Tuesday, November 24, 2015

October / November 2015

If it is October it must be Chicago...
Ran my 11th straight Chicago marathon - perfect weather - 54F clear skies.

Chicago Marathon # 11 (2005-2015)
Chicago Marathon Miles: 288.20
Chicago Marathon hours: 50:48:46
Flying miles: ~40,612 (SFO/ORD/SFO)
Flight time: ~88 hours

In November a bunch of us Team Asha athletes participated in Finish Line Production's Santa Cruz Aquathalon - a swim around the Santa Cruz pier followed by a 7.5 mile run. Fun event - with big breakers at the start and finish.  All our swimmers finished the swim.  

 Team Asha

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Ironman Lake Tahoe - September 20, 2015 (DNF)

With the DNF (Did Not Finish) at Ironman Lake Tahoe my ironman record goes to 10 – 2.

The two DNFs coming in 2012 (Ironman CDA) and 2015 (Ironman Lake Tahoe). While CDA was a DNF due to major GI issues the Tahoe one was more of a mixed bag. Not too hard to pinpoint the underlying reason – lack of motivation.
I had signed up for Ironman Tahoe back in early 2014 - but swithched to the half in July as I had not been training too well. 2014 IMLT was cancelled due to smoke from forest fires. I, assuming that I would train better, upgraded to the full IMLT in 2015.

Actual training kicked off in June and the months of June and July were fine. August had big holes due to visits and trips – I was under-trained for sure – but given that I was only looking for a 17 hour finish I assumed I could wing it...and there was the problem. As with a subprime CDO scheme where you make some brave assumptions of steady cashflow (while knowing the underlying assets are dodgy…you still hope the risk is spread wide enough to survive) – I too made assumptions on my performance when the underlying asset (me) was, well, dodgy!

The day began well enough – morning temp was about 2C (~36F) at 4:15AM – and it was about 5C (~41F) by swim start. The water was a nice warm 61F. Still and clear. With the new swim start (as opposed to the mass start) Stan and I placed ourselves in the 1hr 20 – 1hr 30min group and had an uneventful start and a rather pleasant swim. Was out of the water in 1hr 20 mins. Lake Tahoe is by far my favourite place to swim – having swum in seas off Bombay, Muscat, Maui, Los Angeles, San Francisco and in lakes all over the world – Lake Tahoe and the clarity of its water is just out of this world. Some day, when I grow up, I'll do the 11 mile swim across the breath of Tahoe.

Took some time in transition for layering up, leg warmers, arm warmers, jacket and made my way to the 2 loop 112 mile ride on my trusted Rocinante. The day was cold with no wind (47F) – perfect for riding. Team Asha volunteers, captained by Shashidhar Dakuri, were manning the Route 28 section and it was great to see them. Nizam Dakuri was seen driving his chariot along his dominion marshaling the troops and cheering us on. I stopped at mile 13 to drop off my warm gear with Venkat who was volunteering there (he said ‘looks like you are wearing your ski gear today’ :)). Lap one was fine and I was feeling pretty good – sticking with the 1 bottle of e-Fuel and one eGel every hour/hour and a half. Stopped and refilled the bottles at all aid stations and I had plenty of time to make the cut offs. Lap two was a bit different – the sun came out and there was a bit of a cross wind and as it started warming up (81F). I started to feel the fatigue. As I was spinning up Brockway summit I decided to stop and walk once I hit the 7,000 feet mark – that was a clear indication that my energy levels were low and my legs were pretty much done. That walk prompted me to walk up dollar point as well (I don’t ever remember walking my bike up hills before – this was probably fatigue and just lack of motivation to ride on) – by then my head was hanging low and the focus was on making it to the run with something in the tank. I felt terrible and I probably looked even worse. But somehow push it to T2. Amit was there (apparently they were expecting me there much earlier – I have that subprime glow). It was awesome to see Deepa, her dad, Sumit, Prasad, Venkat, Amit, Shashi along the course.

