Saturday, December 31, 2016

Running Report for 2016

Running in 2016 was very eventful. Not in terms of medals but in terms of experience.

I ran 770 miles and 9 races. I must credit my increased mileage this year to the 2 Training cycles I went through.

First morning of January , I ran the Commitment Day Race. I signed up for it coz I needed some race but not Polar Dash. Spent rest of Jan, in usual frustration about not being able to run outside. New place, icy roads, and being available only at dark hours were the reason. I spent more time on Google, reading winter running stuff, than getting actual runs. It was less dark than previous month. But it did get dark every evening by the time I reached home. I remember racing with the Sun on my left - being bright throughout my commute, and then for it to go off blink, right when I turned into my area. Bamm ! It did not snow so bad this Jan, but whenever it did, the roads took more than a week to clear the frozen black ice. I was not going to risk those. I had already taken a tumble in my driveway when I went to leave the thrash-can for pickup. That one incident was enough.

And then in the last week, a serendipitous thing happened. I spent a few hours in unsuccessful search of Run Club in my area. Later when I checked my email, I found a mail from Lifetime about their Training for Grandmas. It was a followup promotion after Commitment Day Race. I have never been more happy to share my email. I enthusiastically squeezed into their group runs, even before the training officially started. Securian Half happened around this time and the way it finished, did not make me happy. But this was expected with the below par base miles I had.

Weather conditions stayed same in February. And I could see that I lagging much much behind the training plan. But thanks to run group, I got in some very beautiful snow runs on weekend mornings, through trails I did not know existed. Of course I was the last slow runner and got lost a few times; that did not change my mind.  My weeknight runs were nowhere, coz I was still scared to go out on the dark icy roads, regularly. So I crunched up and got gym membership to use treadmill. Boom my total miles for Feb & March climbed up. It helped me in the Hot Dash 10 miler.

I kept going on the weeknights treadmill and weekend morning outdoor runs in April. So the Get in Gear Half experience was beautiful again. I felt nervous because my training plan was a few weeks off from the group training for Grandmas. I was training for Minneapolis Marathon - the one in my comfort zone, coz I did not have the confidence to drive back from a destination race. Yet I did feel I would run this well.

In mid-May, 2 weeks before the race, the news came up that Team Ortho did not get permission for their route. This was a spanner in the wheels. I was disappointed but was eyeing them for my refund. I did not want to be tricked like last time, into signing up for their next race. And this mood-spoiler derailed my training. Finally, it did get cancelled and they gave a full refund. Once the pressure of the actual race was gone, my runs dipped again in June. This and the official start of summer vacation, meant my miles were low for June.

In the meantime, peer pressure worked and I signed up for TCM Marathon on Oct - something I never thought I would run - given that it needs summer training. But I did show up for the group runs and carried on with my own runs. So that brought up my mileage in July and peaking in AugustMinnesota Half Marathon - StPaul made me really question myself. I doubted my treadmill runs and  how the absence of any formal speed workout was affecting my results. That reminds me, Speed workouts are still a black hole for me. I guess I should get some real coaching for this.

September has the 3 peak weeks of training. But I, in my nervousness, quit even the runs I could manage. That brought the mileage down. I did showup for the 20 miler for experience sake and did cover it all. Women Run The Cities cheered me up a bit. The taper weeks were again something I am sure I did wrong.

Oct first weekend was the big TCM Marathon day. The way I finished this race threw me off completely. I tried to enjoy my vacation away from training, but was constantly thinking about what went wrong. Since a long race has too many factors to consider, I can't make out which variable changes the equation. So in Nov & Dec, I decided to switch to workouts for weight-loss and strength-training. Cold & snow helped me stick to this plan. Workouts involved short runs.

I thought I would curtail Races this year. But in review, I see I ran more races this year. Good part - most of them were without medals. Yes, I have gotten over my past obsession of Medals. Now I want good finish times; PR from my this year's results.

Races were spread through the year. So I got to run in different weather conditions. The Training runs covered my craving for running in new unexplored routes.

Conditions Name Date Distance Time
20F Cloudy Commitment Day 1-Jan-16 5K 40 min
35F-40F Securian Winter Run 30-Jan-16 Half-Mara 3:03:37  hours
25F wet icy Hot Dash 10 mile 19-Mar-16 10Mile 2:12  hours
53F Get in the Gear 30-Apr-16 HalfMara 2:55:53  hours
78F Minnesota Half Marathon - StPaul 6-Aug-16 HalfMara 3:05:54  hours
64F Capitol Run 17-Sep-16 20 mile 5:25 hours
64F Women Run The Cities 25-Sep-16 10Mile 2:07 hours
38F-55F TCM Marathon 9-Oct-16 Marathon 6:45 hours
35F No wind Hindu Mandir Thanksgiving 5k 24-Nov-16 5K 38 min

Here is what happened when I was training per plan with a group:
Almost all training plans are 16 weeks long and need atleast 4-5 weekday runs plus 1 weekend run. Miles progress up through the week, which means run-time increases each time. On whole, in a 3 month plan, the first 2 months were easier to stick to the plan. In the last month, everything collapses. Everyone, including me, has meltdowns considering the neglect of home & family time. And then it's back to the previous routine.

