Friday, 29 July 2011

Kennys Day Out with Vibrams

(this image is from google, identical though to my own Vibram Bikila LS)


These shoes are ugly as hell, I thought. The first time I saw them (it was that black and green one), I was like ewww, whats that, please scrape it off your feet, mister. Anyway I saw it more and more around the place, its clearly the latest fad/craze. I thought nike must have made it, based on all the hype. And the fact that their running shoes have really sucked so far (I have reason to change my mind a bit on that one too, but thats for later). Anyhow, I never thought I would get on board the Vibram Five Fingers bandwagon, mainly 'cause I thought it looked ugly, and would be expensive.

Change of mind

I became open to the idea after reading about people wearing it all over the place, like to bars. If there is one thing I struggle with, its regular use footwear. I pretty much hate everything I have owned so far. For different reasons. I obviously am not a stiletto-type girl (or, for that matter, much into leather, not that there needs to be a connection). I rarely rise off the ground in my shoes. Despite the fact that my hunk-a-man is a foot taller than me and we might look more like a couple if I made the effort. Still didn't think I would try it out as running shoes till I did a Yasso-800 workout recently.

Sprint work-out, and Spring trip

The Yasso was fun. I did 6 rounds of it with jog/walk breaks. Every single step of it though, my asics felt like lead. I should be flying, if my shoes weren't weighing me down, I thought. I tried a couple of slightly fast runs with my nikes (which are, btw, better for this purpose than the asics, I have a couple of very basic nikes which have lasted long and look like dung but I do like them). Still, the mind started being open to something lighter on the feet, for the sprint workouts.

I don't like very flat footwear - I have tried them before, as regular use footwear. Hurt like hell. Felt the ground in a not pleasant manner. Balls of my feet felt wooden and burned. When MSB forced me to try the VFF on though, I felt awesome. Its *not* like the very flat slippers you get in Mumbai pavements. Its not like those stylish (meaning, crappy) women's chappals you get in the stores. It has a sole. Which I appreciate. It has some stuff going on in the sole, which may or may not make sense, but I am happy for it, anyhow.

Style statement

I wore them around the house a bit. Wore a blue shirt and wore them to work with that blue shirt one day. People still stared more at my face (and my beautiful nose) than my feet. Someone commented that it looked like prosthetic feet. So what?

My background

I am not much of a heel striker. Nope. I do pronate, I have flat feet, have had flat feet for as long as I can remember, used to be a fairly speedy runner in my youth. I used to run exclusively on my toes in youth, have developed a more healthy mid-foot (ish) strike of late. In terms of injuries, my ankles are shot. I occasionally suffer shin and knee pain. I have increased mileage subtly over the years and its broadly been okay. I lay off and rest when I sense anything going wrong. For the most part, I think I know my legs. And I have a few advantages. Low center of gravity (as I like to say it), for one. Decent musculature (fat calves I inherit from maternal family). Craziness. I am not into speed (yes, I avoid the drug too) much any more. It makes me uncomfortable. Oh yes, my back, for what it is, its strong. I mean, in light of C-section and giant pregnant belly (doc, are you sure its not twins?) a mere (!) 7 years ago.

First impressions

So, for a non-heel striker, why is my right heel sort of doing this? That was a first revelation. That although I assume I am not a heel striker, that I might be one, sort of. Otherwise, I did feel comfortable the entire duration of the run. I was a bit conscious initially but I settled in and enjoyed the feeling entirely. This is not saying much. Happens when I run in the asics/nikes too. But still, it felt good. I had some gravel getting in, was worried about it, but not enough to stop and shake it out. My little toe is disproportionately small so was worried about the fit there, but it worked ok. I suspected that the overall fit was a bit on the loose side for me (I have 'thin' feet but my second toe is super long; I fitted the shoe in the store in the afternoon, as recommended, so my morning feet felt a bit small in them). Didn't feel it though, as I ran. Initially, I felt a bit, uhh, how do I say it, bouncy? as I ran. Strange considering how very small I am in the breasts department. Definitely something different in how I am striking the ground, I guess. But I forgot about, and I feel fine now, no pain/chafing, and we save a review of sports bras for a later post.


