Monday, June 28, 2010

Woods are lovely, dark and deep....

Father’s day weekend at Yosemite – Hiking Nevada falls and Half Dome
June 19, 2010 (Saturday) – I was looking forward to this trip to Yosemite for many reasons. I had to cancel an earlier trip to hike Half-Dome on June 6, since cables were not put up because of the weather. Prem was excited about the trip, and was talking about hiking in Yosemite. He had hiked Mission Peak 4 times by now. So I was somewhat comfortable trying out Nevada Falls with him, using John Muir Trail; which has a gradual gradient instead of big steps one encounter on Mist Trail. Also Promila had been bitten by the hiking bug now.

18 months ago, I had to push her to go for hiking. She could hardly do couple of miles on Mission Peak, in spite of all the Yoga, Dance classes and Elliptical machine, her aerobic capacity was not there. And as I found out in running, it was slow gradual process to build muscles required for hiking and to increase aerobic capacity. A week before the Father’s day, she hiked everyday to Mission Peak, apart from her normal weekend hike, Taekwondo and swimming. I generally wake up around 5:30 AM, and do not find her at home. I tried to explain her that it could prove to be counterproductive as before any big hike, one has to taper off, give muscles some rest for few days. She did not listen. Even after coming back, she is continuing to do that. Any cheap houses in Mission Area, please let me know.

While driving towards Yosemite, this is the first time I noticed sudden change in landscape while moving from I-120 to I-140. Though I am quite point-A-to-point-B-schedule-driven person, this time, I decided to stop at every vista point; you never know what you are missing. We finally reached our Curry Village tent cabins around 6 PM. Liz reached around same time. Idea was that Promila and Liz would hike together; and I would hike next day or on the Saturday night. Most of the people who showed interest at one time or other to do this hike with me, either in night or day, backed out. Some of them did not feel prepared, some got cold feet and for some it did not have the same level of interest as I had. Promila was like a deer frozen in middle of the road by oncoming headlight of a 18 wheeler. She was fascinated by the hike and fearful too.

Though I had encouraged her initially, it was understood that it would be her decision, and she could turn around at any time. As expected, I could not sleep at all on Saturday night. Promila had an alarm set up for 4 AM, it rang, she put it off; and then I had to wake her up after 5 minutes. Both Liz and Promila got ready in 10 minutes (thanks to Liz, otherwise it generally takes longer !). I had the backpack ready for Promila, brought her the bars and fruits from the bear proof lockers, and put those in the backpack; prepared two liter of Gatorade water for her. Total she was carrying 3.5 liters. Showed her first-aid kit on first pocket, bars and fruits in second and water in 3rd. I did not think she was listening, just nodding her head. She was still dazed and unsure. When I lifted up the backpack, I was not certain either if she could do even Nevada Falls (9 miles) with this backpack. She had never taken this heavy backpack to her hikes.

I kept my doubts to myself, and let her go with Liz. It helped that Liz was super excited and looking forward for this hike; or at least that was what she was portraying to everybody. She had to fight some of her nightmares to do this hike. Few days ago, I told her about King’s chair and the cave on the Top of Half Dome, and how you could go to the edge by anchoring your ankles and peek down from the ledge (my standing photo on the ledge). She told us that she kept having this dream where she was anchored to her ankles and fell off the ledge; and screaming for help, flaying her hands. She wanted people to pull her off and did not care if she could get bruised in the process. It is just amazing what mind could do. I knew from my earlier Half Dome hikes, that the hike tests both mental and physical abilities. (Image on left - sitting on King's chair)

They went around 4:30 AM. And I did a small prayer for both of their safe return. Prem was awake too, sleeping with me. I could not sleep, and around 6:30, woke Prem up to feed him and get him ready for the Nevada Fall hike. We were talking about this hike in last the few days. I told him that we would not go to top of Half Dome, but may be Half of Half Dome. He was ready.

