Wednesday 29 July 2015

I plan to run tomorrow

I plan to Run Tomorrow. 

After every run , the Top Gear Mig group spends about 15 minutes stretching.

On some of the day's,  the stretching is done at a park in the Bandra-Kurla complex.  

It's a nice open space with some greenery amidst a concrete and glass jungle.

At that early hour, the park is empty except for our running group, a senior citizen's laughing club and some mosquitoes.

The Senior citizens laughing club perform their morning exercises not far from where  we do our stretching.  

They also do some stretching and strengthening before they start their wonderful laughter. 

Although I notice them as I walk past them, I've never really paid much attention, until today. 

Today after we finished stretching we were walking past them towards our parked car. 

One senior citizen gentleman was conducting their morning routine.   

All of them were standing in a large circle as he shouted out something. I noticed that they were repeating in chorus whatever he was saying. 

His words caught my ear !

He shouted, ". We are not old", and they repeated, "We are not old".

He shouted ," We are healthy " and they repeated , "We are healthy" 

He shouted, "We are blessed " and they repeated, "We are blessed " 

He shouted, "We are proud citizens of India" and they repeated, " We are proud citizens of India"

He shouted,  "We will be here again tomorrow morning." 

And the reply back came loud and clear and emphatic  "We will be here again tomorrow morning !!"

The words startled me : "We will be here again tomorrow morning !!" 

When I assimilated those words,  I was moved. I felt a tug at my heart. I wanted to go and hug each one of them. 

They were so aware of this gift of life. They were so aware of the fragility and fleetingness of life. 

I'm just so blind. I keep planning for the future, which is fine,  but at the same time,  I do not acknowledged the blessing of life every single day, leave alone every single moment. 

I simply forget that every day is such a privilege.    

I understand that shouting-out aloud, "We will be here again tomorrow", does not ensure it.   But it does make us realise and acknowledged the possibility that we might not be here tomorrow. 

And perhaps if we realise that possibility, we will be aware enough to spend today as it should be spent... In living a good honourable life ! 

Monday 27 July 2015

2 minutes of Rest

2 Minutes of Rest

So The Day is almost upon me.  Tomorrow morning, for the first time after Comrades 2015, I shall restart running Interval sessions.

I hope to do speed training at least once, or at the most twice in a 10 day training cycle.  The 1000 meter repeats will have a rest interval of 2 minutes.  The 400 meter reps will have a shorter rest interval.   

Interval sessions take everything out of me. I am almost sacred of them.   

To do them right one has to push through each repeat at an intensity which causes some amount of discomfort.

The ability to keep pushing myself at a time when my heart, body, mind, and spirit wishes me to stop is not an ability I naturally possess.  I have almost none of the talents that makeup a natural athlete.    

The thing I notice the most when I do the repeats is the malleability of Time.  The 2 minute rest interval between 1000 meter repeats disappears at a speed which is unbelievable.

I finish the 1000 meter run and look at my watch and I notice that first 15 seconds of the rest time have already gone.  I hardly walk a few steps and take some deep breaths and the beep-beep from the Garmin leads me into the last 5 seconds of the 2 minutes rest period and I fail to understand where the 2 minutes have disappeared. 

How I value each of those 120 seconds of rest.  If I could only Value each fleeting second in my daily life, as I do those 120 seconds, I could perhaps do far more justice to these wonderful days of my life and good health that I have been blessed with. 

No matter the repeat length, 400 meters or 800 meters or 1000 meters; the experience is the same:  A good dose of pain along with an increasing awareness of the fleeting nature of Time.

The apparent benefits of interval training are very tangible.  In the long term, it improves your cruising speed and your ability to take pain in the later stages of a race. 

But the biggest benefit from Interval training is that I train and explore my ‘will power’.  I may be saddled with all sorts of limitations.  I may have little or no natural talent, little or no strength, little or no natural athletic ability.  But If I can control my ‘will’ and if I can ‘will’ myself to put in the effort to run the repeat, as it deserves to be run, then I can make up all those things that I am deficient in.  

