Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Why Don't I Feel More Bummed Out?

Back In March Me Being All Gung-Ho About A Random Sunday Run... 

The most important growth as a runner is the ability to be positive through injuries, don't you think? Here I was, just a month ago, thinking, hmm, it feels like a niggle. It should work out fine with a few days of rest. Then a couple of weeks later with a few runs, testing the niggle out gingerly, which didn't go too well. But kind of not too worried 'cause the Half Marathon I was training for MONTHS for was still a couple of weeks away.

I stayed positive and did all my home remedies including being optimistic and not succumbing to the vicious cycle of waking up late - skipping workouts - losing motivation - feeling ungainly and unfit - lacking energy - needing more sleep - waking up late. I did OK, slogging it out in the gym or cycling, and hoping for best.

And then one day it hit me - BOOM! This wasn't going to happen. It hurt in new and different ways everyday. The pain never really went away though it was never severe enough to wake me up. Finally I did the sensible thing and went to the doc. Who was encouraging and said you are right, it is the dreaded Plantar Fascitis.

He said he did not hate hate me, although I was one of those people - you know - who self-diagnose and self-treat (not self-medicate - that I won't do - I swear) and mess everything up before finally succumbing and going to the doc. He said chill, it's alright, continue all the good stuff runners do when they get PF. And rest up.

He was even all fine with me running as long as I took it easy after and before, and did some pampering. Till he heard about my minimalist shoes. And my 41 years of age. And the fact that I was traveling till the evening before the race. You shouldn't run this half marathon in my medical opinion, he said, and that, was that.

Thanks to all the collective advice of lots of people, I managed to not ruin the foot despite the travel - it wasn't very hectic travel admittedly - despite having to wake up at 3am on one of the days (I did my usual trick of sleeping from before take-off to after landing - a handy hack I use very effectively when I travel alone). But still, Saturday night I took myself to bed, with no race stress.

I even woke up early on Sunday, dressed in Dryfit finery and went to the race start/finish point by bike. I wheeled my trusty steed all around and met up with tons of folks who were running or cheering. I hung around a fair bit, and returned home very happy at having met all these crazy runner friends of mine. I expected it would hurt a lot (emotionally) that I was missing out on the fun. I only had a pang of regret that I didn't volunteer at the aid station (actually the doc told me not to. He said it is probably worse than running! Thanks, doc!).

Aside from that I was generally fine and happy and looking ahead. So yes, not bummed out much about missing the Dream Runners Half Marathon for the first time since inception. I have run three years in a row and the fourth was going to be super good for me, with all that training under my belt and all. It was not meant to be, I guess!

So here goes me, all positive and optimistic, enjoying a few more weeks of non-running workouts - I am hitting the gym, though sometimes a tad dejected when I see my form in the mirror; I am cycling, despite the crumminess of my bike; I even swam yesterday, after much haranguing by the child and a few insults flung my way. I may suck at all these things, but then there is no recent evidence that I am good at running either, so I pull on the big girl undies and plod on! 

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Bike It Like You Mean It

Right. So this past weekend I did something that sounded crazy. I went on this super long bike ride. The deal was like this. I was missing running, big time. I was killing it in the gym but you know how it is. It is not the same thing. I don't dislike the gym but running be my first love, you know. 

Anyway since I couldn't run long, I figured I should try this long bike ride and see how it goes. Thankfully, a bunch of my friends were going for it as well. And the start point was like 400m from my house, at this new cycle-themed restaurant called Ciclo Cafe. The actual distance of the ride was 80Km.

Yes, 80Km. But they warned us not to try to ride 80Km all in one go. Meaning, if you hadn't done long-ish rides before, don't go for it, they said. And being an endurance athlete and all (ahem!), it made all kinds of sense to me. Besides, I have a very basic bike. Like no gears or anything, just very very basic. 

So my plan going in was to get a 2 hour workout out of the thing. But my friends - the two you see up there - convinced me to ditch the time goal and go for a distance goal. The cycling peeps are big into distances. I mean, yeah, runners are also, but these guys are into 10s of Kms!! 50Km, they said. The second we hit 25Km we hook a U, they said.

I was OK with that. Based on my solo rides that I do periodically, I know that around 3mins/Km is what I can generally maintain, without much effort, for about an hour. Sometimes, I drop off after that, if I feel thirsty or my thighs hurt, or the sun is crazy etc. I figured that was a good goal for this one, with a broad idea of trying to keep the pace steady. 

