Monday, May 26, 2014

Assay with Justbooks - rental library

Plenty of self introspection

Despite being avid reader (if I can be called one on basis of gobbling 30-40 books per year), somehow I have avoided becoming part of renting library. I preferred instead to buy new or second hand (mostly from Blossoms @ Church street in Bangalore) and for sometime made use of office library. College library is distant past. I've stopped buying cheap duplicate books sold on streets.

Guess I'll put that down to my twisted sense of comfort level. After accumulating one big carton and three bags full of books, I increasingly became concerned about storing options. I give away some books now and then to friends and office library but notion of selling them hasn't prevailed my sub-conscious mind yet. My fellow blogger Karthik looked incredulous at the suggestion. But deep down I know that I won't be re-reading most of the books I own, simply because there is too much to read yet. Worse, I don't own some of the best books I like to reread - again unable to reason out as to why I haven't bought them yet.

January this year rekindled idea of joining rental store after attending Author meet (The revenge of Kaivalya) at Easylib. What caught my attention was seeing some of the books in my to-read list (and not found at Blossoms and costly to buy new one). Karthik and I promised ourselves to visit this place again but that didn't happen until May 17. We risked going to the Koramangla store under rain threatening clouds only to find it closed without any explanation on door. It drizzled on way back and events somehow conspired to lead us to MTR restaurant on 100 feet road, near CMH road junction (again exposing my lack of grip on neighborhood specialty stores :( ). So anyway, among other things discussed, Karthik told me about another rental library - justbooks.

Justbooks

Turns out their Indiranagar store was about a kilometer from my house! Monthly reading rate is Rs 250 (2 books at a time, no limit, min 3 months), Rs 250 for registration fees and another 1000 as refundable deposit. Pretty much similar to Easylib. Not sure how many stores and books they have, but at a cursory glance on justbooks website was all I needed to satisfy my crave for well read sci-fi and fantasy novels from last millennium. The arrangement would also augur well in trying out books compared to purchasing and repenting later.

Picture from Pune store - but serves the purpose
So, last Tuesday I showed up at their store to have a look at what was available close at hand. I was disappointed to not find any from my list, but still the collection was good. Took two (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carre and Nemesis by Jo Nesbo) and applied for 3 month membership. Receptionist was very helpful in answering all my queries, showed how to use RFID+touch screen based machine for issuing/returning books and other needs. I went ahead and placed my request for top of my list - Hyperion by Dan Simmons. Instantly I was shown its availability in other Justbooks Bangalore stores. They intimated me the availability within 3 days via e-mail and reserved 7 days for personal collection. (Door delivery option available too at extra cost). All in all, very pleased with service and availability of books - it's not even a week since I became member - that good!

Quick links


'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy' Review

Well written espionage novel by John le Carre featuring famous character George Smiley. Except that it is difficult reading for a poor reader like me who prefers literal words than idioms. John le Carre rarely writes a sentence with literal words. I could make out the genius that the author is but the brilliance is dampened by my time pass expectations. I understood the book better only after reading wiki entry and reviews at goodreads. The film version is good in itself but with altercations.

A slow read for most part. Complex and intricate. I shudder to visualize cold war if secret service is anything like this 'fictional' story (Wiki informs that the author took inspiration from real events). But perhaps, on an abstract level, human involvement results in common characteristics regardless of the nature of work.

Smiley is very likable character. Deluge of characters introduced in early stages of book become more familiar by author's clever use of oddities. This book is part of Karla (the elusive villain) trilogy. Smiley however features as main characters in atleast seven books (My interest in Carre's books came after finding and gifting 'The spy who came in from the cold')

I found John's relatively recent novel 'The Constant Gardener' even more tedious to finish. Read a chapter or two, if you like and understand the writing, his books are a treasure not to be missed.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Cycle Day at Agara Lake - 25 May, 2014

Owning a cycle has drawn me into whole new world of fun and fitness and am still scratching only the outer layer. Weekend trips with rented/friend bikes were immensely satisfying for long distance endurance but few and far apart. Having one for myself has added extra thrill of freedom and comfort level. And added bonus of discovering new clubs and events.

