Running Short, Running More

I think my body took an imperceptible (at the time) toll when I did two double-digit mile runs. The niggling aches and pains niggled for longer than usual and I’m terribly lax about the PT exercises. So I decided that for the holiday season, since I needed to have time off from the revelries, I’d do shorter and more productive runs i.e. try running faster etc.

Then on Wed night, Dec 15, we got a frantic call from home – the pater-in-law had had a heart attack. All our holiday plans were cancelled and we found ourselves home-ward bound towards India. Since we had last minute tickets, Bharath flew to India on Friday and I stayed back in Houston for a couple of days and flew on Monday. In between keeping track of FIL’s heart conditions, doctors’ pronouncements, work projects and husband’s flight to India (fortunately we didn’t fly via snowed-in Europe), I thought about our family genes predilect towards diabetes, heart disease etc. It renewed my vigor to keep running despite various aches, pains etc.

If you read my blog, you might have read about my Houston running experience and how much I abhor the new concrete roads. However this time I found Tom Bass Park III with a scenic 1 mile loop around a lake with ducks and pretty foliage. I ran to the park and back (5 miles) and about 1 loop in the park. Can’t say it was a great run – I kept having to stop because lower legs just didn’t get comfortable. On the second day I only did about 3 miles. Both days I didn’t feel great running. I’m having serious doubts about being able to run long distance.

In Chennai, the weather is gorgeous at this time of the year. At any other time, Chennai heat and humidity is unbearable. Right now its about 20 celsius (close to 75 F) and cool with the breeze from the ocean. For local Chennai folks, its the time to bring out their woollen sweaters and ear muffs. If they happen to be Bengali, ear muffs are replaced by monkey caps – for those who are unaware of the “manki tupi” can click on the link above.

On Wed, we spent the whole day at the hospital trying to get my FIL discharged and coordinating with hospital admin and insurance (both inept). So I was ready to try out running in Chennai on Thursday. Bharath took a bit of nudging and nagging but complied eventually when I pointed out to the spike in rice intake since our arrival. We started off from the house, down to Elliots Beach – ran on the sand (not fun), back on to the streets. Chennai is way cleaner than Mumbai and I had to dodge poo (not sure if it was human or canine) only once. At another time there was a small Hanuman temple in between a break on the sidewalk and no well-brought up Hindu girl will jump over Hanuman. So had to side step onto the road, avoid the honking cars and squeaking autos to circumvent the Monkey God’s abode. On our way, we tried nonchalantly to enter the Theosophical Society’s  grounds but were stopped by the mustachioed guard on duty. Special permission was required it seemed. And a raised eyebrow at the idea of a young couple being allowed to enter a secluded area unattended!

So we ran on ahead on Besant Ave, till the sidewalk dropped off and turned into a pretty by-road which reminded me of running in Austin due to over-grown foliage. We ran along the bylanes of Besantnagar, free from autos but full of curious people appraising you. The best thing about running in India is that you’re never bored. Apart from dodging poo and temples growing out of the sidewalk, ancient trees and electric poles with wires hanging out dangerously, you also encounter very curious people. Someone told me its because they’re trying to figure out whether they know you from somewhere, distant family or acquaintance – highly possible in a small neighborhood like Besant Nagar which is so homogeneous in its population that one sticks out wearing a Rogue tee.

On the streets, the later it is in the morning i.e. closer to 7am, various ladies with brooms will materialize out of nowhere to begin sweeping one square foot of the road repeatedly. I have no idea where the trash goes but it kicks up a mini-mushroom cloud of dust in that area. Woe on you if it happens to be on your running route. You (especially if your nasal system is as allergic to Indian air as mine is) will be racked by incessant sneezing. That puts an annoying dampener on the pace.

Since we didn’t map the route, we took Amma’s pedometer which put our distance at 4.47 miles till we got home. Though we had plans of stopping at Murugan Idly, severely thirsty (underestimated the humidity and loss of fluid), we jogged back home. Amma had an incredible breakfast of dosa, sambhar and chutney lined up and we were none the sorrier for having missed Murugan.

I might add that we did a repeat run the next day but the humidity was far higher. After about 2.5 miles, I was done. We jogged back home to more yum dosas.

FYI, if you are in Chennai and looking for company and running routes check out Chennai Runners. I did contact them and they promptly invited me to run with them. I couldn’t make it out to run with them however as I’m unfamiliar with the city and Bharath wanted to run in the neighborhood. Next time perhaps!

