Rants cntd.

Most of my blog posts are muses or sometimes, gushes about my latest outdoor activities. Today it’s a rant. I’m pissed off and frankly I have no idea who’s to blame. Other than of course, the usual suspect, the system.

This is how the most usually productive part of my evenings progress:

5.30: leave work
6.00: run
7.00: eat/beer

This is how it was today

5.10: leave work because the run today is at Spicewood Springs entrance to Bull Creek Park.
6.00: still on TX 360. The beauty of hill country not good enough.
6.10: show up where I think the entrance should be (never been there before).
6.25: No sign of runners, nearly got run down by, you guessed it, a freaking SUV!
7.00: hungry, blogging with rage

So I continue my rant about this ridiculous arrangement. Sit in my car, in traffic for 45-60 minutes. To go run on the trails for another 60 minutes. Worth it? I’m feeling less and less sure. The fact is, I love the running part. But I already pay some money per month to run with the group. The traffic and gas, not to mention opportunity costs of leaving work early on running days, are making it quite expensive. And so the economist in me is really beginning to question this. These are ONLY my private costs. I bet there are externalities (I’m one more car on TX 360, which is not on my way home and is congested, one more infinitesimal point on the demand curve for already expensive gas, etc. etc.). What’s the point in doing something you love when it really feels like a freaking burden. Traffic is the reason I stopped my music class.

And how ironic it seems to drive to where I’m going to run. Sure I don’t have a backyard trail. If I did live by backyard trails it would mean driving more everyday to work because I work downtown. So it feels like I could never win. So should I suck it up for the 2 days a week I need to go through this pain to go do something I like? Or should I buy into the big house with a big yard by a backyard trail dream? (No I haven’t lost it completely yet).

And here I go whining about this stupid American lifestyle. I’m not sure what it will ever take to change it. Certainly the housing crisis not the myriad oil crises haven’t done anything to teach us the ridiculousness of this unsustainable life – driving everywhere, living far from work, humongous houses with high electricity consumption and all that.

Tri season is here! And grumbling about the hypocrisies of outdoorsy lifestyles in Austin

Yay it’s that time of the year when the sun is getting hotter and completely unhindered by those white fluffy things in the Texas sky. Means running is a dehydrating, headache-giving, nauseating prospect. It means that to run, you have to wake up at 5 am when it’s only 85F or at 10 pm when it’s still 95F. So last year, I dropped the running and started swimming and biking and yeah! It is so much better in the heat. Sure I’d probably have to bike 30 miles before I burn as many calories as a 5 mile run, but that 30 mile run is not going to make me wanna vomit. Relatively speaking.
The Texas Tri series is out but I’m not thinking of a race until June at least. But the interest has begun. Tri-Oomph forum has begun to populate. People are talking about bike tune-ups and going for a test ride. Such fun! Looking forward to it.

On a different note, I’ve been thinking about the negative impact of trail running, or for that matter Austinites’ outdoorsy lifestyles. While trail running is great, you feel one with nature and it’s a more natural way to run, like how humans learned to run – in the jungle, on the mountains, while hunting or running away from prey. So it feels completely natural to run in the woods. But one has to consider that we don’t really live by jungles and trails and we drive many miles to get to the trails. While we are really lucky to have the Austin greenbelt so really we have a huge network of miles of trails inside the city. But at 6pm, I sit in traffic and drive 3 times the distance from work to home to run for 1 hour. And then I’m also running in several environmentally sensitive zones. Its the same thing with piling your bike onto your car, driving out somewhere so you can ride your bike. Makes sense? On one of my long runs, I drove to Bastrop, 30 miles away, to run for 8 miles (8 looong hilly, rocky miles, too nearly 2 hours). My race was 180 miles away in a tiny town in hill country.

That doesn’t mean I am going to stop going for my runs but I’m struck with the irony.

That’s what I don’t get about Austin for that matter. At the end of the day, this is the US. We still drive everywhere. We still have crappy public transportation. Everytime we visit a real city, I am so jealous of the plethora of buses and trains and the complete lack of debilitating dependence on cars that we have here. I mean, we have some public transportation. But Austin prides itself in being ‘green’. Then why is running/biking an activity that needs driving? Why do we sell more bike racks than bus tickets (not verified, do not quote)? I commend everyone that commutes by bike. One of the girls at work, I saw her today completely changed from work clothes to bike gear. She bikes about 10 miles each way to work. That’s awesome. But that takes planning. It requires carrying clothes to work, finding a place to shower. That takes extra effort, something which the average joe or jane may not be willing to do.

So, here we have two sorts of people. Maybe three. People who care enough to bike/walk/bus to work despite the many inconveniences in Austin. I swear I was one of them. I took the bus until one night I was stranded and didn’t have a way to get home from my run. I signed up for a parking spot in the building the next day. The second type are people who do care but don’t have the time/money/opportunity to take all that extra effort to not drive. And the third don’t care. But I think the majority is the second type. Given a choice, if it was convenient, people would take the bus or train. And not just get on their bikes or put on their walking/running shoes to go run outside of their normal routine. The US model of city life makes it very hard for people to do that.