I have no idea how to pace myself on the bike since I am pretty inexperienced in long bike rides. Of course I have been riding a bike for the past 30 years and am comfortable on it, and I have been riding in Chennai traffic for a few years now so I am not over-worried about that either. But still, the longest ride I had done till Sunday was 33Km or so which I did back in Aug 2014 ('cause I was injured and pissed off at being injured & not being able to run). 

I am anything but sensible anyhow, so off we went. It was pretty fun actually! I found myself whistling to myself sometimes or just chatting with my buddies. It was very peaceful. I was not thirsty or hurting or anything at all. I had my garmin on and was calling Kms periodically. I was sight-seeing happily, noting the various offices and stuff we encountered. 

Without any regrets that various folks resolutely headed to the 40Km turn-off point, the three of us turned back at 25Km as planned. On the way back my bums felt a bit sore and we all joked about our sore bums. We took a couple of water breaks. I felt pretty good throughout. And was looking forward to the breakfast that was promised, and sorting through the various things I had to do through the rest of the day, in my mind. We took ~2.5hours for the 50Km, which was not bad, and within what had seemed sensible at the beginning.

Right, then I waved my friend on and decided to pop home for a second to hand over the house keys to my maid, who was waiting. I did that, and headed back to Ciclo Cafe to partake of my breakfast. I felt thirsty so, as I was doing all along, I grabbed my bottle from my waist pack and was drinking it. You know how this goes, right?

I hit an uneven section of the road, the bike flew, and I, thankfully, did not fly, but with my 3 decades worth of bike riding in my instincts, let go of the bike and fell on my side. As this is a men's bike, I couldn't do what I would have done with a ladies bike and throw it away from me. It fell on me. It was hilarious. Security guards from all surrounding houses showed up to see what the hell I'd done.

Long story short, it wasn't too bad. Nothing broken, except for a bit of skin in my palm. And some nasty blood clots on my thigh and shoulder. The front light popped out, but it's fixable. No big whoop. In all this one thing I was glad about was wearing pants. 'Cause you DON'T want to tumble from a big old men's bike on the street where you live while wearing tiny running shorts. At least this 41 year old doesn't. :-) 

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Gone up in smoke

The last couple of weeks of non-teaching summer time are here. I have been dreading the second half of July this entire summer. One reason is that I didn't feel like I got a good break this year. Yes, we had a bit of a vacation in Yelagiri back in May. And I have been spending time at home on domestic tasks and fixing the cracks in the wall. But my 'me' time - involving much decompression, focussed running, bunch of reading, bit of writing, well I haven't had that this year.

I am not saying that such luxuries are mine every year. Something or the other crops up for sure. Like I remember one summer when my sole goal and focus was on getting an air conditioner fitted in my office. Uff. At least when the semester rolled around I was like 'Hells Yeah Bring On The Undergrads! With AirCon In My Office I feel Ready' - so it was something.

I had hopes for this summer, I swear. I was going to be in fit fighting running ninja shape (hello, Plantar Fasciitis). I was going to go miles ahead in my writing project (well, the universe conspired to delay it enough that I just got Step 1 done last week. Forget the miles). I was going to be Domestic Goddess and get the house painted (Where the hell are my paint samples now, dammit?). I even downloaded the paint app on my phone (It sucks royally as well, pun intended, crashes every 3 seconds). I was going to move offices (this is a long tale that will follow anon).

Anyway, here we are. Trying to count the positives. My foot is feeling better today. I have overcome the laziness and started cycling a bit. I am stretching like it's going out of style. I am done with all the left over grading, evaluating and other stuff as of this afternoon. And I am 30% of the way through my office move, which I finally started yesterday. There is this circular Indian problem that I often encounter.

Thank you Arun 

In this case it goes like this: To move the air-conditioner from Office A to Office B involves:
1. Removing ac from Office A
2. Cut window in Office B
3. Board up window in Office A
4. Affix ac in Office B
These tasks cannot be done in linear fashion, because, monkeys. The crew for steps 2&3 is different from the crew for 1&2. I didn't want them to do step 1 till step 3 was assured, as I have my stuff in Office A still and I already had a bit of a monkey attack 'cause I left the window slightly open and they squeezed their adept fingers in and stole my cloth purse with play-doh. Last week.

Office B is part of a wider lab with tons of equipment and students. They don't want step 2 done before step 4 is assured. Also because it is on the ground floor, and not just monkeys, but snakes. Besides, we discovered while fiddling around with the window, that there was a beehive or a wasps nest of some sort. The creatures starting bzzing around the lab and it was like OKAY NOW.

