Stumbling upon LSD

lsd_running_picAfter the ignominious end to my debut cross country run, the rest of the day was a daze. An unpleasant cocktail of emotions enveloped me.. Shame, defeat, dejection, inadequacy, self-pity dominated what would eventually be sufficed with hope.

Moodily and half-heartedly I cheered the track and field participants. The outcome of no event mattered to me anymore.

It was getting close to dusk when I found myself at the north-east corner of the field. The high jumpers and long jumpers were putting in their final series of practice jumps for the finals the next day.

I reflected on the morning debacle for the Nth time. The first half of the race was unadulterated misery (as my lungs struggled to come to terms) but the back half (except the last 200 meters) wasn’t too bad. My breathing had settled into a certain rhythm and the cardio distress had receded.

Hmm..

I wasn’t ready to head home yet because something just clicked inside of me.

*******

I started to run. Probably at an ambling pace even slower than the morning.

Finished a round, then the second,… And before I knew it I was finishing the eighth. Could I do ten?

Round ten was completed soon enough and I started wondering when I should (or needed) to stop.

I completed 16 rounds and stopped. To this date, I don’t know why I stopped when I did. Running 6.4km (all time run #2) on the same day as a 5km run (all time run #1) should have felt exhausting but it didn’t. Taking into account my age, it was my first ever LSD (Long Slow Distance) but it would take me two more decades before I learned that term.

*******

Closing note: this post was originally written using the Notes app on an iPhone 5 while on a late night return flight from Mumbai 2 months ago. Having completed it in record time, I was rather pleased and couldn’t wait to reach home and post to WordPress. Imagine my shock the next day when the note up and ‘disappeared’ into the Apple ether. The contents of another note mockingly appeared (duplicated) with the same subject. I spent an hour frantically looking for recovery options before finally giving up. That (first) version wasn’t meant to be. Oh well! So you, dear readers, have to settle for this – version 2 typed on the supremely reliable Samsung Galaxy S2 using the delightful WordPress app. I’m sitting on a comfortable settee inside the Begumpet Landmark bookstore.

An asthmatic’s ignominious (first) running story

I had originally posted this story in my Xaviers Bokaro alumni mailing list back in Sep 2006. If you’ve read the post Running the Course – Mumbai Marathon 2010 and are wondering about the back story to my running fetish, this story might offer some clues. I made a few minor edits to the email, anonymized the identity of my two classmates (A and C below), and tweaked the ending based on a recent recollection. Loreto house (blue) and Carmel house (yellow) are two of the four sports houses of St. Xaviers Bokaro.

Haile Gebrselassie (a contemporary marathon legend who still needs to battle asthma)

For those of you that remember me, I was rarely (if ever) seen on the athletic field. I had a bad case of asthma during my formative years. Anyway, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. During the 8th or 9th Standard, my loyalty towards Loreto house reached epic proportions and  I decided to  participate  in the only sports event that  didn’t require selection or qualification – the venerable cross-country race. Never mind that I’d never run a distance longer than 5m before. Outfitted with a freshly-dusted pair of tennis shoes (keds, if we must be accurate), blue singlet, shorts and an ardent fervor in my heart, I stepped on to the field. If I had had seen Chariots of Fire, its music would have been resonating in my head. In reality, what I sorely needed was an albuterol inhaler to combat my asthma. I crouched at the race start with two equally loyal Loreto compatriots – A and C.

The gun went off and behold my dismay when I saw the entire crowd “take off” (or so it seemed). I was thinking to myself, this is a cross-country race (for crying out loud!) – why are they running so fast already? I calmed myself down and decided to stick to my plan of “pacing” the race (having a scant little clue how long the race was). Lucky for me, my dear buddy A was giving me company as we brought up the sparsely populated rear guard.

As a token of my gratitude, I entertained A with the rhythmic music that only tortured asthmatic lungs can produce. I think C must have raced ahead because I don’t recall seeing him after the starter gun went off. Anyway, after an eternity and thousand deaths, we completed the trail segment of the race and reached the entrance to the school field – the final 400meter beckoned to us. At that crucial stage, a couple of things happened..

  • A began to  break free  (his 2nd wind probably?) leaving me in sole possession of last place.
  • I heard Voice#1 from the sidelines “Quick! you are almost there! Just 400 meters more!”.
  • Then I heard Voice#2 from the sidelines “I think they award points only to runners who finish within [X] minutes!”

Ultimately the combination of voice#2 and A’s late burst was too much for my tender nerves to bear. I was probably fine completing the “victory lap” jointly with A but I could not withstand the ignominy of being in sole possession of last place. I had no Garmin (or even a regular watch) so I had no way of knowing how close to the cutoff I was. So I did the dastardly act of throwing in the towel thus leaving A in sole possession of last place. Dear A, I’m sorry for denying you the ‘official’ last-but-one spot! But at least you got Loreto house one extra point.

