Sunday, May 14, 2017

Lake Minnetonka Half Marathon - 2017 - Race Recap

Having quit Get in Gear Half at 10 miles last week, I was so unsure about Lake Minnetonka. I had signed up for the thrill of it - 2 Half Marathons in the space of 8 days, yeah ! I had done this in 2015. But with the GiG outcome and plantar fasciitis after, I was in panic mode and trying to cancel-refund my registration for this one. My email got a standard response - they would not refund. Very obvious, being so close to the event date.

So with this in background, I whiled away the week in vacation mode. No thinking about the race at all. La la la la. I got in a 3 miler on Thursday because there was nothing else to do and by now the feet-sole pain had reduced. Still not thinking far, I decided to pickup packet on Sat morning. There was absolutely no crowd at the school location, very peaceful. So at night I decided, I will show up at the start location and see how it goes. Star aligned and I could get my hubby to drop me off. Plus point here, was not carrying my car-key in water bottle through the race.

Race morning my hubby dropped me at the shuttle pickup point. And shuttle bus took us to the start line. Among all the races, I find this one unique about its energy of racers converging. It could be because of the location, but this one seems seamless. Runners parking in different streets and converging towards the school for shuttle bus. And then after drop-off near Wells Fargo bank, gathering on the Wayzata Blvd. Its a great place for race start. Wide streets, cozy but spacious for such a large gathering. I guess the residents are inconvenienced only the first few hours, till the last runner has left and cleanup crew has finished. This race is point to point - it starts at Wayzata and ends at Excelsior.

Where is Waldo ?

Race kicked off in pace waves. Winding out of Wayzata through Orno, the first 5-6 miles was like being in Mahabaleshwar. Houses were all cozy hill-station type with perfect natural greenery around. This race is a tour of great real estate. Other runners too felt it so. Afterwards, my run clubbers were posting some of the estate listing on FB to each other saying "This is the one I was talking about".

At the Relay exchange point, I kept wondering if it was the real mid-point, in terms of miles. I don't know the exact mile it was on and since my math-brain stops working when I run, I could not figure it out for the next few miles. That way it kept me occupied. My Run club came to cheer us from the same club. They are awesome ! They clicked me here, as I barreled down hill.

Then came the Tonka bay area. Till here, the views were all of different parts of lakes, boats, piers, fishing groups, people relaxing in their garage on Sunday morning. The Final 12th mile was on Minnetonka Trail. And 13th mile was in residential area, slowly winding to the Finish Line at Excelsior Park. Only in this mile did I felt like yes I am actually going to make it ! This pic was clicked by the MN Series photographer Dave Cameron. He is my favorite coz he has got some great pics of mine in the past races. I am unbelievably serious about it - "no sarcasm" (like I have to add everytime, for my kids).

When I rushed through the last 0.1 mile, I tried to avoid looking at the clock, but a glimpse showed something like 3:12. I did not mind it. I was glad I actually finished. I was still in the race (so to speak). Later when I checked the result online, it was 3:01:53. Woohoo ! That's even better than some of the Half's of last year. And considering the hilly route for this one. Wow myself !

Finish area park was void of past runners. They must have obviously rushed to the return bus. Volunteers were still around, and they had not started packing stuff, so that's positive note. Got my chips and banana. Family was late. I borrowed a phone from a volunteer to call Hubby and joked, "My family thought I will finish at noon haha". This race had a right start of 7:30 for this kind of weather. Ended the morning with a picnic in the park, watching the Lake, sitting by on the bench, facing cool breeze. Beautiful.

Did I talk about the race swag ? The shirt is awesomely cut, very unusual from standard design. Material is perfect - not too flimsy to be cold, not bulky thick to be hot. Medal has a lovely fish design.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Bus stops, Bus goes

Bus rides are a thrill for children. Well it did make some sick, but in general it's fun to wait for that gigantic thing, then hop in, grab a seat and be zoomed to your destination. And buses are a lifeline for grownups, especially those commuting for work. Everything is linked to the bus timings. That immense trust on the driver. That insane rage in case of any lapse.

Here is my photo-listicle of bus-stops, bus and subway from Bangalore, Udupi and Chennai. Bangalore pictures were sourced from my family. They are not named or linked simply for their privacy reasons.



Bangalore Kemmpegowda Majestic Bus Stand - that's where it starts. It is truly majestic. Buses from here connect every nook and corner of the city and suburbs. All buses are timely and very frequent. Other major bus station hubs are KR Market and Shivaji Nagar.

Some of the aerial view shots are so beautiful. The intra-city bus stand platforms are shaped in concentric half circles.

I used BMTC buses for around 12 years. Ranging all times of the day. Covering my new adulthood years. Years when the most growth happens. While squished between a range of every-changing crowd, I felt like I have a lifetime supply of material for thousand books. As it stands, here I am with a blog-post to covering it - which is more photo-heavy than wordy :)

Bangalore buses have it all. There are (were) Red buses, Blue buses, Brown Pushpak, Red Volvo, Pink Women's only and BMTC keep innovating very often.

Almost all big organization run their own private buses for their employees commute. In spite of that, it's amazing how the Bangalore traffic has slipped into unparalleled chaos.

Metro services started a few years back. I did not get a chance to ride the metro, but my cousin shared these pics. They look awesome. I ,like all Bangaloreans, have borne with it's construction for years, decades and most lines are still in-progress. Now that some of the Metro lines are functional, its hmmm good I guess. Everyone will enjoy the benefit most, once all construction is complete and cleared. And Metro ride's are always sci-fi level of thrilling and fun.


