The joy of Trail-running

Done and dusted another Trail-a-Thon… Our annual trail running extravaganza in the Manger trail of Delhi-NCR… Always a pleasure to run there during the first weekend of Feb when it’s cold and foggy and we can go as long as we want…

This was my 3rd Trail-a-Thon… I have done 28km in the past two years and have finished on top (and the course record for women, 2:33 hrs, is still with me – nobody has broken it yet šŸ˜ƒ)… This year, I thought I will up the game by going for the 56km…

I must admit I am not good with elevation… And trail running involves a number of inclines and declines… The Manger trail is mostly steady elevations except for one steep one… So, the difficulty level is moderate to high-ish…

The first half was exciting… Finished in 2:38 hrs (the female winner of 28k finished in 2:43 hrs this year)… Going fast in the first half was a mistake; paid the price for that in the second half when the last quarter laid out a steady elevation in front of me… I couldn’t push myself in the last 6kms at all… I just walked and ran and finished in 5:57 setting a new course record for women…

With the winner’s trophy!

Overall, I am happy with the run! Lots to improve for elevation…

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Race Report: Tata Mumbai Marathon

First race of 2019 and it ended with a new Marathon PB…

Race day: January 20

Place: Mumbai

I love running in Mumbai… Not just because Mumbai marathon is one among the IAAF road races, but also because it challenges you as a runner and also the local support is the best in country… Mumbaikars are the best supporters of the sport, IMO…

In India we have 4 IAAF gold label races and Mumbai being the only one with Full Marathon category, you can imagine the hype as well… Everyone wants to run a full in Mumbai… Since I started my running season in August ’18, Tata Mumbai Marathon was my showstopper… The race I was looking forward to end the season (of big races) with…

The Mumbai weather is humid… I was concerned about that… I grew up in Kerala, the land of humidity and back in Not, I had run a race in Kochi, Kerala finishing under 4:00 and also on podium… But, training in Delhi’s cold and going to Mumbai on Friday to run on Sunday, that’s not enough time to acclimatize… Well, we do it every year… So, just go with it…

The race started at 5:30am… My plan was to finish under 3:50 (the original plan was sub-3:45; but an hour after landing in Mumbai I realized the humidity was not going to allow it), first half under 1:50 and do the second in 2 considering the heat and Peddar road with lots of elevation… Did my 10 just over 50, half in 1:48 and eventually finished in 3:49:54… Sounds smooth… But, it was not…

I almost missed my PB due to energy gels or whatever what didn’t sit well in my stomach… All started after the 8th km when I took the first sip of energy gel… 4 minutes later, my tummy felt weird… I was thinking trouble… I thought, not a big deal… 16th km, when I took the second shot, things felt bad… From there on, I felt the need to take a loo break every 4-5 km… But, held on and never stopped… After the second shot, I threw all gels away; so, I had to depend on the energy stations enroute… It could have gone bad, but, I held on and finished the race as per plan…

Well, I felt sick until I reached my hotel and rested for a while…. and missed most of post-run photoshoot including one with a close pal who ran her first half marathon after taking inspiration from me… It was a big deal for her!!!

Later in the afternoon, I chilled out with runners from Delhi in the famous Leopold cafe… Post Mumbai marathon crowd in Leopold cafe never fails to amaze me…

Our Mumbai marathon tradition – Leopold Cafe

Now that marathon racing season is over, I can chill out doing some trail runs and few pacing assignments… Fun time ahead!

2018! What an year of running!

2018 was my best year yet in running!

It was the year of my first sub-4 full marathon (followed by two more of the same) and my first ultra marathon!

I had at least one activity everyday throughout the year; running or walking (I walk at least 2km on my rest days) making it a total if 3700+ kilometers for the year…

The year also saw my second international marathon; the Capetown marathon… That trip was my first ever trip to Africa making it even more special…

One regret of the year was not having a good, satisfactory half marathon… My PB us still from 2017; stuck at 1:45… That’s going to be a motivating factor for running in 2019… One fast HM, another PB šŸ˜Ž…

Well, so many on list for 2019… But, the most important one is keep enjoying every single run…

Happy New Year, everyone!!!

My thoughts on dieting…

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Special diet? No, thank you!

With the fitness bug hitting everyone, everyone around is a nutritionist… I get nutrition advice every other day and my timeline is flooded with wanna-be nutritionists’ ‘daily tips’… A number of my runner buddies are on Keto!!! Recently I uploaded on Instagram a photo of my Christmas cake ingredients and I was advised to replace this and that to make it Keto…

My question is do runners need a special diet like Keto?

AĀ ketogenic diet (or, Keto to be short) is a very low-carb, high-fat diet thatĀ involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. This reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state calledĀ ketosis.Ā When this happens, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy. It also turns fat into ketones in the liver, which can supply energy for the brain. Though it has a lot of advantages, it is used mainly for weight loss!

