Thursday, October 11, 2007

Chicago Marathon Oct 7, 2007

Chicago Marathon # 3...What A Ride!

6 AM Saturday - Sweet Home Chicago!

It was WARM! - Went to my sister's place to hang out for the morning. It was wonderful to see Mallika and Rohan (niece & nephew) - the last time I saw them was Chicago Marathon '06! Went for a short jog with Rohan (10 yrs old) while Mallika (12 yrs old) accompanied us on her bike. It was sweltering! I loved it...but knew we were in for a struggle on Sunday.

Race Day - up at 3:45am, had breakfast with the team and headed to the start. The Asha tent was larger than last year's and we had plenty of Porta Potties...awesome arrangement :-).

Tony lead the team in some light stretching and we all took off for the start. I thought of starting with the team in the Open Corral - but Satyan insisted that I go to Corral D, he said "This is your kinda weather - just go for it" I managed to get to Corral D in time. It took four and a half minutes to get to the start line. I hung on to the 3:45 marathon pace group till mile 17...where a quick stop at the green bank (to make a deposit of my liquid assets) caused us to separate forever. Mercury rising...the temp was up to 90F and it was humid! The pace slowed after the break and as I looked around I started noticing the number of people who were dropping out or just sitting by the road side...the heat was taking its toll...there was a constant wail of ambulance sirens! I realized that this was not a good day to attempt a quicker marathon...hung on to a 9:15min/mile pace to finish in 4:00:14.

Got back to the tent and on the way heard announcements that cooling buses were being sent out...Tony (3:09)and Raghav (3:29) - (Animals!!) - were already there - I had a nice massage - and waited for our runners to start coming in. Around then we started hearing reports about some deaths on the course and hundreds being hospitalized. With every siren Tony and I would look at each other and hope it was not one of our runners...the next two hours were tense, tough and scary! Slowly all our runners started coming in...most of them were re-routed to the finish.

All Fire Hydrants turned on!

For many, the dream of finishing their first marathon was cut short...there was a lot of disappointment and anger amongst the runners. We tried our best to pacify them but our words fell on dejected ears...all those months of training and anticipation were seemingly for naught...they were angry about the lack of water/Gatorade, the heat, the cancellation...frustration was high! The marathon...The "Chicago Marathon" had become a total mess. I was just glad the organizers cancelled the race...with their complete mismanagement the continuation of this race would have been a total disaster. It will take a few days, weeks for our runner's anger to subside and they will realize how lucky they were to come away healthy.

Could things have been better? Hell yes! Could things have been worse? HELL YEA! We were all lucky...all of us came back safe...ready to race another day.

I had to head back home the same evening, so after a quick shower and a few beers with my sister and Rajeev Shankar I made my way to the airport. As I waited for my flight, it struck me that after the finish last year we were all talking about how "Cold" it was...the temp had dropped to 39F during the race. Today all the conversations were about the record heat and that it had hit 90+F...same city...same marathon...same organizers...different outcome! Here's hoping that 2008 will be like 2005...perfect weather and a perfect race.

Race Pix:

My quest for a 3:45 finish did not materialize - but the fact that everyone was safe was a huge relief. Big thank you to Asha Chicago and our tireless volunteers, coords, supporters from Asha SV...what a wonderfully well arranged trip...amazing people. I would also like to thank the people of Chicago, the Police & Fire depts, Paramedics and all ancillary saved the day and possibly many lives.

Chicago Marathon Organizers - you need to take responsibility for the mess. There was a lack of water at the aid stations - STOP denying it. Admit that mistakes were made - apologize and make amends.

On a lighter note, Dick Walstra - my friend and professor from Chicago wrote this wonderful poem!

Raj came to Chicago
To run the big race;
The weather was awful,
He couldn’t hold pace.

But Ironmen know
That conditions will vary;
So like it or not
He chose not to tarry.

The City sent cops to say
“stop where you’re at!”
But Raj went on racing
In four hours flat.

It wasn’t a record,
No PR this day;
But we all feel much pride
In our friend anyway!

- Dick Walstra

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Ironman Canada 2007 - Race Report

Lake Okanagan, Penticton.

