Where do we live ??

January 30, 2009

The line “Where do we live ?” is a quote that comes in a James Patterson novel. What intrigued me the most and the reason the quote has stayed in my mind long after I finished the book is the answer – ” In your head”. I read and reread the quote and couldn’t help but admire the simple eloquence. I realised the truth of this statement even at that point and subsequent events have only reiterated the power of this statement.

In one of my posts, I have admitted my passion for running and something that happened to me when I was road running in Goa and the subsequent conditioning of my thoughts that made me realise the truth of this statement very clearly and without any ambiguity. The last time around that I was in Goa, I was keen not to miss out on my running which I otherwise do on the treadmill at home. I was also keen to do the round around the lake that overlooks Arco. Arco is located on one of the lake banks. However, the road that one needs to take to do the run is a lot longer and does not follow the contours of the lake completely. Actually but for about one km or so, the rest of the route meanders into the village church road, state highway etc and comes back to the lake bank very close to Arco. The whole distance is around 2.3 odd kms with about 0.5 kms around the lake. It is a very scenic route and you pass the local chapel, quaint old homes and miscellaneous shops. The traffic on the road is next to nothing. I did the rounds a couple of times and I developed my own milestones along the 2.3 km route.

The starting point obviously was the Arco main gate. Then I do about 0.5 kms and I lose the view of the lake. Another 200 metres and I get to the local school (this is the point where I hit the state highway). Another 100 metres and I am in front of the local chapel. Depending on the time of the day, I also get to see a few road hawkers peddling their wares. Then there is a lonely stretch of sorts which has a slight gradient. At some points along this stretch, to my left, I can catch glimpses of the lake. By the time I come to the end of this stretch, I would have completed approximately 1.7 kms of the 2.3 kms round. Here I take a left and get onto the road which will finally take me back to Arco as well the stretch of road along the lake bank (or should it be lake shore). This stretch has a fair number of small village houses, old deserted (they looked that way to me) Portuguese style homes a couple of small hole in the wall shops etc. But most critically for me is that fact that at around 2.10 kms I hit Carvalho’s Nest (refer one of my earlier posts which my ode to this cute little watering hole). Once I get Carvalho’s Nest in my sight, I know that Arco is only about 200 metres away. The couple of times that I did this route, I did 2 laps which translates to around 4.6 kms of running.

Now, coming to the whole point of this post, after I came back to Goa, this route has stuck in my mind and subconsciously each time I hit the treadmill it plays out in my mind. One of the drawbacks of treadmill running is the monotony of the whole thing. The landscape, the environment, the weather, etc remain the same and you have nothing much to egg you on other than the odometer and the timer. But after my road running in Goa, I tend to kind of keep track of the distance covered more in terms of the earlier mentioned milestones and landmarks along the Arco route. I keep telling myself, for instance, that I am 200 metres from the chapel, 100 metres from the school and, most frequently, that I am so much away from Carvalho’s. So each time I hit the treadmill, I am reliving the Goa road route around Arco. And the real revelation for me has been the fact that all this happens very subconsciously and I need to actually need to consciously pull myself back to reality. I need no further reaffirmation of the fact that one does indeed live in one’s head. I have read Hayden and Dravid talk about the powers of visualisation. I guess this is the closest that I will come to in terms of experiencing what they feel when they relive a perfectly executed cover drive or a brutal pull to mid wicket to chivvy them up before a match or whilst trying to overcome a difficult patch. How wonderful would it be if I had other experiences in my head to help me get through the myriad other daily routines that I go through, especially at work !!. Even more relevant for me to be able to do this is to have a bank of positive, uplifting memories that you can fall back during times of strife and despondence. Like most things in my life, easier said than done.

The long minute……

January 12, 2009

Time and tide wait for no man..........

Time and tide wait for no man..........

To my limited knowledge, the best way to understand how long a minute lasts is to push oneself physically to the limit or be exposed to extreme danger. I cannot comment on the latter having led, by and large, a very protected life, but I can to a fair degree, thanks to my running talk a bit about the former.

As we skim and skip our way through life, what we do not realise is the value of time. To me, the quantum of time that has been and is being, for want of a better word, “wasted” is revealing only when I push myself to my physical “limit” whilst running. Typically my daily routine on the treadmill goes something like this. Start with about 3 minutes of walking, then hit the 8.8 to 9 kmph mark and kind of remain there for the remainder of the time and finish with about a minute of crawl at around 3.5 kmph. Most of the days, by this time, I would have realised how different each minute on the treadmill feels. A minute when I start is the kind of minute that I go through for most parts of the day. It is a minute as I have always known it to be, the way we use the term figuratively and that period of time expires, well, in a minute.

