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.