Sunday, October 19, 2014

TCS Amsterdam Marathon 2014 - Citius, Altius, Fortius!

Before I share my exciting experience of running my first full marathon outside India, a little background to this story on how I made it so far.

Runner???  without injuries?? Naa....

Since May 2014, I had spent close to 2 months in rest and recovery from a stress injury on my calf that I had picked up during my Comrades training.  It was a disaster stuck at a wrong time.  I did not have adequate time to recover from the injury and I ended up not finishing my much anticipated Comrades.  I managed to run only till Drummond (the half way mark) before convincing myself to stop running.

There were lots of things learnt from the experience.  The experiences that I went through helped me discover some more aspects of running and me.  The experiments that I did has been taking my level of understanding towards running, confidence and the passion to the next level.  How can anyone learn without tasting failures? Not really a failure but a different result, as Tony Robbins says.

What has changed?

The last few months I focused on on building my core strength.  I was also constantly chatting to my inner self to 'take it easy' and also pay attention to 'one at a time'.  I have some simple changes to my running plan.  With the new plan, I run only 3 days a week and spend 2 or 3 days to cross train esp. elliptical and stationary bike, whole body circuit training, weights and a lot of flexibility building stretching moves.  The results are tremendous and I started seeing the changes within few months.

Were the results positive?

On 25, Aug 2014, I ran the Hyderabad Marathon in 4 hrs. 24 minutes (4 minutes faster than the last year) and just after 2 weeks followed by the Chennai Ultra Trail 50k in 6 hrs. 39 mins.  Even though both were not my personal best in terms of finish timings, it was evident from the fact that it took very few days for me to recover back to normal routine unlike 1-2 weeks earlier.  I also did not have any injuries.  It was certainly getting better.

How did I make to the Amsterdam marathon?

After the superb Chennai Ultra Trail marathon, I trained sincerely for the first edition of Bengaluru Marathon on 19-Oct-2014.  I had to miss the race due to an unplanned and a sudden business trip to Netherlands. Initially I was disappointed and the the reason was simple.  I had trained so well for the Bengaluru Marathon and was reluctant in letting it pass just like that.  

I got this wonderful idea of Googling for marathons in Netherlands and came across the Eindoven Marathon on 12-Oct (no way I could run since I was traveling) and TCS Amsterdam Marathon on the 19th (appeared to be my only hope).  I immediately visited their website for registration and also called the organizers for an entry.  The registrations were closed; disappointed again.   Thanks to a Facebook request that I had posted, within few minutes I got a reply from a runner who registered but couldn't run since she was traveling outside Netherlands.  As a matter of few hours my entry was confirmed soon after she had initiated a Bib Transfer from the TCS Amsterdam Marathon website.  It was so helpful.   What a lucky soul I was!  Thanks to the great heart who offered me her registration and did not accept my offer to pay the entry fee.

Expo - the day before the race:

The day before the marathon I took the NS train from Den Bosh and reached the expo near the Olympic Stadium, Amsterdam Zuid to collect the bib kit.  I was very happy to get my first caricature (funny huh!!) done through a digital artist (promoting the Brooks brand) who took just 10 minutes to make this picture with the help of his Samsung tab.  He was just amazing!! After roaming around the expo outlets I returned back to Den Bosh for a day long rest treating myself with some pastas, green salads and fruits.

The race day:

I got up at 5.00 am, got ready and took a taxi from Den Bosch to reach Utrecht first and took trains to reach the Olympic stadium at around 8.15 am.  I was not very certain about my pre-race meal since usually, in India, the races would start anywhere between 5-6 am.  This marathon was scheduled to start at 9.30.  Even though I had 2 bananas at around 6.00 am, I decided to pamper myself with a warm apple pie and a tall glass of black coffee.   It was really energizing.  I finished my usual routine of warm-up and stretches and entered the stadium.  

I took the stairs to go to public viewing area to view the stadium.  The atmosphere around and inside the stadium was electrifying. 

