Nov 22, 2010

Knickerbocker 60K

9+ loops in Central Park, rolling hills, awesome weather, 37.2 miles
Time: 5h 6m 14s (official), 20/209 Overall, 5/50 Age group
26.2 time: 3h 20m 6s (unofficial)

This was the most efficient race I ran; not the running per se but the time spent in doing a non-local race. I reached NYC Friday evening, ran the race Saturday morning with just enough time to eat, shower, and shop a bit in SoHo before heading back home Saturday evening. Overall, I loved this race. Food was simple, I ate at Sbarro's before and after the race.

This was the first time I've done a loop course for an ultra or any other race. Unlike point-to-point races, it is easy to get bored in these but I loved every bit of it. After a couple of laps it becomes clear who is ahead of you and I had a great time playing tag with some of the runners. As with other races, I made new friends and caught up with old ones. As usual, Garmin sucks in ultras; the battery died after 35miles or so.

I love spectators with funny posters like the girl with "I want your legs", the dude with "Congrats, you ran farther than Geb", and the photographer from "BiteMeRoom Photography".

I'm back on the streets now with today's 3mile recovery jog that turned into a 5mile run.

Nov 19, 2010

What are you thankful for?

In a world riddled with change, we all seek constants in our lives. For some, it is the unconditional love by their spouse, parents, or even their dogs. For others, it is the security offered by a nice bank balance or even being able to enjoy a bowl of mac 'n' cheese any time of the day they wish. We love constants and we seek for them all our lives. Despite of your ups and downs this year, if you look back, you can always rely on the comforts of the constants you hold dear. It's the time of the year when we celebrate those constants and be thankful for them. 

The one constant I have had in my life in recent years is running. Even if everything in my life is going crazy, I know that in just a few moments I can lace up and run, and forget all about it for an hour or two or more. I'm thankful for that. Ever since I started blogging my runs, early this year, I put a meter to track the miles I've been running with a goal of running at least 2010 miles this year. Today my meter reads "1965 miles" and I think I'm pretty close to my goal. Call me crazy but if my running were to anthropomorphize into a person, I would marry it. Running, I'm thankful to you. I'm also thankful to all the friends I've ran with, all the non-running friends who had to bear with my running talk, thankful to all my shoes which accompanied me through some pretty rough times, thankful to life in general for not stopping me from running.

It's never too early to say thanks. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Oct 25, 2010

Running for Running Sake

With all the marathons for this year behind me -- cancelled Tucson due to a conference travel conflict -- I'm now back to running for running sake. No planned workout, no speed drills, no intervals, no nothing. Just lace up and run. That's what I've been doing all of last week. Although the effects of Chicago still linger, I've put that behind me and started enjoying running like I did before becoming competitive.

I still use a GPS watch to track my time and distance for every run because I'm a nerd and I like numbers. I did a 20 mile run yesterday and realized how much more enjoyable it was when I did not look at my watch every few minutes to check my splits like I did while training for the spring and fall seasons.

The rest of the year will continue these mellow enjoyable runs. The only race now on my list is the Knickerbocker 60K. This is a low-key ultra organized by the New York Road Runners annually before Thanksgiving. The course itself is 9 loops around Central Park adding up to 37.2 miles with a fair bit of rolling hills. I will be running this as a end-of-the-year celebratory run as opposed to racing it.

Oct 18, 2010

Looking Forward

So yes, I'm one year closer to my grave today and Boston registration opened at 9am and closed at 5pm like a government clerk. It's time to move on with new goals, new expectations and new thrills in running. I spent last week evaluating my running goals and what it meant to me after the  dismal  encouraging performance at Chicago. I think I'm now closer to BQ than ever but BQ is merely a milestone (an important one) than a goal. So if you run, spend sometime thinking what your running "goal" is/should be?

I did and finally it stuck with me as "achieve a lifetime of running". I want to keep running till I look like this and probably even worse.

I'm grateful that I've been able to run as much as I have this year and hope godess Nike will continue to bless me. Have a safe and injury free running experience everyone!

Oct 12, 2010

Chasing the elusive 3:10

A few days before the Chicago marathon I woke up dreaming that I was wearing the famed blue singlet with "Boston Athletic Association" on it. I was on Heartbreak Hill pounding my way to the finish line. Last Sunday, I was at the start line of another great marathon in downtown Chicago feeling a bit nervous but confident of all those grueling training sessions I had put in. The long runs in freezing cold winter and the tempo runs and track workouts even in 100+ degree Baltimore heat should pay off, right? Nada. Doesn't matter. All that matters is what you do after the starter gun goes off. Dreams don't count, passion is only for the movies, and certainly no extra points for sucking up the IT band pain in Chinatown (mile 21) and continuing to run. You either make it or end up 10 minutes late -- 3:20:54.

*Wisconsin was a training run
As a runner the best you can hope for is continuous improvement. Goals change but training never ends. Looking back on all the marathons I've done in a year, all I have is to look forward to the next marathon knowing that my qualifying time might just be a marathon away. Or two.

Why do I want to qualify? 3:10 seems like an arbitrary goal. Why not 3:00 or even 2:50? Preparing and running for a BQ to me has been much more than that. It is knowing what I'm made of. It was the same thing that made me run a 50 miler in June.

Sep 26, 2010

Watch and learn

Sometimes you can just learn by watching something over and over.

Sep 24, 2010

Back in the game!

Today's 8 mile run in the morning was more than that. It was to test if I still had it in me to meet my expectations. The run was an exercise that I call "Speed Game" for lack of ideas. (Speed Play is already taken -- aka Fartlek.) I broke the run into several components including a progression and a tempo run with sprints added in between. At the end of the tempo run were couple of surge exercises to simulate the race finish line conditions. I met all planned goals and my legs feel great. Irrespective of my original race goal for Chicago and my recent setbacks, I now feel very confident to put a decent show. The days following will be mellow but calculated.

In more Chicago news, my corral assignment got messed up and I recently found out that I will be running in the "OPEN" category. Apparently, their "system" will not allow changes now. WTF! To give a perspective, Chicago is not like your ordinary city marathon -- with tens of thousands of runners, a bad corral assignment or the worst case ("OPEN") like mine, would mean slow milling for the first few miles from start. Also, all the dodging slow runners etc will take energy that could have been well spent racing. Bad race strategy but can't do much about it other than trying to be there early and have a wider negative split.

Sep 21, 2010

Running a marathon as a training run

This might sound crazy but at some point you feel comfortable with the marathon distance and start running that distance  (or even longer) during training runs. So, why not run a marathon as a training run and get a t-shirt for your already overflowing closet? This is certainly not a new idea and many seasoned runners do it regularly.

Caveat: As with everything in running, attempt it only if you feel comfortable with idea and if your current level of fitness will permit. Level of fitness includes your current training volume and the recovery time needed for long distances. Ideally, you should be a high mileage runner (>> 50mpw).

With that out the way, here are a few tips to run a training marathon:

1. Plan well: Schedule this well in advance so you'll have sufficient time to recover for your goal race. 'Sufficient' depends on your fitness levels. A minimum of 3-5 weeks should be reasonable.

2. Keep the goal in mind: In the training marathon, the goal is not the finish line of that marathon but your goal race. So, avoid exerting too much when you don't have to and run it according your training goals. For instance if you're trying to achieve a certain pace or split try to replicate it as faithfully as possible but over a shorter distance.

3. Dress rehearsal: Run with the same running gear as you plan to use in your goal marathon. This would also be a good time to test something new and see if it agrees with you.