Then the run, assuming 9 kmph is a “run”, changes things a little bit. I was once told by my dear friend, Dinesh, who has since become Diinesh that running 4 kms in 30 minutes is considered a kind of threshold for reasonable fitness. I have taken this as gospel and these parameters are stuck in my mind. Invariably, even after so many kms of running, I see 30 minutes/ 4 kms as my first goal. After the 2 – 3 minute warm up at about 6 kmph, i move onto 8 kmph (I have progressed to 9 kmph these days and today in fact I raised the bar to 9.5 kmph, wow!!!). The next 7-8 minutes pass off pretty much ok. I do not feel any significant incongruity between my perception of time and what is reflected in the timer. This is when things start getting a little fuzzy. It also depends to a very large extent as to how I feel about my body that particular day. There are days when I am determined to do well and there are days when I am tentative. The 20 minute mark is kind of an inflexion point. Each minute starts getting longer and the disconnect between my perception of time and the reality reflected by the timer starts widening. Remember the Dinesh aphorism that I mentioned earlier. This starts playing on my mind and by the time I cross the 20kms mark, I have started a sub conscious countdown. The next 10 minutes is broken down to 600 seconds which are further broken into sets of 50 seconds. On days when I really need to motivate myself the sets could be as small as 25 seconds. Believe me all this is at a very sublimal level. All this happens irrespective of the cricket that I am watching on TV or the music that I am listening to. The minutes become agonisingly long and the disconnect continues to widen. At times, I feel that I should have consumed about 30 seconds by the timer insists that it has only been 10 seconds from the time I stole the last furtive glance. I steel myself not to look at the timer for at least another 30 seconds at least. Lo and behold, the next time I look, the damn thing has moved only another 15 seconds. This goes on and I wonder about how much a second can stretch in one’s life and make even a minute look like eternity. It also reflects the fact that if we give it our all and push ourselves to, and hopefully beyond, our limits lack of time is hardly an excuse that can be bandied about. In the sequence of my running minutes, I inch my way to the 30 mins mark. By this time I am down to counting down the seconds and the exhilaration that I experience is beyond my powers of articulation.

And then, something very strange happens. In my mind, till date it has been kind of hardwired that 30 mins and 4 kms is the “average”. By the way, these days I am closer to the 4.5 km mark by the time I close in on 30 mins. So when I break the 30 mins barrier, I feel very free. It is almost like Jonathan Seagull and I think it is time to soar. I feel that I have escaped from the tyranny and bondage of the 30 mins and I almost start believing that I can do as much as I want to. Believe me, several times, I have stopped the run because of sheer boredom more than physical exhaustion. One of the reasons why the great outdoors is such a better place to run.

This whole experience keeps repeating itself and I wonder :

1. Is it important to set audacious goals or is to better to start with achievable ones and keep making marginal improvements

2. Do we set low expectations of ourselves to avoid the bitterness of disappointment

3. Is life a long marathon or a series of sprints

4. How important is it to pace oneself. I have never tried the experience of running in bursts of high speeds, slowing down and then upping the pace again. My reason for not doing this has been biased by watching middle and long distance running on television. I have only seen people gradually upping the pace in a middle/ long distance run. But is this a reflection of life’s reality ???

5. Most importantly, at least for me, should life be measured in units of time as we know it (minutes, months, years) or in units of “mind experience”. I guess a lot more running is required to figure THAT out.

Running – my salvation

January 5, 2009

Attempting to crack the Half Marathon

Attempting to crack the Half Marathon

Over the last two and a half years the treadmill at home has been my faithful companion and in some sense gives me a deep sense of salvation. In an otherwise ordinary life, running on the treadmill has given me and continues to give me a deep sense of fulfillment. To me it has been the closest to a ritual that I have subjected myself to during this period. I have gone to the extent of maintaining a log of the distance that I have run and the time taken to cover the distance. As you can see, I take my running pretty seriously.

I have always enjoyed running and used to do it in parks and grounds when I was in Chennai. Running, particularly middle and long distance running is a lonely pursuit and maybe for this precise reason I have always found it enriching. After moving to Bangalore, for some reason I discontinued. The road conditions near my house and the chaotic traffic were also dampeners I guess. One of the wisest decisions that I made then was to invest in a treadmill. I have now gotten so used to running on the treadmill that road running has become quite strenous on my knees. I tried it the last time around when I was in Goa and found my knees acting up after a few kilometres. However, I am determined and am hopeful of finding a way around this.