We started at 7:30 AM, and I was surprised that he was keeping good pace. As expected, he started talking about variety of topics from Pok√©mon, Bakugan and Wii Mario Bros characters. I was never a fan of Video games, however, I had changed my opinion little bit after reading ‘A Whole New Mind’. Of course, we still have to monitor what he is playing and for how long. I feel better that he is playing interactive strategy games and where games requires some physical motion, rather than passively watching TV. Well, at least that is my rationalization. He can easily beat me in most of the games. He learnt few tricks, and intuitively explored and applied the tricks to other games. I am sure that there are some lessons to be learnt for me here, from these games, as some of them teach patience and Prem doesn’t give up easily, even after being beaten badly initially.

I was amazed that he had so much information on these games to keep going for next 4 hours. We talked about other things as well. We have a ritual to read at least one chapter every day, before he goes to sleep. If book is small, like ‘What time is it Mr. Crocodile ?’ then we read it completely. We both liked this story. He mentioned, “Papa, we should write a story like this. May be we can write, ‘ What time is it Mr. Tiger ?’ and make money.” It was an interesting idea, and I did not want to explain plagiarism to him, so I told him, “Yes, it is very interesting idea, and we should write a story. And mommy, since she is good at drawing, could do illustration.” More I think about it, I feel that we should do it as a family; and give it a shot. Ummmm……alternative career which could be fun too ! May be it could be as successful as Harry Potter !! Keep on dreaming !!!

We took breaks and it helped to have his favorite Cliff bar (Thanks to Chetan who mentioned Trader’s Joe has Blueberry Crisp and Chocolate Chip Mint). Just looking at climber dude on Cliff bar, made Prem confident that he could now climb anything after eating it. And Lightening G (Gatorade) water also had the similar effect on him. After he had eaten, I never had to cajole him to go further, he would get up himself, and start walking and talking. For most of the photo opportunities, he did his Taekwondo poses. I was glad that Blue Dragon Academy was working out for him and Promila. I think it has a lot to do with his teacher; his teacher is passionate about teaching and his art; a rare combination.

We reached the top of Nevada falls, ate some nut mix, drank water, explored various vista points and took some snaps. It was bright beautiful day. I called Promila, she (along with Liz) started 3 hours before us; and she mentioned that she was on base of sub dome. I asked Prem, if he wanted to go further, he declined and said that he wanted to see the Yosemite museum now. So we turned back. I had to hold his hand coming down, as I did not want him to slip and fall. Though the JMT was not steep, but it was dry and somewhat slippery. We got a call from Promila, that she was feeling dizzy and want to turn around. She wanted me to confirm if it was ok. Over a period of a loooooooong time, I had started trusting Promila’s decision on critical things; so I did not push her. We kept going down, and then started waiting for Promila at bottom of Vernal Falls.

Prem was getting restless waiting for over an hour. We climbed few rocks around the bridge area; and he was practicing his Taekwondo moves to scare the squirrels. So when Promila came down; of course she looked tired, but there was a glow on her face and most of the ever-present baby fat on her face was gone. She looked happy and exhausted. I have to think a better way to lighten the backpack for her, it had taken some toll. May be fanny pack to carry water and only few things in backpack is the answer. When we reached the tent, I was relieved to see no blisters or dead nail on her feet. And after bath, she was ready to do sightseeing in the valley. (Image on right - Promila back from the Half Dome Hike at bottom of vernal Falls)

We went to museum in the bus. This is the best part about the Yosemite valley, that they have free electric shuttle buses, runs every 15 minutes to take you to various points in the valley. Promila was geared up and Prem earned another Jr. Park Ranger badge; this was the final badge in series of three which one could earn, answering some questions and doing some volunteer work in the Yosemite Valley. He took the oath and was proud of it.

We met Liz, though she was exhausted, hurting on her feet and one of her nail was bleeding; she was in great spirit. She mentioned that she called up her dad and family from the top of Half Dome. Yes, there was a reception at the top. She was ready to head back home now. I was real surprised to see both Promila and Liz, walking around; after such a strenuous hike. I remembered first time when I did it, all I wanted to do was to take a bath and crash; I lost two of my toe nails and cramping. They did much better than me. I was inspired to do better this time. To read Promila’s experience of Half Dome hike in her own words, visit

All in all, a very gratifying father’s day; very proud of what Prem, Promila and Liz achieved on the day.

