Running: Officially a sub 3:30 Marathoner

17th Jan’2021, First official race in almost an year. Though I wasn’t fully prepared for the marathon distance race training. But given this was the first opportunity in a race in an year, I wasn’t going to miss it for anything. As I had shared in my last post the plan for the run, the plan was to keep at 40min per loop. I was on target for Goal A till 35km just then the cramps started to appear which slowed me down and by the 39th Km it forced me to actually stop for a few minutes. From then On, the Goal B was the next target, which was finishing the run in sub 3’30”

Overall a very satisfying run. The best of Bengaluru marathoners were all there and the ambience was just about perfect. The weather Gods were very kind as it remained pleasant throughout. As a runner you couldn’t have asked for a better setup.

This is how the race went: First 10k – 47’45”, HM at 1’39”, 36.8km at 3hr mark. Last 5.3km in 29min. Finished at 3’29”. During the race was depending on the gels, one every 8th Km.

As they say real marathon starts after the 30th kilometer, and this race for me was no different. Though i had not run a single 20+ distance in last 50 days, the 4 FM practice runs in Aug-Oct 2020, helped fight the mental aspect of the run. Those full Marathon practice runs, helped fight the fear of an FM. The physical aspect that slowed me down around 35km, could probably been avoided, if the mileage had been higher in the build up the race.

Learnings:

  1. I need to ramp up the mileage clocked much higher to have sustained race-pace. My longest run in 50 days before the race was 18km. You need couple of 30+ km distance runs.
  2. Fix the shoe/socks issues to avoid the blisters. After race, my legs were all bruised up. This also led me to slow down(or atleast made to stop pushing harder to avoid skin pill offs.).
  3. Pre-race needs improvement.
  4. I still need to work on the strides. Maybe i need to practice atleast one speed work outs every week.

Onto the next: Sub 20 5k??

Running: Gearing up for First Marathon of 2021

I will be running a real marathon(Not a virtual one) after an year on 17th Jan’2021. Feeling a bit nervous, but more excited as I am getting to take part in non-virtual run. After 2020, this feels like a luxury. Running in solo has its advantages but you start getting fatigue or the monotony just starts getting inside you. So i am eagerly looking forward to the run.

What’s my target/goal for this marathon? Well a very diplomatic answer to this is “Going to simply enjoy the run”. That would be a half truth though. Of course I am intending to cherish the run, but I would be lying if I say i am not looking for some running goals. I am going with the intent to run this within 3’30”. My goal A is 3’20”. 3’30” also will make me super happy. I will be satisfied if I am able to do anything under 3’40”(Goal C). Will start with goal A, and see how this progresses. I don’t exactly recollect which book I got this idea to have multiple goals for any run, but it is empowering. Always go with a best case in mind as goal A and keep pushing for it. But as we know running is a hard game and things do change dramatically during the long run, so having a Plan B or a C helps you still push hard if for any reason Plan A doesn’t work out.

How is my prep for the marathon? I did my last HM+ distance almost a month back. So long run perspective, I do realize, I am little short of practice. But I am feeling confident about my stride and endurance in whatever runs I have managed. The last FM i did was on 25-Oct for New York Marathon(3’45”) and I didn’t push too hard there and it was a solo self supported run. Here the run is an organized event as part of Bengaluru Marathon so the support and motivation wise, this is going to be an advantage.

I will write my next post on how the FM went by after Jan 17th.

Reflections: 2020 and what next?

2020 has been an exceptional year in more than one ways. It has been a year of reflections, slowing down, getting back to basics, finding what is truly worth it, understanding what’s dispensable and valuing relationships.

Life isn’t always about making choices to select things, but a lot of times it is about making smarter choices to remove/ignore things. 2020 made us realize, why eating out is not a necessity(but a luxury) and working out for a better health is not a luxury but necessity. We tend to forget things that we get more free or little work and only realize its importance when it is lost. Health is top of that list. No one cares about it until it is lost. The best part of 2020 is that it has made people firmly believe and understand that this can’t be taken for granted.

