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December 12, 2006

50 k in Sunmart

There I was at the start line of the Sunmart Endurance Trail Runs with the rest of the gang: the runners - Sanjeev, Gaurav, Santhosh, Ganesh and Vinod, the support team - Ashwini, Arvind and Roopa. It was a very cold morning and we were all dressed warmly. We pitched out chairs and bags in one of the huge tents Joe, our coach, had put up for the Rogue team. Soon it was 7 AM and the 50 milers took off. It was such a small group of people, less than 300 people! I waited in the tent area till about 7:20 and then we headed to the start line for my race. I was bundled up in tights, a full hands shirt under my new red Team Asha shirt, gloves, and ear band. About a 1000 people were running the 50k. A few pictures, some cheers and off we go.

The 50 k was split into 3 loops: the first was 10k, then two 20k loops. The first loop was an out and back trail. There were so many people on the narrow trail that it felt a little cramped and I was still not warming up enough. I kept going and met a bunch of people I had been training with on the loop. It was nice to see friendly, familiar faces and I was soon done with the loop. I ran up to the mat to record my timing; was surprised (and happy) that I ran quite fast and stopped by the tent to refill my Cytomax and other fuel. And was very glad my IT Band had not yet acted up.

As I started my second loop, I ran into the 50 milers who were returning after their first loop. I first met Joe, then Santhosh and was wondering if I would see Gaurav before the common trail ended. I was just turning at the fork when I saw Gaurav. I felt nice meeting them all and that added a spring to my step. I kept going. The trail was beautiful and the crowd seemed to have thinned out somehow. It was still cold but I was glad for the cold, it is so much more refreshing to run in the cold. I soon reached Amy’s crossing, the sissy water stop. Despite advice on the forum not to stop there, I briefly stopped and got an apple slice. It was yummy! I had never had an apple while running before and I loved it. So after the treat I started out on the boring out and back jeep road. The only thing nice about it is that you can see people for about 2.5 miles. I bumped into Joe, Santhosh and Gaurav again and met Vinod almost at the end of the out and back section. That gave me another kick and I kept going.

I had lost all concept of distance and had not bothered to find out exactly how the water stops were spread out, so was relying on my watch to figure out distance. The next couple of miles went by and then I started to feel my IT Band flaring up! It is funny how it always takes me by surprise. I know I have this recurring problem but its almost like I naively believe the problem will not surface when I am running. Well, so after all the initial surprise (and irritation), I had to figure out how not to get bogged down by people passing me. This again is silly. I know and understand intellectually that this is my race, I am competing with myself – my body and most importantly my mind. But it took me some time to get over a low that so many people were passing me. I tried walking, stretching and jogging but to no avail. My IT Band has decided to go on a strike! So I decided to enjoy the view and loved the part of trail by the lake. I soon got to the last water stop, which is about 2.8 miles from the start/finish line, and picked up some potato chips, banana and my new found love, an apple slice and kept walking. The trail was beautiful and winding and I was watching some 50 milers zipping past. It is such a nice sight to see someone running gracefully! I tried to think of the people at the start/finish line. Savi said she would be there with her friend, Sandhya and was game for running about 9 miles with me. I tried jogging again but my IT Band was relentless! So back to a walk. I was soon at the start area and saw the gang there! Itisha, Sharanya, Arvind, Arun, Ashwini, Venkatesh, Murali…wow!! This totally picked me up. Ashwini and Roopa fed me some boiled potatoes (yummy!) while Itisha filled up my bottle with Cytomax – was very touched with all the support. I checked about Sanjeev and Ashwini said he finished his first loop in 2:45, which sounded good to me! He was trying to make it to the 8.5 hour cut-off for 37.5 miles.