T2 was a bit quicker – had a layer of sunblock plastered on by one of the volunteers and I started off – all I needed was a 15min/mile and I would be home in time. I kept the pace for the first 3 miles – then I slowed – my stomach wanted to play a bigger part as well – so I placated it with a Pepto-Bismol tablet. I saw Chakri coming in from his ride and shouted out – he made the cut off and went on to finish really strong. Amazing guy and a strong athlete. I found a walking buddy and we kept the pace up for a few miles – I lost a her during one of the Porta Potty breaks and as the sun set the temp dropped pretty quickly. This was about where the mind was writing cheques that the body could not cash. At mile six I considered stopping as I was really slowing down and had a throbbing headache but decided to push on to the turn around to see if I get a physical turnaround. I met Doug and Stan they were on their way back and doing really well. Made it to the 9.7 mile turnaround and on the way back I decided to dropout at the next water-stop. Met Chakri and he was looking good – as we passed I mumbled something about stopping. Mile 11 or 12 I got to the aid-station and informed them that I wanted to stop. No government bailout for this subprime mess...more like Lehman Brothers it was time to pull the plug. Gave them my timing chip and they wrapped me in an bunch of blankets and I sipped on some chicken broth. As there was another runner who was not doing too well, I got a ride back to the Olympic Village at Squaw Valley in an ambulance with her.The aid station and EMT folks were fantastic.

I sat in the medical tent for about 20 mins – more chicken broth, blankets and questions. Again the volunteers there were absolutely great. Then I made my way out – Shashi, Sumit and Prasad were there – everyone was wondering where I was. Called Renuka to let her know all was well. The wonderful Asha folks got me more broth and helped me pick my bike and gear and dropped me to the hotel room. Later Prasad came by with burger and fries! Amazing! Laukik, who finished his grueling 70.3 (half Ironman) was there to help drive me back – awesome folks!

Laukik, Rajeev Shankar and Tandy finished the 70.3 and Doug, Stan and Chakri finished the full Ironman. Perfect day for a race – the weather was great and the fact that we had almost 20 Asha volunteers there made the race that much more special.

Not enough training and a late start to the season.
Lack of motivation for the full distance. The bike training rides were a chore.
Altitude does cause problems for me.

e-Gels – one every hour (150 cals)
e-Fuel – one bottle every hour and a half (300 cals)
Bananas later in the ride.
Both worked well - bit of GI issues towards the end of the bike and during the run but nothing out of the ordinary.
Crank's eFuel works well for me.
Post race recovery was quick and complete. 
No post race DNF blues. Actually I'm pretty much done with the ironman distance races (for now).

Monday, June 15, 2015

Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava, Prague, Munich, Fussen

Dates: May 15-May 31st 2015.
Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava, Prague, Munich and Fussen.

The whiteboard planning

Airline - Out bound: United:  SFO - Frankfurt - Budapest. 
Inbound: Air Canada: Munich - Toronto - SFO.

Travel in Europe: Trains - Budapest to Vienna. Vienna to Prague and Prague to Munich. We booked our tickets in the US and had them mailed to us. Booked via the RailEurope site:

For the shorter trips were booked while in Europe: Vienna to Bratislava by bus - buy it on the day. Buses run very hour.

Munich to Dachau and Fussen are covered under the Bayern Pass. This is a 24 hour pass that works on all transport in Bavaria (Buses, U Bahn included).

One of the things we had decided on this trip was to skip all the museums - we had done a bunch of that in Italy and Spain so we decided to take in the cities and enjoy the local restaurants and watering holes.

Heading out

We landed in Budapest and our BnB was a block from the Parliament building (3 min walk to the Danube). Perfect little place - quiet and clean. 

Road we were on.

