Friday, November 17, 2006

Running On Fumes

Most of us know what that phrase means.

I spent the days from Nov 9-Nov 15 in Mumbai where I had to go suddenly owing to my Mom's health problem. She is fine now. I spent 5 nights and 6 days with her in hospital and did not get much running done.

My 3 runs probably totaled 10-11 miles. The first run was about 3 miles, the second between 4 and 5 while the final one was about 3 miles again. Mumbai is one of the most polluted cities I have ever visited. Breathing was troublesome at best and running extremely hard.

My title "Running On Fumes" is a tongue-in-cheek comment about the fumes, i.e. pollution, in Mumbai.

The longest run I've ever done in Mumbai is 26.2 miles when I ran the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 0n January 15, 2006. That was a hard race made easier by the fact that I ran it at an extremely slow pace - I was running with 3 beautiful women and they pretty much gave up after 20 miles and walked the rest of the way back. We finished, almost last, in 6:50! The roads had opened up 4.5 hours into the race and the organizers had run out of water and had ceased to even bother to send more out for us slow runners. The heat, in mid-January, was oppressive and the pollution and the exhaust from the cars going past us was too much for the 4 of us.

A few pictures below. The first one show the Start area. The second one was taken right alonside the Marine Drive flyover. It shows the early miles (around mile 3). The right side of the road is how we returned to the Finish. The bridge, on the way back, was at about mile 24.5.

I had nothing but admiration for some of the locals who had signed up for the Full and were trying to keep pace with the 4 of us in the waning miles sans water and gels of any kind. It was apparent that the heat and lack of food had gotten to them - they would walk/run for a few hundred yards and then sit by the roadside to recover. They followed this pattern all the way to the finish. Testament to their fighting spirit!

Owing to my deviated septum (I'm having surgery for it in a few weeks) breathing these days, while running, is more or less hit or miss. Most days it gets hard to get a full breath in everytime. There are those days, few and far between (last evening was one such run!), when everything is in sync and I'm firing on all cylinders. That's when I feel like the old days are back - when I could maintain a 6:45 min/mile pace for a 10K (42:11 in June 2004)!!

The pollution in Mumbai seems to compound my problems tenfold. Each of those 3 runs was different. The first one, right after a 30-hour plane trip, felt OK. The breathing was off and the heat was palpable. The second one, a few days later, was better - breathing OK and heat not that bad. The last one though was simply horrible - the evening smog caused a pain in my chest and I felt uncomfortable all through.

People in India are not very exercise minded though that seems to be changing gradually in urban areas. There was this one person who, when seeing me approaching me on one of my runs, pointed at me and asked "Marathon?". So cute!! A person running on a crowded mid-day road (vehicles will not make way for pedestrians; that's how it is out there!) is weird and not a sight they are accustomed to.

I'm glad to be back and to be able to run long miles in air that's clean(ish) and pure. Blessed California!

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. Run safe out there.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Helen Klein 50 Mile run

This ode is dedicated to Anil
Who ran the race of his life yesterday;
Powered on, he did, up every small hill,
As under 10 hours he ran that day.
I managed to stay with him for a bit,
But he was too fast for my aching feet;
I knew he was not one to ever quit:
I have never seen him admit defeat.
Boy! He must have had a fantastic race
For he spent many minutes in the john
And yet ran it in sub-12 minute pace!
His long training paid off - it was spot-on!!
There is no one prouder than me today:
My friend triumphed in his latest assay.

Anil Rao qualified to apply for the 2007 Western States 100-mile run 10 days before the application deadline. I am so proud of him. He trained hard through the summer and early fall, even running a 50K alone, on a bike path similar to the one in Helen Klein, in 5:20!!

Rashmi, his wife, kept informing me of his progress. It was a foregone conclusion that yesterday was his day as far as going under 11 hours went. The final question was how much under! Apparently he had stomach problems after 35 miles, necessitating a couple of calls from Mother Nature! In spite of that, he ran the 50 miles in 9:44. What a day he had!

