FIRST Things First

July 26, 2013 2 comments

Readers of this blog (yes, all three of you), already know that this (former?) lazy ass has caught the running bug. Yes, I’ve been running fairly regularly over the last year or so. I’ve done a couple of 10k races, and a half marathon. I run slow by most standards, but I can run far, and I enjoy it.

If you’ve not been in touch lately and are right now arching your eyebrows up as far as they will go, surprised about my foray into (and enjoyment of) physical activity, you’re not alone. Every time I think about the fact that after a year of running, I still enjoy it, my eyebrows do the same elaborate dance yours are doing at the moment. What can I say? Miracles do happen.

After my first half, when I just ran 3 times a week, by feel, increasing the distance I ran each week, I decided to follow a more structured approach to training. I tried to follow Hal Higdon’s intermediate training plan for my next half marathon, which was supposed to be on 7th July 2013.

True to tradition which I established with my first half, I woke up late this time too. Only this time, I did one better and woke up so late, so as to make it impossible to get to the start in time. So I did not run the race. One day, a kindly soul will have mercy on me, and organize a race in the evening. Surely, I am not the only evening person who runs?! Anyway, that tradition and its discussion is for later. This is more about the training plan.

For my second HM, I had in mind a goal time of 2:00 hours. Listening to popular wisdom, I decided I’d have to run often and more, to get faster. Higdon’s plan called for running 4 times a week. One day of the week was dedicated to “speedwork” – 400m intervals, or 30-45minute tempos. This was an aspect wholly abent from my earlier training. There were some “pace-days”, which called for running upto 8 kilometers at the pace I wanted to run in the race. I also incorporated (tried to anyway) some strength training into my routine.

However, the training was a bit hit and miss. Partly because of unforeseen commitments, laziness, work and also because I don’t think the plan worked for me, the way it was structured. Here were my grouses:

  1. Speed-work wasn’t enough, I thought. It led up to 10 laps of 400m or up to 45 minutes of tempo. The tempo run required you to hold 10k pace for only a few minutes. Considering that I was gunning for a lot more improvement, I am not sure how much it would’ve helped.
  2. While I ran more through the week, the individual runs were short. 5-8 kilometer runs every day didn’t really do it for me, except make me comfortable running that distance. I felt wholly unprepared for the long runs.
  3. In fact, my long runs became slower, and more difficult. They were slower than when I was training for my first half, and I didn’t feel ready enough to be able to complete it. A long run of 16kms when you’ve been running (mostly slow-medium pace) 8-10km at max through the other runs of the week, seemed impossible to do, and I had to give up and walk home a couple of times (oh the shame).
  4. This was compounded by the fact that the run of “sustained HM pace” was followed immediately by long-runs. So, in effect, the hardest workout of the week was followed by the longest. Did not get the logic, me.
  5. Higdon’s guidance on pace, is limited. Most runs are done @ slow / easy pace. How long to stick to tempo pace isn’t specified, and so on. Overall, I think “run slower, get slower” is what I suffered from.
  6. Time was a factor. 4-5 times a week seemed a little much. A lot of workouts were missed, because work, lethargy, other commitments. I frequently didn’t feel the urge to run, as opposed to earlier, when I really wanted to run. And given that I was running almost all week, a missed workout was a missed workout – There was no way of compensating. In the end, that affected the training.

So, in summary, Higdon’s intermediate plan was perhaps not right for me. While I had started out with a goal of 2 hours for the half, I wasn’t hopeful of doing any better than 2:15:00 – 2:20:00 at best, and realistically, I was looking at a time of 2:30:00. We’ll of course, never know, given that I didn’t do the half I registered for.

Anyway, I was looking at something else to try, for my next half, whenever that is. And I stumbled upon the FIRST half marathon plan.

