Thursday, 3 October 2013

Mysore Half Marathon

Even in the most megalomaniacal mood I couldn't write this in TWCM blog, so here I am. With some not-so-breaking news! And musings! 

On Sep 29th, I ran in the 3rd Namma Mysore marathon organised by Life is Calling. I have been meaning to run in this event since inception but it was always one thing or the other. All legitimate excuses, I promise. I managed a quick trip in and out of Mysore this year for it, so glad I could. Plus met up with the family and ate mum's dosas.... Yippee!

Of course, it is an exciting thing. I drooled over the race route every year - it starts at the Mysore Palace, winds all over, hits the Kukkarahalli Kere, goes past my sister's college and my school, dad's college, Neha's college, comes back down near where we used to live in those days, and returns to the Palace again. Drool.

I am in decent shape lately, I must say. The hyderabad marathon, where I was the 5 hour pacer, was good. I finished strong. The crazy flyover runs we have been doing in Chennai actually helped a bit. I have reduced mileage since end-August as I am working with a group of beginners training for TWCM, but have been super disciplined anyway.

The first km is itself uphill at Mysore. It's a super familiar place (Devraj Urs Road) having been here a million times but I was quickly out of breath running there! Of course I started in typical fashion at an insane pace (someday I am going to learn to start slow). It stayed uphill past Regaalis etc. and then it was up and down but I was enjoying running in all these places so much that I kind of didn't worry about things till the KM 15 or so. I did slow down but was still at a good clip throughout.

I saw all the lead runners on the trail part of the run, and was glad to note that I was in third position. But wasn't sure if there were any women near me, with all the uphill parts I was sure I would slow down in the later part of the race and that if anyone was near me they would overtake me. Not that I was too worried about it, of course. If they did, they did. Nothing I could do about it.

When I passed my school - 12 years there - I really really wanted to stop and take a photo. I was grinning like an idiot. But I was also hurting a bit and didn't think I would get a good shot thanks to the high compound wall - so continued on. I was all alone on this stretch, I couldn't wait for someone to catch up with me to tell them. That someone was a nice looking chap from the Navy or something but by then I had stopped tearing up and it was cool. I just told him, my school is lovely.

Dad's college passed by too quickly and I was going down a familiar downhill. How I used to love to ride my bike fast down that part of my commute home! I advise all the people to chill out and not run fast downhill lest they blow their knee out, but I couldn't resist... One final small hill to crest - and then the course flattened out nicely, and I left behind sentimentality and concentrated on keeping to a decent time.

I ran into a friend from Chennai at some stage and he pulled ahead, strong, at a water point. I was glad to see him go 'cause the sub-2 was in the bag for him, it meant. But I looked down at my watch and realised it was likely that I could do it as well. So I urged the little heart to fight it out. Another friend who had finished earlier showed up to pace me the last few hundred meters. I didn't put in as much as a kick as I usually do at the finish ('cause I only do that if I am on a track!) but came in in 1:57 and change anyhow.

I was super duper happy with the time. I did feel like I had worked hard, and finished strong. Did my usual Viparita Karani (suspending my legs) move on some random palace wall (after finding one that didn't have any gods on it!) and drank up all my water, and stretched out nicely and walked around a lot, admiring the Palace and taking pictures...

Then waited and waited and waited a long while to finally get the chance to go up on stage and collect my third place trophy. The auto I flagged afterward had this super chatty driver who refused to believe that anyone would pay money to just participate in this mad caper of a race....

Mum and Grandmum and Aunts and all were very kicked about the whole thing... Paper had my name going on which was cool. And check me out all pink and smiling with my trophy thing!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

That Little House

I can only presume this of course, but the 'Chinna Veedu' has to be more exciting than the original one, right? Like a mistress compared to a wife.

I am writing at this site till December or so, it is all about running and runners and things like that. Plus it has other contributors going on there. So a lot more activity than at this blog, for now.

Maybe you will hang out there with me? Till I come back here?

The Wipro Chennai Marathon Blog

While you are at it, do let me know if you are coming to run in our marathon. Will be lovely to say hi. I am the short person with Back-To-The-Future Wala Professor's hair.

I want to, meanwhile, jealously guard my stuff here, and somehow figure out how to finish up all those posts in drafts. And of course, I may come periodically with exciting news of one or other sort.

Till Then!

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Reaching out, holding back

I used to come here to write whenever, whatever I felt like. There were times when I wrote without the use of capital letters or punctuation marks (I am not fond of punctuation, I admit). Words tumbled out of my head and I captured them faithfully using my fingers.

Somewhere down the line, I stopped doing that. I don't know why. In my head, that is the role this space plays. When I am ready to burst - with happiness, sadness, euphoria, or just a confused jumble of thoughts not necessarily happy or sad, just hard to describe - I want to be able to write, here.

I have no other outlets, this I have come to realise. I pick up the phone, in fact, I spoke to my mum for a long time this weekend without saying anything. That is fine, I don't necessarily have the words even if you were willing to listen, to understand.

Sometimes, I get scared. I guess I have a long way to go. I am referring to my age more than ever these days. It has turned out to be a big joke. Maybe the looming big four-oh is responsible, I don't know. But I have a feeling of time, running out. And I worry about the child, mainly.

Yes, this is not a post about running. Or about the child. Or anything at all, if you come to think about. I am here to say that I am here. And worried, and confused, and tired, and sad. I find myself asking myself 'Is this it, is this it?'

I can feel it the moment the mood lifts. The sun seems brighter then, not in an unpleasant make my armpit sweat way, but in all is well, for now, pleasantness. I completely block my mind then to the darkness, quickly. But till then, I wait, and watch the grey and hate the hate. And try not to worry that time is flying. 

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Rainy Days and Sundays: Dream Runners Half Marathon '13

Last year, during the Dream Runners Half Marathon, it poured cats and dogs. My garmin died as I was getting out of the car. I borrowed The Cat's watch, which was set in miles. My ankle (or something) was bothering me immensely so I was all iffy about it. I ran like crazy and did super well though, getting my PB and a nice little trophy. Got soaking wet but escaped blisters thanks to the vibrams.

This year, I was really looking forward to the race. I fit it in nicely into the Hyderabad Full Marathon training plan I am following. It fell on the correct weekend. I had nothing big happening around the event. Aside from what felt like usual and minor niggles, I felt great going into the weekend.

The event has grown in size since last year, which is great, I am very happy for my ever enthusiastic friends, the Dream Runners. The expo on Saturday was at this nice hotel. We breezed through the bib pick up and returned home. I took the child to the swimming thing and hung out there, watching her, for a long while.

I slept reasonably well, and woke up fairly happy (just a bit sleepy) at 3:30 am and got ready with no fuss. Usual bread/coffee combination. We were wearing the super awesomely nice promo tshirts for our upcoming event - The Wipro Chennai Marathon (Register Now!). The size was correct and it felt great - soft and so on.

It was a very humid day - not that I am unused to it. But I was not in super dreamy (!) shape from the get go. My concentration seemed off right from the start and I just don't know why that was so. Years of running means that I managed to stick to goal pace for 15-16 kms without significant trouble. The moments of panic that arose, I could ignore, till then.

The course was fantastic and it felt great seeing friends all along. I had my bottles of electrolyte and water and I sucked on them periodically. I evaluated that I wasn't hungry - maybe I should have eaten up a Gu nevertheless at 12 kms like I usually do in HM races. In recent times, I have been avoiding eating anything in HM distances in training, but still, I think it was a mistake.

I slowed down and even took a very short walk break - which I never do. I saw my time goal fly out of the window but wasn't in a mood to worry about it. The mind felt reasonably alert. I say reasonably, and not super alert, which as we know is not a great thing. Traffic was stopped so I was broadly OK, but still.

As I said to someone later, I had to dig deep into the mental reserves bucket to ensure that I ran through the last two kilometers and finished looking somewhat strong in 2:04. I did feel close to collapsing at the end line where a friend of mine from the organisers grabbed me for a photo. Thankfully, I bounced back in a couple of seconds and gave a watery smile for the camera.

I knew I had placed third among women despite everything, thanks to the out and back course and being somehow alert enough to count the women ahead of me. They gave me a huge cash prize for it and I posed for photos and stuff, and managed to be all upbeat about it all. There were so many friends around at the finish point, and once I drank about a hundred liters of electrolyte, I felt fine, so that in the end it turned out to be a tough but satisfying Sunday.

