Marathon Update and General Training Schedule

Finally managed a 19-mi run on Saturday. Took me just over 3 hours (~10 min/mile pace). After three weeks of snot-freezing cold, the sun was out and the temp was a cool 35 deg F (~ -1 C). But I was utterly, utterly exhausted. Not that my legs were hurting, just did not have the energy to pick up my feet. Like if the batteries had been pulled from the energizer bunny! Don't recall how I managed the last five miles. Need to learn to 'carbo-load' the day before. I am just nauseated by the amount of food I eat. More than double my normal intake! Sundays I rest! Here is a brief summary of my running schedule.

Sunday: After what the legs have gone through on Saturday, I rest them. Let the muscles heal and grow. I hang out at home, but will go for a 2-3 mile walk to a coffee shop. Something to get the muscles going; nothing strenuous.

Monday: A quick 2-mile run on the treadmill at the Gym, followed by a 45-minute Group Cycling (Spinning) class. In the indoor studio, we spin our way through a strenuous regimen of hills, sprints, and downhills. A different set of muscles are involved here, and necessary for cross-training. Importantly, no impact on the knees while I get a great cardiovascular workout.

Tuesday: A 4-mile outdoor run at a slightly faster pace. Followed by a 45-minute Kickboxing class. Great workout and enhances flexibility. Also counts as my cross-training.

Wednesday: Here I do a sort-a-long run, anywhere from a 6-9 miles. Usually about half of what I plan my long run on the upcoming Saturday.

Thursday: Replicates the Tuesday schedule. A 4-mile run, followed by 45-minutes of Kickboxing. Being the middle of winter here, it's generally impossible to have great outdoor weather on three consecutive days. I plan on running on the treadmill either on Tuesday or Thursday. If the weather is particularly nice (anything over 30 deg F and no rain or snow!), I run 'intervals' with one of my instructors. Here we run fast for three minutes, followed by a slow jog for three minutes. Doing this continuously for 30 minutes is a tiring workout, but builds anaerobic capacity!

Friday: Sort-of-rest day. I do a particularly long 45-minute stretch, followed by an hour-long Pilates class. I find Pilates very relaxing and refreshing. My muscles feel loose and the soreness of the week have been soothed away. Fridays I am supposed to 'carbo-load' too, essentially building glycogen reserves in the body for the long run on Saturday. Importantly, I need to prepare psychologically for the long run – Yes, I can do it!

Saturday: The Big One! I check the weather all week and finally prepare appropriate clothing. Wake up at 7-ish, eat a heavy breakfast (nutella slathered on whole wheat bread and two cups of coffee). An hour-long stretch while listening to soothing music. Load my fuel belt. In two bottles I fill half 'n half lemonade and hot water with extra sugar. Hot water in the remaining two bottles. This is to prevent freezing. By the time I reach for the drinks an hour into the run, they have already turned cold. wisely sent me a runner's care package of Body Glide to treat this problem, and these nutrient gels. I used the body-glide and loaded a gel pack in my fuel belt! Many thanks, manju! Socks, shoes, insulating spandex tights, micro fleece shirt, wind-proof insulating top, fleece pullover cap, two pairs of gloves, timing watch, iPod ~ Go!

Two-three hours later, I return utterly exhausted and barely able to stand. I peel my sweat soaked clothing all over the place and collapse on a towel. Moan and groan through a 30-minute stretch and jump in a hot shower. Cleaned up, I lie on the bed for up to two hours and let the ache in my body ebb away. Then marginally refreshed, and very slowly I get up and we drive to a sushi place for a high protein dinner. After dinner, its time to ice the sore muscles and tendons!

The Saturday long runs are the key to marathon training. I started at 6 miles as my longest run. Increased it weekly to 7, 8, 10 and 12 miles. I held for a second week at 12, allowing the muscles to heal. Then ramped up to 15, 16, 18 and 19. Next weekend is again a “hold” and I do a half-marathon road race. The following week its up to 22 miles. That will be the longest I will have run before the actual marathon. From then on I will taper down back to 18, 14 and 12 miles as the longest runs. That should bring me to the 26.2 miles on April 17th. Thrilled!

Running the Boston Marathon!

Yoooo Hooo! After many attempts, I am finally entered in the 110th running of the Boston Marathon on April 17th, 2006.

It is the most prestigious and the oldest, continuously running marathon in the world. Don't know about the continuous running bit. I plan on intermittently walking, limping, and even crawling to the finish line. Considered one of the toughest marathons, because of the infamous “Heartbreak” hill at mile 21, which claims many runners. And the 4-month training coincides with the worst of Boston's winter.

The good part, I got to buy cool new shoes! And I get to eat whatever I want, and a WHOLE lot more! I need to more than double my food intake, which btw in NOT FUN! Food is not a tasty treat anymore, but fuel for running. Thus eating is as fun as filling gas in the car. I am nauseated at the mere thought of eating!