Having missed April edition on account of RFH 5km run, sense of anticipation heightened to attend May event (Cycle day at present being conducted last Sunday of every month). Having loads of free time, I did a recce to venue (Agara lake) on Thursday - 18+ km round trip in an hour.

Like the TCS 10km run the previous Sunday, it rained heavily on Saturday night and trouble again sleeping on account of mosquitoes, humidity and excitement. Getting off bed 8 minutes past scheduled alarm, I got ready, dumped bananas, plum cake, camera (whose batteries I forgot to recharge after waking) and off I zoomed on streets in cool morning air witnessed by grey sky.

As I neared Jakkasandra, felt strange to not see other cyclists but soon after two of them joined Sarjapur road from my left. Overtaking them with a wave, I stood confused near the lake - traffic incoming from opposite stretch supposed to be cordoned off while the entrance to 14th Main road was blocked for motorists with a couple of policemen regulating traffic. After brief consultation, the three of us decided to pass through gaps (filled with rain water, later saw lot of cyclists sprayed dirty on their backs) and relieved to see activity going on at intersection of outer ring road.

There were more motorists parked under the flyover than handful of cyclists at that hour (6:35 AM). Organizers were going about setting placards, water stations, feedback desk, etc. Small crowd was gathered few meters ahead. After parking my cycle aside (taking care of not coming under occasional droplets), I started my compulsive snapping spree - trying hard to capture cute little kids on their eye pleasing cycles (here's a confession: whole morning I couldn't get a decent enough candid photo :-/ )

After a short while, the small crowd was ballooning but formed a queue - going past them I realized late that they were waiting to get rented cycles. Moving on, I spotted a familiar face here and there and got more clarity on events scheduled - plenty of posters kept at various intervals as well as volunteers/organizers setting up their wares/drawing-on-road.

Long wait for rented cycles, thanks to overnight rain
Crowd swelled by the time I roamed 2-3 times back and forth the activity stretch. Stage had been set up near the flyover intersection, queue for rental cycle became even longer (later came to know that heavy overnight rain delayed logistics). Stage events - calling kids, teens, man with cycle atop, 80+ old elder with plenty of cycling experience, warm-up (very nice too I admit, enhanced with music and synced wordings like 1-1, 2-2, etc) kept cyclists busy and entertaining. But 'another 5 minute start' became too repetitive and more than a few raised voice to start.

A popular cyclist in Cycle day events
Just before start of lap around Agara lake
Eventually, hordes of bikers as well as few skate boarders started on the cycling stretch around Agara lake - media and photograph enthusiasts (some gone atop the flyover to get big picture) encouraging us. It was very slow going but excitement was palpable including the ones on rented cycles. Battery was low, yet I kept clicking while riding, even managed a selfie that was poor to say the least. Was extra cautious around skaters who were matching our speed, some tagging along a cyclist.

Fun ride round the Agara lake
2-3 km ride was too less to satiate cycling desire, but fun riding nonetheless. Especially watching the kids crank up the speed, looked scary and their antics drew more than few glances and amusing looks. After the lap, I guess a few left while others moved to next set of activities.

Except for 1-2 commercial stalls, it was all about having fun and breaking shell of daily routine. Innovative fitness drill involving heavy tyres and ropes as well as typical weight lifting, people tried them all - professional instructors at hand to help. A little dream social team brought color to lives of poor/slum kids by teaming them with other kids and followed by photo shoot with very thought out props. Hand and face painting just close by to top it up. Indoor games reached streets and how! - life sized snake-ladders, large drawings of chess boards and then usual carom board and other popular kid games involving hopping on numbered squares.
Street activities

A home made pump powered by jumping on air filled water bottle released rockets high in the air - kids and adults alike waited their turns. And then large stretch of road painted with colored chalks - mainly thanking Cycle day and environmental friendly messages. Last but not less favored was skate boarding conducted by Holystoked.