Half Dome Hike (June 21, 2010 – Monday)
When we reached back our cabin on Sunday night, Promila pleaded that I tag along with somebody for the hike next day. I told her that I would leave around 5 AM instead of 4:30 AM, so hopefully there would be someone I could tag along; and there would be lot of light by then. We went to bed around 8:30 PM; it was still bright outside. Promila and Prem slept in no time, I could not sleep for another two hours. My backpack and clothes were ready. I was too excited and random thoughts were coming to me.

I was not sure if I could afford not to sleep for two continuous nights and complete a major hike. So I started counting backwards; did not help. Then I tried doing breathing exercises, that helped; along with small prayer to get me some sleep. I was able to sleep for couple of hours; and was half dreaming when alarm woke me up at 4:30 AM. Promila again cautioned me to find somebody. I was not sure if a lot of people would be hiking on Monday. I was so wrong.

This time I put my GPS watch on; and started it at 5:05 AM from Curry Village. It took full one mile to reach to trail head, after crossing the bridge over Merced river. I already saw two hikers by then, and saw around 10 more till I reached at bottom of Vernal fall. I saw two great looking girls ahead of me, and was wide-eyed to see that one of them took her jacket off without taking off her backpack; and then she kept her jacket hanging on the lower side of the shoulder strap. Eureka, I was wearing a warmer, T-Shirt and jacket, and knew that I did not have big enough backpack to put two of these items in it when I would be hot in later part of the hike. Now I knew as how to do it. Power of observation !!!

I talked to them, and came to know that this was their first time to Half Dome; though I wanted to chat more; but they were too slow. Not sure why Robert Frost poem suddenly flashed across my mind, “ Woods are lovely dark and deep….”. May be, to my mind, they were just distraction, like FB. I left them behind, and found another two hikers, in their 20s from Bay Area. They looked to be in extremely good shape, with camelbak. Came to know Taylor had done the Half Dome 4 times, and Dwight did it last year. Dwight worked in IT (no surprises here) and Taylor worked for Santa Clara University. Dwight was a rock climber too.

I was happy to keep pace with them; and soon on JMT, they were falling behind me. I was gloating inwardly to see that; and to acknowledge that so far I had passed over 20 hikers and nobody had gone past me. As per GPS, we came along 3 miles now. Then I heard a voice from behind, “On your right”. This 50 plus year old man was running in shorts and T-shirt, no water or food. When he got past me, we all three exclaimed; Dwight gasped, “Look at those calf muscles; they look like made of steel”. I had a sigh of relief that I was not the only one who was admiring those calves.

We reached Nevada falls, it took me still 1 hour 35 minutes. I thought I will just take a break of 5 minutes here and move. However, just opening the backpack, eating a pear; taking couple of photos; 15 minutes get past so quickly. I kept moving; and soon had to leave Dwight and Taylor behind. After a mile of walking along with river, it was just steeper hike for next 4 miles. Met a lot of people on this trail, as quite few of them started from backpackers camp. Took a break at 2 mile Half Dome sign. This time I was paying attention, and came to know that Cloud Rest was 4.3 miles from this 2 mile sign. I looked at my watch, and thought I could do both Half Dome and Cloud Rest today; and it would still be light before I reach at the bottom. Almost nobody was going to Cloud Rest; I wondered why.

I kept walking and then stopped at the bottom of sub dome. By the time, though it was still not 9 AM, it was very sunny and bright. I took off my warmer; and just put the T-shirt on, took my cap from backpack, put one of the hiking stick in backpack, and put rubber attachment at bottom of the stick which was outside. Rubber bottom gives good grip on the rock. There was almost no tree cover now, and just granite rock, and small uneven steps carved. After climbing some 40 steps, I remembered now why this hike was so hard. Breathless, however, I did not want to look up much to see how many steps were left. I tried looking up couple of times, it was dizzying. Taking out water from backpack on narrow ledge was not inviting either. However, I knew that this was not going to last. Soon I was on top of sub dome, and saw 4 backpacks stuffed under a rock.

