Thursday, April 24, 2014

Running, music, and some confessions

I was never a serious runner. I used to love the 100 m dash in school and considered myself a short distance speed-runner (Ha!). Then as usual, I grew up. I started enjoying the tipple, or two, or three, and puffing the nicotine on and off. Started working out in the gym but balanced it out with a beer for every kilo progress with the dumbbell. Eventually giving up exercises and just devoting myself to Lord Bacchus (Dionysus).

Till last year that is. Sometime in May 2013, I realised that I need to build up stamina for the upcoming trekking season. I started walking a bit and then combined walking and a bit of running. In the first couple of treks, I realised how screwed up my stamina was (Not that it has improved to the teenage-level, but somewhat significant improvement. And more so, boosted confidence!). I realised that not only should I take up running a bit seriously, but I should also be cutting down on the Bacchus potions (Easier said than done!). But then I somehow, surprisingly, stuck to chasing the breeze a bit, pushing the ground and running about. Soon the walking and running combination evolved to just running. Treks happened in between, and running continued.

One thing I would like to specifically point out was the motivation given by the Android application called Runtastic. I don't remember if it was the application that made me take up running or whether it happened after I started walking-running. Whatever the case (that eludes my memory) is, it has been motivating me throughout. I really started enjoying my run, and further enjoying the treks. Did a lot of treks last season!

Coming back to running, the course hasn't been easy. Yes I set up some goals like 5K continuous, then 10K continuous, and then average 15-18 K per week, and thankfully I was able to achieve them, but with all the sudden intensity, shin splints returned. Google helped me to realize that a lot of runners experience shin splints. Everywhere I checked people mentioned that there is no cure as such for shin splints, just try changing shoes, modify your gait, apply ice after every run, and keep doing stretches after a run. Shin splints are painful. Shins hurt not just while running, but they make every step painful if they are inflamed.

I don't remember when I switched from a random 3-4 K per day to 6K every alternate day. The rest day in between helped me contain the shin pain. I got into a good running regime and then ran the December 2013 Pune Marathon in the 10K category. (That marathon made me realize how beneficial it is to have a running partner!) Sometime back I did a continuous 10K on a weekend and then joined a Pune Running 10K event and was happy to complete it in 65 minutes.

So, after 12 months of somewhat consistency, Runtastic tells me that I have managed to do 170 km walking, 70 km hiking (haven't measure all of the hikes though), and 320 km (rounded up) running. There is a lot to do. Next up I would like to target more immediate goals like sub-60 min 10K, sub-25 min 5K, sub-30 min 6K, et al. Then a 1000 km running year. I need to pray more to the Greek God (TIL Goddess) of running now and also pray to whichever gods the Tarahumara people pray to.

Now, on to the reason that triggered this post and the second word from the title of this post.

I never tried running with music because I remembered making a mess of the headphones and the way they kept pulling out. I also got used to observing and following the rhythm and rhythmic change in my breathing during a run. I kept wondering how it will be to run with a non-falling pair of headphones and good songs. Searching for the difference between runners who run without music and runners running with music gave me some good insights on the psychology of runners and running. But then, there are times when you are bored with the usual routine and want to try out something new. So yesterday, I made a playlist of what I thought would be good songs for running and added an early-morning reminder to not forget the headphones, and today I ran while listening to music.

Yes, it was a positively good experience. I had to keep pushing the headphones back in the ear frequently, but it was all right. What need adjusting was my habit of listening to my breathing. As I mentioned earlier, I am mostly a nose breather and tend to exhale loudly thus forming rhythmic exhale sounds that change with different pace. Music distracted me from listening to my usual air-music. But then after 1-2 km I was grooving. I must tell you that Lonely Boy by The Black Keys has got a nice rhythm to it that matched my running pace brilliantly and I enjoyed that stretch quite a bit. I had added Daft Punk, Prodigy, Avicii as well, but it's The Black Keys and AC/DC that I enjoyed the most.

Music distracts you from the usual thoughts and sounds while you run, if you are used to running without music. It adds to that necessary change as well. I might not run with music every time, but I will definitely go back to running playlists once in a while.

Specially when I need some motivation to run.

On that note:

Oh, oh-oh I got a love that keeps me waiting
Oh, oh-oh I got a love that keeps me waiting
- Lonely Boy by The Black Keys

Those lines could very well be dedicated to a glass of fine whiskey and puff thereafter. ;)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett - Book Review

Guards! Guards! (Discworld, #8)Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, well, well. I wonder if the chance of this review turning out to be all right is a million-to-one. In that case... Oh, who am I kidding!

Did you know that Sir Terry Pratchett has his own cathedral where he summons interesting stories, intriguing characters, slithering plots, and quite a bit of laughs that he can surprisingly control and cage in the form of Discworld books? Then again, Discworld devotees know this already.

If I were given a chance (whatever the odds) to change the title of this book, I'd safely baptise it as "Dragon 101" where the "0" is slightly altered to resemble the shape of the heart symbol. I very well know that "Love is not love. Which alters when it alteration finds...," but come on, Shakespeare rarely infused magic in his equations, didn't he? Look at all the gastronomic difficulties, the best of them, the worst of them people, and the ever-summoning circumstances. Love flames it all. Even the ladiest of them ladies and toughest of them guys.

This book is such a splendid specimen, that it makes me wonder why it's just the 2.5th Pratchett book that I've read so far. Then again it's more whole than the remaining 1.5 Pratchetts combined together in a complexly probabilistic equation. I surely will be accompanying Captain Samuel Vimes a lot more when he performs his duties in the streets and citadels of Ankh Morpork. I hope the rest of team allows me to! I'll buy everyone a well-deserved drink for sure!

Quotes! Have you ever had the chance (again?) to highlight sentences in a Kindle book so much that almost all of it appears to be highlighted? Like a long tongue of yellow flame that surpasses the pages? Enough to form a Brotherhood of Kindle-highlighters? Imagine if the highlights enter the L-Space. Imagine... L-Space...

Well, at this point in the review I sincerely echo the strong sentiments felt by Vimes throughout the book. That of needing a drink. On that note I'll leave you with this:


(Hah! Million-to-one chance! More like this review had a probability of 0.9 of being good. That means almost nothing at all, isn't it.)

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