What appealed to me was:

  1. There are only 3 days of running, with each workout being a quality, key workout, targeting a specific aspect of running – intervals for speed, tempos for lactate threshold, and (relatively) quick long runs for endurance. This means, limited outlay of time, which combats laziness, helps with recovery, prevents injury and accumulated fatigue (more rest time), and more importantly, because I run in the evenings, allows me to get my workout in during the week.
  2. Intervals are not just 400m intervals, but span a variety of distances (400, 600, 800, 1000 etc). This allows the body to get used to running quickly over a variety of distances
  3. The guidance on pace is very good, and based on your 10k pace. Even tempo runs are broken down into short and medium tempo paces. The paces are challenging, and there are no “easy miles”. Each workout is challenging and pushes you.
  4. Distances you run in each run, are longer, thus conditioning the body to go longer, and faster. This also works now that I have a year’s worth of running long distances under my belt. I don’t need to BUILD UP to the half-marathon distance, and I can focus on getting better.
  5. My shoes. When you spend ~8k ($150) on shoes, you want them to not die in 6 months. And I am not going to buy 2 pairs of shoes to alternate, given the cost. Running thrice a week, means the shoes get time to “recover” too, and (hopefully) they’ll last longer.

I’ve done this for a couple of weeks, and I like it so far. The workouts have been challenging and have kicked my backside. The interval workouts leave me feeling like roadkill, without damaging my desire to run fast. I look forward to running again, and that itself is half the battle.

There are of course concerns I have about, “not enough mileage” and reliance on cross training – which, frankly, I loathe – and I have no clue how not doing it religiously is going to change how the plan behaves (Because I don’t see myself doing it). As it stands, the plan puts my HM finishing time at 2:10. I’m going to aim for 2:05. If I can get to 2:05, I’ll consider this plan a success.

I’ll report progress. Hopefully, my laziness is going to prove helpful this time 🙂

* Starts looking for a half-marathon to sign-up for*

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I Want to Talk to You…

October 20, 2012 2 comments

I want to talk to you.

But I can’t.

I can’t. And I watch in despair, as I shout, I scream… I say the words that you cannot hear. I despair as I see two steady streams – of words – of thoughts – of understanding, flowing down into the valley that now stands between us… deepening it even more, eroding the rocks that remain. I see you trying to tell me things that I don’t understand because they cannot leap across the vast emptiness between us. I see how things I say don’t reach you because they disappear into the darkness of the gap that I cannot bridge.

And I cannot bridge it, because the bridge is gone.

The bridge. The bridge that I thought – knew – would always hold. The bridge made out of “… I love her”, and reinforced with “She knows I love her, and she loves me too”. The bridge that I could, and would, always use to cross over the gap we now stand on either sides of. It withstood so much… the fire, the earthquakes, the rocks, the rain, and the explosions. It shook, stretched, swung, but it never cracked. In the end, it let me get to you, no matter what.

That bridge is now gone. Perhaps, the strength of that bridge, those words, I misunderstood. It turns out, that bridge could crack. It turns out, that words can damage, and did irreparably damage, this bridge. Perhaps, I placed too much faith in the strength of those words. To me, those words were inviolate. Elementary. And I didn’t see any cracks. How could there be cracks in something that was inviolate? I didn’t realize there could be. I didn’t know.

But well, now I know. Know that what you don’t know CAN hurt you. And I am lost. Without that bridge, I am lost. I’ve screamed my loudest till I can’t scream any more. I’ve tried to throw a couple of ropes over, to rebuild this bridge. But even the smallest shock breaks it up.

I am trying. But I am also tiring. I can’t do this by myself. I need help. To stabilize the fragile structure a little, so I can get to you. So I can hear you again. So you can hear me again. Without it, I don’t know what to do. I will keep trying. I will keep shouting. I’ll keep trying to build it back till I have not the strength to move any more.

Because I still, just want to talk to you.

Categories: disappointment, life, love

Empty…

July 23, 2012 2 comments

Empty.

The house was empty. And the emptiness bore down on him. It approached slowly but surely, making sure he saw it grow and envelop him, suffocating him, crushing him – sitting on his chest, like a giant weight, that made it difficult to breathe. He had to escape.