This was my 5th Full Marathon race and the 22nd organised race (the rest are 3 ultra and half marathons).  The race started from the Olympic Stadium and the beginning was very exciting; it took around 15 minutes of impatient waiting after the gun went off and also after the elite runners sprang from the start line, for my pen to start moving. The music was loud and playing the familiar-energizing-favorite Coldplay song ("I used to rule the world....") and loud cheers from people all around, the ambiance was fabulous.

There were 16,000 runners registered and it was like seeing another Comrades Marathon. Running through the Rijksmuseum (the famous passage which connects Amsterdam city center with the south of Amsterdam) and Vondelpark (the largest public park in Amsterdam) was exciting. The city streets was clumsy with runners spilling all over the places.  It was difficult for anyone to run and go past if started later. I really enjoyed the course especially the 10+ kms of running around the Amstel River. There were plenty of entertainment and music on the route, on the boat, and also there were two on a X-Jetpacks (beautifully showing off!! :)) was fun seeing these guys hovering around the lake. 
The fuel stations were placed in every 5 kms with ample supplies of A&A energy drink, water, bananas and water sponges. The volunteers were simply fabulous, cheerful and helpful. The organizers were really thoughtful...they gave plastic wraps to keep all the runners from freezing out. It was really chilly at the finish line...

For me personally, this was a perfectly executed race with almost even pacing with negative split (I always dreamt about this), no bonking or simply never saw the wall and had no cramping - all my muscles were intact during my run. The overall fuel and hydration went well. I was depending on Gu gel every 45 mins and had bananas during the last 2 fuel stations.

I was very particular about maintaining a pace of 10 km/hr throughout the race . interestingly it was evident from my Garmin results (link.....) I ran 42.68 kms at an average of 6 pace in 4:15:49 (the official time is also same for 42.195 distance (link....). I'm slightly unconvinced that the course length was 500 meters longer as per my Garmin.

It was amazing and inspiring to find that there were 7990 runners ahead of me and I was finally placed at 7991 / 12197 and 1405 in my category.

I'm also happy that I'm inching closer to my dream of running a full marathon in sub 4:00:00 hours and I know I need to work lot.

The finish:

Finally, I was really ecstatic while entering the Olympic stadium...and when I read the Olympic motto written at the entrance ..which is "Citius, Altius, Fortius", which is Latin for "Faster, Higher, Stronger" - that instantly kicked the 'turbo mode' in me, pumping some additional adrenalin to my already super-charged body. I really dashed through the last few 100 meters inside the stadium (picked the outer most race track to go past hundreds of runners ahead of me near the finish line). Finally touched the finish line making it one of my best and strongest finishes.

The feeling at the finish line is something that I can not describe in a single word. I'm sure all runners can understand this. I know that my family was tracking my run and I already had the best wishes from my friends. Soon after collecting the medal, I called my wife, my son and daughter who were eagerly waiting to talk to me and congratulate.

I also found a nice summary video posted by the race organizers. what a race!!

Dutch weather and my experience:

During the last week, I was thinking about couple of interesting phrases representing the two-states of weather in Dutch.  I read this in a blog describing the Dutch weather aptly....“Mooi weertje, he?” (nice weather, ah?) or a more dramatic “Wat een hondeweer!” (what miserable dog’s weather!).  I also kept wondering how the weather could be a spoiler on the race day.

Adding to this, the race organizers had warned the runners for high temperature and also posted information on how to tackle high temperature (link....).  The average high temperature in Bangalore is 30 deg and the low is 19 deg with an average 65% humidity throughout the year (source: Wikipedia). It sounded really funny for any Indian like me to believe 20 deg is a high temperature but later realized the effect it had on my overall running performance. I don't think I could have run anywhere closer to this performance in India on the same day.

It was a bright sunny day to begin with but after at least 1 hr the temperature started dropping and it even started drizzling in packets.

No wonder the Dutch say it's hard to predict the weather in Netherlands. Huh!!!

About me,

I'm an ACE certified personal trainer, an Ultra Marathon runner, and a running coach.  A writer here and there and always enjoys the basic act of sharing and teaching others.  I left my corporate job after 24 years of working and have founded KaysFIT Academy, with a mission to promote overall wellness, provide best possible fitness coaching & mentoring, and fitness education.  