I switched to new shoes for each training cycle. But they are in good shape, so I did not exactly throw them away. I used them for the casual biking and the workouts in Nov-Dec. I have an interesting story about my running capris. I had a two Under Armour capris - my favorite, skin tight, kept my loose tummy in place, lovely colors of blue & green & neon. I think I used them throughout the first half for runs on treadmill and outside in summer. And one fine October morning, while I was 1 mile on a trail, I felt a burn in my inner-thighs. I look down and see that seam stitch had opened and my skin had chaffed. It was painful, but no embarrassment, as my group had gone ahead. I turned back and ran back 1 mile to my car. This was the day, I did not have a backup pant in my car, so I drove back home for 10 miles, changed and drove back to the trail for a 8 mile long run. Somehow I am not embarrassed about the tear or the 40 miles drive, coz it was a perfect weather for the long run and I would regret badly if I had to miss it. Every run is indeed an adventure.

About weight-loss, there was nil. I started the year with Orange Theory workouts, once every week and minimal running. When running picked up in Mar, I gave up the Orange Theory, cause the soreness came in the way of running. Then it was all running till TCM Marathon in Oct. In Nov, being goalless and introspection about my race performance, made me switch to a workout class again. On an average my running/workouts have been 4-5 times a week. About diet changes, they are as healthy choices as they can be. Portion control may need work but it is a constant work-in-progress. Hence my weight through the year has been on a roller-coaster of +-3 pounds, with the final weight in Dec being exact same as Jan. My strength & stamina may have changed; though I have no way to measure it; except the subjective compliments that I receive.

As I end this year, I don't have any specific goals for 2017. I am sure my learning will help me create new goals.

Wish you all a very Happy & Prosperous New Year !

Monday, December 12, 2016

Reading Book list of 2016

I did get back to book reading last year, though I kept it limited, by making good choices. Now my philosophy is that, there are limited number of hours in a day and all books are not gifts of Saraswati that I should revere them and read every suggested list. I have no hangup about discarding some books, after trying the first few pages. This confidence also stems from the fact that I am not buying them. Well some of them. I depend on Library now. Library has enabled all us to wade through hundreds of children books, running books, potboiler novels, cookbooks, new releases & more. This year, I managed to read the below books, while I let go of many half-read.

Do share your this years reading list, recommendations & wishlist in the comments.

Martian by Andy Weir

Got to know about it when the movie promos started playing on Youtube. I usually force everyone in the family to see trailers. I did it for Martian movie trailers as well. Later when I bought the book, my kid (who I thought is just a baby) goes, "Oh liked that movie". She remembered the trailer.

So after endless wait for Library copy, I went and bought the paperback. I wanted to read it before movie came out. The book is worth all the hype ! Totally humorous language. Not some desolate desperate despairing depressing tale of being left behind. But a story of taking one step at a time and problem-solving. And there is enough material to engage a Space Sci-fi lover. Loved it.

And then I saw the movie hoping it would be as good as the book. And yes it was. Matt Damon is good enough. Pissed that they excluded a few of the dialogues I loved. Glad they added the end sequence, not originally in book. And Youtube had more videos of ARES life on Hermes.

Rant alert: Why the .. change Venkat Kapoor to Vincent Kapoor ? I love Chiwetel, I did not otice the difference until the every end. But didn't they find any Indian actor for this role, if Andy can write it ? Scott teri toh ! I scanned lot of Reddit & Quora threads, but this one never picked the storm like other diversity issues of 2015. One story goes that Irfan Khan was not available. Yes he would have been a great choice. But there were so many to pick from - Asif Mandvi, KalPenn & many new faces I don't even know their names. They live closer to the casters. Sometimes recruitment folks just don't try again and it's a lost opportunity for a huge group.

Called Again by Jennifer Pharr Davis

I am a fan. Her tone is so pleasant, soothing. Personal account of trail hikes, through dense forest, camping, quite nights - I am a sucker for those. That is why I own Jim Corbett Omnibus and love Hunger Games Series. And Jen Pharr Davis is a record holder elite in this sport/field. There is way more to learn from my generation forester.

This book covers, in detail, her first few attempts at Appalachian Trail hike and then the final record breaking assisted through-hike. Various segments of the trail, different runners who ran with her for the diff sections, her husband, family & friends who assited her the whole way, her mentors and her resources in the planning. Finish writeup was thrilling, even though she conveyed that in real life, it was not movie-like thrill.