I left few minutes past 9 AM, not sure if slow cycling was done. A very nice event to create awareness and I'll wind up with these
  • Colorful crowd, enthusiastic kids to seasoned elders
  • Various pro-nature proclamations  (gogreengocycling, gas sucks, etc)
  • Popular regulars - Anil Sir and one with mini cycle on his head (sadly, his last event in Bangalore)
  • Street games - I suspect they are the real crowd pullers compared to actual cycling
  • Meeting fellow cyclists was expected, but meeting fellow trekker after about 32 months was icing on cake
 and this
Starting early for better tomorrow

Monday, May 19, 2014

TCS Open 10k 2014

Preparation

It took lot of convincing from my friends part for me to register for 10k run last year. With very little practice, sporadic one at that, I took 78 minutes, 14 seconds to finish the run. I felt happy and satisfied to have finished 10 km of running, walking and stretching with generous dose of water and electrolyte filled drinks.

For this year's race, I was determined to practice, not just participate as well as personal goal to finish under 70 minutes. Despite 20+ treks and six 100km+ cycle trips, I struggle when it comes to running. Having got to know about Runners for Life last year, I did some simple research and started with 10 minute morning run with rest day every third day. Three simple stretches post run followed occasionally with Sirsasana. Cross training was incidentally set by my cycling interest. By third week, I was able to jog 20 minutes continuously. Less than 3km stretch. Participated in Rupee for Humanity 5km run as a testing ground. To finish it around 34 minutes with couple of water breaks boosted confidence a lot.

But then came unexpected break of around 2 weeks leaving me to run just to get back in stride during the tapering week. And not even a single 5km+ practice run. I had clocked 400km+ in about 2 months on my cycle, which on hindsight, seems to have built my stamina more than jogging practice.

Collecting Bib

The unexpected break also meant that I wasn't in Bangalore to collect my BIB at the expo in Koramangla. A call to helpline number confirmed that I can collect it on eve of race day at Kanteerava stadium expo already scheduled for outstation and overseas participants.

South gate of stadium was closed (purposefully I assume), which meant that a 2 minute walk from Corporation Circle bus stop on Rajaram Mohan Roy road became a 10 minute hike round the stadium. Collection of BIB itself was a smooth 5 minute affair - BIB handover (plus glossy booklet with lot of info - timing, dos and donts, route map, etc) with instruction to not bend the timing chip, followed by goodie bag collection and timing chip testing (to ensure it is working and pointing to your name). There were information desk and photocopy machines also near the collection counter to those who came ignorant of instructions.

Goodie Bag (source: TCS 10k FB page)
I didn't bother to visit merchandise outlets or the pasta offering. While leaving, I noticed a small opening under iron railing being used to cut short about 5 minutes of walking. I didn't miss the opportunity, lazy bum that I am.

Also spent the day reading through blogs posted on social media as well as interesting video on youtube about water requirement during the run.

Race Day

Just like 2013 edition, it rained heavily the night before Sunday race. Excitement and mosquito bites meant that I had only about 4 hours sleep before waking up in a jerk for 4:25 AM alarm. Immediately felt stomach sourness and possible vomit. Caution to not run if ill surfaced from dos and donts. Freshening and a orange juice sip made me feel better and with enthusiasm I walked to bus stop around 5:15 AM (without encountering dog barks, phew). With past experience, I waited patiently for bus and alighted near the stadium with plenty of time to spare for offical 6:15 AM cut-off.

Warm up was underway (awesome view from bus) while scores of runners lined up outside the entrances. Newbies walked hither-thither, inquiring and generally disrupting queue. Volunteers would help now and then, policemen trying to guide traffic near parking lots.

