Focusing more on the small stuff, and trying to parse through the crap and trying to find the nuggets of happiness in the little things is probably the way to go.

Pittsburgh is beautiful no matter the time of the year. There have been some awe-inspiring moments of beauty that have taken me by surprise and actually distracted me from whatever brooding I was stewing in at that time. From the fall colors to the stark beauty of the leaf-shorn trees in the winter and melting snow, I’ve taken sometime to pause and it’s worth journaling so I don’t forget about those moments too within the fog. Not the hours grueling through “work”, or frustrations of parenting or the sheer desolation in marital strain. But those moments of wonder when all I could say was, I’m lucky to be here.

So continuing on that theme in the new year, resolution around restitution of all that has frayed away, I start with a commemoration to the way I feel in Frick Park and every other park I’ve hiked in. I used to hike in Bull creek in Austin for its seclusion within the city, where you could hike a mile into the park and be surrounded by quiet. And now at Frick Park, where I can run a mile up into the hills in the park on a cold, crisp day – barely breaking a sweat and hear nothing but the birds. With soft music and a steady heartbeat again I felt today, I’m lucky to be here. I’d like to piece together more moments like this in this new year, looking not outside into my job, marriage, child, parent, parental loss and family, to live more within these moments when I just want to feel lucky to be here.


The Pedernales 10K

Last night was the first night of what I call, Tejas Trails madness. It’s a series of night races put up by Joe called the Capt Karl series. The races begin at 7 pm and have distances of 10K, 30K and 60K. The distances are standard. What is not standard are the conditions. Last night was the first race and this goes on for the next 4 grueling months of TX heat. The races are meant for training for many of the ultra runners in the area who are training for some big milers in the fall such as 50-100 mile races. It helps them to train for running through the night and of course, in the heat.

I signed up for the race last night. I’d been wanting to do it badly but some friends were arm-twisting for a house party that I’d said yes to. But when the party got cancelled and because Bharath is not in town to insist on alternative Saturday night revelries, this was the perfect opportunity for me to get out, run the 10K and stay around to do some volunteering. Joe’s been great to me, he lets me into these races last minute, sometimes for no fee. I had no interest in running more since I just did the 25K and I wasn’t sure how it would go in the heat. But it turns out that I was in the minority – plenty of Tejas crazies that did the 30/60K that were seen at Beacon Rock last night – (Ever heard of compulsive gamblers? These are compulsive runners).

I had enough time to plan but still planned badly because of laziness. I forgot to take a bunch of things I wanted to – a cold towel, a change of clothes (bought an overpriced Pedernales Falls teeshirt at the state park office) and extra food. And should have got gas but I didn’t and then worried that I’d breakdown somewhere in the middle of 290W.

Anyway, made it to the race grounds by 7 pm. Packed in my stuff and got ready to run, picked up a bib #. The race began and oh my lord, it was HOT. It was 95 or so when we started. I felt awful. Sitting around the couch all day, I should have at least warmed up in the last 10 mins that I was waiting around. Anyway, I felt stiff, hot and a bit grumpy in my tummy. I began really slowly but I was miserable. The course was dusty and sandy in parts. The first two miles went along a fence and it was ugly and rocky. I kept thinking about last weekend and how wonderful it felt running in the cool mountains of Portland and here I am back on the dusty, hot, stony trails of TX. I walked a lot in the first 2 miles because my stomach was cramping and I felt a bit nauseous. Every step felt like lead. My head felt like it was on fire and so I had to walk every few minutes to cool down. I drank nearly almost all my water in my pack and poured 2/3 of the hand held on my head and neck.

I’m sure it gets better, this heat conditioning but I just didn’t enjoy it. Eventually the sun went down a bit but this was nearly after 3.5 miles. I checked the watch, it was 42 mins. I’d still half more to go and I knew this wasn’t going to be one of those fast races. I did feel bummed because at the end of the day, we’re all competitive even against one’s own past record. Finally at about 4 miles, the sun was almost gone, it was twilight and it cooled down enough for me to run continuously.

I thought I’d hydrated enough (but I hadn’t). I’d taken 2 salt tablets before we began and by the end of the run, I think I had taken 5-7 tablets. But even then, while running I felt my eyes fogging up, one of the first signs of dehydration. This heat is not to be trifled with. It’s the humidity. I caught up and was pacing 2 guys. One of them eventually took off and the other guy would run/walk and keep asking me to keep up. Eventually I took over him as he was walking. I was able to run smoothly for the last couple of miles but still couldn’t help feeling woozy.

