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Scripting History – Hima Das

Capt. Seshadri writes about how Hima Das went from rice bowl to race track glory setting a new world record for India

It has been a long journey, but in a very short time, from the rice fields of Dhing village of Nagaon district in Assam, to Tampere, the city of power, in Finland. Nagaon, dating back to 1833 was once described as a district of three Cs: chicken, children and cases. A hemisphere apart, Tampere, often referred to as the ‘Manchester’ of Finland, is an important industrial city and a major source of electricity for the Finnish industry.

It was in this city that Hima Das, an 18 year old Indian girl, raised among the rice fields, powered her way to India’s first women’s gold at a world event, sprinting to victory in the 400m at the IAAF World Under-20 Athletics. Running a well thought out race in lane number 4, Hima breasted the tape in 51:47, kicking in a burst in the last 80 m and overtaking her main rival Andrea Miklos of Romania. Although a wee bit under her personal best of 51:13 in June 2018 at the National Inter-State Championships at Guwahati, it sufficed to create women’s track history for India.

Born on January 9, 2000, this millennial athlete started her sports career playing football with the boys in the fields of her native village. Nipon Das, a local coach was quick to spot her athletic ability and, despite reluctance and resistance from her family, moved her out to Guwahati. Although there was no separate athletics department, she trained at the State Academy. Starting out as a

200 m sprinter and acquitting herself remarkably well, her coaches spotted in her, a special talent for the quarter mile. Now, barely a year and a half since her first competitive run in an inter-district meet, Hima is reaching the pinnacles of athletics, creating history in the process.

Milkha Singh, the legendary Flying Sikh, has often been quoted as saying that his biggest dream was to witness an Indian win a gold in track and field. His dream has come true. Could it be termed mere coincidence that this achievement falls precisely on the 5th anniversary of the release of the biopic ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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The Conqueror of the Everest -Part 2

In the concluding part, Deepa Bhat talks to Deepthi Velkur about how she prepared for the big day. 

Continuing the conversation with Deepa Bhat, the first Indian woman to complete the Everest Ultra Marathon.

Acclimatization to such high altitudes is key – how did you prepare yourself for this?

The trek was  well planned out, with enough rest days for us to acclimatize to the harsh weather conditions and have some short training runs too to get a feel of how the actual run would be like. In the mountains, the rule is ‘Climb High and Sleep Low’. Hydrate well, sleep better, believe in yourself and altitudes will embrace you.

What type of running gear would you suggest is appropriate to run in such high altitudes?

Layering helps in altitudes. I use a hydration vest and carry my water (3 liters and energy bars, salt tablets). I train the same way too, to minimize the surprises on race day.

Personal safety must be a top priority while running any high altitude terrain. What steps did you take to ensure your safety?

As for this race, until the 23k mark was a familiar route which is the one that we trekked up. Post that we had a Nepali guide who runs along with us to ensure we are on track. I carried along medical supplies, like band-aid and spray, a rain cover, a survival blanket and a night lamp. Taking the soft shell (jacket) was a completely last minute decision and did me good as it kept me safe through the night. In Ultra-running, one cannot calculate everything as there are new learning always.

Not only does physical fitness matter but one needs to be mentally geared up to take on this grueling challenge. How did you prepare yourself?

No matter how hard you train you body, mental training is just as important. If your mind isn’t prepared for what lies ahead, your body won’t be either. During one of my early Ultra running days, my body began experiencing wave after wave of fatigue, my mind quickly followed. Once I fell into this hole, it was tough for me to get back. A minute feels like an hour, a kilometer felt like a ten. I am thankful that I learned how to tackle that early on.

Someone once said I am not ‘Focused and doing too many things.’ Maybe, but I am determined. Confidence and determination have taken me far in life, especially when I am out on the trails. When my body is on the verge of shutting down during a challenging race, my mind is the only thing that keeps me going. ‘Get better than what you were yesterday’ is my only motivation, be it work, home or on trails.

Completing this race at 1:00 am in the darkness of the night has taught me a lot, which I am going to carry with me till the end.

What was the role of your guide and how did he motivate you to stay on track during the entire course?

My guide through this trek was a 17-year-old Nepali guide, reminded me so much of my son Dhruv as both are of the same age. He could speak only Nepali and I couldn’t speak a word of the language. It was going to be one hell of an experience I thought, once he joined me at the 23k mark.