The shoe is overall slung low on my ankles. As a basketball player (just retired) and an asics-wearer, this is new, plus my ankles are not known for their stability. So I am a bit worried about this. Gravel is another issue as its not as snug a fit, and I didn't buy the socks (yet). Have to see how these pan out! I have one blister on the upper part of my foot. Small one.


Rest of everything is great. Looks really nice (another change of mind? maybe its just that its blue, the black/green one is pretty blah). Feels pretty comfortable. Didn't sweat as much as I expected it to. Held up okay on both road and mud-track.

Final words

For now, take it slow, thats the plan. Wear it on weekly short/speed runs. Am running a trail half later in September, don't think I will run that in VFF. Its a tough trail, will depend on Asics for that. I don't expect to see any new muscles (I am an old hand at this, people!), but hopefully, I get stronger, even as I age. And yes, maybe I will get one each of the other VFF models at a hundred bucks a pop, to wear to work, and to TASMAC stores...

Monday, 25 July 2011

Don't hit that snooze!

I was particularly euphoric. Which was strange. The past three days have been heavy on the mind. There has been stress, loss, crying, talking, work, family, driving, kids, a whole bunch of things going on. I have kept my equanimity for the most part by disappearing into a world of memories, turning away from the bad, sad ones, and focussing on the positive ones. I am a lucky girl, there is no doubt about it. I have a store of such wonderful memories, constantly replenished, that come to my assistance when I need them the most.

I was cycling past the University. I glanced at that favourite piece of gadgetry on my left hand. 7:45, it said. Its been 15 minutes fast since inception. I like that. Like I like the blue rim. And the fact that I still cannot successfully time my laps with it [seriously, that part is a bit clunky and non-obvious, but I don't mind]. I am reluctant to upgrade to a Garmin, when I know I should, because that will mean relegating my precious Timex Ironman to the sidelines. I might have to wear it to work then, with my matching Adidas flipflops, and that, my mum would object to seriously.

I saw two guys at a distance. Runners, obviously. I mean, although they were walking. When we started in the wee hours, when it was still dark outside, I had seen that the group was some 20 strong. I figured it was two people from the group, couldn't tell yet who it was. When I pulled up close & saw them, I had to stop. The brain was still in euphoria mode, after my own long run [16 ish km; 1:45; 'lost my mojo at IIT' but still continued to run]. One of them is a 55 year old person. He wears a camelbak. Last time I saw him, somewhere near Besant Nagar, I was at kilometer 12 and he was at .. uhh... kilometer 30? He had started running at 3:30 am. This was about a month ago. Yesterday, he was walking, after a 'well deserved tender coconut' he said, having finished his long run - a baby one, in his book.

"You, are such an inspiration" I blurted out.

"Anyone can run, just have to wake up early, thats all" he said.

There you go. He runs a marathon every month. He races too, improving his times every time he is there at the start line. Chennai is not the best place to run. Its super warm, and incredibly humid. People stare a little bit, at your legs, and your chest. He doesn't make excuses for himself. I have had long, winding conversations with him, as you often do when running. I hope to have more of them in the future.

Sure, I am aging. Sometimes, I feel it in my bones, sometimes, in my head. I do hit the snooze, once in a while. I do sleep in, every few days or so, unintentionally, and beat myself up for it. I don't run a marathon every month. I do my best to be diligent with my long runs for the weekend, but I find it easy to redefine things, to suit my convenience. But on Sunday, after a very difficult couple of days, and 4 hours of sleep, I did *not* snooze. I reached a few minutes after the gang (messed up the location of the start, in my hazy state of mind). Did a sprint to catch up with them. Met two new guys, and we suffered through our run together, trading stories. A discussion about gadgets, upcoming races, statistics, 'Born to Run'. When I ran into him near the library, I could hold my head high, and return his smile. Sure, thats the secret. To be able to smile on a Sunday morning after a long run, secure in the thought that you did not snooze....

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Water Water Paani Paani

When I was in school, we had a dark room that was the video room. We were periodically taken there and shown a movie. It was always the same one. About giants and bad guys in a desert. The details are irrelevant (meaning, I have forgotten them), but they were walking in the desert and really dying of thirst. Because they were bad guys. Not because the desert is such an environment where water is scarce. "Paani Paani" they would rasp at periodic intervals. God may or may not have been involved.

