms looked so inviting that Pocha immediately dozed off.

Day 2 ended with all 5 of us clinking Beer mugs at Blue Diamond Bar.

Profiling Pocha and Gaurav:
Pocha aka Ashish is this short guy with long hair, who had finished graduation from Chennai (humble even to admit it was IITM!) Pocha and I shared rooms, and we started to talk about work, entrepreneurship, and love! (ah love!) We both shared a deep sense of understanding (or the lack of it) of the fairer sex. Despite the general fatigue from the ride, we continued to chat on till well past midnight. The depth of his character surfaced when we refused to bribe the KSRTC driver on day5. The halo around his balls (read padded cycling shorts) should spread around the head too one of these days!

Gaurav was the other placid one, not being drawn into anything frivolous. He remained true to biking and I saw him relax only after we had reached Coonoor. He had vast biking experience, had biked up the highest peak of Mullanyangiri amongst others. He had miled more on his bicycle than most people would on motorbikes.

Day 3 and Birthday!

I would have sulked the whole day about a phone call that didn’t come, had it not been for Sriram. I haven’t laughed that much in a long time - best gift I could have got.
We spent a lazy Sunday morning, breakfast of idlys and egg-dosa by 11, deciding on the POA for the return journey all along. We considered and dropped options of riding to Coimbatore, catching a bus from Gudulpet, Ooty or even Coonoor.
Sriram, Pocha and I decided to visit lamb’s rock and Dolphin’s nose more so because of Sriram’s insistence.

We took a bus to Dolphin’s nose and ended up walking back nearly 5kms to Lamb’s rock, with Sriram providing non-stop entertainment. From pissing off the tea stall owner cum guide at Dolphin’s nose to missing the bus because Pocha and I were busy posing for a photo, to spotting a snake (viper!!) it was memorable.

We hitched our way back, a kind Army Major Subramanian gave us a lift.

Profiling Sriram
Aayyoo, it’s the Nilgiris Squirrel da… this is the perfect habitat for it da.
Guys, you missed it.
This is heaven for snakes.
Chee Kheek Kheek Kheek Kheek …
and then wait for the ‘almost extinct’ Nilgiri squirrel to give us that ‘rare sighting’. Only while he did that, there was this loud horn blaring Maruti van that zooms by, bringing us back from National Geographic. Btw, there is no Nilgiri squirrel, it is the Malabar Squirrel!!
I told you then only da…
Hey, you guys are very slow.
Salt biscuit iddya?? I love salt biscuit… have some… Its ‘direct salt’ dude.

This non-stop banterer had biked non-stop from Mysore to Kanyakumari in 6 days early this year. I also know him to run long distances really strong, he was the youngest in the group!

Day 4
At 7, we bid farewell to Francis and ‘Anito’, piled up the bikes into a mini-carrier and reached Talakundi on the outskirts of Ooty to begin the descent at 9.
I simply loved the downhill ride – the pace is heady, the focus is sharp and a right hairpin bend appears at a distance, first the right knee would open, then the weight of the body would shift, the bike would magically tilt as it navigated the curve, the knee would close and straighten, and then the left hairpin bend comes around!

This alternate knee-dance brought us down in no time. We sped past Masanagudi, Teppakadu and Bandipur; Ravi and I clocking 67kmph on his speedometer at one point. A puncture on Ravi’s bike and Guarav’s nagging pedal problem notwithstanding, we reached PugMark outside Bandipur by 1130.

Bandipur was a lovely stretch to ride, we stuck together as a group and returned many greetings from passing cagers.

At PugMark, we met this young wildlife enthusiast who has taken a sabbatical to play guide to tourists at Jungle lodges. The world is full of insane people.

We stopped at Pathans at Gundlupet for full meals. Ravi and Gaurav had to be in Bangalore early and decided to break away from the group. Pocha and I were determined to do the full distance to Mysore. We split up and took off, leaving Sriram, Ravi and Gaurav trying to thumb down a truck or something.

But within the 10mins, we saw Ravi ride past us in flourish. Just when Pocha began to feel like Hrithik of Lakshya, where he manages to motivate his team mates into going after the goal… enters the mallu truck driver who offered to drop them wonlee till Maisore, wokay.