I have run half marathons in the past where I felt bad and I sort of didn't push after that. My times were bad (far worse than this one) in those races, and I felt a sense of discontent afterwards. On Sunday, I was hoping to do better (mainly in terms of strength at the end, and secondarily, on time), for sure, but I don't feel overly bad about my performance compared to previous outings. I have run lots of HMs now and they had just started to feel easy.

This time I experienced something that I talk about all the time - the marathon - half or full - is a distance to be respected. I rarely run races without training, but sometimes, even when theoretically everything is in place including training, things go wrong. And that, is why I love this sport. Because it is constantly challenging...

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Fountain of youth

If you know me in real life, you know that I talk about my age all the time. I know you are annoyed by my tendency to constantly remind you that I am 39 years old (ha! did it again!) and that I feel my age in my bones blah blah blah. I have a feeling that I am trying to convince myself more than you.

I think I like being how old I am
. I don't mention my age with any sort of regret - no 'oh-my-god-I-miss-being-twenty-years-old' or anything. Its good. If there is one thing I am determined to do, its to grab life by its horns and make something out of it. By and large, I manage to do that - however I choose to define it.

But many a time, I have to sit down and think about things and sort of understand that how much ever I accept it (which I am convinced is better than resisting it), there are some things that time on earth does to you - irreversible changes so to speak. And my mouth may say its all good but the body knows its not the same.

My mum twisted her ankle recently. And no, its not some contagious disease this ankle thing. Nor is it particularly genetically inherited. I hope. She claims to have been sensible with her recovery. But she still has pain from it, and since she is a super energetic over-enthusiastic (especially about exercise) 68 year old, I am convinced that its serious, this ankle thing of hers.

In his youth, my dad used to drive around in a big, bad motorcycle. Not as big and bad as current day ones, for sure, but enough. He used to periodically get spilled from it. The reasons all seemed legitimate enough. A cow suddenly jumped in front of him. There was sand. Whatever, but he dislocated his shoulder a lot.

Many a time he would fix it back himself. Pop it back into the socket. Over the years it wouldn't go back so easily. The doctors had to do crazy stuff with it to fix it. I cannot even imagine the pain. One time he had bazillion ruptured capillaries because of the fixing. It got worse and worse. The tendency to dislocate became insane. And getting it back in place super hard.

I have had my share of (not serious) injuries. The first time my ankle sprained was when someone fat fell on it. It swelled up like crazy. I taped it with a fat crepe bandage and proceeded to my long jump event - confident of my body if not of my performance. Yeah, that was stupid.

I am still there - ignoring injuries, coaxing my body to step it up a notch, denying the niggles. But I can feel everything slowing down. It takes me months to forget them and move on. I still continue to be stupid about these things - I don't know - we both husband and wife are like that - for no tangible reason.

So I guess for all the talking about my age and acting as if its critical that within the first five minutes of meeting me you know that I am going to celebrate my 40th birthday next April (by running 40 kms, I hope), deep inside I still think my body is 18 years old. And capable of bouncing back like that. Got to really work on that.

(Photograph of my taped up calf from a while ago. I want to remind myself of this for the next time I try to do something stupid)

Sunday, 23 June 2013

All about miles

Marathon season is upon us now. Yes, it is summer in Chennai and mostly very hot and humid and sweltering and sweaty. We cannot help that. Every year we train in this weather and I really don't think we are much worse for wear.

I haven't particularly made up specific goals for each of the races in the immediate future this time. Last year was the first time I did so many long races, and while I did suffer a few body breakdown type events, it was by and large a successful running year. I am going to go with that now.

Upcoming are:

Dream Runners Half Marathon Jul 7th, Chennai
Mumbo Jumbo 15km Race Jul 14th, Chennai
Hyderabad Marathon Aug 25th, err, Hyderabad

I have to really make up my mind about a couple other HMs - in Coimbatore and the Delhi one. I ran the Delhi a few years ago and that was my PB till the Dream Runners thing last year, but still I kind of am not motivated to go back there. Coimbatore is a new run and I ought to go (October 2013).

As I say often, the reason I like to run these events is because it gives focus to my training. I guess you could say that I am pretty motivated - and would exercise for the sake of it anyhow - and have done so for years. But having these events upcoming is pretty nice - plus thanks to the awesome group I run with, we have a lot of fun planning long runs and so on.

I think I have learnt a lot about running, especially these past four years. I tell anyone who will listen that I have been running for the past 30 years. Pretty much. I have loved it through all these decades, but right now what I feel about long distance running is a kind of insane love.

Insane or not, I am trying to be sensible about this. Both in terms of expectations from my body, and the time I have on hand to allocate to marathon-mania. I plan to mainly run three times a week - focussing on uphills (sort of), sprint workouts, and of course the long run. The rest of the week has to be strength and stretching (yes, the hated stretching!).

My broad goals going into this season are to become stronger. The kind of runner that has her strength intact even in the last few kms of a race, if not even splits, something close to that. I am not going to delude myself into thinking that I am going to hit Personal Bests this year. But I do think that I have the chance to be a better runner this year, timing be damned.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Adventures & Curd Rice

I am traveling this week. How I managed to procure a visa in time I don't know. I don't remember how the past month has gone by, ever since we returned from our vacation trip, I am completely disconnected from reality. More so than usual.

Anyway I managed to get all things sorted out for this work trip, and got here. Because I wasn't thinking too much and was copy pasting my colleague's schedule, I found that I had at least a half day of free time here, in Brussels.

So I took off on my little 'adventure'. Which is a laughable word to use, I admit. I was sitting in Chennai airport (or perhaps it was Mumbai, I don't recall now), all over the free internet, and discovered that there is a group that does a cycling tour of the city.

Long story short, I couldn't make it to the tour as my flight was a bit late coming in, plus the web-site didn't accept my credit card and reserving the tour (seemed to) require advance payment. The tour guys did write me a couple of emails so that is something that I guess will work, some other time.

So I got to my room and resisted the temptation to immediately head out for a run. I was positive that I would get hopelessly lost. Or something. Anyway it was 10:30 am. And I had free time. So I strapped on a backpack and sunglasses and walked every where.

The Metro thingie is pretty cool and can take you to tons of places. Except that you need coins  (!) to buy the card in some of the stations and that made me have to go to a really disgusting Indian store to get change (and some gum). The couple running the store were so surly. And the store itself, so filthy. Seriously, I was very bummed out.

I got to the station I intended to get to and promptly got lost. I mean, right there, in the middle of the city. Lost. As usual. I was wearing jeans and vibrams, and it was raining gently. Pleasant, almost. So I just walked around pretty much aimlessly. At some point I sat down and drank a beer and read a book on my phone.

I often hear runners insist that getting lost is a good thing. Increases mileage willy nilly. Apparently, I had managed to hit upon the few touristy things that are sort of a 'must do' in the city as well, how impressive! I even bought a few nice souvenirs for the child (and the standard fridge magnet/bottle opener for us). I think she will like my Tintin-themed purchase!! I bought chocolate too, but I have sort of opened it and eaten it. Oops!

Which brings me to the 'food situation' as we vegetarians like to call it. I discovered that each of my colleagues is traveling with his own on-person restaurant. I mean, rajma-chawal, maggi-noodles-in-a-cup, upma, were mentioned in the 'store bought' section. Murukku, sweets, etc. were talked about in the 'home made by wife' section.

I ate a dosa (for Rs. 180) at the Mumbai airport on my way in, at like 1 am or something awful. I was standing on top of the dosa making dude there because I was in a bit of a hurry. And he was so terrible. He threw away two dosas saying that it got broken (by him, with his stupid way of spreading the dough, I must add).

This year's theme for World Environment Day was what? Stopping food wastage right? So much for that. I was really pissed at him. I told him to cease and desist. So he gave me a half cooked doughy dosa. The chutney was super watery as well, like the hostel chutney airspy used to drink from a glass.

So I was telling these murukku colleagues of mine that I don't even bring a single piece of any food when I travel. Never even occurs to me. I like the idea of local food, though I do wish that the menus are in English everywhere, and that ingredients are clearly listed. Anyway the beer is easy to order and always vegetarian so whatever, it works. Am not too bothered. Usually.

This time though, between the dosa and the fact that Jet Airways fed me some of the most disgusting food on the planet of over-nuked airline food, I was thinking. Perhaps I will bring me a dabba of curd rice from next time. Must put it on the list for the next trip!!

