Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Update

Looking back, 2012 proved to be yet another good year. Being a chronic-worrier-trying-to-look-calm-parent, I was trying to find a physical outlet for Prem. He was average in most physical team sports like soccer, baseball etc. I felt that pushing him into running at this age might seemed like work to him and not play. So we focused on swimming. After getting Gold Fish and Big Fish badges from Happy Fish, he passed the Swim Team test with flying colors. He was unaware what he was getting into. From 30 minutes a week of swimming to 4-5 hours a week swimming.

Before his first class, we promised to celebrate this achievement at place of his choice. He wanted to go to Round Table Pizza. I took him to class 5 minutes early and when coach said that warm up for 16 laps, I knew this would be trouble. By the end of 1 hour session, when he came out, he was so tired and almost in tears. We went to Round Table Pizza, and decided to talk to coach next day. Most of the kids come little late anyway, and coach was okayed to try out 45 minutes session for first week. We continued to bring Prem 10-15 minutes late for couple of months, before he started to build his endurance, and when summer rolled in, coach asked us to bring him on time, for 90 minutes sessions. 

It is amazing how body adopts to regular practice. Things which seemed impossible couple of months ago, one could do that with little improvements every day. By end of summer, Prem was able to do a Swimathon; he swam around 2 miles, to raise fund for his swim team. Thank you all for all who contributed for this. Prem took two months break from Swim Team for September/October, and then rejoined it. My observation was that his general health improved greatly when he was swimming regularly and he was able to come out of cold very quickly. It seemed he grew more tall, relatively, in summer.

As I write this blog, Prem could juggle two balls well and getting proficient in Rubik cube. He likes doing Math. Needless to say he is better than me in using Smart Phone. He figured out how to shot panoramic photos and taught me  on our recent trip. Promila has been extremely busy with her PhD program. It has been very challenging and satisfying for her at the same time. She continued to receive scholarship and is a National Science Foundation GK12 Fellow.

I did my customary hike of Half Dome, with Sumit and Kumarthis year on Father’s day in June. Besides that, I did no major hikes. I ran two Marathons in March and May respectively, and then reduced my weekly mileage to 18-25 miles a week. I had no plans for running another race or Marathon for the year. Running regularly, to keep healthy has become a habit now. And on back of my mind I still had the goal of running sub 4 hour marathon. My personal record for Marathon is 4 hr 11 minutes, set this  year. I was not sure if I could run sub 4, but that was the challenge for me for next year. Then through my running buddy Dave, I met Jim, 66 year old runner in October. He had 3 hour 9 minutes marathon after 60 year of age.

Jim changed my perspective about training, and gave me few ideas to try. I could stay with him for 5 K, but longer distances, I did not have the endurance to keep up with him. I started seriously taking his ideas, and with just 4 weeks of training, I ran 5 K in Turkey Trot and set up the PR at 21:25. Though some of the ideas were counter-intuitive, like run slowly, even intervals, but they seemed to be working. I have been running faster races and almost no recovery time. Keeping my fingers crossed, and hope to continue my training for another 6-10 months before thinking about Marathon. I was glad to have Prem run 0.5 mile at Turkey Trot with me this year. And it would be a big parenting challenge in 2013 to get him to run with me on some of these weekend runs on track. Promila, also is getting committed to exercise. With her PhD qualifying exam over finally this year in October, hopefully, she will get regular in training.

We took a summer trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park, Crater Lake National Park and Redwood National Park. Whole family thoroughly enjoyed this week long trip, and learned quite a few new things from Rangers program. In winter we took last minute vacation to Sacramento, Death Valley National Park, Hoover Dam and Las Vegas. Sacramento trip was educational trip for Prem to learn about birth of California due to Gold Rush, Railroads and their significance in trade for California and rest of the country, State Capitol and Sutter Fort. We enjoyed staying in RV with Kumar and Shubha family. Prem did try his hands in gold panning.

Death Valley had the lowest point in Western Hemisphere (282 ft below Sea Level). We were pleasantly surprised to see Zabriskie Point, Golden Canyon and Scotty’s Castle. Prem rolled around in sand dunes for couple of hours and we were fortunate to walk on rim of somewhat active Ubehebe volcano there.  Dante’s Peak, Borax mining works and history behind Scotty’s castle added to charm of Death Valley. 