Later while talking with Bhavesh and Rod, who’d done 30K races – and I realized that I’d missed the electrolytes. Salt wasn’t enough and neither was water nor gels. I admit I am not a fan of those electrolytes. I can’t stand drinking the peach/grape flavored water. But I will search high and low for unflavored electrolytes to be mixed with unflavored water.

Spent the rest of the evening helping out at the aid stations and hosing/misting down heated runners coming in either for second loop of the 60K or 30K finishers. Was quite fun. There was a woman that came in and her 15 year old daughter was waiting to see her. She told her very excitedly that she had finished the 10K in just about an hour and was really looking for some commendation from her ultrarunner mom. But mom was a bit preoccupied filling up her bottle and getting nutrition and cooling down I presume. Don’t blame her but I can’t forget the look of admiration and love on her daughters face as she was telling someone her mother upped her registration to the 60K from the 30K. Daughter kept her medal on 2 hours after the race had ended (as did many of the 10K kids, adorable). And she had these puppy eyes filled with love as she bid her mom goodbye for her second loop, quite ready and happy to wait for her for another 3 hours. Some big running shoes to fill little girl, but I hope she doesn’t try too hard. Ultra running may not be for everyone. Also saw 2 little girls, no more than 8, intense that raced and won the 10K. 2 sisters, looked exactly like Jamie Thorvilson and her sister. Must make it a point to tell Jamie about them. There was a woman who finished the 10K in 2 hours and I saw as she hobbled to the finish line, she was wearing leg braces on both legs. All kinds of people run – fast, slow, thin, fat, happy, sad. All you need is a little determination to endure the distance. And of course, the heat.

Mountain Running and First Destination Race II: The Kindness of Strangers

The downside of staying with Sue and David – they are early risers. We were up by 4 am and Sue was already all ready to go. I woke up and packed as much as I could into my little race water pack. It does feel little when you’re trying to carry gels, salt tablets, toilet paper, napkins etc. But it all fit in. Sue’s race pack was an even bigger camel back but given most of the terrain was more of a hike than a run, I think it was prudent.

We began driving out from Hood River and whatever plans I had of driving back to shower before I drove to the airport quickly vanished. Hood River was 20 miles in the other direction. We drove towards PDX, took the exit for Cascade Locks OR and then crossed over a bridge (called the Bridge of Gods) over to WA. I can see why it’s called that. If that bridge breaks, you’re kinda at the mercy of the gods. But moreover it’s called that because of the view. Incredible. Couldn’t take a photo because I had to stay on the bridge.

We got into the parking lot at 6.30 AM. The race wasn’t starting until 8 AM. People had camped out at the meadow where the race began. It was super laid back. People were getting ready slowly. Went over and picked up my packet and somewhat regretted not paying for a race tee. I came all the way and wouldn’t have a race tee! This race was so laid back – there was no timing chip (all on gun time) and no finishers medal (at least not for 25K). The race is organized by Rain Shadow Running. They have a bunch of PNW races, each of them look harder and more beautiful than the other. A lot of the Tejas runners do their races here in the PNW with RSR. There were about 8-10 Tejas runners at this race, most of them doing the 50K, including Joe. It felt great, almost like home because I knew so many people.

The race began in this cluster, the gun went off. We ran out of the meadow and onto the road down to the trail. The trail began winding upwards immediately. I told Sue I was going to go really slow. I was panting already like a dog and the trail hadn’t gotten pretty yet. And then it got pretty steep so we all went down to power hiking. Saw Sue still powering through with a shuffle. She is much better on uphill than I am. After about 2 miles it didn’t look like we were coming on any downhills and this is what separates TX from the mountains. In TX we got hills, some of them might be steep but they’re rolling. You go up and you come down soon after. But here you go up, up and up and eventually you come down but it could be miles before you do.

I put on my ipod and began to run. The trek got steeper. At one point we turned a corner and it was a single dirt/wet earth track that was going uphill at 40 degrees or something. If you stood, you’d slide down towards the runner behind you. It was tough climbing uphill like this so early into the race. This was all within the first 5 miles. I was out of breath and my calves were yearning to stop. And then suddenly just like that we glimpsed the view.