If I can train myself to start a new repeat and give it the effort it deserves at a time when my arms, legs, body, heart, mind and brain isn’t ready to welcome the pain of the new repeat, then I have achieved the aim of the repeat.    

In my opinion, will power, like many other things in life is perhaps not something that one is born with.  It is something that can be acquired by practice. One builds-up stores, by simply going into that zone of pain again and again and willing oneself to re-engage in battle one more time.

So as the clock runs out, as the 2 minutes of rest time disappears into nothingness and as I look at the 1000 meters that lie ahead of me, I have to make a decision. 
I have to ask myself, “Can I, once again, engage with life.  Can I give the 1000 meters that lie ahead everything I have without holding back?  Can I give the speed repeat everything it deserves?

Will I have the courage to embrace the pain?”

Will I be a hero?

George Sheehan said that, “Our highest human need is to be a hero.” He said that, “When we cease to be heroic, we no longer truly exist.”  He believed that, “though ordinary experiences, the ordinary person can become extraordinary.”

Like thousands of my fellow runners, I aspire for greatness, I aspire to be a hero, I aspire to be extraordinary.   Like all of my friends, I battle with myself.
I battle neither for others nor for external recognition nor for glory.  I battle only against my own limitations and against the fleeting nature of Time.

My heroism is limited to an audience of one.  And my armory has only one weapon. All I have is my ‘will’.
So when the two minutes of rest-time run out tomorrow, all I will have with me to do battle will be my ‘will’ and a prayer in my heart to the God within me which says: “Let me be ready!”  


Friday 24 July 2015

Age is just a Number 

Earlier this month I finished 49 years on this planet. I don't seem to remember where all that time went. I can remember only some very special days. The rest is just noise. 

Early on in the month, over dinner, my mother commented that I seemed to have lost a lot of hair and that my hair line was receding.   

 "Yes" i admitted.  I didn't know that it was already so apparent. I had noticed it a few months ago and hoped it wasn't as obvious to others as it was to me. 
About two year ago while I was running on juhu beach,  a kid who was playing cricket had managed to hit an awesome shot.  The ball was flying at break neck speed towards the boundary, about 5.5 feet above sand level, and my left eye happened to be in the way.   

For a long time after that I would see flashes of light in my left eye but the doc had assured me that there seemed to be no permanent damage. 

Now over the last few months,  vision from that left eye would   Occasionally become hazy.  

So It happened that a few days after the 'hair' conversation with my mom,  in the month of my 49th birthday, I was again visiting the ophthalmologist. 
He decided to dilate the pupils of both my eyes and then opined that my eyes were in the early stages of cataract;  both eyes. 

He said that I was basically quite 'young' to have cataract but sometimes this is something like 'grey hair' ! Some get it early. Some never get it.  I happened to be up-front in the line when God was handing out cataract contracts. 

I returned home and shared the news with neepa. 

"So what shall we do ?", she asked.  After some thought, I reached a decision : "Let's order some ice cream" I said.  I decided to celebrate life with some ice cream. 

At 49 my body was certainly on the decline since long but these were the first clear apparent signals that told me : "amit , my boy, you're going Down " 

It is kind of sad to know that the hair is going , that the eyes are going.  But at the same time , I know that I'm so blessed that most of the other far more dramatic systems are still holding.  Things could be so much worse.   I am indeed fortunate and blessed.  

Everything will eventfully go Down for everyone and we never really know when the floor disappears from below our feet.    

Earlier today , I ran with my Mig Top Gear group at Mount Mary hill. 

Dilipbhai Patil decided that he would pace me Up 10 times on that 300 meter incline.  He really managed to push me and get the best out of me.  

Later, Sandesh decided to pace me for the 5x 100 meter sprints up the same hill.  That really turned my legs into jelly. 

Later Dr Ajit Kharat and Samson Sequeira made us do some stretching exercises which, to me, felt suspiciously like strengthening exercises. 

All in all, I think I ended up with perhaps the hardest work out I have done in the last 10 years since I started running. 