4. Start slow: This should hold for your goal race too but it's very important to not run too hard in the first few miles. Keep in mind that every mile you run hard requires a certain period of recovery. Typical long distance runs for marathons are lesser than 26 miles. So, plan to go very easy for the excess miles or even walk it off.

5. Ignore everyone: Remember a training run is not competitive. This is your training run. Don't get carried away in the marathon atmosphere and let someone else set the pace for you.

6. No taper: There should not be any taper period for the training marathon. Treat this as a regular long run except take a day off before and after to compensate for the extra distance, if required.

7. Recovery: Practice good recovery routines. This goes for any run you do but especially important for training marathons. Running 26.2 has its toll on the body irrespective of the pace you set. Eat well before and after and sleep well.

8. Be prepared to DNF: Listen to your body. If you don't feel good stop! This is just a training run. While doing a DNF before a goal race might sound bad it's really a confidence booster. When you ask yourself "What if .." and imagine the worst case and be prepared for it, all nervousness should go away.

9. Enjoy your run: Take advantage of the social setting, talk to people while running and have a good time. Otherwise you might as well run alone and save some money.

Of course, this applies to all distances and not just marathons except longer the distance more the recovery time needed.

Sep 18, 2010

Wisconsin: An Unlikely Marathon

Quick summary: 
Chip Time: 4:27:02
Overall Place: 13/100  Category Place: 3/14  Gender Place: 10/62
Total Registered: 531

Sometime back I decided to run Wisconsin as a training run for Chicago. After injuries and several hurdles in my marathon training I had self doubts about doing that distance again soon and Wisconsin was supposed to put that to test. But recently, after a personal academic tragedy, I decided to not run Wisconsin. I booked a last minute SouthWest flight (cancelable) just in case. Yesterday evening, I finished attending Fred's funeral service and rushed to the airport to just make it to my hotel in Delafield, WI by midnight. My carbo-load dinner was an oatmeal from the airport Starbucks and a banana that I ate on the shuttle to the hotel. So, this marathon went from impossible to unlikely -- the Unlikely Marathon.

This is my third trail race and I knew what to expect but I was doing the whole show up and run thing without doing packet pickup for the first time. I think now I will never spend time at an expo if that option exists. I'm still running trails in my road running shoes. The Asics took a beating with all the slush, rain, and mud. There were places where I had no choice but to sink in a puddle to keep going. I guess that's a part of the fun in trail running. But a decent pair of Gore-Tex shoes is in order.

The race itself was pretty. The trails are the most beautiful I've seen. Since this was a training run, I kept it easy and did not exert when I didn't need to but did a progression run as I planned. The first 15 miles @ 11 min/mile, 5 miles @ 8 min/mile, and the rest at 7+ min/mile. My goal was to walk away from the race feeling worked out and not tired. Which I did. Despite of this, the heavy downpour, and the slippery conditions I did not do badly when graded on the curve.

Milwaukee is an interesting place. The houses are big, sparse, with large yards but you cannot survive here without a car. I mean even to get basic things done. Oh and this is Bible country -- on the plane I heard someone citing Proverbs excitedly. After landing, I went to the information desk and there was a cheerful blonde lady with an open Bible -- Deuteronomy as I recall. I still have a day to explore more but dinner tonight at "The Emperor's Kitchen" was awesome. The curry almond shrimp tasted as good as it looked.

On the trail I met many interesting people as usual and made instant friends with cheering and camaraderie that goes with trail running. I also met some old friends from my previous Ultra. Talking of Ultras, the highlight of today's race was meeting Diane Van Deren. Ultramarathon celebrities like Dean Karnazes seem to be popular in mass media but Diane is my Ultra hero. She's a survivor. She grew up to be a world-class athlete and a Wimbledon player but for a decade in her life, she suffered from seizures which was cured only with right temporal lobectomy. If you think that stopped her, she went on to become the top woman ultrarunner and better than many of her male counterparts, if I may add. Oh, she also did the Yukon Arctic Ultra, a 430 mile race at -30 degrees, becoming the first woman to ever do it. She did it despite of not having anything to drink for the first 100 miles and falling once through cracked ice and getting soaked in freezing water shoulder down. And she climbed out and kept going!

Sharing a moment with Diane Van Deren

Sep 16, 2010

Not running Wisconsin

I am scheduled to run the Wisconsin North Face marathon as my training run this Saturday. That's not going to happen due to a personal tragedy. The director of our research group and my academic father-figure passed away on 14th evening. He was a holocaust survivor, a giant in my field, and a personal hero. With the funeral service on Friday afternoon, there is no way I can make it on time. This would be my first DNS. Here's to you, Fred.

Sep 10, 2010

Fun Run

Just a quick update to spread the word (hat tip TTWSS):

A fun race in Delaware - run 2 miles and eat a whole pizza half way through -- pizza size depends on the category you enroll in. [Registration and other details]

I'm not running it (I wish) but anyone in the neighborhood shouldn't miss this! This reminds me of another race Duran told me where you chomp donuts on your way.

I've never done a fun run, not intentionally just never happened. One run I will be doing sometime is the Santa Speedo Run.

Sep 6, 2010

A marathon to train for a marathon?

Yes, that's what I will be doing on the 18th. I signed up for a trail marathon in Wisconsin as my last long run before the Chicago marathon.

Yesterday, I discovered Hull St. Blues Cafe on my run. I had run 16 miles and was getting low on juices. So I thought let me go in and get some Gatorade or something and I was wrong. It's not your ordinary cafe with a pastry cabinet, coffee tables and a cooler with drinks. Every Sunday morning, the place is decked with a long buffet table with all sorts of goodies for brunch. As soon as I entered the cafe, I knew I had to stay and that would be the end of today's run. The remaining 5 miles can wait. As far as I can tell, it's the best brunch I've had for 20 bucks (tips extra) -- Fresh warm biscuits, eggs, hash browns, veggies, best Cajun beans and rice, pasta, and fruits. If you wanted to go meat heavy there were sausage links and roast ham. Hot buttermilk pancakes and French toasts were served individually at the tables. With the food tasting heavenly, the staff so friendly and a homey ambiance this place gets a 5 thumbs up from me.

16.6 miles ending at Hull St Blues Cafe
I stuffed myself and took a nice 2 mile walk from the cafe to the harbor before running another 2 miles back home. That was Sunday, today I'm taking off to get some work done for school.

Sep 4, 2010

Double whammy and bouncing back

I think everything that can go wrong went wrong during this Chicago training period, hopefully. First there was a ligament injury that took several weeks from my training. Then there was a travel to China -- although this was expected, I managed to get some runs in during the crazy travel week. But most recently, I picked up mumps virus on my trip and all of last week I spent in isolation. Luckily, running isn't a contact sport but you don't want to overwhelm the immune system by throwing in a lot of miles and raise the cortisol levels. So I had a subdued first half of the week. I've been symptom free for the last 24 hours and the doc said I'm fine. Take that virus! So, today I did sort of a celebratory 11 mile run before my long run tomorrow.

11.6 miles @ 7:42 min/mile

Aug 29, 2010

Running in China

Last week I was at a conference in Beijing and I chose to stay at a hotel close to the Bird's Nest and the Olympic Village. I've never been to China earlier and was unsure what to expect. I was worried how this trip will interrupt my running (again) and diet. But all my worries were short lived. I ran every morning during my visit as usual and loaded up on the complimentary breakfast at the hotel. Perhaps the hotel staff were surprised at the quantity I consumed! So I would wake up each morning before sunrise and head outdoors for a run that almost always included passing the National Stadium (aka Bird's Nest) and the National Aquatics Center.