Although I haven't managed to do nearly as many fun things as I would like (hello! useful heated discussions and meetings!), I must mention that I have managed to run around the city a few times in the early morning. I enjoyed a run in a nearby park and was as usual very jealous that they have such nice places to run in. Even though there is a tendency to rain.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Morning Blues & Coffees Cold

I may or may not have deleted an entire post here recently. And judging by my really slow, treacle slow posting this year, it was an expensive delete - of sorts. I don't know. Something is going on and I have a lot of draft posts and very few that I manage to finish and hit publish on.

Unrelatedly, I woke up at  a decent hour this morning - 6 am - not the insanely early times I am clocking of late. The household is still asleep. One of those days when we don't need to be up early for our various madnesses.

And I was wondering about this. Every day, when I wake up, I boil milk and make a filter of coffee and make three cups of various beverages for us. I am, I would say, very diligent about this. And I fetch the beverages upstairs to our bedroom.

When child & husband wake up, they have at hand, their respective beverages (after they brush their teeth of course, that goes without saying). Depending on the difference in time between their waking up and mine, these may be quite cold but they don't seem to care.

No one brings me coffee in the early mornings. Like, ever. Never. Sometimes when I am visiting mum she may make me a cup of coffee and have it all ready in the kitchen when I come out. But that has also been a while.

At 6:12 am today, I was wondering if I ought to be sad about this. Then I remembered that I am practical like that. I need what I need. And what I need first of all is a cup of coffee, mixed my way, within 10 minutes of my waking up. The timing is key.

It means I wake up, brush, slide down the bannister (not, don't have one, would if I did, for sure), and fire up the stove. Most days I drink instant coffee in the morning and save the decoction thingie for later. They taste different, in general I like the brewed coffee better (I am a thoroughbred Mysore girl no?), but I like the instant for early morning.

As I grow older, I find myself getting more and more particular about these things. I wouldn't, for example, like to drink a cold cup of coffee before my run/workout. Among other things. This has been bothering me though, I hate to feel like I am an inflexible person.

So today, I have placed a little lid on top of their mugs. So that the heat is retained inside for at least another half hour. I am sure how this helps me feel better, but it does. If they wake up much later today, well, too bad. I will be out of the house, wrapped up in a maroon sari, and being very busy through the day my dears.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Jet Lag Mornings

As you may have noticed, I returned to base last week. About 8 days ago, to be precise. The Sunday morning we arrived, the child & I thought we would sleep in (we were due to arrive at 4 am at home, it ended up being close to 5:30). Go to the store for milk etc. when we woke up. Slowly get ready for the week ahead.

Well, we got in late, showered and immediately felt hungry. So we ate rice, like self respecting South Indians. Even though the little dabba of curd that was in the fridge for a month was tempting, we avoided it and ate some Puliodarai instead. Then we tried to sleep. But couldn't. So we woke up and walked to the store. It wasn't open.

Then we walked back and hung out and noticed the cats and finally got in the car (not the car that the cats were using, scary that!) and got milk and made coffee and were contemplating another bath. Thats all I remember though. Next thing I knew it was Monday and we were awake at like 4 am and I was a bit stressed out because I had to get in to work.

Because of swimming and my desperate need to exercise (I was very good about not obsessing about it the entire duration of our trip - I ran when I could - and every time I did, it was lovely, really, such beautiful places to run in and what great weather. I would be jealous if I did not believe that Chennai is the best place on earth...for running..), we have been up early every day.

Early as in 4:30 am for me. And a little later for the child. Initially it was jet lag. And I would start to cave in by afternoon, and somehow resist sleeping till 9 pm. Of course I cannot claim jet lag any more. Anyhow I am a 9-5 kind of girl (meaning, I can totally sleep 9 pm - 5 am, despite being a full grown adult and all, every day all days of my life).

I am thinking that we should push this schedule for a bit more. Especially given that husband person returned last night and should be battling jet lag himself for the next few days - which means he will wake up in the wee hours of the morning. Feels good. Yep. Especially since I have managed decent running mileage now - getting back on track! Oh yeah! 

Monday, 13 May 2013

Miles of Fun

We drove some 3000+ kms all over the mighty USA over the past few weeks. By we, I mean he. I sat in lotus position in the passenger seat with my right index and thumb on google maps.

"Want to add on an additional driver for free?" asked the friendly guy at the car rental.

"NO" my husband said - a little too loudly and firmly in my opinion.

Not that I wanted to drive or anything. We rented two cars. The first one was a boat of a thing that I could barely see out of. The second one was better, and also, guzzled less gas.

It was quite an experience. I don't think I have enjoyed the country as much during all the time I lived there, and also the several trips I have taken in the past ten years (mostly for work, so no wonder), as I did this time.

First of all, it was just amazing to be together like that. I had thought that we would fight like cats and be yelling at each other a whole lot. There was yelling of course, but for the most part, I think we discovered each other and just relaxed as a unit.

We met many friends, held so many babies, attended a family function, drove to both our alma maters, met my Phd advisor, saw snow, rode on super scary roller coasters, ate and slept very well, and shopped for only what we had put on our respective lists.

We talked so much. I was really looking forward to that a fair bit. I assumed that the child would sleep for much of the drive and we could talk adult talk. That didn't happen (at all - the monkey did not take a single nap the whole time, I swear). But still, we talked. Sometimes in code.

We took thousands of photos. I was looking at a couple of them just now and frankly, not too happy with them. But the act of taking photos gave us a good feeling, so we did that a lot. Maybe some day they will be fun to look through, long years from now. Heck, am sure that will be so!

The child has settled back into her usual routine of reading too much now (though she is currently asleep in a jet lag driven afternoon nap). I am trying to control the yelling. Especially since I sense some sort of change in her - a teenage-y streak.

The house is more or less back in working order. One airlock to be removed, a few kitchen items to be re-stocked, one missing maid to be urged out of laziness, couple of kittens to be evicted from the BMW, and it will be like we were never gone....

Monday, 8 April 2013

Another one!

I had another birthday. Yes. Relentless these things are, following year after year with no letting up. In the days leading up to it, I felt like this was a momentous one. Conventionally, the next one would be the 'important' one as I hit forty. But technically, my fortieth year is now running, as of yesterday, so I was gulping a lot and feeling a bit excited, a bit worried.

So, 39 years old. Seriously, when I was in grad school, especially that bad bad year 2000 when I thought the whole world was against me (I still feel that sometimes, but 2000 was the worst, I swear, because I was living in someone's living room and drinking a lot of ginger flavoured brandy), I was pretty sure I wouldn't make it this far. Ridiculous, I know!

The thirties have been great actually - who knew? I had a baby. The baby is a big girl and we share footwear already, now. We have a home. With a giant swing and a wooden staircase. I found running. Or maybe it found me. My friends circle exploded and diversified big time. There were bad times but the good easily outnumbered those. I have very less to complain about, really.

In fact, I am ready to move on to my forties. I can't wait for these 365 days (364 now) to pass so that I will be 40 years old, fully and totally. Somewhere along the way, I felt like my thirties were much more enjoyable then my twenties. So of course I am hopeful that the forties will be even better!

For now I leave you with children on the swing. Yes, it can handle all of them together!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Mum's the word

I was away this past weekend, attending a wedding, somehow feeling super tired, and catching up with family. I go months without talking to my aunts & uncles, and I only very rarely meet the relatives next removed. Life is busy and I don't get too down thinking about this, but when I see them it feels so good. Plus there is my grandmum, who is pretty awesome.

I am reading the Murakami (1Q84), and I needn't tell you how brilliant it is. Mum read a couple of chapters and decided its a book of short stories. Nothing I said (in Page 512 at that point of time), could convince her otherwise, so I let it go. Which is the best strategy sometimes. No big deal.

She started quizzing me about my early childhood memories. Now this is a tricky thing, right. Sis and I have to talk about this stuff with regular disclaimers that we don't blame her for anything. Not that anything bad happened to us, just the regular parts of growing up and so on, but mum, she is getting increasingly sensitive about this stuff.

So I told her innocuous things. Like I remember being three or so and sitting reciting the alphabet. I was on the living room couch, I remember. It was brown that year. Dad was in his favourite cane chair. I asked him after I got done 'was that capital letters or small?' Of course I don't think this is a pure memory because the story has been told many times in family circles. (As evidence of what, I don't know).

