Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Thoughts That Run Through My Head When I Run

It all began with a comment during the Nilgiris Run in December last year. “You know, when you run, your feet fall like this.” Kavitha said this while gesticulating with her palms facing downwards to show how my toes pointed outwards and away from the other foot. “No wonder you pull the ligament in your hips on the long runs.”

I tried to smile and summarily dismissed what I had just heard as something unworthy of even second thoughts. And so rested matters.

But its different with Kavitha. She just says something, points things out and lets it be. She doesn’t nag; she simply expresses her opinion and that’s it. And because she doesn’t irritate me into agreeing with her point of view, it doesn’t give me the opportunity to dig my heels in, let out a howl of protest, take a firm decision to not do what I am being told to do or throw other such tantrums. I don’t know if Kavitha has come across the magic formula to deal with a difficult person like me but on hindsight, she somehow manages to get me to do her bidding without shoving it down my throat. And I guess that’s how things will remain till I find a way out of this situation – of somehow drawing Kavitha into an argument, digging my heels in, letting out a howl of protest, taking a firm decision to not do what Kavitha tells me to do or throwing other such tantrums. Having said that, I must admit it feels nice that I have the freedom to do what I want, even if my Chief of Crew doesn't necessarily agree with me.

Upon joining boot camp, I had a brain overcast with thoughts as I ran. The disaster that the past year was, the runs that weren’t, the DNF at Hyderabad, the personal issues to tackle head-on, the professional problems that needed to be addressed, the running related matters that had to be taken care of, my social activism…the list was endless, the problems to be sorted out all queued up. The first few runs would be on a full mind and I knew I would feel quite light (at least not feel as weighed down as I was feeling) at the end of the first week’s run.

Ten minutes into the run, my mind stopped and the legs continued running. Why was I running? Certainly not to run away from problems. Certainly not to find solutions to the problems I was facing. And as I ran, I realized I was once again running for all the wrong reasons. I realized there was no celebration of running in my runs anymore. And there and then, at that very point, I decided that running would be nothing if it wasn’t a carefree trot. Running would be nothing if it weren’t a source of unbridled joy. Running would be nothing if it weighed me down with the problems that weighed me down when I was not running. And if at the end of each and every run, my mind did not say “YIPEE!!” to me, I was running wrong and needed to check my premises. Finishing strong was something I had heard, finishing with a smile was something I strived for.

As if on cue, the sun threw off its blanket of darkness and emerged on the horizon. Was that a sign? No, not really. The practical me did not believe in such old wives’ tales. Then the sun winked at me and smiled. A smile that turned it all pink which gave way to a hue of orange. Okay, so that was a sign after all.

I had been so busy looking at the sun that I wasn’t looking at the road at all. Not the best of things to do while running on the highway, so I looked at the road. Then I looked down to see the road where my feet were falling and all I could see was my paunch. The road simply wasn’t visible. Maybe, I should invent a contraption like a bar which could be attached to my head. The bar would have a mirror at one end and when I looked into the mirror, I would be able to see my feet exactly where and how they hit the ground. Right then, I stumbled and almost went flying. Thanks to all the gymnastic moves I had seen on TV, the Akshay Kumar and Jackie Chan movies I had seen and memorized, I did a double sommersault, a half twist, a backflip and landed on my feet, saving myself from a fall. After that, all that kept playing in my head was ‘Humpty Dumpty…’

On the second run, the cold brought back memories of the Nilgiris Run. “You know, when you run, your feet fall like this.” Kavitha said this while gesticulating with her palms facing downwards to show how my toes pointed outwards and away from the other foot. “No wonder you pull the ligament in your hips on the long runs.” I bent over my paunch to look at my feet and made an effort to see that fell straight. It felt strange; something new. No, it wasn’t painful at all. Just strange, new and different. So I continued to run that way, watching every step. Then it started to pain. The lower back. But of course it would. What else was to be expected if a person, while he was running, bent over his paunch to look at his feet and ensure that he got them to fall straight? Then I realized I must also have looked extremely stupid running while bending over my paunch to look at my feet… And if that doesn't sound embarrassing enough, I was struck by even higher knowledge. That I did not need to see my feet to get them to fall straight. I just needed to consciously place them straight as they came to touch the ground.