After spending couple of days in Death Valley, we headed to Las Vegas. I was surprised to see innovative new slot and other machines in Casinos based on background themes of popular old and new Hollywood movies and music groups. There was no doubt about amount of money the spent in R&D. Normal person, like me, does not stand a chance to win, end up feeling good in spite of losing. Vegas trip is not complete without watching at least one show. It was difficult to find age appropriate kid friendly shows. We settled for Blue Man group show. And all three of us enjoyed it thoroughly, show was musical, witty and was very interactive with audience. Prem understood the advantage of Casino and wanted to find out if there is a University where they teach about gambling. We spent a day at Hoover Dam, and then headed back to Bay Area to spend new year eve with Som/Swapna. Photos and more Photos

All in all, great year with some real growth in areas we wanted to grow in. We feel blessed and fortunate.

Summer 2012 - Lassen Volcanic, Crater Lake and Redwood National Parks

Planning – After putting Prem for first week in school camp, he was asking where are we going in vacation. This is the first time he ever asked, could it be peer pressure, do not know. I asked him, as where he wanted to go. He mentioned Washington DC to see Lincoln Memorial, White House and Washington Monument. He was not aware of Smithsonian museum. I asked him if he wanted to go to Disney World in Florida, he didn’t. For last couple of years we have been going to Southern California and couple of days trips to Yosemite. We talked for few more weeks, and probably on seeing that there is no concrete plan, he was ok to go anywhere, as long as he has to stay in hotel and monkey around in the pool.

Ummm……coming from India, vacation primarily meant to go to tourist/historical places. India has lot to offer in terms of geographical diversity and cultural heritage. You try to cover as many places in the time/money available. Generally, taking vacation used to be mission, planned couple of months in advance, hotel/train booked. We had fun, but idea of relaxation and chilling out never occurred. When first time in 1999, one of my colleague shared their plan of vacation in US, I was surprised. Basically on asking details in different ways, I found out, it was going to Bermudas, and staying 2 weeks in hotel, reading book near the swimming pool. Nothing else planned.

Now when Prem asked me to get out and stay in hotel/resort some place for a week; I realized that he is more Westernized than I am in this aspect. Promila’s schedule for summer was relatively freed up, and now onus was on me to plan something. I knew going to Southern California was easy. I wanted to go up north in Oregon and Washington, as it was difficult to enjoy these states in winter rain/weather for us. I started looking up the US National Park map. I want to spend 2-3 days in each National Park. It was apparent that 7 days are not going to be enough to cover Northern California, Oregon and Washington National Parks (NP). I had to drop Washington for another day/week in future.

I read AAA guide book to get some idea on Crater Lake, Lassen Volcanic and Redwood NP. I did not get much. I started talking to people who had been to these places. This helped quite a bit in solidifying the plan. Thanks to Liz, Tapa and John Kim for sharing their experiences and recommendations. And from our Yosemite and Joshua Tree NP, we knew we had to do some Rangers programs hosted by the NP and Jr Ranger programs.

July 22, 2012 (Sunday): With relaxation as one of the goal of this vacation, I kept all Saturday to chill out and start talking about plan to Promila and Prem. Plan was to reach Lassen Volcanic National Park (LVNP)by 11, and do two small hikes, one guided by ranger. I had couple of back up hikes in mind as well. With recent Berry Creek hike, I knew Prem and Promila were in good shape and can do 4-5 hours 10 mile hikes. I was not sure if they could do it every day. I have to remind myself, that one of major goal is to relax too and I should not cram too many things.

In all, we wanted to cover LVNP, Lava Beds National Monument, Crater Lake NP and Redwood NP. I was not sure about Lava Beds after reading about it, there were no ranger programs midweek, and it was little bit out of way. On discussing with Promila, it was clear, that we were not going to do it, and instead spend more time in Crater Lake NP. It was good to have some plan, but we were flexible to account for energy levels, ranger recommendations etc. This flexible mindset helped us in enjoying the trip much more, as I did not have to be pushing Promila/Prem and we allocated 2-3 days every NP.

We were taking our 13 year old Toyota Corolla, I wanted to pack everything by night and leave by 6 AM in the morning. Generally, most of the car trips, our start gets delayed by couple of hours (or more). It was very pleasant to get out of house before 7 AM. We had 4 new tires in the car, and got air checked, as I knew that we would climb up from 0 to 8000 ft, with lot of ups and downs. New tires helped quite a bit throughout the 7 days trip on high elevation curvy roads, and car held up quite well.

