Sunday, October 29, 2006

25km long run...

Had a good run today, did the targeted 25kms in a little over two and a half hours. It was hotter than last Sunday, so found it a little difficult. Am now looking forward to the next challenge of 30kms next Sunday.

The good thing is that I did not feel mentally exhausted & was able to
do the distance without walking in between. My biggest challenge will be to avoid
hitting the wall (this happens at that time of the race when your mind
tells you to switch off and your body tell you that you that it can't run any
further - usually around 33-35km mark in a full marathon) and I need to toughen up mentally to avoid it. My body has been holding quite well through all the recent long runs, without any trouble, so I just need to get mentally prepared to do the entire 42kms without any change of pace (well atleast downward change of pace).

I have a feeling that in the Mumbai Marathon which takes place after Singapore marathon in January, I will be able to knock of atleast another 10-20minutes of my Singapore time.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Had two good runs of 7.5Kms each on Thursday and Friday, did both in around 44 minutes. Now I just need to finish off this week with a 25km run tomorrow & that would complete one hell of a calender week, with (20+6+7.5+7.5+25) 66kms, but if I average it out with about 22kms of the previous week, the average would be 44kms for the week, not bad at all.

Am looking forward to my run tomorrow, plan to start at 6.30 in the morning so that I can complete my run by 9pm. The weather is now getting a lot better, so am feeling very positive.

Have fought with the passport office guys and they should have my ECNR endorsed soon. And was pleasantly surprised that they would be couriering it to me, so that would save me an extra trip. Just hope this time they get things right!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Hunt for a valid passport...

I had a decent run in the morning today, did about 6kms at a brisk pace of little under 34mins. The weather is quite pleasant these days at 6.30 in the morning, I get a feeling that things are improving and the heat wave in western India is finally receding. According to the latest weather reports, we should have winter from first week of November, which means night temperature of 24degree C and day temperature of around 32degree C. Eagerly looking forward to it.

I just realised that I have only three more Sundays to put in the big long runs, so I will need to do 25km this Sunday, followed by 30km and 35km respectively over the next two Sundays. My legs are holding up quite fine after the two punishing runs on Sunday and Monday with 10km and 20km each, I hope to keep them injury free.

The latest update on my passport, I have finally got my renewed passport by post. I was under the impression that this would be the end of the story. But, my friends at the passport office decided to ensure that I visit them regularly. This time they have decided to give me an ECR endorsement instead of ECNR (Emigration clearance not required). What this means is that I need to take the permission of the Indian Emigration authorities each time I visit a developing country (which means anything other than N America, Europe, SAARC countries & Singapore). This is basically meant to protect the unskilled workers from being exploited by touts & brokers, as they get duped & end up working as slave labour (well almost, basically exploited by their sponsors or foreign employers, especially in Gulf and South East Asia). I should have automatically got an ECNR stamp on my new passport as my earlier passport had it, plus I had given complete detailed of my 20years of education!! So I have now registered online for an appointment and plan to give them a piece of my mind tomorrow. There is no way they are going to make me pay the fees again for their mistake (hope I am able to stick to my words!!). I hope to get the ECNR stamp tomorrow itself. The saga continues...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Shiro - the best lounge bar in Bombay (Mumbai)

I had a very eventful and satisfying day today. I started early today, at 6.50am as planned for my 20km run. I did it in little over 2hrs and it was one hell of a smooth run, I only wish I had the same rhythm and frame of my last Sunday in Delhi. I would have comfortably done an under 2hr time. But the main differentiator between the two runs was the weather, not only did I start very early today but there was almost no direct sun (as it was partially cloudy), till about 8.30am (which is quite rare). Also the 20km included the Pedder road climb (for those of you familiar with Bombay's topography) at the very end of the run. To sum up it was one of the best practice runs I have had in a long long time.

I hope to continue doing 20+kms during each of the forthcoming Sundays (going upto 35km two weeks before the marathon) till December. I could not have asked for a better start, just need to keep up the momentum.

This 20km run took me to 'town' (South Bombay), heart of the city, so I decided to catch up with some old friends over breakfast and an extended lunch. The lunch took place at Hard Rock Cafe, which I understand is the first one in India. It lived up to expectations, in terms of music, acoustics, ambience and beverages, though the food and staff (they need better training) was a little disappointing. It is still worth a visit to hang out with friends, but not really for a meal for two. But the thing which really surprised me was a lounge bar adjacent to Hard Rock (at Worli, behind Mahindra towers & Phoenix mills), managed by the same guys who are franchisees of Hard Rock. Its called Shiro and it is the best lounge bar I have ever visited (by a big margin), it’s got the most amazing decor, lighting, the soothing sound of flowing water (real sound), seating, menu........ and the list goes on (Just sitting in that place is amazingly relaxing). In terms of pricing it’s marginally more expensive than Hard Rock (which in turn is similar to TGIF pricing, but better portions). But, it’s only open in the evenings from 7.30pm -1.30am. I hope they decide to keep it open in the afternoons on weekends & holidays, as I am sure they will get decent traffic. Shiro, Bombay Dyeing Mill Compound, Pandurang Budhkar Marg, Worli, Mumbai. Tel : 24383008

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Recovery run..

