Monday, June 11, 2018

The (actual) thing about running Marathons

I am writing this as an effort to share an interesting insight I got through personal experience and reading some interesting books on History, Business , Neuroscience and Long distance running.
My tryst with running started back in mid-2000 (s) when I was on in my 30s. Since those , I have completed an average of 2 marathons per year including a couple of ultra marathons , and a gamut of half marathons. But that motivation waned in the last 18 months , and like all such changes in life, one gives excuses and rationalizes . My excuse included the fact that I was now middle-aged ( for real) , my metabolism was slowing down so running at a target pace was'nt my thing anymore , the mother of them all why take the trouble when moderate runs are more pleasurable . However, in my deep recesses of consciousness I was not convinced this slow down was for real and that I needed to get back on . As an impulse , when an opportunity sprung last week, I registered for my next marathon in the fall.
Creating the training plan was an epiphany moment , it was a confluence of many ideas I have been reading about and playing with . I realized how much Marathoning , and any kind of long distance running isn’t about the physical fitness alone. Marathoning requires a certain state of mind, the ability to willingly endure discomfort and long times of no-thingness , which I had recently read the brain does not want to do , it is designed to conserve energy . That began to explain why any long commitment is perceived as a obstacle by the brain. No wonder , making long term commitments is a s struggle for most parts. My intention for sharing the above is to point out how ones state of mind impacts quality of life , and therein lies the idea of using Marathoning as a vehicle to hacks ones internal state.
Consider, that our modern ( mostly urban) lives have become abstract. There is very little correlation between action and results, unlike our hunter gatherer or agricultural ancestors where effort directly correlated to results such as finding a hunt or sprouting a seed. Today an email or an conversation could be an action but how does correlate that to outcomes , how does one feel fulfilled ? We have mostly causal theories and mental models about how effort causes results in the modern information age . Therefore, the vagaries of results affect our states of mind and not the other way around . If the economy is down and the business isn't thriving , it affects your self-worth, so does an unhappy child or a disstaisfied boss , the list is endless .
How does one access an empowering state of mind in such an abstract world that we live in? There are many ways , but my submission is that running marathons or any form of challenging physical endeavor gives a physical expression to your attitude and will-power, which you can transplant to other areas of life.
I welcome your thoughts, insights and comments on the above, and hopefully some of you will give it a try .
#transformation #running #hackingonesmind #self-improvement #fitness #stress-busting #personal-growth

Friday, March 30, 2018

The warrior and the poet

Growing up , the internal voice had whispered , you will strive to be the coolest Dad ever !

The choices about being a Father then were based on these principles , a) be cool like the daddy cool type of cool  , and b) let my kids rough it out so they become strong and self confident.

One could say these were unconsciously borrowed from the best and worst of what I thought of my Dad's parenting  . He gave me freedom and encouraged roughing it out so I could learn and become strong , but I didn't think he was cool ( in my mind). So for the folks who are reading, being cool meant a Dad who could hang out, sip beer and discuss my interest in the opposite gender ( what else does a 17 year old want ), and nah, my dad never sipped beer , to the contrary he was a geek, mostly consuming himself with academic and intellectual pursuits . You can only imagine , as a 17 year old urban educated teenager , that was the last thing on my priority .

Fast forward , today with two grown up daughters, it has been quite a journey and have a learnt a thing or two of fatherhood myself ( My Dad today laughs out loud whenever I mention my predicaments as a Father).

First, no matter what style you pick, children will see you from a current perspective what's cool . At that point it doesn't matter if you think how cool you are, for them you could be a dud . I recently heard the former uber cool President say the same thing about his daughters on TV, that on dinner table he is the Dad and the daughters get to call him dud .

Second, I realize there are broadly two types of human roles in the society:  the creative /thinking class and the warrior /worker class. I realized that my ethos and mindset have been shaped by a warrior, mostly influenced by stories and characters that I am awed by, from Hanuman to Superman. These mindsets embrace challenges, adventure , battles and competition . The creative class embraces chaos, beauty , lack of rules , compassion and love. The greatest poets, painters and romanticists in all cultures come from this class.

