Monday, 24 January 2011

Places I remember...

I was thinking about my first time running long distance. It has the quality of a dream, going back in time. I have always been running, all my life, pretty much. And I *don't* mean running behind my maid and ensuring she cleans behind the door [not that I would judge you if you do it; I am not like that, thats all]. But I would run a maximum of 5 km, in a maximum of 25 minutes. Really, I started in earnest in 2004. Yes, the year the monster was born. She was 6 months old when I ventured to the local gym. Which means, it was after (9+6) 15 months of no exercise [not counting the yoga, duck walks, and such like that was doing in my second and third trimester of pregnancy & the leg lifts and so on that my Ob/Gyn had given me to do post delivery. Again, if you are lapping this stuff up, I am not going to judge you, but that stuff was just not cutting it for me. Not enough aerobicity]. I was also considerably heavier than I was used to. I tipped the scales between 42-48 kilos for most of my adult life. Suddenly, I found myself at 54, 55, and so on [post delivery]. I always had tight muscles, now I actually had flab I could grab on to, in my mid-section [well, I still do, but just not as much, and I still weigh something like 54 kilos - not very sure about the number].

Mum read Robin Sharma and said, Kenny, you should try it. I was apprehensive about it. I mean, I don't do those things, you know. Self-help books and the like. But mum was insistent. I was very, very sleep deprived. I had a headache constantly. I was worried about my students. I was still worrying about squishing the monster in bed. I was worried about the flab. I was hungry. I was eating industrial quantities of horlicks and this awful vegetable [dill, suva, sopsige]. I was worried about my milk. I was worried that I would have too little but bothered that it was too much. I was worried about everything. So, I gave this a shot. What did I get from Robin Sharma? Waking up at 6 am.

Wake up at 6 am for 15 days at a stretch. This was the simple aim. And I did it. I sat around and pretended to breathe deep and focus on something those 15 days. Then I got out, nearly crying as I tried to fit into my exercise pants. I went to the 'forest' as its called [its man-made]. Mum was walking her walk, fast. I was trying to run. I was DYING at the uphill section [it is about 10 meters in length, not more, I swear, I could EAT that forest trail now]. I let myself die for a few more rounds, even as I worried about the milk, the monster, the diaper, the solids, the formula, my students, my classes, and the distinct lack of clothes to wear.

In 2005, in Jan, I signed up for a 7 km. I could run on the treadmill - 4 - 5 km, somewhat easily by then, thanks to 6 whole months of that. The husband, always supportive. We still had a night feed to contend with. I don't remember how I got to Azad Maidan. I don't remember what I wore. I don't remember the shoe I used. I remember that I had to walk part of the distance, and it was crowded, and I finished in reasonable time. And returned home to monster.

Before I knew it, I found myself spending an extra hour at work, changing into running clothes and running by the lake. 'You have to be able to do 10 km at a stretch; do that, then we can train' said my friend, who read a book which said that. I could do that. 10 km. No problem. By the lake. We drove around and discovered that from Guest House to Temple was 0.95 km. We included an extra loop so that we could have our own 2 km circuit for training. We added 2 km every week to our long run. We did 5-7 kms through the week (once or, at most, twice a week). I dealt with a coughing child. A child who refused formula milk. Work. Traffic. 'How will my running affect my family?' 'Can you see my tummy jiggle when I run?' thoughts through my head.

Jan 2006, the husband drove me to Azad Maidan at wee hours for my 21 km race. I was nervous and excited. It was not such a big race back then. I wore three quarter length cotton pants. A cotton tee. A hat. Shoes that were 0.5 a size too small [pregnancy made my feet grow, I swear]. These were bright blue nikes. Very cute looking, but... My toe nail fell off... My calves cramped up at 14 km. I walked. I dragged. I thought about monster. And husband. And Pongal [Mumbai Marathon is always filled with thoughts of Aviyal and Pongal]. I met some fantastic people. I ran again from km 18. Somehow. I finished it! There was a line for certificates. I stood there. That is all I remember...