After security check and informed of gate number change, I climbed the winding stairs leading to hold up area for 'E' group runners - less than 80 minute finish last year worthwhile after all. A 'F' group member was trying to cajole a volunteer to let him join his 'E' group friend. Outside the stands, sizable crowd stood patiently in multiple queues to relieve their bladders.

Upon entering the stands, saw few policemen observing the proceedings, while runners in all stands were in full flow with warm up exercises. I couldn't make out anything being belted out due to echo, but there was a large display in center, trainers doing steps above a raised platform along with trainers inside each of the stands. Impressive to say the least.

Warm up and myself after run
I though, was taking care to pin my BIB and then gobbled two red bananas (my favorite for treks/running/cycling events) after which emptied the minute-maid orange drink. Couldn't spot a garbage bin :-/ Stomach still felt odd.

As the sky brightened, more blue and white than grey, the event started right on time 6:05 AM for corporate. Few runners came minutes late, possibly traffic or parking trouble (as was reported by many on social media after the run).

Minutes ticked by, a colleague of previous company spotted me, excitement gripped and pushed many congregating near door. Stand by stand we were let through, overwhelming crowd trying to gain foot and/or avoid injury. Carl Lewis, John Abraham, Puneeth, etc encouraged us along with other celebrities and volunteers, not to forget the music.

As well documented in many blogs as well as event booklet, there were runners trying to cut through slow runners (relatively speaking), running zig zag and using sidewalk. I had very less trouble in maintaining my steady jogging pace though. So many volunteers lining up on both sides of the road with wonderful and creative posters, not to forget their vocal support too. Few of them were family/friends to take snap of their beloved ones.

The first water station was after 1 km, very few rushing for bottles. But already some resorted to walking. First 2 kms being warm-up, I was feeling good and somehow a thought formed to finish first 5 km without break and refreshment. With arms paining in usual bent position running, I sometimes let them drop besides the hip - definitely helped alleviate the pain. Around 3 km mark, there were already top runners going past 5 km mark on the other side of the road. Checked time on phone - doing good at around 20 minutes.

To pass time (and keep mind off pain), I consciously tried to observe oddities (to later write in this post) - bare foot running, some with shoes fitted in toe shapes, people sporting tees from previous events (like I was too :P), quotes, showing support for a social cause, etc. And then started surfing the other side to see if I could spot known faces (in all, spotted only one :D). The buzz at timing mats was maddening but manageable.

Slowly and steadily, my pace never changing much, 5 km came and went. I wasn't particularly thirsty, sweating but not copious and pain not enough to need a breather. So, I kept on. Next target being 6 km and then assess. I consciously tried to sport a smile - not only loosening up body but for various flashes and live telecast.

Side stitch on right side of body was beginning to show, but having read that it is not harmful, I tried to ignore it. I crossed 6 km, still not thirsty and after 7 I got hold of enerzal without breaking stride - more in anticipation that I gotta stop for a stretch with increasing pain. Noticed time on phone again - was doing good and about 20 minutes to finish around 70 minute mark. Orange peels placed were so inviting, but always crowded.

I have never run even 5 km stretch continuously in the past. I was surprising myself with the show and I developed a mantra by then - finish the race without stopping, without energy drink and possibly under 70 minutes (so that I move up the ladder - i.e 'D' group in next event :P). I was largely getting free space for my pace except for water logged areas where there was congestion. Loads of runners were walking.

Around 8 km mark, I decided, come what may, I am not stopping and was tossing the enerzal pack between hands. I waded through murky rain water instead of walking on footpath. Familiar Cubbon Park was subtle encouragement - even remembered that I had stopped for stretching last year. I even tried to increase pace a bit but resorted to normal pace soon after. Volunteers charged us up, free hi 5 (I didn't use though :P) and even runners saying a word or two to push harder.

