Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Wipro Chennai Marathon 2012 - A Report



If just putting the 2 words, Chennai and Marathon, is not crazy enough, I actually ran The Wipro Chennai marathon (TWCM). The run was organized by a group of running freaks – The Chennai Runners.

Chennai and December
The timing for holding the race was perfect. December is the coldest Chennai can get. This time it was right before the onset of the return SW monsoons. As I type this it’s pouring in Chennai, and I can imagine how different this report would have been, if the monsoons were 2 days too early. Would have turned out like the Chicago marathon which Dharam ran.

Chennai’s got pancake flat roads, so much in contrast to the Hyderabad marathon course I ran in October.

To counter the heavy morning traffic of Chennai, the Chennai-runners did a good job of getting the last 10miles of the course inside IIT campus.

Pre-Race
All communications were handled well. The Expo at EA Mall was low key but very functional. I was in and out within 10mins. The goody bag could have been stocked better – no juices, face washes, biscuits or chilly powder! Personally I only cared that I had the timing chip and the personalized bib (with my name on it).

Race Day
What could have been better:
  • Direction markers inside the IIT campus leading to the parking
  • Since water stations didn’t come very frequently (was still ok), they surely should have had Electral. Glucose is not as efficient to replenish salts as is Electral.
  • Kilometer markers outside IIT were being placed at 6AM, while we were running on the course. Since it’s a challenge to get this labor to come in at 4am to place the markers, it’s best done late night, the previous night. If I didn’t have my Garmin GPS, I would have had no way of pacing myself.
  • And when the mile markers did come, they were placed hurriedly in wrong places. The 24k mark, for instance, was off by a good 2kms. At that point, I was prepping myself to run a 44k marathon (remember Midnight Marathon last year?)
  • There were no mile markers for the first loop inside IIT, the deficit (above) was over-corrected when the 36k mile marker reappeared, with 34.3km on Garmin!
What was WOWsome:
  • The course, esp outside IIT was well planned. Absolutely loved the flat sections, well traffic regulated roads, beautiful Marina Beach with the entire Beach Road blocked for runners – on both sides, Mind it!
  • Chennai runners / walkers inside IIT campus, making way, clapping and cheering on faster runners on narrow and winding course. I even had a “appadi podu” moment, when some of them put off one ‘see tee’.
  • As the full marathoners finished, there were kids from a Charitable trust, who waited with medals for us. Those kids are the real heroes.
  • No waiting in line for refreshments / medals for full marathoners.

My own race
Highlights:
  • My first marathon with negative splits – 1h:47m and 1h:46m for the 2 halves
  • The fastest 5k was between 35k – 40k, in spite of the winding course and runners’ traffic
  • All 5k splits timings within 70sec of each other, 24m:44s to 25m:54s per lap
  • A second top-10 finish for the year , 8that Hyderabad Marathon (AHM) and 5th here
  • An official timing that will read sub 3:30mins – 3:27:57 (official course was short by 1k)
Personally, the training was not the greatest. I had to dig deep for motivation after the PB at AHM, for I didn’t expect to better AHM at Chennai. With, “expecting” beginning to mean other things in life, the focus was surely not on my running performance.
I had picked up training about 2 weeks after AHM. And although, the weekly mileage dipped to 40km for 2 straight weeks, I did not miss the quality workouts of the Jack Daniels training program. The last few weeks leading up to the race day, boosted the confidence up. I scaled down from a target of 3h:17m (as per my current V-dot) to a 3:30 to 3:40 finish.

Race day
Since it was a flat course, the plan was to run at a constant 5:05 min/km pace for as long as I could hold, and maybe slow down to a 5:15 pace for the last 10k or so.
I rode my father-in-law’s new Vespa, and got to the Gajendra circle within IIT campus, well before the 5am start time. The only familiar faces were Sampath, Chandra Sr. and Sumit. I wasn’t left with too much time for the warm up – just about 5mins or so.

The first half
The race started on time, with some 200 odd full marathoners in the fray. I locked in into the 5:05 target pace even before I got out of the IIT campus. Barring one mini-flyover, the course was flat. Oh, the beach road section was fab, the entire road was devoid of traffic and looked very inviting. At caught up with the bare-chested, barefoot runner, Viswanath, popularly called Hubli Passenger on this stretch.

With about 16k done in good time, the spirits were pushed as high as the lighthouse I was passing, when I heard my father-in-law cheering for me. He had made his way through the traffic blockages, to be on the course, handycam and all. He ran alongside for a few hundred meters, capturing me on camera.

As I entered IIT campus for the last 2 loops inside campus, the mile markers read 2k extra compared to my Garmin GPS, I prepped myself up for running a 44k marathon.