Got to know about JPD when Scott Jurek broke the record in July 2015. And Karl Meltzer broke Jurek's record this year September. Just because records are broken to frequently, it does not diminish the superhuman effort that is involved in this endeavor. JPD gave her blessing & data to Scott Jurek just like she was mentored by the previous record holder. And Scott assisted Karl in this attempt. So yes JPD is superhuman and I am glad I read her book.

Running: Emil Zapotek - by  Jean Echenoz

Sounds like a English translation from French. No numbers or facts as in no run-time or year details. No photographs. Very conversational like the writer had dictated the whole thing to a gathering or audience, speaking eloquently. Totally reminded of some of the Hindi or Marathi raconteurs recounting stories of major heroes. But did paint hazy but elaborate pictures of different phases of his and Czech lives.

Emil's wiki page is enough to impress about his achievements & capability. Interspersing them with his real life anecdotes and his age at each of those milestones, makes it all real. Just a glimpse into Czech life under Communist regime and the sports & political bureaucracy he had to face every single day.

Sometimes we need a read book about real-life heroes, which is not slickly produced or even engineered by a group of marketing types. Sometimes a real-life story needs to be documented, so it is relayed to others somewhere in a different timeline. This was that kind of book. I am glad I read it.

Miles to Run Before I Sleep by Sumedha Mahajan 

That brings me to this book. Again not a slickly produced or written book. But I am so glad I got a peep into the life of an Indian Female elite runner. It's a very personal account - covers her health limitations (asthma), family equations, new job and finally her run experiences. The 2nd half focus is on the 1500 km run in 30 days, from Delhi to Mumbai with star runner Milind Sonam and group. This part covers the uniqueness of a route in India. Every run route is such a new experience, and I don't have the India run exp. And some about run co-ordination politics, something given in any sporting world.

I am still waiting for a slickly produced biography of PT Usha. None that I know of, but for now her FB page will do. On FB, I can see what she is up to now.

Ready One Player by Ernest Cline

Throughout, I wondered how Steven Spielberg will fit in everything 80's in his movie of this book. Just imagining the cost of buying rights for those thousands of songs, music, movies & TV shows from the 80's, that populate the background and key parts of the story. I am familiar with some of the popular culture of the 80's of America and some obscure ones were new to me.

Storyline progression was entirely on parts which are as exciting as a video-game. They work.
Entire population being addicted enough to live in an alternate online world, is not hard to imagine, because we are nearly there - till internet crashes. What is not imaginable, is the entire world retrograding to a past decade, completely. Books justification are the despairingly destroyed world and the motivation to win the prize. But wont a section of population not care about the competition. Okay maybe, only the competitors define what trends are and speak on behalf of the rest. Then this book is believable.

Among other things, I loved the concept of "video newsfeed". That was 2010-2011. I don't know how effective or prevalent FB feed feature was, at that time. Newfeeds in FB world have undergone transformations & become influential, in today's world. This was at a point in the story, to show how normal life was and how everyone used it.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

The tit-bits leaking out in social media were killing me while I waited for my Library copy to be available. I did get it finally and grabbed it with a celebration. At the start, that play format was killing. Definitely all the surrounding text and descriptions built up the scenery in all 7 HPs. I missed that here, for more than half of the book. 3 years of school went by in 5 pages. No sign of McGonagall. It was like watching a movie/trailer with no background music. I cribbed & cribbed about it in our cousins Whatsapp group.

Albus sounded like a waste fellow, till the end. Scorpius was much more adorable and sensible, grounded fellow; nothing like kid-Draco. After the first half, when story picked-up pace, I forgot everything else and managed to finish.

Am I happy I read this book ? As happy as reading the first 7 ? Maybe not. This was more of a continuation of all fan-fics I had read so far. To be able to create another blockbuster, using this same valuable set of characters, this endearing HP universe, it will definitely need some writing skills, of those followup writers. Otherwise, we have Wikipedia & Pottermore to know info about it all.

Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins


Second Tuesday of Nov this year was erm unnervingly quite since morning. By night, my patience was on the edge. I just wanted to go to bed and not know what happened. I got up at dawn and stumbled in the dark to browse all Feeds on my phone. Being a neutral party, the only thing that rang in my ears, was a tweet I had read long back. "Let the Seventy Sixth Hunger Games begin !". So I had to escape into the Hunger Games Series. I ordered the copies from my Library and spent the next 2 months reading them in my warm cozy bed. It's a good thing that the glamorous movie version kept playing in my head, while I read the book which clearly depicted a lot of Eastern Europe 90's situation for poverty side.

Do share your this years reading list, recommendations & wishlist in the comments.