This is why I think a 30 day challenge will work. I feel that those 15 days of waking up early, no matter what. Not doing much beyond getting myself awake, I feel that that is what helped me latch on to this running business with intensity. And its been a totally fun ride, especially this past year, I have really discovered the joy of it. I don't think about it constantly. But everyday a trigger goes, at some point, Hey Kenny, its the 24th today. Drop down. I do wish I had a less achy body. I do wish I could get a more tangible benefit [tighter abs] from it, but hey, there is February just round the corner! For now, this is good enough...

Friday, 21 January 2011

The 30 Day Challenge

First up, its not going too well. I mean, I am trying to stay sorted on it, but its been tough because, well, read on. You don't even know what the challenge is, right? Right.

I was traipsing along on a bunch of exercise-freak blogs. I could be one of those people, truthfully. I mean, we both could be that. A family of exercise freaks, we could be. But reality is, we are not. Not so much.

So when I first read it, I was laughing. So this person is talking about a year long challenge. Push up challenge. Jan 1st you do ONE (measly) push up. Come Dec 31, you are talking about 365 of those suckers. And if you happen to miss Dec 30 because you were traveling or sick or whatever, you have to do hmmm.. 729 on Dec 31. Get it?

I told a bunch of my friends about it. They laughed at me. I mean, come on, who wouldn't? 365 push ups? Thats fucking insane, isn't it?

So, for myself, I pruned the challenge to a '30 day' thingie. So January is Push Ups month. On Jan 30th, my aim is to be able to do 30 continuous push ups. Yes, not the girl push ups. The real ones, at least to the best of my ability. I could do 10-12 already, having built that up in 2010, inspired by someone I know. I could do 50 in sets of 4-5 earlier on when I was kick boxing. So I figured this is not a BIG DEAL challenge, just a normal one. More to do with discipline than anything else.

A friend of mine has more ideas on it, he is doing a push up, pull up, crunches challenge for Jan. I plan to do a different challenge each month this year. Depending on how this one goes.. There are plenty of avenues for development in my case, for sure, so yeah, it could be fun. No pull ups though, I don't think I can even do one of them, unsupported.

Now, this is the problem. I have strained my left shoulder. Its been more than a month now. Its not a lot of pain, but just a sort of nagging thing. It makes for most uncomfortable sleep and I have been waking up a lot less rested than otherwise. But its not a big enough deal for me to do anything about it. In fact, I ran the Mumbai Half with that nasty shoulder thing, and it was okay, was not particularly reminded of it. But of course when I am doing push ups I am strongly reminded of this pain in my shoulder. I can deal with pain, not too much of a wus that way. Nevertheless, there are days when I cannot complete my quota because of the combination of real pain in the shoulder and the mind telling me its foolish to do this with the pain.

The pain was there BEFORE I launched the challenge, its been around more than a month now. So its not BECAUSE of it. But it sure as hell messes me up. Of course I am a crazy girl so I am forging ahead anyhow hoping that it will somehow go away by changing my pillow or something like that...

Status as of now? I have had some good days. Today I did my quota of 21. Yesterday, I couldn't. I did not compensate for yesterday. Nope. On Marathon day, therefore, I got down and did my 16 before heading off for the race. Knowing that I wouldn't have enthu after the run. But there have been 1-2 other days when without even a half marathon to run, I have ditched. So, not terrific overall.....

Want to try it? You can pick what you want to do - Girl push ups, Ab crunches, x seconds of Plank, any other stuff you find on youtube - it could be anything. I think the increase of 1 per day is very good (it works!), and handle-able, and despite my not so great performance, I have had a good amount of fun with it....

Uphill Task!