I started the last loop with a very positive frame of mind. I told myself I had finished close to 19 miles and felt quite good except for the IT Band of course. Sharanya was running with me. The plan was for her to run with me till mile 3 and then Savi would give me company. Their company was what kept me going in the last loop. Sharanya told me to try accepting the pain and then run with it but again, the problem was intellectual comprehension without a sincere attempt! I tried jogging but shooting pain refused to leave. So I just decided to walk as fast as I could. We kept chatting and walking and were soon at mile 3. Sharanya decided to accompany us for the rest of the distance, so it was now three of us. I was behaving myself and walking fast since there were two other people with me and I did not want to throw a tantrum, which I very well would have, had I been alone! Since it was the same loop as last time, I kept finding familiar trees and turns.

At one of the water stops, I realized that I had only 6 miles to go, ie, I was done with 25 miles. The thought that I had almost finished a marathon gave me quite a high! I tried running about 3.5 miles from the finish but could not keep it going for long. So back to fast walk. We were soon at the last water stop and I picked up my standard chips-banana-apple snack and took off immediately. I had decided not to spend too much time at the aid stations. Soon after, Joe passed me. He was finishing his 50 miler and I looked at my watch, wondering if he would make a PR / beat Joyce’s record.

Sharanya kept telling me to finish in style, i.e., running / sprinting for the last mile! I tried bargaining and we finally agreed on 50-100m! More walking and we are getting close to the finish. I soon saw Vinod heading on his last loop with Murali. That gave me a boost and I tried jogging. Soon we were at the turn, the final stretch. I saw Salil, Divya and Dwarak cheering me on and started running (at least that’s what I think…I might have been hobbling fast, who knows!). Soon I could hear Team Asha at the tent and also saw Moogi and Joe cheering me on. My vision was starting to get blurry, I could feel tears welling up! Savi ran with me to the finish and she was cheering me loudly. And just like that, we crossed the finish line…I had run 50 kilometers!! I was quite overcome with emotion. Hugged Savi and headed over to get my medal and blanket and walked to the tent to meet everyone. What an experience!

December 11, 2006

My first ultra-marathon

Our journey started on the 7th morning when Ani, me and Gau went to Houston to pick up our race packets. There was also a dinner there and we had a good time talking to the other runners who had come for the race. There was even a lady who had run a marathon in every continent.

We got to the hotel by 7:30 p.m. and prepared for the next day by creating packets that we could pick up and avoid spending too much time refueling at the starting point. We also prepared the clothing for each loop if the weather were to get warm and then cold towards the night again. We checked our lights and be able to run when it got dark. There were 4 loops of 12.5 miles each to complete the 50 miles. We had spare bottles so it could be filled out and kept ready when we came in for the loop. Part of our support team was also there to be there from the beginning.

We got to the park with time to spare and set up camp in the tent that Joe had set up the previous evening. We started the race at 7:00 a.m. and I decided to run the first loop slowly and try to make up the time in the next two loops to meet the 8-1/2 hr cutoff for the 37.5 miles I needed to meet to stay in the race. The weather was cold and quite nice for the race. I started strong and was running comfortably till mile 3. At this time my upper thigh and groin pain that has troubled me for the better part of the training on long runs started troubling me. From my previous experience it had only got worse over time whether I walked or run. It was also a little disappointing that the massages and visits to the chiropractor had only got me three miles. I took a Tylenol that I had packed on my fuel belt, I considered taking a couple, but decided against it since I had not had a lot to eat and I wasn’t sure if it will mess up my tummy since it was a long run. The pain subsided a bit in about 20 mins and I continued running till mile 8 with a niggling pain.

From then on the pain just kept getting worse. I finished the first 12.5 mile loop in 2 hrs and 45 mins. Our support crew was very excited to see me in such early time and ran up to greet me. I gave my fuel belt to refuel and also asked for my second Tylenol. I went to the loop marker and our ever efficient team had prepared everything for my second loop. I let them know that my pain was getting worse and was not sure how long I would last. I didn’t need to change since the weather had not changed one bit.

The second loop was extremely excrutiating as neither the pain-killer I took at the beginning of the loop nor the one I took in 6 miles gave even a bit of relief. I started debating if the damage I’m causing would be permanent and decided to call it quits when I got through the loop. It took me 3-1/2 hrs to get back a good 38 mins slower than the first loop. As I was finishing the loop I also met Joe our coach and just had enough time to tell him that I decided to quit. He looked at the pain in my face and gave me an understanding look and said that it was probably the best.

