Monday, December 05, 2011

2011 - Looking Back...looking forward...

My races this year:

2011 - Looking back.

2011 was another great year for Team Asha (SF, SV & SV Bike program). Our runners & bikers participated in races all over the country. Starting from San Francisco Half in July, San Jose Rock n Roll in September & Twin Cities, Chicago, Marine Corps, Morgan Hill Marathons in October..the runners had a great time. A few even ran CIM in December. Huge congrats to all our runners and bikers. Team Asha runners are the ones that get me get up & off my lazy butt and running! Thank you!

My Family had great year too!

Renuka (my wife) ran her first marathon, Chicago Marathon! YAY! She breezed through the race on a warm Chicago day. The temp did touch 88F.
Mallika (Niece) - Also ran her first marathon, Chicago!! Incredibly poised and confident girl. She made the race seem easy! She showed me how one can text and run at the same time :-) - The ease, confidence and sheer enjoyment of her race was a breath of fresh air. It was such a pleasure running with her.
Nandini (sister) - She came to California and we ran The Big Sur Marathon together and then we met up in Chicago for the Chicago Marathon. Nandini has gone from not running at all 2 years ago to a complete running machine. Her incessant running updates is pure motivation for couch potatoes like me.

Rajeev Patel - What can be said about him! Incredible guy! He attempted one of the most difficult and aggressive ultra-distance races, the 250Km Spartathlon, in Greece and made it all the way to mile 60+ before the cut off got him. He is back in training and will be heading back to Greece next year to give it another shot.

Nishad Singh: This young man, not 16 yet, completed a 100 mile race! 100 miles...160 Km! He is an inspiration to many (including me) and I can only wonder what his next athletic adventure will be. Here is the NBC program on him

Anil Rao: He has shown us what dedication can do. After becoming a dad, he shifted gears from ultra running to marathons and his goal was to run a sub 3:15:00 marathon. His previous best was 3:38:00. Anyone who has run marathons will know that cutting off 23+ minutes from your time is a HUGE achievement, over a minute per mile!! It is extremely difficult to get such improvements after the 3:30 stage...laws of diminishing returns sets in...but on December 4th 2011 Anil Rao ran CIM in 3:14:47! Amazing! Big congrats to him. Focused and consistent training got him there.

Martina Koldewey completed "Racing The Planet - Nepal" a race over 250 kilometers/155 miles through the foothills of the Annapurna mountain range, starting and finishing near Pokhara. Total elevation gain across the full course is 9,000 meters/29,500 feet. Total elevation loss is 9,700 meters/31,800 feet. She was on the move for 49+ hours over the 6 days of the race! Amazing athlete!

Tony Fong completed his 100th Marathon at MCM. He is never stops amazing (or running).

Murali Krishna (MK) and Rajeev Shankar: Both completed their first Ironman races, MK did the ironman Coeue d'Alene and Rajeev finished the Vineman Full distance race. Congratulations to both!

Chandrika Srinivasan completed her first Half Ironman Distance triathlon (Napa Vintage) - congratulations to her!

As for me, the year began with promise but I lost my way after the Napa Marathon. I did not make it to the Ironman Texas race in May and then decided to take a break from Triathlons this year. I did only one triathlon (SV Triathlon) and ended up running my first Ultra Marathon (Run De Vous 50 miler).

I spent a bit more time backpacking this year, a couple of back country trips to Ansel Adams Wilderness and one to Mount Whitney. This left me with a stomach bug in October that made me miss Twin Cities Marathon (TCM). Given that TCM was to be my A race, I ended up with no Personal Records this year but a lot of easy races.

I did do a few more open water swims and I have been wanting to move into long distance swimming. The only catch is that I'd have put on about 20 pounds in order to survive open water swims, as wetsuits are not allowed in long distance open water swimming...for now that stands between me and long distance open water swimming. I cannot see myself adding 20 lbs! That will be too much and will kill my running & biking for sure. So stay tuned!

As 2011 marked my 10th year of running marathons, 2012 marks my 10th anniversary of Ironman distance racing. To celebrate a full decade in Ironman races I plan to do three Ironman distance races next year, lets see how that pans out. 2012, here I come.

Blog index 2011:
1) Well Begun is half done (May 2011)
2) Ansel Adams Wilderness - Lillian Lake (Aug 2011)
3) Run-De-Vous 50 mile Ultra Run (Aug 2011)
4) Alcatraz and Back swim (Aug 2011)
5) Mount Whitney Trip (Sep 2011)
6) Bridge to Bridge 10Km Swim (Sep 2011)
7) Chicago Marathon 2011 (Oct 2011)
8) The 2011 Season round up. (Dec 2011)

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Chicago Marathon 2011

Chicago Marathon 2011.

Temp: 78-88F, warm.

