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Man, Bike, & Scratch

First thing first, “scratch” is not the name of a dog. No, that is a mark acquired on the body. And like a friend of mine said, it apparently “builds character”. I guess it does, because when your body is marked in many places, it does tell something about you. Good or bad, is all in the eyes of the beholder, as they say.
Being an avid runner, actually compulsive and insatiable seems closely appropriate, i was told recently by more than one doc, to temporarily stop running. The cause, some inflammation in my spine. Actually it was more harsh – one doc said, “you can’t run anymore”. As he said these words, i thought i heard “you have cancer”.
I tried debating him, “i have been running for 13 years now, i can’t just stop”. He countered by threatening me with more dire diagnosis, if i insisted on continuing. “You have foot drop syndrome”. WTF ! Do they make up these things? Of course my foot drops, when i want and where i want it. There are fixes – surgery in the spine is an option. And then he quickly adds, “there is no guarantee, it may fix it, it may not”. I thought a plumber or car mechanic said such things.
I know people get very anxious about surgery, in general. But surgery in the back/spine, can freak people out. I am sure i can safely include myself in that list. First thing, its in your back, you do not get to see what the surgeon is fixing. Second thing, its like you are fixing a robot/android or something; “Ok! I have swapped out the spine card, and plugged a new one. You are good to go. This new one comes with a 2 year free repair and maintenance”.
No surgery for me either. While i dont mind giving it a shot, there are options. I am working on the other possibilities to fix the muscle weakness problem. Meanwhile, without running and my other exercises, i had been feeling like a vegetable. My son does give me a workout once in a while, although he is like a chiropractor on a hyper dose of adrenalin. Save that, i even took a rest from tame walking, because of “giving my back some rest”. Well its been almost 6 months, and i thought let me pick up some other sport which will not put that much stress on my back.
I don’t know why, maybe because of my school mate who is into cycling, i bought a bike. So here i am biking and in the process, burning my ass off. Calories, i am not sure off. Its been only about 2 weeks. I was pretty much biking in the neighbourhood here at Mclean, VA. I have been thinking of repeating this process when i fly back to India. My lifestyle requires me to duplicate these material things in India and the US, or look for suitable alternatives. This long weekend i discovered the trail – W&OD Trail. Long one. Really long one – 44 miles or so. First day on the trail, 14 miles. Second day, i repeat the same distance going the other way.
Now i am more experienced, and riding better. No that i am new to biking. I literally grew up on a bike. Actually many of them. I rode one  every day, to school and college and all over the city, then Madras, for almost 5 good years.
Today, while riding, i am on a good clip, coming downhill, not very steep, but sloping down nevertheless. I am keeping pace with two other fellas. For whatever reason my bike wanders off the trail, and within seconds, i am cleaning the dirt off the grass. My helmet saved my head and face, altho’ i don’t recall if they did make contact with mother earth. My knee did. My shoulder too. The cool thing, was the blood rush to my head. I was like a zombie, when a good samaritan on the trail, picked me off the ground. “Are you ok?”. Off course i am ok, i am not going to capitulate now. My body is bruised, my ego is not.
My bike drew first blood. I thought i had full control, in this battle of wits. But my bike was smarter. In an effort to save itself, it threw me off the saddle and survived the incident with as little as some blades of grass and earth stuck on the brake handle. My good friend helped me and my bike to a nearby bench (lucky him and me). Am sure he must have muttered to himself as he saw me take a dive, “Whats he doing? I don’t see the swimming pool”. I sat down a few minutes, watered my wound and let my ego rebound. Quickly converted this foolhardy experience to a “been there, done that” acumen.
What have i learned? I will fall off the bike, and get hurt, when i go riding. Will i be more careful, the next time i go biking? Of course i will. Will that stop me from doing stupid things like; taking a selfie, drinking water, letting my eyes wander, wipe the sweat of my eyes, all while riding? Of course not. Will i fall again? Most likely yes. Will my biking affect other people? Most likely, some kind human being will get an opportunity, to help me off the ground and take me to a bench, scoring him/her brownie points.
If you have reached here, you must be wondering what is so important here. The most important thing, i got out this? This blog. I had been starved of thoughts for a while, as you can tell. Now i have this. Thanks again for reading.

Chennai Marathon .5

The Chennai marathon or actually the half-marathon was an eye-opener for me. This was my first attempt at running a long race. I had run 5K (5 km or 3.12 miles) before in the US. I had run 10miles, altho not in a race, on two earlier occasions. So this was going to be tough, but turned out, not what i expected at all.