I remember being in our little garden. Early morning, checking out the dew drops, climbing on the gate, plucking the delicate white jasmines, praying, snuggling up to mum early morning inside the mosquito netting, yeah well, lots and lots of things. These are like snapshots in my brain. Not videos. So I have to order them chronologically now.

I was always super tiny. They sent me to a different school than my sister, for a little bit. Because it was closer to home. And it would be easier to not lose me despite my Thumbelina like size. Or something. Well, that school sucked big time and I regularly had to deal with boys who would take off their shorts and run around and all sorts of nonsense like that.

Not that I told my parents any of that. How was I to know? I thought that was how things were in schools. Finally someone figured out that this school was terrible and they pulled me out. I don't remember too much but I think I can picture the scene where a bunch of us kids were taken by one of the maids hired for the purpose, to the school, in the morning.

My mum was always very busy. She was studying for her M.Ed. (when I picked up random words like 'curriculum' and 'corroborate' from her in my Thumbelina avatar). Then she was working at an Institute for Language Studies (where I hung out for ages after school amidst the mango and banyan trees with my quiet friend Vijayalakshmi-with the short cropped stylish hair-style).

Then the old folk at home fell sick one by one and she was busy dealing with that (while I branched out and went to school and figured I was good in studies but not so much in eating and waited the whole day to snuggle up to her in the early mornings). Then she started on her Phd (and I really think I wanted to help her, though all I did was grade the numerous exams she gave kids for the sake of her data).

Although she is right here, few hours away, I miss her a lot. I want to tell her everything. I want to sit down and have a good cry on her lap. But I don't. I spent a lot of time talking to her this weekend. We discussed family politics. Some philosophical musing type stuff. We talked about the kids. We talked about the wedding. And my work. And her apartment. Neither of us talked about ourselves, our feelings, as usual.

(And I still haven't directly told her I ran the Ultra Marathon in December)

Friday, 15 March 2013

That motherhood gig

It has been a while since I talked about this whole being a mommy deal. I think the last time I complained about how the child liked all things pink (and purple). Well, we have come a long way from there. Now, she calls these two colours 'vile' and 'hurting to the eye' and says they must be avoided at all costs. Her favourite colours are, apparently, blue, and green.

Not that I am not complaining about this. We built a whole bedroom and bathroom based on those colour schemes (by and large), and she barely deigns to use those. And I couldn't find blinds in a matching colour so went with a neutral brown which is what most of the house has, and that, apparently, is a reason to avoid her room. And the monsters that are under her bed (precious little space down there for monsters, but hey).

My niece is now a bonafide teenager, and my nephew is getting close. My child is up next (still a few years away technically). We had the kids over a few months ago at home and it was pretty nice, overall, so I am hopeful that those years won't be as scary as they are in my head. But it is fair to say that I have turned to be a very different mother than in my ideal-case scenario.

I wasn't a dreamy sort of pregnant girl, in fact, I was a shit scared pregnant girl who was pretty miserable most of the time through those months. Despite the fact that I was healthy as a horse (a healthy horse, that is), and had not even a sniffle to complain about. I had edema of course, but big deal, everyone does. It was stressful and busy so I didn't dream forward to when my baby would be nine years old or anything.

But I had some ideas. That I would be a 'cool' parent that wouldn't be too hung up. That I wouldn't lose my temper at my child, or ever raise my hand at her (or him - didn't know that I would be lucky enough to be blessed with a baby girl, I was secretly hoping for a girl of course, but didn't want to say it out loud just in case). That we would read and sing and study together.

Maybe reality is a little bit different. Instead of getting the 'best of both' - the good characteristics from each of us - she seems to have inherited a healthy mix of good and bad. Which is how it invariably is, of course, but damn frustrating. Anyway it doesn't matter a whole deal because everyday I discover that however much she annoys me, it doesn't change how I feel about her. Which is very different than how I think about the adults that I love.

Yes, I am worried about teenage, and college, and her friends, and their parents, and everything. I think I am ready for the challenge, I feel confident (sometimes) that I will deal with it, but I do worry. And when I look at her after she falls asleep at night, I feel so overwhelmed with worry and emotion, it hurts. No, I was not expecting this back in March 2004 when I was sitting around sweating miserably in the Mumbai heat.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Have you searched your soul lately?

I love soul-searching. I try to do it as often as I can. In fact, my leading complaint lately is that I don't have quiet, alone time in which I can think. Or jot down ideas. Or soul search. "I don't worry about it. I will find time to think if I want to" dismisses my husband when I ask him if he goes through the same deal.

I had a quick, business-like chat with my mum, my only surviving parent, today. It felt good. I know I should do it more often. I am at exactly that mid-point phase of my life, I guess. I feel the dual pulls of motherhood and daughterhood equally, and both of them hurt, in a good way. In a 'I have so much to be thankful for' way.

My father was a perfectionist (by his own claim and admission). It took a lot to please him. From the simplest of things - like how his handkerchief was ironed, for e.g., to the tough ones - like my mum's Phd thesis chapters. Which she wrote painstakingly, burning much oil well past midnight, and he proof read for her, taking way-too-long to finish the work.

We are all, in some sense, messed up by our parents, I suppose. I was (am) very close to both of them. When I was small (age-wise, I mean), I was inseparable from my mum. As I hit teenage, my thirst for independence overwhelmed my need to be closely attached to her. I suspect she was also changing at that point of time - at least her life was changing, and we had less time for each other.

Due to the big elephant in our living room - dad's health - we all tiptoed around other parts of our lives, as much as we could. It was almost embarrassing, in light of all he was going through, to talk about your problems. Not that I had much to worry about, being a very disciplined child (something that I get entirely from mum), I was on top of all my shit.

He was hungry to learn, my dad. Constantly reading, and thinking. We were starved for good reading material, in those days. Not like now, when I can download it and read it on my phone. He used to read a certain book on Chemistry so often, I would have expected he'd know it by heart. He'd sit down and analyse any new device that showed up - and experiment with everything.

He was mostly unsuccessfully in his research, I think. When I got frustrated with anything that 'didn't work' the first time I tried it (or the second or third or fiftieth time, like with our joint effort to make a mirror out of a piece of glass), he would say "Did you enjoy it? Did you learn something from it? Did you analyse it scientifically? Well then, there you go."

Mom on the other hand is, to date, a completely un-analytical person. She will ingest any theory you throw at her. She used to make a file filled with newspaper cuttings for me - offering advice and tips on everything from menstrual cramps to yoga and anything in between. She stopped now because she knows I dismiss all things written in newspapers...

And so I plod on, at the mid-point between these two whose genes I inherited. I have no lazy bone in my body; and I like to be speedy in everything. Which makes me so very like my mum. But every so often, I want to be left alone, to think and analyse things, to search high and low in my mind, to re-read my books for the umpteenth time, for no tangible reason and just..sort..of..float...

Thursday, 28 February 2013

A stitch in time...

I loved to think about all these idioms and sayings in my now long forgotten youth. I distinctly recall thinking 'A stitch in time saves nine...' and prrrrr.. tearing the hem off a skirt of mine. Of course my skirts were all hemmed up with giant bits of cloth in the bottom, so they could be lengthened if I grew (which I never did, so, such a waste).

I ran that slightly hard race in Auroville. It wasn't hard per se, I will say. I mean, I felt better on the trail than I did in previous occasions. But there is always a combination of factors, no? I felt a tightness in my calf. I was hobbling around a bit for a few days after that, with that tightness.

When I feel niggles, I force myself to back the hell off. I hate to not exercise, I don't sleep peacefully when I get those extra hours in the morning on days I choose to not work out, but I do it. Because I have to be kind to my body. Or something.

So I was all cool and smug about my calf once it felt better. I was telling myself it was good that I rested it and rolled it and then ran slow to give it a chance to loosen up and recover. And was trying to advertise a product, a panacea, a cure-all, called the 'Gentle Run' ; just can that stuff, someone.

On Saturday I had decided on a rest day anyhow. I woke up early to drop the child off at swimming, came back home and slept again. Dragged myself up at some stage and we went back to pick her up. They were chilling and playing dodgeball at the pool. I sat down to read or play with my phone.

But she insisted I join the dodgeball game. It was all hodgepodge. I was in hawai chappals, wearing my loose sunglasses and my hair all over my face in a loose clip in the back. No sports bra. No warm up. It was that nasty hard tar road with pits. I should have just refused, but didn't want to be a spoil sport.