The stadium is unlike any structure I've ever seen. During my first run, an American tourist couple spotted me in my running attire staring at the Birds's Nest in awe and said, "Aren't you too late for the Olympics?".

A run at the Bird's Nest. Check out the Satellite View.
Near the Bird's Nest is the National Aquatics Center which looks like a giant blue aquarium with bubbles on the surface. Apparently the bubbles are in the shape of H2O's molecular structure. Geeks unite!

Pollution in the city is very noticeable despite of the government's efforts to relocate the factories away from Beijing for the Olympics. Every morning I could see the sun making its way through the thick Beijing smog. Also beware of drivers in Beijing. Red light does not necessarily mean stop!

For a big city like Beijing, I did not see any runners on my route other than a lone runner. The first day we exchanged glances, the next day I did a "ni hao" with a grin and another day we both ran together with him not knowing English and me not speaking Mandarin. I did see a lot of old people walking. Many of them were conservative looking and were either shocked or offended to see my skimpy running shorts.

Diet was my biggest worry. When I'm at home, I'm really careful about what I eat and plan my meals around my runs. I decided to fall off the wagon for a week and surprisingly I didn't do bad. My instincts served me right and I managed to eat the right kind of food most times.

I'm glad to be back home, although jet lagged, where I can browse the internet uncensored. Throughout my trip, I could not access Twitter, Facebook or Blogger. I imagine grad students in China must be very productive!

Aug 19, 2010

Count your blessings

This is a long due update. Sometime earlier I set my eyes on a BQ at Chicago and started training for it. The intensity of the training could not have been better and I noticed marked improvements in my pace. Training this summer went in full swing and did not stop even during the 100+ degree days but during first week of this month I suffered a major injury in my knee. All it took was simple trip-and-fall on the pavement, resulting in a sheared ligament. Needless to say, the last couple weeks were pretty low in running and also a low point in my life. I never realized how much I depended on running until this setback happened. So, my BQ training has been interrupted. I will still be running Chicago but not sure if it will be for the same goals.

It sucks to see all that effort not pay off but after a week of moping about it I realized how grateful I should be that I can still run. I took that moment to count my blessings and examine everything I've done this year -- 4 marathons and 1 50-mile ultra with more than 1600 miles of training (I need to update my training database for the counters to be accurate). If everything goes as planned, I will be doing Chicago in Oct  followed by Tucson in Dec making it 6 marathons for 2010. My t-shirt expresses my current sentiment pretty accurately.

This week, I slowly resumed running but it will be longer before I'm my usual self again. Tomorrow, I'm off to China for a conference and hope to get some miles in Beijing.

Jun 30, 2010

More Training Updates

I'm getting my VO2max tested hopefully this week. The Garmin heart rate monitor also just arrived. Looks like training for Chicago will be the most scientific training I will ever be doing. For an intuitive runner, this is so uncharacteristic of me. Why all the fuss with numbers? I can't help it. The more I'm reading about the physiology of this sport, the more I'm drawn towards being technical. I'm finally understanding why my body behaves the way it does and it has tremendously improved the way I train. More to report on the VO2max testing once I get it done.

I know many of you who are running for a higher purpose, raising funds for cancer, leukemia, AIDS, and other adversities life throws at us. Here's a preview of a nice documentary of everyday athletes trying to add purpose to their running other than mere self-satisfaction.

Jun 24, 2010

Training update: Last week

Training for Chicago is unlike anything I have done before. For the first time, I'm running according to a plan. Unlike standard template plans that spans 16 weeks or so that don't respond to your training, I'm taking my training on a week by week basis.

The other big change for me is running in Baltimore during summer. For the past 3 years, I've managed to escape to San Francisco during summer but this time I've to be here to make "progress" on my thesis. Running in 90+ degrees heat is a different experience and high intensity training is especially challenging. More updates on that soon.

Jun 17, 2010

The Five Variables of Interval Training

This post is all about interval training. It was originally titled "Interval Training 101" when I started writing it but then I realized there is so much to interval training that this post can barely do justice -- even if it's 101. I'm not going to explain why one should do this, the physiological adaptations etc,  but in the process of building up my training for Chicago I realized the interval training can really be broken down to a combination of five parameters. If you grew up training with a coach or running on your x-country team then probably you know all of this and more but if you're, like me, who ran most of your life just for fun and never bothered to figure out training techniques then hang on.

Before we get started, I want to get some terminology in place. The two main things in an interval run are "reps" and "intervals". Contrary to the intuition, the "intervals" in interval runs are the periods of rest or slow pace jog between the "reps", which are high intensity sprints.

So, when you're designing your training plan it's obvious how the intervals and reps result in the following five knobs:
1. Distance (or time) of the reps.
2. Distance (or time) of the intervals.
3. Pace of the reps.
4. Pace of the intervals.
5. Number of reps.

These five parameters give rise to countless (mathematically speaking, countably infinite) variations on interval training. However, tradition has been to have the reps in multiples of 100 and since this is usually done on a track, the space of possible interval runs are fairly standard. Also, you could vary the pace of the reps and intervals in the same training run by making it a progression interval. Happy Training!

Jun 9, 2010

Wednesday: What next?

The 50 mile race was an important mark on my calendar. Now that I've got it out of my way I'm excited to focus on newer things. The race was an exercise in self-assurance than anything else. I held up pretty well after the race. After not doing much (other than traveling) on Sunday, I did my recovery runs on Monday and Tuesday, and today I spent time in the most unlikeliest of places for me -- an indoor track.

Long distance running is close to my heart and I see myself doing longer distances eventually but it's time I pushed my running along a different direction -- pace. However tempting it is to signup for other ultras or even keep doing a marathon every weekend, I will resist doing so and focus on my next goal -- a Boston Qualifier at Chicago. Yes, I'm crazy enough to go public about this on my blog but after this point, there is no going back! This will require cutting down my marathon pace from around 8 min/mile to 7:12 min/mile or less; that's a huge jump in pace and somewhat ambitious but "the art of going too far is knowing how far to go too far".  Running fast at shorter distances will require a different training strategy, nutrition plan, and mental preparation. It will require discipline and sticking to a training plan -- something I've never done.

Traditional cookie-cutter marathon training plans, like Runners World for example, don't take a lot of things into account like your fitness levels, current training background, cross training experience, time commitments and so on. I will be posting more details on my plans towards a BQ at Chicago soon after sifting through my training logs and my current/future school commitments.

Jun 6, 2010

The DC/VA North Face Endurance 50 mile Run

  • Chip time: 9:36:02  Gun time: 9:36:20
  • First ultramarathon
  • Yucky weather: hot & humid
  • Beautiful but torturous course 
  • Multiple gear malfunction

My first official ultra is in the books. My expectations from this run was rather low since I was dealing with a lot of unknowns but I was surprised!

Pre-race (Friday)
Having picked up my packet from DC on Thursday, I checked in to my hotel in Sterling, VA on Friday. Everything went as planned. I spent most of Friday resting and eating. And I ate a lot! Two bowls of spaghetti, four large oatmeal raisin cookies (from Au Bon Pain), three bananas, and an apple cinnamon scone. I also drank two gallons of water.

Travel to this race was entirely on public transport and overall spending was around $15 each way.

Race morning
The race started at 5am so I was up by 1am. Pre-race breakfast included three bowls of cereal, a large banana, three tablespoons of peanut butter (recommend the "JIF to-go" packs), and three cups of hot tea.