And I continued running, always conscious that my feet landed straight, straight, straight.  The next few runs went by in the same way. I was conscious of my feet falling straight. The soreness in the ankles also made me conscious; so long as it did not pain, it was okay but I needed to keep a watch.

This went on for about two weeks after which I only needed to check once in a while that the feet continued to fall straight. Never disappointed, I would now try increasing my pace, I thought.

In between this and in course of the run, some thought was spared for serious issues like where to pee. The importance of this cannot be overstated, especially if the run passes by places like public conveniences that are missing or are closed, a railway overbridge with electricity cables passing under it, the Gujarat High Court, a civil hospital, etc. I have already blogged about it in detail earlier so I will not dwell further on this.

However, after I blogged about it, I couldn’t help wonder how akin I was to dogs who marked their territory and their route and sniffed their way back home. Then I thought about dogs in general, how they lived a dog’s life, really, their mindsets, their outlook, their philosophy, etc. A dog’s philosophy towards life??? Yes, a philosophy which suggested, “If you cannot eat it, if you cannot play with it, pee on it and walk away.” What a wonderfully cool philosophy to have! Damn! If only I could live my life that way some day. He who said, “It’s a dog’s life” probably did not know his ass from his elbow and therefore, did not know what he was talking about.

During all these runs, I have realized that my mind is a superlative DJ. There is a song that is always at hand for any situation. If I trip, "Humpty Dumpty" starts to play on its own. On days when it is chilly in the morning and people are sitting around bonfires, my mind automatically starts to play “We didn’t start the fire”. On days when I cannot think of anything, I think, “Why this Kolaveri Di”. Emerging from yet another man-dog face off, I always find myself singing, “Who Let the Dogs Out”. I could go on and on…

Of late, I have started to not just think, but use logic as well to give my puny brain some exercise. Before reading further, let readers be warned that theoretically, when a person runs, the blood supply is more to the legs than to the brains and so the logic may be quite… well… illogical. (And actually, I now have a logical reason for the way I behave – its all because of the ultraruning I do.) No wait, I’ll leave that for the next post. So that's something to look forward to. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Quadro12 Project

I had to do something which would go beyond just my race, my timing, my qualification for this or that, my other this and my other that. Somewhere, running had become something to do because my role model did it. And running had to be fast because the guy who started running with me could now do sub-4:00 marathons while I still struggled to do a sub-5:00.

The fun of running had been lost, and running had become a chore to be done, a job to be completed. Everywhere I saw, everyone who was running was running a comparative run and it all boiled down to my race, my timing, my qualification for this or that, my other this and my other that. The descriptions about enjoying a race were negligible; it was all about competition. Competition with self, competition with others, competition with the virtual running buddy, competition to keep up, competition to not be left out and every other what have you!

Maybe I was the odd man out. Maybe I am the only one who runs because I enjoy running. Maybe I am the only one to who company, conversation, and all those things which are completely unrelated to running matter a lot.  But like everyone else, I too would want my breed of runners to increase. 

I was very sure I did not want it to be a mentoring program because knowing I am basically a back of the pack runner, it creates unnecessary hassles when the runner one is mentoring starts running at a faster pace and after exactly 5 training sessions, begins to believe that the mentor is good for nothing because she or he is slower. I thus wanted a ‘cross the line and get on with your life as I get on with mine’ kind of a program.

I have already sounded out Brijesh about this and have told him that I wanted to take this forward as something of significance to be achieved in the course of the year, more or less in course of the next 12 months, give or take.