Long story short, I jumped up, avoided the ball nicely, remembered my years of dodgeball (was pretty good at it, even if I say so myself and there is no way of verifying), and somehow managed to run the time out for the game without getting out. And then hobbled back home and prescribed myself bed rest for the rest of the weekend..

Because I couldn't put my leg down on the ground at all without searing pain through my calves. I was pretty sure something was broken because it was a lot of pain. Or maybe I am a wuss. I was miserable through the weekend and in a grumpy mood all the way up to yesterday. It still hurts but I seem to have gotten back most of the range of motion I need.

If I run this weekend without incident I will be happy. No, I did not meet the doctor though I came close to making an appointment with him several times over the past few days. No, I don't know if this is smart or just plain stupid of me. I just don't feel like popping pills or taking MRIs right now. And my gut tells me that this is something I can cure with some rest and good attitude.

So off I go, to work on that damned attitude of mine. Meanwhile, let it be noted that I sincerely hope that I am never foolish enough to participate in half-assed games and things when I am not feeling in great shape and am in the middle of a 'rest day'. I am not 25 anymore, you know... 

Monday, 18 February 2013

The party at Auroville 2013

Around here people run marathons as often as...they occur. Who knows? I might do this next year. But this year, I ran the Mumbai Marathon in January, and intended to run only the Auroville Half Marathon in February. This was a smart choice as I took a (forced) week of rest after SCMM 2013; and felt in no shape for a full on Feb 10th.

My husband was also running his first Auroville half. We had run the 10km together (well, we start together but don't really run together) last year, and sort of hated it. Its hard to run a fast 10k on the trail, especially in vibrams, so I was a bit blah about it. He didn't like it either, for some reason. So I signed us both up for the half this year.

We reached there on Saturday, child in tow. We had lunch (which sucked), and headed to Auro. We picked up our bibs (no frills, a bib, 4 pins), and went to visit an aunt. Played with the kids, and dogs, and returned fairly early to the hotel room for some room service dinner. I flipped through the Murakami, as usual.

The race was really awesome. We reached the start point late (which was bad, but, whatever). I bobbed and weaved to get to my comfortable pace group, and then stuck like a leech to my pace. The goal was to run strong and at even pace. I was armed with my phone, and a gu. No music even.

Not that you need music in Auroville. Such a beautiful place. This is my fourth outing here, and I think it looks somewhat familiar now. I felt peaceful, every step was giving me more joy. I felt a little fatigued around the 12km mark, probably thanks to the rushing at the start line. I told myself 'only 9km more in this serene are going to miss it till next year, enjoy it Aghalayam.'

I had only one slightly difficult interaction where a guy was bearing down on me and a slow, slightly large person was directly in front of me in a single-file-only type part of the trail. I was like 'Oh Shit' and tried to tell the person in front that I had to pass on her right ('cause we were all too close and I couldn't stop my feet).

Well she turned right at exactly the time I was passing her and bam, my shoulder connected with her arm and I had to mutter 'Sorry' a lot. The guy meanwhile was pissed off at both of us and took off ahead. Oh well. It was deep into the race and I never have full control of my legs in such situations. But I guess I should, henceforth.

Aside from that, I really enjoyed the run. I took a couple of water breaks though I didn't really need them. I pulled in comfortably to the finish in what was 1:58 on my watch and 1:59 on the race clock (Officially 2:00). My left calf was tight for a few days, I think because my even-pace goal meant I pushed a bit after 15kms or so.

Thats my speed graph (vs. time), and considering that its a winding trail, I am pretty happy with it. I have a twinge of regret about that first kilometer - which I would have run better if I wasn't stressed out about the clock going off as I was walking from the loo. But, that gives me unfinished business to deal with next year, so its not so bad!

We ate at a roadside dhaba on our return journey. Some simple sambar saadam and poriyal and kootu. It was funny to watch the child try to eat buttermilk-rice with her hands on a banana leaf!! We stopped by Point Return, to meet up with the farmers. It was super to breathe in the fresh air, chat, and walk around their vegetable patches.

I zoned out in the kitchen with the farm fresh veggies and cooked up a storm of a dinner which was polished off in no time and then Monday was another day and it was all back to usual work. I had an interesting week for sure with a Delhi trip, and workouts, and hanging out and should have technically almost forgotten about Auroville by now, but I haven't. It was very fun! 

Friday, 8 February 2013

No one buys me omelets anymore

I make friends easily. I like talking. I can talk to walls. And trees. And stones. I can talk to people of all ages. I am full of small conversation. It does tire me sometimes when I talk for hours with people I don’t know very well so I have to use my head to think up topics. But I do it. And then the next few times it is not as difficult.

But I don’t have someone I talk to every day. I mean, aside from my husband of course. And that too nowadays  - I talk to him a little bit as he has the free time. Else with all the running around, we stuck to minimal conversations, dealing with the key things and leaving philosophical musings aside. For years.

I think that’s what sucks about modern relationships. I mean, if it doesn’t suck as much for you, that is wonderful. But the long distance thing is just terrible as far as I am concerned. I should know, as we were ‘real’ long distance for five years, living in different states.

Even when we solved that problem though, it was not like we had oodles of time to shoot the breeze, so to say. Life has always been busy. Consultants travel , they work long hours, academics have the flexibility but also lot of disparate things to do through the day. Plus the child, and the home to run. You know.

I find that I sort of drift towards long distance friendships as well. I don’t dismiss the chance of striking up a friendship just because the person is certain to leave. So I have a number of friends spread all across the globe, and while we have shared some awesome months together, we are a long distance apart now.

And even the friends I have in the city, well, I don’t really meet them so very regularly. We have parties and social occasions together. But there are a large number of us and I hardly manage to talk to each of them for a few minutes at a time. And I fade fast and am usually dog tired and partly asleep by 10pm.

I should use the telephone more, I know. But I hate it. There are all the new cool things with video chats and so forth, I like those, but they are a bit of pain as well. I love text conversations and I think that’s the way I stay in touch with most of my friends. That’s my thing. I would find life hard without it.

I miss my long distance friends a lot. Sometimes I think about them  - some memory trigger – and feel super sad. For example, I remember how a friend of mine - now far away - surprised me once with a still-warm cheese omelet. I was starving and I think I haven’t eaten anything tastier than that in living memory…

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Another life, lemons post

So it has come to pass that I am on kitchen duty for the past couple of days. My cook has reported an unidentified back issue. The rest of the household is all up in arms (except my husband & I, who believe her) about this, as she does a fair bit of the cleaning as well. And her absence means the lackadaisical approach to cleaning my maid adopts is evident to all. Among other things.

But y'all know my life gives you lemons attitude right? It helps a lot, in such times. I feel bad for her, as she has a tough life, and hope she gets better soon. It has only been a couple of days after all, so I am feeling fine about it all. I am a bit worried about next week, of course, but I can definitely postpone that worry for a little bit.

In the meanwhile, I am enjoying my kitchen time. In the mornings, I enter post-workout for school lunch dabba + breakfast activities. We recently bought new lunch boxes for the child as the old one left much to be desired (she was using my ancient three tier box for some reason I don't recall). It is all beautiful and colourful, and she loves it.

As she is not the world's best eater, and not in the least bit adventurous, her lunch is best described as unimaginative. Everyday. Seriously. It is quite boring. Not very unhealthy, thankfully. After years of haranguing by all parties involved, she generally finishes it (it is a very small amount at any rate), but it is frustrating for me to think about.

Now that it is in my hands, I strongly feel that it is much better. I do repeat a few of the popular things every day (one of them is rasam rice, I swear). But I mix it up a fair bit. Especially if everyone else in the household can be convinced to clear out of the kitchen. Today we featured brocolli & green gram sprouts in the snack boxes, for example.

Breakfast has also been very much more enjoyable (at least for me). Eggs, fruit, oats, idlis, dosas, are all rubbing shoulders with each other. If the milk management is a little off, I am not to blame, I promise.

I discovered something about myself. I love working in the kitchen. I like EVERYTHING about it. The cutting of vegetables, cooking, cleaning, clearing up, washing dishes. Seriously, everything. It has been very fun. This is very positive and nice.

And there is one thing negative that I have discovered as well. I don't like other people in my kitchen. At all. I 'allowed' the child to chop some tomatoes for me (I was grateful, really) last night. The cook - she sort of takes over my kitchen when she is around, and of course, I tolerate it.

