Monday, July 31, 2006

50-mile bike ride

I was a happy camper Saturday. I had done my first 50-mile bike ride in almost 3 years. Why did it take so long? I have no idea. All I can say is that I was elated because biking has always helped my running and the fact that I was in good enough shape to do a 50-mile ride 3 weeks after starting a bike ride every weekend was great news.

I started at 11:15 am from home. The first few miles were spent warming up. I had chosen to go a circuitous route to get to Foothill Expressway. A slight detour into downtown Mt. View was needed in order to give Arul (he and his wife were running the SF Half marathon the next day) my small digital camera. That mission accomplished, I got back onto Foothill Expwy only to make a pit stop in the Bicycle Outfitters. I bought an awesome looking Castelli biking jersey that I promptly put on (the one I was wearing went into the back pocket of the new one).

On the bike again. I had already put in about 15 miles by now. I decided to make a left turn onto Arastradero Rd this time instead of the usual left turn on Alpine Rd. A few small hills later I found myself in a Jewish school/synagogue complex looking for a water fountain. I filled up both my bottles and started up Arastradero Rd. again.

That road soon ended on Page Mill Rd. I made a right turn and headed up the hill towards El Camino Real. My aim was to find a gas station so that I could buy some food and Gatorade or Powerade. I found one and was soon happily munching away on peanuts and drinking Powerade .

A mile from home and the odometer showed 41 miles. I decided to circle the block a few times to take it to 45 miles. Very soon the goal became 50 miles which necessitated a bigger block! When I got off the bike at the end, the cycle computer showed 50.18. Way to go Rajeev.

Biking helps strengthen quads in a hurry. Next week I want to tackle hills. I will most likely head up Highway 9, take a right onto Skyline and follow it to Page Mill. Down Page Mill and then back home via Foothill again should give me a good hill climb and substantial mileage.

3 Hour Night run

Boy! Was this fun!

Anil and I had decided to run 2-3 hours on the tracks in Saratoga as our "long" run. We chose Friday, July 28, as our day.

I had gone with Anu to Redwood Shores for her open water swim. By the time she and Rajeev Char finished the swim, it was about 8 pm. I decided to eat dinner, around 8:50 pm, in an Indian restaurant called Das Prakash in Santa Clara. I reached home around 9:25 pm. I promptly put on a pot of coffee and spiied on the hot brew while chacnking on my e-mails. I hit the road at 10:15 pm and reached the tracks around 10:25. Anil showed up 10 minutes later.

We started running at 10:45. 10 laps counterclockwise, 10 clockwise, 10 counter ... The miles piled up. Around 9 or 10 miles Anil suggested that we run "faster" (10 min/miles) for 3 laps, slower for 2, faster for 3 laps as in order to get in some tempo running. Off we went. I wound up running the last lap at around 7:30 pace. 2 laps slow were followed by 3 laps fast again, with me doing the last 200m in 6:55 pace. Whew!

We finally called it a "night" :) at 1:45 am, exactly 3 hours and 13.85 miles later. Our aim had been to find out what it took to run past our usual bedtime. We discovered that keeping awake would not be a big problem.

The nice thing is that we will have plenty of light, in the form of moonlight, during our 24-hour run the weekend of Aug 12. We intend to start at 6 am on Saturday and run till 6 am on Sunday.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Years and years ago I watched a movie named Farinelli purely by chance. It made an impression on me. Not because the movie was exceptional but because of the voices emanating from the throat of the central character, the eponymous Farinelli, who was a castrato. They sounded almost surreal.

Farinelli, born Carlo Broschi, was one of the greatest castrati singers of all time. He is reputed to have had a range of a more than 3 octaves. That is phenomenal! I aspire to sing and I know what it takes me to go up one octave!

He was a contemporary of one of the greatest composers of the Baroque period of Western Classical music, namely Handel. In fact there is a story about how he sided a faction that had put up a rival opera, to Handel's, but which failed in spite of Farinelli, with his by then great fame, throwing his weight behind it.

Pope Leo XIII banned castrati from performing in the Church in 1902. I have heard a scratchy recording of the last castrato, one Alessandro Moreschi, and he is very good.

I can only imagine what Farinelli must have sounded like! This is where time travel would have been awesome! Of course I would then listen live to Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Mendelssohn!!