So this past week, I was in Mumbai per usual to run in the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (or at least, Half Of It). My last race was the Airtel Delhi on Nov 21st, and this seemed like a good distance away from it. Of course, I signed up for Mumbai LONG AGO and the Delhi one only very close to race day. Mumbai is my favourite half. Or at least, one of my favourites.

I had trained reasonably well for it. I say reasonably, of course, whatever that might mean. I expected that the things I needed to do were: intervals (like a 6x800m thingie); steps (to take care of the fact that my training course in Chennai is FLAT), good long runs (I figure an optimal long run for me is 15-18 km, not less), core (abs, etc.), and just good old running. I only really did well in the very last one. I ran very regularly. I did two good long runs, one a fantastic beach run with Guns (20 km) and a really painful (for me) 16 km run on campus with RM. Did not have time/enthu for more than that. I did intervals two times or so, but it seems to hurt my knees, so I ditched that. Steps are too small in number so its a pain to incorporate a work-out of sufficient length around them so although I did a bit of that, I was not happy overall. I did some core, but not everyday (twice), which is what I think I need.

And the one thing you want to avoid in Mumbai is a Mumbai-Day-Out on Saturday. No, I don't mean popping off to a bar late Sat night knowing that you have to run on Sunday. Nope. I just mean hanging around traveling around the city of Mumbai in the sun in a ratty taxi through interminable traffic. And missing lunch. Well, there was nothing I could do but suck it up and pretend as it it didn't matter. I was dog tired by the time it was 5 pm on Saturday, and still had to finish up a work meeting I had set up. But the meeting went well and I got to chill for half an hour or so before dinner. Which was memorable, and tasty, but not very relaxing.

However, staying 2 mins away from race start location was a good idea!! I slept well and woke up relatively rested. Coffee! Granola bar! Gatorade sips! Push-ups! (More on that later). I wormed over to the front and found Srgtpepper (I know, what are the chances!). He wanted me to pace him. I was quite sure it was a bad idea, but anyway I just listened to my music and ran. The sealink was really lovely. I know people complain about too few hydration spots, but as you may know, I don't need too much to drink when I run. I usually carry my own bottle of isotonic. Plus, I have been carrying some food in my pocket too, of late. I had Gu this time. Double Espresso.

I died at Pedder Road as usual. It was a bit better than the last few times, I never had the urge to walk, but my pace fell a lot after that fly over. I cursed myself a bit for not concentrating better on the uphill training. But hung in there. The timing was not too bad. The 2 hour bus crossed me and Savio who was the bus told Srgntpepper that he was going at 1:58 pace, just FYI. I sort of planned to just keep him in sight but gave up that goal too as I reached 17-18 km. Still, it was not so bad. I tried to increase my pace a couple of times, but couldn't. Srgntpepper went ahead at some stage and I waved him on. I had my Gu and it gave me a bit of a surge in energy. I saw the 500 m mark and saw that it was past 2:00, but not too much. I did my final sprint and finished in 2:03:10 on the clock. The final official time was 2:02:56 ; overall gender rank 35; category rank 32, got a medal (all finishers got it, its a nice one), some chick from Hindustan Times interviewed me and put my name and everything in the paper the next day (though she got my time totally wrong. ugh!).

Its a PR for Mumbai, which is a race that I have run often (I started with 2:35 in 2006!) but always struggled with. Especially the flyover. I know I have to just stop THINKING about Pedder Road. There were some slopes in Delhi that I was unaware of so I just ran them. I run in Chennai, the weather is positively insane here. And it was cool this year in Mumbai. But, overall, although its not an overall PR for me, for the first race of 2011, I am satisfied (which isn't saying much, I am always satisfied with my races, no point fretting over them at least in the immediate aftermath). The thing is that unlike Delhi and Chennai in recent past, I had pain later in the day this time. So the timing might not reflect it, but I did give it my all (or most of it, at least). The legs are recovered now. My stomach was bad too, later that evening, leading to another set of worries as I made my way over to Powai for the next set of work meetings.