I stuck close to him, watching where he was placing his feet and did exactly that. Sometimes it is best to follow your guide when you are 11hrs into the race and way too tired to even think. Since these guides traverse these paths so often and familiar with the course as well. A couple of coffees and noodle soup at night is all we had but that was the energy booster that got us across the finish line.

My guide was a very quiet and simple lad untouched by technology having a cheerful face and a constant smile who kept motivating me that I could and I must reach the finish line.

Did having a running buddy help you get through this challenging race? What were the most crucial plans Taher and you put in place?

Each one runs their own race. Each of us looks at the race, strategize very differently but all with the same goal – reaching the Finish Line!

The day before the race must have been one of the toughest moments of your life – please tell us what went through your mind?

Sleeping at the base camp is a privilege, that a regular trekker cannot enjoy. They just visit the EBC, take pictures, soak in and return to Gorakshep. Running the Extreme Ultramarathon gives you the opportunity of staying two nights right at the end of the notorious Kumbhu glacier at the end of the icefall.

The morning of 28th May, a day before the race is something that gives me shivers even today. Woke up early to feel the chill air, brushed my teeth with warm water (I always keep a bottle of hot water in my sleeping bag every night) and suddenly started feeling super cold. Rushed into the tent to pull out a warmy to put into my gloves. Minutes later, outside my tent, all I could see was darkness, everything around me had turned black. Before I knew, I was unconscious. Although I could hear everyone around me calling for help, trying to talk to me but was in no state to respond. My oxygen levels dropped to 37 and pressure was low as well. ‘Will I be airlifted, does my marathon end here?’ the only thoughts that ran through my mind. I had suffered from hypothermia.

Thanks to my teammates, emergency care doctors I was back on my feet and by 9:30 am geared up for the mock race in a saree. 30 countries 150 runners, the atmosphere was surreal. One needs to be there to experience the celebration.

What would you take away post this achievement and would you encourage other runners to take on this challenge?

There is a lot that this race has taught me, some good life lessons, that no book, blog or just about anything could have. That’s a secret, I want to keep… shhhh!

To another runner, ‘Run a trail to discover yourself’.

What tips do you have for other extreme marathon runners?

Read my blog and come with me for a run 😉

  • Put your finger on a race – tell yourself, why do you want to do it and how determined are you to take on the challenge.
  • Work religiously on the training plan – there are no shortcuts. What you put in is what you get.
  • Keep your family involved as running an ultra is a family event. You will be spending so much time outside of your home that without them it is not possible.
  • Stay positive – If not for you, no one can run the race for you.

What did you look forward to the most at the finish line?

We don’t conquer the mountains, no one can. Yes, it does humble you as a person of how small and insignificant you are as the finish line is just the beginning…

“You must go on adventures to know where you truly belong!” , says Deepa.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

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The Conqueror of the Everest – Part 1

In a two-part series, Deepthi Velkur connects with the Indian Woman who completed the Everest Marathon, Deepa Bhat.

Not so long ago, the start line for an ultra-marathon was only headed by the elite runners. When we speak of it today, there are hundreds of regular runners flocking to take part in a variety of endurance race challenges much beyond the 42k distance. They want to push their boundaries and achieve a dream that was reserved for the elite athletes in the yesteryear’s. Today, Bengaluru’s Deepa Bhat is one such aspiring Indian woman.

Deepa Bhat, is a 41 year old Ultrarunner, Triathlete, Scuba Diver, High altitude trekker, Creative chef, and a mother of two teenage boys. Building a career in the e-learning space, Deepa is also a running coach at the Cult Fitness centre, Bengaluru.

Running gives her the much cherished ‘Me time’, a feeling of bliss and helps keep her focused to achieve her goals year after year. Meticulously planning to balance all aspects of her life-family, career, and fitness have helped her strive and become one of the top runners in the country. This year she became the first Indian woman to have completed the world’s highest running event-The Everest Ultra marathon along with Taher Merchant. Having completed the 72k Kardungla challenge together last year, they decided to take on the challenge of participating in next high altitude race- The Everest Marathon.

We speak to her to find out more about how she conquered her dream of running The Everest Ultra -Marathon.

To conquer Mt. Everest is a dream for most people, to conquer it running is beyond our wildest dreams. What pushed you to take on this challenge(The Everest Ultra Marathon) and what was it like to be on top of the world?