Now coming to my stats for the year 2008. I found the energy and the motivation to run 90 times during the year. For someone with my levels of motivation and perseverance, I consider this an achievement. Over this 90 days, I have covered a little less than 450 kms. So I average about 5 kms per day when I do hit the treadmill. This takes me approximately 35 minutes. I have gone as much as 9.6 kms (which I covered in about 65 minutes). The fact that my faithful companion is now two and half years old also means that he (she ??) tends to break down more often and the service engineers visits have become more frequent. I guess with little more discipline I could have done about 125 days of running in 2008. At the end of the year, I realised that I have spent close to 54 hours on the treadmill. Some of the best days of running were while watching cricket on the television. Matches played in Australia are wonderful from the timing perspective. I prefer running in the mornings as opposed to running in the evenings. Somehow, the whole day feels a lot better once I have run in the mornings. For instance 9.6 was done on the day when South Africa beat Australia to record their first ever series victory in Australia. Nothing like the Aussies being bashed for motivation.

I have resolved to improve on my stats during the current year. For instance, one of my targets for the year is to be able to move the average closer to 6 kms per running instance. I also intend to crack 10 kms at least a couple of times in the current year. I am also keen that I do more than 100 days of running during the year. The key to achieving all this will be a higher level of discipline in terms of going to bed early and waking up early. Something tells me that I will manage to do all this and more. Of course, I also sincerely hope that my faithful companion manages to survive the year without giving me too much trouble. It is going to be tough ask. Will keep all of you posted on the progress !!!.

Here is wishing myself a happy running 2009 !!!!! Cheers

Another year rolls by

December 26, 2008

We are at the fag end of 2008. I do not know what it is but this time of the year encourages introspection amongst a lot of people. I am nor sure if people spend more time wondering about what happened in the year gone by or planning for the coming year. As for me, I do neither. A few years back the only thought was where to have the Year End bash and how much booze to have. It was almost as if there was some universal license to get drunk and not feel guilty about it the next day. Anyways I have long gotten over those kinds of guilt feelings and to that extent 31st December has lost whatever little significance it had at one point in time.

If I were to look back at 2008 (presuming nothing remarkable is going to happen in the remaining 5 days of the year), what is it that I remember and what is it that I will remember a few years down the line. A caveat here. Since this is in the public domain, although considering the number of hits this my blog must be one of the best kept secrets in the world, I will exercise a certain amount of discretion and not be completely honest. So here goes my list:

1. Continued to run fairly consistently and more importantly for longer stretches at faster speeds. Before any of you start thinking that I am the next Haile Gebreselassie, the max I have done till date is about 9 kms in one hour. At this rate, I guess I can complete a marathon in about 5 hours which come to think of it is not too bad, isn’t it, ie presuming I have not dropped dead somewhere in between. Anyway, more on my running (or is jogging the right word) in another post.

2. Did virtually no travelling. I cannot think of a new place that I visited this year. In retrospect I would classify the year as a complete waste just on this parameter alone.

3. For a reason, which I refuse to divulge, I was kind of forced to write the Story of My Life. The wastefulness of my existence really hit me hard when I realised that I could not go beyond 7 A4 size sheets. Just goes to show how much of my life has just rolled by without me even realising it. However, to bolster my self esteem and justify my existence I am planning to expand on this over the next few months/ years. But what it did was force me to start thinking of the broad contours of my life thus far and it would be fair to say that there is a certain pattern that is emerging. The biggest challenge, I guess which I face today is to change the pattern.

4. India played a few tests (6 if I am not mistaken) against Australia and did not lose a single one of these. More surprisingly we won 3 of them. Any Indian cricket fan would have taken this at the start of the year.

5. My moustache has also started graying. Somehow this affected me much more significantly than the graying of the hair on my head. To me this perhaps indicates that I was keen to look older (and therefore wiser) when I was graying prematurely and at this point in time am desperate to ignore anything that accentuates the advancing years. Psychobabbling as usual.

6. Reading hit an all time low. And I am not just referring to books. I have stopped reading the newspapers. Given the drivel that passes off for news and views these days, maybe this is not such a bad thing after all.

7. Happy that at least towards the end of the year, I blogged a bit. If at all I have a resolution for 2009 it is to blog even more regularly. The problem that I will face is given my relative lack of knowledge about most things and a pathetic inability to think even remotely originally what am I going to blog about.

8. World cricket depleted after an epidemic of high profile retirements.

9. Avoided traveling on business like the plague after the Bangalore Airport was shifted closer to Anantpur. Also, the new airport lacks the character and quaintness of the earlier one.

As you can see, nothing much to write home about. All the more reason to make something more meaningful out of 2009. Hope does spring eternal, doesn’t it.