Being a geek, I sat down and watched the movie whenever they showed it to us. The activity in the dark(er) regions in the back of the room was not happening, as far as I was concerned. I would nod off periodically (I would have gone nuts from about 5:30 am with various, so putting me in a dark room with a boring movie at 2 pm was a good recipe for that, surely). But I swear I watched that movie at lot. Without once asking them why they went on showing it to us. Whatever.

I was reading eatdrinkrun yesterday and well, I did not disagree with her, but like I have said before. I don't drink much water when I run anyhow. I rarely bring a bottle along. I don't own a fuel belt. Well, I do, but its tight round the gut, I don't use it. I don't like it. I will snap on a bottle of gatorade to my bike if I bike to the run. Else I just step out of house and home with the towel & watch, pretty much.

So I was not thinking of camels, deserts, or god (!) when I waltzed out this morning. It was 5 am. I zoomed over on my bike & discovered that the group was out in numbers today. Which was pretty cool as I hadn't looked at the emails and as far as I knew, it was only KP & I. Not that I mind running or galloway-ing with KP, he is awesome and super enthu. But imagine. Its still dark out and there are 11 people stretching. Thats pretty inspiring, eh?

We decided to run through (lets say, I decided for our gang of 5 that we would ditch the run-walk and just run). Off. We reached the beach at around km 5. And gosh, it was warm. Everyone had water/gatorade with them, but I was too cool to ask for it. I generally don't like to pile on others hydration packs 'cause you know how it is. You carry it, I will drink it? Sounds a bit mean, no? Anyhow, when KP called the 1 min walk break, I was very happy. In a dehydrated sort of way. Like your smile can only stretch so much because of the white goo on the side of your mouth.

We ran for a total of 1:14; I still retained enough moisture to stride at the end; but I tell you folks. I was super dehydrated. I gulped down my gatorade the second I found my bike (bad idea, I know, but it worked okay for today). But the good part? Legs were perfect. My breathing was good (has been troubling me of late, possibly just that MSB's pace is not comfortable for me any more). The group is fantastic, so positive and so cute. I biked back home and by the time I got in to work, I had drunk at least 3 liters of fluids. Really, I don't drink much of anything, except stout beer, of course. But today, I did.

Next up:: My comeuppance akin to the giants in the video in the school dark room place? Naah. I'll be fine. I will carry water on my runs henceforth. I will carry water on my runs henceforth. This is Chennai.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Being Mobile

Speaking of the coop and olden times, I remember distinctly one wintery day. I had gotten out of work and gone to the gym and had *not* showered (there are times when the argument for just getting home and taking a warm shower in the comfort of your flat overrides the argument for uhh just smelling decent in public situations. Fuck that. I did not like the grimy shower stalls at the gym, and hated it more when I forgot my anti-persp.). As I was saying. I was headed home, hunched up in smelly fashion in my gym sweatshirt and hoping the smell wasn't seeping into my coat. Yet.

I used to own the largest fucking mobile phone in the world those days. Like imagine the blue phone with the dial that you had in the 80s? That you got after a waiting period of nearly a year, and that too, you got it that quickly because your uncle was a government servant? Well, like that. Only not so blue. Mercifully, black in colour it was. But just as huge.

It rang. WOW. Where on earth is the sucker, among all my effects? Gym bag. Shoes. Papers. Miles of tissue (my nose constantly leaked all winter long. Damn New England weather). I remember I finally dug it out and stuck it in my ear. It was the husband, I think. No one else called on it. I rarely speak on the phone, even now. I occasionally converse with the mater. But have trained her to text as well. So text it is. Preferred mode of contact? Text, please. SMS, if you will.

With the phone clutched in one ear, tissues in the other, missing the chapstick that was hidden in yet another pocket, I remember looking in the coop, and wondering who on earth would buy a stuffed bear wearing a maroon tshirt that said MIT, for $35. Yep, you guessed it. I came close to buying it for the child last week. Thankfully, I hooked a right turn and got her a book and a t-shirt, instead. Much better use of my $35, thank you very much, I said, looking out and seeing the young me hunched up in my smelly grey sweatshirt outside staring at the bear. I smelled better too, having not forgotten my anti-persp. this time around... Plus, my mobile phones, both of them, are smaller, though only marginally smarter...