I feel I have a strong connection with the mountains. Something about working hard towards accomplishing a goal and being in the wilderness, surrounded by breathtaking nature just appeals to me. I felt it for the first time when I was just 20 years old, my first High altitude climb to Sar Pass Trek in Himachal Pradesh. The force only got stronger from there on. Having completed the 72k Kardungla Challenge in Ladakh last year and being a podium finisher there, achieving the next high altitude run -The Everest Ultra Marathon became my goal. With sub-zero temperatures and snow in the evening, made it hard but went through the night without a break to finish the circuit in 19hours 50mins and 40sec.

What other Ultra races have you run in the past where you have made it to the podium?

A few of the ultra races that I have run and achieved a podium finish include:

  • 2nd runner-up at Khardungla challenge-72k
  • Winner at stadium run, Bangalore-86km
  • Winner at Jawadhu hills ultra-marathon-75km
  • 1st runner-up at the Half Iron Man-1.9k swim, 90k cycle and 21k run
  • 2nd runner-up at the Spirit of Wipro challenge-10k
  • 1st runner-up at the IDBI spice coast-42.2k

What were your goals before the start of the race and how thrilled were you on achieving them?

Unlike other ultras, where one drives to the start line with fresh legs, I had to trek for 11 days from Lukla (2860m) to the Everest Base camp(5364m). That meant 4-6 hours of walking on any given day over various terrains, including steep hills, high suspension bridges, and rocky paths. The trail is as tough and challenging as they come. Despite the trek being so tiring and difficult, my mission was bigger than just reaching the EBC. My mantra was to take one day at a time because overthinking can dilute the joy. The Everest Extreme Ultra Marathon wasn’t just another adventure race. Honestly, the magnitude of the achievement has sunk in only after all the love I received once I was back home.

What inhibitions or roadblocks did you face within yourself and from people back home before starting out on this adventure?

There were no roadblocks that i faced from anyone. Though I must agree, it involved a lot of planning, working from home and of course, I had to figure out the finances too. At times, people around me had more confidence in me than I had in myself and I’m truly blessed for that. Whenever I prepare for a race, be it a 10k or an Ultra, I do not have an iota of a doubt if I should or shouldn’t take part in the race. I do my research, train well, and prepare both mind and body for the big day. On the race day, I never forget to thank God for bringing me to the start line. During the race, I listen to my body (never push beyond what I can), because races will come and go, but I am precious.

Please tell us more about the Ultra Marathon?

Sir Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa summited the Everest on May 29, 1953. A competition is held every year on the same day and this started from the year 2013 to commemorate the event. The Extreme Ultra-Everest marathon is considered the world’s highest running event, which also includes half and full marathons. The Extreme Ultra starts at EBC and goes through five Himalayan passes.

There were around 200 runners and high altitude trekkers from 30 different countries across the world. I chose to run the 60k of ultra-running bliss. The undulating terrain, the rarefied air, cold winds, the moraines, steep inclines just make this race all the more challenging. The day temperatures were -1degrees while the night seemed like -30degrees. A mock race is organized a day before the actual race to check if the entire path is clear for runners.

In the next part we will learn about how Deepa equipped herself to run this challenging course. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

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The Accidental Cyclist

Our Guest Columnist, Super Randonneur Satheesh Tawker talks about his motivation to keep bettering the quality of every ride.

My entry into cycling was accidental. I had gone to my cousin’s home and saw my nephew’s cycle gathering dust and casually asked him if I could borrow it. He immediately obliged and there started my cycling journey. Cycling is something that I feel gives me my space and “me” time during the solo rides that I do. The other motivation is that I like to test myself on my endurance levels with each event and see how far I can go. This has pushed me to better myself as a cyclist with each challenge I take up. Recently I completed my second 200 km and 300 km events, having done similar events in 2017. Each ride is different when it comes to experience and to put it simply I would call each ride nothing short of awesome.

Training for a ride

Having started in such a casual manner, I have never formally trained or followed a specific schedule to get better at my passion. I have always worked out to stay fit, first at The Unit and now with the Quad. Being fit and strong overall has helped with cycling as well. Nutrition is something that I have started focusing on in the last two months with a specific focus on the quantity of food I eat and the balance between proteins and carbs in every meal. My nutritionist gets a daily food log of everything I eat – down to the last morsel and suggests changes to the same. Being conscious has helped me drop about 6 kgs in the last two months with little effort. Before that I was a believer in the statement that I have worked out today so I am entitled to eat what I want. I don’t think I will propagate that philosophy anymore.