Thursday: Got into Penticton in the afternoon and went to the registration booth and got myself registered. Later in the evening I went for a short jog along the beach. Picked up Vinod from the Airport at 9:30pm – 'Team India' had arrived!

Friday: Picked up our bikes. Vinod and I went for a short ride later that evening.

Saturday: We were up early for the 2K underwear run – totally hilarious! 150+ people in briefs running through town to the cheers of the towns' folks – the run ended up at the beach where we were put through some calisthenics. Vinod in his Boxers and me in my Speedos were among the crowd (I will not post the pix)

Ironfamily - Tracy, Janice, Mark "Irondog", Rajeev, Renuka and Vinod

Met Mark, Janice and Tracy for lunch. John, Vinod's team Sheeper buddy, joined us too. Finished the bike check in and relaxed the rest of the day. Met Lisa Bentley at the expo and Vinod & I had a photograph taken with her. (Lisa won the race the next day.)

Vinod Herur, Lisa Bentley, Rajeev Char

Race Plan: Swim easy, Bike easy and RUN the darn marathon!

Race Day: 3:30AM The Ironwoman Renuka nudges me out of bed – coffee and oats –
Vinod and I leave for the transition area at 5:10AM – Body marking takes forever – get into the transition at 6:00am do all the last minute checks and I slip into my wetsuit and trudge off to the beach.

SWIM 2.4 miles: 7:00AM swim starts – It was crowded! To me the mass start is really what defines an Ironman race, it is crazy out there. About 10 minutes into the swim a swimmer was having a bit of trouble breathing so another swimmer and I stayed with him for a few minutes, trying to calm him. He finally decided he needed to rest so he swam to the center channel to look for a surf board to hold on to. He told us to carry on....I hope it worked out for him.
I was out of the water in 1:24 – took forever in T1 – the Porta line was looong!
Video of the swim start:

BIKE 112 Miles: I had my nutrition figured out this time – Hammer Sustained Endurance – each bottle was 343 Calories (I had planned to use 5 bottles) and eGel, each 150 Calories (I had 6 gel packs). A total of 2600+ liquid / gel calories for the 7 hour ride with salt tabs mixed into the drinks. Now I had to remember to finish this during the ride. The first 40 miles were fast – by my bike computer I was at mile 40 in 2 hours and 5 minutes. Stopped just before Richter Pass and mixed my third bottle (so far the plan was working). The next few miles were uphill, I met Mark and saw his new bike with his "" logo painted on it – Black bike with a white logo, it looked really good. The down hills were great, clocked 45mph at one spot – lovely! Met Vinod at mile 70 he was having cramps and some issues with his bike – lower gears were slipping, luckily he met the awesome Bike Barn support team and they fixed his bike. Reached the final climb at Yellow Lake - eased up over it (...this is where my race had unraveled last year.) The crowds were lined up on either side and it was great! A 74 year old triathlete blows by me – totally amazing! There is a pretty girl with a huge poster saying "Looking for a husband" - I laughed and said "you are too pretty and I'm too tired - it won't last." The down hill section was smooth and again clocked 45mph at one spot. Off the bike in 6:57 – all 5 bottles and 6 gels were consumed – no excuse to fail on the run this time.

RUN 26.2 miles: The plan was to run a sub 5 hour marathon – started off at a decent pace and was wondering if I could hold it throughout. Told myself no walking this year. At mile two, I had run more than last year! At mile 14, I had run more than my 2005 Lake Placid race. Met Mark at mile 15 – he was too funny – his drill sergeant routine cracked me up – I was laughing for the next mile. Mile 21, I started on cola and was still holding the pace and was feeling pretty good – once back into town, the crowds and energy picked up, I increased the pace. The last 2.2 miles were the fastest of the lot – saw Renuka and she had a big beautiful smile on her face with a hint of shock! (I was way ahead of schedule) My finish time was 13:14:51 – I was thrilled – I ran the plan and it actually worked! The marathon time was 4:34....with negative splits - first half in 2:18 and the second half in 2:16...not too shabby Eh! I wanted a sub 5.....and got it!