In the middle of all this, I am demanding that they clean the fan. Trust me, it needs cleaning. And my student says the floor is sloping (I don't care about this one as much as I should). I need a new table 'cause my current table is from the British era and is constructed from concrete or iron though it looks wooden. And the best part of it all is that the switches for the light and fan in my office cabin are located miles away at the entrance to the lab. Dimwits.

I mean, the Tiger, Bangle, Brahmin problem's got nothing on mine, I tell you. I almost regret I started this whole thing. But I have to get this done before the semester starts - I am determined. This is good for me. I know. 'Cause it's so darn hard and so darn dumb, it has to be character building. Without doubt. Meanwhile, let me go and dream about how my new office is going to look super cool and neat and be the talk of the town.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Crack open the popcorn!

Movie poster (source: Internet)

As I was lamenting recently, we have not watched a movie in a proper theatre for eons now. I really cannot remember what I last saw. Most likely it was The Hobbit, and that was months ago. So many many movies have released since then and everyone is talking about so many things now - at some point we just gave up trying to keep track.

I was keen to watch Papanasam as I am keen to watch all Kamal Haasan movies in general. Since we noobs like that, I carefully booked tickets online and read through the text that said you don't need a ticket or printout or anything you can see touch or feel. We showed up a couple minutes late (I am blameless, I was ready well in time, obviously) and rushed through to find our seats and sink in.

Before we knew it we were immersed in the land of Papanasam. The usual fixtures of pristine and idyllic village surroundings with few references to the modern world. The peek into the life of a Cable TV operator/owner. Village school. Green fields. Even the mud was clean and not grimy. Kamal leaned his arms on the gleaming granite table top of the Tea Kadai, and I looked for dust. I peered into the corners of their house looking for fine mud. Nothing. All squeaky clean.

Almost like it was meant as a metaphor for the life of this ideal family-of-four. Squeaky clean all loving no dark grimy spaces in anyone's head. Well except for some passing discussions about porn on late night cable - not that that worried me over much, frankly.

So I was expecting the usual - daughter is raped, father takes umbrage and murders the rapist, courtroom drama (I recently re-read To Kill A Mocking Bird, so yes, that was on my mind a little bit), bad police officers, etc. When the story unfolded and I realised that things were not as simple as I expected, I was pleasantly surprised! And then it unfolded more and got quite complex and I was super intrigued.

I really started enjoying it a lot when I realised that it was a well made, non-rubbishy, somewhat intelligent story. With no comedic segues - the banana peel variety of current day Tamil movie comedic interludes are too annoying and loud if you ask me. I did not miss that. No time wasting on song and dance sequences in contrived Valentine's day set-in-Switzerland perhaps-in-a-dream perhaps-not. As much as I like to hum along to these foot-tapping numbers, no, I did not miss that. 

The lady IPS office was a good touch - she was easy to hate from the get go somehow, despite having that gobs of curly hair like mine. Anant Mahadevan was a muttery sort of spineless husband who made limited sense but as a weak character in the movie, he was easy to ignore. Gautami as the wife was sufficiently harmless as was demanded of her character, while the children were actually pretty good and cute. 

Overall, I emerged from the movie theatre feeling pretty darn good. Sure, we can punch a bunch of holes in the story. Yes, some of the acting was dumb (not Kamal, he was perfect as always). And the place was just too physically clean to be believable. But it was good. I liked it and it warmed the cockles of my heart. And yes, as usual it made me want to visit this squeaky clean place - we even looked it up on the map. :-) 

While I am being a fan let me also link to the-person-who-generally-makes-me-prefer-reviews-to-movies:
Brangan on Papanasam

Friday, 10 July 2015

Home Alone!

Image: Internet 

Every morning I wake up and of course I first and foremost get rid of my exercise fixation. But even half way through that the nagging "I got to be doing this that" feeling creeps in. Yes, it is the dreaded school cycle & morning routine. Well, not so dreaded now. But more on that in a bit. That feeling is not entirely unlaced with excitement, I admit.
It is kind of strange but I just love those first few minutes of the morning when I see my daughter. Now, it could be that I am a morning person. Or that I am all hopped up on endorphins after my workout session. Or it could just be true love or something. Whatever it is, I feel very positive and awesome and all resolved to be a wonderful mom (and not a nag), every morning. And then that feeling slowly goes away and I become this person who most likely has PMS (even if she doesn't).