On becoming a Super Randonneur

Recently, I have earned the title of Super Randonneur. This title is bestowed to a rider who completes a series of brevets ( 200, 300, 400, and 600 KM) in the same year. Each ride has a specific time frame for completion and the rider has to complete the ride within this stipulated time. There are various control points during each ride and rider has to reach all control points within the stipulated time frames.

I became aware of such a challenge only after a year of cycling. When I learnt the details I was excited and wanted to get that title. I rode regularly and covered at least 40 to 50 km on alternate days and a minimum 100km on weekends. Fitness levels were taken care of as I used to workout in a boot camp three days a week. I also took training at ProBikers for basic repairs such as changing tyres and tubes of my cycle and addressing minor issues that could happen during the ride. The clincher was me being able to find a riding partner who matched my wavelength and my pace and we have partnered for all the rides. We used to do a recce of the route a week before to figure out places to eat, rest, etc and planned the ride well in advance, taking into account the chances of unforeseen incidents that could occur. It would suffice to say it was a lot of planning, a perfect riding partner, sleep management, mind over body, hydration, nutrition and enjoying the ride, that mattered more than the outcome of the race. This attitude helped me become a Super Randonneur today.

My next Big Challenge
My target for this year is to complete a 1000km ride.  The mind over body and sleep management part will definitely play a big role . In all probability its unlikely I will not find a partner for the ride and that would mean riding alone for the entire stretch which will be tough. So currently I am doing a lot of solo riding to get used to that possibility. Hopefully, should be able to make it .

What keeps me going?

I believe that nothing is impossible. When I did my first ride never did I imagine I would come so far in my cycling journey! Ability to manage challenges on your own , learning that beyond a point it’s mind over body, learning to trust yourself, being aware of your limits, trusting your ride partner, taking it one km at a time and to keep pushing no matter what are some of the lessons I have learnt which is applicable even in my day to day life. The family, especially the wife reacted really bad to my cycling. She was convinced that endurance was not my game and I should stick to 100km max. I had to get a full physical done ,multiple cardiologist opinions to certify that I am fit, in order to get her approval for my 600km last year. Despite that she was present at the halfway point to see for herself whether I was fine . She still disapproves of my long rides but with less force than what it was before.

I had tried my hand at running and did a 10km run but running does not give me a high as cycling does . But then have my eyes set on a full marathon in the next one year. I enjoy scuba diving if you would call that an endurance sport and have dived in many locations across the world with my son.

A word for Newbie Riders

For a Newbie I would advise them to take it in stages starting with small rides and gradually increasing the distance and getting to understand how their body responds to various ride conditions and speeds. A good night’s sleep is a must. They would also need to focus on their fitness levels if they plan to do consistent long rides. I have always tried to be helpful to other riders in the group and have always helped and guided anyone who asks for it. There are professional coaches for riders who want to up their game.

Being consistent is the most important thing for riding and if you are consistent then nothing can stop you from achieving the impossible.

GUEST COLUMNIST

 

A banker by profession who recently quit the corporate world to appreciate life a bit more.Scuba diving and the outdoors are where he feels at home if he isn’t cycling.

 

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Testing Endurance Limits

In conversation with Jobi Vijay who is pushing her limits of endurance in cycling, with Nandini Reddy

Cycling is a fun activity for all of us as kids but today it is one of the most sort after endurance sports that many people are pursuing. The challenges have grown and distances like 100k are becoming the new normal. Jobi Vijay, a fitness enthusiast is on a new leg of fitness by challenging herself for 200k cycling challenges and she shares her story here.

When did the cycling bug bite?

I used to cycle to school during my school days. After birth of 2 kids realized wanted to get back to shape and be fit. During 2014 joined a running chapter called Tower Twisters a CR chapter in Anna Nagar. They had cycling for cross fit in their schedule every Friday. That is where I fell in love with cycling again. Got cycle as my birthday gift and I haven’t stopped cycling since.

How do you train for your cycling?

I don’t do any specific training schedule for cycling. I try to cycle whenever possible and don’t follow any strict schedule. My strength and endurance improved automatically after I started to train with ‘The Quad’. I have to thank all my coaches at Quad it’s because of them I am stronger and could perform better now during my long distance cycling challenges.