The splits:

Million thanks to my lovely wife Renuka for all the support – the driving, bike pickup, cheering, diet & training tips - she is developing into a fine coach. Thanks to my good friend Stan Ho for all the bike rides and bricks this year. Again, a big thanks to Vinod - we have now made this journey twice – and hopefully 2008 will have a few more events we can do together. Thanks to Anil for the rides to and from the airport at unearthly hours. And of course all our family & friends who were tracking the race online – reading all the emails later was like reliving the race.

Was this just a one off good race day? A fluke? Or is there a 12:30 finish in me? Do I sign up for Canada 2008? Or Brasil 2008?
Decisions decisions...Life sure is tough! :-)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Vineman 70.3 (Half Ironman) July 22, 2007

Vinod and I signed up for half Vineman as a training race for Ironman Canada – Vinod unfortunately ended up with a flat at mile 45 – since the glass on the road had torn his tire the replaced tube also flatted immediately. He waited for some help as he had run out of tubes. A fellow racer gave him a spare tube and with some ingenuity he fixed the issue by using an empty GU gel packet to cover the hole in he tire and inflated the new tube! All this cost him over half an hour – else Vinod too was on track for a 5:40ish finish.

Anil Rao, Rajeev Patel and Alan Geraldi started running their Tahoe Rim Trail 100 miler on Saturday – this race had a 35 hour cutoff – Alan finished in 27 hours – Rajeev & Anil finished in 34 hours! TRT is considered one of the toughest Ultra-marathons…Anil & Alan chose to make this their first 100 miler! Amazing!

The highlights of my race:

Swim 1.2 miles: The swim was horrible – too shallow and too crowded – I got kicked/hit right through and never got into a good rhythm.

Transition 1 (T1): Took me 2 minutes to find my bike…either I’m getting old or I had one too many kicks to the head during the swim!

Bike 56 miles: The bike section was great – maintained 19mph avg almost right through – got stung by a bee at mile 40 that was PAINFUL! I had a tough time trying to get the stinger out without falling off my bike. Bike time of 2:58:33 is my fastest in a half.

Transition 2 (T2): I struggled to get my glove off as my finger had swollen up due to the bee sting.

Run 13.1 miles: Run was like a flash back – I remembered the course very clearly even though the last time I ran it was 2002 during the full Ironman (same course twice) – the temp had gone up to a nice toasty 87F. There was a slight irritation around the left knee (tight ITB), managed to stick to a decent pace and finished in 1:56:22.

Stan took some videos,
Mile 12:

Mile 12.75:

The finish time of 5:48:29 was 18 minutes faster than my previous best!

Every time I do one of these races I get reenergized and inspired

Inspiring moment: At mile 7 I saw a runner limping really badly – I stopped to ask if he needed help in stretching it out – he said with a smile “It is a little worse then that” – I then asked if he was cramping – and offered him some salt tabs…he then said “Thank you so much but I have MS” I was blown away – here is a man who is afflicted with this ailment which to date has no cure…he was out there doing a half Ironman! There is no limit to the human spirit. We take so much for granted.

My biking / running buddy Stan drove over to Santa Rosa to cheer us on, at one spot I said my ITB was acting up and Stan said – “Come on Rajeev just think of your friends who are running a 100 miler – imagine what they are going through!” - Thanks Stan I needed that.

Vinod’s team mate Doug Fujii finished the race in 5:20 – which gave him an outside chance of getting one of the Clearwater, FL - 70.3 World Championship spots. He missed it by 2 people! That was really sad. You’ll get it next year for sure Doug.

All in all a great race.

Monday, June 18, 2007

31 mile run/hike at Yosemite

(6:20am June 17, 2007 L to R - Pam, me, Anil, Arun, Vineeta)

We got back from an real adventure at Yosemite (got home at 3am!) - 5 of us had planned on running/walking 31 miles yesterday (Sunday June 17th) -

(Camp fire)

After a fun filled Saturday evening by the camp fire with a few beers and some good company we called it a night around 10:30pm - the temp had dropped to the high/mid 40s and I abandoned my plans of sleeping out in the open - took my sleeping bag into Arun Sharma's tent and was soon in deep sleep.