My training has been going well, despite the lack of cooperation from mother nature (see running experience below). My days are planned around eating and running. And managing the pain after wards. My new motto is: Pain is Constant! It complements well my earlier motto: Human Existence IS Suffering. BTW, I am not a pessimist. I believe if human existence IS indeed suffering, then we should seize every opportunity to fully enjoy the brief glimmers of fun and joy, and not be crushed when things take a bad turn. Seems to work for me!

Here's my Saturday running experience. I had to run 16 miles and with the wind howling, it was a frigid 15 deg F (-9.5 deg C). I bundled up in layers of micro-fleece and wind-bloc. My face was still uncovered and the frigid air I breathed in, shocked my lungs! 30 minutes into the run, my fully-charged iPOD battery froze and died! This is the pits and I considered giving up! About an hour into the run, the water in the bottle I was carrying froze, and turned into an icy slurry! I managed a few sips of grit. Snot from my nose had frozen solid on my upper lip. Looking cool was certainly not a priority – getting one foot in front of the other was! I saw a few other hard-core runners – fellow marathon trainers, I surmised. We would wave and silently congratulate each other.

Two hours and 40 minutes later (averaging 10 min a mile), I returned and collapsed on my front steps. Guzzled about a liter of (warm) water and a liter of lemonade!

My evening was spent watching the winter olympics while I iced various parts of my knee and leg. Even walking a few steps is excruciating. Like I said earlier, Pain is the only constant! Nearly seven more weeks remain!

As I get closer to the date, I will provide a link where you can keep up with my progress during the run. My goal is to just finish – standing (or crawling) in under five hours!

Baanganga: In the Heart of Mumbai

Baanganga in Mumbai by Arun Shanbhag
After a refreshing early morning run in Mumbai I recounted the route to my parents. I had run from Electric House, via Mantralaya, along the Chowpatty sea face, past Wilson College, to the top of the hill.

“That's Walkeshwar hill,” my father revealed, “and if you had gone a little further you would have reached Baanganga and the Walkeshwar devasthan (temple or mandir).” My father explained how the Baanganga – the fresh water spring only a few yards from the ocean – came to be by the grace of Shri Rama. Being a Mumbaikar, I prided myself on knowing every significant site here. How did I miss this important landmark, while growing up only a few miles away? Perhaps I was not ready to walk here; here where Shri Rama walked?

Next day, I continued running to the top of Walkeshwar hill and over to Baanganga. Here enroute to Lanka, Sita, Rama and Lakshman are believed to have rested. I too removed my shoes and stretched my feet.

According to legend, Shri Rama and Lakshman did not find drinking water on this spit of land surrounded by salty ocean. Lakshman then shot an arrow into the ground, springing forth a stream of fresh water. The water pooled forming the Baanganga, (see pic above) refering to the purifying waters of river Ganga brought here by an arrow Baan.

For his prayers, Rama fashioned a linga from the sand, giving the area its name Walkeshwar (Wallu – sand + Ishwar – God). The crudely fashioned linga, with petrified finger marks is now enshrined in the tiny Walkeshwar mandir right across from the Baanganga. The mandir is to the left on this schematic. For bearings, the above pic was taken from the steps by the Ganapati mandir.

The Walkeshwar mandir is a tiny shrine and I shot this pic from the doorway. You can see the Nandi (seated bull) in the small antaralaya – foreroom. Past the collection box on the left, the linga is slightly below ground level, under the watchful eyes of the Naga Devata (Snake God). Early in the morning, all visitors can pour water on the linga (performing abhishek) and pray.

My fingers traced the ridges on this linga, where Shri Rama’s fingers had crudely moulded and turned to stone. How many had touched this before me? The blessed Sita, Shri Rama and Lakshmana too! And the millions and millions of devotees before me, thanking the divine for her munificence. And then I realized, how insignificant my life is. A tiny being, a tiny droplet from the ocean of Brahman – the Paramatman. I let the water flow over my fingers over the linga, and watched it swirl away into the unknown. Another devotee had offered a few bael leaves on the linga. I picked one up as a blessing from the divine, touched it to my forehead and carefully placed it in my running shorts.

I picked up my running shoes and walked around the numerous shrines, which have sprouted around this hallowed tank.

Baanganga in Mumbai by Arun Shanbhag

In front of the Walkeshwar Mandir, these steps lead to the tank itself. There is a tiny shrine to Ganesha in the niche in the wall, behind where the lady in the red saree is praying to Nandi. The rest of the family appeared to be enjoying their outing here.
Baanganga in Mumbai by Arun Shanbhag

The little girl and the younger brother she held, were both mesmerized by the glinting waters of the Baanganga.
Baanganga in Mumbai by Arun Shanbhag

Yes, its the shoes! It’s my running shoes which bring me to fascinating places, where I meet fabulous people and take away great memories. Everyday I run is a day to remember! If you see me smiling, its because I am running today!