Let us make 2021 to be next foundation stone of a good health. If 2020 formed the base, 2021 can be the pillar to a healthier life. Simple things done regularly can drastically make a change in our life over a period of time. As Naval said: All returns in life, whether in wealth, relationships, or knowledge come from compound interest.”

Few simple changes we can bring to our life that can make huge gains over time:

  • Daily 7-8hr of sleep.
  • Daily 30min of walking/running.
  • Eating healthy food.
  • Less Sugar.
  • Weekly 3-4x weight exercises
  • Read/Write about ideas which you want to learn.
  • Learn a new skill every year.

Running: Fighting Blisters and Puking to get 10k PB

Dec 25’2020, I was running my first TCSWorld10K run(though a virtual event) after a gap of 5 years. Last time I did the TCSWorld10K in 2015, my timing was painfully at 1hr 14min. That time it was with no training, and a last minute registration to do a 10k.

This time, I was much better prepared both physiologically and psychologically. As I mentioned in my previous post about the story of first sub50 which was around a year back. This time I was targeting somewhere in between 42-43min.

Last 9 days before the race day, I had just one run of 5km where I ended up with bleeding blisters in my toes. I was worried about making it worse during the run, so was not trying to take a risk by over stretching the injury.

Race Day: Started the run at a pace of 4min per Km, and i was pleasantly surprised that I was able to maintain an average pace of 4’03” till 5km. In that process I got to my 5k PB as well with a timing of 20’16”. Probably the fresh legs helped. After 5th km, I was feeling the pain and also pumping heart rate. I was speaking to myself “even if i maintain 4’30” pace from here, i will still end up with a PB. So don’t push too hard, just ensure that each km is not more than 4’30”.”

This worked till 8km mark, because after crossing 8km mark, I got a puckish feeling. And within 100m, i was puking. total 3 times in next 40sec, and I was not even moving. For few seconds I thought, may be today’s not the day of a PB. Still lets try to complete it. Started again and I was back to pace of 4′ in no time. Actually within few seconds I was able to completely forget about the puke and concentrate on the run again. Finished the Last Km in 3’52”. Overall at 42’04” for the 10km. (The TCS app says 41’36”, but I trust Strava more, which says 42’04”). A PB by 100seconds.

After run feeling was amazing. Though it was a solo run and no one around to talk to, I was just trying to let that sink in and smiling. May be its not so hard. Or may be the continuous training is paying off. Thanked the almighty for the blessings and started back for Home.

Running: Beyond 42.2

September 27’2020

After finishing the chapter on “Pain” in the book “Endure”, I was inspired for trying something new. 
This was my first run where I went beyond 42.2.
First 30km were usual juggernaut, where you keep grinding and also ensuring you have enough gas to last the distance you are planning. Real fun begins only after the 30km. At 34-35km, I was feeling some discomfort in the calves and that reminded me the learnings of pain. How pain is a limiter and also at the same time how it helps to push beyond what you thought was your limit. Instead of fighting the pain, accept it, embrace it.

There’s no fun in running if pain was not part of it.

Slowed down just a little bit and kept listening to the pain, the pace slowness ensured I was not increasing the pain. After a km, the pain subsided at least I didn’t feel it. And started the grinding again.
Till 42.2 after that was a continuous grinding and more mental than physical.
Beyond 42.2 was a mental block, though I walked for a bit after that to enjoy the marathon completion and also to regain some energy to push further.
Last 7km were a combination of walks and runs. Overall a very joyful run with a lot of learnings.

This is still my longest run. Both in terms of Time and distance.

What is the greatest luxury of life?

If you do a poll for the question what is the biggest luxury in life? People may respond with different answers depending on their stage of life: for example

  • owning a big mansion,
  • having a chartered plane or a big boat,
  • no work, no schedule, just sleeping, or travelling.
  • Or any such fancy imagination depending on their state of mind that time they may answer any of these.

Now take a minute and think about a time when you were sick, unwell, deep injury, or going through a tough medication. And recollect what would you have said if the same question was asked to you “what is the biggest luxury of life?” I am 100% sure there will be just one answer getting back to fitness would be a unanimous answer.