We reached before 11 AM to visitor center, and talked to ranger about Ranger programs available for the day. We went to do Bumpass Hell hike. This is our 2nd trip to LVNP. First time we tagged along with another family, and did some site seeing but no ranger programs. Spending some time (20-30 minutes) with ranger is highly recommended, as you get to know the latest of what is happening, like bear/mountain lion activities in the park, depending on time/strength/interest ranger could guide you as what to do. For example, if we have interest in waterfalls or lake or snow play or reaching to one of the peaks or looking at some active volcanoes. I did not realize that LVNP has all 4 different type of volcanoes, and a lot of them are still considered active.

Inside the somewhat active Volcano
While doing, Bumpass Hell hike, I realized that we parked our car in caldera ( huge hole made by mountain/volcano collapsing inwardly after eruption), and then you are hiking down to center of volcano where it is still somewhat active and you are watching multiple geo-thermal phenomena, like boiling mud pots, sulfur streams/fumes, devil kitchen etc. And when you look around and up, you get to see that surrounding peaks were walls of collapsed volcano.  I did not know most of these details in my earlier trip here. Slowing down, reading ahead and talking to rangers helped in taking in and appreciating the LVNP much more.

After Bumpass Hell, we came back to visitor center, and did a Jr Ranger program. I learned quite a few things. Kids were divided into two groups and given tasks. First one was that you are hiking in back country and suddenly there was a storm and you have to create a shelter, how would you do that. You have just a simple rope and a tarp. Idea was as how to keep yourself dry by building hanging the tarp on a strong branch or on rope itself between two trees, and then hold the corner of tarp with either stone. Further one can collect dry twigs etc to make a good comfortable bed to rest on. Second task was to create a fire in 10 minutes to help your hiking buddy who was soaked and was very cold. Here, you had to find dry spot, not so windy, probably against one big rock, find dry twigs and put stones around it. First try to make fire with only very few things, and later on after starting small fire, put bigger branches etc.

We took our lunch at visitor center, and it was 5 PM before we decided to another hike. Ranger highly recommended Kings Creek Fall hike. Since the days were long and we had a good break, we decided to do that hike. It was around 5-6 miles round trip, with views of meadow, creek and Falls in the end. Good thing that we had mosquito repellent. We initially thought it was only 3 mile, and later found out that short cut shown on trail map was closed because of rock slides, and we had to take a longer route to the falls.
Four hours drive, two hikes and a Jr Ranger program on first day, we were done for the day. It was still over an hour ride back to hotel in Redding. It was good that we had detailed maps of the areas, as phone and gps did not work for most of the 7 days during this trip. Travelodge in Redding was a great find, thanks to We all enjoyed a long bath, did not set up any alarms for morning and slept well.

Shasta Dam
July 23, 2012 – We decided to do the Shasta Dam tour first. The guided tour, 1.5 hours long,  was very informative and highly recommended. I did not know that Shasta Dam was twice as big as Hoover Dam, made by same Engineer who made Hoover, built couple of months ahead of schedule and under budget, specifically in time of 2nd World War, when most of the resources were steered towards war efforts. Tour takes you inside the dam, where you see over 500 ft wide tunnels. These tunnels are used by engineers to inspect on seepage, deeper you go in the dam, wider these tunnels become. Kids had lot of fun doing echo experiment in the tunnel. Primary purpose of the dam was to conserve water, flood control; and it also helps meeting the peak electric demands. Dam was not built on any river, Shasta Lake is there because of this dam which is primarily has rain water  from the catchment area surrounding it. Downstream of dam was the start of Sacramento river. Tour guide was passionate employee and quite funny.

Shasta Caverns
We reached Shasta Caverns site in afternoon, and did a boat, bus and guided tour here too. We get to see few houseboats. Caverns had 8 flight of stair, and highlight of tour, which Prem remembered very well, even after few weeks, was Opera sung by the tour guide. Tour was excellent, and she told Snowwhite story in the Cathedral room, imagining different rock formations into story characters.

We met Alexa, Maria and her mother at hotel. Prem was looking forward to swim with Alexa in the hotel pool. It was hot and both were trying to show off different skills. Alexa had a underwater camera, and asked me to take picture of them.  We discussed next day program and decided to go back to LVNP. As per Ranger recommendations, we wanted to do Cinder Cone Volcano (your typical volcano you see in cartoons etc) on North East side of the park. I was excited that you get to hike an active volcano and you get to go walk on rim of the volcano and can look inside. It was 2-3 hours hike, however, since it was too hot, I was not sure if Prem and Promila should come. This part of the park was not frequented by visitors. I was checking on map and did not really see any roads for last 6 miles to the trailhead.