I remember how my mum would only reluctantly allow me kitchen time (which I loved a lot even as a child). I recall several discussions with my husband about this matter. Over the years I have worked hard to overcome at least in part this control freak nature of me. I mean, circumstances prevent me from having the luxury of ruling this part of my house. So no point frustrating myself by being up in arms about it.

This morning during my very enjoyable track workout, this is what I came up with. It has been great. I love our new kitchen and it makes me feel all gooey and heart-melty that this our home now. But I have to chill out. Take what I can get. When the opportunity presents itself, or when the situation forces my hand, I will enjoy it. There, I am chilling now. Calm. 

Monday, 28 January 2013

More Marathon Mania

Short distances races can be run impatiently, like someone set fire to your ass. But for marathons - this middle aged mommy has to dig deep from her store of patience. At least that is definitely a lesson I learnt in the recent past.

I know patience hardly sounds like a virtue in a race. It is a race, for heaven's sake. Not to be confused with a 'run' - which is what you do when you train for a race. And that infamous article (or set of articles) that said that all the 'slow' runners in the marathon races were fucking it up for the others? Well, there is that.

My mental transition over my years of running has been fun to watch. I know, for you it probably is akin to watching paint dry, but I have enjoyed it. I like this sort of stuff. I like to write about it too so that ten years out I can come back and laugh at myself. Which is another quality that one should hold on dearly to, in addition to patience, if you ask me - the ability to laugh at oneself.

Yes, I started out with that typical attitude. Having tasted the 'tape' - so to say - in my youth - with the head dip at the end of the 100 or 200m distances, I started off being very enamored still with speed. My occasional-coach used to say, "Run the 100m with everything you got. If I so much as poke you at the end, you must fall down."

Well, I don't think I figure out what THAT means till I started running long distance. But still, I ran strong, and hard, and with determination, even if my training was haphazard and looked at only indulgently by my ever-busy parents. I did passably well, and more than anything, really enjoyed running. Even the time I ran barefoot on synthetic track and it tore away my sole.

Over my years of moving up the evolution chain to a long distance runner, and who knows, an endurance athlete perhaps in the future, I have had to pretty much re-learn running. Stand it completely on its head, so to speak. Replace my long strides with shuffling ones, among other things.

In my youth, I relied on my natural speed, big calves, low body weight, and a strong mind to achieve a little success. I used the same to advantage in Basketball, surprising bigger players into committing costly mistakes within range of my ball-pilfering arms; then sprinting away on a fast break. This is not enough for long distance races. And doesn't work for my life right now.

I don't like to fall down. I like to keep on walking. I like to go to work on Monday mornings after a Sunday race. I like to feel some pain in my legs when I stand up, and perhaps a moment or two of tiredness of an afternoon, but I want to be out there, teaching, preaching, reading, meeting on Mondays, after a marathon.

So I have learnt, that one has to be patient. In the first half of the race, my entire struggle is to keep it slow, calm, easy. Nothing insane. The second half of the race is really the challenge. When hidden reserves of strength, sense of humour, discipline, mental fortitude, come into play. In fact, that is the only thing to train for.

The beauty is, three marathons in, all I want to do is run more of them. Not immediately, because I want to give my body the benefit of recovery, and more training. But once that is done, I want to be get back at the start line. In the meanwhile, I will patiently work on the kinks! Till then...

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Mumbai Marathon 2013

Yes, that is me. It was that hot and dusty Azad Maidan. That green stuff was dusty too. But then I was beyond the point of caring. My third full marathon. Technically fourth time running that monster distance. The sun was blazing - the kind that can tan even a brown person... 

The Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon is a race I don't like to miss. I signed up within the first 8 hours of the registration opening this year. Exchanging frantic emails to get beyond the problem I had with the malfunctioning timing chip last year. I jumped with joy when they accepted my entry. 

I swore I would train hard for it. That I would undo all my past mistakes, enjoy the run, be strong, and just go there and kick ass. I was going to do speed workouts! Superbly co-ordinated long runs! Core and ab workouts! I was going to do SO MUCH!

Well, I didn't. I did like 2 sessions of Yasso the entire season. I did 2 decent long runs. I ran an Ultra (50km) to Mahabalipuram - which worked more to train my mind than my legs ('cause I was slower than GMP). I picked up a whole range of random niggles that were super irritating, and my ankles complained constantly. 

After a tough Hyderabad Marathon, I had decided to only train for the SCMM starting December. And I had a simple plan in mind, because of the niggles, I wasn't going to get aggressive unless I received some cues from my body that it was ready. That cue never came. I concentrated on a fair bit of strength training - quite diligently. The rule I followed in this was that different major muscles would be worked on different days.

My upper body actually started looking very toned, though my core - despite extensive work on it - looked mushy. Legs were fine. No changes there. The Ultra was a good test of the legs. They help up beautifully, recovered superbly. Beyond that I did very sensible little runs, a lot of it on the track, to save my feet. I didn't know what to expect, going into this marathon - wasn't even sure how to chalk out a strategy. So I just went with common sense. 

The plan was simple. Hold myself back in the beginning, because I am convinced that thats a recurring mistake in my racing - though it has been giving me very good times in the Half marathon distance, the body isn't at that stage for the full. Not yet. So, start slow. I promised to hit myself if I sped up to insane paces at the start. The goal was a 2:10 first half. 

I hoped that with the experience of all the high mileage runs, I could figure out a 2:20-ish second half.  That would still give me a 4:30-ish time, a sure Personal Best (SCMM 2012 - 4:35; Hyd Marathon 2012 - 4:39). In fact, I declared that Plan A was 4:34:59 for the PB. I felt confident about it, though more than the time itself, what I wanted was that I stay strong throughout those hours on the Mumbai roads.

There is my poor, battered old device. Held together by lots of scotch tape, and much love. I don't know why I don't replace it. Well, at least it lasted till I did. I pulled in to the finish in Personal Best time. My body co-operated very well; I didn't cramp; nothing insane like my hip (which was hurting) breaking (seriously, I get idiotic ideas like that) occurred. 

I took an extra day to recover compared to my usual. I was limping around a bit all Sunday and Monday; which is the thing I am going to try to fix next time. For now, I feel like I have finished the homework, written the exam, and passed the SCMM 2013. I enjoyed my day out in the Mumbai sun, the people were lovely, and it was a good vacation trip. I was stronger than last year, by far, see my pace graphs below for comparison!

SCMM 2012:: 

SCMM 2013::

(note that the scale of the bottom graph is much smaller!)

Why do I run? Truly and honestly because I enjoy it. "Conservative strategy" said my friend when I discussed the gory details of my race with him. Well, that was the plan, and I am grateful and feel very lucky that I could make a plan and stick to it, very well. My life didn't dramatically change on 20 Jan, after the race, but I did feel very happy and content inside me, surrounded by my friends, welcomed at the finish by my husband, euphoric from the running... 

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Airport Tales

I was in the Mumbai. Yes. It was annual pilgrimage time for the marathon. But more on that later!
Usually I travel all by my own lonesome self. To and fro. I don't mind. I pick reasonable times of day to travel; these are familiar places; rusty though my hindi might be, I can get around. I carry a phone, I call friends, I keep my eyes open.

This time, on the way in, we were four of us from Chennai on the same plane. A kind friend web checked me in. I don't know how to do that, you see. We got the seats with the leg room. As the nice lady instructed me on the emergency protocol, the guys sniggered and I had to try hard not to giggle.

I memorised the instructions and repeated it back to my audience, no worries. I was whisked around royally without a worry or care from the airport to the expo, and lunch, and finally to our hotel. It was awesome not to have to do these things all by my own self. I felt quite pampered, and grateful for these nice people who are now my friends.

On the way back, as per our agreement, I met up with ludwig in the airport. He messaged me a lot of cruel things, claimed to have some communicable disease or the other, said he hated me and so forth, but I nevertheless sallied forth bravely into the tiger-cave, so to say.

As we downed a couple of beers and lamented our old age and tendency for anything we put into our mouths to turn into fat, I decided to discuss something seriously with him. You know, just like that. But it was interesting to see how scared he got when I whipped out the computer and started noting stuff down.

Ludwig & I are friends for like eons. We go back a long way. In a way things have a come a full circle - he was my 'junior' in college here; and in grad school in Amherst; and we occupied real estate in Cambridge together; and moved back to Chennai recently, within months of each other.