After 9 km mark, two ambulance rushed past us, a small crowd ahead surrounding a fallen runner. Last year too there were such incidents, happens to even seasoned runners. But didn't see anyone stopping by medical stations placed at various intervals. Toilets were in demand though :P and noticed logical error in placing a station around 9 km mark with standard text of 'next one after 2 km' :D

After turning towards last stretch outside the stadium, I again lengthened my strides but couldn't keep up and jogged again. And finally arms raised at finish point - got confused with clock displayed, but that didn't matter much. Running without a break was the sweetest feeling.

Timing comparison :)

Post Race

Bottleneck of people walking towards refreshment and medal collection counter. Spotted a fellow trekker who had finished well ahead. I kept walking, allowing the body to cool. I got the items with only about 5 minute waiting - much much less compared to horrific experience last year. The organizers cross the medal circle on BIB to avoid someone getting things twice :P

Foot path were crowded with very less moving space, finding a spot to rest/stretch much harder. I did find one, stretched a little and then started walking to Residency road bus stop (as Corporation circle stop on Kasturba road was closed for traffic - last year's experience coming in handy again)

Only after reaching the bus stop, did I finally drink enerzal :P Stubbornness at its best :D Weird stomach feeling still persisted, dunno why yet :-/

Simple tips for beginners (advisory only)

  1. Practice (atleast a month or two before race, keep rest days in between)
  2. Cross training - walking, cycling, swimming, yoga, etc
  3. Diet (check links below) - I still haven't figured out for myself though
  4. Stretch after every run
  5. Avoid short parks with sharp corner turns, I run on roads
  6. Get professional help immediately if any sort of pain/discomfort persists long after a run

Good info on Running

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Rupee for Humanity running event - 27 April, 2014

I have never been much of a runner. We do run a lot while playing childhood games where we rarely get bored or tired (except perhaps in Kabbadi and Kho-Kho) or caring about what kind of nutrition is required. And those 100m dash in annual school sports competitions where we participated as part of groups (if my memory serves right, I was part of Cauvery group, others being Narmada, Ganga and Yamuna in school).

Trekking and Cycling improved my stamina and I rather got addicted to them. Running was a natural next step and when your company participates in a social cause (TCS 10k, Bangalore 2013 edition), you grab it with both hands which I did. A running enthusiast and coach was invited to Cubbon Park as part of initiating the participants to running. He gave me a incredulous look when I said that I just wanted to feel how it's like to run 10 kilometers. During the session, he told us about practice, nutrition and some very basic stretching exercises to be done after the run.

With very little practice, I struggled and somehow finished 10k in just over 78 minutes (doesn't qualify for special TCS 10k categories :( ). Which included walking and stretching in between. In another few weeks, I participated in Mother Earth 5k run conducted near EGL in Koramangla. It turned out more than 5k I think and I took around 40 minutes. Had horrible stomach trouble followed by vomiting that day. All pretensions to develop running habit went down the drain.

After registering again for TCS 10k event this year, I told myself to practice better. And when BTC invited us to participate in Rupee-for-Humanity (RFH) social cause run, I registered for 5k event to align with TCS 10k practice regime.

I am proud to say I have maintained the routine more than 3 weeks, missing only when I was out of station or took to morning cycle rides. It is fairly simple one (not involving nutrition routine and only basic stretching). Starting with about 10 minutes of run, I progressed to about 20 minutes. That stretch is only about 2.5 km. But still, a lot of progress for someone like me.