My 7th year of running Chicago and this year was special as both my wife and my niece were running it as their first marathon. I flew into Chicago on Friday and it was great meeting mom who was with my sister in Chicago. Saturday the 4 of us drove into town to stay at the Congress Plaza (right at the start of the race). Picked up of bibs and spent almost all day at the Expo. Mallika had both her knees taped (kinesiology tape). One knee was hurting, but she had to get both done so they matched!! Crazy kid! Renuka go a mild massage and Nandu too got some tape work done. The weather forecast was mild to warm for race day. We skipped the Asha carbo load and settled down for a meal at our hotel. We (Nandu & I) had a few beers and we all had a good evening, walked around to the Buckingham Fountain and then settled in for a good night.

[Evening in Chicago]

We were up early and off to the Asha Tent at the Charity village. This year they had pushed us further south and the walk was a good mile + from the village to the start. It was warm and only getting warmer.

[Walking to the start]

[At the start]

We all started off together at the 14 min mile mark and before along we split up, with Nandu and Renuka running on their own and Mallika and I running together. Running with Mallika was fun, she rarely stopped smiling! She was just so relaxed throughout the race that it was incredible. We kept pace with the 5:15:00 group and the plan was to stay with them as long as possible. Around mile 16-18 Mallika’s knee started acting up so we decided to dropped back and stick with the 5:30 pacer. She was adamant that she wanted to beat the 5:30 pacer – no matter what! I had to talk her out of that and kept reminding her that it was her first marathon on a rather bum knee too…so relax and go easy. She eased up and continued on with her texting and smiling :-)


As we came upon the final mile she picked up the pace and then sprinted the last 800 meters!!! Good lord! That last burst of speed almost killed me, I hung on to finish with her :-). We waited till Renuka & Nandini finished and I then headed back to the tent to collect or bags. The hotel was kind enough to get me an extension to get in and have a quick shower. Nandu dropped me off at the airport and I headed home that evening. Another good Chicago Marathon...warm but well organized.

[Still texting]

Thank you Chicago Asha for the superb arrangements and congratulations to all finishers.

[At the Asha tent]

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bridge to Bridge 10K Swim

Route: Golden Gate Bridge to Bay Bridge
Distance: 10Km (~6miles)
Flood Tide: 3+ Knots
Finish Time: 1:34:40 (One Hour Thirty Four minutes and 40 Seconds)

It was Murali Krishna (MK) who pushed a bunch of us to register for the B2B10K swim. He sent out an email saying he had signed up! It does not take much cajoling for this group to sign up. Mouli, Chakri and I signed up. We had all trained well enough (Read Alcatraz and back) and were decently prepared for this swim.

We left Sunnyvale at 5:00am and after picking up MK at the ferry building in San Francisco we made our way to Capurro’s for the pre-swim briefing. After parking our car at the end of a nearly empty Van Ness street, a guy gets out of the next car and strikes up a conversation. He proceeds to explain to us that he intends to swim from the Golden Gate Bridge all the way to the Bay Bridge…6 miles, he said after an appropriate ‘let it sink in’ pause. After a brief silence we told him we were doing the same swim! He felt a bit embarrassed that he had gone on about his swim, but we all had a nice laugh about his boasting.

Race Meeting

Capurro’s was already crowded and bustling when we got there. We collected our yellow caps and our blanket (No T-shirts, medals, buckles – just a nice warm blanket makes up the race bag) signed in and waited for the legendary Bob Roper to begin the meeting. The meeting was quick and all of us first timers had a bunch of questions. Mark Rosen who was pretty much a co-race director was extremely helpful, very patient and really assuring with is answers. There were some ground rules,

1) Be on the boat immediately after this meeting as we will sail at 7:00.
2) Once aboard, get ready and be ready to jump in upon the our orders.
3) Listen to the kayakers and boat captains, their say is final.

Much to our consternation there was very little information about the sighting and swim path that we had to follow. We were told that the kayakers and boats would help us along the way. Just aim for the Aquatic Park entrance and keep going past pier 39, and the pickup boat will be at the base of the Bay Bridge pillar.

We all walked to board the Bay Celebrations and Stan came by. He said he would be biking around to check on our progress and would stay for breakfast after we were done. Once aboard, we set about getting ready. Mouli was doing the swim without a wetsuit! Crazy guy! The rest of us suited up.

On the boat

Around 7:35AM there was a bit of chop and the calm foggy morning had become a windy choppy morning. 7:45AM the call went out, ‘Jump!, jump!, JUMP!’ I saw MK standing at the jump off as I was pretty much pushed off the Bay Celebrations (even though I was ready to jump). The first few minutes in the water were really disorienting and confusing. It felt like the tide was sucking us out under the Golden Gate Bridge towards the open ocean…there were a few muffled screams and concerned shouts as a few swimmers were on the verge of panic. I managed to look back and see that we were not really going back out, but it did seem confusing indeed. I quickly asked the other two swimmers I was with to look back and calm down, I pointed towards the bay and said ‘We go that way…lets go’. There was a follow up ‘Are you sure?’ and I said ‘yes I am’…off we went. The water was choppy and I quickly found myself alone…not a kayak in sight! I just dug my head into the water and plowed on. About 15 minutes in a kayak came into sight and he gave me a ‘thumbs up’, that really felt good and I just pushed on.