And so I gape endlessly, at people who drive big trucks and SUV’s, get into them and go run in the woods for miles but only after driving for several miles. Such is the irony.


So after several really long races, I finally did a fun 10k in Austin today. Definitely no PR there. The race started at 9 am and it was already sweltering a bit while we waited for the gun to go off. I ran with a bunch of EY folks but in the end I started to run with my work buddy Karen who runs at a pace similar to mine. The course was simple enough, not too many hills, I mean you can’t avoid hills in Austin. But it was a really fun race. Nearly 23,000 people turn out every year to run it, people run in costumes, there’s lots of bands (one in particular was great) and there’s even a costume contest. I love taking time to applaud the bands that come out and play for the runners – it makes it so much better on the course with them around. Today however didn’t see much out there in terms of costumes. There was an older guy running with an empty stroller making a baby sound and squirting fake baby pee at runners. One of those ideas that seem funny in planning. The EY team toyed with the costume idea but it didn’t really pan out – too busy accountants/consultants. Anyhoo, so it was really hot and in the beginning I waited for Karen a few times but her knee was bothering her so I took off. On the last leg, the last 2 miles or so was on Cesar Chavez right under the sun. Super hot, sweating like a pig. A few times I had to walk just to cool down or I felt I was going to pass out. Was glad this wasn’t a half marathon or something and I really had only 2 miles or so to go. Yuck, hate running in TX in the heat. Nothing to save you from the damn sun. Temp wise it was only 77 or so but soooo humid!! My usual last 500 yard dash for the finish line was quite pathetic – if I ran any faster I’d have been sprawled on the street so I tempered it down and just finished in at 1.02.20. So no PR there (remember Sao Paulo 10k was at night, so the damn sun took 30 seconds off each mile on my pace). Even then, still glad I ran it. It was hot but it was still an easy run. I really understand the difference between trails and road now because those same miles on the trails would have felt much harder. Yay to trails!

Some yoga, some running!

I’ve finally given in to this yoga fad. I mean yoga. I tried it once at the UT gym before we went to London and the first class was bliss. I really felt good right after. My limbs felt stretched and back felt so good. I almost wanted to go right back in and do it again. So I went back after the London trip. I hadn’t run for 2 weeks since the race. We’d walk a lot on London but I never got the chance to go running which is a tragedy cos I could have gotten bragging rights like I did when I ran in Rio and SP. Anyway, came back and went to 2 hatha yoga classes. From my Vedanta classes, as I recall Hatha Yoga was the lesser mortal’s path to the divine. Among the four yoga paths, (Bhakti, Karma, Raja or combo), Hatha was the path of cleansing your mind through bodily endurance and eventually realizing oneness with everything. So in my mind, somehow erroneously I’d thought Hatha was self-denial and torture. Perhaps it is, I don’t know. But it didn’t occur to me then that the path to endurance has to be through some form of self-denial or self-discipline. I know that now.

So I must say I was turned off by the word Hatha Yoga in that I thought it might be difficult. Then I read the description on the UT website “This mellow form of yoga focuses on simple poses that flow from one to the other at a very comfortable pace. Participants are encouraged to go at their own pace, taking time to focus on the breathing and meditation in their practice. This yoga is ideal for winding down at the end of a tough day.” That doesn’t sound hard does it? It was actually pretty awesome. Went in on a Saturday morning after a long flight back from London the day before and boy did it help me stretch out those creaky limbs. I went back the next day and I actually felt my muscles feeling a bit sore.

Sunday I also went to run with my running buddy Sue. That was not so good. It was hot and humid and I hadn’t run since the race so I was in bad shape. We did St. Eds which is hilly and rocky too. Eventually in the last mile of the 5 miles it mercifully began to rain and cooled down so I felt better running instead of panting like a dog.

Joe sent an email last week asking if I was done after Nueces or still ‘wanted to play’. I didn’t think I was done but definitely am not thinking of another race. So I went back on Tuesday, after the t-storm. Walnut Creek was muddy as hell but I felt pretty ok running. I’m definitely building up, it feels like it.

Went to a vinyasa yoga class on Wednesday. This seemed to be a faster version of the Hatha class. So more in between a core class and yoga. What I like about yoga is the emphasis on breathing, recovering using relaxation.

B thinks its my new thang. Probably is, we’ll see. I really feel much calmer after class. Everytime I walk out of the gym, it makes me think of everything that’s good and happy. So yes, I don’t really mind this new thang. With how busy life is, stress and all, I’ll take the calm, even its only for an hour in class.

Nueces Trail Race: Running with the Elks!

