Tuesday, 20 September 2011

A tale about how running can make you fat…

The Kaveri Trail Marathon is supposed to be one of the tough marathon courses in the country. It winds through farmlands and past a river. Rocks abound. The weather is usually very warm, and the entire trail lacks tree cover – absolutely NO tree cover. Whenever I spoke to friends, even the ones from Chennai, said that the weather and the sun were a big deal at KTM. Even the organisers, at the start of the race, warned everyone to avoid trying for a PB here, and to ensure good hydration.

I missed the KTM last year due to a stupid reason. I signed up for it, was ready for it as usual – in a half-assed unscientific type of trained way I run these races. But I had to go to Mysore (which is 12 km from race start) just a couple of weeks before or after the race, anyhow, for something to do with mum. I didn’t want to put the entire family out again by traveling twice. I kicked myself a lot for it, later, when I thought calmly about it. Then I rationalized it all by insisting that I would run four good half marathons a year, and that’s it. Not more.

Originally I planned for all of us to go to Mysore for this year's half marathon race. Visit mum. Hang out. Run. Come back. I figured that we would drive, in that case. But just in case, I booked us train tickets last month. But then mum had to be in Bangalore, so she wasn't going to be there. The homies dropped out as my husband had something else to do. I cancelled their tickets. Sadly. But at least, I had my trains booked and ready to go. 

Training went just fine. I just refused to think about the race. I ran my weekly mileage goals, kept my sights ahead, all the way into 2012, throughout. Lots of my friends went to Hyderabad, for that race. I didn't, again for the same stupid reason that I had work there just a week later and would hate having to go back to back weekends. Felt a slight pang when they told me of the fun they all had, but got over it. Because training is just as fun for me, and I have been enjoying a bunch of things about that.

Anyway, off I went on Saturday early in the morning. As usual some stuff came up in the last minute and monster's school was cancelled on Friday and my husband was busy and it was all crazy as hell. I would've hated my life and cursed myself a lot if I was thinking about the race. But since I wasn't it was just the usual, BAU scenario. I met up with the other guys on the station platform, and stepped into my seat there.

The ride in was comfortable. I worked a bit on my stuff. Aside from a tendency to chomp on food loudly, the people I shared my little seating area with were nice. Coincidentally, I was next to another runner. We exchanged a few pleasantries and went back to our business.

At Mysore, things were awesome. Weather was great. Uncle fed us (the deshvaasi, I convinced to hang out with me) lunch and we hitched a ride to collect our bibs. We ran into some other Chennai folks while we did that, had a cup of coffee and returned back. I was very happy to see that my running bib had my name on it. Nice touch! But still not thinking much about the race. My goals were made a month before - I wanted to run a strong race, and then continue to run after the finish line, at a slow pace if necessary. I figured clocking 25km was crucial for my weekely mileage goals at this stage, in addition to a piece of mental confidence thing I wanted to work on. In short, a simple goal of NOT DYING in the race - despite everyone telling me that this is a course on which everyone, even experienced runners (WTF! I am an experienced runner, seriously, sometimes my mind is so messed up..), do.

Pre-race evening carbo load, including beer, some nice conversation with my little cousin, and plenty of curd rice. In bed by 10 pm. Not even super excited. Or nervous. I slept well, again, strangely enough. I think it was because I threw out my usual time goal and gave myself a nice comfy one of 2:15. In light of the nature of the course. Deshvaasi asked me if I would set the pace. Hell yeah, I would, considering I was armed with my latest toy - a GPS watch.

"You didn't take your ipod? What will you run with?" my husband texted me.

"My Garmin. Get it? Its all set" I replied back.

I think I take my ipod when I feel a bit less confident mentally. Or its vice versa. I wanted to avoid it this time. Hear the birds instead, Kenny, I told myself a I packed.

