Friday, October 21, 2011

Running through Mysore City

As soon as I saw the ad for Half Marathon as part of the Dasara Celebration, I immediately decided to participate. One, running through the city of Mysore was very attractive and two, after having run 10k's for the past few years, I was looking forward to moving up. Since my unfulfilled goal is to run a Full Marathon, this seemed like a good opportunity to test my physical ability.

I trained for just over a month. Since I was already fit enough to run a 10k under an hour, it was enough time. In my only other previous Half in 2005, I had cramped up badly around 14km while doing the up slope near Windsor Manor in Bangalore and only barely managed to limp to the finish line. I had to make sure that it would not happen again this time which meant better preparation. Towards that I ensured that during my training I ran a couple of ~15km runs and finished feeling good enough to continue for another 5km. Also, planned my food properly in the last week, avoiding fried food while loading up on carbs and water.
My training routine can be viewed here.
I key thing I felt after the fact, was a good week 3, where I totaled about 46kms with one run of 16km at just outside my targeted pace.
So, when I boarded the train to Mysore on Oct 1st, I had a good feeling, though still not sure, if I could achieve my goal of finishing under 2hrs. Dinner and stay at my Aunt's place was perfect. Ate 3 roti's with lots of potatoes and kept gobbling Bananas all the time. Drank several bottles of water, so much so, that I had to get up 3 times during the night to take a leak. Maybe I overdid it a tad bit there..but since I did not feel thirsty during the run, it seemed to have helped. In the morning, just a apple and Banana and I got dropped at the Venue by my Uncle and BIL.
A small crowd of 250 runners got behind the tape for the flag-off around 6.45pm. Then came a delay of about 30mins to accommodate the whims of the local official who wanted to give a speech and do a mock run for the TV! Crazy is all I can say.
Finally we were set free around 7.10 or so.. and I got into my rhythm quickly. The runners stringed out shortly and I was soon running by myself. Initial few kms had a significant gradient which took away quite a lot of my energy to keep up the pace of 5m45s/km that I was targeting. About 6kms in the middle was around the Kukkrehalli Kere on the bund which was quite pleasant. Coming out of there, we hit a steep climb where I was forced to slow down..and managed only a 6m15s 14th km. Thankfully, the rest of the route was on a down slope (what goes up has to come down, eh? :) ) and it helped to gain the lost time back. I managed to give a good finish in the end to finish a comfortable 30s under 2hrs. The satisfaction of finishing is of course the primary reward! Next up Full....

Route map from my GPS tracker
Official timing of my run (Bib # 1079)
A mug shot to show I was indeed there! :)

Some training tips I gleaned from this experience for other aspirants.

  • 2 months of preparation is good unless you are already a regular runner with about 15km/week, then 1 month should do.
  • Ensure you do at least a couple of long runs, about 15km, at around your targeted pace.
  • Don't overdo during other runs and exhaust your body. One or two 7-10km runs along with shorter but faster runs should be enough. I mixed my training with other sports like Badminton and Basketball to keep fit. It helps to break the monotony of training.
  • You should asses your ability and set your goal quickly, then train towards that. Under estimating will leave you unsatisfied and over estimating...well...can leave you with cramps well short of the finish line! :)
  • Pace yourself properly in the race, that is, not more than 10% variation from the targeted pace. I never like to stop or walk even at water stops. Don't get excited on a down slope and run too fast. If an up is too strenuous it is fine to slow down a lot. Ensure at all times, that you do not feel the burn in your legs. Increase pace in the last few kms as per how your body feels. Good... go for it and finish strong. Tired... then keep the pace and finish comfortably.
  • Food is important. No fried or outside stuff for at least a week to keep it safe. Lots of carbs from Potatoes, Bananas, Apple,  Rice, Pasta, Bread, etc. Hydrate well the day before. Pee should be clear the previous evening. Plan your water stops during the race to get enough water to avoid getting de-hyrated.
  • Stretch well after the race else the muscles will stiffen up later on and it will take longer to recover. Walk around for 10 to 20 mins and cool down. 
  • Nipple burn is an issue for this long a race. I used vaseline and it worked. I saw one runner with a large blood patch in his chest! So, beware of this problem.
Good luck and hope my tips help you in your attempt!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Political decay in India

Disgusted from watching the worst kind of politics being played at the state (BJP, Yediyurappa, Reddy Brothers, Mining scam, Kumaraswamy, Justice Dinakar, ...) and at the National level (DMP, UPA, 2G scam, Adarsh Scam, Posco and many others), I sent these thoughts to Deccan Herald for their Letters to Editor section.
As we read the political exposures and the responses from the accused, it appears to me that India has now entered an era of "No Shame". Gone are the days when a person in power took responsibility for his actions and resigned in shame or immediately took remedial actions with due apologies. Now we have people who instead of facing their short comings or blunders prefer to point fingers at others with the same problems. Does this mean it has become all right in our great country to be corrupt, lie or make monumental mistakes as long as there are others who have done the same and gone scot-free? I sincerely hope not else we have entered a deathly spiral which can only end in anarchy.
It got published. But what is the use really other than a bit of ego-boost that my name appeared in print. Do those people who are in power read them and change their mind even infinitesimally? I really doubt it.

