Monday, August 31, 2015

Running in India

I've never quite recovered from my injury last February. I still run with sore hamstrings and a sore right glute. I can't run much faster than an 8:30 pace -- prior to February that would be considered a "pathetically easy" pace for me.

But here I am in India; it's my first journey to India, my first trip to Asia, my first trip outside of North America / Europe. I will be here for three and a half months. I couldn't resist signing up for a marathon.

On October 18, if all goes well, I will complete the Bengaluru Marathon, my first marathon outside the U.S.

If I'm going to have a chance at finishing this event, I need to get acclimatized to running long distances in warm, humid weather. I'm currently staying in Chennai, India, where the average high this time of year is 95 and the average low is 78. By contrast, back home the average low is 68. That's the key point, since I'm normally running at the coolest part of the day. It's 10 degrees hotter on average for my Chennai runs, with concomitant increases in humidity.

Peacock at sunrise from an earlier run

Because of the injury, I haven't yet been able to complete a long run longer than 14 miles. I'll need to get up to at least 20 (or possibly 18 given the climate) to have a shot at finishing the race. With my race just 7 weeks away, I don't have a lot of time to build up the mileage.

On Sunday I attempted my first long run here. The plan was to run 13 miles. The weather was even hotter than the averages: a temperature of 80 and dew point of 77 as I started the run. Arden was running with me, but she was planning on only 5 miles. I've come up with a 2.5-mile loop at Madras Christian College, where we are staying, so that's 5 laps and change. I set up a water station at the start/finish so we wouldn't have to carry water. The first couple loops went okay. Arden decided to sit out lap 2 and join me on lap 3 to get her 5 miles. We were averaging just under a 10-minute pace, and I was fine with that given the oppressive conditions.

The run goes through some tropical forest, lush with plant life and filled with the calls of exotic birds. There were dozens of butterflies and exotic moths, and we even saw a peacock in full fan. Next we passed through the main campus, where the only students stirring at 7:00 a.m. were headed to the early church service. Finally we were back at our start / finish, where Arden was done, and I had 5 and a half more miles.

This is where things got tough. I tried to rehydrate at every rest stop, but I was drenched with sweat and there was no way I would be able to fully rehydrate over the course of the run. My pace slowed from 10-ish to 10:30, then 11:18. I passed some boys playing basketball. The ball rolled into the road. I tried to kick it back to them and could only manage a half-whiff. Finally I arrived back at the start finish (the guest house where we were staying) and chugged down a half-liter of water along with a gel. A student asked how my run was and I told her it wasn't over yet.

The final lap was just short of a death march. I had to stop and walk for a minute after Mile 11. I vowed not to stop again before the finish, but I had to tack on an extra half-mile to get to 13. I made it an out-and-back, but when I turned around I had absolutely nothing left and had to walk the last quarter mile. I was totally spent, but I had at least completed the assigned number of miles.

Hopefully next week I'll be able to go a little longer. I'm also going to try to be a little more rested before the run (I had done 7 miles on Saturday and spent 5 hours outside in mid-day heat as well). Today I am sore, sore, sore! I did manage 39 miles last week, jet-lag and all, so my total weekly mileage isn't too bad. Maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to do this. Time will tell. Details of yesterday's run are below.

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