I came home totally ( to use an American paratrooper expression : FUBARed. (Fuxxxd beyond all recognition )  and then I knew what I had to do. 

I asked Neepa for some ice cream. 

As I enjoyed my ice cream,  I thought about the things I still want to do. I want to continue running. I want to run Comrades until the day I go Down. 

And I then I smiled at a happy thought :  2016 is after all a Comrades Down Run.   

And no matter what happens. I'm going to be Up for it. 


( The Zurich Iron Man just took place. 
My fellow Comrades runner Dr Anand Patil finished it.  He is 51.  
Makes me realise that Age is just a number. 

Dr. Patil,my friend, Lead on ! ) 

Wednesday 22 July 2015

Be Here

Be Here

Sometimes I think that I am quite a miser.  I am a miser when it comes to expending my energy.  I am always saving myself for the some future run.

Earlier today I decided to do some hard 400 meter intervals; about 10 of them.  Now I know that the idea is to do all 10 of the repeats with about the same intensity.  So I started cautiously because I know that I need to make my energy last for the full session. 

About half way through the session I started thinking about tomorrows run.  Tomorrow I plan to run with my MIG Top gear group.  It is supposed to be an easy run day. But they all run faster than me.  So when I start with them, I need to hold onto the slowest of them for dear life.

The thought of tomorrows run made me cut down on my intensity today.  I felt that I need to save my energy for tomorrow.   So I did my 400 meter repeats at an intensity which was less than my best.  I gave this some thought after I finished my work out.  I realize that I have seen myself doing this once too often.

During a work-out, I start thinking of the work-outs to follow in the rest of the week and in order to do those future work-outs in decent shape, I decide to cut the intensity of the work-out at hand.

I slow down NOT because I am fatigued or injured or sick or feeling unwell.  I slow down simply because I am worried about my next run.   To change or indeed cancel a work out because of illness, fatigue or injury is the right and proper thing to do.  But I start deciding to lower the intensity of my workout simply to save myself for the future.  I decide to hoard my energy for the future.    

I sacrifice the present for the future.

I do this even at the gym.  I sometimes don’t a hard leg work out with weights because I am afraid that the leg work-out will leave my legs sore for the next run.  So I do less leg strengthening than what I am capable of doing.   But then I find that in the next run, I again save myself for the run to follow.  I consequently don’t do any work out at its correct intensity. 

I am therefore never ‘Total’.  

I never bring my entire energy into any single workout.  I am always divided.  I am always saving myself for the future workouts.

A few (not many) of my friends have the opposite issue. 

I have noticed that they can’t slow down.  They push in every single workout.  They push on a slow run they push on a recovery day. They can’t cut their volume.  They even push on a rest day.  They simply can’t relax on a day they have earmarked for relaxation.  They don’t take it easy even when unwell or injured. 

In my opinion, both these behaviours cause problems.  Just as I can’t run at my full potential because I don’t push when I’m supposed to push, they can’t perhaps push to the extent they are truly capable of pushing because they don’t slow down when they are supposed to slow down.    

The problem is two sides of the same coin.  Both are continuously looking into the future.

Osho tells the story of Rinzai. 

“One day Rinzai a Zen Master was working in his garden and somebody approached. The man had come to ask some philosophical questions. He was a philosophical seeker.
He didn't know that the man who was working in the garden was Rinzai himself. He thought he must be a gardener, a servant, so he asked, "Where is Rinzai?"

Rinzai said, "Rinzai is always here."

Of course, the man thought that this gardener seemed to be mad because he said that Rinzai was always here. So he thought it would not be good to ask anything of this man again and he started moving off to ask someone else.

Rinzai said, "Don't go anywhere, because you will not find him anywhere. He is always here." But he escaped from this madman.

Then he inquired from others and they said, "The first man you met is Rinzai." So he came back and said, "Forgive me, I am sorry, I thought you were mad. I have come to inquire about something. I want to know what truth is. What should 

I do to know it?" Rinzai said, "Do whatsoever you want to do, but do it entirely."

“The point is not what you do. The point is that you do it entirely”.