You just completed two 200 km night cycling challenges, can you describe the experience?

Riding 100 km was an initial challenge to me. I have ridden only a maximum 60 km per day. I always wanted to try BRM since 2016. When I completed my 100 km as a test for my muscle endurance I gained confidence that I could attempt the 200 km ride.

My first 200 km was WCCG 200km night ride. The first challenge was riding in the traffic of GST road along with other buses, lorry and two wheeler who were speeding. It was really very scary when big buses sped past you narrowly. While most of them gave way for the cyclist there were people who show their attitude by not giving way or not slowing down for the cyclist. The next challenge is that we had to plan our pit stop to refresh ourselves and fill our water bottles with water. There were places where we didn’t have any shops for nearly 50 km.  The advantage of the night ride is riding in the good climate since the day time is too hot to ride during the summer months.

My 2nd 200 km ride was my first BRM ride. It was a village ride. Initial 45 km on the OMR was a killer with head winds. I could only average 12-15km her hour. I lost my energy and got severe cramps. I wanted to quit but managed to push myself and completed my ride. Riding inside village near Thirukazhukundram was an awesome experience with less traffic. Though it’s painful, challenging, tiring to ride long distance after the completion of our ride what we have is wonderful experience joy and satisfaction.

What is your take on safety of cyclists?

Safety is an important issue in the Indian Scenario. I always made sure that I ride with in groups so that we could support and help each other. I was shattered knowing the death of a fellow rider due to hit and run accident. Though it pulled down my confidence, the quote that kept me going is ‘Stop being afraid of what could go wrong and start being excited about what could go right’. The funniest part is the people who question us asking why we are riding. At pitstops we get asked a barrage of questions about why we cycle such long distances.

What motivates you to keep challenging yourself as a cyclist?

Riding cycling is a low impact endurance workout. It’s really awesome to ride early morning in fresh air along the beach looking at the sun rise, admiring the nature.  Long distances are challenging which helps us to push more and more and help us to perform better. It takes care of my health too.

What sort of nutrition schedule do you follow pre and post a big event?

I usually follow a balanced meal plan with complex starch, veggies and proteins for every meal. Pre event I make sure that I hydrate well with tender coconut water, electoral and more water. I eat more carbs for energy before and after my ride like curd rice and idli. I eat chocolates for instant energy during my ride.

How does you family react to your cycling endeavours?

Initially my family was bit hesitant in me cycling long distances. After my 200 km ride they are bit confident and also encourages me to ride and practice regularly before I ride any BRM events.

Is there are target you are trying to achieve this year?

I have planned to complete my 300km, 400km and 600km during this year and become a Super Randonneur.

What other endurance events have you participated in?

I have not participated in any endurance event other than cycling. But I intend to do more challenging cycling rides. I also wanted to train for Frisbee. I have run more than twenty 10 km marathons and a couple of half marathons.

What life lessons have you learnt from cycling?

Never Quit. You can do it. Overcome little challenges to achieve success. Set up small goals and achieve big things. These are the quotes which I encounter during cycling

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

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Moving from 10k to a Half Marathon

Our guest columnist, seasoned runner, Anjana Mohan talks about how to transition from 10k to a half marathon

Doubling the distance you run poses similar challenges regardless of whether you’re a first time runner, a regular fitness runner, or an ultra-runner returning after a break. The biggest difference between those who have done 21.2km before and those who haven’t is simply the conviction that they can. Structure your training to slowly increase your endurance from 60-100 mins to 120-200 mins of higher heart rate activity. Those with prior experience in any continuous activity for 2-3 hours will find this jump easier than those who have to train for this in slow increments.

There are 5 major components of incremental training:
1. Learning to run longer
2. Training upper body and core muscles to support the longer runs
3. Understanding & serving your nutritional needs
4. Rest, recovery & life balance
5. Building mental toughness and practicing commitment

Many can and do get away with just the first component, allowing the other 4 to play out haphazardly through their preparation. While the first is a minimum, and with 10k training you may have gotten away with considering nothing else, a half marathon necessitates conscious attention to the other four. Training programs typically address the technical fitness components (muscle fitness, endurance), but the runner must self- address the logistical and mental aspects (Scheduling, prioritization and commitment). Nutrition, rest and recovery may or may not be addressed by technical training and require your maturity and body-attentiveness.