July 24 : This is one of few times, I was able to enjoy the drive, soaking in the beauty of surrounding area, as roads here were not windy, and you get through Old growth forest. Both Promila and I were trying to compare LVNP with Yosemite, as we were gasping with serene beauty of forest, with Mt Lassen in backdrop. LVNP may not have the same falls or granite rocks as Yosemite, however, it has lot of other things to offer, like Volcanoes, lakes, streams and very different scenery. Ranger told us that Yosemite has around 4 million visitors every year, LVNP has only 400, 000. Finally, we reached to Butte’s lake area, and started driving for Cinder Cone Volcano trailhead. It was poorly maintained gravel road. Gravels were not compacted, and our compact car was bouncing and rattling quite much. After 5 minutes, we turned around, as there was no phone reception and we did not see anybody in that area. Notes to self, bring a 4 wheel drive next time to do this hike. Not that I needed another excuse to come here, it would be good to do this hike and Mt Lassen Peak which opens only couple of days a month during full moon, as they are repairing the trail currently.
Burney Falls

We started heading back and did Lava Tubes or Subway Cave, created by lava flow 2000 years ago. It was pitch dark, and we were prepared with flash light and a light jacket as temperature drops down considerably. It was around 20 minutes walk to see various points inside the cave. And from there we headed to Burney Falls (also known as MacArthur Burney Falls). After hanging out at visitor center, and watching local picture on falls’ history, we did a loop hike of falls, and hiked down, 10 minutes, to see 135 ft tall falls. We spent some time there, and headed back and came to know the loop was a part of Pacific Crest Trail.

We still have a lot of time, so we headed back to LVNP and did Lake Manzanita hike, and surprisingly ran into Dave, running buddy, who was there with kids for a week, camping in a big group. It was motivational  to know that he was managing to run while he was out there.  We did another small hike on Lake reflection, and headed back, and did dinner at Janya Thai restaurant near the hotel.

Sun Dial Bridge
July 25 : After doing breakfast, we went to see Sundial Bridge, another little gem in Redding. From there we headed north to Crater Lake, Oregon. We stopped near base of Mt Shasta, drove around the small town. Next stop was Klamath in Oregon, just 40 miles south of Crater Lake NP. Lava Bed National Monument was only 40 miles south from there. We decided to eat in Klamath and spend more time in Crater Lake. By the time, we reached it was already 6 PM, we checked in the Crater Lake Lodge; another great place to stay, right on rim of caldera (7700 years ago, volcano erupted, and spewed ash for many years. Ash becomes so heavy that a big portion of this volcanic Mt Mazama collapsed on itself, making Crater Lake, which is 4 mile wide and 6 miles long. There is a rim drive, 33 mile long, with lot of Vista points and small hikes to access various interesting point.

Wizard Island Volcano from
Watchman Peak
Promila looked at ranger program and found out quickly that there was a sunset hike to Watchman peak at 7:30 PM. This was on west side of lake and goes up around 700 ft, for 1.1 mile. They had a tower, initially created to monitor the fires in earlier days. It was another very entertaining and informative talk from the ranger, explaining the Clark nutcracker and it symbiotic relation with the local white pine tree. There was lot of snow on the trail. I had brought gloves, so kids were having fun in snow while hiking up. It helps to have both Alexa and Prem, as they create their own fun game, and they were strong enough to keep up with the rest of the group.

July 26 : We drove around the crater and covered most of the remaining Vista Points. And then headed down for the highly recommended boat trip in the Crater lake. Hike down was 1.1 mile, and you get to see one of the cleanest deep blue water. Water literally looked like dark ink blue color at some places, and immediately next to it, it appeared sky blue. Guide explained that where there was more depth, water is dark blue. Apparently, there was experiment done few years ago, where they lowered a person in the lake, in a water craft, 2000 deep, and from bottom, water was so clear, this person could see the boat floating on top.
Crater Lake from the Lodge
We saw two more volcanoes inside the Crater Lake during our boat ride. The prominent one, which looked like an Island is called Wizard Island and is typical Cinder Cone Volcano inside the Crater Lake. Other volcano was ancient volcano, which is now known as Phantom Ship Island, as it sometimes hard to see and seemed disappeared. Earlier in morning, I hiked the highest point on Crater Lake, known as Mt Scott, elevation 8934 ft. This used to be another volcano, and one can view all of Crater lake from here. Prem and Promila enjoyed the food at Crater Lake Lodge specially the Rainbow Trout and Stuffed French Toast. Food was really well done and both of them kept talking about it for months later. Prem wanted to become fisherman and catch fish to supply at Crater Lake Lodge. Most photos came really good, area was pristine and serene. And I was glad that I was able to get out beyond Yosemite and enjoyed other National Parks.