Brijesh, of course, will along with me, be taking this forward, trying to involve and create a core team of 12 people; however, everyone who reads this can take this forward individually as well and let us see how we can build up on this.

The Gist:
12 Core Team Members (Team Quadro12) Cumulatively do 12 Ultras. Each having their own 12 (for want of a better word) mentees. Crossing the Finish Line at 12 Marathons. All runs will be for 12 different causes. Winners all 156 of us. (12 Core Team Members and their 12 mentees each.)

The Plan:
We, the 12 core team members will each help 12 different mentees cross the finish lines cumulatively at 12 different marathons. So we will technically have to look for at least 12 different marathons that each of us 12 core team members will need to run with 12 mentees. And 12 different charities can associate with us for raising funds as we do this.

The Modus Operandi:
The primary focus has to be on persons who are the most unlikely candidates for running marathons. School children, senior citizens, persons with lifestyle diseases for whom, running and completing a marathon will be akin to a lifetime achievement. I have already booked a domain name, and as soon as we tie up all the loose ends, the site can be up and running. I feel the website should feature the candidates, their story, their photos (before/during/after), their progress as the training progresses, training tips, various guides, motivation in the form of stories, videos or whatever.

The candidates will have to fill up a form which we shall put up on the website once we launch The Quadro12 Project. They will also have a choice of selecting their mentors from Team Quadro12; however, the mentors will have the right of first refusal.

In case you feel you are up to this kind of masochism, either as a mentor or a mentee, do get in touch with Brijesh or yours truly or leave a comment with your contact details; either of us will surely get back to you. 

This is just a concept note that has been finalized. I hope this is an organic program which grows with time and takes its own shape as it grows.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Running Woes & Solutions.

Six days of Boot Camp are over. 

My last post was about me coming out of hibernation, starting to run again and my joining Boot Camp. Nature, which seemed to have been at war with me the past couple of months had of late ceased hostilities allowing me to thaw a bit, took my coming out of hibernation as a personal affront and sent back the cold with a vengeance. The mercury plummeted and with minimum temperatures hovering at about 5 degree C, running in the morning was definitely and most certainly out. My spring threatened to last just a day, making way again for winter. 

Well, if nature could play tricks, I could be obstinate. Taking full advantage of me being the boss, I decided that afternoon was a good time to run. Starting at 11:30am, I decided to stick to my route of the first day, which would ensure a 30-32k run. This would be my route every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. On Sundays, the same route could be extended to make it a 50k+ run. Monotony would not set in, I believe, because there are quite a few other long runs and events planned throughout the year. 

As I started running, the dog attack was instant. Only this time, the dogs on the street were not the problem. It was those in cars, on two wheelers, those driving rickshaws. Tolerating the snide comments peppered liberally with expletives, I ran on. What was the point in reacting anyways? At about the 10k mark, I was flagged to a stop by a girl on a two-wheeler. She asked me what I was running for. "For whom, you mean?" "Yes." "For myself." "No, no! I mean to ask, what is the cause you are running for? AIDS, Communal Harmony, National Integration..." "AIDS I do not suffer from, last month's blood donation confirmed that. I am an unapologetic atheist, so the question of communal harmony doesn't arise. As for national integration, I have run to 3 states in one run, so that would count as regional integration rather than national integration, no?" (Which reminds me, I have to speak to Kavitha about rechristening 'Nilgiris 100' to '3 States Ultra' because Nilgiris 100 sounds quite insipid... but for now, let me get back to the post.) "See Sir... what is your name?" she asked. "Vishwas" "Okay, Sir" I wonder why she asked my name if she wanted to continue addressing me as 'Sir'. "I am an intern with Radio Mirchi." Was that a euphemism or maybe, a warning which actually meant, "Stop your buffoonery and answer my questions seriously" I almost asked her, stopping myself just in time. "Are you training for something?" she asked. "Yes," I said, "The event is a 30/50/100 mile run in the desert in Rajasthan organized by Globeracers. Starting in Pokhran, close to Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, the race will run through salt flats, cenotaphs, sand dunes and rocky terrain. It is a tough race to say the least. And given that the race is being held in April, when the temperatures would be in the 40s, we're looking at a potential suicide mission. I will be doing a 100-miler there. "Umm... Sir, there was a marathon in Ahmedabad recently. That was of 40 kilometers." "42.2k" I interrupted her. Ignoring the correction, she continued, "Here you are talking of running for 100 kilometers." "No," I interrupted her again, "I am talking of running for 100-miles. That is 160 odd kilometers." "That is quite some distance, even to travel in a car. Are you sure it is possible to cover such a long distance on foot?" she asked. "There are just about six 100-mile finishers in India and you are speaking to one of them. She then was curious about the time it would take. "About 7-8 hours?" Obviously she knew zilch about anything even remotely connected with running and she did not mind her ignorance being fully on display. "I would be happy if I am able to do a sub 30:00, which is completing the race in less than 30 hours." "What???!!! You mean you will run for 30 hours at a stretch???" "Yes. That is how the race is. Such races are called single-stage races." At that point she decided that she was talking to a complete nutcase. She asked for my phone number and said that she'll get back to me. With that, she left. Needless to say, she never called back. 