I realized we use both these personas , but one dominates how we respond to life at large, and save the other for smaller aspects of our life .

So, why I am sharing this is because after all these years, the realization that my older daughter is the creative type hit me hard, and that I am constantly speaking to her with a warrior mindset was a wake up call. Needless to say that almost always didn't end well , it makes both of us perplexed about the disconnect. Its not cool after all , what an epic fail ( as the current teens would say! ) But most importantly, it leaves a creative person under appreciated and frustrated , kind of like asking a dolphin to fly or a eagle to swim, either ways leaves them underdeveloped . Perhaps this applies to team situations as well and communities with multiple mindsets interacting . 

Intending to use the insight to make a communicator and be cool again ( hope my kids are reading this LOL!)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

My Girl grows up...

FIVE years…she gnarled, whined , broke rules secretly ( like sneaking her pet stuffed bunny to school)... She worked to fit in when we moved from Houston to Memphis all at a tender age of 5 , made friends and lost some to the girlie fights over the years( part of girls growing up they told me)... She would wake up many days not wanting to go to school, not liking her teachers who believed in her potential and so pushed her limits..... She was an honor student most times and some times slipped grades…. Silly me always thought , that she didnt like the place, and that today she would be liberated, to move on and start new..... But last night, she sat up late night thanking every teacher at all her 5 last grades....writing specific mention of things they did to make her a better kid..."whoa!", that is something I was'nt expecting. And this morning, she was close to tears , as she stood on my office door-way still in her PJs summoning the courage to make the last trip to her elementary school…, “I am going to miss this school Daddy”, she remarked. I was moved close to tears, as I thought “ My baby has grown, and it’s such a bitter-sweet moment, but glad to see she is moving on with great memories of her childhood school” . Fly on silver girl…my dear Ananya…!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Mississippi Trails 50: my first "ultra"

Pic above :Click on the link above for a photo-movie preso

A journey mostly begins with a destination, but perhaps it offers very little insight into the destiny at the inception. Three years ago, when I met a group of my friends who were running to lose weight and collaborated on the first half-marathon, little did I know where the journey would take me. As it turned out it took me on an

exploration of the exciting world of endurance running, its myriad forms of running and its sub-cultures, the obsession with everything from shoes to apparel to finish times and completion of 9 full marathons and a number of sub marathon distance races. The most recent exciting discovery has been the running sub-culture of trail running and the testing of limits in human endurance through what is called ultra-maratho

n distance running ( 50k,50 mile,100k and 100 miles).

With over 8 road marathons behind me, I was looking for a different challenge, perhaps even a different perspective to running. The trail running culture appealed to me. It was a smaller group, it took you close to nature, and one

trail was never ever the same as the other because of mother earth’s design of the forest landscape, and most importantly I found the trail running community to be friendly folks, and a lot relaxed in their approach to running. There it was, trail running had got me hooked. I had a run smaller distances of 18 miles and 16 miles over the last few years, and a 50k was something that appealed to me as a standard progression to “ultra” trail running.

Back in Dec, my running buddy Jeff sent me a message on Facebook to see if I would be interested to run the 50k. Jeff is a seasoned trail runner and was shooting to do his first 50k as well, he reasoned that theMS 50 were a good starter 50k race considering it was moderately technical(a trail runner’s lingo that means if the trails are challenging) , so I readily agreed the 2011 MS50 scheduled for the 5th M

ar (Sat).

We left to Laurel,MS on Friday and reached just in time to pick up the race packet that evening. The race packet was being distributed in a little building amidst an Agricultural office of some sort. There were about 40-50 folks from what I could count. Many there were planning to run their 50-mile run. We met Jeff and Bridget at the race packet center and then head out for dinner. It was nice to catch up with them, both are ardent runners and their son is an elite runner, winning many races in the Memphis running circuit.