About 30 mins in I saw a swimmer waving his hands. I stopped and asked if all was ok, he shouted back (rather calmly) ‘I’ve been bitten by a seal…I need to get out!’ I saw a boat making its way towards him and so I plugged on (The thought of blood and sharks did cross my mind :-)) . I went past the AP opening, past pier 39 and made a right turn to see the Bay Bridge in front of me. The thing about open water is, no matter how close you think the destination is, it is pretty far :-) - I had to ask the kayak for directions as I could not see the Bay Celebrations and was worried I would head past the Bay Bridge. He said I had caught a great line and I should just keep going…another smile and thumbs up…off I went.

Almost done

About an hour and 20 minutes in, a RIB swung by – the lady was waiving her hands and wildly pointing towards the shore…I looked up at the Kayak and he smiled so I just kept going on. The RIB was back in about 5 minutes…she said something to the kayak and he asked me to correct course and make a sharp right towards the shore. Finally I saw the Bay Celebrations! After a bit of struggle I managed to get up that ladder and back on the boat. Most of the swimmers had already finished…and there was a good bit of energy. I grabbed some water and the two folks I had chatted with at the start, came by to say thanks! That was sweet of them. I asked the crew about the weird start and the feeling of being pulled out to the ocean, even though the tide was coming in pretty fast. The explanation was that the boat (Bay Celebrations) was moving into the bay faster than us, so it felt like we were being dragged out into the Pacific!


A note from the organizers:
"Congratulations to all swimmers on an inspiring and fast swim in challenging conditions of 20 knot winds and 2 foot chop.

Thanks also to all of the pilots, paddle boarders, kayakers, boat captains for ensuring the safety of all swimmers. There is no swim without your great volunteer help!

And many thanks to all other volunteers for spotting, check-in and all around help. Special thanks to SF Police and Fire Department for their support."

It was a good swim and a bit tricky at the start. All in all a very well managed event. Big round of cheers to Bob Roper, Mark Rosen, Lee Bruno and all the volunteers!

Press Release

Monday, September 05, 2011

Mount Whitney - September 5, 2011

Chakri had a few open reservations for Mt Whitney and he asked me if I wanted to do it. In I was!

Hike: 22 miles out and back. 6,150 feet elevation gain.

Participants: Chakri, Samanvita “Sam”, Krishna, Stan and myself.

Sep 2nd to Sep 5th, 2011

(I have not proofread this post - corrections will be done anon.)

The Plan: Leave on Friday, stay at June Lake Friday night, Lone Pine on Saturday night. Start the hike on Sunday morning, camp at 12K Sunday night. Monday morning 4:00AM start for the summit and head back to the parking lot by Monday evening and drive back home…and back to work on Tuesday.

Friday September 2nd we left for Mount Whitney, we drove across one of my favorite roads, Tioga Pass, as we crossed Yosemite at 9,900 feet and drove down to 395 at Mono Lake. We spent Friday night at a nice Swiss Chalet at June Lake. Morning of Sep 3rd the gang went to see the sun rise at Mono Lake…I decided to sleep in and only awoke once they were back. After a decent breakfast we headed off to Lone Pine, the city at the base of Mt Whitney. Along the way we stopped, ate and took photographs (of food) and pretty much enjoyed the drive on 395 south.

Once we got to Lone Pine we stopped at the rangers office and collected our passes and WAG Bags. WAG Bags are basically large specifically made garbage bags that one has to collect ones human waste in and carry it back to the trail head for disposal (Mandatory 'Pack it out' program instated by Inyo National Forest). This is done to ensure that the Whitney trail, streams, lakes and wild life are not destroyed by a deluge of human poop. The normal ‘dig, crap & cover’ is not allowed due to the heavy traffic on the trail (aren’t you glad you are more enlightened now). That done, we settled into our hostel room (2 bunk beds and Chakri took the carpet). We sat and sorted through our bags, consolidating the food, fuel and other items so as to minimize the amount to carry up the trail.

Sunday morning (4th), after a good breakfast (which I skipped in lieu of 2 cups of coffee) we drove to the Whitney Portal (8360 feet) which is the start of the trail. There is a lot of bear activity at the Portal and due to the many cars parked there the bears have gotten used to checking and breaking open cars with food left inside. Given that it was my car :-) I made sure everything was removed and packed into the bear lockers. Just as Chakri was directing me into a rather tight parking spot I saw a black bear about 10 feet behind him! I kept waving my hands and pointing & he thought I was asking for more directions! Finally he saw the bear and managed a quick photograph just as it ran into the bushes. Once we were done packing and cleaning, off we went on a nice easy paced hike to Trail Camp at 12,000 feet. The hike was about 6.3 miles with about 3,640 feet of elevation. My backpack was weighed in at 32 pounds, I did not carry my tent as Sam and I decided to share a tent.