I met some of my old pals from amchi mumbai and totally tuned out from the race announcements. Before I knew it, we were off. I made sure to hit the mat carefully as usual, and weaved through the usual mess at the beginning. Since this is a small race, the situation was not as irritating as it is in other places. I run with friends often but we never run slowly, abreast of each other, at the beginning, when everyone is in a rush to get out on the road/trail, so I don't understand why people do that. It bugs the life out of everyone behind you, especially if you are slower (EVERYONE is slower than someone else, I do know that, but there is a point wherein people are insensitive in this matter).

I saw my new toy was doing fine and telling me that my pace was good. Given my goals. I ran hard but did enjoy the scenery. My Kannada brethren were all over the trails - after all it was their farms on one side we were passing. I said 'Namaskaara' to many of them on their bullock carts and raised my hands up in salutation and made them smile. The turn around point was a bit confusing apparently. Actually by then I had new josh as I had seen the full marathoners on the other side, and the faster bunch of half marathoners as well, and had clapped and good jobbed and high fived so many of them. I was so happy and chilled out this time, I don't know why.

I didn't even touch my Gu - when my spirit starts to flag is usually when I eat Gu. The aid stations were excellent so I picked up some oranges (my absolute favourite) and a sip or two of Enerzal at some stage. It wasn't planned, I just went by my mood. I didn't even carry water like I usually do, as I trusted the organisation here to take care of my needs. I didn't have too many needs, however. I only started to wane at around 1:50 or so, by which point I was close to the finish. I would see the pace slip down on my garmin, and convince myself to up it again, and so on and so forth till the very end when I did the usual Kenny Sprint - which is another mantra. Whatever happens, Finish Strong. Unlike my last race, I kept my shirt on this time. :-) Found that I had hit the mat in 2:04 or so, which was super satisfying. Not just for this course, but because I have been feeling a bit slow of late - since Auroville in February which I did in similar time. I had also already run 27 km earlier in the week and was a bit concerned that with the train ride and everything my legs wouldn't be fresh. I am sure that the fact that the weather was actually nice and not boiling hot and sunny was an important factor!

Still, how fresh my legs were! My calves were a bit tight of course, but aside from that, I felt perfect. Almost energized. I ran a bit more on the perpendicular road, cut my timer chip off, and wandered back on to the trail. Deshvaasi came in (he ran barefoot!) and showed me the blood clots on his feet (, I fetched him some electrolyte and water, let him dip his feet like the others were doing, and back on to the trail. I intended to run till the 2km mark and then head back, but I gave up - once I found a friend and decided to get him to shave a bit off his finish time by goading - then when I went back again I just felt bored and started thinking about the return trip so I got back.

Food at the race was excellent and because I felt so fine I could manage to eat a lot of it as well, including very sweet ice cream. Then I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had come in second in the Women's Open category, and got to run up the stage and collect my certificate. Today they called me to tell me that they revised my position to third, due to some confusion. But still, PODIUM, BABY! I was ecstatic as were monster, husband and mum whom I called quickly. My friend, the rocket, who ran the full marathon, also came in third, which felt super great. I am so damn proud of her! We train together and it really feels like we are family. Or at least super close friends for the past umpteen years!

I came back to mum's place again and found that uncle had again cooked for us! And after a shower and some chit chat, managed to eat a pile of food again! Then, on the train back, I gutted down everything on offer - and believe me a lot of it was on offer! I actually felt a bit fat and waddly in the night as I lay down and thought about how after all these years of running I had won something meaningful in a race that I was just super chilled out about, and how it hardly mattered when I compared it to the feeling of strength and happiness I had as I ran, and of pure unadulterated enjoyment I carried with me over all those kilometers.

Overall, it was a super fun trip and it was great to meet all the friends and family that I met, and it was fun as always to have conversation with the deshvaasi. Mysore was beautiful and peaceful and calming like never before. As I always feel, it was great to go but its also good to be back and to move on to the next thing on my horizon....