Chicago: An architectural wonderland

Last week saw me on a short trip to Chicago. The city never ceases to amaze me! As a student, we lived in Chicago for three years. Even though we were always broke, we had some of our best memories there. So I take every opportunity to visit Chicago. The architecture on the lake front is spectacular. Puts Boston to shame. The hotel I stayed in was on Michigan Ave, smack in the middle of the Magnificent Mile – the creme de la creme of shopping. Of course, I did not spend a single penny. Though, treated myself to a nice architectural boat tour on the Chicago river. Well worth it! I shot this pic on the Michigan Ave bridge, looking towards downtown. Below, flows the Chicago River.

It's also a great city for running. Bright and early, I'd run south on Michigan Ave, past the Millennium Park, Art Institute of Chicago (Google maps Hotel to Art Institute) Grant Park, turn on Roosevelt (scroll down on the map) and cut over to the lake front. In the google map, you can just see the empty marina. There must have been a 1000 sail boats bobbing at their slips. What a magnificent sight! I continued north along Lake Shore Drive (yeah, running on LSD!), turn left on Chicago Ave back to Michigan Ave, and back to the Hotel. Perfect! Then I would be ready to pig out!

Early morning view of the same Michigan Ave from my hotel room. The roads are deserted and the buildings bask in the light of the rising sun.

Running along the Charles River, Boston

view of the Museum of Science Boston by Arun Shanbhag

Boston's long winter makes me more intimate with treadmills than I care. With winter's grip slowly loosening, I take every opportunity to test my running legs outdoors. Even though we have yet to see 'warm weather', we have had a good number of running days. Thursday last week was just spectacular. The sun was out, the sky blue and the temperature a cool 60 deg F (15 deg C). Perfect to run along the Charles River. I carried my older Olympus C4040 on the run. Particularly on the river, I like to shoot at the widest angle. The sky is bluer and the vista dazzling. Continue reading “Running along the Charles River, Boston”

Come Running With Me

My second most favorite activity in Mumbai is going for a run. The early morning light is subdued; its cooler and the humidity is lower. Earlier in the day, people are nicer too, And running along the sea-face at Marine Drive is just what life all about. Importantly, starting the day with a nice run makes me less guilty when I indulge in my #1 favorite activity in Mumbai: EATING. Running justifies eating. The more you run, the more I get to eat. I can live with that.

I would start at 6:15 am from home near the Colaba Police Station. After a brief warm-up, I would run by the Cooperage football field, along Madam Cama Rd, past the Oval Maidan, Mantralaya and reach Marine Drive by the Air India building next to the Oberoi/Trident Hotel. This is how it looked on the day I took my camera along. It's a great feeling to realize I would run the entire Marine Drive upto Walkeshwar. A nice 7 Km run.

By Cooperage fields I dodge a gang of mangy dogs, who think they own the road (if anyone is interested in taking a supari for getting rid of these dogs, let me know!). Just past the Oval Maidan I saw this person pulling the water tank.

Past the Mantralaya (State House) and the MPs' quarters, as I trained my camera on the mural of the vigilant Shivaji Maharaj, this person gave me a threatening look. Instinctively I managed a smile and a greeting in Marathi. As he carried on, I slipped away! Phew!

Along the wide sidewalks of Marine Drive, it was heartening to see so many people enjoying the day. Some just sat by the water, others sauntered, others dashed, motivated by speed. Whatever you chose to do, it was the perfect time.

Along the way, a large flock of pigeons were feeding on chanaa; Morning walkers buy cups of this lentil from the hawker and sprinkle it on the sidewalk. It’s quite a sight.

On Chowpatty beach, these two women relaxing on the sands seemed to capture the tranquility of the morning by the water. They seemed to be in no rush, just waiting for the tide to come in.

As I run, I am in a state of euphoria. I can't count my blessings enough: to be here, healthy, to be able to do this. Here and now! What a blessed life. But what’s so special about this place I wonder. Running along the Charles River in Boston is even more spectacular, and you don't have to worry about rabid dogs. What's with this place? As my mind raced on, I noticed this statue in front of me. I thought it was the poet, Rabindranath Tagore, but as I ran closer it was someone else. And the lead phrase hit me like a ton of bricks.

“My place is with my people” it screamed.

Suddenly my heart seemed to slow down, my muscles relaxed, my breathing returned to normal and I was no longer gasping for air. I realized why Mumbai and India were such a special place for me. Because it was my place, and these were my people; and I belonged to them. A place where no one was gonna ask me – where you from?

