Thursday, October 26, 2006

How I ran the marathon - Part 1

Yes, hard to believe isn't it? If someone had brought up this possibility a few years ago, I would have laughed it off and questioned his/her sanity. But on Oct 22nd, I successfully ran and completed the Chicago marathon. Please don't ask me what my timing was. Baguth bad! My excuse is that I was carrying an injury, and the race time was the last thing on my mind. I just wanted to finish it and get the damned medal.

Here is how the race unfolded...

Oct 21st dinner (eve of marathon) : Accepting the gracious invitation of G and ~ET~, we (Spicetooth, Funkaboy and I) made our way to their place in downtown. Stopped at McCormick's place to pick up the raceday stuff (t-shirt, bib, timing chip etc.) and went with the guys to Dinner at Pegasus, a classy restaurant in Greektown.

Oct 21st midnight: Been trying to sleep for an hour, but the incessant noise and partying in the next room was keeping me awake. Jay as usual was in his elements, getting bitch ass drunk and raising hell. The efforts of everyone else in calming him down was to no avail. Finally, I had to tell him off and they called it a night. Or did they? The horror stories about what happened later that night were recounted to me later, and they still come back to haunt me in my dreams! They are blog posts for another day.

Oct 22nd 2AM: I've never been able to sleep if I knew I had to get up early for something important, like catching a flight, diwali or exams. So ofcourse I lay awake. Add to that the noise that the toilet flush was making. For some reason, it wouldn't stop. The wastage of water bothered me as much as the noise.

Raceday 5:20AM: Was actually relieved to get up and get going. A quick shower and other race day preparations followed. You don't want to know my routine. Let's just say it required applying 'glide' to unmentionable parts of the body to reduce friction and chaffing and putting band aid on my nipples and ... ok, I'll stop it.

Raceday 6:30AM: We were dropped off at the Charity village near Millennium park, where Spicetooth and I made our way to the ASHA tent. The previous night had rained cats and dogs. The lawns were slushy and the whole area was a mess. And it was friggin' cold. 38F with a scheduled 45F high. That's 4C. With the windchill near the lake, it was definitely feeling like subzero. Hands were getting chilled, and I was terrified to take off my track pants (had shorts underneath). Caught up with some running buddies, did some stretching and took some photos.

Raceday 8AM: The race got underway. Was planning to run with another guy at the same slow pace, but lost him in the crowd even at the start. But the atmosphere was electric. People were pumped up. Music was blaring. And the wind was chilling us to our bones. With more than 40,000 people running the marathon, it took around 25 mins for us to even reach the starting point. It was funny to think that the Kenyans would have already completed 5 miles by the time we started :) The crowd was cheering us on loudly, and I had goose bumps. Never felt anything like that. And then, I was off on my first marathon...

Look for Part 2 of this post where I describe the actual run in more detail.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Chicago marathon - ARE YOU READY???

Months of preparation, shin splints, recoveries, iliotibial band injuries, breaks, suckall weather, rainy days, busy days, lazy days, new shoes, millions of gatorades, introspection, repentance, encouragement from friends, support from outsiders, unexpected donations to my cause and a few other episodes later... yeah baby! ITS CRUNCH TIME!!!!!!!

The Chicago marathon is slated for this Sunday (Oct 22nd), and yes, I am running it.

I'm still not confident that I'll complete the Chicago marathon. When I started serious running a couple of years ago, I suffered from shin splints. There's a big ass bone running on the inside of your legs between the knee and your ankle. With the constant pounding while running, shock waves travel up this bone, weakening it and causing inflamation and acute pain. So I did some research and realized that the main causes were bad shoes and improper running style. That's when I got my first pair of New Balance shoes. I also realized I was landing on my heel and that's not really recommended. Slowly, I changed my running style to land on my foot. Its a lot more smoother and painless. Result: No more Shin splints.

A few weeks ago, after I ran my 15-miles, I couldn't get rid of the pain around my ankle. Heeding a fellow runner's recommendation, I made my way to Runner's High, a specialty runner's store in Arlington Heights. The saleswoman, a marathoner herself, asked me to walk around and inspected me as I did. She told me I had a habit of pronating my feet a bit on the inside when I land my feetand she produced a pair of NewBalance shoes that has extra cushioning for people with this problem. Result: Ankle pain disappeared.