 Shoes on the Danube to honor the Jews who were killed by fascists during WWII
 The Tram next to our BnB

After getting tips about local eateries from our host - we walked across the Chain Bridge and to the Buda Castle on the opposite bank. It was a gorgeous evening and the place was deserted. We strolled around taking in the great views of Pest (Budapest is the combination of the two cities "Buda" and "Pest" split by the Danube).
 Chain Bridge and Pest Skyline
 View of the Parliament and the Danube
 Chain Bridge
 Turul - Sacred Magyar bird
The Parliament building
Day 1: We got the morning tour of the castle - reading the details from Rick Steves self guided walking tours in his books. We stopped at the oldest coffee house in Budapest, Ruszwurm, which opened in 1827. It is on a small street with a view of the Matthias Church on the Buda Castle hill. We then strolled across and wandered the city. Had dinner at Hungaricum - a local hot spot. It was good.

 Palace Guard
 The Raven sent by Matthias' mother with the royal ring.

 View of Matthias Church
Matthais Church

Day 2: We went to the hot springs - 'Széchenyi Baths' the largest thermal bath in Budapest. Spent the morning lazing around in the warm waters. They have a lap pool and I tried to get a swim in but was stopped as I did not have a swim cap! So I ended up drinking beer and lazing in the thermal bath. Had lunch out there and walked around the gardens and little castle area there. Got back late afternoon - had dinner at a recommended spot 'Krispiac Bisztro' and then went for an evening cruise on the Danube.

 One of the oldest underground metros in Europe to the City Park, Zoo and Bath

Video of  Széchenyi Baths

 Széchenyi Baths
 Széchenyi Baths
 Széchenyi Baths
City Park

Day 3: We wandered around the city - went to the Jewish quarter and took a tour of the Synagogue - our first visit to a synagogue. The stories and photographs of the decimation of the Jewish population 70 years ago was heart wrenching - and the population has still not recovered. The photographs and history are both full of sadness and hope. Our guide talked about the political situation in Hungary (not too good) and about the slow rise in covert antisemitism. It made for an interesting conversation. After visiting a few 'Ruin Bars' We walked into a live concert in the park - a group called 'Republic' was playing - pretty cool stuff. On the way back to the BnB we picked up a bottle of wine and spent the evening on the banks of the Danube.
 Parliament building at night
 Buda Castle
 Ruin Bar
  Ruin Bar
  Ruin Bar

 Silver Tree Memorial - with our guide
Silver Tree Memorial - a gift from Tony Curtis

While relaxing on the banks of the Danube this floats by Bollywood on the Danube

Next stop Vienna:
Got in at noon and spent an hour wandering around looking for our hotel. After checking in we walked around the city - took the U to the Opera House and Stephansplatz area - walked around. Eurovision song contest was going on right outside out hotel - so we hung around there - had a  few drinks and mingled with the fans for a while. Later we ended up at a place called 'The Pub' for some drinks and dinner.


Day 2: We took the bus to Bratislava - spent the day wandering around the quaint little town. Walked to the castle area. On the way back we stopped off at the Schönbrunn Palace and then met an old school friend for dinner in Vienna. Had a wonderful meal at Do & Co in Stephansplatz.


Dinner at Do & Co- Vienna
View of Bratislava from the Castle
Schönbrunn Palace
Schönbrunn Palace gardens

Next stop Prague:
After figuring out the Tram system we made it to the BnB (Old Town) - Alex showed us in and helped us with some tips on where to eat (non touristy) and what not to miss. Since it was late afternoon we walked across the Charles bridge (really packed with tourists) and walked up to the Prague Castle area - gorgeous views of the city - and since the castle was closed we had the entire hill to ourselves. Sauntered back - stopped by 'The Beer Museum' (a bar) and tasted a bunch of beers.

 Road to the Castle
 At the Castle in Prague
 Views from the Castle
 Views from the Castle

Day 2: Walked to the Castle and did the tour - some prior guest at the BnB had left tickets for the next guest (Yay!) so we waltzed into the Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral. Checked out the famous stained glass window by Alphonse Mucha. Visited all the other exhibits that the free tickets offered. After lunch we visited the Mucha Museum in the New Town. A small (and expensive) place - they have a 20 min movie on his life which was pretty interesting. On the way back we stopped by to see the famous astronomical clock do it's thing on the hour.

