This blog as might be apparent from the title has to do with running, biking and basically other outdoor individualistic sports, sometimes extreme, such as rock climbing . But don't be surprised if you find articles on work, personal life, music and even philosophy, this blog is an exception in this aspect in the blogosphere of running blogs and I am trying to revamp the blog to make it more runner friendly. You might want to look at the sidebar titled 'categorised', which as is obvious, categorizes my posts into different areas of interest.
The other thing that might interest many people is a section on 'running videos' and 'general videos' on the side bar, which I keep updating now and then.
I plan to bring in more posts on running and biking, with some added colour, so as to make them 'complete'. That's about it for now.
As a post-note, I have run a half-marathon, but I am yet to attempt a marathon, which through some concerted effort and time should happen in the future, but that ofcourse is not the culmination of this blog, it would on the contrary be something to jumpstart this blog onto new vistas.

Saturday, April 29, 2006


90 kms. Chennai - Mahabs - Chennai. Cycling. 4 litres H2O. 4 hours riding. 4 1/2 hrs journey. Left leg screwed. Sunburnt. Rocking Rhythm. Negative split. Curent feeling: invincible and tired. Same time next weekend.

Heat training

Sometimes certain races demand that you not only train for the distance but also for the hot and/or sultry conditions during the race. Some extreme examples of such races are the bad water ultra and furnace creek cycling race, both held in death valley.
Staying in chennai right now, I can definitely assert that though I am not training well by running regularly, I am definitely heat training(by just sitting in my room) big time, what with day temperatures soaring to 42 C(108 F). The 42 degrees doesn't actually underestimate my heat endurance training because the humidity, which is more than 50% has also to be factored in so that the apparent temperature seems more like 46 C(115 F). Anyway, one more month here and I will be ready to tackle marathons like Chennai Marathon(which is held not so early in the morning and under humid conditions) or even the badwater, if I were to be fit enough for the distance of 135 miles which ofcourse, I am not.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Wondering what that means?
The mystical non-sensical word can be disintegrated into three distinct wordlets: bark + bad + mar.
All of the three wordlets are acronyms for three fascinating words in a runner's book.

bark - barkley a.k.a The barkley ultramarathon
bad - badwater a.k.a The badwater ultramarathon
mar - simply Marathon

While 'marathon' is self-explanatory, and I have gone over the glories of the bad water , I haven't yet touched upon the so called barkley ultramarathon. If badwater marathon is one of the toughest foot races on earth, it is complemented by the barkley marathon with a 'toughness' that is redefined. Though the temperatures in the barkley race aren't extreme at the higher end of the celsius scale, they could be extreme at the lower end with bizzare weather that characterises this race.
The 'bark' race held in the frozen head state park, Tennesse, consists of a basic 20 mile loop that is run 3 times so as to complete a distance of 60 miles for a fun run(that's funny in what sense, I wonder) and 100 miles(5 loops) for those who complete the fun run within the cut-off of 36 hours.The 20 mile loop consists of 10,000ft of ascent that traverses 13 climbs which have their own unique names to signify the intensity or a particular characteristic of the climb! Little hell for example has a climb of 430 metres(1230 ft) in over a kilometre(25 degrees grade); while Big hell has 490 metres(1600 ft) climb in over 1.2 kms(23 degrees grade).

The course map

The 100 miler which is 5 loops has a 60 hr cut-off averaging 36 min/mile!
36 min/mile is surely no big deal you think, so even I think. But the race statistics go to show that not many finish 60 miles of the race and only a very very lucky few finish the 100 miles in under 60 hours(55 hours earlier).