I had three gear bags containing various stuff I thought would be useful, including a fresh pair of socks but after running the race, I'm convinced that I could have done without them -- I never once used my gear bags. With the gear bags checked in, I milled around the start line around 4:30am meeting & greeting people I had known only through email.

At the start line, I munched on a Clif bar and a banana and drank more water. I never knew I could drink that much! When the time arrived, I lined up and tried to turn on my head-lamp. All I saw a bright flash of light followed by darkness. Damn! This could not have burned out at a better time. After this, I decided to tailgate other runners, which might have worked in my advantage by preventing me from over-pacing in the beginning. But the sight at the starting of the race was nothing like I've seen before. Imagine a long stream of headlamps in the dark, like ants crawling up the terrain. Splendid!

In all this confusion and excitement, I forgot to turn on my Garmin until we had run half a mile or so. But turns out it did not really matter because 1) Garmin sucks on trails and is grossly inaccurate when you've too many sharp turns and 2) Even my 100% charged Garmin ran out of battery around 35 miles in the course. Bah-humbug!

The course itself was pretty. For an urban road runner, this course a treat to the eyes and torture to the legs. The course can be broken down to a long run to a place called Great Falls, and three 7 mile loops at Great Falls, followed by another long run back to the finish line. The loops at Great Falls are crazy with long uphills followed by rocky downhills and the long run to/from Great Falls involves a stream crossing and crossing a muck pit. I managed to somehow dodge the muck on my way to GF but on the way back I landed deep into the muck sinking both my feet and hand in it. Ugh! 

The next aid station from this muddy disaster was around 6-7 miles and I was already running low on water. I was hungry but could not eat the Gu due to low water supply. This was the most grueling and slowest part of my run. A big chunk of my running time was spent on this part. Finally when I reached the aid station, I was so grateful for the supply of fresh water, boiled potatoes and Gatorade. After this fuel replenishment, rest of the 8 mile run (approx estimate without Garmin) was the quickest I did leading to a strong finish. The total time was 9:36, around 30 mins more than my estimate but I am happy that it did not turn out into a disaster.

The finish line festivities included an expo and hot meal (burritos) for runners. I wolfed down two veggie burritos and drank enough water to feel bloated! Overall, it was a fun race. I met new people, and old internet friends. One interesting acquaintance was Ben from France, who ran this year's Boston marathon in 2:58! We had a nice chat about training methods, French, and a lot of random things. After I crossed the finish line I tried to find him but only saw him cross the finish line two hours later. It's interesting that speed training for a marathon does not translate to longer distances and vice versa -- I can never get close to that marathon time with my current training. I also met several ultra veterans and got some nice conversation along the way. It was both an enlightening and a humbling experience that a runner could hope for.

Post-race (Sunday)
After a nice dinner and a good night's sleep yesterday, I feel great & mostly recovered. I should be out on the streets very soon!

May 31, 2010

Taper blues

Hope everyone had a good Memorial Day weekend, enjoyed your barbecues, and listened to Sousa. For those of you running races next weekend and (hopefully) tapering, this might be a very frustrating time - a three day weekend passes by and nothing to put on the training log. Any other time, this would've been a perfect opportunity to shoot for higher mileage. Oh well. So here's how my taper is progressing in the last few weeks:

Not running as much is making me restless. I can't seem to remember how a long run feels like! On the one hand, I'm drooling at the thought of running long distance and on the other I'm a little nervous.

Here is some general wisdom on tapering:

  • Sleep well (several days of 8+ hrs of sleep before the race).
  • Cut down caffeine
  • Reduce work stress (yeah, right!)
  • Relax, do yoga or, if you can, meditate.
  • Drink fluids. And then drink more.
  • I don't drink alcohol but if you do, stop it at least three weeks before the race.
  • Eat well

May 25, 2010

Tapering is hard to do

Here's my mileage for the last few weeks:

Week 18 - 65.5
Week 19 - 68.7
Week 20 - 70.1
Last week - 55.4

This week I'm planning to bring it down to 30. (I already did 11.4 yesterday). The projection for next week  (race week) will be easy 10 miles in the beginning of the week followed by 50 miles on race day (Saturday).

Taper is hard. Especially when you're used thinking I'm-bored-let-me-go-for-a-run and I get bored/distracted from work often :( So, this week I'm going to suck it up and taper!

May 21, 2010

Midweek Summary

The weather has been particularly good this week. Here's a midweek summary:

Sun  - 32 @ 8:39 min/mile
Mon - 2 @ 9:00 min/mile
Tue  - 8 @ 8:08 min/mile
Thu  - 23.2 @ 7:38 min/mile

Just keeping the runs simple. I won't be doing anything crazy this week. This is week -2 for the upcoming race. Next week will be the official taper week. I've had trouble tapering during my previous marathons but it worked out anyways. This race is going to be different. I will need all the legs I can muster to make sure I don't DNF and finish the race in a reasonable time. You don't have to quit the race to DNF; there are two hard cutoff times to meet @ miles 21.7 and 35.4. So, yes next week is all about taper.

May 18, 2010

What did I sign up for?

Here's a profile of the craziness (in a good way) I'm looking forward to in two weeks:

Over the next few days, I will be posting notes about my preparation for this run. The 32 mile run on Sunday was the best thing I ever did and I felt strong later to do an hour long Yoga and groceries (touch wood). Looking back into my training log, I feel excited about this race. But there are somethings I need to worry about:
1. Gear - I am running this without crew support. For the first time, I will have to worry about packing & changing gears in a race. The race also mandated a headlamp at start that I bought recently.
2. Distance - I'm now in taper mode as far as this race is concerned and most likely will not be doing a training run longer than 32 miles before the race. So, I have no idea what to expect during the additional 18 miles.
3. Race diet - I will be eating solid foods during a race for the first time. I have had little time to experiment what works but have to go beyond the traditional gels to keep going the additional distance.
4. Pacing - If you start with a wrong pace in marathons chances are you might only affect your time but in an ultra a bad starting pace can easily lead to a DNF or not making the cut off time.
5. Shoes - This race is mostly on the trails but I haven't run once in trail running shoes. Finding a shoe that works for you can take months. At this point, I don't see any way of experimenting with a trail shoe.
6. Starting point - As a car-less student runner, getting to a starting point in the middle of nowhere is something I've never had to worry about running marathons held in big cities.

There's a first for everything. Interestingly when I ran my first marathon without running any kind of race before I never had to think much. I just went there and did it. That's my attitude for this race too. Just go there and do it.

May 16, 2010

Sunday run: First 50K

Today's run was mental. Ever since I decided to do the 50 miler, the fact that I haven't run an ultra before was bothering me. I crossed that mental barrier today morning doing a 32 mile run; a tad bit more than the standard 50K but I was loving it! Also the great 60s weather helped a lot too. So, I did my first ultra without any fanfare or a medal to show.

Miles 1-10:
Apart from the mental prep, I set out two packs of Gu and a bottle of Gatorade -- something I never do in my usual long runs.  I started out as usual towards the Harbor and then headed towards Eastern ave passing through little Italy and the latino neighborhood. After a brief detour at the Patterson Park, I made my way back to the harbor expecting the bottle of Gatorade to be near the flower bed where I had hid it. It was gone!

Miles 11-20:
This was mostly in the Canton area. I took the familiar Boston St. route. At mile 18, I briefly stopped at a  Starbucks and downed the first pack of Gu with the free water. Still the loss of Gatorade was on my mind. I didn't know if I needed it but didn't want it to f*k with my mind.