The second half
The section inside campus was good too, except for the numerous turns on the course. The slower runners were courteous and made way. I had to use my vocal chords as much as my leg muscles to bellow the “coming through”s. At 36km, there was a surprise package – a near 2k discount, with the mile markers suddenly showing 2k more than the Garmin. I tried to remain indifferent to them, but was running very steady at this point. I passed another veteran A N Subramanian, around then. I was able to hold on to pace right to the finish line.

The official finish time is 3:27:57s placing me in 5th place overall.

After collecting my medal from one cute school girl, I ran a couple of loops within the stadium so the Garmin would read the distance as 42.2km!
A great race to bring down the curtains for a great running year. Thanks for all your support and encouragement and staying with me. See you all next year, with more PBs and more fun runs!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Airtel Hyderabad Marathon 2012 - A Report




First, the Marathon Organizing team scorecard; followed by my own race report.

What the Organizers a.k.a. Hyderabad Runners did well:

  • Good course – set like a dumbbell, the full marathoners do the extra loops around the start and end points, the half marathoners ran point to point. A to B runs are always refreshing, but poses a challenge to the organizers – traffic blockage, water stops, medical aid. But when you organize an A to B course, you are placing the runner before yourself. Contrast this to a 2.6k course, run up and down, 10 times!
  • Great set of volunteers – At each water station the volunteers owned the race. The runner was made to feel special. There were some manning traffic, others running alongside to supply water bottles. They were on cycles, riding up and down, enquiring if you needed water, biscuits or fruit. A few of them placed themselves firmly in the middle of the road, between traffic blocking cones to make sure traffic did not get into the running barricade. There were a few just standing in the rain and putting their hands together when I passed. When a herd of buffaloes threatened to stop me, they sprinted ahead to help the cowherd clear them off the road, just in time. I can go on with this list, they made every passing kilometer seem easy…
  • Well stocked water stations – Gatorade, water, bananas, sponges, relaxant spray were handed out by eager volunteers They set the bar high in the 2009 edition that I ran (read here), and they easily better themselves this time around. A++ for the Hyderabad Runners (HR)

Three and Half – my race report
Training – High on Jack Daniel’s formula
Three years ago, I clocked a three point something (3:50:01) for a personal best running the hills in Hyderabad (report here). Although I came close to breaching that time in Singapore in 2010, it was Hyderabad that again handed me a Personal best. I wrote about the journey (the training) and not the destination (the race), in my report of a failed previous attempt. This time too, it was the journey that needs to take credit. Thanks to Navin, I followed a high-mileage 24 week training program based on Daniel’s running formula.
Some stats from the training:
Start date – 8th March 2012
No. of weeks – 24
Number of workouts – 98
Total distance run – 1392 kms
Total time spent running – 131h:51m:04s
Total calories burnt – 96931 calories

There was no EPO for me, but I did manage to get my RBC count up by doing some high altitude training. Visit this blog next week to know more…

Pre-race and race strategy
When I told him of my plans in Hyd, he said “what eet ees” and that is how Risky hosted me at his place in Hyd. I ran a 5k around his My Home apartment to get a feel of the conditions – which seemed like Bangalore – overcast and cool.
We rode most of the marathon route on Saturday, to the Expo where bibs, goodie bag, timing chip and tees were distributed. I must have psyched Risky with my pre-race OCD – stuff as much carbs, salt and water.
We spent a couple of hours pouring over the elevation profile, race course map and our own first-hand experience of the course, from what we had seen in the morning. I drew up target 5k splits for both of us; based on the elevation, adding 20 sec/km to my average pace of 4:55 min/km for uphill sections and minus 20sec/km for down hills. The target 5k paces were so complex, I had to write them down on my bib. To add to an exam eve like nervousness, I actually felt like I was making ‘chits’!!

A 2:45am wake up call, 2 bananas and 30min bike ride later we were at the start point. I deposited my bag, picked up a banana and reached the starting line. I heeded to Athreya’s advice about warming up, and jogged easy for about 5mins before the start.

0-10km (49m:16s) 
The start was on time, uncluttered and within 200m or so, I found my space. Sampath, who I had shared my training routines with, had finally decided to suspend his thesis work and join me. A much gritty and stronger runner, I was hoping for him to pick me up during the final stages of the race. The course was flat (around Hussain Sagar lake) but I struggled to keep even keel. When the street lights allowed me to glance down at my watch, we were either going too fast or too slow. The target for the first 10k was 49:10 and we had done it in 49:16 – On target! It also meant we passed the start point near iMax before the half marathon start, thus missing the crowds.

