15 km CTC Chennai Swimathon 4/3/’17

I felt my right foot miss a step, heard a pop from my bent – over ankle, and experienced a gush of pain that doubled me over. I cursed myself for successfully spraining my ankle just two weeks before Annur Marathon. Now I had no hope of long distance running in the next two months. There was mild swelling and tenderness over the ankle but I was able to bear my bodyweight while walking. Mine seemed to be a grade I ankle sprain.

To help you get a general idea of ankle sprains and how to grade them, here are two illustrative diagrams:

Then came the memory of my friend Ramu’s invite for the CTC’s Swimathon on March 4th. Being a doctor I knew there was a fair chance of swimming by then, if I give my ankle adequate rest, ice and physiotherapy before the said date. But things didn’t go as well as I had planned and the pain from the grade I sprain kept coming back at work whenever I got up and switched places . 

I don’t know what hit me, but as I was looking to register for the swim, I noticed there was a 15km swimming category along with the 5km and 10km categories in the competition and I signed up like a madman on a hunch even though my ankle hurt in certain awkward positions and extended range of motion during plantar flexion. The maximum distance I had covered in a single day during a swim was 7km and that was way back in 2010. This was definitely going to be interesting.

Two weeks went by and I had managed to hit the gym twice a week, walk 10km once a week and had visited the swimming pool twice every week, with mild jogging for a kilometer or so, whenever pain was absent.

The pain slowly withdrew three days before the event and I tapered my activity to be fresh for the swim. Prayers were said, not just by me but my family members as well, because they couldn’t fathom how I could complete such a distance which I hadn’t done during my days as a state level swimmer in 1999 , now, without any practice and that too with a messed – up ankle.

March 3rd: The days flew by and the time had come. I finished my work at my hospital then visited Apollo for a visiting consult before leaving to Chennai by car, with my wife and mom. The venue was the same as the CTC ‘s triathlon (refer previous post) and we checked into Hotel Holiday Inn, which was nearest the venue on OMR road, after dropping my wife at her parents’. I wouldn’t recommend the dinner I had to anyone else preparing for a Swimathon, but I crammed myself because I knew the next day would easily burn off everything I ate in a period of three hours max. So, in went three butter naans, chicken gravy, spicy chicken salad and chicken dosed with pepper and salt, followed by curd rice and mousse. I was worried if I had enough space for my 330 am snack which would determine my actual performance during the swim.

March 4th: 3:30AM

I did manage to get up and swallow two banana oatmeal muffins before sleeping till 430AM, following which I brushed my teeth, washed my face, changed and I was on my way. Mom would join me later at 8AM and Sanju, at 2PM.

Owing to unavoidable circumstances, my friend Ramu who had intimated me about the Swimathon couldn’t make it. I arrived at Ottiyambakkam Open Water Swimming site at 5AM sharp , filled the disclaimer form, had my BIB number (158) written on my arm with permanent marker to help me remember it (we had to shout our number on completing each loop for the officials to keep track of our progress) then located the baggage counter where I undressed to my swim shorts, and donned my swim cap and goggles.

The warm – up session for 15 km, 10km and 5km races started at 550am and we went through the usual exercises to loosen our joints and increase our core body temperature to prepare us for the gruelling event, followed by a group photo.

6AM:

I felt a strange calm envelop me and I told myself I just needed to focus on finishing 15km , within the 10.5 hours cut off time. Nothing else mattered, including placing. There were only 13 participants en toto for the 15km event out of which 5 people downgraded to 10km because they felt they could not complete it. Now, here I was, swimming in a 15km event which hadn’t even been introduced into the Olympics, which in itself is a privilege. All I had to do, was focus on finishing.

6:12AM:

I got into the pond, which was surprisingly refreshing and not freezing. The time had come, and I said a quick prayer asking God to spare me from cramps, which is the worst enemy of all swimmers and to give me energy to complete 15km in one piece. For those who don’t know this small water – body, it’s in Ottiyambakkam, Chennai, around 3km from Navalur on the OMR highway via Agni College.

The pond/lake is 150 meters long and since we had to cover 15km, we needed to finish 100 laps (50 loops)

615AM to 8AM

It was soon 615AM, and the race started. I preserved my strategy of doing mainly the ‘breast – stroke’ to prevent my ankle from getting aggravated, with a few strokes of ‘freestyle/front-crawl’ thrown in to keep up the rhythm and to prevent overload of the muscles used during the breast – stroke. The crowd was huge but aside from a few kicks and punches from other participants, nothing went bad for me. I had soon completed 3.5 km by 8AM and made my first fuel – stop at the 3rd km mark. The volunteers were at the water’s edge with plates and gave us bananas, Electral and ‘kadalai mittai’.