I decided to put my back pack there. Took Bengay from backpack (just in case somebody cramps while on cables or on top), camera, and small water bottle; wore my jacket to put all this stuff in. I remembered Som was sun burnt last time, so I applied Neutrogena SPF 70 sun block heavily on my face and arms, wore my gloves and started going up the cables. Cables were almost empty, there were two hikers who were just staring at the cables, lying at the bottom of sub dome. I thought for a moment whether to wait for somebody to tag along, just in case I slipped. I dismissed the thought, nobody was going to leave the cables to catch me, it was better this way.

I started the cables, and felt that my gloves were not gripping as much. I knew that I was wearing recommended latex coated cotton gloves, and was wondering why there was not a good grip this time. May be because these were the same pair of gloves I used in last two Half Dome hikes, and then in painting project at home; rubber might have wore off. Or it could be because of my shoes not gripping which I (ab)used in last two years, included two Half Dome hikes and multiple over 10 miles hike. I remembered Chetan’s advice; as to change the shoes on first sign of tread wear, just like you would do your car tires. Well, cables was not the place to entertain such doubts. I noticed couple of planks missing, I was cursing myself on forgetting to bring my flexible REI hiking pants. Jeans were not that easy to stretch and to take big steps on. Earlier, on steps, when trying to pull my pants up to waist, I was shocked to find out that I was already on my last hole on belt, belt could not be tightened further. Well, at least I broke a few different kinds of PRs (Personal Records) during this hike; I was an hour faster climbing up since last year and 20 lb lighter.

On cables, body forgot all the fatigue or tiredness; it was alive and super alert. Must be adrenalin; and now I knew why most hikers preferred Half Dome over Cloud Rest, even though Cloud Rest was higher in elevation and longer hike than Half Dome. Elements of risk, rush and adrenalin make Half Dome hike unforgettable. It took less than 20 minutes to climb up. On top, there were around 20 people. Took some pictures; and started looking for the Cave and King’s chair. Soon I found it, and I was lucky to get a professional photographer to take my pictures on it. It was so bright that there was nothing visible on the LCD screen. Called Promila from top, reception was good. Called Liz later, but it was breaking up by then. Though it was hot, there was a huge snow patch on top of the dome.

I met Dwight while I was just about to start going down the cables. He was lying flat, at the end of the cables. I thought he was just sun bathing, as I saw a lot of other doing the same at different areas on top. I greeted him, and asked where was Taylor. He complained that he left him here, and he was cramping and could not move. I asked him if he needed Bengay, he quickly used it on his thighs and arms. He was surprised to find that it relieved his cramps immediately and he was sitting up. He told me that it was his first time up the cables. I thought to myself, that if he was claiming earlier that it was his second time to Half Dome; so could then Promila.

Going down the cables was easier, I realized that though hand grip was not that great, but shoes are gripping well going down. I thanked my shoes and apologized to them for doubting their performance. I thought about keeping them on a mantle as show piece. There was nobody behind me, however, there was back to back queue for people coming up. While talking to couple of people, I came to know that Thursday and now Monday had become quite busy, permits (which are required from this year onward, only on Friday to Sunday) pushed the rush to spill over on other days of the week.

I met the two girls, I saw at the start of the hike, climbing up on the cables now. After passing them, another girl asked me if she could buy the gloves from me since she was not feeling a good grip with the leather gloves. I told her that I would give her for free; and she could try it before discarding her other gloves; as I was not sure about the grip of these gloves either. I still had to go another 30 feet down, I just used my hands; when I was down, I saw my hands were coated with silvery metal polish. I talked to another hiker who mentioned that they treated the cables with some polish so that it remained weather proof. Umm…..that might be the cause of loss of the grip, as this was the first few days since the cables were up.