Monday, October 31, 2016

TCM Marathon 2016 - Race Recap - Part 2

Continued from TCM Marathon 2016 - Race Recap - Part 1

Race kicked off at 8 am, but it was about 20 minutes till my Corral 3 could actually move out. The crowd was spread out while in downtown and winding down Hennpin Avenue. Then at the construction outside Walker Art, roads got narrower and crowds cozier. It stayed that way for a long time. This stretch was very Minnetonka Half kind of route in Orono. And this is where I met my Run club #LadyCrew Mother-Daughter team. It also meant, I was at faster than my usual pace. In the first half. Not a good sign. So now I lagged behind.

The next 5-6 miles milestone around Lake Calhoun & Harriet went by smoothly.
Next stretch were again narrow roads, lined with houses and crowds enjoying a lawn party and cheering loudly for us. Someone even teased me, "Hey look she is carrying a snack bag" - about my ziplock bag of sport beans & Blok. But the crowds also made me anxious for some reason. I never thought I would feel that way about cheering crowds.

Around Mile 14, after covering Lake Nokomis - I was getting anxious, that I am incredibly slow - though I had huge company around me. I was regretting, that "I signed up such an expensive race and I will loose out on shirt and medal ! Forget about any time PR." I was anticipating humiliation. This was too early in race. There was no indication from the race officials about anything like this. Just the strict official text about course time-limit was hovering in my mind.

At Mile 15 medical-stop, I saw a yellow school bus parked behind tree in a back street. I started running faster again.

This went on for next many minutes and I struggled through the Minnehaha Parkway. I think I was wailing tear-less till Mile 16 at West River Parkway. A nice lady in black runner outfit & pink tutu, even asked if I was alright ? I feel bad about startling anyone, but that was the only way to let out my anxiety. So I quit the wailing.

Around Mile 16.5 on West River Parkway and which is uphill, a black car pulled and a kind lady inside politely said the bus is coming, I could get in or run in the sidewalk, cause they are going to start opening the streets again. I just grunted and moved away from the car, closer to the sidewalk.
Mindbubble- "No way I will get in the bus - this is my last marathon ever. Even if I crawl through it. God don't let me crawl."

Soon the bus made it's way ahead. That sight was enough to crush anything I ever had. Now I gave up running and started walking. Who cares if I run ?

I refused to look at my clock, to check my mile or time. In my mind, I had the illusion, that I will reach the end at 1 pm even at this pace - stupid I know, but I did not want to know the reality, at that point of time. From last year's experience, I knew stopping was not an option. If my watch makes me stop my feet ,even for few minutes, I don't know if I would restart. I just needed to finish, anyhow. I started thinking of my kids and how they find it important that I finish a race. Their thought kept me going.

Around Mile 18, I could hear the loudspeaker at Mile 20, which was on the other side of the river. Step-by-Step - that was my mantra for now.

When I did reach Mail 20, they were deflating the huge  air-balloon "Wall" and dismantling everything. No water here. No water, meant, not wanting GUs or Beans or Blok, coz Gwad I was sick of them by now.

Continued to trudge along and there were few more walkers, refusing to give up. Now there was no way to change my mind - no bus to pick up, no phone to call anyone and too much ego to ask any volunteer for that.

The East River Parkway stretch then seamlessly merged into Summit Avenue. Not really seamlessly on road, but I had zoned off by now. There were 10 others walking with me. Summit Avenue meant 3 more miles to go. Here my despair turned to hope.
"Maybe I can still make it and just slide in, on time to pick up the shirt & medal.
Maybe they would not have opened up John Ireland Blvd and I can still cross the finish line arches.
Maybe I could still enjoy some of the festivities.
At the very least, someone will be kind and give my bag to my family and not just throw it away as abandoned."

My legs though refused to run. They were in the walk motion and refused to pick up even to Jog.
And in this stretch, a lot of other runners were walking back in opposite direction.
"Back. Like 26.2 miles of running was not enough and they were adding 2 more miles to their daily quota."
But more interestingly, they were wearing a neon-green full-sleeve shirt, I had not seen before.
"So THIS is the mystery TCM Race shirt ".
And they had a chunky medal on.
"So yeah, I might still get it if I hurry up again."

And I plodded on ignoring the last of few spectators, still lingering in their yards, enjoying a brunch.
Towards the Flag, which is so close to end, but you cannot see the end as there is a curve. After the curve, there it was - Finish line in all its glory, down the road on John Ireland Ave bridge.

I could see it, but it was still half a mile. I stepped up and barreled down the road, avoiding the returning crowds on sidewalks, to go heroically cross the Finish line. I was totally in a brake-fail mode in those last 100 yards, when a lady stepped in my way to stop me. We collided and her puny self did indeed stop my the giant built in running momentum. It's amazing we did not fall on the road. She gave a yellow slip and said, "Fill the survey to get your shirt & medal" and left me in my daze.

I continued wandering on the sidewalk, towards the tent ,for my bag and it took me a while to figure what happened. They were dismantling the Finish frame and no one was allowed there. Tents were all being emptied.