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sobha Althea and Azalea Independence Day Marathon 2014

Dear friends and fellow residents,

I'm happy to be writing this mail about the "AA Independence Run" on behalf of our cultural committee.

How many of you know Running (walking included) makes you happier?

I'm sure some of you, regularly walking or running , would have figured this out by now.  In general, exercise will make you feel better but running is my personal favorite.  Those who have run and had experienced "runner's high" - the rush of endocannabinoids :) or simply called the feel-good-harmones" can talk volumes about it.

The Spirit of running

I'm going to highlight an extract from an internet article regarding the spirit of running people, 3 cultures, and introduce fourth and the newest,

1.  The Marathon Monks, Hiei, Japan: The marathon monks, who live in Enryaku Temple atop Mount Hiei, in Japan are quite possibly the greatest anomaly in Japanese society, if not the world.  Few choose to live their lives according to such strict guidelines, especially when it comes to feats of personal prowess.  

Wearing only straw sandals, white robes, a staff, and a hat, eachmarathon monk begins walking or running approximately 50 km around the mountain to return in time for meditation and the meal.  This is done over 100, 700, or 1000 days, depending on how far along the initiated is their monastic training.  They say there are only 46 men to successfully complete the 1000-day quest.

2.  The Tarahumara or the Raramuri tribes, Mexico.  The Raramuri tribes are featured in the famous 'proud to be kept in every runners shelf' book "Born to Run".  The Tarahumara are an isolated tribe of Raramuri (running people) living in one of the most remote places on the planet (between the mountains of Copper Canyon, just west of Chihuahua, Mexico)

For the Tarahumara, running is life.  They run between mesas in Mexico at temperatures rivaling Death Valley, sometimes unsure whether water is waiting for them.  More to the point, it's fun; runners range from teenagers to grandfathers with the same level of skill, and all compete in the games;  Kicking a ball from runner to runner for over fifty miles, sometimes after a day of bingeing on corn beer and smoking :) (we can certainly relate to this part)

3.  The Africans (Kenyans & bushmen of the kalahari.  The Kenyans always conjure images of distance running, impossible feats of endurance, and barefoot jogging through grassy fields.  It's no wonder they have been major and dominant in every major marathonworldwide;

Bushmen choose to keep up with their natural hunting skills using bows and arrows, tracking, and are able to literally run an animal to death.  Kudus, a particular group, is able to run in a pack (like the wild dogs), for more than fifteen miles before the animals succumb to the heat and their failing hearts.

Let me stop here....enough of the monks, the raramurians and the tribes....lets talk about the fourth, the untold stories of the Azaleans and Altheans.

4.  The Azaleans and Altheans

Azaleans and Altheans, part of the Nagenahalli village, north of Bangalore in India are known to be a unique community in the world and are also known for many of their natural instincts. the best for safe community living, wants to get better even if it takes a petty fight or a tough stance or a loud point, doesn't mind joining hands to work together, to be precise, go for a hunt as a pack, believes to be socially responsible and be conscious human beings not just care about their community but also about the entire world, enjoys every event as a community unlike someone who believes in celebrating inside closed doors, wants to be role model to their children and to the rest of the world, struggles...learns...but at the same time also shares....cares and helps others...find many excuses to celebrate together.....

there are much more untold stories about them.  

P.S Anthropologists are researching to understand all of the natural instincts of Azaleans and Altheans , their secret traits and behaviors or simply finding their community spirit.