10-20km (48m:52s)
10k to 20k had some steep uphills as we made our way past KBR Park towards Banjara hills and Jubilee hills. I had had so much Gatorade & water by this time, I had to take a p-break. Sampath and I attacked the long downhills too and were running at over 16-17kmph. So much so, we even managed to keep pace with the elite half marathoners for a bit. The strategy paid off and we made up for the lost speed during the uphills and clocked under 49m for the second 10k, about 100secs faster than target. 21.1k – the half way mark was done in 1:43:10

20-30km (49m:37s)
This was the most difficult and very crucial stretch of the race. For one there were climbs of 40m over 4kms from 20-24k near the HiTech city and another 70m climb between 25 to 29kms – the Gachibowli flyover. The Gachibowli flyover seemed like a pile of work at office – while you drudgingly make your way uphill, the pile / hill only seem to grow! And to make matters worse, we were running in to a strong head wind while on the flyover. Sampath slowed down to gulp some Gatorade handed over by a willing volunteer and he never caught up. I was looking for cover, tried to stay in Sampath’s slip stream in vain, also tried running along the edge of the flyover in hope that the wind would be less effective there. I had to dig deep to keep going and kept telling myself that this is what I had trained for.
And when I labored over the crest near ISB and saw this long downhill, did I sprint or what. I ran like there was no tomorrow… 

30-40km (53m:27s)
The target for the last 10k was 51:40s. But given my record in the last 10k of my past marathons (see comparison chart), I would take anything under 60mins for the last 10k. As I began the last quartile, a steady drizzle turned stronger. The course looped around ISB and the University, on undulating country road. This stretch was very beautiful indeed. When I reached the water stop just after the 35km mark, I had run 2h:52m and soaked to the bone. I stopped here at the water stop and used muscle relaxants.
I remembered the University stretch from the 2009 race and was looking forward for it. 

With the rain clogging my glasses, I was witness to a bizarre incident of a runner ahead of me, doing an Armstrong - hitching a ride on a passerby’s bicycle! The only thing that you give back as a runner to the sport, is to be honest & true. That is possibly the only tenet that the sport stands for - the distance is true, the pain is true, the high is true. I quickly dismissed this event so as to not affect the wonderful race I was having thus far.

A couple of more brief stops for the spray must have cost me the couple of minutes that I was off target here. Even as I entered the stadium towards the finish, I was doing an impressive 5:20min/km pace.

I sprinted towards the finish line to open arms of Rajesh Vetcha – a key member of the organizing team, to a Personal best of 3:31:33
(photo courtesy Anju KP)
I was placed 8th overall and 7th in the Men's category among approx 240 finishers.

What went right:
  • The long threshold runs during the training
  • Attacking the downhills, not letting even a single one go wasted
  • Run organized by the runners, for the runners took care of lots of nuances
  • And, last but not the least…Shoes presented by Shreya, socks presented by Sunil (how can a race report not mention the sponsors!)

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Furman FIRST and Auroville Marathon Report


Its often said “Focus on the Journey and not on the destination”. I am forced to focus on the “journey” in this post, merely because I was disappointed with the “destination”.

Destination
The Auroville marathon was organized in its usual convivial manner on 12-02-2012 in a bid to spread the “Joy of Running”. The date coinciding with the Valentine week, the Auroville ashram settings, the kind volunteers at the water stations do just that.
The organizers had invited Barefoot-Ted of the Born to Run fame, to give a talk before the pasta dinner, bringing running back to its basic elements.

The course does its bit too - the trail winds through Matri Mandir, Certitude, Shanti, Sincerity, Grace and other landmarks. This year, however, the chill inducing imagery of the wide-spread destruction caused by Thane, the Hurricane that hit Pondi in Dec, leveling out large tracks of forest land, was staring at the runners. Felt much like my own PB (personal best) dreams being leveled on the race day.

The course was off by about 500mts right from the 2nd km mark and then the deficit doubled over the 2 loops, adding more than a kilometer to the course. It was depressing to pass every milestone twice – once actually as measured by Garmin and then on the mile markers. It only amplifies the mental trauma, if you aren’t having a good race.
My plan, to run an aggressive pace of 5min/km, proved to be the nemesis and I began to struggle as early as half way mark. My 5k splits - 24:32, 26:03, 25:04, 24:35, 27:00, 27:52, 32:36, 38:16, 16:35 also mirror the struggle after 20km. Running into the circle formed by the LED torch light, in the dark contributed to a slow second lap.