I gave my belt and bottle for refueling and completed my second loop and got back to the Rogue tent. I realized that inspite of my really bad loop the clock time was just 6 hrs 10 mins for 25 miles. Although, it felt bad giving up given the pain I had been running with for 22 miles I knew that the wise thing to do was to quit. The team consoled me that I had almost run a marathon and at the same time encouraged me to rest and try another loop. I sank into my chair and instantly started feeling better. I decided to complete the next loop no matter the pain and Murali and Arvind volunteered to wear my fuel belt so it put less preassure on my waist. I took the precaution of taking my lights with me although I had no idea of how long the next loop would take.

In the beginning, I walked the up-hills and ran the down-hills, but soon even that became painful and I just dragged my right foot along the course. Arvind offered me a shoulder to lean against and stretch every once in a while and the same course I ran briskly in a little over two and a half hrs took over 5 hrs to complete in the third loop. I had been out for 11 hrs 10 mins and went past the marathon distance covering 37.5 miles (60 km). I completed the loop and they removed my chip and asked me to go to the finisher area. Ani had finished her 50 km ultra and was waiting for me there. The sweet lady at the finish asked me to choose between an afgan blanket or a jacket and also gave me the finisher medal. I smiled and let her know that I didn’t finish the race and only ran 37.5 miles. She consulted with the other people in the stall and gave me the 50 km finisher medal.

I had finished what we set out to initially do and I was happy that I didn’t give up at mile 25. There are days when you run, but on my first attempt at the 50 miler I had survived.

I'm running to raise funds for the underprivileged in India. Find out more...

December 03, 2006

Warda: My second marathon in back-to-back weekends

I was very excited to run my second marathon in two weekends!! I remember earlier this year when I had run a marathon how I chilled out for weeks to come and here I was running a marathon a week after my last marathon and a half.

One issue with attempting the 50 miler was that I was supposed to meet the 37.5 mile checkpoint within 9 hrs (actually 8-1/2 hrs as I recently found out). I wanted to know if I could increase my speed to cover a decent distance at a good pace.

Warda was a great opportunity to try it out. It was kinda a family event organized by the owner of the Bull Creek Ranch (BCR) and his family and friends. It was the smallest race I have participated so far ~ 60 ppl. Some 15-20 were running the ultra of 50 miles and the rest of us were running the marathon. It was a 6.5 mile loop that we needed to do 4 times.

We drove to BRC in the morning. It was quite cold when the race started and at 7:00 a.m. the people running the 50 miles that day started off. We still ahd most of our winter gear on and though our race was supposed to start at 7:30 it did not start till 8:00 a.m. because some runners got lost on the 6 mile loop and needed to be put back into course! This was ofcourse band news for me since I easily get lost :), but things were not so bad. It was also the first race I started right at the begining which was funny. There were probably some 25 of us.

I tried running a little faster than usual and Doddi who is part of our training team was running at just the speed I needed to be. I just decided to track her as my pacer. The course was not as easy as I had imagined there were some really steep hills and rough terrain. Anyway, I was able to keep up a healthy 13 min/mile for the first 6.55 mile loop and actually finished ahead of Doddi. I also had my first fall in a sand pit in an abrupt right turn. At the end of the first loop as I was taking my layers off Doddi kept going and was up a little ahead.

I had a really nasty fall in the second loop and as I just brushed myself and ran on I could feel the area get warm and sting a bit. I had started bleeding at my knee and elbow. Anyway, I continued and at the end of the second loop as Doddi took a little break I went on a little ahead.

At this point I started getting a pain in the muscle connecting the upper thigh to the groin. This was the pain that had made it difficult for me to run any further after my 25k race at Huntsville. I tried walking some distance, but as in my previous experience the pain continued whether I walked or ran and I had to slow down quite a bit the next couple of loops, but still finished my race in 6 hrs 7 mins.