At the start

The hike was nice and easy paced – the trail was single track and we had to make frequent stops to let people pass as it is a very busy and popular trail. Stan was in his element, jogging around and taking photographs of bear turd (he said it was bear turd...I have no idea...he could have missed his WAG bag for all I know). We met a couple training for their Himalayan Base Camp trek – I kept pace with them for a while, stopped and chatted about what their diet was and how they made this trip here as often as they could in the past few months...they had been up to Whitney several times recently and were testing out altitude sickness pills. The Diamox was causing some side effects and she was not too happy, but she would carry on and see how long the side effects lasted.

All of us stopped for lunch overlooking Lone Pine Lake – it was a nice spot and we spend about 30-45 mins resting and eating. All along I was feeling fine, drinking enough water and moving on at a steady pace. After lunch I pushed on with Stan and after a while I was walking alone (Stan probably stopped to photograph more poop) – after a while I decided to stop and wait for the others. I relaxed and the wait turned out to be close to 30 mins as the rest had stopped to take photographs. I met Steve (Stephen Rodzevik) who was backpacking the John Muir Trail over 15 days. We chatted for a while and since he too was camping at the Trail Camp he said he would meet us there.


As we passed the Outpost Camp site at 10,000 feet I thought we had reached our destination...I quickly dumped my backpack and claimed a decent spot for our tents. Stan came by and smiled, ‘we have a bit more to go, this is the Outpost Camp not the Trail Camp’ so off we went again. We made it to the Trail Camp – some of the sections leading in were a bit sketchy but not too bad. There were a lot of campers out there already, some leaving, some coming, it was a busy place. Stan had found a spot for us and as I put my pack down, I saw a few used wag bags lying around...ugh! Why do people not behave responsibly and carry their ‘shit’ back with them! Disgusting! I shifted campsites, as Steve found us a few good spots near where he had pitched his tent. Once everyone came in, we set up tents. The wind had picked up and it was COLD. We started our stoves and cooked up some dinner. All of us huddled behind a rock trying to stay away from the wind...did I say all? Well all except Stan, he was still in his shorts! The kid is crazy! Anyway, I ate a bit, not too much as I was really cold and tucked in for the night. The tents were really flapping in the wind and around 1:00am I stepped out for natures call...the night sky was spectacular! Reminded me of the star studded skies in Muscat,Oman. It was still breezy but not all that cold.

We were up at 3:30am and after a quick breakfast we started for the summit. We just carried day packs and left our tents and packs at the campsite, the packing up would be done upon our return. There was a long line of headlamps heading up the 99 switchbacks. I had about 3 liters of water on me and some gels. I had on several layers and a jacket but I was still cold! We began the trek real slowly as it was dark. Stan had taken off and was already way ahead of us. The switch backs were painful, you don’t really feel like you are making any progress at all. After a while I could not hold a slow pace as I was beginning to shiver, so I picked up the pace. As I crested the switchbacks the sun was coming up, I was dying for some sunlight and warmth. Stan was making his way back towards me (he did this out and back several times during the day) and saw me shivering, he said something to the effect that the other side is sunny so I should be fine in a few mins. I followed him to a spot that had a superb view of the valley and some much need sunlight. I sat there for about 5 mins to warm up. Chakri, Sam & Krishna were just behind taking photographs.

Section of the trail

After that short break I started heading back up the trail...there was a downhill section after the switch backs and that irritated me because it meant that there were more up hills coming. I met Steve, he was on his way down! He packed up and left early as he wanted to be on the trail quickly. He looked at me and shook his head, ‘you need to keep moving, you are really shivering’, I laughed (or I thought it was a laugh!) and moved on wishing him a safe trip. Some of the sections were a bit tricky, narrow with a steep drop-offs on one side...I’m not really good with that kind of terrain and the shivering was not helping. There were a lot of folks on the trail and I stopped and gave way to just about everyone. My heart rate was shooting up to 170+ after every few steps! I would stop, bring it back down to 100, and start again. At one point I thought I was beginning to cramp...I sat and massaged it out. A couple stopped and asked if I was ok and looked a bit concerned when I said I’ll be fine. Slowly I made it to a spot where you could see the cabin on the summit (you can see that for a long time). There was a 15 meter section of the trail covered with packed snow, that really bothered me. Stan was at the other end and he shouted out “Get low, stay low”. My running shoes were sliding around a bit, but with some help of a hiker coming down I made the last bit. Stan walked me to the top...phew! I was tired and did not bother to look around much :-). I managed a photograph and just sat down and waited for the others. Stan ran (yes ran!) back to get the others.

