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.