Still, I wanted to expand a bit on those thoughts for my own gratification here in my private world that is my blog.

I am not savvy with the intricacies of the scams or how some fraud gets pulled off. What I am truly concerned as a citizen if India is that the most(50%+?) of the people in power, elected representatives as well as the salaried bureaucracy have become completely bereft of any ethics and morality. Most of them are focused only on making money or consolidating their power. There is no sense of service or working for the greater good of their constituency in particular and humankind in general. Not even the bare minimum required to avoid public ridicule. The pleasure one probably gets when accomplishing something in the public domain which will benefit only the community at large seems to be completely lost on them. The main driving factor has become fully selfish.

They do not worry that their actions will cause irreversible damage to a city or state and its future population as long as their own kith and kin get the spoils. When confronted with proof of their selfish law breaking they either lie or point fingers at others who have done the same. How can they be so disgustingly devoid of any moral fiber? It truly boggles my mind.

Will Anna Hazare's Lokpal bill bring about some change? Maybe. A little. But unless an under current of cultural change in the ruling class is brought about, it will only mean that once the bill gets passed, the morally corrupt people will think of new ways to pillage and plunder while avoiding Lokpal scrutiny rather than change their ways. I do not believe the fear of prosecution will matter to them.

How? The only way I can think of is if a morally and ethically perfect but strong leader and organizer emerges out of the scrap heap that is now the political class. He or she can set the tone that others will eventually follow and it will hopefully become the culture. Anna Hazare for PM anyone? :)

Will it happen? One can always hope!

Saturday, July 02, 2011

The urban dilemma: Save trees or build infrastructure

In recent days there has been lot of discussion, rallies, legal action against tree felling as the local administrators move aggressively to improve infrastructure in our garden city of Bangalore or Bengaluru. Which is more important or what does one pick when the twin goals conflict?

I confess right at the start that I prefer trees to pretty much anything else. They are the reason Bangalore is what it is today and we should try our utmost to retain that unique city ambiance.

But I cannot help asking myself, how much of a hypocrite am I, considering that I too need and enjoy so much of that very same development that I am vehemently against. Take for example, the apartment I am living in. I believe a nice Mangrove was destroyed by the developers in 1999 to build the complex. Every time I go to a new mall or take a drive on the new roads, I feel guilty. Were they worth the trees and open space that was lost?

If we look at it in an unbiased way, we can see that both are essential in different ways. Trees to retain the ambiance and provide a healthy atmosphere while a growing city constantly requires infrastructure.

What is the right balance between conservation of urban greenery and development then?

Lets look at the following statement. True of false?

We can potentially cut all the trees and widen roads to the max extent along with flyovers and underpasses. Parks can all be made into parking lots or malls or office spaces. City can be with absolutely no greenery anywhere.

Possible? Imagine being able to park easily, drive comfortably on flyovers everywhere with no leaves or falling branches. A lot of down towns in large cities are already like that.

Tough to counter convincingly, I feel.

It is mostly a strong gut instinct for me on why I think the above will be a disaster. Still, some points(facts?) I could come up with to support my position:

- No trees! No breeze and it may get too hot even to step outside.
- Sounds of the city may increase tremendously as trees absorb a lot of it now.
- Pollution could potentially increase many times without trees to absorb some of the dust particles leading to dangerous health concerns.
- It could be very bad for our health when we lose *all* the oxygen producing trees/plants while at the same time increasing co2 producing cars.
- Critical bio-diversity will be lost. Birds which need the trees to survive and also play a part by eating insects and rodents will not be able to survive.

Any more?

I feel there is a hard balance somewhere which if we cross by reducing greenery below that level we will cause the city to die a slow death. It is imperative that it is known and kept in consideration when the city administrators work on infrastructure projects where greenery needs to be sacrificed. They should always look for solutions which does not lead to reduction in greenery and err on the cautious side which is to sacrifice infrastructure for conservation.

More greenery or open spaces is never harmful. Less is what we should be worried about as they can never be re-created!