Training to run long distances
Training for longer distances can be achieved by running 3 days a week including a weekend long run (10% distance increments per week). While possible to substitute a cardio workout for 1 of 3 weekly runs for the same duration, it is more beneficial to add 45mins of cross training per week like cycling or swimming. Adding 1 to 2 gym sessions for lower body bulk muscles as well as upper body can yield amazing benefits of strength for any athlete and is highly recommended. And finally building and strengthening core muscles is a basic necessity to maintain positive form & avoid injury. Add 10-15 minutes minimum ab-work to runs or gym days as many times per week as possible. Rest is the most overlooked component of training. Plan this mental and physical recovery and muscle building necessity into your life. With anything less than 7-9hrs of unbroken sleep, you will perform sub-par, feel fatigue and be more prone to injury.

Mindfulness running

Runs longer than an hour need re-fueling en-route, and greater attention to protein and carb intake during the week. You should try, practice and experiment with these during each incrementally longer run and incorporate them into your training. Similarly, practicing positive thinking, and actively training your brain to believe that you can complete your distance and working to do so without quitting for each workout are the reps your brain muscle needs to learn to become familiar with that flex.

Runner’s mind- Understanding the end goal

Most runners find that signing up for an event keeps them focused to train towards that target. However, you may enjoy the longer runs and find yourself training towards a sustained higher base mileage that goes long beyond a single race. A structured program will typically have you peak and taper towards the event but as you get about three quarters of the way into your distance, you should consider what you want your post-race running to look like.

Understanding why you run and what you get from running will help you develop your running maturity and balance it with your life priorities. Seek to develop a sense of conviction for your own reason to run – be it for health and fitness, sense of achievement, recognition, competition or just the endorphin joy of each run.

Moving from ten kilometers to a half marathon isn’t about distance, it is about a new threshold of fitness in your life, learning how you want to sustain and fold that into your new normal, and believing in yourself.

GUEST COLUMNIST

 

Anjana started running in the U.S. in 2007 and has helped mentor many from couch to half marathon. She is passionate about empowering women through running and now runs in Bangalore with Jayanagar Jaguars

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Breaking through the wall

Our Guest Columnist, Shailja Sridhar shares her thoughts on how to break the wall during a marathon.

“Hitting the wall” means running out of energy during a race. Another word commonly used for it is “bonking”. It can happen during any endurance event but most commonly used for marathons. Scientific research says that we have only about 1,500/2,000 calories stored as glycogen in our muscles and liver and it is usually over by 30 kms and then we are dependent on other sources of energy. Glycogen is a form of glucose stored in our muscles for energy. As fat metabolism requires more oxygen and takes more energy, we cannot depend on it during a race. It becomes impossible to sustain the pace if one is trying to burn fat as a source of energy. The only option is to ensure that the body is supplied with an adequate amount of simple carbohydrates and sugars to supply energy to the muscles. Proper nutrition prior to the race is necessary and so is carb loading before an endurance event to ensure that we have sufficient glycogen stores available for us during the race.

Experiencing “The Wall”

I had my first encounter with the dreaded Wall in Tokyo Marathon 2017. I started out too fast thanks to being in the sub-elite corral along with some really fast runners. I began to pay for all that initial enthusiasm after 30km. My legs were cramping and my pace became slower and slower. I had to dig deep and really push to finish at the same time as Mumbai Marathon 6 weeks ago, which is pretty bad considering the nicer weather in Tokyo. It was a good lesson for me and made me realize that even after 10 marathons, I had a lot to learn. There are myriad reasons why one hits the wall between 30 and 35 km and one of them is starting out too fast. Also, the glycogen stores are totally depleted by then and if the race nutrition has not been systematic then there is no energy left for the final push.

Here is why runners hit the wall –

 Lack of proper nutrition:

We need to consume carbs regularly and from the initial part of the race. It is not right to wait till one feels thirsty or hungry because then it’s already too late. The body needs to be hydrated and supplied with fuel from the beginning so it’s good to try and ensure that you get some sports drink or simple carbs at every aid station. Initially one does not feel like drinking water or consuming anything because it feels unnecessary. One has to remember that waiting till later will not help but hinder the race performance for amateur runners. I am not talking about the professional runners who are used to a very hard training regimen and different conditions. Even the professional runners have their race nutrition planned in advance and always remember to consume sufficient amount of calories to ensure optimum performance. A race is not the right time to worry about sugar intake but work at getting those simple sugars so they hit the bloodstream quickly. Candies, chocolates, juice, dates, sports drinks, bananas, oranges, potatoes… anything which can be eaten easily and digested quickly is good. Gels are popular amongst runners as a quick source of energy but we have to remember to consume water so it can be absorbed by the body.