July 27 & 28: For next two days, we drove through Redwoods national park, which is has four different state park covered in it. I could never get enough of Redwoods. Fern Canyon was great, and part of Jurassic Park movie was shot here. We saw Elks in meadows here too. This was a big park and there are 4 main scenic drive, we covered 3 of them. We stopped over on almost every vista point. We took our car inside the two Redwood trees, Klamath Tour Through Tree and Chandelier Tree. It was apparent, that we needed to spend more time there.  There was so much to see and treasure.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Running Learnings

After Marathon, I was looking for a quick fix to resolve my fatigue/tiredness issue in last one hour, looking for some magic pill. I read a lot of stuff on internet for various products, this blog was the best in class, as per my opinion.

The link below is part 5 of Muscle Cramp article. If anyone of you buy their book, do share with me the gist of what you find. I did not find it in local library. Also, feel free to share any other learnings in comment column below

Apart from muscle cramp, there are lot of other articles as well, which I had gone through. This was the gist I remember, feel free to correct me, if you find something else, I just want to have all the information to make informed decision.

1. Do not take Tylenol or Mortrin before the race, it messes up with water in the body somewhat.

2. New shoes, with a newer cushion do help

3. 75% of elite runners are heel striker, 20% are mid-foot and around 5 % are ball striker. So do not mess with your natural running style or whatever is working for you. (There were some statistics for this)

4. Runner cramps in legs have nothing to do with salt, and sports drink do not help, apart from giving you some energy for which you can take the cheaper version of sugar or regular food. Sweat is isotonic, i.e. percentage of salt in sweat is much less than % of salt retain in body fluid. So your body, after losing some sweat would have higher percentage of salt. If you just drink water, that is fine, it would not dilute the salt in body where you would get into trouble. Also, if salt are really less in your body, your whole body should cramp, not just running muscles of leg.

5. Cramps, most likely occur, because at extreme fatigue, your neurons are not firing correctly to send information to muscles. Training at that tiredness help.

6. Lot more injury cases are coming to forth for now for barefoot runner.

7. For over 95% of runner, neutral shoe would be good, very few people need orthotics.

8. There is some truth in mind over body, but if body is disintegrated, mind cannot do anything, so think about what are the real limits.

9. June 25, 2013 - Changed my training to increase slow mileage to over 50 miles a week. A new world opened up for me, running faster than I could ever imagine. Results are coming fast. Barely 15% of mileage is quality runs, and that too at HM pace.

Lydiard -

1. Shifting daily distance from 15 miles/day to 20 miles on one day and 10 on next day, you would get better results. Simply, longer runs develops greater muscular endurance, shorter provides recovery and consolidation.

2. EZ runs - Besides building general cardiac efficiency or higher maximum steady state, helps in capacity to exercise anaerobically.

3. As per Lydiard, anaerobic intervals are needed, but he did not time them, both recovery and interval paces, and number of repetitions. Focus should be keeping your aerobic fitness up, and anaerobic to stimulate it so that you run faster aerobically at higher speeds. Much more focus on building aerobic fitness, and doing long distance run 3 days a week for 4-6 weeks, along with smaller/hill runs on other days; all at aerobic pace; before one should think about speed. (Note: Seemed to work for me, when I was injured and could not run intervals because of thigh strain, I kept aerobic running for 6 weeks, and did a race much faster than I ran ever before). He even discourages frequent racing during this build up phase, time trials might be OK.

4. 100 miles/week

5.Muscle cramps are due to deficiency of Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium. Do not take salt tablets during run, as they deplete Potassium.

Again, feel free to share your learnings in comments below.

Lore of running (Excellent book by Tim Noakes - best I have read on running)

1. Base training - 8-12 weeks of base training with less or no emphasis on speed work.
2. Sharpening - Hard training (speed intervals) generally for 6-10 weeks, beyond  that performance start going worse. This period is followed by 3-5 weeks of racing, before performance goes down. During racing, no need to do hard training.