The remaining run of 20-22k went by as expected. Snide remarks and jeers, peppered with expletives since i was encroaching on what was essentially their space by running on the road. But that apart, there were two major issues I had to contend with. The first major problem I had to deal with was handling hydration. I wasn't carrying water with me and so had to stop at every about 2k for water. The second problem was that of honking by impatient drivers. The honking gave me a splitting headache. I just smiled to myself - I could say, tongue firmly in cheek, that people in Ahmedabad were quite horny. However, since I couldn't change the situation about the honking, I would just have to either grin and bear it, or I would need to run in the morning. 

Realizing that it was much better running in the morning, the cold notwithstanding, the next runs have been early in the day. It is still freezing cold for me but the running manages to thaw me out, making things bearable. So at about 5:00am, while most of the city is still sleeping, I leave home. I do not carry a light though reflective strips on the front and back of my tee-shirt take care of the safety angle. (Talking of the tee shirt, it is a bright canary yellow tee with green sleeves with Shivaji Park Marathon Club emblazoned in red on it on the front and back - it is a very high-visibility tee-shirt. I need to check from Yogesh if they have these tees in stock and if they don't, I might consider flicking a couple of them from Yogesh).

Running into the darkness, getting enveloped by it and not being able to see a thing around me paradoxically leads to clarity of thought. By now, my legs know the entire route and know what to expect and what to be alert for and at what places. 

The dogs have quietened down. They realize that this runner is crazy, one who only seeks passage and has no intention of usurping their territory. The dogs realize that even if they do not give me the rights of passage, I shall take it in any case. They realize that honorable compromise is much better than absolute defeat; the dogs get to retain their ego and I get my passage. 

My running and my thoughts, both get interrupted at 6 places in course of the run. Since the stops are inevitable, I have designated 6 specific places. Let me explain. 

I tend to drink lots of water on waking up. And as I begin to run, the water demands to be unloaded. Some 15-20 minutes after I start running, I come across a wall on the other side of the road which has painted on it "Urinating not allowed here". My take is that defiance early in the day boosts confidence. So I go right ahead and do my thing. From the stink, I can assure you that a lot of people share my sentiment on defiance. Public conveniences are not very easy to come by in Ahmedabad. People probably want to raise a stink about it and they seem to be doing so very effectively. I add my contribution to it. 

Having contributed to a social cause, I run ahead where I come to a public convenience. Don't get taken in by the name. It is for the public, definitely, but opens at the convenience of the caretaker. And the caretaker believes that no sane person would want to use the loo before 7:30am, so the loo remains closed when I want to use it. Right next to it is a hoarding exhorting people to strive for a Green Gujarat. There is a small plant close by which I have adopted. I propose to nurture it back to the best of its health with a regular dose of urea, water and other salts. 