All my life I have acted like I am one of the guys. I think my older friends also treat me like that, you know, because I drink beer, and can swear a little bit, and don't wear nail polish or take forever during bathroom breaks. So I can get away with these questions I wanted to ask. Even if the generalisation is ridiculous, and I have taken to drinking less than before.

"Taser guns, missiles, and such armaments is what I recommend, to make this world a safer place for women," said my dear friend. I am a non-violent person, actually so is he. But things are getting desperate now, at least thats what I am inclined to believe. "Men are pigs, you say then?" I asked him. He nodded. "Turn the other cheek" - well thats old hat now.

I am a lucky girl. I have friends. I am independent. I have my invisibility cloak (ludwig has seen this - so has the deshvaasi - and it really irritates my husband because he thinks I do it on purpose) that shields me. But the world out there? Is not nice. Its not about men or women or definitions of molestation and rape and harassment. There is a reality, that we all need to accept, its not nuanced, this reality.

The world is not a safe place. Not for you, me, our children, or our parents. We need to learn, we need to speak, we need to work hard to make ourselves heard. I love to travel. My family enjoys my travels, through me. On this trip though, I was glad I wasn't alone. My idealism is taking a beating now. I was glad to hang with all of you. Real glad. 

Thursday, 10 January 2013

The problem with feminists...

The “real problem” in those years, he says, “was Rosy. The thought could not be avoided that the best place for a feminist is in another’s lab.”
He being James Watson. Yes. The same one. Precocious American with the messy hair who built the double helix model of DNA. The model that rocked our world - the one he says looked "So pretty it had to be correct"

Rosalind Franklin was the feminist he was dismissing. I don't know. Does the fact that you are an intelligent woman with opinions of your own, and the tendency to disagree with men's opinions on the basis of facts, make you a feminist? If so, yes, she was.

I read this book (so late!), and I swear it was like reading a racy thriller of a novel. Although, yesterday in the morning, my husband said that he indulged in a marathon viewing of some show on his ipad, and slept late. I said "be like me, so disciplined, they were so close to discovering the double helix structure, the metal plates to make the adenine, thymine etc. models were in the shop, but I still closed the book and fell asleep..."

It was just as well. I get emotional about this stuff. So Watson & Crick built the model and everyone was happy with it, and per Watson, everyone was surprisingly encouraging, even all the folks they were 'competing' with - Linus Pauling for one; and I cried. 

Watson says this of an organist chemist in this lab - Jerry - that he wasn't one to shoot his mouth off unless he knew for certain that he was right. Jerry pointed out some stuff in textbooks that were wrong. And this helped Watson slide in one more piece of the puzzle correctly.

What I feel is a lack of tightness in the writing is more than made up by the passion (for life first!) and youth that is evident in it. Of course they did win the nobel prize and that unavoidably biases me, but seriously, it was the best read in recent times. 

There is a lot of controversy surrounding this book - for a plethora of reasons. The most glaring one seems to be the dismissive references to Franklin - her appearance, dressing sense, attitude towards colleagues, among other things. Yes, thats annoying, but truthfully how they all felt about women scientists! 

The number of women on my own campus has been steadily increasing over the years. We are running out of space. I am in meetings where we sit around and discuss what to do about this. I get unreasonably upset if I sense that there is a tinge of regret in peoples voices. Some day we may reach equality; and I don't mean just in terms of numbers... I will dance on the streets then. 

So Watson's feelings are not entirely in our past, so it was good to see it there, in black and white. Directed towards no less a person than the one that took the very famous X-ray crystallographic image of the DNA. To his credit, Watson comes across as being in awe of her abilities with the images and their interpretation... 

So many people pass through the pages of this personal account. Franklin, who clearly missed the prize, and all the credit for the structure of the DNA, by a whisker. Pauling. Bragg. Wilkins. Crick & Watson themselves. 

Any time I read accounts of lives of scientists, I think 'I want to be that guy (or girl)'. The guy I want to be is Jerry. The organic chemist. Work hard, keep my mouth shut unless required (Fat chance!). And incidentally, by certain definitions, I am a feminist, and here in my lab, Dr. Franklin would be very welcome, any day....  

Monday, 7 January 2013

Yearly Updates

I know the time for this has probably passed, but I consider strongly making a small summary of the past year's activities - of our family - 'the year that went by'. There is surely much to be thankful for, proud of, and as always, plenty of mistakes to learn from (and hopefully, not repeat in 2013).

Some mixture of inertia, shyness, laziness and lack of time ensure that I don't indulge this. Year after year, I plan it out, write a few sentences in my head, and then.. just..drop it. As the new year brings with it new challenges and pulls me in different directions, I just forget about the past one, fairly quickly.

My postdoc advisor from more than a decade ago, has a tradition of putting together a family newsletter and sending it to tons of people on his list. In the initial years I used to receive a hard copy in the mail, though recently, they just email the pdf.

Its wonderfully put together and talks about the highs and lows, and focusses attention on the achievements of the various members of his family. As the years pass, I notice that much more space is dedicated to the kids than the older members, and it is all quite amazing.

I remember back in college when we were (briefly) the editors of the campus magazine Campastimes, how hard it was to cull the material into two pages, and no more. We followed the three column format, much like this one. And boy, it was a HUGE PAIN.

This was back in the day when computers were hard to come by. Back in the day when editing software left much to be desired. Back in the day when our proficiency with anything other than the actual writing of the articles was very rudimentary, at best.

My main interest was in the writing itself, though I admit that I got enthusiastic about the formatting and the other appearance related aspects of the magazine by the end. I have always dreamed of putting something like that together again, especially now in these 'modern' times when it ought to be much easier to do.

But when I contemplate something like this, there is a back of mind voice that discourages me. Clean up your email folder missy it seems to say. Organise your office madam, it admonishes. Read more articles, girl, it says. Oh well. We'll see.  

Friday, 4 January 2013

Terrace Tales

We moved into our new place many months ago now. I used to do some type of Shaun T or Tony Horton workout in the space just outside our bedroom in the old place. We had a TV and appleTV set up there and it was convenient. In the new place, everything was super messy till recently, and I lost this space.

The child & I used to 'celebrate terrace time' in the initial days of moving here. We used to climb up to the highest point and hang out, watching parrots and gently swaying tree branches. It was a very painful time for us all with all the activity in the house, and the carpenters and so forth. But we enjoyed some peace up on the roof, though mosquitoes mauled us.

Over the past several months, lots of things have fallen in place in the house. We have almost completed our task of identifying locations for all our stuff. Almost. Our bookshelves are groaning. We have our plants now. And yes, we have pests already attacking said plants, but thats par for the course. Our furniture is all tucked away and arranged; our bathrooms are operational.

I have been doing a fair bit of exercising up on the terrace recently. I have done my concocted 'Boot Camp' workout during the initial days after recovering from my foot injury. I have done a p90x legs and back routine many times. I have done Core Workouts there. We have spread out our dumbbells, bands, skipping rope, and my special stinky vibrams (oldest pair) up there with the tomato, brinjal and chilli plants.

I really love the place. Going up there at 6 am, especially in this slightly mild version of Chennai weather, is great. I have watched the sun rise over some trees in the distance a few times; tried valiantly to click a photo on my phone; pondered on what to do about the overflowing tank next door; and spied an old lady walking determinedly a few roofs away; variously.

This morning was the time for a shoulders and arms workout. I was mildly surprised to see my husband up and ready by the time I walked up from the kitchen with our coffee. We went up and cranked out a tough and tiring set; I brought my reference book but he pooh-poohed it saying he knows the sequence by heart...

Sis-in-law joined us in a bit and her eyebrows shot up in surprise at all the frenetic activity up on the terrace, early in the morning. We kept up our chatter even as we wound up with some extra sets of our favourite exercise. I stuck pretty much to the 5kg weights though I ventured into the 7.5kg territory for a few - like bicep curls.

We argued all the way down about everything including whether my muscles had become more defined in the near past. The child woke up and we rushed around getting ready. Its been six months now, and I think we finally feel like this is home. The name board is up in the front, and our sweat has mingled with the red tiles on the terrace floor now. Yes, its home....

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Minimalism; Hypocrisy

I own up to my hypocrisy - most times. I do a bunch of things that I don't believe in. I don't practice all that I preach - and preach I do constantly. Count the number of 'I's in that sentence alone and you get the idea; I am a selfish bum who does stuff for herself and her own pleasure and whatever is convenient for her and rest of the world be damned.