There is hope for me to yet meet the cutoff of 8-1/2 hrs for 37.5 miles in my 50 miler on 9th Dec.

I'm running to raise funds for the underprivileged in India. Find out more...

December 01, 2006

In search for home-base

We are moving back to India on Jan 20th ’07. We plan to work with development projects to get a better understanding of grass-root issues and also contribute towards solutions in our own small way.

Over the last few yrs we have been working on supporting developmental projects in India through Asha for Education and have visited a number of them. However, neither of us has lived for any reasonable period of time in a village and am sure are unaware of what it involves not being a guest for a couple of days, but living there.

Our attempt to move has brought many responses from "how are you going to earn a living” to “that’s wonderful” and many things I had not even thought of. On the whole our friends and family have been very supportive and many have come forward with contacts of their own in the field of development that we can contact.

Many of our friends have asked us questions in the past regarding our move back here are the most common ones.

Q: Why? A: Over the years we have become quite aware of the many issues that face the majority of the people in India. A good number of problems are not related to lack of funds, but attitudes and complex human dynamics. There are no doubt many people making an attempt to reach out to the underprivileged, but there is always space for two more. More importantly it just seems the most natural thing for both of us to do.

Q: How are you going to earn a living? A: We have both worked in the US for a couple of yrs and have saved enough for being able to volunteer for at least a year without worrying about how we are going to sustain what we do. At this time we just want to work on different issues to figure out what it is that we want to do before figuring out how to sustain it.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you see going ahead? A: This would be fitting in. It’s fine to contribute to a community and feel like you are helping, but as a respected social worker said, you can’t sustain something if you feel like you are making a sacrifice. The fact is we are also looking to find a place we will feel comfortable. This is the reason for the title too.

Q: What will you be working on? A: Not sure. Possibilities that presently interest us are education, village economies, organic farming and land reforms.

Q: Where are you starting? A: We are hoping to start working in Ananthapur Dist. Of Andhra Pradesh with a group called Timbaktu.

Please feel free to post your questions and comments and we will be happy to answer them if we know how.

November 23, 2006

Trail Running

In the recent months Ani and I have “gone off” the road so to speak and been running on trails. I wanted to write a bit about what I learnt about trail running, perhaps it may help other people who may be interested get off the road too :).

Most of us have been on some sort of trails when hiking – the unpaved muddy roads that lead into woods and nature all around or into bare hills and mountains with stone and gravel and rock. A trail run is generally all these – sometimes dirt toads, sometimes rocky, but almost always hilly.

When we started running distances beyond a marathon (50 km/50 mile) I used to wonder why all the ultra marathons are on trails and not on roads, the answers led me to some of the differences between trail and road running.

  • Most trails are parks are owned by the state/public and can be open for quite a while which makes it possible for the time the ultras take.
  • Running on trails is softer on the knees than the road which makes a big difference in the longer distances
  • You can just be with nature
  • The terrain is very rugged and requires your constant presence

While the trails can be less impact on your body (not down hills though :)) it takes a lot out of you to do the same distance due to the concentration that it requires.

The equipment for running trails is quite different than when you run on the roads, it gets darker earlier in the woods and you need to carry head lights. There is very little support you will receive and you generally need to carry enough water, electrolytes, food. I use a fuel belt and also a camelbak. I also had a lot of trouble initially without trail running shoes. Trail shoes are different from road running shoes – they are one piece in the full sole and doesn’t bend as much as road running shoes, this way the entire foot moves together and different bones and muscles in the foot don’t rub against each other. Unlike road shoes that give a lot of ankle protection trail shoes “break” easily at the ankle. The twisting at the ankle takes a getting used, but your ankles get stronger and it ensures that the foot doesn’t get hurt in the longer run due to the uneven terrain. The shoes also have a hard sole which helps in making sure that stone and sharp edges don’t penetrate the shoe and hurt the sole of your foot.