Daniel's running formula

Daniel divided the running season into 24 weeks, 4 phases, with each phase of 6 weeks.

Phase 1 - Foundation and Injury Prevention Training
1.1 Just Lydiard, first 6 weeks is just base training at EZ pace. He defines EZ pace at around 2 minutes slower than 5 K pace.

1.2 Phase 1 is to build base and injury prevention. Do not be tempted to run fast in this phase. Though primary purpose of phase 1 is injury prevention, but you can try to increase mileage in this phase but not too aggressively, i.e., not to increase the mileage sooner than every 3rd week.

1.3 See the sign of fatigue, and take  a day off, whenever needed. He further mentions that it is mistake to caught on weekly mileage, that it dominates your training. He further goes on, if you do not learn to take day off, it might hurt in later phases, when you bring quality run into your program. He further mentions that benefits of higher mileage are well preserved once attained, so do not fear dropping some mileage later on during the season when you are emphasizing other types of training.

Phase 2 - Early Quality Training

2.1 Dominated by Strides and reps of 200-400 m, or 20-40 seconds of strides at mile pace.

2.2. Idea is to build cadence, running economy and prepare body for next phase of training which is considered most brutal, because of Interval Training.

2.3 5-6 strides, 2-3 times a week is recommended. Strides could be done during warm up or cool down or during middle or end of long run

Phase 3 - Transition Quality Training

3.1 Considered most stressful event-specific training.

3.2 800 or mile training, you have to include anaerobic work out, but 5 K or 10 K, regular Invervals (Vo2 max training would work).

3.3 Do not become cocky here in this phase and try to run faster than training paces, as it could lead to injury and you would lose 12 weeks of solid base.

3.4 Intervals are mentally and physically challenging, so you can do them day later or earlier than your schedule permit. However, try to do them, if you do not have any injury scare.

3.5 Small races are mentally better sometimes and could replace one of interval workout. If you are training for mile, longer races are good, and if you are training for HM or M, smaller distances are good. For 19:17 5 K (6:13 pace), intervals could be 400 m at 91 second, 1200 4:33 (almost 6 min pace). These intervals are faster than 5 k pace.

3.6. Recommended that intervals should last between 3-5 minutes. It takes around 2 minute before body start functioning at VO2 max. 5 minute is recommended as you can take 3-5 minutes recovery time, and you are guaranteed that you spent 3 minutes per interval in VO2 max. Shorter interval, would require shorter recovery. For shorter intervals of 400, it is recommended that you start your next 400 in 2 minutes, i.e. if you run your 400 in 80 seconds, then the following one should be in 40 seconds; making it 2 minute start cycle.

3.7 Jogging during recovery is much more beneficial than walking or standing, as it clears the lactate and keep the muscle loose. Recoveries should always be equal or shorter than the interval run period.

3.8 Remember not to run 400 m intervals faster than 1600 m, as the purpose is to spend time in VO2 max. Shorter interval would require much shorter recoveries.

3.9 Quality portion of interval should not be more than 8% of weekly mileage with non-negotiable upper limit of 10 K or 30 minutes of interval running.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Oakland Marathon – March 25, 2012

After I ran my first Marathon exactly a year ago, I thought what a tough Marathon to run as my first one, and I promised myself that I would chose next one very carefully. Through rest of the 2011, I struggle to get back to running, injured myself once and I was out till November. I went to India and ran few days a week with my brother, and he was in good shape to beat me on most days. Came back, and ran Turkey Trot in November, and then carefully started increasing my mileage. However, I was struggling to recover from my long runs 12 miles or more.

Minh and Dave, looking at my blue nails, after one such long run, advised me to try a bigger size shoe. I took their advise, and bought a neutral running shoe with half size more. 10 years ago, I used to wear size 9, and now this one was size 11. Your feet swell during long runs and so it is generally advisable to buy a 1 size bigger as your running shoe. New shoe helped quite a bit, I could immediately see the difference in my recovery and I have to admit that apart from shoe size, new support helped too. I was of the opinion, older shoes, with worn out support, help making your feet stronger. I do not think this reasoning worked for me, as apart from blue nails, I would have feet pains too.