There was a lot of rush on steps too, and while going down, I saw a lot of people coming up. You get to see a lot of skin. I met a lawyer from Palo Alto; came down till Nevada falls with him. He mentioned that toughest hike (more of a climb) he had done was that of Mt Shasta. There was snow 12 months, and you had to take ice axe, crampons and full gear; one needed to be tied up in snow with at least another person to complete this 2-3 day hike/climb. I thought about using Mist trail going down, but then changed my mind, as my jeans were slipping down and not flexible enough to maneuver big steps. Came down quickly after Nevada falls. GPS showed total of 19 miles (17 on the trail and 2 miles to and fro from Curry Village to trail head).

When I called Promila at 2 PM, she was surprised to see me come back so early. I thought I could have added those 8.6 miles to do Cloud Rest hike; however, I probably would not be able to drive after that. Promila and Prem had 4 hours valley floor tour on that day, and were having lunch now. I waited for them, and then took bath; ate Pizza. Thought about having Blue Moon which was available on tap, but decided against it; as I did not want to link up hiking and drinking for Prem. He has been absorbing a lot these days. Relaxed and then watched an entertaining and informative ranger’s show; and finally headed back home.

I have permit for Half Dome night hike for July 25. Now question is ‘To run or not to run’ Half Marathon with Meenal on that day. Though I ran 3 times after May 30th, however my legs (below the knee), have been complaining. I did not have any injuries so far; but not feeling strong enough for the run; there was no spring in the legs. My director has done Half Dome and Half Marathons five times each. I would like to match that. Let’s see what next couple of weeks have in store (another book – ‘Born to run’ may change things). Time to dream; and experiment to make them happen!
Logistics Pictures

P.S. I have taken one month break from FB to focus on run/hike and things which are important to me. Please email me your comments, if any, or write on this blog. Umm.....Am I replacing one distraction with another :~)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Milpitas Father of the year - 2010

This is more of achievement of Prem in verbalizing some of the things we do together. I feel parenting is an instinct, most of us react. I never considered myself as a confident parent, some of the times I was not sure as if I was doing the right thing, like which school to choose from, classes to enroll him in (I think he was overscheduled), is it too early to put him in school, sports etc. Prem was speech delayed; I was not sure if the special classes were helping Prem at all. Promila and I went to some parenting classes organized by ‘Frist 5’ and read few books. I think reading does not help much here, like I mentioned above, parenting is an instinct and at times it is difficult to be rational. Prem’s Asthma from 2nd year to 4th caused lot of angst in us and drove me to be overprotective, anxious most of the time. Here, trial and error; and reading did help in the end. No significant Asthma issues for two years now.

Speech delay and constant asthma episodes caused him to be behind in few things, like speaking up clearly and be confident. However, by now, over a period of time, I have become more relaxed around him. He met most of his development milestone, may be a bit late, but he did. Last year was great; though we still lugged Nebulizer around on vacations, we did not have to use it as much. We visited a lot of places. Three years ago, when I asked him about what did vacation means to him; he would reply going to ‘Great Mall’. Last year it was camping and going to Snow. And this year I asked him, he mentioned he wanted to go to New York and meet his cousins again. And he wanted to go to Yosemite too. He has hiked Mission Peak 4 times now.

Once I was talking to him about Reduce, Reuse and Recycle (Magic School Bus episode); and his school was also reinforcing on this. He asked me that he wanted to walk down from school instead of using car. We walked down on that day. Next day in morning, he woke up and told me that he was ready to hike Half Dome with me. I was a bit amused; asked him as what made him think about that (out of the blue). He mentioned, “Papa, yesterday while walking down from school, I did not get bored with you”. Ummm…….., I am sure he meant that as a compliment !

Like I mentioned earlier, a lot of credit for achievement is that of Prem; and rest is that of Promila to sit with him patiently and get it written. There are far more deserving dads out there than me. I did receive ‘Runners up – father of the year’ last year; again all credit to Prem and Promila. I put the last year plaque on my desk in office, to serve as nice and constant reminder to be more patient, learn new things and become better role model for him. As a parent, whether we like it or not, in most cases we are automatic role model for our kids; as they constantly watch us; even though at times it appears that they do not listen to us.