815AM TO 1145 AM:

I was feeling pretty confident when I had crossed 5km and was going strong, when the inevitable happened. I was shouting out my number for the officials when someone from my side kicked my right (injured) ankle. There was a burst of pain – I closed my eyes and floated for a while before slowly proceeding with freestyle. In a minute my ankle felt better and things were back to normal – power of prayer!

I spotted mom at the 6th km, waved to her and proceeded with breaks every 1.5km. I had soon crossed 7.5 km (half the distance) by 1030AM. A much – needed toilet break followed at 1145 AM with mom helping me out of the pond.

A few shots of the event:

(Youngest participant in the 5km race)

(Lifeguard at the other end of the pond)

(Lifeguards from Bay of Life on surfboards watching with an eagle’s eye)

(Volunteers(and sometimes tired participants) hung on to tyres that were tied together through a rope to the other end of the quarry)

1145AM to 2PM:

Following this, I felt very refreshed and zoomed past many who had crossed my distance during the break. By the 10th km, I felt early signs of my body giving in to fatigue.

I continued to follow my fuelling strategy but for every 1.2 km (4 loops) instead of every 1.5km(5 loops). This kept my burning tummy at bay, with adequate refueling via mom’s banana oatmeal and Electral from the volunteers. Bananas had unfortunately run out by then and I had to make do with ‘kadalai mittai’. Both Thomas Habel and Vinolee (two of CTC’s best swimmers) and Mr. Anil Sharma had lapped me several times by then.

There was, by now, a mild stiffness in my left calf, which, as a long -time swimmer, I knew , could be a sign of cramps – to – come. I switched to doing more freestyle and used only half my usual power for kicks.

2PM to 250PM

“5 loops to go!” It was awesome to hear it from the officials but my body was in robot – mode, much like what happens when I spend prolonged time in cataract surgeries – the mind automatically takes control. The tightness in my left calf increased, despite my increased consumption of Electral, and by the 14th km I knew cramps were coming on.

I fuelled one last time, with three loops to go, and increased the power in my arms in as relaxed a state as possible, to compensate for my poor kicking. Saw Sanju and Aunty during the last two loops and waved.

The last loop would probably have seen my best timing, with a finishing touch of 150 meters of freestyle. I breathed out in the water to lower my heart rate, then proceeded to be helped up by a kind volunteer. The time was 250 PM and we had started swimming at 615 AM – a total of 8 hours and 35 minutes.

I sat down, dazed, sun – burnt, partially dehydated, but overjoyed to have clinched the title of ‘Finisher’ of one of the world’s longest distances swam in an official competition.

Peter, the hero of the day and the founder of Chennai trekking Club, came by to give me my medal after starting the 3km event. 

It was a memorable moment for me to meet my role – model, and to pose with the two ladies who have encouraged me to pursue my passions, with special mention to mom who oversaw my nutrition needs during the swim (since the bananas had run out by the 10th km, I would have definitely cramped up earlier if not for her banana oatmeal)

Post – event:

Mom answered worried calls from relatives, assuring them I was indeed safe and sound and had completed the event well within cut – off time. I gobled up ten banana ‘adais'(wheat and sugar thrown in with bananas and cooked), had ‘Tang’ then proceeded with total rest till dinner time. I ate up food to fill my still – ravenous gut during dinner, as expected and slept soundly that night.

The following morning saw us depart from Chennai at 10am and reach Trichy at 330 PM. 

It was an eventful journey – one that I will remember not for my performance but for God’s immense grace and mercy for helping me finish 15km of swimming without even practising a 1km swim in the previous month, due to my ankle.

This is Vinod, signing off, before I meet you on my next adventure.

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My progress from stage zero to present, in the 10 k marathon’s time zone target

I was an average athlete in my college days ten years ago. Decided to shift back from bodybuilding into athletics after my appendectomy surgery in August 2013. My friend Patric Antony played a huge role in this, and pretty soon, I was back to running long distances like in the good old days. – the only difference being I was ten kilos heavier! At a good weight of 80 kg with a muscular frame, I had some knee and ankle issues when my body’s joints screamed as I put them to the task of long distance running at steady speeds of 8 to 10 kmph.

