Sunday, January 5, 2014

Goa '13

This post is not for the contented normal folk who get by comfortably. It's for those always looking to challenge themselves, those who like being intellectually challenged. Like I was when I didn't bother checking how far my stay was from the run. My friend booked me into a shack in Morjim, which is so far away from Vasco (the marathon venue) that I might have as well travelled from Mumbai directly. This meant 140 km of biking on Saturday to collect the running bib which left me feeling like I'd already completed a marathon. The customary carbloading cheered me up of course but little did I know that the shack did not get water supply till 6 am. So off I went praying that the marathon venue had decent toilets, which it did. I managed to join the start line a few seconds before the flag off. Goa had pacers this time! I placed myself in the 'slipstream' of the 2.5 hour pacer for the entire distance and blanked out for most of the run, staring at the scenery and applauding when I saw those Kenyans on their way back, as usual. After the carb reload at Bhosle's at Panjim and a long nap, things promised to get interesting when the shady Shack Manager approached my friend and me at the restaurant, and offered to arrange anything we wanted, 'perfect, no problem, anything, you just tell me, no problem'. Said friend was down with fever and cold by then and I was half sick from the run too. So believe it or not, my friend did what our Babuji would have done, with extra almonds to boot.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Auroville '12

Reporting almost real-time, just a couple of years after the event, from Auroville 2012. Two athletes, one race, one goal - to finish the race in a finite time period without breaking anything. As usual Don and I set out taking a huge lead in the part of the race where we are world-class - the carbloading, inside Auroville itself while collecting the bib, where the poor quality of food is only matched by the quality of service.

 We check in at the seedy lodge I'd booked and were delighted to land on a highly original channel logo and watched a horrible unknown tam movie, probably produced by the lodge itself, just for the logo.

Next step - dinner at Hotel du Parc. Looked like a daunting task but nothing we couldn't wash down with a couple of beers. You heard right, we didn't go with conventional wisdom on that one.

 The race itself was pretty uneventful. We both got done in the 2:20s and were off to carb reload at Adyar Anand Bhavan.

(PS : I think I've spent more time managing these jumping pictures in writing this post than in training for the half-marathon. Damn you blogspot!)

Sunday, December 11, 2011


I started out writing about how some top athletes come back from career threatening injuries even better than they were, almost as if the injury helped them discover a higher potential in themselves which they never knew existed. That's a post for another day.
Goa is possibly the world's best destination, unless of course, you get conned by those bike rentals and end up with a wobbly Pulsar. The stability of the rented bike plays a critical role as you churn down hundreds of miles, trying to find a beach that turns out to be identical to the one you were staying in anyway. The roads are awesome though, so it works if you are one of those 'life is a journey' types. If not there's cheap beer at either side of the drive.
If you are a regular reader of this blog (yes - i mean you two co-authors), you are probably a lazy sort of person who would like to complete a half-marathon in a decent time, with very little training and that too of the mental/psychological/auto-suggestion type. You are cynical about high achievement ('look at those Kenyans going at thrice our pace - losers') and dismissive of very low achievement ('fat slobs taking 5 hours to complete half marathon - fail'). You probably picked up a niggle at one of these events (ok, that was just me) and this Goa River Marathon was the big comeback.
All eyes on me, I jogged gingerly to the start line. And beyond. And that was the secret, jogging gingerly.
To summarise - if you are running after recovering from a niggle, go slow.
No. Slower.
Dude, s-l-o-w. Don't you get it?
So I decided to block everything out and jogged at a constant speed. This is incredibly hard to do if you are competitive, because there are always the sprinter idiots who plan to sprint the first 10 km and then relax. They manage about 500 metres and then walk the rest usually. But it's worrisome to see people take off like that and you are stuck with the chaff of the running world within 2 minutes. Then you meet the Kenyans on their way back to the title at kilometer number 6 (which means they are on km number 15). Ignore.
I think I did some other things right - I ate a hearty breakfast of 8 biscuits, twice, during the run, along with downing electral and water at every opportunity (every 2 km). I changed over to Vibram shoes (how do we monetise this blog incidentally?) from a big-cushion sole. And got done in 2:38. At least the Kenyans hadn't left the venue yet, unlike the last time, when it felt like I was at a different event altogether. They were dancing to a live band at the finish line. Well, it's Goa after all.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Blame it on Munaf!

Ok so i blame it all on Munaf patel! Watching England chase 338 and tie the game was rather disappointing and there are several instances where i felt sincerity could have saved the day.

1. Zaheer running 1 short of the last over.

2. Munaf allowing 2 tailenders to get away with 13 of the last over.

3. Sachin allowing that boundary owing to sheer laziness but i really do not have the heart to blame him so i blame munaf for that too:-)

When Munaf bowled that 48th over, a reasonably good one that too, and kept grinning on his way back, something just snapped in my mind. I knew this guy is nowhere close to giving a 100 percent.

Each time he chased the ball to the boundary there is sheer lethargy written all over him. It is like a stubborn little kid who does his homework grudgingly due to fear of being grounded. With all these sophisticated fitness tests, i wonder if coach gary kirsten should have a commitment test and rule him unfit.

Contrast this with the English side, every player who came out gave 100 percent. It was very easy for the 2 tailenders to let their brain to let them believe that 29 of the last 2 was unlikely. If the situation was reversed that is probably how zaheer and piyush chawla would have approached the entire issue and ended up a few short.