I find that I never always ‘here’. I am always divided between the workout I am doing and the work out that is about to follow the next day or the next week.  

Sometimes, I cut down distance to save my energy for the next run.  Sometimes, I avoid certain sections of the road because the gradient may take away my energy for the run to follow.  I keep compromising the current workout for the future workout.

Consequently perhaps, I never reach my full potential. If I want to improve, each run should be only about itself. 

A recovery run must be a recovery run, a speed interval must be a speed interval, a tempo run should be a tempo run, a long hilly run must be a long hilly run.  A rest day must be a rest day.  A day where I must expend every ounce of my energy should be a day when I expend every ounce of my energy.  On such a day, I should save nothing.  I must do each run with the intensity it deserves. 

“The point is not what you do each day. The point is that you do it ENTIRELY”

(I asked my friends at Mig Top Gear, Chitra Nadkarni and Dilip Patil, if they ever faced this issue.  

My problem sounded alien to both. “No”, they replied in unison, “We run hard only on days when we’re supposed to run hard. 3 days a week”.  

I thought about what they said.  I glad that the world is a simpler place for some.  I'm glad that at least some people in this world are right where they are supposed to be.  

I hope to get there being Here)

Sunday 19 July 2015

Look at the Mirror (BNP Endurathon 2015)

Look at the Mirror (BNP Endurathon 2015)

Yesterday I was privileged to take part in the BNP Endurathon 2015. This was a 25k run organized in the Borivalli National park.  It was a hard run. In the pre-race briefing one of the race organisers described the route as one where Comrades runners are born.  The rolling terrain with 4 small hills when added to the heat and humidity certainly made it a hard run.

As I stood on the start-line, I was ready for some suffering.  I had very modest expectations from this race for myself.  I simply wanted to finish the race.  I didn’t want to come in last.

Since running Comrades on 31 May 2015, I had fallen off the wagon.  I was eating everything in sight, sleeping in late and I was not really running or exercising.  I had joined the MIG Top gear running group but had run only 5/6 times with them in the preceding 6 weeks.  I had put on 4 kgs of weight.

So as I said, I didn’t have any expectations except to run and enjoy this race.

Today, Facebook is full of race pictures of the 1000 odd participants.  People are congratulating the race organizers for a splendidly organized race and also sharing their personal experiences.

Most of the runners have been happy with how the day unfolded.

I was however taken aback when a very young and strong runner shared his experience.  He was gutted he said.  He was so disappointed with his performance that he apologized to his friends for his disastrous performance.  He had expected to come first and he apologized for “losing”.

His post made me think...about myself.

I have often gone into races with high expectations for myself.  While I’m training for Comrades I often see myself running into the finish in under 11:00 hours.  Unfortunately on race day, I barely manage to finish in under 12:00 and that sometimes leads to disappointment.

All runner love running!  That I think, is a given.  We can never question that.  Some want to run the race in a target time.  That too cannot be denied.  There is no harm in setting a goal.  Running for time and running for pleasure are not mutually exclusive concepts.  They can co-exist.

The question is not that I desire something and then am sometimes disappointed when the desire is not fulfilled.  The question is, “Did I truly work hard towards my goal to be righteously disappointed on not achieving it”

Does my disappointment have a solid foundation?

Osho once told the story of a young man trying to find a bride.  “A new shop opened in town.  It was a shop where any young man could go and find a suitable wife.

A young man went inside the shop.   Inside the shop he found two doors.  One door had a sign on it which said, “Young Wife”, the other had a sign which read “Older Wife”.  The young man pushed the first door and went inside.

Again he found two doors inside.  There was no wife to be found no wife, just two more doors.  The first door had a sign which said, “Beautiful” the second had a sign which read, “Ordinary”.

The young man again entered the first door.   Again there was no one inside.

There were just two more doors.  The sign on the first door said, “Excellent Cook” the sign on the second door said, “Not a cook”.  The young man pushed through the first door. (I would have done the same).

Again he found two doors inside.  The sign on the first door said, “very talented singer” and the sign on the second door said “does not sing”.  He pushed through the first door.