Then, a little before Sola Overbridge, there is an open field which I make full use of. I have had thoughts of borrowing from what I have seen at the Bandra-Worli Sea Link during SCMM and have given a thought to climbing the overbridge and doing my thing right from top of the bridge onto the railway tracks below. Then, I have also thought about the electricity lines that might be passing from under the bridge. A news item in the next day's newspapers screaming, "Runner Electrocuted While Peeing From Overbridge" with me as the protagonist certainly doesn't appeal to me and so I have refrained from doing that. 

Running ahead, I reach the Gujarat High Court where my bladder begins to nudge me again. I do not know whether peeing on the compound wall of the High Court would invite 'pee'nal action or worse, contempt of court, so I hold my bladder till I cross the premises. Immediately next to it is the compound wall of the Sola Civil Hospital. Difficult as it is to hold on, I debate my choices: should it be the wall of the High Court and risk legal action or should it be the Civil Hospital which will put lives of other patients at risk? I decide to somehow hold on and keep moving ahead. Right after the Sola Civil Hospital is the Gujarat Medical College (or some such name). By the time I get here, my brain is, for want of a better term, totally pissed off and I let loose on its compound wall. 

I run further and stop for water at the 12k mark. There is a proper facility there and I am back to being a well-mannered gentleman. I am sure everyone will appreciate that the earlier actions are necessitated by lack of facilities. Then, a little past the turnaround point, I go into the bushes. Once done, it is a comfortable run back home. 

Maybe the next time I meet an intern from a radio station and she asks me what I am running for, I should reply, "For having public conveniences every one kilometer on the highways. That will perhaps give my running a cause, legitimacy, sincerity and maybe even popularity. Won't it?

Talking of causes, my next post in the coming couple of days should be about The Quadro12 Project

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Back to Boot Camp

The winter is drawing to a close, its final efforts at getting a grip on the thermometer and squeezing the mercury down coming to naught. The sun’s rays seem stronger now, the days now seem to have started feeling good enough to sustain life again. It is time for me to come out of hibernation.

Sunday went by, lived like an absolute dream of a couch potato. Waking up at 8:00am, I joined my mother at a chai ki kitli just as she was finishing her 8k. (The fact that I was able to venture out at 8:00am and have survived to write about it is indication enough for me to come out of hibernation.) Then we went to have a little something for breakfaswt at the roadside opposite IIM. One more tea, then another. A maska bun. An omlette, no two. Hot Maggi Noodles with egg in it. That seemed like breakfast enough for me.

Came home checked Facebook intermittently and channel surfed till lunch. Channel surfing with potato wafers for company. That done, a sumptuous lunch. Then the Sunday afternoon siesta – what started as a reward for my long run has come to become a matter of right and the only exception to this is when I am running all through the weekend. Evening went off in a jiffy; for dinner keema samosas, fried chicken and lots of ice-cream. You may stop smirking right now; I had decided that I was going to come out of hibernation the next day, start running again and all the fat reserves that I had accumulated around my equator and elsewhere would come in handy.

Come Monday morning and the alarm dutifully went off at 4:00am. After pressing the snooze button twice thereafter, I changed the alarm time to 5:30am and went back to sleep. If you have ever tried to wake up early after a long hiatus, you would appreciate my behavior and understand the importance of that extra sleep.

When the alarm went off again at 5:30am, I was all set to restart my training. To ease into training, I chose to use the Hal Hingdon Marathon Training Schedule for Novices. It was a Monday and I clearly remember the schedule said Mondays were for stretching and strengthening. I stretched long and hard in bed. I also did some strengthening – in this case, my resolve to start training from Tuesday. In about 15 minutes (which included cooling down and relaxing after the training session) I was done. There! Without even realizing it, I had begun my training; I had just got myself admitted into Boot Camp.

