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.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

On work place, work ethic and productivity

Since I am working a tad over what I normally do(which isn't much anyway), I thought why not dedicate a post to 'work'. So here goes....

First my work. Usually involves some thinking, scribbling, model formulation, coding, some thinking again, hazzar debugging and finally hazzar more debugging. There's the data collection part too, but that's best left alone.

Here are two places I can possibly work:

1) My good old, a little too comfortable but shabby looking room.
2) The department computer facility at the civil engg. department a.k.a the dcf.

Next lets look at the configurations of the computer/computers in my room/the dcf:

a) Room: 2GHZ, 256MB RAM, 17'' "normal" monitor

b) Dcf: 3GHZ, 2GB RAM, 19'' flat LCD screen

Does something seem strikingly different? Before you jump to conclusions, there are only 5 comps of the type b amongst the 30 odd comps in dcf.

The little work that I have done over the last one year untill recently(read 3 weeks) was mostly in the confines of my room and even that happening only when the quarterly evaluation seemed looming and menacing a week or two before the evaluation date. So my work over the last 10 odd months can be best described as a series or sequence of dirac delta functions(a function defined as a very high value at a single point and zero else where) with an even spacing of 2 weeks between consecutive functions. The spacing depicts the lack of any above-subliminal work productivity. Another point to be noted is that, the word 'work-ethic' was unknown to me during this period.

Now, if you are wondering as to why I was dumb enough to continue working in my room given the obvious lack of productivity, all I can say is working in dcf never occurred to me as a feasible option. I thought it to be a pain to take all the necessary stuff(codes, books,etc) and haul my lazy self over a distance of 2 kms and back everyday. Plus, the 5 hifunda comps had arrived just a month back, therefore I was oblivious to the allure of them beauties.

So what did it? A sound threat cum chiding cum lecture from my prof about a month back. I am thankful that hapenned for that lead to the discovery of the newfound land..err workplace.

Since I stepped foot into the dcf with the sole purpose of improving my productivity, my non-existent work-ethic transformed itself into a scheduled work routine. The past three weeks saw me getting up at around 12 noon, having grub and going to the dcf by around 2-3 pm and working at a reasonable pace till 12 midnight, after which I would laze around on the net or give some thought to the next days work before crashing back at around 4 am. I can't suppress myself from delighting on the statistics of the marginal work productivity increase. The average 'work hours' went up from (2 - 3)hrs/day to (8-9) hrs/day, an average improvement of around 250%. The highs and the lows were around 12 hrs and 6 hrs respectively, the lows being during the weekends when there is a tendency to unwind, let-loose, watch a couple of movies and fool around and the highs; well that's interesting, the highs came around the middle of the week(when I am due meeting the prof) when the realisation hits you : 'There is so much more to be done and so little time left'.

What is the single most important factor that affected the change in my productivity? I had say, a dedicated ac-encapsulated work place lacking the comfort of a bed to laze around but full of like-minded research scholars egging each other on from slumping into this affirmation: "I know, I know fully well that I have got considerable work to do, and it's not that I am dis-interested either, it's just that I am unable to check myself from continually monitoring the arrival of my next mail, scrap(orkut), offliner or blog comment; leading to a loss of focus and a consequent terribly average day!"

Saturday, May 27, 2006

When I cry

Tonight was a very rare momentous occasion, an occasion akin to a Halleys' comet sighting or the occurence of a Tsunami, a once in a lifetime event; an occasion when I felt like crying. The reason for this spectacle was that my frustration in life had reached the zenith and needed an outlet. I simply wanted to have 'it', but ofcourse it wasn't possible. I had just gotten up from a dream where I was relishing a simple south indian meal - Radish sambar rice and aloo curry; nothing more nothing less.Why can't dreams, being almost as real as real life, not be filling I thought.
I had had a light early dinner tonight and was facing the consequences now. The RR caterers at Narmada for vacation mess are doing a pretty decent job with great aloo parathas on tuesday nights and dishing out the best 'mess' lunch I have had in my 5 years here.The sambhar at dinner tonight was comparable to a home made 'mouth-watering' one and that was the reason for my usually dreamless sleep invaded by inviting culinary sights and aromas. Luckily and thoughtfully, I had bought a packet of 'hide and seek' biscuit after my dinner, just in case, and that was the only thing I could munch at 1 in the night. Granted, it can't replace drumstick sambhar rice and curry, but it will atleast let me go back to sleep with or without dreams.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Reservation gimmick