When you like to run on the main roads of a city, have crowds cheering, have plenty of support from friends and many water stops you run a race on the road. The times you look forward to quiet contemplation, be with nature, challenging yourself like never before when no one is watching. This is when you run trails. As one of the fellow runners mentioned road running is good for personal records, but trail running is good for the soul.

Anita and Sanjeev's running page

November 17, 2006

Bandera and the 43 mile weekend

On 10th Nov evening we drove to Bandera. Joe, our coach, had booked a camping site for the 20 odd ultra marathon runners who were planning to run the next day in the desolate and intimidating hills of Bandera. We (me, Ani, Gaurav, Santhosh, Ganesh) were looking forward to the most hyped run in the period of our training as the toughest course we will ever run.

We started from Austin around 5:00 p.m. and reached the site by around 8:00 p.m. Most of the folks were already there and had set up tents and a central place to sit and chat. It was pretty dark, but with our headlights (which we use to run in the dark) and a lamp we put up the tents. It’s amazing how the small bag opened up to the size of a tent 3 people can fit in (or perhaps as Ganesh would contend two people kicked and mauled by the third). This was my first camping experience and a lot of fun. We then sat down with the other runners and chatted a bit. This was when I saw my first wildlife on trail runs, it looked like a cat in the dark walking around the tent area and when I pointed to it the other runners laughed and said that it is back. It was a raccoon, not a tiny creature as I had imagined. It looked exactly like the over the hedge. Over our chat the seasoned runners took their time in giving us horror stories, much like a regular camping stories except that the stories were of running on the trails of Bandera. Anyway, we went back near our tent and decided to snack before sleeping. Something needs to be said about our appetite, but I can’t quite gather the words and if I could it would probably have been eaten too. We finished almost all the food, intended for pre, during and after the run the next day.

We were to start running at daybreak (7:10 a.m.), we woke up around 6 and got ready to go to running site. I went to meet the other runners and borrowed half a bagel & pb from Mark. We drove to the starting point that was 10 mins from the camping site (enough time to finish the little food that was left). It was a chilly morning and the scenery was beautiful, lush green hills till the eye could see and we sat admiring the pretty picture till one of us pointed out that the course probably required us to run them. Bandera is a beautiful state park, with many equestrian stops for people to bring their horses and trot on the hills.

We got out of our cars and immediately pointed the hills to Joe and asked if we were going to run them. To our temporary relief Joe dismissed the suggestion, but then said that today we run the hills on our left.

Joe went ahead and described the course mentioning bad hills pretty much throughout the course. The longest and worst hill in the course was called lucky peak, then there were other cute names - boyle’s bump, Cairns hills. Also somewhere on the hills were ice cream hill, the three sisters, etc so it was a bit of a surprise that there was actually something called the big nasty on our course. As a side, there is even a mountain named after Joe (not on our course called Mt.Fuji) following an ill-conceived 100 mile course designed by Joe that only one runner finished. FUJI, of course, is an acronym, the last two letters standing for Joe idiot. I guess it gives us some idea of what our coach is like and why we took it seriously when he said that this was a long and tough 10 mile loop. One of our experienced runners Dano went around congratulating all of us with, we are all winners just for being here, this was not comforting at all.

The 50k aspirants (me and Ani) we planning to do two loops, 20 miles and the 50 mile aspirants (Gaurav, Santhosh, Ganesh) were planning to do three loops, 30 miles. I had a fuel belt with three bottles of cytomax (something like Gatorade, but with 1/3 the sugar and no caustic sting that corrodes the teeth), I was carrying a bottle of cytomax in hand, two cliff blocks, one chocolate cliff shot and a camelbak of water. Ani commented that I was far too loaded for a 10 mile course, but I didn’t want to take any chances since I’m legendry as far as getting lost is concerned and this was literally in the middle of nowhere. The course is tagged with small orange and white streamers that you need to lookout for.