Speaking of Beethoven, there is this amusing anecdote I heard long ago about that man's awareness of his own greatness AND his place in history. He had handed sheets of music to a conductor who, after looking through, said, "What is this? Music? I don't understand it!". To this Beethoven is reported to have replied, "Don't worry. Just play it. It's not meant for you. It's meant for a later generation."!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

... were Paradise enow

The title is from Omar Khayyam's Rubaiyat:

A book of verses underneath the bough,
A jug of wine, a loaf of bread-- and thou
Beside me singing in the wilderness--
Oh, wilderness were paradise enow!

How beautiful!

I'm excited, as I am every year for the past 4 (with a gap in 2003), about my upcoming trip to the beautiful Hawaiian island of Maui. They have a saying in Hawaiian about Maui, "Maui No Ka Oi". It means "Maui Is The Best". How true.

I made my first trip to that beautiful island in my first year as coach of Team Asha, in 2002, to run the Maui marathon. I had a hard time with the heat and intense humidity that year and ran a miserable 3:59:26. I was miserable not because of my time but what I went through just to finish in under 4 hours. At the end I almost felt like I had been put through a wringer.

Team Asha opted not to go to Maui in 2003. We went up to Victoria, BC (Canada) the following year and I ran my marathon PR there. The Perfect Race I called it.

We went back to sunny and magical Maui in 2004. This time I had made sure that the Team had been made to train under a hot sun (I made them run their 20/22 mile runs on a trail without any shade, starting at 8 am). I ran 10 minutes faster in 2004 (3:49) and felt great all through the race. I even stopped for 3-4 minutes to visit a port-a-potty along the course!

2005 was a strange race for me. I had run the Wine Country Half in Napa earlier that year (my Half PR of 1:37 was run in the same race in 2004) in July and had suffered exercise-induced asthma in the latter stages of the race. I did not recognize it as such then. In the Maui marathon, I started slower than usual. I remember passing the 7 mile marker in about 63 minutes, just before the 4 mile rolling section of the course. This section proved to be my undoing. The mounting heat along with the asthma meant the end for me. I walked all the uphills starting around mile 10 and my race went south form there. I finally crossed the finish in 4:32, one of my worst races ever!

Back to Paradise now. One of the most beautiful sights in Maui is Haleakala, from the vista point along the highway from the airport in West Maui. This is probaly one of the largest shield volcanoes in the world. It is approximately half the height of the tallest and largest shield volcano in the world, the majestic Kilimanjaro that towers over the Serengeti in Tanzania. In my 3 trips to Maui I have never been to the top to view the legendary sunset. Haleakala means "The House Of The Rising Sun". What an apt name for the mountain.

Maui is one of the youngest of the 132 islands that make up the Hawaiian chain of islands. This chain is the result of the continental plate, the Pacific Plate, that the islands are on moving across a "hot spot" in the earth's mantle. This "hot spot" or plume of magma created the islands as the Pacific Plate moved northwest. The Hawaiian islands are mountains in an undersea mountain range called the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain. These islands were formerly known as the Sandwich Islands.

The plume is currently centered just east of the Big Island (Hawai'i). Kilauea has been active since 1983 because of the "hot spot". The youngest of the Hawaiian islands is currently under the surface of the ocean, 18 miles southeast of the Big Island. Under 3200 feet of water, Lo'ihi will probably break the surface of the ocean in a few tens of thousands of years and either become a new island in its own right or join up with Kileuea as part of the Big island.

The Earth is an amazing place is it not? A place born out of one of the most violent events in Nature is Paradise now!

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Perfect Run

How often does it happen? A perfect race or a single run that remains etched forever in one's memory.

The Perfect Training Run
I remember the run very vividly. My coach, Tom McGlynn, had scheduled an overdistance run for me that weekend. I was training for the Silicon Valley Marathon (Oct 2001) and was feeling great, both speedwise and injurywise.

I set out on the run armed with a couple of Fuelbelt bottles of Gatorade and 5 Cliff Vanilla gels. The run, different from my usual hilly route in Fremont, CA, was all flat but had a score of lights I had to cross. Lights notwithstanding, I got into a groove very, very soon into the run. It was early September and the day had been hot but I started the run around 5:30 pm by which time it had started to cool down.

My breathing was in sync with the rest of the body and I was flying. Mile after mile slipped by in a zone and with a shock I realized that I had come to mile 11 (the turnaround point) and I had done it in 88 minutes. 8 min/mile for a long run when I was supposed to be training at my maintenance pace of around 8:40! Wow! I was so happy!! I felt that nothing could prevent me from going under my then marathon PR of 3:42 (CIM, Dec 2000).