And this is how the mountain eggs you on. Most of the running/hiking is on protected trails and then you’re suddenly rewarded with a glimpse of such utmost beauty that you forget all about your calves and your frustration with the terrain and you thank it. Because if it wasn’t for the steepness, there wouldn’t be that glimpse.

After about 5 miles, we suddenly started to go down. The ground is softer than in TX, it’s soft earth instead of sharp rocks and cedar chops which have it’s own charm. You get used to touching your feet lightly onto the ground so your feet don’t get caught or twisted or roll on a rock. Eventually I asked Sue if I could go past her and then I just took off. I had finally acclimatized and I was going downhill, it felt great and so off I went. I almost flew down for about half to 3/4 of a mile, running hard but never feeling hard. I got down to the first aid station and it continued on downhill for a while. We crossed a bit of a bridge and then the incline began a bit. But it was still net downhill so I thought this was the only time I could pick some time up and enjoy the speed while I was at it.

While I run okay downhill in TX, in PNW it takes on a whole new meaning. In TX even when you run downhill it can be nerve racking because of the rocks and pebbles. But here on soft earth and grass, you can’t even brake if you want to. You just keep flying down and this wasn’t just mine but most other runners’ experience.

Eventually all the running fast downhill creeps up on you and I remembered Olga’s advice on squats. Oh boy, did my quads hurt now not to mention my toe nails. I’d never been so looking forward to climbing again when I came upon the second mountain. This was Mt. Hamilton. Here are some gorgeous pics of the course taken by other runners over the years of this race.

I saw Vicki, one of the TT 50K runners on the course and we kept passing each other back and forth. She did much better on the uphills and on the second time climb I began to get a bit tired. I ate a bunch of gels and kept taking salt tablets every 30-45 minutes. Though the weather was in the cool 60s I was losing a lot of fluids. Even then with all the exhaustion it felt so much better than running in the TX heat. Anyday. I’ll do a mountain a day if it is no higher than 65 F.

Here’s again where I began to flag in energy but I didn’t feel bad because I felt I was doing a good job on the nutrition. Eating lots of gels and salt really, really helped. I always end up eating when I’m really hungry but this time I kept eating at regular intervals. Most ultra runners have this down to a science but I run fewer miles and usually don’t obsess or think about it. At some point I caught up with some hikers and this is when the mountain again began to egg you on. A glimpse here and there. I tried to keep sight of Vicki to keep me going. But the trails and the switchbacks were deceptive, she was quite ahead of me. Here’s a pic of her waving down at me.

As I hiked and hiked, over a million switchbacks because they felt like they were never going to end, I began thinking that there has to be something heavenly up there. My mind was already turning to mush but I was keeping on going thinking seeing that view would be like seeing God. Maybe that’s all there is to seeing God. Probably why people like building temples up on the hill because after an exhausting trek, people were ready to believe anything.

The hiker behind me was catching up. I wanted to be ahead of him but I was tired. He wasn’t running a race, I was. But he looked calm and strong. I asked him if he wanted to pass me. He was like, you’re almost there. This is one of the last few switchbacks. You’re there. Keep going. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. Those kind words at that time meant a whole lot more than he’d ever know.

And then I finally made it. And it was worth every step. Because I almost had to sit down and choke back my tears. I thought about why I felt like that – it wasn’t because I was tired or hurting, that hardly mattered. It was because what my body was enduring was so unimportant and so insignificant amongst those giant mountains that it automatically just made me feel so grateful that I was there. That I existed on top of that mountain and nothing else could be more important or more beautiful. Life would go on like it does but in that moment it stood still.

The pics aren’t great. It was cloudy but I know what I saw and how I felt. And at that time I was exactly at halfway mark. About 7.5-8 miles and I had the remaining to go. But I felt I could go on forever. It was absolutely worth it. All my worries about finishing, the hike up everything vanished. All I could think about was, I am so happy I made it here.

By the time I began my second hard downhill run, my quads were pretty sore. I wanted to break my speed down but I just couldn’t. Gravity took me along and I still kept running as fast as I could. My only regret that I knew now the best was over and I’d left the utmost beauty of the course behind me. But the rest of the course didn’t disappoint. I ran across narrow ledges with deep, 200 ft falls down but looking out onto a forest of green pines and snow capped peaks in the distance. And despite my exhaustion, quad soreness and burning toenails from running and stubbing, I just kept saying thanks, thanks, thanks. Thanks to the strangers who put this race up. Thanks to the stranger who helped me through the last few meters of the hike up. And thanks to being alive.