The frozen head state park where the race is held

This makes us pose the question as to what makes it so tough for runners to not be able to run faster than a 36 min/mile or 3 kmph(!!!)? The answer - the course itself
complemented by an equally mystique weather. The race director, surely has to be appreciated for coming up with such a race, that tests not the running capabilities of a participant but his survival skills out in the course. No wonder this race has come under some amount of criticism from road runners, who can't see the point of running or not running a race. But, you got to be there on the course, to appreciate the
colossal difficulty in overcoming over 52,090 feet of ascent in no small grades. This race is more of an extreme rock-climbing, mountain hiking genre cocktailed with the 'ultra' factor. If you can have running the ultra way, surely you can have extreme mountain climbing/hiking the ultra way, so thought Gary Cantrell. People find multi-lap ultra races with little or no elevation changes tough to compete and complete, what to say about multi-lap races where you gotta do a lot of hiking, climbing that burns down the thighs of the participant as he goes about figuring out the first mile of the 100 mile race, let alone the rest of the 99 miles. Anyway, since I haven't participated in the race, I will not further elaborate on this race from a personal perspective.

The history of the race is pretty interesting too. The course is situated close to Brushy mointain prison,which housed infamous criminals like James Earl Ray accused of assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. As it happened, James escaped the prison and was running around in the Frozen Head national park, Tennesse for more than 2 days, but when he was caught later on, it was found that he wasn't more than a few miles away from the prison!

This ultra race has the notorious reputation for giving the most DNFs(did not finishes), even to accomplished ultra runners with an impressive record, who attempt it as just another ultra race, only to discover that this race is a one of its kind xtreme endurance event. Though the race started in 1987, it found its first 100 miler finisher in 1995! Since then, there have only been three more finishers, bringing it to a total of 4 finishers in 18 years!
A similar extreme mountain climbing/hiking/running race is the Nolan's 14,
where 14 fourteeners(peaks with a height greater than 14,000 ft) are scaled in colorado with a cut-off time of 60 hours and a cumulative ascent of 45,000ft, but unlike the Barkley race, there are no DNFs in Nolan's, only DNSs(did not starts)!

Sunday, April 23, 2006


The author of the book, UltraMarathonMan, seems to be on a mission to complete 50 marathons in 50 states of US in 50 days. That is real crazy considering that sane people may not run more than two or three marathons per year to allow for enough recovery and to have a good race.

This ultra-crazy runner, who has been on David Letterman's show, has also run 560 kms non-stop in around 80 hours and has won one of the toughest ultra marathons(any race that has a distance exceeding the marathon i.e. 42 kms 195 metres) on earth - The Badwater ultramarathon(whose course starts in the Death valley, CA at 85 metres below sea level and covers 135 miles before finishing near the top of Mt. Whitney at 2533 metres asl) in 2004. The badwater ultra is an unforgiving brutal race subjecting runners to temperatures that are as high as 55 degrees celsius in death valley during mid-day to near-freezing temperatures at the top of Mt. Whitney.
Not many (<100 runners) participate in the race and those who complete it have something to really brag about(even if they finished last), while those who win it, well, might as well consider it to be a diamond-studded crown among their running achievements.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Crazy night

Yesterday was one hell of a crazy night. I had slept for 5 hours in the afti, as I hadn't slept at all the previous night. And despite the afti sleep, I felt sleepy around 11 in the night. And to my utter delight, I drifted away into blissful sleep as soon as I hit the bed, only to be woken up at 2 in the morning by the music emanating out of my neighbour's room. This is crazy I thought..this guy for the past one week has been going to bed by 1 am, why did he not have to sleep today at the same time? The vagaries in sleeping time induced by the thesis submission date looming indeed....Anyway, I couldn't go back to deep slumber after this interruption.
So now, I thought...what do I do? Suddenly, a crazy idea came up to my mind. Ofcourse, cycling...What else would you do in the dead of the night if you weren't sleeping and didn't know what to do - That's what my mind suggested. It also justified saying that after a bout of good cycling, it would be fresh for further activity(Read: work). I consented.
But where was the destination to be? Why not try Marina Beach, besides you haven't been there since two years, right? Right... It wasn't a bad idea...All right!, I was set to go to Marina beach at er...2:30 in the morning...all by myself.
The route was as follows: tharamani gate - ascendas - tidel park - tiruvanmiyur - indira nagar - adayar signal - adayar bridge - santhome road - mandevali - lighthouse - marina beach.
The going was without any incident, I was having a good time taking in the air and the sights. The occasional sweepers on the road, the ocassional dog in the middle of the road and ofcourse, the occasional vehicle to pass by me.
I parked my cycle opposite the police head quarters, which I must say looked impresive with the front facade in the spot light and the two gates guarded by two police guards. The round-thana or rotary in front of the building and in the middle of the road was circumscribed by a row of cat's eyes( reflectors), that blinked similar to the decorative lights at a marriage function. As I headed towards the beach, I looked to my right and noticed the lighthouse in its full splendour and admired its functionality.