It was the best of a race and the worst of a race.
It was definitely one of the worst planned races I’ve ever done. The planning wasn’t poor on account of lack of planning. Rather it was just the circumstances. I was out of town on work and flew back in on Friday and we could drive out only around 7 pm. I wasn’t rested because the night before I had a minor case of food poisoning from some bad seafood in Houston (of course, what do you expect!). So anyway, Bharath and I piled stuff into the car and started at 7, leaving behind our sister/brother-in-law and kid at home. Bharath tried to convince me to give up the race for some other race but I just wanted to get it out of the way. I also hadn’t trained much in the last few weeks, due to work travel. So I had a lot going against it. Mostly I felt mentally exhausted. Not unprepared, I knew I’d go out there and finish. So better not to think of any time goal. But who does that eh in a race? I still had one.

To finish the suspense, I didn’t manage to keep it. By 10 minutes.

Anyway, half way through to Nueces, we were both tired and grumpy. I was glad of course that Bharath was with me. We decided to crash in Kerrville TX, a tiny town exactly at the halfway mark at the Americas Best Motel or something – amazing for the price of $54 per night and of course owned by a Gujju family. Which meant we had to drive out about 90 minutes in the morning. Still doable. The race began at 7 am. We crashed early, woke up late. For some godforsaken reason I decided to shower. And blowdry my hair. Bharath was perplexed…he was like why are you blowdrying your hair? I was like, I have no idea!

Started driving, promptly 8 miles in the wrong direction. Turned around and realized I-10 was right next to our motel. So it wasn’t the end of things going wrong. Anyhow we got to Camp Eagle way past 7 am. The last 8 miles was dirt road and seemed neverending. So by the time I began my race, the 25k had begun. I started sometime before the 10k racers. I met Olga my trustee masseuse at the start and she was like wooohoo!! The only one haha!

The races are so different on trails – the camp was full of kids and family members but nowhere as many as a road race. Once you begin running and you’re on the trails, it felt no different from a training run. No adrenaline rush from cheering crowds, no people egging you on when you’re fatigued, nothing. it’s you and the outdoors. the sky, the earth and the woods, even giant elks and you feel quite tiny amidst it all. yet you feel alive in no way I can describe.

So I began but I was still stressed from being late etc. I started by Garmin. Lost a glove and was resigned to have one frozen hand (it was in the lower 40s when I started). I even turned back for it and lost some time there but couldn’t find it. So I began running again, a bit too fast. Soon I coincided with the 10K racers who intersected and was convinced I was on the wrong course. I kept stopping and wondered whether I should retrace my steps. So I lost quite a bit of time in this quandary and pontificating. Finally decided, screw it, just keep running. So I did run. Picked off many of the 10k racers and finally when I passed 7 miles I realized I have to be on the right course since the 10k folks would have veered off and finished. Whether I ran the wrong course I would never know.

But the course I ran was beautiful and cruel. It was hard, rocky and hilly but the trek uphill was so rewarding. I met up with two 25k stragglers on a crazy uphill and they told me that this was warned about in the race brief the night before at the camp (to which we never made). I started feeling really good about 5 miles into the race – the first 5 miles being crampy and stressed. Finally decided to let everything go. About the same time as I encountered this hill. It was winding up and up. Knocked my head on the low trees quite a few times, once I reeled back and caught balance! Finally reached up and boy was it a prize to be up there. Had to stop and take a pic. Then there was this one up hill where on top there were three humongous crosses. I felt a bit eerie but decided that probably it was a good sign for the race. Ran for a long while on a flat and boring portion. I didn’t push and walked when I felt like it but walking seemed harder. The best moment I think was when I reached this ledge which ran high above the river and it was breathtaking.

I eventually caught up with my running buddies at mile 9 and 10 and I felt good, I had done decent time. One of them, Sue was injured and I ran with her for a bit and then went on my own. I had my trusty iPhone and the music gave good company. I also kept stopping to fix the tracks – who wants to run on Adele? So not disappointed with my time in retrospect. I did stop to smell the roses and thats what trail running is about isn’t it?

I was all ready to cross a stream when I saw Vinit and Bharath waiting on the other side. I ran with them the last 1.5 miles but I was really hurting by then. This was the longest time and distance I had run and I was feeling it. Meanwhile got picked off by some 50k and 50 milers. Damn them. They were almost ghostlike on the trail and I jumped every time one ran past me.

And finally it was the finish! I ran through and met Itisha and could barely stand, my legs were wracked with incredible pain which ebbed in a while. Was good to have Bharath there. The rest of the day was sore but the following day I felt fine. Thats what I loved about trails – I could feel better in a lot less time than the roads ever let me!

So that’s my first trail race report. Got it done and hopefully I’ll do some more. But given the time commitment and how far flung these races are, I might have to wait for a bit before Bharath will let me.