Race started at 6 am. Our drive from the hotel to the start line nestled amidst the Longleaf forest about 15 miles away was uneven

tful because it was mostly dark, but I sensed driving on the gravel roads inside the forest, this was going to be exciting and different. Roopa accompanied me to Laurel, and it gives me a lot of comfort when she is around, she is great as my only support crew, the girls were back at home with their grandparents, so I missed my cheering squad. We got to the start line area by about 5.30 am, it was still pre-dawn dark.The start area were lined with various tents, including the race organizer’s tent , and I could see people scampering to get ready for the race. The start line was a few yards away from this point. The race comprised of two loops, yellow loop and the blue loop. The yellow loop was the 20k and blue loop was the 10k. For the 50k we had to repeat the yellow trail two times and then one time of the 10k, simple math, but body physiology does not work very mathematically I thought.

As I lined up on the start line amongst

the shuffling feet and splutter of drizzle on my cap’s visor, I could feel a sense of calm that comes from total surrender of the unknown. I have never run more than 26.2 miles, and this was going to be 5 more than the most I have ever run in a single attempt. Besides it was the off road trails, less prone to getting into a rhythm and hence consumed more energy. As these thoughts played around , the whistle blew, and off we were.

The start of the trail were closely packed with close to 140 of the runners starting the 50k or the 50-mile, the 20k runners were scheduled to start at 8 am. The trails were pine covered soft broad trails for about 1.5

miles and then it narrowsed to a two-track mud trail. The trails were wet, with many parts holding puddles of water. Initially as it always happens, most of us tried staying dry on the feet, but that slowly disappears as our inhibition drops, and then you see everyone splashing through the puddle. It gets a few moments to be a child again presumably. Its fun to run trails if you think of oneself as a child, it simplifies the run, uncomplicates the mental process. It starts becoming a wild adventure when you embrace the many uncertainties the forest trails throws at you.

At many points in my first go around of the yellow loop, saw many runners either passing me or vice-versa, there was a constant flow of traffic. At the end of first go-round, I was glad to see Roopa waiting to hand m

e over the Endurolytes replenishment. I consumed the Endurolytes caps every hour, and perhaps that mayexplain the total absence of cramps in my entire 31 miles. I also made it a point to eat a piece of banana and some chips at each aid station. Stuck to water, no Gatorade or Heeds, and felt good, didn’t have to deal with an overwhelming sweetness that comes with it.

The weather was overcast when we started and it may have drizzled with a few splatters of first go around. In the second go around on the yellow loop, the skies came down upon us, accompanied by thunder. I was hoping that one of the many tall pine trees in the tail wouldn’t suddenly get hit by lightning. The cre

eks were fuller and water was now coming up to the knee, and I enjoyed wading through them. For one it was a child like pleasure of doing it, but more importantly it soothed my feet. My feet did not tire, versus how I normally feel when I run road marathons, my feet feel nasty. This was a welcome change.

At many times during my yellow loop go-arounds, I actually chose to slow down and enjoy the rain. If you haven’t open your mouth and stood under a downpour, its should be on ones list. It’s a blissful experience. Imagine not being inhibited, and letting pure aqua refresh your mouth, its one of those senses that is hard to explain.

Pic Above: Jeff and I at around 25 mile point

It took my about 30 minutes more to complete the second loop. As I approached the completion of my second 20k loop, legs were protesting. Doing an additional 10k at this point seemed daunting. Luckily for me Jeff caught up after staying back to run with Bridget and as he passed me, pulled me along as well. My 10 k was an example of what ultra runners often describe as need to dig deep to keep going. I did, and let the mind run the show, disregarding a protesting set of muscles to continue pushing a steady pace. And it worked; my discomfort subsided as I managed to keep a steady cadence in the last 10 k loop. There were some unexpected inclines in this phase, which I chose to run versus the previous loops where I power walked.