This was also the first race, i was participating in India, and so it offered opportunities to compare between races in the US and here. Well, this makes sense today, only because the organizers were trying to break the Boston Marathon record in terms of participation.

So the marathon got off to a funny start, with the MC messing up statements in both english and tamil. It was quite funny, and it helped tho, easing all tensions one would have had running a big race. There were about 3-5 of us, really enjoying this chap and his comments. Then the guests, chief and otherwise, all added their bit of spice. Since things were comical now, anything anyone said seemed funny. What a mood to kick off the race.

We started off, a little after 6:30am. There were huge number of people, and being one among the crowd it was difficult to count. My race took me exactly 3 full hours to complete. I couldnt take the heat, after crossing the 9km mark, and having had a bottle of water, i was also feeling heavy. I quickly slowed the pace, and was soon walking. Once you are in the almost given up state, it is difficult to get the body to kick start again. And i never did. The heat only added ammunition for my body to fight of any remaining will power. I was reduced to walking, jog, walking, jog, for the remainder of the 21km.

A few good things about the support structure that helped the race. There were cops all along the route to help keep things under control and help with traffic and pedestrians etc. There were also limited but essential first-aid counter, specializing in physio-therapy etc.

Now the bad. Not a single portable toilet at the start or anywhere on the route. It is rare that you would need to piss when you are perspiriing, but still biology is biology.
Very limited water. The sun was up by 6:45, and shining hard. Water was plentiful in the beginning. It vanished from the 5K point till about the 8K point. Then there was far and few. It may also be, that they were only serving the ones that were doing good pace. Because as i was running i did see signs of water (bottles,caps,sachets etc), but no one around serving any more. By the time i was doing the home strecth from about the 15km down, water was completely missing. By now, the sun was bearing down hard. No wonder that there were more people breaking down and seeking help. More ambulances flying back and forth.

All in all, it was a pleasurefull personal experience. However, i wish the organizers of the next one take more care.

Running around..

Today was supposed to be just another day. Well given it was sunday morning, it wasnt meant to be another day. I got up early to do my usual run. There was a plan to ride/drive to the beach (Gandhi Statue) and run along the marina. But since that plan didnt work out, i was to follow my usual course and may be run a lil longer. Even before leaving the house, i was planning or thinking of some variation, but my body was showing the usual signs of lethargy. The challenge is usually, until i wear the shoes. Once armed with the shoe, the final piece of the armor to be fitted, the mind wins over the body. There is no more struggle, atleast to get started.

As soon as i stepped outside my house, i knew it wasnt going to be the normal run. I started from my house in Gandhi Nagar, with the intention to run about 3 miles. But when i started running and crossed the first kilometer mark, i knew this was going to be long. I decided to run till the marina, which was about 7 km from home. It wasnt a breeze, but this wasnt something new to me either, and so with a little bit of huff and puff i managed to run upto and beyond the Gandhi Statue at the Marina. Along the way, i noticed a lot of water stands, cops, and finally notices/hoardings indicating a race today, another ‘Chennai Marathon’.

This is the about the 3rd time or so, that i am running thru town, to find that there is a race that day. I am not ready to run a marathon, but usually these have smaller races too. I guess its a matter of time, before there are regular 5K, 8K and mini-marathons in the city. Running along the marathon course, only energized me more. I arrived at the statue without major complaints from my body. I then decided to run some more.

So i took a left turn and continued running. This time, i wasnt sure how long. I was thinking i will run till i come across an empty auto (auto-rickshaw/mini-cab), and then get a ride home. I was covered in sweat, so i wasnt sure how these chaps will react to me getting on. Luckily my feet was feeling comfortable, inspite of the run so far and i kept cruising on. I ran on till the Music Academy junction at Alwarpet, before finally deciding to changing my stride into a stroll. That would have been a total of about 9K, i think? I will hopefully drive my car to get an accurate distance reading.

I walked till the Hanuman temple at the Alwarpet. The temple has become pretty famous and draws crowds all the time. Small temple, owned by the adjacent bank. I quickly paid my obeisance. I picked up an auto right outside to get a ride home. I was impressed, not because of the distance run, i have done that before. But i always wanted to run thru’ the city, and this was a first for me. Now this will enthuse me to attempt this run or similar runs thru town.

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