Mountain Running and First Destination Race I: The Kindness of Friends

It’s been ages since I posted and for good reason. Some of the earlier post’s woes got all over my life, namely work travel, friends visiting (not woe) and the great TX summer is here. So way back in April, when the weather was great and I was running regularly and working only normal hours, I registered for Beacon Rock 25K in Portland OR. However come May and early June, I have run a total maximum of no more than 10 miles and not at once. My good friend, ultrarunner Olga and also the best post-run therapeutic masseuse I know, told me not to bother running in Austin, as nothing in the terrain here can prepare you for Pacific Northwest US (PNW). So instead, whenever I could I ran in hotel gyms, put the incline on 7-9 and hiked up or ran up. It was hard to do it for 3 straight miles but that’s what mountain running is supposed to be like. She also told me to do more squats for the downhills but I never did nearly enough anything. I tried to do more yoga so at least I was building core and quad strength in different ways.

I flew to Portland on Friday night and landed in the daylight. The view was breathtaking Here’s a picture of Mt. Hood from the plane (thanks to Rod, another Tejas runner who was on the same flight and we talked a lot).

Portland itself is gorgeous. Flanked by tall pine covered mountains and a sparkling wide river snaking through the city, it is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen in the US, not to mention the state of OR. California who? I was definitely not prepared for that breathtaking beauty and the rest of the weekend I spent, sharply drawing my breath in awe or feeling down right overwhelmed enough to tear up.

I stayed with my friend Shreya who was traveling but her husband, Dipu took great care of me. We went to dinner and I ate the best ceviche since I left Brazil. He cooked me a champions breakfast on Sat morning with eggs, potato pancakes, sausages, toast and mangoes. We talked about everything under the sun and around 11 am, I thanked him for his (and Shreya’s omnipresent) hospitality and began driving towards Hood River in Columbia Gorge. Dipu told me to take the scenic route via US 83 and boy was it gorgeous. The sky was BLUE (yes, not normal in PDX) and the river was gleaming blue. Pretty much all the way you’re driving along side Columbia River. I stopped at a bunch of Patel points and took photos of the waterfalls, one of them being Multnomah (tallest in North America). Here are some photos from the drive.

Hood River

I got into Hood River around 3 pm. I was hungry and Sue, who I was going to stay with told me to get lunch at the Full Sail Brewing Company. The food was great, the beer better and the best part was the view of Hood River. Here’s lunch. It was even better than it looks.

Then I went over to Sue’s vacation rental. Sue and David are Tejas trail runners, David being an ultrarunner. They have two beautiful daughters, with whom I spent most of my evening. They helped me relax and stop worrying about the race next day. While my attitude was to have fun, I was still worried about being able to finish given the terrain and I was also worried because I was flying back home almost immediately after the race (shit plan, what can I do, I had to be back at work next day).

Here’s the view from Sue’s vacation home. We spent a lot of time just taking it in.

The girls are lovely. Jennifer and Lillian are well behaved and lot of fun. Here’s a pic of us together at dinner. I even taught them an Indian kid’s song.

I’d had a fantastic Saturday. I missed Bharath but I was surprised to learn that I was perfectly comfortable traveling along. I in fact enjoyed it and I loved that it was all about running. I was among friends who treated me like family, who welcomed me into their family vacation home with open arms, gave me warm blankets and a couch to sleep on, food to eat and lots and lots of encouragement about the race. I kept thinking that this race wouldn’t have been half as it was without Shreya/Dipu or Sue and David and their wonderful family. And that’s what I have loved about trail running – it’s an extremely close knit group – we’re all family to each other. People that run together in the dark woods, who get lost and find each other, give each other water and that encouragement to go on when every muscle and bone in your body wants you to stop, such people can’t be anything but family. Some of them have known you at your most tired and fatigued and dirty/sweaty times. And they’ve hung around to share the beer right after :).

Running, the rest of life and a recipe!

Running has a way of taking over your life when you’re training for something. I finished my 25k Nueces trail race with reasonable amount of training and then did the 10K with only the fast workouts during the week i.e. didn’t run much during the weekend in early March. The fast workouts definitely helped to pull through a good PR time on the 10K at Hell’s Hills. Here’s a nice report on the race as whole, missed being mentioned as a top finisher by 1 rank. But got photographed for the amount of determination with which I usually finish haha.