Sam @ Snow crossing

At the top

The wheels come off!!

Once we all rested for a bit, I borrowed some water from Krishna, and Chakri said he would stay with me as I was not feeling all that great. Chakri, Sam and Krishna were tired too, but holding up much better than I was. As we headed down I noticed my fingers were swollen and my balance was not all there – bit of a problem but not too bad. We stopped often as I was getting tired and I began to suffer a bit more with some perception issues. My depth perception seemed off, I was reaching for the rocks but I was a few inches off...weird feeling indeed and not too calming when you are on a steep mountain! Chakri was always a few steps behind and kept engaging me in some conversation to keep me focused. I was out of water by the time I had reached the 99 switchbacks, Chakri shared some of his and we made slow progress. There were a few hairy moments but we kept plugging along. Then about a few miles from the camp (It seemed like a few miles!) I saw Stan coming back up! What a dude! He had water with him and he made us drink up and accompanied us back to the camp. I just collapsed for about 30 mins and tried to get some sleep.

At around 5:00pm we started to pack up the tents. I struggled with my sleeping bag and finally Sam/Krishna took over and packed it for me! They also packed the tent as I stood around half dead (Thank you guys!). We loaded up for the 6.3 mile hike back to the Portal. I was fine and my energy was coming back. I started to feel better – it was late and not many people on the trail. We passed the Outpost campsite and I started feeling really was that deep exhaustion you get when your body is saying no to every movement. I stopped at a small stream crossing...stared at the few rocks I was to hop across...Chakri asked if I was ok...I mumble something and just about made it across.

Chakri stream crossing

Five minutes later, I was done! I just sat down and said, ‘guys, you all can carry on to Lone Pine, I need to stop’. There ensued a long debate/discussion as to what needed to be done. I tried to stuff some food into my system, but it revolted. I was done! Finally everyone decided that we would walk back to the Outpost Campsite and stay the night. Krishna carried my backpack and since we were out of food, Sam borrowed some from other hikers coming down from Whitney. Sam/Krishna/Stan/Chakri (Rock Stars!!) set up my tent and my sleeping bag...I just crawled in and tried to sleep. I struggled for a bit with a blocked nose and a queasy stomach before I drifted off to a deep sleep. I could tell Sam was really worried as she saw me sitting up in the tent for a good 10 mins before I drifted off to sleep. What an amazing bunch of folks! I am glad I was with them for they really took care of me. Thanks a million you wonderful people.

I was sure there was a bit of panic back home as Renuka was not sure what was going on and she was expecting us back that evening. Stan and Krishna walked about half a mile from the camp site at night to find cell phone reception and finally called home to let them all know we were ok and would be back the next day.

Morning it was a different me! All the energy was back the fingers had come back to normal! We made our way down packed up and drove back to Lone Pine – All of us called our respective managers for the day off (Tuesday was a working day) then headed back to the hostel for a nice long shower. After stopping at Mono Lake for a quick tour we got back home at 10:00pm!

End! Still leaning on Chakri

It was an eventful trip for me and I must say my first brush with altitude above 10,000 feet was not very good :-) But I am glad I was with the folks I was with, the company, food and all the help was just awesome!

Sam, Stan, Chakri & Krishna you guys ROCK!

Monday, August 22, 2011

3 Mile swim (Alcatraz and Back)

After our trip to Ansel Adams, Murali Krishna asked me to arrange a long open water swim in preparation for the Bridge to bridge 10K (6.2 mile) swim.

I got Gary Emich’s contact from Tandy/Doug and set up an Aquatic Park (AP) to Alcatraz and back swim for Monday August 22nd.

We got to South End Rowing Club bright and early and after a quick tour of the facilities – Gary explained the tides and the various signals he would be using to keep us bunched together. Chakri and I were still a little sore from our 50 mile run on Saturday. I was hobbling around with a few large blisters...but the cool bay waters would be good for the sore legs.

Given that we were heading out at the peak of the flood tide (6:30 AM SHARP), we had to aim to the west of Alcatraz and the slowing tide would drift us towards Alcatraz Island. Gary asked us to get suited up and wait for the horn at Aquatic Park. There we stood; Chakri, Mouli, Murali Krishna (MK) and I waiting for the large yellow RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) to show up at the opening of AP (The RIB was not allowed to enter AP). 6:30 sharp the fog horn wet off and through the murky light of dawn we could just about make the outlines of the RIB. The four of us started off and we stayed together as we slipped out into the bay. Once out in the bay, Gary pointed to the direction he wanted us to swim and off we went. Slowly, as the sun rose, we could see the outline of Alcatraz and Gary kept the boat to the east of us so we would not be sucking in all that exhaust.