There is a larger life philosophy type thing here that I could be talking about, but let me not. Let me instead talk about... shoes.... Many months ago I spoke lovingly about a new acquisition of mine. Yes, the vibrams. As recommended in all the fora, I took my time transitioning to them. If you clicked the link, you will see I ran my first few miles in them in Jul 2011...

Now these shoes (if you can call them that), are part of what are being categorised as 'minimalist' footwear. There is lot of good and bad press about the vibrams in particular, and the whole minimalist running footwear deal in general. I have read most of it, I promise. There is a charge sheet of reasons for people choose them.

Let me disclaim. I am not into them for the 'minimalism' part of it - not in the sense of the opposite of 'consumerism'. Honestly, these guys cost something like $100 (right, MSB??), and are not available in India. The fit is tricky and they do not last very long - not even the traditional 500km of an asics. Really not saving money, mother earth, or stuff like that with this shoe.

I am not into them particularly for injury related reasons. At the time that I got convinced to try them on, I was not suffering any injury. I was OK. It was in the reasonably active part of my running agenda for the year. My ankles, knees, and shins felt reasonable if not spectacular. I was not looking at them as some kind of magic salvo...

I am not into them for speed. I admit that 2012 has been a good year. I have done at least three half marathons that I am very happy with - hitting personal bests by far, and reaching long standing (albeit arbitrary) milestones. But I owe that to a mixture of sensible training, good luck, and flat courses. I don't chase speed when I run races, in deference to my age.

My feet are sensitive - I hate the word delicate - so I will say sensitive. I hate pretty much anything I wear on my feet, but I feel happy when I wear my vibrams. I think this is the only reason I am into them. On the argument regarding cushioning shoes vs. non-cushioning ones, I am currently inclined to believe the latter- based on my analysis of my own running form.

Long story short. I ran a full marathon (Hyderabad; Aug 26th) in my vibrams. I ran the Ultra (Chennai; 50km; Dec 30th) in vibrams. It rained on both days. It was sunny after. I enjoyed the feel of the vibrams. I am training 100% of the time in them now. There are a few things I have learnt not to do in my training. Other than that, I am a convert.

Do I have pain, am I getting 'more' injured, have I gotten faster? Well, yes, no, no to those questions. I think I have some serious ground to break in terms of addressing my ankle stability, unrelated to running/shoes. I had what the doc said was 'metatarsalitis' - whatever - I backed the hell off, reduced mileage, slowed down, was sensible about it.

I just don't know if I am getting faster - I don't want to, particularly, at any rate. I am turning 39 this year. This is not a small number. I want to be able to run for years and years more. I have dreams of doing a lot of awesome sounding, super difficult races in my lifetime. I want to be sensible. I want running to be a very important part of my fitness routine. I want to continue to love it. I don't think speeding up is an agenda here....

I have a new pair of vibrams now - my third one - I am immensely grateful and thankful and really looking forward to miles on them in 2013. Yes, I hope to chip seconds here and there off my PB; and I often joke about the veteran's medal. And I am not in competition with any of you - I make my own rules; I run my own race....

On New Year's Day my cook was asking me about visiting the temple. She had just come back from there and was very happy and peaceful as a result. I changed into my running gear, strapped on my new vibrams, and went out running. Yes, it gives me peace, and more than that I don't ask for...

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

The Ultra Experience

I didn't even describe in gory detail my Hyderabad Full Marathon experience this year..oops..last year. So I guess I am allowed to go on a bit about the latest thing I ran. Just in time to welcome the new year & bid goodbye to the old one, on 30th December, 2012.

Try not to tell my mum about this. I ran a 50km Ultra from Alwarpet to Mahabalipuram. Yes. Thats 8km more than a full marathon. 8km more than I have ever run in my life. I ran for six hours. Thats almost an hour and a half more than I have ever run in my life...

The Shahid Ultra is a regular Chennai Runners feature in December. The date is usually earlier in the month, but was postponed to 30th this year in honour of the now world famous Wipro Chennai Marathon extravaganza 2012. It involves running from the usual CR gym at Alwarpet, past Kotturpuram, on to OMR and then to ECR.

On ECR you go on and on till you reach Radisson Blu in Mahabs. The Radisson Blu guys love us and provide us ice, towels, iced tea, shower stalls and a sumptuous breakfast. The ever enthu CR folks - a handful who don't run - volunteer and drive around on ECR serving as mobile hydration & fuel spots.

I declared after the SCMM in Jan that I would run the Ultra fully this year (last year I ran 28kms, starting from the Uthandi Toll Booth and ending up in time for hot breakfast at the hotel). I felt good enough in the first part of the year to not regret that statement. The second part of the year was terrible and I couldn't seem to catch a break.

They call me Drama Queen, and I guess I am that person who is never satisfied with her preparation or performance, but this time I was genuinely worried. I had that foot pain (no, not Plantar), I am definitely 1 kg heavier, my core seems to have disappeared somewhere, I fell sick several times with colds, coughs, stomach cramps, and so on.

I don't even dare look at my workout notebook too closely  - yes, I have moved to writing this stuff down in a diary. Ever since I started strength training somewhat seriously and feel the need to write down names of the exercises and reps & weights. The notebook makes me feel worried, and fat.

But I had promised KP that we would run. Rocket was going to run with us. Krishna had promised to support us by driving around and giving us whatever things and encouragements we needed. I had decided to use the Run Walk method, in a bid to ensure that my legs stay safe for SCMM - I have loved the Run Walk whenever I have done long runs that way.

I did a strong 28km last week. Then went off to Bangalore and ate a lot and felt cold and anemic and sick. My mum started yelling at me and asking me if I am eating Calcium supplements (I am not). I promised her that I would eat multivitamins (I didn't buy them yet). We had a house party, I slogged for it.

I drank a little (not much thankfully) on Friday; and slept at 3 am. On Saturday I woke up late and cleaned up and stuff and took the child to Landmark. I sat in uncomfortable chairs feeling tired but proud of my little one spelling 'Quatrain' and 'Clairvoyant' & so on with consummate ease. She came in fourth (missing by a whisker, and spelling 'Nauseous' perfectly). I drove back home.

We had family visiting. Power was cut all over the area. I returned to a fully dark home. I was calculating furiously when I had to sleep to get enough rest. Food in the fridge had gone bad. The kids were getting antsy. It was raining. Mosquitoes were feasting royally in the absence of GoodKnight power....

I didn't think about much. We dropped everyone off at my in-laws place, and the two of us decided to eat out so we could charge our mobiles (which were dead). We argued loudly about our respective parenting styles and I tried hard to eat extra but couldn't. Slept at 10 pm (power had returned by then) only to wake up at 11 pm amidst very loud banging of some sort.

Counted sheep to fall asleep again till the alarm went off at 2:45. Got ready, felt fine, hitched a ride with Rocket's kind husband, and then that was that. The enthu of the CR carried me through after that. We started running at 3:30am. The pace groups split almost immediately. We silently passed through the dark city, chatting only desultorily.

Soon we hit ECR and plodded on determinedly towards the goal. We used a 5:1 run walk during the first hour, a 4:1 run walk during the second one, 3:1 during hour three, and 2:1 after that till the bitter end. I expected cramps and pain and much suffering. But I was just fine. I look at my garmin data and feel super happy - consistent throughout.

We started off as a group of 6. Two pulled back at the Uthandi toll booth. The four of us stuck together very well till almost the very end. After the toll booth, it became my task to call out the run and walk breaks. I used my voice till I could, and then just recoursed to raising my hand to indicate to the others. Finally I just stopped when the 2 min period finished and hoped the others noticed...

I check on myself periodically during long runs. Mental faculty - was great throughout. I could count, and was counting steps like crazy. Feet felt fine, despite the rain (thanks to vibrams!!). I wore a cap and sunglasses when the sun came out so my eyes and head were happy. Thanks to my friends driving around, I consumed orange slices, banana pieces, gatorade and water in sufficient amounts so stomach felt perfect.

I have never done anything so crazy in my life I don't think. I don't usually give myself the option of not finishing something I start, but you never know, right? Weather is a big unknown, and even after all these years, I still don't know enough about my body. Whatever it is, I am very glad and grateful and happy to finish off 2012 on a strong note...