With new shoes, I started my training in February, and able to get to put couple 20 milers in Feb and early March. I thought that after I have couple 20 milers in long runs, I would register for a Marathon. And as the luck would have it, Oakland was fitting in the schedule perfectly, and 8 people, I knew, were running in it. During my 20 miles long runs, I was not able to keep my goal pace of 9 min/mile, so this time, I knew I could not keep up with 3:50 pace group. Vimal (who ran 2 half and 1 full marathon with me earlier) and I started behind 3:50 pace group and stayed behind it and ahead of 4 hour pace group for around 20 miles. Last 6 miles for me were much slower, but nothing comparison to what happened last year. Starting with realistic pace helped. And I was able to finish at 4:11:13, a new PR for me. Vimal finished at exact 4 hours, a great achievement considering he did not do a single training run of over 2 hours. I was not in much pain and was just feeling tired after the race. One of the goal for the race was not to get injured this time. I was able to run properly after couple of days of the Marathon and did another long run following weekend, indicating that I had a quick and complete recovery.

My training was to run intervals of 1 miles (1 mile warm up and 4 miles of intervals) on Tuesday, Tempo run (1 mile warm up, 3-5 mile of hard run under 8 min pace) on Thursday and Sunday long run (10 plus miles). This time, I tried to keep my long runs at 9 minute/mile pace, but pace would progressively slow down after 2 hours of running. My intervals and tempo run indicated that I should be able to do a faster Marathon, but not the long runs. I think it requires more training at that pace. Besides 3 days of running a week (20 – 30 miles/week), I was able to put two swims of 45 minutes as a cross training. I think swim helped me in recovering from hard and long runs quickly, and kept my aerobic levels up. I felt immediate relief from sore/stiff muscles after swimming. Marathon training is hard and I am glad to be done with one Marathon for the year, and now looking forward to do some hiking. Personally, I feel much better till 2 hours of running, body takes a beating beyond that and require some recovery time.

Marathon is still a big challenge for me. There are so many parameters, like diet, cross training, nutrition during run, hydration, shoes, fatigue, cramps, recovery, injury. And only way to learn what works for you is by trial and error, and running those miles. It is a path to self discovery and that is what keeping me come back to it.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 Update

Personally following things stands out for me, not in any particular order

1. Training for and finishing a Marathon.
2. Hiking Half Dome and Clouds Rest with friends.
3. Hiking Nevada Falls with family on Father’s day.
4. Swimming over a mile.

My learnings with running continued this year. After completing two half marathons last year, logical progression was to go and do a full Marathon. The training for full though was much more intense, you end up running at least half marathon distance every weekend. This requires a lot more discipline. It helps to run in a group. Big thanks to Norm for running at 5 AM with me on two weekdays, and to Dave for organizing long runs. I look back and treasure all the training which helped me in finishing the Marathon in 4 hours and 22 minutes. I had running related injury in September, and could not run for 6 weeks after that. I realized that how much I missed running. This further confirms that I was training at my limits. I think I have to train more smartly and do some cross training to avoid injuries.

Sometimes, there is upside to an injury. I remember, when I injured my elbow in 2008 playing tennis, I started hiking and got hooked. This time also, this injury proved to be a blessing. I started swimming 2-3 times during this injury period, and was able to finally do over a mile of freestyle swimming. This time, I took my cue from Sachin who started swimming after a shoulder injury and now an accomplished tri-athlete. Just like running, I never went to any swimming class or swam in my school days. It gave me lot of satisfaction to be able to do that by trial and error. Prem learnt and graduated from the swim classes at Happy Fish, twice already, he took. It is a matter of time and interest before he start beating me. Looking forward to those days.

I continued hiking in 2011. Hiked Half Dome and twice I hiked Clouds Rest (Chetan, Nitin, Vimal, Prasad and Thomas) in Yosemite. It has been great fun hiking with friends and family. This year, on Father’s day weekend, whole family hiked till Nevada falls; and later I did Upper Yosemite Fall hike. After I completed my Marathon in March, I was struggling to get back to running; and every time, during summer whenever I hiked in Yosemite, I found that it made me stronger as runner.

Promila started Ph D in Computer Science this year at Santa Clara University. Like with anything she does, she started doing it with lot of energy and enthusiasm. I see when I try to learn a new thing, I generally break it into small goals, prepare myself to struggle/experimentation and dig the trenches for long haul. On other hand, for Promila most of new learnings come naturally, provided she has proper environment, exciting group of people to interact and has fun. Needless to say, that she is thoroughly enjoying her back to school time. And it was great to see that she got the prestigious National Science Foundation fellowship to support her tuition.