Out of Aquatic Park

The going was good and the water was calm. Being a left side breather I had to make an adjustment to keep the boat in sight (it was on my right) – Mouli and MK were 5 to 10 meters ahead and Chakri and I stayed together. We had all discussed that we would stay in a group, so every few minutes Mouli and MK would stop and wait for us to catch up. Once we settled in to a decent pace we kept drifting to the east (tide coming in) and Gary would point us to the west…finally we made it to the island and stood up on the rocky beach on the west end of Alcatraz. My wetsuit had begun to chaff around the neck and was getting a bit irritating. After a brief break (about a min) we headed back. The tide had begun to shift and was now moving west (out to the ocean).


On the way GGB in the background

On the way back my goggles started leaking and I had to keep clearing them, no matter what I did it just would not seal tight! As we swam on the tide and wind picked up and Gary kept pointing us to the east. The AP opening is pretty tricky and can’t really be seen from the bay. Then we heard Gary say something but I could not hear him or follow what he was trying to say. MK said we need to swim to the wall on the west of AP, that did not make sense to me as we were to head inside AP. I kept fighting the current and trying to head to the opening...finally I swam close to the boat and asked Gary what was going on. He said we missed the opening and the tide was too fast to try swimming to it, he said 'aim for the rock wall' to the west of the opening. Off we went, I saw the buoy zipping past me...well it was actually me zipping past the buoy :-) the tide was moving really quick. I looked back and saw that Chakri was still close, so I started a sprint to the wall (I thought it was a sprint). I got to the rocks and stood up, and cut my feet on those sharp rocks. Then headed back to the boat.

As I climbed onto the boat Chakri came by and we told him that he had to touch the wall and then come back to the boat, so off he went :-). Gary looked at us laughing and said, "I'm sure Chakri is saying, 'what a bunch of bastards'..." :-). Once Chakri was on board, I patched up my cuts and off we went for a nice warm shower and back to a normal day at work.


Big thanks to Gary, he is an awesome guy.
Gary Emich web site: Lane Lines to Shore Lines

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Run-de-vous (50 mile run)

Run-de-vous endurance runs
(All photographs from Rajeev Patel's race page:

When Rajeev Patel sent out an email saying he was organizing an ultra race to celebrate the people you love, I was in. My brother had just been diagnosed with cancer and was getting ready for chemo. I signed up and said I will run to help him fight his cancer...that was April. By the time he was ready for chemo, the cancer had already metastasized and spread, and on May 24th he passed away. After coming back from India, training was the last thing on my mind and I kind of fell back on a lot training. Swimming seemed the only activity that gave me some relief. Come August and I was chatting with Anu Singh and Patel and I said that since I was not ready for the 50 miler I would skip the race...I immediately got emails from them saying I HAD to do it in Raghu's memory :-) - so well, off I went to run, jog, walk & crawl my way to the finish.

My final impetus for the race came when 15 year old Nishad Singh (Raj & Anu Singh's son, coached by Rajeev Patel) was running his 24 hour run in preparation for his first 100 miler. I was inspired and thought, 'let me go and run with him for a few hours and see how I feel'. I hung around with Nishad and stayed on my feet for about 6 hours walking, running, jogging around the tracks. That evening I knew I could do the 50 mile run without hurting myself :-). Nishad went on to run 60+ miles in 24 hours, he is an incredible kid.

Renuka and I went for the carbo load dinner at Bucca-de-beppos in Palo Alto and met all the other runners. It was great to meet Alan Geraldi after years! This is the crazy guy who helped push me towards doing my first Ironman race in 2002. After a nice evening exchanging stories with all the ultra veterans we headed back for a good nights sleep.

We got to the start at 5:15am and after setting my things up, I headed to the start line where Race Director Rajeev Patel was giving some last minute tips. On my request he played the Beatles song 'In my life' in memory of my brother. That was a really nice gesture and I thank all the other runners for indulging me this request. 6:00AM sharp we were off, whooping and cheering in a chilly, foggy morning. I had decided to run a fast(ish) 19 miler in training for Twin Cities Marathon on Oct 2nd, 2011, then slow down to a decent pace for the next 10 miles and then jog/walk the rest. The race was around a flat 2 mile loop and it was nice because you got to the aid station every 30 mins or so and there were always plenty of folks cheering, helping and ready to walk a few laps with you.

I kept to the plan and then walked a few laps. Alan and I kept company for a while then he took off. It was nice talking to the other ultra athletes, a few of them were regulars at the 100 mile circuits and it was great getting race and training tips from them. Nishad was in fine form and he had his AWESOME friends with him. These kids must have each run well over 45 miles for sure. Bill McCarthy was there too running his first 100 miler, Bill has always been a big inspiration and it was nice meeting him. Anju came by and she kept me company for close to 6 loops (may be more) and it was nice catching up with her and hearing about her recent world travels.