So what do we learn from this? This, this time when you are physically and mentally fit is a luxury and do whatever you need to do to stay that way. If it means dropping a bad addiction or starting to remain physically active do that. Now is the time to take that action to retain the biggest luxury of life.

For enjoying all other goodness of life first you need yourself to be in a physical and mental state to enjoy it.

So what can we do?

Small steps:

  • Start with 2 days in a week to walk for an hour.
  • Do some weights exercises if that excites you
  • Take frequent breaks from a continuous sitting or sleeping.
  • Best option of them all: RUN. even if for just 5 minutes in a day for 2 days in a week.

Reduce refined sugar.

This may sound a lot of preaching, but having a strong body, strong immunity and a healthy mind are the least we can do for the greatest asset we truly own: OUR BODY.

Running: Breaking 100

Breaking 100min in HM

Half Marathons are NOT marathons, but it provides just the right sweet spot to push a bit harder and a bit longer to get your runner’s High. This Saturday(28/11/2020) I did the time trials for HM with a goal to beat the 100min barrier which I have been trying for quite some time now.

And I went with the plan that I mentioned in the previous post to start with 4’20”-25″ per km pace and see how it goes.

The first 5 were a breeze, next 5 again just went with the flow, and reached 10km mark at ~45′ min. Next 5km were a bit harder, not because I was struggling, but because when you do time trials without any competition, there is a factor of mental fatigue that plays in and can easily slow you down. I had to keep reminding myself it was all in the brain, just maintain the 4’30”-35″ as long as possible and we will see what happens after that.

The blisters in the run

And I kept going, around 17km mark felt some pain in my toes, I could feel the blisters in there, but stopping was NOT an option. Kept moving. After 2 more km, there was no pain in toes, only the glory which I kept visualizing to see myself at 1hr 35 min at the finish line. It was almost a dream a year back. And in last 2km I could see myself there, even before reaching the finish line.

Pushed the last km faster, and made it to the finish line at 1h35m(95min). This was what I was internally targeting though anything less than 100min would have been equally happier.

After reaching the finish line, the first thought that came to mind was, an ultimate satisfaction. Not because of the new Personal Best. Or my previous best by almost 5min. But the real reason of joy was the consistent pace that I was able to maintain. Slowest km was at 4’40” while my average was 4’31”. The second reason being able to maintain a strong form throughout the run. In the long term, form becomes very very crucial to keep raising the bar of performance.

Learnings from the run:

  1. Cadence during the run was very much there with 185. The stride length is something, I think I can improve further. Will read about it and also talk with my running buddies to understand this better.
  2. Going at 5-10sec faster than target pace during the 3-8km range helps in HM distance run.
  3. 13-17km is mentally the toughest part. If you can maintain your target pace during this, you will eventually finish at your target timing.
  4. Need to find better compatible socks as blisters continue to bother during the speed runs.

Running: Sub 100min Half Marathon

The sub 100min half marathon timing is something I have been trying for a long time. And officially in a half marathon, the closest I have reached is 101’9”min. That was in the Delhi Half Marathon in October’2019. After that in a 25km run I crossed HM at 100’01”. Within 1 sec of my target timing. That was in December 2019.

Airtel Delhi Half Marathon - New Delhi, India - 11/29/2020 - My BEST Runs -  Worlds Best Road Races
Image from ADHM

After that, I haven’t run any HM races as there haven’t been any. This Saturday, Nov 28, 2020, I am going to give it a shot again. This will be part of Virtual Delhi Half Marathon. To emulate Delhi flat track I will be running on a flat route as well. This time I feel I am better trained, better prepared than I was last year. So I am quite hopeful to break the 100min barrier. The challenge this time because it is virtual would be to ensure a good support for hydration and some snacks. Let’s see how that goes. The second bigger challenge is emulating a race scenario. In an actual race it is much easier to get inspired by the race ambience, the crowd, and the competition itself makes you push harder.

This is going to be the plan, let’s see how well I am able to execute.

1. Start with 4.25-30 pace, maintain for 5-6km and feel how the body takes it.

2. 10-16km, just stick to a pace that is maintained for the distance. Preferably 4’30”

3. 17-21 if I can, then push a bit harder to get a better timing.