Miles 21-32:
This is where I started running towards Fort McHenry. I had to stop at the Royal Farms on Key Hwy to buy a bottle of Gatorade. Peace of mind. I continued running to the Fort. My Fort runs are never boring. The gorgeous weather inspired people and geese alike to enjoy the Fort. I made 7 loops around the Fort and the beginning of my second loop I saw this lovely old couple setting up picnic basket at a table overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. By loop three, I saw them eating cereal. Loop four, the lady was spreading jelly over a croissant. This made me hungry! It was mile 25 and I thought if this was the actual race, I would be half done. The Gatorade was unopened, so I had to have it merely to justify my purchase. Two quick gulps and I continued my loops watching the couple with great interest. The romance, the spark they had at this ripe old age was amazing and inspiring. During one of my loops I saw them seated, holding hands, and the husband showing a bird to his wife using his binoculars. My faith in the world is reassured. This brief anthropological curiosity made me run without realizing how far I had gotten. It was mile 29 already. This was going to be my last loop; I waved at the couple and headed home. La vie est belle!

Here's what a 50K in Baltimore looks like:

32.01 miles in 04:37:12

A summary of the week that was:
Mon - 7 miles @ 7:08 min/mile
Tue  - 7 miles @ 7:30 min/mile
Wed - 8 miles @ 6:52 min/mile
Thu  - 3 miles @ 8:20 min/mile
Fri    - 3 miles @ 8:20 min/mile
Sat   - 9 miles @  9:00 min/mile
Sun  - 32 miles @ 8:39 min/mile

May 13, 2010

Out of the closet: 50 mile race

It's official. I'm coming out and admitting on this blog about my entry to the 50miler in DC on June 5th. 23 days people and I'm psyched! Although I registered for it more than a month back it took me a while to post it here; this reticence was from self-doubt due to the recent Piriformis injury.

The night before the Mountain Maryland Marathon, I was trying to calm my race nerves by shopping for other marathons to run before Chicago. After not finding anything interesting that was inexpensive, out of a whim I started looking for ultras in the neighborhood. I missed the HAT 50K run in Maryland but fortunately the North Face Endurance Challenge in DC was open.

Why 50mile? I don't know. Just to see if I can do it? Anybody who runs knows the effort is not proportional to distance. I've been having a consistent & reasonable mileage but under different conditions. Being in the city and not having a car, I rarely get to run on trails. Also I haven't run an ultra before. So, my expectations from this race is rather low. I'm running it as opposed to racing it. My goal for this race is to avoid a DNF.

I will leave you guys with the immortal words of the poet William Blake:

"The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom; for we never know what is enough until we know what is more than enough."

Thursday: The week so far

Sun  - 25.2 miles @ 8:46 min/mile
Mon - 7 miles @ 7:08 min/mile
Tue  - 7 miles @ 7:30 min/mile
Wed - 8 miles @ 6:52 min/mile

Ideally, Monday should've been my recovery run but Jay joined me and I didn't want to slow him down.

May 9, 2010

Sunday run: Marathon - 1

After a yucky weather last Sunday, Baltimore got a great weather this weekend that could make any runner go the extra mile. I was looking forward to today's run and planned to run 25 miles today. This planning is very unlike me but then given the last week's nasty weather, I had to take full advantage of today's weather.

The run was on the familiar Canton-Fort route but on my way to the Fort, I tripped on a pavement, fell, and busted my Gu packet. Fortunately, the backup packet came handy. On training runs that are 20 or less, I don't take Gu or water but I needed the encouragement for the extra 5 miles I was planning to put in.

25.2 miles @ 8.7 min/mile

A summary of the week that was:

Mon -  8 miles @ 7.5 min/mile
Tue  -  4 miles @ 7.2 min/mile
Wed -  3 miles @ 7.0 min/mile
Thu - 10 miles @ 7.8 min/mile
Fri -     8 miles @ 7.1 min/mile
Sat -  10.5 miles @ 8.0 min/mile
Sun - 25.2 miles @ 8.7 min/mile

May 7, 2010

Thursday: Port and Fort

The week so far:
Mon - 8 miles @ 7.5 min/mile
Tue  - 4 miles @ 7.2 min/mile
Wed - 3 miles @ 7.0 min/mile
Today - 10 miles @ 7.8 min/mile

Today's run was not very unusual. Except I felt like going on Pratt. Running towards the Fort seems to be the favorite route of many Baltimore city runners. While running, I see many runners doing wrong things that I have to resist my urge to stop and correct them. But occasionally you can also spot elite runners - or at least runners who know what they are doing. What gives that away? Running form. Running form is like obscenity -- you know it when you see it. I will write more about what I learnt about my form later when the homework pile is not so intimidating.

May 2, 2010

Weekend Runs: The worse is yet to come

Sat - 10 mi @ 8:30 min/mi
Sun - 17.16 @ 8:12 min/mi

Today's run was the usual Fort-Canton-Harbor run but the weather in just a period of two days has turned hot and humid. By the time I finished my run today (around 9:20am) I was soaked in sweat and dehydrated. Running in the following weeks will be challenging. Suddenly, running in those horrible winter months appear more appealing.

Sunday run - Fort/Canton/Harbor - 17.16 miles

Apr 30, 2010

Friday: Towson University Track

Today's run was a little off the course - I went to Towson U. track for some work and ran for while there before heading back home. The run from Towson to Mount Vernon is really fun and I should try this again. The track at the Johnny Unitas stadium is the best I've seen in the neighborhood. Highly recommended. Today's run was 11 miles @ 8:25 min/mile.

Apr 29, 2010

New Home

The past few days have been super-busy not only due to work deadlines but also due to the recent move to my new house. I'm still living out of boxes but running as usual; mostly around the Fort area. A summary of the week that has been:

Sat -  Moving
Sun  - 19.2 @ 7.9 min/mile
Mon -  7.5 @ 8.0 min/mile
Tue  -  8.3 @ 7.7 min/mile
Wed -  7.5 @ 7.3 min/mile
Today - 4.0 @ 8.0 min/mile

Apr 20, 2010

Monday/Tuesday: Recovery Runs

Spent yesterday and today doing recovery runs:
Monday - 3 mile @ 8 min/mile + 30 min bike
Tuesday - 6.5 miles @ 7.3 min/mile

This is a busy week. I have a conference deadline on Thursday and I'm moving from my current apartment by end of this week to a nice comfy house in Mt. Vernon. Lot of boxes left to pack!

Apr 18, 2010

Savage Love: Mountain Maryland marathon

Picture this:

  • Official Time: 3:44  Garmin Time: 3:52**
  • First trail race
  • Stunningly beautiful course on Mt. Savage
  • First high altitude race
  • Reasonable race organization 
** Forgot to turn off my Garmin at the finish line.


Marathon #3 for 2010 is in the books. I ran this race with Jay and unlike any other race I've run we decided to drive to the race venue on the day of the race. I left Baltimore around 3:40 AM in the morning without having slept much at all. This was a race against odds - crazy terrain, Piriformis injury, and no sleep. I survived.

Cumberland is a beautiful little town in MD and we knew we were up for some great sights when we spotted the big hills on our way there in the darkness. We reached there perfectly on time for the packet pickup, thanks to Jay's driving and everything sailed perfectly to the start of the race. I only wished I had a jacket with me in the beginning and the end of the race.

This was my first trail race and I had no idea what to expect. I did not get any trail shoes since most of the surface was crushed limestone gravel. Trail running is a different beast. For almost the entire run you are alone, except the stunning views Mother Nature provides. "This is where wallpapers come from", was my thought as I ran through the course.