He drove. He turned up the volume, till the music filled up the car, and he couldn’t hear his own thoughts. Thoughts about how much she despised this music he listened to. Thoughts about what good music meant…

The church was full of people. The pastor preached and he listened. The Word of God would save him. It would take over. He closed his eyes and sang along with the multitude. They were the same songs he remembered her singing beside him, her hand in his. He saw in His eyes, the love she had had in hers. The love he missed.

The mall was full of people. The low homogenous rumble of the mass of humanity going about its business. It was like static. Calming, filling, non-specific. His mind lulled, he walked about, losing himself in things – clothes, watches, shoes, books… Until he got too close to a snatch of conversation; that penetrated through the ether and stabbed at his mind. And the illusion was broken; the quiet was no more…

He was at the beach. Sat in the sand, and looking at the waves gave him peace like it always did. The natural rhythm of waves was unceasing, hypnotic. They slowed, they accelerated they grew bigger and they became smaller, but they never stopped. They kept coming back…

Just like the memories…

He tried to crowd them out, he tried to fill the void up. But it was like the house. The new IKEA sofa-set, the bookshelf, the new wardrobe with a bunch of new clothes, a new set of dinner plates, the new bed with the latest memory foam mattress, things – little and large… All that stuff… it did nothing. It only served to magnify the existence of what was not there. All it did was tell him, scream at him, how he felt…

Empty.

Categories: life, Ramble, Uncategorized

Book Review: The Source by James A. Michener

June 16, 2012 1 comment

The SourceThe Source by James A. Michener

Uses the background of an archaeological dig, to chronicle the rise of religion (specifically Judaism) from prehistory (30000 yrs ago), to the modern state of Israel (till 1960s, when the book was written). Defines the relationship of Judaism, with other derivative religions – Christianity and Islam.

The book moves and skips in periods of centuries, Each chapter defines an important period in the history of religion, and is based on the levels uncovered during the dig, by the archaeologists. It chronicles the adventures of the members (descendants) of a single family (of Ur) starting from the first shreds of civilization.

It’s a long read (1000 pages), but doesn’t get boring. Written in simple language, without being too judgmental about anything that happened during the time (Except towards the end, when it turns decidedly pro-Zionist). Each chapter relates modern attitudes (through conversations within the group at the archaeological dig) with the historical perspective and precedent of why the attitude prevails. Michener, while speculating on where the future might hold for Israel and Jews, doesn’t burden the book with his judgments, or force them on us, and largely sticks to the relating what happened. While the stories ARE fictional, the book is incredibly well researched insofar as the major events of times are concerned, and the generally accepted narrative of history.

If you do not know about Judaism, and it’s rise, and the attitudes it signifies, and like reading about the history of Judaism and Christianity, and history in general, give it a whirl, and it won’t disappoint. It’s a wonderful romp through a large swath of time, and definitely better than reading dry academic records of the time. All you must do, is keep reminding yourself, a lot of it is fiction. Because it is very easy to believe a lot of those stories actually happened!

So, if historical fiction and the history of religions interests you (like it does me), I recommend it wholeheartedly. You won’t be disappointed, as long as the book is. Just remember, it *is* fiction. Or read it as a collection of tales set in different historical times 🙂

My rating: Beautifully done. 4 of 5 stars

Categories: book, review, story, Uncategorized

Night…

April 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Because 55-words stories are fun, while not taxing the brain too much, they are a big draw for the imaginatively challenged and lazy person in me. Here’s one I wrote for a contest organized on twitter by the good folks of Flipkart and @vivekisms.

The theme was “Night”…

His eyes were red, face swollen. The lacerations on his wrists smarted. Larger ones on his back burned.  He was tired. Hurt.

 The monsters of the dark had come a-calling again. Hungry, violent, clamoring for flesh, unstoppable.

 But the sun was rising. He was safe for now. He could rest. He closed his eyes.

 Goodnight.