The run back was a tad slower. I finished the entire run in 3:05. I had taken 95 minutes to run the return 11 miles. I did my one and only triathlon 2 weeks later (700 yd. Swim, 19 mile Bike and 4 mile Run).

I must have arrived at the start line of the SV Marathon tired. My quads started hurting 11 miles into the race and I knew that a sub-3:42 was not on the cards that day. I had Rajeev Char on his bike supporting me along with Karen Hamill (she had run Portland a few weeks before in 3:17) and Phil Sarin (he ran the last 10 miles) but I found the going tough the last 5 miles. I finished in 3:50 but those last few miles were tough.

The Perfect Race
This one arrived unseen and unbidden. I had suffered a stress reaction in my left leg at the end of July and had spent almost 3 weeks biking and not running at all. I came back to running with Team Asha sometime at the end of August and had pretty much only 1 months left before the Royal Victoria Marathon (Victoria, BC, Canada) in the second week of October 2003.

Most of the Asha runners had chosen an early start, i.e. 6 a.m., since they were going to finish in over 5 hours. The faster ones, like me and a few others started at 8 a.m. The distance markings were in Kilometers.

The drizzle had stopped when we started at 8. I got into my groove soon. The temperature must have been in the mid-50s or maybe lower. What surprised me the most were the incessant rolling hills. This was supposed to be a "flattish" marathon!! The hills were a rude shock. Even then, my rhythm never faltered. Up and down hills I went, not slacking off a bit. I was able to maintain 8:15 min/mile all the way to the 37K mark (by now my quads were feeling the effects of the rollers). This is where I ran up this hill thinking that it was the last one only to run into a wind wall - a stiff 30 mph headwind coming off the headland in the distance. The last hill was actually followed by another slightly less steep one. By the time I struggled up that last hill, my pace had fallen off and my legs were starting to go.

I struggled through the next few kilometers and then finally espied the 41K sign. My legs got their second wind. I picked up the pace substantially and blew into the finish in a personal best time of 3:37.

Who knows what time I might have achieved had it not been for the constant headwind the last 6 kms?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Heat Is On!

What a hot day it was yesterday (Saturday, July 22). I think the final high for San Jose must have been around 106 deg F. Whew!!

I had decided the evening before that I would bike instead of run on Saturday. I got up warly to watch Floyd Landis finish 3rd in the individual time trial in the penultimate stage of the Tour de France and secure the yellow jersey AND become a virtual winner with the last stage, mere formality, left.

By the time I got on the bike, it was 10:45 am. It was just starting to get warm but it was not boiling hot like it would be in a few hours.

My legs were feeling kind of out of it. I had tried running 4.5 miles in brand new Teva Wraptor running sandals the evening before and was paying the price! Anyway, I finally got into some kind of a rhythm about 7 miles into the ride which is when I hit Foothill Expressway going north.

By the time I reached Palo Alto, it was burning up. It was going to get worse. After the left turn on Alpine Road, I was looking forward to the gas station just after Interstate 280 in order to refuel. Was I glad to see it show its face around the corner! A cold bottle of water, a cold bottle of Orange Powerade and a bag of Frito chips were what saved me. By blood sugar came up and my body cooled a bit after the water and the Powerade. That was just shy of 19 miles into the ride.

I rode for another 2.5 miles up the slowly climbing road before calling it a day and turning back. The sun was out in full force by now and my body kept going back and forth between having it and losing it! Back along Foothill, past Palo Alto and Stanford College and into Los Altos I went.

I espied a small gazebo, across from downtown Los Altos, i a small park called Lincoln Park. Propped my bike against a seat and I lay down on a bench inside, away from the fierce sun and closed my eyes for 15 minutes. My legs were up against a post (I was "draining" them) while I enjoyed the sporadic breeze.

Anu called right then and, upon hearing what I was doing and my state, offered to come and pick me up. I almost gave into the temptation of really calling it a day but reasoned my way out by telling her (and myself) that I needed the heat acclimation for Rio del Lago in September.