Running at a fast pace:

Starting out at an unrealistically fast pace which is not sustainable for the entire distance is a common amateur mistake and even the best runners are not immune to it. A consistent pace during a marathon is desirable but not always easy to manage. Enough of us have made that mistake during races thanks to the initial excitement during the event. It is difficult to hold back but we must if we want to manage the entire distance without bonking. I have realized this after so many marathons that we can’t bank time for the latter part by running fast in the beginning. It will almost always have a negative impact on the finish time. It is hard but one has to control the pace during the initial part of the marathon to ensure that we perform well at the latter stage. It helps to do training runs at a progressive speed so one gets used to it. If we start slow and finish fast during the training runs, it helps us train mentally for the race.

Mental fatigue:

Our brain is there to protect us from harm and can trick our body into feeling tired even when we have enough energy to go on. Our brain is a big consumer of glycogen and also needs to be supplied with energy. A sports drink is the savior in this case too. Also, there are various mental strategies runners use to distract themselves during the race and it would be good to practice a few of those during long training runs. Reminding oneself to stay in the present and repeating positive statements is extremely helpful and can help one push through the wall. Positive dialogue, when practiced regularly, becomes a habit and can help us during the race. Mentally breaking down the race in smaller parts and dealing with them separately also helps in managing the distance without feeling overwhelmed.

Hitting the wall is not the end of the race and we can push through it with some simple strategies. Firstly, consume simple sugars regularly during the race to ensure we have enough energy to sustain the pace we want to maintain. Second, maintain a steady pace as starting out too fast will burn up all the glycogen stores very quickly leaving us feeling drained of energy. The third and most important part is to stay positive and have a never give up attitude because it will help us through the ups and downs of the race and keep us motivated.

Always remember:

  • Carb load before a race.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Stay positive.
  • Start slowly during the race.
  • Remember to consume enough simple carbs during the run.
  • Listen to your body.

GUEST COLUMNIST

 

Shailja is a mother of 2 kids and a part time model for a sustainable brand close to her heart called www.kinche.com. She’s either running after the kids or running to stay sane..

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The King of the Spin

The king of clay has conquered it again, Capt Seshadri takes at look at the Spanish Armada.

I’m the king of the spin, the tennis VIP

I’ve reached the top and I just can’t stop

But that’s not bothering me

Rafael Nadal Parera, king of topspin; emperor of clay; ruler of the baseline. Simply ‘Rafa’ to the world and to a zillion fans, a Spanish Armada all on his own. Current World # 1, acclaimed as the greatest clay court player and one among the greatest tennis players of all time!

Rafa has several unique firsts to his credit. At age 31, when most players on the ATP circuit have retired or announcing it to the media, he is still number one. Never one to accept defeat lying down, he has bounced back from holding, losing and regaining spot numero uno in the same year, thrice in his career so far. No one else has even done it twice. Tenacity is second nature to him; dropping the top spot seemed so temporary, as he regained it four times in non-consecutive years.

His record speaks of his insatiable hunger to be the best there is. Member of the Spanish team that has so far won the Davis Cup four times… in 2004, 2008, 2009 and 2011. 32 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles and 20 ATP World Tour 500 championship wins. Olympic singles gold medallist in 2008. Career Grand Slam at age 24 in 2010. Seventeen Grand Slam singles titles comprising three US Open wins, two titles on the lawns of Wimbledon, one Australian Open and of course, the seemingly unbreakable record of 11 championships at the French Open, at his happy hunting ground of Roland Garros.

Known as much for his wins as for his injuries and remarkable recoveries, Rafa has a history of pushing himself to his limits and beyond. His resilience to overcome them and the mental strength, as much as the physical, is a story by itself, an example worthy of emulation. His swagger onto court with his bulging biceps and his ‘long’ shorts barely hiding his superb quads and hams would probably be more reminiscent of a gladiator than a tennis player. So, what is the secret behind his spectacular physique and his recovery from constant injury?