Now, this year, we have made some changes. We moved schools! I know - this is like super big and momentous and I haven't had a second to talk to people whom I haven't met IRL about it. We thought long and hard, actually for almost one full year, and then bit the bullet and did the needful to give up on the CBSE dream. With that, we threw away also, the dreaded uniform, a 15 minute morning and 1/2 hour afternoon commute, and the comfort of familiar textbooks. 

I would have to be really selfish not to mention that this is the fourth school the child attends, well, fifth if you count her play school. She is a trooper and has held her head high in all. This is also the fourth language she learns (as a second language) - Spanish. Oh yes. She did Hindi when we were in Mumbai. Then I went all idealistic mother tongue (well, father tongue if you really must split hairs) on her and she did Tamil when we moved here. It got super scary so we moved to Sanskrit (which she loved) when they offered it. And now, in the new school we picked Spanish! 
The class is very small, and they follow the Cambridge curriculum. She gets to wear a Tshirt with the school logo on it, and shorts/skirts/pants of any sort. Of course she wears shorts or jeans, which is also her normal outside school wear. The salwar kameez as uniform is something she has hated a lot! She can wear non-uniform shoes so she has a series of sports shoes that she wears using logic I don't understand. Her feet, incidentally, are a half size bigger than mine now. 

It has been a month and she is full of beans (and rather red in the face from playing in the sun) when she comes back home. So far, except for a couple of minor fights with a couple of the kids in her class (she can be fierce when it comes to small matters like someone taking her pen - I blame it on the fact that it has all happened 1000s of times in her years of schooling), she seems well settled. I don't know anything except that we talk science occasionally, and I needn't tell you how much that warms the cockles of my heart. 

Today the school has taken them to a movie - Kaaka Muttai - which is why I am home alone currently. Good for them, 'cause I have been really really bad about any kind of movie watching this year. I was telling her this morning that she cannot take any food/water to the theater as outside stuff is not allowed inside. "I am not an idiot ma - even if I have been to exactly two movies in my eleven years" she said - tone all accusatory. I don't deny it. I never seem to find a chunk of time for this. 

But I have managed to pick her up from school all this month (except a day or two here and there), been un-competitively encouraging of her basketball playing, bought her all the shoes she asks for, including ordering a pair online, sending it back 'cause it was too small, and getting the correct size in timely manner, allowed her to make a food timetable and not insisted overmuch on Vegetables Every Single Meal, and generally tried to keep the nagging under control. Now where is my Gold Star, dammit? 

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Going to the gym, gym, gym

My husband was only too glad to show me how bad my push up form is. #OrangeYouGladYouAsked

When I was in college I spent a lot of time with my ankles swathed in crepe bandages. Mostly, everyone thought I was being a major drama queen and did not hesitate to tell me so. Unfortunately this was in the 1990s and no one (at least in my near and dear ones) had realised the importance of things like balance and stability and so forth.

I tore, strained, screwed up many ligaments and tendons and other such things in my feet over the years. I continued to play basketball, stoically suffering the aftermath with tightly bound ankles. I slowly migrated to better shoes once I reached western shores (still not super good shoes, as I bought them in sales in the kid's section - I only recently realised that quality of kids shoes are not as good as adults). I got nice ankle braces and wore them a lot.

Thankfully, being small built and being super busy with studies and research meant that there was only so much damage I could do to myself in those days. Now, of course, you may argue that the world is my oyster. And not in a good way. I am heavier, and it is four decades and counting, and there are so many miles to be run, after all. At any rate, despite retiring from basketball several years ago, and for all my sensible and joyful running and whatever, I suffer niggles on a regular basis now.

I back the hell off when that happens. My friends laugh at me at my constant whining about this pain that pain. My husband shouts at me and says funny things like "Why don't you run 50Km and see if it goes away" [It did, one time, I swear. My knee was all wobbly and I was griping big time and I sucked it up and ran to Mahabalipuram with my buddies and it was all Endorphins Baby All The Way and I felt awesome].

Now the trick is to not succumb to the low feeling too much. Like last month I was positive my ITBand was screwed up. I had a 21Km run on the schedule that was bothering me a lot. It wasn't like I had been running too well anyway up to then. I foam rolled [Hate It] and whined and griped. The 21Km felt fine though I was off target time. The ITB thing went away. But then right now my heel hurts. I swear it's like Three Men In A Boat. Just missing Housemaid's Knee!

I hereby resolve to count my lucky stars. The important thing is to Keep At It. So I have been doing whatever feels good. And is not = lazing and sleeping unnecessarily. I upped the weights on my strength routine. I increased intensity on my core routine. If I skipped an exercise that loaded my left heel (which is hurting), I added one that doesn't. Thinking of this as an opportunity. To fix my push-up form. To get a couple of pull ups under my belt. Like that. Hell Yeah. #FortyOneNotOut. But for now, I am back in crepe bandages and hoping it helps heal my heel! 