Bharath and I do get into loggerheads because I tend to put running above most things in life. That includes work sometimes (only when it’s not busy with deadlines). The number of times I sneak out early to go run with Joe’s group (thanks to traffic snarls). I never feel guilty about it because when it comes down to the wire, I push through, I’m an efficient and productive manager and I run my projects pretty well. Could I do better? Sure. There’s a trade-off somewhere isn’t there always. You have only so much of yourself to give to every component in your life. I give a lot of thought and effort to running, but not more than my job for sure, which by the way I love. I work with good people and I do interesting work so I love doing it. Days which are a scramble at work are the best. I am appreciated and I appreciate what I have – a job in Austin that I enjoy. It also lets me enjoy other things like running.

So sometimes Bharath does get a bit shortchanged in this whole equation. I’m off running and working and traveling so when I am home I need to be fully present. We’re both laptop junkies and hooked onto our computers a lot at home but lately we’ve been trying to spend ‘quality’ time together. We really like going out and we love to drink and eat out. We love watching indie flicks and try to save Monday nights for something fun or even routine like walking together to Central Market. On Friday nights which are usually before long runs on Saturday, it’s a tough call. Should I stay out late and drink with friends or should I go home to bed, hydrate instead of dehydrate to wake up early for a run. It is not an easy choice and on any given weekend, sometimes I’ll go with one or the other. Bharath of course, complains when I choose running over partying especially if he’s in the mood to go out. But what I think I/we really enjoy are the weekend afternoons with some of our closest friends at our favorite watering hole. the Draught House. It’s a no-frills, all beer, sometimes bring-your-chair pub where you order up front and drink at the bier garten. We love it. No food, no other types of alcohol.

We end up going here or some other N. Central Austin pub on weekend afternoons which is awesome because I’ve finished running and feel very happy chugging down those beers. To make up for my boring-ness on Friday nights I make him a nice lunch after my run or bring him tacos from Tacodeli. Today I made this awesome curried tofu salad with guac on top. Here’s the recipe:

Tofu – crumbled; salad leaves (I used kale/baby spinach and arugula mix); raisins or cranberries (10 or so), walnuts crumbled, 1/2 onion chopped, 2 sticks of celery chopped. For the dressing I whisked together regular mayo (oh yes, I embraced the fat today), orange juice (cos I was out of lemon, this is a GREAT sub, adds tart and sweet), 1 chopped garlic, pepper and 1 tsp or so of curry powder (the best mix I buy is from Wheatsville Coop). Mix and serve. I also made some guac on top with yogurt, salt, pepper, 1 clove of chopped garlic, onions, cilantro, tomatoes and 1 green chilli chopped. It was DIVINE!!


On the run today, which was surprisingly not as hot as I expected but very humid, I was a bit unprepared. I was running with Alicia and Elizabeth and we ran some beautiful loops. The greenbelt is really green today in Spring, the creek was running and lots of people were out there swimming. So were cops giving out tickets to unleashed dogs’ owners. Poor guys. Anyway, Alicia and Elizabeth like to take their time – they called me a fast runner, Gazelle and all and I was terribly flattered, but I know I am not fast, I’m average on the trails. Faster then many, slower than many more. So 7 miles or so actually took 2.5 hours. We stopped many times, took pictures and hike/ran. As a result I was out of water. Unprepared for the humidity the ladies shared salt tablets with me as well as water. So I gotta go out next time better prepared. Elizabeth said I should gear up and I should. Thinking about getting a camel bak where I can carry nutrition, water everything and try running without the bottle of water, which anyway gets the water to be very warm by the middle of the run. 

So before I go out to Beacon Rock (registered yay!), I need to plan out some more gear. That’s another reason for some complaints (mostly in mock) from Bharath about how this sport is not very cheap. It is and it isn’t. I haven’t had to buy gear for a while now but I’m going to have to. Just bought a bunch of running clothes for the summer from a gift card from work (yay for performance rewards, see I said I am good at my job).

Here are some pics from the trails this morning, it was soooo pretty out there!!!ImageImageImage



The Heat is On!!