(The route)

We had planned for a 6:00am start which would have given us 14 hours of daylight to do this run/hike. We started at 6:30 am from White Wolf campsite (8,000 feet) and descended 4,000 feet in 6 miles - after a 4 mile flat section we planned to run the 21 mile route from Pate Valley to Toulumne Meadows which gradually went back up to 8,600 feet.

(the climb down to Pete Valley)

Around 9:30 am we stopped at the river to fill up on water - Arun and Pam decided to run on ahead to save some time. Anil, Vineeta and I started about 15 mins later - at the junction (Pate Valley) we missed the Toulumne Meadows Trail and ended up taking the the wrong trail.

(The water stop 9:30 am)

Under the assumption that Arun and Pam were motoring on ahead we too started pushing through the very overgrown and almost covered trail. Anil kept running ahead and shouting for Arun and Pam but go no response so we continued to run/walk for 2:30 hours - the ~ 4.5 miles we ran took us up about 2,600 feet (we were at 6,600 feet). The trail was overgrown and full of thorns - all of us have minor cuts on our legs/arms. At places I did see some big piles of droppings - I knew they were not mine :-) it was either a big deer of one of the Yosemite black bears! At times we heard some noises in the bushes - not a fun feeling. Finally we realized we were on the wrong trail and decided against pushing for the top (we assumed that around 8,000 feet we would see some camp sites/ Ranger station) luckily sanity prevailed and we turned back to make sure we got to the river, our only water source.

It took us about 1:20 mins to run back to Pate Valley - at every turn through the thick brush I would imagine a bear standing times the black burnt tree stubs caught my eye - and my heart would skip a beat or three! By the time we got back to the junction and realized our error we were almost 4 hours behind Arun & Pam. After a brief discussion we then decided to head back to White Wolf Camp - although Rashmi & Lily were waiting for us at Toulumne meadows (20 miles from White wolf) we knew we could at least get the message to them through the rangers saying we were OK. Vineeta, Anil and I kept running and discussing various scenarios - What would Arun/Pam do? would they be waiting for us? Would they have come back? Gone on? What would we have done if we were in their place? It took our mind off the run for a while.

We stopped at the river and filled up our bottles and backpacks and braced for the climb back to White Wolf. The 6 mile 4,000 foot climb back to White Wolf was brutal. We had come down this trail earlier in the day - it was strewn with uneven rocks and bad footing which made a treacherous descent - but the ascent was just plain murder!

We were trying to ensure that we got back by 6:00pm so that we could get a ride to Toulumne and meet the others at that trail head before sundown. Anil was still in fine form - Vineeta and I were feeling fatigued. We made some stops to calm our breathing and heart rates and we pushed each other on, reminding each other to eat and drink water. We made it back at 6:30pm - Vineeta convinced the Rangers to give us a ride to Toulumne Meadows - the Rangers (god bless them) dropped us at Toulumne Meadows at 7:20 pm where we met Rashmi & Lily who were waiting for us. They were really starting to worry. Arun and Pam had not come in as yet. So after a quick change and adding a few more layers Anil and I started walking back down the trail trying to see if we could locate them. Finally after about a 40 min walk into the trail our shouts were returned by Arun & Pam - Man! we were so relived - they made the 31+ mile trek/run in 14.5 hours (6:30 am to 9:00pm) What a day! - Anil, Vineeta and I ran/walked about 30 miles (6:30 am to 6:30pm.)

Arun and Pam had very little food or salt tabs on them as most of the food was with Anil and me - the trail they were on was devoid of tree cover for most part and the valley was simmering at 90F by mid day. Running low on sugar and energy the two willed each other on for 14 hours (13 hours if us remove the hour they spent waiting for us). But in spite of all this they came away saying that the route was really beautiful - the water falls and vistas were fantastic. I doff my hat to these two athletes. I guess I'll have to make another trip there to see this stuff!

We have a lot of learning to do - we were very very lucky this time.