Udupi main bus stand. Facing Manipal-Malpe Road. Stones throw away from Manipal. Pushpa Bakery just around a turn and so is the Kediyoor Hotel. Narrow lanes in between, all teeming with traffic. This bus-stop mostly serves private bus service. The other bus stand connecting Mangalore and villages in between, is further up from here. And the City bus stand is walkable distance from there. Best landmark for it is Alwyn Bakery on the opposite side

The below bus stand is on Court Road, between Taluk Office and Big Bazaar.


Fascinating book stalls - latest magazines lined on a string, all pulp fiction books in different languages. A very standard feature in all central bus stands and even railway station. This picture is from Chennai Central Bus Stand. I was waiting here for Airavat Vovlo bus to Bangalore.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Get in Gear 2017 - Half Marathon - Race Recap

I signed up for Get in Gear Half to continue my tradition and also for some usual goals up ahead, inspite of being in a self-doubt phase. At the end of it this was a meh experience. The way this ended was a first time for me.

Race start was 9am. Till the previous day, it felt like too late in the day and a total waste of morning daylight. Anyway, carried on my usual morning ritual and left home by 7:30 ish. Aiming to park at VAMC for the shuttle to start-line, I got off on Highway 55 at 8am and boom what do I see ? Snarl traffic, just standstill cars. We crawled that last mile to VAMC for the next 50 minutes.I looked at the Metro rail so longingly, each time it passed ahead, kicking myself for not parking at MOA and taking the train. Distance-wise its seems illogical, but turns out ground reality of an event day is different.

After parking, I rushed to the shuttle bus line. Did not bother to grab my phone, hence no pictures. And since time was so short, I decided against any bag drop. Hence I had to take my car key in water bottle pouch.

Shuffling in the line for shuttle bus, I could not decide if it was cold for 1 shirt or will warm up later. So I stuck to my outfit of 2 technical shirts. Btw it's amazing, there is never any panic or hustle in queues in MN. Its less than 10 minutes to start-line and you would not guess it from the calm around. And just when I was wondering, "Why don't they have 2 lines for different buses ?", I overhear bus volunteer speak on phone, "No, the driver says can't fill 2 buses at a time". Wonder why they didn't decide to board the runners on priority and let families come by different bus later ?

After getting off the bus close to Minnehaha Falls, everyone broke into a run to the start-line. Great, I got my warm-up run ! But what I did not get is the lounging around the various promotion tents, no coffee, no peaceful mediation to compose my mind at the start-line.

Boom Race start. The first few miles were beautiful. Bumped into 3 folks I knew. Soon was running  on my own. By the halfway turnaround, crowd was very very sparse, as usual. These few miles to & from turnaround, this was a new addition. It was in construction for as long as I have run in these parts. So then I proceed well, running alone. I tried to chat with my closest lady neighbor. It was all jolly well, but I was not feeling IT.

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After the turnaround and a hop around the bridge, I reached the 10 mile marker. Now here I sprinted to shave seconds off my 10 mile time (ha) and after that a  volunteer stopped me. I was like, "what now?" And he informed me that the 10 mile cutoff bugle (imaginary) went off 10 minutes back, so I have the option to run on the side trail and not road coz roads will be opened and so on. He was a sweet old guy, so to my surprise, my brain perfectly agreed with him. My second brain did not question me. There was ample time for the over-all time limit. But frankly I was so bored, I was like, screw the medal I don't need one. Yes frankly this is usual perk of being a slow runner - being interrupted with all the cutoff talk. It has happened to me so so many times and I have fought it and run to finish so many times, I decided to try the other option this time. The option of riding to the finish line. Yes, let me see how it goes.

So I hung around the water stop volunteers there, waiting for that magnificent swag vehicle to take me back, chit-chatting with those volunteers, overhearing their Sunday plan of Tour de Tonka Ironman. Soon it was clear, that they did not expect anyone to take their offer of being dropped ! I had even asked them, "Will the ride be arranged in next 15 minutes coz if it's gonna take 40 minutes, I can as well run the remaining 3 miles haha". I saw them open the roads and allow cars to go on. More runners were stopped similarly and they ran further on the side-trails. Just then two magnificent Harley-Davidson bikes came along, and I kidded, "Thanks for arranging those for my ride !" The guy said some soothing stuff, in case I was devastated by refusing to finish - that "its better to quit than to be injured, there more races to run, some are going to be bad ones, so what?" True stuff. Amazingly I did not doubt my decision at all. I thanked him & others for volunteering, coz undoubtedly, the water-stops were perfectly placed and with the much needed water & Gatorade glasses. Volunteers in each of them were all cheerful and encouraging. So in 10-15 minutes, I was guided to Eric's car. He was a volunteer and going towards finish-line and ready to drop me.

Once at the Minnehaha Falls park area, I tossed between going straight for shuttle stop or hanging around. I was not hungry but decided to get some food. Actually I did not want to miss their Raisin Bun. Those are my favorite every year.

But I guess it's time to break my tradition. And not sign for GiG anymore. And its only because of the parking hassle and the long drive from home. I am done with that for now. Plus I have run this route enough times.When I say I was not demolished by this dropping off, I am not making it up. It just was not working for me. I could blame myself that I jinxed it by claiming last year's was perfect. I did prepare for this Half. Even ran 10 and 6 miles the previous 2 weekends apart from the weeknight runs. Then it's the cut-off interruptions that did it for me.

Given the self-doubt I have been in the last few months, concerned about my weight being in a plateau and its impact on my speed, and then dropping out of this one, my "what next" thought process was on hyper speed. Added to that I felt mild plantar fasciitis pain in both my feet, for the next 2-3 days. Even a massage did not relive it. I have been looking for ways to cancel and refund my next 2 race registrations.