The paved path that I took towards the sands made me intercept and avoid sleeping dogs and men(oops..a policeman). I got down the steps and walked across the road that divided the foot-path cum garden from the beach. The sands at the beach were well-lit by a towering light post behind me. As I stepped foot into the sands, I could faintly hear the rumbling waves in the distance and with each step into the sand, I realised how much I had taken people for granted. There was not a single soul on the beach and the funny thing was the further I proceeded into the beach, lesser and lesser light was cast on to the beach and the roar of the waves ahead were getting louder. It seemed as though I was making my entry into a sinister, dark place full of shady happenings. I halted my ever-slow jaunt many times and looked around carefully, gripped by some unknown fear (fear of what I didn't know..I think it was more to do with the massivness of the ocean which seemed real and alive as indicated by its deafening roar), for signs of life..any life. A crab that scurried across in front of me made jump. Whew! Only another 50 metres to go and I would be standing face to face with the ocean, whose waves glistened white in light of the gibbous moon. There were also an arc of ships to my left that were sparkling in a myriad combination of colours and their staticness in the sea seemed strange to me, as though they were observing the uninvited visitor to the beach.

Finally, I had made my way with all the courage that it had taken me, to the edge of the beach. I stood there, partly apprehensive and partly in awe of the ocean. The fishermen's boats that were parked on the sand, near where I stood, didn't help reduce my tense demeanour. Two minutes, my mind told me..Not more than two minutes and you are out of here. I didn't wear a watch. I didn't need one, for the very sound of a motorised boat that was running parallel to the beach around 50 metres away, made my imagination run amok. I had had enough. I was off the beach in no time.
Looking back, I think I was a little too paranoid and imagining things but then you never know!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Gaming addiction

Heard of booze addiction, fag addiction and dope addiction. New to gaming addiction ??
Its the new addiction to hit the stands, atleast in IIT. Its been around for 2-3 years and is rapidly increasing its hold on potential addicts.
So what are these games anyway? These are not your typical computer games; solitaire, hearts,minesweeper, etc. These games are technologically very advanced, they involve the best graphics available to give the game a 3d and realistic feel and most of them work in real-time. Many of them require a high level of skill either in terms of speed of action or reaction, or test your strategy and team-building skills. I am starting to sound like a company's job profile requirements, but there are jobs which pay you to play online against other online players of these games, but that's an entirely different story altogether.
32bit graphics card, pentium IV processor, 512 MB Ram and a good sound - system (for the effects) seem to be the minimum requirements for these games( atleast the latest ones).

So the standard games played here are quake, AOE(Age of empires)II or AOC(Age of conquerors) and counter strike. Though quake and counter strike are more popular, AOE has its own dedicated gumbal who play 4 vs 4 team player over the lan an average of 6 hrs a day. Whew, that's quite a lot of time you say! I am not much familiar with either quake or counter-strike, but I can say for sure that I was an AOE addict in my
3rd year and 4th year.

In my 3rd year, I was introduced to this game and man did I love the campaigns (AOK and AOC). They were so full of stories, real stories of many great war heroes who were on a mission to conquer some territory or region across the world. Some notable examples being El Cid, the spanish hero; Frederick Barbarossa, Atilla the Hun (Huns are my favourite civilisation, seconded by franks), Joan of Arc and Salauddin. My only refrain is that there could have been campaigns of some Indian kings like Akbar, Tipu sultan , etc included in the game.