I, being underweight since childhood, with an active lifestyle and also being an athlete since school, am a no-no to any kind of special diet… To be honest, I eat everything I like… I have a balanced carbohydrate, fat and protein intake and I like it that way… So, a person like me will fail miserably on the diet plans!!! Also, I need my carbohydrates for my runs and workouts… I grew up eating rice and a whole variety of fish and meat… If I change my diet to eating salad every day, I will be weak as hell; I have tried doing that…

Thinking further, people a generation before us cared less about the food they eat; they eat things that are available… they also had a lot of physical activities… unlike us, they ran, walked, hiked, worked in their fields because they had more time for outdoors than social media! We have both social media and machines doing the work for us!!! We, basically, stopped moving… instead we started exercising!!!

My philosophy is ‘food is supposed to be eaten… and the human body is designed to run, walk and keep moving…’ You stay idle with a special diet and all, the next human body part disappearing during evolution will be your legs!!! That’s too harsh a thought… but, that’s my feeling towards inactive, ‘sitting in a chair whole day’ lifestyle…

My health tip is ‘have a balanced meal and stay active every day’… And the main thing is ‘listen to your body’… For sure, the body wouldn’t feel great if you are on sugary drinks and food with little dietary fiber, protein, vitamins or minerals and have zero or very little physical activity every day!!! Have that chocolate brownie you love, but, don’t forget to take the stairs…

Last thought: We have ‘unhealthy food’ in this world because people forgot the fact thatĀ movementĀ is essential for a human body!!! So, keep moving!!!

Marathon Pacing Debut!

Date: December 2, 2018

Event: Millennium City Marathon, Gurgaon

And there takes off my Marathon pacing career…

Even though I have been running for 4 years now, I never had many chances to give back to the running community by pacing events. So, when the organizers of MCM were looking for a full marathon pacer at the last minute and asked me, I said yes though I would be running right after an international trip.

So, the event was on Dec 2 and I got back to India from Germany on Dec 1 morning! Jetlagged and sleep deprived, I was not sure if I could run the course all by myself… Pacing is fun… But, it is serious job! Many runners will be counting on your strategy to achieve their personal bests! So, I was thinking I can’t screw this up!

The full marathon course was two loops of half marathon… I had my pacing plan for my 4:15 min bus; run consistently between 6:00-6:05 min/km… Few minutes into the race and I learned that the Garmin splits were inaccurate due to the GPS signal issues; we were surrounded by tall buildings and had to run through a number of underpasses… So, I started to rely on the route markings and the timer… It was going ok until the half way marking of first loop when I learned the half is at least 250m longer… Recalibrate, regroup and with some tweaking of plan, finished the run in 4:13:45… That was at least a minute faster, but I was happy with the whole process…

The best part was post race when many runners came to me and thanked me for having a good run with them… A lot of them didn’t finish with me… But, it was a good feeling… That pacer feeling…

Well, that the last official event of 2018 for me and it was amazing… Runner to pacer… 2018 has been wonderful!

My first Ultra

Finally, an Ultra run finisher!

Late post! A really late post!

So, I am finally an ultra runner now! Graduation ceremony was at the beautiful coffee estate in Belawara, located at the South Karnataka end of the beautiful Western Ghats!

Date: October 13, 2018!

I was running 50k… Thought would take baby steps towards ultra running! I had no target in mind other than finishing the race without much walking. Was thinking sub-7 hrs would be a decent finish time considering the course! Finished in 6:57:48… 6th among women and 41st overall!!

When I first started running long, it was all for doing half marathons. Then running a full marathon seemed impossible with my Arthritis and joint pains and all related stuff. Slowly running and strength training helped me getting stronger and over one arthritis; at least keep it away!

Then I started full marathons and that’s when I realized, it’s helping me gaining confidence in half marathons! It occurred to me then that I needed to run longer and not focussed much on the ‘faster’ part! PBs are good. But, gaining more control in your runs enabling you to run longer is something else. I decided I am doing an ultra in 2018.

With more people ditching roads and embracing nature, I thought trail running would be an experience in itself. I have done few trail runs before.. all shorter like 28k or 30k. To be an ultra runner, it should be at least a 50k; hence Malnad because they had a 50k category!

It was the 3rd edition of the run and there were around 1200 participants in all with 750 alone for 50k. Sounds like a crowded participation… But, out if them, only 305 managed to finish within the cut-off time of 9hrs…

The run was not easy… But, I had fun clicking few pics and taking few videos and most importantly, enjoying the view! Because, that was the best part of the whole race!

Beautiful Ghats!