Practically almost all of the day went by in planning out things. From afar, running an ultra seems quite easy. It is. One just needs to build on the stamina, start running and not stop till one is done. But this holds true only till the time the runs are limited to a maximum of 100-miles and are part of an event where everything else is taken care of by the organizers and there is no requirement of a crew. Anything beyond this distance and the amount of planning that goes into each run is almost unimaginable.

As the planning that was put into motion a few weeks back has begun to crystallize, there is a need to take a relook and tweak or change whatever components showed signs of degenerating into potential problems. With planning necessarily including BR-135 in 2013 and subsequently, hopefully Badwater 2013 the areas that will need immediate, constant and focused attention are that of crew, long runs, website, sponsorships and products.

(a)   Crew: While more or less the entire crew from last year will continue, there will be about an 80% addition to the number. Last year, we had absolutely no margin for error. We knew that one person taking ill or one person for whatever reason, not being able to make it would have put the entire team in jeopardy. To eliminate this, the plan is to have a team of about 10 people. Looking up people’s profiles, gauging whether their mindset will work and whether they will gel as crew, speaking to them to see if I am comfortable with them crewing for me, asking them if they want to crew for me and should they agree, asking Kavitha, my Crew Chief to take over. Having spoken to a few friends in my running circle, we’re looking at others. (In case you feel you want to crew and that we might have missed out on you, this should have you getting in touch with us. Fast.)

(b)   Long Runs: When one is preparing for 2 single-stage races of 135-miles (217.3k) each, one of them christened the toughest foot race on earth, the importance of long runs in the entire scheme of things cannot be overemphasized. The plan is to do a total of about 15 runs of a 100 miles and above in the run up to BR-135 in January, 2013. Planning these runs becomes absolutely delicate since there are a number of factors that go into the route being decided. The distance, elevation, descent, weather, availability of resources (which will be needed to be sourced in course of the run) etc. will lead to further planning on the logistics – type of vehicle, supplies to be carried, shoes, change of clothes and a whole gamut of other things. Very fortunately, I have the best Crew Chief I could have hoped for. With her around, with her in command, all I need to do is focus on running. Any problems, if in the unlikely event that they reach me, I am confident will be taken care of by Kavitha.

All this apart, I also plan to include in the 15 runs mentioned above, my participation in some 6-7 single stage 100-mile running events which should stand me in good stead when I put up my candidature to be a participant at Badwater 2013.Trying to fit those runs in along with the practice runs, ensuring that the schedule must provide for enough days of rest and recovery can only mean one thing – lots and lots more planning.

(c)    Website: The “You must understand, Mr. Bhamburkar, that running is not cricket and you are no Tendulkar” comment still rankles. But it is true; even in Ahmedabad very few would know about me. I certainly am not one who will go to the media asking them to give some coverage to my achievements. Nor am I the type who will network with scribes and ten subtly put something of this sort in. I am of the opinion that if what I am doing is good enough, the media will cover it. If not, so be it. And if the media does not cover despite it being good enough only because they did not know about it, then the journalistic capabilities need to be questioned. And if despite it being good enough to be covered, they don’t cover it only because I did not network with them, then their journalistic ethics need to be questioned. I don’t run for getting written about, so is it my loss if I don’t get written about?

A case in point is the report on the 100-miler at Bhati Lakes. Practically every edition of TOI printed it, except Ahmedabad.. And the person who finished the race second was from Ahmedabad. Isn’t this a reflection on the Times of India?

I have often been asked not to be so reclusive, to liaise extensively with the media, that media coverage comes with its benefits. But my first meeting in this regard with a member of the fourth estate proved to be a colossal disaster. “Sure, Vishwas. I think you’re doing great. Keep in touch regularly and once we develop a close rapport, we will make you.” “What? Make me? You mean you’ll write fictitious articles about me running, running fast and winning and all that blah?” no, no! of course, we cannot write fiction, but we can definitely write about you and the races you have run. The regular coverage can make you.” “Oh great! Okay, I’ll back on this.” My left foot I’ll get back. Thank you very much, but I’m better off alone.