A calm descended on me and I knew why I did the things I did. I felt I could keep running forever. The ache was gone. I was beaming! I dashed past Wilson College and charged up the hill on Walkeshwar Road. Just before Teen Batti, as the sidewalk ended in a chaotic urban congestion, I ended my run in front of this nariyal paani wallah (person selling tender coconuts) – Mahipal.

Mahipal would slice two large mitha malai-wallahs (sweet with a light cream). At 17 Rs each (~ 30 centes) it was a bargain. The best refreshing drink you can ask for after a nice run. Beats any day, the yucky tasting, colored, chemical laden sports drink you get elsewhere.

As I cooled off here, I would chat with Mahipal for about 15 minutes. He is a recent migrant from Madhya Pradesh and actually works for a Mallu owner (it was satisfying to see the Mallu monopoly on the nariyal paani business still going strong ;-). After a few days, he would notice me struggling up the hill and start to pull out the best nariyal. When I asked him to pose, he wanted a copy of a pic. He planned to send it to his parents in Madhya Pradesh. Apparently they were arranging his marriage, and a nice picture would snare him a pretty lass. With a person’s life possibly at stake, I tried my best. He does look debonair in this pic, wouldn’t your say?

Satisfied with the run, I take a cab back home. Aiee and papa would just be waking up and the kaapi brewing! Its going to be a great day and I am ready to sample Mumbai’s best! My number one favorite activity!

Panting in San Francisco with the red-headed Louisa and the frizzy blonde Noreen

Well, not exactly what you are thinking!
The hotel I was staying at in SFO had a guided run at 6:30 every morning. Yes! Interested runners meet at the front desk and a hotel staff either Louisa or Noreen will lead a running tour of the City. How fantastic is that?

Two other guys and a girl gathered by the front desk and we stretched a little. In dashes Louisa, our guide. Bright red-haired, clad in tights and a baby pink blouse, she was definitely in shape and ready to put us through the paces. With her pouty lips and clipped british accent she lays out the rules. We stop and go at the red lights and if you are slow, well, just follow the same way back to the hotel – Survivor mentality!

Louisa leads us on Market Street, which is SFO’s main business thoroughfare and lined by high-rises. At this hour thankfully the streets were relatively empty and we could even run through the STOP signs. Market street ends on the Embarcadero which curves along the San Francisco bay and rims the city's eastern side.

It is a fabulous run/drive, akin to Marine Drive in Bombay. We turned south at the SFO Ferry terminal which brings commuters to the city by the water taxi. Louisa, mentioned that they also have a fruit and vegetable market inside. As we started running along the bay, there were no traffic lights and we kept a decent pace. The sun was rising over the water just below the deck of the Bay Bridge. Wow! It actually rises over the bay and sets in the Pacific Ocean. The South Beach area we were running through is very upscale, Beautifully terraced homes, with huge windows lined the bay.

We arrived at the new SBC baseball stadium – a beautiful structure which blends architecturally with the surrounding neighborhood. At the end of the drive, we turned onto Third Ave and headed back to the hotel. Third Ave is more of a working class neighborhood with narrow streets and crooked sidewalks. Dodging street signs and lamp-posts and darting on or off the street was fun. Along the way, I get tips from Louisa about her favorite restaurants and she even points out her favorite sandwich shop. With heart pounding we arrive back at the hotel after a superb 3+ mile run.

As we huddle at the front desk, Louisa rolls out a cart full of juices and delicacies as a treat for the runners. Fresh orange juice, fluffy croissants, and danishes smothered with raspberries, blueberries or strawberries. I probably consumed more calories than what I spent running. This was truly a very satisfying run.

Louisa, with those shimmering red locks and long legs definitely knew how to please a guy. Make him sweat and then … feed him well 🙂

… the saga will continue.

Running along the Charles – A true blessing!

The mercury reached 50 F (9 C) and winter’s shackles are crumbling. The Sun was out and for the second day in a row, I went out for a run along the Charles River.

Wiz past the Science Museum, swing onto Memorial Drive, past the old Lotus Building, underneath the Longfellow bridge, past MIT, sprint on the Mass Ave bridge with the wind howling in my ears, drop to the Esplanade along Storrow Drive. Most of the river surface is still frozen ice with scores of geese sunning themselves. The setting sun was spectacular! Ducks shaking their lethargy. Cuddling love birds on the banks ensure the ice will soon melt away.

Heart pounding past the baseball fields, over Storrow and a last dash to the Gym Entrance. Heart rate chugging at 157, dropping rapidly, 127 and 107.


The day before, I had gone past the Mass Ave bridge and swung around the BU Bridge along the BU campus. Each of the bridges is architecturally superb.

How fortunate I am to be able to do this. Be here is Boston, healthy, and the opportunity to run. How blessed!

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