Ani and I ran together till the foot of the hill leading to lucky peak (or somewhere in the .65 mile incline). I’m not sure if it was the fresh, cold morning, but though I was breathing a little hard I felt really good at the top of lucky. I yelled for Ani to make sure that she was doing ok in spite of her ITB that has been troubling her off late and when I heard back from her I took off. (Ani has her own story of thinking I screamed as I was falling off a cliff and leaning over the edge looking for me falling, but that is a story she can talk about.) I kept my “pace” (for a lack of a better word) through the hills and mountains to follow and in 2 hrs 40 mins I made it back to start. It was indeed a very tough course, not at all hyped up for something it wasn’t. I did the 10 miles in the same pace as I had done my 3M half. But, I was thrilled it was still much faster than I had imagined I would be able to do it. I refueled and mentally made a picture of trying to do a third loop once I finished the next loop…of course, this wasn’t going to be the case.

In the second loop I was still going strong when I went past Lucky Peak, but about an hour past that I got hopelessly lost. There were many divisions on the road and I took a chance and followed a few of them, finally I saw some streamers and was thrilled that I had found some way. I was a little taken aback I found myself at the foot of the mountain leading to Lucky Peak. I pondered whether I should go back and look for where I got lost or just run up Lucky all over again. For the benefit of aspiring trail runners I implore you not to do what I did next and just turnover and look for where you got lost…Well we had done 8 repeats of the “Hill of Life” the previous Wed (which I used to think was an unbelievable hill till then), I was feeling pretty good and was planning to put in a few miles and had not yet finished even my bottle so I decided to stick to the course since I had found it. I ran up Lucky again. This time it was a lot tougher, the sun was out doing what it does at noon and I was getting dehydrated pretty fast. I guzzled down what was left in the bottle by the time I got to the top of Lucky and started working on one of the bottles in the belt. I was also well aware that I had dropped one of the three bottles in my belt running the last loop and was just down to two. I calmed myself a bit and reminded myself that I’m still carrying three cliff shots/blocks that should be plenty to get me back to the start safely. The fallacy of my decision slowly started sinking in another hour as I seemed to get lost in around the same area. Nothing could have prepared me for what was to come next, I found myself at the bottom of Lucky again. I’ve never felt so demoralized while running before and this was the first time I felt that if I tried running up lucky again it would certainly kill me. I calmed myself and ate some cliff blocks. I took out the map that I had carefully kept in a plastic bag to avoid sweat getting all over it. In a few minutes, I realized that it is possible to make a loop around Lucky and this is what I had been doing. I made my way back, but again and again I found splits which were not there in the map and I tried one split after the other hoping to find some flag that would show me the way. I went back and forth on the roads never knowing how far was too far and kept turning back when I hit more forks. Finally, I started following up one path till a dead end and eliminated all paths and kept going further and further back on roads I had traveled. I was now down to my last bottle of Cytomax and as I took the first sip I realized that I had not rinsed the bottle enough and I could taste the soap. I remembered vaguely that if you hold you breath you don’t taste things much and tried drinking a bit and drowning it down with some water from my camelback.

Eventually, I found three markers on a tree that was in the shade that I had manage to miss them. Missing three markers that seemed so obvious now had a very disheartening effect on me I was no longer sure if I was running the right course and did a lot of back and forth every mile or so. I asked myself to snap out of it since I had already run some 15-16 miles on this loop and was running very low on resources. Everything looked familiar and everything looked unfamiliar suddenly I heard footsteps behind me and Gaurav said hi. He was on his last loop and he said that we are almost there just another 5-10 mins. I was pretty happy to see him, I told him that I did Lucky repeats but didn’t feel like telling him that my nerves were very rattled. I was just happy that I was about to finish. I had one of the two cliff shots I had left and some water from my camelback. I tried to keep up with him for some time, but when we got to the Big Nasty I couldn’t keep up. I felt very disheartened when I could not see him anymore and was almost sure that I will get lost again.