If you’re in Austin, don’t forget to check out the Team Asha Fun Run this Sunday!

Trials and Tribulations

I haven’t blogged in a while. There have been about 3 runs that I haven’t blogged about. There’s been some sort of imperceptible change. I think I turned a corner somewhere on the run from hell. But today I found out that I really hadn’t. I’d been letting my mind run away with me, thinking that if I had run from hell, I was invincible.

Immediately after the run from hell I had a quality workout last week on Tuesday that we did the Marshes again. If you’ve read about the Marshes, they are a hilly workout which involves running uphill on two parallel streets that are on a general incline. Half a Marsh is running on the cross streets and back on the parallel streets in a zig zag fashion but only going uphill. A full Marsh is also coming down the same way. Need I mention that the cross streets have various levels of inclinations. After the 10 mile hilly run I felt pretty confident and did a whole Marsh. Took me about 35 minutes. I also confidently told the PT I felt fine. She said it was ok to skip a week and continue the exercises.

Friday night I was overconfident enough that I did a lot of things wrong. I slept late, had been traveling over the week and was tired from the journey, and ate poorly too. A small run on Thursday morning of 4 miles went ok (ran with Gayatri). Come Saturday morning I knew I was way too tired for the run. On 5 hours of sleep I dragged myself to Rogue, did the stretches and began running. Thanks to Jairam who was kind enough to lend a gel pack to me. The run was bad. It took me more than 3 miles to stop feeling the cramps which had been bothering my tired muscles since the run from hell.

But I never got to that point where I begin to enjoy the run. Where I am completely in the present that nothing ever crosses my mind except that I am happy to be there. Over that second 5 miles it did get a bit easier but I was so very sore and so very tired. It took me more than a day to recover. I did an icebath but it did not speed up recovery.

Having guests over for brunch meant I skipped a recovery run on Sunday. Come Tuesday I feel like I haven’t run a while but my legs are perpetually sore. I guess the distances are such that it’s taking a toll on my legs. Two weeks on 10 miles each with hilly workout in between left me very tired.

Today my legs gave up. We had time trials on the track. Running 8 laps implied a 2 mile time trial. Coaches insisted on full effort. My ankles felt cramped from the warm up run. Buy after the foot drills I was over confident and started out too fast. By lap 3 I was in pain over the cramp on my left ankle. I slowed down, walked even jeopardizing any time trial. But every time I began running the pain and cramps would be back. I was almost in tears. Not sure if it was the pain or just the sinking feeling I had already blown the time trial while everyone ran past me. Carlene my running
partner did well and I was proud of her. At lap 6 I somehow remembered SoH runner Charu who injured her ankle because she didn’t stop running when pain surfaced. By then I had to stop. I took a ride back with the coaches to Rogue.

My coach was worried. She said to make an appointment with PT asap. She is super awesome. And asked me to take it easy. I’m going go try doing that. Meanwhile I’m sorely disappointed. Was next to tears many times. It could have been fine but I think the long runs are getting too much for my legs perhaps. It’s so, so demoralizing.

Through Hell and Back


My first double digit mile run. At this point I can’t describe the feeling. Its a sense of achievement, joy and simple amazement at what I’ve been able to push my body to accomplish in the last few weeks.  But today I am gasping with amazement as I think about the incredibly crazy (and stupid) course that I ran, the run that Rogue calls the Run from Hell.

I almost decided not to do this run.  I’ve been doing physiotherapy every week for 2 weeks, been trying to keep up with the PT exercises at home in the midst of the running schedule and a sudden onslaught of responsibilities at work (no complaints). I’m sure if I asked the therapist specifically, she would have recommended not to run – she did say avoid hills. I had the option of doing the Sunday run with Rogue, which is also 10 miles but on Townlake trail (easy = boring!). But then Asha was throwing this breakfast social after the run and I didn’t want to show up all showered and fresh to celebrate a 10-mile run that I would do the next day. I wanted to be there, deserving and with glory. I wanted to taste victory over these Austin hills.