My legs kept walking even while I was disappointed about not getting my shirt & medal today. I was worried about my bag now. Then I spotted my family wandering in the Lower lawns, looking for me same as I was looking for them. And they had my bag, thank Gwad ! Reunion was full of hugging, wobbling, rushing out all details. They were promptly waiting for me since 1 PM. I had repeated a thousand times, that I will finish by 1:30 PM. That's how (over)confident my estimate about my time was. But I made it by 2:45 PM.

If this post sounds hazy and directionless, then it is true reflection of how I felt during the race. 
This post was in draft for long. I was still drudging up details and trying to figure exactly what went wrong.

Last Thoughts:
  1. So I pretty much survived the last 10 miles without water and I was just fine later.
  2. Carb loading is a sure thing. I did indulge in it and did not tire myself for last 2-3 days.
  3. I did get carried away in my first half and that did not help me mentally later.
Frankly I feel better now. Sequels are never as successful as Beginners luck. Everything I learnt in proper training, improved me in some ways, though also slowed me in other areas. A soft-skill trainer  once told me that is natural, because it means you are aware and thinking of every nuance now. Once I get used to my new knowledge, I will improve again. Part of figuring out the right way to reach the goals I want, will be to continue this journey, this running.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

TCM Marathon 2016 - Race Recap - Part 1

My bucket list Marathon is complete now ! And I have been humbled by it !

I have spectated TCM Marathon for the last 2 years. It's actually all the marketing pitch and social media updates of past TCM that piped my interest in races, which in turn excited Running as a form of sport. I pushed it away as a race I would run, because Fall Marathon would mean training in Summer. Ah a big no, I told myself, because running in summer heat (or anything above 70F) is torture and summer is full of distracting vacations. But peer pressure is a strong thing. The Run club I ran with, convinced me I could do it. Finally after training for 16 weeks, here I was.

Smooth packet pickup on Fri evening at River Center, St Paul, after hassle free parking in Science Museum parking. The expo was filled with many small business stalls. I managed to buy the sport beans & Clif Block I had forgotten to buy (in-spite of so much advance notice).

The sky-walk between the parking ramp and River Center, gives a great view of St Paul.

Pre-race days invovled a guessing game on what the temps are going to be and what is the right outfit ? With 38F predicted, I was wondering if I need gloves, which is pretty drastic. But every online advice was to dress in warm throwaways, because it will warm up after the start time and definitely be hot in a few hours. As usual I over-dressed for the race. I thought it was manageable, because I ran the WRTC 10 miler in a rain jacket without getting warm.

And finally on the race morning, Hubby dropped me at Minneapolis downtown, outside the brand new US Bank Stadium. Stadium photo is from Facebook, because I did not carry my phone with me.

I found my way to Corral 3 and checked-in my packet in my corresponding truck, along with the warm sweater I had. I did not carry my phone, so I don't have any photos till the very end. The Start line was out of stadium - this being the day of Football match too, in the stadium. Port-potties were many and spread out. I managed to use it twice without a long wait. And patiently wait for 8 AM for the race to start. It was pretty packed in Corral 3 and I did not meet any of my training group friends. Absolute electric atmosphere everywhere and jazzy music at the start line. The wait seemed never ending.

Continued in TCM Marathon 2016 - Race Recap - Part 2.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Women Run The Cities - 2016 - Race Recap

Indeed, it turned out to be a lovely day for Women Run The Cities 10 mile race. It did not begin that way though. Rain poured all night and it was all dark and wet in the morning, even when I left home. I was sure it would rain during the race, so I grabbed my rain jacket. I thought it would last all through and did not want to run with a thrash bag or soaked. But indeed, it was all dry & sunny by the time I turned off Hiawatha Avenue. Temps were an average 65F.

Start point is my favorite - Minnehaha Falls. I picked up my bib & shirt. Race route turned out to be the familiar West River Parkway and Franklin Avenue Bridge, which I ran the previous week for 20 miler. Familiarity is always welcome. Women's only race has a great vibe about it. Not much different from other races, because there are just the same number of women running other races. But it's only in women-only race, does everyone get to hoot politely at the group of shirtless men running opposite on the sidewalk.

Race co-ordination was excellent. Starting point tents with pickups, bag drops, coffee and more. Volunteers at every water-stop were cheerful. Water & Powerade supplied just right. At the finish time, the setup was intact (new for me) and volunteers gave a huge bottle of water with my medal.

Roads were all soaking wet, but not a drizzle from sky. I wanted to save my new shoes from the muck/chikal and ran in my old ones. Clothes-wise, I got to check my Fall gear for the first time this season - full pant, tech shirt and rain jacket. Result: Rain jacket was not soaking, full of locked up sweat, but I could run without it, under these circumstances.