Your only human contact is other racers and the good folks at the aid stations which are much fewer than most road races. So, there is no opportunity to feed into the positive energy created by the cheering spectators. There were lot of times during the race where I could not see any other runner before or after me. Which also means you have to be very careful and watch out for those trail markers to avoid getting lost.

This was also my first high altitude race. The race itself involved a climb of 1000ft on Mt. Savage. Nothing in my training had prepared me for this and the first half of the race felt like riding an untamed horse.

This the second time this marathon is being held. Credits to the organizers for pulling off a nice race but hope that next time the volunteers will be more prepared -- a lot of times it appeared they had no idea. Also if you are running this race (highly recommended), it's a good idea to carry your own supplies. The only thing you can rely on is water and watered down Gatorade. Oh, they also had bananas and whole apples at the aid stations if you had time to stop and munch!

I finished the race in 3:44.  The Priformis injury seemed under control except for a dull pain throughout the race which kept me from pedaling harder. The medal is made of porcelain and makes a fine coaster/paper weight. It's also fragile so another thing to take care of after your run.

Apr 14, 2010

Wednesday: Fartleks

I'm a sucker for distance and have hated doing tempo runs; probably because I started running naturally and never began running with a "training plan". In fact, the first marathon (SF) I ran was an impulsive decision made just weeks before the actual date when I overheard someone talk about how excited they were for the upcoming marathon. I thought, I've been running for fun as long as I can remember; how difficult can this be? With that thought I registered. I was wrong. I did finish the marathon but was completely unsatisfied. At the finish I was all exhausted, and a well meaning doctor at the medical tent said to me, "You won't do this again. Will you?". I replied, "Of course, I will" with a grin that failed to mask my pain. Everyone says your first marathon is a life changing experience. It was in my case but in a different way. I already had the love for running but after my first marathon, I started approaching running with an academic vigor. I read, and still continue to do, everything I saw about nutrition and training.

I still dislike following a training plan as it sucks the fun out of running, and as consequence I don't have "tempo run" days. Fortunately, I discovered that I could mix tempo runs in my distance workouts. Later a friend told me that this was called a "Fartlek". I thought he was joking. Thank god for fartleks. This is also a great way to get rid of the late afternoon sluggishness. I got some quality workout today at the JHU track playing "human fartlek" :-)

Apr 12, 2010

How many donuts?

At the time of this writing, I have logged a bit over 685 miles in 2010. Just wondering how many donuts I could have burned in the process? After a bit of Google search and a little back of the envelope calculation it turns out to be around 359 donuts till now. That's slightly more than three donuts a day. 359 donuts, just the thought makes me bristle!

(Assuming plain donuts with 185 calories per donut. Don't forget to factor your average pace and body weight.)

Apr 11, 2010

Sunday: Cherry Blossom


  • Chip Time: 01:13:08   Gun Time: 01:15:44   Garmin Time: 01:12:30**
  • Fun race, Great weather!
  • Meeting Bill Rodgers
  • Free overnight stay in DC, thanks to Couch Surfing and Glen!
    **Garmin time is the time I spent actually running; not counting the one time I used the porta john.
Thanks to a friend, Genevieve, I got an entry into the Cherry Blossom this year. I had no idea about the history of this race when I signed up for it; it's been around for 38 years and is a popular tune-up race before Boston. This is also the first time I ran a 10 mile race. The weather was great and I enjoyed the race like it was a fun training run. I found this race better organized than the National Marathon right from the expo to the facilities at the start/finish line. Every race, I find one running poster from the cheering spectators stand out from the rest. This race it was "Run like you stole something!"

Not only was the expo good but I also got to meet Bill Rodgers in person. Bill is one of my running heroes and seeing the man in person was a pilgrimage like experience. For the 10-15 minutes we talked, I walked away with some great trail running tips and a sense of awe.

For the first time, I used Couch Surfing. It's a great concept and thanks to my Couch Surfing host, Glen, for the overnight accommodation. Glen also happened to be the one of the most interesting & well traveled person I've met. We also went to a great restaurant, Busboys and Poets, for Saturday dinner; I had brown rice and beans with a side of guacamole  -- splendid!

The Piriformis stretches and the low mileage payed off. Today's run was pain-free but then again it was only 10 miles on a reasonably flat course. I will still be cautious for the Mountain MD marathon next Sunday. Keeping fingers crossed.

Apr 10, 2010

Know your injuries: Piriformis Syndrome

Injuries are best recognized early. Last weekend, I noticed a pain in my glutes during a long run that I had never experienced earlier. The pain was so severe that I had to cut short my long run to 12.5 miles. As a seasoned runner, it's easy to distinguish between discomfort and pain. Discomfort is what we runners long for; if you don't feel the discomfort towards the end of your training runs, you're not training hard enough. Part of the training experience is running through discomfort. But pain is an entirely different story. Running through a pain is reckless and often an invitation to injuries. One of the reasons I avoid taking NSAIDs and other pain killers during runs is that they suppress this vital signaling system in our body. If you're in pain your body is telling you there is something wrong and you better listen to it.

I had a tough time putting a finger on this pain. With Google as my sports therapist, I was trying to find what running injury can make you feel as if you have a golf ball pressing against your butt when you sit and can cause severe pain when you run. I went through the inflammation symptoms of every muscle in the hip and glutes and finally narrowed it down to the Piriformis muscle. Reading more about Piriformis Syndrome only confirmed it. Inflammation of this muscle will apply pressure on the Sciatic nerve and hence the pain.  Of course, Google can never replace professional medical help but given the state of my grad school health insurance this was my first instinct.

With that plausible diagnosis, the suggested course of action is:
1. Stop running for a few weeks
2. Stretch the Piriformis
3. Seek medical help if it becomes worse

Not running is unthinkable. I don't remember when was the last time I did not run continuously for days together. I prefer to tread cautiously. I have significantly lowered my training volume this week (from 65-70 to 30) and that seems to be helping. But what really helps are the stretches. I've never been a fan of stretching but I can swear by this one. I am doing stretches in this video religiously now.

I will still be running Cherry Blossom normally as a test run for the Mountain MD marathon. No marathon has worried me like this one. This tortuously hilly marathon can wreak havoc on my glutes and hip muscles. The verdict is on Sunday.

Apr 4, 2010

Sunday: Fleet Street

I took a detour from my usual Fort route to Fleet Street today. What an awesome weather!

17.39 miles in 02:36:28

Apr 2, 2010

Friday: Fort run

11.97 mi @ 8:05min/mile
Running to the Fort never bores me. I've been on this route so many times that I know exactly where the potholes are, where the curb is broken, and where to watch for gravel. But one thing I figured today was if you need to drink water and the Fort is closed, it can be tricky. Luckily the Science Center was open and I got a sip from the fountain. Lunch was a big burrito and I repented eating that. Not only it made me thirsty but also burritos give you that false sense of being full. Towards the end of my run, I was out of gas and had no desire to run but the promise of a tall glass of chocolate milk kept me going. It was 12 miles and I called it a day (for running).

Next week will be a very busy week but looking forward to the Cherry Blossom run on Sunday. I usually don't sign up for small races unless they are in Baltimore but after hearing so much about it, I decided to do it this year. Also thanks to a friend who gave her entry!

Apr 1, 2010

Thursday: Harbor run

Today's run was a short 7 something miles followed by a relaxed couple miles back home.