The miles just melted away, and before I knew it I was done with my first ultra. The only damage was a few blisters on my feet.

Next morning Renuka and I came back to help others finish their 100 mile races. It was humbling to see all these folks pushing and willing themselves on, they had been running through the night! I walked with Alan for a few miles and then cheered as all of them came in to finish. Such an amazing bunch of folks. After helping Rajeev Patel and his crew wrap up all the stuff, I took a bike ride around the 2 mile lap to ensure that there was no trash on the trail, I must say that the runners were very good at keeping the trail clean.

Big thank you to Patel, all the volunteers and folks who came to cheer the runners. This was a fun race and I'll probably be back next year again.

Rest In Peace Raghu, you are missed...more than you you know.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ansel Adams Wilderness: Lillian Lake Loop (August 13th to 15th

Ansel Adams Wilderness: Lillian Lake Loop (August 13th to 15th) Thanks to Chakri for inviting us to the Lillian Lake Loop backpacking trip. This was Renuka's first backpacking trip and I was hoping that she would enjoy the awesome experience. The planning involved about 80 emails :-) but we finally nailed it down to 7 of us (First timers: Renuka & Megha, Chakri, Stan, Abhijit, Krishna and I). We left the Bay Area around 3:30pm on Friday Aug 12th and stayed at the Sky Ranch in Oakhurst, CA. As soon as we checked in we worked our way to the bar. Sky Ranch is a nice cozy place tucked away in a corner of Oakhurst. The bar (The Branding Iron) is supposed to be part of a 100 year old converted mountain ranch, and has a nice old bar feel to it. The walls around the bar are covered with dollar bills signed with memories of past patrons. As we walked in the bar was closing, but the extremely friendly bartender Johnnie Rae (an Elvis impersonator) opened the bar for us. All of us has a few drinks, Abhijit and I had a few few more :-) - The evening was great with Johnnie bringing out his guitar and singing a few Elvis songs for the 5 of of still at the bar.

We began our drive up to the trail head at Clover Meadow at around 9:30am. The road to the trail head was really bad, most of it was potholed and in terrible shape. After squeezing into the packed trail head parking lot we set off on the Walton/Fernandez trail towards our first campsite, Flat Lake. With about 30lbs on our backs we made our way up to Flat Lake. Some of the climbs were tough but by and large the 7 miles there were beautiful and everyone made it without any issues. The only problem we had was the immense amount of mosquitoes in the area...just swarming. Thankfully we all had head-nets and plenty of repellent. Once we got to Flat Lake we set up camp and found a nice fireplace build with rugged stones. After we were all settled, I took a quick dip into the lake to freshen up and were all set for an evening with a small fire, a sip of vodka and some dried 'Mountain House' food packs.
We were up and packed by 10am the next morning and made our way back to the Lillian Loop (Flat Lake takes a small detour off the main trail and is on an extension of the Fernandez trail) and continued in our anti-clock wise direction towards Lillian Lake. The route to Lillian was a bit more challenging than yesterdays trip to Flat Lake, so Stan, Abhijit and I did some out and back runs to relieve others off their backpacks for short steep climbs. We made it to Lillian and hung around for an hour. Then we made our way towards Staniford Lakes. Once at Staniford (around 12:30pm) we stopped and tried to figure out our next step. So Chakri, Abhijit and Stan decided to head up to Chittenden Lake (our next campsite) and set up a few tents and then come back for the rest of us at Staniford. Megha, Renuka, Krishna and I climbed our way to the largest of the Staniford Lakes and found an awesome spot to rest and swim. The water was clear and cool, I'd hazard it was in the low 60s (F). Stan, Chakri and Abhijit joined us about 2.5 hours later and after we all had a good swim we headed for Chittenden Lake which had a decent climb and an unclear, rocky trail. The climb there was one place a lot of us were not very comfortable. Some of those ledges seems a bit hairy specially when you have 35lbs on your back :-). But the campsite was awesome, Chittenden Lake reminded me a lot of Minarets Lake, rocky, clear and edged with snow. With all the tents set up we settled in to watch the sunset and moon rise and then for another nice evening with a campfire, jokes, a few drinks and food.
By far the highlight of the day was the swim at Staniford.
The next morning we headed back to the trailhead with a brief stop at Vandeburg Lake (we skipped Lady Lake as we were getting a bit tired) - The trip back was easier as we were dropping from the 9000s back to the 7000s.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

2011 – Well Begun Is Half Done

It has been 10 years since my first marathon (Napa Marathon – March 2001) and I thought the best way to celebrate it was to go back and run Napa again. 10 years! Wow! Hard to believe indeed. I still remember Rajeev Patel talking to me about marathons back in 1999 and 2000. He was well into marathon running by then and was ready to impart his encyclopedic knowledge to anyone who showed even a little interest in running. It was around that time that I had fallen into the bad company of ultra athletes, such as Alan Geraldi, and it did not take long for Alan to convenience me of signing up for an Ironman in the next few years (I did my first IM in 2002).
The other milestone I hit was 20 years of doing triathlons, starting from my first race in Bombay back in 1990.