This topic seems to be the one that is hotly debated on currently and rightly so. The bottom line is that reservations should be made on an economic basis rather than splitting the society into the ones who are over-fed and well-kept and those who have to fight hard for their daily meal.
The AIIMS doctors have done a great job in keeping the protests high and making clear their demands of eqaulity in reservations. Their propaganda through online forumns like blogs, orkut have to be realy appreciated. The protests by the IITs hasn't been as forthcoming but today there was a demonstration for an hour in the evening near Chepauk, besides the signature campaign and protest march held inside IITM held last month.

I have personally observed that people who come into IITs through the BC quota really struggle to keep up in academics through out their stay of 4 years. Despite undergoing a PC(preperatory course) for a year before enrolling into the first year, most of them have a tough time understanding what's going on during the lectures and this consequently reflects in their grades and GPAs. I rememeber a friend coming to me during the second year to know how to integrate a mathematical expression. Having cracked the JEE, one should really be thorough with the basics of calculus, but this doesn't seem to be the case with those who come in to the IITs through the BC quota system. How then is the purpose of providing premier education to the so called down-trodden served by admitting students through quota into universities like the IITs?
And it is also a fact that most of the quota seats are unfilled.By doubling the reservation to around 50%, most of which wouldn't be utilised, I don't see any meaningful purpose being fullfilled other than increasing the angst of the people who appear for the JEE and narrowly miss a seat that was lying awaste in the quota category.

In a country where there are millions of people who are unable to pursue primary education and secondary education due to economic constraints or are afforded with a poor quality of the same, it is sad to see that those who are pro-reservation haven't noticed the root cause of the problem or are oblivious to its existence. The only way to uplift the 'down-trodden' is by ensuring that students at the primary and secondary levels are provided with quality education so that they are at an equal-footing when it comes to competing for the seats of engineering and medical colleges at the under-graduate level. Having done this, if there is still a need felt to reserve seats for students in colleges, then that should be done on a purely economic basis since castes in contemporary India are a purely symbolic and historic division of the society with no 'economic factor' attached.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Usher in the ultras

Looks like we are entering a new phase in distance running with two official ultra races being organised this year in India. The dates are tentatively scheduled to be on 15th August and 23rd August 2006. I say tentatively, because the organiser for these races is the same as our good old Bangalore marathon(which has been postponed from May to August this year) organiser, Coindia. I wonder if they have the technical know-how to organise an ultra race such as the 24hr track run and the 10 day race at Bangalore and Mysore respectively. Without strong guidance from an established ultra runner/runners, these races are sure to be an organisational flop. Ultra races are a different ball-game because the aid stations(which would have the necessary food/health drinks/water) have to be operated 24x7, unlike in a marathon where it would be a 5-6 hr affair. Also, medical assistance is of great importance on the track, for the body when subjected to great stresses during these races may not behave predictably. Ideally, these races are best organised by experienced ultra distance runners; but given that this is a fresh start, Coindia can be given another chance to prove that it doesn't goof up on a regular basis.
On another note, it would be interesting to see the number of people who participate in the 24hr track race(from India) and the crazy insane 10 day race, which I am sure would be left alone by most Indian runners. According to Arun Kumar Bharadwaj(who might do the 10 day race), a participant in the 10 day race has to cover a minimum of 42.4 km(106 laps) per day so as to stay in the race and cannot be away from the track for more than 8 hours. That's like running atleast a marathon a day for 10 consecutive days. Whew!!!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Road rash

I had been to my relative's place today morning. Had some fun time there during the day. When the time approached for my departure, my relatives graciously offered to give me a lift back home, so that I could pick up my cycle a few days later.
I graciously declined, declaring that it was fun cycling on main roads. Then they offered me a piece of advice on how to be very cautious on the roads and to stick to the left of the road, etc. I nodded my head(in agreement ofcourse). On my way back I stuck to the traffic rules, especially the one about overtaking from the right. Yep, I kicked some serious ass tonight. The lack of traffic on the roads at around 9 in the night did help me get from ashok nagar through kathipara junction to cancer hosptial, adayar(8 - 8.5 kms) in 16 minutes. I had some real fun watching the almost incredulous looks of some of the two-wheeler guys on the rajbhavan road. Overtaking autos on roads is not new to me, but hero-hondas, pulsars and the like, well, that was really thrilling!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Fanatasies in running and cycling

Here are some goals for the future I have in mind regarding running and cycling:

Short term goals :

1) Run a full marathon (ran a half marathon at thane in 2003) soon. Should probably do this in early september this year - Bangalore marathon(if everything goes right).
2) Cycle to pondicherry and back(280kms) in a single day (hopefully this month end/next month beginning).