“It's not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can't tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself. “ ~Joyce Maynard

Friday, June 11, 2010

Reading, Running and back to Hiking in style (Nisene Park June 5, 2010)

After Quicksilver Almaden Park Hike on April 17, I stopped my weekly hikes; and tried my hand (or leg) in running. I had never run in my life earlier. I do not remember last time when I ran even a mile. I tried treadmills earlier, and did not like running on them. It was rather a balancing act on treadmill for me than running. Some runners in office did confirm the same, and mentioned if one had a choice, always run outside.

I tried that. And after 200 meters or so I was out of breath. I found outside running even harder than treadmill, could not pace myself at all. Since I was an extremely slow runner and did not have any luck running, I thought (Half) Marathon running may suit me as I can hike 20 miles without any aches and in decent time. I knew that there is some minimum time one had to finish the race in, and came to know for Half-Marathon, the time is around 3 hours (and in some races it is even more than that). Like most Indians, I was good in mathematics, and calculations told me that it was doable. This gave me a lot of confidence.

I would like to call myself a reader, as I read every day, however, if I exclude all the Magic Tree House books which I read with Prem, I just read 1-2 books a month, most of them non-fiction. Needless to confirm I am as slow as a Turtle, both in reading and running. At times, I wondered, of all the reading I have done so far, have I really implemented any of the knowledge gained, into something worthwhile. At that time, I had the Eureka moment. No, I didn’t run naked in street from my bath tub. As most of you are doing right now, I just went online, to, looked at the books on long distance running, short listed 3-4 books and then looked them up in the local library (I know I am cheap !) and got them. Idea was to convert all the readings into some tangible achievement, like Half or Full Marathon.

One of the book recommended the Run-Walk method for long distance running. I was very relieved to read that. It recommended running for 30 seconds and take a walk break of 2 minutes (I can certainly do better than that !); and slowly increase your running time to 4 minutes and decrease walk breaks to 1 minute. Just reading this again and again energized me. And so began my running exploration. I started running in Murphy park. I started with 3 mile (with frequent walk breaks) loops two times a week and 6 miles on Sunday. As per the book, Saturday was my rest day; so I stopped hiking; thinking it may be using the same muscles. Every weekend, I increased my Sunday mileage my one mile (again lot of walk breaks).

After about 3 weeks, I started dreaming. I can do this. Ego took over. Every book I read, recommended not to increase mileage by more than 10%, and also for your first Half-Marathon, timings should not be a goal, only finishing without injury, should be a goal. Still, I tried to run faster on every run, ignoring the advice that one should not have back to back hard runs. I rationalized that I am so slow to begin with, my runs would not count as hard runs. Though definition of hard run in books was very clear, that if you are huffing and puffing, you are running hard; one should try to run at a pace where there is no huffing and puffing.

Next step was to go to visit a running store to get a good running shoe. I did not want to leave any stone unturned. The store was run by runners, and of course the one I got was very frank. He videotaped my gait while running outside; and then he confirmed what I already knew; that I reminded him of Charlie Chaplin somewhat. He did not advise me to change my natural (rather unnatural) running style. Needless to say my dream to run Boston Marathon was pushed to another 20 years. I started thinking that may be if I still kept running for next 20 years with current pace, I had a chance to qualify in 60 plus age group.

Though I had calf pains soon after I started running, it used to go away with proper stretching. And I would continue to man my runs. Soon, I was doing two 6 miles run during the week and 10 miles run on weekend. Needless to say my mileage increased dramatically and I was I egged on by looking at improvement in my pace, reduced my walk breaks to just one, and that too less than a minute. I started obsessing with improving my pace still more. Now pains in calves were accompanied with pain in shin. The pains used to go away after 10-15 minutes of warm up and jogging, before the start of my runs. However, throughout the day, I was in pain and dreaded to go up and down the stairs. I was finding excuses for not going to the park and play with Prem; few instances I did go, I was hardly able to run as muscles were so stiff from recent runs. I talked to couple of coaches in office and read books, all are indicating that shin pain happens because of overuse (too much too soon). I thought I was unique, I read another book on pain (Divided Mind) which mentioned that at times pain was created by mind by reducing the supply of oxygen to certain part of the body.