I will write another post on Saturday how this goes.

Running: Run slow to run Faster

“Running slow to run faster” this sounds such an oxymoron. Though one of the most common mistakes by amateur runners is they try to run too fast, too often. And often end up getting injured.

For long distance running, endurance is a bigger factor than speed. This fact is important not just on the actual race day, but all the practice training. Let us say your target pace is 4” per km, or 5” per km for a 10km race. It is very easy to run faster than these target paces for few minutes, but the challenge in the 10km race will be to able to persist that pace for the whole distance to get your desired timing. This is where endurance training runs come in play. The slower runs, builds the endurance to persist longer.

The book “80/20 running” by Matt Fitzgerald talks through a lot of examples where competitive athletes over several decades have come to realize why slow runs are more important than faster runs. And why the slow runs should constitute minimum 80% of the total time spent running. This only not makes you a stronger runner, but you enjoy the runs more. During these slow runs, enjoy every step, without worrying about your pace.

How to control the running intensity?

We humans are designed to optimize and if our training run goal is 10km, we tend to find ways to finish earlier. This tendency invariably makes the run to be above easy level and majorly in moderate intensity. The moderate intensity runs are the primary reasons where amateur runners peak faster. They tend to plateau to a pace after few years of improvement. It is very critical to find your easy intensity pace and run within it to get the best out of the easy runs. Here’s what i suggest:

  1. Put your run tracker app/watch screen to show your heart rate, rather than speed. And monitor it during the runs to keep it in zone 2. And if you don’t see the speed, distance, you will feel less tempted to run faster.
  2. Maintain a pace where your brain says “I can maintain this pace forever” or “I am holding myself back”.
  3. Target to have a time on the feet as measurement rather than distance.
  4. In terms of pace, the easy runs are 20-30% slower than your recent race pace. If your race pace is 5′, run at 5’40” to 6′ during your easy runs.

A combination of pace, heart rate and perceived effort gives you a better idea of your runs intensity. Listen to your body, and when you feel flat few days, just drop your pace by few notches and ease into the run.

Running: My first sub-50 10k

How to Run a Sub 50 10K and Set A New PR - YouTube

August 2019

After almost 14 months of consistent running. And in the previous 3 months had tried the sub 50 for couple of times and always used to hover around 53-54”. In those failed attempts I realized my mistake was trying to do a pace of 5′-5’10” for first 6-7km and push at the end for wrapping at 50. But to do a sub 50, I needed to comfortably do sub 5 km for 3-4km at a stretch and that is what I was targeting in those weeks before the run.

On 15th August, 2019, a run organized by Decathlon, I along with my close buddies registered at the last minute and went for the run. At the starting point, I saw there were only 12-15 runners in the 10K category. And I counted I had good opportunity to do a podium finish.

As the race began we had no clue of the route, and as per the instructions at the starting point, we had to reach the 5km mark, there will be a volunteer who will note our BIB number and we return back to finish the 10km run. After the first 2km I was leading the pack, though i was focusing on maintaining a pace that would allow me to do sub 50, finish first was another added incentive. At around 2.75km mark, I saw the volunteer, he shouted/gave a sign to take a U-turn. I understood they had goofed up. But then I thought may be they will re-route somewhere to make a 10km distance. I kept on pushing a pace of around 4’50” and reached the starting point in 24’30” and a total of 5.5km. When they realized I was suppose to run 10km, the volunteers asked me to do another loop. I was like “WHAT?” But there was not time to argue. I knew I was leading the 10km still, so doing another loop won’t hurt.

Second lap felt difficult but I managed to wrap it at 52”. My GPS showed almost 11km for a 10km race. I had done the 10k in sub fifty, and probably in 47” and the 11km in 52”. Slightly controversial for a first time sub-50 10km. Nevertheless, It didn’t matter, I was ecstatic to finish first in a race. In the official certificate they acknowledged it and noted my timing for 10k as 48’15”.

I followed it up in the next bigger race to finish 10k in 49 again after two weeks. Though it was a 21.1km race. So officially(as part of an HM) it happened on 25th Aug, but actually on 15th August.

Yet to run a proper 10km race since!!!