Over the week I ran about 6.5 miles on Tuesday at the Warhurst workout and 3.7 miles on my own on Thursday. The Warhurst this time felt almost easy. Perhaps its because my legs have gotten stronger or I’ve become a lot more comfortable with my pace. It really doesn’t matter anymore whether I lag behind everyone else. So if you’ve read the first Warhurst post – its 1 mile at Half Marathon Goal Pace (HMGP) and 800 meters (~1/2 mile) at 10-K pace. The run @ HMGP was easier and I did it in 12.12 minutes. I raced through the 800 meters a bit too fast and though I did it in 5.30 minutes, I knew I could do it only because it was 1/2 mile. Coach said that’s not the point – you should be running a 10K at that pace. She said I should be putting in a short run once or twice a week on my own to gain strength and pace.

Wed was PT – I told them about the niggling pain on the right knee (this is new). They did a few stress tests on my knees and hips and concluded I have weak hips (Bharath’s reaction was “How are you going to give birth? Talk about the selfish gene :)). So in addition to the calf workouts, I now have 2 hip-strengthening exercises to do. One is lying on the side with back against a wall and opening and closing a diamond with the legs and the second raising the lower leg up as far as possible in the same position. They’re harder than they sound. I can definitely feel my hips talking.

Based on Coach’s advice, I decided I would run Thursday morning. So Thur morning I charted out a 3.5-4 mile loop in the neighborhood. I ran up Bull Creek, right on 45th upto Lamar and back home via Shoal Creek and 38th. I don’t think I enjoyed that run. It was really cold, close to 44 degrees. I dressed warmly (in my new warmies from amazon), but because it was cold I couldn’t run slow. I started kind of fast and then back on Shoal Creek, up a tiny little incline my legs wouldn’t cooperate. They ached. When Jairam sent out the email about the Run from Hell, I was scared. I couldn’t run up Shoal Creek, how the hell would I run up Mt. Bonnell?

So I mailed Coach and she gave me a thumbs up. Said, run easy, don’t race and its ok to walk up some of the hills. Bharath was against this stupid idea. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do it. I was nervous about strain and injury but something told me, if I take it easy and listen to my body, I can do this. I can run 10 miles and I can do it on a hilly course.

The first 3 miles were painful and demotivating as usual, to say the least. Then I thought of taking my first gel pack. For long runs, you have to take nutrition with you. It was a salty-sweet tangy tangerine flavor that I washed down with water. It’s supposed to have effects with a lag but somehow I felt better instantly. So much so, we ran 0.7 miles off-course down Mesa. I was running with Carlene and another girl, Jenna followed us down the wrong path. So we backtracked and followed the map closely (see pic). The first crazy hill was Ponton Pl, it was tiny and the girls decided to walk it. I tried running it and gave up. The second and the worst hill (probably steeper than 45 degrees or at least it felt so) was Dry Creek Dr. Walking up that hill took the wind out of me! And then finally, beautiful, majestic Mt. Bonnell.

If you’ve been to Austin or live here, you have to have seen Mt. Bonnell. Its gorgeous and Austin’s answer to Hollywood Hills or even better. I have trouble driving up the hill sometimes and have to step on the pedal with poor Corolla. But I was going to run this one. Maybe not all of it, but even 100 meters was something. And I did. I ran up about half the Mt. Bonnell part, especially where the hill plateaued or was less steep, I ran it. Cat Mt Dr. was not so much fun either. And I was glad for the girls. They were my guardian angels on this hellish run. Because of them I ran a bit but knew it was ok not to strain and it was ok to walk it.

The last 3-4 miles were on auto-pilot. I’d consumed my second gel at mile at Dry Creek. I felt like I was crashing from the high going down Mesa again. We stopped for water with 2.5 miles to go till the finish. After that, the run felt anaerobic. I was breathing easy, I was hot and tired but I have no idea how my legs just kept moving. It felt fantastic. Down Far West, it was hot and sunny and I squeezed my bottle over my head a few times. Back on Shoal Creek, I met Vish and Charanya, from SoH who offered to give me a ride till the end. The watch showed 10.31. I had been running for just under 3 hours. Thinking back to the detours and missed turns, I was comfortable I’d covered 10 miles. So I tucked in my tail and hopped into their car to realize INCREDIBLE PAIN all through my legs. It lasted about 30 minutes.

At the breakfast social, I got a nice little cert. from SoH recognizing my 10-miler and a new tee from Asha for having crossed my fundraising mark! Felt great to be recognized, thank YOU Asha for giving me this sense of achievement:).