Why do I do these races? I like to put myself out there. I like to feel out of my depth, a little bit. I like to work hard on stuff. It makes me feel like its worth it, after all. I do it for myself. And I like to travel. For whatever purpose, I like to travel. And I just love running. I might just be deluding myself at those times but I do tell myself, half-way through a race, "Think! You still have 10+ more kms to go! So much more road to run!"

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Good Morning!

So many thoughts swirling in my head. I have a lot of posts in draft, incomplete. I start a thread of something and lose track as time catches up with me and my alarm rings for the next meeting. This morning I woke up and did the usual tasks and went in to wake up the monster.

That early (well, not very early, I admit) morning look of the monster that I get, I love. She is usually securely wrapped in her sheet, including parts of her head. Only her hair, in disarray, is visible. My immediate reaction is to jump in and squish her (yes yes, judge me for it, ever since I got over the fear of really squishing her, I mean, once she was of a normal, not that newborn baby, size, I love to do this). If I have done my bout of exercise in the morning, this is not possible. I am too sweaty! But today, since I had skipped, I jumped right in. She screwed her eyes tight as usual and tried to pretend I wasn't there.

After a bit, I said, Okay lets go baby, its time to get on the treadmill for the day. By that time the father of the lumpy, bedsheet-encased child was ready, almost. He had an early morning (well, not that early!) meeting today so he was going to go ahead of us. We were having bits and snatches of conversation. I am a most impatient mum these days. I know its not fair.

"Whats a treadmill, Amma?"

"I will tell you once you brush your teeth"

I know this stuff never happens. I mean, you postpone the moment, and you totally lose it. I know. But its okay. She knows what a treadmill is, the monkey just likes to play these games with me. Occasionally delaying things. Occasionally testing me. Always trying to ensure that the last few minutes before we leave the house can be likened to a hurricane.

The clock hands moved on uncaringly as we ran through the rest of our tasks. The husb. always says goodbye to us like a hundred times before he finally leaves. We both mostly ignore this, busy in our morning squabbles. Once in a while he loses his cool and yells at us for not caring, but mostly, since he tuned my voice out several years ago, he doesn't notice it. He came back into the room talking loudly on the phone, we ignored him as we attended to a bath involving water that was 'too hot and too cold at the same time'. We had our usual battle with the fan speed and the flung clothes. I delivered my ultimatum to the both of them

"If I find clothes flung on the floor I am going to trash them"

Yes, of course you will, they said. Smiling conspiratorially behind my back, I am sure. After all, if I trash them, I will have to go out and buy some to replace them. And that, *shudder*, will involve shopping, which I pretty much hate.

Weetabix is the breakfast of choice these days. I smuggle in some wheatgerm and some badam powder into it without anyone's knowledge. This is the monster. I eat oats with smuggled amounts of wheatgerm added. I shove some Harvest Crunch or Muesli into the husband, simply 'cause I have tons of this cereal from last month. There is another breakfast made in the house, a sane, Indian one, but that is post-hurricane, so I usually don't know what it is. Idlis, Semiya Upma, such like. The three of us would rather miss breakfast than speed-shove dosas into the hatch (although I personally LOVE dosas, and on days when I run a bit longer I feel really hungry for a salty-spicy breakfast rather than the bland oats).

A flurry of uniform-belt-socks-shoes-glasses-sharpening pencils-lunch box later, we are out the door. Thankfully since I have banned reading in the car and I manage to finish up with the breakfast at home, the car ride is a peaceful one. We talk about stuff. If the husb. is around, he of course fiddles with his phones. We immediately complain, or do what we do best, ignore him, and talk around him and his phones. She drags her bag and runs in to the school, and suddenly, its done. I feel a distinct WHOOSH in my stomach as I turn around and walk back to the car. I tell myself its foolish to miss her and pointless to feel guilty about small amounts of yelling, and acting too pricey and not explaining what a treadmill is, as I come into the office and open out the laptop and start my work-day....