To keep in form and on top of the game, Rafa plays four hours of tennis a day. Sprint training being essential to a game like tennis, where footwork is of prime importance, he uses the running machine to develop his lower body and to improve agility. He is a great believer in the ‘vibrating platform’ which works wonders on his flexibility and his strength as well. This machine contracts the muscles 30 to 50 times a second! Combined with a massive amount of stretching and periods of rest, this appears to be the secret to his quick pain relief and recovery from injury. Resistance bands, rather than weights, front bends, push ups and pull ups and parallel bar dips, are the routine that help him build and maintain muscle strength through all the hard work on court. And, like every master sportsperson, Rafa turns to the swimming pool to get the best out of water resistance to both strengthen and relax muscles and to improve stamina.

For a world champion, Nadal, astonishingly, has no fixed diet plan. An advocate of fresh green vegetables, grilled chicken and fish, he confesses to a weakness for pasta and sushi; but his patriotism towards all things Spanish reflects in his food too. Indulgences towards sweets, chocolates and savouries once in a while are balanced out by intensive training and cardio workouts.

Rafa, during his brief periods at home, lives in a five storeyed apartment in Mallorca. As a boy, he was a great fan of Goku, of the popular Japanese animated series, prompting an article on him as the Dragon Ball of tennis. When not pounding furry yellow balls on the courts, Rafa loves playing golf and poker.

To millions of Indian fans and especially to the residents of Chennai, Rafael Nadal will always be remembered as the handsome hero at the ATP Chennai Open, with his flowing locks, trademark headband and colourful attire, a tennis Adonis who won their hearts as much with his looks as his devastating brand of tennis.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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Record Breaking Running

The TCSW10k saw some new records this year and Deepthi Velkur gets the insights from Procam. 

Bengaluru hosted the 11th edition of the TCS World 10K which is completing a decade this year and is quite a sought-after race in the running world. Approximately 27,000 runners took to the roads to participate in five different race formats. The event offers an unmatched race experience for elite and amateur runners alike. The race was also special because of the all-woman pacer team that was leading the runners.

The Elite Athlete 10K saw 105 athletes from India and all over the world competing for the gold. It included 63 male runners and 42 female runners.

The Elite International Men’s category saw Geoffrey Kamworor (Kenya), securing his third win with a timing of 28:18 mins. Followed by Ethiopian’s Birhanu Legese (28:38 mins) and Mosinet Grimew (28:39 mins). The Elite Indian Men’s saw Suresh Kumar and Man Singh (both at 30:12mins) lead the pack followed by Shankar Man Thapa at 30:41 mins.

The real stars of the show were the female athletes, with all the three international elite podium finishers breaking the previous course record that was set by Lucy Kabuu in 2014. Kenya’s Agnes Tirop and Ethiopia’s Senbere Teferi broke the course record with a time of 31:19 mins and 31:22 mins, and a close third was Kenya’s Caroline Kipkirui bagging the bronze at 31:28 mins.

The Indian sensation was Sanjivani Jadhav, who broke the course record after a period of 9 years, with a time of 33:38 mins.

Swati Gadhave and Kiranjeet Kaur took silver and bronze, completing the race with times of 35:08 and 35:25 respectively. The last course record amongst the Indian elite women was set by Kavita Raut in the year 2009 clocking a time of 34:32. All three women showed immense passion and a quest for victory that propelled them forward.

Overall, the runners actively talked about how much they love the TCSW10K as an event. Monika Athare, a former winner of the run and a veteran athlete mentioned that the facilities and the treatment the athletes received at the TCSW10K is unparalleled and that she loves coming to Bangalore to run. Geoffrey Kamworor, who bagged his third win at this year’s race stated that he needs to fall in love with the marathon and the course to do well, which is why Bangalore is one of his favourite cities to run in. Additionally, Sanjivani Jadhav talked about how she specially spoke to her coach and asked if she could come run this year, because she loves the city and the course.

Commenting about the record breaking timings, Procam representatives said, “Having all three women smash the event course record shows the dept of the elite field and the fact that Bengaluru is a flat and fast course for athletes to clock their personal best.  What Sanjivani Jadhav has done today by creating a new course record and a national record is truly remarkable. Her zeal and determination is something that’s wonderful to watch and it motivates other runners to do better and come back stronger. We hope to see her and all the other athletes come back next year, where hopefully more records get shattered, because that is what they are there for.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

 

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