Apathy and the citizen – A call for help

April 4, 2012 4 comments

A few days ago, Purba wrote about a harrowing experience with the Gurgaon police. While an experience like that may not be something new to a lot of people, it caused me to stop and think about how much we are doing to improve the situation. The answer, unfortunately is, I think, not very much. I wrote her an email, which ended up being a blog post that she has very kindly posted up on her blog.

I am not going to reproduce it here. But suffice to say, the comments were interesting. Also heartening. It was nice to see that there are people who, in spite of the difficulties, do not give in to the temptation of taking a short-cut to get their work done. Here are a couple of examples.

I will admit, this is perhaps more than I would have done. I try and do my part. I avoid greasing palms to get work done. I stop at a red light even when there are no cops around, I am generally an honest, law-abiding citizen. On a personal level this works for me, and I have, over time, tried to recognize and remedy cases where I am personally failing in my duties as a citizen. Examples such as Rachna’s serve to renew my enthusiasm to keep up the fight at least at a personal level.

However, if I am really honest about it, it isn’t really enough. As I mentioned in one of the comments on that post, the country is my home. It is dirty and it needs cleaning up. It isn’t enough to just make my bed. I need to clean the room, the drawing room, and the kitchen too.

While I can do a bit more than what I am doing now (and I will), I am not sure if this is something that I can do alone. It is true that there is strength in numbers. However, I do not know how to mobilize the help. I need ideas on how to effectively organize ourselves to make an impact. I need help on (maybe) the use of technology to get a bunch of us together and make a concrete difference. I need pointers to something like this already being done elsewhere that I can contribute to. I need access to sources of knowledge about mechanisms like RTI that we can use as tools in this “cleanup” bid.

A part of the reason for that post on Purba’s blog is because my blog is read by all of 3 people. And the post was a call for help more than anything else. It was a call for ideas. It was a call for possible answers, or even pointers in the direction of answers. Because I do not have answers. Not all of them anyway. Not any of them, most likely.

To start with, I am going to refresh my civics, and dig some more around public policy laws that we can use, or that are, in theory, supposed to empower the citizen. I will find out more about avenues of information about what the government is doing with the citizens’ money. I will share what I find here. As a first step, the least I can do is increase awareness, mine and others’.

My request is, once again, for help. Spread the word. If you have pointers to this end, or stories, experiences, or know of programs that we can participate in … please, leave a comment. I will be eternally grateful.

I am resolving to be less apathetic, and more aware and responsible as a citizen. I hope you’ll join me.

Nuclear Power

December 6, 2011 Leave a comment

In the beginning there was just, the word… And then came science… And then someone discovered radioactivity. Everyone found this interesting… Others extended the concept and discovered fission… Then things became really interesting…

That was the advent of nuclear energy…

Now there was a set of people who thought nuclear energy could be the new-clear source of energy. So they built reactors… A lot of people heralded the idea… But there was also a set of people who thought it was dangerous. They opposed it. There were demonstrations, pamphlets, speeches, conventions… The lot basically. The reactor-builders still went ahead and built reactors. There were accidents… and another round of demonstrations, pamphlets, speeches and conventions… The reactor-builders improved and built better and better reactors..

Of course, there was this other set of people which wanted to make nuclear bombs. That was scary… There were people who opposed the idea, organized demonstrations, conventions, speeches – you know the drill… And the bomb-makers continued to make bombs… and deploy them… They made them more and more sophisticated, bigger, “badder” as the clamour against them increased…

There was also this set of people who got nostalgic about the world before nuclear power. Presumably these were the set of people that also got nostalgic about the world before rapid industrialization (when that happened) and longed to go back to the time when the earth was flat. They advocated letting the U-235 disintegrate in peace. There were demonstrations, speeches, conventions and pamphlets.

People got confused, divided… And all this while, the bomb-makers made bombs… the reactor-makers made reactors, they won the preeminent science-prizes… And there continued to be demonstrations, pamphlets, speeches, conventions and peace-marches…

Categories: life, philosoraptor, Ramble