Researchers have found that the Azaleans and Altheans culture is a combination all the first 3 cultures described above,
  1. like the Japanese monks:  Old-men-and-women with young-heart-and-enthusiasm, like the Japanese monks, going around and around the Azalea and Althea, before they return to their homes for meditation and meals.  
  2. like the Tahramura tribes:  The young-men-and-women, teenagers and children with strong-will-and-fighting spirits run around their routines to take care of their family and society.  Its not very clear on how much the men binge on beer :)
  3. like the Africans: known for their endurance and their ability to keep up to their natural hunting skills, go as a pack, using mails and phone calls, tracking and meeting, are able to literally run anyone down, be it BBMP, or the builder, the government officials, achieve the impossible feats, they are simply dominant when it comes to community living.
August 15, India will be celebrating its 68th Independence day.  This is a wonderful opportunity for each one of you to come and witness this unique community, the spirit of people, the spirit of oneness....the spirit and joy of walking and running!!!  

The best can happen only when each one of you participate in this event!!!

NOTE:  The registration and bib collection for the "AA Independence day run" will begin soon after the "Master Chef" event on the Sunday 10-Aug-2014 at around 7.00 pm.

I'm part of this unique community!! are you???


Kay - 2102 (on behalf of the AA Cultural Committee)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Comrades Training - Val Vil Ori Marathon Kolli Hills India

Inaugural Val Vil Ori Marahon 2014 ....still struggling to describe the sum up "truly one has to feel it to understand!!"
First time at Kolli Hills .... It started with a 7.5 hrs driving from Bangalore on Friday + 20k in 2:27 min run on Saturday (part of the same course run on Sunday)
On Sunday, starting at 4.00 am ...ran 55 k run with 1000 meter gain 1000 meter loss + crazy temperature after 10 am (must be around 37-38 deg???) + perfect fuel and hydration & run walk plan + 100% cramps free + few dogs here and there to chase & entertain + very scenic Kolli (Silver Oak trees, Pepper vines, Banana and Tapiaco Plantations, tweeting song birds + surprised villagers + dusty and rough roads due to road construction + excellent support and cheers from fellow runners...especially Nandu and Aravind who were with me) and the patient and enduring crew (which included my lovely children) finally awarded with a hand made and most priced Val Vil Ori Medal 
You can clearly see I went off course after 39k mark near Poonthottam...missed one turn and had to compensate for the loss by running some unknown roads to sum up my 55k. It was funny when I reached the finish point @ Nallathambi I had completed only 52.5 and had to run a (charged up / paced up) 2.5k back and forth few times soon after I saw my wife Meera at the finish line...when I finished my Garmin read 7 hrs 24 mins.
CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THE OTHER RUNNERS!!! I'm glad that I was privileged to be part of this finest 'running history in making!'
A BIG THANKS TO Krishna FOR THE IDEA, HIS WIFE AND CREATIVE KIDS (who kept my children busy and entertained) AND A CARING BUNCH OF FRIENDS FROM CHENNAI RUNNERS - this is the second event (started with the Yercaud run) has made me realize how lonely I have been for so many years as a solitary runner....Truly a 'I'm loving it' moment in my life!!!
after a brief rest ...took another 6.5 hrs to reach back home today morning at 3.00 am
....what else to ask for.....on the day I turned 40!!!.....

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Did running make me a great employee?

I recently read a blog written by Oliver on why runners usually make great employees.  I totally enjoyed reading it and thanks to Oliver for reflecting what I truly believe in - link here....

I started running since 2011 and never stopped after that.  Ever since I started running, many positive things have happened in my life.  

What did running do to me and to my life? 

Did it change anything to my work life?

Lets see...

1. a disciplined person… plan, practice (train harder), execute – my races or my projects 

2. camaraderie, appreciation for people and their work and not to compare with others which is totally meaningless.  If there is one, its only within me vs. what I was a month, a year or even a decade before –  greater appreciation for my fellow runners and their capabilities, however week or strong they are vs. appreciation towards my colleagues. I cheer for others when I run and I cheer at my fellow  colleagues whenever I can 

3. how to achieve something in my personal and professional life which is complicated, longer, tougher not to forget very painful – my tough races vs. challenging project situations to deal at work

4. better risk manager - participating in any event, 1000+ things can go wrong...rain, weather, terrain, blisters, fuel, hydration, shoes… - during my runs or while running my projects 

5. to set goals, small or big and chop them into bits and pieces, work towards achieving them successfully – my race plan and preparations vs. my life / career plans 