Sriram, Pocha and I continued on good scenic roads to reach Nanjangud by 4 and Mysore by 5.

High-o-high
About 10kms before Nanjangud, a motorbike draws up alongside and the rider apprises me about my speed and my team mates. Dairy Chandru from Nanjangud, stuck with me alongside, discussing the un-seasonal rains, the changing lifestyles of Bangalore, Yugadi festival, his own ‘Hero Atlas’ long rides, his sons education. He ended up inviting me over to his place at Nanjangud. See, I am likable!

The ride finished off with our own Rang-De fight with the Volvo Airavata Bus driver as we refused to pay a bribe for unloading our bikes!
Many thanks to Navdeep who was so very willing to lend me his bike, this wouldn't have been possible if it weren't for you. Thanks!!
Photos Galore here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Full No-Moon Run



Bangalore has been experiencing unseasonal rains for the whole of last month, much like the runs raining from Shewag’s bat – unpredictable and pleasant. The Full-Moon Half marathon was also bang in the middle of a long Good-Friday weekend.
The only preparation I had done for this one was to quit doing any exercise for the whole of last week. It did feel good to wake up as late as 830 every morning, barring the one morning when I joined Saurabh, my new running mate on a 13km jog on Wednesday.
The run was to start at twilight from a private farm on Kanakpura road, NH209. About 10kms from Metro (Kagalipura?), there is a gate that leads into a long and winding up a hillock to the guest house on top offering a decent view of the topography of the place. A beautiful place to own – some 45acres of coconut grooves + the hillock to house the resting place – perfect I say!
Saurabh and I were the last of reach there and we missed the flagging off. We caught up with the others quickly.

The trail:
It wasn’t really a trail, mostly very undulating winding road passing through a village and opening into this beautiful Vaderahalli lake and then into some wilderness behind the lake. The pit stops were sufficiently stocked with watermelons and oranges.
I finished the first loop in 53mins, but with no moon to light up the road, it was quite a challenge to do negative split timing. I had to butter-foot the last couple of kms and finished an impressive 5th overall, just behind Athreya, Ashok, Hari and Saurabh.

The worse was yet to come… we were deprived of the much-needed chilled, bubbly nourishment (read B E E R) at the end of the run. “We didn’t tell you to run that fast”, was the explanation.
Got back home – high and dry by midnight.

The photos, courtesy Abnash can be found here.

Pretty decent site this http://www.panoramio.com/

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The 'Y' Marathon

Pre-Read:
The 'S' Marathon
The 'O' Marathon
The 'R' Marathon
Record 'R' Marathon
The 'Y' Marathon

The 'Y' Marathon:
Quick Update:
I ran the final Y Marathon distance of 21.2 kms in 2:03mins.

Split timings:
10.5kms in 1:05hours
21.2kms in 2:03hours

BPM Stats:
Average: 147 BPM
Maximum: 168 BPM

Current mood: Humming “Naa hai yeh paana, Naa khona hi heh” from Tum Se Hi!!
The Epilogue
Superman lasts only so long as the endorphins do, and then the pain takes over. By day four, my knees had taken a beating. I had shin splints, knee and ankle hurt, this is not something I am proud of!
I wanted to endure the last one all alone, the perpetual question “WHY” had to be answered. I started very late, 0635 in the morning, completely missing the refreshing sunrise and the almost full moon.
Every step I took for the first couple of kms seemed to take the pain around esp. around my knees to a higher plane altogether, like every little step I had taken in the last 4 months. As I jogged (limped should be the apt verb) down BEL Road, I was asking myself this very question “Why I do it or why I cannot not-do it”
Why I do it or why I cannot not-do it
Because, when you are an optimist or insane, you view every challenge as an opportunity. You know it may be impossible but you see a tiny window, a glimmer of hope. For me, all I have do, is to close my eyes and drift for a few seconds to see that window of hope, of opportunity.
But when every hope, every opportunity turns into a challenge, a struggle, you sense the small window beginning to close. The thought of what-if-nots grips you, you frantically try to take charge, to gain control of the uncontrollable, in vain.
And what do I do, I run. Clench your fist and punch slowly into a wall, doesn’t hurt, right. Now do it a hundred times, a thousand, a million perhaps, and it would hurt, it would hurt like hell, I can tell you that. I did that with my legs through the last 5 days. I guess I run towards that small window, to the life I can see through it. Today, I run, I run to redeem.