 St. Vitus Cathedral
 St. Vitus Cathedral
 Mucha's Stained glass window
 Mucha's Stained glass window
 Naked Man statue at The Prague Castle
 View of Prague
 Mucha Museum

Day 3: No real agenda - I wanted to see 'The Slav Epic' - a collection of large paintings by Mucha - we walked to the museum but the exhibit was closed till August. So we made our way to the Jewish town and New Town. Checked out the huge Wenceslas Square (visited a Bata shop after years!). Saw the Municipal House (Opera house). We visited the big market - it was not really all that great. Lots of shops selling trinkets but nothing special. Once again crossed the Vltava river to take the funicular up to the top of Petřín Hill to the lookout tower for some more awesome views of the city.

 Wenceslas Square
 Wenceslas Square

Next Stop Munich:

The train ride was weird - the Czechs suddenly announced that the train would go up to Pilsen (Plzeň) and then all Munich bound passengers were to take a bus for 120Km to another station in Germany and continue on to Munich. Major confusion in Pilsen - we did not know where the buses were. Finally someone came by and we had a double decker all to ourselves for 120 Km! 
Got in at 3:30PM - struggled to figure out the darn U-Bahn ticket methodology. Apparently you have to punch the strip twice per person...confusing as hell. Made it to the BnB (University area), Lucas gave us a quick run down on what was near and we took off to explore the beer halls! Had a Schweinhaxen (slow cooked pork knuckle) at Augustiner (A recommendation from Muneer). It then started pouring so we all moved inside and ended up sharing a table with some locals and had a great time discussing various topics (they don't like the Greeks - and I'm sure the feeling is mutual ;)) - several beers later we headed home after a great evening.

 Train on the German side
 Train on the German side

Day 2: Took the train to Dachau - even after reading about all the history, the place shakes you to the core. Spent all morning wandering the camp at Dachau. On the way back we visited the Nymphenburg Palace and finally made our way back to the beer halls. Hofbräuhaus was our stop - love the concept of just sharing tables and having conversations with locals and tourists. Had another great evening lubricated with liter beer mugs.
The Dachau gate "Work will set you free."
Camp beds
Nymphenburg Palace
Nymphenburg Palace
Nymphenburg Palace
Nymphenburg Palace
Nymphenburg Palace
 At Hofbräuhaus

Day 3: My nephew, Lokoo, had just landed in Munich so we met up and spent the day with him catching up and beer hall hopping. Had an absolutely wonderful time.

Next stop Fussen:
A tiny gem of a place 2 hours south of Munich. We decided to spend two nights there instead of doing a day trip. Loved it. We checked into our hotel (Hotel Jakob - a nice family run place) and they  told us not to visit the castles that evening as it would be crowded but go early the next morning. But since we had time after lunch we decided to just walk to Hohenschwangau - about a 4K walk. Once we got there we noticed that there were no lines at the ticket booth - so we picked up tickets and visited both the castles. Cute places - the views from Mary's Bridge (Marien Brücke) were spectacular - we rued the fact that we did not pack the fancy camera - and the iPhone could not do justice to the scenery. We finished seeing the two castles (Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau) that same evening. Later in the evening we walked along the Lech River - taking in the picturesque views with the milky blue glacial river waters. Stunning place.

Neuschwanstein from Hohenschwangau

Day 2: Having done the main attractions the day before we have absolutely no agenda for day 2 - so we decided on a long hike to the lakes. After some beer and a light lunch I jumped into the Altasee lake for a quick dip. We then sauntered back and took a dip in the Obersee lake - sat and chatted with some German tourists. An absolutely refreshing and relaxing day. After a nice 7 mile hike we headed back to the small town and wandered the back streets.

 On the hike
 Lunch prior to a dip in Altasee
 A quick dip in some cold water
 Lech river
 Checking out of our hotel
 Trying to sketch

Left Fussen at 12:00Pm and got to Munich late afternoon - we had booked a room near the airport...and the airport is way out of the city! Spent the evening around the hotel and after an early night - we were ready to draw the curtains on another wonderful trip.