I think a good part of trail running is pushing your mind to do what you are not comfortable with and staying strong, you flinch and you get into trouble. I flinched, saw some flags and happily followed them. The trail however looked completely unfamiliar, the number of the trail was not on the map, but I was so unconvinced of my ability to track and perhaps was just so brain-dead that I continued running the course. I didn’t realize that Joe had marked another loop for the advanced runners with the same colors and they intersected at this point. I had just started on another 10 mile loop minutes from finishing my loop. I soon ran out of water, but I could see the flags and convinced myself that I should just keep going. It was very hot and I was starting to feel pretty dehydrated I had one cliff shot left and no water, but I decided against taking it. I decided that I would run as long as I could and when I could not push myself anymore just sit next to a flag, wait to be rescued and have my shot then. As I kept running I didn’t see a streamer for a while and accosted some cowboys on their horses. I asked them if they could read my map and give me directions, they gave me another map that completely confused me, they tried to tell me some directions but I wasn’t sure exactly where I was trying to go on their map so it didn’t help. As I was speaking to them I saw a glimmer or orange on a tree and decided to keep following the flags. One of the horsemen joked that the cactus was edible. I was surprised that I found it funny, I think I had just lost it.

As I followed the orange streamers I came to a really bad hill. I had definitely not run on this one before it struck me now that it might be the markings of a different loop perhaps if I keep following the signs I will finish. I climbed the hill and as I came down it I hit another and then another (the three sisters as they are called). I had been running for about 45 mins without water by then and I knew I was in trouble I ran up the next hill and faintly I could hear my name. I took my ipod off (I think the songs had kept me going so far) and heard someone calling my name. I knew the rescue party had come, Gaurav must have finished and told people that he saw me, and that I was low on water and when I didn’t finish they had come out looking for me. I was lucky that I was on a hill since you can hear someone for miles from a hill, but not from a valley. I yelled back with all I had and tried screaming out the number of the path I was on. I got to the edge of the hill and started waving hoping that someone could see me. I saw an orange shirt somewhere on one of the opposite hills I was hoping that this was the person looking for me and that he had seen me. I started running back the way I came in about 10 mins I saw Mark. He always has a very friendly smile and I think for once I could match his smile as I grinned ear-to-ear when I met him. He gave me a bottle of ice-cold water - it was liquid heaven! He asked me if I wanted to sit down for sometime, but I was fine just very, very dehydrated. I was lapping down the water by the second and wondering if he had any more. Joe had tried triangulating my location with two other runners and Mark had found me first and informed all of them. I met Joe and Santhosh at the end of the third sister. Joe gave Santhosh the directions and he and Mark took off to inform the others that they had found me so they didn’t call the cops or anything. I was jogging back with Santhosh who was carrying plenty of water after some distance I just started walking we were taking a nice flat route that went around all the hills to get back. I couldn’t wait to see Ani and tell her all about my adventure and made it back quite ok. I made it back to base at 4:45 p.m. I had been out running for some 8-1/2 hrs!!!

Joe joked I had given him an idea for a course that would involve Lucky hill repeats! Others mentioned that it would probably have my name in the loop in some form and I should look out for myself next year…I was also unanimously upgraded to a 50 miler if I could get up the next day and run motive. I just wanted to eat something and get some sleep. We made it back to Austin by 9:00 p.m. and I slept soundly.
Surprisingly, I woke up the next day and run the motive half-marathon in 3 hrs 1 min. But, that’s a different story :)