It was the weekend of a 14-miler. I was running with a group of ASHA runners when I started feeling a slight muscle strain in my left thigh. Shrugging it off as a temporary glitch, I kep running. And the pain got intense. Around the 9-10 mile mark, I could not run anymore. Even walking took a lot of effort and I limped my way back to my car. I was told that I had an iliotibial injury, commonly referred to as the IT band injury. These are a bunch of strong muscles that run along the outside of your thighs connecting your knee with your torso. When these muscles tighten from the run, they start pulling at the knee causing excruciating pain. Once you stop running, the pain automatically goes away only to reappear during the next run. Apparently, this is one of the most common injuries for runners. that did nothing to cheer me up obviously. So I researched some more and talked to fellow runners who've been through this. I started a series of stretching exercises and applied icepack regularly. After almost a 2-week break, I decided to risk it and complete the longest run in marathon training - a whopping 20 miles. The injury did show up, but I managed to combine a lot of walking with my run and somehow managed to complete it. That has given me a lot of confidence. Result: Hoping to atleast crawl to the finish line on Sunday.

In the meantime, this year has been the busiest of my life by far. This was the year that I made the commitment. Yes, i'm soon tying the knot with my best friend of 7 years. In the meantime, I'm also applying to Business Schools for a full-time MBA starting Fall 07. Targeting 5 schools in Round 1 is not easy, and its been a whirlwhind of essays, recommendations, e-mails to friends and cry for help. Meanwhile, at work, I've moved into a position where I'm leading a project and managing a few people. As you can see, training for the marathon has taken a lot of commitment. There's a lot of wedding planning I need to be doing at the moment. But considering my other commitments, my girl W has been incredibly supportive. During my weekday runs, she gave me company on her rollerblades and kept me motivated. When I came back home after my run, tired and hungry, she had delicious food on the table and even an occasional beer.

I'm immensely grateful to all those people who've contributed to my ASHA cause. You've really made all this worthwhile. I'm very close to my $1800 goal, and am hoping to reach it very soon with my Seattle friends pitching in at the last moment.

Here's a funny personal story by funkaboy about running.

Here's an inspirational video about what a marathon actually means. And finally, I leave you with this incredible video on the Chicago marathon. I don't care if you don't click on any other link on this blog, please click on the second video on this page (The LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon Highlights Video). 40000 runners and around a million supporters and watchers on. This promises to be the adventure of a lifetime. I just hope I'm left standing at the end of it all. And 30 years later, when I have my grandkids on my lap and recount stories from my life, I can say "Yes, I ran the Chicago marathon"...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Why not a boy amma?

Was talking to my cousin Sugan in CA the other day. She recalled an interesting encounter with her 4 yr old son Shreyas. Sugan has been frequently reminding him that Karthik uncle and W aunty are soon getting married in India. So Shreyas wanted to know what a 'marriage' is. Sugan sits him down and explains how when 2 people love each other, they want to spend the rest of their lives together and have kids and all that good stuff. At the end of her lecture, Shreyas comes up with the next question "When am I getting married amma?" in that cute kiddo American accent. Sugan smiles to herself and tells him that once he grows up like Karthik mama, she will find him a very cute girl.

And now for the clincher! What do you think Shreyas' follow-up question would have been? If you haven't guessed already, please refer to the title of this post.

I was rolling around with laughter while Sugan was cursing herself for settling down close to SFO. She's probably hoping Shreyas chooses the fireman costume over the fairy costume for halloween. Ah! kids these days...

Disclaimer: Not that there is anything wrong with it!

Monday, October 02, 2006

The flight that never was

I've been thinking about my fllight to Philadelphia for a while now. I'd informed my friends in Philly that I'll be landing there this week, and had sent one of them my flight itinerary. Yesterday evening, I started getting mentally prepared for my flight journey today. After the football game (Go Bears!!!) and 3 beers at a friends place, I came back and dutifully pressed a formal shirt and a pant. I got up this morning, packed my bag, wore jeans and t-shirt for my afternoon flight (its normally business casuals at work) and came to work. I was going to leave at around 2 to the airport. Just to be on the safer side, I sent another e-mail to my Philly friend reminding him about my visit and asking him where he should pick me up.

His reply came instantaneously:
is it today / tomorrow, your ticket says tuesday oct 3rd :)

That's when I actually looked at my e-ticket. There it was, in big bold letters. Departing Oct 3rd (Tuesday). I am flying tomorrow, not today. After all the packing and mental preparation and informing my team-mates, I was just going to be in Chicago.