Monday, 12 September 2011

Gender Strong

The monster goes to an after school thing few days a week. She spends an hour or two there while I am at work and does something. I have long since stopped trying to figure out what she does there - I am confident that she is well cared for and enjoys it there, gets some exercise and has a couple of kids she is friends with. The trick is, I have discovered, is to not expect too much from all these places. Not to think in terms of value per rupee spent. Childhood is a hard thing to quantify like that. The monster is a reasonable child but is still a child and can be very distracted and inconsistent with everything (except for obsessive reading).

They do an 'end of the term' event usually, at this place. I have missed a couple of these events (not a big deal), but I do make an effort to go. That is when  you learn about what the kids were up to through the term. Not very important to me, because I have long ceased trying to figure out if my hard earned is well spent on this, but still, I go, because the monster thinks I should.

Last week was supposed to be a different sort of event. It was a cricket match - parents versus children. I thought the idea was great, although I know that the monster is neither too interested nor too good at cricket. I personally loathe the game, and feel very harassed the few times I am forced to play it. Partly, its the hype. Partly, its that everyone, especially men, is to into this game. Mostly, its because I am convinced that it doesn't require the type of fitness that say, tennis, requires; and seriously, doesn't involve enough running (like, say, soccer, which I love).

But my husband was travelling. I tried to convince my parents-in-law to go. In general, its a bad idea to send grandparents to these events. Because of their expectation that their grandchild is a superstar. And their ingoing assumption that the teachers and other kids are not appreciating said grandchild's superstardom enough. Nevertheless, I was hoping to get out of this one. They were also travelling though, so it came to me.

I asked the monster if I had to wear white or something awful like that (I don't own such a thing, but could have worn the lightest coloured running tee I had). She said it wasn't required. I could wear my running gear and it would be fine. So I did that. Including my timex watch, for good measure. We cycled over to the location (its just a street away from our house, monster and I have been cycling over whenever we can, raising eyebrows and smiles along the way).

Big surprise. 'Parent' was interpreted as 'Father' Oh! there were mommies there. But they were well manicured and sitting down. One of them was enthusiastic and yelling instructions. One of them actually wore sneakers, as part of a well-co-ordinated outfit. I should have been supportive of her but I was strongly discouraged by it all by then. I ignored everyone, refused to participate in the bonhomie, if any. I fielded. I bowled my over (good length, low on pace, one wide, overarm). I batted (three balls, connected reasonably, kid was bowling well and fast, was caught by the umpire!). I watched the monster dream away on the boundary line as she fielded, feel happy and excited when we told her they were winning (they were not, but we made them win, per the teacher's insistence). If my husband was in town, I might not have gone, for sure, 'cause I had meetings that I had to re-jig. But if I had gone, there was no way I was sitting down. I know I made some of the Daddies uncomfortable by insisting on playing. But there was no way I was letting my monster down....

I was glad when it was all over. At one point, I was so depressed by it all. I live my life by not asking for slack. I don't meet the guys for a morning run and ask them to take it easy 'cause of my gender. They are all just spontaneously nice on days when I am dying, but again, I would do that to them too, on their off day, I think its even. I don't go to work and make excuses for myself. I cannot tell you the number of times I have been caught by surprise when I am walking between buildings and someone offers to carry my books for me. I don't enter the basketball court and expect that the guy guarding me will be gentle (in fact, in earlier times, I would get super pissed off if I sensed that he was up to something like that. I would come back and kick his ass big time, so that he respects me as a player. Not anymore. 'Cause the angst is gone plus I have retired from that game). I naturally assumed that this stuff that I fought against in my youth, would be all solved and taken care of by now and the monster's generation wouldn't have to deal with it.