I stayed cheerful and devoid of any pressure through the running. I had my months of training behind me, the one I thought had made no dent/improvement to my capacity. So I did not care about my result, but ran what my newly trained brain told me to run. For the second half, I felt comfortable, to see there were a lot of women still on road. And most of them walking much faster than I was running. And then a lady from behind me said, she was using me for motivation. So then I geared up to stay ahead of few atleast :) Amazingly I finished with my 10 mile PR of 2:07 hours.


Loving this race shirt with hoodie. It will be a great for Fall.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Minnesota Capitol Run - Recap

20 miler is the last formidable milestone of a Marathon training. I can never imagine doing it all by myself. Doing it well, I mean. So it helps that my training group arranged it be an entire big event in itself. Lifetime Run organised the Minnesota Capitol Run .

Start point was at the MN State Capitol Hill. I managed to reach there early at 6:30 am. There were a few tents and like 700 people ! Turns out, there were 755 runners ! There was no bag-check like in races, because this was a group training run. So I had to leave my phone in the car and don't have any good pictures.
But the arrangements were fantastic. A wristband in the beginning, to identify us as part of the group. Since all would run along the common sidewalks, the start was in waves and on both sides of the streets. We started with Summit Avenue, turned towards East River Parkway, then across the brand new Franklin Avenue bridge to West River Parkway and turn around the 10 mile mark and back the same way. There were water stops manned by volunteers and coaches, every 3-ish miles with water, UCAN sports drink and porta-porties. I was surely the last finisher and the very last water stop volunteers stayed back even when it was so late.

I can say enough about the joy of waking up in the dark and driving through a sleeping city to a run start point. Nothing is more reassuring than a car with the 13.1/26.1 or any other running sticker and people dressed in running clothes rumbling around. That's a confirmation that I have arrived at the right destination. Just a matter of finding the closet parking. The biggest benefit of a group run is that I can switch off my mind and brain, and just run even with sleepy eyes, cause everything else is taken care of :) With run-buddies and coaches by my side, I need not worry about anything. And by my side, I don't mean literally, because everyone else run at much faster pace than me and disappear within minutes, but just them being in view, means I won't get lost and run some other route.

It was a perfect weather day. Run was a delight along Summit Avenue, which was lined up by some historical buildings. Their architecture reminded me of the ones near Vidhan Soudha in Bangalore. They are much different than the new ones in suburbs. East River Parkway beautiful, and hilly and it vanished quick. West River Parkway is my usual favorite, the one leading to Minnehaha Falls. Along the way, we run-buddies did weigh-in on whether to run the complete 20 miles or keep it shorter for a time limit of say 4 hours. Since I felt this was my first & last chance to do a 20, I went ahead till the 10 mile mark. I did have lot of company till then. Us anchors did cheer each other to keep moving. The return on Summit Avenue felt more lonelier. I noticed the weather and cloudy sky were identical to how it was at 7 am ! It was hard to believe that 4-5 hours had passed. That's a blessing really. It was 4:30 hours by the time clocked showed 18 miles. And since it was only me around, I shrugged and started walking full time now. The water stop at 3 miles was still active, bless them. And I trudged the last few miles to the car park. By then it showed 21 miles. Thankfully I was not cold or shivering.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Minnesota Half Marathon - StPaul - 2016 - Race Recap

I will say this in the beginning. I am not feeling any thrill. Disappointment actually, about the unsurprising result. I guess I knew it would end up this long. But I zoned out thanks to my stubborn refusal to look at the watch in the middle of a race. I did not try any harder.

This year, my strides have shortened. I refuse to stride farther, for fear of tiring out. Its more like a power-walker - one feet refuses to leave ground till the other one touches ground; both are never in the air at the same time. I continue to take walk-break. I am beginning to doubt that slow but steady approach I adopted this year. And the part, that I skipped every single speed workout in the training cycle. And that I stick to treadmill, and not run outside much. I mean, there is only so much you can stride on a treadmill, without the risk of falling off.

All these emotions are about my race result from last Saturday. No passionate emotions, I refuse to do that. Maybe if I did bring in some passion, I might speed-en up ! Anyway ... I completed the Minnesota Half Marathon in 3:05:54 hours. I ran the same race 2 years back. It was HOT that day ! Killer hot. And that one, I finished in lesser time - 2:49 hours. What's the logic ! I am lost really.

The organizers took loads of steps for the temperature control.
Start time was earlier this year, which is a brilliant change. The start time was 7:15 am vs (if I remember correctly) it was 8:30 am or 9 am last time, so by the end time of 12 noon, I was baked in the sun.
The course had a new loop for the same Shepard Road. We started westward and turnaround was around 4.5 miles. The return lap was not as sunny as it used to be. There was even a huge stretch of woods in the middle divider, so it helped. Then we ran 2 miles further from the start point and turned around the bridge. This lap was by the river again. So this time, it was more time spent facing west. And also on the side closet to the river, so it was cool & breezy. And a huge stretch had trees vs last time when it was bare throughout. The temps through this race was 70F-75F range.