The game is so addictive that I have uninstalled it, after getting frustrated by my having to waste a lot of time on the game, only to install it back again in a few hours. I remember doing this cyclic process n(n>=5) times on a few days. I have grand-slammed(missing four slots of classes in a row) on many days during this sem. Come fourth year and I realise that career priorities are more important than recreational ones and that my cgpa has dropped notches below what it was only because of this sole addiction.

So, I slowly weaned away from this game and finally quit Aoeing sometime during the beginning of last year.
Though the withdrawal was painful, I gritted my teeth and trudged away from this path to insane gaming and eventual insanity and have never looked back since!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

S&M - Chapter 1

If Chapter zero was a statement made, Chapter one is a preamble to the genesis of the statement.

Two days before the trip, I was skeptical about making it. People who had committed to come to the trip had now declared in an equivocal style: "I am not sure I can make it". Ofcourse, you don't have the time or wait, something new came up all of a sudden and you were caught up attending to that job. Ofcourse...

Thus, the original five guys had gradually collapsed to the current three of us who were presently committal to make the trip and understandably, I had lost faith in the freakiness of the trip. I decided to pack the trip, but my friend, who had sound 'mallu' connections, mentioned that he had got the rooms in the resort at Nelliyampathy booked and travel arrangements had also been made..'Now you can't back out, I have put so much fight da', he pleaded.
The good-natured guy that I am, I couldn't ditch the trip now, so I resigned to my fate, but then I thought I could do a last hitch attempt at getting more guys to come to the trip..Well...I convinced two guys the day before the trip telling them that it was going to be the 'trip of their life', 'some exotic adventure in the God's own country'.

The next day brought in more trouble as these guys(the two so called convinced ones) weren't ready to make the journey as they were scared of making the onward journey by bus, and that we(the three of us) would have a comfortable one travelling by train. I saw only one way out here: I asked one of them to take my seat and berth in the train and I along with the other guy would make the what happened to be a roller-coaster ride in the bus.
Well, now we were five in number. The sixth guy seeing the situation to be a favourable one( gumbal formation), said that 'He was going to make the trip after all'. Nice..
I wondered if we were one too many now. Anyway, that was the pre-trip hullaballoo that took a lot of my time as I had assumed the role of the the unofficial coordinating guy for the trip.

If the train journey, that three of the group made to palakkad is assumed to be a non-undulating, more or less smooth comfortable path from start to finish, the bus-journey we undertook could be best described as a sinusoidal curve that had its gigantic ups and colossal downs. The state of sleeplessness we realised could be fun and also a pain beyond a point.

We experienced a slice of life, so to speak as we went from the highs: the awesome fart session(topics including our good old philosophy, a whole new perspective on the meaning of the word perspective, on when people are actually busy and when they fake to be so, etc) of a duration of more than six hours( a pr for me), the clear star-studded sky viewed when we got down from the bus at a railway crossing in the bus journey from Chennai - Salem; to the lows: rickety bus and bumpty bump roads (Salem- Coimbatore) plus the inability to satisfy our basic needs as we made the final lap(Coimbatore to palakkad) of the seemingly never-ending trip. The lack of sleep also took a toll on us as we left from palakkad towards the eagerly-awaited Nelliyampathy a.k.a 'Poor Mans Ooty', around 2.5 hrs drive from palakkad, later on in the day.

While the train journey had taken only 9 hrs, the poor unssuspecting 'us' had assumed it would take 10 hrs by bus for the same distance. We were grossly mistaken, as it took a long 13 hrs to reach the destination. , more so because we had taken three buses to make the onward journey, a distance not more than 500 kms.
Though our plans were partly spoilt, we found out later in the day, that we were to have the wildest time of our lives in the form of an evening outing metamorphosising into a scary early 'night safari', which shall be described with a few other events in the next blog, hopefully.

Monday, April 10, 2006

What ails the B.Tech programme

The other day, I had a four hour long discussion with my guide which touched upon the usual project stuff(lasted no longer than 20 minutes) and also on some serious issues that are of immediate concern atleast in a timeline stretching into the next 5-10 years.