But having said that, I understand that one does need some kind of visibility. If I am one among only six 100-mile finishers in India, I need to let it be known. Else I face the danger of hearing the Tendulkar comment again. But since I choose not to lie prostrate before the media, I need a separate channel. So a website. Yes, it is unconventional. Harnessing the power of the internet can make for great visibility if successfully done. The challenge here would be to find the way to developing a successful model in a dynamic, ever-changing medium. (Running a 100 miles and more is also not conventional. In its own way, a 100-miler is also a dynamic, ever-changing medium. If I could succeed there, I have reasonable chances of success here.) I have already registered the domain name and that was the easiest part. The content and actually building the website is what will take much longer and will have to be done after great deliberations. It is a work in progress. I am hopeful that my friends, especially my online friends will help once the site is up and running.

(d)   Sponsorships: Paucity of sponsorship saw my plans for 2012 getting completely derailed. Nothing thereafter has changed, really. However, as I look towards 2013 and the plans that are being put in place for it, I realize that sponsorships are going to be a crucial element which will bring the plans to fruitition. But then, the sponsorship will have to be dealt with a sense of responsibility and moderation. And ethical issues too have to be dealt with. For example, do I approach a telecom company which seems willing to loosen its purse strings quite easily and take more than is needed? Or do I try to get only what I need from sponsors who find a fit with running?

(e)   Products: The more I do long runs, the more aware I become about the unique requirements in small things which, if not attended to can bloom into major disasters later. Running ultra distances brings forth requirements which the regular products may not be able to satisfactorily fulfill. One thus needs to design products which are slightly different from the products used by regular runners. An Accelarade + Gatorade mix works wonderfully to take care of mineral requirements of my body on long runs. The desert caps that are available become very claustrophobic with the fabric covering the nape being so close to even your eyes. I am in the process of designing a hat that would effectively take care of this problem. I know the cuts I make to my running shoes, the places from where I get rubber scooped out to make them more comfortable. All of these are cases in point that products designed by actual users would be far more user-friendly than the ones designed by those with theoretical knowledge. I will thus need to have products that gel with me, my style of running and will fulfill the requirements that are important to me as an ultrarunner.

This also presents the opportunity for me to design products, but for that I will need a sports company which believes that their products can be improved upon by less mortals like the actual users. Till now I have not seen anything that will give me much hope. But it does not mean I will stop trying; the search continues.

All of this took up almost the entire day. I remembered the blog one of my online friends had sent a link to, which warned that if one was planning to run Badwater, I would have to apologize to everyone in advnce, kiss my social and family life goodbye and every waking minute would have to contribute in one way or the other towards making BR-135 and Badwater races where I am able to give my best. On day one, it looks as though the article was written very optimistically, or the situation here in India is very different. In the evening, I met Vishal, my training buddy cum pace setter. Vishal doesn’t run (though he has been promising to train and do a marathon someday). He said we’d meet at 5:00am the next day at IIM Crossroads, about 3k away and training would begin in right earnest. Vishal is on his cycle and as we chat while I run, he slowly increases the speed of his cycle. Not surprising, since if we slow down, he loses his balance. I know this works for me; after all training in this manner has seen both, my endurance as well as my speed go up phenomenally. There was such a lot to do, I got back to working on plans.

By the time I finished everything, it was past 12:30am and the alarm for 4:00am had been set. I dozed off immediately, only to be rudely woken up at 4:00am by the alarm. As I got out of bed, I jogged my memory and thought over all the marathon training programs that I had gone through on the internet. I couldn’t remember a single one which offered me a Tuesday off. So having jogged my memory, it was going to be running for me. And Vishal would be on his way; I did not want to stand him up on Day 1 of training.