Rest of the arrangements were also first class. Packet pickup at Running Room in St Paul, the previous night, gave us an opportunity to explore Harriet Island Park, which was crowded with youngsters peering into their phone while walk aka Pokemon Go hunting. Water stops were perfectly spaced. Some of them had a new sports drink ASPIRE, which was lemony good.

Personal Nutrition wise, I am beginning to hate those Gu things. I stuck to only 2 i.e. 1 per hour. I don't think they help in anyway. I should go back to eating a Cliff Bar through the race. Other thing, I missed on carb loading the previous night. Indeed I ate less than I usually eat, on a non-pre-run night. Well so the result of the experiment is that yes I should dine my fill on a pre-race night.

This year's shirt is very different good. I am thrilled actually. It has a great fit and the hemline is a trendy cut. I feel like I can wear this for casuals, not just running. Medal was the same Minnesota map one, only larger. I actually love this medal.

Okay, sounds like a good quality ranting post after a long time. And first one for Running category :)

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Get in Gear 2016 - Half Marathon - Race Recap

I had such a perfect race, I had nothing to blog about. I don't know how to post my smile emoji here :) Seriously like nothing went wrong, so what to do write about ? But blogging tradition needs to be maintained. Snapshot needs to be posted. Else how would I remember what a Perfect race felt like ? After all, memory dims pretty fast. So here it goes.

I reached early this time and parked at VAMC and took the shuttle provided by Get In Gear. Morning was chill for an warm April morning. I was seriously doubting my single layer blue UnderArmour shirt. At the pickup point, I decided to wear the race shirt as my 2nd layer. It was short sleeve too, so I doubted how it would help or that it will heat me up. But it turned out perfect. And I love the material for some reason. This is my new favorite race shirt.

Start was usual and got to hear the usual chatter around. My pace was good. I did not push or burn. Kept the slow steady pace. Keyword being steady, which means less walking.

I have to talk about the finish. As I reached the turn to take left towards the cobblered path towards the Minnehaha Falls, I was worried about my time, something i had ignored all the while. And then I saw the clock showing like 2:58. Now I had to keep this sub-3 so I sprinted like mad and made it within 3. I was thrilled by that alone. And later when the official result was published, found out that it was 2:55:53 . Yeah !

I was not tired or sore. Throughout & at the end and after the end. Indeed, I lingered around so much, I missed the last bus-shuttle to the car park at Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC). Somebody guided me towards it (coz I am bad with directions even after coming from that way in the morning bus). And then I walked those 2 miles. So it turned out to be a recovery walk - something I usually skipped. That helped keep soreness away,  I can see that now.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Workout Water Bottle Review - CamelBak, Pogo, Nathan SpeedDraw

I have to call this out first - I was not paid by these bottle companies or anyone to review these.  I am doing this because I have owned tons of bottles in my life,  and never thought they are anything which needs any thought. For the first time, I struggled with CamelBak a lot and one internet post helped me with it. So that makes me want to create my own post too. So here come more details.

CamelBak Eddy Water Bottle - Rain (0.75L)

Lovely cute bottle. I choose the one in Blue. I wanted to try out CamelBak since I saw a lot of people using it. I had heard some vague praise for the spout & non-leak ability. When I started using it, it was so frustrating. I struggled & struggled at the spout, no water came up. Imagine that in the middle of a tiring workout. That would be a first for anything which calls itself a water bottle. It was so silly, I thought I was wrong, cause how could the manufacturer go wrong in such a simple thing. Finally I stopped doubting myself and looked up the packing label. Nothing specific. Then finally, I turned to God..Google.
Lot of responses, numerous material. But none speaking about my problem.
Finally, this community post on a bike forum was the one which solved my problem. After that I was like ahh, that how it is !!!  The video here is correct.
  1. Pennylane's Avatar
    Pennylane is offlineRuby level (4000+ posts)
    Join Date
    Dec 2005

    Default *Upate in first Post *Camelbak water bottle...What am I doing wrong??

    Update :

    Just got off the phone with Camelbak. The directions on the packaging are kind of deceiving. You need to pull open the valve and then press the bite valve open with your thumb and finger. It took a few times but mine finally popped open and works! Obviously they have received numerous calls about this sort of problem! He also said you should never have to cut the straw to get them to work.

    Thanks for everyone's help!

    I purchased the Eddy for my ds. Took the first one back to Target yesterday because no water was coming out. Just assumed it was defective. Tried the new one this morning and it doesn't work. The only directions are flip it open, bite, and drink.

    I feel like an idiot!

    Last edited by Pennylane; 08-29-2013 at 02:45 PM.
  2. #2
    123LuckyMom is offlineDiamond level (5000+ posts)
    Join Date
    Jun 2008


    You're not an idiot!!! Most of the bite valves come closed. You have to work on them a bit to get them open. If you just bite and suck, the valve may still be shut, and you'll get nothing. Try squeezing and manipulating the valve a bit with your fingers or teeth. Make sure you can squeeze the valve and see that there's a hole there! If you can't get it open, you should exchange it, but I've never had that happen.