Let's look at the life of a person who gets into IIT. He has a basic interest in maths and sciences during the school days and hears of the word IIT somewhere in his 7th or 8th class. Now, over the next two years, he may or may not be motivated by his parents and cousins to aspire for iit or could also be self-motivated, so that after completion of his 10th, he is clear of his goal in life and gets enrolled in a coaching center or may subscribe to correspondence courses towards the attainment of this goal or may prepare on his own. The next two years may entail some real hard effort on the part of this aspirer, but along the way he acquires a real love for maths, physics and/or chemistry as the case maybe, so that the hard effort is not all that bitter and in most cases may actually be enjoyable and exciting.

So far so good. Now he appears for the jee entrance and with a little bit of luck in his favour (the luck here being proportional to the effort put in over the past two years), he clears the entrance and gets into one of the IITs, into one of the branches, chosen by him as what seems to be the best of the available branches during the time of counselling.

Having gotten into the portals, he is in awe of the IIT campus and remains so in a dazed state for a few weeks...till the time he realises that the course schedule for the sem is a little too taxing and that the dreaded workshop seems too tiresome or that there is something known as the 'quizzes'. First year passes by quickly, those lucky enough end up with a good gpa, those not, don't know what hit them and have to settle for less.

Second year sees the guy carrying forward the enthusiasm shown in the first year and those raring to climb up the cgpa ladder do so by becoming 'muggus'. Others find that it doesn't entail much effort to get through the sem and this is realised that the system..the B.Tech system can be beaten easily...all you gotta do is mug some days before the quiz and you get the grade accordingly...

Beating the system is all about putting just enough effort for a course so as to secure a certain grade. So apart from attending classes, our guy doesn't seem to be doing anything thought-provoking or interesting in the technical realms.

By the start of the third year, having been around for two years, our guy starts bunking the classes big time, but ofcourse there are people who would still be in the race for grades and hence would fall under the 'muggu' category. What happens in the fourth year is better left unsaid...

Having put in considerable effort in the pre-jee days, it is sad to note that only a fraction of that effort and enthusiasm is carried forward in the post-jee days. Agreed, college days are supposed to be fun, but then fun can be had doing stuff..interesting projects, new ideas, research work, a first-hand attempt at
advancing the realms of technical know-how.... research.

If during jee prep., the existing knowledge in physics and maths seemed interesting to know about, how exciting would it be to add to that knowledge base, contribute in your own tiny way so as to expand that base..wouldn't that be a good aim or an outcome of a B.Tech system....Well outstanding research is not expected, but then the faculty of thinking which somehow seems to have become dormant after entry into college, needs to be propped up through courses which are designed in a way that fulfill this purpose.

The system, to which the students get attuned to by the end of second year, brings about resentment for courses which require some amount of work(read: thinking and effort ), as against courses where everything is laid down nice and pre-mixed food: Put the contents in a bowl of water, heat it a little and it's ready for consumption.

There is too much perceived stress on the attainment of good grades. Grades are important, but it may hinder the enthusiasm shown by a student towards interesting projects for the lack of time due to his committment towards mugging for the other courses or the already ingrained attitude of beating the system(maximum result from minimum effort).

If grades were subject to de-emphasis and more importatnly, the courses were designed to make the students think in an out-of-box fashion,it would go a long way into ensuring that the purpose of a B.Tech program gets served by making more students inclined towards research(having had some exposure to it) at the end of a B.Tech program. If the redesigning of the courses leads to less content being covered, then the B.Tech program which is currently a four year one could be extended by another year. We already have a 5 year integrated program, which seems much better than the 4 year B.Tech program as it gives the student a full one year to do some serious research and contribute positively to the advancement of research in the institute. Increasing the number of students in the integrated(dual degree) program
would also help the cause.

Kennenisa Bekele with the WR

Robbie Mcewen and steve o'grady - The 'Nudge'