She is one of the few girls in the class. She is bad at it - not demonstrated any skill/interest in it. But not because she is a girl! I know a friend of mine - her daughter is very good at cricket and gets coaching for it. But still raises eyebrows. Like back in the 80s when I used to lace up and go run the road race in my hometown and mom got flak for it. Or when my friend & I used to ride the cycle non-stop for hours and get yelled at by sundry aunts for being girls and doing such things which was the purvey of boys. That was THIRTY years ago. Seriously.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Me Pocket Full of Empty

My musical influences from childhood are really, absolutely ridiculous. Now, how on earth would I know almost the entire lyrics to Calypso Blues? Of course partly because it reminds me of an innocent time long ago, has very funny sounding lyrics, and a foot-thumping beat, I love the song. Although I hadn't heard it in a long long long while.

Me throat she sick from neck-tie
Me feet she hurt from shoes

Its all very...lyrical.. and though he claims to be 'so sad' it doesn't feel overly sad or anything. (These Yankee girls give me big scare; is black the root is blonde the hair?).

Don't got de money
To take me back to Trinidad

Its not as if I understand the sentiment behind it or anything. But its a song about home, as much as it is about missing home. Thats the bit I understand. I know about home. Its sometimes a place, sometimes a time. And mostly, you can never go back. Its best sometimes not to think about it. At others, it gives you a comfort, the thoughts of home and how good you had it back then...

In Trinidad one dollar buy
Papaya Juice Banana Pie
Six coconuts, one female goat
and plenty fish to fill the boat

(I admit a couple of quick google session, hadn't realised its Papaya Juice and I thought it was One Man a Pie, whatever that might imply). Coconuts! Somehow the entire reason I remember the song is... Coconuts. An integral part of growing up. I must have said this before. But up on the roof (which is another song BTW which I like) of my house, back home. I would climb up via the window. Typically when everyone was asleep. Or I would climb up on the guava tree and on to the roof. And everywhere the eye could see were coconut trees. I would then forever associate that scene - the top of coconut trees swaying gently in the hot afternoon breeze - with home. Till I travelled a bit more and there are memories of Kerala and Sri Lanka interspersed in there in the ol' head of mine.

Speaking of coconuts, you know what happened just a few days ago, here in Chennai? A coconut fell on the windshield of our car and splintered the glass. Dang! I wasn't there. I was at work. When they called and told me, I was like 'What? One coconut, not six, right?' Right. So, insurance, garage, speaking to Shiva and Manivannan, and appraisals and oh heavens! Life is too complicated, all I want to do is

Sit by de ocean...
Me heart she won't feel so bad

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Meanwhile, away from Chennai

September is an awesome month. I feel close to the end (December). Weather is supposed to be better but is really crappy as usual in Chennai. Which means I get more sph (sweat per hour) during my workouts. As we all know, its all about the volume of sweat. Its all about that. & its Teachers Day month, not that it means a helluvalot to me or anything. Despite day job and all. Its just that its nice to think of it. & the monster has some time off later in the month, which is always a bit of a relief due to the hectic mornings we suffer due to school.

I went away meanwhile for a couple of days though, doing non-teaching related things. Meaning, trying to sell coal. It was a closed conference (am getting more and more invitations to these despite loudly yelling about how ineffective these are unless we PLAN it better and stuff like). Mine was the last last last talk in the conference. Which kind of sucks as everyone is keen to leave. I am a big girl now and don't let that affect me. Actually I also don't fret and get nervous about these talks at all, so whatever. Things ran over time so that by the time I finished my spiel, there was hardly any lunch left (the other session had finished on time). I felt a bit bad that I denied food to my audience, but not that bad, really, since the food sucked.

I met lots of people. Since I had been up late reading a novel on Thursday, and my flight on Friday was pretty early, I was pretty tired. So I did not make the usual effort to chat people up. I looked around and felt cold vibes, as a consequence. I knew a couple of guys, talked to them a bit, but my heart was not in it as I was really tired out. I should have complimented the girls at least, the ones passing on the mementoes and so on. The ones who wore such nice salwar kameezes compared to their counterparts in Chennai.