Long term goals :

1) Run consistently and bring down my marathon time below 3 hrs in another 1-1.5 years
2) Get into ultra races (cycling and running) within the next 2-3 years
3) Run the badwater (135 miles) and bike the furnace creek(508 miles) - probably after another 5 years
4) Take part in multi day races like the Australian 6 day race...??(Just kidding)

I fantasise a lot. What's practical and doable among the above, I have no idea.


By the way, an Indian, Arun Kumar Bharadwaj had participated in the Australian 6 day race at Colac last year(2005) and placed 14th out of 36 participants. Kudos to him for inspiring people and for representing india in these ultra endurance races.

Here's what he had to say in a discussion forum about the race:

Yes, it is one of the toughest endurance races. On an uneven tough grass track (where grass disappears in a single day)I stood 14th out of 36 runners from 12 nations. In this event, a runner must have to complete 65 kms every single day to avoid elimination and cannot take a rest of more than 5.59.59 hours (6 hours is enough for disqualification). I have done 556.4 km, however my goal was to acheive 600+. But still it is a marvellous feat when considered that I could arrive at the race venue only 20 hours before the start, after no sleep for 48 hours. Took 24 hours from Delhi to Melbourne (including 12 hours on HongKong airport). No time to get acclimatised. And I was with no suport crew for first 4 days. Also, I am a vegetarian and it is not easy to get Indian food here.
Anyhow, I am satisfied with my performance produced in the given condition.
My goal is to cross 900k in six days and I will get it one day.
-Arun Kumar Bhardwaj

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Chennai - Mahabs Express (The full story)


It was 3 am. I was placed comfortably on the bed looking into space, looking no where in particular. I was thinking, deciding, looking at the pros and cons. In my hand was "It's not about the bike" by Lance Armstrong and I was more than half-way through the book. I had just finished the chapter that detailed his training for the 'Tour de France' after he had successfuly recovered from testicular cancer against a huge odds of 3% chance of survival. He had not only survived the cancer but was also becoming stronger by the day during his intense traning in france with a determintaion and dedication that was awe-inspiring.
In an instant I decided that I would go cycling to Mahabs, around 45 kms from here in another hour, notwithstanding the lack of sleep. Though this was an impulsive decision, the trip had been on the back of my mind since the past two days. This week seemed like I was getting inspired by a lot of people to do stuff that's crazy. The other day I was going through this blog and found it amazing that the blogger had covered Bangalore to Madikeri, a distance of 240 kms in a day(18 hrs). This made me wonder how much distance I could cover in a day. What about pondicherry, which is 140 kms away from here or a 280 kms round trip, I thought. Possible but very difficult, because of the headwinds to be negotiated on the return from pondy and of course the heat and humidity, the most important factor on cycling trips. Anyway, pondy seemed a long-term goal; for starters, I would have to see how I fared on a trip to Mahabs and back minus the sight-seeing, which I had done on the previous two occasions.

Keeping in mind the head winds and the heat during return from mahabs, I chalked out the following plan:

Scheduled plan of action:

4:00 am - Out the back gate
4:10 am - Thiruvanmiyur
5:10 am - Muttukadu lake (brief halt for catching my breath and also to taking in the sights)
The distance covered so far: 21kms from Tiruvanmiyur thus reaching The halfway point. The average pace so far: 21 kmph
Also I would be refreshing myself(just a sip or two) with glucose-laced water every 10 minutes so as to ensure constant hydration of the body.