At 4:45am since Vishal, had not texted to say that he was on his way, I picked up my cellphone to realize that he had texted at night to say that he wouldn’t be able to make it.  He also said this should not be an excuse for me not to start training and asked me to go and run.

I took a good hard look at all the long runs I had in mind – training runs as well as events – and decided that if I had to do about 15 long runs of 100 miles or more before 2012 was out, I simply could not afford the luxury of easing into training. I had to jump off the deep end and somehow swim till I was able to get my feet to touch the bottom (and hopefully with the head above the water).

Those who go through training theoretically would find this blasphemous; I however had no qualms in doing this as I have always believed that theory is a good tool to explain failure and success only gives rise to new theories. So first day of actual training by running and we decided that we were off for a 30k.

I started running. From home to IIM Crossroads and from there to Keshavbaug, taking a right to Judges’ Bungalows. A little ahead and I turned right again on to Sarkhej-Gandhinagar Highway. As I continued to forge ahead, a dog who had finally found peace a couple of months ago from a runner intruding into his territory every morning saw me invading his fiefdom again. Not taking very kindly to this, he charged at me, fangs bared. (For those who don’t know, dogs live to sink their teeth into my flesh. I have been bitten 6 times by strays and so now a dog bite is something that happens every once in a way and is nothing to worry about. Just meet a doctor, take a few injections, wait for a couple of days for the wound to heal and you’re ready to take on the world again.) As the dog charged fiercely to guard its territory, I chose to take it head-on. Leaving the highway, I charged at the dog. For a split-second, I thought I had made the wrong decision as the dog continued to charge towards me, now with its army materializing out of nowhere. There was no turning back now and I continued to charge, growling too for good measure to tell the dogs in their own language that I too meant business.

The dogs chose to retreat. After making sure that it was not just a tactical retreat to get me to lower my guard, I was back on the highway and running. (Though surely a little rattled at the thought of the results had the dogs decided on an all-out confrontation.)

A couple of ks ahead at the start of the Sola Overbridge, another dog showed his resentment and began barking to drum up support. I stopped and dared the dog in Hindi and Gujarati (since I did not know the medium of communication of the dogs). The dog stopped barking and I continued my run up the overbridge.

Once the flyover was behind me, I decided to see if I could increase my pace a bit and sustain it. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was able to hold a faster pace. In no time, I had crossed Gota Chowkdi and continuing to run further ahead. About 5k ahead, I was at Vaishnodevi Circle, the turn around point. I had presumed that the run back was going to be a drag. This stretch I knew would be a walk-run; more walk, minimal run. I actually outran my knowledge. Taking a walking a break of about 100-200 meters every 4-odd kilometers, I was back home with more of running and very little walking. About 30-32k done.

The only trouble I face is one of my own making. With a paunch that has taken full advantage of my insistence on ‘no dietary control’ coupled with negligible training in the last couple of months, it is difficult to run. A belly bouncing away to its own beat when I run doesn’t make for very comfortable running. At some points during the run, I almost had to hold onto the gut to stop it from bouncing away. Guess dietary control takes over in a big way and all those crunches too have to be done. But from experience I know this is a discomfort I will have to live with for a maximum of two weeks after that, things will flatten out and the running will be smooth.

This would now be the routine. A 30-32k on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and a 50k+ on Sundays. I will be doing easy runs for the next two weeks after which the concentration on pace will go up. Of course, climbing those forty stories – first ten floors walking, the next ten running, the ten thereafter sprinting and finally walking up ten floors to cool down, continues. As does doing crunches. And of course, the dietary control – till I lose the flab at least. Am I going overboard, doing too much? Well, the title itself makes it clear that this is a boot camp.

I am reminded of my New Year’s Resolution – to have a thin body and a fat bank balance. With this kind of a schedule, I seem to be on my way to achieving the first part of my resolution; if I stop this and get back to work, I just might be able to achieve the latter part.