I reached UVCE college near Cubbon Park about 20 minutes past 6 AM for the RFH event. I am getting used to arriving later than appointed time these days. But twice in two days, I should rather have reached on time. Nature gives us such ironical lessons. The first was runners meet for TCS 10k run on Brigade road. So many passionate runners gathered and were given series of talks on various aspects of running like diet, stretching, types of pain, etc etc and punctuated with Nike products (the meet was in Nike store)

I woke up at 5 AM for RFH event, got ready, drank lot of water and packed some bananas to eat before the run. Sensing that I was getting late, I ran sporadically about a kilometer to Ulsoor only to see road blocked due to some festive program. Fortunately, a bus arrived soon after and took alternate path. Getting down at Corporation circle, I was guided by volunteer (a cyclist was getting directions too, later at the venue realized that it was Archana, whom I had met in previous two Cadence90 morning rides). I gobbled the bananas on the way to venue (they were squishy, presumably due to heat)

I was disappointed to not spot many of the FB friends who had signed up for this event (later got to know that they had gone elsewhere :-/) In the process though, I saw one guy's shoes built with five toes! The organizers were trying to be helpful in many ways but clearly were novices. But I feel they will learn and do better. Our bibs were numbered according to category - starting from 3000 for 3k, 5000 for 5k, 10000 for 10k and 5S000 for students' 5k run. After a bit of delay (organizers were allowing some more time for late comers and taking into account the difficulty of reaching the venue), a kid flagged off the run. I noted the time - 6:36 AM

Starting from UVCE
There initially was some confusion as to which category was starting off, then I guess everybody got it that it was all mixed. After crossing a busy junction (volunteers controlling traffic) and spotting Country Club (who later distributed gift vouchers), we entered Cubbon park. There being only 500 odd runners, there was enough space for my own pace of running, except around narrow passages. Along the way, there were markings indicating directions. I wondered how we were going to separate out as 3k/5k/10k. Having seen the maps sent via email from RFH, I at least knew that it was one lap around Cubbon for 5k.

The regulars might have been a little inconvenienced or perhaps might be used to such events. Overall, I would like to think we weren't much of a nuisance. With 3 week practice behind me, I was doing good at steady pace, but was looking for water stations which were mentioned to have been placed roughly at 1.5km intervals.

Past my 20 minutes steady run, I started feeling pain in hip bones. I was relieved that I wasn't doing 10k and the same time reality stuck that I would struggle very hard to finish TCS 10k within 70 minutes. I kept running though, slow and steady and for once, trying to enjoy :) Got to see Nike runners club members going through various stretching and discussions.

RFH 5k route map
As to separating out runners of different categories, volunteers were placed at branching points - they spotted our bib numbers and guided appropriately even without asking. The long stretch of road leading towards Corporation circle was crowded as usual - runners, walkers, cyclists, kids. I picked another water bottle at the end of this stretch (serving also as brief rest for muscles). By this point, I could see many participants resorting to walk and I was inwardly happy to keep jogging.

With no idea of remaining distance, I was surprised to see only about 100-200m dash to finish line after last turn. And even more happy feeling to complete in 34 minutes (raising hope of sub 70 minute finish for TCS 10k). Many 3k/5k runners had already finished the race - some pleasantly surprised to have done it against their expectations. I walked a bit after finishing and then stretched. Within few minutes, I saw a well built foreigner finishing - I wondered why he wasn't doing 10k (didn't pay attention to his bib number or perhaps the mind saw but didn't register). And then an Indian crossed the finish line and claimed to have completed two laps. Realization dawned - these guys finished 10k just 4-5 minutes more than I took for 5k :D

We returned to meeting point in UVCE college where three refreshments stations were placed serving water, glucose, biscuits and toffee. I was still trying to locate FB friends when for second time of the day someone else recognized me and I took a while to recognize them. Nature's ironical lessons at play again. I wandered a bit inside the campus. After quite a while, we were given certificates (10k participants being largest and took lot of time despite 2 queues). Elaborate ceremony followed with RFH thanking sponsors, promoting clubs and us. Highlight of the event being twin 4 year old girls coming all the way from Chennai and completed 3k run and 79 year old grandpa who I think did 5k.

Overall, another feel good social event. Liked the organization despite few hiccups. And personal motivation to do aim for less than 70 minute finish come May 18.

Photo posted above used from RFH FB page. Race day photos - RFH

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