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Relaxing Like A Boss

All smiles after belly is full! 

I saw a play in the theatre after a very long time. Chennai is so accessible to do such things - be it music or theatre or lit events - within a half hour driving distance from home! Of course movies as well - though I find I am not so much into them still. I don't mind the occasional chick flick on TV but I would still much rather read a book!

Anyway back to yesterday. It starred Anupam Kher Neena Gupta and Rakesh Bedi & it was really wonderful. The lines were delivered perfectly (what do you expect - these guys are super talented), and the premise was simple enough (which I enjoy). And the best part of it all was not having to deal with a large cast (somehow don't like a large cast - mostly because the quality of acting is never uniform and it irritates me. Except in Broadway musicals perhaps :)), and in particular not having any young people in it!! Here go read some random things Miss Malini said about this play:
Mera Woh Matlab Nahi Tha

After several months of being on the #100SareePact I finally bought myself a couple of sarees for office wear from here: handsofindia. They are the kind I been looking for a while - they are Kota cottons, thin, fluffy, and since I got it from these handloom aficionados, kinda feel good about it. My mom is likely to say I overpaid, but that would be par for the course. I need to solve the blouse/petticoat situation now and clean up my clothes shelf, and then am ready for the semester to begin, I guess!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Of Life, Niggles, and Mental Strength

"Women Power" 

It has been a strange year for me, this 2015. Half way through, it is a good time to figure out a few things I guess. Instead of thinking, here I am, typing furiously and hoping the thoughts sort out in my head somehow. 

A few days shy of my 41st birthday, I dropped my precious iPhone. It wasn't even a particularly old iPhone (by my standards), so it was really earth-shattering for me to find that the touch screen konked immediately. The blasted alarm was on and I couldn't turn it off 'cause I couldn't swipe to unlock it. It was a relief when the battery died out (not that that took long - y'know). I replaced it with much guilt with a new one, thankfully it still fit into my old back-up battery. I declared it my 41st birthday gift from the family and they didn't seem to disagree, so that was that. 

Sometime in February, I started thinking seriously about training for marathons - something that I have never managed to do, like, ever. I started valiantly on the Run Less Run Faster program back in 2014 before the Chicago marathon, but the whole thing got derailed thanks to a shady tendonitis issue. Anyway this has been a good thing for my life, having a real personal coach and all. I have understood a lot more about my body (& mind), and while I fight another very recent niggle, I have good things to reflect on! 

The #CleanKotturpuramCampaign ( was born this year on Jan26th. It is a neighborhood initiative and we work on waste segregation and tons of other related things. I have met such wonderful people and it is quite convenient considering they live so close by! We sweep and dig and level and talk and talk to everyone. We have had frustrations but look forward to growing this in the immediate future! And I have learnt so much about waste, it has been wonderful. 

The #100SareePact was also born this year. That one I cannot take credit for, but it has been an interesting journey for me. I feel mature and sensible and more confident walking about in a saree. I am not, as I say often enough, a fashionista. I hate figuring out crap like accessories. And being a chronic mix-and-match-er means that sarees are always tough treading ground. A bit of creativity on the blouse front, and recognising that there is a particular accessory I like (dangly ear-rings), has been great for me! Somehow it gives me the happies. 

We took two vacations this year - and are dying to take another one. The first one was an almost stay-cation. We just went to Mahabalipuram and it was super fun - mostly involving swimming, trying somersaults in the pool, and chatting. Then we went to Yelagiri on a big ol' family trip which was also great, with kids milling around, lots of trekking, and many arguments with the hotel guys who I suspected were trying to starve us. 

The child moved to a new school this term. That was an interesting set of tasks, I don't know how we managed to get it all together. But if I was worried about the transition, it turns out I needn't have. 'Cause she has been the trooper as always and adjusted super well. She is learning Language # 4 (Spanish, after Hindi/Tamil/Sanskrit for a few years each since Grade 1), and basketball (well, it's too soon to say that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree), and seems in great spirits. 

What the next six months will bring up, I don't know. But I hope my running picks up - first the niggle to solve of course - and then a couple of nice races won't hurt even if they are not full marathons; I hope I get a hold on this nutrition; I hope we get some vacation time soon-ish; hope the child figures out some time for her swimming & most of all I wish for mental strength to stay happy and positive and a be good person! (and some mental clarity to blog more often!)