I did manage to do a 10km run today, although it was a big effort as i was recovering from the mild flu; I did it in 1hr 4mins. I had to start later than I would have liked, as I was waiting for the smog to cleanup. Thanks to the Diwali - festival of lights (and sadly lot of noise and smoke), the air gets much polluted and it takes some time for the morning sun to clear up the air.

I hope to make the most of my long extended Diwali weekend break, to log some extra miles and bundle it with a lot of rest. I hope to do a 20km run tomorrow if everything goes well, hope to start very early tomorrow morning. Its going to be tough getting up at 5.30am in the morning on a holiday, as I am spending the night watching Schumacher for the very last time, can't miss this opportunity for the world. I know it’s not going to be possible for him to win the championship, but he sure will go down fighting. He never disappoints….

I hope to get myself a Nokia 5500 as a replacement for my previous phone which continues to be in police custody. This is the best sports phone available in the market (actually the only one), I need it for my preparation, as it would help me keep a accurate tab on the distance and speed during the last one month of my preparation.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The week after...

After my Delhi run, I was able to run for 6km and 7.5km on Tuesday and Wednesday. After that I have been down with Flu. The cough, cold and body ache has ensured that I take complete rest. Past two days were bad but today things are improving and I hope to go for my Sunday run tomorrow.

What I have realised after my Delhi run is that I need to strengthen my upper body, improve on my breathing (oxygen intake) and improve my weekly mileage. So I will be starting off on all three from next week, along with some Yoga exercises.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Timing device & start disappoints at Hutch Delhi half marathon 2006

Till 7.25am in the morning today, I was very impressed with what the organisers (Procam) had done for the second Delhi half marathon. But after that things did not go so well. The race actually started before time, not sure if that was intentional or planned, but this meant that I started about 2 minutes after that actual race & I asssue this did not get factored in my timing. Thank god, I was using my own stopwatch to time my race.

But the bigger issue was the error in timings provided using the timing chip. This was the first time, they were using this new chip in India (its the ankle strapped one, instead of the shoe lace one, can't remember the make/company providing it). Let me elaborate this with my timing which is mentioned as below in the certificate.
8km - 47min 49sec
12km - 1.22.53
14km - 1.47.46
21km - 2.05.50

The big error is the 14km time mentioned above, which should be more like 18km, but still can't understand why the timing device does not take the actual time of my start instead of the official start time.

My Hutch Delhi half marathon 2006..

I had a reasonably good run on Delhi half marathon, even though I did not post a good time. I did the run in about 2hr 3min 30sec, this time was higher than my previous best of 1hr 58min in the first Delhi half marathon.

The weather was hot and dry, which made it difficult, plus the fact that it started at 7.30 in the morning. I start the first 10kms at a good pace and was doing fine and was hopeful of doing a time of under 2hrs, but as the temperature started to increase and the race moved to the wide open stretches that I start to feel the heat and exhaustion started setting in. At around 15km and 17km I just could not run and was crawling. But after I crossed 17km I started to get into a rhythm and picked up pace and caught up on a lot of lost time. But given the weather condition and my preparation I think I did quite well.

What it has also told me that I need to prepare very hard over the next 45days to be able to put up a good performance in the Singapore marathon, and achieve my dream target of 4hr 30min for a full marathon.

Its feel great to be back home in Bombay after a hectic weekend at Delhi. If I do decide to participate in the Delhi marathon next year, I am very sure that I will do a time of well under 2hrs, I just need to prepare a lot harder.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Blog featured on Economic Times

Refer to the Blogger park in ET High Flier (specifically - My Indulgence). Economic Times is India's largest read business newspaper.

Mahabaleshwar trip

I had a very pleasant long extended weekend trip to Mahabaleshwar (its a hill station which is about 6 hours drive from Mumbai). I did manage to run on all four mornings that I was there, and trust me this was very tough. The weather was just perfect, clear Sky on most days with bright sunlight, but optimum temperature of around 20degree Celsius and moderate humidity, which made getting up in the morning extremely difficult. But, at the same time it was also the ideal weather for running.

Another special feature was the terrain, Mahabaleshwar is on top of a hill (its actually one of the highest and largest hill stations in the state of Maharashtra & its also the most beautiful), So i had good run climbing a slope of about 1.5kms or so around the Venna lake. On the first two days I ran about 5kms each and on the next two days I did the 1.5km slope twice, about 6kms each.

I followed it up with a run today (late evening) with a 6km run. And I hope to do my last run on Friday morning. Am looking forward to my Sunday Delhi Half marathon, my preparation is nowhere close to adequate but I hope to do a time of under 2hours. And if I am lucky I will break my previous personal best of 1hr 58 odd minutes.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I did 6km run today, the knee seems alright though I do not get the feeling of it being normal. I hope to run again tommorrow. I am off to a hill station over an extended weekend and am looking forward to catch up on some scenic runs & doing inclines. It should be good preparation for my Delhi half marathon.