Pogo Tritan Chug - Grey ( 32ounce )

I got a smaller one for my kids for their school purpose, which they promptly lost in a few weeks. Then they saved a bad design one for rest of the school year. Irony.
I liked how the cap fits and won't leak any water. No pipes, so I don't have to be in suspense about mold of any kind. Spout is of firm plastic and right size - to drink or to cleanup. So I have the convenience of a cap-bottle, without the inconvenience of opening the cap & swirling it back on.
It's size is perfect fit for most treadmill water holders.
32 ounce size is perfect for any hard exercise lasting 1 hour.
The hard plastic of the spout can hurt the teeth a bit, if you drink while on the move on treadmill.

Nathan SpeedDraw Plus Flask, Black

I got the one in Silver & Black. It's for outside runs, esp on routes that are new to me. Earlier all my long runs around a lake, multiple laps of the 3 mile distance. So I could leave my bottle and fuel bars on any bench. And I got used to running without carrying any load. I still am not ready for the jiggle of a hydra-belt. Since now I was going to run out & back on unfamiliar routes, I decided to give the hand-held bottle a try.

Initially, I was not sure how I would feel about the sploshing inside. I have used this for runs lasting 3 miles to 9 miles. When it is completely full, there is hardly any sploshing. It doesn't weigh bad too. I am training myself to drink less. So it does last for about an hour. Anything more, and I need to refill it. So I plan accordingly and refill it at any water point I see.

Monday, April 4, 2016

TCM Hot Dash 10 Mile 2016 - Race Recap

I had such a pleasant 10 mile race at TCM Hot Dash on 19-Mar. I had made up the blog post in my head while running and promised myself I would publish it immediately after reaching home. Haha, but life happens and here comes the post a few weeks late.

Got up at 6:15 then snoozed till 6:30. Made my tea and Dosa for breakfast. Avoided looking at the clock to avoid the rising panic of being late. Then got ready and left home by 7:30 am. Surprise outside - there was a neat silver powdery layer of snow on roof & roads. Great ! Its Spring but no letup in cold. Again I avoided worrying about icy roads and being late.

This race was in NE of downtown Minneapolis and I had googled the route to start point, in advance. Driving the last block, I tailgated a car with Ragner sticker. Reached at 8:30 at the parking spots given in the race site. I had toggled all week about buying an advance parking ticket. Thankfully it was not full and no long queues.

Temps were around 25F. There were many people warming in their car. It was tempting to stay in my car, but I needed my bib and a right size shirt, so I followed a runner-looking crowd and reached Registration tent. I had an extra hoodie but nothing else for bag check. Good thing about winter races is I can carry my phone & car key in my jacket. Its the hot races where I need a safe place to store these. By the time I reached, my fingers had frozen in my new thin running gloves - but I am never going back to those bulky gloves while running. Actually I was avoiding panic that my gear might not be enough for these temps, because of a long run gone bad 2 weeks back. I got lost and cold around West Medicine Lake and gave up because I was going cold. I had to call my hubby to pick me up from wherever I was. Last week's 9-mile long run at Luce Line Trail went super, so I could keep my panic down.

Everything was cool and methodical at Registration area. Bib, T-shirt, safety pins, coffee. Then I followed others and landed in a building with heating. A Blessing ! Its amazing how many places you can discover by following others. That was a good place to spend the next 40 minutes. Then in the last 10 minutes, when the 5K crowd had left, I did the bag check and pit stop and joined the 10 mile start line.

The roads were wet or icy all through. I think I ran the whole thing looking down - not a recommended approach, but it worked for me. My mind was only on one step at a time. And past few weeks of training helped. I could feel the difference in  the quality of my run. I was not doing any Flash-like sprints or anything miraculous. But I could run farther without walking. I think I walked at Mile 3. Here onwards it was in the North Arts District. This route was same as first half of Minneapolis Marathon. Second half will be covered by Get in Gear.

For a change I set my watch to show pace. This was a change for me, after some chat with a trainer. Numbers showed some facts. Even though I felt, I was chugging same as before, the pace showed I really started fast and was slower in the next half. So that's a learning.

At mile 8-9, I was fed-up, waiting for this to end. It was on the Mill City side of the river. And I could see I have to go past the StoneArch Bridge and turn. I could hear the guy on loudspeaker at the finish line. It was hard to believe all of that, was just a mile away. So it was causing panic. But I made through that and even sprinted the last quarter mile and finished at 2:12 minutes.

Picked up my bag (not a last one haha) and made my way to the end celebration area. It was very satisfactory. A hot meal of mashed potatoes with peas & cornflakes, lots of energy bars and water and photo booth. Skipped the free beer.

This race T-shirt and medal are awesome.