Again he found two doors inside.  The sign on the first door said, “Rich woman” and the sign on the second door said “Poor woman”

Once again the young man chose wisely.  He opened the first door.  This was good judgement, good calculation, good wisdom.

But this time, when he opened the door.  He found himself in front of a large mirror and there was a sign which read:

“You desire many wonderful traits in your wife.  It is time now for you to look at your own face.”

This is much like me. I often desire great performances from myself at my races.  I want pace and speed and grace, but have I stepped back and looked at myself?

Have I looked at myself in the mirror?

I want to finish a sub 11:00 Comrades but have I put in the training? Have I run the hard sessions? Have I put in the speed sessions, the hill sessions, the long distance sessions and the correct rest sessions?
Have I slept right? Have I eaten right?

It is easy to desire and then be disappointed and gutted at one’s race day performance.  But one must always look at oneself in the mirror and ask if one truly deserves that which one desires.

I agree that sometimes even after doing everything right one has a bad day.  But that will almost always be the exception and not the rule.

I was lucky that at BNP Endurathon 25.0 I didn’t have any extra-ordinary desires.  I didn’t want to run fast. I just wanted to finish.  For a change, I knew my limitations on the day.

But come January 2016 and I will once again start dreaming of Comrades 2016 and that elusive sub 11:00.

But I have come to realise that I will need to have a long hard look in the mirror before I next stand on that start-line.

And as far as finding a wife is concerned: All those doors have long been shut. !   

Friday 3 July 2015

Planting Seeds

Finishing Comrades gives the runner a real 'high'.  Not finishing Comrades gives the runner a real 'low'.  In both cases, the final outcome is actually the same.  One is raring to Go !  Either you feel awesome and want to restart training and push harder.  Or, you feel crushed and disappointed and want to restart training and push harder.  

You simply cant wait to get back on the road.

I somehow managed to keep my enthusiasm in check and took rest.  After about 3 weeks of complete rest after Comrades, I was simply bursting at the seams, literally and figuratively.  I was bursting with enthusiasm to start again. My growing waist line was bursting out of my pants.

I requested my office colleague to make my new log book.  I told him to keep the start date as 28th June 2015 and end date as 29 May 2016 (Comrades 2016)
I had Neepa register both of us for The BNP Enduro 25k on July 18th, The Hyderabad marathon on Aug 30th, and The Satara Half on September 6th.

I had figured it all out.  From the first week itself, I was going to hit the gym at least 3 times a week.  I was going to run with my friends at Top Gear Mig 3 times a week and run by myself for another 3 days of the week.

Life, was pretty sorted.
On Sunday 28th of June 2015, I started my new running year.  I ran a 10k.  I've been in bed ever since.  I have caught a stomach bug.
The first full week of entries in my log book reads :
Mon: Sick,
Tue: Sick
Wed: Sick
Thus: Sick

I had such plans !!  I am distraught with grief and disappointment.

In these moments of grief, I thought of a joke.

One day Osho was walking on the street,  He met Mulla Nasruddin on the road.  He was walking with his two children.
"So", said Osho, " How are your two children?"
Nasruddin replied, "Both are good."
Osha asked, "How old are they?"
Mulla Nasruddin replied, " The doctor is five and the lawyer is seven."

I laughed at this clown Nasruddin but i realised that I was no different.   I was making all sorts of plans for the future even when the next moment was so totally out of my control.

So is there a way ? Osho says, that planning too much is wrong.  But he also says that if you don't plan you will drift and drifting is also wrong.  So plant the seed, he says.  Without planting the seed no tree will grow.  At the same time, we need to relax.  We cannot dig up the seed everyday to check whether it is growing.  We need to leave it alone.  We need to let nature take its course.  We need to let Life happen, for things to evolve.

Don't plan, Don't drift.  Find a balance.

I don't know, about all this!

All this wisdom is hard to assimilate when I have stomach cramps, nausea, an empty log book, a 25k coming up on 18th July, and a wife who is up and about every morning and running as hard as she can!