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When a lucky chance got me in the papers in my first mini 10k marathon run at Rotary Salem 10k Marathon, which I completed in 58 minutes, I was further inspired to pursue higher goals in long – distance – running. 

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Then came the Tanjore half marathon, which I faced after several stints with my complaining body at the gym, similar to the picture above. A knee band was placed around my right knee and I had to adjust my running stance from a heel – landing stride to a mid – foot – stance, to tweak and overcome a few tendon & joint related issues encountered during gym practice sessions. Tanjore was a delightful experience, and I completed my first half marathon in 1 hour 58 minutes.

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With the knowledge of being able to finish a 21k race within 2 hours, also came the confidence that my body could take a better beating than I had assumed it would. Further eagerness in the quest for speed, led to better rewards at the Mutthu Marathon in January 2014, where I finished the 10 k in 58 minutes despite encountering forceful winds and a few inclines which were absent in my first 10 k marathon in Salem. With me here are Patric on the left and Mohan, on the right.

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My latest 21k soon followed at Annur in February 2014, where by God’s grace, despite encountering my most difficult track and inclines yet, I managed to finish in the same 1 hour 58 timing as in Tanjore.

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After facing experienced runners, and those who were performing better in spite of being older than I was, I was spurred into accelerating my hopes for a better time zone in the 10k. I translated this into a better finishing time in the 21 k too, and soon, by the end of Feb, my body had shed 11 kilos of fat from August ’13 to September ’14.

The initial time on treadmill for a 10 k was 55 minutes up till December 2013, which I soon brought down drastically.

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And THEN, in the next TWO DAYS:

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Looks like losing 11 kg of body fat helps in reducing 8 minutes from the time taken to complete a 10 K! My aim with this blog is to tell everyone that whoever you are and whatever you do, nothing is impossible when you set your mind to it.

L – EARN

I – NSPIRE & INNOVATE

F- EEL FIT &

E – XPERIENCE SUCCESS.

That’s life for you. Live it up! (My next 11k marathon will be in Madurai, and till then take care, friends)

Annur Marathon 2k14 – Day 2: The Race

I groggily looked at the dial of my watch, squinting hard at the fluorescent display. I had gotten up before any of my alarms had started ringing exactly 2 minutes before 4 AM. (I usually set ten alarms on my mobile before a marathon event). I got up, went for a quick wash, asked Sanju to lock the door and was out, with a sleeveless tshirt (bib binned) under my regular t – shirt with a pair of black silk sports shorts and feet adorned with Injinji socks and New Balance shoes.

The drive was thankfully uneventful and I reached the starting point at exactly 5 AM. I was surprised to hear the sound of rock music filling the air, and to see the finish line lit up majestically.

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I found the allotted parking area, and parked my ‘Ritz’ before making my way back to the starting point. Unfortunately many of the participants arrived late, and the starting time was shifted to 6 AM from 5:30 AM. But there were no further delays. After removing my outer t – shirt and keeping it in the car, I went back to the school/ start – point, and did a series of warm ups – starting from my neck, then slowly working my way downward, briskly activating all the joints in my body. Nothing broken – thank God. The team had hired drummers who did their job beautifully, energizing everyone in vicinity

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Following this came a few stretches and a dynamic run – on – the – spot after which I felt prepped to go. Patric had arrived by then, and we exchanged greetings before I started the run just 5 minutes later. The flag was waved, and around 50 of us were off! I managed to stay a little ahead of half the pack, and slowly jogged from an 8 kmph speed to a 11 kmph. The sun had not yet risen, and the full moon seemed to be making a statement of its importance as it lit up what would definitely have been scary streets if it had not been for the huge crowd running with me. I took in the scenic awesomeness and proceeded to increase my pace when I noticed a school kid trying to pass. Pretty soon I had made it to the 4 km mark – I looked at my watch: twenty two minutes had gone by. I decided to go with the same speed of 10 to 11 kmph, and slowly passed many would – be – runners who had little idea of what speed they should have been running in. They were now exhausted and walking.

Time seemed to drag and my legs started feeling heavy by the 6th km mark. Refreshments were served every four km, and I helped myself to a sip of ‘gatorade’. Following this I upped my pace, and overtook the only person who was ahead of me. I looked for others ahead, but they were nowhere to be seen – not because I was first, but because, they were horrendously fast.