Anyway, I was standing in line for dinner and I saw a knee. Seriously. A knee. I looked up and up and up there was...well...Hagrid. He had shaved and cut his hair and worn a blue shirt. But really, it was Hagrid complete with the Trashcan Lid-Like Hands. He helped himself to about a kilo of biryani and said 'Is this veg?' Strange thing to say, no? I assured him it was. Then he slapped the Lid on his head and said 'Doh! I wanted the chicken' - He didn't actually say Doh! but it was so..Simpson-like..the action.. and yes, of course, he would want the chicken.

Then I met two (or was it three?) people who were so...very...thin. I was talking to one of them, face to face. He turned on his side for something. And boy! I couldn't see him any more. Two-dimensional, you know. It was most disconcerting. I wanted to sit him down at a table and feed him lots of food, preferably the chicken biryani - though I would be loathe to touch that myself, never having touched chicken in my life. There were others also who were indulging in this type of disappearing act. I wondered if it was something in the air (or food) there...till...

I met two almost spherical people. Lets call them Tweedledum and Tweedledee, shall we? Neither of them ate anything. But they talked and talked and talked and hardly stopped for breath. In the early part of the night I was fascinated by the struggle the buttons on the shirts were putting, staying in place, against all odds. Later when it got dark and I couldn't see and I was really tired and the beer was finished (it was tepid, my least favourite flavour), I got worried that they would talk themselves to a heart attack or something. I mean, I don't know for sure that they are more prone than I am, but it looked like buttons, veins, such things could pop, anytime, as they talked.

When I got back to the airport I was fairly hungry. Since the homies were at a wedding, I knew there was curd rice at home and not much else. So I queued up at the chat place. 'Medium Spicy' I declared. A lady was sitting next to me, also travelling alone, I gathered. We both breathed fire over our respective chaats, in unison. Lesson learnt: In Hyderabad, Kenny ought to go with Mild. These guys know how to do spicy. For real. I was reading a Feynman book thing while eating and wondering about how my daughter has the bad habit of reading while eating while all other kids are so bloody awesome about eating. People gave me pitying looks as they passed by, maybe also because by that time, my kameez had sprouted a couple of holes. Seriously, I paid oodles of money for that crap at a boutique and I got something that seems to spontaneously disintegrate. There is a reason why I prefer my button down shirts, they never do that. Na-ah.

I celebrated Onam early by wearing my Mallu off-white sari to my presentation. It was a bit smushy in the final analysis but I wore it with long wooden earrings. Bannu, you would have approved everything except the smushi-ness. Which is a problem with cottons. You have to pay attention as you are wearing it, to ensure that you dont smush it at t=0. Most critical. Lesson learnt. Have I told you I hate it when people refuse to use the mike when they make presentations? Well, I hate it. And I always use the mike, when available, although I know my voice is squeaky coming through it.

Finally, I want to say that I was rewarded for my efforts of the early morning, very well. I was at a resort that claimed two separate places for 'Rain Dance' - What The Fuck is Rain Dance? I kept thinking as I fell asleep. I woke up early (ish) in the morning and decided to find out. I donned my running gear, cursed my gender (its all very satisfying that I can make babies and come up with complicated thoughts on simple life situations but really annoying to deal with having a period every month, I swear), and took off in my nastily dirty vibrams. The rain dance was a disappointment, just looked like a place to get wet in. But there were lots of streams and bridges and lake-like creations with boats moored, and a lawn and lots of swimming pools and slides in the hotel premises. I ran everywhere and then on to the road and there were trucks and I came back and it was still not even an hour but then I saw three kingfishers, one crow pheasant, a beautiful little bulbul and the usual mynahs strutting around, and a bunch of other things that I couldn't identify. Sure, I got looks, honks, and the crow pheasant gave me the most baleful eye (you are so glossy and shiny and beautiful my friend, I told it), and & wished I had company so I could get more adventurous. Oh well, at least I did not snooze through it all.