7.25 mi @ 7:31 min/mi + 2.21 mi @ 8:26 min/mi

Mar 31, 2010

A scary weekend and a slow week

12.53 mi @ 9min/mile
After two consecutive fantastic hill runs on Thursday and Friday, I took a rest day on Saturday but did a small 2 mile run at 8min/mile.

I was looking forward to a nice long run on Sunday at the B&A trail with Jay but who knew that I had a surprise in store. Barely after 6 miles into the run, I had severe pain in my right hip. It was hard to localize but every step sent a jolt through my leg. I've ran through pain earlier but this was the scariest experience during a run, especially with the Mountain MD marathon and Cherry Blossom around the corner. Every mile beyond that was an exercise in pain management until I was able to pop an Advil later and decided to cut short the run to 12.5 miles. I'm not a big fan of NSAIDs and usually do without them even after running a marathon but Sunday's pain attack was beyond me. The rest of Sunday was spent applying ice and compress and living in fear of something horrible. Needless to say, I chickened out on Monday and did not run.

10.53 mi @ 7:52min/mile
Tuesday morning felt somewhat different. The fear lingered but the desire to run was overwhelming. So, I did a small 3.5 mile run at 8.3 min/mile. This felt good. Legs okay. Hips okay. Hallelujah! I stopped at 3.5 so I don't "offend the gods"! Encouraged by Tuesday, I did a 1.5 mile warm up run at 8 min/mile followed by a run to the Fort and back (10.5 miles) at avg 7:52 min/mile. I am wary of this weekend's pain attack and its equally mysterious disappearance. I'm not complaining but keeping the fingers crossed. Just in case.

Mar 26, 2010

Friday: Hill Lust

I loved yesterday's run so much that I had to do it again. This time Jay joined me and we took a different route via Falls Road near Penn Station. This is much better than my usual BMA-Wyman Park route to Druid Hill. Just check the change in elevation for today's run. Love it!

Distance: 11:51mi      Time: 01:40:18

Mar 25, 2010

Thursday: The Dreaded Druid Hills

Today's run was through the "Dreaded Druid Hills" course. Someone who once participated in a DDH 10k said this at the finish line:

I love running hills, but that was mean and totally uncalled for.
My goal today was to run 5 miles on that course (approximately) but ended up doing more. I blame it on the weather. It is a BEAUTIFUL spring evening outside! The hills were not necessarily like Hyde Street  in San Francisco but just enough to challenge your glutes and hamstrings. The Druid Hill park itself appears as an aberration from rest of Baltimore city around it. I went through many parts of the park that I hadn't seen before. Did you know there is a cemetery, a K-9 training unit, a penguin education center, and metal ostrich sculptures in the park? There is also a model "safe city" in the park with tiny houses, street signs, etc -- a great place to take kids to teach about traffic signs. Of course, after all that I had to circle Druid Lake before heading back.

Distance: 9.05mi     Time: 01:21:28

Mar 24, 2010

Wednesday: Beyond the Monument

Did a late night 5 miles in 43 minutes. The plan was to go to the Monument and return as fast as I could but the lure of the descent and an ascent after the Monument was irresistible. So, I did a little more. Stopping was hard today and I wanted more but alas work beckons.

Distance: 5.22 mi    Time:  43:03

Mar 23, 2010

Tuesday: Run to the Fort

Ran a slow 12 mile run to the Fort and back (avg. pace 9 min/mile). This was like an extended version yesterday's recovery run. Jay was very nice to accompany me on this run that was way below our regular training pace. 

Distance: 12.03 mi     Time: 01:48:59

Mar 22, 2010

Monday: Back to work

After a very restful Sunday, it was work as usual today. I stretched for 15 mins, did a small 2.4 mile recovery run in 22mins and spent another 30 mins doing more stretches. Looking forward to tomorrow!

I will be running the Mountain MD Marathon on April 18th in Cumberland. This will be my first Maryland marathon and not Baltimore or Fredrick as I had imagined. The website doesn't look impressive, but the course is challenging and USATF certified. I'm in!

Mar 21, 2010

Sunday: Sleep deficit

Yes, I slept for 10 hours today! And then a little more. Sleeping always does wonders for my recovery. Can't wait for tomorrow's recovery run. It's amazing how we get caught up in work and other banalities of life and neglect sleep. The week leading up to the National Marathon was very stressful for me. There were last minute deliverables that resulted in consecutive 20 hour work days. Tomorrow, work raises its ugly head. Till then, some more tea and nap.

Meanwhile, runindc made this cool video about the National Marathon.

Mar 20, 2010

National Marathon, DC - Race Report


  • Chip time: 3:51:44  Gun time: 3:54:28   Garmin time: 3:49:48 **
  • Course - deceptively hilly. Watch out for the hills at the end of the course.
  • Weather - low to mid 70s. Too hot for running.
  • Personal achievement - two marathons in twenty days.

** Garmin time indicates the actual time spent running. For instance, I paused Garmin when using the porta john. Hence it differs from the chip time.

Picture this: First day of spring, ecstatic crowds, and a picturesque tour of the nation's capital. That's National Marathon 2010.


Unlike NOLA, this one was close to home. Travel (Amtrak + Metro) costed me less than $40. This is the closest I've traveled to run a marathon. (Yes, I haven't run the Baltimore Marathon yet)

I arrived here around noon and headed to the expo right away. Nothing special about the expo -- if you've seen one you've seen them all -- but it was inside the DC armory. So, going to the expo was like getting into an airport, with security scans and all.

I'm no stranger to DC but this was the first time I actually stayed a night in DC. Since Dupont Circle is my favorite hangout place and I wanted to be close to the Metro, I decided to stay at the Inn at Dupont Circle. This is a quite B&B that is only a little more expensive than private rooms in nearby hostels. While booking B&B's, the pictures on the website don't tell the whole truth. The wireless internet connection was non-existent and the room was not bigger than a prison cell. I didn't mind that as I only had to spend a night there. After dinner with a friend, I retired to bed early for the action tomorrow.

Saturday - Race Day

Imagine going to the Metro station and finding only runners there? That's how it was at the Dupont station. The Metro started at 5am today, instead of the usual 7am on weekends. At 5:30am, I was in a train full of marathon and half-marathon runners. If you like crowds you must run this race. There were around 4000 marathon and 8000 half-marathon runners with little elbow room for the first couple of miles. Also the porta johns were conspicuously absent at the start line and I had to make two unfortunate stops during the middle of the race. This is the first marathon I've been to where half and full marathoners run pretty much the same course till the end of the half-marathon. The latter half of the full marathon was pretty much a repeat of the first half but being able to run next to the monuments, esp. the US. Capitol was a unique experience.

This is the first race for Spring and it so happened that the weather was in the mid 70s during most part of the race -- not my running weather. I like it cold. I liked running in Baltimore even when there was a storm. Running in hot weather is exhausting and with my training there was no way I was looking for a PR here. Also, this was the second marathon for this year and second one in the last twenty days. So, I was pretty much used up. I finished the run in 3:51:44.

The race had its funny moments, like while running through a tunnel at mile 19 (?), the "Speed Limit 35" traffic sign cracked me up. I think the cutest poster was "My daddy is faster than your daddy" held by an equally cute kid.

The race bling is really pretty. The embossed US Capitol on the medal looks really cool. I really wish more races had ice tubs at the finish line like NOLA. After asking, all I got was a teeny ice pack. But overall, I'm happy with this race. I didn't have spend much on travel, the run wasn't so bad, and I got my personal achievement of running two marathons in twenty days. My last one was NOLA on Feb 28.