So I got on the bike and made my way down Foothill again. The left turn onto Homestead Ave came soon and mentally I felt better. I was soon at the right turn onto Blaney, climbing the 280 overpass when I felt a slight pull in my left quad. That sure scared me! It went away after a few minutes and did not surface again. I drained both my bottles of their last drops of fluid and welcomed Lakshmi Bazaar, an Indian grocery store, at mile 41. Here is where I guzzled down a cold, cold can of Coke. I got on the bike to "power" my way home (the Coke really helped).

The odometer read 42.70 whan I stopped, in relief.

The ride was good and bad in portions. There were some parts where I was flying at 21-22 mph and others where I was having trouble maintaining even 13 mph on a straight road. My respect for all the other roadies flying by me and the professionals who had almost finished riding 2200+ miles in heat in the Tour de France went up many, many notches.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Tahoe Rim Trail 50M

Date : July 15, 2006
Location : Spooner Lake Park, Tahoe (CA)
Race : Tahoe Rim Trail 50K/50M/100M
Finish Time : 16:44

Ah! A Glimpse of Heaven, A Taste of Hell!
That is what the Race Director promised.
In the next few lines I shall try and tell
The story about how the both I kissed.
Lovely Lake Tahoe lay spread out below,
With the little Marlette Lake in between;
The Sierra mountains, their summer glow
And streaks of snow, made for a wondrous scene.
For miles I labored, up there in the sky,
Breathing thin air into an aching chest;
I fought and fought rather than quit and die:
Pain was Hell but Triumph Divinely blessed.
Demon after demon of doubt I slew
And, one by one, away the dark thoughts flew.

The race was all that it had promised it would be - "A Glimpse of Heaven, A Taste of Hell". It was very, very hard running at between 8000 and 9000 feet above sea level.

Pictures on
(password: tahoe).

Friday, July 14
Anil, Rashmi and I set out from the Bay Area around 3:30 p.m. to head to the race hotel (The Plaza Hotel) in Carson City, Nevada. Anil and Rashmi had graciously offered to drive and we had fun talking and listening to songs all the way. We stopped briefly around 5:30 p.m. for coffee. This is when Anil and I decided to eat our dinner (we had picked up pasta to go from Pasta Pomodoro in the Bay Area). We were soon on the road. We stopped once again for a restroom break on Hwy 50. Anil and I shared a couple of Coronas.

We reached the hotel after checking out the Start/Finish area (about 20 minutes from the hotel). We were in bed by 10 p.m.

Saturday, July 15
I woke up at 3:45 a.m. in order to have enough time to eat breakfast and take care of my morning activities.

Anil did the bulk of the work in organizing our drop bags. Rashmi dropped us (Anil, me and Padma and Kiran who were running the 50K) off to the start.

We met up with Gillian Robinson. She was doing the 50K. Don, doing the 100-miler, had started the race an hour earlier. Anil and I picked up our bib numbers, went to the port-a-potties and then made our way down to the Start. I took some pictures of the runners listening to instructions from the Race Director.

We started at 6 a.m. on the dot. Anil and I were soon on our way. I had opted to carry a bottle in each hand and was wearing a Cool Off bandana (more on this later) that I had purchased from ZombieRunner ( The initial part of the trail was very sandy, almost like running on a beach.

We were soon directed onto the new trail up and then down to Marlette Lake. Anil and I walked most of this climb. We soon reached the top and then it was a nice run downhill to the Lake, glimpses of which we caught on our way down. We had met up with Gillian on the way up and she took off on the downhill to disappear from view soon after.

The trail soon wound its way around the lake before eventually reaching the Hobart Aid Station. I had the volunteers fill my bottles with water (to which I added Succeed) and Gatorade. That was the last time I drank Gatorade. From the next aid station onwards, I switched to Coke.

We then started up the ridge to Marlette Peak. That was a wonderful ascent with views that got better by the minute. The top afforded an unbelievable view of Lake Marlette in the foreground, over 1000 feet below, dwarfed by the massive but sublimely beautiful Lake Tahoe behind, with snow capped mountains in the background.

Next came the trail down towards the Tunnel Creek aid station. My breathing was OK and I was still running pretty well. This is where we crossed the first snowdrift.

We reached Tunnel Creek where Anil and I both drank a bottle of Ensure each. Gordy Ainsleigh was there, massaging Sophie Robinson's legs which were cramping. I had the volunteers fill my Cool Off bandana with ice cubes and off we went onto the 6.3 mile Red House loop.