Today was the hottest run of the year. Or so it felt. The dial was at 85F when I showed up at Travis Country Circle off Southwest Pkwy, one of the nice, lesser known entrances to the Barton greenbelt. And connected to the usual greenbelt trail but you have to know the trails to get there.The trails here are very rocky and single track. But the good thing is there’s lots of shade on the trails and you’re never in the sun. I’m sure in the heart of summer it gets like a sauna especially as you run.

From the road we ran about a mile inside the trails to where Joe’s marked his Rock Tree. Which is a tree with rocks on it, also put there by Joe and his peeps. Interestingly, lot of these trails are named by him. Shan’s loop, Scupture Falls (there is no water), Baloney, and the best ever, Panty (Gaurav, the trail veteran who is on a hiatus said it’s cos there was a tree there with a panty hanging on it, hence the name panty. Well I hope to God though that the panty owner is safe and sound).

So we go in and at Rock Tree, in usual Joe-fashion he draws the trail on the ground with a stick. This is why it’s impossible to describe the trails on the online forum. Because there’s no way he can explain that if you’re not standing over him and even if you are, you’re still quite likely to get lost. The loop was 2 miles and just a sort of toast-shaped one (probably quite different but that’s the way he drew it on the mud). So off we went, Joe with us marking the trails with his pink ribbon clothesline clips on the trees as he ran ahead. I began running too hard and didn’t anticipate how I’d react to the heat. At Hell’s Hills where I definitely ran hard, the temps were still in the 70s when we started running and never reached 80 until way after I’d finished. But today at the outset it was 85. I began sweating but more than ever, my head felt super hot. I poured water on the back of my neck as I could and at some point I had to stop to walk. My heart rate was high, head was hot and dizzy and I didn’t want to run. So I slowed down, walked up the little inclines which felt oh-so-hard in the heat.

This was not even a hot day. Most Austinites would call it pleasant. Summer isn’t here yet with it’s blazing sun at 9pm and a 100F with no signs of cooling until late night. But I’m a cold weather runner. Not snow and ice and sleet but for me, 50F-55F is perfect. I hardly need to warm up, going in I feel great and strong with steady breath. So it looks like heat conditioning is needed. People tell me I’ll get used to it. I need to use icepacks and hydrate all the time perhaps. Not sure how it’s going to work out. On the second loop I took it really easy. I ran really slowly, I just wanted to spend time on my feet running and letting my body decide how it wanted to run in these temps. When I slowed down I felt a lot better. On the inclines I’d walk and just make sure my heart rate wasn’t flapping around so I’d feel dizzy. It worked. It took me 1.5 X the time to finish the second loop but I felt all the better. Drank every drop of water I had. Sue, my trail sister, who I call that because like sisters we have a lot in common but we’re different. Here of course I’m talking about running because Sue is blonde and white. We run at the same pace but she’s a much stronger starter. It takes me a good 2-3 miles to warm up before I can go bounding about on the rocks and stones. Eventually I can catch up with her and sometimes by pass her, if I feel good but mostly I like to pace with her because she runs at a good even pace. I mean she finished less than a minute after me at Hells Hills and ranked 8th among women! But what’s really great about her is that she can beat the heat!! So when it’s hot she’s suddenly a sister who grew up to be very different. The heat makes us very different runners! I wither in the heat but she does ok. 

So I’ll try to keep running through the summer and get heat conditioned, however at some point it might get too much, in which case I’ll do what I did today, I’ll slow down and listen to my body.


Hell’s Hills: first trail 10k and major PR!!

I had to show off the medal first. I mean it’s so awesome, that I think I’d do this race just to get my hands on a medal like that. Every other race medal feels meh! Also I’m going ass backwards, starting trail running with a 25k and dialing back to 10K! All because I’m afraid of the heat!

To think I almost didn’t run this for fear of heat. That’s why it’s called Hell’s Hills. There are hills but no big shake like the hills we climbed for Nueces. The trail was a regular MTB trail with a lot of rolling inclines and dips and climbs that mountain bikers like to do (crazy people). But this is the first HOT race of the season, coming out of the spring into the summer and MANY people underestimate the heat. People haven’t acclimatized to running in the heat and this race can be hellish for that reason. Well fortunately for me, I was only doing a 10k. The other distances were 25k, 50k and 50mi.