Mar 14, 2010

Sunday: Shamrock 5K

Highlight of today was my mediocre run at the Shamrock 5K race -- 6:55 pace to finish in 20:58. I ran two miles before the race and another four miles afterwards. Not a bad Sunday. Next Sunday, I will be recovering from the DC marathon. Excited! I was in a mood to cook so I made myself a post run lunch -- blueberry pancakes made from fresh blueberries and Red Mill pancake mix. La vie est belle!

Mar 12, 2010

Thursday: Eine kleine Nachtlaufen

Today's run was a familiar one -- unplanned but I-got-bored-so-I-had-to-run kind of a run. Excited about tomorrow's St. Patrick's day pub run!

Distance: 9.32mi    Time: 01:13:53

Mar 11, 2010

Wednesday: Running together

Running is a solo sport. One of the reasons I took up running than any other sport was you don't need acceptance by any team. This is similar to what Feynman observed about honors. You are not judged by anyone unless you voluntarily sign up for races and often nobody gives a damn about race results. There are no rules to be followed de rigueur and you are your own critic. Your only friend could be your running shoes or probably your GPS watch, and still you will do fine.

But running with a partner takes the sport to a different level. I'm a big fan of conversing while running. I often find it odd that I'm the only one who likes to jabber with strangers during marathons. All the camaraderie at the start line somehow vanishes as the miles are crossed.

Jay and I have been running for a while together and we talk about everything under the Sun while training. Today's run was supposed to be a joint run but Mr. Goofballs confused the time and went to Jay's house almost half hour late. So, we had our individual runs separate. Today, I pushed the pedal a little hard at several points but took it easy on the distance for two upcoming runs on the weekend.

Distance: 7.21mi        Time: 58:06

Mar 9, 2010

Tuesday: Fort run

Sometime back I was thinking aloud on why do we run? That's a silly question but there are days when you are just grateful that you can run. For the last two days, I have been working incessantly on my paper that was due yesterday 3 am. After a lot of effort, I did not make the submission and decided to make it stronger for the next conference. The feeling after that is probably similar to a DNF at mile 25 in marathon. To make matters worse, I also got a note that the Lead the way 50K that I was planning to run is cancelled for this year.  Needless to say, the rest of my day today was down in the pits but luckily today I had planned a nice evening run with Jay. We did a medium sized run today and this will be probably the longest I will go before tapering for the DC marathon. I'm now ready for another day.

Distance: 13.36mi      Time: 01:51:17

Mar 6, 2010

Saturday: Harbor run

Ran to the Harbor today on the usual N. Charles route. There's something about this route that I can never seem to get bored. There are always people around, the monument, the commuters waiting for buses sipping from giant cups of coke, folks waiting for someone to come, and those standing and waiting for no reason at all. This is as Baltimore as it can get.

Today's run was to do a medium sized run at marathon pace. I had no desire to stop but my paper deadline on Monday is not going to wait for me either. When I run, I rarely think about the problem I'm working on. During my run today, I saw my professor. I don't think he saw me. I hope not. But how weird is that?

Distance: 7.35mi      Time: 01:02:04

Mar 3, 2010

Wednesday: Science center

Today's run spelled S.L.O.W. This was my second recovery run but only a little longer. Jay and I ran to the Maryland Science Center from my place and back. I was definitely holding Jay's pace but then today that was kind of expected.

Distance: 6.9mi      Time:01:01:54

Mar 2, 2010

Tuesday: Recovery Run

I once saw a t-shirt that said, "Shut up and Run". That's what I said to myself today after resting all day yesterday (Okay, I was also traveling). So, I did shut up and ran 2 recovery miles in 19 mins after stretching for more than 30 minutes. Tomorrow looks bright!

Mar 1, 2010

Mardi-Gras Marathon: Trip notes & Race report

  • Chip time: 03:45:43   Clock time: 03:50:07
  • 40s temprature, light breeze, and flat course
  • Must eat: Gumbo, Banana's foster
  • Can avoid: Beignets
  • Preferred place to stay: "India House" hostel.
Day 0 (Friday evening):
This is the first time I've visited New Orleans, for a marathon or anything else, and I ended up liking this place as soon as I got on the airport shuttle. The driver was so friendly and each and every one of my co-passengers were either running the marathon or the half. So, we spend a jolly good time exchanging running notes. The most impressive of the lot was an elderly gentleman from Spokane who claimed to be running at least two marathons a month. That's an incredible feat!  My lodging was at the "India House" hostel, a few miles from downtown along Canal Street. The driver of the shuttle gladly agreed to drop me off at the Cafe du Monde although my reservation was for the hostel.

I got the usual fare, beignet and Cafe au lait, at the Cafe after a little past midnight; true NOLA experience that I would regret later. After quick stop for beignets I reached my hostel, the India House. It is impossible to not love this place. It has a unique 60s hippie ambiance with almost no restrictive rules or curfews like your average hostel. The staff are extremely friendly and rates very affordable. As a student traveler, I loved both. There is no reason why it's called "India House" as the front desk staff told me it was neither connected to India or the Native Americans. The hostel is a big hit with international backpackers so you will not be surprised to find teenagers and 20somethings from several continents at once. The hostel also provides affordable food but being race weekend and all, I was a little careful about food.

Day 1: (Saturday)
So much for being careful. The beignets I ate yesterday gave me a bad case of rashes today morning. I just applied some coca butter, that I always carry with me, and hoped for the best. I did a small three mile jog in the morning to fight the rash jitters. Rest of the day was spent in a little bit of sight seeing, packet pickup and shopping trinkets. I thought the expo was boring, nothing like San Francisco or New York. However there was one booth with the name EFX, that was trying to sell some "device" that "captured vibrations" and made them "resonate with you". The lady selling this sounded so ridiculous giving her spiel but I played along getting amused all the way.  I thought this was a part of racing in the Voodoo Town. Lunch was gumbo with Cajun beans and rice at Mother's. I stomached that well. Dinner was a large bag of trail mix and a banana with a big bottle of Powerade before hitting the sack early.

Race day: (Sunday)
Race days always make me nervous. I always endup waking very early, go to the race venue almost an hour early and loiter around. Sunday morning, I had a case of the runs but that was just me being a nervous wreck as usual. Pre race food was more Powerade and two bananas.

Sunday morning was great weather to run. I was dressed super light, unlike Toronto marathon where I had to layer up, which made running so enjoyable. The course is very flat and running went according to my pace calculation except for the five mile strecth betwen miles 17 and 21 where I took more than 9 min/mile making me overshoot my 3:40 target. I still don't know why that happened. Perhaps I was distracted by the beautiful New Orleans City Park or when I came across a street called "Peniston" when I cracked out laughing. I did not stop anywhere during the race, not even for water -- grab & go -- but my laces became undone twice during the end of the race. First I tried to ignore it but caved in to avoid a tripping hazard. Around 2hrs or so into the race, somebody held a poster saying "The Kenyan has finished now. You may slow down."

I tried Bynum's +/- game where you increment 1 for every runner you pass and decrement 1 for every runner passing you while ignoring anyone who's walking. This was a fun game but I found it made me run faster than my intended pace during the start of the marathon. So, I stopped that and decided to play it towards the end but as I was approaching the finish line, my mind went blank and I ran like a zombie or as if I was chased by a one.

The race loot was a medal on Mardi-Gras beads. Looks fun! Overall, I loved this race and I'm happy to choose it as my first race for the year. I also loved visiting NOLA and would like to go there again for some serious goofing around.