The 30k was done in 2h:35mins, but somewhere between 33k to 40k, I had lost all motivation to keep up pace. I was swept by a Cyclone of negativity and all hopes of a PB were leveled. I finished the 42.2k in 4h:02m, the extra 1.5km added about 9mins to my official finish time of 4h:11mins. I was devastated, was sullen the entire trip back to Bangalore with Jugy. It hadn’t helped that I had shared the room at Ginger with D, who was against running a PB at Auroville from the very beginning.

photo courtesy: Mahesh Srinivas
The Journey
Yes, it is time to focus on the many positives – the journey / training. After a rather non-racing 2011, when I only accompanied Sunil on his long runs for his Comrades training and ran a couple of fast half marathons (Spirit of Wipro and Mysore Celebration in Oct). I picked up Furman’s First training program. The emphasis of this training was – Run Less, Run Faster. The idea of the program was to keep the weekly mileage relatively low (< 50km/week), with 3 key workouts during the week – intervals, tempo & long runs, plus 2 days of cross training. I was targeting paces for a 3:30 marathon finish, based on my 10k & HM timings.

I choose 2 weight training days as cross training and hoped that my biking would take care of the cross training deficit.
The long runs started as early as Dec and went all the way till Feb. All my long runs were around HSR and I did enjoy every one of them, running them mostly on Saturdays, Shreya’s working day. I fell into routine with the long runs; running about five 30k runs during Dec & Jan. All the 30k runs were done in about 2h:30m to 2h:45m and the run up looked very promising.

The Pluses of RLRF
  • Weekly mileage is low, one feels fresh and well rested for each workout
  • Since there are only 3 key workout days, you feel very guilty if you have missed one. There are many options to juggle and squeeze the missed workout. The program also emphasizes to not catch up on missed workouts
  • The target paces are varied in moderate steps, although the runs get you tired, they are never out of reach

Minuses of RLRF
  • The max distance is 32k, a couple of longer runs would probably help
  • The need for cross training is not emphasized enough, also not detailed. My gym training did not qualify for cross training, but I didn’t know how much riding would
  • Overall, it was a fantastic experience going through the rigor of training, checking each workout. I ended up missing only 1 week in all of the 16week training program.
  • Personally, I like keeping the mileage higher for now and I may choose not to do this for the next few years.

I lost the race, but didn’t want to lose the lesson, hence this post!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

My Running Resume

Inspiration to make this post was drawn from lindsay’s blog here

My Personal Best Timing for various distances

  • ·         5k - Urban Stampede 5k (5 Aug 12 and 2 Aug 15) - 19:38
  • ·         6mi - Mizuno Blaydon Race 6mi (9 Jun 09) - 42:11
  • ·         10k - Bengaluru 10K Challenge (9 Jul 17) - 39:01
  • ·         21.1k - Spirit of Wipro Half marathon (20 Sep 15) - 1:28:18
  • ·         42.2k - Shriram Properties Bangalore Marathon (15 Oct 2017) - 3:20:15
  • ·         50k - Golden Gate Trail 50k (6 Feb 16) - 5:28:33
  • ·         51k - Run to Nandi 51k (26 Sep 09) - 6:57:00
  • ·         75k - Bangalore Ultra Marathon 75k (15 Nov 09) - 10:36:14
  • ·         78k - Bangalore Ultra Marathon 78km (16 Dec 07) - 12:07:00
  • ·         100k - Bangalore Ultra Marathon (07 Nov 15) - 14:18:43
  • ·         110k - Malnad Ultra 2016 (08 Oct 16) - 13:44:48
  • ·         12hr - Bengaluru Stadium Run (29 Jul 17) - 102.4kms

(* Indicates Personal Best at that point)

2005

  • ·         Lipton Bangalore International Marathon (15 May 05) 6:05:00*
  • ·         JSW Bangalore Half Marathon (18 Dec 05) 2:30:00*

2006

  • ·         TOI Bangalore International Marathon (17 Sep 06) 05:35:00*
  • ·         Moonlight Bangalore Hash Half Marathon (8 April 06) 03:00:00
  • ·         Run #408 of Bangalore Hash House Harriers (26 Feb 06)

2007

  • ·         Bangalore Midnight Half Marathon (19 May 07) 2:22:00*
  • ·         Kavery Trail Marathon (18 Nov 07)  4:47:00*
  • ·         Bangalore Ultra Marathon 78km (16 Dec 07) 12:07:00*

2008

  • ·         Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (20 Jan 08) 4:29:52*
  • ·         Sunfeast World 10k Bangalore (18 May 08) 47:54:00
  • ·         Hampi Heritage Half Marathon (June 08) 5:00:00
  • ·         Great Tibetan Marathon (19 July 08) 5:20:01 – 18th position
  • ·         Spirit of Wipro 10k Run (8 Sep 08) 44:51:00*  – 5th Position
  • ·         Kavery Trail Marathon (19 Oct 08)  4:35:32
  • ·         Bangalore Ultra Marathon 75km (16 Nov 08) 11:04:20*- 4th Position