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Soon after I heard footfalls closing in behind me and two runners, one being a man around my age with a ‘Chennai Marathon’ t – shirt and the other a somewhat heavier boy. Not to be outdone, I feverishly kept pace with them step – by – step. The 10 km mark came, and we had to take a U – turn to run back down along the same road we had come.

I groaned, as I realized that we had to climb all the inclines we had easily passed in a descending manner on the way there. I attacked each one with as much enthusiasm as I could muster, but my running speed was severely injured – to as bad as 5 kmph. After the inclines were through, I had my share of a few drops of water and a sample of orange – fruit (the magic of this fruit is it not only provides carbs and electrolytes, but also hydrates you with water just enough to keep running), then increased my pace to 5 minutes per kilometer (a 12 kmph speed). I soon overtook the Chennai runners and was on my way to overtaking the other tired 21 k runners and also 10 k runners who had made a U – turn at the 5 km mark to get back to the finish point.

I checked my watch and realized it would be hopeless finishing before 2 hours were complete, but I still kept my pace, as I heard more footfalls closing in. I was thankfully not overtaken anymore till near the finish line, though I did have to fend off a ‘doggie’ which was threatening to have a piece of all the runners passing by. With ten seconds to the finish line, I had an odd experience with my sixth sense, which was never wrong. I turned around and saw two kids sprinting toward me. I tried increasing my pace but was exhausted and gave in around two feet from the finish line, finishing the race in exactly 2 hours, 32 seconds. It was nice to be welcomed by the organizers via microphone, being announced my timing and given a medal on the spot. (unfortunately, no certificates were issued for the 21 k runners).

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Patric had finished his 10 k in an hour, and was waiting at the finish with his certificate. He helped me out with getting breakfast which was being served nearby, and I collapsed into a bench in a classroom and hungrily gobbled up the hot ‘kicchidi’ served with sambar. I would normally run a 100 miles from kicchidi, but at the moment, it was the tastiest meal in the world. Patric and I took a few pictures and left with happy memories.

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I came back to my room, and Sanju & I headed back to Salem starting from there at 1 PM, with arrival at 3:30 PM.

Next marathon – Rock ‘n Run has been canceled; was looking forward to it! But then, I guess I could substitute with the Madurai 11 km marathon around March 16th! Take care folks!

Annur Marathon – Day 1: The Journey

After taking a blessed half – day off from my work at Salem (hats off to the Chief Medical Officer for letting me go during a peak day), Sanju and I left at 3 PM to Annur. Taking the Coimbatore Highway, we paid the fees at both the tolls, and were proceeding to Annur when the calls came from Aravind Eye Care, Coimbatore checking if we would be staying there for the night (I had called and requested them earlier). I agreed and as soon as I disconnected the call, Patric my old pal called up and said that he too would be there in Annur to collect the bib later in the evening. We reached Annur at five, after missing a turn, and taking an adventurous slow ride in the opposite direction, to get back on course.

Once we reached the marathon starting point (Swami Vivekananda Matric High School) in Annur, I was immediately given my bib as soon as I mentioned my number. The staff were friendly and requested me to be at the start point at 5 PM, even though the marathon would start later. I agreed, went back to the car satisfied, started the engine and prepared to leave for Coimbatore, which was 30 km away. The GPS, for some reason, decided to trick us and we missed a turn (again). This time, I was not to be outdone, and took an alternate route via GPS. This took us via a narrow road supposedly leading to a college. This eventually turned into a slum with streets just big enough to accommodate our car. In five minutes, just when I was thinking I should turn back, the main road appeared ahead. We actually did it! Once back on the road, it took us just fifteen minutes to get to the road leading to the airport.

With memories of our recent trip to AIOS, Agra, we decided to once again, stop over at Aanandhas, but this time for tea. We enjoyed our tea, coffee and ‘vadai’ (which is basically flour with a few vegetables which is fried to a golden – brown colour) with sambar (a kind of soup made from lentils). Satisfied with our experience, we then headed over to Aravind Eye Care, Coimbatore, which was just a little way down the street, got our room key, met a few staff who had worked with me in Theni, then again headed out to dinner. This time it was Brookefield’s Mall, which was some distance away and took 40 minutes just to get there. We got a few books at “Odyssey”, from where we were rudely chased out at 9 PM, when the lights went off to signal that it was time to close down.

The food court was much too positive in that they served twice the amount of food that we could manage, and thank heavens, Patric showed up and helped us getting the food off the plates. We then said our goodbyes and came back to our room for a good night’s sleep. Marathon next day!