Anita and Sanjeev's running page

November 06, 2006

Reminiscences of Chicago Training

I started training for the Chicago marathon in June. It started off with a few of us talking about running a Fall marathon and one of the big ones. I also thought I would be able to train better in summer, with no school deadlines. I knew it would not be easy to train through a Texas summer and it wasn't! Our long runs on Saturdays initially started at 6 AM, then they got moved to 5:30, then 5 and I vaguely remember one attempt to start earlier than that. It was quite an interesting experience running in the dark, a little spooky actually! Thankfully I had company.
On one such run, a dog adopted Santhosh and me near the Longhorn dam. Santhosh promptly named it Pebbles. And why Pebbles? A long story and maybe in another entry! Thanks to Pebbles, I ran much faster than usual while Santhosh was busily thinking about how to take Pebbles home etc. He got quite attached to it and was quite hurt when Pebbles got tired of us at a waterstop and started running behind someone else!
And then came Anurag! He was also training for the marathon, so after much grumbling about the super early run, he accompanied us to Town Lake. It started off with a few runners passing us on the trail, then some others and so on. Finally he got super bugged with my speed and decided that at my pace, the only targets we could pass were trees! Sigghhh...and this was just the beginning of the run! The rest of it was a joy for my running buddies. Siblings can be so dangerous!
One Wednesday morning Gaurav and I were at the tracks for our quality workout. And we bumped into Steve, the head coach for Team Asha. However, for the Chicago marathon, we were not training with him. Steve asked us how we were doing and how our training was going etc. I was quite kicked with how I was training and I gave him a happy nod and looked at Gaurav for a similar reaction. But he looked rather guilty and told Steve we were just doing some running now and then, nothing regular and such! Here I thought I was being very good about the training - I mean, how often does one show up on the tracks around 5:30 am and run - but apparently not! He is not called A+ for no reason :)
And I will never forget our first 20 mile run. Coachji (Vinod) chalked out the route. A 9-10 mile look including the Enfield hills and then the 10-11 mile St. Edwards loop. Oh it was crazy hilly! I had not run the St. Edwards loop before, so was mentally prepared for a run that was initially hilly but it just stayed that way. The Antakshari we started around mile 14 was a lot of fun and kept me distracted for a few miles. And Santhosh's discovery that he lost his car keys, house keys and the spare keys for the house called for some animated discussion of the possibilities. Vinod talked with relish about how one could find this person in East Austin who was such a super whiz, he could unlock your car in minutes. Here poor Santhosh was looking positively miserable and Vinod would just not stop about the keymaker! Despite all this entertainment, I threw such a tantrum when the promised road, Robert Lee, took forever to materialize! Not sure why everyone put up with me but I was glad for it :) We finally found Santhosh's keys and all was good.
The next 20 plus mile run was a lot better but far less eventful. For one, Santhosh and Vinod were missing. They had started training for their Sunmart 50 miler a couple of weeks back and had run the previous day. Anurag reached Austin half day later than he had planned and after an interesting detour. Gaurav, our coach-in-training (literally!) decided we would run the Runtex to Runtex route. We started out quite early and after a few miles of hill complaints, Anurag warmed up and looked comfortable in the Austin weather. Luckily, the weather that day was decent. We ran about 10 miles before we met Sanjeev to refill and replenish our fuel. We took a 10 minute break before continuing with the rest of the run. 4 miles later, we were at Town Lake and were pleasantly surprised to find Santhosh and Ganesh waiting for us. Despite my IT Band pain, the rest of the run was a nice big party.
Oh, all those evenings! It was quite challenging to be disciplined about food and sleep, especially since it was holiday time for me. Sanjeev made sure I went to bed early and sometimes even woke me up at 4:30 after an all nighter watching TV! I would return the favor by waking him up after my run and breakfast.
And that brings us to food! This account would be so incomplete without a mention of the foodplaces that made the last 2-3 miles good. Two eggs cooked overhard with wheat toast and fresh squeezed orange juice were my staple meal at Magnolia's which is right by Town lake. The freshly squeezed orange juice is just amazing. It is locally made by Goodflow and is sweet and refreshing. Then the veggies-and-pesto-on-focaccia bread was discovered in Whole Foods and I stuck to it until the spinach fiasco resulted in no pesto!
All in all, it was a wonderful experience and I am glad for all the wonderful discussions, friendly banter, support and team spirit.

October 25, 2006

Hello World!

Anurag's (my kid brother :)) blog inspired me to start one and the ultimate push came when many of our running buddies ( Gaurav, Santhosh and Vinod) started their own blogs!
And why "Small is Beautiful"? The phrase is the title of one of E.F.Schumacher's books wherein he presents and calls for a humane alternative to the direction we seem to be headed. We like it because it makes sense and it is an apt title for a space where we can share our thoughts and experiences.