So first I almost didn’t do this race. Sue had mentioned she was signed up for 25k. I then considered doing the 10K. On Tuesday night at the run, I asked Joe if I could do it. I didn’t want to pay $55 the late registration charge but he let me in for free. He said this one was on him. He’s so awesome. He said, its good to have me running with them. I’ve been seriously considering going through training/running in the summer to get some heat training from them. I have to do it eventually if I continue to run in TX. And it’s like elevation training – takes a while to condition your body but you are a better, stronger runner for it for sure.

I drove out at 5 am with Gaurav and Purvi, who are my new trail buddies. Met them at Nueces too. Gaurav is an avid trail runner, having a 100miler under his belt (literally because Joe hands out buckles for the finishers). He ran a lot of Asha before. His new bride is also into trail running and has done a few 10ks. I am trying to get her to begin training so I have company :). The race was about 45 mins outside of Austin at Rocky Hills Ranch in Smithville TX.

As soon as we got there, it was evident I was among friends. By now most of the regular running group I know by first name and it’s great to meet everyone at these races. It makes me feel totally at home. Kuss, one of our co-coaches even put the timing chip on me after I was struggling for a while – he said this is an ‘all service’ race, haha! But seriously, Joe and his wife Joyce put up these races every month, with the help of their kids, friends, and fellow trail runners. Trail runners earn points for every hour they volunteer on the races – be it at aid stations, registrations and packet pickup or water stations. These points go towards a dollar off future race registrations. I think that’s a fantastic system. The races are fabulously organized, the trails are well marked (by Joe himself, who drives out a day or two in advance to do it), the aid stations are well stocked with PBJ sandwich squares (neatly cut by what seems like loving hands), Hammer Gels, salt tablets, water, gatorade, chips, cereal and a plethora of fruit. It’s absolutely amazing.

Anyway, back to the race report. We started off at 7.15 AM. Was a bit worried about the effect of spicy biryani I had the day before at lunch but frankly nothing happened. Maybe I’m spice conditioning also. I started with Sue (who dropped down to 10k) and she’s a fast runner when she starts. My start is always hard – huffing puffing and straining. The race was crowded with a total of 582 registrants! The 10K was especially packed on the narrow trails. After about 2 miles I left some of the crowd behind and caught up with Sue. At the 5k mark, I ran past her, and I ran really hard. I didn’t stop, ran hard throughout. Everytime I’d pick on someone ahead of me to pick off and that kept me going. There was this one girl who I was trailing for about 1 mile and finally when I picked her off I was elated! It gave me fresh lease of energy and I didn’t even feel the heat. The race course was not very hard, a few hills here and there, mostly the big dips that you had to run down to get momentum to run up. Many novice runners would walk down those dips (sometimes pretty steep) and thats when you feel you’ll lose balance. If you run down then you have momentum to run up the up-hill part. It takes effort though. I don’t think I eased off at any point while I did take time to recover I didn’t completely recover until I actually finished the race.

The kilometers seemed to go by quickly (there were only 10 of them). The trail was winding and pretty in parts and quite shaded so the heat wasn’t that bad. It was humid though. When I turned towards the finish line, there was no one ahead of me. I didn’t get the urge to do my usual sprint but because I’d run hard I finished strong at an even pace. Joe was at the finish line. He said I did good. I told him I was looking to run faster over shorter distances before taking on any longer races again. He said, that was a good idea especially for this season since we’re just coming out of the cold. I loved the encouraging words! I told him I didn’t think it was that hilly and he laughed, saying others complained about the hills. He said, I’ve trained you well!

The girl who switched me out for my timing chip for the finisher’s medal (isn’t it GORGEOUS and BADASS??), told me she thought I was the 6th woman to finish. I was ABSOLUTELY THRILLED. Me – the slow poke – could ever dream of being in top ten of anything for racing is a wonder to me. So I think this Run Less Run Fast strategy is working. I can give everything I have in me to run hard over the shorter distances. It helps me build speed and some endurance. It doesn’t mean I won’t ever run longer distances. I might do that over weekends when I feel up to it. I also would like to build my heat endurance over the short distances first. I have a raging headache from the sun and humidity and that’s something I need to fix before I move on.

After the race it was fun hanging around with Sue, who’s my trail sister for sure! She’s even just as old as my sister and we get along like a house on fire!

Overall, I am so happy I took the trouble to do this race, thankful to Joe for letting me in last-minute for FREE and encouraging me at the start and finish!