I continued for another week; I knew I can complete Half Marathon. Last I ran 10 miles was on May 30 in 1 hour and 33 minutes. From April 18 till May 30, around 6 weeks of training, I was impressed by my progress; and then I gave it a thought, if I had to make running as practice (just like hiking); I should slow down and not be obsessed with it. Since my father’s day hike of Half Dome was coming, I decided to give running a break for now. I could feel my legs completely on June 4 (took 5 days of no exercise). Now I know what it is meant by fresh pair of legs. I have switched back to Elliptical Machines; I think I can break world record of Marathon on it ! Now I know for sure that running requires a different set of muscles than hiking and they need time to build up.

I did a 12-13 mile hike on June 5 with Liz and Paul. We went to Nisene Park near Capitola, Santa Cruz. The park is famous for Redwoods and is the epicenter of Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989. It was nice to remember how much I enjoyed hiking, bantering and pulling legs of fellow hikers (if I missed any opportunity during the hike then later in blog). Liz told me and Paul that this time she would just follow us in the car; as she had friends near the beach to visit. Though I think real reason of not sharing the ride may have to do with all the sweat and smell after the hike. I read somewhere that sweat make human male irresistible, though I strongly doubt it.

As the fate would have it, when we reached the park, there was a Full and Half Marathon scheduled at the same time. No, I did not participate in the run, however for a long time we hikers shared the trail with runners, and I had to run with them few times to get out of the narrow ways. This was my first time to see them up and close. Some of them were pounding hard, some of them were leaning too much forward and lot of them were huffing and puffing in first few miles only. Hard to admit it, but this gave me a lot of hope.

And finally after couple of hours of hike, we met one of the runners who had lost her way and fallen couple of times. Paul’s first aid kit again came in handy. This is the 3rd time I saw him use it. Again thanks to Paul for suggesting and then leading the hike, without the map; I must say we walked on the path less travelled. We stumbled to a waterfall in the park, crossed some bridges and scampered our way out of thick undergrowth. The path was full of poison oak, luckily nobody got it.

While returning back we saw few runners finishing the full Marathon. Most of them were in excellent physical shape, and still struggling to complete last few miles. Some of them were stopping, cramping, throwing up, and everybody looked dead tired. This reminded me what most of the books were saying; that any run which was more that 90 minutes long, takes something out of your body and you need time to recover from it; i.e. benefits of running more than 60 minutes in a single run, start reducing very quickly; and that is why, specially for beginners, it was recommended to restrict long runs to at least once in two weeks.

I had no aches or pains after the hike. So where does that leave me now, which one do I prefer, running or hiking ? Hiking suits me better as I can pause to look at the nature and appreciate it; social aspect of bantering with friends is huge too; you get to see different areas. Running, for me, though may not have the same advantages, however, I did discover few benefits on the way.

I used to dread as how would I occupy my mind while running (most of the races do not allow MP3 players); and that it would be really boring. Once I started running and did runs consistently over 50 minutes for few weeks, I did not find it boring at all. My fears were baseless. Running brought a kind of quietness to my mind, a blank mind, almost a meditative state. I did not think of anything. Though my weight has always been well controlled for my height, I lost my love handles which were always present. Finally, running needs almost no gear, it is very green, you do not have to drive to Gym or tennis court or a state park, simply wake up, have a good pair of running shoes, and out you go. Personally it has proved to give me best bang for the time I spend in fitness.

Of course it helped if long runs are not on tracks where you move in circles, running on long trails helped. I found it was easier to recover from trail running than on pavement. At the time of this writing, and not running for last 10 days, I see love handles creeping back up. I have not given up on running. Based on my self-analysis, I think I was over-striding during my training to run faster (not that I was fast by any standards, but much faster than my body could take). I have to experiment with my running form, see if I could re-learn running, through baby steps and make it at least pain free, and somewhat enjoyable (not funny like Charlie Chaplin as seen in image on right); and it definitely suits my cheap style.