He and I, as seems to be the case with us at Helen Klein, missed the start again. Last year we were late by almost 10 minutes. This year it was only 4 minutes or so. We decided to run the first 3-4 miles without stopping. They went by in a flash. We passed a lot of runners we knew or had gotten to know on our way up to the start (on the levee). Karen was one of them - she was running the 30K.

We finally walked for a few minutes around mile 4 and then started running again. We ran the first 10 miles in 100 minutes and realized that it was a bit too fast. We had, in the meantime, come upon Barbara Elia and her friend Dale, and spent the next mile or so talking with that legendary woman. What an amazing athlete she is. She never seems to stop. After her Rio Del Lago triumph, she ran the Tahoe Triple the weekend after (4:45 for the marathon on the third day) and then Ann Trason's Dick Collin's 50-miler the weekend after. Whew is all I can say.

A few miles later (around mile 11 or so) we met up with a runner named Nicole. She asked us if walking was worth doing. It was her first 50-miler. We both advised her to walk, if not every 5/10 minutes then every 20 minutes. Anil eventually took off on his own around mile 13. I met him briefly at the 15 mile water stop and then after the turnaround at mile 24 for me (mile 26 for him). That's how well he ran!

I ran with Nicole for a little while and then took off on my own. The miles from 20 to 30 were bad for me. My breathing went awry (I'm being operated on for my deviated septum on November 15th) around 2 hours into the race and my right foot had started hurting by then.

I still made the turnaround in 4:36, 14 minutes faster than last year. I met Padma and Rajesh around mile 26.8 (mile 23.2 for them) and informed them that the turnaround, in spite of what the sign at the previous water stop said, was closer than they thought. This was 5:06 into the race i.e. 12:06 p.m.

The 50K came in 5:59.

I met Rashmi, Anil's parents and my parents in the Goethe Park aid station. I got some much needed Tylenol from Rashmi and Sarita (Rajesh Agrawal's wife) and this proved to be the best move I could have made (in addition to starting Coke from the turnaround point, i.e. I lived on Coke for the last 25 miles).

This is where, for the first time in all the races I have run, I asked myself how badly I wanted a goal (for this race it was to finish in under 10). The answer was a resounding "WANT IT BADLY". It is like some switch, hitherto in the OFF position, had been switched on to fire up the turbines. I got first hand proof of Dr. Tim Noake's Central Governor Theory. Muscles and reserves I had not known existed were suddenly brought into play. The miles from 31 to 50 were spent in "flying". My pace was all over the chart - some periods of 8:00 mins/mile , some 8:45s, quite a few 9:30s, 9:45s and 10:00s. Most of them were in the 11:00-12:00 range.

My Garmin Forerunner 205 worked like a charm. The mileage was spot-on and that was indeed a big comfort. At any given moment I knew exactly where I was with respect to the Finish. I was constantly doing recalculations about my possible finish time and I had come up with a 9:45 finish. I eventually finished in 9:49. Close enough.

This was the second ultra where I experienced nausea. In this case it was probably the Ensure (2 bottles) fighting with Coke!

How different every race is! How much the richer I am for having run it! How much I get to learn about my body and, more so, my mind! How confident I am at the start of being able to acquit myself well! How I never think a single negative thought, testament to my having learned to manage my blood sugar well! How the amazing mind is able to summon up courage when it is needed the most!!

This was the last race of the year for me and I gave it my all. I am a happy camper. I ran it 23 minutes (almost 30 sec/mile) faster.

Chihping Fu, after running last weekend's SV Marathon in 3:34, ran a PR of 8:58 here. Nicole finished in 10:59:52!! With only 8 seconds to spare!!!!!!

Congratulations to all of you who were out there yesterday, be it the 30K, the 50K or the 50-miler.

Happy trails.