Swann, Bresnan, Shehzad were mentally tougher and simply went for it. They knew they werent reading piyush chawla, they knew they had not scored a single six in their career before this match, they knew they would not be blamed for the loss and they knew they had to do one thing and only one thing to win the match. Hit high and hit hard! They did this thrice in the last 2 overs to seal the game for england!!

Their key contenders Munaf and Chawla were listless and nervous respectively. Chawla got one back by dismissing bresnan but that killer instinct was followed up by 6 insipid deliveries by Munaf.

Indians choked in this match not England. England lost wickets because of over attacking and India gave away runs because they were too defensive. I wish Dhoni has the guts to include include an attacking spinner instead of a defensive pacer and open the bowling with R Ashwin instead.

Munaf, Nehra and Sreesanth are simply do not have the attitude to win matches for India!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mental toughness

I come across this term very often. More so in times of failure than success. People attribute failure to mental toughness but not so much credit the same in times of success. Often wondered if Indians being branded as mentally weak has any merit to it. Why are Israelis considered to be tough mentally? Is undergoing hardship the only way to develop mental toughness? I thought it would be useful to copy paste some matter on the subject.

btw there seem to be a lot of requests for knowing our race timings. So here goes

Most psychologists agree that Mental toughness has following components to it. Self confidence, self motivation, negative energy control, positive energy control, attention control, visual imagery skills and attitude control. Some definitions to throw more light on the matter.

Self-Confidence: It is a way of feeling. One can develop self-confidence with practice. The key ingredient is belief in self. You develop self-confidence by elevation of self-image, learning to stay calm, goal setting, positive thinking, self discipline and reviewing performance.

Self-Motivation: It is a source of positive energy. It helps to endure pain, discomfort and self-sacrifice. To overcome low self-motivation, set meaningful long-term goals, commit the goals on a training book, keep a daily record, associate with self-motivated players, enjoy the activity.

Negative Energy Control: Controlling negative emotions like fear, anger, envy, frustration and temper. Performing with negative energy results in inconsistency. To overcome negative energy, increase awareness, psycho, regulation, physical exercise and stimulate competitive situations.

Positive Energy Control: It is the ability to become energized with joy, determination and team spirit. It helps players to maintain the required arousal level to achieve peak performance. To overcome low positive energy control, increase awareness, develop enthusiasm, start feeling good and ensure physical fitness.

Attention Control: It is the ability to tune what is important and what is not important (i. e., to disassociate from what is irrelevant). Improve calming and quieting skills, time awareness, get the positive energy flowing and concentration training.

Visual/Imagery Skills: It is process of creating pictures or images in mind (i. e., thinking in pictures) This is one of the most powerful techniques to develop mental toughness as it is the connecting link between the mind and body. To overcome low visual/imagery skills- practice visualization with all the senses, ensure internal calmness, use photographs and start rehearsing mentally in advance.

Attitude Control: It is a reflection of the player's habits of thoughts. The right attitude produces emotional control and right flow of energy. To overcome low attitude control, identify positive and negative attitudes. Positive affirmation reinforces positive attitude, keep records and have a vision or commitment.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Couch to half-marathon

After spending 24 glorious years stuck to a couch or a bed, I decided to start running because I was at a location where I had loads of time and nothing to do, and a roomie* who was 'into' running. For the life of me, I couldn't understand why someone would just run, and that too for hours together. What's the aim of long distance running? Not going to do half marathons in 59 minutes ever, are we? So pick a skill-based competitive sport instead where a score can be kept and you can win and lose. Well, I haven't got an answer to this argument but fortunately, boredom made me pick up my sneakers that fateful day and tag along for a run. I think I lasted 2 km, with one break to catch my breath and a second permanent break where I prayed that my lungs and heart could take the pounding without stopping altogether. My roomie was away in the distance, running into the sunset, and came after an hour, saying 'Good run, na, let's do more tomorrow'

Let's do more tomorrow.

I think I agreed to go on a run again the next day, out of shame more than anything else, at not being able to run 2 km without dying at the end. So the exact same sequence of events repeated the next day. Not a meter more than 2 km. Death at the end of it. 20 minutes to normal heartbeat and ability to speak in full sentences. I think my innate competitive spirit was alive by now and it recognised that my roomie was too far ahead in fitness and so this was just competition with the self.

One more day, one more 2k run. At about 1800 meters, my lungs would cry for mercy and paradoxically, that would scare me into thinking I had only 10 seconds to go and run faster and break down quicker. Or if my lungs were in form, the moment I started thinking 'Only so much more to go' they would die on me as if on purpose. Thinking about the run and the goal while running, in general, was not helping. And one fine day, I was perhaps distracted with thoughts of work or something else. The first time I snapped back into reality from drifting, I had run 2.5 and my lungs were silent. No appeal from them to slow down or stop. I ran 3.5 before my lungs went like 'dude, let's not push it now, ok?'

So the secret was that there was no secret. You just keep running 2km every few days and dying at the end of your runs and cussing for taking up this insane hobby. And one day you will run 3.5 km and not even notice. And then another day will come when you can run 7. And then 10 and 15 and 17 and 21.

So whether you have had a good run or a bad run or a humiliating-will-never-eva-try-this-again run, just go home and do more the next time around.

* roomie = aseem kohli who is still fitter than most of us and can run at will