2009

  • ·         Bangalore Midnight Half Marathon (14 Jan 09) 1:57:00*
  • ·         Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (18 Jan 09) 4:50:09
  • ·         Auroville Marathon (15 Feb 09) 4:01:06 – 7th position
  • ·         Mizuno Blaydon Race 6mi (9 Jun 09) 42:11
  • ·         Urban Stampede 5k (22 Aug 09) 22:20 – 18th position
  • ·         Hyderabad Hi-tech Marathon (30 Aug 09) 3:50:01* - 4th position
  • ·         Run to Nandi 51k (26 Sep 09) 6:57:00
  • ·         Spirit of Wipro 10k Run (10 Oct 09) 44:11* - 2nd position
  • ·         Bangalore Ultra Marathon 75k (15 Nov 09) 10:36:14
  • ·         Bangalore Midnight Marathon (12 Dec 09) 4:20:00

2010

  • ·         Auroville Marathon (14 Feb 10) 4:08:31
  • ·         Spirit of Wipro 10k Run (09 Oct 10) 44:30 - 1st position
  • ·         Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (05 Dec 10) 3:50:08
  • ·         Bengaluru Midnight Half Marathon (11 Dec 10) 1:43:50*

2011

  • ·         Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (16 Jan 11) 4:26:17
  • ·         Mysore Celebration Half marathon (02 Oct 11) 1:40:28
  • ·         Spirit of Wipro Half marathon (09 Oct 11)1:39:06* – 2nd position

2012

  • ·         Auroville Marathon (12 Feb 12) 4:11:00
  • ·         Cluj Napoca Marathon (22 April 12) 3:58:25
  • ·         TCS World 10k (27 May 12) 42:51*
  • ·         Puma Urban Stampede - 5k (5 Aug 12) 19:38*
  • ·         Spirit of Wipro Half marathon (15 Sep 2012) 1:35:58* - 1st position
  • ·         Airtel Hyderabad Marathon (26 Aug 12) 3:31:33*
  • ·         The Wipro Chennai Marathon (02 Dec 12) 3:27:59* 

2013

  • ·         TCS World 10k (19 May 13) 45:35
  • ·         Dream Runners half marathon (7 Jul 13) 1:47:19
  • ·         Bangalore-Hiriyur-Bangalore Brevet ride 300k (22 Jun 13) 15:30
  • ·         SFS Bangalore road bike race (28 July 13) 49k in 1:32
  • ·         Puma Urban Stampede - 5k (4 Aug 13) 21:31
  • ·         The Wipro Chennai half marathon (01 Dec 13) 1:41:10
  • ·         SBI Bangalore midnight marathon (14 Dec 13) 3:29:44

2014

  • ·         Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (19 Jan 14) 3:27:34*
  • ·         Horseshoe lake trail 50k Ultra (18 May 14) 6:09:27* - AG 2nd position
  • ·         Dream runners Half Marathon (22 Jun 14) 2:27:52
  • ·         Puma Urban Stampede - 5k (3 Aug 14) 0:20:12
  • ·         Burnham Beeches Half Marathon (17 Aug 14) 1:31:03*
  • ·         Spirit of Wipro Half marathon (21 Sep 14) - 1:29:41* - 3rd position
  • ·         Shriram Properties Bengaluru Marathon (19 Oct 14) 3:22:57*

2015

  • ·         5k - Urban Stampede 5k (2 Aug 15) - 19:38*
  • ·         Spirit of Wipro Half marathon (20 Sep 15) - 1:28:18* - 3rd position
  • ·         Shriram Properties Bengaluru Marathon (18 Oct 15) 3:42:02
  • ·         Performax Bengaluru Ultra 100k (07 Nov 15) 14:18:43 - AG 4th position

2016

  • ·         50k - Golden Gate Trail 50k (6 Feb 16) - 5:28:33* - AG 3rd position
  • ·         10k - TCS World 10k (15 May 16) - 39:33* - AG 4th position
  • ·         60k - Pedernales Falls Trail (25 Jun 16) - 7:32*
  • ·         12h - Bengaluru Stadium Run (6 Aug 16) - 92.8kms*
  • ·         50k - Cinderella Trail (13 Aug 16) - 6:25 - AG 4th position
  • ·         110k - Malnad Ultra 2016 (08 Oct 16) - 13:44:48* - 2nd position
  • ·         Shriram Properties Bengaluru Marathon (18 Oct 16) 5:13:46 - Pacer

2017
  • ·         10k - TCS World 10k (21 May 17) - 39:07* - AG 4th position
  • ·         10k - Bengaluru 10K Challenge (9 Jul 17) - 39:01* - AG 6th position
  • ·         Spirit of Wipro Half marathon (17 Sep 17) - 1:28:52 - 2nd position
  • ·         12hr - Bengaluru Stadium Run (29 Jul 17) - 102.4kms*
  • ·         Shriram Properties Bangalore Marathon (15 Oct 2017) - 3:20:15* - AG 7th

2015 to 2079



Stay tuned in...