We met a whole bunch of friends coming up. Sara Dillingham (100-miler in 32 hours), Julian and a host of others. I photographed Catra Corbett on her way up. The trail descended for about a mile and then levelled off before started to climb again. A 0.5 mile very steep climb was followed by a few miles along rolling hills. We eventually reached the Red House aid station. We topped up our bottles again and started out on the last part of the climb back to Tunnel Creek. This last part was brutal - 1000 feet in a mile. This was done with hardly any breeze in about 85 degrees. Tunnel Creek was a relief. I refilled my bottles and the bandana. The bandana worked like a charm. It kept my neck and lower back cool for over 40 minutes each time. Thank you Don and Gillian!

The next 4.5 miles were spent walking uphill to the Diamond Peak aid station (just Gatorade and water there). Scott Dunlap (his race blog is here) passed us on his way back around here!

We were kind of getting worried about missing the first cutoff (8 hrs 10 mins) at the turnaround point. We left the aid station and climbed some more. We met Chihping Fu coming back. He told us that he was not feeling good. What a tough guy he is! He eventually finished his 100-miler in 31:31:31! Further along we ran into Don Lundell. He looked cool, calm and collected, as though he was out for a leisurely early morning walk instead of a brutal 100-mile race! He finished his 100-miler in an amazing 29:06!!

By now my breathing was starting to unravel. Under some pressure now to make the cutoff, Anil and I hurried to the turnaround aid station and made it 7 hrs 55 min into the race. What a relief! We were out of there in 10 minutes, with the next cutoff looming. 3 hours to make it back to Tunnel Creek. Adding to our problems was low blood sugar. Anil and I imbibed generously of our Coke and that did the trick.

A volunteer going the other way told us that the Diamond Peak aid station had closed (due to lack of water) so now we had the more arduous task of making it back to Tunnel Creek with only the water in our bottles and the hydration pack Anil was wearing. We managed to make it back somehow with 10 minutes to spare. By now my breathing was awry and I was unable to eat anything. I still managed to shove a few potato chips and some Ensure down my throat.

The next part was making the Hobart AS cutoff. So off we went. This part was the toughest for me with respect to my breathing. I could not get a deep breath at all and a decent breath only every 4-5 steps. Anil, in the meantime, was struggling with his own demons. His blood sugar rose and fell like a yo-yo all the way back. We trudged into the Hobart Aid Station feeling battered and bruised.

This was where I finally took off both my shoes, removed the dirt, put some tape on a developing blister under my right toe and enjoyed an Ensure smoothie one of the volunteers had made for the runners. We also met Chihping Fu again who had a lot of pain from blisters in both feet. He was determined to gut it out by walking all the way to the finish! What determination. This is about when we learned that there were truly no cutoffs for the 50-milers! We could take as long as we wanted! That helped us mentally and both Anil and I knew that we would finish now. Our plan was to walk as much as possible and run just the descents and the absolute flat sections.

The climb out of Hobart was easier than the volunteers had made it out to be. The last part was a bit steep but never as bad as some of the others along the course. We finally walked into the Snow Valley AS at about 8:05 pm. The view from 9000 feet was simply breathtaking. After eating a bit there, we set out to put as many miles behind us before darkness set in. Only 7 miles to go! We were treated to a beautiful sunset on our right, above Lake Tahoe, as we descended.

We ran down the ridge with the magnificent view on the right and our hearts in our mouths owing to the narrowness of the trail and the unsure footing. We finally switched on our lights around 8:45 pm and made our way, running off and on, to the last aid station (1.7 miles from the finish). Anil and I had done some night running a few weeks before the race so that part was no problem at all. The biggest problem was the distance from the summit to the last AS. It seemed to take an interminably long time. Anil even thought that we might be lost but we soon convinced ourselves otherwise.

The aid station finally swam into view. What a relief! We were out of there in a flash and soon running towards the finish. I did stop to photograph a 6 inch orange snake and a couple of dark green frogs, the first creatures of any note I had seen all day! The finish was upon us in another 20 minutes and it was a welcome sight. We finished at 10:44 pm. Rashmi was there to drive us back to the hotel. Whew!

Cold beer and hot pizza were on our dinner menu that night and nothing had ever tasted better.

Anil and I have developed an amazing bond running all the races we have run together. He is very strong, both mentally and physically, and we feed off each other. No unnecessary conversation. Instead an amazing companionable silence interspersed with words of encouragement for each other.

Thank you Anil.