The bad decisions:
1) Not discussing the trail in much detail the prior evening - not carrying a map - not having a back up plan. I did not pay attention when Arun was going over the map.
2) To let the group split up.
3) To continue on the wrong trail for 2.5 hrs (we should have turned around in 45 mins of not seeing the other two!)
4) Not distributing the bars/gels/salt tabs equally - the three of us had the bulk of it - Arun and Pam were lucky enough to meet other campers who parted with a few energy bars)

Good decisions:
1) Heading back to the river for water.
2) Heading back to White Wolf instead of trying to catch the other two.
3) Ensuring we got to camp before sunset.

Other Pix:

(All photographs taken by Arun Sharma.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Tri OneOOne - Sunday June 10, 2007

Patel - Me - Vinod - on the way to Clearlake (At the Golden Gate Bridge)

SWIM 1.86 miles/ BIKE 80 miles/ Run 18.6 miles

When we hit the hills driving into Clearlake - about 2 miles into the narrow road came the sign "Caution Narrow Road" - Patel cracked me up with his deadpan comment -"Thank god we are thin". We got into Lakeport and checked in our bikes - headed out for a few beers. As per Vinod the mandatory athletes meeting was at 5:00pm so into the tent we went - The race organizers were being really nice and when Patel asked if coke was going to be served on the course he was told "sure if you want it we will make arrangements". Now...I've raced many triathlons but never have had such an awesome response from the organizers...something was not right. Then Dan Empfield who was covering the race for said he did not recognize some of the athletes and would like to set up a few one on ones!! Hmmm the bells started ringing in my head (I thought it was from the beer). The next speaker was the USAT official who said that the decision on wetsuits will be made in the morning as the water temp was just below 72F! Patel looked at me in shock and with a few whispered "bleeps bleeps" said "Holy bleeping bleep bleep no wetsuits!" - that's when I realized we were sitting at the professional athletes meeting...Hilarious!! So we slid out of there - and then had a few laughs with Dan Empfield about it...(They did indeed serve coke on the course - and this race has a superb race management team)

Race Morning: Beautiful day.
"Like putting toothpaste back into the tube" Yea! That was what one thought of when Rajeev Patel came to the swim start putting on his wetsuit! When Kelly helped zip him up she said that his shoulder blades almost snapped together :-) He was all set -no sign of open water jitters.

SWIM 1.86 miles
It was an uneventful swim and I crawled out in about an hour. Struggled out of my wetsuit and into the bike gear.

BIKE: 80 miles
The bike was a relatively flat course - bumpy roads - If not for the care I took some of those potholes could clearly have altered my voice...if my wife is reading this (she is out of town) - honey, the boys survived...
It was great to see Rajeev Patel on the bike - which meant he not only survived the swim but also made the cutoff (he was worried about not making the 1:45:00 cutoff - he came in with plenty of time to spare) I saw Vinod & Kelly going great guns and we passed each other on all the three loops. I was doing fine - sticking with my plan to ride relatively conservatively and I did come off the bike feeling pretty strong.

RUN 18.6 miles - HILLY
The 2 loop run was really hilly - the hilliest run I've had to do in a triathlon. I chugged along and met up with Vinod at mile 7 and we ran together for the next 3 miles - mile 10-13 is when I normally start unravelling (it has happened on all my previous races) - strangely I was feeling good at mile 10 so I upped the pace a bit and continued on with some sub 10 min/miles. The total finish time 9:23:49 (9 hrs 23 mins 49 secs).
Swim: 1:01:20
Bike: 5:00:31
Run: 3:14:08

Vinod had a monster 3 weeks leading up to the race which included, three back to back 100 mile rides (Memorial Day weekend) and the Alcatraz triathlon a week before this race. The cumulative fatigue started to slow him down. The fact that I caught him at mile 7 should tell him that he needs rest - else there is no way a guy like me can catch and pass an athlete like him.

Rajeev Patel (his race report finished his first official triathlon and it was an ultra distance triathlon to boot. Amazing guy with an amazing attitude, he brought his sense of fun and his energy to the race...triathlon is richer for that.

Great race - very well organized and everyone in the town of Lakeport was so friendly and supportive - lovely place. This race is on my list for 2008.