Tuesday, May 29, 2012

PB at TCS World 10k 2012


Quick Stats

Category U40
Overall Rank 64
Category Rank 38
Gender Rank 62
Split@4 Km 00:16:21 at an Avg Speed of 14.68 Kmph
Split@5 Km 00:22:55 at an Avg Speed of 13.09 Kmph
Split@7 Km 00:31:56 at an Avg Speed of 13.15 Kmph
Split@8 Km 00:36:53 at an Avg Speed of 13.01 Kmph
Net time    00:42:51 at an Avg Speed of 14.Kmph

Race Report
I wasn’t sure I wanted to register for this edition of the TCS World 10k this year. The registration was up to Rs. 700 (inflation catches up with running?), last year’s race had me stuck in traffic (of slower runners) and had handed me a 47-min 10k.

But Ujjivan, where Shreya works, was running for Parinaam foundation – both Shreya and I registered through Parinaam. Read all about Parinaam on their website here.


Registration and Pre-race
Procam has now set the benchmark for any running event in India – the registrations, the collection of goody bag, timing chip, facilities on the run - have become something of a given now. I tried the gait analysis at the Nike store at the Expo and that didn’t throw up any surprises, either; a small over-pronation on the right leg, but not something that needs stability / control shoes.
The only glitch was that I had provided a race timing certificate that would get me into the ‘B’ (under 1h:15m) corral, but I was slotted with corral C (above 1h:15m finishers)


Flash back, June 5th – TCS World 10k 2011
In the last year’s edition, I was in the middle of no particular training schedule. Shreya and I had both registered for the Open 10k. I waited near Tiffany’s circle for the elite athletes to pass and then made my way to the holding area. I ended up being caught in the middle of large crowds of runners at the start. So much so, that even after crossing the timing mat at the start line, I was unable to run. It had taken me plenty of shoving, dodging, running-through-ing -  3m:20s for the first 500m and 5m:30s for the first km! It was only after 2km, when I was on Cubbon road that the crowds began to thin.


It wasn’t a great race - I had 5k splits of 23:28 and 24:06 and finished in 47m:34s. Shreya picked up Plantar Fasciitis injury during the run that nags her to this day.


Fast Forward Sunday, 27th May 29, 2012
I knew I had to be in the front of the pack this year. I arrived at the stadium gates as soon as it opened at 6:30AM and entered the pen/corral for the A category runners. The security at the gate was only instructed to look for the “pass” (bib) and not the corral mentioned on the bib. After I sneaked in, I found a corner and hid myself. I didn’t leave the front position for next 1.5hours – no toilet breaks, no warming up. And so, when the gate opened and we were ushered to the track at 8AM, I was right behind the wall of bouncers!


Once in the front and with running buddies (Athreya, A2, D, Pani, Siddesh, Sampath), the challenge was to hold back on pace and not get carried away. While running up on Kasturba road, I kept the pace down to 4:20/km. D passed me on MG Road, but I maintained a steady gap with him all through Cubbon Road, at the end of which I managed to get past him.


At 3k when a pro-looking female athlete passed me, I latched on to her pace for the next 3kms after which she took off.
Just did some research on Google and found out that the “pro-looking athlete” was Disna Malkanthi, a Srilankan athlete who has HM timing of 1:27 and FM timing of 3:17.


At the U-turn point (4k), I must have had a lead of about 30s over Pani & gang. I kept pushing pace to make sure I stay ahead of Pani, who was targeting a sub-44min finish.
All along I heard people on the course shout “Go D, great going D, etc” referring to the now famous consultant-turned-coach, Dharam or D. I knew he was breathing down my neck.


I normally calculate percentages to see how much is left while running my marathons. In a 10k, the math is simple and refreshing, when you start to struggle, you only have 30% to go, unlike a marathon where you may have 60%!
I also knew the last 2-3k was a mild downhill (if you think it is otherwise, don’t tell me. Its best I don’t know) and I could therefore keep pace. The pic below was taken when I passed Shantanu with about a km to go.



I shouted out to him then and almost immediately felt a side stitch. I made a mental note to keep my mouth shut and not try anything fancy for the last 1k.
It was Damian who gave me the wings I needed for the final sprint. He had walked down the course a few hundred meters after he had finished (in 36mins), stood there and yelled “Just round the corner”. I understood and sprinted to the finish line, which stood hidden right after a turn into the stadium. Some other runners thought there was more after the turn and were deprived of the sprint finish.