Monday, 18 July 2011

Traveling Light

Before y'all jump on me, remember this. I am old. I don't have the same type of energy I used to as a person in her twenties. If I didn't call/visit you, apologies. I can call you from here too, you know? I don't because I am a lazy ass with ze telephone. Anyway, here goes.

Where were we? We found ourselves safely ensconced at the Marriott at Cambridge, right there, like 10 steps from Ames St. This T-Stop was the site of many musings in the past life that we used to lead. The Coop we passed every day and wondered longingly if we would ever be able to afford the shiz inside without guilt pangs. The maroon and grey stuff bedecking the walls, we saw, and admired. The Au Bon Pain in the corner, we visited, periodically, grabbing coffees and snatches of conversation.

How does it feel to go back to a place you lived in for long? Just fantastic, thats how it feels. Its been ten years now (or thereabouts). So its a good mix of nostalgia and loss of memory of the details. At any rate, we were back here couple of years ago, family in tow. This time I was alone, somewhat, and like totally a free bird. I ate less than I needed to. I drank just enough to satiate the cravings for Guinness. I went back and forth from Harvard to Kendall/MIT at least a dozen times, most of them, just for the heck of it.

Yes, I had a conference to attend. And attend it, I did. I sat in on a lot of presentations. I was duly impressed with some of them, struggled with the accents on some of them. I wore a sari to chair a session and that went very well. Its a new green silk (no zari), and one of the rare ones that I have worked hard to procure (thanks for walking all over with me, searching for that one, mum! Everyone loved it!). Though I slowly progressed down from Silk Sari to Jeans through the course of the conference - in my defense, after the barbecue on Day 2, everyone was really super informal. I was almost overdressed on Day 3 in my black shirt/pants/belt/shoes - thankfully it was warm enough to avoid a jacket. So finally on Day 4 I gave up and went with Jeans & a button down, which hit the spot well in terms of comfort. And since I did the sari thing on Day 1, I felt just fine and not guilty about it. I upheld my culture yo, for like a whole long day through a morning session and poster session and get-together with ex-research group, and everything.

High points? I ran by the Charles. I ran by the Charles. Oh My God. That was so awesome, I cannot tell you. I have dreamed of doing that for a while now. Ever since I got this paper at the conference, I have dreamed of that. As we struggled through a semester and a summer getting shiz ready for presenting, I have dreamed of that. I got out of the hotel and down Ames and crossed Mem.Dr. and BOOM at the river baby. One day, I was out at 6 am. The hotel desk guy was like 'huh?'. I thought I would be all alone. But no. Lots of folks. True, lots of folks overtook me, heck, I didn't care... The next day, I had company in the form of the crazy MSB. A little later in the day. Lots more people around. Not that it mattered to me. Got a bit further along the river that day. Legs felt free and light and just awesome, even got a hoot from passing construction workers in pick up truck. So ha for being 37 and running with a good dose of 'this is good because this is short term can't wait to get back though' in the head.

Yes, MSB & I ran in a race. One of those local things that start at a pub and end with free booze. Legs were dead that day (it was a few hours after I landed, actually). I felt my age. I got tooled on a lot, but who cares? There I was plodding the streets of Somerville. The free beer was not all that. I took a sip and gave up on it. That was on Sunday, and it was a long run because we ran the 2 miles to the race venue (got lost, asked a cop the way, cop asked us 'How you going to get there? Bus? Car?' 'Run' I said, in my deepest voice). Ran the 4.1 miles of race. Walked back 2 miles to hotel (got lost again, semi-on-purpose, drank some limesoda, hot favourite of mine). Good Sunday long run/walk. Proud of myself. Yes. Even though my legs were pretty dead. & I ran a 9.13 pace. My goal was <40 mins for the race, and that, I met, with spare change. Good enough.

Met lots of young and old friends. Have snippets of memories and conversations stored up for a few years now. And the little cousin of mine that I met for the first time? Was totally awesome. Has the family nose. Hell Yeah!

Back at the helm here, this morning I ran by the other river. Adyar. Smelly as hell. Did I feel a twinge of regret at what could have been? No, not really! I felt like I was running in my pettai, at home. Wherethemusicsplaying.