2011 – Well Begun Is Half Done.
Races: San Francisco Half (Feb 6th), Napa Marathon (March 6th) & Big Sur Marathon (May 1st)
San Francisco – Kaiser Half Marathon
I started 2011 in decent shape, my normal winter hibernation was shortened due to my signing up for an early Ironman race (Ironman Texas – which I will not be doing). I had been training since December and decided to run the San Francisco Half marathon in Feb (Kaiser half). The half went well…well, not really, but kinda OK – I did not PR and I did feel a bit of that ‘aw, shucks, I could be sleeping right now’ feeling coming on around mile 9 and just backed off and finished in 1:42:36. I just did not feel fresh at all. I carried on with training and put in a few more decent rides/swims/runs and took off for Napa Marathon a month later.
Napa Marathon – (My 5th time running this race)
We had a good group running, Chakri, Mouli, Krishna, Vinod and Anil. All folks I admire and have raced with them in the past. Chakri, Krishna, Mouli, Renuka and I had a wonderful pre race dinner at Fume in Napa (Nice place) and once we realized it was going to be a wet race day, we enjoyed the evening a bit more..may be a bit too much :-). I was up early on race day and walked to the finish line where the busses took us to the start. It was drizzling and a bit cold. Once I got to the start I just stayed in the bus till about 20 minutes before the start. Then on to the Porta John lines (far too few portas). The drizzle was light but constant and I just did not feel that ‘race feeling’ at all. (Napa in 2001 was wet, windy and cold! Napa in 2011 was wet but a lot better than it was 10 years ago.) We took off and I decided to aim for an easy 4 hour run or just under. I met a few other Indians running and chatted a while – since I was carrying my phone with me I was keeping them and myself updated with the cricket world cup match going on (India V. Ireland)…with spotty cell phone reception is was a tad bit frustrating. As the race progressed I met Vinod and he was suffering from painful blisters – we walked together for a mile or so (I had pretty much decided to slow down and did not really feel like running) – the course was beautiful with vineyards on both sides – green hills and foggy conditions, felt like I was back home in England (I’ve never been there).

(Some photographs along the way)

Finished the race in 4:12:48 and headed home. It was around then I decided that I needed a break. Over the next few days/weeks/month the rains came back to the bay Area with a vengeance and my training suffered (especially the bike)…

Snow on Kings Mountain/Skyline.

In April I decided to drop out of Ironman Texas and just take a break from training.

Big Sur Marathon:
Nandini (my sister), Renuka and I had signed up to run Big Sur – they were to run the 21 miler and I was going to run the Marathon with Arun Simha…Nandini switched to the full marathon and after an injury Renuka switched to the 9 miler, I decided to run the race with Nandini. In hind sight that was a good decision as Arun went on to run an amazing race and set a PR on a very tough Big Sur course. I doubt I would have kept up with that 4:18:50 pace..HUGE CONGRATS TO ARUN…he really has trained hard for this and had an amazing run. Nandini, Satyan and I finished the race about 1.5 miles short as they closed the 1.5 mile out and back Point Lobo loop to us by the time we got there (I was happy!). Renuka went on to finish the 9 miler (with no training in the last two months) she had a blast and enjoyed the awesome day we had. Bright blue skies, blue as blue can be Pacific and green rolling hills…sheer beauty! We did the 24.5 miles in just under 6 hours. It is a really really beautiful course and a must do race for all runners.

At Safeway keeping warm

Complaint: I have to say that the Big Sur organizers really did screw up the morning for all of us. They insisted that we get bussed to the start and then did not make any provisions to keep us warm! We were at the start at 4:20AM! It was FREEZING!! Thank god for Safeway, they let us squat in their aisles for almost 2 hours.

Lesson from this year…take a break in winter…after a hard 2010 season I needed a break (mentally) and should have taken it. Training through winter (specially biking) is not my thing. Running and swimming was fine, but biking was hard with it being cold and wet on the hills.

Next steps…skip Ironman Texas and concentrate on a decent run at Twin Cities in October. I may do the Vineman Iron distance race again, but right now am not really thinking about it.

Other news:
Asha 2011 season has begun, the SF, East Bay, South Bay and biking programs are well attended and full of enthusiastic new runners.
The Asha Alumni continue to excel in other events such as ultra running and triathlons:
Chandrika Srinivasan finished her first Half Ironman at the Napa Vintage Half Ironman Race.
Srikanth Dola and Megha Chawla took their first steps into the wonderful world of triathlons by participating in the Wildflower and Napa Vintage sprint races respectively.
Congrats to all of them and others who have kept up the racing and cross training that triathlons give you.