Promila’s parents visited US this year too, and spent some time together. My cousin, Vivek, came for couple of days, with family this summer. Prem was excited to play with his cousins. In November, I was able to visit India and spent three weeks with parents, brother, nephew, niece and friends. This was a memorable trip, as I was able to catch up with lot of my friends too. Played Cribbage with father and nephew Parth. Parth, 11, now able to play most of online puzzle games and has been doing well on Khan Academy. It was great to see that father was still in overall good physical and mental health. I met Kapil, Ravi, Prem Sagar and Sudhir. Big thanks to Pradeep for organizing our class re-union get together, and great to see that everybody was doing well. There were lot of opportunities in India these days, thanks to growing purchasing power of middle class. I used mobile broadband, able to purchase books (Harry Potter and Chetan Bhagat books, translated in Hindi for parents and few others) from and used very reliable Radio Taxis. The branded products, like Nike, Reebok etc, I found much more expensive in Delhi. There was a lot of demand for them. There is still no or yet there and customer is still not the king.

There was a lot more awareness about health and fitness now. I went to local park for running with my brother (no, you cannot run on the road in Delhi); and for a 5K loop, 3 out of 4 people could beat me. And I was pleasantly shocked that even my brother, Tarun, was faster than me. I had to console myself, reminding that I was just coming out of injury. Of course, there were lot more people walking in the park than running; but whoever were running, were really doing well. I learnt quite a few things from my brother and his group of friends (Aakash and Aditya) who were into fitness. I would incorporate some of the things in my routine to become stronger runner.

This time, I was able to meet and talk to most of my cousins too. Mind you, on my mother side alone, they are 10 brothers and sisters. Since my mother is the eldest one, there is almost a generation gap between me and some of my cousins. It was very refreshing to see that some of my cousins did not choose conventional path (get into Engineering or medicine profession). It was great to meet and talk to Guchhu, who is following her dream, after working as Engineer for couple of years, now enrolled into Social Entrepreneurship at Tata Institute; and doing her first project for Mumbai slums. Some of other cousins are also trying different things, and find ways. It was great to see this change in mindset.

Year ended up with a one week vacation in Dolphin Cove Resort near Disneyland with family friends Maria-Anand-Alexa. We did not end up going to Disneyland as Prem showed no interest in going there. He was more interested in playing with Alexa. He wanted to have Monopoly game for Christmas. And he took this game with him on vacation. Great thing was that Alexa loved the game equally, and both played for hours together, giving us more time to catch up on reading or simply unwinding. Thanks for Maria, we enjoyed California Science Center – Los Angeles (Actual Gemini 11 Space Capsule and Mercury Redstone 2 capsule which carried the space chimp Ham for first time into space) and enjoyed Flying Monsters in Imax.

We visited Fleet Science Center in Balboa park, which was arguably the best in terms of explaining all the interactive display they had. Also we visited Griffith Space Observatory in LA, and were able to see Jupiter and 4 of its 63 moons from one of the biggest telescopes in the world. Griffith believed simply looking at the Universe would literally and figuratively broaden the horizon of the public. This is the quote from Col. Griffith of built this Observatory and donated to the city of Los Angeles – "Man's sense of values ought to be revised. If all mankind could look through that telescope, it would change the world!". Prem learnt how to build a comet and that comet have all the elements which any life form possesses, CHNOPS.

For couple of days, we hung out on Huntington Beach, swam and hot tub at resort. For one day we took the trip to Joshua Tree National Park. This was Promila long time wish to see this park and it did not disappoint us. Joshua Tree National Park comprised of Mohave deserts which is at higher altitude, 3000 to 5000 feet above sea level. Joshua tree, though from Lily family, looked like a cross between Cactus and Palm tree. The name was given by Mormon pioneers in that area as the tree looked like a walking human form pointing towards promised land. Since at higher altitude there is more moisture, these trees can survive. Other features of the park, which we were able to explore, were Skull Rock, Oasis of Mara and Barkar Dam.

In the end, I feel truly blessed, that I was able to run and hike with friends and family despite injuries and improved on swimming this year. Like I mentioned earlier, it is not just finishing the Marathon or bagging another peak that is important; but joy lies in the attempt, in the struggle, in the suffering involved, not in the goal itself.

We wish you a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year 2012, filled with laughter and joy.

with love (Prem)

Promila - Maneesh