I finished where I should have, in the company of runners that I admire. The PB finish time of 42m:51s was incidental. It was a PB for a 10k, that came after 3years – the last one (44:11) was at Spirit of Wipro Run in Oct 2009.


I ran a comparison chart of the km splits of last year and this. There are 2 obvious reasons (given that the course was unchanged) why there was a near 5min difference between this year’s and last.


I have circled the reasons in the above graph
  1. The crowded start – very obvious (The first bar could very well be the petrol prices of last year’s and this, that obvious)
  2. Almost all other km splits showed an average 23s improvement/km – An entire year’s worth of training… 

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Polish Weekend

This is a dated post, going back to end-July 2011, the weekend just before the CAM ride. My work place was Huta Katowice at Dąbrowa Górnicza, the biggest steel producing plant in Poland. I was put up at Katowice, a neatly laid out city in southern Poland.

Running in Katowice


Some quick enquiries at Hotel Angelo reception and some more Google maps browsing later, I had sorted out a route for an early morning run. The weather was perfect, the sun-rise at 5AM or so and Katowice is a safe city. My question if it was safe to run, was met by a rather surprised look at the counter and I was assured. I carried some cash and my mobile phone for insurance.

So here I was, half way round the globe from home, glancing past signboards in foreign language, a map in hand, doing what I do best – Run.
The 10km loop took me past the Silesia City Center mall with its antique tower and locomotive exhibits from its mining past, and past a Saint Barbara’s Chapel. A few hundred meters to the right was entrance to what looked like a massive park (it claims to be the biggest park in Europe). There was no a soul in this picturesque park, complete with floral statues, a Zoo, ponds, fountains and my favorite – the naked lady statue.
I ran this Silesian loop on every chance I had – twice!

Early on Saturday morning, I coaxed my colleagues into catching the 7am bus from Katowice to Krakow. I had made enquiries and spoken to a guide of a ‘cool tour company’ and had tentatively confirmed for the 10am bike tour. I had to scramble around to find the main square from where the bus dropped us. I had a map, but with markings in Polish, I ran around all directions before setting off towards the square. Eventually, when I found the office in Grodzka! the tour had just begun. I ran into the store and got myself a bike (a steel bike, with some basic components), filled out the mandatory forms and paid up. I joined the group, just as it made it’s way to the Main Market Square. The group itself was multi-national – Americans, to English, ppl from South East Asia and some Polish too!


It was a chill morning with mild drizzle at times. The English-speaking guide kept us informed and in good humor, with the typical accent and a naughty smile. The Market square was bustling with activity, restaurants & pubs were filling up, tourists were everywhere, the massive but elegant horse drawn carriages or electric carts. We rode along clobbered roads past the Old University quarter to the remnants of the Old Town walls and the Krakow Main gate. I was told here that Krakow was the historical capital of Poland. The knowledgeable ones in the group tested the guide with many questions on the history of the place. We then rode towards the Wawel Castle. I was surprised to find Amitabh Bachchan’s handprint etched in the walkway alongside other greats like MJ. We rode along the Vistula river, crossed over and rested at a waterfront restaurant over coffee.

The ride then took up past the Jewish Ghetto area to the Oscar Schindler’s factory. The factory that was once dishing out Enamel dishes was taken over by Oscar Schindler during WWII.  He started to save the Krakow Jews by employing them, by paying bribes and contacts and making a significant financial loss. A major part of the movie was shot at this site, where a museum preserves some of the machinery and products from the factory.
The ride lasted about 4hours and we had covered close to 15kms!

I made friends with a svelte marathoner from UK and her friend and an Englishman from Singapore and a brother-sister couple from Germany, who was a professional wine taster. After the ride, I settled down with my new friends in the Market square for some Paulaner Weiβbier. I took the last bus out of Krakow to Katowice after a memorable Saturday.

Oświęcim / Auschwitz

Sunday was kept aside for a visit to Auschwitz, my (by now frequent) query at the reception led me to believe the bus to be taken was across the street. By now I have found a way to ask for directions – I carry a paper and pen and write down (say Oświęcim) and point to it. If the onlooker understands what I am saying, he draws the directions on the paper. All this to beat the language barrier.