Hot pursuit - part 2

Today I visited the cop station again after my September 13 incident of mobile phone theft. Actually I was there for police verification, which is a requirement for renewal of my passport.

The police verification process was very smooth and quick, the cops were very polite and helpful. I had taken all possible documents to prove my existence and proof of residence, which meant right from my birth certificate, current passport, Voter ID card, telephone, electricity, Gas connection and what have you... The verification process is quite good, they go through originals and collect copies of all the documents, and the same is verified by a senior official at the station. Overall I was quite impressed with the procedure and if followed properly in all cases, the chances of anti-social elements getting one can be minimised.

After completing the police verification process, I decided to use my trip to check on my theft case. I also needed to collect a copy of the FIR (First information report), basically some proof that they have possession of my phone. On enquiring, I was told that my case hand been allotted to a cop for investigation. He seemed like a nice guy (though overworked) and he gave me complete details of the progress of my case. But before starting off, he congratulated me for being brave (catching the criminals & handing them over to the cops). I explained to him that I was not doing anything with an intent to be brave or model citizen, It was just a spontaneous reaction from my side (something like defending myself), though in this case it was defending my pride. ‘How dare someone snatch my phone in the middle of the road & then walk away with it (ok, run away with it!), I just needed to catch him and nail him.’

He mentioned that they interrogated the two thoroughly to find out more about the gang. They did not get any information on the third guy, I had mentioned. Of the two, the guy who snatched my phone was a juvenile (he was 17 year old), he had claimed that as soon as he was caught, though nobody believed him at that time. This boy was released on bail and his partner was still in judicial custody, as he was not able to arrange the bail and required surety. According to the cop, my case will take anything between 2-4 years to reach its logical end. Also to my surprise it is not classified as a petty case, this was big time theft. Though I tried to tell him that this was an open and shut case as the thief was caught red-handed and he had confessed to his crime. He enlightened be about the Indian judicial system, which takes its own sweet time.

I also enquired as to how I could get possession of my phone, other than having to visit the magistrate with my lawyer & application requesting the same. He was kind enough help me with a couple of lawyer options, who might want to help to regain possession of my phone. So, I plan to give them a call and find out the charges for doing this exercise. If the resale value of the phone (which is 10 months old), is significantly higher than the lawyer charges plus the effort involved in making a personal visit to a remote court in Bombay, I will decide to hire them. Will be giving a constant update on my pursuit….. in the coming weeks…

Monday, October 02, 2006

Did not have a good run today, did about 14kms in about one hour forty minutes, with Lot's of starts and stops, was not just feeling right. Need to get back into a rhythm so that I can get ready for the next weekend half marathon. The knee seems alright while running but have to find out if it stays that way during the day, am keeping a close watch on it.

Waiting to register for the Mumbai marathon, which should start around October 10, 2006.

Online booking for international travel disappoints

I have finally been able to book my tickets to Singapore and this was after having worked on it for over a couple of months, trying to research and get the best deal. I went through various travel sites (India based) and airline websites. The online travel booking experience was a big disappointment, to say the least. Some of the airline sites did not allow me to book an e-ticket for various reasons, this included Sahara and Thai Airways. I was hoping to get the best deal, as I was booking well in advance, especially from Thai Airways and Singapore Airlines (which should have logically had a special fare for participants to the marathon!!).

Coming to the online travel sites, some of which allow you to book online and others direct you to an offline travel agency. The offline agency told me that the fares for November had not been opened by Thai Airways and the only way to book so many months in advance would be through their website. After a lot of hunting, I finally decided to book it last week through the Thai Air website (the reason I chose Thai, was because I wanted a day's stopover on my return to shop for things, so being the national carrier of Thailand, logically it would give the best deal for a Singapore trip via Bangkok) and to my horror I found that the fares had gone upto 25.5K (INR) from a 22k a couple of weeks back. This is when I decided to press the panic button. I took the help of a friend who happened to be a veteran in the offline travel space, to help get me a good deal on the Singapore trip via Bangkok through his travel company. And within an hour he was able to get me a fair of 18.5K on a major Airline which had its hub in Singapore (with a Bangkok stopover), which makes the deal even more special.

The conclusion I have come to after this experience – the online travel websites based in India do not have the skill sets or the technology or bulk buying capability or something else, to be able to give you the best deal on international travel. And the official website of international airlines does not give you the best ticket deal either.

Your best chance of getting the best ticket deal is to use your offline travel agent, preferably someone who is very big – SOTC, Thomas Cook, etc, as the volume of tickets which they buy for say South East Asia or Europe (plus their tie-up with a particular Airline), helps get the best deal for you (but they might insist on you booking your hotels through them, to make it worth their while).

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Injury prone..

I seem to be injury prone. The latest one being a slight pain at certain times in my left knee, and this is in addition to the old right shin strain (which is more or less under control). I want to be a little careful with the knee and hence had decided to rest on Saturday and Sunday. I hope it is just another temporary problem and not something permanent.

The planned trip to Sula Vinyards, Nashik has got postponed indefinitely, so am taking a well deserved break today at home. I hope to do my long run tomorrow and hope things improve by then.