5:20 am - Head off from Muttukadu
6:30 am - Reach Mahabalipuram town
6:30 - 7:00 - Breakfast and stretching for the return journey

Now, I have been on cycle to Mahabalipuram on two occasions and I have found both the times that the return journey is always more taxing and slower due to two reasons:
One, the head wind blowing along the coast that actually halves my pace(12kmph) and two, the moderately steep slope that I have to traverse for atleast 10 kms from Mahabs. Another disadvantage I might face is that my cycle, though faster on plain surfaces, is equally slower on uphills. Having even a 3-speed gear system would have helped lessen my effort and increase the cadence(wattage or rate of pedalling) and probably also my speed on uphill slopes. Lance Armstrong is said to be a high-cadence biker as opposed to Jan Ullrich, who favours high-geared biking and therefore a lower-cadence and I am a fan of Lance.

Anyway, due to the above disadvantages, I scheduled my return journey to be much slower:
7:00 - Leaving Mahabs
8:00 - 8:10 : Unknown stop somewhere in between Muttukadu and Mahabs
8:45 - Reaching Muttukadu
9:00 - Continuing the journey
9:30 - 9:35 - Stop near the toll-gate/uthandi
10:10 - Reaching Thiruvanmiyur
10:30 - Back in the hostel and crash max till lunch

Scheduled Stats:

Tharamani-----45------2.5 hrs--------18------45-----15

Mahabs -------45------3.5 hrs--------13------40-----10

Round trip----90------6.0 hrs--------15.5----45-----10

The trip:

Payanigalin kanivana gavanathukku. Vandi en pujyam pujyam pujyam pujyam(0000) Chennai lerendu Mahabalipuram sellum East-coast Mach Express innum sattranerathil 'Tharamani gate Platform' lerndu porapadum.

That in Tamil is a satire of how the commencement of my cyling journey would/might have been announced at the Chennai Central station!

Here's how the trip turned out:

4:25 am - Out the back gate
4:31 am - Thiruvanmiyur
5:31 am - Muttukadu lake

At this point,I was 20 minutes behind schedule. At some 6 kms before muttukadu, I met a guy called Chellapa - He had stayed in US for 30 years and was now retired. He was riding a 9-speed, 27 gear 'specialist' bike(aluminium frame) at a good pace. We chatted along till kovalam beach and I learnt that he trains 5 days a week along the ECR road and goes sometimes all the way upto mahabs. He was currently training for ride the rockies race in Colorado along with his brother whom, we intercepted as he was returning back.

It's really good to know that there are people out there on the road who are
training regularly either to keep fit or to do well in a race.

After a little beyond kovalam beach, I was on my own. My left calf muscles were giving me signs of wear and tear through the stiffness and pain in the left leg. Anyway, I was riding at a comfortable pace and somewhere around 10 kms from mahabs, I noticed that the sun was already up and as I looked at it,a crimson yellow, I felt lucky to be on the road.

6:40 am - Finally at mahabs.
I was very hungry and longed for a sumptuous breakfast. I headed to mamallapuram hotel and had idlis and pongal.

7:15 am - start of the journey back
Now, the sun was up and it was getting hotter and I feared the return journey. I was feeling sleepy and wished I could stay back in mahabs till the evening.
3 hrs I thought. I would struggle, fight or even yell but would not take more than 3 hrs to do that.
I started to focus and found rhythm and how good it was to be in rhythm. I was clipping a steady 25 kmph and feeling good. All that was visible to me was the road 10 feet ahead of me and I didn't need to fear the traffic since, I was within the safety of the shoulder.

8:01 am - Hitting Muttukadu. 26kmph avg speed so far..much faster than the onward journey.

After refreshing myself with biscuits and refilling my handy bike bottle, I left at 8:10 am.

The only thing in my mind right now was to reach back asap. I had already started to drip sweat
continuously and I kept sipping water every few minutes and cooled myself by wetting my
head and shoulders.

8:55 am - I hit thiruvanmiyur and I was pretty happy with the pace I had pedalled at so far. I had averaged 28 kmph from muttukadu upto this point.

9:05 am - Back in the hostel.

What was amazing about this trip was that, I had to face my worst fear - the return journey with its head winds and the sweltering heat. But it turned out that the retun journey rocked(thanks to the rhythm and the lack of head wind).

Actual Trip Stats

Tharamani-----45------2.25 hrs-------20------35-----15

Mahabs -------45------1.75 hrs-------26------42-----15

Round trip----90------4.0 hrs--------22.5----42-----15

Kennenisa Bekele with the WR

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