Unfortunately, there’s a final sad twist to the story. That was the year Loreto house tied for 3rd place in the overall standings with Carmel house! Had I completed the race and secured an additional point, Loreto would have been in sole possession of 3rd place. I recall C being very sore on this point and guilted me on several occasions “had you got that one point, Loreto would have…”

Shame is temporary. Quitting is permanent! (Not sure who said this)

A sense of satisfaction… and accomplishment

Pic: courtesy nicolenewtonportfolio.com

“You stink”, yelled my 7-year old nephew when I tried to give him a goodbye hug. “But I showered barely 2 hours ago”, I protested. Of course it was a different matter that I was packing stuff into suitcases, creating piles of junk, and loading suitcases into the rental car in preparation for the drive to Manhattan. So maybe (just maybe) I had broken into a sweat. Sorry Rohan! Will be more careful next time around 🙂

On the drive to Manhattan I reflected on the toil and sweat (and maybe a little bit of tears) that went into our 25-day moving/vacation saga. Apparently we had to work really hard to pull off this ulaari 🙂 So what am I talking about? This is a tale of five garages (in Sunnyvale, Cupertino, San Jose, Pleasanton, and Basking Ridge), Salvation Army, Goodwill, Hertz Car Rental, and a Manhattan condo.

As you already know, we had decided to sell (or donate) practically every household article with the exception of the following:

  • Our clothes (really a subset since we earmarked a good chunk for Salvation Army)
  • Subset of Sanat & Amrit’s toys. Thanks to their sweet cooperation, it was just a suitcase full of toys.
  • 5 year old Power Mac G4.
  • MacBook, Canon TX1, Western Digital & Iomega USB drives.
  • * 15 boxes of books (after giving away about 4 boxes)
  • * Photo albums
  • * Squash racquets
  • * Didgeridoo and flute
  • * Poonam’s wedding outfit & related paraphernalia
  • * 4 boxes of CDs (plan was to sell them at Rasputin Music but we ran out of time)

The point of liquidating everything was to avoid the need to ship any “container” to India. Which meant that the short list of articles above had to fit within the baggage limits for 4 passengers. A cursory look is enough to say “No way!”. There were 2 constraints we were dealing with: 1) No shipping container, and 2) Cross-country road+train trip with a flying departure from JFK (not SFO).

Solving for the first constraint involved a lot of logistics but was straightforward. We just had to fit our top-priority articles into 8 check-in bags (= 6 suitcases + Mac G4 + Mac G4 Monitor) and carry-on bags. All the articles prefixed with (*) were thus not traveling with us. So we had to find a temporary home for them. The thinking was that after settling into our new apartment in Bangalore (after ‘finding one’ i.e.), we would have them shipped to us piece-meal. The 15 boxes of books went to my cousin’s garage in San Jose, the wedding outfit & related to a friend’s garage in San Jose, music CDs, squash racquets and a few unsold Craigslist items stayed in my sister’s garage in Cupertino, the didgeridoo, photo albums and flute went to our friends’ house in Pleasanton. So far so good.

Solving for the second constraint required some creative thinking. Since we were driving a Toyota Camry rental car to Chicago, we knew how much we could carry with us. This worked out to 2 large suitcases and all of our carry-on baggage. The 2 computer boxes and the rest of our clothes etc. we packed into 4 Home Depot shipping boxes and sent them via parcel post to my cousin’s house/garage in Basking Ridge, NJ. As it turned out, the night after we vacated our just-sold house we spent a good chunk of time in my sister’s Cupertino garage sorting through our remaining stuff (which was still a lot). We managed to generate 3 additional boxes which my sister also shipped to our cousin’s house in NJ.

After prancing around the country for a few weeks, we arrived at my cousin’s house in Basking Ridge. There was the little matter of buying 4 suitcases from Jersey’s Little India (read “Edison”). And finally moving the stuff from the shipped boxes to the suitcases which was a walk-in-the-park for phenomenal Tetris player Poonam. We also managed to generate 2 additional suitcases which we couldn’t carry with us. Enter another dear friend from West Orange, NJ. He volunteered to bring these suitcases to Bangalore later in the year – cool!

The final logistics hop was to get all our baggage from Basking Ridge to my other cousin’s condo in Manhattan which we achieved in two separate trips. And finally (yes, really this time) a Super Shuttle ferried all our luggage to New York JFK airport – this was the most straightforward trip of all. As I reflect upon the above, I cannot help but feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment for pulling it off.

P.S. Perhaps I should named this post “The Great Social Move” or “The Amazing Race”. What do you think?