Day 4 – Trade, Friend & Fort (8/2/’14)

Time for mom to depart – after seeing our share of the Trade Center at the conference! Decided to go over there and see if we could spice up our nursinghome in Trichy with one of the ‘goodies’ we saw at the Trade Center in Jaypee Palace, the venue of the conference. Decided to go with a demo of a green – laser apparatus, a fundus camera, a screening tool for the eye’s posterior segment and the non contact tonometer with ‘pachy’ built in.

Soon after, Sanju and I parted ways with mom, and it was now time to meet my old time friend Vetri from school days. He had come over to Agra to see us with his family, and was just across the street, waiting in his car. So away we went, making friends with Saranya – his better half, and their baby Arundhadhi, the cute little heroine dressed up like a doll in pink. We decided to head over to Agra Fort. When we got there, and found a parking spot, Sanju couldn’t help but admire the little doll.

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Once we had convinced the badgering guides that we didn’t need their company, we headed to the magnificent archways and gardens, well maintained 

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As expected, there were areas made of marble just like the Taj – huge structures carved out of shiny white stone, and others with beautiful architecture carved into it.

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There was one particular area that I liked – a place that overlooked the Taj, exuding its beauty and salience through the misty air. The awesome red expanse of a portico with carved ‘windows’ that looked out into the world outside stood out shouting for attention in the still atmosphere.

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Pavilions and pillars spoke of the old times, as I pictured kings and soldiers going about with their work in this monument of red and white. Tried to blend in, and be a part of the Agra Fort.

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Following our visit to the Agra Fort, we decided it was time to line our tummies with excellent food – and excellent it was, the awesome pizzas at Pizza Hut! We found our way there by GPS, and had a great down downing out pizzas with cold drink. What’s more, the staff decided to put on a good dance for us. Way to go Pizza Hut!

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Vetri dropped us off at our hotel, where he was in two minds as to whether to stay over for the night or whether he should go back to Delhi. He finally decided he ought to get back cos of his Badminton game on Sunday morning. We said our goodbyes, feeling great that it was another day well done. Next up – Departure Day.. stick around folks!

Just a regular trip to Madurai and back.

It was a sunny evening when we left Salem, Tamilnadu, India, with the added privilege of leaving work at 5pm because we had to travel to Madurai that evening on hospital work (which was 270 km away). I picked up Seran our administrator and Jegadeesh, our camp manager, then proceeded home where I waited for my better – half to get ready. In two minutes, the luggage was in the car and ready for the trip.

2 kilometers down the road we stopped for fuel and after that it was pretty much just us and the lone highway. Well not really lone – there were so many trucks and buses that wreaked havoc and hampered a steady speed.

Gunning down the gas pedal, we reached Karur in just 75 minutes from Salem after passing through a toll. I saw a few heads nodding and decided it was time for coffee – Seran agreed to locate a café to which he’d been to previously. As luck would have it,we zipped by the café before he noticed, then had to go back in reverse gear till we had access to the service road.

Due to a tummy prone to ulcer, I preferred to stick to tea while the others had their share of freshly brewed coffee. Then we were back on the road, music on the run, driving at speeds of 100 to 120 kmph.

Two more tolls came by and by the time we reached Madurai, 3 hours had gone by. Dinner at Dominos was awesome. Cheese n Pepperoni had never tasted better!

One day after, the evening saw me and Sanju at Puppy’s Bakery gulping down a German Blackforest cake

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and then dinner consisting of scrumptious chicken lollipops and steak at the infamous ‘Rooftop’ at Star Residency washed down with cold drink.

Two days crossed and the Annual Camp Meeting thankfully went uneventfully. It was time to head back to Salem.

Picking up all three, I proceeded to the gas station as usual, and then after that it was just 3 hours of blissful driving. You can cross out he blissful part actually – the traffic made for a lot of lane – switching and overtaking. The only parts of the drive that was awesome were when the ‘Ritz’ took on a Ford SUV and a Toyota Innova and won.

We stopped for dinner at a dubious ‘Punjabi Dhaba’ 2 kilometers away from Karur. The food was in stark contrast to the place and all of us had a wonderful time except for poor Mr. Jegadeesh who fell ill.

In a total time of three and a half hours, we were back in Salem. A long journey was over and I wondered if I was ready to get back to operating and treating patients the next day. Well my friends, one step at a time – one step at a time. Good day to you.