After 6 hours 42 minutes of embracing the slushy trails, I hit the finish line, elated, and glad it was conquered. It was good feeling to have gone beyond a marathon distance.

I learnt later in the day that the forest service had to ask runners to vacate the trails after around 3.30 pm because of intensifying downpour, leaving many of the intending 50 milers to settle for a 50k finish. In summary, it was an enjoyable experience and I hope to build on this to try a few other more challenging trails in the years to come.

Happy Trails out there!

The below link is a video created by a fellow 50k finisher, paints a great picture about the race.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Pounding the DC streets:Marine Corp Marathon

If I were sum up my experience leading up to the Marine Core Marathon, I would say” cautious optimism”, with merely one 20 mile training run, and over 3 weeks of lay-off from running due to my calf injury. I entered the Marine Corp start line feeling much like an injured recouping Cheetah who thinks he can run faster and longer than the fastest antelope because he just devoured a dead one for the last meal.

With that being said here is a report. The start line was about a mile long, and I couldn't get to my corral. It was jam packed , and with streets that seemed narrower that what I had seen in a similar sized marathon in Chicago for upto over first 10 miles , I had to weave through the slower runners to get ahead so the target pace could be maintained. That was a big lesson, always start with your pace group in big marathons, if not you will have to work way harder to get ahead to a similar paced runners. There were a few hills, but overall the course was pretty un-daunting, when I compare to Little Rock or Atlanta. All until the 21st mile, my pace was on target to complete the desired goal of sub 3.55, and then I hit the wall. Not entirely surprised considering the volume of my training, but disappointed that the supplements and the other mumbo-jumbo didn’t help ( that’s the Cheetah metaphor!) , and the voice inside went “ Dude , marathons is all about training . PERIOD”. I has to zip it and agree to that, while my tired legs carried me through the finish line in 4 hours and 8 minutes.

Here is the profound part. While a lot of us runners obsess over our finish times and splits , in the end it boils down to the mere privilege of being able to complete a marathon, which in its 26.2 miles offers a simulation of our many life’s triumph and tribulations. There will always be people who are faster and some who are slower, and sometimes you surprise yourself by doing better than planned, but what matters is what you gave to the pursuit, and I confess I gave this run all I had, and rest my case.

The race course was beautiful; weather was a perfect autumn day. It was a memorable experience to run around the National Mall area, the Washington Monument, the museum district, the capitol and beautiful parks. My other running compatriots from the gang ( Suds,Pasha ,Sudhakar and Pramod) did well and reportedly enjoyed their experience of the race. My verdict, a highly recommended race to run!

( Pic above: At the expo..)

( Pic above : With Rohit and SI at the starting line)

( Pic Above: AT finish line posing with a Mascot)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Aahh!... The Joy of Riding...

105 miles in the last 4 weeks, I am begining to groove with my bicycle ( a Road Raced, Felt F85). It responds, its a feeling of cutting butter when my legs cut through the air with the pedals. Sometimes there isn't a sense of the existence of the chain ( I borrow that from Lance Armstrong in his book, Every Second Counts). Speed matters, yes it does. Thats what road biking essentially comes down to, the body and the machine grooving to create motion. And motion is in essence speed. Loving it!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Experiments with Light

I plunged into to the world of photography when I did a tactical investment on the Nikon D5000 during the trip to Rocky Mountains. I am sorrunded by friends gifted in photography, and thier passion inspired me to give it a try. First thing I am discovering is that the world around is beautiful, something that I have not taken close notice . Photography is opening the possibility of being visually aware. Last week , I tagged with Santosh ( Iyer) to do some aimless photo-shoots.

My first realization as we do these photo-shoots is how unintentional my photos have been .Now don't get me wrong, my photos did what they intended to, which is picturization of events for memories. However, the art of making the mundane look beautiful is a gift, and hopefully can be acquired ( will be my saving grace). Here are a few of the shots I picked from the pile that were shot . Most of it was learning to compose right, and play with light...