Somewhere @ 32nd split

There was a submit at 17th kilometer! So, hike hike hike…

Happiness is trails!

Another ‘home’ run and another podium!

Race: Spice coast marathon

Date: 11/11/2018

This scenic run in Cochin, Kerala, my home, is becoming my new favorite! Not just because it’s in Kerala… but also because I enjoy the runs and end up on podium!

In 2016, when I ran the half marathon here, I finished first in women’s category. This year I went for full, and finished 3rd with a time of 3:58:45…

This is not an easy course to run I tell you. Kerala is the land of humidity. We end up all drenched in sweat even during the warm-up. Imagine running 42.2 km after that! Getting a PB here, that is not possible at all…

I planned my vacation in Kerala this time of the year considering the Diwali related pollution in Delhi. Since I would be home, I registered for the race! I was in Kerala 8 days before the run… So, that was kind of an acclimatization…

The thing about Kerala weather is it can rain any day! Rain was predicted on race day and I expected a humid morning. The plan was to run strong until the humidity and heat hit me. It so happened the weather never got worse during the race. So, I could keep a consistent pace of 5:30-5:45 min/km and thus a sub-4 making it the 3rd sub-4 finish of the year from 4 FMs!

And the best part, the podium and the news coverage! Made my day!

Post-finish smiles!

Sports page the next day šŸ˜ƒ

In all, it was a good outing and I am motivated to come back here next year! After all, nothing like home!

Waiting for twilight!

Clicked this pic in the morning when I was waiting for a bit of light for my run @ my hometown in Kerala!

It’s going to be winter soon! With the sunrise and twilight delayed, the morning runs are getting delayed too…

Change of season calls for new training plans! I have to tweak my run/gym/swim timings… Everything goes +1 hour for now… Now, I have to reset my body clock and train it to not wake up at 4:00 am šŸ˜€…

Not all ADHMs give you PBs

So, Delhi’s biggest running festival got over today…

Airtel Delhi Half Marathon or ADHM is an IAAF gold label race and people from all over the country come and run this… Considering the timing of the race (just when winter is starting) and a flat track, it’s where PBs are made…

My first ever half marathon was an ADHM and since then I have improved my timing up to 1:45:10 (2017)… Running ADHM over the years (5) has become an annual ritual for me…

Last year the race invited some controversy by having the run during the peak of pollution after Diwali… So, this year they decided to have it on October 21.ā€¦ Meaning I won’t have time to recover from 50k run on October 13 (more about that soon)… To make things worse I fell ill 5 days before the race soon after returning from my ultra run and never recovered…

Ran with a bad cold today with energy levels so low! I was also fighting an urge to give up as I couldn’t find strength at all at the last quarter… But, it’s ADHM… And DNF is not an option for me… Finished in 1:49:27 well above top 1000 which was heartbreaking…

Well, not all races end up with PBs… Some failures make you stronger… There will be a next race where I can bounce back and finish stronger….

Yes, I will be back stronger!

Cape Town Marathon… Yes, I was part of Africa’s Gold

Last week, I checked a few things off my bucket list; exploring Africa was one among them. Being a runner, I did that in true runner’s way – finished Africa’s only Gold label marathon in 3:52:25. And the best part, it was a PB for me!

That’s my new PB!

Africa was in my ‘to visit’ list for a long time… While everyone was planning their run calendar with Berlin or Copenhagen, I picked Cape Town marathon because it would give me a chance to travel to a part of Africa. Some of my running friends thought it was an unwise move considering the crazy inclines and declines in the route. For me, I had just #runcation in mind; a hashtag I came up with ever since I started travelling for runs.

The cape town trip was awesome… It was my solo trip to South Africa… An international solo trip; I got that checked off my bucket list too… I got to tour the peninsula, climb the table mountain, explore the local cuisine… And on Sunday, Sep 23, I ran with 20,000+ runners to earn my finisher medal…

Saw penguins at the Boulders beach

Cape Point was fascinating

Hike to Table Mountain was exciting

The run was not easy… As mentioned the inclines and declines were crazy… and then we had the heavy winds… I barely stayed my ground at a certain point in the race… But, all these get negated by the warm support of the locals… They came out with snacks and drinks for the runners… Some random lady gave me salted orange slices en route… It was a great feeling…

The traffic was well maintained. At busy locations, the run was on the sidewalk… So, it was convenient for both runners and the public… I give to the organisers for the planning and execution… I couldn’t find any fault with any of the arrangements…

Mandatory finish line photo…

I left South Africa content and refreshed… it was a great vacation… You go to a new country and run a marathon and get a PB from it… there is no greater feeling than this.

Will I run Cape Town again? of course, I will… Probably, in a few years!!! I am in love with the city already. The blue skies and the mountains blew me away.

I will, someday, come back for these mountains!


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