For the inspirational Lakeport stories of Mellanie Irvine & Ashley and for photographs of the race please read Rajeev Patel's blog.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

May update

A 15 day trip to Bombay in mid April brought all training to a standstill. But fortunately May was a productive month:

Finally got into my wetsuit after almost 8 months and had a nice mile swim at Coyote Point. The bike distance has gone up to 80 miles in May with Page Mill Road to Skyline back in my training route.

I am experimenting with Yasso running & am up to five 800s @ 3:15-3:20 pace (6:30/6:40 mile pace). Good or bad it keep me focused and hopefully gets me closer to an easy paced 3:45:00 marathon.

Total mileage for May:
Bike: 320 miles
Run: ~80 miles
Swim: Not enough!

Chicago Marathon is back on my schedule for October. Since it is three weeks earlier this year it should be warmer and a bit more fun to run.

Next Sunday is TriOneOOne ( Rajeev Patel & Vinod Herur will be participating as well.

No sign of summer in the Bay Area yet, temp has been around the 70s. When riding on Skyline it feels more like 50...

12 Weeks to Ironman Canada - that means 12 long rides left!

Happy running

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Beauty of the Bay Area

Finally a fruitful weekend - after bouts of fits and starts to this years training season I managed two decent rides on Friday & Sunday. Still wary about my strained MCL which had ruled out hill climbing for the past few weeks - I did test it out today with some satisfaction.

Friday - 60 miles followed by a 5 mile run
Saturday - Rest - some light stretching in the evening
Sunday - 66 miles including Old LaHonda in 28:48

I carried my camera with me today to capture the beauty of the route that I have been riding the last 5 years. Not great photographs but decent enough...

April 6-8 Long weekend:
Training Status:
The year started off with a 'sinus' set back which forced me to back out of the San Francisco Half Marathon. But I did manage a nice relaxed run at the Napa Valley Marathon (3:56 - PR) on March 4th. I have been far more regular with my running this year and I hope to continue to push through and make a bid for a 3:45 at Marine Corps Marathon on Oct 28th (there I said it)

17 Sundays to Ironman Canada - that means 17 more rides (best case)...I do have a trip to India coming up which will burn a few that leaves me with 15 long rides!! The preassure is on....

Old LaHonda - on the way down

Crystal Springs (Canada Rd)

Crystal Springs

Stanford Dish (Palo Alto)

Monday, January 01, 2007

Looking back, looking forward

2006 - a look back...with a smile

Coaching TeamAsha for the second year was one of the highlights of 2006. 170 runners finishing what they started! Back in April, many were running their first mile and facing the daunting prospect of running 13.1 or 26.2 miles by the end of the season. It was fascinating...watching their transition from disbelief/skepticism to achieving their the process enjoying themselves and discovering the joys of fitness and health.

As for myself, I ran four marahons (including 1 during my Ironman). This the most I have ever run in a year - and certainly think I was overdoing it (of course my ultra running friends will scoff at this :-)) - Big Sur in April, Chicago in October, CIM in December and Ironman Canada in August. Apart from that a few of us did the Caliman half Ironman in June, the 2.4 mile Catfish Swim, a century bike ride & the Aquabike (1.2 mile swim/56 mile ride) all in July.

2006 was a year when a lot of my friends achieved personal sporting highs:

Rajeev Patel - Ran his first (of many) 100 milers - and showed up on the cover of the Ultra running magazine!
Vinod Herur - Jumped into world of triathlon with Alcatraz Tri, SJIT, CALIMAN half ironman dist & Ironman Canada!!
Rajesh Agrawal - Probably the most diversified sportsperson I know, finished Ironman Canada
Anu Singh - Like Vinod plunged into Triathlons with SJIT and the MiamiMan half Ironman distance race (next step Ironman!)
Manisha Ghosh - Finished her first half ironman distance race -Big Kahuna, CA.
Mark "Irondog" Williams - finished his 10th Ironman Canada!!
Alan Geraldi - Took a break from Ironman races and ran his first 50 miler (and is training for a 100 miler)
Padma, Kiran & Pradeep Das - Finished the Triple Tahoe Marathon (3 marathons in 3 days)

None of us can ever get to these achievements without the support from our family and friends....Renuka was once again the backbone of my events. Mom was with us as well for Ironman Canada. I cannot thank them enough.

2007 here we come!