But on this occasion, I was astounded. I was (as usual) scrambling to find the bus stop for this bus and making futile efforts with my paper+pen method. It had begun to drizzle and I zipped up my jacket. I zeroed in on a elderly bearded man to ask for directions to the bus stop. He looked up at me, tried to explain in Polish, figured I didn’t understand a thing. Then, in a stroke of remarkable gesture, he beckoned me to follow him. Shielding against the heavy drizzle with his umbrella, he walked briskly, about a km to the bus station, checked the exact stop with the helpdesk and walked me all the way to the bus stop. I am not sure if it was my intended destination (Oświęcim) that evoked such reaction.

I took the bus, then walked about a km to the Museum, bought the entry ticket and another ticket for the English guide. Little did I know, what I was to see would scar my memory forever.

The Katowice in your pocket guide gives a grim description of the site, it is available on its website here. Excerpts from the pocketbook “The Auschwitz Museum and tour present one of the most horrific acts in human history with a level of tact, passion, poignancy and professionalism that is so profound, it almost makes as lasting an impression as the site itself. Without being heavy-handed, the history of the site is presented in all of its contexts and guests are perhaps spared from fully surrendering to their emotions only by the sheer relentlessness of the information. No matter how much you think you know on the subject, the perspective gained by visiting is incomparable. Whether or not you choose to go to Auschwitz is up to you to decide. However it should be understood that Auschwitz is not a site of Jewish concern, Polish concern, German concern, gypsy concern, historical concern... It is a site of human concern. As such, we believe everyone should visit.”

A poker faced lady was the guide for my group. We plugged in ear-pieces and tuned into Channel 9 as we walked around various blocks where Jews were kept, now converted into Museum displays.

Most of the tour that was given to us by a lady was conducted in silence. There was nothing to say. Everything was before us to imagine and access what would have transpired there. Even though there are hundreds of visitors in several different groups that move about, not a sound is heard from anyone. No one speaks, and no one exclaims. A motley crowd of tourists simply walk about from one locale to another as though in a stupor.

I will resort to shameless plagiarism here, for what I saw on Amitabh’s blog was very nearly what I would have described myself. You can read all of Amitabh’s experience of Auschwitz on his blog here.

And within the halls where dormitories existed of the prisoners or those that were about to be gas chambered are now kept some of the remains of those that were exterminated. Here hundreds of suitcases. The owners wrote their names and date of birth on the boxes as dictated by the Commandant of the camps. Notice the prominence of Jewish names and dates of birth. Some of them a few years old - children! Women were the first to be exterminated. But because they refused to go without their children, they too went into the gas chambers!”
“The entrance gate with those words on it which I think said ‘through labor will you gain’ … a decoy to mislead all those that were being brought here to be exterminated. They were given to understand that they were being brought here to do labor. The fit and healthy were indeed put to such task, the ill and weak were gassed. Ironically, the fit and healthy were used to pick up the dead and either bury them in mass graves or assist in incinerating them. The barracks were actually not especially built for concentration camps. They had housed Polish soldiers during the war. When the Germans invaded, they removed the soldiers and made this into what later came to be known as extermination camps. They got them free of cost ! Many that were brought her never entered the barracks ever. They were taken straight from the trains that came in bearing them and marched into the gas chambers, stripped of all clothing naked in front of their families and strangers it was the humiliation and embarrassment of the moment. They were told that they were being subjected to a process of disinfection to make sure no disease was being carried in, but in fact were brutally killed.”

“Tons of human hair of the prisoners kept in a glass enclosure from the shavings of all those that came to the camp. The hair was used to make clothing material by the Nazi’s ..”

“….. at the far end, the house of the Commandant of the camp. Not more than 50 feet in front of the gas chamber … living there quite normally in his domesticity, with his wife and 5 children. Did they not ever feel the horrific atrocity that was being enacted in front of them every day - in front of their house - with women and children ! What did these people do to exist in such circumstances. What were they made of. Surely they were not humans !! But this particular Commandant was caught after the loss of Germany and tried and found guilty and hung in front of the gas chamber as you see now ~ on the gallows below!”

I visited Auschwitz II as well to view the train that brought the Jews to the dreaded camps. The feeling was heavy when I left the camp. Although one full year has passed since I visited Auschwitz, the memory is fresh and no less depressing.

Last day at Katowice – Tour de Pologne

The cherry on top was the Tour de Pologne. I was to leave Poland on Tuesday and there was a sudden spike in activity on Monday, 1st August at my Hotel Angelo. The tour of Poland was passing Katowice on Tuesday and the bikers were staying at Angelo!

The taxi back from work had to take a detour to avoid the massive pile up and I had to take a tram to get near the hotel vicinity. I stood by the barricaded road and watched the bikers zooming past. They had to do 8 loops with about 15mins for each loop for this last leg in Katowice. To get to watch the Pro-bikers first hand was awesome. I bought a “Tour de Pologne” tee shirt as a memento.

In all, it was Perfect Polish Week…