At the end of it all, I’m not sure what the feeling is like – a tear in the corner of my eye, a smirk on my lips. “Tum Se Hi” runs on in the background…

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Record 'R' Marathon

Pre-Read:
The 'S' Marathon
The 'O' Marathon
The 'R' Marathon

Come on, Manoj, 20mins more and we are done”. This, after we had run 16kms at nearly 12kmph pace, in 1:16mins and when I was nearly dead. I lengthened my stride a wee bit. I glance at my watch, 1:33hours, Doc looked over his shoulder, “Just 2kms to go, a few more minutes.” I curse under my breath, “Easy for you to say”; the legs seemed to be flying though. The last km was somehow the longest, must have been the effect of adding the 200mts to make it to 21.2kms. “200mts to go”, he declared.
There was no tape to break, no line to cross, no gigantic clock on display… in the fields somewhere near Hoskote, Alain, Doc and I exchanged low-fives. What a fantastic run, it had been. I clocked my personal best timing, a half marathon in 1:40mins!!

At 4:30 this morning, when I looked myself in the mirror at my unshaven face, I was tired, 2 more hours of sleep seemed very very inviting, I was almost craving for it. The legs, though, seemed less stiff after the 5hours of sleep I had managed. Doc and I were running with Alain, who is a fantastic runner and had kept pace with Doc for most of the Ultra Marathon.
I reached Spring Meadows at Whitefield at 0530 and we started off in the dark armed with headlamps. It did slow us down a bit for the first 5-6kms.

At the finish, the feeling was simply amazing. Superman returns, resurrected!

Split timings:
10kms in 50mins
12.6kms in 1 hour
21.2kms in 1:40hours
25kms in 1:59hours
26kms in 2:05hours

BPM Stats:
Average: 167 Beats per min
Maximum: 227 BPM (something wrong I guess, can’t imagine this!)
Myths buried:
Taper? The run comes after 3 half marathons in the last 3 days – 66kms in 72hours!
Rest before the run? 5 hours of sleep was all I could manage the night before.
Carb-loading? Zilch, dinner was 3 chapatis with dal.

The only thing that mattered were the ‘extra nuts’ I was running with – Rajat and Alian, Thanks so much!!
Current mood: Someone remind me why I started running this series please!

Monday, February 25, 2008

The 'R' Marathon

Pre-read:
The 'S' Marathon
The 'O' Marathon

The 'R' Marathon
If it was introspection and the ensuing feeling of ‘oh’ with the ‘O’ marathon, it was R for Rajat Chauhan all over the third half marathon of the series. We looked like we were jogging around circles in Cubbon Park this morning. We were running through the Cubbon Flora and a whole lot of the-larger-connotation-of-life, ethics and moral fibers, love life and otherwise (mine and Docs respectively!) jobs, yada yada yada…

Time stamp: 0610, 25 February 2008
Distance: 22.5kms
Half Marathon time: 1:51mins
Average BPM: 168
How I feel: Stiff… very stiff and sore around the knee. May live through the next two runs. It hurts, but am I glad it is only around the knee!!
Current Mood: Runners High

The 'O' Marathon

Pre-read:
The 'S' Marathon
The 'O' Marathon
oh [ō] interjection
1. used to express strong emotion: used to express a strong emotional reaction to something, for example, surprise, shock, pain, or extreme pleasure •

In my case, the ‘O’ marathon was more of a reaction to a realization of what had gone wrong. It happened somewhere between the ‘S’ and the ‘O’ half marathons.
I ran with Runner’s For Life along the Airport Perimeter and followed it up with a plain (plane!) Dosa at Krishna Café at Kormangala.

Time stamp: 0635, 24 February 2008
Distance: 24kms
Half Marathon time: 1:55mins
How I feel: The pain has not really surfaced. More importantly, the remorse has already abated!
Current Mood: Introspection