6. smile when in pain and bounce back really fast, laughter guaranteed - when I’m hurt during a run or a workout or even due to a misunderstanding at the workplace

7. celebrate every milestone… - whenever I touch the finish line or complete a task or project successfully however small or big they are

8. run towards conflict or anything that I never thought that I could do....continuously indulge and learn something, totally enjoy everything that happens on the way, be it success or a different result  - coming out my comfort zone and starting something absolutely new at work or. running the Comrades in 2014 

9. exercise patience and endure to success - my grueling training and races vs. approaching a tough task or even a nasty escalation

Lastly, I have started enjoying the nature more and its beauties....

I have also managed to inspire a few

its just a short journey so far and a million miles more to explore...

Finally, did running make me a great employee?  I don't know about that, but it certainly made (continuing to make) me a better person.....


I would like to remember and give credits to the three cheerleaders of my life, my wife Meera to be the best critic, my son Aditya to inspire and get inspired by me (a fine athlete in making too) and my sweetest daughter Anjali who totally enjoys my fun filled workout sessions with her and her friends

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Conquering Nandi Betta

In the journey to finish Comrades this was my first ever (long) attempt to conquer the hills.  On Friday I really did not have the right mood to travel that long for a 30k run and decided to go to GKVK. But on Saturday morning, when I woke up at quarter to 5am I had a sudden rush to run in the hills.  I reached the 'Nandhi Betta' foot hills at around 7.00 am.  There were already few early raisers in picnic mode sipping hot 'chai' and biting 'marie' biscuits.  The weather was simply awesome......I decided to ignore the the sun because the road towards the hills is on the western would at least take 3-4 hrs for the sun to come and drain me out.

I started climbing the hill little faster than my 'target' pace.  I ran 5k up and down.... without a bit of fuel & water in between (usually I consume 250 ml of water every 20-30 mins) and when I came back I drank "50-50 Coca Cola mixed with water" + some boiled potatoes mixed in salt + nuts + 'Chikki' to fuel me.  Again ran up, but this time going 7K in one direction....

I was super thrilled when many folks in cars and bikers found a 'wierdo' running at the mountains...screaming...cheering at me...someone even throwing a banana peel (thought it was monkey?? :)) at me.  There were few biking youngsters (boys and girls) stopped next to me and asked 'Sir....dharinalli police idhara?' (did you see police on the way?)...not sure about their intensions but certainly appeared to be naughty.  Another lady, part of a cycling group...stopped pushing her bike uphill started clapping her hands...when I crossed her she said 'its amazing to see you running, I can never imagine running up hill like this'.  I really don't know whether I was a lonely great person in the hills....but certainly found that there are not many runners out there.  Whatever it is....I felt really proud and had a new gush of adrenaline steering me forward.  We all know that Endurance running is 30% body and 60% mind but I have a different equation.  Its 30% body 40% mind + 20% from the cheerleaders on your way and remember it could also be monkeys :)  Throughout the hill I was certainly not alone...there were lots of monkeys to cheer me with their families too with their monkeylooks and occassional monkey 'grrrrrsss' all along the way...

I never knew a runner could be seen as a useful photographer too...there were humble requests for a picture from Android and iPhone couples 'the runaway ones? :)’ ...tired of selfies :) standing and posing on the rocks on the backdrop of the green village neighborhood behind them.....I'm certain that they would find a monkey or two in their pictures least their tails…

Running down the second time was little harder on my knees but I had adjusted my pace well to accommodate the shocks.

Between 24k to 30k I ran in the Doddaballapur road through the the time the sun already was setting high...and the temperature started soaring to 32 Deg plus...village roads...BMTC buses and fast moving trucks overtaking small vehicles by literally driving into the farm lands...producing a huge dust cloud and driving me out of my way many was crazy but thrilling.

I'll certainly go there again...this weekend for another 30k....but would like to enjoy the run in the company of someone.  Anyone interested?

- Kay

Editorial support: Aditya Krishna Kannan (Dit) lovely athletic son

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